Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something."

So I woke up this morning, ready to read a book but I decided to check my email and my various online connections first. And look at what splendid things I found. Entertainment Weekly (EW) has released three photos of The Hobbit during it's filming. This is our first look at Bilbo and at the company of dwarves that he'll be traveling with. And of course no sneak peek is complete without a photo of Gandalf. Are you excited yet?

Source of the photos: EW

(note: title quote from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Far over the misty mountains cold, To dungeons deep and caverns old..."

This week has been a busy one in terms of news surrounding the The Hobbit. All of the major casting and the first block of filming are already done. Now they're looking for locations for filming.

As it stands, here are the confirmed cast members:
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Aidan Turner as Kíli
Dean O'Gorman as Fíli
Mark Hadlow as Dori
Jed Brophy as Nori
Adam Brown as Ori
John Callen as Óin
Peter Hambleton as Glóin
William Kircher as Bifur
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Stephen Hunter as Bombur
Andy Serkis as Gollum
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and the Necromancer
Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Stephen Fry as Master of Lake-town
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
Jeffrey Thomas as Thrór
Mike Mizrahi as Thráin II
Bret McKenzie as Lindir
Ryan Gage as Alfrid
Barry Humphries as The Great Gobin
Conan Stevens as Azog
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel

Evangeline Lilly's role was announced today and I don't know quite how to feel about it because her character is a new one that wasn't in the book. It's a mixture of confusion and curiosity. The book is all about the male relationships in it so it's interesting that now there will be this female figure there. Peter Jackson hasn't said how big a role Tauriel will play yet but it may prove interesting. We shall see.

Source: ONE

(note: title quote from J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Books I wish could be Movies

This is another Friday edition of YA CAFE, which I've been trying to regularly participate in since I first heard about it. It's run by Ghenet and Gabi and open to anyone who wants to join in so please feel free to carry on with it in your own blog.

So the question for today is: What YA books would make good movies?

First up is Maureen Johnson's novel 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I think it would make an awesome summer movie since it's about adventure and following rules from a dead runaway aunt. What girl hasn't wanted to go backpacking through Europe? I have.

I really love this book because the journey is a solitary one for Ginny, who I feel is trying to find her aunt in the places the envelopes take her to, and a contemplative one . It'd be interesting to see how it would translate into a film especially the scary moments Ginny faces in the novel.

Second is Catherine Atkins' 2003 novel Alt Ed. It was the first book I read that really addressed the bullying I myself had experienced in elementary school (being a bit overweight and a tomboy). And I liked the concept of the bullies as well as the victims being thrown together in a class where they had to look at each other and talk to one another.

It would make an interesting indie film. Also an important one since the topic of bullying is coming up more and more often now. I think it's time that the film industry also really approached the subject.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson thinks he's just like any regular kid from New York. Sure he's got his problems like dyslexia and his inability to not get kicked out of school but he's surviving. Well, at least until monsters start coming after him and his mom gets taken from him.

Then things start getting a little confusing with the fact that his best friend and his favorite teacher aren't who they appear to be. Not even Percy is who he thinks he is. He's a demi-god and the son of a yet unrevealed God from Olympus.

But with this new discovery and his arrival at camp Half-Blood (a place for others like Percy) comes the startling realization that not all is well on Mount Olympus. Something precious has been stolen and if it's not found by the summer solstice, there will be a war among the Gods.

I really enjoyed the book (even though I felt sort of embarrassed to be checking it out of the library). I really loved Percy as a character because even though he was a demi-god, the author, Rick Riordan, reminded you with little moments that hey, Percy's just a 12-year-old kid in an extraordinary situation. Also, it made Greek mythology a bit easier to grasp for me since I always confused Greek and Roman. I think the novel really breathed life into something that's been kept in a toga for forever and a day too long.

The film though entertaining was flawed and at times ridiculous. Does anyone remember that scene with Grover getting his hoof painted red at the Lotus Hotel in Vegas? Yeah, I'm trying to block that out too. I think there were a lot of missed opportunities with the film. Things they could have included that would have added to the whole story and made it stronger, were left out. And they withheld the whole twist of the story that set up the overarching problem of the series being that Kronos in the pit of Tarturus is planning something dastardly. I mean, Luke stealing the bolt because of his daddy issues was just too...stupid. They didn't even introduce Ares, the God of war, and he'd been a major player in the whole thing.

A nit picky situation for me was the fact that Persephone was even with Hades in the time of the film. It was summer. She should have been with her mother Demeter. For a film about Greek mythology, it doesn't look good when you get Greek mythology wrong. But I did enjoy Steve Coogan as Hades. He looked like a retired rock star of the Underworld. It was brilliant.

The film also really seemed to cheapen all its characters. I felt like I hardly got to know the Grover or Annabeth of the film. And the scene between Percy and his father was so short that it lost pretty much all meaning. It's supposed to be an important moment but instead it's just Percy being ridiculously defiant.

The film left so much to be desired so I'm hoping that it's sequel based on The Sea of Monsters, which is rumored to be in the works, will be stronger and better. Some hopeful news is that the writing has changed hands from Craig Titley to Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Agent Cody Banks and Man on the Moon ). Or maybe not since the information released recently suggests that they'll be borrowing material not only from The Sea of Monsters but from the other novels in the series.

Let's cross our fingers and pray to the Gods that the next film will still make Percy Jackson a hero.

Source: ONE and TWO

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Wall Street Journal Business Continues...

It continues with a PODCAST with the author of the Wall Street Journal article "Darkness Too Visible" that I talked about a couple blog posts ago. Very interesting to listen to as it's not just her opinion you have to listen to but also Patricia McCormick (a young adult author), Candice Mack ( a young adult librarian) and Christopher John Farley (editorial director of the Wall Street Journal's blogs). Some very good points are made by many in the podcast so it's definitely worth a listen.

I still believe that Meghan Cox Gurdon's Wall Street Journal article was one sided and chose to see only one point of view instead of showing both. Also, she made claims that she could not back up with actual evidence. I'm not saying this out of malice or some misunderstanding. I'm being kinder than most have been.

My mom never directed my reading when I was younger. She brought home books like Ella Enchanted and Harry Potter and allowed me the freedom to choose what I liked and disliked in my reading. I thank her everyday for that. What I hope is that other parents will give their children that same trust instead of bulldozing over everything with their fears and lack of understanding. A dialogue needs to happen between parents and their children about their books, not outright banning and censorship.

Picture provided by miss-yvonne-marie.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"I," she told him, "can believe anything. You have no idea what I can believe."

A night of work and watching fantasy films from the 80s with friends has produced the most joyous news I've had since The Hobbit film. It seems that Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods has been picked up by Tom Hanks' production company Playtone Productions and is set to make it into a television series for HBO. A six season, unrestricted series with 10 to 12 episodes per season.

Do you know what I love the most about this news? Gaiman will be involved in both the production and the writing of the series. This gives me so much hope that it'll be a great series. Oh gosh, my heart is all aflutter with excitement like I'm on a carousel.

What is American Gods about? Shadow is close to finishing his sentence in prison when his wife dies in a car accident. He's released early and travels home for a funeral but on his way home he meets a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday, who seems to know a lot about Shadow.

Having nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Shadow agrees to work for Mr. Wednesday and begins to see things he never would have believed possible. There's a storm coming and Shadow is right in the middle of it.

In terms of casting? I don't know. I just want them to pick people who fit the characters and who have actual acting abilities. That's all I ask. I wouldn't know who to pick. Shadow remains so much of a mystery to me still that I'm unable to picture him in my mind.

My worries and concerns? Well, they're trying to stretch out a book that has 588 pages in small paperback form into six seasons. Some fans speculate that they'll even add in Anansi Boys, which involves a character that appears in American Gods. Maybe they'll even include the short story Monarch of the Glen, which shows what happens to Shadow after the events in American Gods.

Sources: ONE, TWO and THREE

(note: title quote from Neil Gaiman's American Gods.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mutant and Proud or My Reaction to X-Men: First Class

I'm a late 80's child so when X-Men: The Animated Series came out? I still had chubby cheeks and bangs covering my forehead. But despite how young I was, I really fell in love with it. A team of mutants fighting to protect humanity from the forces of evil while at the same time trying to get society to accept them? It was like candy coated ice cream for breakfast.

Now I have my qualms with the early X-Men films including the origin film for Wolverine and I could go through each one right now but I'd just end up sounding like a whiny brat that cannot get over life's disappointments. And I don't want to be one of those people who is all about fidelity when it comes to adaptations because I'm quite loose in my terms for what makes a good adaptation.

So I'm just going to say that the first X-Men film I really liked. The ones that followed? I did not for various reasons (i.e. no Jubilation Lee, no Gambit, Rogue never developed as a character, ruined the whole Pheonix storyline with Jean Gray, and killed Scott Summers for no good reason, and eventually the Gambit that shows up sounds Texan and not Cajun). The most glaring problem is that they really weren't good films. They entertained for about five minutes before you started questioning what exactly you were watching and where the plot was.

But moving on to X-Men: First Class because this baby right here is a breath of fresh air. It's so well done. The film is entertaining, well thought out and it engages you every step of the way. The characters are amazing and the acting is so good (except for January Jones as Emma Frost, that girl has like one face that expresses all her emotion).

I'm not going to give a huge summary about the film because I don't think I can properly write one without a) giving everything away and b) making it really boring. I'll just say that the film takes place in 1962 during the Cold War and deals directly with the Cuban Missile Crisis involving Cuba, Russia and the United States of America. That tidbit is actually quite important for the overall story.


Indeed the time lines are wrong if you actually know anything about the characters and their origins. Like Havok for instance is Alex Summmers who is the younger brother of Scott Summers (Cyclops). It doesn't make much sense for him to be in this film when you do some research and find out that in the other set of films Scott is in his 30's when Professor X (Xavier) is in his 60s. How could the little brother come before the older brother? That's a bit of a problem but it doesn't make the film bad because X-Men: First Class is anything but a bad film.

All of the mutants in this film are from all over the spectrum in terms of time. They're all pre-existing and none are new but they have never interacted together at this point in time in the original comics or the animated series. But despite that detail, the film is solid and after having watched it, I don't actually care that the only mutants I knew were Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast. I'm actually glad that they introduced several mutants that weren't as well known and gave them center stage.

The film works as an adaptation for me because it took those mutants out of their times, out of their history and adapted them to this new story.

I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be a prequel for the other set of X-Men films but I'm going to ignore that. I think it should exist independently of them in order to create a new series. A much better one. Hopefully, a new coherent series that won't fall into a pit of despair and self-loathing after the first film. Just saying.

And if you don't know a thing about X-Men? It doesn't matter because this film makes it accessible to those who haven't been following the comic series since 1963. Want a superhero film without having to do any actual research in order to understand the film? This is it.

NOTE: This film is not based on the comic series titled X-Men:First Class. They share a name and some characters but the stories are completely different.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm Holding Out for a Hero

DC Comics has decided to party this summer like it's 76 years ago.

Basically, they're remaking, reviving, redesigning and resurrecting some of their most beloved heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman just to name a few on the list. This also means that they'll be taking everything back and starting at Issue #1.

You think you know your favorite DC superheroes? That may change since DC's revamp is set to make some changes ranging from minor (i.e. age) to major (i.e. origin stories).

"This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

I get where Jim Lee is coming from. I really do. I myself find it incredibly difficult to get into superhero comics because of those 76 or so years that I missed out on. He's trying to make the stories more accessible to both a younger audience and to those starting out with comics.

But I kind of feel like it's pointless since they have Young Justice and Teen Titans already, which consists of some young superheroes that are supposed to reflect the older heroes like Superman (Super Boy (aka Kon-el) would be his Young Justice equivalent) and a bunch of other new heroes. If they wanted to revive something then maybe they could breathe new life into those two series. JUST A THOUGHT.

The first comic they'll be releasing is Justice League #1 that comes out on August 31st. But if you can't race to your local comic book store, don't fret because DC is taking things digital through apps and a special DC website on the same day the comic hits shelves.

They're following in Marvel's footsteps since they also recently made some of their comics available to read online. It's a smart move since the rest of the publishing industry seems to be going in this direction.

I've always been more of a Marvel girl (x-men, spiderman, young avengers) but I salute DC and wish them all the luck in the world with this endeavor. SERIOUSLY BROS, I AM LIFTING MY BATMAN MUG AT Y'ALL.

I guess I'm just a bit apprehensive about the whole online aspect since I still love reading physical books and comics. I do not want to stare at a computerized screen all the damn time for every little bit of reading I want to do. But that's just me.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA: My Experience with Wall Street

So by now you've all heard about the WALL STREET JOURNAL ARTICLE that was released a couple days ago. To say I am disappointed is putting it mildly but I'm going to be kind and civil for once in my entire life and argue my points intelligently.

Various things about the article stand out:

1. That in an entire section of young adult fiction, Amy Freeman was unable to find one book for her 13-year-old daughter. I find that really hard to believe since large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Indigo.Chapters pride themselves on being diverse and carrying a multitude of genres.

YA isn't just books about supernatural creatures like vampires or werewolves. Nor is it all about self-mutilation and suicide. There are a lot of happy books out there like Meg Cabot's All American Girl, Louise Rennison's Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, or more recently Stephenie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss. Just to name a few really good books that are happy and fun.

Dark themes? Yes, they exist in YA fiction. Is that a bad thing? No, I don't believe it is. You can't always promote the idea of constant happiness and sweetness because the real world is not like that and YA is just trying to reflect the hardships of teens and help them through their troubles. I think that's important.

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak is a tough novel with a sad subject matter but it's also the book that taught me what rape was when I was 13 and in my first year of high school. This book is important to me because it taught me something that my mother was too afraid to even discuss with me.

2. "Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue."

No, no, no, no, no. Girls may dye their hair purple and blue because their favorite singer does it but they're not stupid enough to cut themselves because a book about a girl dealing with depression does it. They're not giving teenagers enough credit here. I get the feeling that they think teenagers aren't capable of independent thought and that they need to be directed at every turn.

Normalize self-destructive adolescent behaviors? Again, no. While self-destructive behavior is common, it doesn't only exist with teens. Adults do it too. Look at Mel Gibson.

3. "By contrast, the latest novel by "this generation's Judy Blume," otherwise known as Lauren Myracle, takes place in a small Southern town in the aftermath of an assault on a gay teenager. The boy has been savagely beaten and left tied up with a gas pump nozzle shoved down his throat, and he may not live."

"If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds."

Distorted portrayals of what life is? It's more like a reality check. That book by Lauren Myracle sounds similar to the real life case of Matthew Shepard who was beaten, tortured and left to die tied to a fence in 1998. He was targeted for being gay.

Cruelty, sadness, death and violence are all terrible and horrible things but they are a part of life just as much as joy and beauty and tenderness are. You cannot have one without the other and to expect young adult literature to perpetuate something so false is harmful.

LAST WORDS: And honestly, if you buy your children video games with an M rating (meaning violence, blood, intense gore, sexual situations, and drugs) or fail to talk about important issues or take them to see violent films then you have no right to harp on about how there are only dark themes in YA fiction.

It upsets me that instead of people discussing and trying to learn things together, they instead reject things they do not understand properly.

Why would I ever write YA? Because the teen voice is all about self-discovery and overcoming your struggles during one of the most important and difficult times of your life.