Kathleen
Next on my reading list was Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey, a re-telling of my other favorite fairytale, The Snow Queen.



Summary on the back: Free-spirited Grace and serious Kai are the best of friends. They grew up together listening to magical tales spun by Kai's grandmother and sharing in each other's secrets. But when they turn sixteen and Kai declares his love for Grace, everything changes. Grace yearns for freedom and slowly begins to push Kai - and their friendship - away.

My thoughts: Winter's Child was a mix of good and bad to me, with a few frustrating elements mingled with a lot of really wonderful ideas. I adored the tone of the story, which, more than any other re-telling I've read so far, captured that warm fairytale feel - childish in the best way, creative while still being familiar, with everything tied up neatly into a happily ever after at the end. There were some lovely quotes and descriptions, and I enjoyed Kai and Gerda's childhood friendship. And I absolutely loved the depth and origin story for the Snow Queen, who isn't a villain in this story, at all, as well as the sweetness of the story, a refreshing change from the usual dark variations on classic tales.

Unfortunately, the book was quite short, which means some elements didn't get explored as much as I would have liked, and, most frustratingly, the romances are incredibly rushed, with one of them seemingly out of left field at the last moment. I was also sad to see so little of Grace's journey. While I liked the Snow Queen getting a happy ending, I wasn't fond at all of her ending up with Kai (Kai/Gerda was my first and is still my dearest fairytale ship and the concept just sort of irked me, even if the Snow Queen is an entirely different character, and never actually kidnaps him in this version). My final opinion of the book would have been much higher if the romance storyline had followed the original tale.

Overall, Winter's Child was a breezy, often enjoyable, although imperfect re-imagining that leaves me hopeful for more faithful re-tellings of The Snow Queen in the future.
 
 
feeling: cheerful
calliope tune: "She Blinded Me With Science"-Thomas Dolby
 
 
 
 
Kathleen
After a long wait, the third and final season of Hardy Boys is finally out on DVD, and it's glorious fun as Frank's eyes and sneakers get more blue and Joe's shirts get tighter by the episode. The boys, more grown up now, work for the Justice Department and globe-trot instead of remaining in Bayport. Traveling seems to have an interesting effect upon their hair which keeps getting bigger, but the brotherly caring is firmly in place, even more so than before. I love how Frank punches the guy in "The Last Kiss Of Summer" "for Joe", and Joe saving Frank from getting shot in "Life On The Line". Then there's also a wonderful hurt/comfort scene in "Search For Atlantis" where Joe gets buried in a collapsed hole and Frank goes tearing over and digs and lifts him out with his bare hands. Joe is fantastic this season, as usual; as much as I love Frank, Joe is my boy, and the episodes only prove why: he's so very kind and sweet, gently holding the disturbed girl who just tried to kill his brother, or defending a girl he's never met which leads the bad guy to remark that "chivalry isn't dead", even if he doesn't get a chance to sing this season. The guest stars are wonderful, including Robert Loggia in a fun episode where Frank mimics T.H.E. Cat complete with black clothes and a grappling hook, Jack Kelly as their boss, and the fabulous David Gates and Bread who play all of my favorite songs and get involved in a mystery the boys are working on.

I finally got to see the webisodes of Primeval and loved the intro to the characters. I giggled insanely over Matt commenting on his "unexpressive" face - I adore Matt but he could crack a smile every now and then - as well as his comment on Becker "really liking guns". I completely fell in love with him more than I already had when he talked about Connor, Abby, and Danny, and how he wasn't giving up on them. One of my favorite things about Matt and why I grew to adore him, when I thought I'd always hate any replacement for Cutter, was his caring and devotion to his team, determined to save them all no matter how much the risk. His early antagonism with Becker was an interesting touch, and I loved the respect on Becker's face by the end, and knowing they'll be good friends soon. I wanted to hug poor Becker, though, when he looks so heartbroken over losing Connor, Abby, and Danny, and then Sarah's death, too. In a way, I was glad if they had to write Sarah out, at least I didn't have to see her death since I liked her and there was enough sadness over Cutter's and Stephen's.

I watched the GWTW ep of the Carol Burnett Show and it was a hilarious and flawless spoof, especially the curtains dress.

I saw The Host, which I'd been looking forward to, and was thrilled to discover it was every bit as good as the book which I loved. Saoirse Ronan was brilliant as Wanderer and Melanie, keeping the two characters very distinct and equally fascinating. Jared, a character I didn't care for in the book, was surprisingly good, and I adored Ian, my favorite in the book, who was exactly as I'd imagined. Little Jamie was adorable and quite a talented actor and I loved how closely the film followed the book, even including the end with the other good alien, one of my favorite scenes. Everything was beautifully filmed, too, and very lovely and hopeful. Other new films this week included the unusual The Prestige, an incredibly odd but interesting film tinged with a bit of steampunk and sci-fi against a richly detailed Victorian era town. I found it somewhat hard to follow at times and I'll have to see it again to truly understand it, but I loved the concept and the magic acts, as well as the jaw-dropping final twist. Next was Australia, an absolutely gorgeous film. I knew nothing about the history or setting so I actually learned a lot as well as being entertained, and I loved the characters, especially Drover and how he changed through the film, and adorable little Nullah. The scenery and music were beautiful, too, and the film had lovely direction and acting. I'm starting to really love Hugh Jackman's films; he's incredibly talented and so good at every role I've seen him in so far. After that was Red Riding Hood, a well done spin on the fairytale. Valerie was a likeable heroine, and I loved both Peter and Henry. I was saddened by Peter being turned at the end but glad Valerie stuck by him. The mood and filming was lovely, too, and made me love the story more than before. Next was 10,000 BC, a fun adventure. D'Leh was a likeable character, the story was entertaining, and I adored the prehistoric world and settings as well as the amazing special effects and the happy ending. My favorite scene was D'Leh and the tiger, a very beautiful and touching moment. Then was the touching The Ghosts Of Dickens' Past, a beautiful imagining of what might have inspired A Christmas Carol. It presented a very different, but easy to love Charles Dickens than I imagine, and Victorian London was vividly alive. Next was the amusing Who Gets The House?, a fun family adventure with some adorable moments. I discovered Return To The Secret Garden, a sequel of sorts to The Secret Garden that imagines modern day children - the great grandchildren of Mary and their friend - discovering the garden. It was a bittersweet film since as much as I loved Timothy, Margaret, and Katherine, I was saddened to find out what became of the original children, and as a Dickon/Mary shipper it made me sad to have Mary marry Colin and then having him be killed in the war, and Mary dying in the garden. I loved the garden coming back to life, though, and Dickon, so much older, coming back to lay flowers on Mary's grave. I watched George Of The Jungle 2, not expecting much, and ended up laughing just as much as at the first. Christopher Showerman doesn't quite fill Brendan Fraser's shoes - and sometimes he's a bit too over the top - but he's animated and George's inherent sweetness shines through. He's adorable with Junior, and hilarious with the animals. The new Ursula is more ditzy than the original but with the zany plot it seemed to fit. The narrator was even funnier than in the first film and I loved all the jokes about Brendan Fraser vs. Christopher Showerman. In my goal to see every version, I watched 2010's Robin Hood, and while it took a little while to grow on me with it's vastly different take on the legends, I grew to really enjoy it. Russell Crowe was a surprisingly good Robin once I got used to him, more soldier/freedom fighter than outlaw, and the thievery element along with his almost supernaturally accurate aim has been removed, giving him a more human, down to earth feel than any other Robin I've seen. Likewise Marian is more realistic, a strong woman who's equally at ease fighting alongside Robin as she is tending her home. There was far too little of the Merry Men - in fact, I was never quite sure who was who even by the end - but Alan-A-Dale was included which always makes me happy, and going along with the more accurate feel King John is a tyrant. The soundtrack was lovely, and the closing credits with their living painting like feel were mesmerizing and stunning. Next was The Christmas Card, a sweet, although not perfect holiday film. The plot was lovely, though, and I giggled at the ending.

I've always disliked the Sherlock Holmes stories and adaptations, but I like Robert Downey Jr. so I gave a try to the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film. I was amazed to find how much I loved it. Unlike the stuffy, annoying character of usual, this Holmes was funny, quirky, and oh so easy to love with both a brilliant mind and fast fists. Watson, usually reduced to an older, homebound partner, got to something of an action hero, and his brotherly friendship with Holmes was touching and adorable. I teared up during the explosion and hospital scenes, and giggled at their banter. I loved the Victorian, slightly steampunk-tinged world, and the fast-moving adventure of the plot. I followed that with the sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows and loved it just as much as the first. Holmes was brilliant in his "chess-like" game against Moriarty, and his friendship with Watson was more wonderful than in the last film. I teared up when Watson tries to save Holmes after his heart stops, and again when Holmes closes his eyes before falling into the water. All the slow-motion work was lovely, and I adored the whimsy and humor of the ending.

I gave a try to The Mummy trilogy, and despite the fact that it took a bit to grow on me I soon fell in love with Rick, Evy, and their fabulous adventures. The films got better and better as they went along, and I loved the old setting as well as the passage of years from their first meeting until an adventure with their adult son. I adored the humor, action, and whump of the series. I loved the other characters, especially the fabulous Ardeth who I desperately missed in the third film but I was so happy when he survived the first two. The ending of the trilogy was hilarious and just perfect. I also saw the two The Scorpion King films and enjoyed them both, along with all their characters, especially Ari, and their adventure to the Underworld.

I watched the incredibly fun Spy Kids and fell in love with it. Carmen, Juni, and their parents were easy to love, and I adored how they worked together as a team. Everything was wild and imaginative and I giggled through most of the film while being impressed by all the gadgets. The ending was cute and just perfect. After that was Spy Kids 2, a fun and imaginative team effort with Juni and Carmen closer than last film but still teasing each other like real siblings. I loved the miniature zoos and the twist ending about the animals. Next was Spy Kids 3D Game over, and it was still a fun film, despite being the weakest of the series and almost entirely focused on Juni. I loved the clever concept of the virtual reality game crossing over into the real world and the huge group of people who came together at the end with all the wonderful cameos from characters in the first two films. I was quite sad about Demetra, though, as she was one of the few characters I truly cared about in the film and it seemed harsh to make her nothing more than a bad program in the end. Then was Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World and while I was a little sad to have Carmen and Juni grown up, I was glad they grew close again and stayed on to head the program. All the new characters were quite fun, though, with Rebecca and Cecil nicely stepping into Carmen and Juni's shoes to head the next generation of young spies and the bonus of Cecil being hearing impaired which beautifully uses a special needs character as a superhero. Argonaut was hilarious and I wish he'd been in all the films.

In new superhero films I watched The Hulk, and while Bill Bixby will always be my favorite, Eric Bana was an excellent, sensitive Bruce Banner, capturing all sides of the character. I didn't like how violent the Hulk was, but I loved the transitions, especially when Betty appears in the street and he changes back into Bruce. The ending was perfect, giving a nod to the tv show while putting a new spin on Bruce's future. I found the very different backstory quite interesting, too, even as much as I disliked Bruce's father. After that I tried the more recent The Incredible Hulk film, and as pleased as I was with all the nods to the tv show from the "don't make me 'hungry'" line that made me giggle to the clip of Bill Bixby on the tv, I was still disappointed with the lack of heart and over the top CGI. While the idea of a second, evil Hulk was intriguing, both actors were too flat to carry the roles, and the plot dragged, only looking up during the action scenes which were let down by the unrealistic, huge Hulk and the fact that he seems to have nearly no weaknesses. I was given little time to warm to Bruce, and as he barely speaks through the first part of the film, I felt I never got to really know him, unlike all the other Hulks. Still, Tony Stark's cameo made me absurdly happy at the end. I finally got to see Iron Man 3 and adored it; a perfect end to the trilogy. Harley was a fabulous character and I loved his friendship with Tony and the adorable scene where he sees all the gifts Tony left him. I was a little sad that Tony and Pepper didn't share as much time together as in the other films but the scenes they did have more than made up for it - they were shippier than ever and finally canon. I teared up so many times, especially when Tony thinks he's lost Pepper, and especially at the beautiful ending with Pepper wearing the shrapnel in a necklace, and Tony throwing the arc reactor into the ocean. I loved that he and Pepper had their happy ending, though, and I wish there was more to see whether Tony stays a superhero of a different kind or gives it up. I was content with Tony blowing up the suits and having the surgery, even as bittersweet as it was to have him become a different sort of Iron Man. Because of my love for the films I tried Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. but was disappointed by it. Despite a few interesting moments the characters failed to grab me the way the others do, partly because, unlike the fandom, I dislike Phil. Also the question of how he survived slightly creeps me out. The plot was alright, so I suppose with a different cast I would have enjoyed it. I did love the mention of Natasha, though.

In new animated films I saw the lovely Up, a bittersweet adventure. I loved the uniqueness of the story, characters, and their relationship, and it made me both smile and tear up. Next was the charming Despicable Me. I loved the adorable children and how they won Gru over, and the hilarious Minions. The story was very creative and so cute. Despicable Me 2 was just as hilarious, and I loved that Gru got his happy ending. Next was Meet The Robinsons, a sweet and touching story. I loved the colorful characters and the lovely quote from Walt Disney, along with the happy ending. Then I saw A Bug's Life, a completely adorable story with cute characters who I instantly loved. Everything was clever and their world was precious. After that was the charming Bee Movie. I loved Barry, one of my very favorite animated characters ever, and the funny, quirky plot. The bees' world was richly imagined and I kept grinning through the whole film. Then I watched Hoodwinked and Hoodwinked Too: Hood Vs. Evil which, while not my favorite animated films by any means, were amusing twists on classic fairytales. Wolf, ever sarcastic, was my favorite character, and the singing goat was hilarious. After that was the delightfully creative Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and I adored Flint, such a sweet and wonderfully geeky character. His friendship/romance with Sam was too cute, and I giggled so much over the jello house and everything in it, as well as loving the jellybean rainbow. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 was quite adorable, although I liked the original better, and I loved the food animals, especially dear little Berry and the cute marshmellows. Then I saw the heartwarming The Croods which was surprisingly fun. I loved Eep and Guy's relationship, and the humor kept me giggling with my favorite being the "rock photographs". I also loved the setting and creative ideas. Belt was completely adorable, too, and the ending was too precious, especially with the big cat and all the other animals being rescued and becoming part of their family in their new paradise. Next was the amusing spoof of 1950s sci-fi Planet 51. I loved how everything was in reverse, as well as the alien world, and there were countless adorable moments with Lem, Chuck, and especially dear little Rover. I finished Dragons: Riders Of Berk and while it took a bit to grow on me I'm loving it now, as Hiccup, Toothless, and the others have all sorts of fun adventures. Now I'm onto Dragons: Defenders Of Berk, and I'm loving the character growth, as well as the other characters. Next to Hiccup and Toothless, Fishlegs and Meatlug are my favorites; they have an adorable relationship, and Fishlegs is very sweet. Tuffnut and Ruffnut are hilarious, too, and even Snotlout isn't as bad as I thought. The dragons get more and more creative, too, as does the backstories for Berk, and I love how they're growing the story in preparation for the next film.

I finished the third and final season of Millennium and despite my sadness at it being the last, I was pleased that it ended on such a high note as the best season of the series. Frank has left the group and rejoined the FBI, introducing a new character as his partner, Emma Hollis. Her story arc both entranced and saddened me as she grows from a kind, caring friend and antagonist of the group to a full-fledged member who betrays Frank. I hope if the series had continued her character would have come back around to the good side again. Meanwhile, Jordan comes to terms with both her mother's death and her own inherited gift, making for some interesting storylines. Peter, sadly, became more of the antagonist this season, only to find redemption in the finale by saving Frank and Jordan. His implied death was heartbreaking and a tragic end to a once wonderful character. "Closure", an unsettling episode, provides insight into Emma's past and ends with thought-provoking questions. "Skull and Bones" gives closure to Cheryl but started turning me against Peter, painting a sad anti-parallel to Emma's later change of heart. The unusual "The Sound of Snow" gives closure to Frank over Catherine's death as well as showcasing an intriguing concept of the tapes. Other excellent episodes include the superb tackling of a difficult subject with "Through A Glass Darkly", the touching Christmas fantasy "Omertà", and the haunting "Darwin's Eye". The season's best are the poignant tearjerker "Matryoshka" which is both stunning and incredibly thought-provoking, and the utterly gorgeous "Borrowed Time" which brought tears to my eyes and left me with so many questions. The finale leaves much hanging, making me wish even more for further episodes and leaving me wondering as to the direction the series would have taken. Over all, though, it was one of the most brilliant series I've seen in ages, heartwrenching and beautiful on so many levels.

I'm on season two of Laramie now, the last of the four seasons that I hadn't yet seen. Jonesy, who I'd learned to like, has left with only a passing mention, and Andy, who I never cared for, has thankfully been sent off to school and only appears in a few episodes. The actors have settled comfortably into their roles, and Jess and Slim's relationship teeters between employer-employee and friends, so while their caring for each other hasn't reached the brotherly feel of the last two years, it's quite close to a good, solid friendship. The new intro, coming in halfway through the season, only adds to that feel, and I like it so much better than the strange intro and theme used for the first half. The only downside to the season is the number of episodes which heavily feature either Jess or Slim while barely showing the other. Some work, like the Jess-lead mystery tale "Rimrock", the whumped Jess adventure "Bitter Glory", or the man on the run story "Run Of The Hunted" with Charles Bronson who's wonderful as always, but many feel awkward and leave me missing whoever is absent. "Trigger Point" is a well-paced survival yarn as Jess and a handful of passengers attempt to cross the desert after their horses and water are stolen. The many facets of Jess's personality come out, from his tenderness toward the women to the nearly chilling way he stalks and guns down the man responsible. The season's best is "Men In Shadows" in which a gunfighter who once spared Jess's life earns his help in escaping from the law, only to turn more and more violent as the episode progresses. It's also a rare glimpse into Jess's past this season which was more focused on his future and includes a wonderful scene between Slim and Jess where Slim attempts to keep Jess from returning to his past life.

I've started watching Stargate Atlantis and am loving it so far. I'm only partway into season one and it's already a whump fest, especially for the quite attractive John Sheppard who's quickly becoming my favorite character. I love the humor and adventure of the series, as well as their fun, danger-filled world. Carson is wonderful, and my close second favorite character, even if the writers treat him badly - I'm still tearing up over the "Poisoning The Well" episode with it's doomed romance and pain, and I adored Lt. Ford and the brotp between Sheppard and he. McKay was annoying at first but I'm getting used to him now, and he's certainly growing braver and more loyal as the season advances. Elizabeth Weir is the only character I haven't warmed to yet, but Teyla is awesome and I slightly ship her with Sheppard. The episodes are wonderful, with my favorites including the whumpish "Thirty-Eight Minutes", the intriguing "Childhood's End", and the deeply poignant "Letters From Pegasus".

In theatres this week I saw The Christmas Candle which was as good as I'd hoped for and better, a flawless, Dickens-inspired, touching story. Hans Matheson was amazing as usual as David, a pastor haunted by a tragedy and determined to do good in his new post, and the entire supporting cast was fabulous. I fell in love with the beautiful setting and characters, cried during the poignant moments, and grinned ear to ear at the gorgeous ending. It was perfect in every detail and Hans Matheson even got to sing in it! I also saw Frozen opening night, and while not perfect and very different than what I'd expected I enjoyed it. The animation, especially the snow and ice magic effects, was stunningly gorgeous, the music was catchy, and Anna was such a loveable heroine. Olaf was adorable and I was so happy that he didn't have to melt in the end, Sven was hilarious, and, unlike most people it seems, I was thrilled that Anna ended up with Kristoff instead of Hans. I loved him in the trailer and I was hoping it would turn out that way. I also liked that Elsa wasn't truly the evil character of the story, and even if I wish they'd followed the fairytale more closely - really, what I wanted more than anything was an animated version of the 2000's live-action The Snow Queen - I was pleased that the core elements, while heavily altered, were included in some way.

I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and am still divided on what I thought of it. On one hand there were so many feelings of nostalgia: seeing the Shire, Bag End, and Frodo, and the tie-ins to the party, Bilbo's sword, the eagles, the familiar music, and the fued between the elves and dwarves; but I never felt as close to the characters as the beloved fellowship, despite liking Thorin, Fili, and Kili, and I was saddened to see Radagast, a kind and caring wizard, played mostly for a fool. Also the humor felt overwhelming and annoying at times, not the quick breathers Pippin and Merry always provided, the hints of Gandalf/Galadriel made me squirm, and the tone was often too dark for what's mostly a much lighter tale than Lord Of The Rings, attempting to connect the threads between The Hobbit and the trilogy on too many levels. While he managed the humor well, I found Martin Freeman's acting desperately lacking emotion and feeling in the dramatic scenes, not up to the level of his costars who carried off their roles, however small, effortlessly, making me wish again that the director had chosen an unknown actor for the role of the same talent as the trilogy's stars. On good points the prologue was incredibly well done and powerful, the theme was gorgeous, and the way the Necromancer was portrayed was chilling and perfectly imagined. My favorite scene was near the end when Thorin finally accepts Bilbo and hugs him, a beautiful and touching moment. But the film often suffered from an overabundence of CGI and not enough heart beneath the action as well as trying too hard to impress. I broke down and finally watched BBC's production of The Silver Chair, a remarkably faithful adaptation with lovely opening credits and quite a bit to offer Chronicles Of Narnia fans. The film adds in the clever touch of having the enchanted Rillian hidden beneath heavy clothes, a beard, and a helmet that covers his hair and much of the top half of his face, disguising him from viewers who wouldn't be familiar with the story, and even the actor's mannerisms are superbly done, very different from his earlier and later scenes and whiplashing between host and tyrant in the span of seconds. While he's more threatening and overbearing than I imagined enchanted Rillian to be, and I wasn't entirely sold on his performance in the chair at first, by the end I was impressed. His final pleas, asking by the sky and by Aslan to be released, were beautifully done, dragging emotion into his eyes and voice so I could feel Rillian's helplessness. The children are good choices as well, especially Eustace, and the special effects crew makes careful and well done achievements in pre-CGI days, especially with the giants who actually appear to be carrying Puddleglum and the children around, and the sparks that fly out of the silver chair as Rillian smashes it. Regarding Puddleglum, I've never been a fan of Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor so it was a pleasant surprise to discover him perfectly cast as the gloomy marshwiggle, even capturing his good heart and friendship with the children in a wonderful scene where he offers to die for Eustace when the enchanted prince threatens him. Glimfeather's voice is brilliant for his role, and many of the costumes are quite convincing, made so by the excellent movements and skills of the actors. On another note, for me, it's wonderful to get back to the old British series with the feel of classic!who, complete with the endearing mistakes - I especially love the part where Rillian breaks his obviously plastic helmet and can't manage to shake parts of it off his hand. I only wish the BBC had continued with the rest of the series as I imagine it would have gotten even better.
 
 
feeling: drained
calliope tune: "Tracy"-Cufflinks