Tale as Old as Time – #JNGWatches

“It’s my favourite part because, you’ll see,

here’s where she meets Prince Charming

~ but she won’t discover that it’s him ‘til chapter three.”

~ Belle

If you’re a longtime follower of this little blog, you already know how fond I am of stories, how invested and engrossed I get in the tales of fictional characters.  I’ve raved about Jane Eyre and her dashing Mr. Rochester, I’ve gushed over the more modern romance between Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire, and I’ve even obsessed over a piece of chick lit. every once and a awhile as well.  I am the type of person who wears my literature loving heart on my sleeve (in all its green glory), and I’ve ranted about other forms of pop culture as well, such as my adoration for musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and plays like Angels in America.  And, I’ve mentioned on countless occasions, that one particular film, from the earliest days of my childhood, touched me on a profound level when I was only a little girl.

~ Beauty and the Beast ~

Arguably Disney’s greatest movie.  It officially came out in November 1991, the very month and year I was born, and so there’s no denying that Belle and I were born around the same time, and may in fact (at least in my mind) be one and the same person.  Now, naturally, I’m somewhat delusional when it comes to fiction, making it such a huge driving force in my life, allowing it to inform many of my decisions over the years, like the courses I studied in university, and the friends I’ve chosen to surround myself with, and the man I’ve decided to marry.  But no piece of fiction has been with me as long as Beauty and the Beast, and I feel strongly that it is responsible for many of the aspects of my personality that I hold so dear.  There’s no doubt that the movies and books we encounter as young children have the ability to shape our thoughts and mold our future, and I was such a young girl when I first watched Belle’s story.  Is it any wonder, then, that I went on to develop a passion for the French language and for novels and the written word?  Growing up in a small town just east of Toronto was also significant, because I identified on so many levels with Belle’s desire to escape her “provincial life”, the “little town” in which she was born and raised.  Is it any wonder, then, that I chose to go off to the big city, to downtown Toronto, for university, and that I have decided to make this very city the home of my adulthood?  Belle, although to many people no more than a cartoon princess, was my soul mate as a child, my role model, and so very much of who I have become is owed to her.

So, imagine my jealousy when I heard that Beauty and the Beast was being remade, as a live action film, and that Emma Watson was taking my rightful role of Belle.  I’m kidding, of course – I was unbearably excited as soon as I learned that my beloved B&B was getting an update, and although I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of the casting, I was eager to give the film the chance it deserved.  I went in with an open-mind (which was surprising to everyone who knows my intense love for the original), and I immediately bought my tickets to see the movie this past Saturday, the day after opening night.

Well, as much as I would’ve loved to be able to critique something about the film and maybe present a bit of a more dignified review, I can’t – the film was nothing short of PERFECT!  I was in tears several times throughout the movie, and every tiny detail of it took my breath away.  This is going to be another rave-y post because I can’t gush about this movie enough.  I was tempted to pay for another ticket and watch it from the beginning again within minutes of it finishing, and if it wasn’t sold out, I probably would have.

I saw the movie with my fiancé, mother and father, all of whom are consciously aware of just how important this story is to me.  The most surprising thing is that all three of them absolutely loved the movie too!  I was expecting my mom to adore it because she has always been just as obsessed with the original as I am, but I was not anticipating just how excited my dad and SS would be about it.  They’re both eager to see the movie again and SS was singing lines from the various songs throughout the rest of the weekend.  He makes a pretty convincing Gaston, I must say!

The movie is touching – that is probably the best word to describe it.  So much of it just took my breath away, from the incredible and jaw-dropping sets to the gorgeous costumes.  I was extremely skeptical about the CGI and hoping that the Beast wouldn’t look too cartoon-y and ridiculous, and in the end I was so impressed with how realistic he looked.  His facial expressions were exact and I had no problem believing that he was actually real.  And of course, my favourite enchanted objects looked exquisite, as usual, and I was quite fond of the reboot and makeover they each got.

The music was just as incredible as in the original, and I was blown away by the musical numbers, particularly the performance of the song “Gaston”.  Was I expecting Luke Evans to be able to sing?  No.  Was I thoroughly impressed with him, on all accounts, but particularly during his  musical number?  Absolutely!  Luke Evans was by far the breakout star of the entire movie for me (probably because I have always had a soft spot for the villain!), and his dancing and singing was absolutely perfect!  This specific scene was easily the most fun of the entire movie, and Evans oozed this confidence that was exactly what the role needed.  He was my favourite part of the whole movie, no question!

From the time my mom and I met Gaston at Disney World!

Credit must be given to the other superb actors though.  Ewan McGregor was hilarious as Lumière, and he performed “Be Our Guest” flawlessly.  Ian McKellan was the dream Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson was the quintessential Mrs. Potts – she also performed the title song with grace and skill.  Emma Watson was, I must admit, a pretty great Belle, and while that character is very dear to me and it is hard for me to say this, I think she was very well cast and did a good job channeling Belle’s goodness and charm.

“How do you feel about growing a beard?” ~ Belle to Prince Adam

(Easily the most adorable and funny line of the whole film, and definitely my favourite!)

The greatest surprise for me, though, was Dan Stevens as the Beast.  I haven’t seen Stevens in any other roles (although SS tells me he’s remarkable in the TV show Legion) and so I had no expectations of him – but, he truly blew me away!  One of the many minor additions to the original is a solo song for the Beast called “Evermore”, which I found so endearing and moving.  Stevens brilliantly acted it and his singing was just great, and I found that particular scene to be so essential to the story because it really added a human quality to the Beast’s character.  There was no doubt, after that scene, that he had truly become a prince on the inside, where it counts.

“I am not a beast.” ~ Adam (aka the Beast)

I’d also like to briefly touch on the controversy surrounding some aspects of the film.  There’s no need to go into too much detail because I don’t want to bring any negativity to this review or give any credibility to this criticism, and I honestly haven’t read too much up on it because the headlines alone frustrated me.  Anyone who’s being critical of the fact that the film does include references to homosexuality is being totally ridiculous, in my opinion.  The film is beautiful, it stays true to its strong message of loving people for who they are on the inside, and it presents powerful role models to young children, particularly young girls.  By including some subtle references to homosexuality, I feel that the filmmakers only made the story more inclusive and more representative of our society, and I think that is simply wonderful!  There is at least one character in this film that everyone can attach to and be inspired by, and I think that is exactly how Disney stories need to be updated and brought into the 21st century.  For anyone who criticizes the film for these sorts of things, I would encourage them to actually see it with an open mind and an open heart, because they may actually learn a thing or two about love and kindness.

Beauty and the Beast deserves 5-stars, if you ask me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!  There is something for literally everyone to enjoy and I am so happy to say that it did the original so very proud!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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Be Our Guest – Beauty and the Beast Teaser Trailer – A Review

What can you say about something that’s a minute and a half long?

A lot, apparently. Just this morning, Disney released the official teaser trailer for the long-awaited live action remake of Beauty and the Beast. I think it goes without saying that Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favourite Disney movie, and in fact, is one of my favourite movies of all time. That much was probably obvious to you all when I talked about my incredible, much overdue family trip to Disney World in Florida this past October. Basically, I’m obsessed with Beauty and the Beast; a small trip around my room is indication enough, what with all the paraphernalia, including multiple copies of the movie, a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack of the Christmas special and several dolls representing all of my favourite characters.

Okay, so I love Beauty and the Beast…but I have to admit, I did not love the idea of this classic, award winning film from my childhood (it was released in 1991, coincidentally – or perhaps it’s Fate? – also the year I was born) being made into a live action film. More than anything, I was concerned about casting – never mind who they would select to portray the Beast and Gaston, those two totally different male leads – I was concerned that no actress in Hollywood today could accurately encompass every much loved aspect of Belle’s character.

Well, Disney selected Emma Watson to take on the feat, and I have to say, I wasn’t thrilled. I don’t dislike Emma Watson, but I’m not a Harry Potter fan by any means, so I’ve never seen her act in anything really. I know she’s incredibly smart and very respected, but I just wasn’t ready to let her be Belle in my mind. A lot of this is down to jealousy, I must admit – ever since I was an enfant, I’ve been convinced that I am in fact Belle, and it just didn’t sit well with me that some other young woman was getting the chance to play the role I was made for. I wanted to love Emma Watson, but I just couldn’t.

I guess that is until today… I have to say, I’ve watched the new teaser trailer for the movie about six times since this morning. (I even made my brother sit down to watch it, which I don’t think he was thrilled about.) It really is an incredibly beautiful trailer. The scenery (which I never had any concerns about – let’s be real, Disney has the budget to make any set look incredible) is breathtaking and perfect. The castle looks just as it should and is 100% faithful to the original. In the trailer, the castle goes from looking marvelous and decadent to becoming decayed and gray (in accordance with the Beast’s change), and it is truly obvious that a lot of effort was put into making a set that is opulent and gothic, magnificent and terrifying.

Another lovely aspect of the trailer is the fact that Cogsworth and Lumière are heard discussing “the girl” who has arrived at the castle. This conversation brought me straight back to that moment in the cartoon when the two bumbling best friends are excited and enthralled by Belle’s entrance, and are hopeful that she will break the spell that plagues the castle and all its inhabitants. The inclusion of this short dialogue reassured me that the producers are sticking to the heart and soul of the original.

And finally, Emma Watson, in all her glory as future princess Belle, is featured very briefly at the end of the trailer as she lays her delicate hand on a single red rose. Okay, I wanted to be angry and I wanted to hate her…but…I just couldn’t! She looks so sweet and innocent and kind, just exactly what Belle should be, but she also has a force and strength about her that is also so integral to the character. In that little moment of seeing her, I felt confident that she could master the role and bring something to Belle that will make her even more of a hero for the next generation. I felt instantly better about the whole live action idea, and I’m super eager to see the full trailer whenever it is released.

Anyway, I thought I would just share these observations with you because I’ve promised myself that I will always rant and rave about the stories I love on this blog without restraint.

Let me know what you think in the comments below if you watch the trailer yourselves!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Once Upon a Dream – #JNGListens

~ “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream….

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do,

You’ll love me at once / the way you did once upon a dream.”

~ Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

I’m posting this week’s #JNGListens entry a touch early because I have plans for another blog post this weekend. I realized when I was thinking about and mapping out these two posts that they treat very similar themes, and so I thought, why not post them both in one weekend…but that, of course, takes some manipulation and some strategic moving around of my regular #JNGReads / #JNGListens post. So, instead of getting my quote selection of the week on Sunday, I’m delivering it up to you all today. And stay tuned for another blog post later this weekend as well!

Today’s quote, or I should say quotes, is a long set of lyrics from the song Once Upon a Dream, featured in the popular Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Now, I have to admit, I’m not a huge Sleeping Beauty fan in the least – honestly, I find the story a little bit boring (the main character is, after all, asleep for most of the action) and I’ve never been overly fond of the older Disney movies – the old-school animation creeps me out a little. But, for whatever reason, when SS and I were staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto last weekend, this was the song that was stuck in my head on repeat, and I couldn’t stop humming it for the whole weekend…and actually, yes, I am listening to it right now.

Why was I so touched by this song? I think it may have something to do with the book I just finished reading and was in the middle of last weekend (Spoiler Alert: this is what my second post of the weekend will be about), but I think it was also largely due to the fact that my mind was totally preoccupied with my incredible boyfriend. SS’s birthday just passed on Tuesday, and so I’ve been ridiculously grateful for and totally in awe of his existence for the entire week, beginning with our hotel stay last weekend. There is a moment every single day where I am stunned into silence by the fact that such a perfect (for me at least! haha), caring, loving and genuine man exists and that Fate or the Universe or whoever decided to gift him to me. I feel lucky beyond words for this.

And, I suppose, the song Aurora (the original Sleeping Beauty) sings about her Prince Charming spoke to me because of my (healthy, I promise) obsession with and overwhelming love for SS. I found myself listening to the song and thinking, like Aurora, that I must’ve encountered SS before, that he must’ve been a fixture in my forever green heart long before I sat across from him at our university. (Sidenote: You can read the story of how we met here.) I never expected to meet him on that day, and I don’t think I consciously thought throughout the exchange, Oh, this is him! This is the man I’ve been waiting and longing for! But, when I think back on the events, I remember that there was something between us as soon as we locked eyes on each other: there was a definite spark, that feeling of warmth and fuzziness I’m always going on and on about. I just knew, in an instant, that I had to give him my number when he asked. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I felt comfortable and at ease, and I never had a single doubt about my interest in him. I was intrigued from the start.

Why is that? Listening to Aurora’s song has helped me arrive at an answer to the questions I’ve been asking myself for more than two years now: Where did SS come from, how did he find me and why did we have such a profound and irresistible connection? I want to say, especially based on the quote above, that I’d already met SS, in a dream, a fantasy, in the world of my imagination. I’d seen him somewhere before, in my romantic mind’s eye, and I was searching for his physical embodiment, for his representation in the real world, for years and years without even realizing it. If there is such a thing as soul mates, which I think there is, SS must be mine, because my heart recognized him before my mind even did. And isn’t that what Aurora is talking about? She’s dreamed about her prince for so long that she knows him at first sight, and she knows exactly what he’ll do: love her purely and without limit.

I think that we are meant to meet certain people in our lives and Fate has a large hand in bringing them to us or us to them. But I also think that there’s something to be said for human instinct, for that love-at-first-sight sort of feeling. Maybe we’ve met all the people we’re supposed to know and love in our dreams before…and seeing them in real-life is only an extension of the wonderful and fantastic world of dreaming?!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Homecoming

I’m home! My Disney World vacation has come and gone, and I write this from my cozy bed in a house surrounded by the frigid winds of a Canadian October.

I am so very happy to be back in Toronto! Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my holiday (more on this in a moment), but I am a proud, self-professed homebody, and there is nothing quite like using your own shower, sleeping in your own bed and having all your favourite amenities so close and easily accessible. A week vacation was just long enough to make me eager to return home to everything (and everyone) that is so familiar and so well loved and appreciated.

But, of course, I’m overjoyed that I finally got the chance to visit a place I have always dreamed of going to, with my amazing family! We had such a great time and every aspect of Disney World lived up to our (admittedly, very high) expectations! It’s all a bit of a blur because so many things happened and it already feels like a lifetime ago, but here are some of the highlights of the trip:

~ The Magic Kingdom ~ Just in general. This park is absolutely incredible and so detailed and authentic. Every single ride is constructed with such care and is so unique – my personal favourites are definitely Pirates of the Caribbean, which features a few incredibly lifelike mannequins of Johnny Depp that move and talk so perfectly, and The Haunted Mansion, which is just so Victorian and gothic and very realistic! I could go on these rides all day and never be bored or take in every detail! The Magic Kingdom also has some of the best places to eat (again, more on this below) and the architecture is larger than life and so fairytale-like (fittingly)! The castle is gorgeous, and the various firework shows and parades really emphasize the fantastical quality of the park! It is just like being in your favourite Disney movie!

~ The Tower of Terror ~ For those who are looking for a bit more mature entertainment, this had to be my favourite ride of the whole trip! It was incredible and terrifying and exhilarating! The décor of the Hollywood Tower Hotel was ridiculously lush and lavish and antique, and the ride itself is so intricate and so much more than any DropZone type ride I’ve ever experienced! This was the highlight of the Hollywood Studios park, most definitely.

~ The Canadian Exhibit at Epcot ~ This was actually pretty accurate and I learned a thing or two about my own country. It was nice to see Canada represented and appreciated in such a huge park, full of so many different and famous cultures!

Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Epcot!

My dad celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Epcot!

~ Meeting my beloved characters. ~ I got to meet basically every princess while I was in the Magic Kingdom, from Ariel to Elsa and with a pixie known as Tink in between! Even the characters that I didn’t get to see personally, like Rapunzel for example, were featured in the Festival of Fantasy parade, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on getting to see anyone! My family and I even got the chance to meet Mickey – there was only a 5 minute wait when we got to his theatre one night, and so we simply had to go in! He was beyond friendly and so adorable! He was genuinely excited to see us there, as if we were old friends!

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The best part of the trip was meeting two of my all-time favourite Disney characters, though…the one and only Belle, and her charming (although a tad self-absorbed) suitor Gaston. I honestly did not expect to get a chance to meet Belle – when I went to Disneyland Paris, she wasn’t even there, and although I knew that Disney World featured a replica of her cottage from the film, I didn’t think she would actually be in it! Well, she was…when my family and I entered for the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction, she appeared almost out of nowhere and I got to chat with her (She called me beautiful!) and basically become a child all over again. Despite the fact that this woman calling herself Belle was probably the same age as me, I truly found myself believing that she was my favourite princess and childhood idol and, I admit, I almost started to cry when I saw her. It was overwhelming and really magical, and everyone in my family felt like a kid in front of her.

Gaston was definitely the best character we met, however. He was just out of this world amazing and totally in character! He had a hilarious conversation with my brother about his muscles and how good-looking they both are (a conversation that definitely went straight to my brother’s head), and he was so flirtatious and dashing with me and my mom! We even had a chance to eat in his tavern, right there in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, and the food was so authentic, especially the massive, manly pork shanks! From meeting Gaston outside to sitting in his restaurant, I truly felt like I was tucked inside my favourite Disney locale!

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~ Wishing upon a * ~ There’s nothing quite like watching the fireworks cascading around the castle in the Magic Kingdom. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful and so breathtaking. It is truly magical to make that wish, to think about all your dreams, in the one place on Earth where dreams really seem to come true! It just felt so romantic and I felt like a part of this wave of hope and optimism. It seems like nothing can go wrong in the Magic Kingdom, and I’d love to hold onto that feeling forever!

Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom

So, there you have it – a little review of my time in Disney World! It did not disappoint, and it was all that I hoped it would be after years of planning this vacation!

With a Full Heart,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Out of the Sea – #JNGListens

The day is almost here!!!

Tomorrow I venture out of these suburban, Canadian waters, and head to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida!!!

I am BEYOND EXCITED!!!

I’ve been wanting to visit Disney World since I was a very young girl and first encountered a pretty significant movie and Princess. I was born in 1991…and so was another girl who loves reading, craves adventure, and speaks French…Belle! That’s right, my favourite Disney movie (and arguably one of my favourite movies of all time!) was released in the same year that I was born! So, basically, Belle and I are the same person…because that’s obviously the next logical conclusion!

All kidding aside, I’ve loved Beauty and the Beast since I could barely talk, and it is responsible for a lot of my personality. Watching a Princess walking around town with a book, loving the written word more than her surroundings, definitely inspired me to pick up books, carry them around with me constantly, and emulate her passion. Listening to this same Princess greet people with a cheerful “Bonjour!” definitely also encouraged me to pursue French well past the mandatory period in school…and I am grateful every day for that. Belle is beautiful, no doubt, but she’s also smart, feisty and fearless, and those are traits that I have always wanted to exhibit myself. It’s only natural, then, that I’ve always wanted to go to Disney World and meet Belle for myself, and after I visited Disneyland Paris two summers ago, I was even more eager to bring my family with me!

My parents and brother have always been serious Disney fans as well, and I could totally envision us traversing the parks, wearing our Mickey/Minnie ears and chatting with our favourite characters! I could see my maman bursting into tears as Simba comes out in the parade; I could see my dad joking around with Goofy; and I recently started to picture my brother chatting up the princesses, specifically Elsa, with his wit and charm! We’ve been waiting to take this trip, literally, for a lifetime, and I think it is the perfect time for a family vacation…a time when we, the children, are on the cusp of so many changes and a shift to true adulthood. What better time to let out that child that’s still tucked away within both of us?!

So, in honour of this remarkable, dreams-really-do-come-true Disney vacation, I’ve been quoting Disney lyrics on my Twitter page all week! I’ve quoted my favourite lines sung by my top 3 favourite princesses:

1) Belle – She’s simply the best, as you read above! I’ve pretty much determined that I am her, so the Belle at Disney World is going to have a hard time convincing me that I shouldn’t take over her role! 😉

2) Megara – This lady is FIERCE! I mean, any woman who can make a Greek god fall in love with her has to have a courageous personality! She’s super badass and I think she’s one of the better Disney role models! Also, her dress is just too amazing for words…she really rocks that off the shoulder look!

3) Ariel – Hair. Goals. That’s all I have to say! I mean, look at those locks! When I go swimming, let me tell you, my hair does NOT look that elegant! She’s also so endearing and just plain adorable, with the voice of an angel! I’m surprised Eric resisted her charms for so long!

There you have it – a little Disney appreciation post! I have no doubt that I’ll come back gushing and have tons of pictures to show you all! Until then, you won’t be hearing much from me…but I’ll talk to you all again real soon!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart