Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Well, I'm back. Back to the real world and my poor old Muggle life. And boy am I already missing life at Hogwarts. 

For those of you who haven't already heard, I crammed into a car with my friends Andy, Mark, Tina and Andrew and headed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. Well, and four other theme parks, but those take a back seat to the amazing sights of Universal Studios' take on Hogwarts. If you haven't been able to visit it yourself, let me say . . . it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And I'm really not exaggerating here. Granted, I'm a Harry Potter SUPER FAN, but even those who are not as obsessed with Rowling's phenomenon as I am (it would be very difficult to feature my level of fandom) would have to be impressed by the precision and detail that went into this amazing attraction. 

This is the first view you get of the Hogwarts as you approach. The ride within - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - is as fun as it is detailed, taking you on a tour of the castle and catapulting you into the wonderful world of wizards.

Even the signs are beautiful, reminiscent of a real life English village. It makes you feel like you're really there. 

Check out the Hogwarts Express as you enter Hogsmeade and imagine what it'd be like the see it from the magnificent Platform 9 3/4.

You get a terrific view of Hagrid's Hut and the hippogriff Buckbeak in the line for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride. 

Inside Hogwarts is just as impressive as outside. There are portraits with moving inhabitants, the Sorting Hat, and of course . . . the phoenix gargoyle outside Dumbledore's office. 

Perhaps my favorite part was getting to look in the window and peak inside the shops of Hogsmeade. Honeyduke and Zonkos. Gladrags Wizard Wear and Ollivanders. It's incredible. 

My favorite store was Honeydukes. I definitely overspent on Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans. But you know what - totally worth it. 

And don't miss trying the Butterbeer at The Hog's Head. We bought the souvenir mugs and got cheap refills all day. Did I mention it was one of the best drinks I've ever tasted? P.s. The Pumpkin Juice was also amazing. Wizards have the best drinks!

I loved getting to see Mr. Weasley's flying car nestled in the woods. Too bad we didn't get to see it fly. Maybe next time . . . 

You can send postcards via the Owlery (and get a Hogsmeade postmark stamp on them too!).

And buy the wand of all your favorite Harry Potter characters! My friend Andy bought Cedric Diggory's (because, for whatever reason, he considers himself a Hufflepuff). My boyfriend bough Sirius Black's (a terrific choice). And I of course bought the wand of my hero - Neville Longbottom. I wanted to buy Harry's too, but they're a tad on the expensive side. 

The highlight of the trip for me though was the shirts my friends and I made. We got hundreds of comments on them throughout the day. Check them out - Hogwart's Coat of Arms on the front (did you know that the motto written in Latin beneath the crest means "Never tickle a sleeping dragon"?), and our names and Harry Potter themed numbers on the back. If you look closely, there's something special about the names . . . 

There's so much more there that I wasn't able to capture on film. Like hearing Moaning Myrtle's wail in the girl's bathroom near The Three Broomsticks, and the Mandrakes' cries from the window of Dogweed and Deathcap. Every corner, wall and ceiling dripping with wizarding detail. It was nothing short of magical

Basically this was the trip of a lifetime. The chance to visit the place I've held dear for fifteen years. The place I visited in my head during those torturous high school years whenever I was sad and lonely. Or when I was bored at work and needed a fantastical break. It's the place I've dreamed about for so long, and last week I got to see it in person. 

And yes, I know that it's really just an amusement park designed to reap the financial benefits of Harry Potter fans who aren't ready to say goodbye to the story they've loved through seven books and eight movies. But with every loving detail they put into it, you can almost imagine, just for a minute, that you really are there. It's not everyone who gets a chance to enter a literary world that's meant so much to them. But for me it was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life and I can't wait to go back when they've completed the addition of Gringotts and Diagon Alley. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Peter Pan Syndrome

The body of an adult and the mind of a child - more commonly known as the Peter Pan Syndrome, and more personally known as My Life. I long ago decided that adulthood is overrated and determined to never lose track of my inner child. In fact, I like to think of my inner child as Peter's shadow - mischievous, occasionally troublesome, and lots and lots of fun. 

Which is why I've decided to indulge my Peter Pan-esque nature by taking a long-desired trip to Disney World, Universal Studios, Epcot, and . . . The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! That's right, I'm going to Hogwarts. Or I should say "we're" going to Hogwarts. Five friends, five days, and one MAGICAL vacation. 

This has been a dream of mine ever since I first heard they were building the Harry Potter theme park. Not to mention all the wonderful Disney attractions I haven't seen since I was four years old. And now I get to go with four of my closest friends! How lucky am I? 

Fortunately for me, all five of us suffer (or should I say benefit?) from the same Peter Pan Syndrome, so we can indulge our inner children to their hearts' content. So if you don't hear from me for a couple days, don't worry. I'll just be off in Never Neverland. 

See you soon!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Best and Worst Movie Remakes Blogfest

It's Friday and the perfect time for (yet another) blogfest! Brought to you by Stephen Tremp, Livia Peterson, Al Diaz and Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, today I'm partaking in the Best and Worst Movie Remakes Blogfest. Click here if you'd like to sign up. 

When Hollywood runs out of ideas (which seems to be all the time these days) they remake older films in order to capitalize on past ideas. For the record, there are so many remakes that I had to set some parameters for my list. They are as follows:

- No reboots. This is an entire different category. One I'm considering for another post. 
- I'm excluding bad remakes of movies I didn't really like in the first place (aka. Arthur). My list is made entirely of bad movies remade into good ones, or amazing movies remade into crappy ones. 
- No remakes of movies that were based on books (aka. The Great Gatsby). These are simply different interpretations of the same original text. 
- To keep things short, I've decided to only list my Top 5 favorite remakes for each category.

Okay, so those are the rules. Now let's get to the movies. Here is the list of what I consider the BEST and the WORST Hollywood film remakes . . .

The Good:
> The Italian Job (2010)  It was an average movie with awesome cars in the 60's. The remake stole the premise (and the Mini's) and made it better. 
> Ocean's 11 (2001)  See above. 
> Red Dawn (2012)  I liked the original and the remake of this one. 
> The A Team (2010)  I was a bit young for the original series, though I enjoyed the re-runs, but I thought the film (and the all-A's team of Neeson, Cooper, Jackson and Copley) was a terrific update of TV classic. 
> King Kong (2005)  I've always been a fan or classic monster films like King King, and I thought Jackson's adaptation did a fair job. 

The Bad:
> The Karate Kid (2010)  I hate when they adapt childhood classics. It almost never ends well. As in this case. 
> Manchurian Candidate (2004)  It wasn't the worst movie in the world. Mostly, I just it was kind of forgettable. 
> The Omen (2006)  There were some parts of this version of The Omen that I enjoyed, but in general it lacked the creep factor of the original. Only remake it if you can make it scarier. 
> Fame (2009)  It lacked the "hot lunch" scene. That bothered me. 
> Poseidon (2006)  Again, it wasn't awful. It just wasn't worthy of its large budget if it wasn't going to improve on the original. 

And The Really, Really Ugly:
> The Stepford Wives (2004)  Why? Why would you take a creeptastic film like The Stepford Wives and remake it into something campy and ridiculous? 
> Dark Shadows (2012)  See above. 
> Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2005)  For the love of God, STOP REMAKING CHILDHOOD CLASSICS. They're classics for a reason and do not need remaking. Ever. 
> Wicker Man (2006)  It's so bad it's amazing. Best bad movie I've ever seen. But as a remake, utterly abizmal. 
> Bewitched (2005)  It seems to me that Nicole Kidman just shouldn't remake movies. 

There you have it. My list of the best and worst Hollywood film remakes. And a few upcoming remakes. We'll see which list they wind up making. I hope to God they don't ruin some of my favorite movies. 

 > Lone Ranger
> Carrie 
> Robocop
> Dirty Dancing 
> Drop Dead Fred 
> Starship Troopers
> The Neverending Story 
> Time Bandits
> The Birds
> The Creature from the Black Lagoon 
> Highlander
> Lethal Weapon
> My Fair Lady
> Overboard 
> Romancing the Stone 
> Scarface
And the list goes on, and on, and on . . . 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The All Time Greatest Love Stories

The other day I was talking with some family friends about love stories. Which ones were the best, which should never have been written or filmed, etc. And I must admit, I was somewhat shocked by some of their answers, especially the answers that fell under the title “Greatest love story of ALL time”. I try not to criticize other people’s taste in books and films – I love movies like Lake Placid so I’ve got little room to judge – but there are some things that I simply cannot abide.

The Notebook? Seriously? This is the “greatest love story ever told”? You MUST be joking. Yes, many of my female friends (and a few male ones) actually claim to like The Notebook (why, I cannot say), but please for the love of god, never say that it’s the greatest love story ever told. Or really any other Nicholas Sparks book or movie for that matter.

And anything with a love triangle gets immediately crossed off the list as well. If you’re struggling with feelings for more than one person, it does NOT deserve the title of “greatest love story”.

Now, a few people mentioned Pride and Prejudice and The Princess Bride. This I can get behind. These are wonderful tales of love (and some of my favorite literary works). I would also accept tragic love classics like Casablanca, Romeo and Juliet or Gone with the Wind (book or movie). And I thought someone’s suggestion of Beauty and the Beast was pretty inspired – I enjoy a love story where the falling in love part happens before the make-over. If you fall for someone after they’ve been beautified, the validity of your feelings gets called into question [cough, My Fair Lady, Cinderella, etc., cough, cough.]

Still, I have to say that if we’re talking ALL TIME GREATEST love stories, the kind that demands all caps, only two come to mind.

Buff and Angel
Before Twilight and True Blood there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the greatest vampire love story ever written. What has become a clich├ęd, teen angst-ridden theme seems somehow more beautiful and unique in the hands of Joss Whedon. A vampire cursed with a soul, tortured by the brutality of his past, in love with a slayer, the one person destined to kill him. Two lovers never able to be together without risking the very soul that differentiates him from other demons and allows him to feel love. It’s both tragic and beautiful. Of course my opinion could be colored by my Whedonian obsession and childhood nostalgia (Buffy was my middle school hero), but to this day I still believe Buffy and Angel’s story is one of the greatest love story of all time.  

The Terminator
Spoilers. In 2029, Kyle Reese was given a photograph of Sarah Connor by her son, John. He fell in love with Sarah, staring at her photo, and traveled back in time to protect her, unknowingly conceiving a child in the one night they had together. A child that would later become the leader of the resistance . . . John Connor. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful love story – one that follows the paradoxical rules of time travel. And one that rips my heart right out each time I watch it. Now that is the mark of a great love story. 

“I came across time for you Sarah. I love you. I always have.” Beautiful. 

And those are the two love stories I consider the greatest of all times. Some might question why tragic love stories are often the greatest, but that's a question for another day . . . 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month and that means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by one of my favorite bloggers and author of the CassaFire series, Alex J. Cavanaugh

Today I'd like to take a moment first off to say congrats to all the survivors of the Blogging A Through Z challenge that just ended yesterday. It was an absolute blast, but at the same time very very draining. And for those of you whose blogs I didn't get around to, I'm so sorry. Between writing my own posts and being in and out of the hospital with my family every day, I was a little short on time this challenge. I wasn't sure I'd even get my act together to write this post, I was so tired when I finished up with my alphabetic frenzie. But alas I did, much to my own surprise. And I even came up with something (in the  very midst of my exhaustion, so don't expect too much) that I consider invaluable knowledge. 

Write for yourself. Write to please yourself first, and everyone else second. I'd like to say for yourself first and nobody else, but as a writer who's trying to get published via traditional means (and yes, I've considered self-publishing. That's a topic for another day), I have to keep my intended audience in mind or I may never crack my way into the industry.

But it's important, no matter what you're writing, to write for yourself. If you're blogging, don't worry about what people might comment. If you're completing a novel, write something you'd love to read. I've heard people say it before, but this past month, with the insanity of posting every single day and very little free time, it finally hit. 

Write for yourself. 

It's the only thing that counts.