Jem is Truly Outrageous – This New Adaptation Might Just Be Truly Truly Truly an Outrage!

I went to see Minions for my birthday, and I got to see the Jem trailer. I have some severe judgements about it, but before I share them, see the trailer yourself:

Now, I grew up with Jem and the Holograms, and for those who don’t know it, here is a quick synopsis:

jem-holograms-movie-comingJerrica Benton and her sister Kimber, have just lost their father and are now “orphaned”—but old enough to be on their own. Jerrica has inherited half of her father’s company, Starlight Records, while the other half has gone to one of her father’s executives, Eric Raymond. He has other ideas for the company, and starts promoting “trash rock” group The Misfits. He also doesn’t want any company profits to go towards, Starlight House, a foster home for girls, which her father set up, and Jerrica and Kimber had grown up with. Starlight House is in need of repairs—and one of their girls, Ba Nee, is in need of surgery for her macular degeneration. Raymond has the idea that he can sweep the company up from under Jerrica and run it all himself, his way. Jerrica doesn’t know what to do until she gets a strange signal and follows it to an abandoned drive-in movie theater. In a hidden passage, she finds a huge machine that her father created with a computer/holographic program called Synergy. Synergy can create holograms so life-like that if it fell into the wrong hands, could be very dangerous, so Jerrica must keep it a secret—so the only ones who know are her, Kimber and their friends Aja and Shana, whom grew up with them at Starlight House. With this new power, Jerrica decides to become Jem—who is a hologram over her to disguise her true identity, and with the help of her sister and friends, they are going to take back the company and save Starlight House, their father’s legacy, and all their girls.

Okay, that wasn’t as quick as I hoped—but I felt that I needed to put it all out there after that trailer, so you can see how OFF it looks. Honestly, I couldn’t stop talking about how appalled and betrayed I felt by the look of this movie for an entire weekend. (After checking YouTube for the trailer, I find that I am not the only one!)

Here is IMDB’s synopsis of the new film:

As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden.

This left me with some a lot of confusion. Which was also propagated by the fact that the trailer I saw, originally, was shorter and did not mention her as Jerrica Benton and her father called her Jem. So I asked myself, is Jem her birth name in this new film? Not to mention that there is a character on the IMDB page named “Young Jerrica Benton”—which confused me even more. Still, even though I am glad that they didn’t screw up that far, there is still a lot to be said about this trailer…and not much of it good.

So when this movie was being promoted, pitched and cast—the guys creating it put it out to all the fans of Jem to post videos on YouTube, either auditioning for the film because they wanted new-up-and-coming people, or to just post videos about their love of Jem. So why does it feel like we are all being given a disservice?

Jem-Teaser-PosterFirst of all, they pretty much lied about casting “new and unknown actresses”. None of them are—Stefanie Scott (Kimber) was in A.N.T. Farm among other things, Aubrey Peeples (Jem) was on Nashville among other things, and Hayley Kiyoko (Aja) has been in the business since she was 5 years old, and has most recently been seen on CSI: Cyber. It’s not that I don’t like them, but they are not a newbies. The closest we have to an up-and-comer is Aurora Perrineau (Shana) who has only been in a few things, most notably Chasing Life—but her IMDB says “she is an actress, known for A House Is Not a Home (2015), Air Collision (2012)”, so not the newness I was hoping for.

Then there is the problem that, if they were doing this for the fans, they might be failing. I understand that an adaptation has to pick and choose what it keeps, especially when updating it 30 years. Plus the fact that the original was an outrageous cartoon with sometimes wacky storylines, though they did tackle some tough issues—and with SONG no less! However, in my opinion, they are sacrificing the essence of what is JEM. And I feel that if the trailer showed any shred of respect for the original that it is based on, I wouldn’t be so angry.

She is not some Teen Internet Sensation; she is a loving daughter and sister, she cares deeply about family, and that includes what her father built, and the girls that they took in. Jem is a smart and strong female character with business-sense and immense compassion for others—the fame was just bonus, and was not the point.

I do not appreciate or condone the idea that the Internet is the way to make music and become famous. I understand that it is a part of our culture now, but as the Great Dave Grohl said,

“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight f—ing hours with 800 people at a convention center and…then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not f—in’ good enough.’ Can you imagine? It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old f—ing drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f—ing start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some s—ty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-a$$ s–t, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a f—ing computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”

That is how I feel too. Now, that isn’t exactly how it worked for Jem and the Holograms, but there was a higher purpose.

Not to mention that the idea that Jem would ever be tempted to go solo is ridiculous. Yes, there might have been storylines about people going solo—Kimber and Stormer, member of the Misfits, felt that they were unappreciated and go off together for an episode, and Shana almost leaves when her fashion designing takes off—but Jem never goes solo. She is the manager of the band and she knows that she could not do it without her friends—it is never about that.

I am just afraid that they are turning a childhood 80’s classic to some cheesy teen melodrama, with a silly robot that plays sad home videos for Jem to cry over.…


I guess I should try to reserve my judgment until I see the actual film (too late, I know) but the trailer hurt me to my soul and I’m not sure I could actually handle seeing the full film. I do not see this turning out as a good adaptation. I am a Jem Girl and I want everyone to love Jem, especially in her original format. I do not want to see my beloved characters put through what happened to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Do you agree? Disagree? If you think I should still go see the movie, please convince me.

Gotham: the Gritty City with the Bright Future

gothamAs far as first seasons go, I would say that Gotham was really strong overall. It brought to light backstories of characters that had not had them before and was able to keep its audience gripped. It is, so far, an excellent prequel to the Batman story.

The reason may be that in the stories of Batman, we have never gotten to see the cop drama that took place in this dirty and broken city in the years before James Gordon became commissioner. This includes his partner at the GCPD, Harvey Bullock, who previously—like in Batman: The Animated Series—is nothing more than one of the commissioner’s underlings. We have never seen him be Detective James Gordon’s partner or friend in the past.

Nor had we ever really seen the immediate aftermath and aftershocks of the catalyst that makes the child Bruce Wayne into Batman. In past incarnations we have seen the catalyst—the murder of his parents–but then jump here and there with Bruce as he seeks out the best magicians and martial artists to round out his training as a young adult. But we’ve seen never his childhood before that. In many incarnations the murderer is never found, but with this first season we are led to believe that Bruce will not stop searching to find the truth, so an answer may be had in future seasons.

We are also privy to the backstories of many of our known super-villains—though for now they are just people—which is a fabulous twist. Especially Selina Kyle (played by Camren Bicondova), who goes by Cat. She is an adolescent, around the age of Bruce, and for now she is just a very sneaky and wise street kid. I had my reservations about her at first, but she is becoming a fantastic character.

Further Character Highlights:

Alfred (played by Sean Pertwee): He is an interesting character so far, being a bit uptight and rough around the edges and also being new to guardianship of a child. He could use—and deserves more—fleshing out, but I have grown to like him. It is only fitting that the son of a doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) would raise Batman.

The Riddler (played by Cory Michael Smith): For now in the series he is just plain old, Edward Nygma, but his slow and steady descent into the Riddler persona and his overall character is the best so far. He works in the GCPD as fact checker/finder, self-proclaimed assistant medical examiner, and all around quirk with his riddles.

Gertrud and Oswald Kapelput [Cobblepot] (played by Carol Kane and Robin Lord Taylor): Mrs. Cobblepot, Oswald’s mother, is over the top and could be considered a folly on the series, but she provides such a fantastic backstory, one that is so different from the originals. Even at his young age, Oswald has already been nicknamed Penguin among the mobsters of Gotham for his walk. In the original incarnations of Penguin, he was such a horrid child that his parents tossed him away—which people may remember in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Instead, in this series he is such a momma’s boy, and she is so naïve and in denial of her sons activities. He wants to keep that way, which in turn makes him do very villainous things as he tries to climb the crime ladder to become the king of Gotham.

The Joker (???) and the Graysons: The actor Cameron Monaghan appeared in episode 16, The Blind Fortune Teller, as the son of a circus performer, who happened to be a bit of a prostitute. This was his first stint as what I assume will become the Joker. He was the greatest kind of creepy, where he so easily feigned innocence and then the psychopath emerged. It shook me to the core and all without clown makeup. This episode also gave us a glimpse into the Graysons, parents of Dick Grayson, who in this episode like each other but are on opposite sides of two warring families.

Plot/Storyline Highlights:

As mentioned before, I need to highlight the partnership between Det. James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and Det. Harvey Bullock (played by Donal Logue). They are very contrasting and yet they gel so well together. I think it is because James Gordon is the white knight that Harvey once was and still wants to be. Harvey has let the city and its issues tarnish his armor, but he knows how the city runs and is the voice of caution to James Gordon’s over-zealousness. At the same time, James Gordon is the light in the darkness that has become Harvey’s world, and is bringing out the best in him. I could watch seasons and seasons of just the two of them doing their thing.

The relationship between Cat and Bruce Wayne (played by David Mazouz) is a confused one that has developed and, as us fans of Batman know, will continue. They are friends and they even like each other to the point that kids of their age can, but it is strained and unsure. This is mainly because Bruce has a stronger moral compass, where as Cat will kill if she has to, but Bruce would not.

Barbara Kean’s (played by Erin Richards) story is very interesting. She starts out as James Gordon’s fiancée, but things go awry and we see that Barbara may have secrets in her past. We know she has had an on again off again relationship with female Internal Affairs officer Renee Montoya and she also gets wrapped up in a villains plot to get at Det. James Gordon near the end of the season. So far, we have only seen a small glimpse of how that has really affected her. It does raise the question—is she or isn’t she the Barbara that becomes James Gordon’s wife?

Series Downfalls

There are only two missteps that I have noticed in this first season.

First, Fish Mooney. She is a character that was created just for this show. The actress playing her, Jada Pinkett Smith, once said, “It is pretty cool to play a new character that might one day become cannon.” That was just before she suddenly decided that she would be leaving the show. Fish was an odd character and for at least the first half of the season, stuck out like a sore thumb. She was over the top and a bit too close to being a wacky super-villainess with her style and actions. In this toned down world of real human-beings and mostly normal crime, she just didn’t gel.

She seemed like she was only there to introduce Penguin, who was once one of her lackeys, and the mob-bosses/hierarchy of the city’s crime lords. At a certain point, she was forced out of her position and Gotham, which led to a side-story of great annoyance and little importance, other than it calmed her over-acting and smoothed out her character. Upon her short-lived return to Gotham and the amazing battle for Gotham that ensued, I actually started to like her as a character—which makes me a little sorry that she will not be returning, but it is easy to say that when you know that she really isn’t. Still, it was cool on the writer’s part to have left it open for her to return (again). As they say, if you don’t see the body, they ain’t dead.

Second—and this is a small thing—is an issue with Hollywood in general. The villain that got hold of Barbara Kean was called The Ogre, played by Milo Ventimiglia. He had a three-episode storyline where we meet his father (played by Daniel Davis), a butler for a rich old lady, where he claims that his son has a face that not even his mother could love. He had a deformity that he had gotten fixed, and we get to see his original face—which was really not that bad. I don’t mean to sound morbid or anything, but it just made everyone look so shallow for getting down on this guys slight facial deformity.

But, I get it. Milo Ventimiglia is a very handsome actor, so they only wanted to skew his face slightly in that particular photo. Or they thought we were stupid and we wouldn’t realize it was the same guy. Either way, Milo as the Ogre got enough screen time with his delicious regular face that they could have made his deformity more severe and taken the idea seriously, rather than being afraid that what they could show would be too unlovable for the viewers. With crazy shows like Helix out there, I don’t think they should worry.

gotham_james-gordon-and-harvey-bullock-stillIf you ask me, the future of Gotham as a series is a bright one, if they can maintain the remaining characters without going over the top again, especially as we get more into the super-villains. This first season has been a success in its great character building and interesting storylines and overall story arch.

In the future, I would like to see what they do with Harvey Dent (played by Nicholas D’Agosto) as well as Ivy Pepper (played by Clare Foley). I see potential in both of them.

I can’t wait for the next season to see what secrets Bruce discovers about his father after the very last scene of the season finale.

Will you be watching it this coming fall? I know I will.

Bonfires and Bad Boys – A Fallen Review

Fallen-by-Lauren-KateI read Fallen by Lauren Kate about two years ago when I found it on the discount table at my local Waterstone’s. I had just finished The Hunger Games and I was looking for another fun read in between all my course work. I read the back it seemed intriguing enough. A different twist on the typical Fantasy YA that seems to be all about Vampires and Werewolves, this was about Angels. I remembered the book being slightly amusing, but a bit of a slow read. It could have been that I was a bit busy at the time and so focusing on one book was a little hard. Either way, I decided to re-read it again recently.

I do love the beginning of this book. You start out in one of Lucinda and Daniel’s previous lives in 1800s England. The scene is dark, gothic and utterly dramatic with a kiss that ignites the night. Literally, it catches Luce on fire. With that tone set I was expecting it to continue that way. Nope. The next chapter you are catapulted 200 years into the present at a reform school in rural Georgia. Talk about a 180.

Luce is being dropped off by her parents because of an unfortunate and fiery accident at her old school that left a student dead and her without most of her long hair. Her surroundings are less than ideal, grey buildings that look vaguely like prisons, dying landscape and a civil war era cemetery that left the entire area smelling like rotting unmentionables in the humid Georgia weather. Her classmates range from complete delinquents to kids who just happened to find themselves there by chance. Her first meeting with Daniel in the book actually yields one of my favorite lines:

She realized they were still locking eyes when Daniel flashed her a smile. A jet of warmth shot through her and she had to grip the bench for support. She felt her lips pull up in a smile back at him, but then he raised his hand in the air.

And flipped her off. (Page 40)

I laughed out loud when I read that. It was too perfectly typical. Of course the love interest would treat her like hell right off. How else would she turn to the other love interest the badder boy, Cam. Even though she is attracted to Cam, she is still inexplicably drawn to Daniel. They seem to cross paths all the time. They come back to each other and eventually everything comes out as it should. But something is different. Remember that bit about Luce bursting into flames? She doesn’t do that this time. She learns the truth, that Daniel is an Angel, that many of her friends are Fallen Angels and she doesn’t go anywhere. Much to the shock and delight of Daniel, who finally has the opportunity to love her.

The theology aspect of this book is also really interesting. I know that it is fiction and the author could have made it up, but I would really be interested in reading some of the research she would have had to do to talk about the tiers of angels. I am not a religious person, but it appealed to me. It was about being lost and not knowing what the right thing to do is. That good and evil are not as black and white as people would like to think. Everything is in shades of grey.

This was by no means the best book I have ever read. There were places where the story line dragged and it was difficult to pick up again, but I was glad I finished it. I would recommend this to everyone who is looking for a simple, fun read.

We’ll be covering the book more in depth later in the year, so makes sure you are subscribed to the podcast!

The Haven for Unsolved Mysteries

Haven has been one of my favorite shows since it first aired in 2010 on the Syfy network. The premise is that every 27 years, for a few years, the people of a small harbor village called Haven, Maine are plagued with the “troubles”, which are supernatural occurrences caused by a “troubled” person. Troubles run in families and can be triggered by a traumatic or emotional event. The people of Haven, of course, keep this hushed amongst those who need to know only and any news reading disguises a trouble as a gas leak, or something else explainable so that any outsider is none the wiser.

At the start of the show, the troubles are just starting again and no one knows why or where they came from, or at least the viewers don’t, but over the seasons the mystery has slowly unraveled. Except for the Colorado kid.

HavenshowposterThe show has been running for 5 seasons and it is always interesting to see where something came from. The whole television series is based on Stephen King’s short story, The Colorado Kid which is less than 100 pages long.

King wrote this story to pose more questions than answers. He set out to present a mystery rather than solve it–that is to say that if you are looking for answers in this story, you will not find them. Still, I would recommend the read anyway, because sometimes it is not about the answers. Stephen King noted in the afterword that it is not that he couldn’t come up with a solution, but that it was the mystery that would keep him coming back to the story, day after day. And it is true, at times, that something might be ruined if it were solved, like who Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer was, or who killed the Black Dahlia. There is plenty of speculation, but I’m unconvinced, or maybe I just know that once they are definitively solved, they will be forgotten.

The other fantastic element to this show being based off a story like this is that rather than giving us everything, and then having fans of the story say “No, it wasn’t like that” or “That’s not how I pictured it”, we get a small platform to make an incredible dive from. I have read many posts saying that the story and the show have near to nothing to do with each other, and I just don’t see it that way.

King set the story on an island off the coast of Maine, harking back to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians–there is no locked room so grand as an island, and his story was also based on a true crime story with similar outcomes. He said, “There are few places in America where the line between the little world Inside and all the great world Outside is so firmly and deeply drawn. Islanders are full of warmth for those who belong, but they keep their secrets well from those who don’t.”

Although Haven is not an island off the coast of Maine, it’s small, secluded town atmosphere gives the same effect. In the short span of the story, it set most of our setting and cast of characters, even though we only actually meet two of each. Names like Chief George/Garland Wournos, Dave (Bowie), and Vince Teague(s) appear, and the settings of The Grey Gull, the newspaper and of course the harbor/beach. The characters we meet, Vince and Dave, who are an integral part of the Haven storyline, were changed, but only so far as to make them similar in age and turn them into brothers.

Coloradokid_pbWhen it comes down to the actual mystery of The Colorado Kid, the show, so far has only given us the answers that the book had already presented, changing just a few of the details. Like any good unsolved mysteries, there were enough clues left to give the victim a story and entice people to want to know more, or give their own speculations, but not enough for anyone to say for sure, even leaving questionable gaps. If he was last seen in the early afternoon in Colorado leaving work for lunch, how did he wind up dead on a beach in Maine? Was there even enough time to go from Colorado to Maine in that time? Was it planned in advanced? If so, why?

These are the great questions left by the story. The answers we know for sure, in both settings, is that the victim was James Cogan, he lived in Colorado with his wife Arla, he died on the beach in Maine, and no one knows the circumstances. They do come to a conclusion of how he died in the story, but with so many other questions, no one is completely certain.

It may not seem, at first glance, that the premise of the TV series has anything to do with the mystery of The Colorado Kid, but it is in fact the main reason that the main characters of Audrey Parker (played by Emily Rose), Nathan Wuornos (spelled slightly differently in the series–played by Lucas Bryant), and Duke Crocker (played by Eric Balfour) go in search of the answers to the troubles.

I was curious during this past season, why no one had brought up The Colorado Kid in a while. At the end of the third season, we had learned something really fantastic about him. However, in the midst of my questioning it and watching season 5, we learned more about Dave Teagues, and he wondered if he had something to do with The Colorado Kid’s death.

We may never know, but that’s what keeps us coming back for more! That and the fact that I want to know what will happen next! I highly recommend both story and series!

Still Alive, Still Alice

If you’re anything like me coming off of Oscar season, you have a long list of films that are now on your To Watch list (okay, you had that list on the journey up to the Oscars, but it’s ever more important now that the films have actually won something). I know it’s tempting to prioritize that list by which films won the most awards (those are surely the best ones, right?), but if you were to ask my opinion, Still Alice belongs at the top.

MV5BMjIzNzAxNjY1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg4ODQxMzE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Sure, it’s not flashy like the other winners. Birdman looks like it’s filmed all in one shot. The Grand Budapest Hotel has that traditional Wes Anderson look. The Theory of Everything is the story of someone with a household name.

And Still Alice is about a fictional women with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is not a feel good movie. In fact, I started crying about ten minutes in and didn’t stop until the end. But it’s simple and insightful and full of performances that make the characters as real as anyone. That’s the point. Alice might not be real, but her story shows us the struggle of the 5 million people in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

It’s no coincidence that the only awards Still Alice was nominated for were for Julianne Moore as Best Actress or that she won every time, not just at the Oscars, but the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the SAG Awards, and the Critic’s Choice Awards. The film is told from Alice’s perspective, which is why Moore’s role is so important (though I would argue that Glatzer and Westmoreland’s direction is worth some awards as well). She is the movie, it all hangs on her character, on her performance, and dear god does she deliver. The character goes through so many emotions in such rapid succession, each with its own layers of what she is actually feeling and what she wants her family to see. Amazingly, Julianne Moore pulls all this complexity off beautifully.

The story itself has a fairly simple concept that packs a big punch. Alice is a linguistics professor at Columbia University whose career, life and self-worth is partially tied to her intelligence. Education is a priority with her and her doctor husband, something they have managed to pass on to two of their three children. So when Alice’s memory starts to slip, she feels like her identity is being taken from her. In a semi-ironic twist, the person who most understands her isolation is her wayward, non-collegiate daughter played by Kristen Stewart in an equally moving performance.

Still-AliceStill Alice is based on the novel by Lisa Genova, who has a degree biopsychology and a PhD in neuroscience. Still Alice was her first novel, but since then she has tackled other types of cognitive impairments in Left Neglected, Love Anthony and her upcoming novel Inside the O’Briens.

I have not read the book myself and I’m not sure that I’m planning to (if I cried that much in the movie, I might die of dehydration reading the book), but the film did make me want to check out Genova’s other novels. From what I can tell, they are each written from the perspective of the impaired person, giving voice and insight to people suffering with not being able to express themselves.

That’s what I took away from the film – the frustration, anger and embarrassment that comes from not being able to say what Alice wants to say, from simple everyday thoughts to what she’s going through overall. Such insight and understanding should surely be enough to move this to the top of your list of films to see.

Let us know in the comments if you have any additional thoughts on the film or on Lisa Genova’s books. How did the film match up to the novel?

Where Are All You Zombies?: How Predestination Swirled Up My Brain

predestinationRecently, a commenter turned us onto the film Predestination (2014) and the short story it is based on, “All You Zombies”, written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1958, so I checked them out.

Do not be misled by the short story title, neither the story nor the film have anything to do with actual zombies. The only mention of zombies is the same in each: “I know where I come from- but where do all you zombies come from?” Instead it has to do with time travel and paradoxes. The short story is a feat because, although these days time travel and time paradoxes are almost cliché, this was the first of its kind. Building off the fictional device created in the mind of H.G. Wells, the time machine, Heinlein creates a situation that is one of a kind.

The film starred Ethan Hawke and Australians Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor. Sarah Snook won the well-deserved AACTA award for Best Actress for it. The Spierig brothers directed and filmed it in Melbourne, Australia – though it takes place in America.

From here on, I will be spoiling both (but scroll to the end for a spoiler-free wrap up).

This film made my nose bleed. Not literally, of course, but it is the kind of movie that if you think about it too hard, you might have an aneurism and blood will shoot out your nose. This is not to say that it is a bad film, in fact, I enjoyed it, but things can feel a bit convoluted when dealing with time paradoxes or time travel in general. As the doctor says, “time isn’t linear…it is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… stuff”, that is how this movie is presented.

61vjhNvaWTL._SL300_Ethan Hawke’s character is a time agent who has just recovered from a serious injury while after his foe The Fizzle Bomber. He jumps back in time and strikes up a conversation with a man, who writes confessionals under the pen name “The Unmarried Mother”. Because of that strange pen name, we then get a bet for a bottle of booze and this man’s life story, which begins “when I was a little girl…”. Sarah Snook played this character, Jane when a girl – John as a man.

This story takes a while, and unlike the short story, we don’t really know why we are hearing it until after it is over. But after learning about a man that “The Unmarried Mother” fell for, was left by, bore a child by, and ruined him completely, Ethan Hawke asks, “if you saw him again and knew you would get away with it, would you kill him?” This sparks most of the time travel in the film and this is where it frays and makes your head hurt, in a good and crazy way.

We already knew that the woman from the story and the man that was in the bar are the same person, but when they go back so this man can find the man who ruined his life, the only person he bumps into is himself, or rather herself. Come to fund out, he dated himself and bore a child with himself.


imageThen Ethan Hawke goes to the hospital to snatch the child and drop it off at the orphanage, the same date and place where Jane was left. This means that the baby that this one person had by himself, the baby is also the same character. All Jane/John. Ethan Hawke recruits John to his time agency and says, “now that you know who she is, you now know who you are, and if you think about it you will know who the baby is and who I am.” Or something of the like, which would make you think that Ethan Hawke is the child, but if that is that case, he is also Jane/John.

To put the sprinkles on this swirly cake of madness, after he recruits himself, he is then decommissioned as an agent, and for his last placement, he chooses to go after his nemesis, The Fizzle Bomber. If you get the drift at this point, you would not be surprised when – BLAM – Jane/John/Time Agent is also, The Fizzle Bomber. The film basically ends with young Ethan Hawke killing his bomber self and claiming that he would never turn into that guy. But aren’t some things predestined?

Trying to connect all the dots and trying to think, “if he recruited himself then how…?” And just trying to tie all the ends together to make something more linear and comprehensible, but you really can’t. It just keeps swirling around in your head.

The film is really a great adaptation of the story, and I actually feel it improves upon it. The way the story is laid out, finding out who the child is and reveals like that are not as dynamic, but I watched the film first, so I knew all the twists. Still, I wondered if I would have understood all of it without having seen the film.


predestination watched

The film expanded on what was on the page, only changing a few minor things and adding in a few characters, like The Fizzle Bomber, who is just a Fizzle War that barely happened because of the time agents work in the story.

The film really understood the idea of a time paradox and played off it well, as well as the themes and tone. Once I got the idea of where it was going, I did predict much of the ending, but it did not make it any less enjoyable. It is all a bit mad, but I like a bit of madness.

I would recommend the story to everyone. The film on the other hand, although I do like it, might be too much to handle for some people (see meme below). The story is a bit toned down and easier to swallow, but the film is a bit more fun. However, I think I know where all the zombies come from… they come from watching this film.


Lost Boys and Giant Spider-Scorpions: A Recap of The Maze Runner from a Non-Reader’s Perspective

*** WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the whole of The Maze Runner film ***

The-Maze-Runner-13Another in a long line of young adult dystopian tales has hit the big screen. The Maze Runner based on the novel by James Dashner came out a few weeks ago and I finally got the chance to see the film. Though I have never read the books, I have heard good things from those that have.

I have to admit, I am rarely unprepared to compare a book and movie adaptation. I usually devour the books and then eagerly (or sometimes dreadingly) wait to see the story brought to life outside my head. It was interesting to go into this film not having any idea what to expect. In a way, I was just like the boys in the film. I was thrust into the world of the Glade just as every boy there was, with no knowledge of how it came to be, or why they were there.

The story begins to unfold as Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, is introduced to this new society; a few dozen ragged boys that have created this community in the middle of the maze. There is a certain and very important social and economic order to things in the Glade. Each person plays his part from Alby and Newt, the two-man leadership, to the boys who plant the food and repair the buildings. Though, the most respected of the group are the Runners. Runners enter the maze each day and map the entire thing, looking for a way out.

At night, the maze closes its walls and shifts, becoming home to the monsters that live within. The Grievers, a sort of freaky part spider, part scorpion, part alien, part robot thing that terrorizes anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the maze after the walls close. Thomas is warned away from the maze the moment he is informed about it. There are strict rules that he must obey. The only people allowed to enter the maze are Runners. No one survives a night in the maze.

Seemingly predictably, Thomas becomes the first to survive a night inside its walls; even killing a Griever.

Shortly after, the introduction of a girl, Theresa, into the Glade throws the order off balance and challenges everything the boys have built. One of the enforcers, Gally, who has been against Thomas the entire time, has more animosity than ever when the girl seems to recognize Thomas. This plot point could have caused much more trouble, however Theresa’s character gets demoted to sidekick status and you lose getting to know someone that could be a great character. She even brought a cure for the sickness that comes from being stung by a Griever. This cure also restores the takers memory. But, she was more of a mini side plot than anything major. Almost inconsequential.

The plot thickens when a piece of the Griever shows Thomas and the main runner Minho the way out of the maze. This causes a major consequence in the Glade. The people that have trapped the boys in the maze open the gates and let Grievers into their home where they decimate anything in their paths. Many boys are killed, including the leader, Alby. This leads Thomas to stab himself with Griever poison so he can take the cure and remember.

What he remembers is not exactly surprising. He worked for the people that put all the boys in the maze. So did Theresa. He leads a group of boys through the maze and, though they are attacked and almost killed, they make it out. Come to find completely blown apart lab with a message from the head of the program dead and a message waiting for them. The world is gone; they are the last hope for humanity. They are whisked away by armed militants who promise to keep them safe.

Though, they throw us a twist at the very end. The masterminds are not dead, and they have tricked the kids into thinking they are safe. Instead they are on their way to their next test to see if they can save everyone. Duh DUH DUH!

All in all, the movie was not bad. The characters were likeable enough. Though, I might be a bit on the bias side since I absolutely adore Dylan O’Brien. Any other Teen Wolf fans in the house? He plays passion, directness and curiosity perfectly. And he was absolutely brilliant in this movie. The dynamics between all the boys almost reminds me of Lord of the Flies, minus the whole killing the weak kid part.

The decision to leave this movie open ended was a bold move on the part of the director. It implies that he really does believe that all the books are going to be made into movies. I have no doubt that the next one will indeed grace the silver screen at some point in the near future. But, for the love of god, please leave the spider, scorpion, alien, robots out of it. Yikes!

Starting the Season of Scares with Origin of Horror – Frankenstein

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – a book review by Kendyl Bryantfrankenstein_cover

In honor of last month’s premiere of Frankenstein MD, a web series adaptation by PBS Digital and Pemberley Digital, this month I decided to read Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel for the first time. I’ve seen the film, of course, and some other adaptations of the story such as Frankenweenie (2012) and I, Frankenstein (2014) but I had it on good authority that the novel is quite different to the tale that we all know.

The premise remains the same – Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with the science of life, builds an oversized, humanoid being that he brings to life. However, the way that the story unfolds after the creation of the “monster” is a bit of a departure. Shelley’s Frankenstein is disgusted with what he has done as soon as the monster comes to life therefore abandoning the being and…

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Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus on the London Stage

frank3It is hard to know what to expect from a stage production of Frankenstein, especially when all of the films called Frankenstein have been off the mark on their adaptation of the novel by Mary Shelley. The production for the London Stage was written by Nick Dear (The Art of Success), published by Faber and Faber, directed by Danny Boyle (director of the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics; Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), and starred Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as Dr. Victor Frankenstein. When this production was put up, on alternating nights Miller and Cumberbatch would switch parts, and although I would have loved to see both, I was only able to see the aforementioned one.

Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823 and was always titled Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, which influenced the creators and actors from this production. They also said that even though it takes place so long ago, much of the story still resonates with current events. It was written in an age before science fiction was a genre, when Gothic stories reigned, and the novel stands out above others riddled with fear of what lengths people will take for science, and what immoral acts can come from it. Can Man really play God? It was the first book to ask.

The production begins with a lit circle in the middle of the stage, something of a womb made of canvas and wood. Inside is the Creature being brought to life and he is birthed from this and onto the stage in view. For a while there is a bit of awkward flailing and noise-making as the Creature learns to crawl, stand, walk, run and emit some form of speech. When Victor enters and sees what he has done, he covers the Creature and abandons him, running for his life.

The stage design was Gothic and minimalist- very fitting for this novel. It was dark and sparse most of the time, with only flares of something more, like a patch of grass or a bonfire, or a small structure for a house, etc. There were some scenes that had much more, like the train and rail workers coming in, which was a spectacular sight to see, or where Victor lived and worked. The center part of the stage rotated and was utilized for space and to move scenery. There was also a curtain of lights above, a mass of light bulbs hanging from the rafters, and when they were lit it was a fantastic sight. All in all, the staging was very well thought out and employed very successfully.

The amazing thing about this production that has never happened in a straightforward adaptation of the novel (excluding I, Frankenstein, which could be considered an adaptation of the novel, but is also based on a graphic novel we discussed previously in a podcast) is that the voice of the Creature, his own thoughts and feelings, are so important and central to the production. This differs even from the novel, where although we heard the Creature speak, the story is told from Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s perspective. I have to applaud Nick Dear for taking this approach. This feature is what attracted him and was essential to this production, as Danny Boyle generally said, and unknowingly agreed with me about how previous adaptations of Frankenstein always took the Creature’s voice away, changing the point and the crux of the story.

A  curious yet fabulous decision was that the casting for this play went for a colorblind array of cast members. We never see Victor’s mother, but his father (M. Frankenstein), brother (William) and fiancée/wife (Elizabeth) were black, and as most people can easily tell, Benedict Cumberbatch is a very pale shade of white. For the time it represented, it was unlikely in all accounts. As a viewer today, the fiancée doesn’t make much difference, but the blood relatives did pull me away from the story for a while, if only because I was trying to figure out if his father was really his stepfather and his little brother actually his half-brother. However, I am one to love it when directors and casting turn things on their head and surprise people.

The acting, I expected, was going to be the highlight of the play, and they did not disappoint. It is no wonder that Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller share both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. They brought the characters to life in a way that made you forget you were watching a play. When choosing which version to go see, I figured that Benedict could play either part very well, but I wanted to see what Jonny Lee Miller could do as the Creature.

For most of the first half of the play the Creature is left to roam through the dirty streets of London, hiding in the shadows and scrounging for food. Anytime he is seen, like when he saves a prostitute from an assault, she sees him and backs away wanting to leave him alone, which is the tamest way a person reacts to him.

As I have said in a previous podcast about the 1931 Frankenstein, the Creature Frankenstein creates is like a child. Everything around him is new and interesting and absolutely terrifying. That is Miller’s take on the Creature. When he comes to a patch of grass he plays on it, feels it and rolls in it. Rain is refreshing and amazing. The sun sets and the birds fly and he laughs and jumps around at all the new stimulation.

My only issue with his portrayal is that it walked a fine line between fabulous interpretation and offensive. This child-like Creature with put together parts and a newly awakened brain had some muscular and speech disabilities, which on one hand I can see how that fits, and on the other hand it took on the guise of someone mentally disabled with stutters, spitting and long pauses in between syllables of speech as he gathered his wits. When the Creature makes it out onto a farm and meets up with the blind man who takes him under his wing and teaches him literature and philosophy, his demeanor and mannerisms smooth out a bit, but still felt a little uncomfortable for me.

***Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence*** (skip next two paragraphs)

Still, the most uncomfortable moment was the culminating one, where Victor and Elizabeth have just wed in Geneva. Victor tells her to stay in her room while he and the guards go hunting the Creature. The Creature is actually hidden very well under the sheets of the bed and springs upon Elizabeth when Victor is away. At first, it seems that they are just going to talk. Elizabeth calms and tell him that they can be friends, which seems to be all that the Creature wants at this point, even though we know that he is desperate for someone like himself to be created.

The mood turns quickly as the Creature says that he feels bad that he has to do this and then proceeds to hold Elizabeth down on the bed and rapes her on stage. I do not remember that being part of the book and  I think that a disclaimer was warranted. It made me very upset and sick and while I want to applaud the actors and director for making me feel so much, it was a bit too much for me and I’m sure for other audience members.

Besides that, the production was highly engaging. There are so many moments that just tug at you: You watch the creature learn and grow, and you pity him; you see him commit his first crime, and anger takes hold; he pleads with his creator to make a companion, and you sympathize with him; Victor takes into account all the ways this could go wrong and destroys the companion after showing the Creature, and you don’t know what to feel; the Creature murders all that is near and dear for Victor, and you feel disgusted. In the end it all culminates with the both Victor and his Creature in the North Pole, where we learn that they are nearly one and the same: both monsters, both human. All the Creature wants is to not be alone.

This play was dark and gritty, it easily held up a mirror to the audience asking who is the real monster? And it was not afraid to go darker and deeper; nothing was held back. Nick Dear really understood the original novel and made a play worthy of it. I applaud all those who worked on this successful production and now I hope that I can see how Benedict portrays the Creature. Can’t wait!

Have any of you seen this production? Are you going to see it now? Let us know in the comments!


Spanish_Godzilla_2014_Poster“Damn, I love the sound of Godzilla’s roar,” was the first thing my husband said as we walked out of the movie theater, and I have to admit it was pretty badass. I was extremely excited for this movie, which is kind of ironic since I was only introduced to Godzilla in college. My introductory film was Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). I never thought a moth would be such a viable villain, but it was amazing and every Butterfree butterfly Pokémon I ever played has been hence forth named “Mothra”.

Some of my favorite moments were pretty classic; the slow emergence from the sea, the charging tail, the surprisingly parallels between Godzilla and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character and even a heart wrenching moment when the female MUTO’s babies are killed, but I was also impressed with the plot. The film begins with us seeing an old skeleton of a monster (later coined MUTO) and some dried out egg sacks. Then we skip forward to a mysterious radio active steam explosion in a nuclear plant that kills a few scientists and renders the city inhabitable.

This ties into the discovery of a pair of MUTO no one thought was had survived having a San Franciscan romance. There were so many little touches, and some character arching that made the movie feel just a tad more satisfying then if it had just been fight scenes, interesting relationships between the characters and back-story that made it logical for the characters paths to cross and intertwine.

There was a very nice group of well-known actors: Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samuri), Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and of course I’d be ridiculously neglectful if I didn’t mention Bryan Cranston (Malcom in the Middle, Breaking Bad). The only weird thing about the acting was that Ken Watanabe played this introverted scientist. He mumbled a lot and leaned on things looking gloomy and forlorn and didn’t really do or say much. However, he was an expert of sorts on the history of Godzilla and past MUTOs so it made sense for him to be there.

I could’ve used more Godzilla smash scenes, but then again, I don’t think there could ever be enough of that. To be fair, there was quite a bit and the director had this way of showing just a little taste of Godzilla fighting before cutting away to something else. I really enjoyed those teasers and the fight scenes kept getting longer and more detailed, leading up to the mega fight scene that is a classic cannon ending.

The monster’s themselves looked believable, nothing bulky or awkward. It was actually very realistic looking and I can appreciate that attention to detail. Even simple things like when Godzilla dived under arm ships; it created a wave that rocked the ships. I know I’m gushing and fan-girling a bit, but it was just so well done! Overall I was very pleased and (if you couldn’t have guessed) I am extremely in favor of future films and the revival of the Godzilla movie franchise.

The Emotions of War Horse

war-horse-1300x630__artist-largeThis story has captivated the world. It’s that simple.

From the Queen’s favorite production in London, to the creation of an award winning film and finalizing its popularity by bringing the original novel back to bestseller lists, this is the story of a farm boy and his horse, and how their lives become disrupted by the start of World War 1. One day the biggest concern is how Albert will keep his horse, Joey, out of his father’s hands. The next day, Joey is taken by the army to become part of the proud British Calvary. After that, Albert takes himself to the very edge to recover the life he lost the day Joey was taken. Together, horse and boy, fight their own battles in a war that no longer has room for proud war horses, rather, the battlefield is laden with tanks, machine guns and barbed wire.

It is clear that this adaptation from book to stage has been successful. From London to New York City to Melbourne to Berlin, audiences flock to the theater to sit through the most heart-wrenching production of an English boy, a German general and the horse that brings the humanity out of those he touches.

When I sat down in the round theater, I knew I had volunteered for something that would open the floodgates, though I could’ve have guessed what that really meant. With the music bursting into my chest, I was caught in the first breathes of the production. From foal to stallion, Joey pranced around the stage with the echoing excitement of Black Beauty. Three men worked the puppet that becomes Joey and not once did I ever notice them on the stage. Joey trotted, galloped, charged with the grace of his puppeteers for the entirety of the production and as an audience member you can only be captivated by the brilliance of the artist who created life out of metal and gears.

By the end of the evening, you could see the tears flow from every member of the audience – it’s the blessing of the round theater in which we sat. Husbands comforted wives, men pretended not to wipe the tears from their eyes, the woman next to me was inconsolable and I myself couldn’t dry my cheeks fast enough. There was a pride in the room as our world darkened. It was not pride for the English Calvary, though that was there. It was not pride for soldiers or victory or the strength the in horses were made march to march off to war. The pride that was felt by all of us was that even in the darkest moments there are those amongst us who never forget our humanity. The strength to sacrifice for a cause that is just, to care for those who cannot care for themselves and to remember that there is always a choice.

This is one adaptation that cannot be missed. The message is there, the success is clear.

War Horse will add to your life.

@kristinbergene @riverrampress