A Review of Star Trek: Into Darkness

*WARNING spoilers for the beginning of the film, but otherwise a mostly safe review*

When you have re-energised a legendary series of television programmes and films with a brand new movie that was both critically and commercially successful – bringing old characters into the modern world and introducing hoards of new fans to a well-established fandom – where do you go next? In the case of Star Trek: Into Darkness, the sequel to 2009’s alternate reality Star Trek reboot, you just get better. At what? Everything.

It’s unusual for me to do this, but I actually went in to see the new Star Trek film almost blind in terms of knowing what to expect. Whilst it’s true that I knew about the pre-Abrams Star Trek and had seen the prequel to this film, I had pretty much avoided all additional info on Into Darkness. Reviews, trailers, on-set photographs – I had stayed away from all of it. All I knew to expect when going in was, put simply, darkness. Posters had shown images of Benedict Cumberbatch’s long-coated character silhouetted against a background of debris conveniently moulded into the shape of the Starfleet logo, and – hauntingly – a picture of the U.S.S. Enterprise falling to Earth with a trail of smoke behind it. Taglines talked about falling, darkness, and single chances. As many sequels seem to be doing today, the new Star Trek seemed very much committed to going “darker and edgier”. So much so, in fact, that I was worried it would slip over into melodrama, leaving what made Star Trek great behind it. Thankfully, I was proven wrong.

Star Trek Into Darkness Poster

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1aNM12V

From the very beginning of the film, we’re right in the middle of the action. Within the first few scenes, multiple main characters are placed in danger, a planet is put at risk, and tough moral decisions are already being made. It is made clear that, in more areas than one, the film is not going to be holding back. With such an into-the-action entrance, it’s like having all the base elements of the last Star Trek thrown back at you, proving that this film is going to be no less technically brilliant than the last. The music returns, epic as ever. The CGI and overall graphics are even better, creating an intense atmosphere and giving a flawless quality to the futuristic setting that at once makes it both imaginably realistic and utterly awe-inspiring at the same time. The actors slot straight back into their roles as though they’d never left them – it doesn’t feel like you’re seeing familiar actors, but have just met Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and the rest of the crew again after a short holiday. Meanwhile, the script snaps back and forth at lightning speed, delivering humour, information, and epic one-liners with equal skill. And whilst all this is happening, you have this feeling of being on an incredibly engrossing rollercoaster ride – a feeling which starts from the first act, and doesn’t let up until the very end.

So in terms of performance, entertainment, and epicness, Star Trek: Into Darkness is excellent. That said, what really impressed me about this film is the direction it took with the deeper, and indeed the darker, elements. If the first Star Trek film of the new world seemed very much in the spirit of the original Star Trek series, with its adventurous style and bantering humour, Into Darkness was closer to the spirit of the follow-up series. Where the original series was, the majority of the time, meant to be fun, The Next Generation took a more serious turn and took every foreign situation as an opportunity to delve into moral ambiguities through the use of a sci-fi setting. Neither was better than the other, and in a sense they can’t really be compared, but Into Darkness certainly wasn’t afraid to explore the underlying complications of the characters and their actions.

Star Trek Into Darkness Screenshot

Image credit: http://bit.ly/11vEb8n

It is these characters that are what truly drives Into Darkness. Though situations and settings are fantastical, the ultimate core of the film is the people: what they do, what they think, and what they feel in reaction to the events of the plot. In some respects, it is like all the characters have suddenly turned around and examined their own world. The things we might notice and comment on as viewers, but expect never to be mentioned in-universe, are brought up and addressed. Luckily, it’s done thoughtfully and genuinely, solidifying the story instead of detracting from it.

At the beginning of the film, Kirk’s and Spock’s most outwardly defining characteristics – their arrogant bravery and cold logic, respectively – are brought to the surface in critical events and thrust under the spotlight by other characters, with consequences for both. Character development is not limited to the main good guys, however. Unlike last time’s somewhat one-dimensional Nero, new villain John Harrison makes for not only a formidable enemy, but one who has significantly more depth, and far more similarities to a certain determined captain than might be comfortable to acknowledge. Even Scotty, a character who works mostly as comic relief, takes on a new role as a catalyst for moral decisions, leaving him and  others to make tough choices and confront the results. If “darkness” refers to the sometimes grimly philosophical side of Star Trek, then this film has fulfilled its promise to go there.

Star Trek Into Darkness Enterprise

Image credit: http://bit.ly/11L5DVX

Never fear, though, those who were expecting a less heavyweight experience from Into Darkness. Along with the ethics, the way humour is managed in the film is one of its most impressive elements. You could be forgiven for expecting an approach of serious-funny-serious-funny in the film, given that the awkward choice of an off-on switch with humour is a nonetheless popular choice in predominantly dark films. Oddly and brilliantly enough, that isn’t the case here. Bursts of laughter and drama are expertly spliced together, creating an easy flow from one to the other. It might be the most edge-of-your-seat scene in the movie, but Scotty can cut in with a witty remark and it still be funny, yet the scene remains as exciting as ever. Goodness knows how the writers and director pulled off such an effortless race around a course of dark, light, and self-aware corners, but there is no denying it is done flawlessly, in true Trek fashion.

Following up from the path of Abrams’ first Star Trek movie, Into Darkness ups the stakes without sacrificing any more than it needed to. All there is to love about the new Trek films: from the humorous banter and awkwardly funny comments, to the breathtaking space travel, to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) homages – it’s all here. Still, the new movie also brings the spirit of going “where no-one has gone before” by exploring strange new worlds of characterisation, motives, and beliefs. The end result is a high-speed, deeply-rooted ride through time and space to a land of cinematic brilliance. Beyond the darkness, lies greatness, and the new Star Trek film has achieved it.

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1aNOpGV

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1aNOpGV

Posted in Films | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

First Impressions of Thor: The Dark World Trailer

I first saw the Thor: The Dark World trailer a few days ago, and I’m not sure if it has made me more or less excited about the film. To be honest, I’ve been so excited about it that it’s going to be pretty hard bringing my enthusiasm down to apathy, but still. Despite the fact that Iron Man 3 is coming out first in Marvel’s cinematic phase two, the next Thor movie is the one I’m most excited about, probably for three reasons: 1) I wasn’t that impressed with Iron Man 2, whereas it should be interesting to see what direction they take the first Thor sequel in; 2) I imagine the Thor film will tie in more to Avengers Assemble, if for no other reason than the fact that the Big Bad from the latter film is in it; and 3) Christopher Eccleston is going to be playing Malekith. Did you get that? The Ninth Doctor is going to be playing the bad guy in Thor: The Dark World! He’s not featured in the trailer, though. Speaking of which, I probably should get on with speaking about what is featured in it.

Two of the things that I am looking forward to in the new Thor film are changes to the CGI and camera angles. I had heard before that the CGI and overall look of the film are going to be toned down compared to the original. The trailer seems to go along with this, with an overall darker look and less flamboyancy. Even Asgard, which struck me as a little too garish in Thor, looks dimmed. I will be highly impressed if they pull off a toning-down of Asgard in The Dark World, as they won’t be able to completely revamp it. What I’ve seen so far looks really good in that respect, though. With regards to camera angles, I’m just going to come out and say the camera angles – specifically the tilted ones – drove me mad in Thor. It might not have bothered you before, but I challenge you to go back and watch it whilst looking out for the camera angles. If your neck isn’t aching from tilting your own head by the end of the film, I applaud your self-control. In this second film, though, there hardly seems to be any tilting, not even in scenes like Thor standing up in battle. This, my friends, strikes me as a very good thing.

I’m really hoping that this new film will get into some more detail in terms of characterisation. There was some development with Thor’s character and Freudian problems with Loki in Thor, but I’d still be keen to see the next film going a bit more in-depth with this. Even exploring the limits of Asgard’s “gods” would be an interesting route to go down. This might sound strange, but after seeing Loki’s overgrown hair in the trailer, my first thought was that we might get to hear some more about just how human the gods really are. Because if you can’t control your hair growth, you obviously aren’t that all-powerful, are you? Additionally, Natalie Portman’s character (she is so unmemorable that I literally cannot remember her name at the moment) could use some more personality, especially as she seems very much the damsel-in-distress in this film.

Speaking of Natalie Portman’s character (I will post her name when it comes back to me), I seriously do hope they give her a slightly more original role than “captured love interest”. Either that, or they could kill her off. Just kidding! I’m not one for sacrificing characters gratuitously (I still believe [censored name for spoilers] from The Avengers is alive), but at least it would be unique. Ah, but then Thor might become all broody, and nobody likes a woe-is-me superhero. Well, I’m not sure how to tackle it. Hopefully the filmmakers do know what they’re doing, however.

On the good news front with female characters, the roles of Darcy and Sif are looking promising. I thought Darcy was quite funny in the first film, and it looks as though she appears at least once to yell “[Natalie Portman's character]!” (still can’t remember it). Fingers crossed she appears more than that, hopefully with some good lines. Sif definitely looks to have a more important role, what with the trailer’s battle close-ups and facial expressions. She didn’t appear much in the first film, but she came across as a cool and well-acted character nonetheless. Given the drawn-out looks she gave Thor previously, I imagine the writers might be exploring some sort of unrequited love there. After all, Sif was Thor’s wife in mythology. Again, I’m okay with that as long as the filmmakers try to put something of a new spin on it.

As for the actual plot of the film: I have no idea what’s happening. All I know is that Malekith the Accursed is going to be involved somehow and there’s something to do with darkness happening. If memory serves correctly, before the world of Norse mythology there was nothing, but out of that nothingness came a mighty cow. I’m not even joking. Oh, I would be so overjoyed if the film featured a god-cow attacking earth. Perhaps revenge for enslaving their kind? There are potential mootives*, believe it or not. Any other ideas? Because that’s the best I have for Thor: The Dark World’s plot.

Lastly, I have to ask: why was Malekith not mentioned in the trailer? I suspect this is to prevent some sort of a spoiler, such as when they didn’t show Sean Bean in Mirror, Mirror**. Regardless, I’m curious to see what accent they give him. Christopher Eccleston is British, but will Marvel go that far and have yet another Evil Brit? I could probably fill an entire post with my disbelief that Loki has ended up with a Queen’s English accent despite being brought up in a literally alien world with an American-accented brother, yet it happened anyway. I sincerely hope that, if Malekith is miraculously British, it is lampshaded. Otherwise this is just going to turn into anti-British propaganda, I swear.

On a whole, I’m looking forward to the film. If nothing else it should be interesting to see where the filmmakers take certain aspects. And Doctor Who is in it, so that’s reason enough to see it in itself.

By the way, I am aware that this post severely digressed from just being about the trailer and more into my expectations for the film as a whole. Well, if you can think of a better name for this post which is more to do with the film and less to do with the trailer, let me know. I will seriously consider changing it. As always, please let me know what you think about Thor 1, Thor 2, the trailers, what I’ve said, or anything else to do with the above in the comments. Even if it’s just to comment on how attractive Loki looks, which is what a lot of people have been doing on YouTube. I shall not judge.

*Couldn’t resist.

** Trust me, I have ruined nothing there. The plot twist is painfully obvious when you watch the film. If you watch it, that is. I suggest you don’t watch it.

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The 50th Post/10,000 View Dance Party

Hi everyone. I have some awesome news! As of a few days ago (I don’t know exactly when and WordPress won’t tell me), this blog has officially had more than 10,000 views! Hurray! The timing of this actually ties in really well, as this just so happens to be Ocean Owl’s 50th post. As a result, we have two milestones in one blog post. Before I get to the serious, boring acceptance speech, I hope that you’ll join me in celebrating with a virtual dance party! That’s right: a dance party. A bloggy one, that is, with music and dancing presented in the form of a series of totally radical embedded YouTube videos.  It’s a medium that combines some of my favourite things: dance videos, lists, and David Bowie.

Now let’s get this party started!

Okay, so maybe I should have saved the best for last – but I just couldn’t wait. Is this video not the best thing ever? I wish everyone would dance like Bowie and Jagger in this. I think the world’s awesomeness and hilariousness would increase by 100% overnight. Actually, if you feel like learning how to dance like two of the most fantastic men ever to grace a music video, check out this equally funny tutorial video (because you can never have too many links).

For a really long time (read: about 6 months) this was my all-time favourite music video. It is still one of them, even though I’m not particularly keen on the actual music involved. Nevertheless! It is a fun and very cool video, especially if – like me – you are a big fan of people dancing madly in public. And honestly, who isn’t a fan of that?

“Too much David Bowie”, I hear you say? There is no such thing! I love Labyrinth, even if I didn’t get to watch it during my childhood like most people (would you believe it was part of a Cinema as Literature course?), and the film has dodgy moments in every major category. If nothing else, it shows how Bowie is capable of acting completely ridiculous but pulling it off anyway – because goddammit he’s David Bowie. Sidenote: sorry this version includes the bit with Sarah wandering around like an aimless thingamybob, but the only other halfway-decent video I could find had slow-motion repeats. Nobody wants that.

A classic! In terms of dance crazes, you can’t beat The Twist. Not even Gangnam Style can beat The Twist. They’re not even in the same league (no offence to Psy). This video features yet another of my favourite things: movie clips. It even has some of the twist contest from Pulp Fiction, which is the only part of that film I have ever watched and which I would include here in its entirety if I didn’t feel a compilation of clips would do the song more justice.

Lastly, we’re going to finish up with a modern song. I am absolutely addicted to both this song and the video. Did you know that it was directed by Jonah Hill, the actor from 21 Jump Street and Superbad? It was. This video is also kind of in the same vein as dancing in public, except in this random people join in too. I will go ahead and say that just makes it even better. I advise watching this video a second time, this time concentrating solely on the dancers following Sara Bareilles around the shop; it’s worth it.

All right, as promised I will now do a short, speech-y bit. Basically I would just like to say thanks to everyone who has visited my blog since I made it public, even if you just came here to find pictures of bookworms or post spam comments – okay, maybe not if you just came here to spam me. But to everyone other than spammers, thanks. Let’s not forget the followers, either. I find it incredible that some people like my blog enough to follow it, and I genuinely appreciate every single follower that I have. That means all of you. Finally, you commenters are great too. I do read all comments, even the spam ones (although if you spammers would stop spamming, that would be wonderful), and try to reply to as many as possible. Most of the ones I don’t reply to are from members of my family, so I can just tell them “hey, thanks for commenting” face-to-face. Anyway, I do still love getting comments and hearing people’s opinions on what I’ve written about, my writing, unicorns, etc.

I hope you’ve enjoyed attending this little dance party as much as I enjoyed organising it; which is to say, a lot. Fingers crossed the next 50 posts/10,000 views go as well as the first!

Posted in Bloggy Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Plants are Not an Element

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about the four elements? You know the ones I mean. Fire, Earth, Air, Water – they’re not the scientific elements we base our knowledge on today, but they are the classical ones that we base our fiction on. So much of our fiction, in fact, that the whole concept of the four elements can seem a little overused. Now for some reason I rather like the trope, so I don’t get particularly bothered when the elements crop up again and again in television, film, and books. Most of the time, anyway. The one time I do get a little frustrated with the four elements is when they break one rule. This rule is more or less of my own creation and I have yet to meet anyone who is as bothered by this as I am, but my rule is this: plants should not be part of the Earth element.

Back to my first sentence: have you ever spoken to someone about the four elements? I have, because I weirdly like talking about things like this, and I find such a conversation normally takes the form of something along the lines of “If you could control an element, which would you pick?”. This question normally comes up after watching something like Avatar: The Last Airbender or finding out what elemental category your star sign fits in. It is, in principle, a fairly innocent question. In the conversation I have, it can often lead to an argument. Why? Because there is no definitive definition for Earth.

Air, Fire, and Water are rather simple. Air (or Wind, as it is sometimes known) is probably the easiest; it basically refers to being able to control wind. After all, is there much else you could do with Air? Fire is a bit harder, given that some people think you shouldn’t be able to just heat things, but in the end comes down to setting things on and controlling fire. Water, again, can cause a little disagreement in the area of whether you could control ice with that power, but yet again can be easily glossed over. Earth is a different story, mostly because fiction usually sets the control of Earth in one of three categories: control of actual earth (as in soil and dirt, plus sometimes stones and sand); control of plants; or control of both.

My point of view is that the Earth elements should sit firmly in the first category, sans plants. That is my rule. Plenty of people I’ve spoken to disagree with me on this, but bear with me here. My single biggest argument against the inclusion of plants in Earth is that plants are living things – the other elements are not. Whilst other elements are inherently non-living, plants are living organisms. They grow on their own, require sustenance in the form of other elements, and can die. As a result, adding control of plants to Earth’s powers sets the element apart from the others in a very clear way.

On top of that, the definition of earth generally means either the planet on which we live or the friable part of land (in other words, substances such as soil, rock, clay, and so on). Plants are not included in there. Adding them in seems to be turning Earth into a term that encompasses all of nature, and the problem with that is that nature requires some form of all the elements in order to exist. So trying to make Earth into the most nature-oriented element is like trying to make novels represent all of writing. Not only is it slightly deceptive, it is also unfair to the other elements.

Speaking of that unfairness matter, I think the reason some people favour the plant-full rather than plant-less version of Earth is because it gives the element more power, something many think it lacks. How many people do you know that would choose Earth as their element of choice? I haven’t met many. In general, Earth is a fairly under-appreciated element, and for not very good reason. Water and Fire are flashy and well-known, whilst some people are drawn to Air if it comes with connotations of flying. But Earth? Unless it comes with plant powers, no-one really wants it. Of course, Earth is really a very cool power. Think of all the things you could do with Earth manipulation, assuming it includes control of friable parts of land, even without plants:

  • Throw stones at people. Pick pebbles and you have little bullets. Get bigger and you have weapons ranging from cannonballs to full-on boulders. With that, you could probably do more damage to buildings and other structures than any of the other elements could. 
  • Open up holes in the ground – and close them. You could seal things underground, divert floods or lava down fissures, or even prevent planes (or dragons) from landing.
  • Change the very surface you or anyone else stands on. Providing you’re on earth and not, say, ice or a cloud, you have a pretty clear advantage in being able to edit the terrain to your advantage.
  • Ground-based immunity. It would be truly impossible for you to die of falling off a cliff, being crushed in a landslide, or getting trapped in a hole in the ground. In short, you would probably be the last surviving cast member of a TV drama.
  • In your element, all the time. Very rarely are battles fought underwater or in the air. All other times, you’d be pretty much surrounded by materials you have control over. Now tell me, which elemental power would be most likely to win a battle in the middle of a desert?

And those are just a few I came up with. As you can see, Earth power has some pretty cool perks of its own. So, going back to the main issue, is there that much need for it to have control of plants as well? No matter how pointless this argument might be in real life, I still say that Earth should be a plantless element. 

What do you think? Should “Earth” refer to just earth, or should it include plants? Do you have a favourite element, and if so then which? My favourite is actually Water, believe it or not. I just feel Earth needs a bit more defending.

Posted in Mythology | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Good Things Come in Small Packages: Animated Shorts

I absolutely love animated shorts. It’s like someone took all the wonderful things about animation and film-making and condensed it into about a fifth of the length of a full movie. Along with trailers, getting to see the animated shorts that come on before Pixar and Disney films is one of my favourite things about going to the cinema. I even wanted to go and see Wreck-It Ralph in the cinema just so I could see the short coming on before it (it was Paperman, in case you were wondering). Although I didn’t end up going to see Wreck-It Ralph, Disney were kind enough to release Paperman onto YouTube in January. Long story short, after watching Paperman on YouTube I basically went on an animated-film-watching rampage around the internet. I found a handful of videos I really, really liked along the way, so I thought I’d share them with you here. A lot of them are Disney/Pixar, because they make lots of very good shorts, but a couple aren’t. In no particular order, here they are:

Paperman: Might as well start with this one, as I’ve already mentioned it in the last paragraph. Paperman is a black-and-white short by Disney, which mixes two kinds of animation and actually won an Oscar at the Academy Awards. This is one of my absolute favourite shorts, and you don’t even have to be familiar with other Disney works to appreciate it. It’s gorgeous to look at, the music is wonderful, and – most importantly – the story in itself is beautiful.

Tangled Ever After: How much I like this short is probably based almost entirely on how much I love the film it spun-off from, Tangled. If you haven’t seen Tangled, be warned there are some pretty major spoilers in this short. If you have seen (and liked) Tangled, this short is definitely worth watching. It follows on from the final events of the film, so it’s sort of like a mini sequel. I won’t go into too much detail here, but the short is funny and it’s great to see the Tangled kingdom again.

Partly Cloudy: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good YouTube video version of this one (it seems like loads of people have been putting their own soundtracks into it), so I’ve included a Vimeo link instead. Partly Cloudy is a Pixar short about a bunch of clouds who create the babies of various animals, ready for the storks to deliver them to their new homes. It’s an adorable, sweet film. Plus, just to make things even more awesome, the creator of Partly Cloudy was apparently inspired to make the film after watching Dumbo as a child! I now love it even more.

Adam and Dog: Unlike the first three shorts on this list, Adam and Dog wasn’t made by a major animation studio. It’s directed by Minkyu Lee, done in a 2D art style, and was (like Paperman) nominated for the Best Animated Short Film award at this year’s Academy Awards. If you noticed the possibly Biblical reference in the film’s title, congratulations. Although the film doesn’t directly reference any parts of religion, there certainly does seem to be a bit of tie-in with the Garden of Eden story. Naturally, there’s currently a religious debate raging in the comments. However, the film can be enjoyed no matter what faith you are a part of, and I think anyone who likes dogs, good animation, or just short films has a chance of liking Adam and Dog. By the way, I feel obliged to warn you that there is some nudity in the film. It’s not sexualised at all and it’s not the focus of the short, but I thought I should mention it.

The Ballad of Nessie: This is a Disney retelling of the Loch Ness Monster story, which explains how Nessie came to live the famous loch. I never get tired of Scotland-related cinema, but The Ballad of Nessie really is worthy of watching in its own right. It has a lovely Scottish setting and music, a classic Disney narrator (with a Scots accent), a beautiful story, and a perfect ending. Also, I want someone to watch it and tell me, does Tycoon McBrugle remind you of Duff Killigan from Kim Possible?

Vincent: Last film on the list, Vincent is another one that didn’t come from Disney’s or Pixar’s studios. It’s a Tim Burton short from 1982, making it by far the oldest short on this list. Like Paperman, it’s done black-and-white style, although this time the film is animated in stop-motion. Vincent is about a young boy named Vincent Malloy, who is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and wants to be like his idol Vincent Price. The film was actually narrated by Vincent Price, which really does add something to it. Vincent is probably the darkest film on the list, with its macabre style and grim humour. It’s worth watching anyway, but if you love Burton films and haven’t seen Vincent yet, I really really suggest you do so ASAP.

Note: Since publishing this post, I’ve become aware that a few of the videos I embedded in it are not working – specifically, because they are marked as private. I’m sorry about this and am currently working on finding substitutes. If that fails, I’ll just put a picture up instead. In the mean time, you could always do some searching of your own; the videos are definitely worth a little work to see.

Another Note: Okay, I have now included two new links for Paperman and Adam and Dog. They are not very good quality, unfortunately, but better than not seeing them at all. It does also seem as though you can buy the films through Disney or iTunes, though, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you don’t mind spending a bit of money on them. Either way, enjoy the films!

Yet Another Note: In case you’re interested, I just found this link, which explains why some of the shorts have disappeared. The Oscars are finished now, so fingers crossed they return to YouTube soon.

Posted in Films, Lists, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Valentine’s Day List – Top Ten Fictional Romances

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day, everyone! I was intending to do this special Valentine’s Day post yesterday, but I was busy. And before you go thinking I was out on a date with a special someone (or whatever couples do on Valentine’s Day – I wouldn’t know), allow me to explain otherwise. Actually, one of my sisters and I went out to a Valentine’s disco where we were two of about half a dozen people there – and one of those people was sleeping. On the bright side, we got almost the entire dancefloor to ourselves. Hurray for being loners!

But I digress. Today I’m going to be belatedly celebrating Valentine’s Day with a list of my Top Ten Fictional Couples/Romances. I say romances because not all of these could be technically classed as couples, but I want them to be on the list anyway. Also, the list is in no particular order. Let’s begin!

WARNING: Spoilers below! I’ve left out the most major ones, but there are a few more minor ones.

Top Ten Fictional Couples/Romances

1. Rocky Balboa and Adrian Pennino (Rocky)

The original Rocky film is one of my favourite movies ever, and I think Rocky and Adrian’s romantic subplot really adds some depth to the film. From the beginning of the movie, when Rocky pays attention to Adrian and is nice to her even though she’s painfully shy, they seem like a sweet couple. Unlike many other fictional romances, Rocky and Adrian’s isn’t abusive or angsty. They just care about each other and make each other happy, which is wonderfully simple for a film romance with such emphasis put on it.

2. Belle and Beast (Beauty and the Beast)

I have a poster for this film, the tagline of which reads “The most beautiful love story ever told”. I’d have to agree with whoever wrote that, because Beauty and the Beast’s story has to be one of Disney’s most beautiful – and that’s saying something. Belle and Beast’s love is founded on “what’s on the inside”, not love at first sight, which I think makes this one of Disney’s most meaningful relationships.

3. Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars)

Hazel and Augustus are the youngest couple on this list, at 16 and 17, respectively. Their teenage romance in TFiOS could have been done so badly, with too much drama, too much angst, too much heartbreak. In reality, the whole thing was done realistically and sensitively. If nothing else, Hazel and Augustus’s relationship in TFiOS will supply you with a book full of poignant love quotes.

4. Hugo and Alice (The Vicar of Dibley)

I’ll be quite surprised if more than perhaps 2 people reading this know who I’m talking about when I say “Hugo and Alice from Vicar of Dibley”. Hugo and Alice are both a bit dorky and silly, but they love each other anyway. In fact, they probably love each other because of it. If you have time, I recommend you look up a video or some pictures of their rather unique wedding – if that doesn’t make you fall in love with their relationship, I don’t know what will.

5. Sophie Hatter and Wizard Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle)

This is yet another lesser-known relationship on the list, although it comes from a relatively well-known book. Howl and Sophie’s relationship isn’t a given a great deal of focus, but if you look closely you can see them fall in love slowly over the course of the book. They bring out the best in each other through their differences, but they still like each other for who they are.

6. Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)

Well, it’s not like all of the couples were going to be lesser-known ones, is it? I don’t feel I have much more to add about this relationship. At least nothing that hasn’t been said before, anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of the most famous fictional romances of all time: Elizabeth Bennet and (Fitz)William Darcy!

7. Cam and Mitchell (Modern Family)

Now we’ve got some Austen characters on the list, it’s time to go a bit more modern (get it?). Cam and Mitchell are definitely the most domesticated couple on this list, as by the time we even meet them in their series of origin they’re living together and have adopted a baby. They’re also the only LGBT couple on the list, which makes them unique in two ways. I like how different the two of them are as people, as well as how well they’re shown to know each other. Their daughter, Lily, is also completely adorable, and Cam and Mitchell come across as being nice parents, too.

8. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind)

Here’s yet another extremely well-known fictional couple. I have only seen the film with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, so forgive me if what I’m saying doesn’t quite apply to the book. Scarlett and Rhett have a pretty tumultuous relationship, and they’re also not together for the whole portion of the story. That said, you can’t really equal their relationship in terms of passion, and I reckon you always want them to get back together in the end. Their romance doesn’t necessarily have the happiest ending, but perhaps it’s more realistic to have at least one couple like that on this list.

9. Sayuri and The Chairman (Memoirs of a Geisha)

It’s been years since I last read Memoirs of a Geisha, as I borrowed it from a library and don’t own it. However, I wanted to include the relationship between Sayuri and the Chairman on this list because I still remember how meaningful I felt it was when I first read it. Although I can’t remember their exact ages, I think that Sayuri and the Chairman have the largest age gap between them out of all the couples on this list.

10. Hermione and Ron (Harry Potter)

Even though neither of them are the number one protagonist in the Harry Potter books (as evidenced by their titles), Hermione and Ron’s romance is easily the most prominent in the series. They started out as friends first, and they’re good foils to one another even before they become a couple. At the risk of getting some groans from pun-haters in the peanut gallery, I’m going to go ahead and call this the most magical coupling on the list.

Couples that didn’t quite make the Top Ten:

  • Katniss and Peeta (The Hunger Games)
  • Bryce and Juli (Flipped)
  • Rapunzel and Eugene (Tangled)
  • Kurt and Blaine (Glee)
  • Christian and Satine (Moulin Rouge!)
  • Ram and Nita (Q & A)

It was really hard picking just 10 couples to go on this list, but I’m happy with the overall results. What did you think? Have I missed anyone, or put someone on the list who didn’t deserve it? Feel free to let me know in the comments (I love comments). Anyway, I hope you all had an awesome Valentine’s Day, however you spent it. Here is a heart: <3

 Heart

PS: In case anyone was wondering, there are very few pictures in this post for two reasons: A) I messed up my formatting every time I inserted a new picture, and B) WordPress kept deleting large chunks of text when I tried to supply image credits – I have no idea why, but re-writing the same paragraph over and over gets tiring after the fifth go.

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It’s a Pan! It’s a Cake! No, It’s Pancake Day!

Today, as many of you probably know, is Pancake Day. I didn’t find out about this until about midday today, when my mum told me we were having pancakes for dinner, much to my confusion. Still, even if I couldn’t remember it was on the 12th, I love Pancake Day. It’s an awesome holiday and so to celebrate it, I’m going to give you a short history/info on pancakes and Pancake Day. Let the feasting (of knowledge) commence!

Nobody really knows how long pancakes have been around for, although it’s thought that people have been making them for a very long time. As in since ancient times. They’re a pretty hard food to pin down, too. What do you call a pancake, anyway? You could call the flat bread people made by grinding grains, nuts, water, and milk together into a liquid – which they then baked on hot stones around a fire – pancakes. In a way, pancakes are one of the world’s earliest forms of bread. After all, back then frying food was likely the easiest way to cook, given that they didn’t have ovens or other handy kitchen appliances (or kitchens, for that matter).

So people have been eating pseudo-pancakes for years now, even when they weren’t called that. The actual name “pancake” supposedly originated some time in the 1800s. I haven’t been able to find out why, but I’d guess the name came from the fact that they were cooked in a pan. And apparently someone thought they had something to do with cake.

Pancakes are eaten around the world at all times of the year, but today is an especially special day for the food. Shrove Tuesday (another term for Pancake Day) always starts 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year, although it’s always on a Tuesday. Its name comes from the word “shrive”, which means to confess one’s sins. It marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian festival that lasts for 40 days, during which observers “fast”. Nowadays this can involve giving up anything from TV to chocolate, but traditionally it meant giving up types of food. Eggs and butter were some of the foods forbidden during Lent, so making pancakes was a great way to use up those ingredients and stop them going to waste before the festival began. At the same time, many people liked to confess their sins before the beginning of Lent – hence the “shrive”.

There are variations on this theme, though. In different parts of the world, Pancake Day can be known as Fasnacht (German for “night of the fast), Mardi Gras (French for “fat Tuesday”), or even Carnival (which comes from Latin and means “farewell to the flesh”). I’ve even heard it being called just International Pancake Day. It does have religious connotations, but loads of people enjoy the holiday even if they aren’t Christian.

Now you know all enough about pancakes and Shrove Tuesday, here are some fun facts about them both:

  • What we call pancakes in the UK are often quite different to the “pancakes” of North America. Our versions might be called “crepes” on the other side of the Atlantic, whilst the American versions are closer to what we call “Scotch pancakes”.
  • In the UK, pancake races are a big tradition on Shrove Tuesday. In order to compete, you have to run a race whilst flipping a pancake. There are even some famous ones, such as the Olney pancake race, in which the competitors must be local housewives and wear aprons when they run!
  • Some people view the ingredients of pancakes as having special symbolism: eggs (creation); flour (the stuff of life); salt (wholesomeness); and milk (purity).
  • Napoleon was supposedly a fan of pancakes and liked to eat them with his wife Josephine. In fact, he blamed the failure of his Russian campaign on a pancake he had dropped years earlier. I’m sure everyone was very sympathetic.
  • Actually, Napoleon wasn’t alone in his pancake superstitions. Some say that if you toss a pancake while holding a coin in your left hand, you will become rich. Others say that the first pancake must be given to the hen that laid the eggs, and it is bad luck to drop a pancake.
  • There are plenty of marriage-related superstitions, too. In Ireland, the first pancake would be tossed by the eldest girl in a family. If she succeeded in tossing it, she would be married within a year. Way to put the pressure on.
  • Not so much a fun fact as just a plain fact, but a few popular pancake toppings include: sugar and lemon juice; jam; syrup (especially maple in North America); honey; fruit; cinnamon; chocolate spread; and even rhubarb.

I’ve already had my pancakes this evening, and I hope you enjoyed yours if you had some. If you haven’t, wishing you the best of pancake-eating later! Happy Shrove Tuesday, everyone!

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