Monthly Archives: May 2016

We Have Our First Look at Disney’s Live-Action “Beauty and the Beast”!

Last week, Disney released the first teaser trailer for its live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, which we now know will be released on March 17, 2017.

It doesn’t give a whole lot away–and a good teaser trailer shouldn’t give you the entire plot anyway–but I have to say that those sets look AMAZING. I’m excited to see this for those sets alone. Also, the candelabras definitely reminded me of the set design from the 2004 Phantom of the Opera, which is ironic because the sets from that movie got their inspiration from Jean Cocteau’s 1941 La Belle et la Bete. So it’s almost like the two stories are inspiring each other in a perpetual feedback loop.

I’m hesitant to get too excited about this because my disappointments with Les Miserables and the Hobbit trilogy are still fresh and clear in my mind. But at the same time, this trailer has me excited and intrigued about what will happen next with this version of the tale as old as time.

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Eight Turns 20!

Today is the 20th anniversary of the (in)famous Doctor Who TV movie. It was a British/American co-production that the powers-that-be hoped would jumpstart a brand new Doctor Who series in America. Of course, things didn’t happen that way; it would be another nine years before our favorite Time Lord would permanently return to television (nine-year wait for the Ninth Doctor, I just realized that), but it was still a memorable venture into the Whoniverse.

“Oh, yeah, sure, memorable for saying the Doctor is half-human. Memorable for being the first time we see the Doctor kiss his companion. Memorable for Eric Roberts’ terrible performance as the Master.”

Okay, first of all, I will go on the record as saying I actually liked Eric Roberts as the Master. He was sly, scheming, maniacal–everything a good Master is supposed to be. Granted, he was no Roger Delgado (my favorite Master), but I still think he carried off the role and generally did a good job. Honestly, sometimes I think most of the grief Roberts was getting came from the fact they had the audacity to cast an American as the Master. The horror.

As for the half-human thing…yeah, I got nothing on that one. Neither does the show, apparently, because it was the first and the last time the Doctor was described as being half-human (although Steven Moffat alluded to it in season 9). And it’s important to note that Paul McGann was against the Doctor’s having a romantic relationship with the companion and protested very loudly, even purposely messing up the kiss scene!

But think of all of the wonderful Big Finish audio adventures that never would have existed if there hadn’t been a TV movie! We may never have gotten to enjoy Paul McGann as the Doctor! There never would have been this regeneration scene (which happens to be one of my favorites)!

Happy birthday, Eighth Doctor. We may not have gotten enough of you on our screens, but we love you anyway.

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A Sampling of Science Fiction

May 25 was, I believed, merely Towel Day, a day for celebrating all things Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Lo and behold, I learn it is also Geek Pride Day, a day for celebrating all things geeky and not just for the Guide. Well, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about some of the science fiction novels I’ve read over the years (and trust me, I’ve read a lot). Many of those novels helped to shape me into the person I am today, and others were ones I enjoyed simply because they told a good story. Chances are you’ve already heard of most of these, but maybe there will be a surprise or two for you.

  • Dune: Any list I create of favorite science fiction stories will always have Frank Herbert’s immortal classic at the very top. Of Dune, Arthur C. Clarke famously opined, “I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings.” This is perhaps the simplest–and best–explanation to give when someone asks you to describe the plot. The tale of how Paul Atreides becomes Muad’Dib, the Kwisatz Haderach, as well as the leader of the entire Fremen people captivated my imagination from the very first moment I read it. However, its lessons about politics and the nature of power are what really add a third dimension to the story, and at the end you can’t help but feel–or maybe it’s just me–that Paul’s victory seems more than a little hollow.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz: If Dune is always at the top of my list, Walter Miller’s apocalyptic thriller is never far behind it–and not just because of the heavy Catholic content, either. It’s the story of the Monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz and their quest to preserve the world’s knowledge after a nuclear war nearly destroys the planet. Civilization slowly rebuilds itself, and the Order of Leibowitz attempts to guide it onto a path that will ensure a nuclear war will never happen again…but man never learns from his mistakes. Throwing off the monks’ guidance, humanity finds itself on the brink of a disaster worse than the last one, and this time there may be no survivors.
  • The Bright Empires Saga (The Skin Map, The Bone House, The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, and The Fatal Tree): Stephen Lawhead’s five-book blend of science fiction and historical fiction weaves the intriguing tale of Kit Livingstone, your average 30-something Londoner whose great-grandfather happens to be a time traveler–and he just so happens to need Kit’s help to retrieve the Skin Map, a map tattooed on human skin that is the only safe, reliable guide to navigating the different time zones of the universe. But the scheming Lord Burleigh is close behind them, and as Kit, his great-grandfather, and their friends all rush to stay ahead of him, they realize that the Skin Map not only tells them how to navigate time–it leads them to a place that will allow them to alter time itself. It sounds cliche, but what really makes this series stand out is Lawhead’s intricate and detailed descriptions of all the different times and civilizations the heroes and villains visit. The vivid details make you feel as if you are visiting these places–be it ancient Egypt or 1800’s England–right alongside the characters.
  • Starship Troopers: Robert Heinlein’s futuristic military epic has long been a favorite of mine. On the surface it might just seem like another coming-of-age story wherein the protagonist, Johnnie Rico, changes from boy to man while in the army, but there are so many rich, complex layers beneath the surface. It’s got politics and social commentary and is one of those stories that forces you to think about what you are reading. Even if you don’t agree with everything Heinlein presents, you may still find yourself admiring some aspects of the future he outlines in this story.
  • I, Robot: Isaac Asimov is pretty much the science fiction author to end all science fiction authors, so how do you choose just one of his stories? Simple–you pick one of the ones he is best known for writing (although some people may associate him more with Foundation). I, Robot is set in a future where robots have become commonplace, but as a young journalist interviews the legendary roboticist Dr. Susan Calvin, he learns exactly how primitive they used to be and how powerful they have become…and they have the potential to grow even stronger. There are several parallels with how technology develops in the book and how it has developed in the real world, and it can make you wonder what the next step will look like and how it may affect us.
  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea: This classic Jules Verne novel is one of the first science fiction books I read, and it’s still a favorite of mine. The mysterious Captain Nemo, his amazing submarine, and the wild and unpredictable adventures outlined in the book grabbed my attention and got me excited to seek out other science fiction authors and stories to see if they were just as exciting.
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet: Most people know Madeleine L’Engle for A Wrinkle in Time, but I always preferred A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the third book in her Time Quintet (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time). Charles Wallace, now 15, teams up with the time-traveling unicorn Gaudior to stop the rise of Madog “Mad Dog” Branzillo, a mad South American dictator who intends to launch his country’s nuclear missiles and plunge the world into World War III. Their mission is to change history so that Branzillo never comes into power–better yet, that he is never even born. But time is not on their side, and they’re not even sure how they can stop Branzillo if they can find him at all.
  • Frankenstein: Mary Shelley’s famous tale of the mad scientist who seeks to create life in his own image is considered by many to be the first example of modern science fiction, so I decided to include it here. My particularly favorite parts were always the philosophical debates between Frankenstein and his creation, and I think that some of the points they argue are especially applicable in science today. And here’s a little bit of trivia for you–there really is a Frankenstein Castle in Germany, and at one point it was the home of John Konrad Dippel, a scientist who was rumored to be doing experiments with death in an effort to discover the secret of eternal life.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hey, it’s still Towel Day, so I couldn’t very well let it go by without giving a shout-out to the Guide. The cover on my copy describes it as “a wildly funny novel about the end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days that follow”, and it’s pretty hard to top that description. Stay hoopy, my friends, and always know where your towel is.

Well, that was an exhausting list. There were others I could have included–FYI, Planet of the Apes is a novel and an amazing one at that–but I think it’s long enough for now. And I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a geek. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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No Matter Your Gifts, There’s a Place for You

The upcoming release of X-Men: Apocalypse has me revisiting everything I love about the X-Men movies (in an earlier post, I even admitted that I prefer the X-Men over the Avengers)–the characters, the emotions, the battles…and, of course, I’m super-excited about the return of Nightcrawler, whose Catholicism has made him one of my favorite characters. As I excitedly geek over the new movie, however, I remember one of the things that struck me the first time I watched an X-Men movie–Professor Xavier had a place in his school for all the mutants, no matter what their abilities were. It didn’t matter if they could master the elements like Storm, shape-shift like Mystique, have awesome stabby claws like Wolverine, or siphon other mutants’ powers like Rogue. Professor X welcomed all of them and taught them how to make their powers work together to accomplish a goal far greater than any of them could achieve on their own.

In a strange sort of way, this kind of openness and unity reminded me of the Catholic Church. I’ve been a Catholic all of my life, and I’ve seen the different talents and personality types that make up both an individual parish and the Church as a whole. There have been scholars and musicians, saints and sinners, artists and engineers, scientists and farmers. Do we all get along? Heck no. Do we fight with each other? Of course. But the good priests, just like Professor X, get us to stop arguing among ourselves and teach us that our different talents serve the Church in different ways, but no talent or purpose is greater than another. We need all of them–we need each other–to work together in order to attain our ultimate goal of spreading the Gospel and spending eternity with God in Heaven.

This is probably just another instance of Catholic Nerd Girl making connections that are only in her head. But, well, I can’t help the conclusions I’ve drawn. Professor X invited all mutants to join his team and didn’t make them feel as if they were any better or any worse than their fellow mutants; instead he showed them how all of their powers could work together for the greater good. In a similar way, the Church invites all to join her fold, regardless of what they can or cannot do, and encourages them to use whatever gift they have to work towards the common goal of spreading the Gospel and attaining Heaven. I don’t know about you, but I find something comforting in the knowledge that the Church can probably find a use even for the bizarre ramblings of a Catholic Nerd Girl like me. And if she can find a purpose for someone as strange as me, she can find a purpose for anyone–and everyone.

X-Men Full Cast

Every parish is an eclectic group. The fact that we manage to get along at all is a testimony to the power of God.

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Happy Star Wars Day!

Yes, Star Wars Day is upon us once more, the first since the release of The Force Awakens. I believe that the return of Star Wars to theaters has made people more aware of what today is and more eager to celebrate its importance.

My contribution to the festivities is this music video from Revenge of the Sith. Say what you will about the prequels, RotS holds a special place in my heart because it was the first Star Wars movie I ever saw in a theater. And, to be perfectly honest, 12-year-old me didn’t care about the acting or the dialogue or the pacing or whatever. 12-year-old me only cared about the lightsabers. Did that make me shallow? Maybe. But I know a lot of girls my age were obsessed with boys, and frankly I think my obsession with Star Wars at that age was an indication that I had better taste.

May the Force be with you!

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