Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Hunger Games

"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     I've been wanting to do this movie review for a long, long time! I just saw Catching Fire on Saturday (which was AMAZING!!), but like with my Thor review, I think should review the first movie before I do the second one. My first introduction to The Hunger Games was actually through the movie, which we watched on TV. I had heard of the books, but really had no interest in them, but after seeing the movie, I went to the library and picked up the first book...and couldn't put it down! You can read my book review here. Afterwards, my sister and then my mom and then my younger sister and then my dad all started reading the books, so needless to say, we're all slightly obsessed with The Hunger Games.

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Katniss Everdeen
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
      The term 'bundle of contradictions has never been more relevant than when it comes to describing 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, a young resident of District 12 in totalitarian run Panem (former U.S.A and Canada) who lives in a destitute coal mining town. Although not heartless by any accounts, Katniss is aloof and untrusting of people around her, ever since her beloved father died in a mining accident when she was 12. Katniss is left to care for her sweet younger sister Primrose "Prim" and her mother, who goes through deep depression episodes due to her husband's death. Katniss uses her skills as an archer to provide for her small family as well as to help her friend Gale and his family.

     Her life is far from idyllic, but Katniss has accepted the fact that she will live in District 12 until the day she dies. Although, she has to face the chance of certain death every year at the Reaping, where one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, are selected from each of the 12 Districts of Panem, to fight to the death in the blood hungry Hunger Games which is broadcast throughout all of the country. For 74 years, Panem has held the Hunger Games as punishment toward the Districts when they created an uprising against the government. All people fear the idea of having to take part of The Hunger Games, even emotionless Katniss Everdeen, who has more reason to worry now that her sister, the only happiness in her lonely life, is now of age. Confident that first timers never get chosen, Katniss just wants to get the Reaping over with and carry on with her life.

     Except her life comes to a mind blowing change when indeed, Primrose's name is called. In a frenzy of fear and rage, Katniss runs up to the front and screams "I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE! (now immortalized in the history of YA literature). Everyone around her is in complete shock and disbelief at her rash decision, but all Katniss is thinking about is protecting her younger sister, no matter the cost. After the male tribute is chosen, both children are taken away from their homes to the Capitol, the materialistic and worldly city that holds the Hunger Games.

     For 2 weeks, Katniss and 23 other tributes are completely indulged in Capitol life. Katniss is dressed up and put on parade and show for the Capitol and trains for competition in the arena. While there, Katniss sees that there is some good in the Capitol, mainly in her idealistic stylist Cinna, but in all general sense the Capitol and anything relating to The Hunger Games is shallow and inhumane. The day finally comes where Katniss enters the arena and the battle for victor of The Hunger Games begins.

      Determined not to kill, but also not to be killed, Katniss relies of her talents of archery, hunting, and nature identification to make it to the end. She must face forest fires, tracker jackers, an allience of several tributes, cold, hunger, and the constant fear of being found and killed. Even in the midst of all the dark and terror, Katniss finds hope in precious District 11 resident, Rue who helps her fight the alliance, which only leads to her death and from Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from Distict 12 whose generous and moral nature is what helps him to survive.

     In the end, Katniss and Peeta are the only ones left standing and must decide who lives and who dies. Katniss believes that the only way to do what is right is to defy the government's belief of self preservation and both take their own lives. Just before it happens, it's announced that both are now victors and are finally released from the arena. They are honored and praised for their bravery and are taken back to their home, in hopes of returning back to their normal lives. Except the Capitol is not pleased with Katniss defiance and she is unaware of what her humanity has unleashed.

     In all honesty, Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful job with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen (I'm not going to lie though, I am getting sick and tired of hearing how wonderful the girl actually is). Playing an often times emotionless character that is cut off from the world is difficult, but Jennifer pulled it off effortlessly. I'm also glad that they didn't make Katniss stunningly beautiful as well. Don't get me wrong, I think that Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful, but they really made an effort to showcase her natural beauty that was fitting for the character.

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Peeta Mellark
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark is as opposite from Katniss Everdeen as one can get. Where Katniss is reserved and quiet, Peeta is outgoing and talkative. Katniss only gets along with people if she needs to, but Peeta makes an attempt to befriend people...even if it's for his own benefit. In all reality, Peeta is just as complex and confusing as Katniss herself. Although, intensely moral, Peeta really has no allegiance to anyone. He has an incredible gift of negotiating and using his words to do what needs to be done. His high principles tend to mask his cunning intellect and extreme intelligence as well as his unusual gift of camouflage, which he learned from decorating cakes in his family bakery.

     In spite of his gifts and strengths, Peeta can be self-deprecating, brought on by a distant and demanding mother and older brothers who have nothing to do with him. He firmly believes in Katniss returning to District 12 is it's victor and doesn't mind telling her that, but that doesn't deter Katniss from seeing the same greatness and potential in Peeta as a victor.

     When Peeta and Katniss arrive in the Capitol, Peeta is rather taken by the Capitol, the people and the major differences between the wealthy city and his own poor hometown. He is able to use his ability with words to charm the people of the Capitol, but when he makes it public that he's in love with Katniss, she's horrified and enraged. Although, Katniss firmly believes that she is not in love with Peeta, the idea of two star-crossed lovers from the same District charms all of the Capitol and Peeta may have given them both (or Katniss, at least) a small chance of survival. Later that night he admits to Katniss that his fear isn't dying in the arena, but rather being turned into a pawn for the Capitol's use, losing his humanity for the sole sake of survival and glory.

     After Peeta arrives in the arena he must count on only his negotiating skills, cleverness and moral conscience to get out alive. He joins the alliance of career tributes, but only to secretly ensure that Katniss is safe. Afterwards he is seriously wounded by another tribute and is found by Katniss. While hiding in a cave, Peeta tells Katniss of the first time he fell in love with her, which actually softens her heart toward him.

     When they finally get to the end of the games, Peeta believes that Katniss should live, but she has other plans. After they are announced victors, they continue the illusion of lovers, but have in reality finally become friends. when they arrive home, Peeta believes that they can now put the whole ordeal of The Hunger Games and finally be at peace, but peace is never an option when the Capitol is concerned.

     Josh Hutercherson did a remarkable job as Peeta Mellark! What I enjoyed the most about Peeta was that he wasn't the stereotyped tall, dark, handsome hero who just so happens to be good at everything. He's compassionate and generous and above all, the embodiment of humane moral principal and Josh pulled all of that off effortlessly.

~ ~ ~

Gale Hawthorne
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)

     Katniss' hunter partner and only friend, Gale seems to be the epitome of perfection in the eyes of most of the girls in District 12. Handsome, intelligent and a fighter, Gale has no problem spouting his beliefs about the Hunger Games or the Capitol. Katniss herself, just sees him as her friend who has unrealistic dreams about a future that is illegal to dream about. Like Katniss, Gale lost his father in the same coal mining accident, but it was what incidentally brought the two of the together. He adores Katniss and she in return admires him (even when he annoys her). Gale is the only person, besides Prim, that Katniss will get close to and even make her smile. 

     Although not really mentioned in the book it's hinted at in the movie that Gale is in love with Katniss and she is too blind to see it. He's taken by her strength and duty to her family as well as her skills as a hunter. When Katniss volunteers as tribute, Gale takes responsibility for Prim and her mother until she returns. Gale believes that Katniss has the will power to survive the Panem arena and come back as victor. What he didn't realize was how hard it was going to be watching the girl he secretly loves pretend to love someone else as it's broadcast all over the country. And after they return, it will only get harder.

     I like Liam Hemsworth...a lot! Seriously though, with what little screen time he had, he made every minute (sometimes second) count. Within the first few minutes of meeting Gale, you're immediately introduced to a friendly and honorable man who only wants what is best for his family and his district. 

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Haymitch Abernathy
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     Victor of the 50th Hunger Games event, Haymitch made history as the only Tribute from District 12 to survive the games. Now 25 years later, he's a lonely drunk who must spend every summer mentoring and training children from his own District and watch as they're killed. So needless to say, Haymitch isn't exactly the best company to have around, but when he's sober he holds a surprising amount of wisdom from his experience in the games as well as being very knowledgeable about the Capitol and how it's run. 

     When Haymitch meets Katniss and Peeta, he's less than thrilled about having to go back to mentoring, but gets quite a surprise when Katniss challenges him at the breakfast table and when Peeta seems to make an attempt to want to survive. He realizes that these are not ordinary children. When they arrive at the Capitol, Haymitch teaches them basic survival, not necessarily in the arena, but in training where the tributes are all judged on their strongest skills. He begins to have a growing fondness for Katniss and probably sees a lot of himself in her when he was that age. 

     While watching his two tributes in the games, Haymitch's heart is softened at their tenacity and survival and does whatever it takes to keep them, especially Katniss, alive. After Katniss defies the government Haymitch issues a warning that she may have put herself and Peeta into more danger and that the Capitol is not as forgiving as he is.

     Haymitch is one of those characters where you hate him one moment and love him the next. As a mentor for survival, he's great. As someone you want to pour out your heart to, then forget about it. Sentimentality is as foreign to Haymitch as permanent sobriety. Yet, his wisdom for arena and Capitol survival is all that he can give to Katniss and Peeta and when they survive they give him something he never thought he could achieve, hope.

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President Coriolanus Snow
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     The cruel autocratic dictator of Panem who gives the illusion of a benevolent leader. President Snow is a sadistic and frightning presence no matter where he is. He can inspire terror without raising his voice and can evoke horror without even looking up. Yet, underneath that facade of calm President Snow is afraid. He fears another uprising from the Districts, one that was worse than before, which is why he is adamant to continue the games. In his twisted mind the games can have a duel effect. Although they were created as punishment, they can be used as a sense of balanced behavior when a District victor is crowned, of which he explained to gamemaker Seneca Crane.
"...why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it's contained."
     President Snow may seem safe in his psychotic philosophy, but he becomes somewhat concerned when a young girl from District 12 volunteers as tribute in her sister's place and proceeds to take all of Panem by storm. He watches as she chooses humanity and dignity over survival and glory. For the first time there is someone who has found the courage to challenge the powerful and that does not bode well for President Snow and his government. What started out as a flicker of hope may become an inferno of rebellion, something President Snow never planned on happening.

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Effie Trinket
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
      Shallow and materialistic are the best descriptions for born and bred Capitol resident Effie Trinket, representative and escort of District 12. Completely clueless to life outside of the Capitol and always ambitious to out due anyone around her, Effie has no moral conscience when it comes to the games. She sees it as en event where she can be seen and praised for her 'hardwork.' Incredibly demanding and self-preserving, at first Effie spends a good deal of time looking down on her two young tributes than she does taking care of them. Effie is a prime example of the worldliness of the Capitol and its remission of the outside world.

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Lenny Kravitz as Cinna in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     Unlike his friend and Capitol resident Effie Trinket, up and coming stylist Cinna is neither shallow or materialistic. He sees barbaric nature of the games, the greed of the Capitol, as well as the suffering of the outside Districts and longs for change as much as they do. Only problem is, seeing as he works for the Capitol and therefore President Snow, Cinna must keep his own beliefs secret or risk being arrested or even killed.

     Then he meets the brave girl from District 12 who volunteered in her sister's place and suddenly all that he has believed in and hoped for begins to come together. If he can help this girl become a beacon of hope for these Districts by using his own Capitol talents, wouldn't that be a better use of his time? He starts it with telling Katniss to have pride in her District and inevitably makes her a success with his extremely talented designs. Before she leaves for the arena he gives her the Mockingjay pin she brought with her from home and with no words at all tells her "You are more than you seem. You are hope. You are light. You are our freedom. You are my freedom."

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     A story over love found in a hopeless place, good overcoming evil (but not entirely vanquishing it), a controversial game that is played by more than just children and the ideal of doing what is right no matter what the cost may be. I found the movie just as engaging as the book and I'm glad in many ways that I saw the movie first so I didn't have too high expectations as I probably would have if I had read the books first.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Castles, Presidents...and Mice

     Merry Christmas! 

     My family is pretty subtle when it comes to Christmas. We went to the evening church service and then went home and ate supper of ham, cheese and crackers, with vegetable and fruit trays, and my brother even brought home a pizza when he got back from work at Little Caeser's! After we ate, we did our little gift game, which constitutes of finding one's gift through memorizing and figuring out clues.

I got this lovely 14x14cm. oil painting

And this very cute cup that I've been using all day. Seriously! I haven't gone to the cupboard once to get a drinking class. So it's actually convenient to have one's own cup.

Then name draws came around and my dad (who drew my name) got me these:

I had picked this up at the library and knew that I immediately wanted it! It gives a wonderful look at all of the characters of Downton Abbey from season 1-3.

I don't think I've ever mentioned that I'm a big Kennedy fan. In spite of their flaws, I've always admired the Kennedy family (mainly Bobby and Ethel Kennedy as well as Rose Kennedy) for their iron willed ambition and fierce loyalty to one another. My mom and I caught this mini-series about half way through on television and I managed to watch most of it the following week. I really wanted to get it so I could watch the whole series. If you want a good biography series to watch about one of America's most famous political family, then this is it. It's honest, clean, and I think very accurate to the heart of the Kennedy legend.

Then on Christmas Day, I got these delightful gifts!

YAHH! I finally have the whole Merlin series! My family has just now gotten into Merlin and so I think it's not just me that's excited about finishing the series.

This Downton Abbey book is all about the making of from casting to costumes to set designs and makeup. Very well done with interviews from cast, crew and writers.

This is the first of the Downton Abbey books and this explores seasons 1 and 2, but unlike The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, this book explores the historical context of the time period as well. 

I love Chanel! Mainly for the simple elegance and timeless classic designs. It's on my bucket list to get a Chanel purse and my mom was actually going to get one for my birthday! Except the cheapest you can get is $300! And I believe that's in America! So my mom got me a bag that looked similar in design to the legendary designer's masterpiece. It's beautiful and I love it! The picture makes it look bright bubble gum pink, but actually it's more of a coral/peach color.

I thought that was it for my presents...until I looked into the bag and saw a small white box...

This was a completely unexpected gift! 

The power button on my old i-pod stopped working almost a year ago, but I found a somewhat primitive method of plugging it into the USB cord to turn it on. So I didn't make a big deal out of getting a new one. Then a few weeks ago the + volume button just stopped working! Now I was really in trouble, because the volume was down so low I couldn't hear it. My mom said that she would give me her old i-pod and to wait until after Christmas to transfer my music, when all along she and my sister had bought me a new one. So, even though I had to download and update my version of i-tunes, I managed to get all my music transferred with no trouble at all.

Then afterwards we went and saw, Saving Mr. Banks, which was wonderful! If you've been wanting to go and see it, then go! It's a great movie!

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So, I had another wonderful Christmas, I love all my gifts and have a had a good break from school (which has been pretty drama free as well). I hope everyone had a happy memorable Christmas as well!

Loki on SNL...with kids

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men

~ ~ ~
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men."

~ "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
       I just (literally!) got back from seeing this amazing movie! And I had to review it immediately! Wow! All I can really say is, WOW! It was incredible! Exciting! And just beautifully done! This one picks up right where the first one left off, but actually we're given a glimpse into Gandalf and Thorin's first meeting, in Bree at the Prancing Pony (Katie Jackson, Peter Jackson's daughter, has a brief cameo appearance in the scene as Thorin's waitress!). 12 months later we're shuttled to present day and are greeted by a familiar face...

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Bilbo Baggins
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
       Master Bilbo Baggins, burglar and adventurer, is not the same Bilbo Baggins that left the Shire several months before. Much more independent and outspoken, Bilbo actually looks forward to the adventure the lays before him and time and again, Bilbo is relied upon to rescue Thorin and his company of Dwarves from danger. He has not only gained the respect of Thorin Oakenshield, but in a way almost a friendship. Aside from tapping into his instincts as a burglar, Bilbo becomes rather handy with his sword and even bestows a name upon it, after it has finally seen battle.

     Although, he is much more open to adventure, the lure of worldly goods begins to creep into Bilbo's heart and he starts to see first hand what greed does to someone's soul. Bilbo fears inward corruption if he is not careful with his possession of the Ring. Nothing frightens him more than the thought of turning into Gollum. To maim and kill for something that doesn't rightfully belong to him is not in his nature, but neither is being a burglar.

     As for Bilbo and Smaug...well you just have to see for yourself.

     As always, Martin Freeman was a wonderful and exceptional Bilbo Baggins. His charming and witty portrayal could have you laughing one moment and on the verge of tears the next. It was great to really see Bilbo's steady transition from homey hobbit to courageous journeyman and get a better understanding of who he became by the time we get to his elderly character in "The Lord of The Rings" that reminisce about his days of swords, dragons, gold and magical rings.

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Ian McKellan as Gandalf in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     Much like the first movie, Gandalf moves around quite a lot. Except now, he has become more assured with Bilbo's new found place among Thorin and his company. When not aiding the dwarves, he spends most of his time with Radagast the Brown and is seeking out the mystical and demonic Necromancer that dwells in the Mirkwood ruins of Dol Guldur. While there he witnesses an evil that has been forgotten, an evil he wished never to see again, the evil of The Great Eye, of Sauron himself.

     Although Gandalf is highly regarded and respected for his wisdom and knowledge of the world (as well as powers outside of their world) even he, a superhuman and wizard, cannot for foresee the danger the lies ahead for Thorin, Bilbo and the company of dwarves. And when he does it may be too late and he fears that he sent them all to their deaths.

~ ~ ~

Thorin Oakenshield
(and Beorn)
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
      The closer Thorin, crownless king of Erabor, gets to the Lonely Mountains, the more passionate he becomes in his quest to reclaim his home, his kingdom and his people. He is still skeptical of other cultures in Middle Earth, but there are times when even his heart can be softened to the suffering of others. 

     Mainly in Beorn, a fierce, but kindly skin changer (transforms into a bear) who lives outside the Mirkwood forest, and whose people were slaughtered by Orcs and goblins. Now the only one of his kind left, he lives his life of solitude with his animals. Beorn tells the dwarves of his loss and even Thorin himself is moved. After Beorn gives them shelter and provision, he warns them of going into Mirkwood forest and taking care of what magical elements that may take them by surprise.

Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     And taken by surprise they are, from spiders (of which Bilbo rescues them from), to jail (also Bilbo), to an orc attack between Mirkwood and Lake Town (this time by two elves and even his nephew Kili) and finally being rescued and smuggled by Bard the Bargeman. In spite of all of that, Thorin is not deterred by his mission to Erabor, not even when Kili is severely injured by an orc wound and is told he must stay behind.

     Thorin's desire to reclaim Erabor and gain back his grandfather's gold begins to take stronger root than his care for his friends. Even Balin warns him of the sickness that once dwelt in his grandfather and how that led to his destruction. Ambition and passion are all well and good when trying to achieve a goal, but once it replaces compassion, then the effects can be detrimental and in some cases irreversible. 

     Another grand performance from Richard Armitage who actually made Thorin somehwhat likable in this, meaning he wasn't so much of a hard ass toward Bilbo and was much more...affectionate (if that's the proper term concerning a dwarf) toward his young nephews. He even smiled on a few occasions too!

~ ~ ~

King Thranduil of Mirkwood
Lee Pace as King Thranduil in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
      As anyone will remember from the first movie, this guy made a name for himself because of his refusal to aid Thorin and his people when Smaug destroyed their city. Now this time around, he does give them jail. Hateful and untrusting of the dwarves, Thranduil will not risk the lives of his people (who are already at risk) to allow Thorin to continue his quest to the Lonely Mountains. 

     Although not a cruel elf by nature, Thranduil is a powerful elf and has no problem making enemies. He cares nothing about what may affect the outside world. As long as his lands and people are safe, the outside world of Middle Earth can do for itself. A belief that he has ground into his son, Prince Legolas, but not so in his ward, Tauriel. Thranduil has seen war and destruction, he has born it mentally and even physically and he doesn't care what culture is sacrificed as long as it it not his own.

     Thranduil is either you hate him or you love. In some ways he can come off as very arrogant, which is rare for elves, and other times he can be very wise. He is an example of the fallen nature of all beings and the elves are no exception. Thranduil's sin of remission and shutting the world out may cost him dearly, even if it's his own son.

~ ~ ~

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     Prince, warrior, guard and his father's second in command, Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood is a  passionate and cautious elf who will protect his father's kingdom no matter what. Even if he disagrees with his father's rules, Legolas will never question or challenge him. He is loyal and devoted to his father and king, but even he cannot not ignore the stirring's of dark change outside the gates of Mirkwood. When the time comes, he is encouraged by his best friend, Tauriel, and ignores his father's instructions to help the outside world, in spite of what the ending result may be. Legolas can no longer look back.

     It's always great to see a familiar face (whether in a movie or real life) and seeing Orlando Bloom reprising the role that sky rocketed him to fame (as well as the hearts of girls all around the world) was like seeing an old friend again. In many ways, Legolas hasn't changed at all by the time he makes his appearance in Lord of The Rings. Still stubborn and unwilling to change the ways that he has grown up with, Legolas was probably a little shocked when he ran into some familiar territory at the Council of Elrond, only we all know how that turned out in the end.

~ ~ ~

Evangeline Lily as Tauriel in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     At only 600 years old, Tauriel is still considered very young by elven standards, but her youth doesn't deter her from her extraordinary skills as a fighter and as the head of Thranduil's guard. Unusually curious for an elf, Tauriel sometimes questions the outside world and why she and her kind don't have more of a role in it. Thranduil waves it off as childish curiosity and insists that her only place is in Mirkwood. That doesn't stop her from asking questions, even if it's from (what she has been raised to believe) her enemies. Tauriel strikes up an unlikely friendship with the handsome dwarf Kili, while he's in jail and tells her of his mild adventures in the Blue Mountains, much to the annoyance of Legolas.

     When the dwarves escape and Tauriel and Legolas try to reclaim them, they are met with a fierce orc attack, which makes her believe that her place is outside of Mirkwood, regardless of what Thranduil says. She and Legolas follow the dwarves and orcs to the quiet, destitute city of Lake Town, where they protect the town from the unexpected orc invasion and she performs a gracious act of mercy and heals Kili of his orc wound.

     Okay, so there's a story here. My family spent the entire summer totally engrossed in the LOST series where Evangeline Lily played the role of Kate Austin, so when we found out that she was going to be in The Hobbit, we were excited. In many ways her character of Tauriel isn't to different from the character of Kate; both are independent, stubborn and born fighters. I really enjoyed the character of Tauriel not just because she was beautiful or a skilled warrior, but also because of her kind friendship with Kili and doing what is right, even if it means you are doing it alone.

~ ~ ~

Bard the Bargeman
Luke Evans as Bard in
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     A quiet, hardworking widower and father of three young children, Bard only wants to get through the day by doing his job as a bargeman with no trouble and get home to his family in Lake Town. Trouble becomes inevitable when he encounters a company of thirteen dwarves and one hobbit who need to be smuggled into Lake Town without anyone noticing. He refuses at first, but when offered money, that can provide food and clothing for his children, Bard accepts.

     His children, Sigrid, Dain and Tilda are the only happiness he has in his life. It's hinted that he still mourns the death of his wife, even though he never says so. His children adore their father who loves them dearly and will do whatever it takes to protect and provide for them. 

Luke Evans as Bard, Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda
and John Bell as Dain in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013)
    Lake Town is a cold and poor town built on the water and filled with busybodies and gossips. People will stop at nothing to turn one another in, if it means making a little money off of it. Bard is one of only a handful of good people in the corrupt town that is run by the selfish Master of Lake Town and his conniving private secretary Alfrid, of which both have the noble and honorable Bard pegged for being a possible leader of future rebellions. 

     When Bard discovers the true purpose for Thorin's quest, he can only sense destruction and death for the people of Lake Town and tries to stop him. The Master of Lake Town, fueled by greed and hatred for Bard, whose own ancestor failed to kill Smaug when he attacked, welcomes Thorin and sends him willingly to the Lonely Mountains. Yet, Bard will not be ignored and is determined to protect his family from the danger he senses will come if Smaug is released.

     A definite favorite of mine, Bard is briefly mentioned a couple of times in the book and fleshing out his role in the movie was well done. I loved the fact that he was a poor widower with three young children and so he's fighting really for them and not for Lake Town. 

~ ~ ~

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
     The one aspect that was exciting about this movie was that there were at least four stories going on at the same time, so just when you getting into one story, it would switch to another one. All of the storylines were equally balanced as well, so you got just enough from the dwarves and Bilbo (and eventually Smaug), the elves, Gandalf and Radagast, and from Lake Town. Which is good because I had heard that most of the story had been about Thranduil and the elves, but Thranduil had about 15 min. of screen time and Legolas and Tauriel were incorporated into the story easily.

     Wonderful, fun, exciting and scary too! The spiders were terrifying, but Smaug was by far the best! I was expecting him to be creepy, but he was downright the stuff of nightmares. I don't want to go into too much detail though. All I can tell you is that it ends on about the worst (or best) cliffhanger you can imagine.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Thor (2011)
     A personal family favorite mainly because we're also Scandinavian (lots of blonde haired, blue eyed people). I had seen this movie a couple of times, but I never actually watched it...meaning it would playing on the television, but I wasn't paying attention. My sisters were obsessed with it, but at the time it had come out I was still in my "I don't care about superheros stage" (with the acceptation of X-Men and Batman). Then after The Avengers came out, I actually got interested in the back stories of all of the characters, so I filched my sister's copy and sat down and actually watched the legendary Thor.

~ ~ ~

Thor Odinson
Chris Hemsworth as Thor Odinson in
Thor (2011)
      Now if you've previously read my Avenger's review, you might remember that my first reaction and opinion to the mighty Thor was that I believed him to all brawn and no brains. Which is pretty much true, up to a point at least. When the movie begins, Thor Ordinson is the quintessential golden child of the great and beautiful northern realm of Asgard. A mighty warrior who fears nothing and no one, loved by his people, respected by his close friends, and considered to be the next ruler of the realm, Thor really does have it all...except humility, a heart, and a clue. Odin Allfather, Thor's father, is proud of his son's achievements, but fears that his oldest son's arrogance, due to skills as a warrior, will be his undoing and that is exactly what comes true.

     When Thor, his friends and his younger brother (oh yeah, did I mention that he has a brother that no one cares about?) invade the not-so-neighborly realm of Jotunheim, home to the cruel frost giants and almost starts war between the two worlds, Odin has had enough. He strips Thor of his immortal power, relinquishes his use of Mjolnir, the might hammer, and casts his son to Midgard (earth) in banishment until he can learn to be worthy of his rightful place in Asgard.

     Thor crashlands slap bang in the middle of New Mexico and in lunged into a mad 24 hr. escapade of trying to find Mjolnir, attempting (and failing) to understand the strange people of New Mexico and learning humility and kindness from independent and practical astrophysicist Dr.Jane Foster. When Thor finds Mjolnir, but is unable to wield it, due to his growing mortality, he finally understands what humility is. It's knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and using them not for yourself, but for others. Jane's friend and colleague, Erik Selvig, begins to questions Thor's origins and wonders if this is the legend he grew up hearing about when he was a child. And Jane finds herself intrigued by the handsome stranger who risks himself to help her.

     Shortly after his arrival, the small town is attacked by the the Destroyer (an Asgardian machine built for defense) that is being controlled by Thor's cruel and manipulative brother Loki. Thor sacrifices himself for the town and the people and, miracles of miracles, he discovers his true worth and wields Mjolnir to defeat the Destroyer. All might seem right in the end, but Thor knows that it is not all right up in Asgard and sadly must leave Jane to go and challenge his brother. Before he leaves, he promises Jane that he will return, but even he himself isn't prepared for what awaits him in Asgard.

      I sometimes wondered how I never paid attention to such a good movie! Now even though Thor's story is predictable from the moment Jane hit him with her car, it doesn't mean that it wasn't a good story or that Thor wasn't a good character. Actually he's a great character! Thor's imperfections mirrors man's own imperfections and when he is finally aware of them, that is when his strengths and gifts come into play. To see the transition of a mighty and powerful warrior becoming a noble and compassionate leader through humility and sacrifice is an immortal storyline that has intrigued the world for many years and many more years to come.

     Oh yeah...Chris Hemsworth totally owned Thor. Need I say anymore on the subject??

~ ~ ~

Dr. Jane Foster
Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster in
Thor (2011)
      Brainy and (sometimes) ditzy, pretty and practical, that all sums up the personality of workaholic astrophysicist, Dr. Jane Foster. Jane is completely 100% dedicated to her scientific research and study and has no time for anything or anyone else. Alongside her two colleagues Dr. Erik Selvig, a university professor and her assistant, political science major, Darcy Lewis, Jane believes that she has hit upon a historical and groundbreaking moment in history when the skies of New Mexico open up to reveal the opening of a growing wormhole. It's groundbreaking and it's historical, but it's not a wormhole, but rather a portal from another world that changes Jane's own world forever.

     Jane's first meeting with Thor is unfortunate to say the least. She hits him with her car, her assistant tasers him and then they drop him off at the hospital and conveniently forget about him. That is until Jane sees the mysterious form of a man in the photos she took from inside the wormhole.  Believing it to be the mystery man, she goes back to the hospital, finds out he's gone, insists that she's going to search all of New Mexico until she finds him...and the invariably hits him with the back of her car...again.

     After Jane takes Thor back to her research office, she becomes confused at his odd behavior, strange eating, and general rudeness toward the residents of New Mexico. Overtime, Jane begins to soften toward Thor, especially after he begins to tell her of his home. She may be confused by him, but soon her small sentimental nature takes over her usually practical side and her ambitions become lessened when she witnesses Thor's incredible act of kindness to get her journal back. When Thor sacrifices himself for her and for the small town, she finally opens up and disregards any doubts she has of him. As strange, as abnormal and as unusual as Thor might be, Jane also sees a courageous and honorable man, a sacrificial and compassionate man and a love that she never thought she could possess and that no amount of research and study could find.

     Usually Natalie Portman plays serious roles, so seeing her as the comic relief was great. I loved Jane from the very beginning. People accuse her of being overly romantic, but I never saw Jane as that. (read here for more on that subject.) Jane's main problem was her hard driven ambition that tended to replace her compassion. Even though she was the one that taught Thor about self-sacrifice, it was Thor who taught Jane to take risks and be more open minded about the world around her and to never give up on what or who you love.

~ ~ ~

Loki Odinson/Laufeyson
Tom Hiddleston as Loki Odinson/Laufeyson in
Thor (2011)
     The god of mischief, pranks, but also of harbored jealousy and revenge, Loki is a complex and confusing character all around. He's a tragic villain, but has no capability of being honorable or good. From the time he could remember, Loki has grown up in the shadow of his older brother's greatness. Loki himself is powerful, not as a great warrior, but as a skilled sorcerer. Except, sorcery isn't exactly what's cool in Asgard and no matter where you are, being smart (even if it's manipulating) is hardly ever going to get you in the popular crowd. That seems to be the story of Loki's existence when it comes to his father who never acknowledges his existence, except only to yell at him, his brother, who bullies him around, and his brother's friends, who give no regard to him at all. Even the gatekeeper doesn't like him!

      Then the total bomb gets dropped on him when he finds out that he's a frost giant whom Odin stole from the temple when he had been abandoned there as a baby by his own father, King Laufey. Alright, Odin's heart was in the right place, but he then proceeds to tell Loki that he only wanted the child for political purposes, only after what Thor pulled in Jotunheim, Odin has no use for Loki at all. Love you too Dad. Loki's years of pent up rage toward his father, his brother and the rest of Asgard comes pouring out, much to the distress of his father, who falls into an unexpected Odinsleep. With Thor banished on earth and Odin on throne hiatus, that leaves Loki alone to rule Asgard. 

      Loki finally gets what he wants and he wastes no time in using (or abusing, however you may want to see it) his new power. Finally he is able to garner the respect that he feels he deserves from those who looked down on him for so long. First though, he must get rid of his older brother to keep him from coming back to reclaim the throne. That plan blows up in Loki's face and Thor comes back to challenge him and win back his father's throne. There's no redemption for Loki or his actions and he is thrown into a deep abyss in the cosmos, never to be seen or heard from again.

      One of the most explosive and even well loved characters in the comic book universe, it's safe to say that Loki has taken the world by storm, but why? Well, Tom Hiddleston and his incredible acting for one thing, but mainly because of his tragic backstory, his life growing up in his brother's perfection and his longing to be respected and loved by his father. I mean come on, this is the stuff of Shakespeare, with a little Rowling thrown in! 

~ ~ ~

King Odin Allfather
Anthony Hopkins of King Odin Allfather in
Thor (2011)
     A wise and just leader who rules his country with an iron benevolence, Odin is a legend of great kings...who also tended to be terrible fathers. Now, I'll be honest, like most people, I didn't like Odin at first, mainly because of his treatment of Loki. Then I began to see that this isn't the first time in stories or even history that a great king can make for the worst father. Odin has no sentimentality at all, he's not one to have a heart to heart conversation with, either with his children or even his own wife (deleted scene).

     Odin is a warrior and a leader; he has no time for the sentiments of other, he has a realm to rule and protect. That is why he is such a powerful leader, but his ambition for the sanctity of his realm has tended to overcome his role as a father. Mainly in not nurturing a more compassionate spirit in Thor or just giving the attention and respect that Loki craved.

     In all respects, Odin is a regular dad who has to balance work and family, and somehow hope that both sides will work out, but they hardly ever do. Odin feels regret for having to banish Thor and guilty for his negligence of Loki and not telling him the truth. After Thor returns, Odin is proud of the man his son has become, but also grieves that loss of Loki. Even after almost 5,000 years as a ruler and leader, Odin knows that even he is not infallible, that there is no perfect ruler or realm, but there is redemption, forgiveness and above all courage.

~ ~ ~

Idris Elba as Heimdall in
Thor (2011)
     The all seeing, all hearing and (usually) all knowing gatekeeper of Asgard and guardian of the Nine Realms. Although a powerful warrior, he is also a wise counselor, especially to Thor. Heimdall will fight to the death to protect Asgard, even if it means ignoring orders from an unjust king and facing the consequences of his actions. Although contradictory to the actual legend of Heimdall, who was said to have skin as white as snow, he was portrayed as the embodiment of loyalty, nobility and wisdom.

~ ~ ~

Thor (2011)
     I laughed, I cried, I cheered for Thor and rooted for him and Jane, I despised and sympathized Loki with equal measure, I just loved Heimdall in general and overtime I've been able to have a better understanding of Odin himself. Another great superhero movie, but also one that won't just want you to read the comics, but go and study the legends themselves.

 (I'll have my review for the sequel written soon)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Favorites: Top 3 Male Characters in Fiction

     Yes! It's been forever! School is finally over until the spring semester, exams are finished and I am bored, bored, bored out of my skull already! Anyways, earlier this year I did a post of my three favorite romantic couples, which was a lot of fun. I've been wanting to to this post for a while and now I think I have finally narrowed down my list of male fictional characters and selected the top 3 : )

(By the way, How do you like my Downton Abbey inspired Christmas layout?)

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Elijah Mikaelson 

From: The Vampire Diaries and The Originals

Daniel Gillies as Elijah Mikaelson in
"The Vampire Diaries"
     Handsome, intelligent, charming...and deadly. Elijah Mikaelson is one of the oldest vampires in the world, as well as one of the most dangerous. Living with the curse of vampirism for a thousand years, Elijah lives a controversially moral life. Apart from his heightened vampiric abilities (speed, strength, compulsion), Elijah is somewhat of a negotiator and for the most part can be a reasonable and rational person to deal with. Well known throughout the supernatural community as a noble and honorable man, he will also kill, terrorize and maim when it suits his need to get whatever he wants.

     In spite of his volatile flaws, Elijah can also be compassionate, generous and even self-sacrificing. He will usually give people the benefit of the doubt and always keeps his promise (even to those who don't keep theirs). Elijah's sole reason for existing for a thousand years is to bring together his broken, dysfunctional family which consists of his mother, a powerful witch, his three younger brothers and his baby sister, all of whom are vampires. Elijah firmly believes in "Family above all else" without your family, you are nothing.

     The bane of his whole thousand year existence is his younger half-brother, Niklaus, a hybrid vampire-werewolf and illegitimate child of his mother's adulterous affair with a werewolf native. Growing up, Niklaus "Klaus" was hated and even abused by his own father (although his father didn't know that Klaus wasn't his until after they were turned into vampires) and Elijah was morally compromised between defending his younger brother and standing up to his father.

     After they were turned into vampires, Elijah made a promise to his brother that he would always stand by him, in some hope of washing away the guilt that he felt for not protecting him when they were children. His promise has not always been easy to keep, especially when Klaus is considered the most dangerous supernatural threat in history and it comes to a point where Elijah feels that killing Klaus is the only way to save him. Yet time and again, no matter how bad his brother gets, no matter how Elijah may want to kill him, Klaus still remains a constant part of his older brother's life.

     From the moment that Elijah Mikaelson walked onto the screen in season 2 of "The Vampire Diaries" he was an immediate favorite and even in the storyline, he is considered the favorite of "The Original Family." Elijah's complex story and background, combined with his equally confusing personality and moral decisions is what really drew me to the character. He can be charming one moment and the next moment he's ripping your heart out.

     Without a doubt, he's my favorite on the show and the top of the list of favorite male characters in fiction! Elijah's morality in the midst of his volatile nature and his inward struggle between his humanity and his abominable nature as a vampire makes him one the best fictional characters I've witnessed in a long time.

~ ~ ~

Lord Faramir

From: "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy

David Wenham as Lord Faramir in
"The Lord of The Rings" trilogy
      First I have to say, I only know about Faramir from the movies, I've never read the books. So any Tolkein fans who might be reading this, feel free to enlighten me on his book verse vs. movie verse. That being said he is seriously the only fictional character I can recall that suffers from middle-child syndrome...and he isn't even the middle child! Well not physically at least. Faramir is a soldier who is caught between his father's favoritism toward his older brother Boromir and his father's contempt for the rest of Middle-Earth. No matter what the man does, it can never compare to his brother's successes and any attempt to save Middle-Earth is worthless and in vain according to his father at least.

     When I first saw Faramir in The Two Towers, I was a little skeptical of him (remember I haven't read the books) and was wary if I could trust him or not. Where his brother was a soldier who seemed to belong on the battlefield with an army, Faramir lived more a hunter's life in the woods with his men. When he kidnapped Frodo and Sam and held them in the caves, it was relieving to see that he wasn't abusive or heartless toward them, but then they were Hobbits, just mere children to him in many ways. 

     Now, he can be manipulative, for example Gollum and The Forbidden Pool, which I found out from my sister that he was making that whole 'forbidden pool' story up to get Frodo to confess, which worked, but seriously?? You call it the 'forbidden pool?' Couldn't you come up with something a little more original sounding than that? He has an incredible gift of diplomacy, which does sometimes require a little manipulation, but he knows how to speak to people and what it takes to understand them.

     One fault that people had with the movie verse is Faramir's usage of the Ring. According to book verse he had no desire for it at all (which I found confusing at first, because I thought the race of Men desired it) and was much more kind and hospitable to Frodo and Sam as well. Although, in the movie it is made blatantly clear that Faramir doesn't desire the ring for himself, but for his father. At the same time though, isn't that what evil does? It takes a hold of our greatest weaknesses, in Faramir's case his low self-worth, and uses it against us. Faramir wanted the Ring to prove himself to his father, but to do that he would have to harm or even kill to lay claim to it. So in all essence, Faramir did desire the Ring for himself, not to use a weapon worldly gain, but to use as a tool for his father's love. At least that's how I see it.

     Yet, what is meant for evil can be turned to good. Faramir soon realizes the horrific effects of the Ring and what it did to brother and furthermore, what it may do to him and his father. He proves himself by ignoring the stated law of the land and allowing Frodo and Sam to leave and journey on to Mordor. Faramir's sacrifice for Frodo and Sam is an all embalming effect that truly made me appreciate his character even more and made me despise his father by the time we meet him in Return of The King

     By the time we reach Return of The King, Faramir has been changed due to his meeting with Frodo, Sam, Gollum, and the Ring. Try as he may for his Father's affection, he never receives it even if it meant going out onto the battlefield and nearly dying in the prospect. He befriends Pippin and sees much of his younger self in the kindly Hobbit, but the best (as anyone may know) is when he finally finds the love that he has craved his whole life in the wounded shieldmaiden, Lady Eowyn of Rohan. I mean, talk about your ultimate love at first sight! Eowyn and Faramir are also in my top 3 favorite romantic couples in fiction : )

     Faramir may not be the embodiment of perfection, he is a flawed man, but through his flawed character and imperfect being, is a man who saw that the only person you need to show your worth to is yourself and then and only then will the whole world see a life that is worth living and remembering.

~ ~ ~

Finnick Odair

From: "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay"

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in
"Catching Fire"
     When I first read Catching Fire and met Ditrict 4 resident, Finnick Odair, the winner of the 65th Hunger Games, he seemed to be the stereotype jock character. The arrogant, narcissistic, guy whom all the guys envy and all the girls want to sleep with. He's handsome, he's charismatic and, lets be honest, heavily opinionated. Katniss takes an immediate dislike to him and writes him off as a jerk who knows nothing of hardship or real life (District 4 is relatively well to do district), but under Haymitch's instructions, she must trust him when the games begin and by this point, Katniss has learned never to doubt Haymitch.

    Finnick is one of the Capitol's most celebrated victors. At only 14, Finnick made Panem history by winning the Hunger Games and holds the title as the youngest victor in the history of the games. Such greatness at such a young age. Yet, underneath that facade of arrogance is a breaking heart and a damaged soul. After he won the Hunger Games, President Snow didn't waste anytime in threatening Finnick's family and friends to enforce the boy's loyalty to the Capitol instead of his own District. President Snow turns Finnick into a male prostitute to be used by any resident of the Capitol.

     Now as you can imagine, I was pretty floored when I read that small bit of information in Mockingjay. I really had a hard time time trying to get through the rest of chapter afterwards, when I realized that Finnick's pain was so great and so real. What President Snow didn't realize though, is that he was creating a detrimental force in Finnick. Instead of asking for money or gifts from the Capitol residents that 'rented out his body' Finnick asked for their deepest secrets and what they knew about President Snow. Overtime Finnick gains an insurmountable amount of knowledge on President Snow, his life, his rise to power in Panem as well as other heavily guarded secrets that he reveals to the world. 

     Finnick, like Katniss, became a Mockingjay. President Snow thought that he could use the boy for the Capitol's gain and instead, the plan backfired and Finnick  turned President's Snow's plot of domination to assist the second rebellion of District 13. Katniss herself is overwhelmed at Finnick's secret life, his humiliation, and his painful past, so much so that she said she wanted to throw herself down and beg Finnick's forgiveness for her former opinion of him. If someone like that can move the heart of Katniss Everdeen, than they must be pretty extraordinary. 

     Of course, that is all reveled in Mockingjay and by the time I opened that book up, I was a well and true Finick Odair lover (no inappropriate pun intended there). I knew I really loved Finnick was when I found out in Catching Fire that his only real love was Annie Cresta, victor of the 70th Hunger Games and another resident of District 4. What makes their love story so incredible though, is that Finnick loved Annie even in spite her post traumatic stress she received during her time in the arena, that rendered her insane. After I read that, I just wanted to shout, "FINNICK ODAIR! YOU ARE AMAZING!" 

     By the end of the trilogy though, Finnick does not survive. He's killed in a mutt rage, but not before he had married Annie and then fathered their son together in the underground caverns of District 13. While Katniss, unable to help, watched him die, she recounts certain moments of his life. Moments that made her come to the realization that Finnick was no ordinary man, but a good man, a brave man, a self-sacrificing man, and above all, a man that could love past his pain and find love in others as well.

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