Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dalmatians Galore!

When Cruella de Vil kidnaps all fifteen of the Dearly's Dalmatian puppies with the intention of making them into fur coats, it is up to the puppies' parents, Pongo and Missus, and the dogs across England to plan and execute their rescue. How will they find the place where the puppies are hidden? Once they find it, how will they get the puppies to safety?

Title: The Hundred and One Dalmatians
Author: Dodie Smith
Illustrator: Michael Dooling
Series: Dalmatians, Book 1
Start & Finished: 7/1/08
Published: 1956
Publisher: Viking Kestrel
Pages: 184
Genre: Children's Book

Since 1961 the word Dalmatian; especially if it has the numbers 101 before it, has been synonymous with the Disney Company but for five years The Hundred and One Dalmatians (also know as The Great Dog Robbery) belonged to author and native Englander Dodie Smith alone. Ms. Smith had published several books including her now popular I Capture the Castle (quoted as one of J. K. Rowling’s favorite books) as well as written several plays before she turned her creative genius to children’s fiction and being a Dalmatian owner, made them the main characters.

In letters between Dodie Smith and Walt Disney, she claims that she "always hoped [he] might [make her book 101 Dalmatians into a film]- so much so that, when [she] was writing it, [she] often found herself visualizing the scenes as they would be in cartoon." To be honest, the story does read a bit like a film- just not exactly like Disney’s version. However, I enjoyed both equally despite the changes although at the time of its release, several people were a bit upset at the exclusion of Missus (Pongo’s wife) but it is clear that she really just took Perdita’s name.

As a general rule, authors usually don’t enjoy their books’ film adaptations but according to those letters, this author claimed to have been about 99% satisfied with the final picture and I have to agree. I’m so glad I decided to challenge myself to read all of the books that Disney made into movies (which is a good majority of them). If possible, I think Cruella was even scarier than her animated counterpart!

The Disney Company has gotten a lot out of Dodie Smith’s story over the years with sequel upon sequel (not to mention remakes!) but somehow even though Mr. Disney had expressed a wish to work with her again, they never did. She did write her own sequel though in 1967 called The Starlight Barking. Unlike The Hundred and One Dalmatians, it has a bit more of a fantasy element to it but it has never been made into a film.

Related Posts: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (animated), 101 Dalmatians (live-action), & 102 Dalmatians (live-action)

Links: Dodie Smith (Wikipedia), 101 Dalmatians book (Wikipedia), Actual Disney/Smith Letters, Dodie Smith’s Biography
Interview: Lisa Davis (animated Anita voice) & Disney archivist Dave Smith about film and Dodie Smith (IESB.net)

Sincerly Yours, Walt Disney:



Audio Book Clip:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Liars and Cheats

BECAUSE MEN DON'T COME WITH WARNING LABELS (And how handy would that be?)

Marissa Kincaid has a gift for dating the terminally unfaithful. After she finds her latest boyfriend lip-locked to another man, she decides to strike back by creating TheGuyCheats.com, a virtual Wanted poster for serial cheaters. Soon Marissa is spending almost all her time getting even- instead of getting a guy. Enter Trenton Jackson, Marissa's first crush from way back. Now Atlanta's golden boy publisher.
Title: To Catch a Cheat
Author: Kelley St. John
Start & Finished: 6/30/08
Published: 2007
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 376 (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Inspired by the real life cheater databases that exist on the web, Kelley St. John wrote her lying, cheating, loving, romance novel To Catch a Cheat. A former writer for NASA, St. John decided that she would much rather be writing happily ever afters instead and in 2005 published her first one called Good Girls Don’t (two of whose character appear in this novel). Now three years and several books later, she has finally become an award-winning, bestselling author too.

After receiving an (autographed) ARC of this author’s second book Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2, I loved her “voice” and sense of humor so much that not only did I have to buy To Catch a Cheat when it came out but I had to buy my mom a copy too (since she had loved her even more than I did). I think I liked it even more than the first book I had read by her! Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was set in Atlanta, Georgia either since the radio show and how the local media went wild over the story isn’t too far-fetched of an idea…

Marissa and Trent were interesting characters; well actually, all of the characters are and even the minor ones have distinct personalities. I really liked her dog Petie too! This was a mindlessly, fluffy chick-lit piece but I really enjoyed it and I still won’t hesitate to pick this author up in the future. Especially since I recently learned she has a series with Harlequin Blaze now!

Links: The Guy Cheats & The Girl Lies, MySpace, Real Cheater Website (Don't Date Him Girl)
Interview: At Book Club Forum

Picture Explanations
Petie:
Marissa’s salt and pepper Schnauzer
Laptop: The main character is a computer programmer
Cooking: Trent cooks for Marissa as one of the assignments from the radio show guys

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love Hurts

Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind- addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie's a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she's right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth- he can't stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls of the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all.
Title: Heartsick
Author: Chelsea Cain
Series: Archie & Gretchen, Book 1
Start & Finished: 6/28/08- 6/29/08
Published: 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Pages: 324
Genre: Thriller

Serial killers are fairly common in mysteries and thrillers but Chelsea Cain brings something new to the first book in her new series Heartsick, one of the main serial killers is a woman. Her name is Gretchen Lowell and instead of the traditional female killer, there is no reason behind who Gretchen is and what she does. However, she makes Jack the Ripper look tame!

I think the author said it best when she described the book as a “really twisted love story between a cop and a serial killer” and yet it’s also much more than that. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Now the book certainly isn’t for the squeamish and it is very dark but it’s still very good. It didn’t take Hollywood long to noice either since soon after it was published, someone bought the film rights. Surprisingly, Heartsick was this writer’s debut into the suspense genre too.

Just like Mary Shelley when she wrote Frankenstein, this author was pregnant at the time she started developing and writing her characters. She then set them down in her own hometown of Portland, Oregon where the Green River killer had dumped bodies when she was a child. Like a few other suspense authors, Cain "borrowed" from her surroundings for her story which is why the world she builds in the books feels so real!

There are many people who have compared it to The Silence of the Lambs and honestly, that is the best description. Gretchen is like a female Hannibal Lecter (except for the cannibal part). Female serial killers are very rare and I knew that if it were done right, this would be an intense, interesting read. Thankfully, Chelsea Cain turned out an original, really cool book! Heartsick has some expected twists but also surprising and unexpected ones as well. Overall, this was one of the best thrillers I've ever had the pleasure of reading so I can‘t wait to read the next book in this series, Sweetheart.

Archie & Gretchen Series: Heartsick, Sweetheart, Heartbreaker (‘09)

Links: Wikipedia, MySpace
Interviews: Dark Scribe, Barnes and Noble (under Features), Metro, & Meet the Authors (video), Cain and Chuck Palahniuk Talk (audio)

Book Trailer:


Meet Gretchen:


Author Tour of Portland:


Picture Explanations
High School:
The After School Strangler abducts girls from high schools in the area, including this one.
Drain Cleaner: A method of torture Gretchen used. She made Archie drink a tablespoon a day.
Sauvie Island: One of the bodies washes up on the beach

Monday, November 17, 2008

Watch Before Kicking the Bucket

You only live once, so why not go out in style? That's what two cancer-ward roommates, an irascible billionaire (Jack Nicholson) and a scholarly mechanic (Morgan Freeman), decide when they get the bad news. They compose a bucket list -- things to do before you kick the bucket -- and head off for the around-the-world adventure of their lives. Sky-dive? Check. Power a Shelby Mustang around a racetrack? Check. Gaze at the Great Pyramid of Khufu? Check. Discover the joy in their lives before it's too late? Check!

Under the nimble direction of Rob Reiner, the two great star provide the heart and soul, wit and wiles of this inspired salute to life that proves that the best time of all is right now.
Title: The Bucket List
Release: December 25, 2007
Genre: Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Writer: Justin Zackham
Director: Rob Reiner
Music By: Marc Shaiman
Produced By: Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Travis Knox, & Justin Zackham
Distributed By: Warner Bros.
Run Time: 97 minutes
Official Site

The same year that both legendary Oscar winning actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman turned 70 years old, they appeared in their first film together The Bucket List. The drama-comedy garnered mixed reviews when it first came out especially by renowned critic Roger Ebert who was disgusted at the way cancer is treated as a "laff riot". However, there were quite a few people that liked the film and it's epiphany that you should live in the moment, no matter how clich├ęd that is.

I've always liked Nicholson but Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors so I had very high hopes for the film- thankfully, it didn't disappoint! I laughed and I cried, and then I laughed some more. As great as these two actors are, I was almost expecting one to outshine the other but there is a good reason why both men are Academy award winners. They play off of each other very well and Sean Hayes was a really good edition to the cast too.

Would I have liked this film half as much if Freeman had been replaced with another actor of a lesser caliber? Probably not but it came as of no shock at all that he was first choice for the part. Could it have been better? Of course! There were tons of beautiful locations that were just green-screened to save time and money plus the cavalier attitude about dying while it made some people think, it made others angry but what it boils down to at the end is that The Bucket List was a good movie. Rather than about dying, it was ironically, an aspiring film about living.

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com, ReelzChannel
Interview: With Jack Nicholson (text), Morgan Freeman on Letterman (video)


Trailer:


Interviews:


Music Video:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two Dempsey Family Stories

Turn left at small town secrets...

Sophie Dempsey is content living a quiet life filming wedding videos until an assignment brings her to Temptation, Ohio. From the moment she drive into town, she gets a bad feeling; Sophie is from the wrong side of the tracks and everything in Temptation is a little too right. And when she has a run-in with the town's unnervingly sexy mayor, Phineas Tucker, making a little movie turns out to be more than a little dangerous.

Yield to oncoming desire...

All Sophie wants to do is film the video and head home. All Phin wants to do is play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. They both get more than they bargained for when Sophie's video causes an uproar and the proper citizens of Temptation set out to shut them down.

Welcome to temptation...

As event spiral out of control, Sophie and Phin find themselves caught in a web of gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, and really excellent sex. All hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble...and in love.
Title: Welcome to Temptation
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Series: Dempsey Family, Book 1
Start & Finished: 6/21//08- 6/22/08
Published: 2000
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 416 (paperback)
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Publisher’s Weekly said it best when they called Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation a “saucy feminist romp”, and yet at the same time, they could be describing just about any Crusie novel. As with many authors, she started off slow in the romance genre with just her character’s biting wit as her trademark but today, Ms. Crusie has stepped out of her genre pocket and become the author that most of us know and all of us love.

Jennifer Crusie is one of my favorite author’s who is supposed to fit into the genre of romance but in reality really doesn’t. Her books are more like a romantic comedy and there is even a bit of a mystery to solve in this one. Her women may even throw themselves at their men but they don't wait around hoping and dreaming… they always go out and do something about it! Which in my mind makes the situations in the plot much more realistic but while other author’s could probably pulled off a story like Welcome to Temptation, very few could have created such quirky characters.

If I had one bad thing to say about the story was that at the beginning, Sophie thought and spoke in movie references- everything from soundtracks to quotes to allusions. It was annoying at first (mainly because I haven‘t seen a lot of the films mentioned), but I was soon able to look at as just another Dempsey quirk and it took a backseat to just how laugh-out-loud funny the book was. You can only imagine how happy I was to learn that Ms. Crusie had wrote her first (and so far, only) sort of follow-up book with Sophie’s brother Davy as the main character!



------------------------------------------
LOVE AND DECEPTION HAVE A LOT IN COMMON.
Meet the Goodnights, a respectable family who run a respectable art gallery-- and have for generations. There's Gwen, the matriarch who likes to escape reality; Eve, the oldest daughter who has a slight identity problem (she has two); and Nadine, the granddaughter who's ready to follow in the family footsteps as soon as she can find a set that isn't leading off a cliff. Lastly, there's Matilda, the youngest daughter who's inherited the secret locked in the basement of the Goodnight Gallery, the secret she's willing to do almost anything to keep, even break into a house in the dead of night to steal back her past.

THE RISKS ARE INTOXICATING.
Meet the Dempseys, or at least meet Davy, a reformed con man who's just been ripped off for a cool three million by his financial manager, who then gallantly turned it over to Clea Lewis, the most beautiful sociopath Davy ever slept with. Davy wants the money back, but more than that, he'll do anything to keep Clea from winning, including break into her house in the dead of night to steal back his future.

AND IF YOU'RE REALLY GOOD AT THEM, THEY BOTH PAY OFF.
One collision in a closet later, Tilda and Davy reluctantly join forces to combat Clea, suspicious art collectors, a disgruntled heir, and an exasperated hitman, all the while coping with a mutant dachshund, a juke box stuck in the sixties, questionable sex, and the growing realization that they can't turn their backs on the people they were meant to be...or the people they were born to love.
Title: Faking It
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Series: Dempsey Family, Book 2
Start & Finished: 6/22.08- 6/23/08
Published: 2002
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 432 (paperback)
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Two time RITA award winner Jennifer Crusie has written many stories with her particular brand of humor, romance, and even mystery but of all her works, only Welcome to Temptation had characters strong enough for her to incorporate into a completely new story: Faking It. Ms. Crusie has made it clear on several occasions that this is not a sequel. Rather, it’s sort of a spin-off using the main character from Welcome to Temptation Sophie’s brother Davy.

Immediately after I finished the first Crusie book that had Dempsey family members in it, I dove directly into the next one. Even though Davy was only a minor character with very few scenes when the reader first meets him, his personality shines through so it was only natural for the author to write another book this time with him as one of the main characters.

Instead of movie references, Faking It goes in the other direction and is full of song references because Davy’s love interest is part of a family that loves their music! Whether because I was already used to it or because I actually recognized some of the music, I didn’t really have a problem with it in this book. To be honest, I have to admit that of the two books with the Dempsey siblings in it, this was my favorite, mainly because of Tilda’s nutty family. If I thought the people in Temptation were quirky…!

----------------------------

Related Posts: Crazy for You & Agnes and the Hitman

Links: Wikipedia, Movie References List, Deleted Scene (from Faking It), Song List
Interview: Jennifer Crusie on Faking It (Romance Reader)



Picture Explanations
Campaign Poster: The Tucker men have been Temptation's major for years.
Pool: There isn't much to do in the small town of Temptation so the town major is a unbeaten poolshark... until he challenges a Dempsey!
Dove Bar: Sophie eats a LOT of these.
-------------------------------
Cinnamon Bun Soap: Tilda's (and Davy's) favorite soap
Jukebox: The Goodnight family love their music...
Dachshund: The family's pet mutant dachshund Steve

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Number 14

Personal vendettas, hidden treasure, and a monkey named Carl will send bounty hunter Stephanie Plum on her most explosive adventure yet.

The Crime: Armed robbery to the tune of nine million dollars
Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, stashed the money, and did the time. His family couldn’t be more proud. He always was the smart one.

The Cousin: Joe Morelli
Joe Morelli, Dom Rizzi, and Dom’s sister, Loretta, are cousins. Morelli is a cop, Rizzi robs banks, and Loretta is a single mother waiting tables at the firehouse. The all-American family.

The Complications: Murder, kidnapping, destruction of personal property, and acid reflux
Less than a week after Dom’s release from prison, Joe Morelli has shadowy figures breaking into his house and dying in his basement. He’s getting threatening messages, Loretta is kidnapped, and Dom is missing.

The Catastrophe: Moonman
Morelli hires Walter “Mooner” Dunphy, stoner and “inventor” turned crime fighter, to protect his house. Morelli can’t afford a lot on a cop’s salary, and Mooner will work for potatoes.

The Cupcake: Stephanie Plum
Stephanie and Morelli have a long-standing relationship that involves sex, affection, and driving each other nuts. She’s a bond enforcement agent with more luck than talent, and she’s involved in this bank-robbery-gone-bad disaster from day one.

The Crisis: A favor for Ranger
Security expert Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, has a job for Stephanie that will involve night work. Morelli has his own ideas regarding Stephanie’s evening activities.

The Conclusion: Only the fearless should read Fourteen.
Thrills, chills, and incontinence may result.

Title: Fearless Fourteen
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, Book 14
Start & Finished: 6/21/08
Published: 2008
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Comedy

Janet Evanovich's fourteenth book in her award-winning Stephanie Plum Number series, called aptly enough Fearless Fourteen, starts off another adventure with Jersey’s best amateur bounty hunter. A long-time romance author, Ms. Evanovich was inspired by the movie Midnight Run to try her hand at adventure romance and the rest is history. Her Plum series is always on the bestseller list, they’ve been optioned for a film, and she’s become one of the most recognizable names of contemporary romance today.

Being a Stephanie Plum novel, as a dedicated reader of the series, I’ve come to expect the laugh-out-loud quirkiness of the characters and the plot but what I didn’t expect was to find Plum’s latest story to be a little formulaic. Simply put, it just wasn’t as good as I have come to expect from Janet Evanovich.

Since I have read all of the other books in the series (including the between-the-numbers books), it could very well be me because I’m probably just getting tired of this stand-off that Stephanie is doing between Ranger and Morelli. I like them both just about as equally as she does but it’s been time to go one way or the other for some time now and I think many readers agree with me. Or at the very least, I think she should do something different because I have a feeling that if the author has to choose between guys, the series could very well end. I think I enjoy the characters too much to give it up! However, if I had read this book by itself without having read all of the other Numbers first, I might have enjoyed it a lot and not experienced the let down I felt when it was over.

I'm not really sure what to say about Fearless Fourteen. I liked it, I like every Stephanie Plum book, I just didn't think it was quite as good as some of the earlier ones (no cars were blown up for one!). I also felt like it was way too short but it was still funny and even if it could have benefited if it had had more of Ranger in it, reading about Stephanie and Morelli having to play parents to Morelli's nephew since his mother got kidnapped was pretty funny. Oh and Grandma Mazur only had a few tiny scenes too. True, Janet Evanovich is one of the most popular writers alive but this read a lot like a cheap paperback and I know for a fact she's better than that. No more laziness Ms. Evanovich, we want a better story next time!

Stephanie Plum Series: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, Four to Score, High Five, Hot Six, Seven Up, Hard Eight, To the Nines, Ten Big Ones, Eleven on Top, Twelve Sharp, Lean Mean Thirteen, Fearless Fourteen

Between the Numbers: Visions of Sugar Plums, Plum Lovin’, Plum Lucky

Links: Author & Book (Wikipedia), Fan Page (Fanpop), Fan Group (MySpace)
Interview: Book Page & The Today Show (video)




Picture Explanations
Rex-Stephanie's hamster
Apartment Fire- While staking out Jelly's apartment (and using his bathroom) the apartment explodes
Potato- Morelli hired Mooner to keep away the treasure seekers, he uses a potato launcher to do so.
Collage-a collage of all things Plum

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dalmatians are Back!

Get ready for outrageous fun in Disney's 102 Dalmatians. It's a brand-new, hilarious adventure, starring the audacious Oddball, the spotless Dalmatian puppy on a search for her rightful spots and Waddlesworth, the wisecracking, delusional macaw who thinks he's a Rottweiler. Barking mad, this disparate duo leads a posse of puppies on a mission to outfox the wildly wicked, ever-scheming Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close). Filled with chases, close calls, hilarious antics and thrilling escapes all the way from London through the streets of Paris - and a Parisian bakery - this adventure-packed tale is wacky good fun your entire family will want to howl over again and again.
Title: 102 Dalmatians
Release: November 22, 2000
Genre: Family
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Writer: Kristen Buckley & Brian Regan
Director: Kevin Lima
Music By: David Newman
Produced By: Edward S. Feldman
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures
Run Time: 100 minutes
Official Site

Four years after Disney’s success with their first live-action remake of one of their animated films, it was decided that the live action film deserved a sequel, 102 Dalmatians. It wasn’t quite as big of a hit theatrically as 101 Dalmatians (which had been one of the top 10 highest grossing films of 1996), even with Glenn Close reprising her role as Cruella; however it did receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.

Of all the two live action Disney films based on Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians, I personally think 102 Dalmatians is the best. Not because of the plot (which even I have to admit was original) or even because of the cuteness of the Dalmatian puppies, no what makes this better than the first film is Waddlesworth. In 101 Dalmatians, the comic relief was mostly thanks to Horace (Mark Williams) and Jasper (Hugh Laurie) but in this one, it all rests one the wings of one bird who believes himself to be a dog (but he doesn‘t mimic, he talks).

There has been a lot of grumbling over the years about this sequel with many people saying it was “ridiculous” but then these same people applaud the first film, which was so full of plot holes I’m surprised the puppies didn’t fall through them. Of course being a sequel, there were some corners cut so while I still think this was better than the first film, it isn’t one of my favorites. Still, there are some great parts like the re-creation of the scene from Lady and the Tramp and Waddlesworth’s lines. I also have to give credit to Glenn Close, whether she’s Ella or Cruella she was the second best thing in this film.

Related Posts: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (animated) & 101 Dalmatians (live- action)

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Digital Dogs (Computer Graphics Article)

Trailer:


Opening Credits:


Music Video:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Man Behind His Words

This captivating biography of the bestselling children’s author in history reveals at last the man who had a unique influence on four generations of Americans, who championed children’s rights before that phrase was familiar, and who revolutionized the way children learn to read. The very name Dr. Seuss inevitably provokes a smile and some recollection of a beloved character - Horton, perhaps, or Thidwick or the Cat in the Hat. Yet during his lifetime, their creator was an enigma. In his years at Dartmouth, Oxford, New York, and Hollywood, mingling with the famous and notorious, he remained reclusive and plagued by self-doubts, but never lost his love of childish playfulness.

Was Ted Geisel really a genius, as his publisher Bennett Cerf believed, or, as he himself always insisted, just lucky? In forty-seven books of nonsensical charm, from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937 to Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in 1990, his recurring theme was that children had an inalienable right to mischief, love, and hope. But many librarians and teachers consider him a subversive influence when his revolutionary Cat in the Hat signaled the demise of dreary Dick-and-Jane primers.

Ted Geisel was a dreamer who saw the world “through the wrong end of a telescope.” In his eighty-seven years, he met seven U.S. presidents, but was more proud of the fact that he had seen Halley’s Comet twice. An obsessively private man, he rarely revealed anything of his personal and professional agonies - or of the bawdy Seussian verses he wrote for friends.

Judith and Neil Morgan knew Ted Geisel in the latter half of his life, and here they merge their firsthand insights with scholarly research, drawing material from hundreds of letters and interviews, as well as from their subject’s notes for an unpublished autobiography. They had full access to Geisel’s voluminous papers, illuminating his relationship with both of his wives and providing instructive glimpses of his creative processes. The result is a frank and felicitous biography as unique as its subject.
Title: Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel
Author: Judith & Neil Morgan
Start & Finished: Long Term Read-6/18/08
Published: 1995
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 293
Genre: Biography

Dr. Seuss’ (aka Theodore Geisel) wonderful rhyming stories have been a part of people’s lives for many decades now. Some of his first books may not have been bestsellers but as his bibliography list grew so did his popularity. Over the years, it has launched movies, music, theme parks and even a Broadway musical. And to think that it all started on Mulberry Street!

I’ve been fond of Dr. Seuss’ many stories for as long as I can remember, something I have in common with almost everyone in the whole world now. Of the forty something books published by him, I think my favorite Dr. Seuss book would have to be Green Eggs and Ham. I remember when the teacher read it to our class when I was in kindergarten and afterwards we actually had green eggs and ham for lunch! Plus, it’s amazing that it was only 50 words long and still such a great story.

Judith and Neil Morgan did such a wonderful job capturing the life of this whimsical, iconic man. Their descriptions paint such beautiful pictures in your mind and I was so pleased that they obviously did their homework when researching Mr. Geisel. Not only did the interview countless people who knew him but they also dug up tons of information that I didn’t know (like he was a part of the war effort making wartime cartoons, Gerald McBoing-Boing was his idea, and he was co-founder of the Random House Beginners Books). They were also friends and neighbors so I doubt anyone else could have captured him so well.

Related Posts: Dr. Seuss Animated Adaptations, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, & Halloween is Grinch Night

Links: Dr. Seuss (Wikipedia), Dr. Seuss Wiki (wikia), The Animated Seuss (Animated Views), Dr. Seuss' Art (American Archives), Fansite (Fanpop), Obituary, Cake Challenge
Official Sites: Dr. Seuss Memorial & Seussville



Friday, November 7, 2008

Anywhere is Possible

From the director of The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith comes the evolution of extreme - a high-powered shot of adrenaline that stretches the very limits of imagination. Next stop: Anywhere! David Rice is a young man who knows no boundaries - a Jumper, born with the uncanny ability to teleport instantly to any place on Earth. When he discovers others like himself, David is thrust into the midst of an ancient war while being hunted by a bloodthirsty band of zealots sworn to destroy all Jumpers. Now, David's extraordinary gift may be his only hope for survival!
Title: Jumper
Release: February 14, 2008
Genre: Action-Adventure/ Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: Jumper by Steven Gould
Writer: David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls, & Simon Kinberg
Director: Doug Liman
Music By: John Powell
Produced By: Simon Kinberg, Lucas Foster, Jay Sanders, & Stacy Maes
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 90 minutes
Official Site

Science fiction author Steven Gould published his first full-length novel Jumper in 1992 about a guy who learns he can teleport at will. Sixteen years and two sequels later, 20th Century Fox produced a film adaptation of Gould’s work starring Hayden Christensen (David Rice), Samuel L. Jackson (Roland), Jamie Bell (Griffin), and Rachel Bilson (Millie).

Advertised as “epic” with great locations, neat special effects, and an interesting storyline, Jumper disappointedly, doesn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounded it when it first came out. Despite the fact that it was number one at the box office for a while (which led to a video game being produced too), the fact remains that the trailer was almost better than the film. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it because I really did! Doug Liman is one of the best directors of action-packed films and Hayden Christensen makes a great anti-hero. I guess I was just expecting that “epic”-ness that the cast kept talking about in interviews.

Still, I was very impressed with most of the movie. The cast was great and anti-hero David’s ability was one of the most interesting I’ve ever heard of, not to mention the fact that because of that ability, Jumper was filmed all over the world: Prague, Paris, Egypt, Japan, and even Rome- yes, that is the real Coliseum too. Oh and there is also a really cool car chase and fight scenes where David (Christensen) and Griffin (Bell) fight the Paladins and even each other!

The end of the film kind of leaves it open as to whether or not there will be a sequel (Mr. Gould wrote two more in this series) and there have recently been talk about a Jumper 2 being filmed. Millie (Bilson) is supposed to have a bigger and better part and be less of a damsel in distress (she does hold her own sometimes but when it comes right down to it, she’s there to be rescued), so I’m hoping it won’t take too long to make. Even though I thought this film could have been better and maybe a little stronger as an opening in a continued film franchise, I will still be in line to see the next one whenever it comes out.

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com, ReelzChannel
Interview: Hayden Christensen (ET)

Trailer:


Premiere:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making the Magic Real

Unleashing every ounce of Disney magic, 101 Dalmatians thrills audiences of all ages with fast-paced adventure and comedy -- featuring a brilliant performance by five-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close (including Best Actress, Dangerous LIASONS, 1988) as Cruella De Vil. Achieving new heights of hilarity, Disney's all-time classic puppy tale comes to life as a worldwide box office sensation. In their small London flat, Dalmatians Pongo and Perdy, and their human "pets" Roger and Anita, are overjoyed by the arrival of 15 puppies. But when the spotted-fur-loving Ms. De Vil and her clumsy cohorts, Jasper and Horace, dognap the litter -- along with every other Dalmatian pup in London -- Pongo and Perdy must rally the town's animals to the rescue. The plan hurls them towards a thrilling climax filled with uproarious moments as the puppies attempt to outwit their captors and bring on a final showdown with Cruella!

Packed with one of the largest and cutest collections of puppies ever brought to film, 101 Dalmatians also features a superb cast of talented humans, including Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson and Joan Plowright.
Title: 101 Dalmatians
Release: November 18, 1996
Genre: Family
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Writer: John Hughes
Director: Stephen Herek
Music By: Michael Kamen
Produced By: John Hughes
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures
Run Time: 103 minutes
Official Site

In 1961, the Walt Disney Company brought Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatian’s to the screen in beautiful Technicolor animation. Thirty-five years later, they brought it back in a new format: live-action. Although this first live action 101 Dalmatians film claims to be based on Ms. Smith’s story, it is actually based on the original Disney animated creation, including using dialogue directly from it.

Marc Davis was one of Walt Disney’s best animators and one of the original Nine Old Men but he also happened to be the creator of one of the scariest villainesses of all time: Cruella de Vil. Even though Dodie Smith did create her first, Davis gave her a different look, a more flamboyant attitude and in my opinion, made her even scarier. How anyone would ever be able to impersonate her in a live action film was going to be a challenge, if not down right impossible, yet Glenn Close took Cruella to a completely new level. Sure, she’s not as amazing as the animated Cruella, but she almost is. However, she’s still not the star of the film… that would be the Dalmatian’s themselves.

Another thing the film had going for it, besides the cuteness of the Dalmatian puppies, is the comedy. At times, it even has a bit of a Home Alone feel to it but that is no great surprise since the director of this film, Stephen Herek was also the director of those movies. One of the people who is the comedy relief team in the film has actually become very well known today by playing the main character in the TV show House. Yes, Hugh Laurie plays Jasper (although it has been said he was offered Roger’s part) with little of his sharp, cutting wit, but his presence is definitely felt whenever he is on screen and no one, not even Cruella herself dwarfs that.

There is a good reason why the motto of Hollywood is “never work with children or animals”, but films in which an animal is a main character have usually done well in theaters. There was just no way that audiences would be able to stay away from a film with so many animals (there were over 200 Dalmatians alone) in it. I know for a fact that I’ve always been a sucker for Disney dog movies myself, add in the fact that there are supposed to be 101 Dalmatians (some are computer animated, which is kind of obvious when viewing it today) not to mention the cows, raccoons, sheep, and other dogs… you could easily have a disaster on your hands but instead this film was one of the highest grossing movies of 1996. It even helped a couple of sequels (one live action, one animated) as well as an animated TV series be made too.

Related Posts: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com
Interview: Glenn Close on Charlie Rose Show 11-28-96 (video 2:00-21:55 min.)

Trailer:


Cruella Behind the Scenes:

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