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Archive for the tag “4 arrow”

TV Show Review: Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010)

Mary Stayed Out All Night
TV Show (16 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean romantic comedy starring Jang Geun Suk and Moon Geun Young.

When I last reviewed a Korean drama, I complained about the “scheming mean girl rival” and “go abroad at the end to provide more complications” plot devices used so frequently in Korean and Japanese dramas. The very next show I watched uses neither! Let’s hear it for Mary Stayed Out All Night.

The Premise

Wi Ma Ri (Mary, as everyone calls her) is cheerful, practical, and accustomed to having to dodge the loan sharks who are always hounding her dad for money. But when her dad strikes up a deal with his wealthy childhood friend to marry her to his friend’s son, Mary knows she’ll have to do something drastic to avoid marriage with a complete stranger–like pretend to marry the handsome rock singer she met last night.

The Pain

I feel like Mary Stayed Out All Night takes quite awhile to hit its stride, which might make it hard for some people to get into the story. Preposterous situations abound, but that’s kind of par for the course in these dramas. Ultimately, male romantic lead Kang Mu Gyul isn’t as hilarious as that actor’s character in You’re Beautiful, so it took me awhile to warm up to him and appreciate the more subtle layers in his personality.

The Payoff

A GREAT kiss between the two leads. Asian dramas can be rather hit-or-miss when it comes to realistic kisses, but when Wi Mary and Kang Mu Gyul finally kiss for real, it’s fantastic. I truly enjoyed some of the music in this show, most of all Kang Mu Gyul’s marquee rock song “My Bus.” The story is more emotionally mature as well, especially since the beautiful actress who struggles with her jealousy over the relationship developing between her ex-boyfriend Kang Mu Gyul and Mary actually seems like a real person. Sometimes she succumbs to her bitterness, but more often she rises above it–making her one of the few romantic rival characters I actually admire.

Rating: 

4 out of 5 arrows

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel
 By Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Many modern adventure stories owe a severe debt of gratitude to Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. Blackadder has parodied the character. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation novels function on the assumption that not only was the old Scarlet P a real person, he eventually retired and his flower-named pupils continued spying for England. I love both Blackadder and the Pink Carnation, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The Premise

To imitate the book’s language…
It’s 1792. The Reign of Terror has Paris in its grip, and the guillotine drinks deep of France’s noble blood. A league of young English gentlemen dash back and forth across the Channel, rescuing French aristocrats from a revolution that has lost its way. Their leader calls himself the Scarlet Pimpernel—he plots every move and slips like a wraith through the French authorities’ fingers.

Now the French government has their best agent on his tail. He intends to blackmail Lady Marguerite Blakeney into helping him unmask the Pimpernel. If she doesn’t, he’ll have her beloved brother killed. Marguerite moves in the highest English circles thanks to her fabulously wealthy, incomparably stupid husband, Sir Percy Blakeney, but even she doesn’t know the secret that makes her part in betraying the Scarlet Pimpernel so awful: she’s married to him.

The Pain

Although I love the fact that Marguerite is a strong, active heroine who tells almost the entire story from her point of view, the overwrought palpitations of her heart will probably be off-putting for anyone with a low threshold for melodrama. That being said, the book is more than a century old and it gives me a happy ending, so I throw it a bone.

The Payoff

Percy, Percy, Percy . . .  you care for nothing, yet you watch your wife with incredible longing. You make the world think you’re an impeccably dressed buffoon—all so you can save innocent people from the barbarism of the guillotine. You laugh like an idiot, plot like a genius, and love like a starving man. You are worthy of Marguerite’s love, and you make the novel. Bravo.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

TV Show Review: You’re Beautiful (2009)

You’re Beautiful
TV Show (16 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean romantic comedy starring Jang Geun Suk and Park Shin Hye.

You know you’ve always wanted to see a show about a nun-in-training who has to impersonate her twin brother and join a Korean boy band. Man, I love these shows.

The Premise

Go Mi Nyo (family name Go, personal name Mi Nyo) is a sister-in-training at the convent that’s been her home for most of her life. She hasn’t seen her twin brother Go Mi Nam in years when a spastic talent manager bursts into her life, saying her brother has finally achieved his dream of joining a boy band. Unfortunately, for (spectacularly) contrived reasons, he can’t perform in their concert and is about to forfeit his contract unless Mi Nyo pretends to be him. This eventually entails living with three guys for the better part of two months. You see where this is going.

The Pain

Okay, more obvious problems notwithstanding (like how the actress who plays Mi Nyo/Mi Nam is adorable and no one would ever mistake her for a boy) I wish Korean dramas wouldn’t rely so heavily on the scheming hell-bitch motif to draw out the romantic tension between the hero and heroine. And why…why do they always use the “oh no, I might have to go Somewhere Impossibly Far Away for Years” plot device?” I’m on a mission now to find a k-drama without it.

The Payoff

Park Shin Hye is (as I said above) adorable, which is really saying something when you consider she’s playing the idiot/klutz heroine type, a.k.a. Too Stupid To Live. At least Mi Nyo’s convent background explains her naivety, and she has such a big warm heart, I couldn’t hate her. As for Jang Geun Suk, his Tae Kyung is a master class in combining unappealing quirks to make an irresistible hero. He’s a moody rockstar germaphobe with night blindness, bad hair, and the lonely soul of a poet. His first smile is worth the wait.

And their romance makes me a grinning fool.

Rating: 

4 out of 5 arrows

Movie Review: Jab We Met

Jab We Met
Movie (142  minutes)
Starring Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor (no relation)

Feeling like getting your romance fix with colorful scenery, bright clothes, and the occasional bout of energetic dancing? Give Bollywood a shot. The crossover hit Bride and Prejudice (2004) introduced many of us to Indian movies, so if you saw that, and didn’t mind the occasional song or impulsive block-party dance breaking out mid-scene, try Jab We Met (available on Netflix’s online streaming service through May of this year).

The Premise

A dejected businessman (Shahid Kapoor) meets a whirlwind of a girl (Kareena Kapoor) on a train. She draws him into her life, exasperating him, teasing him, goading him into a better understanding of himself—until she discovers that her version of reality is not exactly the same as the real world.  Think Forces of Nature, but funny. And with actual chemistry between the leads.

The Pain

Subtitles aren’t for everyone (the film is in Hindi, with the actors slipping English phrases in and out of their speech). The only real pain I can remember is some occasionally draggy pacing. Some of the special effects are—unintentionally—laugh out loud funny. Also, prepare yourself for some maudlin singing sequences. To all these . . . just go with it. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The Payoff

The leads are so much fun. Geet (the heroine) is a true force of nature. Who can  blame Aditya (the hero) for getting sucked into her orbit. He treks with Geet through the Indian countryside, confronts her hilarious bear of a grandfather, and navigates the wilds of her family all while rediscovering his spirit and his own charming smile. Of course he’s going to fall in love—and with a smile like that, it’s no wonder that she does, too.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

Book Review: The Mortal Instruments series

The Mortal Instruments series
(City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass)
Novels by Cassandra Clare
Buffy-esque urban fantasy with strong romantic elements

There are more books in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments, but these three are the original sprawling, wise-cracking, romantic trilogy. The story told in City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass is dark, fast-paced, and satisfying. It seems to me that anything more would dilute the product (see Wars, Star) but what do I know?

The Premise

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray thinks demons and supernatural warriors lurk only on the pages of her comic books until the night she sees a bunch of kids kill another kid in a New York City nightclub. When those teenagers turn out to be Shadowhunters—humans with angel blood who protect the world from demonkind—Clary falls headlong into a world teeming with vampires, faeries, werewolves and warlocks. With her mother missing and the scent of demons everywhere, Clary has to ask the Shadowhunters for help. Unfortunately, that includes Jace, a boy her age who “looks a little like an angel and a lot like a jerk.” (That line comes directly from Clare’s own jacket copy. It captures the book’s modern tone perfectly).

The Pain

Cassandra Clare is the quintessential fangirl (if her name sounds vaguely familiar, she is the pen behind the brilliant “Very Secret Diaries” of various Lord of the Rings characters). In The Mortal Instruments, she riffs on everything from anime to Spiderman, and even references her own VSDs. I love that stuff, but unfortunately the fangirling also translates into a little derivativeness in the plot department—especially when it comes to the villain.

And “Clary” as a character name is a little too similar to Clare to avoid feelings of Mary-Sueism.

The Payoff

Romance doesn’t get more impossible or torturous than the chemistry between Jace and Clary. I’m not even sure how Clare pulled it off so well, but she lights the fuse in City of Bones, twists the cord in City of Ashes, and detonates it in City of Glass. After all that, and a satisfying ending to boot, what more is there?

No really, what more is there to fill three whole books?

—Books 4, 5, and 6 in the series are City of Fallen Angels (2011), City of Lost Souls (to be released 2012), and City of Heavenly Fire (to be released 2013). There’s also a movie in the works, featuring actors Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, pictured above.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

Book Review: Sabriel

Sabriel
Novel by Garth Nix
An epic fantasy with a nice dose of romance

It took me awhile to get through the first half of this book. Not because it wasn’t a good story or well-written or anything like that–it took that long for the romance to show up. I’d actually resigned myself to a good story with no romance when all of a sudden *boom* there it was, and I became a reading fiend.

The Premise

Sabriel is an 18 year old student at a ladies academy when a spectre of the Dead visits her to deliver an ominous message: her father is trapped in the realm of the dead, and she has become the Abhorsen, a person charged with protecting the living by keeping dead things dead. She travels into the magical Old Kingdom, hoping to restore him to life, but instead discovers the Kingdom (which has been decaying for awhile) is on the verge of destruction.

The Pain

You have to get through some rather typical obstacle/solve/obstacle fantasy plotting in the first half (though the magic system and its basis in necromancy is fascinating) to get to the romance, but once there, all the characters seem to perk up and grow more alive.

The Payoff

I won’t give away who the guy is, or where Sabriel meets him, but their romance is the product of deft writing. With only a few precious details sprinkled throughout the narrative, Nix creates the sense that these people really are falling for each other.

This is Book 1 of the Abhorsen Trilogy, but it also stands on its own (I haven’t read the others yet). If you like dark adventure and subtle romance (heck, if you like fantasy at all) I highly recommend this book.

And Mogget is awesome.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

Movie Review: The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator
Movie (108  minutes)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn

You know those action movies that shoehorn a romance between the gunshots as an excuse to put a little TNA into the TNT? This classic from James Cameron isn’t one of them. I saw this movie for the first time a few months ago, and for those of you who tend to forgo action movies because they’re all brawn and no heart, do yourself a favor and go back to this one. The characters and the romance stayed with me for days. I’m not even exaggerating. I read all the wiki pages and imdb.com and when that didn’t satisfy me, I hit the fan fiction pages. It was that good.

The Premise

In the year 2029, a desperate group of humanity’s survivors defeat the machines who tried to annihilate them. The machines send a cyborg killer back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, the young woman who will one day give birth to the human leader. Sarah’s–and humanity’s–only hope rests on the shoulders of Kyle Reese, the man John Connor sends back to stop the Terminator.

The Pain

Sarah (Linda Hamilton) has an unfortunate hairstyle. Um…Kyle (Michael Biehn) looks weird in some frames? What else…I’m trying here. Oh! The time travel continuum stuff is a little hard to wrap your head around. They do a decent job of explaining without getting bogged down in the details, but it isn’t perfect.

The Payoff

This is romance at its most raw. Two people looking at each other like no one else exists, daring to love in spite of a bleak future. This is why I love romance. It’s life-affirming and hopeful no matter what cyborg bazooka-wielding beefcake is on the hunt (in this case it’s Arnold, the best of them all).

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

I would give it five except there wasn’t *quite* enough screen time devoted to the particular subject I’m rating. No knock against the movie itself.

Movie Review: Penelope (2007)

Penelope
Movie (91 minutes, PG)
Starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy

The French-language poster is better than the US version.

If Penelope had been released in theaters with all the proper promotion, it wouldn’t be a cult hit dependent on word-of-mouth–it would be a hit, period. Reese Witherspoon has produced (and cameoed in) a fairytale for the paranormal set, complete with disfigured ‘princess’ and diamond-in-the-rough ‘prince’. And before you go “Prince? Princess? What is this–Disney for grown-ups?” just hear me out. Penelope is a romance with style.

The Premise

Due to a curse on her rich, blue-blood family, Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) was born with a pig snout instead of a nose. In an effort to protect her from the scorn of the world, her parents constructed an entire wonderland for her inside their house, and never let her go outside. She’s learned about the world through books and music, and the only boys she meets are the ones who speak to her through a one-way mirror. Apparently, the curse will be broken if she falls in love with her own kind, so her parents parade only well-born boys through their house. Every time twentysomething Penelope shows them her face, they run away in terror…until blue-blood Max Campion (James McAvoy) arrives.

The Pain

The fairytale genre leaves room for some convenient plot turns and over-simplification. Most of the actors chew the screen like silent film stars, but I didn’t really mind that. It fits this satirical fairytale. The romance seemed to sag at the halfway mark, but redeemed itself by the end.

The Payoff

Simple and innocent as this story is, it has more romance than traditional fairytales, and McAvoy brings a believable honesty to his role that elevates this above more traditional fairytale endings. I loved Enchanted (starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey) but that was a fairytale comedy. Penelope is a romance.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

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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