ABC’s Once Upon A Time – Making Fairy Tales Cool

So, I’m finally getting caught up on ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME. When it premiered its first year, my Sunday nights were already occupied ( I think) with GAME OF THRONES and since I have given up my DVR so I may cut down on my exorbitant amount of television viewing and maybe spend some of my free time outside to breathe some fresh air, I wasn’t able to watch all the episodes of season 1.

Now, thanks to the Season 1 release on DVD (not to mention the lack of commercials), I’m halfway through the first season and have enjoyed (the commercial packed) the few episodes aired so far of Season 2.

The world building is exceedingly well done. Starting with the ten-year-old boy Henry (Jared Gilmore) venturing out to find his birth mother Emma (Jennifer Morrison – some might remember her from HOUSE) in order for her to free his town of Storybrooke from the evil queen’s (Lana Parrilla from SWINGTOWN – did anybody actually watch that show?) spell, the show’s creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are smart to begin everything in the real world. Their smartness is then complemented by good writing that has the plot flip back and forth between flashbacks of the fairy tale world and present day – an often tiresome device, but it works tremendously well with this show and gives the fairy tales a new, cooler look and feel.

It does lead however, to some over the head bashing of character traits – the queen is overly dramatic, plus she is really mean and evil – we get it. Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) – Mary Margret in the real world – is soft and mushy, not to mention sweet and good and over the top weepy. It gets a little boring. But the smartness of the show’s creators again moves into play when at the end of Season 1 they break the curse – but a true happily ever after is not in anybody’s future – tossing some of the main characters through a wormhole-like thing back to the fairy tale world. SMART STUFF!

What proves to be the continuing winning factor is the great performance of Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin. Some might remember him from his heart-warming performance in THE FULL MONTY or his hard-hitting turn in TRAINSPOTTING. He is marvelous and the backstory that the writers have created for him makes his character at one moment deliriously evil and then tragically sweet. Ingenious.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Storybrooke gang this season. What do you think is  going to happen?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A Great Read

So I’m a little late on The Perks train, but better late than never. This book written by the screenwriter and novelist Stephen Chbosky is a mix between the novels The Catcher in The Rye and Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret and the play Driving Lessons.

The novel is epistolary (told through letters) and the main character Charlie shares information about his family, his love life, and his occasional drug use. Throughout the book he grows and learns more about himself, as does the reader.

There is a very nice balance of the delicate art of reveal within the book. Charlie tells his anonymous friend about himself that is not so obvious that the reader has already guessed what has or what is going to happen to him. The plot is solid and well structured, as well as the characters. Also the depiction of high school life is pretty spot on.

Like a lot of good books, this one has been adapted to screen and is currently out in local theaters. The author is also a screenwriter and took it upon himself to write and direct the movie, which I’m sure makes it a very interesting show. But again, this is a first person story, difficult to adapt to screen. Fine personality nuances are harder to articulate to a viewing audience when the are written or told in first person (unless you use voice over – for example all the horrific TWILIGHT movies – definitely another post). But the author adapted the book himself and when an author truly knows his characters he can avoid the trappings that can come along with adaptation.

Have you seen the movie? What do think? In the meantime, go. Go ahead. Read the book.  It’s a great read.

Cloud Atlas – Is It Really That Good?

I pose the question in the title because…well, I really can’t decide for myself. I hate being wishy-washy about giving a critique, but the truth is, I really can’t decide if it’s that good or if it’s just okay. Or if I hate it. I think one of the biggest problems is that some characters/story lines are much more interesting than others so, I didn’t feel that invested in parts of the book.

SPOILERS AHEAD: The author David Mitchell starts the book off with journal entries and then proceeds to introduce his characters in unique ways – one of which is writing in a dialect, that truthfully takes some extra concentrating to read and comprehend.

I highly recommend not to read this book after a long day. Save it for when you have a rainy Sunday and you’re alert.

There are several themes explored in the book – I won’t mention them here, but the central idea is that we’re all connected in some way through time and history. Now, I’ve already stated that this book requires an alert mind to catch everything so, it is quite possible I missed something. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling  a little let down at the end of the book that the connections weren’t more spelled out – that some of the stories feel unfinished.

Perhaps the movie adaptation will fix this problem. The Wachowski siblings (famous for THE MATRIX movies and RUN LOLA RUN) have partnered with Tom Tykwer (director of RUN LOLA RUN) to write and direct the film version. The book has the story weave through time and the personal points of view of each character. The characters are either writing or testifying to someone so the POV remains in first person. This is always a difficult point of view to adapt well to screen. But because Mitchell has his characters explain their emotions and actions to another person it might avoid the constant problem of adapting first person internal conflict to the screen.

I guess I’ll have to just wait and see. In the meantime, what did you think of the book?

The Neighbors – It’s So Wrong, But Jami Gertz Makes It Right

Let me start off this post with a proclamation of my absolute love for Jami Gertz. Ever since she first appeared on SQUARED PEGS and headlined the movie JERSEY GIRL (NOT the atrocious Kevin Smith film, but the cute David Burton Norris picture also starring Dylan McDermott – Netflix it), and starred in THE LOST BOYS I have been a big fan of the Gertz. Although I will admit I didn’t dig her last sitcom STILL STANDING – but that’s another post.

She is the main reason I tuned into the pilot of THE NEIGHBORS (Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:30 EST) and is the only reason I tuned in the next week. The plot is enormously contrived – aliens landing on our planet and for the past ten years have never interacted with humans. Unbelievable. No amount of suspension of disbelief can get me aboard that train. But the comic chops of Jami Gertz really make me pull for this show. Her timing has never been better and she has great chemistry with her alien co-star newcomer Toks Olagundoye and her totally human husband Lenny Venito.

The last episode shows promise of the show’s growth. It spoofed REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY (complete with gold lame dress) with a commentary on how silly it is to be watching television on a telephone. Think about it.

The silliness of this show might be its reason for death. Or it could be its savior. Hard to know. But until the decision is made, I’m going to keep watching and routing for Jami – and waiting until the holiday season to see her in UNDERCOVER CHRISTMAS (filmed in 2003 and usually shown on the Hallmark of Lifetime channels)  – it’s a crap movie, but she makes it shine.

Lena Dunham Doesn’t Deserve a Book Deal

Publishing world please! Show some respect. Not only have you been trolling the Internet for somewhat successful self-published authors so you may pick them up thinking you don’t have to spend a dime in publicity (never mind that those books are mostly crap, riddled with typos, and require no more than 60 IQ points to comprehend), but now you think a young lady, the daughter of very well to do parents, who couldn’t even vote before 2004 is deserving of a 3.7 million dollar book deal so she can write some utter dreck on what she’s learned about life so far? Please! As if she could possibly talk about anything that a young woman in the real world has had to deal with. Perhaps if she sticks to sexually frustrated, weight conscious, can’t bear to be alone (yes, I’m describing her terrible show GIRLS on HBO) women she’s got a chance. But for the publishing world to compare her to Tina Fey? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Let’s get this perfectly clear – Lena Dunham is NOT Tina Fey. She will never be Tina Fey. And as hard as she tries she to depict herself as someone who has come up the ranks as other very talented, funny women have she will never be in that category.

Random House and the other big houses – stop being lazy. Go through your massive slush piles and find other authors that are much more talented, and deserving of being published.

End of rant.