Harry Potter and the Deathly American Accent

How would you DO saying these “Popular American Phrases”? The Potter People did better than I could. And I speak American!

http://www.mtv.com/videos/?id=1644133

Next up: A philosophical discussion on the value of the American Accent vs. The Brit Accent. Go.

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The Truth About Peter Johnson…uh, Percy Jackson

I’m convinced that the recently released “Lightning Thief” was written by Dionysus–the Demi-god loathing, ambivalent cretin who never gets Percy’s name right. Sure, the credits say “Joe Stillman”…but that’s got to be a pseudonym. It’s really Mr. D. The reason: The Lightning Thief could not be more off track from the book and poorly produced if Mr. D. had produced it himself.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been duped, that any of us who were awaiting this book to movie permutation, will have to keep waiting. So much is missing from the book, and so many things have been changed, that the movie most certainly is NOT “The LIghtning Thief.” For those of you who haven’t read the book, and since Harry Potter comparisons are inevitable, let me give you a comparison: let’s imagine that the first Harry Potter movie was missing 1. Draco Malfoy 2. Harry’s Lightning Scar and 3. Voldemort. That’s the movie that Dionysus, I mean Joe Stillman wrote, and  Chris Columbus produced, because Percy’s world is missing the exact equivalent of those Potter necessities.

The question I keep asking myself is “Why”…or “How” How could this movie be so off track? Potential answers:

1. The book is too long to fit into a 2 hour movie. That’s a good one usually, but here, it doesn’t apply. There were specific scenes that they unnecessarily altered. For example: There’s no reason Percy couldn’t have killed Ms. Dodds/The Kindly One in the beginning of the movie. Besides being true to the book, it would have been more entertaining than having Chiron give her a dirty look that scares her right out the window! And it only gets worse from there. The whole plot was completely distorted from the Nashville encounter with a Hydra  to the Pearls of Persephone. None of it is in the book…or any book for that matter.

2. Changes were because of acting needs/casting necessities. I bring this one up because the screenwriters, addressing concerns from movie goers on their story and actor choices, reassured audiences that it was for the best.  The actors, who were 4 or 5 years older than they were supposed to be, were chosen for their acting acumen, and, they promised, we would see that they really were “Percy, Annabeth, and Grover”. I have to disagree here. The acting was horrendous. There was NO character development, and they might as well have chosen people who were 12 because the older teens had no clue how to sell a scene or act in character (reciting lines isn’t acting).  Then again, I can’t fault them: the script was just bad. We’re talking “Titanic” bad. Dialogue randomly placed. Everything overstated. I kept having flashbacks to Leo DiCapprio and Kate Winslet onboard the Titanic. “Jack, this is wonderful.” “Yes Rose, it is.” “Jack, I love you!” “Rose, I love you too” “Jack” “Rose” “Jack” “Rose”…

With the abovementioned two potential reasons squashed…that leaves us with only one other reason why the movie diverges so much from the book, and that answer might be:

3. The movie producers/writers don’t care about the real fans. Humor me for a moment. Those of us who have actually read the Percy Jackson series are few. I’m serious. Check the Percy Jackson Facebook page. The same 3 people make comments. So, in stead of sticking to the book, which would have required apparently way too much effort for Chris and company,  they went with a dumbed down version that general moviegoers could get behind easily. There’s a marketing lesson here ladies and gentleman. Hit the widest market you can. Only problem: They missed the mark. Even if only a few of the non-readers go back and re-read the book (thus adding to our growing numbers of “duped” fans), the movie wasn’t just dumbed-down, it was dumb.

This takes us to the real TRUTH about the Percy Jackson movie, the reason for the change in the script, and the overall “duping” of its key audience:

4. The movie producers/writers don’t care about ANY moviegoers.Think I’m out of line? Humor me.Let’s say there never was a book series, and this was just a movie. What do you have? Trade in your “This isn’t like the book!” complaints, and instead you’ll get:

No character development. A Flat plot. And bad acting. This makes Twilight look Oscar-worthy. In fact, half way through the movie, I started asking myself, “wait, am I watching a blockbuster film, or a made for TV movie on a Saturday afternoon?” Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but think that it was the latter.

Bottom line: I’m still waiting for the Lightning Thief movie to be released. I hear it’s going to be good!

Here come the Olympians: Everything You Need to Know About Percy

Another book series headed for Hollywood. It’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t know how to write a good story anymore…but I digress. Following the strong showings from Potter, and that chick who can’t decide between a vampire and a werewolf, we have a newcomer: some kid who claims to be a son of the Greek Gods. As Percy Jackson hits the big screen in the Lightning Thief, undoubtedly, the America that doesn’t read before they rush to the theater, and those who are pondering reading the series now that it has some legitimacy, need to know a few things about Percy and his friends.

1. Yes, the story is eerily familiar. Ever heard this one before? A boy who comes from  humble beginnings, finds out he has a magical history he knew nothing about, ends up having to go a magical school where he learns to use his power, makes friends who help him on endless quests that involve the return of one of the most powerful nemeses to all that is good. Oh, and don’t forget the prophecy that foretells that Percy, alone, will be the one to destroy him, thereby saving the world.

Percy and Harry –  Separated at Birth?

2. And yet, it isn’t Potter. For one, the story is relatively flat. Ok, there will be those who cry foul here and say, “What about the understories of the search for Pan? The lessons of the oracle? All those cool Greek Mythological creatures?” To them I say: flat. Flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. The reason? They add little depth to the story, and little depth of sympathy for the characters. In fact, my biggest beef with the Percy series is that so many of the adventures have nothing to do with the plotline. It’s as if Riordan simply thought of every possible Greek Myth he could put into the modern day and then wrote about it. It becomes incredibly predictable and quite inane after a while, ESPECIALLY in the Lightning Thief book (and the Sea of Monsters). Also, the writing in the books is very juvenile…In fact, I don’t think they’re written that well at all. Look Rick, I get it, you’re trying to simulate the teenage experience, and the dialogue that accompanies the teenage drama, blah, blah, blah, but I find the dialogue to be, well…flat. Of course, it could’ve been worse, at least it’s not James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books!

3. Ok, Percy’s world isn’t ALL flat… There is one exception to the flatness of this story: Nico D’Angelo. I have to say,  understory. I think Nico’s inner turmoil and role in the last few books quite literally “make” the story. It’s just too bad that it took 3 books to get Nico’s character, and the incredible depth he adds, into the story…especially since he makes a cameo in book one.

4. The bottom-line. If you start the books, you’ll most likely find yourself in the same position I’ve been in the last few years: finishing the book just to see what happens. And, if nothing else, that’s what makes the stories worth your entertainment dollar: in spite of the eery similarity to that other kid with mystical powers who found himself in a long book series, the overall story does grab you in a sort of “curiosity killed the cat” sort of way…and, if you are like me and are stuck just trying to finish the story for finishing the story’s sake…well…

At least Percy doesn’t wear glasses.

Malfoy for an Oscar? and Arcade Fire Goes Wild

2679_3511407821The Indie Girl and I saw The Half-Blood Prince today, and not to sound cliche, it’s the best Potter movie yet. Even the Indie Girl liked it, and she’s hated the last 3 movies because they’re too dark.

We all know how the movie ends, I’m sure, but I won’t spoil it either way. In fact, Harry Potter movies have gotten to the point that the ending doesn’t really matter anymore, much less the storyline. It’s all about the way the story is produced–the presentation–and so far, we’ve been let down…until now.

The Half-Blood Prince is cinematographic genius (yes, I spelled that right). It’s an amazing work of art in its own right. Even the Indie Girl noticed how amazing the scenes and special effects are. We’ve gone from silly and nice Sorcerer’s Stone to serious, riveting, and what I think should be legitimate Academy Award material in the Half-Blood Prince.  The set up and delivery of every scene is brilliant. Each elicits such emotion. The highs and the lows, the comedy, and the sadness all come with such perfect ebb and flow. And what is more, the acting weaves so perfectly into the feel of the picture–each of the actors down to the girl who plays Luna Lovegood deliver such staggering performances.

Especially Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy. A simply riveting performance. I used to watch the movies for Alan Rickman’s performance, but in this movie, Felton steals it. His inner turmoil, which seemed a little underplayed in the books, comes out in perfect dramatic form. I know it’s cliche that we all want to see that the bad guy isn’t all that bad after all, but Felton does nothing short of reinvent that classic dichotomy of good and bad within an individual.

Yes, I’m saying it, the Half-Blood Prince deserves serious consideration for an Oscar, and Felton deserves a best-actor nod.  And No, I don’t care if I’m alone in that opinion. It’s a brilliant movie.

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As much as I’m excited about Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are coming to theaters this Fall, I think I’m even more excited about the soundtrack. Arcade Fire re-recorded “Wake Up” for the trailer, and here’s hoping we hear a few more choice accoust selections

Music Heroes: Danny Elfman

I think a good part of being Indie is finding your love of music in odd places. Danny Elfman has always been one of my heroes. His music is what drove me from the mainstream to find more enrapturing music…and funny thing is, I’m not talking about his Oingo Boing stuff. Nope. It was Beetlejuice.

Why talk about this now? Well, there’s a new interview on Hollywood Reporter (forwarded to me from my partner in Oingo-Boingo-ness…we’ll call him Mr. B Natural to protect the innocent) featuring Danny Elfman and other composers:

Funny thing is, Danny Elfman had a similar encounter with music as I did…same age, some odd movie, and then a life of loving intriguing but different music.

Elfman: “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Bernard Herrmann…I must have been 12, and it was the first time that I became aware that there is a personality behind music. Until then, I just thought music rolled out of a machine. It was that movie that I noticed the music, and I noticed the name, and I realized that somebody did this. (After that) I started looking for Herrmann’s name every time I would go to the movies.

Funnier still, ever since Beetlejuice, I’ve been looking for Danny Elfman’s name in movies I really enjoy.  After a while, it’s easy to spot an Elfman Soundtrack.

Twilight Review OR 150 Screaming Teenage Girls

twilight_movie_image_group_shot

I took the Indie Girl on a date to see Twilight last night, and I think we broke rule number one

1. Never go to a serious movie with 150 hormone-crazed teenage girls.

Then again, maybe I broke rule number two, as well:

2. 30 something year old dads should not be going to chick flicks

Or maybe rule number three:

3. 30 something year old dads should not be reading Chick Lit.

So, I guess I had it coming. On to the movie review: I have rarely seen a movie that has done a book justice…it just doesn’t happen. It’s a testament to the power of the author’s pen. And Twilight might be just another example.  Before I launch into any criticisms, I have to say that Twilight may very well be the best movie I’ve seen this year…but considering the only movies I’ve seen at the theater were Wall-E, Indiana Jones and the “We should’ve Stopped at Three Movies”, and High School Musical 3.

That being said, I have a few issues with Twilight:

1. The movie editing and special FX weren’t up to par. But, it wasn’t too distracting, I just have a very strong image of how I pictured the scenes in the book. The Baseball Scene did not disappoint. I hope this movie grosses enough dough for a stronger production company to pick up the next movie.

2. They moved away from the plot a little. Only slightly. Call it a shift in focus from Bella to the vampire invasion and Edward’s conscience.

3. The ending scene with Bella in the Ballroom was not done well. Yeah, I know…it’s the climax, but it just wasn’t done according to the movie. The fight was ok, but they changed the events of the book a little, and put way too much emphasis on Edward…I don’t want to ruin it, so I’ll leave it at that. Twilight aficionados will know what I’m talking about.

4. The little film noire versions of Bella and Edward were too corny. Weird. Just didn’t work.

5. The directors sexed-up the movie a little bit more than I think Stephenie Meyer would have allowed… maybe giving her a cameo ordering a veggie burger was the concession there.

That being said, I really loved the casting…it was perfect. Although, I was sure that Jacob was 13 in the first book…not a husky 18 year old. Besides that, the move was enrapturing and haunting and kept up the mystique of the book.

Twilight Music

twilight_200806041504Anyone who has read the Twilight Book series by Stephenie Meyer knows that a major part of each book is the soundtracks Stephenie listens to while writing (Muse usually gets top billing). I have to admit, it’s been one of the draws of the books because the power of the music is written into each agonizing experience and woven into the haunting tapestries of the book series. If you’re like me, you may have been anticipating the soundtrack as much, if not more, than you anticipated the movie. Well, since I’m planning on taking the Indie Girl to see the movie for her birthday this week, I thought I’d get into the Twilight mood and listen to the soundtrack….and after a first glimpse, I have to admit, it’s not as powerful or even “twilight-worthy” as I was expecting.

First of all, letting Perry Farrell headline any soundtrack is probably a bad idea. But at least that song has the same feel of the songs listed in the books. But the rest of the CD isn’t all that spectacular, and I’m disappointed. It sounds more power punk than haunting. And where it diverges, it’s odd. Robert “Edward Cullen” Pattinson is trying to break into music now? And I never imagined Iron and Wine a goth-type outfit.

The only Muse appearance is Supermassive Blackhole, which isn’t as powerful as most of their toons. Come on guys, can’t you write a new song for the girl who has single-handedly converted a whole new market of raving pre-teen girls to the Muse nation? (Ok, maybe I answered my own question there)

I will admit, the high point is The Black Ghosts’ “Full Moon”. Fantastic piece.

But other pieces by Linkin Park, Mutemath, and Collective Soul (really, they’re still around?!) are more of the same, and don’t do anything for me.  I also don’t think Paramore is the greatest fit here, but the music isn’t that bad.

I wonder what Stephenie thinks about this selection?

BTW…reviews on Breaking Dawn (yes, finally) and the Twilight Movie are coming soon.

From Novels to Movies: To Be or Not to Be

I have gotten into doing a lot of novel reading…as my commute in the DC area can be quite long. Ok…so it’s not actually novel “reading”…it’s books on CD…but you get the picture.

Throughout my reading (or listening) I have wondered how some books would fair as movies, and at the same time, have wondered why some books have been made into movies. Here’s some miscellaneous ponderings:

The City of Ember: This book has received some good reviews, and honestly, I couldn’t get even halfway through the book. Fairly inane story based on an alternate reality that I just can’t grasp onto. It’s a city that is on the verge of collapse with a mystery behind its beginnings. Sure, sounds nice, but I just couldn’t get beyond one underlying facet of the city: the communication. I could write a whole blog post on this one, but I won’t. Instead of modern conveniences like the Internet, phones, or EVEN snail mail–they use messengers who have to run all over the city to convey messages. Just the idea that an advanced society couldn’t figure out mail turned me off.

The Lightning Thief: Harry Potter meets Mount Olympus. I have been thinking about a whole post on this book, and how after what JK Rowling put together, no other book featuring a young boy who goes on a quest to defeat evil will ever be able to avoid being compared to Harry Potter. But then I found out that it was in production to be a movie. I think the scenes and story are good enough for a movie, but the plot, frankly, is a little predictable and a little overdone. It is unique in it’s own merit, and I look forward to seeing how they pull off the final scene between Percy and a character not to be named, so as to not ruin the story for you.

The Tale of Despereaux: I mistakenly read this book to my kids. It’s not really a kids book honestly. The themes are very adult and anything but child-friendly. Especially the murder plot…oh, and the child abuse. Then I saw the previews for the movie, and I have to say, I don’t see ONE element of the book in the movie. THey must have done a complete overhaul of the story to fit into the movie.

The Dark is Rising (AKA The Seeker): I just finished this book, and at first, I was anxious to see the movie (the 2007 release, the Seeker).  Then I saw the previews, and it looks like they tried to update it to give it a 21st century feel to it. I read the reviews, and others agree, the movie and the book are two separate entities. If you’ve seen the movie, don’t let it ruin the book for you…the book is fantastic.

Now–a few movies I’d like to see:

Airman by Eoin Colfer: The plotline is akin to the Count of Monte Cristo, but it’s fabulous in its own right. The end left a little to be desired, but all in all, this was an amazing book, and I can’t wait until some producer picks up the movie rights for it.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp: I loved the book. Fantastic story. Great plot twists. Excellent character development. I’d love to see John Woo take this movie on.

How Far Can You Stretch a Brand?

This question has been on my mind for a while, and it came to a head yesterday when I took my kids to see “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. Now, I have to add a disclaimer first: Going into the theater, I had very low expectations of this movie…I knew it would be lame because it looked lame. I was just totally unprepared for how lame it really was.

Let me give you a run down of the movie:

1 hour and 3 minutes of robots and clones shooting lasers at each other, some from point-blank range.

35 minutes of totally unenlightening conversation that either a) has little to do with plot or character development or b) does little FOR plot or character development

15 minutes of unenlightening conversation WHILE clones and robots shoot lasers at each other.

5 minutes of jedi dueling (featuring no more than 3 acrobatic stunts usually characteristic of jedi dueling)

5 minutes of real plot development

Yep, that makes about 2 hours of completely mind-numbing emptiness, that will have you checking your watch from the 20 minute point, onward.

And what’s more, I’ve seen better CGI animation on PBS Kids TV Shows…we’re talking a range of 3 expressions on people’s faces, and movements that couldn’t be more stiff if they were on a classic Hannah-Barbara cartoon.

But I digress…to my first point.

How far can you stretch a brand? It seems George Lucas is intent on keeping the Star Wars brand alive, and he’ll do just about anything to keep it current, even if that means throwing a stupid plotless story together and completely destroying what Star Wars meant to us first generationers for our kids. How many more stories can you really drag out of this trilogy Georgie? And why are you so intent on building the brand around characters that 1) don’t have as much draw as the original Han, Leiah, and Luke trio, and 2) are fundamentally tragic: Anakin turns to the dark side, Obi-Wan dies at the hand of his Paduan, and Yoda never really sees the fulfillment of the prophecy he talks about for hundreds of years.

Frankly, you can only go so far with a brand before you start killing it, and Friday, George Lucas broke ground for the grave-site soon to be labeled “Star Wars”.

Juno

I have never been a fan of the life drama movies. They tend to be wayward, pointless, and altogether boring. I could lump a number of movies into this category, and one day, I’ll do a top 10 stupid life drama movies. Rest assured, this movie and this movie will top the list (I’ve never wished more that I could have any 3 hours of my life back than watching those movies).

That being said, Juno may have very likely turned everything around for me. Absolutely amazing movie. It’s not because of the dry humor, or the Indie music, or the ingenious one liners they give Ellen Page (though those are all great reasons to like it too). It’s because it’s real and it’s actually interesting. What’s more, the characters are complex, likable, and so gosh darn intriguing you can’t help but watch. In the end, the message is great: take responsibility for life (The reason the Indie Girl said it was such a good movie). If you haven’t seen Juno…definitely worth watching.

Incidentally…the song at the end of the movie is fantastic. Here’s the video (which WordPress won’t let me embed). Good lyrics…especially the line “we both have shiny happy fits of rage”.