• Books,  Fitness,  TV

    Sunday Salon: January Catch-up

    Sunday Salon

    Hello, everyone! It’s been a busy time for me, both with work and personally. I have been recovering from this cough that I’ve had for a month. It was very cold earlier in the month, but we had a milder week. Still, I’ve felt a touch of the January blues with my work load and personal responsibilities.

    Today, I am going to read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

    Yesterday, I went on my first run in about 5-6 weeks. It felt good, but the last 1km of the 6km was a bit tiring! I hope to get back to shape for my first 10km race in two months time. I started swimming lessons which were really difficult for me. I didn’t go this week, but I really hope I get proficient soon as I want to become at least decent at it.

    In book news, I read Georgette Heyer’s The Talisman Ring over a week ago. It was average and had some nice Heyer moments, but nothing worth a blog post.

    This week, I watched Netflix’s Norwegian-American comedy show “Lilyhammer” based on a friend’s recommendation. It is quite funny and I enjoy watching a foreign show with a touch of American influence. Sometimes, it was a bit too violent and dark more than funny, but still entertaining.

    How is your January shaping up?

  • TV

    House of Cards

    This post reviews both the original UK “House of Cards” trilogy and season one of the American (2013) version.

    House of Cards Trilogy (1990-1995)

    The first series in this trilogy is a perfect miniseries. Francis Urquhart as played by Ian Richardson is one of the best antihero characters on TV. He is perfectly smooth, Machiavellian, and yet rootable for me. It is simply amazing how he played this part. It’s pitch perfect and nothing is wasted in the first series. I definitely think the first series is one of my favourite mini series ever and Urquhart is one of the most interesting TV characters.

  • Books,  TV

    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

    I had somewhat high expectations for this novel given how much I liked Agnes Grey and the style of Anne Bronte’s writing overall. I found my expectations were not quite met. In general, this is a good novel and like Grey, it is a very interesting view about Victorian marriage. As a proto-Feminist novel, I can appreciate it as well.

  • Monthly Movies,  TV

    Monthly Movies – January 2013

    The Dark Knight RisesBatman: The Dark Knight Rises (03 01 2013) – This was long. I think I got a headache from watching it. Batman (DCAU) is part of my childhood, but Nolan’s Batman will never be my Batman. I can’t imagine Batman giving up for eight years in seclusion or even saying goodbye to Alfred. Nolan really made sure Batman lost everything though: his money, his city, his identity, Afred, but I did like the ending of this film. This film felt like two films though. There was perhaps a little too much going. I thought the casting was great in all parts. I like Tom Hardy, but I wasn’t really in love with his Bane voice or his portrayal until the very end. Marion Cotillard is amazing in anything. But really, the stand out for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt whom I continue to adore and have since “Third Rock from the Sun”.

    A Young Doctor's NotebookA Young Doctor’s Notebook (17 01 2013) – This is a TV mini series. I don’t watch enough TV or movies nowadays for them to get separate posts. This four 22-minute episode series stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe playing older and younger versions of a Russian doctor the 1934 and 1917. It is based on stories written by Mikhail Bulgakov (one of Radcliffe’s favourite authors). The plot is rather thin, and it’s more a psychological analysis of the doctor. Hamm and Radcliffe talk to each other as the former reminiscences about his earlier self. It’s on the gory side and there are a couple of sexual situations (no nudity) with Radcliffe aka Harry Potter. While I don’t imagine Radcliffe when I read the Harry Potter books, he is still one version of Harry so it weirded me out to see him in those situations. Still, there is some really dark funny moments for it, but this series is not for everyone. The ending is dark which is typical of Russian literature. Not really a light series.

    ScandalScandal (22-23 01 13) – I watched all of season one and caught myself up to date with the episodes of season two. This is an addictive show, and I have not really liked Shonda’s writing, but her team is doing a decent job of the writing. The serialized procedural aspect is not often interesting and usually all about sex scandals. A couple of the characters are a bit flat. Of course with a lot of shows I watch, I overlook the writing for the actors. Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn have some best on TV. I am definitely an Olitz shipper. I also adore Olivia Pope’s wardrobe. Good show.

    Cloud Atlas (29-31 01 2013) – Movie and book review posted here.

    Notably Rewatched

    Sliding DoorsSliding Doors (earlier in January) -I skimmed this to all my favourite i.e. all the scenes with John Hannah. I’ve seen this film at least four times. I do see the gaps in the plot and the timeline, but it is a dramatic rom-com so I can’t be too hard on it. This is still the only movie where I find Paltrow tolerable, but is very thin in this movie.

  • TV

    Anime

    Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon
    Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon is copyright Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation and others.

    For the past month, I’ve been experiencing an anime revival in the sense that I have found opportunities to rewatch some of my favourite anime series. I thought this would be a good chance to explore my relationship with anime and all the ones I have watched.

    Most of the anime I’ve seen were first watched in the early 2000s which was the height of my anime phase. I was an adolescent with an anime past, curiosity, and the internet. In general, I have become quite picky about the animes I watch. I just need to find the time to track the series down and stick with it. I’ll watch an episode or two and I tend to know early on if it’s for me; I did use to be more open minded about the series I watched. Same with Asian dramas really, but when they are good, they are really good.

    Not all the animes in the following list are my favourites, but they are ones I stuck with for the whole series so that in itself is an achievement for me.

    If you’ll notice below, I watch a lot of female dominated series and movies. Part of the reason I go back to anime is the dominance of strong female protagonists and gender roles. Anime is the medium which fostered a whole genre about girls saving the world by being girls. For that reason, I do tend to go back to my favourites.

  • Books,  Movies,  TV

    Austen Adaptations

    Austen in August

    I love books, but I also really like film and TV. I have watched a lot of book to movie/TV adaptations over the years, some good, some bad, some not at all like the book but still enjoyable. I thought it would be fun to end “Austen in August” by sharing some of the adaptations of Austen’s works that I have seen over the years. For most classic novels, the best adaptations are usually for the TV as the production has the best time to adapt and develop the characters, but there are a couple of very good feature film productions in this list as well.

    This is by no means a complete list. Some of the ones pre-1980 are harder to track down, and while I know many are uploaded on Youtube, I could not find the time this month to watch all the ones I hadn’t seen this month.

    To save additional space, I did not include the modern reinterpretation of the books such as Clueless for Emma, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Bride and Prejudice for Pride and Prejudice.

  • TV

    Sungkyunkwan Scandal

    My first post about an Asian Drama. In the last year, I have watched and enjoyed Asian Dramas more. While I have watched them growing up, it was only recently that I actively sought and enjoyed them. I don’t watch a lot of them and there have been months where I don’t watch one. I am familiar with some Chinese dramas. I mostly watch Korean dramas now, but veer away from melodramas and like romantic comedies kind such as Lie to Me, Princess Hours, Coffee Prince, and Playful Kiss to name my favourites. I do like ones with more action and politics such as last year’s City Hunter.

    S-Scandal

    I started watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal or S-Scandal (2010) in anticipation of Rooftop Prince, both star Mickey YooChun and because of the premise of S-Scandal involves girl posing as a boy. This is a very typical Asian drama trope that I usually enjoy; Twelfth Night is one of my favourite Shakespeare comedies too. I also have never seen a Joseon koran drama or sageauk in full so I thought I should begin somewhere.

    This was really good and addictive as k-dramas should be. It had romance, action, suspense, comedy, and political intrigue. It also had even more good looking guys than usual. It was almost a reverse harem. I liked most of the guys, even the unblinking villainous one who only ever showed like two sides. I liked the drama seemed to be an ensemble one and had a lot of characters of various ages. Though, I do feel that some of the characters didn’t get enough depth and their endings were swept aside.

  • TV

    The Borigas Season 1

    The Borgias

    I knew Jeremy Irons was in this series, but Derek Jackobi and Colm Feore too? That pushed me into watching and also seeing a snippet of some of the production values. Though, they aren’t the only reasons I stayed.

    I don’t watch a lot of Showtime shows (Homeland was the other one I watched and liked recently), but I know they made this one to replace The Tudors essentially. I saw a few eps of The Tudors and while it its highs (James Frain, Natalie Dormer), it didn’t keep my focus and made me a bit bored by Jonathan Rhys Meyers whom I actually liked more before seeing him in The Tudors. I digress.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jeremy Irons in anything. Whenever I think of him, my mind goes to Brideshead Revisited and The Man in the Iron Mask (a guilty pleasure film for me). For some reason, I keep thinking him as the men in those films so watching him play an aging Pope was surprising at first. I think his acting is solid for the most part, but there were some times when he seemed to be slurring and inconsistent. When he was good, he was good though. Derek Jackobi is only in the first episode which is a bit of a waste. As for Colm Feore, he’s in the whole series, but his character is quite dour and scared half the time. I do like Feore; he’s got a reputation in Canada. He has a full frontal nudity shot in this series which is a bit random and surprising. I didn’t expect to see that much of him.

    All that said, the actor that I stayed for is Francois Arnaud who plays Cesare Boriga. He is perhaps the star of this series as he steals your attention even in scenes with the venerable Jeremy Irons. When I first saw him, he looked so familiar to me. Maybe I had seen him in some Quebec production or maybe he just looks so French-Canadian. He has a lot of chemistry with the rest of the cast and strangely enough, he huamnized his character too much. Cesare Borgia is a sociopath and in real life, probably was a psychopath. Jordan and Arnaud have portrayed him as less psycho than history has, making him more conflicted and a tad emo (in a good way). Usually, historical characters are made worse. In this case, he is a lot better, but still disconcerting knowing how Cesare will become worse and worse. Arnaud has a lot of chemistry with Holliday Grainger who plays his sister Lucrezia Borgia. She is also excellently cast and even looked 14 at the beginning of the series. Cesare/Arnaud has chemistry with everyone except perhaps his intended love interest Urusula. I blame this somewhat on the actress, but mostly on the bad writing of the relationship.

    All in all, a well acted and well designed series. The writing is not the tightest, but it’s vastly better than The Tudors or the terrible Camelot (yes I saw and those are hours i will never get back; still love you Eva Green). One last thing, I love the opening credits of this series. It’s snippets of the show interlaced with Renaissance art. It’s gorgeous and done with really good music. It is also a bit funny because I always smile when the goat appears. Most shows nowadays don’t do proper opening credits and even when they do, they aren’t that good.

    The opening credits for this show:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOoVtI9x91U

    Watched 27-29 February 2012.