Jeter

derek_jeter_record_gehrigBy the time this is posted, this moment will be long past. But right now, I’m sitting on my couch, my brother’s cat meowing for me to feed her, having just watched Derek Jeter’s last hit in the MLB. It marked the end of a 20 year career for Jeter, as he is officially retired from baseball after today’s (September 28) game. Of course, with the retiring of a legend, there has been much to-do about Jeter’s career—where he ranks in baseball’s glorious history, what his mark will be, what he’ll do next. It’s a time of reflection for baseball fans, and I can’t help but wonder if Jeter is as impressed by his own career as we all are.

Jeter was drafted out of high school, sixth overall (in 1992, the year I was born). He spent about two years in the minor leagues before being called up at the ripe old age of twenty. Now he’s retiring twenty years later, and there are so many remarkable things about it. He’s spent his entire career, from minors to majors, as a Yankee. His career batting average is .310, with 260 homeruns and 544 doubles. The man has simply been one of the best baseball players of our generation, and one of the best ball players ever.

But while all his stats are incredible, that’s not the reason why fans will miss him so much, why everyone celebrates the bittersweet moment of his retirement, why he will always be remembered with awe and respect. Jeter has been an honorable player, a noble ambassador of the game. That’s not to say he’s been perfect, but he has always conducted himself and treated others with respect and integrity. Coaches love him, players love him, and fans love him because he is as good a teammate and role model as he is a ball player. He is a reminder and an example that talent (of which Jeter has plenty) is no substitute for character, and the true heroes of baseball possess both.

The Yankees will miss their captain. New York will miss him, baseball will miss him, we will miss him. But Jeter can retire knowing that he has done remarkable things for the game of baseball, and that even though his playing days are over, baseball will always be there for him. And he will always be there for kids playing in Little League parks across the world.

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Pride & Prejudice

prideandprejudicevsIn order to be a society-approved bookish girl, there are a couple of rules you must follow. Obviously, you must read and often. You must love exploring old bookshops, and have a compulsive problem buying books. You must believe that the book is always better than the movie. You must know your patronus. You must adore Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. And you must acknowledge that the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice is the Holy Grail of Jane Austen movies. I have no problem with most of the rules. I love old bookstores, and I do have a problem buying books. The books is better than the movie with a few exceptions, and my patronus is probably a squirrel. And hey, I like Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston (though not as much as Tumblr does). But now I must break with nerd girl canon. I think the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice is much better than Colin Firth’s version.

I know, it’s sacrilegious. It’s crazy. How can I think that? Well, a couple of reasons.

1. The time. I’m sorry, I know that the Colin Firth version is so long because it includes everything from the book and that’s supposed to be a good thing. And I used to think it was, but now I am of a different opinion. Movies don’t, and shouldn’t necessarily, contain everything from the book. They’d all be too long. Just like an author should edit his work and make it shorter by tightening scenes and taking out unnecessary words, movie adaptations of these books need to be edited. It makes the storyline in the movie flow much better than a direct translation from page to screen. In the end, I am a big fan of editing. I believe in editing everything, mostly because I feel like authors and movie producers alike have forgotten how to do it and that’s who we end up with trilogies that should be one book, and three hours movies that should be one and a half hours. The two hour P & P flows much better than the six hour one.

2. The actors. I know Colin Firth is supposed to be gold as Mr. Darcy, the embodiment of the perfect literary guy ever, but I disagree. I think he’s just as stiff at the end of the six hour saga as he is at the beginning. There’s no visible change in his character besides his words. His demeanor does not change at all. I think Matthew MacFadyen presents a much more developed, complex, and emotional Mr. Darcy. And the difference between his Darcy at the beginning and end of the film is much more noticeable. Also, period dramas are Keira Knightly’s home and she’s a wonderful Elizabeth Bennet.

3. The music. Dario Marianelli and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, be still my beating heart. The music is predominantly period-approriate piano music that is so, so beautiful. It’s an incredible soundtrack, and the music fits the movie perfectly.

4. Joe Wright. The director. He’s incredible. Not all of his films are the best (Atonement), but is a great director, as evidenced by this movie and his adaptation (also starring Keira Knightly) of Anna Karenina. He’s directing a new Peter Pan film, scheduled for July 2015, and it should be very interesting to see what he does with it!

(From L to R) Jenna Malone as Lydia, Carey Mulligan as Kitty, Keira Knightly as Elizabeth, Rosamund Pike as Jane, and Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet

(From L to R) Jenna Malone as Lydia, Carey Mulligan as Kitty, Keira Knightly as Elizabeth, Rosamund Pike as Jane, and Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet

The Maze Runner (Movie Edition)

mazeThere are a handful of movies that I enjoy more than the books. I know that sounds sacrilegious because the books are always supposed to be better, but in reality that is not true. Sometimes, movies are an opportunity to fix plot or characters problems in the book. Like the ending of The Painted Veil, or how annoying Katniss is in The Hunger Games. Or, in this case, the ineffective writing of The Maze Runner.

You can read my summary and review of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner here, but to recap: the concept is good, the execution of the concept, not so much. The writing isn’t that impressive, and the narrator is kind of annoying, but a movie can fix that with better writing and good actors, and that’s what the people behind The Maze Runner movie did.

Some stories lend themselves more naturally to movies than to books, if the story is very visual or action packed, for example. I think The Maze Runner played out much better on screen. You have a visualization of the strange creatures known as Grievers, you can better feel the tension between the group of boys, you’re out of Thomas’ head (thank God) and can get into the drama of the story’s events better. But what really carried this movie was the acting of the boys.

(From L to R) Lee, O'Brien, and Brodie-Sangster

(From L to R) Lee, O’Brien, and Brodie-Sangster

Dylan O’Brien stars as Thomas, the protagonist who wakes up in a place called the Glade, the safe haven in the middle of the Maze. He doesn’t remember who is he or where he came from, but he has a strong desire to find a way out of the maze. And he has the courage and wits to figure it out. I think O’Brien is an incredible actor (if you don’t believe me, watch his performance as Stiles on MTV’s Teenwolf, he’s amazing) and he makes Thomas so much more likeable than in the book.

The other stars are Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays the second in command Newt. Besides being adorable with his British accent, he also gave a stellar performance. As did Will Poulter, who played the bully/bad guy among the boys. (Think Jack, in Lord of the Flies.) Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, and Blake Cooper also did a great job in their roles as Alby, Mihno, and Chuck, respectively. Honestly, the most lack luster performance probably came from the girl Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario. Though her first real scene was entertaining, she didn’t really have much to go on after that and the movie could have functioned without her character at all, though that isn’t the actresses’ fault. The author and producers probably thought the story needed some estrogen in it. (Though the dynamics happening between the boys were interesting enough, so I don’t agree.)

The boys were the best part of that movie. The actors really came into their characters, and good performances like that are what invest an audience in the story. I felt way more invested in the movie than I did the book because the Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (my two favorite) make you care about the characters and what happens to them. That’s the job of the actors. And they did it well. They made The Maze Runner a movie worth watching.

All the boys.

All the boys.

My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding

greekweddingThere are very few chick flicks I can coax my brothers into watching. They’ll sit through Hitch because they love Will Smith, Kevin James is hilarious, and Eva Mendes is hot. They’ll watch 50 First Dates because Adam Sandler is funny. In general, they won’t watch just any chick flick, only the “good” ones—chick flicks that are funny, original, and entertaining for any audience. Chick flicks like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out in 2002, which makes it an older chick flick that younger audiences might not have seen since it’s 12 years old now. But even though it’s older, it is still one of the best.

Toula Portokalos is 30, single, and from a very large, very Greek family. She works in a restaurant her family owns, but everyone expects her to marry a Greek and have a big, loud Greek family. Her family’s plan for her, however, isn’t going as planned. Toula is more interested in taking computer classes at the college and working at her aunt’s travel agency. Love still finds her, though, in the form of local teacher Ian Miller. The attraction is mutual, but there is one major problem: Ian is not Greek. This causes major riots in the Portokalos household, but true love prevails and Toula and Ian get engaged. Now Ian must “Greekify” himself and the entertainment ensues.

Much like other films like Return to Me, My Big Fat Greek Wedding bears the traditional aspects of great chick flicks. It has a large supporting cast full of lively characters. Toula’s family is full of big personalities that clash sharply with Ian’s small and docile family. It also has plenty of clever comical moments. And most importantly, it has a sincere and heartwarming message about family, tradition, and love.

There are plenty of bad, or at least average, chick flicks out there, but there are several that are very good. The kind of chick flicks you watch on a rainy Saturday, after a terrible break up, when you’re drowning your singleness in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of those movies.

The Maze Runner

The_Maze_Runner_coverAs you may have noticed if you’ve gone into a library or a bookstore and perused the Young Adult section, there is no shortage of dystopian fiction. Divergent by Veronica Roth, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Legend by Marie Lu, and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi are some of the ones these bloggers have read, but there many more out there. And due to popular trends, many of these dystopian novels are getting the silver screen treatment. One of these books is The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

The Maze Runner is about a boy named Thomas who wakes up in a strange place called the Glade. It’s enclosed by giant stone walls and filled with boys of various friendliness. The boys live in the Glade, all working different positions, like the “runners”. The runners go out each day beyond the walls where a large maze encompasses the area. The walls change every day, so the runners are charged with mapping it out each day so they can try to find a way out of this place. The dangerous part is the Grievers, spiderlike creatures that like to kill. The mysterious part is that the boys can’t remember anything from their lives before they came to the Glade and they don’t know who put them there. All they know is that they want out.

James Dashner

James Dashner

Then a girl shows up, and she seems to know Thomas. Thomas feels like he knows her, but he’s still in the dark. But now he knows that their time in the Glade is limited and they need to get out now.

There are some good elements about The Maze Runner. There’s a Lord of the Flies feel to the dynamics of the boys. The whole point of the dystopian genre is to comment on society, and Dashner manages to make a small comment on society through the group of boys. But even though the concept is interesting, this was not my favorite dystopian novel. The writing can be off-putting, and the central characters are undeveloped. It’s the kind of book that fills the space if you’re on a dystopian binge and reading everything you can get your hands on. But if you’re a more discerning reader, take a pass on this one and try another book. There are lots of dystopian novels out there, and most of them are probably better than this one.

But, despite the book’s weaknesses, the movie, which comes out later this month, promises to be rather exciting. Dylan O’Brien (of MTV’s Teen Wolf) heads up the cast as Thomas, starring alongside Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, Game of Thrones) and Will Poulter (Voyage of the Dawn Treader). This cast of young but talented boys, with Kaya Scoldelario as the girl Teresa, are a promising lead on the movie. So hopefully it will be good!

Dylan O'Brien from the movie adaptation.

Dylan O’Brien from the movie adaptation.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

sinbadAs a child of the 90’s, of course I am a Disney fan. I love Disney movies. On the whole, they are the best in animation. However, there are several non-Disney animated movies that I quite enjoy. Thumbelina, for one. Anastasia, for another. And also Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, a Dreamworks film from 2003.

Sinbad is the story of a rogue thief who sails the seven seas stealing treasure so that one day he can retire on a beach in Fiji. And his path to retirement is going swimmingly, until an unsuccessful attempt to steal the Book of Peace (a priceless treasure that protects the world) reunites him with his childhood best friend, the crown prince Proteus. Then, Eris (the goddess of chaos) steals the Book of Peace and frames Sinbad. Convinced Sinbad is innocent, Proteus agrees to take his friend’s place, giving Sinbad three days to steal the Book back from Eris before Proteus is beheaded.

Eris

Eris

But Sinbad wants to avoid entanglements with his past at any cost and decides to set sail for Fiji. But then he finds a woman on his ship: Marina, Proteus’ fiancé, who stowed away to make sure Sinbad either retrieved the book or came back to die so Proteus wouldn’t have to. And, after an acceptable amount of bribery takes place, Sinbad agrees to go to Tartarus, Eris’ realm, and retrieve the Book of Peace. Many sea faring adventures ensue. Sinbad and Marina have at it like Elizabeth and Darcy. Eris tricks them. But in the end, Sinbad proves a hero, wins back the Book of Peace and Marina’s heart.

It’s a great adventure story for kids, and while there are no songs, it is a very fun movie. I love it because Eris is a fantastic villain and she has the most awesomest floating hair in all of animation. Like, I wish my hair could do that. She is so wickedly cool. Plus, she’s voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer. But Pfeiffer isn’t the only Hollywood heavy hitter in the cast. Brad Pitt voices the humorous Sinbad, and Catherine Zetta-Jones is the spunky Marina.

The animation may seem outdated compared to newer animated films like Tangled or Frozen, but Sinbad is a great movie. It’s a high-seas adventure with humor, romance, compelling themes, and the coolest villain ever. So when you’ve seen every Disney movie a hundred times and you’re looking for something else animated and fun, try Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. You won’t be disappointed.

Finding Neverland

findingneverland

Jeremy Jordan as J.M. Barrie and Laura Michelle Kelly as Sylvia Davies.

Last week, Emily and I went on another adventure. We traveled the roads of our founding fathers in Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail, saw the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s house, the U.S.S. Constitution, Bunker Hill, Boston Commons, and then traveled to Concord where we visited Walden Pond and Orchard House. And while each of these places was incredible, the most magical place we found was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was Neverland.

We didn’t actually go to Neverland, sadly, but while we were in Boston we saw the new musical Finding Neverland at the A.R.T. Theater in Cambridge. Finding Neverland is a musical based on the movie of the same name and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee. It stars Jeremy Jordan (Jack Kelly In “Newsies”, Jimmy in SMASH, Clyde Barrow in “Bonnie and Clyde”) as J.M. Barrie, the man who wrote Peter Pan.

findingneverland3

Barrie and the Davies boys.

The play begins with Barrie in the midst of writer’s block. His well of inspiration has run dry until he meets the widowed mother of four boys, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, played by Laura Michelle Kelly (Galadriel in “The Lord of the Rings Musical”, Mary Poppins in the Broadway musical). With Sylvia and the four boys, James Barrie finds an outlet for his childlike imagination, playing pretend and spending more time with their family than his own. But after fighting through writer’s block, personal issues, and tragic events, Barrie finds the inspiration around him and within him to write one of the most beloved stories of all time.

Finding Neverland is one of my favorite movies, and now it is one of my favorite musicals. Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly were both incredible in their roles, and the supporting cast was hilarious and talented. The songs were fun, beautiful, and very emotional. “Neverland” is a magical song, transporting the audience to Barrie’s wondrous island. A song about Captain Hook displays a fresh side of Barrie, and a song for Sylvia gives the story a hopeful message. And of course, you can’t go wrong with this story. A man, who is still a child at heart, searching for inspiration in what can be a cold, adult world. A boy struggling to see the wonder of childhood after enduring tragic events. And, of course, the creation of a boy who would never grow old, a tiny fairy, some lost boys, and a place called Neverland.

findingneverland2

Jordan and Aidan Gemme (Peter Davies).

I wish I could watch this musical over and over again. Rumors are that it’s heading to Broadway, which would be amazing. But for now, I’m glad I saw it in a small and intimate environment. Emily and I sat front row, and we could see every emotion on the actors’ faces. I have to admit, I cried more than once. And when I say ‘cried’, I mean ‘sobbed’. It was an incredible story told beautifully. And if you are in the area, or even across the world, I would highly recommend seeing it.