Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Black Panther

     I just back from the theater (a very packed theater too!) and WOW! Everything people have said about this movie is absolutely true! It went completely beyond the typical MARVEL universe and told a whole different story that was unique, but still had the timeless attributes of a coming of age character. I've been surprised at the severe lack of Black Panther movie reviews on my reading list! Most blogs I follow are die hard MARVEL/DC fans. 

     If you think that movie is simply about race and blacks bashing whites, then you are very misinformed and mistaken! There was absolutely none of that and what they did have was dealt with very well in the villain (or more like an anti-hero). There is respectful representation of both sides; and while the story takes place in Africa and has an all black cast, there is no actual racist culture dialogue from our wonderful hero or his people. 

     So...on to that wonderful (and handsome!) hero...

 Prince T'Challa/Black Panther

     We first met T'Challa as the young, soft spoken Wakandian prince in Captain America: Civil War where he certainly made his mark as an honorable and just man as well as the fierce and famed Black Panther. With what little screen time T'Challa had in the film, we see an immediate character growth starting with his loving relationship with his father, grieving his father's sudden death, hunting down the supposed assassin, siding with Tony Stark and eventually proving to be the king he was meant to be and the hero he knows he is capable of becoming. That's a lot in one day!!!

     Black Panther takes place a week later and T'Challa is finally on his way home to take his place as king of Wakanda. The beginning of the movie gives a brilliant introduction to the genesis of Wakanda and the origins of the Black Panther. While the rest of the world sees Wakanda as a poor and desolute country, hidden within it's mountains and forests is a highly technological world built on Wakanad's primary resource, vibranium. 

     The secret to Wakanda's thriving city is in their refusal to partake in the issues and problems of surrounding countries and nations. T'Challa is wanting to continue this way of life, however, his ex-girlfriend, Nakia, (whom he is still madly in love with) thinks differently and believes that Wakanda's advanced technology could be a great asset to the world. Yet, the outside world does come and threaten T'Challa in the form of an unknown cousin from America who seeks revenge and power embodied by hate and fear. 

     This unexpected adversary becomes the first great challenge that T'Challa must overcome as king. Through victory, defeat, life and death, T'Challa begins to mold himself into a new king for a new Wakanda while remaining the protector and defender of his country's pride and honor, the Black Panther. 

Needless to say, he's kind of my new crush at the moment
   As with Chris Evens as Captain America or Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chadwick Boseman played this wonderful king to be to perfection. T'Challa was so incredible in Civil War and now he is taken to a whole new level of character in Black Panther. Deeply emotional with intense courage and valor,  sometimes blindsided by love as well as being a protective older brother and dutiful son, T'Challa has all the elements you would want in a boy who was born and raised to be a king. 

Wakanda Forever
 (L-R): Erik Killmonger, Zuri, W'Kabi, M'Baku

     Erik/N'Jadaka "Killmonger" Stevens: Erik Stevens grew up in Oakland, California and faced immense pain and sorrow when he came home to find his father was killed. Ignited by rage and revenge, Erik becomes a U.S. black ops solider working for the CIA. His intense brutality on the battlefield earned him the nickname, Killmonger and creating a machine with no sense of pity or kindness. Ever since Erik found his father dead, his one primary mission is gain power to destroy any enemy that stands in his way.

     Zuri: An elder of Wakanda and counselor to the king, Zuri is gifted with wisdom and insight and holds intense loyalty to the royal family, most especially the former king, T'Chaka. However, his loyalty to the crown and T'Chaka holds serious and dangerous secrets that could be detrimental to everyone he loves.

     W'Kabi: T'Challa's best friend and the head of security from the Border Tribe. Protective of his people and his king, W'Kabi finds his loyalties tested when a would-be king takes over the throne.

     M'Baku: Leader of the Jabari, the mountain tribe of Wakanda, M'Baku is T'Challa's rival for king in the beginning. 

Princess Shuri and Queen Romanda, the Queen Mother
     Princess Shuri: T'Challa's brilliant little sister who knows how to keep her older brother in line. Lively and lovable, Shuri has an insatiable curiosity and desire to build and create. Also a strong fighter, Shuri is faithful to her family and her people and is fearless when it comes to fighting for both.

     Queen Ramonda: The gracious and proud queen and Wakanda who has raised a noble son and a strong daughter as well as serve her country with dignity. Beautiful and powerful, Romanda puts great trust and faith in T'Challa and knows that he will not fail his country or his father.

Nakia and Okoye
    Nakia: An undercover spy who knows how to hold her own in whatever capacity she finds herself in. Nakia is T'Challa's ex-girlfriend, but its obvious that the passion and love is still there, however she does not want to be queen and just sit on a throne. She has skills and talents and believes they can be best used serving her people and possibly other nations. 

    Okoye: The head of the Dora Milaje, an all female special forces, Okoye is one of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda. Calm and pragmatic, Okoye will defend and honor the throne regardless of who sits in it.

     This was a good MARVEL film that reminded me a great deal of The Avengers and Thor before they became so dark and complex. I was beginning to miss the simplicity and fun of MARVEL films, but Black Panther brought all that back, while still telling a serious story about coming of age and fighting for what is good. T'Challa is a wonderful example of a flawed but ever growing character. He may not always win his battles, but he stills stands tall and proud making his ending victories so much greater for himself and for his beloved Wakanda. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Musketeers (BBC)

     Oh BBC, you did it again! First with Merlin and then Robin Hood! You took wonderful literary legends and turned them into engaging and addictive programming. I had heard of The Musketeers from Rachel and Ruth's blogs and gained a general interest in it. Not just because Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot from Merlin) was in it, but also because I have been a huge Musketeers fan for years! I grew up with 1993 Disney film which is a family favorite in my home and I read the book a couple of years ago and just fell in love with the humor and candor of the writing. 

     Now liberties have been taken with original story, historical timelines and costuming, but I would hardly think the Dumas would find fault with that and neither do I. Unlike Merlin and Robin Hood, The Musketeers is more adult (I wouldn't let my 8 or 9 year old watch certain episodes) with sensual content and violence. However, they may have also stayed true the 17th century Parisian lifestyle where there were few rules and war was always on everyone's minds.

~ ~ ~

The Musketeers

     d'Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino): 

     Bold and lively d'Artagnan never set out to be a Musketeer. As a matter of fact, his intent was to kill the Musketeers (primarily Athos) when they are framed for numerous murders including d'Artagnan's father. Afterwards he befriends the three 'inseparables' and is determined to become not just a Musketeer, but the greatest Musketeer in France's history. Irresistibly handsome and charming, it's impossible not to enjoy d'Artagnan in whatever capacity he finds himself in. Whether it's chasing down spies, wooing women or just getting into trouble. 

     d'Artagnan had a wonderful character development in the story, possibly the best development. It was great watching him grow from an  inexperienced youth and feisty underdog in the beginning to an honorable man and distinguished soldier. Luke Pasqualino's representation of d'Artagnan was just complex and enlightening. He wasn't afraid to go deep into d'Artagnan's intense emotions and really bring out a young man who is just and good, but also has great deal to learn about life and leadership. 

Dear, darling, wonderful d'Artagnan!
  ~ ~ ~

   Athos de le Fere (Tom Burke)

      A man with many secrets. Regarded as one of the best swordsman and soldiers in France, Athos is a born leader. Yet, he is also a slave to his past life and that includes a marriage to a woman who deceived him with her charms and broke his heart. Athos has spent five years as a Musketeer trying to forget his former life and when he is not fighting he is usually drowning his demons with wine. 

     As time goes by, Athos slowly reveals his story to his friends, informing them of who he once was, who he once loved and how he feels bound to the neverending suffering of mistakes and regrets. With the help of his friends, and the trials and triumphs they face together, Athos begins to recover and even finds love again. Despite his flawed and broken nature, Athos is respected and admired by many and his greatness lies not in what he does with a weapon but rather but what he does with his life decisions. 

Complex, confusing and courageous Count Athos!

 ~ ~ ~
     Aramis d'Herblay (Santiago Cabrera)

    We all have that one friend in the group who just has a difficult relationship with trouble. Well, that would be Aramis. Although incredibly gifted and talented as a brilliant swordsman, excellent marksman and skilled physician, Aramis' tendency to let his heart rule his head is detrimental nor only to him, but everyone else around him. Yet, he also loves deeply and passionately and that deep love not just for his friends and country, but also for his God is what compels him to do the work that he does. 

     There are times when Aramis tends to be two completely different people. One person that's an adrenaline junkie and daredevil and another person as a romantic with dreams of family life away from warfare. However you may want to perceive him, Aramis' loyalty to crown and country and fierce fortitude for his brothers in arms is unmatched; and when he lets God determine his life path, then at last he finds his true calling and unexpected happiness.

Searching for adventure, love or trouble?
~ ~ ~

     Porthos du Vallon (Howard Charles)

    If any character had a more intriguing and heartbreaking life (more so than Athos) then Porthos' life as an illegitimate mixed child of a slave would probably be it. Orphaned as a boy, Porthos grew up in the famed Court of Miracles where he eventually worked his way up from a destitute thief, to a well respected infantry solider and finally to a famed Musketeer. Similar to Athos, Porthos has a former life he would rather not dwell on, but soon it comes to find him all the same.

      Known to be a formidable fighter and brilliant strategist, Porthos is also a gentle giant with a strong sense of justice and mercy. Unlike other versions of Porthos (as well as the books) this Porthos is much more serious in demeanor and has no patience for cruelty toward others. At times he is caught between love and war, knowing that he can never give up soldiering, but also believing that he could be the father that he never had and give a child the life that he fought so hard to obtain.

Formidable friend and softhearted soldier.
~ ~ ~

The King and Queen of France

     King Louis XIII (Ryan Gage) and Queen Anne (Alexandra Dowling): A marriage of politics, but certainly not of passion. King Louis and Queen Anne have a respectable friendship, but their differences disallow any chance of family love. Louis is naive, spoiled and ill equipped for the throne. Although not evil or malicious, Louis grew up under a domineering mother and Queen regent after his father was assassinated when he was a child. The death of his father is a heartache that Louis rarely talks about and he is completely dependent on outside forces to care for the well being of France. By doing so, Louis causes more damage than good for his country and his people. 

     Anne is a Spanish princess who silently endures her husband's sordid attempts to act as king as well his as flamboyant and shameless lifestyle with a conniving mistress. While she may be beautiful and generous, Anne is everything in character her husband is not. Headstrong and independent, but she can also be a recipient of deception. When Anne gets into an affair with one of the Musketeers, the consequences of her actions may come at a heavy price that she herself may not be able to bear.

A pretty apt representation of most royal marriages back then.
~ ~ ~

Friends & Foes

     Constance de Bonecieux (Tamla Kari): Like the queen, Madame Constance Bonecieux is trapped in loveless marriage with a cloth merchant who cares more for advancement than his wife. However, Constance gets a surprise when d'Artagnan crashes into her at the market while trying to escape for his life. From there, Constance and d'Artagnan get caught in a whirlwind of forbidden love, deception, jail and at least one trip to the gallows. Undeniably sweet, but strong willed, Constance becomes a much needed sister figure for the Musketeers and is forever assisting them in their work as well as telling them off when they need it...which is almost always.

d'Artagnan's Princess and Queen of the Garrison
~ ~ ~

     Captain Treville (Hugo Speers): A war hero of France and captain of the Musketeer guard, Treville has a full plate when dealing with a childish king, manipulative enemies or his own Musketeers. However, Treville is blessed with a calm reserve that allows him to be a good counsel and strong leader. He loves his men dearly and woe be to anyone who dishonors the Musketeers name. Treville is not only an icon of a true and noble soldier, but also a great example of loyalty to his king and his men. 

Papa Treville, always so proud of his boys...most of the time...
~ ~ ~

     Milday de Winter (Mamie McCoy): Conniving, cruel, untrustworthy and shameless could hardly begin to describe the darkness of Milday de Winter. An enigmatic character who lies, cheats, steals and kills to get what she wants. There is rarely if ever any redemption for Milady and yet her skills prove to be useful from time to time, so they really can't kill her either. While Milady might be a paragon of darkness, her life has also been one of fear and oftentimes poverty which leads her to commit atrocities if it means staying alive one more day.

If evil had a face
~ ~ ~

     Such a rich and engaging production that unfortunately lasted only three seasons despite its popularity. Everything from the acting, the music, the costumes, scenery and set design was just stunning and you can almost forgive them for their historical inaccuracies. One thing this show did well was tell a good story and from episode 1 to the series finale, the stories were all told exceptionally well. Many episodes had intense emotion and thought provoking themes that worked well with the time period and the people.

    An aspect I greatly enjoyed was its portrayal of  women at the time. There was some feminist content with Milady, but due to her situation its understandable. However, with the other women in the show, they are written as strong women, but also real women in difficult circumstances. Some women suffer due to men, while other women are rescued and loved by men as well. 

     Another continuing theme in this story (that tends to get forgotten today) is the ideal that men are protectors of women as well as children. That is seen over and over again in the show and I'm very thankful for the writers for making that an important factor to the series. In such a feminist dominated society it's wonderful to see men as they are created to be. As protectors and leaders, but also respecting women and seeing them as intelligent and capable.

     While it was disappointing that the show ended so early on, The Musketeers certainly never disappoints. It was a delight from beginning to end and if you are a fan of the books or any of the movies or just need a a good BBC watch (like Merlin and Robin Hood), the The Musketeers is an absolute must for your period drama series collection!

My own collection!

     *All gifs from Google

      *Original artwork credit: Cathy's Page/Cathelms. The graphics are gorgeous so click to enlarge the images!

     * DVDs picture is mine.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Les Miserables 2018 - Pt. Three

Because I was taking the pictures with my phone I tried to keep them as straight and even as possible and hopefully you can read the text. So, that's about as close as I can get to sharing my wonderful experience of Les Miserables 2018!

Les Miserables 2018 - Pt. Two

The revolution begins....

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