Jurassic Park is About a Woman Getting a Man to Have a Baby with Her, and 66 Other Thoughts I Had While Watching It Again

dino baby

Hear me out. There is a subplot in this movie, the first movie I ever remember watching, that is completely unnecessary to the rest of the film. I noticed this when I was rewatching it, in anticipation for Jurassic World, which hit theaters yesterday. I’m not saying she’s the cause of the events of the first film, but the dinosaurs didn’t escape until she showed up… so…

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“Beautiful Creatures”: Smart, Southern, and Supernatural Gothic

I just finished reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I flew through it in less than 2 days and thought it was a great read. Read below to see my thoughts on the book.

Beautiful Creatures Book Cover

2012 was a rough year for reading for me. My last semester of graduate school was tough. Finishing my classes, writing my thesis, and thinking about what to do with the rest of my life took up most of my time and most of my ability to think. Summer turned out to not be too good for reading either. I was busy for the first part of the summer, my grandfather became ill, and then I was applying for jobs. The Fall continued on with the job search and I felt guilty about reading when I could have been filling out applications.

But, then in early December, my grandfather died. While he was ill, his death was surprising because it came rapidly and with little warning. Pain gives you new perspective. It teaches you.

Books do the same thing. The stories of others help make the events in your own story make sense. They bring catharsis. So, I resolved to not feel guilty about devoting some of my time to reading. I’ve read 2 books so far this week, 4 since the 1st of the month. So, expect me to talk about books a little more on here in the future. ūüôā

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But, back to Beautiful Creatures.

Published in 2009, Beautiful Creatures is technically a Young Adult novel for readers ages 12 and up. It is a Southern, Gothic Romance with a storyline deeply rooted in the supernatural. The novel draws heavily on themes of magic and fate. It is 563 pages.

Authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl wrote the novel after being dared to by some of the teenagers in their lives. Garcia and Stohl came up with the idea for Beautiful Creatures over lunch and wrote initial passages on napkins. They wrote the book in serial form at first, feeding pages at a time to these same teens who became increasingly impatient to read more of the story. Three months later, the first draft was complete and after some editing Beautiful Creatures is an international bestseller, the first book in a four-part series (The Caster Chronicles), and soon to be a major motion picture.

This is the book cover for the movie-tie-in.

This is the book cover for the movie-tie-in.

A General, Spoiler-free Summary:

Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Lawson Wate, a 16-year old high school sophomore living in fictional Gatlin, South Carolina in the present day. At the beginning of the book, Ethan is still reeling from the death of his mother Lila several months before in a car accident and is unsure how to react from his father Mitchell’s depressed behavior. Virtually ignored by his devastated father, who sleeps all day and locks himself in his study all night, Ethan relies on the love, support, and care of housekeeper Amma who is like his grandmother.

Raised to be open minded by his liberal professor/writer parents, Ethan feels out of place in Gatlin, a small Southern town deeply rooted in its history and in its conservative values, and he cannot wait until he can leave after high school graduation. A member of the Jackson High School basketball team and a relatively popular kid in his class, Ethan spends most days with his best friend Wesley “Link” Lincoln. However, as summer ends and his sophomore year begins, something is different. Since his mother’s death, Ethan has been plagued by strange dreams, and now he begins to experience strange occurrences and hear strange music. The dreams, which feature a girl Ethan does not know but who seems to know him, seem real — virtually are real — as Ethan wakes up with dirt under his fingernails and mud in his bed.

When Ethan passes a strange car on the road on the first day of school, he feels inexplicably drawn to it, but doesn’t know why. The car’s occupant is Lena Duchannes, niece of Gatlin’s shut-in, Macon Ravenwood. Like her uncle, Lena is “different” than everyone else in Gatlin and she is ridiculed for it by her new classmates. Ethan, however, is drawn to Lena in a way he can’t explain. She is the girl in his dreams, her scent of lemon and rosemary is what he smells as he sleeps, and the music she plays on her viola is the song that mysteriously appears on his iPod.

Ethan becomes Lena’s friend as the rest of Gatlin’s students and residents shun her for her “otherness” and for odd occurrences that begin to happen at Jackson High. Ethan and Lena’s friendship continues to deepen even as her Uncle Macon and his Amma protest the acquaintance. As Ethan seeks to understand his connection to Lena and their relationship develops, Ethan learns that Lena is a Caster. Along with the rest of her family and others like them, she has magical powers. But unlike the others like her family, the Duchannes are cursed — destined to be Claimed on their 16th birthday for either good or evil, for Light or Dark. In a race against time and in a struggle against disapproval, Ethan and Lena rush to learn the meaning of their supernatural connection and to prevent Lena from Turning Dark on her birthday.

In the process, Ethan and Lena learn that all in their lives are not as they seem. That the connection they share goes back over a century to the roots of Gatlin. That Lena’s life has been dominated by secrets. That they may be powerless to do anything.

Ethan and Lena, as depicted in the upcoming Beautiful Creatures film.

Ethan and Lena, as depicted in the upcoming Beautiful Creatures film.

My Take:

I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures.¬† Out of 5 stars, I’d give it a 4. For me it was a fast read — I read it on my Nook over the course of about 2 days. At times, the novel was a little slow and lumbering — not because the story was bad, but because there is a lot of description. With this in mind though, I couldn’t wait to keep reading — the plot kept me thoroughly entertained and thoroughly interested. I desperately wanted to know what happened next, to discover the answers to the story’s mysteries.

I also really liked Beautiful Creatures because I found it to be smart, nuanced, and funny. While some may not agree, I found its commentary on small town life and on the narrow mindedness that sometimes infects those towns (or communities or big cities too) funny and true. You’ll have to read to understand, but for someone like myself who is a more liberal persuasion, authors Garcia and Stohl point out important and blind prejudices that many of us have towards who and what may be different in our worlds.

I also enjoyed the story because of its supernatural themes. While I don’t out rightly believe that magic exists (but, who wouldn’t want Harry Potter to be real??), I appreciate the novel’s perception of supernatural connections and fate. I also found the fact that the novel is told from Ethan’s perspective and not from Lena’s to be refreshing.

Some have placed Beautiful Creatures and the three subsequent books in The Caster Chronicles series in the same category as Harry Potter and Twilight. For someone who reveres the ground that the Harry Potter series sits on, I can honestly say that Beautiful Creatures is not as good as Harry Potter. However, I feel that it is, without question, better than the Twilight series.

beautiful-creatures-new-poster-cast

A Note About the Movie:

Beautiful Creatures has been made into a motion picture and premieres on February 13, 2013. It is being marketed as a Romeo and Juliet type story and some changes have been made to the plot and to the characters. This being said, however, authors Garcia and Stohl were heavily involved in the project and I think the film’s trailer looks great!

 

The entire Caster Chronicles — Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption — series has been published.¬† The fourth and final book,¬†Beautiful Redemption, was published in October 2012.

Happy Reading! Let me know what you think of Beautiful Creatures.

What Disney’s Buyout of Lucasfilm Means To Me

I can’t take the Dark Side seriously like this.

As I’m sure nearly everyone reading this has already heard, Disney has bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion, with plans to release Star Wars Episode VII¬†in 2015. I learned about the buyout this afternoon while I was listening to NPR. This was my immediate reaction:

I’ve seen some mixed reactions about this acquisition on Facebook, and while both sides make decent arguments, I’m firmly in the “this is a terrible idea” category. Let me explain why…

You see, the¬†Star Wars¬†franchise has always been something kind of sacred to me, as I’m sure it has been for countless other fans. I can vividly recall watching Episodes IV, V, and VI with my dad when I was five or six years old. (I also remember watching the Holyfield-Tyson fight with him. Having DirecTV had its advantages.) They set the standard for what “epic movie” meant to me. All of the quotable quotes, the instantly recognizable John Williams score, the Jim Henson-crafted characters… Even then, I knew that there was something important about these movies.

Han Solo was one of my first crushes. In fact, I even had a life-size cardboard cut out of him in my bedroom when I was in elementary school. However, Han isn’t the only good-looking, rugged character in the Lucas universe played by Harrison Ford. I can’t imagine what the¬†Indiana Jones¬†trilogy would have been like if Lucas and Spielberg had been able to hold on to Tom Selleck to play the bad boy professor/archaeologist, but CBS had him locked down for a TV show at the time. (Who would my mom have drooled over on¬†Magnum P.I.?!) Dr. Jones probably definitely¬†had a strong influence on 2nd grade me wanting to be an archaeologist.¬†Raiders,¬†Temple of Doom¬†(scary as it was for a little kid), and¬†Last Crusade¬†were all very important to me growing up, too.

The originals will always be classics for me, and I’m sure a lot of other fans understand what makes both of these franchises special. Personally, I hated the Star Wars¬†prequels; they felt sort of… icky. (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?) I don’t know anyone who prefers Episodes I-III over IV-VI. However, I don’t have any opposition to Ewan McGregor as the younger version of Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. That worked just fine. Of course, there are all of the video games and animated shows and books that go along with Star Wars, but I feel, if anything, the video games and the animated shows get kids interested in the larger story. Brian has read a few of the books based on the movies, and it seems like they generally revere the original story line, staying true to the plot and characters.¬†In 2008, another chapter was added to the Indy Jones story:¬†Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.¬†I only watched this because I felt obligated to do so, but I knew it was going to be terrible. I just didn’t know how terrible it was going to be. While several critics gave it good reviews, the film garnered a largely negative reaction from fans, earning it the 2008 Razzie Award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel. Trey Parker and Matt Stone even shared their opinion of it in¬†South Park‘s¬†mid-12th season premiere with “The China Problem.” For those of you who aren’t fans of the show, I’ll just say that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were not very nice to Indiana Jones. Not nice at all.

Am I the only person who gets the idea of leaving well enough alone? The¬†Star Wars¬†and¬†Indiana Jones trilogies clearly stood the test of time; studio execs know that fans will continue to throw money at the franchise regardless of how lame any of the sequels and prequels turn out to be. When does it stop? Disney should not have made¬†Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I love the other three, but the fourth one was just bad. Almost all of the Disney “classics” I loved to watch when I was growing up have at least one straight-to-video sequel, but why? I think my disappointment over Disney’s buyout of Lucasfilms boils down to this: I don’t want to see Han Solo become a¬†caricature¬†of who he was to me when I was a kid.¬†That’s exactly what happened with Jack Sparrow in the¬†Pirates¬†movies — he’s a joke. I’ve heard the argument about how Disney has done great things for the Marvel franchise, and I can agree with it, to a point.¬†The Avengers¬†was the second-best movie of the summer, behind¬†The Dark Knight Rises, but were all of the others that (very quickly) led up to it (Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk) really that great? It seemed like it was a “let’s get these back stories out as quickly as possible so we can release a summer blockbuster opposite Batman” situation.¬†I have a hard time judging¬†Iron Man, because, well… Robert Downey, Jr.

I know there’s no stopping the machine that is Disney. If they must, though, make more sequels, I hope they will take these 15 “do’s and don’ts” into consideration, especially the idea of bringing nerd king Joss Whedon into the mix and getting John Williams into a recording studio as soon as possible. Maybe, like this article from The Atlantic argues,¬†Star Wars¬†will survive whatever silly things Disney does to it.¬†However, I can see one positive to Disney’s new purchase:

Disney will finally have a princess who can¬†really¬†kick some Stormtrooper keester,¬†although as far as strong princesses go,¬†Brave‘s Merida¬†, Disney/Pixar’s latest princess, is still my favorite. (Even for a practical, liberated princess, I would still recommend having a tissue handy for this movie.) Besides, who knows? We may even get a follow-up to another Lucasfilm classic:

Nicholas Sparks is Pretty Much the Worst: My Most Unpopular Opinion as a Woman

I’ve made it no secret that I really just can’t get into reading books. I prefer to stick to my liberal-leaning music and entertainment magazines (to which I really do need to renew my subscription…) and humor books. The last two books I’ve read were¬†Bossypants¬†by Tina Fey (my new favorite)¬†and William Shatner’s autobiography, Up Till Now,¬†which I can’t help but read in Shatner’s voice. I also enjoy the classics, and my bookshelves are inhabited by Vonnegut, Orwell, Huxley, Vidal, Albee, and Shakespeare, to name a few. I enjoyed the¬†Harry Potter¬†series immensely, but beyond all of those, I can’t get into those books that young women are “supposed to” like.

As a middle schooler, I wasn’t into those coming-of-age books that were so sacred. Sure, there were the ones we¬†had¬†to read for class, like¬†Island of the Blue Dolphins,¬†Hatchet, and others — those were ok. Then came high school, and we started reading edgier books. Where a lot of girls went the romance route, I went down the path of the dystopian novel, and I’ve never quite looked back. (I’ve been very “fight the power” from a young age.) However, when I shared with a girl in my class that I had never read or watched¬†A Walk to Remember,¬†I was called un-American. Pardon me? I can see where my choice of literature could have been considered subversive at the age of 15, but by no means does my failure to take in chick lit make me an enemy of the country.

I’ve never, ever understood the appeal of Nicholas Sparks, or any other book or movie basically designed to illicit tears from the consumer. I refuse to willingly expose myself to “entertainment” that makes others cry, whether it’s inspiring or sad. That’s why I hate videos and links that others post on Facebook with comments like “literally just cried reading that” or “what a touching story!” — I avoid those at all costs. Maybe I’m just not a very emotional person, but I think I’m fairly well-adjusted person when it comes to my feelings. I know that many readers will not agree with me when I say that I think Nicholas Sparks books kinda suck. But that’s just my¬†prerogative, and you’re also quite welcome to yours. A source I turn to daily to read well-researched, informative, and hilarious articles probably summed up my feelings about these books best:

Read some of the articles on this site… I would love nothing more than to write for them.

I’d like to think that this man survives off of the tears of groups of lady friends going to the theater to see these movies together, or women of any age reading the books with a bottomless glass of wine. I have seen a couple of the movies, and just didn’t think much of them. However, I have learned a few things from these movies:

  1. You have to hold on to someone’s face if you’re going to kiss them and mean it. (Brian will probably think I’m attacking his head.)
  2. When you cry, still try to look as beautiful as possible. (I know for a fact that I’m an ugly, ugly crier, and no one should have to see that.)¬†
  3. Someone always dies.¬†(Clich√©.)¬†<–¬†I originally had something else as my third point, but I decided it actually was too harsh of a criticism of this genre, and stands to be the only thought I’ve ever omitted on this blog.

Who wants to cry? Am I missing out on some kind of female bonding experience? It’s just not for me. Sorry if I’m offending anyone, but I won’t be upset if you don’t get my particular forms of literature. I’m not the only one who has considered how cheesy these books and movies are: check out Anna Breslaw’s Reality Index Reviews of¬†The Vow¬†and¬†The Lucky One¬†from Glamour. (Anna is probably my new girl-writer crush.) This article on Cracked also outlines another reason why I think these books are straight up crazy: remember when Noah threatened to let go of the Ferris wheel if Allie didn’t agree to go on a date with him, while she was sitting there with her current date? That’s a form of domestic abuse, my friends; in no way is threatening to kill yourself a romantic gesture.

Can I take a minute to suggest a couple of alternatives to these movies?


I’m ok with shedding a tear or two to this movie. If you don’t know, it served as an inspiration for Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle.


Perhaps the most realistic romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, and the only one I’ve been able to get my boyfriend to watch.

A lot of people have probably seen the second one, but the first film is an absolute classic. I don’t judge women who read Sparks novels, but I don’t particularly get it, and subjecting myself to sadness on purpose is just not my thing.

 

“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”

I’m on Spring Break this week and, boy, has Spring made itself known today. The weather here in Northeast Ohio is beautiful, with the temperature forecast to hover near 70 degrees for the next week. This afternoon, after doing some writing this morning and spending a little time out in the sunshine, I decided to watch my latest movie from Netflix. I’m trying to be better about actually watching the movies soon after they arrive and then sending them back. I tend to let movies languish, and my list of movies isn’t growing any shorter.

I’d been looking forward to this movie though, so it wasn’t too hard to watch it.

The film in question is The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Emilio’s father, Martin Sheen. I¬† love both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, the former from his days playing President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing and the latter from the other movie he wrote and directed, Bobby.

The Way tells the story of Thomas Avery, a California ophthalmologist, who travels to France to retrieve his son Daniel’s remains after Daniel is killed during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is an 800+ kilometer pilgrimage route from the French-Spanish border, through the Pyrenees Mountains and the northern Spanish countryside, to the city of Santiago and its Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of the apostle St. James are (reportedly) housed.

Thousands of pilgrims have traveled this route for more than a thousand years, to find God, to find themselves, to find enlightenment, to see nature, to experience life. Thomas Avery doesn’t agree with his son Daniel’s choices, scolding that not everyone has the “luxury of just leaving it all behind,” but he loves his son greatly, despite their differences. After arriving in France and claiming Daniel’s body, Thomas, having no intention of staying, decides to walk the Camino and spread Daniel’s ashes as he goes.

His journey is deeply personal, but also communal as he shares experiences and his grief with other pilgrims walking the Camino. Thomas completes the Camino, both for himself and for his son Daniel, arriving at the Cathedral in Santiago to experience the daily Pilgrim’s Mass (a true sight to see). The Way has changed him, like it changes all of his companions.

I really liked the movie, but it may not be for everyone. It’s slow moving at times, very introspective with brief moments of comedy. But, it’s not about the movie’s pace, it’s about the overall meaning.

We’re all searching for something. Faith, answers, guidance, beauty, fresh air, history. We all go on journeys too. Maybe not walking the Camino or even going on a long trip, but we all take voyages – through nature, books, art, music, etc. Our purpose when embarking on that journey is hardly ever the same as we learn it was when the journey is over — we always learn something different or more than we expect.

But that’s okay.

That’s the point of the trip.

Where have you journeyed? Where do you want to journey to?

What do you think you’ll find along the way?