Cinderella (2015)

Dreams Do Come True: New Cinderella Trailer and an Exclusive Interview with Kenneth Branagh | Oh My DisneyOther people with whom I am friends and who also have written reviews of this film: I was determined to write my review without any brain-clutter happening from others’ opinions. Not that I disregard your opinions, because I will actually be quite happy to find them out — I just want to present my review 😉
Ella (Lily James, Downton Abbey) is a sweet daydreamer of a girl with an idyllic life: a loving mother (Hayley Atwell, Captain America) and devoted father (Ben Chaplin). That is, her life is idyllic till the unthinkable happens and she’s left motherless and her father widowed. Though he still misses his wife, a few years pass and Ella’s father decides to marry the widowed Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings) and take responsibility for her two ditzy daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera, Downton Abbey). While Ella immediately dislikes the three, she, in the goodness of her heart, tries to look past their flaws and love them for her father’s sake. It’s only when he dies that their pettiness and, yes, cruelty is revealed — and she’s forced to wash their clothes, cook their meals, feed their animals, and sleep next to the fire in the kitchens to keep warm, thereby donning her new name “Cinderella,” and slowly losing hope for a happy life.
Warning: I might randomly start gushing in this review. Other warning: I might not gush enough for your taste in some areas.
Oh goodness . . . I really really want to present a somewhat calm review, but sometimes when a film is this good it’s hard to say anything other than, “Oh my gosh wasn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it sweet? Wasn’t it absolutely the best live-action adaptation of Cinderella ever?” Because . . . well, it was. Lily James, who stars in the beloved Downton Abbey as the fun-loving Rose, was the perfect choice to play Cinderella — she has this sort of innate sweetness about her that is just as Cinderella should be. She also looks remarkably like Hayley Atwell, which I suspect is part of the reason they chose Hayley to play her mother. Cate Blanchett was also, like, the only reasonable choice for Lady Tremaine by far — I’ve only seen her as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and while she plays the majestic “good side” lady well, I find her infinitely better as the wicked stepmother. She’s seductive, cunning, beautiful (I mean, that red lipstick . . . and that hair!), and without all the ridiculousness that other live-action stepmothers (yes, I am thinking of Anjelica Huston in Ever After, who really does pale in comparison to Cate Blanchett) tend to showcase. And the prince . . . and the king . . . gah, could it have gotten any better? Whoops, nope, I already told you all that it couldn’t. Basically, Richard Madden played his caring, wistful prince excellently, the king (Derek Jacobi) almost looked like he’d been brought to life from the animations, and they gave the Grand Duke a personality. But more on that later.
Prepare to Be Absolutely Enchanted by the Fashion in Cinderella | cynthia reccord  #FarfetchFairytaleI have two arguments with this film. Yes, two, and one of them is hardly viable because it’s based on my unfair expectations. I expected Cinderella to have a more, well, “adult” — or at least less “silly”/childish I guess — vibe; I expected there to be a little more logic than there turned out to be (although, thank Heaven, spoiler alert Ella meets the prince before the ball end of spoiler) and a little less “girliness” total. I think if I had gone in without those expectations, I would have liked the movie even more than I do now. My second complaint is that much of the scenery looks CGI’d; in fact, in the scene where Ella’s riding her beautiful dapple gray horse (I. Want. That. Horse.), my mom noticed that the scenery moved too quickly for her horse’s speed! As far as other details go, I randomly noticed that if Lady Tremaine can’t afford servants, then why is Ella’s horse newly shod. . . . But, you know, that was indeed a random detail.

Plot-wise — and I guess this is logic-wise as well — it does a good job of filling in the awful holes the animated story gives you. Ella isn’t just naturally good; her kindness arises from a promise she made to her mother on her deathbed, to “have courage and be kind.” Lady Tremaine is also given a reason for her jealousy of Ella — she sees Ella as a girl who has the purity and kindness she never had, who is happy despite having lost a mother and a father, and Lady Tremaine can’t bear that when her heart is broken from the loss of her first husband. I enjoyed the subtly added intrigue between Lady Tremaine and the Grand Duke — as I said, they gave the Grand Duke a personality; rather than being buffoonish, he plays a much larger, more realistic role in running the kingdom smoothly, even if he sometimes leads that role immorally.

Altogether, I really liked this movie. The costuming was beautiful (HER DRESS, people) and so were the settings, even if they did look overdone sometimes. I thought the casting was spot-on in almost everybody’s case and it’s definitely a film I’d love to have on DVD (I don’t say that often, mind you — I don’t watch many movies anymore and renting them is cheaper than buying them since I watch so few of them).

Did you go see it? What were your thoughts?

Little Letters, Edition Five

Phew…been a while since I’ve done one of these — as in, eighteen months!? What!? Okay. Yeah. Better get going….

Dear Hallmark,
I’ve loved you for your adorable — albeit cheesy — romance storylines and I will continue to. But I had no idea you had it in you to make something as great as Good Witch! I’m pumped I decided to watch the first couple episodes last night … they were so worth it.
Dear Agents of SHIELD,
Boy, you started off the year with a bang, didn’t you?
P.S. Fitz is still the most adorable person on the show.
P.P.S. Please give him more screen time.
P.P.P.S. Please make him a pet so I can get one. Or four.
Dear Once Upon a Time,
I enjoyed your midseason premiere way more than I expected to, and for that I’m pleased. Really, really pleased. Hook and Emma, you’re killing me with your adorable-ness. Mr. Gold, you’re driving me nuts with your power complex. Cruella, I cannot imagine a more perfect live-action adaptation of you.

Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) 'Agents of SHIELD'Dear The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,
I need to pick you back up again. It’s been too long.
Dear Measly Reading Goal of 2015,
I can’t believe I’m technically a book behind my twenty-nine books goal for this year! How is that even possible?

Dear Blog,
We’re getting there. A few more tweaks and some major upheaval and you’ll be ready for regular posting again.

Dear OGX Cherry Ginseng Shampoo,
I still won’t admit that a chemical-laden shampoo has been better for my hair than my all-natural alternative. Sorry.

Dear Spring Break,
Make yourself seem longer than you are, ‘kay? And not because you’re boring or otherwise bad.

Dear Math 112,
Don’t kill me.

Dear 107.3 KFFM,
Please play more than two clean songs in succession so I don’t have to change to my CD-which-I’ve-listened-to-100-times every five minutes.

Dear Twenty One Pilots,
For the first time in about seven months I got to listen to your more recent music (yay Pandora!). Come out with a new CD, please! I want moooooorrrrrrreeeeeeeee. . . .

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Composting #s 2 & 3 : Officially completed

Thought I’d drop by to give you all a writing update. I’ve officially completed steps 2 and 3 of the composting phase, so I have only three steps left to finish in that segment — yay !!! You might be wondering if I’ve finished step 1 yet — nope, haven’t. This “very undetailed” list is still detailed enough to take quite a long time to finish. In fact it’s likely I’ll finish steps 4 & 5 before I continue with step 1 because one of the main reasons I got stuck in step 1 was not knowing the goals and motives of some of my characters. 
At the moment I wish I had a Smartphone so I could easily upload a picture of my “writing desk” for you all. Hmm. I’ll go get my camera and see what I can do. 
Starting from left, I have Vols. I, II, and III of the first draft of The Bridge Between Heaven and Hell (Vol. II is lying open). You can ignore the Chadwicks clearance catalog. On my laptop is my planner (admittedly not here for writing purposes) and my water bottle which never leaves my side. The open tab on my laptop shows this post being drafted and the numerous other tabs I have open for book planning.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by. What have you been up to in the writing world lately?


The Last Goodbye: My Response to The Hobbit’s Final Movie

Where Watch and download The Hobbit (2014) Full Movie  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 2014Let’s be clear: I am not writing a review of The Battle of the Five Armies. I saw it in theaters last Tuesday and didn’t desire to review it. Instead, I’m writing this article in response to the WORLD magazine article in their most recent issue.
If you’re a WORLD reader and also happen to be a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books being adapted to the big screen, it’ll be no secret that WORLD has overtly criticized Peter Jackson since the first Hobbit debuted two years ago. As a disclaimer, I want to tell you that WORLD is a wonderful magazine with a Biblical perspective, but also that recently I’ve been disappointed with their movie reviews. For example, their review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was hardly more than a synopsis, yet they felt it necessary to say nothing but bad things about The Battle of the Five Armies. As an example, “Now that they have drawn to a close, it will be hard for even director Peter Jackson’s most die-hard fans to look back on his sprawling Hobbit prequels with real affection” (Basham). What? I’m not a die-hard fan of Peter Jackson. I wasn’t all that impressed with his adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, to be honest, particularly The Two Towers. In fact, laid side by side, I might even tell you I like The Hobbit trilogy better. But I am a die-hard fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I should be even more upset by Jackson’s adaptations, right?
See, Jackson has stated before that his desire with The Hobbit was to create the movie out of the book he thought Tolkien wanted to write. That sounds a little hogwash-y from the start, but let me tell you something. If you’re a serious writer, you’ll know the trouble than can be caused with plot holes and how much logic is required to fix them satisfactorily. To me that’s what Jackson did with the movies. At the beginning of The Hobbit book, it’s mentioned that Azog the goblin died years and years ago. BUT at the end the goblins and orcs still want to exact revenge on the Lonely Mountain. Think about that — sure, goblins and orcs love treasure and all that, but it makes it more logical to revive Azog and give him a hardcore reason to hate Thorin Oakenshield so that the Battle of the Five Armies makes a little more sense. Don’t think I’m necessarily condoning Jackson’s resurrecting of Azog, but I do think he’s right on one point: if Tolkien had written The Hobbit in the same mood/adult level as The Lord of the Rings, he probably would have done something similar.
Also, take a break from the bookish perspective and instead think on the cinematic level. Ten years ago (well, more than that now) Jackson ended The Lord of the Rings trilogy with a flourish. The trilogy won multiple Academy Awards and everyone loved it. Then he decided to make The Hobbit. And do you really think he would have gone without criticism if he’d made this prequel a children’s film? Really? No. No matter what he did, he would have been criticized for it. He had to try to equal the level of The Lord of the Rings for the satisfaction of the public. But as the old saying goes, when trying to please everybody, he ended up pleasing nobody.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. I LOVE him in Sherlock, I'm sure he will do an absolutely fantastic job as BilboTo me, this trilogy has been absolutely beautiful because of the sheer magnificence of it all. Cinematography, costuming, makeup, CGI — it was all brilliant. And because he split it into three movies, Jackson was able to go into tremendous detail. Remember at the beginning of An Unexpected Journey when Bilbo is trying to write down the history of Dale for Frodo? I adore that segment because it’s a history lesson of Middle-earth. If Jackson had tried to cram all that into one movie . . . you think he’d be able to do it? Sorry, no. Besides which there has to be focus on the connections The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings share — the White Council’s defeat of the Necromancer/Sauron, Bilbo’s finding of the One Ring, his decision to spare Gollum’s life which consequentially ended in the death of Sauron, and his growing fondness of the Ring itself. All that takes time to show in detail. Plus Jackson was able to deeply characterize people like Thorin, who, yes, was “blustery, elderly, often buffoonish” in the books, but still had a greed problem (Bashan). And Bilbo as well, whom we see transform from a frightened, unadventurous Baggins into a courageous Took. 
Sure there’s that one storyline of Tauriel and Kili that shouldn’t have been added at all. I highly doubt Tolkien would have written a Dwarf-Elf romantic relationship — to me it doesn’t make sense because at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Legolas and Gimli do not get along, and if Legolas had really witnessed Tauriel’s love for Kili, my thought is he would be easier on Gimli when they first met. But other than that, I’d say Peter Jackson did a darned fine job with what he had, and I really wish more people could believe that.
Bashan, Megan. “Tolkien take away.” Pub. 19 December, 2014. Web. 2 January, 2015.  

At the End of This Year || 2014

Life Update No. 1

I’ve begun to neglect this blog too much as the year has progressed. Now we’re at the end of it, and I’ve posted a grand total of twenty-seven times. For how much I tend to write when I get going on my blogs, that’s a very small number. To try to amend this, I’ve decided to start a monthly “life update” for my readers — whom I know have become few and far between as I post less and less. 

1 || In April I started a fashion and lifestyle blog, now entitled “Dance A Real.” I’ve slowly been gaining a wider readership, but I miss meshing my writing/reading life with my normal life. Hence I am starting this series.

2 || I’m two quarters and twenty-eight credits from finishing my associate’s degree. It’s not been a long haul when I think about the way time flies, but at the moment twenty-four weeks, aka six months, till I receive my Associate of Arts feels like a really long time. And consoling myself that six months ago I was already a month out of high school doesn’t really help. While time passes quickly, months also seem stretched further and further apart.
3 || In spite of my efforts, I did not get all the prepping and writing of my second draft finished like I expected. If you recall, I wrote “Finis” to my long-in-the-making fantasy epic The Bridge Between Heaven and Hell in August 2013. My hope was to finish the second draft by April 2014. Do I really need to say that didn’t happen? I’m still in the prepping stages! 
4 || My goals for 2015 will be more on a monthly basis than a yearly one.
5 || I only read 28 books in 2014. A little more than half what I read in 2013, when I was, let’s face it, a little obsessed. I still enjoy reading, but I think it was healthy for me to lose some of my interest in it.
6 || At eighteen, I feel much older than I was at seventeen. I use fewer emoticons (hahahahaha). I have begun to learn that some things don’t require speech or comment. My brain feels older.

7 || My literary goals for 2015: 1) Read at least 29 books and 2) Finish the second draft of The Bridge Between Heaven and Hell.

What about you? What have you been up to? What are your literary goals for 2015?

Drafting Process // Vol. III

It strikes me that I am posting this for my benefit, not for yours. The idea with this third volume is to go in baby steps and force myself to stick to them.
1) Make a VERY UNDETAILED list about the plot and story order. I keep getting into too much detail which is making me go crazy.
2) Determine the major characters: hero, villain, alternative POV.
3) Determine the supporting characters: who surrounds the hero, who surrounds the villain, who surrounds the alternative POV.
4) Use exercises to help develop and figure out the major characters. I find that I have a good idea of a character’s personality but often don’t know why they are the way they are. I want to use five exercises for these peeps: 1) Love language, 2) Meyers Briggs personality type, 3) Diary written by them, 4) Character interview, 5) Character form.
5) Use exercises to help develop and figure out the supporting cast. I only plan to use a couple of the above exercises for these peeps–1) Love language, 2) Meyers Briggs personality type, 3) Character form.
1) Fill in the plot and story order. THIS is what’s driving me crazy, but the fact that I’ve done a lot of it already should help me. Why is it driving me crazy, you ask? Because I have five different documents open at the same time–one for the filled in plot & story order, one for glaring plot holes, one for glaring detail holes, one for cultural problems/research need, and one for extra plot ideas. I think I’m just going to have to take this part really slowly and celebrate every victory! haha.
2) The 2-3 page synopsis. Where I get to cut my large mouth down into a certain amount of words. Not so fun.
3) The 1-page synopsis. Too much concision for me. I’ll probably not have fun doing this part either.
4) The 1-paragraph synopsis.
5) The pitch.
1) Outline the first chapter, then each succeeding chapter as it comes. 

Merlin, Season One

In a land of myth and a time of magic, the fate of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name: Merlin.Hashtag been gone about forty days now. I don’t really mean to be delinquent. Just seems that I either have nothing I want to say oooooooooor I haven’t been reading a lot lately. WELL, I did get the chance to watch the first season/series/whatever-you-call-it-based-on-if-you’re-British-or-American of BBC’s Merlin, so I wanted to review that for you guys.
Uther (Anthony Head), the king of Camelot, has banned all magic from the land based on personal issues with it from more than twenty years ago. This doesn’t help Merlin (Colin Morgan), who’s just arrived in Camelot seeking some sort of refuge or help from Gaius (Richard Wilson), a friend of his mother’s and the court physician, because he has “powers.” Though in danger of execution if he’s found out, Merlin becomes an apprentice of sorts to Giaus, and it isn’t long before he makes a friend in the form of the maidservant Guinevere (“Gwen”) (Angel Coulby) . . . and an enemy in Prince Arthur (Bradley James). But Merlin isn’t the only magician in Camelot. There are others, and they have vendettas against the King–and their revenge includes the death of Arthur, Uther’s only son. Even though he admits he would rather Arthur were dead than alive, Merlin saves the Prince’s life . . . and finds himself both Arthur’s manservant and his behind-the-scenes protector.
It’s hard to know where to start with my criticism in any review, especially when I have so many opinions of the work I’m reviewing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this first season of the show. I’ve been wanting to watch it for a couple years now, and just recently in a stroke of luck found out that all of it (well, hopefully all of it) is available on Hulu for free. Still, it’s not without its faults–well duh–so I guess I’d better somehow get into them without any more intro. . . . I talk a lot. Ever noticed that?
Hello there Merlin. You may be my new favorite show. Don't tell the Doctor. ;)First of all, the story of Merlin the magician has been adapted in many, many different ways. I’ve read multiple books about him or including him, and he’s an interesting dude. This series goes against tradition by turning him into a boy around the same age as Arthur–according to most of the books I’ve read, he’s much older than Arthur and is more of a “coach” to him than he ever was a servant. Still, I enjoy how their relationship progresses over the course of the season, from loathing to mutual respect. This dynamic isn’t one that could be achieved if Merlin were much older than Arthur (and really, making Merlin a sixty-year-old instructor wouldn’t have been a good marketing scheme). The plot itself is not very intense, but I like this because in reality life is not always a rollercoaster–and sometimes it’s nice to watch less stressful television. Regarding “cheapness,” the CGI and settings are also cheap–but I tolerate it. (I’m a Once Upon a Time fan . . . do I need to say anything else?) Seriously, the group of the knights in Camelot is tiny in comparison to what I expected, though I suppose it showcases how many “kings” lived during that time, and how small kingdoms were in comparison to what we think of them today. The fact that Guinevere is a servant also deposes typical legend, but I won’t say more for those who don’t know much about the Arthurian era.
Regarding its “pros” . . . Merlin is adorable. He’s such a loveable retard. And the whole show is hilarious, mostly because of him. An aspect that is both a complaint and a “like” for me is that the show does too good a job of shipping Merlin and Guinevere . . . and again I won’t say any more about this for now. I also really like Morgana. I didn’t think I would because I thought she would be . . . well, different, based on popular myth about her. I did come close to hating Merlin in Episode 8, “The Beginning of the End,” for reasons that are self-explanatory when you watch the actual episode. But other than those few things, I really loved the first season of this. For those of you who are interested in the Camelot/Round Table/medieval era and aren’t too picky about CGI, sets, and costuming, I think you’ll like it as well.

For Hallie’s benefit: There is also a sort of adaptation of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Rating: 4.5 stars.