Friday, April 23, 2010

Tsaheylu* To My Little Friend

"Avatar" was released to DVD and Blu-Ray yesterday, and for the first time ever, I broke down and got a Blu-Ray DVD.

You really can tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray (hubby and I took a look at both versions, which came in my copy), even on my ancient television. I don't have a flat-screen yet (prohibitive cost and all, and my TV ain't broke), but I do have a PS3, courtesy of the hubby, and it will play Blu-Ray. My "Oh, what the heck" purchase turned into "Oh, wow!" The picture was surprisingly crisp. Mind you, I don't intend to re-purchase all the DVDs in my movie collection just to get the Blu-Ray versions - but with the new flatscreens coming out by the time I will need one, I probably won't have to.

I was pretty shocked that they released this movie so soon, but the downside is, there are no special features on this disc. (No ads or trailers either.) I believe they are saving those extras for a Fall 2010 release. I'm told they'll be releasing it AGAIN in 3-D next year. Three releases for one movie seems rather wasteful, don't you think? I am irritated that they wasted resources on a version people are going to toss when the bigger, better version comes out (I'll be passing my watered-down one on to a friend who doesn't buy movies as often as me, but likes them). I think I will wait until the fullest version comes out to actually purchase another copy, in the hopes that they'll include all possible formats in the 3-D release. James Cameron is certainly squeezing every possible penny out of this movie, but I'm concerned about how much waste he's producing to do it.

On the upside, the movie is still fabulous. If you don't mind waiting to buy your own, just rent a copy for now. :)

*Tsaheylu (sah-HEY-loo) - the Na'vi word for the bond between the Na'vi, the indigenous people of Pandora in Avatar, and all living things on their planet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Today's the day where we try, officially, to be better stewards of our planet. With that in mind, try doing something a little "greener" today. Choose a washable coffee cup instead of that drive-thru Styrofoam one. Install CFLs instead of those energy-gulping incandescent bulbs. Think about a programmable thermostat. Carpool to work. Plant a tree. There are so many ways to tread a little lighter on the earth. Try one. Try a few! Your planet will thank you. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans

Better late than never, eh?

After the disappointment of the first installment of Percy Jackson, I had pinned some high hopes on this return to Greek mythology. The trailer looked pretty amazing, but I didn't see much plot underneath all that action, even though they had an already-established movie to draw from (the original Ray Harryhausen creature classic of the same name has a cult following).

I wasn't disappointed about the action, that's for sure. They promised action via the trailer, and they delivered it almost all movie long. There's very little downtime in this film. Perseus and his crew spent most of the movie trekking across the countryside avoiding being stabbed or eaten in various exciting ways. Nice job there.

I find, however, that as a writer I learn best from what isn't in a movie. What's missing from this one is the human story. It's your basic summer action film with all the emotion stripped out of it. There's a nod to Perseus's angst about his dead family, but for the most part there is no pause to feel in this film. The love story between Perseus and Andromeda (for me, one of the driving forces behind the myth and the original film) is conspicuously absent. Instead, Perseus is paired with a woman called Io, who was cursed with agelessness.

Grand. What's that got to do with Andromeda?

There's a sense of scratching the surface in this movie - a brotherhood of men with their own backstories, which might have been interesting if they spent more time on it. Even the performances of the gods (Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades, respectively) lacked the magic of the original. The interaction of the pantheon was a big draw in the first movie for me, and it was missing here. Their names are not given - with an exception or two - so they're left sitting there, a backdrop that's rolled out without delivering on what could have been a great thing.

And on the subject of great things wasted ... Sam Worthington, who did such an incredible job emoting in "Avatar" even as a CG, nine-foot blue tiger, was given so little to work with here in the emotion department. And this guy can emote and make you care even while kicking arse. Watch "Terminator: Salvation" if you still don't believe me. His performance in that movie blows John Connor out of his combat boots.

Lacking the emotional element, this movie does have some unexpected highlights. The Scorpiox and the Djinn were interesting. I did find it odd that Pegasus was a Friesian (a horse of the Netherlands), while his herd was your standard white flying horses. The fact that he had a herd bothered me, since Calibos (another human story stripped down to bare bones) was supposed to have killed them. I like Friesians though, and Sam Worthington on a Friesian is even better. Yay, me.

The Kraken was another highlight, of course. They spent a lot of time and effort on making the big battle look good, and it shows. There's also a town fanatic in Argos, who believes (erroneously) that sacrificing Andromeda and returning en force to worshipping the gods will make everything all better. It's a nice commentary on the folly of any sort of blind fervor, and I did like that about the movie. The battle with Medusa was notably terrific, too.

In short, "Clash of the Titans" was one of those "almost" movies. Almost the outstanding piece of cinema that it could have been, if only they'd rounded it out with the emotional draw it should have had. I'll still buy it, I'll still watch it on a rainy Sunday, but I still love my Harryhausen classic best. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

One Nice Thing

It's amazing how a kindness can lift you out of a funk. I had been in one for the past few days, and then out of the blue, someone gave me a compliment that both surprised me and made me feel loads better. It changed my whole outlook for the day.

Do someone a big favor today. Say something nice to them. Your spouse, a friend, the lady at the coffee shop. Just one person. Pass that good feeling on! You'll find it makes you feel good, too.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Why Ralph Vaughan Williams RULES

I think I'm in love.

I was driving home tonight, and the radio was tuned in to Classic FM, which I like because (a) the classical/jazz/opera/showtune music is beautiful and (b) it really does make kids smarter - my son's pretty bright, just ask him *wink* and (c) loooong periods of music without obnoxious commercials, and without the cost of HD radio.

This evening, they played a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, of Ralph (say "Rafe") Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 5 in D. Classic FM does like to play a lot of Vaughan Williams. I recall liking other pieces I'd heard by him, but I didn't even know the composer at first when I heard this concert.

On first blush, I thought, "Oh, this is nice."

Then I thought, "Wow, this is really good. It reminds me of the old movie scores - the really sweeping ones that I loved as a kid."

Then I heard Romanza: Lento.

BOOM. It just about brought me to tears. I drove home and sat in my driveway to listen to it and, not wanting to miss anything, rushed into my house (with a frenzied hello to my husband) and up the stairs to find out What That Song Was.



I went to Classic FM's website and, bless them, they had a playlist up. After that, it was a short Google-walk through Amazon to download the music, and voila. I now have all kinds of writing ideas spawned by this one song. This music reminded me why I like to write by soundtrack, and furthermore, why I love to write a sweeping, dramatic story most of all. Wistful Sigh. I will now have to buy everything else this man has composed.

Ralph Vaughan Williams lived 1872-1958, and is well-known for his lyrical style and the "Englishness" of his music - sweeping and timeless and spanning a broad range of emotions. I'm already planning scenes to soundtrack with his music. Productivity, here I come!

In short, one more good reason to support public radio. So I guess I should add (d) Ralph Vaughan Williams is my new crush.

Same Blog, New Look

I have decided, after toying with a Wordpress blog, to return to using Blogger as it is more user-friendly for the time I have to work with it. I have also integrated it into my website, giving it an all-new look that matches my main website. I hope you like the new look! Feel free to drop me a line with some feedback either way. Cheers!

Friday, April 02, 2010

EARTH Is Officially Released!

Today is the official release day for my debut novel, EARTH! You can buy it in paperback for $11.99, or in a tree-friendly e-book format at a slim $6.00! Click here to buy, and join the adventure!