Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hooray For Hillywood

I've lost count of how many times I've watched The Hillywood Show. Their original fifteen episodes, behind-the-scenes, specials, Dark Knight and Twilight parodies, all.

On the 30th, their newest video, a parody of The Runaways, came out. It's short, but attention to detail is present as always. Check it out here. Also take a look at their website for everything else, including updates on events and new projects.

Note that The Hillywood Show is non-profit, and fan donations are what allow them to keep going. Their site has links to donate, along with merchandise (shirts, autographs, etc.) you can buy to help out. Filming started yesterday on their Eclipse parody, which we'll all be waiting very patiently for.

Eclipse Rundown

Time to give my opinion on all things Eclipse.

First is Stephenie Meyer's new The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella. One word best describes it: perspective. From the perspective of a minor (very, very minor) character in Eclipse and only lasting a couple hundred pages, this novella offers an entirely new look at things we've seen before. (It also gives us some things we don't previously know -- that's why it's its own book, after all). The second to last line, in particular, is amazing. It's a line from Eclipse, but the emotion it holds is so different because it is Bree, not Bella, hearing it. Poor Bree: I really do feel sorry for her now. The book was available to read online for a month, but now you'll have to buy it if you want to read it. Short as it is, it's completely worth it.

Now the soundtrack for Eclipse. When I listened to it before the movie, it was a surprising take: I had expected the songs to evoke more of the chaotic sense I get reading the book, but these were slower-type songs. Even after the movie, I wasn't convinced this one beat out the New Moon soundtrack. So many songs on there made the scenes they were in. "Hearing Damage," "Possibility," "Rosyln," "Done All Wrong," "Monsters," "Shooting the Moon," "Slow Life." I didn't initially get that sense this time.

However. Once I start the list, the evidence is against my assumption. "My Love" is perfect for the proposal scene, "Chop and Change" makes an interesting/not-what-anyone-was-expecting start to the movie, "Rolling In On a Burning Tire" is great for Victoria and Riley, "Life on Earth" made the right soft atmosphere, "Ours" and "Neutron Star Collision" are subtle but tact additions, and I love "Eclipse (All Yours)" starting off the credits. What's that? There are seven songs in each list? Well, maybe I do like the Eclipse soundtrack, after all. It just may be working up to my favorite to listen to apart from the movie, as well.

Now the movie companion. I said before that I thought the companion for New Moon was more informative than that of Twilight. The Eclipse one seems the best yet. It got very technical (though not in a way I couldn't understand) at times, really explaining what work went into the movie. As I've said, I really like behind-the-scenes of movies, so when something like this tells me things I don't know already, it makes me happy. Interesting was the way the actor quotes were worked in. Instead of threading them into the regular text, each actor had his own page with his thoughts on the movie. It's much simpler, in a way, and allows you to go quickly to your favorites. This book wasn't shy on the pictures, either, offering both stills and behind-the-scenes.

Last year, I made a list of "New Moon Musts." This year, I decided to make a less specific, more informal list. Three things I find in Eclipse the book: chaos, choice, and backstories. The choice was definitely in the movie, particularly with Jessica/Anna Kendrick's wonderful graduation speech (I don't mind that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg chose Jessica instead of Eric to give the speech . . . I really prefer it this way). The backstories were there. They're some of my favorite parts in the book, so I was pleased that the same went for the movie. Nikki Reed really showed us Rosalie this time around (I could never decide before whether I liked her approach or not; now I do). Jasper/Jackson was great. This was almost the first time we saw Jasper, and I loved it. The Quileute bit was a refreshing change of scene, amazingly detailed.

But the chaos? I didn't expect a problem with this, but walking out of the first viewing, I didn't feel I'd felt it enough. Everyone is at each other's throats in the book, including Edward and Bella at certain points. It's not the same in the movie, yet I think the audience still gets the clue. We already saw Edward and Jacob almost fight at the end of New Moon . . . we know there is tension. So it isn't a major deal.

Things I liked: Jodelle Ferland was perfect as Bree, though I wish the "Don't watch" line hadn't been ommitted and all of Edward's lines concerning her given to Esme. The fight-training scene was another of my favorites (did I forget to mention its song?), loved almost everything about it. The Florida bit with Renee was slightly tweaked, yet I found it a very sweet moment. Bryce Dallas Howard as Victoria, Xavier Samuel as Riley, Charlie Bewley's hilarious expressions and stances as Demetri, Maria. Howard Shore's score was probably the strongest yet, though most of the pivotal moments he didn't get to write for since soundtrack covers those.

Lastly: the "big three." I really, really liked what Kristen Stewart did for New Moon -- this time, I felt like the script didn't give her much to work with. The focus wasn't on Bella as much. It was on the newborns, the backstories, and even Jacob. The "you'd be better off dead" scene felt slightly off to me until I realized that it's more Jacob's perspective than Bella's. Now, Jacob. It may just be me (I'm not Team Jacob, after all), but I feel like Taylor's interpretation of the character is a little different from the book Jacob. Any minor problems I have with movie Jacob aren't with Taylor's acting, just some of the choices he or the director made. Then Edward. I've liked the way Robert Pattinson has handled the character before, and Eclipse only added to that. My favorite line he delivered was the "I might actually like you" one. It included every nuance of the Edward/Jacob relationship. That scene, as well, was perfectly handled in general.

My final thougth: I saw the movie first in a regular theatre, then in a Harkins Cine Capri, then in IMAX. The sound of IMAX is superior and the bigger screen helped with the vampire-speed effect, but my conclusion is that the Cine Capri was best. It's big without being exaggerated.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Return of Emma

I'm so excited. 

Had I mentioned that I'm a huge fan of Emma Shapplin? Her musical style has, in the past, combined the classical and operatic with more pop/new age whatnot -- creating a style all her own. There are other people, yes, who experiment with classical crossover, but none that I've seen who do so as drastically as Emma while still maintaining such quality vocals. 

Her previous two albums I've enjoyed again and again, but with the years going by and nothing new coming (not even posts on a website), I was beginning to think she was gone forever. 

And then what did I find two weeks ago? Emma Shapplin's newest album, Macadam Flower, came out last year. And I didn't know. Imagine. Don't fault me for being so behind: I had no regularly-updated website to go to, and all the places I occasionally searched for her on were U.S.-based. This album, as yet, has no U.S. release, so it was only happening upon her new music video on Youtube that informed me of its existence.

The music video I wasn't sure on. It's much more a pop song than her previous work. Searching a bit more, I grew concerned. I'd thought that whatever stylistic choices Emma made to accommodate her artistic needs and desires, I could be sure of her voice as the constant. But she sings differently on this album. Is she gone forever to me just as if this album had never been released, as I'd feared?

Not quite. It took a little getting used to, but I'm really liking Macadam Flower now. Sure, it might not be what keeps us coming back for more, yet that doesn't mean it has no value. Emma's poetic self comes through strong as ever (if not more since a few of the songs are in English, and I hence need no translation for them). Each song creates an atmosphere; that's what I enjoy.

I had always wondered what Emma used to sound like when she sang for a rock band back before her first record. Perhaps "Reptile" and "Jealously Yours" have a similar strain? (Note: these two may well be my favorite of the album. "The Hours On The Fields," "Absolu," and "My Soul" are all great, too. . . "Nothing Wrong" also starts to grow on you. . . I know, that's half the CD).

For Emma Shapplin fans, it's a must, if only as an observation of her style. For the newcomers, as well, I hope it will please.