Today I've been busy helping my "Jane of All Trades" friend, Tiffany, helping her bake for her family's annual bake off.

Tomorrow, I'll be eating aforementioned baked goods and turkey, then come 6pm, I'll be keeping my other friend Margaret company in the Best Buy line as she attempts to secure a cheap TV. She's been camped out since Monday for this deal! Good thing we're all line pros due to convention adventures.

Luckily, I drew late shift duty at work, where we're having a massive sale, so I'll have AM time to shop myself and pick up some new games.


I'm also going to squeeze in some time at the theater and take in some new movies, so look for some fresh reviews in the coming weeks.

Have a great holiday!
 
 
Well, it's mid-November which means Thanksgiving (Yay!), Black Friday (Boo!), and of course the newest addition to the Hunger Games film series and, this time around, it will be the last. There will be tons of terrible withdrawal from fans, I assure you. Unlike the Potter series where the author decided to write a trilogy of prequel movies to keep their world alive, Hunger Games looks like it's going the direction of The Hobbit/Tolkien franchise where we'll be giving the series and those that created it a wet and blubbering goodbye.
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* sniff * The pain is real.
My own introduction to the dystopian series started before the films came out and the book series itself was coming to its peak of popularity. It was a pleasant surprise to read a Young Adult book that kept the typical easy-to-read format, yet didn't dumb itself down or not take its audience seriously. It didn't focus on the primary focus of the series, being that a boy and girl from each 'district' must kill each other until one remains, but looked more at why a dystopia had come to this point. The popularity it had garnered with the teenaged audience who had only years before fawned over the somehow famous Twilight series was encouraging without a doubt. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that The Hunger Games is one of the best Young Adult series of the past decade.

The strongest point of the entire series rests on the shoulders of its relatable, strong female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. She immediately proves, when we meet her in both the books and the movies, that she is not your typical teenaged heroine. She is a responsible individual, both out of necessity and love for her family. We learn that her father died in a coal mining accident which sent her mother into a deep depression, leaving Katniss to provide for her mother and younger sister at a young age. Even when her mother recovered, she hunted to make sure they (including other less fortunate families) got fed. When her little sister, Prim, is chosen in the lottery that decides who participates in the 'games', Katniss takes her place knowing her sister has little chance of surviving. Her self-reliance gives her an excellent advantage in the games, but her willingness to reach out for help from those she trusts when it's needed most also helps her to survive. That balance mixed with her determination to fight for what's right gets her back home.
Before I go on, I'll address something that I know many of my fellow geeks are itching to comment about. The Hunger Games is almost exactly like Battle Royale. I'll concede that. The plot of the first book is nearly identical with a few elements changed around. But there are things that are not addressed or explored in Battle Royale that Hunger Games delves into, not just giving it a different enough voice but making the audience more uncomfortable. Battle Royale is certainly violent and unflinching when it comes to showing what's basically kids killing each other but Hunger Games makes those running the games and being entertained so unnervingly similar to its own audience, they are ignorant and materialistic in ways that we can't help but think of ourselves. Hunger Games makes a strong statement about the attitude and habits of our society by exploring real-world problems that need to be addressed, especially with our younger generations. Where Battle Royale stopped, Hunger Games digs deeper.

If I had a nickel for every time Hunger Games has been put under a microscope for the themes it explores, I would be on my own personal island making the cast of the Firefly act out more episodes for my amusement. The series takes a jab at some rather unsavory things about our media-centered nation as well as global issues that are being discussed amongst the worlds greatest minds.

It's not hard at all to see that Hunger Games is unhappy with our media culture, from the gaudy talk show with an over exuberant host to the reactions of an audience who have the audacity to feel anything for the people they are going to send, essentially, to their deaths. This same audience gets fed coverage of the 'games' and surrounding districts that is heavily biased and only feeds their own selfish desires. Sound familiar?

Many political implications could be taken as well. The audience of the games that I was talking about all live in 'The Capital' where they live off of the resources that come from surrounding districts who often live in poverty and under a police state. They are a perfect example of the higher class looking down on the lower class and doing nothing. While horrific things happen to the people who are responsible for getting them food, clothing, and pretty much everything they require in their worry-free lives, they watch a game where these very people die one after the other for entertainment.

In real life, we certainly don't allow people to be killed in such a manner, but we watch people get killed everyday all over the world for multiple reasons on our TV screens. All while passing unfair judgements, criticizing, or feeling empathetic shortly before forgetting them altogether.
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Geez, I'm depressing myself. Here have a pic of Katniss and Peeta's couple name.
I'm actually going to end my ranting here because this is all starting to feel too heavy for a typical blog post, but let me end with one last thing. The books took me on an emotional and thought provoking roller coaster that millions of other teens have now ridden. The movies presented visuals that are scarily close to what we see on the news everyday. My hope is that in a country where many of our younger generation are, generally, seen as being self-centered morons who only care about who becomes the next winner of 'The Voice', the Hunger Games series (both book and film) will be a well-made and gripping slap to their faces. The problems they see on the page or on the silver screen are not just fictional and there most definitely needs to be a revolution. Guess who lead the one in Hunger Games? A young woman who followed her conscience and wouldn't stand by while the world watched itself burn.

What are your thoughts on the Hunger Games? Did you catch any messages or themes that I didn't mention? Tell me about it in the comments. Also, are you excited to see the last addition to the series?
 
 
Let's face it, if your family isn't like what's portrayed on TV sitcoms, then sometimes during the holidays, it's best to fake sick or hang with your besties, stuff your face with baked goods, and take in a movie or TV marathon during this 'festive time of the year.'

If that's your plan, as it has been mine in the past, then lucky for you thanks to Hollywood franchising everything under the sun, it's now easier than ever to find content to marathon. But because there is so much selection, it can't always be easy to choose. So this year, I'll give some suggestions to spend your holiday downtime.

Star Wars Saga:

With Episode VII coming soon, this really is a must view material and since the prequels are so slow, it'll allow you to get to sleep off that turkey, until the good parts come on screen. Speaking of the slow prequels, I recently stumbled upon the 'Machete Viewing Order' that suggests you skip Episode I and gives you a good reason why. The abridged version, is that you can watch in this order: IV, V, II, III, & VI and that way, Episodes II & III serve as a flashback. If you're interested, you can read the whole brilliant thesis HERE

Doctor Who Christmas Specials:

Since they've been doing these annual episodes since 2005, we've built up quite a library that equals many hours for quality holiday time with the good doctor. It's true some are better than others, but to me, Doctor Who is like pizza, even bad pizza is good.

Here's a list of all the episodes to date including the 1964 episode:

1964 - The Feast of Steven

2005 - The Christmas Invasion

2006 - The Runaway Bride

2007 - Voyage of the Damned

2008 - The Next Doctor

2009 - The End of Time: Part One

2010 - A Christmas Carol

2011 - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

2012 - The Snowmen

2013 - The Time of the Doctor 

2014 - Last Christmas
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Art by Dani Jones @ DaniDraws.com

The Lord of the Rings (Extended Editions):

Because these movies are so epic like the books, I always feel like I always pick up something new when I view these, especially the extended editions. Now that The Hobbit trilogy is out, and if you've seen it, it may be fun to see how well these films connect to those.

James Bond:

Are you stuck somewhere cold and need to feel swept away to warm exotic locations with beautiful people? Then take in some of the Bond films. While they're not all hits, I've picked out some of the better ones in no particular order with a wide selections of Bonds:

Casino Royale

Gold Finger
From Russia with Love
Skyfall
Goldeneye
For Your Eyes Only
The Living Daylights


Also, now that Spectre is out, it's a good time to take in some of the more classic films and begin speculating about the next entry in the Daniel Craig library.

Muppets:

If the holidays get you feeling blue and you want to laugh a little, watch some Muppets Movies. The antics of the Muppets are timelessly funny and here are a few of my favorites.

A Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Movie
The Muppets Take Manhattan
The Great Muppet Caper
Muppets


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Sorry, SPOILER ALERT! Scrooge turns good.

Harry Potter:

This one is for the hardcore but well worth the time it takes. I do like all of them, and honestly, if things go south with my family at a holiday function, I'm hiding away taking in all 8 of these films back-to-back. What makes this collection so fun is the continuity, the fact that over the years it made to make these films, they were able to keep most all of the primary actors, makes the this marathon really satisfying.
So there you go, those are my suggestions. Do you have any marathon favorites? If so, share them below!
 
 
The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of magical for Potterheads! About four years ago, we all had that moment of realization that our beloved fandom had 'ended'. There were no more books or movies to be released and the end to the Potter Saga was just beautiful and perfect enough to give us all that much needed feeling of completion while at the same time leaving a small hole in all of our hearts. That's what happens when a writer doesn't just create excellent characters but entire worlds that their readers would desperately want to visit and play around in.

It would appear that Rowling isn't done playing with us.

Last week, the news of a stage play that will premiere July 30th, 2016 caught everyone by surprise. It's called 'Harry Potter and The Cursed Child' and will still follow our beloved protagonist but now he's all grown up with a job and a family. It would also appear that some focus will be given to his son, Albus, who goes to Hogwarts while struggling with the weight of his father's legacy.
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Bird-child?
My initial thought was how in the heck will they portray magic on stage? It's set to play at West End so I have no doubt that a nice budget will be given to them and it's not that hard for the Potter franchise to rake in the dollar bills, but there are still limits for what can be shown on stage. Will magic even be a strong component of the story in the play? It is set in the wizarding world so of course magic will be involved, but from what I've read in the plot descriptions we might be getting a more character-driven story that focuses on the relationship between Harry and his son.

My other thought was that this could be quite a depressing play for fans who've followed the franchise since childhood. I can already see myself watching a grown up Harry Potter go about a normal adult life (normal for a wizard, anyway) all while realizing how much I myself have grown up and become boring. And to see that while our hero saved the world, there were personal repercussions that effect not just him but his child who didn't even exist when everything with Voldemort went down is a downer for sure. Harry and his family should get the peace they deserve, dammit!

All the same, I'm too curious not to look into this play more and one day watch it for myself. Especially to see how magic is portrayed! The writers who worked with Rowling, the director and everyone involved in its production have excellent resumes. It's very possible that they've got a good thing going here, but we won't know until next summer.

In other news...
Everyone is going nuts over Entertainment Weekly releasing pictures from the upcoming film written by J.K. Rowling herself, depicting the adventures of Newt Scamander. When I heard about this film being written, I was ecstatic! As long as Rowling was writing it, I was happy. When I learned that most of it was going to take place in America I nearly passed out in excitement.

You have no idea how badly I've wanted to know more about what the wizarding world is like in the States. Ever since I read Goblet of Fire and got a glimpse at the Salem Witches' Institute my curiosity was piqued. As much as I loved the vast look at the world of wizards in the UK, I had to know more about the American side of wizard life. I had so many questions without any way to get an answer. Now I can get those answers!
JK Rowling
Direct me to where the American Wizarding school is, please! I'm past due for a much needed education.
Rowling has so far indicated that there is a sort of Hogwarts equivalent in America but that the Salem Institute is not it. She said its linked to Native Americans which leads me to believe that it is somewhere in the Midwest or Upper Southwest as there was once countless native tribes residing in those areas. My guess also comes from the fact that a wizarding school needs to be kept secret so what better place to have it than in the middle of nowhere. How crazy would it be if the schools were somewhere in North Dakota or Iowa?

But back to the movie -- the pictures don't reveal much that we didn't know already or about the plot itself. We know that Eddie Redmayne is playing Newt and we also know that the movie will take place in the 1920's in New York. The pictures reflect this fact with what looks like some beautiful set design and costuming! The 1920s provides some excellent visuals and I'm so happy that they're going all the way when it comes to looks and details.

One thing I did notice in the captions and the featured picture of the story is that America has a 'Magical Congress of the United States of America'. How freaking cool is that?! And it looks beautiful with the golden phoenixes behind Newt. I'd bet you anything that Phoenixes are American wizard versions of bald eagles.
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Admit it, you want this to be our national bird now.
Guys, there are no words to describe how excited I am for this film! We're not just returning to the wizarding world, but we're going to see a part of it that I've ALWAYS wanted to explore! There's absolutely no doubt as to where I'll be November 17th in 2016. In line at the theater, waiting for the stroke of midnight!

For more on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them check out its IMDB page HERE.


And to see all the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pictures from Entertainment Weekly, check them out HERE.