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Archive for the ‘Movie Magic’ Category

This week is round 2 of The Lion King.  I’m showing the rest of the film to all of my classes, and there are new observations to be made.

For those of you who may have forgotten, here’s a quick recap of things that happen after Mufasa’s death.  Simba runs away.  Scar tells the hyenas to kill him, but they don’t succeed.  Simba escapes, but everyone at Pride Rock thinks he’s dead.  Simba befriends Timon, the meerkat, and Pumba, the warthog.  They teach him the carefree lifestyle of Hakuna Matata.  Remember, it means no worries…for the rest of your days.  But life gets more complicated when Nala reenters the picture, and tries to get him to go back to Pride Rock.  They have all suffered since Scar has become king.  Simba and Nala have a little musical number, where they feel the love tonight, but reality hits when Simba must face what he’s been running away from.  In the end, with Nala, Rafiki, Timon and Pumba’s help, he reclaims his rightful place as king by defeating the evil Scar and his pack of hyenas.  The Circle of Life is restored to its original glory and all is right in the world.

The Lion King is a pretty amazing movie.  And in 2-D animation too!  Released in June of 1994, it is the highest grossing 2-D animated film of all time in the United States, grossing over $783 million that year alone.  It also ranks #27 on the list of highest grossing films worldwide.  The Lion King is timeless.  Even though I will have watched the movie in its entirety close to 20 times by the end of this week, I still love it.  It’s funny, charming, warm, deep, and meaningful.  It’s without a doubt my favorite Disney animated movie, and I’m glad of all the movies out there, I decided to show my kids this one.

My students love Timon and Pumba.  They were highly amused during Hakuna Matata, and they burst out in uncontrollable laughter when Timon and Pumba act as bait by doing a hula so that Simba and Nala can get past the hyenas at the end of the movie.  Check out the scene below:

It’s funnier this time around, and for some reason, because my kids like it so much, it’s made me really appreciate that scene too.  One boy, a little boy less than 4 feet tall with thick framed glasses also kept shouting “Hakuna Matata” at random parts of the movie, just because he liked hearing it out loud.  He shouted it during the battle between Simba and Scar and he also shouted it when Simba and Nala’s baby is being introduced to the kingdom.  It was precious, even though other students were clearly annoyed at his outbursts.

When Simba and Nala are frolicking in the jungle during Can You Feel The Love Tonight, my students had a number of noteworthy reactions.  Given that there were no real people on the screen and we were dealing with lions, animated lions at that, it was quite funny that my 7th graders squealed, giggled, laughed, moaned or emitted other strange  sounds.  Children would turn to their neighbors or friends and give each other embarrassed looks.  The best part was when Nala licked Simba’s face, and the two proceeded to nuzzle each other.  Awkward noises were at a peak.  One class had the most peculiar reaction.  Students erupted in applause at such moments during the movie and would yell certain names.  Apparently there was a budding romance between 2 of my students in that class, and their classmates were giving them both a hard time.  I had to ask a student to explain it to me at the end of class.  She told me that they were joking around and calling one of the boys Simba, and the other girl Nala.  I asked if they were really going out, and she said that the class suspected it, but nothing was confirmed.

I was surprised that 7th graders would already be dating!  They all seemed so immature, much more immature in terms of social relationships with the opposite sex than 7th graders back in the states.  It’s also against school rules to date each other, which is why there are tons of underground and secret relationships, especially among high school students.  I just thought, if my kids are squealing and moaning over lions showing affection toward each other, how could they be ready for a real relationship?  Things definitely move at a much slower pace here in China and boys and girls, for the most part, start dating at a much later age than in the states.

Anyhow, I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day so I can teach about love and romance and get even more awkward and embarrassed reactions out of my kids!  In the meantime, I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of the love tonight.

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Last week my 7th graders had midterms on Monday and Tuesday.  Because I wanted to give my students a break from work, but mostly because I also wanted to give myself a break from teaching, I brought in a movie to show them.  I didn’t want to teach anything new since I wasn’t teaching the classes I usually see on Monday and Tuesday (7 classes), and I didn’t want to alter my weekly lesson plan schedule.  The only kid-appropriate DVD with Chinese subtitles I have in my apartment is The Lion King.

So I watched the first 40 minutes of The Lion King 13 times.  13 times.  I saw the movie with all of its musical numbers in the first 40 minutes 13 times.  I watched The Circle of Life, I Just Can’t Wait to be King, Be Prepared, and the death of Mufasa 13 times in 3 days.  It was pretty exhausting, and even though I wanted to do other things during class time, like review my Chinese or read a book, for some reason, I couldn’t look away.  I still had to watch the movie.  It was too compelling, all 13 times.

It started to hurt my brain after a while, or it could have been all the colors making my eyes tired.  Regardless, it’s still a great movie.  And if I had to watch any movie 13 times, I’m glad it was The Lion King.  It brought back memories of when I was young, when times were simpler.  I owned the movie on a bootleg VHS (in great quality) and watched it every day, after school and on the weekends, for a month.  I remember I would cry every time Mufasa died.  As an adult watching it with my students, I even teared the first few times I put it on.

My students enjoyed it, some more than others.  I could see their little faces light up with amusement or their eyes and mouth widen with suspense or awe.  In all my classes, the kids laughed and gasped in all the same places.  Some even cried when Mufasa died.  I have to say, my kids were the quietest they have ever been while watching the movie.  Some kids were so shocked and happy that I was actually showing them a movie, they erupted in applause and glee at the start of class and told me I was their favorite teacher, that Oral English was their favorite subject.  One student even told me she loved me.  She said, “Wahh (the Chinese equivalent of Wow), Teacher, I love you!”  I couldn’t help but smile at that one.

No matter how much time has elapsed, no matter the language, some things are just classics and have the power to affect people in the same way.  The Lion King is timeless.  It’s an oldie, but it is a goody, and I’m glad to have shared some movie magic with my students.

Yesterday I finally did what I wanted to do since the first day I got to China:  go to the DVD store.  It was surprisingly a lot harder to find than I had imagined.  But when I got there, I felt like I never wanted to leave.

I had a hard time picking out movies.  I wanted them all, especially since they were so cheap.  All DVD-9 movies (apparently movies you can play back in the States on a DVD player vs. DVDs that might only work on a Chinese DVD player but are cheaper) were 9 RMB.  The exchange rate is roughly 1 RMB = $0.15 USD!

I settled on the DVDs below for my first trip.  But I know I’ll be back there.  Entire seasons of TV shows are also readily available.  My roommate bought the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for 18 RMB.  Some other fun series were The Tudors, True Blood, How I Met Your Mother, and Gossip Girl.  But pretty much any show you can think of, they have.  The only thing that disappointed me about this place is that they don’t have newer movies available.  Their most recent movies were released several months ago, around May.

I have to warn you, while I’m not necessarily ashamed of my selection because although it is a pretty accurate depiction of movies I generally like, I do know that most of them are actually quite awful in terms of taste.  So here goes:

Terminator Salvation

Let the Right One In

Milk

Here’s where the list starts faltering:

Land of the Lost

Australia

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Bride Wars

And don’t judge me, but:

Hannah Montana: The Movie

That’s right.  That was my first DVD purchase.  And last night I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic and Hannah Montana: The Movie.

I was quite excited to view my purchases.  I rushed back to the hotel so that I could pop in one of my chick flicks, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Except I watched Confessions with a friend and she was definitely not feeling the movie, particularly the cheesey lines and plot.

There was a part during the movie when I had to acutally stop and comment on the dialogue.  I apologized to her.  I told her that while it was usually acceptable for me to watch these movies on my own, that when 1 other person was in the room watching it with me, it made me more aware of the awful dialgoue and cheesey plots (which I whole-heartedly love when I’m by myself).  And for subjecting to her to this, I was really sorry.  She was a good sport.

Later that night, after a nice shower, I curled up in bed and put Hannah Montana on.  It was splendid.

Coming soon…a foot massage and a full body massage too?  Maybe.

 “You’re like a drug to me – my own personal brand of heroin.”

Says Edward Cullen, brooding, beautiful and vampire, to Bella Swan, clumsy, fragile and human.  In a forest in the back of their high school in the small, permanently overcast town of Forks, Washington.  Such is the whirlwind romance at the heart of Twilight.

And at that very moment, when Edward compares his intense feelings for Bella to heroin, about half way through the movie, I couldn’t contain myself any longer.  I rifled through my bag for a pen and piece of paper and wrote those words down, in the dark, so that I could give all of you an accurate taste of what the movie was like for me – a barrel of laughs and a good time all around.

I couldn’t believe that he just compared her to one of the worst drugs out there — one of the most awful drugs, depicted horribly in pop culture (such as in Requiem For A Dream).  I can’t remember if that line was in the book, but I was shocked that that line could be seen as a compliment of any sort or that it was even said!  Minus one, Edward.  Minus one.

But before I continue with any more about the movie, based on the first of a four book series written by Stephanie Meyer, I am compelled to write about the phenomenon that is Twilight, a phenomenon that has swept the nation and crept most keenly into the hearts of young girls and women alike, all across America, and even across the world.


twilight2

I jumped on the Twilight bandwagon much later than most.  Back in September, a friend told me that I would love this series, about a young girl who falls in love with a vampire, and that’s when it all started for me.  I had previously heard about this series months ago from my supervisor at work.  He loves vampire stories, so when he told me about it, I thought…I’m not sure if that’s for me… But after my friend told me about it, I became intrigued.  Two endorsements over the same series – I had to see for myself.  I immediately purchased the books from Amazon, and I proceeded to read all four in the next 10 days.

I read these books for hours each day.  Bella and the attractive vampire family that are The Cullens consumed my life.  Every free moment I had:  on the subway, during my lunch break, when I got home after work.  I even stayed up until 2:30AM finishing Twilight the first day I got it.  It’s sad, but it’s true.

I lost a bit of steam the further I got into the series.  After the second book, New Moon, I thought, what else could possibly happen that would fill two more novels?  During Eclipse, the third book, I kind of wanted to tear my eyes out so I wouldn’t have to read any more.  Honestly, I can’t even remember what happened in the third book, even though I read it less than two months ago.  I just remember thinking, does she or doesn’t she become a vampire?  (Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away!)

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hello, if I were Bella, I would stop doubting this perfect man’s love for me, count my lucky stars that he did, and start reveling in every moment with him.

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I believed the third book to be a filler on the way to the finale – it seemed like the only reason the book was written was to make more money off the entire enterprise, something that didn’t enhance the plot in any way, but was churned out just to make a quick buck and to placate fans in the mean time, while Meyer was working on the final book. The plot was tedious, and I was tired of the same drama, the same senseless musings of a teenager in love with a dreamy guy, her uncertainty over whether or not he loved her (even though it was quite clear he did), and her desire to forsake her life for an eternity with him. As a side note, I just have to say that, hello, if I were Bella, I would stop doubting this perfect man’s love for me, count my lucky stars that he did, and start reveling in every moment with him. But, regardless of Bella’s slightly irritating thoughts, I still had to know what happened, and I couldn’t stop reading until I found out. Breaking Dawn redeemed the series. I was satisfied with the end result.

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In a different life we could have been friends. ______________________________________

Now, I don’t love these books for the writing. I would by no means classify these books as great literature. And they won’t ever be an Oprah’s Book Club kind of book. But I do love these books because they bring me back to a younger self. They have the ability to appeal to many people, of many different ages. While the books are targeted largely to a female audience, I’ve known and seen a number of guys reading them too. A friend told me the other day that she was riding the subway when an adult woman next to her was reading one of the books, and across from her, a beefy guy in his teens was reading one too! While I was furiously reading Breaking Dawn on the train on my way to work one morning back in September, I looked up to see this girl close to my age looking down at me, smiling. I thought it was a bit weird she was smiling at me. But when I was getting up to get off at my stop, she pointed down and said, “Best book ever.” I smiled in return and replied, “It’s great. I love it.” All she said was, “I know.” Then the subway doors closed, and I never saw her again. But I was still smiling. In a different life we could have been friends.

This story, these books bring people together. I’m not sure what it is that makes me want to know everything about it, but after reading the first book, I became obsessed. I found myself googling and IMDB-ing all the actors cast in each of the roles. I watched all the trailers that were up. I even went on Stephanie Meyer’s website and read the leaked chapters of her companion book to TwilightMidnight Sun — which is just the first book through the eyes of Edward instead of Bella. That’s right. The same story. I already knew what was going to happen, but I still had to read it. I downloaded the unedited first 12 chapters and skimmed the entire thing that night.

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Edward Cullen embodies everything that a girl wants.  He is everything I wanted my boyfriend to be when I was between the ages of 12 and 14, before I knew any better, before I knew what was really out there, before reality hit me.

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Now that you have an idea of my journey with these books, I want to tell you a little more about why I love them. If you know anything about me, you know that I love many things (I am, after all, a multi-faceted individual), but one of the things I really love is a good teen angst story, and Twilight is a great story full of angst. Not only is this a story between a girl who falls in love with a boy, and the sweet, tender, awkward moments associated with young love, but the boy just so happens to be a vampire, who also has to resist his urges to suck her blood and kill her.

Twilight has danger, intrigue, angst, and the perfect man.  Edward Cullen embodies everything that a girl wants.  He is everything I wanted my boyfriend to be when I was between the ages of 12 and 14, before I knew any better, before I knew what was really out there, before reality hit me.  Edward is beautiful, smart, effortlessly cool, witty, has a bit of a bad boy quality, a little edgy, mysterious, dark, yet sensitive and soulful.  Though he is silently suffering in his lonely existence, he is at the same time ready and able to whole-heartedly love Bella with such intensity that he will do anything to keep her safe.  After 90 years of being 17, he has found his soul mate (figuratively speaking since technically he has no soul and is not living) in Bella.  At the heart of Twilight, it is a sweet and touching tale that unfolds between two individuals who have never experienced such strong emotions before.  There is an innocence there that I sometimes miss, where gazing longingly into each other’s eyes and sharing a passionate and tender kiss meant the world.  Plus the vampire element really adds an extra dimension to the story and makes things even that much more exciting.

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Mostly because I feel like a part of me might still be 12 years old

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The book had more than a handful of cheesy moments, but I loved reading them.  Mostly because I feel like a part of me might still be 12 years old, which is why I am able to relate so easily to all the feelings of angst and how I can vividly picture all the awkward moments (because sometimes, I am still that awkward).  Though I thought the movie was an overall accurate portrayal of the book, I had pictured something in my head that was different than what was played out before me at the movies, which was quite an experience in itself.


I watched the midnight showing the night before the movie officially opened with a few of my girlfriends. I even pre-ordered my ticket online. I wasn’t going to take any chances. I got to the theater at 10:30PM, and there were already tons of teens there. MTV News was also in the concession stand area interviewing movie-goers. There were groups of girls with custom-made Twilight t-shirts, and people were actually taking photos in the theater before the movie started. It was as if they had never been to a movie before! I really didn’t understand the need to take photos while sitting in a semi-lit theater before the start of a movie. Theaters all look the same on the inside! It was wild that these teens were so crazy about Twilight that they were documenting every moment of it. But considering how some girls wanted the actor, Robert Pattinson, to bite them when he was making appearances in malls all across America (because they couldn’t understand or didn’t want to believe that he wasn’t really Edward Cullen or a vampire, and that Edward Cullen was a fictional character), anything was possible. No amount of crazy was shocking.

Once the previews started, the cheering and loud applause began. Once the movie started, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Robert Pattinson (aka Cedric Diggory, the cute wizard who dies in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Kristen Stewart are great at portraying Edward and Bella respectively. Their chemistry is undeniable. The angst is without a doubt there. However, it made me uncomfortable at times watching their scenes together. It was downright hilarious at moments. When Edward first gets a whiff of Bella’s scent, and the fan blows her hair to the side, the look on Edward’s face is absolutely priceless. It looks as if he’s going to vomit. He clenches his fist, he wrinkles his nose in disgust, and his body cringes in pain. Bella, in the meantime, is confused beyond belief, and actually starts sniffing herself to make sure she doesn’t really smell! We learn in the book that he reacts that way because her scent is so sweet and appealing that he has to do everything in his power to restrain himself and not attack her.

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In every scene he was in, all I wanted to do was rip his fake hair extensions out!

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The camera work is shaky at times, the close-ups are too close, cutting into the actors’ faces at what I thought to be unflattering angles, and the special effects are not very special. When Edward carries Bella on his back and runs through the forest and into the tree tops to show her what he is capable of (he has superhuman speed), it doesn’t look very impressive. The scenery is nice, but that was about it. While books rarely translate into movies you envisioned while reading them, Twilight was almost intentionally comedic, even though the books were quite dramatic. I’m not sure what they were going for while creating it, but the delivery of lines by some of the other actors were really not how I expected. It was hard to take seriously. I have to say that for those who watched the movie, Eric, Tyler, and Mike Newton were not what I imagined. But the most shocking of all was Jacob! In every scene he was in, all I wanted to do was rip his fake hair extensions out! I can’t wait until the second movie comes out, when his hair is cut, and he bulks up!  Though I’m not sure how they’re going to pull that off…

The best part of the movie, aside from others’ in the theater being as highly amused as I was throughout the whole thing (confirmed by the cackling and uncontrollable bursts of laughter in the theater), was that since it was a movie, it lacked Bella’s constant thoughts that we read in the book. Instead, we get to see how the relationship develops and are subjected to her inner narration only a few times throughout the movie. Her character is much more likable on screen.

Even though Twilight wasn’t what I envisioned while reading the book, it was still quite entertaining, mainly because so many of the interactions had such a comedic twist. Seeing the scenes played out before me was a jolly good time. I can’t say anything too bad about the books or the movies though, because honestly, I just want to be Bella Swan. Even if only for a few hours.  With Edward’s cold arms wrapped around me.

 

 

I’m still on a High School Musical high.  Last night, I watched the final installment of the hit Disney movie phenomenon.  In theaters.  One of my dearest friends had free movie passes, so I jumped at the opportunity to go with her – partly because it was free, but mostly because after I saw the trailer for High School Musical 3: Senior Year in high definition, I knew that I had to watch it, and she was the only person I knew who wanted to see it just as badly as I did. 

 

 

Okay, all of you non-believers out there can laugh and mock me all you want, but HSM 3 was fantastic.  These movies aren’t considered a phenomenon just because they appeal to children.  Oh no.  Let me tell you that there were grown men and women in the theater with me, without any kids.  In fact, this past weekend, the movie opened at number 1 in the box office, with $42 million!  The movie only cost $11 million to make, and so far, it has grossed $83,485,753 worldwide!

 

HSM 3 was everything I wanted it to be and more.  Not only did it exceed my expectations, but I would even pay $12 to watch it again.  That’s right.  I thought it was that good.  I loved every moment of it.  Even though my mind wandered a few times during the dialogue, and there were times when I was laughing at what was happening instead of laughing with the characters in the storyline, once the singing and dancing came back, I was enthralled.  Riveted.  Highly entertained.  Amused beyond belief.  Yes, I can’t stop gushing about it.  I will have to own this movie when it comes out on DVD, so that I can learn the songs and practice the dance moves while I’m alone and in my room.  What?  I’m not ashamed. 

 

For those of you who might be curious about the plot, it’s senior year, and Zac Efron and gang are back.  The East High School Wildcats are amidst a basketball championship, prom is just around the corner, and the big spring musical is the last chance these seniors will get to be a part of a production together.  While HSM 3 caters to a Disney audience, it also deals with real issues that I’m still dealing with as a 23-year-old (figuring out what you want to do, what your dreams are, learning to listen to your heart, and living your life the way you want to instead of living your parents’ dream, albeit with a feel-good, sometimes cheesy factor).  Key lines include, “I’m not a little kid anymore” and “I want my own dream – so bad I’m gonna scream!” 

 

Zac Efron, for all the slack that he gets, is definitely the star of the movie.  He really steps up his performance from the first HSM two years ago.  The other kids in this movie (more like young adults now) are also incredible performers.  I love every song and dance number.  Not to mention the clothes are cute and colorful, the songs are catchy and upbeat, and the dancing is really quite impressive – everyone is so together and so on point! 

 

From the moment the first musical number came on, until the very last, all I wanted to do was clap my hands and bop side to side to every beat.  After the movie ended, I was filled with so much happiness, and my heart was full of joy and glee!  I know that HSM 3 isn’t for everyone, but I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun watching a movie!

 

Check out highlights from the movie below: