Thursday, January 2

my winter in enertainment

november/december 2013 in entertainment

movies I saw

Thor: The Dark World - Thor is my favorite Marvel superhero, and I think I enjoyed the second Thor movie even more because we've gotten to know his character in the first film and in Avengers.  Jane, Dr. Selvig, and even Darcy (Kat Dennings) are back in the sequel, which has Jane stumbling across a mysterious alien force that was hidden on earth from a planet whose people are determined to cast the whole universe in darkness.  Most of the movie's action takes place on Asgard, which takes away the "what about the other Avengers?" issue.  Even though it was full of action and laughs, there was also a lot of pathos in the film - I found myself tearing up twice.  And even though Thor is the star, Tom Hiddleston really steals the show as Loki.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - I saw this on opening night with a packed theater full of teens, moms, and English teachers!  Any negative comments I had about the first Hunger Games movies are resolved in this film - this is the world I pictured while reading the books - gritty, exaggerated, yet somehow believable.  Jennifer Lawrence is amazing as always, Josh Hutcherson brings Peeta more personality, and Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz shine even in supporting roles.  I thought the movie was very true to the book, and thought the filmmakers did a very good job of capturing the suspense, horror, and claustrophobia of Katniss' second trip to the arena.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - I received this movie on Blu-Ray for Christmas and was very excited because I really regretted not getting to see it in the theater.  I loved Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series and this movie brings that urban fantasy world to life in a really beautiful way.  The only other movie I've seen Lily Collins in is The Blind Side, so I didn't really know what kind of acting skills to expect, and now I'm kind of in love.  Actually, all of the casting was pretty much right on, and I'm so happy that the second film is currently in production.  This time I WILL make it to the theater.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - I loved Anchorman and still quote it all the time even though it came out almost ten years ago.  Sadly, Anchorman 2 did not live up to my expectations.  The funniest moments were recycled versions of the first movie, and some of the new directions the plot went in fell flat (racism wasn't funny in 1980 and it definitely isn't funny now) or just didn't make sense (ice skating, baby sharks).  Will Ferrel's car commercials as Ron Burgundy were funnier than this movie.

books i read

Stolen into Slavery (YA Nonfiction) - Before I saw previews for 12 Years a Slave, I'd never heard of Solomon Northup, and the film looked really intense, so I decided to learn about this true story in a format directed toward teens first.  Usually I'm not a huge nonfiction fan, but I couldn't put this book down because I had to know what happened to Solomon.  This brave, determined man's name should be familiar to every American, as should the reality that free African-Americans were kidnapped and sold into slavery in the years before the Civil War and had no legal recourse when it happened.  I'm going to read Solomon's biography, Twelve Years a Slave, to learn more about his life.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (MG Fantasy) - I loved the Percy Jackson books, so I was looking forward to the next series set in the same universe.  However, I had a really hard time getting into The Lost Hero.  The original series used first-person narration, and Riordan gave Percy a sarcastic voice that I loved. In The Lost Hero, Riordan uses a third person omniscient style to introduce three new heroes, Jason, Piper, and Leo.  I had trouble keeping up with which character I was reading about and investing in their backgrounds and storylines, and Jason, the new Percy-type character, was suffering from amnesia and lacked personality.  I also felt like Riordan recycled a lot of plot points from the first series, just sticking Jason in where Percy had been and changing the names and settings slightly.  My students seem to be enjoying the new books, but I don't think I'll be continuing the series.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (YA Fantasy) - Allegiant is totally different from Divervent and Insurgent. First, because Roth alternates between Tris' and Tobias' points of view.  The narration worked because their personalities are so different, it allows readers to know what's happening in more than one place, and it was essential to the book's ending having an emotional impact.  Second, Allegiant was different because the characters, encouraged by the video from Tris' ancestor that was released at the end of Insurgent, leave their sheltered city (Chicago) and find out what's going on outside.  In the outside world, being Divergent carries a different significance, and creates tension in Tris and Tobias' relationship.  I won't say much more, because I don't want to spoil anyone, just that the ending did make me cry.

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes(MG Fiction) - I wasn't quite sure how to classify this one, because it sits somewhere in between historical fiction and fantasy.  When Lanesha's unwed mother died giving birth to her in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, her superstitious midwife, Mama Ya-Ya, took her in.  Since Mama Ya-Ya has prophetic dreams and Lanesha can see and talk to ghosts, their life together is never boring. Throughout her childhood, classmates have regarded Lanesha with caution, calling her a witch and bullying her, but sixth grade is off to a better start.  She likes her young, enthusiastic teachers, enjoys learning new vocabulary words and how to solve math problems, and has made two close friends who are each a little different in their own ways.  When Mama Ya-Ya sees Hurricane Katrina coming, they prepare for the worst, and Lanesha has to call on all of her fortitude and intelligence in the days of flooding that follow.


  1. I also really enjoyed Thor. I saw a review that panned it because it was "just a superhero movie." But that's kind of the point, haha.

    1. Change Thor's name, take off the Marvel logo, and it's a science fiction movie. I've read quite a few reviews that criticized that way Jane was written, and her lack of agency within the story, but I never forget while watching that she is a really smart scientist, and I'm pretty sure that if someone who looked like Chris Hemsworth but also had supernatural powers was into me, I'd be doe-eyed too.

  2. I did like The City of Bones movie, although I do see how it could be hard to enjoy if you hadn't read the book. But I'm really excited that they're making book 2, and wonder how many more books they'll wind up turning into movies.

    1. I'm so glad book 2 is getting made! The Percy Jackson and Beautiful Creatures movies have made me skeptical of YA adaptations with all of the changes they made to the characters and plots so I was happy to see one done right. I would put City of Bones right up there with the Harry Potter movies for how faithful it was to the source material. Hopefully Divergent will fall into that category when it comes out this spring!