Show Me the Romance

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Archive for the tag “3 arrow”

Book Review: Wrapped

Wrapped
 By Jennifer Bradbury

Since I’m thinking about making my next project a YA Regency Romance (or YARR) (Mateys!) (Sorry, couldn’t resist), I’ve been trying to read every example of that genre I can get my hands on. The first one I read–The Season by Sarah MacLean–was so frustrating and condescending it made me wonder if the genre was fundamentally flawed, the casualty of tailoring a Regency Romance to fit YA expectations. Next, I whipped through a couple of chick-litty Regency YA novels by Meg Cabot that read well and didn’t reek of pandering to a younger reader (unlike The Season), but the tone wasn’t quite what I had in mind for my own novel.

Then I found Wrapped — a YA mystery regency romance with Egyptian themes. It’s pretty good, and suddenly I don’t think the YARR is so flawed after all. (YARR!)

The Premise

London, 1815. When Agnes Wilkins discovers a strange jackelheaded figurine in the wrappings of a mummy featured at a high society party, her first instinct is to hide the figurine as her own little secret. But then a series of robberies and murders begin to plague everyone who had contact with the mummy, and Agnes decides she isn’t about to wait around and let the so-called “curse” rifle through her wardrobe. She’s going to crack the secret herself . . . with the help of an attractive young Egyptologist who has a few secrets of his own.

The Pain

In addition to some historical inaccuracies and a suspiciously magical performance from an inanimate object (when the book’s world is a non-magical one), the book suffers from a slow start (I’m already seeing a YARR trend here  . . . starting the book with the heroine complaining about being fit for a gown) and doesn’t really get rolling until the first murder happens. But isn’t that par for the course in mysteries? Also, I knew who the villain was from the beginning, and I’m Ms. Oblivious. Whoops. Good thing this blog isn’t called “Show Me The Mystery”.

The Payoff

The hero isn’t a Duke! Or a Marquis, or an Earl, or even a Sir. Shocking, I know. As a museum assistant, aspiring Egyptologist Caedmon is decidedly below Agnes’s rank socially, but even if he’s a bit rough, he’s also capable and clever–and unlike most Regency Romance heroes, he hasn’t been under half the skirts in London. The romance isn’t all that strong, so I couldn’t bump this up to a four arrow. Still, Agnes and Caedmon are cute together, and combined with an ending I enjoyed (even if it was a *mite* improbable), I think I can safely say this one is a three-arrow grinner.
Rating:

3 out of 5 arrows

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Movie Review: No Strings Attached (2011)

No Strings Attached
Movie (108 minutes, R)
Starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher

Two “friends have casual sex and–oops–fall in love” rom-coms came out in 2011, but unfortunately, the more highly regarded one (Friends with Benefits starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake) is not available on Netfix’s streaming service. So how does the other one stack up?

The Premise

Adam and Emma (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) have known each other off and on for years when they finally reunite as adults. Adam is still stinging from discovering his ex-girlfriend is now dating his father, and as a full-time resident at an area hospital, Emma has no time, no interest, and no faith in romantic relationships. They decide to distract themselves with casual sex, laying a number of ground rules to keep them from becoming emotionally involved. We all know that won’t last, so the primary entertainment is in seeing how they go from “friends with benefits” to a real couple.

The Pain

This film is unnecessarily raunchy in places. There’s no real nudity, so the R rating rests solely on the dialogue and one rather awkward sex scene. The funniest parts were not even the crude ones. On a larger scale however, the movie fails to really show why Emma is so deathly afraid of emotional intimacy. She keeps turning away from what seems to be a no-brainer relationship with the wonderful Adam, and simply saying her parents divorce fifteen years ago turned her off of love doesn’t cut it. Maybe it turned her off marriage…but dating, too?

The Payoff

Some of the dialogue is fun, and it’s hard not to love Adam’s character. Especially the way he throws himself in headfirst, refusing to let uncertainty rule his decisions the way Emma’s fear paralyzes her. The romance between them works–barely, but it works.

Rating:

3 out of 5 arrows

Miniseries Review: The Moth (1997)

The Moth (1997)
BBC Miniseries, 152 minutes (3 fifty minute episodes)

based on the novel by Catherine Cookson

Have Downton Abbey withdrawal? A bunch of BBC miniseries by Catherine Cookson appeared on Netflix recently, and since I’m an absolute sucker for costume drama, I went trawling the web for some tips on which one to try. By all accounts, The Moth (set in 1913, Northumbria, England) got the highest marks, and away I went.

The Premise

When his father dies, carpenter Robert Bradley (Jack Davenport) takes a job offer from his uncle, a furniture maker in rural England. But Robert’s handsome face and charming ways soon land him in hot water with his uncle’s family. Wrongfully accused of getting his cousin pregnant, Robert leaves the family and takes the only job he can get: an odd-job servant position on the local landowner’s estate. There, he strikes up a friendship with ‘The Moth’—the gentry family’s wandering, childlike daughter—and engages in a war of longing looks with the girl’s older sister, Sarah (Juliet Aubray).

The Pain

Multiple subplots get lost in forgotten-ville, and the production values are not the greatest. Don’t go into this expecting Downton-caliber writing, sets, or acting, and you should be pleasantly entertained.

The Payoff

Get ready for a dose of delicious ‘Brits in love’ restraint, complete with stolen glances, and a steamy forbidden kiss that lands this one solidly in three arrow territory.

By the way, once you’ve watched the miniseries, treat yourself to reading this hilarious screen-cap rehashing by someone far more British, and far more witty than I. Bairnsketballs indeed.

3 out of 5 arrows

TV Show Review: Once Upon a Time (2011-present)

Once Upon a Time
TV Show (11 episodes to date)
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore and Robert Carlyle.

I wrote a full-length review of ABC’s Once Upon a Time pilot episode back in October, so if you’re looking for more in-depth analysis of the show itself, click here. Of course, that was based only on the first episode, and since then, I feel the show has gotten even better. The romance, however, is not this modern fairy tale’s strongest suit.

The Premise

When Snow White and her Prince Charming win their happily ever after, the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla, below) is very put out. She curses all the fairy tale characters, banishing them to a terrible place where all their happy endings are ruined—a small town in modern-day Maine. It has been more than twenty years since her coup, yet time does not pass in Storybrooke, and none of the characters remember who they were. Instead, they think they’re normal people. A teacher. A sheriff. A psychiatrist. Even Ms. Evil Queen herself comes to Storybrooke to rein over her minions as Mayor For Life. But just like rules, curses are made to be broken.

The Pain

Each episode features a real-world storyline and flashbacks to what those featured characters did in their past lives as fairy tales. I enjoy the format, but it can be confusing when trying to sort out what parallels between the two worlds are meaningful, and what is just there for the sake of a good story. Also, the campy, Bob Mackie-esque costumes favored by the evil queens/witches/fairies in the flashbacks are either awesome (my opinion) or embarrassing (entirely valid opinion held by many other people). Finally, I’m not convinced yet that the romances in the show tug the heartstrings enough to give this one a four or five arrow rating, as much as I enjoy the show itself. Lately, the romance between Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) has begun to feel like an affair, and I never find cheating romantic.

The Payoff

I’m sure the executive producers (Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, writers of Lost) have many more peaks and valleys in store for viewers over the course of however-many seasons, but for Once Upon a Time they have professed a dedication to telling a good story instead of always going for Twist Value. The acting is pretty good, the costumes are memorable, and any time you get to see dry, modern wit share the screen with daring deeds and princes on horseback is just fine in my book.

Rating: 

3 out of 5 arrows

New episodes air Sundays at 8/7 c on ABC

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

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