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!
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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.

 
 
Hello, dear readers! Under normal circumstances I would be reviewing a film, which came out in theaters recently that's certainly of the 'geeky' persuasion. But that's not going to happen. If you haven't been to any entertainment websites lately or tuned out when your comic book fan of a friend started ranting about some movie they went to see this past weekend then I'll give you the low down. Fantastic Four (2015) sucked. I've never come out of a theater feeling underwhelmed, disappointed and angry all at once before now. Thank God my friend Lisa hooked me up with free tickets and I didn't have to actually pay for that drivel! But that's still time I will never get back.
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How come The Thing has no... 'thing?'
The tragedy that is the Fantastic Four franchise on film has been going on since the early 2000s and I could go on and on about it, but not right now. Not while I'm still reeling from the most recent and tremendous failure.

I'd like to try and focus on happier things for today's post, things that don't make me want to send an airstrike to 20th Century Fox Studios. So... here's some of the most underrated fantasy films you need to go watch.
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Smoothest transition ever.
The fantasy genre has always held a special place in my heart. As a kid, I practically drowned myself in countless worlds that housed mythical creatures and lands of magic whether they existed in books or on film. It was, and still is, a way to transport myself from our world to one where seemingly anything is possible. Somewhere where my student loan DOESN'T need to be paid off and big name studios don't make stupid-nope! Not talking about that anymore!

Anyway, because of my unquenchable thirst for everything fantasy related, I've had the pleasure of seeing many titles most of my friends have never heard of, to my surprise. Absolute classics from my childhood have faded into obscurity and I can't have that! Because all of these films are so special to me, they're not being presented in any particular order. One is not better than the other, nor is any more underrated than the others. We'll start off with:

The Witches

Based on a book by Roald Dahl, 'The Witches' is about an orphaned boy who goes to a seaside hotel in England with his grandmother, as she's recovering from illness. While there, he accidentally stumbles upon a convention of witches from all over England. Whatever just popped into your head when I said the word 'witch' doesn't come close to comparing to the creepiness and creativity that you actually see on screen. In this universe, witches vehemently hate children and frequently display that hate, whether that means trapping children in paintings for the entirety of their lives or outright trying to kill babies. Then they turn our protagonist, the boy I mentioned earlier, into a mouse. Once again, whatever you just pictured in your head isn't creepy or traumatizing enough compared to what I saw as a kid. You'd face a ton of opposition in today's day and age if you tried to market a film with a scene like that to kids.

So why would you want to see it, then? Well, it doesn't flinch away from the evil apparent in the story. Too many things aimed at kids today are so bright and colorful, treating them all like they're made of glass.  If I came away from watching this as a kid and not only liked it but wanted to watch it again, than surely kids today can do the same. There's a lot of speculation over what the story inherently is trying to say, but in it's simplest form, The Witches teaches kids not to trust someone based on looks alone. While we have many stories that tell of beauty underneath what we perceive as ugliness, there are too few that talk about the ugly, dark, and terrifying things that can hide behind physical beauty.

Flight of Dragons

This is a gem from way back in 1982 and was produced by the legendary Rankin/Bass company. As you've probably guessed, it's an animated film. Though the animation is definitely dated, you can't deny that the style still looks just as gorgeous as it did when it was released.

I won't try and give you much of a synopsis because there's a LOT happening in this film and lots of names to put to lots of faces. Basically, there are wizards who need to create a realm of magic since science has become prevalent in our world. But of course, there's one wizard who wants to take over everything for himself and the rest of the wizards have to stop him, only there's a rule that wizards can't fight each other. So they use their own dragons and summon a polymath scientist from our world to help. Sounds crazy, I know, but you really got to check out the film before you judge. The most interesting aspect of the film, by far, is the constant dichotomy of magic and science. There is never really any questioning of which is better or right, just that they both exist simultaneously. If there is any film that I can point to for my becoming a nerd later in life, it's this one for sure.

The Secret Of NIMH

Don Bluth animated films rarely get the attention they deserve and The Secret Of NIMH is no exception. We follow a widow, Mrs. Brisby, raising her children one of whom is ill with pneumonia. Oh, and they're all field mice. They need to leave the field they live in before a farmer plows it, but her child can't leave the house while sick or else they will die. When she seeks council from the Great Owl he tells her to see the 'Rats of NIMH'. Once there she learns from the rat's mystical leader, Nicodemus, that her own husband, along with the Rats, were once used in medical experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that somehow boosted their intelligence and lifespan. Because of her late husband they were all able to escape so Nicodemus grants her an amulet and the promise of help from the rats to move her home. But another rat intent on gaining power won't make things easy for them and his threat along with the loss of time threatens the life of Mrs. Brisby's entire family.

While this film can be dark and has many bittersweet moments, it has so much heart and intrigue that I couldn't help but get sucked into it as a kid. The animation is, once again, beautiful and the voice acting is on par and makes you feel slightly foolish for caring so much for a bunch of genetically modified rodents. If Disney films have taught us anything, it's that people love talking, endearing mice. That being said, it's a mystery to me why so few people know about it.

The Last Unicorn

Based on a book that was one of my childhood favorites, 'Unicorn' is everything you'd expect from the fantasy genre. Unicorns in themselves are an embodiment of all things fantastical. It's that symbolism that, in my opinion, makes this film so powerful. In this world, unicorns guard forests and help them thrive, one unicorn in particular hears that she is the last and must go out into the world and away from her forest to find out what happened to her kind. Along the way she runs into some unlikely allies through harrowing and sometimes humorous circumstances who eventually help her get to the seaside, where the unicorns were supposedly last seen.

Much to my delight, I've noticed many more people taking an interest in this film as well as the book it's based off of (as they should). The style of the animation is unlike anything I've seen since and is still breath taking. Don't even get me started on the voice acting! Acting greats like Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin and the legend Christopher Lee (R.I.P.) lend their voices to unforgettable characters. Out of all the films I've talked about so far, this is the one that still makes me cry every freaking time! It's so ingrained in that child-like part of me that I can't help but feel whimsical and carefree whenever I watch it. I guarantee you'll find a bit of that whimsy yourself if you give it a watch.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

This is actually a newer film as it came out in 2010. I happened upon it while perusing the foreign film section at my library and was happily surprised to find that it was pretty damn good. Adele is a resourceful, witty, and courageous heroine that was refreshing to watch in an adventure fantasy film. She's a famous explorer and author who is looking to find a way to cure her brain dead little sister by way of ancient Egyptian mysticism and after she retrieves the mummy of a famous physician from ancient times she goes to a scientist who has somehow found a way to bring old relics and beings back to life, including a pterodactyl featured in a nearby museum. But bumbling policeman, hunters, and a great number of other things continue to get in the way. By the way, she gets the mummy in an Indiana Jones-esque scene filled with action all while wearing a dress and heeled boots. Badass.

As you may have been able to guess, this is a French film, and their films tend to have a quality that most American audiences would see as...well, strange? Not that that's a bad thing, but it can throw some people for a loop. For instance, there are quite a few elements to this film that would seem aimed for kids in their silliness and whimsy, but then you get a random nude scene of Adele in the bath. It's brief and there's nothing sexual about it at all, it's just there. Many moments like that are strewn throughout the movie but that just makes it stand out even more to me, in a good way. If nothing else, you can watch the censored version with your kids so they can watch entertainment that's a bit more posh and refined than what's crammed down their throats in America.

Well, I feel much better now! There are tons more where that came from, but I've been rambling too long anyways. Oh well, guess I'll have to make this one a multi-parter. Have any suggestions for my next post on Underrated Fantasy Films? Tell me in the comments below!
 
 
Valentine's Day sucks. It does for me anyway. If like me, you too find yourself hopelessly single year-after-year, you know that even the promise of half-priced chocolate the day after doesn't make up for an excessive amount of pink & red everywhere, along with the silent judgment the restaurant hostess gives you when you ask for a table for one. That being said, I won't let it get me down this time around. Yes, this year looks like it'll be more lonely than usual. Margaret is going out with her newest beau, Jamie, for the day (whoever he/she is), Lisa was asked to pick up an extra shift at the movie theater because of “you-know-what” playing, and Tiffany has officially started dating this 'Zach' guy I've been hearing about for ages.

I may be home alone on Valentine’s Day, but I won't spend it crying into a pint of chocolate ice cream while watching Nicholas Sparks movies (I prefer butter pecan and Period Romance/Dramas). No! Not a single tear will be shed I tell you! Though there may be some drooling...
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Can't resist a man with a cravat. Double HP when paired with fabulous top hats!
Yes, despite the rampant sexism of the times, I can't help but enjoy watching love stories from a bygone era. They have all the elements of a chauvinistic fairy tale romance, yet many of the female protagonists are not necessarily helpless. Sure they may need help after hurting themselves or putting themselves in harms way, but they are all fiercely intelligent and loyal to their family and to themselves. These girls know who they love, but will reject their love if he doesn't prove to be worthy of it first. Then the films seal the deal by making all of their male protagonists gorgeous, British men who know how to turn on the smolder.
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Don't give me that look!
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C'mon, Pheebs don't give in! You can do this!
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...Oh, sweet Jesus...
Cue all the straight girls swooning, begrudgingly or not.

Despite the amazing qualities these stories have, I can't overlook the fact that these strong women have to live in a world where they 'belong' to these men they fall in love with. It's pretty sad to realize that if I were to live in that society my chances of ending up with a Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester would be incredibly slim, as I know for a fact, that I wouldn't be able to pull off that quiet yet tenacious attitude with men like the ones pictured above, staring at me. And even if I did win their heart, I'd have no choice but to be the lady of the house for the rest of my days.

Then in my rabbit trail of a mind, an idea came to me. What would these stories be like if the roles were reversed? What if the woman held control over their lives and the men they could go after? Stranger questions have been asked about history.
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And stupider questions have been asked, too.
Hear me out on this one! Just once I'd like an alternate Period Romance where things are a bit different... Get your internal ‘movie trailer narrator’ voice ready.  Now, imagine:
    Though the son of a wealthy businesswoman, Charles Wright has no claim to the inheritance his mother left behind in her passing. His step-sister, true heir to the family fortune made it clear that he would receive no financial help from her, therefore Charles and his ailing father had no choice but to leave the life of luxury behind and move to the countryside to find work. The two men move in with a cousin of his father’s and though it's far smaller than what they are accustomed to, Charles makes the most of it, focusing all of his efforts on providing for his father.

    He befriends a young man who is privy to all of the local rumors and gossip. When Charles notices a grand mansion sitting on a hill in the distant forest surrounding the village, he's told about Ms. Glover, the heiress of the Hillside Mansion and estate. She's rumored to be very rich and beautiful, but has never married because of her apparent cold and brooding behavior. Living with her is Kate Glover, Ms. Glover's niece and heir of the entire Hillside Estate. Kate is rumored to be a floozy and treat men poorly, but nothing has ever been brought to the public eye.

    Not long after, Charles walks home from an odd job not far from Hillside. Rain pours down as he struggles to trudge through the muddy path on the road and despite his efforts he trips and falls, injuring his foot. Suddenly, a carriage races towards Charles down the road and the driver appears to not be able to see him through the torrents of rain. He desperately tries to get off the road but is only able to move at a snails pace through the mud. Then right in the nick of time, a woman with boots and a staff comes out from the trees and stops the rider, scolding them for their careless driving.

    She goes to Charles and upon finding him injured, asks to help him the rest of the way home, which he accepts. The woman turns out to be Ms. Glover and the rumors about her aren't entirely incorrect as she answers his attempts at conversation with curt responses and often doesn't speak at all. Once they arrive at his cousin's cottage, Ms. Glover takes note of the state of Charles' father and the small space in which they live. She unexpectedly offers Charles a job caring for the grounds on her estate once his foot recovers. Surprised but grateful, he accepts.

            Caring for the gardens and grounds of Hillside proves to be a challenge, but Charles revels in it as he enjoys the outdoors and has always shown a proclivity for gardening. He begins to see a different and warmer side to Ms. Glover, as she begins to slowly open up to him and he to her. The two slowly but surely begin to fall for one another. Kate Glover returns to Hillside after a trip to the city and is immediately attracted to Charles, as such she accosts him on the grounds in an attempt to seduce him which he vehemently refuses. This and the revelation that her aunt 'Emily' Glover and Charles may become betrothed, thereby making their progeny be the heir to Hillside instead of her, makes her hate Charles. So she lies to Charles and tells him that Ms. Glover has been engaged to marry another wealthy heir in the village that he's frequently seen visit Hillside; she's been stringing him along, making false promises of love and affection the whole time.

            Heartbroken and betrayed, Charles makes to confront Ms. Glover but hears that his father is very close to death. So he decides to leave Hillside without a word instead. He makes it home to be by his father’s side as he dies. Seeing as there is nothing tying him to the village any longer, he makes to go back to the city, where his friend has gotten him a job tending the gardens of a university. Days after starting, Ms. Glover surprises him with a visit. Here he learns that one of Kate's 'endeavors' became very public and resulted in her being shamed out of the Hillside inheritance. Ms. Glover demands to know why he left in the first place and Kate’s lie is revealed for what it truly was, a lie. Here is where Ms. Glover proposes to the overjoyed Charles, who accepts.
That's my pitch for all of you aspiring novelists and Hollywood producers out there! Make romance even better by letting women feel empowered! Let them know that their love story can happen at any time or in any way AND be on their terms. Something new and different needs to happen to the romance genre these days.
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And this sure as hell isn't it.
If you like historical romance as much as I do, check out "Lord Blackburn's Treasure" written by my friend Kelly Lynn Peters. You can get the Kindle edition for only $2.99!
You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.