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Monday, May 22, 2006

"Da Vinci Disappointment"

I'm a Dan Brown fan. Do I think he's the end all be all? No. He's a decent writer with a unique style and vision. His books make you think and become an active participant in the reading experience. Do I buy into all of his conspiracy theories? Not really. That's why its called "factional fiction." I don't think The Historian is true either; just an interesting interpretation of history.

So, Saturday I went to see The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks; arguably one of the most controversial films release since The Passion of the Christ for religious folks at least. Am I a religious person? I guess I'm more spiritual and really don't take offence to Brown's work. As I remind myself and others, "Rememer its 'factional fiction'." In the past few weeks, I've encountered more than my share of Da Vinci haters. My questions to them? #1 Have you read it? #2 Why are you against it? The common answers have been usually "no" and "because they say..." I've said that before they draw too many conclusions it might be a good idea to actually read the book. Secondly, who is "they"? A question I always ask my students in their writing. You've got to be specific and to make and substantiate your own opinions.

So, back to the film review...
For me it was just okay (geez I sound like Randy Jackson from American Idol now!). I was disappointed to say the least but I expected this reaction. From experience, I rarely think films based on novels live up to my standards. Great adaptations aren't the easiest things to do well. There are exceptions but alas....

Why was I disappointed?
  1. Tom Hanks just isn't Robert Langdon. Sorry, its just the way it is. Hanks is an incredible actor and does a decent job--but he just doesn't cut it. Langdon is sacastic, athletic, and handsome. Brown continually describes him as a Harrison Ford type and I would have cast David Duchovny given the opportunity. For me Hanks lost some of the character's personality not to mention his lack of chemistry with Audrey Tatou (Sophie Neveu).
  2. Ron Howard dumbed down some of the plot. What I like about Brown is his ability to add an intricate historical base for his stories without getting boring. Yes, I know film makers work on budget and time constraints but The Da Vinci Code appears too much like a nice and neatly wrapped little package. Much of the detail that makes the novel so great is omitted or at least summarized too quickly and the clues that take 50-100 pages to solve are figured out in a matter of minutes.
What I did like:
  1. Ian McKellen - the man is a genius and can act circles around most in his line of work. I find it intriguing that he has two of the season's biggest films opening within a week of each other. I'm counting down the hours until X-Men: The Last Stand hits theaters on Friday.
  2. The cinematography was phenomenal and Howard does a splendid job with sets and the overall visual 'look' of the film.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Black Celebration"

Happy Birthday to Dave Gahan! His birthday was May 9th. I remembered but didn't have time to post. Depeche Mode had to cancel a few shows because he's sick with larnygitis. I hope he feels better soon. Cool new feature on their website though. They are offering digital downloads of over 50 of their "Playing the Angel" shows around the world. I might have to treat myself since I did homework all day:)

Friday, May 5, 2006

"Hey Scarecrow, how about a little fire?" - Harry Dresden, Proven Guilty

Alas, another week has come to an end...Thank God. I subbed all week and I sure am tired, not to mention my patience is no longer existent. But hey, money is as money does.

This week did give me plenty of reading opportunities:
1. I finished The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde - just so damn funny!
2. The Chronicles of Faerie: Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling - its listed in the YA section of the bookstore, but think J.K. Rowling a la Harry Potter - way cool, can't wait for the next one.
3. Past Redemption by Savannah Russe. This is the second book in the Darkwing Chronicles (think Laurell K. Hamilton meets Buffy meets La Femme Nikita & Alias. Daphne Urban is a 500 year old vamp who gets recruited by the CIA to be part of an anti-terrorism group - the books keep improving and there's definitely some imagination behind it all.
4. *Pick of the week* Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher. Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI've been waiting nearly a year for this book, especially when I got to meet Butcher back in the fall. This is the 8th book of the Dresden Files and in my opinion possibly the best so far. It's funny, well written, imaginative yet with realistically loveable and complicated characters. What I love about this series it that Harry in an a-typical hero figure, needless to say he's got issues; but underneathe it all he's a good man who wants to fight monsters and save the world. Butcher currently ranks as my favorite author and with good reason. He's got the knack for making his protagonists lives just complicated enough to stay interesting but not to be overbearing (can anyone say "lighten up, LKH?").
5. Labyrinth by Kate Moss - just started this one today and I'm about 30 pages in. It seems to be similar to The Da Vinci Code with its search for the grail - but where it differs is its parallel story lines of two women (Alice in 2005, Alais in 1200) as the heroines. Too soon to say anything about it for sure, but it looks hopeful.

TV Recaps:
1. "Bye, bye, bye" to Princess P on American Idol. So long, don't let the door hit ya on the way out.
2. Alias - wicked cool this week, two major character deaths, lots of plotting and I'm so glad the Rimbaldi story line is back on, he makes things way more interesting. I just love that Syndey's nemesis, Anna Espinosa, is now a Syndey clone. It seems appropriate that the series finale will have Syndey kicking her own ass(-:
3. Lost - 3 words for ya - OMG!!!! Might be one of the best episodes yet. Can't believe that ending and I'm sooo ready for next weeks ep.
4. CSI (Las Vegas) - Great ep last night guest starring Judd Nelson and Julie Benz (aka Darla from Buffy and Angel). Good story and I so didn't figure it out til the end so that's good, the show's been a little predictable as of late.
5. Smallville - I so agree with other blog about this one. If you have James Marsters at your beck and call, use him! Fine didn't appear until half way through the ep and as others point out, most of the time he looks like Jon Schneider, no problem there but if you say you're gonna give me "Spike" then give me "Spike!" Chloe has some great one-liners last night(-:

At the movies:
(pretty dry here, but I have Domino to watch)
1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - Ang, you're right, its fabulous. I laughed, I got a little misty-eyed....Kajol rulz!!!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

REVIEW: The Book of Renfield by Tim Lucas

XANDER: Where is he? Where's the creep who turned me into his spider-eating man bitch!? I've got a flaming enema with his name on it-

BUFFY: He's gone.

XANDER: Damn it!.. You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats the insects and gets the funny syphilis! As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt monkey!!

BUFFY: Check. No more butt monkey.

While my 112 classes have been reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the dialogue sequence of our class, I have been dedicated to reading some of the contemporary novels in dialogue with Stoker's original novel. I've now finished 3 of 4 works, these being: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Tim Lucas' The Book of Renfield: a gospel of Dracula and P.N. Elrod's Quincey Morris, vampire. Although both were entertaining, Lucas' work is by far the superior book.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Book of Renfield is in essence a continuation and reflection of Stoker's tale. Keeping with the form and language of the novel, Dr. Seward narrates the tale as taking place 10 years following the defeat of Dracula. While time has passed, Seward and the others feel they cannot move on until their tale is told and published via Stoker. Seward primarily reflects on his misery both in losing Lucy to Arthur and then ultimately to Dracula as well as reviews his meetings with new Carfax Asylum patient, Mr. R.M. Renfield and how in these meetings he failed to acknowledge key information that would have drastically changed the results of Dracula's master plan.

While Dracula has become a 20th century icon and Mina a famous literary character in her own right, I, like many others, have always found Renfield a curiosity. Lucas successfully attempts to answer many of those questions about the character first introduced in Dracula. I like what Lucas' has tried to say and found the following quote from the Afterword to be extremely enlightening; (written by Seward's great-grandson) "It is crucial that we remember Dracula not as a pale romantic played by Frank Langella or Gary Oldman, as someone who dressed like a head waiter and mad women swoon by speaking to them of his eternal love. Dracula was not an Elvis rebel in a black leather duster to be longed for like a decadent dessert, but a plague upon humanity ultimately put to permanent death by my ancestor and those closest to him. Dead, yes, but the appetites that gave shape to Dracula live on: the thirst for blood and power, the need for world conquest, death and destruction, horror and apocalypse" (398).

On the other hand, Elrod's novel for me is little more than an amusing trade paperback. In it, our beloved Texan, Quincey Morris, rises from the dead because of a brief "relationship" with a sexy vamp named Nora Jones while in South America. Upon his death, he rises, is mentored by Dracula (who really isn't dead), heads back to Europe, reclaims his life convincing his buddies that he really isn't the same kind of vampire as Dracula (more the kind of vamp we know in fiction and film today, not totally evil & basically the same guy - just blood thirsty, easily sunburned, & slightly immortal). It ends in a very happily ever sort of fashion (all are still friends and Quince marries Arthur's sister) but what is interesting is Elrod's villianization of Van Helsing, who refuses to listen to reason and cannot accept any version of the truth but his own.

So, one to go: Mina by Maria Kiraly but I need a break from the story and characters first. My suggestions - If you liked Dracula, definitely read Lucas' work. I liked The Historian but it moves slow, so be patient. Skip Elrod and we'll see about Kiraly.