Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

Archive for the month “April, 2010”

Miniseries Review: Emma (2009)

Emma
BBC Miniseries, 240 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)
based on the novel by Jane Austen

Every few years, someone in the movie industry decides it’s time to remake an Austen film. Hollywood did it in 2005 with the Kiera Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice—or, as my friend Katie calls it, “Emily Brontë’s Pride & Prejudice.” Naturally, filmmakers want to try their hand at the biggest women’s franchise ever (try to argue Twilight has eclipsed Austen, I dare you).

Sometimes, I wish they’d do something other than P&P or Emma. There isn’t a decent Northanger Abbey, and though I adore the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion, there’s ample room for another entry there, too. But did I say any of this when Katie invited me to a “new Emma” viewing party? Of course not. It’s a new Austen film, yay!

The Premise

For the uninitiated, Emma is about a smart, wealthy young lady in 1810’s England who decides she’s a brilliant matchmaker and proceeds to meddle in the lives of her friends and neighbors—with funny and sometimes disastrous results. Her behavior puts a strain on her friendship with Mr. Knightly, who is her only intellectual equal. Emma may think she’s a great matchmaker, but she knows nothing about her own heart.

The Pain

Most women my age picture Jeremy Northam (from 1996’s Emma) as Mr. Knightley, so Jonny Lee Miller (aka Edmund Bertram in 1999’s Mansfield Park) takes some getting used to in the Mr. Knightley role. The Brontëan darkness shoehorned into parts of the miniseries stand at odds with Austen’s usual social satire. Lastly, Emma’s occasional anachronistic behavior will be jarring to anyone familiar with the mores of the period.

The Payoff

As Emma, actress Romola Garai is an elegant imp who has so much fun with the story that I almost forgave her those anachronisms. As Emma’s father, Michael Gambon is fabulous, and even Jonny Lee Miller comes through on the romance.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

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The Grammar Nazi Tries to Buy a Car

“Thanks for your response, i would like to earn your business, we no loose business over the prcie.I think i gave you total price if you have lower price let me know.”

Sweetheart, the way to earn my business is not sending me an email riddled with typos and spelling/grammar errors. Let me tell you why.

#1 – Typos tell me you’re sloppy. Do I really want someone who’s sloppy with the details handling something as expensive and important as my car purchase?

#2 – Spelling errors may be forgivable on their own, but combined with the others…no, sorry I’m changing my mind. If you can’t spell, why are you working the internet sales team instead of the sales floor? Some people can’t spell–I get that–but when your chief tool for selling cars is the written word, how an internet salesperson spells and composes an email sends the same message as a regular salesperson strolling across a car lot wearing a camo hoodie and flip flops.

#3 – Grammar: “we no loose business”? Seriously? If English isn’t your first language, I’ll retract my claws to half-length, but my point remains.

No Frenchman would want to buy a car from me.

Anime Review: Special A (2008)

Special A
Anime series
(24 episodes with English subtitles)
To watch, go to http://www.watchanimeon.com/anime/special-a/

I wish American television producers would take a cue from their Japanese counterparts when it comes to giving us programs with pre-written, overarching storylines scripted for a set number of seasons. Anyone who endured the amnesiac Battlestar Galactica writers winging their way through 4+ seasons of “what if we did THIS?” knows the pain of seeing a golden cast and premise ruined by writers with a sandbox complex. When I want to watch a TV show with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end, I turn to anime. And when it comes to romance anime, Special A isn’t a bad way to go.

The Premise
Overachieving high school student Hikari dreams of beating her number one rival: Kei, the boy who’s beaten her at everything she’s tried since they were kids. Both Kei and Hikari belong to the “Special A” class, a group made up of the seven best students in their high school (other classes are referred to as A, B, C, etc). Through the Special A’s hijinks and misadventures, Hikari is so busy trying to out-smart, out-race, out-wrestle the unbeatable Kei that she doesn’t see the most important thing: Kei loves her.

The Pain
Any one who’s watched shojo anime knows what to expect: meddling adults, naive heroine, over-the-top explosions, exaggerated reactions and implausible secrets…at least some of it is funny.

The Payoff
This series has charming characters and some truly beautiful artwork. Hikari may not know a thing about love, but she’s pretty kickass otherwise, and it isn’t hard to see why Kei loves her. As for that beginning, middle, and end I mentioned earlier? All right here.

Rating:

3 out of 5 arrows

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth (2009)

The Ugly Truth
Movie (95 minutes, R)
Starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

Not everything I review on Show Me the Romance will be Five Arrow knockouts. Case in point: 2009’s The Ugly Truth. It’s about as romantic as its name, and apart from a clever first half, it isn’t even particularly funny. With the exception of one scene, the film played like the dreck most “romantic comedy” entries are—all polish and no emotion. Romance fans aren’t fools, Hollywood. You give us characters who feel real, and a romance that feels right, and we’ll make you filthy rich. Anything else…eh, we’ll catch it when it appears on Netflix’s instant watch option, and only then when we have nothing better to do.

The Premise
Katherine Heigl plays Abby Richter, a scheduled-to-the-nines producer for a San Diego morning show. Her love life amounts to a string of failed blind dates, largely because she conducts third-party investigations into the guy’s background and then scours him with questions more suited to a Dateline interview than a date. When her TV station hires crass relationship cynic Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) to boost ratings, he devastates Katherine’s preconceived notions of love, first by offending her to the point of fury, and second by proving to her she can’t plan her way through romance.

The Pain
Are we really feeling anything for these characters? It’s like “cue awkward moment” followed by “cue cute blushing awkward moment” and finishing up with “cue accidental tender moment.” While You Were Sleeping this ain’t.

The Payoff
There’s a raw kiss in an elevator that actually cuts beneath the layers of over-processed crap to show that maybe there really are emotions in play, but it’s over too fast and ends too cutsey-awkwardy to maintain the feeling.

Rating: 2 out of 5 arrows

Miniseries Review: North and South (2004)

North and South
BBC Miniseries, 235 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)

based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

From the way people describe this story, you’d think it was called Pride and Prejudice and the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. To a certain extent, that’s an accurate pigeonhole. The romance is of the “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him, oh crap I love him!” variety—one of my personalfavorites—and instead of satirizing society (Jane Austen’s forte), Elizabeth Gaskell goes after issues of social conscience, contrasting the stark differences between pastoral, agrarian southern England and the bustling, hardscrabble mill towns transforming the north of England in the 1840’s.

The Premise

When spirited middle-class southerner Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) has to move with her family to Milton, a sooty, every-man-for-himself northern city that’s nothing like the beautiful village she’s known all her life, she hates everything about it. The city’s dirty air hurts her mother’s health and the people are pushy and hard. To her, attractive mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the North, and when she befriends one of his workers, a girl whose health has been damaged in the mills, Margaret knows exactly who to blame. If you’re wondering how The Man could possibly be a sympathetic hero, all I can say is Gaskell knows her romance.

The Pain

A drab gray palette suffuses nearly every bit of the movie. You keep expecting spring to arrive, and with it some color, or flowers, or something, but it would seem that there are no beautiful days in the North.

The Payoff

Is John Thornton. He’s full of restrained passion and out-smolders Darcy, if you can imagine that. I highly recommend.

5 out of 5 Arrows

Changes coming to my blog

I’ve been MIA the past few weeks because I’m planning to overhaul my blog to make it more interesting for people who are NOT intimately interested in my writing (i.e. me) so I’ll make the changes as quickly as I can. It will still be writing-centric, but there will be book reviews, as well as mildly humorous observations.

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