Category Archives: Television

Thoughts on Plots: Big Little Lies

I heard about Big Little Lies the same way that everyone else did. The trailer dropped and I said “Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz all play moms of the same age kids?”

I set up my DVR to record it immediately and when it popped up, I watched the pilot in shock and awe. But as many of us writers do, I headed out to the store and read the whole book before the second episode came out. (I did the same thing with Outlander many years ago. A pilot is just like a reeeaaaalllly long book trailer to me, I swear.)

Big Little Lies is totally not in my genre, but the brilliance of it is that it’s so intriguing that I barely noticed. I couldn’t put it down! I had to know what happened to Jane, if Ziggy was innocent, and who died. From my own school days, I remember all the parent drama that used to fly. So the idea that it could end in murder? Exciting.

I continued to watch the series after reading the book (although I almost stopped after a few over-the-top HBO scenes). In the end, I’m glad I did. It was a well done show! Well acted and well written, but I always have some complaints when they turn a book into a show.

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What the series got right:

  1. The overarching eerie mystery of who is hurting Amabella. They struck the tone well and made Ziggy seem sweet, but a little off, so that we do question him.
  2. The casting was perfect. There’s not a single actor I would change. Reese Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline and their choices for the kids were excellent too.
  3. Laura Dern as Renata deserves her own line here. Renata is an off putting, powerful, in-your-face, drama mama. And Laura Dern plays the weariness of her so well. She’s overworked, exhausted, and clear concerned that she’s not a good enough mom. I’ve seen that in so many real moms and I loved seeing it so accurately portrayed on screen.

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What I’m sad they changed:

  1. Why the hell did they have to make Madeline have an affair? It just seems over the top. I get that they needed to stretch one book into a whole mini-series, but seriously? Her husband was one of my favorite characters in the book and I enjoyed their dynamic. Madeline steamrollered him constantly, but he loved her anyway.
  2. No back story for Bonnie! I miss getting to know a little bit about why she did what she did, but I also appreciated how they really highlighted the way Madeline was willing to go to bat for her.
  3. The final sequence left out the husbands! I really liked the fact that it was husbands and wives together, facing down their demons and covering for each other. I really missed that in the show! I think they were going for a girl power moment, but it felt misplaced to me. This book is all about marriage and relationships, after all.

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What I liked that they added:

  1. Those opening credits were awesome. I love the idea of the shots from the backseat of the car- how the kids see their moms! So brilliant. And it set the tone so well for the show.
  2. Yoga class. This was a small scene, but I got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of the feuding parents stuck in yoga class together.
  3. The expanded drama of Amabella’s birthday party. I liked the twist of the moms judging Bonnie for being too sexy.

 

For anyone who just watched the show: read the book! It’s even better!

XOXO

************

Cameryn

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The 8 Best (Non-Sparkly) Vampires

Vampires have gotten a seriously bad rap lately. When Twilight became a tween sensation, it almost turned the entire supernatural genre into an extension of the romance genre. Tsk, tsk. Bad Twilight. Let’s remember all of those fantastic vampires that kick ass and do something other than pine for Bella!

angel 1. Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us…guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey.”

Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and later his own spinoff) gets the Number 1 spot because of David Boreanaz’s major skills at being both psychotically evil and a wonderful, brooding boyfriend. Both were insanely convincing! From helping Buffy and saving her friends, to tormenting Buffy to the edge of insanity, Angel does it all and makes it look good.

simonlewis 2. Simon Lewis, The Mortal Instruments: “Well, when a mommy vampire and a daddy vampire love each other very much…”

Simon from The Mortal Instruments book series (and the one movie) earns his spot on the list by being the Daylighter. (Sorry Vampire Diaries, Simon can walk in the sun without a ring.) He gives up his immortality and his memories to save his friends, and he always injects some much needed humor into the group. Throughout the series, he’s a human, a vampire, a ladykiller, and eventually, a shadowhunter. Also, if Isabelle Lightwood wants to date him, how can he not make the top of the list? (The new Shadowhunters tv show will begin airing on ABC Family in 2016!)

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3. Caroline Forbes, The Vampire Diaries: “Everyone needs to stop kissing me!”

Caroline starts out as a prissy, uptight cheerleader who gets in the way and acts as a compelled toy for Damon. Just a little way into The Vampire Diaries‘ long run, Caroline somehow becomes a vampire badass. She’s smart, funny, strong-willed and an integral member of the team.

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4. Drusilla, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “I can see [the stars]. But I’ve named them all the same name, and there’s terrible confusion.”

Who doesn’t miss this insane, doll-carrying, slightly psychic vamp from the early years of Buffy? Spike and Dru were the perfect bad guys: psychotic murderers and crazy in love. But Drusilla’s unique abilities to have no idea what’s going on right in front of her, but still be a lethal threat, makes her rank above Spike.

The Vampire Diaries Pictured: Ian Somerhalder as Damon Photo Credit: Art Streiber / The CW © 2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

5. Damon Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries: “I do believe in killing the messenger. Know why? It sends a message.”

The Vampire Diaries‘ Damon has an excellent character arc showing his transition from a chaos-loving, revenge-obsessed torturer to a semi-productive member of society. He’s a veritable seven layer dip of emotions, regularly murdering people in fits of rage. However, he prioritizes his family and friends and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to save them.

minaharker6. Mina Harker, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: “You’re sweet… and you’re young. Neither are traits that I hold in high regard.”

From the very first vampire story, Mina Harker is the lead female character of the original Dracula novel. Harker shows up in a lot of vampire stories, but I am a particularly big fan of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Harker is the only woman welcomed into the Gentlemen’s league. Even though many don’t want her there, she saves the day repeatedly.

ca. 1998 --- Actor James Marsters --- Image by © Stephen Danelian/CORBIS OUTLINE

7. Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Oh, Spike. Who can say no to that face? Even with the bleached ’90s Buffy hair. The original ‘bad boy gone good’ vampire tale (Sorry Damon), Spike is only low on the list because compared to Angel and Drusilla (both from Buffy as well), Spike is the less unique character. However, Spike avoided being a one-trick pony with his impressive transition throughout the series. Thank you Joss Whedon for making it feel believable that the evil baddie from Season 2 could somehow become a love interest only three years later.

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8. Selene, Underworld: Tanis: You don’t scare me, Selene. Selene: Well, we’ll have to work on that.

Selene from Underworld is a vampire Death Dealer, working for her vampire clan as an assassin. She is fighting in the war between vampires and lycans and wants to eliminate the lycan race. Ice cold with deadly skills, Selene doesn’t show much of herself to anyone until Michael Corvin comes along, a human. Suddenly, her priorities change. Selene is killer to watch on screen as she pulls off crazy stunts to save Michael.

Obsessions: A History

I’m so obsessed with Reign, the Mary Queen of Scots drama on the CW. Like SOOOOOO unhealthily obsessed. I love it. I can’t get enough. I just recently discovered it, and I DEVOURED both seasons. Now I have to wait 3 months until Season 3! I can’t stand it. But it got me thinking about some of the strange, all-consuming obsessions that I’ve had in my life. Here they are:

1. Green Day

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This was a die-hard obsession of my 8th and 9th grade years. I wore WAY too much eye makeup and black nail polish. Listening to such angry music all the time made me kind of hate my (very good) life! I figured that out eventually, but I still nurse a little crush on Billy Joe Armstrong.

2. Veganism

My junior year of high school through my freshman year of college, I was obsessed with all things vegan. I read a massive number of books and got really into cooking elaborate vegan recipes. I stayed vegan until my senior year of college, when I studied abroad in Italy, and was left with no choice but to consume mass amounts of gelato.

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra

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BEST SHOW EVER! I don’t know if this obsession really ever died, but the first time I saw  it, I skipped class to finish the final season with my roommate! We could not turn it off and ended up attempting to beatbox the end credits after each episode.

4. Greek Mythology

In 6th grade, I was introduced to the world of Greek mythology and I immediately fell in love with the archetype characters. I quickly began constructing my own stories using the gods and goddesses as characters! This obsession faded into obscurity for a while, but last year when I read Goddesses in Everywoman, the obsession was unleashed again! Now, I find myself thinking “she’s such an Athena” on a regular basis.

5. Harry Potter

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Who wasn’t obsessed with Harry Potter at some point? But for me, this is a lifelong obsession that continues on. I am a 23-year-old woman who goes on Pottermore. I have -yikes- 4 pieces of Harry Potter art hanging in my apartment. (In my defense, though, I have several gallery walls worth of art.) I also love listening to the Harry Potter audio books when I’m driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles alone. The 5 hours fly by. That’s only like 1/3 of Goblet of Fire!

6. Red Hair

When I was little, I had a red-headed Barbie named Courtney. And the obsession was born. Later, Satine from Moulin Rouge fed my love of red hair.  Needless to say, I have been a red-head since my Dad gave me permission in high school to die my hair.

7. Buffy

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I resisted Buffy for a long time. I’ve devoured every other Joss Whedon show, but I was nervous about Buffy’s cheesy ’90s special effects. Boy, did I get over that fast! The first time I watched Buffy, I would get off of work and calculate exactly how many episodes I had time to watch before I had to go to bed. It made me want to start wearing cross necklaces, and I finally understood the strong and silent type. Hello, Angel!

Those are my craziest obsessions. What have your greatest obsessions been?

Thoughts on Plots: Reign

In the effort of full disclosure, I will say that I love Reign. It’s my first ever CW show, but I love the acting, the story, the wardrobe, and the semi-historical nature of the show. Not to mention: some serious badass girl power. Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) may be the young queen of a troubled country, but she is a powerhouse and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Even though she reigns at a time when women have almost no freedom, she still makes her actions count and uses her power for all it’s worth. But I’ll admit, Reign has a few flaws. It features some pretty ludicrous and unhistorical plot twists and relies heavily on romantic drama. So here’s the best, the worst and the essential. Then you can decide whether you want to binge-watch in time for Season 3!

Here are the predominant aspects of the CW’s historical drama, Reign: 

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                                                              Killer chemistry between Kane and Regbo

The Romance: Oh, the romance. The show starts Season 1 with Mary moving to French Court to get to know her fiancé, the dauphin of France, Francis (Toby Regbo). He immediately pushes her away, insisting that he doesn’t know whether they will actually be married. Yet, the attraction between the two of them is obvious and they eventually admit their feelings. Unfortunately, romance is never that easy for royals. Everyone from the King to Scottish rebels seem to get in the way. There is great chemistry between Kane and Regbo, even if the Will They/Won’t They becomes a bit excessive. For the supporting characters, the exciting romance between Lady-in-Waiting Greer (Celina Sinden) and kitchen boy Leith (Jonathan Keltz) is one for the ages. And a surprising romance between Narcisse (Craig Parker) and Lola (Anna Popplewell) involves some unexpected games- including one where Lola tricks Narcisse into watching a maid bathe from a balcony.

Reign -- Image: RE01_KEYGroup1 -- Pictured (L-R): Toby Regbo as Prince Francis, Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Torrance Coombs as Bash – Photo: Mathieu Young/The CW -- © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Magic: What separates this show from actual historical events (besides some of the high drama), is the slight hint of fantasy. There are minute magical elements to the show that keep viewers guessing if they’re just superstitions or if they’re actually happening. The show starts off with prophecies made by the Court Seer Nostradamus, but they also face Pagan Rituals, a cannibal, a woman who can bring back the dead, and a castle ghost. It’s a lot of fun and adds some much needed romance-free intrigue!

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The Friendships: The show has several prominent friendships that play important roles: the relationship between Mary and her ladies (Lola, Greer and Kenna), and the relationship between Francis and Bash (half brothers). Mary’s relationship with her ladies is one of mutual support through any failure. From Lola’s unplanned pregnancy to Kenna becoming the King’s mistress, Mary is frank with her opinions but never stops supporting her friends. Francis and Bash’s relationship is a bit all over the place. They hate each other, they love each other, but they are always brothers and would take a knife to the chest for each other.

If you’re undecided about whether or not to tune in, here are the best and worst aspects of the show: 

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Greer’s tough, but savvy, decisions show her strength as a character and role model.

Highlights:

1. Believable Bad Guys 

One of my favorite things about the show is that the bad guys are very believable. They all have reasons behind their actions. Firstly, Catherine (a sometimes good, sometimes baddie) did all of her worst deeds for love and protection of her children. She would go to any length for them. Conde became a bad guy because he was abandoned by Mary and pushed into a corner by his brother, leaving him no alternative but to follow through with the only people offering him support.

2. Greer

The only non-noble in Mary’s crew, Greer is under a lot of stress to marry up. After meeting a gorgeous, funny, and smart kitchen boy, Greer starts sneaking around to see him without ruining her reputation. A season later, for reasons I won’t give away, Greer loses her money and standing at the castle. She is forced out and carves out a life for herself as a Madame. She experiences the first slice of power and freedom that she has ever had. When the love of her life proposes, she rejects him, because she would have to give up her lucrative business. Celina Sinden did some fantastic acting throughout both seasons, but her character is given so much more to work with in Season 2!

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                                                                      Ridiculously good looking bad guys.

Lowlights:

1. Unrealistic Drama

Even though I love the show, I’ll give that some of the drama is pretty unrealistic. Lola’s one night stand with Francis, with no reason why she would want to do that, and Bash’s immediate ‘will die for you’ love for Mary, without any lead up are the two most predominant examples. However, Mary’s reaction and decision to wed Bash after she finds out about Nostradamus’s prophecy is a bit hard to swallow. And lastly, Catherine’s romantic interest in Narcisse is unbelievable, considering he has hooked up with her daughter AND her grandson’s mother.

2. Too Many Attractive People

Everyone is gorgeous. Even the bad guys! Narcisse, Conde and Catherine, all featured bad guys from both seasons, are ridiculously attractive. Get a look at this face. It was almost enough to make me root for Narcisse sometimes! It wouldn’t kill the show to throw in some normal looking people once in a while, just to shake things up!

3. Not historically accurate.

The most common complaint that I hear about this show is that it isn’t historically accurate. No, the dresses that they wear aren’t period appropriate. Yes, they made a lot of changes to the history. And finally, Bash, King Henry’s bastard son, is a made-up character who plays a major role in the show. (He is credited third after Mary and Catherine.)

After reading my lengthy breakdown, what do you think? Will you give Reign a shot?