Category Archives: Fairy Tales

Kiss of the Spindle Book Review

The nice thing about fairy tales is that the stories are simple. Writers have been adapting fairy tales for generations because of the simplicity of the narrative and the basic elements of the characters.

Last year, Kiss of the Spindle, by Nancy Campbell Allen, was published. A sort of steampunk Sleeping Beauty, the book takes place in alternative universe of 19th century England. Dr. Isla Cooper is cursed. When the clock strikes midnight, she falls into a death like sleep that lasts until six am the next morning. She has a year to find the witch that cursed her and remove it before the year is up. It is nearly a year to the day that she was cursed.

Bribing her way onto Daniel Pickett’s ship whose destination is the Caribbean, she finds that she is not only passenger with questionable motives. Three shape shifters and a disliked government official are also on board. Isla and Daniel agree to work together to keep the shape shifters safe while fighting their own demons and realizing that there is a mutual attraction blossoming between them.

I rarely read romance novels. Depending on the novel and the writer, I find them to be formulaic and the characters predictable. But this novel is different. I loved that the female lead was strong, smart and capable. She was not looking for a man, as many female leads in this genre are. I also loved the concept of taking a story that we all know and turning it on it’s head.

I recommend it.

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Harry and Meghan: Privacy or No Privacy, That is The Question

When one is a part of a royal family, one’s life is not your own. You have responsibilities to the people whom you rule. A private life is a concept that is nearly foriegn to you.

When Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle last year, it seemed like a fairy tale. That fairy tale was completed two months ago with the birth of their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Last week, the baby was christened in a private ceremony in front of family and friends.

Unlike his cousins, Archie was not presented to the press and royal fans after the christening. Many in Britain are not happy, claiming that because their tax dollars fund the royal family, they are entitled to some access.

I am honestly torn on this topic. As a taxpayer, I understand the average Briton’s frustration about not being able to see the fruits of their hard earned tax dollars. However, I also understand that Harry and Meghan are looking to protect their son, like any good parent.

Harry grew up in the spotlight, I am sure that he understands it’s pitfalls. In her former line of work as a performer, Meghan was in the spotlight because it was part of her job. Archie, like his father, did not ask to be born into the British royal family. He did not ask to be world famous the moment he entered this world. He did not ask for the spotlight. But it is on him and it is up to his parents to make sure that their son grows up healthy and happy.

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Thoughts On the Mulan Teaser Trailer

In 1998, Disney broke ground with the release of Mulan. Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, the movie told the story of the eponymous character who dresses as a boy and takes her elderly father’s place during wartime.

The teaser trailer for the live action reboot was released today.

Back then, Mulan (Ming Na-Wen) was a revolutionary character, especially among the Disney Princesses. Unlike other Disney Princesses, her main goal was not men, marriage and eventual children, in spite of the message that was shoved at her in every form possible. Her journey was that of a warrior who was defending her country while trying to figure out who she was.

It is that message, that I think, then and now still resonates with audiences.

This new live adaptation is directed by Niki Caro, whose previous films have featured strong women making tough decisions. Three of the four screenwriters are female. The cast is made up of Asian actors, properly reflecting the world that the characters live in. And yes, there will be some musical elements, but those details are being kept under wrap for now.

As expected, Disney is keeping certain information under wraps until the film is released in March of next year. These live action adaptations straddle a fine line. They have to honor their animated predecessor (and the original fairy tale, if there is one), while reflecting the cultural changes that have occurred since the original film was released.

We can only wait and see when the film is released next year.

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Thoughts On the Casting of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

I am a natural redhead. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was hard to find on screen characters who looked like me. Among the handful who I could look to as inspiration was Ariel (Jodi Benson) in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.

Over the last few years, Disney has rebooted their beloved animated films into live action films. The newest addition to this trend is the live reboot of The Little Mermaid with Halle Bailey stepping into the fins of Disney’s first modern Princess.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this casting. While I applaud Disney for choosing an actress of color to play the role, my heart is still wedded to the idea that Ariel is a redhead. When your growing up and you look different from your peers, you look to film and television characters who look like you. When I was a kid, that was Ariel. As an adult, I don’t agree with her narrative, but her image and the impression she made back then are still with me to this day.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the casting?

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Even Disney Princesses Deal With Crippling Mental Illness

Mental illness affects millions of people around the world. And yet, it feels like you are the only one who suffers.

Recently, Frozen star Patti Murin spoke about her battles with mental illness.

It takes courage, especially if one is in the spotlight, to reveal this very human aspect of themselves. We often elevate celebrities and performers to an almost g-d like state, forgetting that they are human and go through the same things that every human goes through.

I have to admit that I have no impetus to see Frozen on stage. The 2013 animated film was more than enough for me. However, I do admire Ms. Murin for having the courage to go public and talk about a subject that is very personal. My hope is that she inspires anyone who suffers from mental illness to get help so they can live a full and healthy life.

We continue to lose too many to mental illness. If her coming out has saved even one life, then it is worth more than all of the gold, jewels and treasures that this world has to offer.

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Aladdin Movie Review

I will try to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but if you have not seen the movie, I will not be bothered if you only read this review after you have been to the movie theater.

Hollywood has been addicted to reboots since it’s inception. Over the past few years, Disney has added to the general idea of reboots by releasing live action versions of their classic animated films. The most recent film in this sub-genre is Aladdin.

Like it’s 1992 animated predecessor, the film is set in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern city. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is an orphan who lives by the seat of his pants and whatever food he can steal. One day, he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is Princess of Agrabah. Locked in the palace, she yearns for freedom and escapes to the anonymity of the Agrabah marketplace.

Aladdin is roped into Grand Vizier Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) plan to find a mysterious lamp in a mythical cave. But Jafar is less than honest and leaves Aladdin to die. Inside the cave, Aladdin meets Genie (Will Smith), who offers him the possibilities that he could have only imagined of before.

When the original film was released back in 1992, I was a child and had a completely different view than I do now as an adult. Director Guy Ritchie surprised me. I’ve never seen any of his previous films, but based on the trailers, I can’t say that any of them were aimed at or appropriate for the audience that typically sees a Disney film. However, Ritchie and his creative team were able to create a film that is an homage to its predecessor while standing on it’s own two feet.

Two major changes that from my perspective elevated this film from the 1992 animated film was the expansion of Jasmine as a character and the casting of actors whose ethnic background matches the ethnicity of the characters. Instead of just giving lip service to feminism, Jasmine is truly a character in her own right. Not only does she wear more clothes, but she is more than arm candy to the man who she will potentially call husband. In the casting for this movie, the actors who were ultimately chosen are of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. The specific choice of actors adds a level of authenticity that is lacking in the 1992 film.

Speaking of changes to the film, I was very impressed with Will Smith’s version of Genie. Robin Williams’s performance a quarter of a century ago can never be duplicated. However, Smith is able to put his own spin on the character while showing respect to Williams’s Genie.

Though the film is over two hours, it does not fee like it is over two hours. The narrative has a nice pace and the musical sequences fit in nicely with the overall story.

If I had one takeaway from this film (as was the same takeaway from the 1992 film), it was that being yourself is the most important thing and you should never change who you are to please someone else.

I recommend it.

Aladdin is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On the New Aladdin Trailer

Reboots have been the rage in Hollywood since the beginning of Hollywood. Over the last few years, Disney has capitalized on this reboot fever by releasing live action remakes of their classic animated films. With the success of The Jungle Book in 2016 and Beauty and the Beast in 2017, some might say that they are using nostalgia as a way to fill up movie theaters.

This week, the complete trailer for the live action reboot of Aladdin was released.

 

I have to admit that I am impressed with the trailer. It looks like a fun movie, even though a part of me will always love the 1992 animated film. I appreciate that the cast is ethnically accurate to the world that Aladdin is set in. Stepping into the animated shoes created in 1992 by Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin are Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott.  I am also impressed by Will Smith as Genie. Though he will never be able to replace Robin Williams’s version of the character, I have a feeling that Smith will bring his own unique sensibilities and flair to Genie.

Will I be seeing the movie when it hits theaters in the spring? The answer is likely yes.

 

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Book Review

Not everyone is blessed with the ability to easily interact with others. For some of us, the scariest thing we can do is talk to people.

In the 2017 novel, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, the title character, Eleanor Oliphant is not exactly a social butterfly. Awkward with a capital A, Eleanor often blurts out what she is thinking, has no social life and keeps to her regimented weekly schedule as if she was in the military. The only conversations she has are the most basic greetings with her colleagues and her weekly phone conversations with her mother, which are not exactly the most uplifting.

Then she meets Raymond, the new hire in her company’s IT department. Raymond is as awkward as Eleanor is. When they save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on sidewalk, something changes for her. With the help of her friendship with Raymond, she may learn to move on from her past and open her heart.

This book was recommended to me by a friend. It is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. From nearly the moment that I started reading this book, I knew who Eleanor was because I understood her. It’s nice to read about a heroine who lives with social anxiety, mental illness and emotional hardships that come with carrying the weight of those obstacles on your shoulders. I also appreciated that Raymond is not a paragon of perfection, a prince charming type who “rescues” the heroine by seeing her inner beauty.

I absolutely recommend it.

P.S. The book is being made into a movie. Reese Witherspoon is one of the producers. This is one movie that  I will be waiting in line on opening weekend to see.

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Throwback Thursday-Beauty (1998)

The story of Beauty and the Beast is familiar one. It’s therefore, understandable that many writers have tried their hand at adapting the story.

In the 1998 Lifetime TV movie, Beauty, the eponymous Beauty is Alix Miller (Janine Turner). A portrait painter by trade, Alix has followed her father into the family business. When her father gets sick and is unable to take the next job, Alix takes his place. The client or Beast is the reclusive writer Lee Compton (Jamey Sheridan). Lee has been disfigured by a disease and has chosen to withdraw from the rest of the world. This piece of information is unknown to Alix until she takes the job, but being the professional that she is, she goes on with her work. Their relationship shifts from painter and client to potential lovers, but Lee’s anxieties may keep them apart.

As Lifetime movies go, this television movie is not bad. I also appreciate that this adaptation is a stripped down, bare bones narrative that gets the core of Beauty and the Beast without relying on the more traditional aspects of the fairy tale genre.

I recommend it.

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The Sisters of the Winter Wood Book Review

For many, fairy tales form the basis of our literary knowledge. The question is, can the fairy tale speak to us or is just magical rubbish?

The new book, The Sisters of the Winter Wood, by Rena Rossner is the story of two teenage sisters, Liba and Laya. The sisters live with their parents in an isolated village in Eastern Europe around the turn of the 20th century.

Like many a teenage girl, Laya gets involved with a mysterious group of men whom her mother has warned her against. In addition to these mysterious men, the woods beyond their home adds another level of danger. As the evil around them draws closer, Liba and Laya uncover a generations old family secret that could save not just their family, but their village.

I appreciate a fairy tale that goes beyond the basics of the narrative. I also appreciate when the writer is able to incorporate real life historical events and the everyday lives of the real people who lived in the period that the story is based in. In addition, I appreciated the relationship between the sisters, which was the love story in the book.  However, I did not like this book.

I struggled with it from the beginning and even when I got into it, I still had trouble with both the narrative and the characters. I was not able to get as hooked into the story as I hoped I would be.

Do I recommend  it? Not really.

 

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