Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Casting Notes: The Hunger Games

The problem with handicapping The Cast of the Hunger Games vs. the characters in the book is that coming into the book, I already knew most of the people cast for the movie, so I couldn’t not imagine them in those roles. I mean I saw the trailer dozens of times before I read the book so I saw Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Malark coming. But still I think there’s something to be gained in figuring out how close or far the movie came to getting these characters right, at least as far as I'm concerned.

I’ll be using the IMDB casting information as reference, just an FYI.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen – I sort of remember the chatter being that Abigail Bresilin was up for the part and that, to my mind, would’ve been a complete miscast. Other than X-Men: First Class, I haven’t really seen Jennifer Lawrence in anything. Yes I’m sorry I missed Winter’s Bone. I promise I’ll watch it on cable. Get off my back. But the character needed a hardness and an edge that I think Lawrence has. It’s the way she is in that trailer that proves to me that she can nail the character pretty solidly. Casting Ranking A-

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark – Here’s the thing. Peeta goes through Hell ya’ll. I mean through the first book all the way through the third book, they torture that character like nobody's business. I have been following Josh Hutcherson’s career since Little Manhattan and Zathura. And yes, his career has had a few missteps and pitfalls (Yes I consider Cirque Du Freak a misstep. Sue me.) but he’s still interesting to watch. I am not entirely comfortable with that tiny kid I knew getting his first kiss in Little Manhattan going through that kind of torture. He was all little and adorable and he can’t be all grown up and forced to go through torturous things that Peeta went through in the books. Odd reasoning on my part? Sure. But that’s the reason I’m not entirely sold in this casting choice. Casting Ranking B+

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket – I… don’t get it. I just don’t. I mean I like Elizabeth Banks fine. I think she’s a great actress, but I just don’t completely see her in this role. Effie is so mannered in such a way that Elizabeth Banks is going to have to shoot for the moon to make the character effective and I just don’t know if she’s got it in her. She looks fine in the trailer but I'm still not buying what she's selling. I’m happy to be proven wrong and she seems to hit the right notes in the trailer, but I still don’t trust it. Casting Ranking B-

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne – This is another case of the casting being done for so long and the trailer being so engrained in my subconscious that I really can’t see any one else in the role. He’s strong and hardy in the way that I imagine Gale to be. And even though the only thing I’ve seen him in is The Last Song and I feel OWED by somebody for having spent two hours on that piece of crap (one of these days I’ll write a proper rant about that POS, but today is not that day) he was not the real problem and was fine in the movie. I think he could really shine in this role. We’ll see. Casting Ranking A

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy – Again, once I saw the trailer and some of the stills from the movie, Woody Harrelson made complete sense to me for the role. There’s a few difficult scenes in the books as a whole that I’m not completely convinced he can carry, but I’m more than willing to see if he can. Maybe if I can see Rampart before then that will have me completely convinced. We’ll have to see. Casting Ranking A

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane – Did I miss something or was there not actually a Seneca Crane mentioned by name in the first book? Because I could’ve sworn the first I heard of him is once he was killed off in the second book. Which, if I’m correct and not totally off my rocker, means the movie created a character just for Wes Bentley, which I’m not complaining about. Hmmmm, let’s see, create a character for the sole purpose of having Wes Bentley in a movie or not right the character and not have Wes Bentley in it at all? I will always, always bet on the former, period. I mean It’s mother-effing Wes Bentley. Since when is he a bad idea? Looking over his C.V., I realize I’m missing a lot of his movies, which I will try and remedy, but he always makes an impression. I mean P2 come on! And I kinda want to see Gone just to confirm my suspicions that he’s the bad guy, because he makes a great bad guy! Casting Ranking A+ (It’s Wes Bentley! I mean come on!).

Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen – Judging by the trailer I think this girl is decently cast and don’t have much to say on the choice. I think she’ll do great. Casting Ranking A

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman – Saw the trailer, saw him coming. Think he’s great for the role. The only other thing I have to add is for some reason Caesar Flickerman and Gamesmaster Plutarch kind of melded into the same person in the books for me, so I see him in that role too, and since I’m not sure who is cast as Plutarch, I keep thinking he might show up in the other movies at both characters. I know. Weird. Casting Ranking. A-

Donald Sutherland and President Snow – Let’s face facts shall we, Donald Sutherland is always the right answer. Always. I’d watch the man read a phone book, I’d watch him shovel shit for two hours straight, I’ve listened to those commercials he narrates simply because he’s narrating them. And, here comes the real shocker, I watched both seasons of Dirty Sexy Money and he was fabulous in that series even if that was a bit of turd pile. (See my comment about him shoveling shit.) And based on some of the stuff I’ve read about him and the role, I think he’ll knock it out of the park. He’s studious about the part but I don’t think it’ll come off too studied. He’s awesome and I’m thrilled at the choice. Casting Ranking A++++++

Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith – Nailed it. He’s what I was thinking of for the part. Casting Ranking A
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna – I’ve heard that people thought he was a terrible choice for the role, but I think he’s kind of perfect. The book makes the character out to be someone as someone who is always thinking, that can see the machinations behind the simplest and tiniest of choices, but hides all of that under clothes and a rock star persona and let’s face it. Lenny is that person, period. I think its an imaginative choice that makes a ton of sense. Casting Ranking A-

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Reviews: The Hunger Games Trilogy

So, over the last week or so I’ve been tearing through The Hunger Games Trilogy. I downloaded all of them onto my Kindle mostly because I had reached a plateau of indifference with The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series and needed a palate cleanser but also because I genuinely wanted to finally find out what all the fuss was about before the movie got released. And I have to say I’m really glad I did.  I’ve decided to review the trilogy as a whole instead of reviewing the books individually, because I’m not sure what I can say about them individually that everyone and their dog hasn’t already said. I also want to do a blog post or multiple posts comparing the movie cast with who I have in my head, which I’ll get to later.

But for now lets deal with the books shall we? I wanted to talk about each book on their own merits, but I think I’d like to talk about the entire story arc instead. The problem I had with the story as a whole that I did not have with the individual books themselves is that I think the series wanted to be two things, it wanted to be about love triangle between three people put in a very difficult situation, which is why it kept putting Katniss in between Gale and Peeta. But it also wanted to be a story about governmental power and how media and entertainment can be perverted and manipulated to control the masses but how it can also be used as a tool of rebellion. Both stories are fine and can be told together, as was shown masterfully by the first two books, but if you can’t figure out how to end both uniformly, which I feel was the case in the third book, just do one.

See, the thing is, I’m still really hung up on the third book for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I fell asleep the night after I finished the book, perturbed with how the book  and the series as a whole finished and I woke up the next day just as perturbed for reasons I don’t understand. What I’m coming to figure out is that for the first three-quarters of the book, I was excited because I couldn’t quite tell where the author was going with the story. And then I realized neither did she. Susanne Collins, I truly believe, did not know how to end the story and so she wrote about a million different endings that kept piling onto each other in ways that didn’t make sense.

O.k., I’m about to get really spoilery for quite awhile.  If you haven’t read the third book, stop reading. First of all, the book pissed me off when Prim got killed off because it got rushed to that part. How Prim ended up in the middle of the battle field felt so forced and strange and absurd to everything else that had happened. Having Katniss injured (AGAIN! Seriously, this is some kind of torture porn on par with the abuse The Bride has to take in the Kill Bill series, its almost ridiculous!) and in this weird comatose state didn’t help matters either because it felt inauthentic to the Katniss we’d known throughout the entire series. And then! Pinning the whole bombing back on the leader of the rebel alliance, President Coin, felt even more forced and absurd. The big kicker was assembling the survivors of the games and having them decide if another games should be held, this time with Capitol survivors was so completely craze balls random that I can’t even figure out why it would be there. I mean I get it, but I still don’t get it. And to solve the whole romantic triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta by having Katniss and Peeta just sorta… end up together. It felt off. You build these characters up, and explain their reliance and love for each other and then you just let it peter out like that? Really? Like I said, the first three-quarters gave me the feeling that it could’ve ended any number of ways, so for it to end up the way it did just felt like a lot of wasted energy.

I still love the series as a whole, but I feel there could have been some forethought placed on the ending that would’ve put for heft on everything that preceded it. An argument could be made for the ending that is there being more realistic. It’s not as if I thought the Mockingjay would rise to power and start running the government. That really wasn't Katniss's bag from the very beginning. I very much thought she’d end back up in the forest she loved, but not the way she did. Okay, rant done.

So, to be thorough, I give Hunger Games, the first book an A, Catching Fire an A+ and The Mockingjay a solid B. The series a whole, I give a B+ and I’m really super excited for the upcoming movie. Keep it tuned here for my casting analysis for all three books.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bloody Munchkin beaten by the Book Contest

You know that one martial arts character in like every action movie ever that enters some tournament all full of bravado and piss and vinegar only to be knocked out in the first round? That’s what I feel like right now. Actually, you know that movie Balls of Fury where the guy goes into his first tournament in years thinking it’ll be a piece of cake only to be thoroughly tromped by…. Patton Oswalt? Yeah, that’s where I’m at right now.

Well That Happened. I had high hopes, really I did, but maybe it was a crap shoot the way my husband said, or maybe I didn’t do enough to distinguish myself, or maybe the field was really stacked against me, but whatever the reason, my book didn’t get past the first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

I should probably be more upset, or God knows what my reaction should be. But I’m dealing with it better than I expected. And yes, before you even ask, I consider eating the last Thin Mints in a flurry dealing with things better than expected, because A) It wasn’t a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and  b) I’m not crying my eyes out, which based on my penchant for drama is usually my normal reaction to this sort of  rejection.

I could tell I wasn’t the only one dealing with my rejection though. My husband took me to lunch and we tried to make sense of the rejection together. I think, even though he knew it was a crapshoot, he wanted this for me as badly as I did.  

I tried. I put myself and my book out there and I tried. And I’m going to keep trying. The thing is, I know my book is worthy of being published and that it should be. I’m incredibly proud of what I did and I will find a way to get it out there, period. I wrote the book as a way to cope and to deal with all of the hardships and heartache we were dealing with regarding Ukiah and in a way the book and the characters that I created have become my babies as well. And I know my baby got rejected yesterday, but I’ll just pick my chin back up and try again.

And honestly, based on the titles that were picked to go to the next round, maybe I’m happy I didn’t. I kevetched with my husband on some of the titles that did make it through. I mean “Time Sniffers” made it through and my title didn’t? Time Sniffers? This is an actual title of an actual book that someone actually wrote? I don’t know where to begin.And that title wasn't even the worst offender. Don't get me started.

I don’t know where to go next, because I’m really flying blind here. I don’t know whether to start looking for literary agents again, or to enter another contest , or take a class on getting published, but rest assured, this is not the end to the story, it is just the beginning.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Book Review: The Necromancer

I finally slogged through The Necromancer, the fourth book of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, which was a bigger deal than I thought it would be, considering I had read it halfway through before I realized there were three books before it. But on the bright side, there is so much that makes sense now!

There is sooooo much going on in this book that it’s hard to know where to begin. There are all sorts of different locales, there are just as many new characters, not to mention shadow realms that it is really hard to keep up. The story starts where it began, back in San Francisco, and it is where several story lines converge and then break off again, which adds to the intensity. What’s funny about this story is that it feels, and makes the other three books feel by comparison, as if it’s a set piece only there to set up bigger action.

But it’s still good and interestingly layered. Characters that were only hinted at finally reveal themselves, and yet they are still shrouded in mystery. There was a hooked man that was mentioned in a few of the earlier books and he finally gets introduced in this book. Some of the elders and dark elders that have only been hinted at have started revealing themselves and you start to realize the machinations at play.

The other interesting thing is that the twins aren’t even boring anymore. That’s mostly because they’ve both become ciphers for other people’s stories. The more that Sophie delves into The Witch of Endor’s memories, the more layered and interesting she is as a character. The more Josh is used as a pawn for Mars Ultor and Dee, the more interesting he becomes.

It’s still a good book with its own plot and its own action, but I still can’t shake the feeling that it feels less like its own fully formed story and more like a jumping platform for the rest of the action that is about to take place. B

Monday, February 06, 2012

Bloody Munchkin and the Book Contest Fight!

So the first round for the ABNA contest  that I entered officially ended yesterday. I guess I probably would’ve made more of a fuss about it if I hadn’t been so busy. I only edited my entry twice, which, based on the number of times I’ve edited the book I put up for the contest is showing considerable restraint. And really and truly I probably would’ve spent a considerable amount of time editing and re-editing the entire entry if I wasn’t so darned busy. The last weekend in January found me hanging out in New Orleans for a work function, so I had absolutely no time in which to be obsessively neurotic there and then I come home and life continued to intervene.

Work and life as a mother of a four month old continually intervened, which is probably a blessing in disguise. In truth, because this is my first book, not to mention first creative writing project I’ve ever completed, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Should I have not submitted the first two chapters as my 5000 word sample? Should I have submitted chapter three, where I actually introduce the main character, instead? But the contest rules clearly stated up to the first 5000 words, and I should follow the letter of the law right? But maybe the letter of the law could be taken to mean 5000 introductory words? And what about my author’s introduction section, and should I have created a preview? And… and?!?!

See that? That inner monologue that you just had to endure? I’m really happy I was too busy to continue to have that conversation with myself while the contest was still open. Because if I had continued, and if I had made the inner monologue an outer diatribe and forced my husband to listen to it over and over again, you would’ve heard reports of a grisly murder suicide in a quiet tri-valley area suburb.

So now all I can do is wait until the second round to see if I’m one of the 1000 entrants that was selected to go to the next round, which wraps on February 23rd. I’d probably be neurotically anxious about it if life would stop getting in the way. But thankfully it won’t.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Adventures in Eating

I haven’t posted much about my daughter Boo Bear since her birth for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being that I’m afraid she’ll come to me when she’s fifteen with printed out copies of this blog ranting and raving that my writing about her ‘is RUINING my social life’ this and ‘Why are you so embarrassing?’ that and ‘This is the reason I should be legally emancipated’ blah blah blah we’re both seeking counseling blah.

But she’s so cute and adorbs and awesome at this stage that it’s hard not to blab about her. As exhibit A I give you last night. Well maybe last night is a bad example, because it did have my stomach churning there by the end but that wasn’t really her fault exactly. I blame Gerber’s pureed peas* because they DO NOT look very appealing coming back out as they do going in.

[*edited because pureed pees is much worse than pureed peas and no wonder my stomach was turning!]

So yes, she’s just over four months now and is eating pureed food and it is…. It defies words, this experience does. She talks when she eats and gets crabby and a little bit yelly when she doesn’t to hilarious effect. Probably the written word won’t do it justice but I’ma try anyway.

So I start to feed her and the process makes her so happy that she oohs and aahs while I’m feeding her. I’ll put a spoon to her mouth with food on it and she gives me this deep guttural ‘uuuuuhhhhh’ letting me know just how happy and content the experience is making her. And then, during the 3.2 seconds that I take the spoon away to get another spoonful of food and then bring it back to her mouth, she “Ah, Ah, Ah"'s her displeasure at not have another spoonful of food IMMEDIATELY until I am able to get that spoonful of food back into her mouth and then its ‘uhh, uhh, uhh” again and the cycle repeats itself over and over again until we have finished and I wipe off her face and she then voices her displeasure at having her face cleaned and then we’re done.

Last night was a little different. I was reintroducing peas to her. She started out with peas but hadn’t had them in some time, so I thought it would be good to re-establish them into her diet. I can’t decide if that was a mistake or one of the greatest decisions of my life, because it was hilarious but also kind of gross. Somehow our cues were off last night and I kept getting that spoonful to her mouth right while she was mid ‘uhh, uhh’ and she would spurt the spoonful everywhere. I know kids at this age usually wear more food than they eat but the splatter zone on this was impressive. The whole time all I kept thinking of was how much of a resemblance she bared to Randy from ‘A Christmas Story’ and I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself. Also, her high chair and tray started looking like a lost Jackson Pollack painting by the end. Had this been pureed sweet potatoes, I would’ve found it just hilarious but for some reason, it being pureed peas, I found the whole endeavor both funny and queasy making. But do you know who I ended up feeling sorry for during this whole exercise? The bib! For some reason the bib and the collateral damage it took reminded me of the bib in that one scene in Monty Python and the Meaning of Life with the Fat Guy who binged and purged until the Thin Mint did him in, and the abuse that poor bib took during that scene. And then I started feeling sorry for both the bib in that scene and the bib my daughter was wearing and now I’m feeling sad that the bib in such an insignificant piece of clothing that has to take on so much collateral damage from infants and toddlers everywhere!