Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Movie/Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones"
Released August 2013
Directed by: Harald Zwart

It's always hard to know whether to read the book first or watch the movie first when a movie comes out based on a book you'd planned to read eventually. The reader in me knows the book is going to be better and loves judging how the movie succeeded or failed at capturing the characters and story. Typically that's the order I go with. Books are just better if you don't know how they end. However, it's hard to really judge whether or not a movie succeeded on it's own accord when you already know the story. You can much more honestly of assess a movie when you don't have any background going into it.

In the case of  The Mortal Instruments, the series was barely on my radar. I enjoy young adult literature but this is an oversaturated genre, especially the paranormal romance branch. However, I follow Veronica Roth on twitter and she mentioned seeing the movie in August. A little research on the concept peaked my interest and I decided I wanted to see it but waited until it was at Redbox to rent since my expectations were pretty low. (I bought the book weeks before I rented the movie but it sat in my "to read" pile until after I viewed the movie).

Overall the movie was...okay. It wasn't terrible (which is what I expected going in). The acting was alright (nothing mind blowing but also not so bad that it was a huge distraction). It was produced well and interesting enough to cause me to immediately start reading the book and to be glad they're already working on the second movie. Still, it failed in some pretty important areas.

The Story---On it's own, without any background on the story, I found the movie to be a bit confusing and ambiguous (as did my husband who watched it with me). The background stories that were meant to add clarity just left you scratching your head. Now that I'm into the second book I can see that they were just trying to foreshadow some later revelations but I felt it just muddied the waters. There was more than enough ground to cover in the first movie without trying to set yourself up for a a second by eluding to everything that is to come. The action was disjointed and the characters were not developed very well. I felt all of the characters were underdeveloped and rushed. The romance and subsequent "twist" were both extremely abrupt. Other things would be thrown into the story seemingly just to "get them in there" (because they are in the book) even though they didn't really work up to it (Alec being gay, the similarity in Jocelyn and Luke's relationship to Clary and Simons), etc. It was frustrating even before I read the book. I actually started reading the book right away because I wanted to fill in holes that were really blatant in the movie. I've seen enough adaptions that get it right to know that this movie failed to present the cohesive dynamic story that they could have presented.

The Changes---After reading the book, I realized that they actually kept most of the book intact (at least until the end). They even kept a lot of dialogue the same. The story follows the book pretty closely and doesn't leave out any major events or characters. They changed the right things (having Simon stay human rather than turn into a rat was the right call, combining some of the early events that were spread out over days into a single day was a good move for film) but a few changes were unnecessary or rushed when they were important enough to slow down for. And again, often they rushed into telling you things that happen later in the trilogy and it just isn't necessary to do that. It's okay to hint at things, but I felt like this movie just skipped over some of the best drama of the books and told you what was coming. Spoiler alert, geez.

Directing/Acting---I don't know a ton about Zwart other than the fact that he seems to specialize in movies for a younger demographic. Lily Collins performance was acceptable, but not remarkable. I think her look is perfect for Clary but I'm still on the fence on her as an actress overall. She is hit and miss for me (see The Blind Side, Mirror Mirror, Abduction). I often misidentify her as Vanessa Hudgens (who is a terrible actress) but in reality she's Phil Collins daughter (which is kind of cool). Jaime Campbell Bower you may know from Twilight. He has kind of a creepy unconventional look but it worked for me. I think the British accent helped. He seemed to get Jase. Jase wasn't developed well in the movie, but that was the writer's fault, not Bowers. He did the best he could with what he had. The casting that just really didn't work for me was Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)---who I don't remember ever thinking was a bad actor previously so maybe it was the script, and Alec (Kevin Zegers) who was particularly bad. The casting for Jocelyn and Magnus Bane were the best overall I think even though they were smaller roles. Clary/Jase/Hodge worked, and the rest were simply not memorable one way or the other.

Conclusion---I can't say it was a good movie, but it was a enough to get me interested in the book which has been much better than its counterpart so far. I plan to read the series and see the next installment when it's released.

"The Mortal Instruments"
Written by: Cassandra Clare

The ending to the book was so much better than the movie. Though the end result was basically the same, it played out quite differently. The biggest difference is that the big twist is implied to be a farce in the film and it certainly is believable in the book. The first book mentions nothing about it being untrue. In fact, it's a huge revelation for everyone in the story that just makes sense. It's completely believable and if I hadn't seen the movie I may have bought into it (though of course it's somewhat obvious that the author can't allow it to stand. It's much to risque for a teen fantasy series). I can only assume that the movie skipping ahead to the big reveal was done to keep the audience invested in the romance. 

Obviously the biggest advantage to the written word is character development. Jase has a lot more depth in the book (torrid dark backstory) and is more fun in general (more jokes, more sarcasm). Simon is much more of a contender for Clary's affection in the book as well which makes for a bit of a love triangle that is present in the movie but not emphasized nearly as much. The book certainly filled in the gaps that the movie failed to present. The story makes so much more sense. The world, the background stories---they are much more cohesive. That isn't to say that the books are brilliant, important additions to literature. They're aren't. They are pure entertainment and not much else. They're quick and easy to read. They're addictive in the same way that a WB TV show might compare to an HBO show. Clare is no Hemingway. Clare is definitely marketing to teens. But the concept is unique enough, the story is dynamic enough, the characters are layered enough, to make the books addictive and fun. Anything that gets teens reading has my vote and I am enjoying the series immensely. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Best ____ Lists

In 2011 I compiled a list of actors that, in my opinion, were the "7 Worst Actors in Hollywood." Worst actors ever probably isn't fair. I'm sure there are worse actors and some of these guys even appear in some good movies. But when it comes to actors who are really successful despite having really poor acting skills (which you think would be essential to their careers)---these were the men who made my list.

That list included Paul Walker. I know that he recently died and I don't want to seem crass by mentioning him...he was a person and death is always serious and tragic for those closest to the deceased. This is not a comment on his character or person, but seeing friends on my FB feed mourning the loss of this stranger on the grounds that the was an amazing actor was hard to swallow. Literally a day or two before his death I watched the movie Timeline for the first time and was just blown away at how bad his acting was. I don't think its disrespectful to continue to hold an opinion I've always held.

All of that to say, I've decided to highlight some actors that I feel are very talented. I'm also feeling inspired by the numerous top movies list that are circulating lately so I'm going to do some best/top lists. These lists will just be for fun and completely one woman's opinion, but I think most will agree that these actors at least good at their craft, if not among the best.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: After Dead

"After Dead"
Written by: Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris fans are the worst.

Okay there are probably worse fans out there, but honestly, Harris fans drive me completely bonkers. Fan-culture and the internet are kind of ruining certain sects of literature (an impacting them all). Fans should never dictate the art in my opinion. For that matter, boycotts of art based on the creators personal views is especially ridiculous. Judging whether or not something is "good" based on feelings about the character of the author is kind of crazy to me and if historically famous works were held to that standard then we would lose many of the greats. An authors background can inform the text but should never be used against it when it comes to making a fair assessment of the writing quality. A plot should never be changed to suit the whims of readers. Characters and stories belong to the imagination of the author and it would be nothing but intellectually dishonest to not write them any other way.

Harris fans have been whining for years, mostly over the love interests and who should end up with Sookie. Now it seems that Harris can do nothing to please when it comes to Sookie. Maybe an argument could be made that her story/writing can't be considered successful because she was unable to round it out in a way that left most any reader saying "of course." But honestly, I just feel sorry for her. I think she's found herself at a point in her career where success is threatening her creativity. 

I had mixed feelings about the last Sookie installment, but I still ordered After Dead. As a fan of the series, I think this was one of the nicest things Charlaine ever did for fans. She definitely didn't have to do it. It was a very short, quick read. Most could probably finish it in about 15-30 minutes easy. Personally, I liked it. It was nice to have one more Sookie addition to look forward to and I found myself smiling and laughing at many of the character notes. I also felt some closure in getting to take a peek into the future and see where everyone ended up. I genuinely enjoyed After Dead.

Alas, my positive review is apparently abnormal. After reading several pages of customer reviews I found that (naturally) Sookie fans were appalled by this book and basically feel that Harris is horrible human being for publishing it. Here is what I take to be the general fan consensus (at least on the site I was on): After Dead is a waste of money because it's so short. An 11 year old could have written it (this one seems mostly based on the fact that some characters only had a line or two). It included too many small characters we barely remember. It's overpriced. 

After reading the negative reviews, I honestly just felt exasperated. I feel like the reviews were written by people who just didn't "get" what the book was suppose to be doing. In light of that I have a few responses.

Here is what I would suggest that fans keep in mind with this book:

- This is an index, not another novel or even a short story.

Complaints about there not being enough plot or descriptions being too short are laughable to me. THIS IS NOT ANOTHER SOOKIE NOVEL. This is the equivalent of a reference book. It's an alphabetical listing of almost all characters that appears in the Sookie novels (even if only briefly) for anyone who has any interest in that character and seeing what happened to them. To only put major characters or to write short stories rather than afterthoughts would change it into something else entirely. I feel it's completely unfair to criticize Harris's writing skills just because some characters only had a line or two. The characters with only a line or two are generally not major characters and their fates are fitting. They didn't deserve more than a line and quite frankly those were some of the most humorous moments of the book for me.

- If you didn't like the ending to the series, there is probably no chance you will be pleased since there are no big revelations that change the way things went. 

I honestly think most fans were upset simply because they were hoping Harris would "change her mind" about how the series would end. She didn't. If that's what you're looking for, you will be disappointed. 

- If you think it's too expensive, then don't buy it. 

Yes, it's a quick read. If you feel $10 is too much, that's fine---there are libraries, audiobooks, and e-reader versions that are less expensive or free. You could probably sit in Barnes and Noble and read it start to finish on your lunch break. If you are a friend of mine, I'll let you borrow my copy. Or you could always wait for the inevitable paperback release. This was one of the silliest critiques to me because it had nothing to do with the content of the book. It seemed like people were offended and assumed Harris was just trying to make another buck off of Sookie. I don't buy that. If Harris just wanted to make money she could continue writing Sookie novels forever and rake in loads of cash. Publisher's set book prices, not authors. A publisher is going to sell a book at the highest price they know they can for it without hurting overall sales. It's selling so they obviously got it right. This is a hardcover book in a very popular series. I'd be shocked if it cost any less. I wanted to complete my collection with the first addition so this was a non-issue for me. If it it is for you: borrow it, rent it, or don't read it. 

I realize that this is sort of a defensive post and it may be a little heavy handed. Harris is not my favorite author, but I have enjoyed her Sookie books and feel the need to rant just a little at the unfair (at times irrational) standard fans hold her too. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Upcoming: World War Z

This is a rare "before" post. My thoughts about an upcoming movie before I see it.

I remember seeing a trailer for World War Z months ago. My initial feelings were mixed. The zombie genre has gotten trendy. Much like with the vampire craze spurred by the Twilight films, I've felt like the zombie craze has ruined zombies a bit. Anytime something becomes popular you tend to lose quality. And there are a lot of zombie films and books floating around that are pretty awful. With any of these genres the popularity often leads to a "falling out." No matter how interesting or creative, new movies and films with imaginary and fantasy characters tend to be met with groans and "not another one" comments. That was basically my first thought:  Oh, no. Another zombie film. But I did pause at the fact that it stared Brad Pitt and looked kind of different (super speedy aggressive zombies?) I didn't give it much thought after that though.

I love the fantastical and I love the post apocalypic/dystopian genre. The latter has inevitably led me to zombies. Especially the more realistic vein that is full of social commentary and themes about human nature and survival.

Now that the movie is just one week away I've realized that I'm excited.

Here are some of the things that have gotten me excited over the last few months:

- Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt's production companies had a bidding war over the screen rights to the novel

I'm a firm believer that Leo knows good scripts. He almost universally chooses really good movies to be apart of. Brad Pitt's choices have also gotten better and better as he's matured as an actor. I've become a big fan of them both and I generally trust their judgement when it comes to project selection. So when these two actors are fighting over something, you know there's probably something unique or special about it.

- It's being directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace, etc.) I find this to be a promising choice.

- The Book

The book is so much more than I expected. I haven't finished it yet, but I'm part way through and loving it. It's written like an oral history made up of individual accounts. So far it's unique, well-researched, well-written, and interesting. It's not campy or over the top...it feels completely plausible. If society collapsed and this was one of the only books to survive I'm pretty sure people would believe there had been an actual zombie war and probably be on their guard for the walking dead.

- The screen play was written by J. Michael Straczynski

Nerds rejoice? Straczynski is the writer of many comic books and Babylon 5. I'm not extremely familiar with his work but if you're going to do a movie about zombies it should be written by someone nerdy. who knows science fiction and fantasy so I feel pretty good about this choice.

- Brad Pitt

Have you seen him lately? He's getting better looking with age. The long hair/scruff combo in this movie just does it for me. And John Paul. And anyone with a pulse. *swoon*

Monday, June 10, 2013

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

"Beautiful Creatures"
Released February 2013
Directed by: Richard LaGravenese

I had only a vague interest in seeing this in the theater. I'd never heard of it before and it seemed like white noise in the overdone romantic fantasy genre. Finding out it was based on a popular YA novel didn't really help its cause. 

However, with a supporting cast that boasts names like Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis and Emmy Rossum I thought this might be one of those "secretly good" movies. 

I was wrong. 

LaGravenese is predominantly a writer who seems to be trying to branch out into directing. Production wise, this movie is pretty standard. The effects aren't fake looking, the movie doesn't feel low budget at all. I can only assume that it's the story that is lacking. 

The concept had potential but it never really developed. The character development was rushed and unsatisfying. The mythology was a poorly explained. As usual, the romance evolved so fast that it was impossible to buy into. Add to all of this distractingly terrible southern accents from the main characters and southern stereotypes galore...

Thumbs down.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: The Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampires Series


I'm going to be talking about the SPECIFIC details of how this series ends and if you haven't read the final book yet or plan to read the series in the future this post will utterly ruin everything...so stop reading immediately.

"Dead Ever After"
(and the entire Sookie series)
By: Charlaine Harris

My original plan was to review the final book in the Sookie series, Dead Ever After. But then I realized that really what I wanted to talk about was the series as a whole now that it's over. I just finished the final installment so these thoughts fall squarely into the "initial feelings" category and may develop more fully over time.

I want to start by saying that I like Charlaine Harris. I enjoy her books. She lands solidly in the mystery genre but has added urban fantasy into her most recent stories (I'd still call them mysteries though). She is a commercial author and a very decent writer. If I was giving an honest review of her talents and the books place in the overall history of literature this review might be more negative, but I find a lot of value in books that are accessible to the masses and written for sheer enjoyment (satisfying, exciting, yet not dumbed down). With Ms. Harris you aren't distracted by poor writing, which is more than I can say about many urban fantasy writers that are currently popular. Compared to younger writers in her genre, I'd point out that her writing is more mature. And it should be after over four successful series, tons of work (editing, collaborating) in the field, and several decades of writing (her first commercially successful book was published in 1990). I actually think the success of the Sookie series (probably due to True Blood) has been more of curse for her than a blessing in a lot of ways (this article articulates this thought better than I can). She has lost a lot of control over her own writing due to publisher and fan expectations. The popularity of the HBO adaption trickled over into the books and that has made Sookie her most successful series to date. It's popular and I'm sure financially she's doing just fine. People reading your books is really all an author can hope for. At any rate. these books are incredibly entertaining and the characters are engaging. I am a fan of the series. I enjoyed Sookie's world and I will miss her. 

Now on to the specifics...

Although there are aspects of the series and story that I wasn't necessarily a fan of, in general the books were addictive and fun. I read the first ten installments in a three month period. Waiting for the final three books year by year was torture.

Here's a break down of what I enjoyed about this series (as a whole):

- Setting

I'm a Southern girl born and raised. These days I live in the Northeast and love it, but I often miss the unique culture of the South. These stories take me home. Harris is really great at pulling you into the "every day" and showing what small town Southern life is actually like. You even get a glimpse into how that upbringing effects your whole being since this story puts you inside Sookie's head. I really can't get into writers that leave out the details, and yet it takes a good writer to include details in a way that's not distracting or forced. I never felt that way about Sookie.

- Protagonist

Sookie is a likeable heroine. I didn't always agree with her, she wasn't always good, but you had to admit that she felt very real. She was flawed, but caring. She was strong and independent. She was a size 10, not a size 2. She was relatable but other. The details Harris includes were nostalgic and felt natural. I enjoyed the way Harris included Sookie's daily life: every day chores, southern cooking, shopping on a budget, reading etc. It added to the story and who she was (for me) without seeming unnecessary or distracting. Being in Sookie's head is different than most first person stories because Sookie is a telepath. You not only knew what was going on in Sookies head but you also knew a lot of other characters thoughts because of her special talent. Sookie is a great protagonist. That's precisely why she is so loved.

- The "Sookie-verse"

Honestly, these books were some of the first I'd read in the urban fantasy genre that really stuck (more than not) to traditional folklore (at least then it came to vampires). When you can get mythical creatures integrated into this century and it be "believable"---then you're getting somewhere. When authors off-handly change folklore to suit their needs, it annoys me. This is one of the reasons I appreciate authors like Tolkien and Rowling so much. Rowling was a mythology major so the Harry Potter universe can hold dozens, maybe hundreds, of different creatures in a believable way. Tolkien's world was so expansive that even if it differed it hardly mattered because he was so consistent. While authors are certainly allowed to create all new creatures and rules for their stories, when it comes to vampires I appreciate the effort to keep them apart of a bigger history.

I can't say that Harris succeeded one hundred percent at creating a consistent universe or that she stuck to folklore with all her characters. The non-vampire characters strike me as more "make it up as you go". Most of them seem to fit okay, with the exception of the Fae. This is one mythological creature that her version of distracted me a bit. By the time she started introducing them, however, I was already hooked on the series. Still, the story ultimately revolves around vampires.

What vampires can and can't do is really specific to the author and their version of vampires. Authors like Stephenie Meyer have gotten a lot of flack for creating vampires that don't fit tradition. Some authors I can forgive for this. Deborah Harkness, for example, has a very non-traditional day walking vampire in her trilogy but the books are so seamlessly integrated into a pretty "accurate" historical narrative that it's hard not to be impressed. The bottom line is that there's been a lot of vampire variations in the last decade or two. From two lines in the book explaining away the known facts about vampires as rumors to books that try to fit their vampires into hundreds of years of tradition. Harris is, more or less, the latter. Her vampires are burned by the sun and only come out at night for example. This is what initially appealed to me most about her stories. It was refreshing to see vampires who acted like vampires. Beyond that...the way they fit into our world, the politics, etc are really up to the author.

The universe that Harris created for her character Sookie is pretty elaborate and all the characters individual stories are interconnected. The continuity of her books is not as good as say, the Harry Potter series, but Harris has admitted that as the world grew it kind of got away from her. Not everything ties together perfectly from Book 1 to Book 13. However, she knew pretty early on how she intended to end the series and I think she starts foreshadowing the ending early on in the series. As I read Book 13  I could see where she was going with it. It just made sense. (That isn't to say that I knew how the whole "who-dun-it" mystery would end, but just how Sookie's story itself would "end."

Overall I think the books progressively get weaker, but that doesn't mean that Harris is a bad writer or that they are bad books. It's just part of a series going on for so long. It all get's a little bit out of hand over time.

Thoughts on Dead Ever After:

Honestly, I am left feeling somewhat unsatisfied with this last installment. Since I started to see the ending unfold early in the book, by the end I was okay with it. Initially I was somewhat satisfied and okay with the direction Harris took. It was logical. The book is written to give Sookie closure. When I started it I wondered how Sookie could ever live post-vampires. I wondered if Harris would kill off Sookie's character in some kind of dramatic conclusion. I'm glad she didn't, but it made for a less exciting book. There was a serious lack of vampires and vampire related drama. There was a serious lack of Bill and Eric. While there was suspense and mystery surrounding the arrest of Sookie (this books major plot line) and the return of many past characters, everything was designed to give closure, to tie up all the loose ends neatly. And that's fine.

I'm not upset with Charlaine Harris. All the harassment she's gotten over the series from fans is ridiculous. Call me a traditional, but I don't think authors should ever bend to their fans. I prefer my authors recluse and obsessed with their art over this new breed of celebrity author (that does talk shows and runs fan sites complete with playlists and contests). Sookie is Harris's character and the series is her story. She shouldn't have to change her story to appease fans. Her books shouldn't end up on a "worst of" list simply because her fans who preferred a different ending or plot direction.

"The Ending" and "The One"

The on-going debate has always been who should Sookie end up with (romantically). There are a variety of camps and they all feel very strongly about their choice. The main romantic interest debate is  Bill vs. Eric. But Alcide, Quinn, Sam and even Calvin also have their supporters.

As far as the books go, personally I was always a fan of Bill. I was a bit upset when Harris started demonizing him and shifting gears to Eric. I always wanted Sookie to come back to Bill in the end because I felt like his love was the most pure. The reason I love Bill is because I always root for the "original" love interest. Bill was first, things got messy, but I always wanted them to find their way back to each other. This isn't very realistic. I didn't marry my first love after all, and I'm glad I didn't. But there is just something about literature that makes you not want to let go of that first love. I was rooting for Bill.

I read somewhere that Harris had originally planned to kill Bill off mid series. Her publisher made her change the story. This was a smart move on the publisher's part, but I think ultimately the wrong one. While at the time I'm sure I would have been devastated and angry at her for killing Bill, in retrospect I wish she had. Killing Bill would have accomplished several things. 1.) I'd have been able to move on to a different love interest. Instead, I always held out for Bill (to the very end). Since she doesn't end up with Bill, it would have been nice to grow attached to someone else. 2.) Bill could have died with dignity. I think I'd have felt more closure about Bill's character if Sookie had forgiven him, even loved him again, and then lost him. 3.) Lastly, and this is tied to point 2, Bill's character needed that closure. Bill's character popped up every so often in the latter books and he was in the final book. However, it wasn't Bill. It was new Bill. It was friend-Bill. And it felt odd. He seemed weaker. He seemed more conventional. He went from being a main character and epic love interest---this huge part of Sookie's life to being...a neighbor. You barely see Bill in Dead Ever After and he just loses his Bill-ness.

I never hated Eric. In fact, on the show True Blood I preferred him. (Probably because I find Alex Scarsgard more attractive than Stephen Moyer). I liked that Sookie seemed to tame Eric and he was so much more mysterious than Bill. If Bill had died, I think I could have gotten on board with Eric whole heartedly. The entire time I read the book I was waiting for some kind of grand gesture or explanation for Eric's actions. Some way they could end up together or for either Eric or Sookie to die in some kind of heroic act/expression of their love. That didn't happen. Again, Eric was barely in the book at all. It was disappointing and it just felt odd that the relationship (again, epic) fell away so quickly without a much of a fight.

Both romances were these big constants and to see them both barely featured in the last book just felt wrong. Readers have been so invested in both Bill and Eric and their relationships with Sookie. The decision to basically write them out of the story left me with the feeling the story wasn't really over...like I'll be waiting purpetually for something else to happen...

Quinn was my least favorite of the love interests but I did like him and I liked Alcide for that matter. It was kind of crazy how many love interests entered Sookie's life in so short a time---it was almost hard to keep up. Any one of them could have easily ended up being "the one". But Harris chose Sam. It was the logical choice. Sookie and Sam had been as close as family for the entire series. There were hints of attraction here and there but he wasn't the exciting choice. The reason it's the best choice is because it's the only way Sookie can live on and live normally. Sookie was human and wanted to stay human. In order for Sookie to retain her family, community, and have a family of her own---she needs normalcy. She's never had that with a vampire. All of the vampire drama and politics had to sort itself out in this book in order for her to be capable of having that separate life (in order for her to "live-on" at all). Bill and Eric had to be out of the picture. Sookie had to be in a position of not being used by vampires anymore and in a place where she wouldn't be bothered in their absence. Harris pulled that off. It was the only ending that gave Sookie that closure.

And that's probably why I don't feel all that satisfied. The whole Sookie series was about vampires and the drama of it all. You half expect a dramatic ending or for the story to go on forever. After all we'd been through with Sookie...I guess it was anti-climatic. After all the tension between Bill and Eric...neither get the girl.

I'm okay with it.

The fact is...I can't think of a better ending. Even though I feel less than satisfied with this ending (and miss the feeling the older books gave me), it was probably the right one. Probably.

Closing Thoughts / Now What?

Overall, I will always be a fan of Sookie. And I don't have to let go of her just yet. I still haven't finished all the short stories that fall into the Sookie-verse and After Dead is releasing this fall with conclusions ("what happened next") for nearly all the other characters in the book. I'm looking forward to that.

I heard a rumor that Charlaine Harris's next series will have fantasy elements as well so perhaps there will be a "new Sookie" to love.

Thanks for writing, Charlaine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

TV Show Review: The Black Donnellys

I really wish Networks would stop cancelling good shows based on a poor rating or low viewer numbers during the first couple of episodes. Shows need time to warm up. Anyone who has ever watched the first season or two of Friends knows this. Friends was one of the most successful shows of all time and yet the first two seasons are kitschy and loaded with sitcom cliches. It took a few seasons to develop the characters and gain momentum but it became extremely successful and pretty hilarious.

Fox is notorious for canceling shows. I mean any network that cancels an Emmy winning comedy with a cult-like following (Arrested Development) is insane. Fox has cancelled dozens upon dozens of shows. My only inclination as to why is that if the show is not immediately a SMASH, then it's not worth keeping (I'm thinking of Glee and Family Guy, although even the wildly popular Family Guy was cancelled and brought back). It's strange to me that this would seem logical since usually, I don't start watching a show until I hear it's good from other people (often 1-2 seasons in). I'm still trying to forgive them for canceling Firefly and Tera Nova (okay, the acting in Tera Nova wasn't great, but it had potential) and any time a new show that is good comes along, I cringe if it's on Fox. I'm pretty nervous about the fate of New Girl even with the initial success.

While Fox is the most notorious, all networks are guilty. It was NBC that cancelled The Black Donnelly's after only airing two episodes. This was a genuinely good show that I'm confident would have gained popularity if given time. In fact, I have a teeny bit of data to back that up. When NBC cancelled the show they decided to stream the rest of the season online. It did well. It was second only to their already popular Heroes.

I didn't discover the show until this past year (thanks to Netflix and my husband who remembered loving the first couple of episodes when they aired). It's a great show. Just read the Wikipedia article and you get the sense that it was a great concept. The show was inspired by real world families and locations that give it a credible and true to life feeling. While the mob and organized crime have always been a popular subject matter, it's the Donnelly family that really keeps you invested in this show. I loved (and hated) the characters on this show and while the show is certainly dark, there is the comedic relief found in an unreliable narrator and the relationship between brothers. In the midst of all the violence and drama you find yourself hopeful and invested.

Luckily, the first season stands alone pretty well but I'm still disappointed there's not more.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TV Show Review: The Vampire Diaries

Twilight kind of ruined vampires. Regardless of how you feel about Twilight, the vampire 'craze' that Twilight triggered took a traditional fantasy/folklore character and made him overdone, cheesy and a little lame. Where vampire characters used to be somewhat unique and interesting, urban fantasy books are now a dime a dozen. The second you tell someone you're watching or reading something about vampires you get a groan. Which is too bad because I've always liked folklore and the twist of a vampire character.

That being said, I decided to watch a couple of episodes of The Vampire Diaries over maternity leave out of bordem. No cable, home all day, it happens. I expected it to be pretty bad (it's a CW show after all) and figured I wouldn't last more than a couple episodes. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I'm not even listing it under guilty pleasures because I legitimately enjoyed it. I should note that the books are atrocious. I liked the show better than True Blood (and this from a Charlaine Harris fan) because it was fun and suspenseful without the excessive nudity/gore (which I honestly believe is for shock value and doesn't add to the story) and sometimes mind boggling plot choices that True Blood often employs.

CW seems to be doing a bit better with some of their shows (Gossip Girl for example) as far as quality goes but they all definitely fall into the CW style.

In general I like the writer's direction/style/layering and constant suspense. I was even pleasantly surprised by the fact that the acting in general isn't terrible. It's entertaining...which is exactly what tv is suppose to be. After a couple seasons it becomes pretty obvious that there is a formula to the episodes that makes it a bit predictable on some levels and the constant additions of new plot twists starts to get a bit ridiculous after season 3. Still...the characters sucked me in and I find myself caring, laughing, and anticipating so I'd call the show a success. Here's hoping it doesn't completely dissolve into crap like most CW shows.