Vlog: L’Apprentie de Merlin Dreamcast

 

Jenn dreamcasts the series l”Apprentie de Merlin, by Fabien Clavel!

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Get HOOKed! – Why Hook Has Stood the Test of Time

Much of my first watching of Peter Pan Live! was spent thinking about the film Hook (1991). Every time something bored or bothered me in the 2014 live version, every time they got something “wrong,” I thought about all the things that Hook got right. But Hook is such an underrated, under-appreciated film.

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(from thewrap.com)

Critics never seemed to like it and even Spielberg himself, at one time said that he regretted the way the film turned out (only rethinking it after Robin Williams passed, saying that he was glad he made the film because it allowed him to meet Robin). I never understood why it got such a bad wrap. In my opinion Hook is a fantastic film and a fabulous adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It is still one of the best.

 

Hook was first released in 1991 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Pan, Maggie Smith as Lady Wendy, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Bob Hoskins as Smee (my favorite Smee), and Dante Basco as Rufio. Along with Charlie Korsmo as Jack, Amber Scott as Maggie, and Caroline Goodall as Moira, Wendy’s granddaughter.

Now after having seen Pan (2015), I have even more respect and admiration for Hook, but I don’t need to compare Hook with it or anything else. It stands strong on its own, even after all these years and here is why:

1) It is one of a kind.

I cannot think of another adaptation like it, where we see the continuing story of Peter Pan in such a way, that we see what would happen if Peter allowed himself to feel; if each time he took Wendy or her daughter, and so on, to realize what a woman could be to him other than a mother. He allows himself to discover love and give into it and sacrifice his eternal youth.

It is amazing what one little query could become. One of the writers, James V. Hart claims that the inspiration for his version was his son asking him, “What would happen if Peter Pan did grow up?”

Plus, it is much more fun to think that Peter Pan could be real. The idea that Lady Wendy told her stories and their neighbor was J. M. Barrie, who loved her stories so much that he wrote them down in the book we all know. The idea that Peter could easily exist in our own universe is pretty sweet.

2) It is great for kids and adults.

I was only 6 years-old when the film was first released and love it for its juvenile jokes, e.g. Peter getting hit in the junk by the lost boys’ padded sticky arrows and the name-calling battle between Rufio and Peter. (Plus I had a huge crush on Rufio, possibly still do as I follow Dante Basco’s work—especially Avatar: The Last Airbender. Hell, yes, ZUKO). I also enjoyed the colorful sets and props, e.g. the food and the pool of color that Peter falls into when shot out of a giant slingshot to help him remember how to fly.

Now as an adult, when I watch it, I appreciate all the thought and work that went into it. The plot, the characters and all the ways it honors and builds off the original play/book. Some things are overlooked, or not touched upon, like Neverland being asleep or lethargic without Peter there, but who is to say what happens to Neverland when Peter abandons it and grows up. It does seem a very different place when he returns. The pirates have become landlubbers in a town built around their marooned pirate ship and the lost boys have created an elaborate tree fort.

Plus, I get more of the word play and the adult jokes—e.g. Peter calling Tink a Freudian Hallucination and when the fishmonger in the Pirate town calls out “Fresh Fish! We kept the eyes in so they’ll see you through the week.” Fabulous, and such a hidden gem.

Both the kid and the adult in me love the story and adventure.

3) It still brings all the feels.

My heart still skips a beat and tear comes to my eyes when Pockets finds the Peter they knew inside the older Peter. I love Pockets so very much. He is such a little peewee, but he has the biggest heart and never wavered in his support for Peter. (Honestly, I think that Pockets should have been left in charge at the end because of this.)

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(from tumblr_inline_redringsofredemption)

Even after all this time, I cannot get over the feast scene! When the lost boys lay out a “feast”, Peter finds nothing in the bowls, it baffles him. How could these boys be happy pretending they are eating? When he makes-believe just to start a food fight, it suddenly becomes real. Which plays on the fact that in the past sometimes the boys went without because to Peter make-believe can be too real, but takes it to a new level. Even if you don’t see the multi-layers of it, it always makes me laugh and brings such joy into my heart. I can’t help but smile!

 

And we cannot forget the joy that comes as we follow Peter as he remembers himself and rescues his kids—and then the heartbreak when the realization hits that he has to leave Neverland and the lost boys again. As a kid, I did not want him to leave because I didn’t want him to be an adult again, because that sounded like the worst thing. This may still be true, in a sense, but now I don’t want to see him leave without the lost boys. Especially knowing what wonderful things Wendy has done for lost boys throughout her years, and I feel that they are missing out on so much by not having a chance to grow up.

Although as a child I thought Moira’s reaction for finding her kids returned safely to her was really awkward, as an adult I can fully understand the gravity of the situation even though I do not have kids of my own. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time, and I actually cried with her this time!

Oh, and that moment when you realize that Wendy still wishes she could have been Peter’s girl. His one and only.

Plus, mad props to John Williams for his soundtrack scores and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) for their amazing work on the fantastical world of Neverland! Together they brought the film to life and man, they make the feels so much stronger!

4) It can turn a hater into a fan.

I say this from experience, because I was not a fan of Disney’s version of Peter Pan, and although I liked the Mary Martin televised stage production, I thought it was silly at times. Generally, Peter Pan was not one of my favorite kids stories, but I loved Hook. I watched it again and again, and after all that time I actually got turned on to the lore and story. I’m not sure I would have given it a second chance without this film.

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While in the regular story both Peter and Wendy can seem annoying or off-putting, this story is more complex and changes the way we view Peter Pan, from a magical dream boy to solid, tangible, and believable character—a real person.

The original story gave me no hope when it came to growing up—as if we are all doomed to become sad bloated codfish that was Peter Banning. Stuck inside a whirlwind of so-called “success” shuffled into cubicles, having all the life and fun drained from us slowly and somehow without our knowledge. It scared the living expletives out of me. This film however turns it around, and shows that even if one scenario is that we become sad bland adults, there are other scenarios. Peter is able to turn it around and learn that being a father and just life itself can be a huge adventure. Tootles as well gives an example of someone who never lost Neverland in his heart, and was a kid, in a way, even in his old age.

5) You can play spot the star cameo!

Can you find these stars?

  • David Crosby (Singer – Known from Crosby, Stills and Nash)
  • Phil Collins (Yes, that Phil Collins from Genesis)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow

And for extra points:

  • Glenn Close
  • George Lucas & Carrie Fisher
*Spoilers for where those cameos appear, If you really want to play the game, skip ahead!*
  • David Crosby is a Pirate in the crowd. You can spot him when he yells, “Long live the Hook” or during the fight scene when he gets a plank to the nuts.
  • Phil Collins is Inspector Good, who is the head investigator for the kids’ kidnapping case in London. He responds aptly to Tootles who says, “I’ve forgotten how to fly” with “One does.”
  • Gwyneth Paltrow plays young Wendy, when Peter first comes for her and again when he returned for her.
  • Glenn Close plays a male pirate! You won’t recognize her unless you are looking for her. She plays Gutless, the pirate who bet against Hook and who gets put in the “Boo Box” for it.
  • George Lucas and Carrie Fisher are the kissing couple on the bridge who begin to float when Tinker Bell flies over them with Peter. It’s one you can’t spot unless you know it ahead of time, but kudos for trying.
*End of spoilers*

6) Because it highly honors the story on which it is based, you can play spot the reference/nod!

  • Some quotes, references, and nods to the original are easy to spot like:
    • When the children are left in their beds before being abducted and when they return to their beds is such a reflection of the original story. It is lovely
    • “By Hook or by Crook” —Moira
    • “Strike Peter, Strike True” —Hook (originally said by Tootles)
    • “Peter, you’ve become a pirate” —Lady Wendy
  • hook4 MOD

    (full picture from sohollywoodchic.blogspot.com and the close-up “insert” from blog.libero.it – modified by me)

    Still, there are some that are almost glazed over and might take a better knowledge of the original story or many viewings, for example:

    • Lady Wendy tells the children she will show them where she and their father stood to blow out the stars.
    • Tink’s full expression of wanting to be something more to Peter that isn’t a mother. I absolutely love the line “This is the biggest feeling I have ever ever felt, this is the biggest feeling I have ever had. And this is the first time I’m big enough to have it.” It harks back to fairies being so small that they can only experience one feeling at a time.
      • Plus! That Dress! Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted her gorgeous ball gown.
      • AND! After everything with Tink, I was thinking the only thing she was missing was the line “You Silly Ass” but as she tells Peter to go save his family, when he stood in confusion, she blew fairy dust on him and said that great line!
  • How many do you think you can spot? I’ve watched it multiple times and I’m not sure I have caught them all just yet.
Extra highlights to pile on top of all this goodness
Plot Points:
    • Lady Wendy giving Peter a “scudge”—which shows how much Peter has changed from never being touched.
    • Neverland makes people forget. The more time adult Peter spent in Neverland, especially once he remembered who he really was, he started to forget why he was there, and who was waiting for him back in our world. This also happened to Jack, who was being brainwashed and only at times like when the pirates accidentally were chanting, “RUN HOME, JACK,” did he think for a second what that meant. Maggie, however, much like Wendy, never forgets and always wants to go home. As you may know, girls are too smart to fall out of their prams, and they are far too smart to forget who they are and where they came from.
    • Hook and the infamous ticking Croc. Though the tables have turned in this adaptation, Hook has to hide the fact that he is worse for wear. He may not have aged, but the stress has taken its toll. I can only assume that between the end of the story we knew and this one, he had to fight his way out of the croc, kill the croc to turn him into the town clock, then of course commandeer all the other clocks and stop them from ticking. We do get a glimpse of how it still wears on him psychologically, when one of the clocks begins ticking again.
    • Wendy Moira Angela Darling is Wendy’s full birth name. The reason I point this out is because at the end of J. M. Barrie’s story her name stays the same despite having been married and with children. For us in present day, this is not a big deal, but for someone having lived in the early 20th century, it seems a very big deal.
      • It seems a rather small thing at the end of the story, but it is emphasized in this film, as she is still considered a “Darling.” It might not mean a darn thing, but I like it anyhow.
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(from Hook’s Amazon.com DVD page)

Characters—which is to say the writing of the characters and the acting:

I have to say that so much of the cast was just amazing, and sadly overlooked and even considered a black mark in their career but I see it as the opposite.

  • Dustin Hoffman as Hook. I feel like most people don’t give him enough credit for this role. It is a bit of an odd role, but Hook is an odd character and he really brought him to life. He created a part of Hook we never saw before and yet it fit with the already established character.
  • Robin Williams, of course, as Peter Banning/Pan. Who better to play a whimsical and yet grown version of the embodiment of youth, fun, and freedom? He does a fantastic job creating two personalities; he is a very different person when he is stodgy and grown up and stressed out than when he remembers how to be light and fun. I love when he jumps up and puts his fists on his hips like you expect Peter Pan to do. He was able to encapsulate the role so well
  • Maggie is a quintessential “Darling”. She has the sweet and innocent way about her that harks back to Wendy, especially when she sings a sweet but sad song that her mother sang to her and touches the hearts of all the pirates. She is the one thing that keeps Jack grounded and reminded of home, which is why Hook separates them.
  • Jack is surely Peter’s son, in all aspects. He is like the child that Peter Pan once was, he’s playful and sarcastic and he gets a giggle out of riling up Hook when he fixes one of the broken clocks in his museum. He is also like John and Michael in the original story when he forgets that he has parents hoping for his return and he is tempted to become a pirate. Unlike John and Michael, Jack is desperate for a father’s love and has no connection to honoring king and country. Him becoming a pirate still holds true from the original story, as there are so many parallels between Peter and Captain Hook.
  • Hook 1 Ferdy on Films
  • Tootles is Tootles. That might not mean much to some people, but to those who know the character and how he was timid and often missed the adventures, you’ll understand how great that is! He doesn’t have much screen time, but they definitely made the most of him!
  • Smee/Bob Hoskins—I cannot say for sure exactly what it is about Bob Hoskin’s Smee that makes me love him so much, but he fits the part to a tee. The way he is described as a pirate that the kids loved, and showing the more comical and fun side of piracy, and a man that is full of good form without evening knowing it—that is this Smee. He’s fun, he’s lovable, and his lines show that he is smarter than the average pirate—using words like “unfathomable” to blank faces, but still gullible and naïve—stumped by Hook’s usage of “epiphany.” He’s a teddy bear and all the girls love him, but he’s ineffably loyal and yet only after the loot and for himself.
  • Maggie Smith as Lady Wendy. I don’t feel that I need to say much here—because it is fricking MAGGIE SMITH! She is always fantastic. However, it must be said that she was only 56 years old playing someone in their 90s, so good on her.
Goofs, weird things, and boo boos (because no picture is perfect):
  • I can understand always having a dog named Nana, but why does Wendy still have a housekeeper named LIZA?
  • Most of the times that Tink is on screen are weird and unnecessary. Sometimes when I watch this I can let Julia Roberts’ performance slide, and sometimes I just want her to drink poison (as Tink that is) and die. There are scenes with her I do like at all times, so she’s not all bad. (It would have been interesting to have seen Sherilyn Fenn—who I know from Twin Peaks—as she was considered for Tink.)
  • The book says that Wendy’s granddaughter, whom is swept away by Peter, is named Margaret, not Moira. This is considered a mistake or goof by many, but I can overlook it because as we all have two grandmothers—she can have as many differently named granddaughters.
  • The weightlifting contraption that is “lifting Lost Boys,” as Peter bench-presses the weight of the Lost Boys, they are going the opposite way as they should. It seems silly, but it always bothered me. It does not look right.
  • The sudden costume change when Peter finds his happy thought seems strange and unnecessary—plus OMG those TIGHTS! I’m so glad that Hook makes a joke, because it needed to be made.
  • How does Thud Butt remember Tootles if all the original Lost Boys left with Wendy to be adopted? Even Peter questions it, and there is no logical explanation except that they were both Lost Boys.

Conclusion:

It has been 24 years since the film was released. I have watched it countless times since then at many different times in my life, and although I felt different things at different ages, one thing always came through, the fun and the happy. I’m always smiling at the end. It has a great message that bears repeating:

 

Getting older and growing up doesn’t mean absolutely that you become bored, sad, and serious (really had to hold myself back from quoting Pink Floyd). It is all about keeping the child inside alive and treating all life as an adventure.

My final thought is that this movie is truly BANGARANG!*

ILM work - https-_s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_originals_d8_43_15_d843156c69affcea42592f04bf23ee3a

(from https-_s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_originals_d8_43_15_d843156c69affcea42592f04bf23ee3a)

*According to Urban Dictionary, Bangarang means:

  1. Battle cry of the Lost Boys in the movie Hook.
  2. General exclamation meant to signify approval or amazement.
  3. Jamaican Slang defined as hubbub, uproar, disorder, or disturbance.

Peter Pan Productions that Fly from Stage to TV

With Pan, a new adaptation of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, being released in theaters soon, we at Adaptation Podcast have been talking about ALL THINGS PAN. Unlike most adaptations of Peter Pan, this new film will be an origin story and prequel to the ones we know and love.

While commentating on Peter Pan (2003), three other adaptations came to mind: the 1960 production starring Mary Martin, Peter Pan Live! (2014), and Hook (1991). My article on Hook will be out shortly, but first let’s address the two televised stage productions by NBC.

Cast:                                                         1960                                                            2014

Peter Pan Mary Martin Allison Williams
Hook Cyril Ritchard Christopher Walken
Mr. Darling Christian Borle
Smee Joe E. Marks
Wendy (Young) Maurine Bailey Taylor Louderman
Jane Caitlin Houlahan
Wendy (Grown up) Peggy Maurer Minnie Driver
Narrator Lynn Fontane
Michael Kent Fletcher John Allyn
John Joey Trent Jake Lucas
Tootles David Komoroff Jason Gotay
Slightly Edmund Gaynes F. Michael Haynie
Twins Luke Halpin &
Benedict Herrman
David & Jacob Guzman
Curly Bill Snowden Ryan Steele
Nibs Carson Woods Chris McCarrell
Tiger Lily Sondra Lee Alanna Saunders
Black Bill John Holland
Cecco Richard Winter Michael Park
Starkey Robert Vanselow Bryce Ryness
Liza Jacqueline Mayro (Uncredited)
Nana Norman Shelly (in a suit) Bowdie (Real Dog)
Croc (Uncredited)
Mrs. Darling Margalo Gillmore Kelli O’Hara

There are more characters listed for 2014

Both versions had their shortcomings and their pleasant surprises. I love the story of Peter Pan, but it has been done so many times. I grew up on the 1960 version, but I was interested to see what they could do with the extra money and space, and of course—CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AS HOOK.


Peter Pan Live! was the 2014 live production of the 1954 musical adaptation of Peter Pan, televised from Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York. The production was a follow-up to The Sound of Music Live! While similar in content to the original, the version of Peter Pan featured in the special contained revisions to its book to emphasize the character of Captain Hook, along with additional songs from its revivals, new songs adapted from the musicals Do Re Mi and Say, Darling, and the restoration of a song that had been cut from the musical before its original Broadway premiere.

This production had the capability of a huge studio, rather than just a theatrical stage, and the characters easily flew between lavish and colorful sets, instead of needing moments for set changes. It ran 2:11 without commercials—so it was about three hours long when I saw it on TV, which may have been needed to fit everything in, but it felt really long and by the middle I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

The 1960 version just titled Peter Pan and was a production that looked like they were taping the stage production as is. It ran 1:40 without commercials, which is rather long considering they cut the story down, presumably to make it more child friendly, sacrificing some scenes and songs, and lessening the time that Wendy, John, and Michael have to interact with Neverland and the audience. It was closer to the book at first, but once in Neverland it takes many liberties and is incomplete.

Characters

2015-09-22 23.48.07Peter: I originally watched the Mary Martin version when I was a little kid—able to forgive much more. When I rewatched the 1960 version, I thought it would be strange to have an older woman playing Peter, but once Mary Martin got into it; she played it like a careless child. She was naïve and silly and all about fun. She may not have seemed like a boy, but Peter is stuck at an age where he is sexless. Allison Williams on the other hand, played Peter in such a way that I never saw a little boy; I always saw a woman.

Allison Williams is not a bad actress, but the role is iconic and she had a high bar to reach. She played Peter a little flat and bland. For example, when Peter is calling Hook a codfish, he is asked if he is a man, the answer “NEVER”—a line which should have a spark to it—was very glazed over. Mary Martin’s Peter actually “imitates” Hook rather than dubbing the other actor’s voice over to pretend that the imitation is really that good. This way the pirates, including Hook, seem even more silly and bumbling. However, the questions were almost completely omitted in 1960—the only question asked was, “do you have another voice?” which led to a scene I can only describe as the version taking advantage of her vocal range, extending it into this song and dance with Peter dressing up like a lady—“A beautiful lady” as Hook says. This is a bit like in the book when Peter wears Wendy’s cloak to disguise himself on the ship—which he does do, but as a pirate for a good laugh.

I understand that they have a woman play Peter for the arrangement of the songs. An older woman can hit the notes better than a young boy, but the original play was not a musical and only starred a woman because in 1904 children could not work past nine p.m., so it would be interesting to see if a young boy could pull the production off. Speaking of songs, however, it is always funny that the loud songs do not wake John and Michael, or anyone else in the house (which we discussed in our commentary).

Wendy (young): Taylor Louderman, in the 2014 version, was a tad too flighty or airy. Her singing voice was fabulous but the speaking lines were like needles in my ears. She also looked like she was wearing a bad wig, which made me think maybe she would take it off to play Jane, but as the cast list shows, she does not. Honestly, The actress looked too old to be keeping her doll in her bed, not to say that there is a specific age that something like that should stop, but her mannerisms were under her age and seemed so awkward. We have seen that before, in Jurassic Park and Maleficent—and just like those, they aged the actress but not the character and it comes off weird.

Her actions with “the kiss” giving and getting are over the top and a bit sickening because it seems unfounded and childish for her, not to mention her wild belief in the unimaginable. A strange boy just snuck into her room, and she is immediately in love with him? I know the story has been spun that way in many adaptations but I have to say that the skepticism of Wendy and her brothers in the 2003 version was refreshing.

Startling enough the 1960 version omitted the whole idea of “the kiss.” There is no such exchange and when Wendy is shot, she is saved by one of her buttons, a very interesting twist. Plus, when they talk to each other like Mother and Father, they laugh at the whole idea, though it still scares Peter while Wendy is unfettered. Maurine Bailey gets very little stage time, however, as she stays behind when the boys go out, but they made her scenes count. Even if it is more believable to say that Peter was upset not with her leaving, but with the fact that she was taking everyone else.

Wendy (grown up): I didn’t really like Minnie Driver (2014). I liked the line that being grown up keeps you grounded, but when I used to watch Peggy Maurer (1960), in the same role, I cried over how heartbroken Wendy was that she couldn’t go, and loved her apprehension to letting Jane fly off with Peter. Minnie Driver’s Wendy says that she hopes that her daughter will have a daughter and she will fly off with Peter and on and on down the genealogical tube, just so she knows that Peter will live on. It would not be my first reaction to having my daughter possibly stolen away. Minnie Driver is only in it for a short second, but it was enough to not like her words or the way she carried herself. I am glad they make a bigger deal out of the mermaids comb, as Wendy really does treasure it forever and shows it to Peter. Even though the 2014 didn’t break my heart as much, the ending when Peter flies off with Jane—it still gets me and makes me cry a bit.

2015-09-22 23.47.40Hook: In both versions, Hook was done well, in completely different ways. Cyril Ritchard (1960) played him deliciously evil. His Hook is a bit of a caricature, but this is a child’s “dream” if you will, and his emotional range is far superior to that of Christopher Walken (2014), although he was a crazy and amazing Hook in his own right. In fact, he played Hook like only Christopher Walken can—as Christopher Walken, who, if you did not know, is a fabulous dancer. He isn’t much of a singer, but his speak-singing was actually quite pleasant and fitting. He had some fantastic lines and fabulous comedic timing and deadpan moments. When Wendy gives her last words, he retorts, “That’s it?” which is what I was always thinking and could be a play on Cyril Ritchard’s version who allowed Wendy to say “These are my last words” and then cut her off, so they literally were. Genius.

Smee: Christian Borle who played Smee in 2014, also played Mr. Darling, instead of playing Hook at the same time, which first happened at its opening in 1904 to keep cast costs down. This made Smee quite a bit younger than I am used to, but it wasn’t a bad thing. The actor was well built, giving Smee some guns! Even though Bob Hoskins will always be my Smee, I did enjoy Borle’s portrayal of him. He had a different comical styling and he added things to the character that I liked very much. His was one of the best performances and completely trumps Joe E. Marks (1960), who was fine, but very forgettable and completely overshadowed by Hook.

The Lost Boys: In the 2014 version, they looked like a bunch of AC/DC cosplayers in their school uniform-like costumes that did not fit. They were clearly professional dancers, which didn’t hurt, but my suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far. Their speaking lines were tough to handle. They acted just fine, but again with the age of the actors and then their mannerisms, and the unnatural pitch of their voices (maybe I misheard, but it seemed like they were trying to sound younger) were very off-putting. They are far too old to need to be adopted. It is a big deal that the lost boys and Peter are supposed to be children and any grown up in Neverland is a pirate, so it would be nice to see that properly—or did I get all of that from Hook? Anyway, properly aged children play Michael and John, and I loved them.

In 1960 all the boys were young like you would imagine. They handled the choreography and stage directions just fine, even if they weren’t as complicated as the more recent production. It did’t hurt the production at all to have them be the age they should be. They changed what they needed to, to fit the production. Tootles was a bit on the younger side, so they let one of the others shoot Wendy.

(Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Tiger Lily and Tribe: If you look up the two actresses who played Tiger Lily, Sondra Lee and Alanna Saunders, you will find that one of them (from 1960) is white and blonde and the other (from 2014) and her tribe were authentic and not whitewashed. Maybe one or two were white, but most of her tribe looked Asian, Polynesian, Caribbean and/or African. And when they got to the tribal song when the tribe and Lost Boys have come to a truce, they updated it to something more authentic than the racist sounding one of 1960, which also completely left out Marooner’s Rock and instead has Tiger Lily tied to a tree for the wolves. Although Tiger Lily does save Peter in both versions, I preferred her peering over at a wounded Peter and ending the scene to the 1960 version where she and her tribe chase off the pirates just after “the beautiful lady” is revealed to be Peter, which is silly and unconvincing. This version turned Tiger Lily into a comical farce and a bit if a wimp. I don’t mind a little comedy, but not at the expense of a culture. This is what went into children’s heads!

Nana: In 2014 she was an actual and very well trained Sheepdog (not a St. Bernard or a Newfoundland in this one) and possibly one of the better actors. In 1960 she was a costumed actor, Norman Shelly, who you may have noticed, also played the crocodile in that version. His Nana was very good and for a bit you forgot it was a suit, even if the dog was too big. It was very similar to one of my favorite Sesame Street characters, Barkley the dog.

The Croc: Remember Katy Perry’s sharks? That was the 2014 version, but nowhere near as cool. The actor was uncredited and was in a weird sparkly pink and purple suit. It is similar to the 1960 version, but that croc was a bit more realistic in both costume and the way he crawled on the ground. I guess Norman Shelley had more practice for suits. The whole production might have spent more time on it as there were many animals in suits, but they were done well in an artistic and dance costume kind of way.

Sets and Costumes

For the most part, the sets and costumes were very well done in both versions. In 2014 everything was colorful and fun, as it should be in Neverland; even the stage floor was painted like a map and had a directional star, which is cool, but when the boys were fighting over the blue “sea” parts, it was a little strange for stage direction. Hook had a great chair that he sat upon a lot; it was a red cushioned gold throne, which reclined (or at least a food rest raised)! It was a cute addition to the set and character.

The 1960 version did great on less with simpler and yet more interesting and clever stage craft. They were more meticulous with their spacing, movement and set design with pieces of scenery that could move, change and grow.

Downfalls

In the beginning of the 2014 version, Peter and Wendy go into the corridor to see if it is safe after they hear a noise. I do not ever remember ending up in the corridor before, and I feel like they added it because of the studio capabilities—rather than the issue of sets on a stage.

2015-09-22 23.47.57It is sad that it took until they were planning to leave Neverland for the actors to find their grooves and fill out their roles better. It took a second watch to not feel agitated by the length and some of the acting. I actually like a lot about it, except for Peter and Wendy, and aren’t they the whole point?!

As I said, the 1960 version had cut the story down, so I couldn’t understand why they had a dance number with the animals and Liza (yes, the maid Liza had fairy dust thrust upon her by Michael and although she then spins out of sight, she appears in Neverland). There is another scene later with Liza where she asks Peter to teach her how to crow, this is probably for the kids to “learn along” with them, and the scene is actually really cute, but a bit frivolous. She is so lucky that the Darlings don’t fire her for being missing all that time.

Should I have been annoyed with being able to see the wires that helped the kids and Peter fly in 2014? Probably not, as it was live, but I couldn’t help but see them, while in the lower budget Mary Martin version I only spotted them once (well twice if you count the way the back of Michaels feety pajamas hiked up).

Highlights

 1960:

  • Mr. Darling is found, when they return, to be in Nana’s doghouse in the nursery. It’s a good laugh.
  • There are many comedic moments in this version. Like when Peter tries to hide everyone on the ship, including the costumed animals, and finds there are not enough doors to close over them, until he realizes one door is a pull-down shade.
  • It is very light and fun.
  • Michael is the cutest in his feety pajamas, especially when he learns to fly and is running in the air.

2014:

  • They kept the Kite in this one, helping Wendy get away when the pirates attack (although that has always been a silly thing). Also, when a Pirate lets it gets away from him, he cries like a child and it made me giggle. Especially, when Smee gave him a biscuit (cookie) to calm him down.
  • When Smee and two other pirates are marking spots to blow up Neverland they are singing, and at certain points they pause for effect and I enjoy it.
  • The pirates are all pretty fantastic.
  • It emphasized diplomacy. Wendy tries to teach it to the boys, and they continue singing “I won’t grow up” making War in general seem childish—though she hilariously fails to use diplomacy with Tiger Lily a moment later.
  • I love that Peter says he is forgetful at the beginning, but by the end he forgets that he forgets.

Both versions are worth a watch and for very different reasons. I suppose that even though Peter Pan has been done so many times, and in so many formats, you can still make it new and interesting.

Before going to see the new film Pan, I would also recommend checking out the Syfy network’s two-part miniseries, Neverland, which takes a very interesting look on the origins of Peter and Hook as well as the Lost Boys. It is definitely worth a watch—and Bob Hoskins reprised his role as SMEE!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on Hook (1991), to come soon.

Vlog: The Ranger’s Apprentice Dream Cast

In which Jenn dream casts The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.

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Vlog: Rest in Print Golden Trio

Jenn travels back in time to complete our Harry Potter month, gushing over the written Golden Trio, and bemoaning the differences in the films!

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Vlog: Adaptations Better Than the Book: Fan Edition

In which Jenn presents fan responses for adaptations that were better than the book!

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Jurassic Park: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.…

by Sarah J.

I fell in love with Jurassic Park the way most people of my generation did: sheer, abject horror intermingled with an intense curiosity and juvenile fascination with dinosaurs.

I first saw the film as a naïve five year old. My parents rented it on videotape from Blockbuster, the way we did things back then. I was not allowed to watch it at first, but after glimpsing the cover of the tape box and realizing that “holy bejebus, there’s dinosaurs in this movie!” I begged my mom to let me sit in. She thought it was going to be too scary; I thought it was going to be like a live-action version of The Land Before Time where people just got to ride around on dinosaurs. It didn’t take too long to figure out I was very wrong.

I don’t remember much from that first viewing. I remember crying uncontrollably in the first ten minutes or so, when a black guy got eaten by a velociraptor and the smarmy safari dude was unable to save him (turns out the guy wasn’t black, he was Costa Rican, but as a small child of mixed race heritage I just assumed every brown person was black, and also why do they always die first?). We had to pause the movie so my parents could calm me down, and after many reassurances that I was mature enough to handle it they let me keep watching. From that point on it’s all a fabulous blur. I know it was violent and probably not something a kid my age should have watched, but I was captivated.

jurassic_park_bgAs I got older and eventually acquired and burned out my own tape of Jurassic Park, I realized that yes, the allure of dinosaurs was what had initially drawn me in, but what really kept me in was the science. I was ensconced by the reasoning behind it all. The high-tech facility, the people in lab coats rushing around creating these new animals, the DINO DNA! Even the (then very modern) look of the exotic resort was all a draw.

This is what captured my attention and fascination with the movie, but really made me stick around for the book. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I even got my hands on a copy, but once I picked it up it was nearly impossible for me to put down. For all intents and purposes the movie pretty much follows the novel: eccentric and ridiculously rich old man has way too much hubris, creates theme park, makes dinosaurs, invites team of specialists to inspect said park (and for some reason invites his useless grandkids to tag along), one specialist predicts doom, stuff starts to go wrong, roughly half of the people wind up dead, and we learn a valuable lesson along the way about playing God and also that birds are basically tiny dinosaurs in disguise. The end.

Where it greatly digressed from the plot of the original material was that one little detail I had wanted more of: science. The book spends a great deal of time setting you up to believe that the science used is a real possibility and it’s already happening; you don’t even get to that magnum opus T. rex stomping on cars scene until almost 200 pages in. Complex theories of math and science are cited numerous times, most notably by Dr. Ian Malcolm (portrayed by Jeff Goldblum in the film), who is described as being a genius with the personality of a rock star.

Pretty much every scene he’s involved in is just a way for him to explain some reason for why the entire park is going to blow up in everyone’s faces. He starts off by explaining the theory as basically as possible, then when people (usually the old rich dude, Hammond) fail to understand what he’s saying, he breaks it down with real world examples to slap some truth in their uncomprehending faces. To most people such a character could be described as pompous and conceded, but Malcolm’s redeeming quality is that he’s just always right, and he knows it, and that makes him bearable and, dare I say it, somewhat likeable.

(Also, in the film, he spends half the movie lounging around, wounded and sweaty, with an open shirt quoting scientific facts like its freaking Shakespeare. Be still, my heart.)

10141721My other favorite character to follow due to his sexy, sexy science brain is Dr. Alan Grant (portrayed in the film by Sam Neill). He’s a nerd in all the best ways, shown in the film as almost passing out in sheer joy at the sight of living dinosaurs. In the book he’s a bit more quiet and hands-on about his excitement, pretty much ignoring everyone when there’s a live specimen around to poke and prod at. My favorite scene of his is at the hatchery during the initial tour (another long section of the book filled with tons o’ science, and probably one of my favorite parts) where he sees a baby raptor in the nursery. Most of the others just pet it like a domesticated animal or ignore it completely, but Grant just picks that baby up and starts examining it like the greatest dang thing he’s ever found. He even flips it upside down to get a look at its nether regions, an act that scares the crap out of poor baby raptor and basically sends Dr. Wu (lead geneticist, portrayed by the smoldering B.D. Wong) into a barely controlled rage. Great work, Grant.

Side note: Dr. Grant is said to be a middle-aged dude with a beard wearing sandals, khaki shorts, and a Hawaiian print shirt. He’s pretty much your nerdy uncle that happens to be a paleontologist, if your nerdy uncle looked like Supernatural-era Jeffrey Dean Morgan going off on dino digs. Sorry, off topic, but these are the mental pictures I create while reading and it really does make everything that much more fantastic.

My last great player in this trio of fantastically scientific gents is Robert Muldoon (played by Bob Peck), the game warden of the park and aforementioned safari man that failed to save that poor worker from the raptor in the first ten minutes. Not only does he get the best lines in the film (“SHOOT HER!” “Clever girl.”) but his characterization is tweaked ever so slightly to make him more likeable on screen. In the movie he’s portrayed as a master of big game hunting ad an expert in animal behavior, and offers a lot of valuable insight into the hows and whys the dinos at J. Park are doing what they’re doing.

I wanted to like him as much in the book as I did in the movie, but I just couldn’t. Why? He’s a huge stinkin’ drunk and spends the last half of the novel sloshenly shooting a grenade launcher at a T. rex and playing chicken with raptors. Admittedly, that sounds pretty cool. But I’m definitely sure if he’d been about 100% more sober a few deaths could have been avoided. But you know, we all deal with the stresses of life in our own ways.

Extra side note: Bob Peck as Muldoon was spot on and I didn’t need to change a thing in my mind. Neither would I want to; him running around in those tiny safari shorts is a memory I will treasure forever.

The surprise player in the book was Donald Gennaro (unfortunately portrayed by Martin Ferrero). You may remember him as the slimy grease ball lawyer that died on the shitter during the T. rex attack scene. As soon as he was introduced I decided to develop a deep and determined disdain for him, but as the story unfolds Gennaro actually becomes one of the good guys. He’s basically the everyday man in this scenario. He knows nothing about science, animal husbandry and behavior, or theme park operations and is forced into this weekend trip where he’s asked to evaluate the safety and sensibility of all three of these major components. Even though he’s almost constantly be chased and almost eaten, Gennaro puts on a brave face and made it way further into this novel than most of the other Jurassic Park crew. It’s for this reason that I am claiming him the people’s hero of Jurassic Park, and the real casualty of the adaptation because let’s face it: we could replace Gennaro’s character with you or I, friend, and we probably wouldn’t have made it half as long.

rex_paddockOverall, I give Jurassic Park the novel 10/10 stars. It doesn’t matter what draws you in. For me, it was the science aspect. For you, it could have been the action, or the adventure, or the early 1990s computer jargon I didn’t understand. Shoot, maybe you just really love dinosaurs. No matter who you are this book has something in it for you that’ll be worth taking away. If the success and enduring legacy of the film is any indication of the fascination we have with this story, then the book is sure to go down as a beloved classic.

Five year old me would be pleased with it. Traumatized and very confused, but pleased.

Don’t forget to get in the mood for Jurassic World, by watching Jurassic Park along with us in our commentary!

The Last Unicorn Cannot Be the Last Adaptation

The Last Unicorn was a favorite childhood film of mine; maybe not THE favorite, but in the top ten. I had watched it many times over the course of my childhood, but it wasn’t until just after I graduated high school that I finally picked up the book to read.

My mind was blown. The characters filled out, the world was round, there was rhyme and reason, and the end of the book was that much more tragic, and yet happy; true sorrow and true joy, and regret. Almost immediately I realized how much better the book was, and how silly it made the film seem.

Just over a year or so ago, I acquired the Blu-ray of the film. I still had fond memories of the film and besides that, Jeff Bridges is a voice. In fact it has a pretty great cast especially with Christopher Lee as the villain King Haggard, as well as Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, and Rene Auberjonois. I gave it a re-watch and suffice it to say, I actually remarked, “This movie is not as bad as I remember!” Still, it had been near 10 years since I read the book.

I took it upon myself recently to get a real picture of both of them in close proximity, and do a full and thorough comparison.

The last unicorn NovelPlot Comparison

The Last Unicorn is a 1982 animated fantasy film produced by Rankin/Bass for ITC Entertainment and animated by Topcraft. The film is based on the novel (published 1968) of the same name written by Peter S. Beagle, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The Last Unicorn is about a unicorn who, upon learning that she is the last unicorn in the world, goes on a quest to find out what has happened to the others of her kind.

Both the book and the film take generally the same path. The unicorn hears that she is the last, and goes searching for more of her kind. Along the way she meets Schmendrick the magician who helps her and joins her quest. They get into some trouble with a band of rogues, but after they escape, Molly Grue-the only female from the group-decides to join them. They set off for the castle of King Haggard who has a bad reputation and a demonic red bull at his side. It is said that the red bull had chased all the Unicorns away long ago, so they know they will find some answers there.

The book, however, is so much more in-depth and sturdy up against the silly humor of the animation. I want to say that the book is more adult, but the situations themselves would not call for an adult rating.

The main problem with the film is that Rankin/Bass made it into a family movie, which means that much of the story is watered down and it glosses over the points where the book is dark, gritty and bloody. Even when the dialogue makes reference to an injury, the audience sees no blood. The one exception to the non-adult rule is the harpy, Celeano. I never noticed before this, but the harpy has exposed teats which was a bit shocking considering. Although I dislike the design of the creature, it is pretty frightening. I just really wish that the harpy looked like a harpy and not a weird type of carrion bird. In the book the harpy is described as having the face of a hag with hair like moonlight and wings of bronze.

Rankin/Bass is also known for throwing in a random song (most performed by America) to emit emotion while trying to create a montage that tells us something that otherwise would have been missed, but somehow we still miss it. At the beginning when the Unicorn is supposed to have traveled for a very long time before meeting any of the characters, the film took the time to show the changing seasons-maybe a bit too much time. Then later when they are supposed to have been at Haggard’s castle for a long time, you don’t feel like it has been more than a few days. They show a montage of Prince Lir fighting dragons and bringing Lady Amalthea the head as a prize, but they miss that he was not a hero-type before he met her, nor does it mention that he was engaged before-hand. It shows that she cares little for the dead presents he brings, but it misses how it hurts her to find his horse was injured in one of his battles.

Characters and Cast

The-Last-Unicorn-10252-510

We also lose many of the great characters from the book in the film–Drinn and all of Hagsgate, Haggard’s soldiers-at-arms and the mayor of an indulgent town–who is supposed to be the reason they meet the band of rogues. And the characters we do have aren’t given the background they need or are unnecessarily changed.

The butterfly is not changed that much, but considering the watering down of the story and characters, I don’t understand why they choose to make the butterfly talk so much–including saying that Man cannot see the unicorn, but mistakes it for a white mare. This is untrue! People with pure hearts can always see a unicorn as well as many others, just less so now that unicorns seem to have left the world. The fact that man sees a mare instead is shown just a scene later, so why waste your time and breath, butterfly?

An even worse change was to the cat. In the book, a cat appears in the kitchen of Haggard’s castle and Molly takes a liking to it. When the time comes, the cat chooses to speak-to Molly’s surprise-and she heeds his words even if they are a bit of a riddle. Once everything is said and done, the cat stays with Molly on her next journey. In the film, they decided to give the cat a peg leg and an eye patch and turn it into a pirate. For no good reason. And when the castle falls, what happens to the cat? Guess it died.

Captain Cully, the leader of the rogues becomes a non-character, only there so we can meet Molly Grue. She is still wonderfully brash in the film, but she loses all of her best retorts and relationship/character building moments, so when Schmendrick says “Come with me” and she replies “I will”, it just seems out of the blue and a little stupid.

Meanwhile, Schmendrick just seems like a bumbling idiot who really wants to be a magician, but hasn’t found his way to true magic yet. Some of the spells that he conjures in the film don’t seem to have a reason behind them, while in the book they are well explained. All through the film he says “Magic do what you will” repeatedly, but we don’t really know why. As a child, I know I made a conscious leap from there to know that he was just a conduit for magic and didn’t know how to control it, which is true in the original story, but he has a more fleshed out background. You know who he is and what he has been through and see him trying many tricks and spells throughout the book that show that he can do parlor magic and he has trained to be a true wizard but has yet to fully succeed.

Although the cast is generally good, I feel like much of the voice acting is lack-luster. Christopher Lee, Jeff Bridges and Angela Lansbury are fantastic. Hell, I’ll throw Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue) in there too. Alan Arkin (Schmendrick) and Mia Farrow (Unicorn/Lady Amalthea), however, not so much, though I think it’s partly the way they are portrayed in the film.

last-unicornI know that Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay, but I wonder how much influence the director and producers had, because there were character changes that I am not okay with, like when the Unicorn feels pity for the Harpy. That is not how it is, the only reason she wants the harpy to be free is because if Mommy Fortuna frees her soon, she might just survive it–the pity is all for the poor old witch. Mia Farrow is just obnoxious in general, she puts inflections in her lines that rub me the wrong way and are not at all how I imagined my unicorn. Then they give her songs to sing–really cheesy songs that I loved as a kid–and she can’t really sing. But apparently if you get the German soundtrack, they replace Mia Farrow with a better singer and it sounds great.

There are songs in the book, but they are much less cheesy, and sometimes even dark. She asks Prince Lir to sing her a song to drown out her nightmares, and he sings the first thing that comes to mind, which happens to be a not-so appropriate song. But I love that it was not a love song to her, but more an epic of tragic love and betrayal. The weird thing is that there are moments in the story where I think they give the unicorn more magic than she had in the book, and yet Mia Farrow and her lines make her sound like she has no power at all. How can she be that powerful and that powerless at the same time?

It’s not that she’s all-powerful in the book—she has restrictions—and yes there are times where she has inexplicable power, but it isn’t jarring or confusing. When Lady Amalthea trips while being chased by the red bull, in the book she doesn’t whine and say “oh my ankle, help me!” Magic made her a mortal woman, but that doesn’t mean they can take away her character’s stength. It’s sexist. She is supposed to be confused and forget why she is where she is, but she doesn’t lose her fight and suddenly need the prince to save her like a damsel in distress.

In addtion, some of the side characters are lost, and without them we never learn of the curse put on Haggard’s Castle or Hagsgate and what that meant for the people. The world outside of the quest is a flat one in the film. Besides the few smatterings of characters, we don’t know what the world is like, and since the Unicorn has traveled out of her forest and into the world of man for the first time in so long, you would hope to see more of it.

Animation

The animation leaves something to be desired as well. Usually I would say that animation can do things that many live-action films cannot, but in this case I think live-action would prove wiser. The characters move in such inhuman ways, and when Schmendrick falls after letting the magic take its course with him, he floats to the ground in what I would guess is a faint, but it looks so odd. There are points where characters are supposed to be thrown, thrashed and crushed and none of it looks right, they all float and fall so gently. One character has to tell us that he was dead after he is revived because otherwise we wouldn’t have known (he does say it in the book as well, but in the book he is a tangled mess and you knew he wasn’t going to walk away from that).

Haggard’s castle is also completely ridiculous. It is supposed to be worn down, standing only by sheer will. It’s very dark and there is a skull hanging in the hall, but beyond that it was a regular castle. In the film, to really drive the point home that Haggard is evil, the castle is full of demonic statues and dragons and horns. It is so far over the top and one wonders why Prince Lir–being the opposite of his father–would even continue living in a place like that. Being run down is one thing, but to be complacent with the awful interior design of this castle… I don’t even think a hag of a witch would build a place like that, and she was supposed to have. When you really get to know Haggard, at least in the book, you find that he is less evil and more just a miserly, bored, and unhappy old man who has never found joy, except one, and I don’t mean his son.

lastunicorn-10The character design for the Unicorn and Lady Amalthea, however, are quite beautiful. She glows and is graceful in both forms. They got the Unicorn right, with the tail of a lion, cloven hooves, and hairy ankles, rather than a white mare with a horn. My only gripe about it is that as a Unicorn she is supposed to be a much larger creature than she is in the film. In the book, Schmendrick remarks about it when he finally sees her up close. Also, in the normal world, men see her as a white mare, which is fair enough because magic has left most of the normal world, but when we see her through the eyes of a farmer, she looks like herself (lion tail and all) just without a horn. What white mare looks like that?!

In Conclusion

In the end I would say that it is a fun film if you have had some distance from the book. It has its charms and is a cult classic that still shows all over the country. Still, to me, the film is more of a trailer to the book than an actual film in itself, if trailers ran 93 minutes. I don’t mean to tear it down—though I feel like I just have—because it could have been worse. At least they didn’t change the ending to a wedding or something. That would have been too sappy. It’s cute, but it just doesn’t do the book justice.

That is why I still wish for the live-action version that was talked about in the early 2000s. The website for it still exists, so that means there’s still hope, right? I even did a dream cast vlog for the film last week!

As for now, please go read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It is a fantastic book. And of course, feel free to see the 1982 Rankin/Bass Animation, but remember to take it with a grain of salt. This one is up there with the animated versions of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Black Cauldron. This was my earliest experience of “the book was better” and it is, to the greatest extent.

Cancelling shows this early in the fall season is totally ‘Selfie’

As we pass the quarter season mark, it seems it is that time of year when networks “trim the fat” of their weekly line-up and begin to cancel shows. The first to go are generally the half-hour comedies that aren’t making the grade. This year Selfie is on the chopping block. It was new to television this season and was created by Emily Kapnek, who also created Suburgatory.

This delightful show, staring Karen Gillan, most known for playing Amy (Amelia) Pond on Doctor Who, and John Cho, known for many things but especially as Harold from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and more recently as Andy Brooks in Sleepy Hollow, is a new and neat take on the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story.

Gillan plays Eliza Dooley, a top sales rep at a pharmaceutical firm, whose obsession with social media, lack of real interpersonal skills, and questionable professional attire make her unpopular with other staff. Cho plays Henry Higgs, an executive at the same firm, with a flare for being a stodgy workaholic. The two, as in the original story, are a mismatched pair, but unlike the original it is Eliza that initiates the path to transformation.

After an embarrassing misread of signals from a co-worker leads her to make a strong pass at him, a married man, she finds herself airsick and makes a mess of herself when the barf bags break on her. After this, Eliza becomes aware that she has no real friends, only followers. The next day, Henry is being praised at a meeting for re-imagining and re-branding one of the company’s products. Eliza figures that he might be able to do the same for her, and goes to him for help. Strangely and sadly, that only lasts an episode, he continues to help her, but she is back to her old tricks. I guess old habits do die hard, and good thing; they wouldn’t have a show without it!

abc-upfront-selfieIn this day and age, good etiquette and being proper are not held with the same weight as they were years ago, when “polite society” was something to aspire to rather than just a term used when scolding someone’s who burps or farts in public or at the dinner table, elbows on it and all. I don’t, by any means, want to glorify a class society, where people need to “know their place”, but am only referring to it as the setting and general whole to the original story. By taking that away, it changes the way the characters seem, act, and fit together.

Where the original story takes a well respected man of society, Henry Higgins, and has him take on a wager that he can turn a lower class, cockney, Eliza Doolittle, into a proper lady, this new one takes a similar route, but borders on turning the story on its head, by making us and Henry understand that it might be him that needs a radical change. That is not to say that Eliza is without her own faults. She is still classless, but more to today’s standards: vapid, self-obsessed, almost totally annoying in my opinion, and a slave to what she thinks her followers want (as Henry said, “It’s not an outfit of the day, it is just an outfit” and “don’t tweet it, eat it” to Eliza as she snaps a selfie with her fancy macaroon).

She also wears, as I said, questionable work attire, which although her clothes are not super revealing, they are provocative. I do not stand to shame her on this, most of her clothes have a great style to them, but I do not appreciate that she wears them just to get the attention of lonely doctors, hence top sales rep, and even male coworkers, propagating the continuation of sexism. It irks me a bit… actually, it irks me a lot.

Still, to see the two of them try to balance each other out is an adorable display each week, with Eliza and Henry giving each other a goal to reach, i.e. Henry should not work for the entire weekend and Eliza should do a good deed just for the sake of doing a good deed. Although their relationship seemed to be hitting a climax earlier than expected, it might have come at a good time. It’s a nice giddy jolt to give to the few fans the show has  and might bring in some more.

In last week’s episode (#5 Even Hell Has Two Bars), Henry and Eliza find themselves at the boss’s ranch, where after a string of disappointments for Henry, he realizes that Eliza really is his better half, and brings out a more human, less robotic, persona in him. Eliza is dazzled when Henry rides to her on a majestic white horse to apologize. He claims that he chose the least majestic horse and did not mean it as a romantic gesture, before pulling the famous line “I’ve grown accustomed to [your] face.” This again colors Henry’s character new shades of socially inept and emotionally stunted. The line was said directly to Eliza, instead of to himself in the privacy of his own home, which led her to reply with a quizzical “thanks?”, leaving a bit of awkwardness that we have come to know and love with these two. The kicker is that she tweets a selfie she took with Henry and the horse, saying it got no likes and she would delete it, but she doesn’t and Henry likes/favorites it. It was a nice “awww” moment.

For some reason, they aired two episodes last week, and in the next one their sexual tension is back to its regular level, so it might not be that they went too far too fast with the pacing of the series, but it left me wondering, if for any reason this does not actually get cancelled, where would they go from here?

I say all that because despite many websites saying that Selfie is in fact cancelled, the real news that I have read merely states that the network will not be ordering more than the original 13 episodes for this season. I have read elsewhere that this can be a sign that the show will be cancelled, but some first seasons really are only 13 episodes. This also happened to shows like  A to Z, but it has not been officially cancelled. The fact that they aired two episodes last week is not a good sign, but this week’s episode aired as normal, and we shall see what happens to the rest. It might mean that the network will give this show a second chance. It’s not unheard of to “un-cancel” shows.

I hate to say it, but I have become a loyal follower of Eliza and would like to see where they could go with this show. This, of course, includes the unsung heroes of the show like Charmonique the receptionist and her son, who are amazing actors and characters and have livened up and rounded out the premise of the show. And I can’t forget Larry, an awkward lab guy that seems to constantly latch onto Henry, and Bryn, Eliza’s neighbor and the only real normal person in the show, giving Eliza something to aspire to. The side characters really take the pressure off the main story of Eliza and Henry and add a bit more comedy, as well as give Eliza reason to not be so damn annoying. The show has gone over the top at times, but we live in a crazy world filled with crazy characters, so I like it. If it does officially get cancelled, I will be very sorry to see it go, as will many of my friends, but I cannot say that I didn’t see it coming, in fact I called it after the pilot.

Tell us what you think of the show and its characters. Are you glad to see it go? If you wish it to not be cancelled, what plea would you make to the network?

Gracepoint: Why aren’t we just watching Broadchurch?

There have been many disastrous (Life on Mars, Coupling, etc) and some surprising (Three’s Company, Sanford and Son, etc) US remakes of UK television. The most recent is one without a verdict, called Gracepoint – a US remake of Broadchurch, a BBC show that only aired over a year ago.

American television is not unfamiliar with the suave leading man or stylish lady who turns out to be an adorable Brittan putting on a great American accent (like Sonya Walger as Sally in the US version of Coupling). Here, however, we have a British actor, David Tennant, reprising his role as the outside detective who is hired in the position that the leading lady was promised. I put it that way because in Broadchurch his name is DI Alec Hardy and in Gracepoint he is Detective Emmett Carver, but essentially it is the same role.

BroadchurchGracepoint

I love David Tennant and was an avid watcher of Broadchurch when it aired in the UK, so when I heard they were making an American version called Gracepoint, I was non-too happy. But when David Tennant signed on to reprise his role, but with an American accent, I was curious. I have heard David Tennant do an American accent before, when he played Peter Vincent in the 2011 remake of Fright Night, but somehow his accent in this is a bit weird. I’m not sure if it is just because I have become accustom to his delicious Scottish accent, if he has more lines or more consecutive lines in this show vs. Fright Night, or if he is putting on a special twist to his accent because of the character. It’s not bad or overly jarring, but sometimes it’s a bit nasally.

So far,  only two episodes have aired, but it is holding true to the original. The differences are minimal, the family whom the murdered boy belonged to is a Hispanic mix rather than the straight up English white, but that just plays up the melting pot that is America. Other than that it is just the cast, obviously, but there is definitely something to be said about it.

We have not yet gotten to know all the American characters well enough yet to speculate the overall casting, but some of the ones we have make me cock my head in question. Anna Gunn plays the lead opposite David Tennant, Detective Ellie Miller, the American version of the character of the same name played by Olivia Colman. It might just be biased opinion, but the first episode Anna’s portrayal was just more annoying than I remembered Olivia’s. There is a particular scene at the beginning where Ellie returns to work after a vacation, only to be told that the promotion she was promised has been given to another. She proceeds to run into the bathroom and calls her husband to vent. This happens the same in both version of the story, but Olivia’s portrayal of that moment was one of betrayal, frustration and anger and Anna’s was whinny and defeatist.

I felt a bit offended by it, honestly, as it looked like she was playing the victim and was going into a stereotypical “womanly” hysteria. This only amplified the line later, when she reaches the body and her new partner and she has to explain to him that she is a detective and not a bystander trying to get close, and he says “Really?” like she couldn’t be a detective. I believe the line is in both version because DI Alec/Detective Emmett are both a bit arrogant and are not used to small town detectives or politics. But the American one just seemed to strike the wrong chords.

I thought it was odd as well, that they hired a British actress for the owner of the Hotel/B&B. Do not get me wrong, I love Sarah-Jane Potts, but they hired her to play a Brittan, which is a weird offset to David Tennant playing an American. It’s not a good or a bad thing, just a question of – why?

The sad thing is that, even though I am born and raised American, brought up with American TV, I recognized more of the British actors in Broadchurch than I do with the American ones in Gracepoint. I do not know if that biases my opinion or not, but what does kind of bias me, is this:

In a world that is connected by technology, where things like Hulu plus can give you shows from all over the world, past and present, and there are cable channels dedicated to bringing in ‘foreign’ shows, like BBC America… Why did they feel it necessary to remake this show?

I had the good fortune of being in the UK while Broadchurch aired, but my parents easily watched it on BBC America. The same goes for things like Downton Abbey. Americans have to wait a little while for it to air on PBS, but it still airs in the United States. Neither of which have been bombing in the ratings and in need of a re-do or reboot.

So, if a show is this new, and so well done to begin with, it begs the question – why bother remaking it? To put an American spin on it? Would an English small town be that different from small town America?

Now, I will not claim to be unbiased when it comes to American remakes of ‘foreign’ TV or movies – in fact the track record of some of my favorite movies or shows getting redone for America has been a piss poor one and so I am generally against it. If you want to watch Godzilla – see the original Japanese, Pulse – the Japanese, Life on Mars – the British, Coupling – the British, Gracepoint – watch Broadchurch.

Still, this remake is shaping to be a decent one, with generally the same tension and who-dun-it feel. There is also the promise of a different ending, which means that although so far the secrets are the same, the murderer might be different. I have come to realize that sometimes it is said to get the views, so the mini-series end might disappoint me, but hopefully I will be enjoying the ride as much as I did with Broadchurch. Where this will fall in the spectrum of remakes, is still to be decided.

 *** Broadchurch Spoilers Below ***

My predictions for it, if they actually change the killer, would either be:

Rev. Paul Cotes – because in Gracepoint, he seems a lot shadier than in Broadchurch, and I mean, Kevin Rankin is no Arthur Darvill

or Mark Solano’s business partner – whose name was Nigel in Broadchurch, but they have changed the name and I don’t think we have been formally introduced to him just yet.

*** End of Spoilers ***

The killer, once revealed in Broadchurch, was a fabulous shock – so although it would be a failure on their part, it wouldn’t be the worst to have that again in Gracepoint… but then again, at that point you might as well just watch Broadchurch.

I guess my point is that everyone who hasn’t seen it should watch Broadchurch!

Have you been watching Gracepoint? What do you think so far?

Is there any reason that you are watching is instead of Broadchurch (if that’s the case)?

Let me know in the comments!

Pretty Little Liars, aka, Strong Women Leaders (Part 3)

For those of you who missed it, you can get the first articles of this blog series by visiting:

Pretty Little – Young Adult – Liars (pt 1)

Pretty Little Liars – Decisions that Make a Story (pt 2)

 


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These are the girls that drive Pretty Little Liars.

It is a rare series where the cast is dominated by women and not only that, but women who make decisions. Together they provide a great platform for young girls to admire. Allison, Emily, Aria, Spencer, Hannah and Mona come from different social circles, with different interests and, besides the fact that each of them are being tormented by A, they are dealing with real life situations that are also being experienced by their viewers. Divorced parents, Dad in the military, coming out as LBGT, mental health issues, being interested in hobbies that might be seen as less popular, being bullied, trying to stay on top of studies, family pressures, boys (just…. boys) and the difficulties in discovering your place in the world – or at least your place in high school. This is the short list of what they go through and you can already begin to see why these women could be assets to female viewers. Nearly everything they face is relatable and the way they handle these issues is admirable. They are not afraid to make mistakes, they learn to stand up for themselves and their friends and they are not afraid to cry when things get hard.

PrettyLittleLiarsAfter catching up with the whole series, it becomes clear to me that PLL should NOT be considered a silly, guilty pleasure for girls to watch in secret with their best gal-pals (though there is nothing wrong with that).

Now, I understand that what I am about to say has the potential to cause heated debates and quick judgements on my personal character. I do understand that the mature content (aka: sex) might not be suitable for young girls, that no one should be encouraged to keep secrets from their parents or siblings EVER (especially if it deals with alcohol, drugs  and/or bullies) and that perhaps high school girls might idolize the more conceited aspects of this show more than the message of the girl’s decisions, HOWEVER… and here’s the big ‘argument-starting’ statement:

There is a lot of real, genuine value / life-lessons that all young women could gain from watching Pretty Little Liars.

These girls stay beside their friends to help them in their weakest moments. Both Spencer and Hannah get mixed into battles with substance abuse, and rather than turn their attentions away, their friends support them in the struggle to sober up. While Spencer and Hannah know they are in trouble during these unrelated occasions, they deny how dangerous the situations really are, but their friends do not shrug off the problem and, in reality, end up saving their lives. The message here is simple, and if you see someone in trouble, make sure to get them the support they need if your help isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if you will be unpopular for a moment when it comes to saving a friend’s life.

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We also watch them go through the steps of first love. When Emily comes out to her mom she is met with heartbreak at her mom’s bold disapproval. The girls support Emily in her decision to be honest and encourage her to be herself, and love who she loves. To them, it is that simple. Emily is able to take strength from their honest support, knowing that she has them to rely on even if her mom is un-supportive. She takes that to heart and chooses to always be completely true to herself, no matter how challenging the battle may become. In this bravery, she finds herself a partner where they equally empower and challenge each other to be better, to be more honest and to never lose their edge.

Hannah goes from being a quiet shy girl to finding her confidence with the support to grow alongside her friends. While she is a gorgeous girl, it is evident that the boys she dates are more in love with her feisty personality than her unhelpful talent to create the perfect outfit. Her boyfriend, Caleb, supports Hannah in her direct approach to problem solving and independent nature that allows her to learn from her own mistakes. It is his love for who she is as a woman that allows them to become one of the most healthy relationships represented on TV (… if not a bit too mature for their teenage-years). The point really is, that they support each other, trust each other and are able to live independent lives as a couple that understand the value of communication. Caleb takes the time to discover who Hannah is as a woman, and knows when Hannah will want his help and when she needs her space. He appreciates her value as an important person in his life. Hannah, is able to approach Caleb without fear when she senses there’s something bothering him, or when she knows that something in their relationship needs to be discussed. She, in her honesty, has built a relationship in which to have faith.

hannah-caleb-4Beyond the exciting romances, I even have a positive opinion on one of the main vanities in the series, aka – fashion: There is a sub-plot to the series where Hannah realizes that perhaps her outfits might have more power over her personality than they should, and she steps away into a series of new and unique styles. It values importance of self-discovery as a growing individual, and that the clothing ‘brand’ becomes a thing of minimal value when it comes to a person’s true substance. Beyond Hannah, we see each of these ladies dressed down to their sweats / messy buns (see Aria and Spencer below), and still show confidence as if they are still wearing their signature trendy, teenage fashions. Hardly ever do you hear their partners speak just of their beauty, rather they are much more entranced by their zest, and are not afraid to admit that the girl’s personalities are where their attraction truly lies!

Aria-Spencer-pretty-little-liars-girls-18173430-400-600In all honesty, I could continue in length on why I think young girls should be encouraged to watch Pretty Little Liars, with the understanding that is is fiction so it must be taken with a grain of salt. If I reflect on my personal high school years, I can see how a show like this would have benefited me in many ways. Not only would I have understood the butterflies in my tummy when I saw a crush (act cool and breathe), but the confidence that could have been gained by simply associating with their age-appropriate fashions, and the open minded behavior of all the lead characters. It would have been an early lesson that not everyone will like you and finding friends who accept your faults is something to be truly valued.

While I would never trade the life lessons I gained from Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and The Golden Compass, having a story to follow such PLL, where the sub-plots are more relatable to a 15 year old girl would have been a great addition to my ‘most-loved’ collection. Let me tell you first hand that it’s not easy to emulate Arwen, the elven princess, during puberty, or Hermione when you’re not a brilliant student.

However, to understand Hannah’s self-conscious behavior as a need to be liked, beside Aria’s ability to get lost in a book? Now, that would have been something I could have related too! To follow these characters though the series as they find their confidence and become independent women is an incredible value to a young girl – that is what I am so keen for you readers to see and rejoice for.

And it’s equally fun to watch!hannah-killed-dead-pretty-little-liars-spoiler

I do understand that perhaps this article will cause you judge me, or see me in a new way, but I think that is one of the main points to this piece. I really like watching Pretty Little Liars and I enjoy following it every week. I am unafraid to admit that I see exceptional benefits to this story from the sub-plots to the character development. It might not be the Shakespeare of of today, but that should not negate that values do exist here. Argue against me, make your notes on why you think this is a silly show for girls, but you might just help me prove my point. Think twice before you announce your judgments of PLL to ensure that all sexists remarks are removed, and then let me see how strongly you can argue against me. I truly believe that if this show can give young girls an early message of empowerment and a true message that friendship should be valued like the rare treasure it really is, then why not encourage them to enjoy watching this series?

So, tell me readers, what do you think of Pretty Little Liars?

(And yes, Hannah is my favorite character).

What really makes a good adaptation?

Here at Adaptation, we are soon to be recording our 100th podcast and we just passed the one-year anniversary of our YouTube channel. *Pops the champagne*

So let’s take a moment to discuss the foundation of what we do…

 What makes a good adaptation?

It’s a funny thing to discuss because I often wonder if it is a matter of opinion or biased by what a reader feels or knows about the story and characters.

Let’s look at a few examples of different adaptations:

 Atonement (2007) – based on the novel by Ian McEwan

This is an example of a “perfect” adaptation. I put the quotes around perfect because I mean it in no way as a definitive “this is a perfect adaptation” and more of a description of how it translated book to movie. This type of adaptation is one that is more literal.

I had read the book a few years before the film opened and I was amazed at how the film was really just a visual version of the book. I thought to myself, “Now this is a great adaptation”, until I told my parents, whom I had been watching the film with, why I felt that way. I asked them “Do you want to read the book? I have it.” However, because I said that the film was exactly like the book they said no. Why would they bother?

That saddened me because I absolutely loved the book, and it is something that we have mentioned in podcasts: We like it when the movie makes you want to read the book (again) and vice versa.

The thing is, even when I gripe and nit-pick at some of the films on podcasts here, when we talk about an adaptation, I do feel that there should be signs of someone’s interpretation. But how much should be strictly accurate and what exactly should be up for the creator’s interpretation?

 My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – based on the novel by Jodi Picoult

I saw this film without having read the novel and I really liked the film. Of course, those of my friends, on and off the podcast team, who had read the book, were infuriated! The ending was completely different from the book; in fact you could say they made it totally opposite.

Now, we always try to say here at Adaptation that books and films are two different animals and we have to keep them separated. I agree, and I try- oh how I try- but is there a breaking point? Was it right or wrong of the filmmakers to change the ending? Did they feel that the ending they used was a little more believable or true to life? Does that matter?

The film itself had good pacing, character development, and acting. It flowed together well and was never slow or boring or abrupt. So, would we consider it a good adaptation? Or just a good film?

 Stardust (2007) based on the novel by Neil Gaiman

This is one of those adaptations that came out nearly 10 years after I had read the book. Yet, this book is one that was so unique and such a great read that it stuck with me all that time. When the film was about to be released, after working on it with the filmmakers, Neil blogged a warning to readers and lovers of the book: “The movie will be different”.

I was so glad for that because when I saw the film I expected changes. I even wish I could have known about them in  more detail, because it had been so long since I’d read the book. While watching the film, I wasn’t always sure if something had been in the book or not. But5 maybe that is not such a bad thing.

However, there were many things that I knew for sure where not in the book, and some of them were things that I felt changed the feeling of the story. The book was much darker and grittier than the film, which was produced by Disney. They really did Disney it up with a happily-ever-after and things of the like. It was a family friendly movie that many kids and parents alike enjoyed.

So, can I really knock it? Was it so bad for me that I can call it a bad adaptation? Most of the story was intact and the ending wasn’t so different, unlike my previous example. It spread the word about the novel and more people now know who Neil Gaiman is… but still the feel was different.

Total Recall (1990 & 2012*) and Blade Runner (1982) based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheeprespectively

*Technically the 2012 version is an adaptation of the original film and neither the short story nor P. K. Dick is credited.

Here are examples of taking either a very short story or a vague idea and running with them.

Total Recall’s original material is much shorter than you would expect and not nearly the number of characters in the film (1990). Basically, the idea of the character having memories in his head that have been implanted, who later finds out that there is something more going on. But in both screenplays, the story is much more out there than in the original work. They required so much expansion.

Blade Runner’s original novel is similar. Again, the ideas were in the film where Androids are trying to pass themselves off as human, and a bounty hunter is out to retire them, but there are so many things that were cut and others that were added.

I can’t say for sure that the reception for Total Recall in 1990 was a good one, but I know that Blade Runner by Ridely Scott is still considered a great film and the director’s cut version was even reviewed very recently by The Telegraph, saying that it “is a masterpiece of dystopian science fiction on film”. I myself love both of these films and was honestly surprised to read the original material. I love both written and screen work for different reasons- and dislike them for different reasons.

Is this a case of interpretation being the right thing?

Conclusion- if there can be one

Even after thinking about these examples of adaptations (and there are countless more, just check out our podcasts), it is hard to really pinpoint what makes a good adaptation. I would not want to leave this post without some conclusion, but maybe there just isn’t a definitive one. All I have is my opinion, and I can’t say that it hasn’t changed depending on what adaptation we are discussing.

From these examples, in my humble opinion, this is what makes a good adaptation:

  • The overall feel and/or tone is the same
  • The changes mean something: i.e. if they took something in a different direction, they made sure to keep continuity with it and did not half-ass it, leading to a “why did they even bother?” moment
  • If they needed to add to the story, such as with a short story, following a set cannon, if possible, is the best bet. If not, see first bullet point.
  • The so-called adaptation did not seem like they had read the synopsis of the story and then run with it in whatever direction they felt without really consulting the original material. (This can be debatable, of course, because if they expand on the story beyond the original material, much like the previous bullet point, it can become an amazing piece of work)
  • While it is not necessary to stick to the story exactly, the changes or additions need to add something to the whole of the story.
    (Kick Ass 1 & 2, might be considered good examples of this)
  • AND (most importantly) it was an enjoyable experience! Because if it wasn’t, that is already an indicator that it was not very good.

In the end, I do think that it is a matter of opinion on whether an adaptation is done well or not. It is sometimes easier to say when it was not done well at all (*coughs* Al. Vamp. Hunt. Dig.).

What do you think? What can I add to my list on what makes a good adaptation? Do you agree or disagree with me on either good adaptations in general, or one of my examples?

Pretty Little Liars – Decisions that Make a Story (Part 2)

For those of you who missed it, you can get the first article of this blog series by visiting:

Pretty Little – Young Adult – Liars (pt 1)


Alright – Let’s get back on topic, Pretty Little Liars is the bomb: it includes a ridiculous amount of cliches and manages to have an exciting/moveable murder mystery plot-line and Netflix is again the QUEEN for allowing me to watch seasons 1-4 in a single month. The most important part of PLL are the strong female characters, no one can deny they are driving force in the series (as well as, the strong and ambitious actresses who play them).

And now, here is your only warning, this article will be full of spoilers!

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To reiterate; (seasons 1-4) we are watching these girls grow up from their awkward teen years into very strong girls who have a lot to deal with for their youth. Their best friend vanishes, is found dead, and they are constantly questioned by police as they are the last to see her alive during a very sweet and G-rated sleepover. They are always in the public eye and have remained there for far too long. Inappropriate advances begin from those who are supposed to protect them, they attract hate from peers who are jealous of their friendship with each other and of their popularity in school. With the girl’s kindness they are easily blackmailed into horrible tasks in order to keep destructive secrets under lock and key – they hope. They make every intelligent effort to not let those unknowingly targeted by these secrets down as they accept the challenges from A, which causes them to nearly lose other friends and boyfriends in the process.

Nothing in this series is easy and that is only one reason why you cannot stop watching once you start – oh, Netflix.

Just to give you a taste: Hannah must protect her mom after she takes an illegal loan from the bank. Hannah discovers hundreds of dollars in a pop tart box and soon after the threats begin as shares her intention to out Hannah’s mom. At one point A wants Hannah to out the fact that Aria is dating their high school teacher. Of course, when Aria met Ezra in a bar it seemed that neither were aware (cough-hint-cough) of what would happen on the first day of school as Erza became Mr. Fitz, english teacher. Meanwhile, the other girls are facing even more challenges – Emily has come out to everyone but her conservative mother and will do almost anything to keep that secret, and her new girlfriend, under the covers (yup, I said that). Spencer weaves herself into a mess trying to solve who A could be, hitting targets from old friends to immediate family members. With the pressures from trying to sort it out she begins to accuse her sister’s new husband/baby-daddy of killing Alison, as he seems to have a taste for younger girls.

All the plots and subplots in this series are interconnected like a beautiful and spooky spiderweb, which provide A with enough juice to last into its sixth season. Six seasons where the cops are untrustworthy, and there are so many different angles for approaching the main mystery – who killed Allison – that it would be nearly impossible to try and list them out. But what happens (season 5), when the question is answered and Allison returns back into the girls lives: alive and well?

So, who killed Allison?

Apparently… no one.

Up until that point, A’s relationship with the girls is relatively gentle. Whoever A is/was caused way too many problems, and almost leads many in the town of Rosewood to be arrested for their dirty little secrets. However – to play devil’s advocate – these naughtier characters in the series probably should have been making better decisions and not taking illegal loans, having affairs, dating their students and all the other shame-able things that seem to happen in wealthy/fictional towns. Also, many of these situations could have been resolved by moments of pure honesty, or going to their parents for help. Slowly, the death count seems to grow, which is more than the girl’s expected, but there is a definite change in A’s attitude when whispers that Allison is still alive begin.

More murder, nearly getting thrown off trains on Halloween, houses exploding and the critical moment when another of the pretty little liar’s must kill or be killed. Aria and Ezra think they have discovered who is and when she runs off to tell her friends she finds them – all of the girls – face to face with this alleged killer/psychopath and at the end of a handgun. After a struggle, this particular A, in a long line of A-suspects, dies. However, as they discovered many times before, the texts eventually continue.

After a few months of silence and finally accepting the fact that they might be free, all hell breaks loose – ‘A’gain.

… bad joke?

is full of a new vengeance.

There’s so much packed into Pretty Little Liars that it’s hard to deny how fun this series is to watch. It might be subjected to judgement for reasons like being on ABC Family or having main characters of a troop of high school girls in heels, but these comments seem to be coming from those who have never actually watched the show. These girls should be idolized by their decision making skills and the fact that when it comes down to it, they are human and make mistakes. While many TV shows that feature high schoolers, the actors could easily be in their thirties by how they dress / act, there is a strength in the creators that dress the girls from PLL accordingly to their ages in the series – well, maybe minus the heels. It is acceptable that these girls have higher maturity levels than average with what they have gone through in the last 2-3 years, and with their parents separating/going broke/remarrying/having love-children with the neighbors/are off in the military, the choices they ending up making becomes more believable. These girls are facing some relatable problems that girls today have to face, and that’s something admirable (and maybe a bit unique) about this television series.

Strong female characters, facing real problems, but in the midst of an intense and fictional mystery.

Love it!

How do you feel about the girls decision-making abilities? Too mature? Too childish? Let me know in the comments!


 

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NEXT TIME: I am going to discuss more on why the woman of Pretty Little Liars are both awesome and admirable! It should a good one, and I’m really looking forward to getting this content out there for all those disbelievers. 

True Blood Finale Takes the Cliche Way Out

Well, my fellow Truebies, the end has finally come. The last episode of True Blood EVER aired Sunday night. If you have not had a chance to see it, I recommend that you go and watch it RIGHT NOW! This article is going to contain spoilers galore!

I don’t know about you, but I approached this ending with a bit of trepidation and also hoped that they would not end the series in a horrible cliché. Like most Truebies, I was horribly disappointed.

true-blood-tombstone-530x530Unfortunately, I have not read the books that go along with this series, but from what I’ve heard, they don’t really follow them that closely anyway. When I found this series shortly after it started airing in 2008, I was a freshman in college and I was hooked instantly. I remember Anna Paquin when she was a kid in the movie Fly Away Home, leading a bunch of geese south for the winter so to say this was a massive departure from the image I had of her is an understatement, though not an unwelcome one.

As the series progressed and it slowly introduced a world with supernatural creatures coming out of the woodwork, the characters became more like friends than just people on a screen. I was became really invested in their happiness and I cried like a baby when some great characters had to be sacrificed on the altar of ratings (I miss you Jesus!). However, I understood why it had to happen.

This season however, I was less than impressed with the way they tried to wrap up the series. First off, they killed Tara! If they really wanted to kill her, they should have just left her dead at the end of season 4 when she got a shotgun to the head. That death at least had some meaning, dying to save her best friend! After all, no one has given a crap about Lettie Mae since the end of season 2, so why did Tara need to die to reconcile with a mother that was barely a side character? I just don’t understand it.

Then, they went on to kill Alcide! Yes, I understand the why of it, but that doesn’t mean I like it! In order for Sookie to really work through her jumbled feelings about the men in her life (a.k.a. Bill), Alcide needed to be out of the picture. And what better way to go than trying to protect the woman he truly loved, right? It would have made us really hate Sookie if she broke that beautiful man’s heart, but it was still a shame he had to die.

After that, the series just seemed to spiral even more out of whack when Bill got sick and Jason cheated on the creepy vampire chick who went Dark Age’s psycho. It was basically trying to push all the characters toward a happy ending by getting rid of characters that were hindering that process. That just speaks to uncreative writing, if you ask me.

In that endeavor, Jess’s boyfriend screwed Lafayette (probably my favorite character!), Hoyt came back into town with a beautiful blonde in tow for Jason’s interest, and Jess ends up right back where she started when she first became a vampire. Come on! True Blood has always tried to be blatantly real. Well, as real as you can be when you’re a series about the super natural. It was never the cookie cutter, all smiles and sunshine, happy ending kind of show. It had real endings. It showed that life, or the afterlife, is never perfect. Things don’t always go the way you want and life/death does not always turn out the way you expected. And they completely flipped the switch on this last episode. RIDICULOUS!

Jess married Hoyt, Jason got Hoyt’s hot, child-loving girl-you-can-settle-down-with and a family, Lafayette got James, Sheriff Belfluer got Holly, Arlene ends up with a hot vampire, Erik and Pam get rich off of “New Blood” and Sookie ends up married, pregnant and hosting giant Thanksgivings.

To be fair to Sookie, she did have to kill the first man she ever loved, but even that was anti-climactic. That scene left me feeling, for lack of a better word, cold. Sookie couldn’t sacrifice her Fairy Light to kill Bill and Bill refused to live so that she could have the life he wanted for her. It was cliché and awful. The sad dying hero sacrifices himself for the beautiful heroine so she can live and be happy. I hate that this show wrapped everything up in a pretty little bow. I have been a loyal fan for years and this is so disappointing.

This might not be a normal response considering when a series doesn’t give you a nicely wrapped up ending people are furious. In this case though, I think a little ambiguity would have been nice. I would compare this ending to the epilogue in the final Harry Potter book. Sometimes it’s better to leave some things open-ended so fans are left with a new world ahead of them where just about anything could happen. Bill dying could have opened a whole new world of opportunity for Sookie and her friends. Instead, they made it so everything that Bill wanted, happened. I for one would have found in insanely interesting- since Bill was mostly human there at the end- if Sookie’s glow ball could have banished the sickness and the vampirism. I can’t be the only fan who was disappointed in the producers for this finale, right?

Though I do look upon the end of the series with more than a little disappointment, it in no way detracts from my love of True Blood as a whole. While we’re sad to see these characters go, we just have to remember we can always marathon the series again!

What about you other Truebies? Did you love the finale or were you disappointed like me?

Pretty Little – Young Adult – Liars (Part 1)

PrettyLittleLiarsLet me start by admitting that I was captured by Pretty Little Liars immediately, but I only happened to start watching a month after the fifth season ended through the recommendation of a friend – thanks Becky! It is a very entertaining young adult series and thanks to Netflix, I could fill my days with the ebb and flow of this mystery tale. For the record, I have a lot to say about PLL, so this is the start of a mini-series of posts based on the TV show (starting with seasons 1-4).

There will be spoilers in all of these articles and, as it is a mystery, you may want to think twice before reading. However, I am going to assume that most of you are more up-to-date with basic pop culture than myself and know where Pretty Little Liars now stands – which means carry on reading and enjoy!

To give you a brief summary, based on the ABC Family version and from my perspective, this tale is about four young teens who are dealing with the death of their best friend and the girl who brought them all together, Allison DiLaurentis. After growing distant when their friend’s body was found, they all began to receive texts from an unknown sender who signs their little quips with ‘– A.’ Suspicious. Living in a wealthy town, there is no shortage of secrets to take advantage of, or suspects on who this A could actually be. With this overwhelming realization, the girls regroup and begin to understand that they can only trust each other. The girls even decide to keep their family and boyfriends in the dark of the troublesome blackmailing that occurs with the little sound of a text.

These girls have become the perfect friends – and I don’t mean in an unhealthy way. They stick together and stand up for themselves during confrontations. If there is an argument between two, the rest will remain neutral while the issues are sorted and everyone is able to move forward. If they need to call someone out, there is no hesitation in their approach – which is funny compared to all the secrets floating around. These traits are a stark contrast from what is represented back when Allison was the leader of their clique. In that time, the girls were silent to the harsh comments that came from Allison and took the abuse in discomfort. With the ‘new order’ in their social circle they are now on equal ground and are free to respect, love and protect each other.

In terms of storytelling, this group of girls should be idolized for their friendship. They are unafraid to be themselves and are fair to others that they interact with – unless there is some heightened paranoia with the whole psycho-stalker-thing, which is fair. These girls are able to face unfortunate events because they know they will not have to stand alone. Even if the decisions they make are unwise, they have each others backs through it all. Before Allison’s death, the clique was like a pyramid with Allison at the top, each girl pulled from a different social group to look up to Allison: Hannah – the overweight nerd, Spencer – the hyper-intelligent overachiever, Emily – the lesbian athlete, and Aria – the hipster with a taste for mature activities. In other words, each cliche you could want has been provided, which allows for a diverse viewership and consistently moving plot lines. Now, without Allison, the four are on equal footing- a square rather than a pyramid.

Love it.

Perhaps these characters are less than shocking, but their character markers allow for easy access in dealing with realistic themes themes that can support a teen girl going through similar situations. It is all the normal high school drama- made more exceptional with the enticing murder mystery plot. It keeps a lovely level of suspense and fear. They grow from their awkward teen years into young adults with a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive. They grow into pretty girls – inside and out.

More on Pretty Little Liars next time! 

Introducing: Sailor Moon Crystal

sailor-moon-animeAs a fan of Sailor Moon for the past 20 years, I was more than excited to hear that they were creating a new “season” of Sailor Moon called Sailor Moon Crystal. From what I have read, Naoko Takeuchi has not created further manga beyond the previous Codename: Sailor V and Sailor Moon manga printed back in the 1990s, so I worried about exactly how this was going to turn out.

At first, it seemed that all the news was saying that the new series would not be directly from the manga or the 1990s anime, but based on the characters and canon of Sailor Moon. If this had been the case, it would have been interesting to see where they would go after all we had been through with the 200 episode series from the 1990s (broken down into seasons of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, S, SuperS, and Stars). It would have been a whole new journey for fans to see their favorite characters in a new light, hopefully a good one. The creators would have had a lot of breathing space and could have created a really neat piece of anime that goes beyond what we already have established.

Just a Reboot

I was pretty disappointed as screenshots and more concrete news came out. The anime looks wonderful, the characters are drawn in a way that better emulates the manga, but it also showed that they are starting from the beginning again. It is in fact, a REBOOT, news of which was posted by our own Jenn back in 2012.

I really had to take some time to mull this information over because of how I feel about reboots. As far as some of the super hero movies have gone, the reboot of Spider-Man is far superior to the previous set, and although I still enjoy the originals of Superman and Batman, the reboots gave them a grittier more real look, which I very much enjoyed. However, when you look at things like Avatar: The Last Airbender– not that the film was really a reboot, but it told the same story- the original was miles above the film. Of course, I do take into account that some things are just better when animated and in the case of this new Sailor Moon, that at least is not an issue. Still, I’m of the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

So, what have we previously established?

  • A full length Manga
  • A 200 episode Anime (less if you only watched the edited dubbed version)
  • A few musicals that went to stage
  • And a live action version from the 2003, which also tells the story from the beginning, but takes a few interesting liberties

So, do we really need it again?

The short answer is… YES!

Why?

This new version is going to be a closer adaptation to the fabulous manga.

Although the 1990s anime (the original, unedited Japanese) is fun, exciting, addictive, and has all the feels you would want from a good TV show, there are things that I would like to see them do differently. I would not say that the original anime is bad by any means. I love it and have re-watched it more times than I can count. And though the manga is not drastically different, there are key differences that no adaptation has covered so far.

What the adaptations have done, is taken a lovely story and woven more intricacies into it so we get the same general idea or story line, but characters are more fleshed out. Some characters are taken in different directions, many times showing that even if they are on the bad side of the story, they have good parts to them. In the manga, characters were added and defeated (or otherwise dismissed) so quickly that one couldn’t grasp the characters. It was a case of we root for the good guys, and the bad guys get destroyed, no gray area, end of story.

Character Depth

One character, however, that had much more to him in the Manga than any of the adaptations thus far is Darien/Mamoru. In every TV related story, he never has any real powers- except for the power of bad puns, appearing and disappearing from strange places (i.e. Street Lamps), and enough aim to distract the enemy with a rose so Sailor Moon can vanquish them. But there is so much more to his character than that. Yes, the general things are there: he is the prince of the earth, he was in love with Princess Serenity in the past, was killed protecting her and they are destined for each other, but there are some things that have always been omitted.

He had powers in the manga, real ones. Darien/Mamoru had the power of psychometry, which allowed him to do many things, as Lita/Makoto/Jupiter explained in the original translated manga: he had the power to heal himself or others quickly, but he could use this same power as an attack. Later in the manga he touches the Earth to feel that the planet as a whole had only been scratched, and he could find just about anyone on it. Beyond that, he is the true holder of the golden crystal, to match Sailor Moon’s silver crystal, which is just one of the many things I disliked about the SuperS series in the 1990s Anime. It is the one that went the most wrong in my opinion.

Even Sailor Moon herself as a character is better in the manga. She grows very quickly and doesn’t need to be told to use her abilities- a friend and I watched through the whole series to see how many episodes someone didn’t say “Now, sailor moon!” and trust me, there were not a lot- and she is the true protector. She also uses cute goggles to see through ruses and was convinced that Sailor V was the true princess to the moon kingdom. Not that anyone was really fooled, but I liked her much better in the manga.

Also, let us not forget the near absence of the overpowering evil presence named Queen Metalia, who is the one who poisons Queen Beryl’s mind and starts the whole war. In the 1990s anime, there is some dark blob that Queen Beryl talks to, but she is not really given a name. They did better with it in the 2003 live action, but instead of Beryl absorbing her powers, Mamoru does, which was just one of the many crazy things that happened in the live action film.

I also miss the fact that the four soldiers under Queen Beryl were once loyal to Prince Endymion (Mamoru/Darien’s past life). They were soldiers under his rule and occasionally felt something towards him even when they were under Beryl’s spell. In death, they turn into the stones of their names: Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite and are freed, allowing them to help Prince Endymion later on. This was never touched upon in the 1990s anime, but it was brought up in the Sailor Moon RPG video game as well as the 2003 live action.

An Anime Ahead of It’s Time

Another thing, that anime viewers may not know is that the it got a bit ahead of the manga. By the time the series R was being made that story had not yet been published via the manga. This is why the “Doom Tree” series seems so out of place and why all the senshi/scouts lose their memories at the end of the first series. The creators weren’t sure there would be more so they wrapped up the season in a nicely wrapped package. This of course, is not how it all goes down in the manga. The enemy of that story is defeated and everyone is happy when Chibiusa/Rini comes crashing down, but there was no in-between, confusion, or needing to begin again.

This is why I feel like another adaptation is not only warranted, but necessary. I would like to see all of my favorite things in anime form. I mean, I could just read the Manga again, and now that it is more readily available to people, so could everyone else. But, for those who don’t get into the manga, I think the anime will be a great door opener.

Of course, there are things that people might miss in the new adaptation: there are no rainbow crystals in the manga, Naru doesn’t have a love affair with Nephrite, etc. And if Sailor Moon Crystal does well enough and they continue onto R with the Black Moon series, Sapphire might not have a cute backstory with Prizma, and he may turn out much less likable as he was in the manga. Things will be different, but the new anime isn’t going to erase the old one. We can always watch the original again (and again and again…)

No Time to Waste!

Sailor Moon Crystal is set to premiere on 5th July across the globe. You can watch it one Hulu+, Crunchyroll [available to Crunchyroll’s audience in the following territories: U.S.A, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America (Central and South America including Mexico)] and Viz Media’s Neon Alley.

They are planning on premiering subbed and re-dubbed versions at the same time. Hopefully, since the Japanese and Americans are working simultaneously, the dubbing will be much better quality. I could rant about a comparison between original Subbed and Dubbed of the 1990s anime, but that is for another day.

Now, I’m off to re-read the manga for the billionth time. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do, and if you have, why not once more with feeling?

I am SUPER EXCITED! Here’s a trailer to get you pumped!

What bits do you hope they keep in this version, or what bits do you hope they cut? Let us know in the comments!