Category: Miscellaneous

Introducing my parents to the iPad and the world of the internet

ipad

Recently at work I won an iPad Mini (non Retina display) in a raffle.  I never win anything so I was ecstatic – my coworkers joked that I was like a kid at Christmas.  I FELT like a kid at Christmas!  Now, I already have a much loved Kindle Fire HDX and iPad 3, so I knew I was going to rehome one of them.  It’s an understatement to say I read a lot and listen to audiobooks a lot, for which the Fire is perfect, so it was the iPad 3 or the new Mini. 

I was very surprised when my mother expressed an interest in the iPad and going online.  My parents did have internet access several years ago, but let it lapse because of slowness and lack of use.  Since then, better broadband coverage has come to their area of Scotland, so I hope slowness will no longer be an issue.  My father doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about the internet at this point.  I suspect my mother was always the more interested, but previously the internet was connected to the computer my father uses for video editing and she was always too nervous to use it in case she accidentally damaged it or my father’s work.  

So, in the meantime broadband service has been arranged and will be installed at their home at the end of next week.  I chose to send them the iPad Mini, mainly as my mother has commented on the weight of the Kindle Keyboard being a little heavy for long use.  It should be with them at the beginning of next week. Before sending it off I configured a few things for them.  I tried to setup the iPad so that it would be useful for them straight off and only have the most basic icons at first.  My parents are smart people, but being older, technology was not part of their working lives as a veterinary surgeon and nurse as it would be today.  

This is what I configured:

Apple ID

With iDevices, an Apple ID is almost a prerequisite.  I set one up for my parents.  It’s not yet hooked up to a credit card; I’ll leave it up to them if they want to purchase paid apps.

Email, FaceTime and Skype

My biggest frustration with my parents not being online is not being able to email them.  Email is such a practical tool, whether it’s a simple hello to keep in touch or emailing detailed information (such as an itinerary) or photos.   So often I’ve thought, I wish I could email this to them.  Well, now I can!  I have setup an email account for them and emailed a couple of things to them.  When they had internet access earlier, they didn’t check email at all unless someone told them to.  I’m hoping that with the iPad alerting them to new emails automatically they may actually use this.

One of the arguments used in the decision to get online was that using Skype and/or FaceTime to call me would save them international calls on their phone bills.  I’m not certain how comfortable they’ll be using it at the beginning, but I have setup Skype and FaceTime accounts.  We’ll need to see how that goes.

Photos

I am an Apple fangirl through and through, so most of my photos are taken with my iPhone and stored in iCloud.  It was then very easy to setup a Shared photostream which I then set to share with my parents’ Apple ID.  Any time I add photos to that stream it should show up automatically on their iPad without their doing anything.  The photos have already downloaded to the iPad so they will have something to look at while waiting on the broadband being connected.

Calendar

With my job I work shift hours and my mother is often calling me to ask what hours I am working that week.  I already have my shifts entered in my iCloud Work calendar, so it was a quick click to share it with my parents’ Apple ID.  Again when I update it, it should update automatically on my parents’ iPad.

Facebook

I did spend some time considering whether or not I should setup a Facebook account for my parents.  Their hometown’s local newspaper has a very active Facebook page as does a local community group.  Often they hear about things going on in town because one of their friends has seen it on Facebook.  Other than Google searches and email, Facebook is probably what my parents think about most when they think about the internet.  In the end, I didn’t set up the account for them already – I was thinking of using that as a training exercise, but I may regret that.

One thing I do regret not having installed was a crosswords app.  My parents both get a great deal of pleasure out of doing the daily crossword in their local paper.  Ah well, I guess it’s something they can choose to install later if they so wish. I also think I may have left Siri in Canadian English, not British English.  

I’m hoping that my parents will get some use out of the iPad and the internet.  I know that, for me, the biggest challenge is going to be avoiding overwhelming them with all the things to be found on the internet.  I spend a significant portion of my life online and I’m looking forward to sharing that with my parents.  From conversations with my mother, I suspect the first things she will want to learn is how to search on Google and navigate Facebook.  The rest can wait.

I am also going to wait to introduce them to Siri.  I’m not certain how she will react to their Scottish accents and I don’t want them getting frustrated.

Do any of you have suggestions for introducing older people to iPads and the internet?  Please let me know in the comments.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…

Since we’re now into July – halfway through the year! – and I’m 50 books through my 100 book challenge for this year I thought it was time to stop and review my top picks from the first half of 2014.  So without further ado, here they are.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #2
Also in this series: The Jedi Doth Return
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

My first pick for my top books of 2014 so far is Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.  This includes Star Wars: Verily a New Hope and The Empire Striketh  Back.  For those of you who have not read my reviews, Doescher has taken George Lucas’s epic space opera and rewritten it in the style of William Shakespeare, compete with iambic pentameter and nods to Shakespeare plays.  It’s incredible how well the Lucas’s epic saga works in Shakespearean language.  The audiobook by Random House Audio is a full cast radio play complete with John Williams music and sound effects and is a must-listen.  It narrowly missed out on the Audie audiobook award.  The Jedi Doth Return is released on July 1st and I’m fairly confident it will make my top audiobooks list, too.  Check out Doescher’s Educator’s Guide for more background info.  I wish these had been available when I was studying English at school!  Check out my full review.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Next up is Marissa Meyer’s Cress, the third in her Lunar Chronicles series.  For those unfamiliar with this YA series, it’s a retelling of classic fairytales with a twist.  In choosing fairytales, Meyer has a strong foundation for her story – there are good reasons why stories like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel have stood the test of time.  The Lunar Chronicles has strong good vs evil storylines, fantastic characters and is a whole lot of fun.  This is another series I particularly enjoyed in audiobook format. I’m looking forward to the prequel, Fairest and final book in the series, Winter.  I have written reviews on the series.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…The One by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #3
Also in this series: The Selection, The Elite
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The One by Kiera Cass is the final book in The Selection series, which was my guilty reading pleasure.  The Selection is a cross between The Bachelor and The Hunger Games.  I found the world Cass has created fascinating and was wholly invested in the characters even though they annoyed the heck out of me sometimes.  The love triangle was especially annoying.  However I just couldn’t put it down, and enjoyed the real character development throughout the series.  For more details go read my series review.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Also in this series: Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound, Last Sacrifice
Format: eBook
Pages: 340 pages
Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The first time I read Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead I couldn’t really get into it – I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.  However, the second time I read it I was so captivated by by Richelle Mead’s worldbuilding and characters that I ended up marathoning the entire six book series.  I felt that Mead really understood young adults and the way they interacted.  This turned out to be one of my favourite YA supernatural series.  More details in my reviews.

My top five books of 2014 – so far…Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Series: The Throne of Glass #1
Also in this series: Heir of Fire, Empire of Storms
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas had been on my TBR list for some time before I finally got round to reading it despite rave reviews from the BookTube community.  Once I did, I was so happy I took the plunge.  Celaena is an awesome character and so fun and sparky.  Yet it’s clear she has her own issues and buttons that can be pressed.  I enjoyed that more focus was placed on the characters than the magic system, but there was still the hint of the supernatural to add some interest.  Go read my full review.

A Tour of my iTunes library – TV edition

Following on from my post yesterday on the movies I have in my iTunes library I’d like to share with you the TV shows in which I have chosen to invest my hard earned cash.  I would also like to direct your attention to a post I wrote some while ago on what I consider quality drama.  In most cases the shows I have purchased fall into that category.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it.

Battlestar Galactica.  This is Ron Moore’s updating of the classic space opera about the humane survivors of a genocidal robot attack.  Moore had the good sense to ground this series in real and relatable characters who were portrayed by excellent actors.  The whole drama stemmed from humans dealing with other humans and their interrelationships as well as situations well beyond their experience amidst the chaos of struggling for survival.  Moore’s next project is bringing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series to the small screen, and given how much I enjoyed Galactica I am very excited to see this.

Doctor Who.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I have recently gone through a real Doctor Who phase.  I’ve always enjoyed the series but with the 50th anniversary of the show’s being celebrated with special events, my interest level was even higher than normal.  I have all the seasons and specials since the reboot and each of the actors playing the Doctor has brought something unique to the part.  I look forward to seeing what Peter Capaldi will do with the role.  I also have edited highlights of Classic Who – the best episodes from each of the eight pre reboot Doctors. You may wish to check out my post on celebrating Doctor Who.

Downton Abbey.  The dramas of the upper class Crawley family still makes for compelling Sunday night viewing.  Again the drama is rooted in relatable characters dealing with ordinary human issues such as love, loss and work troubles even if the setting is somewhat grander than that of most watchers.

Elementary.  I’ve really enjoyed this updating of the Sherlock stories with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in the roles of Holmes and Watson respectively.  Miller plays a very vulnerable but intelligent Holmes and the relationship between him and Liu’s Watson is one of the highlights of the series.

Sherlock.  Clearly, the Arthur Conan Doyle stories are great material because another series I have on season pass is the BBC’s excellent Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  The scripting of this series is just so smart and intelligent it is a joy to watch, particularly in the hands of such accomplished actors as Freeman and Cumberbatch.

Game of Thrones.  HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire has received both critical and viewer acclaim with good reason.  Martin’s books provide a strong foundation for an adaptation and while the scriptwriters and show runners have made the occasional misstep (dragon napping?   DRAGON NAPPING?  Just. No.) in general this is faithful to the books.  I’m sure GRRM was having a nice little snicker to himself; originally a screenwriter, he turned to novel writing because the visual media hadn’t yet caught up with his imagination and only in novel form could he be free of those limitations.  Now of course, Benioff and Weiss have to translate his vision to the screen!  I have both currently available seasons and have season 3 on preorder.  

Lost.  In its heyday this was must-see television.  It was a fantastic blend of character studies, mystery and the supernatural and made for compelling viewing. It lost its way for a bit in the third and fourth seasons when it started raising far more questions than it was answering, but the showrunners’ decision to set a series end date a couple of years in advance helped focus the show.  Sadly the ending didn’t quite live up to all its hype, but generally speaking this was a great show, and I own all six seasons.

Lost in Austen.  This is a four part comedy drama in which a modern day Jane Austen aficionada finds herself trapped in the world of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  She has to find a way to return to her normal life while avoiding derailing the plot of her favourite novel.  The script is intelligent, witty and well acted and a lot of fun.

Once Upon a Time.  ABC’s take on fairytales meet real world.  While I don’t consider this an example of quality drama in the vein of Sherlock or Downton Abbey, it’s still a lot of fun and very watchable thanks to an excellent cast.  

Pride and Prejudice.  Jane Austen.  Colin Firth in a wet shirt.  Need I say more?

24.  In its time Fox’s real time counterterrorist drama was the master of the unexpected twist.  It’s real time format was novel and well done, even if at times it stretched the timing somewhat.  However it suffered from trying to outdo itself.  I mean, where do you go in season eight when you exploded a nuclear bomb in season 6?

So here you have it – my favourite television shows.  Which ones have I missed?

A Tour of my iTunes library – TV edition

Following on from my post yesterday on the movies I have in my iTunes library I’d like to share with you the TV shows in which I have chosen to invest my hard earned cash.  I would also like to direct your attention to a post I wrote some while ago on what I consider quality drama.  In most cases the shows I have purchased fall into that category.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it.

Battlestar Galactica.  This is Ron Moore’s updating of the classic space opera about the humane survivors of a genocidal robot attack.  Moore had the good sense to ground this series in real and relatable characters who were portrayed by excellent actors.  The whole drama stemmed from humans dealing with other humans and their interrelationships as well as situations well beyond their experience amidst the chaos of struggling for survival.  Moore’s next project is bringing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series to the small screen, and given how much I enjoyed Galactica I am very excited to see this.

Doctor Who.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I have recently gone through a real Doctor Who phase.  I’ve always enjoyed the series but with the 50th anniversary of the show’s being celebrated with special events, my interest level was even higher than normal.  I have all the seasons and specials since the reboot and each of the actors playing the Doctor has brought something unique to the part.  I look forward to seeing what Peter Capaldi will do with the role.  I also have edited highlights of Classic Who – the best episodes from each of the eight pre reboot Doctors. You may wish to check out my post on celebrating Doctor Who.

Downton Abbey.  The dramas of the upper class Crawley family still makes for compelling Sunday night viewing.  Again the drama is rooted in relatable characters dealing with ordinary human issues such as love, loss and work troubles even if the setting is somewhat grander than that of most watchers.

Elementary.  I’ve really enjoyed this updating of the Sherlock stories with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in the roles of Holmes and Watson respectively.  Miller plays a very vulnerable but intelligent Holmes and the relationship between him and Liu’s Watson is one of the highlights of the series.

Sherlock.  Clearly, the Arthur Conan Doyle stories are great material because another series I have on season pass is the BBC’s excellent Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  The scripting of this series is just so smart and intelligent it is a joy to watch, particularly in the hands of such accomplished actors as Freeman and Cumberbatch.

Game of Thrones.  HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire has received both critical and viewer acclaim with good reason.  Martin’s books provide a strong foundation for an adaptation and while the scriptwriters and show runners have made the occasional misstep (dragon napping?   DRAGON NAPPING?  Just. No.) in general this is faithful to the books.  I’m sure GRRM was having a nice little snicker to himself; originally a screenwriter, he turned to novel writing because the visual media hadn’t yet caught up with his imagination and only in novel form could he be free of those limitations.  Now of course, Benioff and Weiss have to translate his vision to the screen!  I have both currently available seasons and have season 3 on preorder.  

Lost.  In its heyday this was must-see television.  It was a fantastic blend of character studies, mystery and the supernatural and made for compelling viewing. It lost its way for a bit in the third and fourth seasons when it started raising far more questions than it was answering, but the showrunners’ decision to set a series end date a couple of years in advance helped focus the show.  Sadly the ending didn’t quite live up to all its hype, but generally speaking this was a great show, and I own all six seasons.

Lost in Austen.  This is a four part comedy drama in which a modern day Jane Austen aficionada finds herself trapped in the world of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  She has to find a way to return to her normal life while avoiding derailing the plot of her favourite novel.  The script is intelligent, witty and well acted and a lot of fun.

Once Upon a Time.  ABC’s take on fairytales meet real world.  While I don’t consider this an example of quality drama in the vein of Sherlock or Downton Abbey, it’s still a lot of fun and very watchable thanks to an excellent cast.  

Pride and Prejudice.  Jane Austen.  Colin Firth in a wet shirt.  Need I say more?

24.  In its time Fox’s real time counterterrorist drama was the master of the unexpected twist.  It’s real time format was novel and well done, even if at times it stretched the timing somewhat.  However it suffered from trying to outdo itself.  I mean, where do you go in season eight when you exploded a nuclear bomb in season 6?

So here you have it – my favourite television shows.  Which ones have I missed?

A Tour of My iTunes Library – Movie Edition

As most of you know, I spend a lot of my free time reading.  That doesn’t mean however, that I don’t have a reasonable film and TV collection so I thought it might be nice if I took you through it.  Whereas with books I’m comfortable spending $8 or so on a book about which I’m not 100% sure, as films and TV series cost between $20 and $50 I am a lot choosier about what I add to my collections.

Movies

My movie collection can be roughly divided into three categories: musicals (yes, I am a closet Andrew Lloyd Webber fan – so what?) great dramas with excellent scripts and acting and finally fun family movies.

In terms of musicals I have:

Alegria.  This is one of the Montreal based Cirque du Soleil’s shows.  If you have not seen CdS before, you really should check them out.  There are no animals involved, just incredible human acrobatics with stunning production values and visuals.  Fun fact; the founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, became Canada’s first space tourist.

Cats.  This is a filming of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about, well, cats.  Thin on plot, some catchy tunes, but wonderful choreography.  It is lovely to see Elaine Paige in what became one of her defining roles.

Chess in Concert.  Broadway veterans Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Kerry Ellis star in the Benny/Bjorn/Tim Rice musical about chess, love and politics.  A highlight of this production is Josh Groban’s rendition of Anthem – he’s not too hard on the eye either!

Evita.  Oliver Stone’s production of ALW’s musical about the Argentinian First Lady starring Madonna, who is actually incredibly good in the role.  She is ably supported by Jonathan Pryce as Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che.

Into The Woods.  Through Digital Theatre I procured Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Sondheim’s fairytale based musical.  Personally, I prefer the original Broadway version with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleeson.  It does make me a little nervous for the upcoming movie version with Meryl Streep as the Witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.  While I believe both actors can sing reasonably well, from what I’ve seen, often experienced Broadway vets do better at these sorts of things – witness the recent Sound of Music revival.

Les Miserables.  I have both the 25th anniversary concert version starring Alfie Boe and Norm Lucas as Valjean and Javert and the recent Hollywood film production with an Oscar nominated Hugh Jackman and Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.  I have the 10th Anniversary concert with Colm Wilkinson and Philip Quast on order.  None of these productions is perfect.  For me perfection would be Alfie’s or Colm’s Valjean, Norm’s Javert, Hathaway’s Fantine and Eddie Redmayne’s Marius.  For those of you who know of my deep and abiding adoration of musical star and original Marius Michael Ball (apologies to my husband) it says a lot for Redmayne’s interpretation of Empty Chairs that he could push Michael from the cast list.

Mamma Mia!  I have the movie version of the Bjorn/Benny show with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth.  This movie is worth watching purely for the post credits scene of Streep, Brosnan, Firth and company having a great time hamming it up in 70s latex to Waterloo.  And of course to have a good sing along to the old ABBA classics.

Mary Poppins.  Julie Andrews.  A classic.  Enough said.

Notre Dame de Paris.  For those of you not familiar with this one, this is a French musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  There are some wonderful songs beautifully interpreted by a talented cast.  The set is deliberately sparse, but the director has been incredibly creative in how it is used.  A must-see scene is Les Cloches which is Quasimodo’s love song/“I want” song about his beloved bells.  You can see a snippet on YouTube.

Phantom of the Opera.  Once again I have both the Joel Schumacher movie (best forgotten) and the 25th anniversary with Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo.  It’s a good performance – Karimloo is a little sketchy in places – but Boggess is lovely as Christine.  Of particular note is Wendy Ferguson’s fantastic Carlotta – Ferguson stepped in at the last minute when the actress scheduled to play the role came down with a bad throat infection.

Following on from Phantom, I have the video of the Australian production of Love Never Dies, the sequel to PotO starring Anna Byrne as Christine and Ben Lewis as the Phantom.  This show was critically panned in London, and although the production seen on the video has been revamped, it still didn’t do very well.  Personally I enjoyed it very much – I felt it was one of the more beautiful of Lloyd Webber’s scores.

Rent.  This is the movie version of Jonathan Larson’s musical about a year in the life of a group of young people in New York living with the AIDS epidemic.  While it’s not my favourite musical score, the cast here is top notch and the themes of the show are beautiful.  It’s impossible not to be touched by the life affirming Life Support.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Two words.  Barn raising.

Sound of Music.  The original Julie Andrews version not the recent Carrie Underwood revival.  I have to feel sorry for Underwood – it was a tough ask to step into Julie Andrews’ shoes, and it didn’t help that Laura Benanti’s performance as Elsa, Maria’s rival for Stephen Moyer’s Captain von Trapp’s affections, was pitch perfect.  It’s a sad day when you’d rather the Captain choose Elsa over Maria…

The final entry in the Musicals category is the classic West Side Story.  Again, fantastic choreography, music and acting.

In terms of other movies in my collection, the common denominator is a strong script, whether original or adapted from a novel, performed by a well cast team of actors.  For the great dramas category I present for your consideration:

The Queen.  Helen Mirren deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Her Majesty The Queen dealing with the aftermath of the death of Diana Princess of Wales.  Peter Morgan’s script is surprisingly insightful given that nobody really knows what goes on behind the Palace doors, and of course Mirren gives a powerhouse performance.

The equation that royalty = Oscar gold is played out in the next submission; The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper starring Oscar winners Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.  This whole movie rests on the relationship between King George VI and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, and both actors portray this expertly.  The scene in which Firth finally gives his King’s Speech is one of my go-to feel good scenes in movies, brilliantly supported by Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score.

As a Jane Austen fan, I have movie adaptations of two of her works:  Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and a particularly fine looking Jeremy Northam and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility.  Both are excellent adaptations of the works.

In less overtly Oscar bait material but excellent nonetheless I have:

James Bond.  I have Casino Royale and Skyfall.  I have been enjoying Daniel Craig’s version of Bond.  Of course as as I am a Scot, it’s treason to say anyone is better as Bond than Sean Connery, but Craig does come up there.  He gives a very grounded performance, and his work with Judi Dench in Skyfall is excellent.  However, I do try to pretend that Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist.

Harry Potter.  I own the entire Harry Potter movie series from Philosopher’s Stone right through to Deathly Hallows Part II.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you adapt a much loved book series.  Steve Kloves, who worked closely with J.K. Rowling to develop most of the screenplays for the movies did a perfect job.  The production designer has rendered Hogwarts beautifully and the cast is wonderful.  it’s great to see see the young actors grow into their roles as they age through the movies.  Original director Chris Columbus made a smart move, though, to anchor the movies with the creme de la creme of British acting, notably Richard Harris and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, Dame Maggie Smith’s McGonagall (I could watch her kick ass and take names as she does in Deathly Hallows Part II all day) and, of course, Alan Rickman’s Snape (“Always” <sniff>).

Another book adaption I loved was Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  I have Fellowship, Towers and King all in the extended editions – of course – and continue to be amazed at how stunningly Middle Earth has been recreated in New Zealand.  I wouldn’t say that every one of the cast assembled by Jackson was Oscar worthy talented, but what they were, was perfect for their individual roles.  While the screenplay wasn’t perfect, the cast combined with the skill of Weta Workshop, the Kiwi landscape and a clear love of Tolkien’s work makes for unbeatable cinema.

I own The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and will probably purchase the next two films, but purely to complete my collection not because they are as great as the original trilogy.

Speaking of an original trilogy being better than sequels, that leads me nicely to the final entry in my catalogue.  Star Wars, the original trilogy.  I believe these three films will stand the test of time, having a strong narrative, good cast stellar visuals and a whole lot of heart.

Do you have any of these films in your collection?  Have I missed any?  Let me know in the comments!

A Tour of My iTunes Library – Movie Edition

As most of you know, I spend a lot of my free time reading.  That doesn’t mean however, that I don’t have a reasonable film and TV collection so I thought it might be nice if I took you through it.  Whereas with books I’m comfortable spending $8 or so on a book about which I’m not 100% sure, as films and TV series cost between $20 and $50 I am a lot choosier about what I add to my collections.

Movies

My movie collection can be roughly divided into three categories: musicals (yes, I am a closet Andrew Lloyd Webber fan – so what?) great dramas with excellent scripts and acting and finally fun family movies.

In terms of musicals I have:

Alegria.  This is one of the Montreal based Cirque du Soleil’s shows.  If you have not seen CdS before, you really should check them out.  There are no animals involved, just incredible human acrobatics with stunning production values and visuals.  Fun fact; the founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, became Canada’s first space tourist.

Cats.  This is a filming of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about, well, cats.  Thin on plot, some catchy tunes, but wonderful choreography.  It is lovely to see Elaine Paige in what became one of her defining roles.

Chess in Concert.  Broadway veterans Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Kerry Ellis star in the Benny/Bjorn/Tim Rice musical about chess, love and politics.  A highlight of this production is Josh Groban’s rendition of Anthem – he’s not too hard on the eye either!

Evita.  Oliver Stone’s production of ALW’s musical about the Argentinian First Lady starring Madonna, who is actually incredibly good in the role.  She is ably supported by Jonathan Pryce as Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che.

Into The Woods.  Through Digital Theatre I procured Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Sondheim’s fairytale based musical.  Personally, I prefer the original Broadway version with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleeson.  It does make me a little nervous for the upcoming movie version with Meryl Streep as the Witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.  While I believe both actors can sing reasonably well, from what I’ve seen, often experienced Broadway vets do better at these sorts of things – witness the recent Sound of Music revival.

Les Miserables.  I have both the 25th anniversary concert version starring Alfie Boe and Norm Lucas as Valjean and Javert and the recent Hollywood film production with an Oscar nominated Hugh Jackman and Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.  I have the 10th Anniversary concert with Colm Wilkinson and Philip Quast on order.  None of these productions is perfect.  For me perfection would be Alfie’s or Colm’s Valjean, Norm’s Javert, Hathaway’s Fantine and Eddie Redmayne’s Marius.  For those of you who know of my deep and abiding adoration of musical star and original Marius Michael Ball (apologies to my husband) it says a lot for Redmayne’s interpretation of Empty Chairs that he could push Michael from the cast list.

Mamma Mia!  I have the movie version of the Bjorn/Benny show with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth.  This movie is worth watching purely for the post credits scene of Streep, Brosnan, Firth and company having a great time hamming it up in 70s latex to Waterloo.  And of course to have a good sing along to the old ABBA classics.

Mary Poppins.  Julie Andrews.  A classic.  Enough said.

Notre Dame de Paris.  For those of you not familiar with this one, this is a French musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  There are some wonderful songs beautifully interpreted by a talented cast.  The set is deliberately sparse, but the director has been incredibly creative in how it is used.  A must-see scene is Les Cloches which is Quasimodo’s love song/“I want” song about his beloved bells.  You can see a snippet on YouTube.

Phantom of the Opera.  Once again I have both the Joel Schumacher movie (best forgotten) and the 25th anniversary with Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo.  It’s a good performance – Karimloo is a little sketchy in places – but Boggess is lovely as Christine.  Of particular note is Wendy Ferguson’s fantastic Carlotta – Ferguson stepped in at the last minute when the actress scheduled to play the role came down with a bad throat infection.

Following on from Phantom, I have the video of the Australian production of Love Never Dies, the sequel to PotO starring Anna Byrne as Christine and Ben Lewis as the Phantom.  This show was critically panned in London, and although the production seen on the video has been revamped, it still didn’t do very well.  Personally I enjoyed it very much – I felt it was one of the more beautiful of Lloyd Webber’s scores.

Rent.  This is the movie version of Jonathan Larson’s musical about a year in the life of a group of young people in New York living with the AIDS epidemic.  While it’s not my favourite musical score, the cast here is top notch and the themes of the show are beautiful.  It’s impossible not to be touched by the life affirming Life Support.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Two words.  Barn raising.

Sound of Music.  The original Julie Andrews version not the recent Carrie Underwood revival.  I have to feel sorry for Underwood – it was a tough ask to step into Julie Andrews’ shoes, and it didn’t help that Laura Benanti’s performance as Elsa, Maria’s rival for Stephen Moyer’s Captain von Trapp’s affections, was pitch perfect.  It’s a sad day when you’d rather the Captain choose Elsa over Maria…

The final entry in the Musicals category is the classic West Side Story.  Again, fantastic choreography, music and acting.

In terms of other movies in my collection, the common denominator is a strong script, whether original or adapted from a novel, performed by a well cast team of actors.  For the great dramas category I present for your consideration:

The Queen.  Helen Mirren deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Her Majesty The Queen dealing with the aftermath of the death of Diana Princess of Wales.  Peter Morgan’s script is surprisingly insightful given that nobody really knows what goes on behind the Palace doors, and of course Mirren gives a powerhouse performance.

The equation that royalty = Oscar gold is played out in the next submission; The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper starring Oscar winners Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.  This whole movie rests on the relationship between King George VI and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, and both actors portray this expertly.  The scene in which Firth finally gives his King’s Speech is one of my go-to feel good scenes in movies, brilliantly supported by Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score.

As a Jane Austen fan, I have movie adaptations of two of her works:  Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and a particularly fine looking Jeremy Northam and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility.  Both are excellent adaptations of the works.

In less overtly Oscar bait material but excellent nonetheless I have:

James Bond.  I have Casino Royale and Skyfall.  I have been enjoying Daniel Craig’s version of Bond.  Of course as as I am a Scot, it’s treason to say anyone is better as Bond than Sean Connery, but Craig does come up there.  He gives a very grounded performance, and his work with Judi Dench in Skyfall is excellent.  However, I do try to pretend that Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist.

Harry Potter.  I own the entire Harry Potter movie series from Philosopher’s Stone right through to Deathly Hallows Part II.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you adapt a much loved book series.  Steve Kloves, who worked closely with J.K. Rowling to develop most of the screenplays for the movies did a perfect job.  The production designer has rendered Hogwarts beautifully and the cast is wonderful.  it’s great to see see the young actors grow into their roles as they age through the movies.  Original director Chris Columbus made a smart move, though, to anchor the movies with the creme de la creme of British acting, notably Richard Harris and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, Dame Maggie Smith’s McGonagall (I could watch her kick ass and take names as she does in Deathly Hallows Part II all day) and, of course, Alan Rickman’s Snape (“Always” <sniff>).

Another book adaption I loved was Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  I have Fellowship, Towers and King all in the extended editions – of course – and continue to be amazed at how stunningly Middle Earth has been recreated in New Zealand.  I wouldn’t say that every one of the cast assembled by Jackson was Oscar worthy talented, but what they were, was perfect for their individual roles.  While the screenplay wasn’t perfect, the cast combined with the skill of Weta Workshop, the Kiwi landscape and a clear love of Tolkien’s work makes for unbeatable cinema.

I own The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and will probably purchase the next two films, but purely to complete my collection not because they are as great as the original trilogy.

Speaking of an original trilogy being better than sequels, that leads me nicely to the final entry in my catalogue.  Star Wars, the original trilogy.  I believe these three films will stand the test of time, having a strong narrative, good cast stellar visuals and a whole lot of heart.

Do you have any of these films in your collection?  Have I missed any?  Let me know in the comments!

Virtual Bookshelf Tour

Hello, I’ve spent some time this afternoon adding my virtual library to my blog.  You can find it under Virtual Bookshelf on the top menu – the books are under sub categories.  They link to amazon.ca if you are interested in buying one of the books.

For audiobooks, I’ve not imported my entire collection – the ones there are ones that I particularly enjoyed listening to in audiobook format.

Enjoy!

Virtual Bookshelf Tour

Hello, I’ve spent some time this afternoon adding my virtual library to my blog.  You can find it under Virtual Bookshelf on the top menu – the books are under sub categories.  They link to amazon.ca if you are interested in buying one of the books.

For audiobooks, I’ve not imported my entire collection – the ones there are ones that I particularly enjoyed listening to in audiobook format.

Enjoy!

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