Friday, May 08, 2015

Brave New World Movie, Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi and Three DVD Movies

 I read Brave New World when I was a teenager in the 1970s, and I remember being moved by the story and by all the other dystopian literature I was reading at the time. I saw a TV movie of the book years ago, and I didn't like it because it changed some things about the story that made it effective. Now that Spielberg has gotten ahold of it, though, I find myself hoping that this version will shine like the book.

Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television is adapting Aldous Huxley's Brave
New World
as a scripted series for the Syfy network, the Hollywood Reporter wrote.
The screenplay will be written by Les Bohem (Taken). Amblin TV
co-presidents Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey will executive produce with

"Brave New World is one of the most influential genre classics of all
time," said Syfy president Dave Howe. "Its provocative vision of a
future gone awry remains as powerful and as timeless as ever."

I still have my copy of this book, Station Eleven, on my TBR pile, as I haven't been able to get past page 75, though I keep going back and trying to read it without falling asleep. That said, I will try for a third time, now that the novel has won the Arthur C Clarke Award, as I was a huge Clarke fan in my teens and early twenties.

Emily St. John Mandel's novel Station Eleven won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction,
the Guardian reported. Chair of the judges Andrew M. Butler commented:
"While many post-apocalypse novels focus on the survival of humanity,
Station Eleven focuses instead on the survival of our culture, with the
novel becoming an elegy for the hyper-globalized present."

This book sounds fascinating! I love Shakespeare, but had no idea that Henry Folger was such a character!
Review: The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio
 In 1889, an oil refinery clerk who loved the works of Shakespeare went
into a Manhattan auction house and purchased a Fourth Folio of the
bard's plays, printed in 1685, for $107.50. Thus begins Andrea Mays's
captivating The Millionaire and the Bard, a chronicle of the buyer,
Henry Folger, and his lifelong pursuit of First Folios--a First being
the "most valuable English-language book in the world."

To begin, Mays unfolds in fascinating detail the story of how the book
miraculously came about. While Shakespeare lived, copies of his plays
were "ephemeral amusements not serious literature." Seven years after he
died in 1616, two actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell--the "two most
unsung heroes in the history of English literature"--decided to collect
their friend's plays and publish them on durable rag paper folded only
once. At this time only 18 had been published (in quarto form), 18 had
not--these included Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night and Macbeth. They
gathered theatrical prompt books and quartos, picked other actors'
memories and used "possibly, tantalizingly, some of Shakespeare's own
manuscripts." If they hadn't been able to round up copies of these
plays, who would be saying "Out, damn'd spot!" and other priceless

Printing the First Folio involved different compositors, so there were
numerous textual variants from one copy to another. The actors sold the
First for £1; buyers had to bind it themselves. They sold out of
the approximately 750 copies by 1632, so they ordered a reprint (with
more variants). Mays notes that Henry Folger bought his first First, a
poor copy, around 1893, and then another in 1896, for $4,500. He bought
the last of his 82 folios in 1928 for $68,750, the most he ever paid for
one. How could he afford this?

That is the other fascinating aspect of Mays's story. Folger was "kind,
humorous and unpretentious," the president and later the chairman of
Standard Oil, one of the Gilded Age's richest men. Born to wealth, he
was a nephew to the founder of Folger's Coffee, maintained many good
connections and endeared himself to John D. Rockefeller when Folger was
still a clerk--a relationship that eventually launched him to the top of
the company. He loved books in general, but he was obsessed with
Shakespeare. Mays chronicles Folger's lifelong fervor to own Shakespeare
materials; his library includes the only 1594 quarto of Titus Andronicus
known to the world. He often competed with other wealthy collectors and
libraries, and he had quite a spat with his "nemesis and lifelong
literary irritant," the Shakespeare bibliographer Sidney Lee. He
eventually built the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., to
house his library and voluminous collection; it opened April 23,
1932--Shakespeare's 368th birthday, nearly two years after Folger's
death. This is a great story, wonderfully told, that book lovers,
readers and collectors will savor. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

A few weeks ago I bought three movies on DVD from a huge collection at an estate sale, and I watched them all over last weekend. The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant stars Alex O'Loughlin, one of my all-time favorite actors from Moonlight and Hawaii Five 0. Granted, he's a gorgeous Australian who looks fantastic without his shirt on, but he's proven time and again that he's more than just a pretty face in movies (Plan B) and TV shows here in America. According to the blurb on the cover of the DVD, this was a miniseries in Australia, so a young Alex O was on his home turf here, in this story of a woman who was willing to go to great lengths to gain freedom and a better life for herself and her two children. Romola Garai plays Mary, who steals bread and money when living in England, and is sent to a new penal colony in Australia, Botany Bay, as a result. Of course the months-long trip by boat is hellacious, and though she manages to become the cabin-girl of the ships captain, he throws her back into steerage when he learns she's pregnant. While in the stinking bowels of the ship, Mary meets William Bryant, (Alex O) who is sassy and beautiful and actually seems to care about her and her baby. Once in Botany Bay, the horrible British officers from the ship use the prisoners as slaves to plant crops that fail in the blazing heat and to build shelters on the beach. Mary marries Will, and becomes pregnant again, but of course she hatches a plan to become the officer from the ship's 'kept woman' so that she can gain access to food stores, weapons and a boat to take herself and Will and several other prisoners out of Botany Bay and to a small Island that has been colonized by the French. Romola Garai, while a competent actress, has a 'gasping fish' look that she uses way too often to portray everything from surprise to horror to happiness. Though the prisoners nearly die, they finally make it to the French Island, where they claim to be shipwreaked British nobles, and thereby get clean clothing and good food. However, the British ships officer, now pissed off that he's been duped, searches constantly for Mary until he finds the group, and hunts them down, killing Will in the process. When he finally finds Mary and her two children, he rounds them up, along with two other prisoners who didn't manage to get themselves shot, and they all sail back to England, where bitter British officer hopes to get them hanged for stealing a boat and escaping (but mainly for injuring his pride, as he was duped into believing that Mary actually cared for him, when she was just using him.) Word of Mary's daring exploits gets out, (and the fact that she loses both her children to disease on the voyage back to England) and there's a groundswell of sympathy for her, even at the trial. The judge, though finding Mary and her two fellow prisoners guilty, pardons them all after Mary's impassioned speech about how much she sacrificed to be free and to try and find a better life for her children. Unfortunately, the films producers don't let us know what happened to Mary after she was pardoned, whether she lead a good life, remarried or died soon after, but I certainly enjoyed this peek into Australian history. I'd give this film an A, with the caveat that it's a bit of a soap opera.

Evening has an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer, Clare Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close, and Patrick Wilson. It's a story told in flashbacks of a dying woman who (Redgrave) who regrets not marrying Patrick Wilson's doctor, with whom she had a one-night stand that ended in tragedy, when her drunk-but-rich date, brother of her best friend Lila, gets hit by a car and dies after she rejects his drunken proposal of marriage. All the flashbacks are in the 50s, and it switches back to current day when Redgrave's daughters try to deal with their mothers impending death. I must say that I found this film somewhat confusing, as it seemed to lurch from moment to moment and there didn't seem to be much of a purpose to it all, unless it was to say that you should marry whom you want to, and damn the conventions of the time. A sad and rambling film, I'd give it a B.
Moondance Alexander is a kind of Pippi Longstocking combined with Anne of Green Gables and horses movie, all "inspired by a true story." It stars a chunky and grumpy Don Johnson (oh how the mighty have fallen since his days as sleek Sonny Crocket on Miami Vice), a ditzy Lori Loughlin and the spunky teenager Kay Panabaker as "Moondance Alexander," so named by her hippy artist mother.
Moondance, unsurprisingly, doesn't fit in her high school, as she's considered wierd not just due to her unusual name, but also because she dresses oddly, is very spunky and positive and cheerful, and she's poor because she comes from a single parent household and rides her bike everywhere making deliveries for the town shopkeeper, played by this old character actor who used to be on the TV show Green Acres back in the 60s. One day, 15 year old Moondance encounters a pinto pony on the road, and she names him Checkers and tries to convince her mother to allow her to keep him, only to find out that Don Johnson actually owns the horse on his ranch. Moondance gets him to agree to let her work cleaning his stables and caring for his horses in exchange for riding lessons, and it comes to light that Checkers can actually jump, unlike most horses of his type. So Moondance enters him in a local competition with many purebred horses and snobby riders, girls from her class in school who have been riding competitively for years. But of course Johnson, though bitter about losing his daughter, teaches Moondance and Checkers how to be champions in record time, and though the judges have never seen a pinto pony in their high flautin' competition before, the unlikely underdogs win the day, and everyone cheers! Though the story is predictable, and Moondance's relentlessly cheerful attitude gets on your nerves by the end, this is still a fun family film that makes some good points about being different, fitting in and finding your place in the world under unusual circumstances.
Ignite me by Tahereh Mafi is the final book in this dystopian series that began with "Shatter Me." Here's the blurb:
With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn't know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won't keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that's not all he wants with her.
The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as "a gripping read from an author who's not afraid to take risks." Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end. 
First of all, if you've read the first two books in this series, the ending isn't at all shocking, it's rather anticlimactic, because this is what Juliette has been heading for since the first book. What is surprising is that Warner, the abused, damaged, twisted and psychotic son of the insane, evil leader of the Reestablishment is now presented as a totally misunderstood, gorgeous boyfriend who loves Juliette and helps her friends work together to take down his father and his regime. It's also surprising, and heartening that Juliette finally stops being a wimpy, whiny self-pitying waste of space, and actually learns to use her powers, takes the reins of her life and becomes a super heroine. And just in time to save the world!
She is of course disappointed when she learns Adam is a jealous jerk,bent on destroying his half brother Warner (which is totally understandable from his perspective, as Warner tortured him and killed countless others under the command of his father. But since Juliette now loves Warner, we are all supposed to forgive and embrace him as perfect), but she rallys all the super-natural talents together anyway, and they form an assault on Anderson that is miraculously effective, considering he has all of the troops, money and power on his side. Still, evil never wins, and our heroine kills Anderson and vows to rebuilt her world with Warner at her side. Though the plot is totally improbable, I liked this book the best out of any of the books in the series. There were fewer long descriptions of love and touch and sex in this book, fortunately, and there was more action and reaction with the various characters. The HEA ending could have used more "what happens next" but it was still satisfying. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend the series to those who liked The Hunger Games.

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