Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mad Men flies to the moon,the delights of Penny Dreadful and another session with Masters of Sex

Mad Men gave us a mid-season finale that certainly felt like the beginning of the end for some, as long time partner of the firm Bert Cooper passed away during the historic moon landing(an event that affected just about every character) and for once Rodger had to take the reins in order to keep things going along there.

There were some milestones for Don and Peggy as well, with the end of his marriage being pretty much acknowledged( that was pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point but one that needed to be recognized) and Peggy getting her big presentation moment with Burger Chef, Peggy's own "Carousel" ride if you will. She was amazing to behold and having Don silently cheering her on during that was priceless.

It does seem cruel to make us wait until 2015 for the remainder of the series but then again, some pleasures are best enjoyed when consumed slowly. I do wonder if the rest of the episodes of this season will take place in 1969 or will they make another time jump to wrap things up? At least this is worth waiting for:

So far, I've watched the first three episodes of Showtime's new supernatural series  Penny Dreadful and while it was what I expected it to be, there were some surprises that kept me intrigued to go back for more.

The main plot thread of this period ensemble piece is Sir Malcolm Murray's search for his missing daughter Mina, who is in the clutches of a master vampire, and with the help of unusual allies such as mysterious psychic Vanessa Ives and ex-pat showman Ethan Chandler, are exploring other dark and secret corners of Victorian era London.

We also have Dorian Gray on the fringes of the story but another well known literary character with a bigger role to play here is Dr. Frankenstein, who we see helping his human creation Proteus adjust to his renewed life. However, a shock and awe moment comes when the not so good doctor's first born creature comes calling and makes a very brutal demand on his wayward creator:

What I like about that subplot is how it strongly harkens back to the original Mary Shelley novel in it's take on the creature yet adds a few new wrinkles that work for this particular series.

Also, there are other elements of interest such as the possibility of ancient Egyptian gods attempting a convergence that could bring about an eternal darkness, a sickly prostitute who may be the love interest of more than one character and that there may be a werewolf lurking in their midst(my vote is for Ethan on that one).

Penny Dreadful has some real meat on it's gnawed bones and arriving as it does during this time of TV show wind down is most opportune. I just hope that the promise that has been built up thus far will provide a proper pay off by the end of this initial run:

 Another Showtime series on the returning horizon is the second season of Masters of Sex, which plans to schedule their next appointment on July 13.

The first season had it's ups and downs yet maintained a solid sense of character development as Bill and Virginia went on with their research(not to mention an awkward romance) and learning about the social history of the time period was an added bonus.

 There are so many shows set for the summer that's become hard to pick and choose from them all but MOS is a definite must-see for me and worth catching up on for those curious to know more. Believe me, this show is not simply "Mad Men with more sex"-brains and beauty are both on display and held to the highest standards:


HEROES OF COSPLAY: A new season of this series that goes on the road with a number of comic book/ sci-fi/ fantasy convention costumed competitors is back with some new faces and fresh outfits to wear. As much as dressing up like your favorite pop culture character can be, it also can be a bit exhausting to put together so think of this as living vicariously thru people who live vicariously thru these characters as well( way too meta?):

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Get in on some Jane Austen auction action!

For many literary fans, the home stead of their favorite writer is considered sacred ground and when it comes to Jane Austen, her Chawton residence is a place where her dearly devoted readers flock to pay their due respects, not to mention get a peek at  her humble writing table and see if that parlor door truly squeaks.

The Jane Austen House Museum was one of the stops on my trip to Jane Austen's England with the Republic of Pemberley some years back and most definitely one of the high points of that journey. From the friendly tour guides to the delights of seeing the rooms where Jane and her family shared their days to getting a look at a music book that Jane herself copied down many popular pieces of the day for home entertainment purposes, it was truly a good time had by all.

Since the museum is funded by public donations, a number of Jane Austen themed writers have banded together to raise funds for the JAHM with a number of fabulous prizes being offered for your generous contribution towards keeping this literary landmark flourishing.

Such items include a number of books,including a  signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, specially made Austen scented soaps plus bookmarks,keychains and buttons,which is where I come in!

Yes, amongst the Jane Austen treasures are my donation of Fanny Price, Slayer of Vampires pins which will be in more than one of the prize packs and I was most happy to do my bit in helping the JAHM out. You can make your donations here online and off line donations can also be made as well.

The fundraiser is now open and will run until June 10, with the hoped for goal of $2000(it would be nice if that number goes higher than that but we shall see).  I'm very honored to be along side such talented writers such as Laurel Ann Nattress, Abigail Reynolds, Jack Caldwell, Jane Odiwe and the many others in the Austenesque community who are eager to support such a worthy cause. My only regret is that we don't have Maddy Bates' unique brand of homemade preserves to offer because those interesting edibles are deliciously Emma Approved:):

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The She-Hulk/David Goyer Saga and why it pays to think before you speak

A recent uproar in comic book fan circles came about due to a podcast that had a group panel discussion where screenwriter David Goyer made some incredibly rude remarks about the Marvel Comic super heroine She-Hulk, saying that she was created in order to provide certain services to the Incredible Hulk and I don't mean asking him if he wants fries with his order.

Goyer also said a few disparaging things about the DC Comics character Martian Manhunter, which caused some concern as well since not only he is on board for the upcoming Superman Vs. Batman movie but possibly a MM movie as well.

 In addition, since Wonder Woman is planned to be part of the S/B film(subtitled "Dark Justice"), you can understand why fans would be concerned about having a writer who thinks it's funny to call a strong superheroine like She-Hulk a "big green porn star" and it didn't help that the host of the podcast joked that her real name was "Slut-Hulk".

You guys do know that She-Hulk is Bruce Banner's cousin, right? Not to mention that she's a lawyer who has been a member of several superhero teams, including The Avengers(imagine She-Hulk and Black Widow in their own movie, how awesome would that be?).  I think you ought to know a little something about these characters that you're talking about, especially Goyer whose job it is to write about them. Doing your homework doesn't hurt, that's all I'm saying:

Now, there are some who insist that these remarks were "only a joke,geez!" and not to get on Goyer's case here. However, listening and/or reading his comments, you can't help but sense a disdain on his part about the audience for this genre by implying, for one thing, that only non sexually active people are invested in this kind of thing.

 For a man who has written screen adaptations for both Marvel and DC characters ( Blade,Ghost Writer and Batman to name a few) to be quick to sneer at the folks who provide his bread and butter is rather telling to me. If you're not happy in your work, sir, perhaps you need to take a break from it. I'm not saying he shouldn't work in this field at all but maybe he's feeling a bit burned out at this point, which is understandable.

By using your verbal powers for an easy laugh, you only make yourself look bad in the process as well as appear uninformed about this genre, something that even casual fans are fast to pick up on. If there is a dream project that you've had to hold off on due to this current workload, you might want to take time off and recharge your creative batteries by making that long awaited vision come to life. I may be way off the mark but that is what my spider sense is telling me:

And I wasn't kidding about the greatness of a Black Widow/She-Hulk movie. Frankly, I think that there's a better chance of that happening that any decent version of Wonder Woman hitting the big screen within the next few years.

Black Widow has so far appeared in three Marvel outings(and is set to be in the next Avengers movie) with possible plans for her to have a solo movie sometime soon. In all three films, she has been portrayed well, thanks to actress Scarlett Johansson and the scripts which showcase the strength and savvy of the character as she is written in the original comics.

Having Black Widow and She-Hulk to work together to save the day would be like having gourmet peanut butter and high powered fruit spread, as both ladies have much in common with their impressive fighting skills, sharp wits and being willing to use certain stereotypes as weapons against their enemies:

 What really troubles me about all of this is the sexism and while there are more real world discussions about this topic going on right now, in my opinion it is important to note the influence of pop culture on this still ongoing problem in society.

I am not calling for films,books or any other entertainment format to be a moral soapbox on this matter but it would help greatly to have more powerful and positive depictions of female characters in the sci-fi/fantasy genre getting as much attention for their personalities as they do for the fit of their costumes.

Believe it or not,Hollywood, there are both men and women out there who would find a strong,smart and sexy female lead to be just as exciting as any male action star and yes, if done right, you can make some decent bank from that. Take a lesson from Batman Returns,folks-Catwoman is what made that film so amazingly awesome and if they had been smart enough to get Michelle Pfeiffer (along with a well written screenplay) for a solo movie, she would've rivaled Batman himself as a star in the DC Comics film universe. Instead, we got the unholy mess that was the Halle Berry Catwoman film.

Marvel goofed up on this front too, with the Elektra movie but they seemed to have learned from that experience while DC is still dragging it's feet towards even getting Wonder Woman on any screen, big or small. You need to do better by your audience,Hollywood, because the box office payback in the long run will truly be a bitch:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Small screen sci-fi and fantasy delights to warm up your summer nights

We're at the start of the summer entertainment season this holiday weekend and while many of us will be flocking to the multiplex for some indoor fun, some folks just won't be able to see the likes of Godzilla or X-Men: Days of Future Past due to personal budget restraints.

However, that shouldn't get you down, as the new wave of summer shows is fast approaching with plenty to offer the sci-fi and/or fantasy viewer. On June 30,for example, the second season of Under the Dome rolls out with an episode written by the big man himself Stephen King. Now I know that the first time out, this series had a few awkward moments and a couple of missteps but it was intriguing to watch. Even for those who read the book it was based on(that includes me!), UTD offered some surprises and food for thought, so tuck in your napkin and let the funky feast begin:

Another based on the book series debuting around the same time is The Leftovers, with HBO taking Tom Perrotta's novel about the world dealing with the aftermath of a possible Rapture.

The story picks up at the three year anniversary of that strange event in which two percent of the world's population suddenly vanished without a trace or clue of what's to come.

  Most people have become the emotionally walking wounded while others have founded a cult of silent white clad followers awaiting the rest of the "end times" to start up. The cast is pretty solid, with the likes of Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston and Liv Tyler on board and having Damon Lindelof as the showrunner here is another good sign of things to come:

For July, Halle Berry headlines a sci-fi suspense series entitled Extant, where a female astronaut returns from a year long solo mission in space to find herself pregnant by an unknown source.

Granted, this could easily turn into a Rosemary's Baby meets Alien kind of deal but the more I see the promos for this show, the more I am intrigued.

 In this trailer alone, there does seem to be a hint that this new life form may not be a direct threat to humanity unless of course, you're someone in authority out to manipulate extraterrestrial contact for less than benevolent purposes.  At the very least, I am willing to give Extant a fair shot:

Even August holds promise as Starz premieres the time traveling historical romance series Outlander, based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon.

Having finished the first book in that series(and planning to take up the second one,Dragonfly in Amber,as part of my summer reading), I am just as eager as long time fans of this story where WWII nurse Claire winds up stepping back into ancient Scotland and meeting her true love of more than one lifetime. Oh, how hard it is to wait!:

So I wish you all a Happy Memorial Day weekend( that does sound odd in context, doesn't it?) and hope you enjoy this first frolic in the summer media fun. Oh, and do keep in mind that we have plenty of fantasy TV to look forward to this fall such as Constantine, which harkens back more to the original comic book version of this snarky Brit blonde supernatural detective than the big screen Keanu Reeves take a few years ago(I do like the Reeves one but bad boy Brits are my weakness):

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tyrion and Sansa's troubles on GOT,Mad Men's strategy and Judge Judy Primetime!

I know that Tyrion's upcoming trial by combat is not the only pressing matter on Game of Thrones this week but it is a very serious plot thread that can not be ignored.

In trying his luck at this gambit again,Tyrion has more difficulty in choice of champion since Jaime is still unable to fight well enough with one hand and his old buddy Bronn was offered a rather cushy deal by way of marriage to decline(he and Tyrion at least parted on reasonably good terms).

A most unexpected ally declared his intention,Oberyn Martell,who is looking forward to battling Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain. His motive is revenge against the man who carried out the brutal orders to kill his sister and her children, a worthy goal but one that may be hard to achieve no matter the intensity of his desire. Then again, Tyrion has had luck before with unusual acquaintances, so we shall see(not for a couple of weeks,due to the show taking a mini break for the holiday weekend):

Meanwhile, things are not going well for Sansa as her hideout in the Eyrie is far from safe. Her Aunt Lysa caught Littlefinger attempting to kiss her niece and like so many jealous women before her, blamed Sansa for that action.

Her fury nearly cost Sansa her life as Lysa came close to tossing Sansa out the Moon Door but she wound up taking that last flight instead, thanks to her faithless husband(but not before mentioning her part in poisoning certain people). Poor Sansa, this girl is beyond jinxed but you have to give her kudos for slapping that creepy little cousin of hers. Arya may be the smartest Stark gal of them all by strictly dealing with men at the point of her sword:

We're close to the end of this half of the final season on Mad Men and there are a lot of balls in the air,as the partners are scheming against one another. However, let's just focus on Peggy and Don, who were still at loggerheads with the Burgerchef account as well as each other.

Don is more concerned with playing his own game of ball than realizing Peggy's increasing frustrations at work, which she takes out on others in typical Don Draper fashion. Eventually, the two of them manage to find a quiet moment where they can simply take a break from the office tensions and just be themselves. It lead to a nice reconciliation between them and a lovely dance number to boot. The love between them is not romantic but it is all the more touching for that:

A special treat for fans of daytime TV courtroom shows was Judge Judy Primetime that aired this past Tuesday night. The formidable lady of the lace collar did her regular show,along with clips of her well known catchphrases and a replay of both 60 Minutes profiles on her career.

Granted, Judge Judy was not the first person to have a syndicated civil court series( I believe that honor goes to The People's Court, which is still on the air with it's fourth judge Marilyn Milian presiding) but it's definitely the one that comes to mind when anyone mentions this genre. Why is this series so successful, some may still wonder but it is clear that when it comes to tough talking justice, Judge Judy is the mother of dragons here.

Yes, I am a huge JJ fan-confident women who are verbal straight shooters with a firm base of knowledge to back them up are my idols in life and obviously for many others as well. You may not always agree with her verdicts but the lady is fair in her rulings(even to people she out and out dislikes). This primetime special was fun and while I would've liked to have had an interview with Officer Bird(her right hand man who takes no guff either) included, this was a good time had by all, except for some of the litigants, of course:


TRUE BLOOD: The final season is set to air by the end of June and it looks like a gruesome winner take all situation for the folks in Bon Temps. Don't know how this will wrap things up but I'm willing to watch until the very last drop of gory drama is poured at Merlotte's:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tim Hanley explores the wonders of Wonder Woman Unbound

When it comes to DC Comics and their vast array of superheroes, the top three most well known names that quickly come to mind for most people are Batman,Superman and Wonder Woman.

 The last on this list is the subject of comic book historian/blogger Tim Hanley's new book, Wonder Woman Unbound, which gets into the interesting social history behind this Maiden of Might. The subtitle,"The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine" aptly describes the dubious fame of Wonder Woman.

 Unlike her male counterparts(in Marvel as well as DC), she has the least number of film and TV adaptations and is often shoved into a supporting role when she is included. From the early years of her original conception in the 1940s by William Moulton Marston, she has been misunderstood and set up to channel certain ideals that some of her fans would be rather surprised to discover.

 For example, that magic lasso that compels the captured person to tell the truth? Many took that weapon of Wonder Woman's as a version of the lie detector machine that Moulton invented but that's not what he had in mind( it could be considered a Georgia O'Keefe reference, let's just say). Marston intended for Wonder Woman to be the vehicle that would introduce the notion of female superiority to men, complete with bondage imagery that did raise a few eyebrows, yet unknowingly gave women of that time period a champion of their own:

During the comic book culture clash of the fifties, Wonder Woman had to be made over in a more "family friendly" tone that highlighted the tortured romance between her and Steve Trevor to degrees that gave the book a soap opera flair.

 A revamp during the 1960s rendered Wonder Woman powerless and had her Diana Prince persona become a violence prone avenger,breaking away from the more peaceful solution heroine she had been since her beginnings. That change turned off readers and encouraged the growing feminist movement of the 70s to adopt her as their icon and demand a return to her original Amazon roots(while ignoring the questionable images and ideals of her creator).

Her story lines waxed and waned in the comic books over the years but the character seemed to be best served(not without flaws,of course) by the late seventies TV show version of Wonder Woman played by Lynda Carter. To this day, it's the best known source of the general public's knowledge of the character and has yet to be equaled:

 What is great about Tim Hanley's approach to Wonder Woman is that he expands the focus on the character in context, with looks at the philosophy of her creator, the social changes that influenced the direction she was taken in during certain times and a compare and contrast with other females in comic book history.

From how Lois Lane was treated poorly by Superman during most of the Golden and Silver Ages(and not just him,plenty of super bad boyfriends out there) to the rise of Bat Girl in the modern era who had the edgy flair that Wonder Woman should have received, Hanley engages the reader with his smartly written take on the subject matter that's backed up with facts and figures that enhances his views as well as gives the material the respect it deserves:

I first learned about this book at Smart Bitches,Trashy Books, thanks to a great review by Carrie Sessarego( who also did an excellent interview with the author at her own blog, Geek Girl in Love) and I hope my two cents added in here encourages more people to check out this amazing book.

As a fan of Wonder Woman since the Lynda Carter/Super Friends days, it pains me that there is still not a viable film version of her out there.

 Even with the promise of WW being part of the upcoming Superman/Batman movie in the works right now, she ought to be much more celebrated than she is in the wider media realm. Perhaps this book will be one of the pivotal stepping stones that brings this Amazon princess closer to the cinematic throne that awaits her:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tyrion's trial on GOT, an unpleasant present for Peggy on Mad Men and the awesome finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Quite a bit of negotiation went on for many of the folks on Game of Thrones this week,with the main focus being on Tyrion's regicide trial.  No one was expecting true justice in this case but  seeing how truly high the deck was stacked against his brother, it was good of Jaime to at least try and convince Tywin not to go for the death penalty here.

 It wasn't too surprising the number of witnesses against him or their dubious version of the facts(particularly that creepy old Maester) and perhaps Tyrion might have taken the deal his father and Jaime had worked out there if not for the appearance of Shae on the stand:

Having Shae twist his words and their relationship in public like that was too much of a blow to bear(Cersei is such a vindictive bitch) and while Tywin may have thought that this extra dollop of humiliation would be enough to bend Tyrion to his will, he vastly underestimated his son on this.

I remember reading this section in the book(A Storm of Swords) and actually cheering Tyrion on as he spoke truth to power when he declared that his "real" crime according to all the world was in being a dwarf. Yes, Peter Dinklage is getting plenty of Emmy talk based on this speech and rightly so, but trust me when I tell you that he and this character have more of a rough row to hoe before all is said and done:

While Don made some strides towards getting his mojo back on Mad Men (and not picking up on the desperate attention needing signals from his wife as usual), Peggy had to handle some frightening fall out from the new computer at work.

Michael Ginsburg has been a troubled character from Day One of his time here on the show and as things went on, you did hope that his occasionally chaotic mental state wouldn't get the best of him.

However, that computer tapped into the darkest parts of his inner turmoil and at first, Peggy thought he was having one of his regular freak outs but when he walked in to her office and handed her that gift box, she knew right then and there that this was a completely different deal. Poor Ginsburg, this is truly sad yet not wholly unexpected:

The Season One finale of  Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was excellant in so many ways, it is hard to count. However that will not stop me from making a brief rundown of what I felt worked the best and the least so here goes nothing:
 Coulson taking charge and by the end, put in charge of rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ward not being redeemed by love of Skye(who is so over him) and receiving a serious stomping from Melinda May(nice touch with the nail gun to the foot there!)

Tripplett becoming a new member of the team-the guy is smart,funny and not bad on the eyes either:)

Fitz using his scientific genius to save Simmons with a little self sacrifice thrown in for extra good guy credit(get well soon there,buddy!)

Every second of Nick Fury on screen


Garrett going totally over the top psycho wacky after his injection of that super healing juice( did enjoy that teaser bit when he appeared to be coming back from the dead only to have Coulson zap him into oblivion)

Deathlok having a shot at redemption,along with some payback(J. August Richards is a great actor and I hope this character shows up in the next round of Marvel movies as well as on this show)

Regina the flower girl having quite a hidden agenda that seems to be a big part of next season(like her subtly sly style and interested in the possible Inhumans plot line that may be unraveling for S2)


Patton Oswalt's return to the series(it was nicely done but not really essential to the state of things in my humble opinion)

In the fall MAOS will return along with another Marvel based series called  Agent Carter, which takes a character from the first Captain America movie(who was also briefly seen in The Winter Soldier) and continues her adventures during WWII.
 How that series will impact the second season of S.H.I.E.L.D. is uncertain but I for one am willing to check it out and happy to make mine Marvel on Tuesdays to come, especially if Melinda May gets to kick more ass:


EXTANT: Not much is being said about this upcoming summer series starring Halle Berry as an astronaut that returns from a year long solo mission in space pregnant. Could be interestingly fun or an interesting flop-either way, it might be worth a look see at least once here:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Louie and the Fat Lady Conversation

Now, I don't watch the TV series Louie(although I am very familiar with it's star Louis C.K. and his style of comedy) but have heard great things about it. I mainly haven't seen it because there is usually another show that I'm already into up against it in that time slot.

However,one of the more recent episodes has created quite a stir at the pop culture water cooler today and since it has to do with a subject that I have personal experience with, my two cents on the matter feels warranted on this occasion.

  As some of you may know, I'm a plus size woman( or fat, if you prefer) and have commented before here on how large ladies are depicted in society.

 This episode of Louie,entitled "So Did the Fat Lady", hits upon the whole social stigma of guys dating fat women, in particular with an excellent speech by actress Sarah Baker(playing a waitress that Louie has a reluctant relationship with) where she asks him the question that many of us big girls would like guys to answer-"Why do you hate us so much?"

It's a fair question, given the trope of the Sexually Easy Fat Girl that pervades both film and TV. Before any of you fellas start complaining that "Hey, it's hard for big guys,too!", let me ask you this: have you ever heard a woman on either a TV show or in a movie talk/joke about hooking up with a fat man at the end of the night and how not difficult it was to get him into bed? No, you can't think of one time? Well, that's because it doesn't happen,ever!

I can recall the first time that I learned of this particular notion,courtesy of Andrew Dice Clay back in his heyday. Yes, he was an equal opportunity slinger of crud but believe me, his bit about luring a fat girl into the sack with a box of Twinkies made quite an impression on me at a young age and I'm dead certain that I'm not alone in that.

Art in any format is a reflection of social attitudes and I was taught by the media early on that sexuality and fat women go together like unsalted peanut butter and sewage. Two questionable tastes that definitely don't taste great together.

That may sound harsh but it's one of the big reasons that I have never attempted to have a romantic relationship-I did not want to be the Slutty Fat Girl. Don't worry, I'm not about to get all auto bio here, but it needs to be said that a lot of this negative perception of an overweight woman's sex appeal has been strongly reenforced by pop culture.

 At best, sex with a fat girl is seen as a joke, mainly an embarrassing moment in a guy's life that he would rather not talk about too much and never meant to lead to anything more than a cheap one night stand:

I'm also not letting women off the hook either. We are our own worst enemy at times and even with all the strides women have made in the media, one of the most prevalent nightmare images for females is being fat.

Part of this ridiculousness comes from insisting that even normal sized actresses like Mindy Kaling are grossly overweight and the constant focus on body size determining a woman's worth. Granted, women can be a little more subtle about it but one weapon that always seems to be in their arsenal whether it's a fictional or a reality show is that being fat is a woman's worst fault:

 So, I want to give credit to Louis C. K. and Sarah Baker for getting the ball rolling again on this topic. It would be nice to have an open and honest conversation about why fat women are still bearing the brunt of pop culture fury and how we could change all of that in both the real as well as the imaginary world we all live in.

I may be naive but I would like to think that there may come a time in our society where such ideas are only seen as antiquated customs of the distant past, like some of the things we see on a series like Mad Men. I long for a world where a women's worth in any aspect of her life is not measured in pounds and her personal happiness is not limited to numbers on a scale. Pop culture can't change everything bad in our world but it can nudge us towards a better tomorrow:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Should the ending of Gone Girl get gone for the movie?

Recently in my reading, I finally caught up with Gone Girl, the hugely popular thriller by Gillian Flynn that's due to hit the big screen this fall with Ben Affleck as the troubled leading man and David Fincher as director.

Without revealing anything too spoilery, the basic plot has seemingly happily married couple Nick and Amy Dunne ready to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when suddenly, Amy goes missing and Nick is the prime suspect. The story is framed in a "he said/she said" format, with both of them taking turns as the unreliable narrator along the way.

The book is as well written as promised, with a real gotta-stay-up-all-night urgency that keeps those pages turning. Gillian Flynn is on board with the film,adapting her own story for the screen, a very good sign indeed. However, reports are saying that the ending of the book(which some found fault with) is going to be very different for the movie:

With the author being behind this change, this is not another case of Hollywood placating the audience with a rewrite designed mainly to make them happy(and keep buying tickets)...or is it?

This situation reminds me of how the original ending  for Fatal Attraction was trimmed away, due to negative reactions from preview audiences.

Granted, FA was not based on previously published material(although a stage play version of it was recently performed in London) and it is tricky to adapt a book for another medium without making it too predictable, this does feel like a secretly worked out compromise.

I could be wrong,of course and I don't blame the author or the director for wanting to shake things up  a bit here. Yet, I still have a lingering doubt and that is mainly due to the target audience for both the book and film being very similar to Fatal Attraction,people of a certain age who are either married or been through the relationship wringer a few times in their life(not doing the stereotype dance,folks, just thinking like a marketing exec).

We also have sitting in the seats, fans of true crime sagas and the media that crops up around such cases(which are shown with a sarcastic eye in GG), plus those who enjoy police procedural mysteries like Criminal Minds(a show I watch regularly) or CSI and one of the main drawing points of such genre fare is seeing the villain brought to justice, one way or the other.

 When early audiences saw Fatal Attraction, they felt cheated by that first ending and like the crowds that later watched the movie during it's initial release in 1987, cheering by the end for the evil Alex to get hers(I know,since I saw it a couple of times myself back then). That was fine but the tone from the first half of the film was clearly changed by the time this slash happy sequence was added in and many noticed the sizable shift there. The movie made money but some questioned at what cost:

Before you say "Hey, wait-are you saying the Big Bad in Gone Girl gets away with it?"-no, I'm not(exactly), this story is a bit more complicated that Fatal Attraction was but they do share a similar viewpoint on gender roles in relationships and I have noticed that many of the readers either want a follow-up book or some sort of rewrite for the finale.

Part of the dissatisfaction, even with those who are fans of the book, comes from the all-too familiar complaint that none of the main characters are "likable." *sigh* Why is it that fictional people are held to higher standards than real life ones? Being likable is actually a flaw for both of the leads in Gone Girl and at times, used as a weapon against one another which is more interesting than a simple "good guy/bad guy" arrangement. Even comic book characters are given more nuance than that these days!

Of course, this isn't the first time harsh depictions of supposedly everyday folk have been tamed for mass audiences. For example, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley adaptation in 1999 did offer some sympathy for it's twisted protagonist,unlike the book which had you coldly rooting for him(it helps that his victims are real jerks). However, the film was actually made better for such character enhancement and I do hope that is the case here with GG,which does bear comparison with Highsmith's work:

 We'll know by this fall whether or not Gone Girl will be as successful a story in film as it is in print and I'm firmly keeping my fingers crossed in it's favor. Flynn is a talented writer and her other two novels(one of which is also currently in production for the big screen, Dark Places) are on my Booksfree list for future reading.

With any luck, this altered ending might work out well for all concerned but I just wish that people would be willing to appreciate a finale that doesn't wrap everything up in a neat little bow.

It may not be as exciting or as fulfilling as a drag down knockout fight to the finish but sometimes, it might be more satisfying that you realized at first. Think of it as that vegetable your mom insisted that you at least try once and when you finally do, it turns out to be the best thing you've ever tasted, even if it has a bitter flavor that lingers for days:

Friday, May 09, 2014

Happy Mansfield Park Birthday and a Merry Mrs. Bennet Mother's Day!

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and many of it's readers still have much to say about after all of these years. For such a mild heroine, Fanny Price does attract quite a bit of diverse opinion regarding her merits and flaws yet to me she is one of the more relatable leading ladies in Austen's literary line-up.

Yes,she's not as lively as Elizabeth Bennet (but very few of us are) or even as emotionally available as Elinor Dashwood or Anne Eliot yet Fanny does prove that slow and steady can win the race to love there.

There will be several discussions taking place online, particularly at Sarah Emley's Invitation To Mansfield Park section of her blog with numerous guest posts from Austen folk such as Laurel Ann Nattress, Syrie James and Deborah Yaffe. I highly recommend checking it out this month long rap session, which should provide plenty of festive food for thought that even Mrs. Norris can not complain about:

Meanwhile, in honor of May being the month of Mansfield Park, I'm holding a very special giveaway(linked right here) of two copies of my Mansfield monster mash-up, Fanny Price: Slayer of Vampires.

The theme of this contest is Pick your Mansfield Man or in other words, are you Team Edmund or Team Henry? I know that Henry Crawford has his defenders while there's a long queue waiting to slap Edmund a good one for his neglect of Fanny during a good long portion of the story but surely, we can agree that the ultimate choice is handed to Fanny herself,a rather emboldening notion that gives this presumed creepmouse quite the upper hand here.

This is a month long contest(deadline is May 31st) so take your time in deciding whether you're truly hot for Henry or eager for Edmund:

 To round things off, I thought that with Mother's Day on the horizon this weekend, a salute to Mrs. Bennet would be fitting.

 For better or worse, she is the most memorable mom in Jane Austen's work and whether or not you love or loathe her, it's fair to say that in her way, she is looking out for her girls.

First up is a tribute to Alison Steadman's portrayal of Mrs. B in the now classic 1995 miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice that captures all of her charm and warmth:

Our next Mrs. Bennet comes from the 1940 Hollywood adaptation of P&P, where this determined lady resorted to a literal horse race in order to get her daughters a decided advantage in making Mr. Bingley's acquaintance.

Mary Boland's high pitched and over the top tones in her performance perfectly matched this stylish straight from the stage play version of the story, not to mention getting extra credit for the overly lavish costumes she(and the rest of the women in the cast) had to wear:

Last yet far from least, is the Lizzie Bennet Diaries impersonation of Mrs. Bennet by leading lady Ashley Clements.

While the actual Mrs. B didn't make an onscreen appearance until the very last episode, the entertaining reenactments that her dear daughter gave us during her vlog journey successfully made her come alive for the online audience.

One wonders what this Mrs. B would think of how she's been showcased into Lizzie's narrative and hopefully not get too peeved, as some of this is clearly laced with love as well as frustration:

 So, Happy Mother's Day to all and what ever Jane Austen themed plans you make this weekend or the rest of this month, I do hope that you get the chance to share your joy with as many friends as possible-how else can you have a proper Jane Austen party this season?:

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Uneasy alliances on GOT,Don's Monolith Blues on Mad Men and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. heading for their finale

At this point on Game of Thrones, a lot of rearranging of chairs is being done in order to see who needs to stand with who to keep the wheels in motion there.

 Cersei acting very cordial towards Margery during Tommen's coronation was all part of the long con in keeping the Lannisters on the throne,particularly since Daddy Tywin dropped the proverbial penny about the true state of the family finances(owning big coin to the Iron Bank of Braavos is not a great position to be in).

 Margery was,of course, role playing herself as she knows full well that her desire to be queen is rather obvious. You have to admit that Margery is a bit of a jinx as far as future kings are concerned, so maybe Tommen would be better served with another potential bride:

 Out of all the current team-ups here,the most honest one to me is The Hound and Arya, who make no bones about their mutual disrespect for each other.

Circumstances have thrown them together for the time being and while Sandor has little respect for Arya's water dancing skills(which are becoming quite impressive), he does seem to be a tad nervous at her willingness to fight. She still has a long way to go before turning into a major threat but make no mistake, Arya has the deep down warrior spirit that just longs for a true mentor to fashion into formidable fighting gear:

Don's return to work on Mad Men mainly requires him to eat crow as his demoted status is being hammered hard by those currently in charge. Having Peggy be his boss on a new account really riles him up and makes Don pull a stubborn act,which thankfully at the right moment, Freddy Rumsen calls him on.

It's tough for a take charge guy like Don to accept the fact that he's no longer considered the top dog in the yard(most of the partners see him as a mangy mutt that they would be happy to see run off with his tail between his legs) but getting into a drunken sulk is not going to fix things. Hopefully, Don will really wise up and rebuild his empire because regardless of his faults, Don Draper in full gear is a man you want to see win:

 The season finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is next week and I sincerely hope that we're getting a season two because it would be so wrong to leave Fitzsimmons on the bottom of the ocean like that!

During most of the action this episode, we were given a glimpse into Ward's past and how he was recruited by Garrett for what he thought were the secret good guys(who turned out to be the secret bad guys). He's clearly conflicted in his loyalties here but despite what Fitz wants to believe, there may be no turning back from the path of evil that his twisted mentor has put him on:

On the other hand, it was nice to have a touch of comedy relief as Coulson and May channeled Fitz and Simmons(before they were trapped in that box and dumped into the sea by Ward-I know they'll be alright in the end but that was damn cold of Ward,seriously) in an attempt to get some info from Cybertek.

Having Coulson run his crew without any hassle from higher-ups is great fun,especially with that kit of old school tech items from the Howling Commandos,courtesy of Triplett(I have a feeling he and Ward are going to have more than  words regarding Fitzsimmons there). Even if this is a one time run, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a great ride to roll on:


PENNY DREADFUL: The series premiere is this Sunday, making for a rather chilling Mother's Day indeed(along with NBC showing a miniseries version of Rosemary's Baby on the same night-what gives there?). However, the show does look promising and as there are only a few episodes of Mad Men left this year, I intend to walk on the weird side with this one: