Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Sushi for One? by Camy Tang

Sushi for One? (Sushi Series #1)
By: Camy Tang
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 978-0-310-27398-1

About the book:

Lex Sakai's family is big, nosy, and marraige-minded. When her cousin Mariko gets married, Lex will become the oldes single female cousin in the clan.

Lex has used her Bible study class on Ephesians to compile a huge list of traits for the perfect man. But the one man she keeps running into doesn't seem to have a single quality on her list. It's only when the always-in-control Lex starts to let God take over that all the pieces of this hilarious romance finally fall into place.


Just a heads up - the back cover copy for this novel doesn't even begin to do it justice.

Volleyball fanatic Lex Sakai is single and just fine with that until she inherits the infamous family title of "Oldest Single Female Cousin" and her Grandma issues an ultimatum. She threatens to pull funding for the beloved girls volleyball team Lex coaches unless she buckles down and finds a boyfriend in time for her cousin's wedding in four months. Armed with her "Ephesians list" - requirements a guy has to meet in order to be "dateable" - Lex embarks on her quest to find a boyfriend and satisfy Grandma. Then job-wise she takes a significant pay cut, Grandma sabotages her efforts to land outside team sponsors so she can avoid the whole "dating" thing, and Aiden, the one man she's sure she should write off as unsuitable, keeps intruding on her life in unexpected ways. When her carefully constructed life comes apart at the seams, Lex is forced to re-evaluate who she's really been trusting with her future - herself or the Lord?

Probably one of the best ways to describe Sushi for One? is to think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, change the "Greek" to "Asian-American," throw in a deftly handled spiritual thread, and voila! - you have the recipe for a great chick-lit novel. Camy Tang delivers all of the humor, outrageous mishaps, witty dialogue, romance, and great food fans of the chick lit genre could wish for in spades. Lex is a wonderfully prickly, sassy heroine with a take-no-prisoners attitude towards life that masks heartbreaking hurts and fears. It's a great stroke on Tang's part to write the novel in third person instead of the first person point of view generally found in chick lit novels. While most of the novel is told from Lex's view point, the use of third person allows Tang to pepper the novel with scenes from Aiden's perspective, which walk the delicate line of being incredibly sweet without being sappy - it's wonderful to watch him fight his attraction to Lex even as he longs to be the one to break through her emotional barriers. The family dynamic is also one of the novel's greatest strengths. Lex doesn't come from the typically Christian background found in most CBA fiction - she and her best friends, also her cousins, (Trish, Venus, and Jennifer) are the only Christians in a mostly Buddhist family. Tang does a fantastic job of showing Lex negotiate the line between living her faith and being a witness and respecting her heritage and a family that doesn't understand her beliefs.

Sushi for One? is the hilarious, often poignant story of a woman who learns to cede control of her life and allow herself to be held in the arms of the God who loves her, whose plans for her life, romantic and otherwise, are far greater and more fulfilling than she could have ever dreamed. Camy Tang's debut novel shines with life and energy. I can't wait to read more about the "Sushi" cousins and thankfully the wait won't be a long one - the second novel, Only Uni, releases in February 2008!


As you can probably guess from the last line of this review, it was written a couple of years ago. :) But since Camy Tang is debuting a new series with Zondervan, I thought it was the perfect time to re-post my review of her first series, starting with Sushi for One? which I originally reviewed in October 2007.

The Sith Who Stole Christmas

I couldn't resist this...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer

Wings of a Dream
By: Anne Mateer
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0903-1

About the book:

Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family's farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promises adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he's the man she's meant to marry.

While she waits for the end of the Great War and Arthur's return, her mother's sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas and care for Aunt Adabelle, sure that her glamorous and exciting life is about to start.

But the Spanish flu epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt's sickness, Arthur's indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah discovers she must choose between her desire to escape the type of life she's always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.


Rebekah Hendricks wants nothing more than to escape her mundane Oklahoma farm existence. When a handsome flyer turns her head with promises of excitement and adventure, she's sure he's the man she is meant to marry who will save her from a conventional life. But the Great War still rages in Europe, and with her aviator training at an army camp in Texas, Rebekah jumps at the chance to travel to her aunt's home in Texas, sure the time spent tending her ailing relative will be but a brief stop on her road to adventure. But nothing in Rebekah's sheltered life has prepared her for what she faces when she arrives. The dreaded Spanish flu is ripping through the small farming community, leaving scores of grieving family and friends in its wake. When her aunt succumbs to the flu, Rebekah is left as the reluctant caretaker of her aunt's charges -- the four young Gresham children, left orphaned by the death of their mother in childbirth while their father fights in Europe. As the children and community wend their way into her heart, Rebekah is faced with an unexpected realization when the life she's always scorned becomes the dream she can't bear to live without. But is she brave enough to surrender her dreams to God's plan?

With her debut offering Anne Mateer focuses on an aspect of history that I have seen little (if ever) addressed in fiction -- the World War I American homefront and the horrific and devasting impact of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Wartime homefront stories always intrigue me as I think too often books and films about either of the two World Wars focus heavily on the overseas action. But as Mateer so deftly illustrates here, the shadow of war cast a heavy pall over every aspect of homefront life, from rationing ("Hooverizing") meal plans to empty places at dinner tables and the fragile hope that loved ones would return unscathed. The ruinous impact of the Spanish flu and the fear and sorrow an outbreak left in its wake is one of the strongest aspects of the novel. Mateer really shines when bringing to life the stress and dangers associated with this epidemic -- in an age of vaccines and advanced medical care it is hard to fathom the utter devastation of this outbreak, but Mateer recreates the emotional toll of this epoch in America's history with aplomb.

 As a heroine Rebekah has much to recommend her -- despite the occasional lap into rather excessive levels of immaturity she has a strong sense of right and wrong and responsibility to family and those less fortunate than herself. In many respects a child herself, merely on the cusp of womanhood, Rebekah has a lot of growing up to do in this novel -- though she doesn't yet realize it, her quest for adventure is really a journey of self-discovery, and a powerful reminder that life is lived best when one surrenders to God's leading. Rebekah possesses a lot of spunk, often overshadowed by her immaturity, a point driven home by the first-person narration. First person narration and I can be rather hit-or-miss, and personally I would have preferred third-person, and greater insight into secondary characters such as the children's father, Frank, or Irene, Rebekah's first friend in town. With first-person, Rebekah's internal dialogue and propensity for rashness and immaturity got a bit repetitive, slowing the narrative. Mateer has a knack for creating a compelling supporting cast, and I hope that in future novels characters of Frank and Irene's ilk will receive more "screentime."

My favorite aspect of this debut was Rebekah's atypical romance. Her realization that the greatest adventure is in a life well-lived, surrounded by loved ones, is powerfully brought to fruitition. Wings of a Dream is an engaging, promising debut and I look forward to Mateer's next offering. Her affinity for exploring less "publicized" aspects of history intrigues me and marks her as an author to watch.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Yesterday afternoon I went to see the new Martin Scorcese film Hugo, based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (which is going to be read by yours truly at the earliest available opportunity). This is an extraordinary film that as far as I'm concerned deserves every accolade it has received in so many reviews -- heartwarming in the very best, non-sappy sense of the term, Hugo is nothing less than a love letter to the magic of the movies, and by extension the magic of living life to the fullest. It's a gorgeously rendered story of the power and joy that comes from living life as you're wired to do, a reminder of the precious gift it is to find and follow your calling. Amazing, lovely, wonderful film -- highly, HIGHLY recommended.

Hugo Cabret is a young boy who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s, where unbeknownst to the station regulars he cleans and maintains the clocks. In a heart-breaking flashback (featuring a wonderful cameo by Jude Law!), we learn that Hugo and his father, a master clockmaker, shared an affinity for all things mechanical and a love of the movies. When his father tragically perishes in a museum fire, Hugo is taken to live with his drunk uncle, also a watchmaker whose job it is to maintain the train station clocks. All Hugo has left of his former life is a broken automaton that his father rescued from the attic of the museum prior to his death. Hugo is driven to repair the mechanical man as a last connection to his father, so when his uncle disappears he stays on as the clock worker, filching food to survive and mechanical parts from the toy shop in order to continue working on the automaton. When the toy shop owner, Monsieur Georges, catches Hugo in the act of stealing, he's unexpectedly shocked by the boy's notebook detailing the mechanical workings of the automaton. Georges refuses to disclose why Hugo's book upsets him, and Hugo is equally determined to finish his father's work, whatever it takes. With the help of Georges's goddaughter Isabelle, the two children embark on an adventure to discover the truth behind the broken automaton, Georges's broken heart, and the power of dreams.

Let me get this out of the way first -- story aside, on visuals alone this film is STUNNING. I saw it in 2D and was completely blown away by its recreation of 1930s Paris -- oh it was a glorious world to watch unfold on-screen! And Hugo's home, the inner workings of the train station, were absolutely fascinating -- it's almost as if he lived inside his own automaton, the train station itself. The costumes, the sets, the attention to detail is a feast for period drama lovers' eyes. I feel sure this is a film that visually will reveal new treasures on each subsequent viewing.

Hugo is anchored by a stellar performance by Asa Butterfield as the young hero. Prior to this film I was most familiar with Butterfield from his work as young Mordred in the Merlin TV show (unbelievably creepy!) and last year in Nanny McPhee Returns. Butterfield is a terrific actor in the making and I predict he'll be a face to watch for years to come. I couldn't help thinking, leaving this film, that if Harry Potter were being made today (starting at the beginning), Butterfield would be pretty near perfect. As Hugo, Butterfield will just break your heart with his determination and sincerity, his search for belonging and purpose against the odds. His on-screen counterpart, Isabelle, is played by American actress Chloe Grace Mortez. I was quite impressed with her performance, and the sweet hint of a teenage romance in the offing between her and Butterfield on-screen. Isabelle is a delightfully nerdy (I mean that in a nice way!), bookish girl with a fantastic vocabulary which I just loved, a nice quirk.

The crotchety Monsieur Georges is brought to life by Ben Kingsley, and if Oscar nods were given out solely based on the ability to break my  heart I'd say he deserved one. This performance was a treasure. Since I have yet to read the book, I wasn't aware until I started reading reviews of this film that actual historical characters featured in the plot. Monsieur Georges is in fact Georges Melies, a visionary French filmmaker. If the name is not familiar to you, perhaps this still from one of his most famous surviving films will be:

That image is from Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon, 1902). To try and make a long and fascinating history short for the purposes of this post, Melies made over 500 films before being forced into bankruptcy during World War I. Tastes had changed and his magical, fantastical films were no longer in style. He sold hundreds of feet of film, which were melted down and made into shoe heels. And this is where the fictional Hugo comes into play -- seeing a master "magician," heartbroken over the loss of his art and his purpose, Hugo's desire to rebuild the broken automaton becomes a quest to remind Melies who he really is, and that his art has not been forgotten as he so long believed.

I knew Scorcese was an vocal advocate of film preservation, and Hugo drives the importance of this venture home with heartbreaking clarity. Melies's lost films were not just throwaway whims, were not even just about his imagination -- his films speak of his time, the dreams of the creator and his contemporaries brought to life on celluloid. Films like A Trip to the Moon are reminders to mankind today of where we've come from, who we were, and who we hope to be -- oh the possibilities of unfettered imagination!

To speak a bit to my earlier point that the train station is a kind of automaton, a film set in which the young Hugo makes his home, I have to give a nod to the colorful characters that inhabit his world. This film is chock-full of Harry Potter alum. Frances del la Tour (Madame Maxime) is Madame Emilie, who is the proprietress of a restaurant. She is crushing on Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths, Uncle Vernon!), a newspaper seller (if memory serves me correctly). The fact that her dog HATES him, and how he works around it, is hilarious. Georges's wife is played by Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), and can I just tell you how much I like her? She is class personified -- not to mention crazy-lucky in the husband department as she's married to Damian Lewis. And in the non-Potter, but really cool cameo category, Christopher Lee makes an appearance as Monsieur Labisse, a bookseller who seems to know just what his patrons need.

My favorite subplot, though, is the Station Inspector with the mechancial brace on his leg, played by Sacha Baren Cohen and the flower seller Lisette played by Emily Mortimer. Cohen provides a lot of comic relief, as is to be expected, particularly when he and his Doberman mimic each other's poses and expressions. *wink* The Inspector is an interesting character -- secretly in love with Lisette, he feels he can't act on it because of his injury, and masks his inadequacy with bravado and legalism. I am a sap, I freely admit it, but I loved watching the Inspector just melt once he overcame his fear of speaking to Lisette -- Mortimer and Cohen are an unusal pair but I loved them in this film.

Hugo is a film that begs to be seen on the big-screen. It is a rare film that I feel is so joy-filled, so life-affirming, so hopeful. Yes there's heartbreak and pain and peril -- like the best stories this doesn't sugar-coat or ignore those realities of life. But what it will remind you of is the power of dreams and art and the magic of unfettered imagination. From the opening shot you'll be fully immersed in Hugo's world -- the art direction, the score (thank you, Howard Shore), the acting -- everything works in concert to weave its glorious spell, to draw you into the world of the film. A movie about the power of movies, the power of imagination, and the ability of art to connect people, Hugo is a treasure not to be missed, and one I'll enjoy revisiting time and again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Puss in Boots

You all know how I love my fairy tales, and a well-done twist on a classic. I'm also a cat person. :) While I enjoy the Shrek films, I confess to getting rather burned out after the third one. If I'm going to revisit any of them, the main draw will be because I adore Puss in Boots. (Did I mention that I'm a major Zorro fangirl too?) So when I learned that there was a film in the works revealing the dashing Puss's backstory, I was pretty excited. On a whim Mom and I went to see the film this afternoon, and I'm happy to report that it was a thoroughly enjoyable way of breaking up a chilly afternoon.

From the opening notes of Henry Jackman's score, it's clear this film owes a huge debt to Antonio Banderas's Zorro persona. What I didn't expect, however, was the western and caper-themed movie notes woven throughout -- part fairy tale, part western, and part James Bond film (of all things), this film delves into Puss's backstory, which personally I found a heck of a lot more entertaining from start to finish than the cat's later adventures with Shrek (sorry ogre fans!).

For the western elements, we have a married Jack and Jill voiced by, of all people, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. The idea of Jack and Jill as murderous outlaws is quite frankly hilarious -- even moreso when you take into consideration the fact that Jack is dying to be a father (the two later decide to "adopt" their pet pigs). At one point there's a nice old-fashioned chase through desert territory, replete with high-flying heroics from our feline hero.

We also get a nice look at Puss's childhood and his friendship with fellow orphan Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Humpty has an unhealthy obsession with magic beans (leading to, of course, a giant's castle in the sky and a goose who lays golden eggs). Everything's peachy until Puss decides he no longer wants to live a life of crime, a betrayal his BFF Humpty deeply resents. This is where James Bond territory comes into play -- for some reason I kept thinking of Blofeld from the Bond films, particularly from the Sean Connery era. Humpty just seemed to be channeling Blofeld's petulance. *wink*

The best addition to this universe is the character of Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek (remind you of anyone from Goldfinger?). Kitty is the perfect foil for Puss; she can do everything he does only often faster and stealthier (she's learned to leverage her tragic past that saw her declawed to her advantage). Banderas and Hayek's give-and-take chemistry takes more than a page from Zorro's romantic history, and oddly enough also reminds me of the Depp/Cruz pairing in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film earlier this year.

The first Shrek film was groundbreaking animation-wise, and this film improves on its predecessor. The action sequences are really well-done, the attention to detail is superb, and the CATS ARE FRIGGIN' AWESOME. By far my favorite scene is in the underground cat club where Puss confronts Kitty -- the (G)litter Club, where the cats play instruments, indulge in decadent leche, and have dance-offs. The "litter box" dance moves were hilarious! I think there's an extra level of humor for "cat people" to appreciate in a movie like this, because the mannerisms, the little quirks of Puss's personality all speak of studying cats and nailing their personality traits.

Cute, funny, and entertaining, Puss in Boots is a must-see for all fans of fractured fairy tales, Shrek, and the like. Banderas, to his credit, really seems to relish bringing this character to life and playing with his image as a "Latin lover" -- and the results are never better or funnier as what this film delivers. Fun times. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grimm 1.4: "Lonelyhearts"

Grimm's fourth episode was, I think, one of the best yet -- a great mix of police procedural and a wonderfully creepy way of reimagining a traditional story in a 21st century setting.  Lonelyhearts is based on the "Bluebeard" story, and to this show's everlasting credit I never imagined this twist on the Bluebeard legend. Instead of a woman discovering that a horrible secret about her husband (namely a hidden cache of dead previous wives -- yikes), here Bluebeard is turned into a predatory lech.

The bluebeard Nick (David Giuntoli) encounters is a Ziegevolk, basically a human goat who releases pheromones that blind people to their true nature. This is especially -- and CREEPILY -- handy when it comes to attracting women for "breeding purposes." This conceit marries the predator storyline that is a staple of crime shows (and, unfortunately, the news) with a really well done fantasy twist. That is what makes this show work so brilliantly -- how it takes the stories we know and replaces the historical trappings of the tales with modern accouterments so the dangers are perhaps not quite so easily recognized.

This episode really gave a chance for the spotlight to shine on Nick and Hank's partnership. Hank (Russell Hornsby) has been somewhat sidelined during the first three episodes, as the show has needed to establish Nick as a "Grimm" and his introduction to his family's calling. We got a good look at the Nick and Hank partnership -- the two have a very promising buddy chemistry thing going on, looking forward to seeing how that develops over the course of the season. When the two go to interview the SO NICE HE'S DISGUSTING AND CREEPY innkeeper Billy (Patrick Fischler), prior to Billy's reveal as a bluebeard he and Hank touch -- so his hormone superpowers immediately mellow Hank's perception of him (at least while the two are in close vicinity of each other). Later in the investigation Hank succumbs to the gases Billy uses to keep his female captives compliant -- so when he's rescued by Nick, you can tell that Hank is extra committed to bringing Billy to justice. The case is personal and it shows, which I liked seeing play out on-screen.

Back to Nick, who seems to be growing used to his new "Grimm vision" -- so much so that when he catches Billy morphing into a goat he's actually exasperated. I love how Giuntoli gives off an almost palpable aggravation in the scene, as if he wants to yell "can't I solve a normal crime for once?" *wink* And how much fun was it discovering Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) the big bad wolf plays the CELLO? Eddie is a mass of contradictions and I LOVE it. He talks a lot about being annoyed with Nick but each week he seems to relish more and more working with his family's sworn enemy, a GRIMM.

In addition to the bluebeard storyline, this episode hinted at the dangers to come for Nick as a "Reaper of the Grimms" arrived in town to avenge one of their brothers -- the reaper Nick killed in episode one while defending his aunt. Apparently reapers are troll-type creatures -- and the reaper who came after Nick in this episode (played by Henri Lubatti) broke MAJOR creature protocol. Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) clearly has authority and pull -- but the question is, who is he exactly? And what sort of game is he running, because by calling off the reaper (the ear cutting scene was so creepy!) it could be read as a suggestion that he's protecting Nick.  Enquiring minds want to know, NBC! :)

The atmosphere and pacing of this episode were, as is quickly becoming the norm for this show, pretty stellar. I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)

Programming note: Grimm is off this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but returns with two brand-new episodes next week -- on Thursday 12/8/11 we'll get an episode entitled Danse Macabre, and on Friday 12/9/11 Grimm returns to its normal timeslot with The Three Bad Wolves.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lord of the Rings - 1944 version

Yes, really. This is amazing! A Lord of the Rings/classic film mash-up? Yes please -- lots of fun. :) Bogie as Frodo, Peter Lorre as Gollum, Marlene Dietrich as Galadriel, to name a few...

Grimm 1.3: "BeeWare"

Grimm's third episode, BeeWare, draws its inspiration from a more obscure Grimm story ("The Queen Bee") and interestingly enough a 1955 Joan Crawford film, from which the show borrowed its opening quote -- "She'll sting you one day. Oh, ever so gently, so you hardly even feel it. 'Til you fall dead." It was a bold move, in my opinion, to delve into more obscure Brothers Grimm territory in only the show's third episode -- but the resulting product more than compensated for any doubts I may have had by delivering a wonderfully intriguing, deliciously creepy hour.

The episode opens with a group of presumed strangers boarding a streetcar, where the lamest flash mob I've ever seen on film breaks into a rousing rendition o the "YMCA." When the dance is over, a well-dressed professional woman lies dead with a large puncture wound in her neck, all signs pointing to anaphylactic shock. An autopsy finds ridiculously high levels of bee venom in her blood -- the only questions remaining, how was it administered and who wanted her dead? The victim, a lawyer for a prominent local firm, was working on a case that shut down a "family-owned" paper mill company. While Hank (Russell Hornsby) and Nick (David Giuntoli) interview the flash mob witness pool, one of the members -- who all suspiciously have the same story (lemmings, much?) -- is so edgy he can no longer hide his identity and morphs into a giant bee-like insect.

What's fascinating to watch play out in this episode is the relation of the bees to Nick and their role in the Grimm universe. Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) explains that the bees are mellifers, messengers in the world of fantastical creatures that Nick is now seeing every where he turns. The mellifers only have one natural enemy -- the hexenbiests. This raises an interesting question -- why are all three hexenbiests in this episode lawyers? Is that their only job in the "real" world? The mellifer/hexenbiest animosity also raise a VERY interesting dilemma for Nick, one I hope and expect will play an ever larger role in his life now that he's aware of his calling as a "Grimm." As his aunt instructed him in the first two episodes of the series, he's supposed to hunt down the bad creatures -- but what happens when creature on creature "warfare" counters the law Nick as a police officer has sworn to uphold?

This concern comes into play when Nick discovers that the final lawyer who worked on the paper mill case is Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), the hexenbiest who attempted to kill his aunt in episode one. In the short amount of time he's been aware of his Grimm powers, Nick's come to realize that hexenbiests aren't creatures to feel any sympathy for -- but his job calls for him to protect Adalind, in spite of the fact that the mellifers are actually on his side. The scene where she baits him with this knowledge, essentially blackmailing him into protecting her, contains a nice amount of tension -- especially since Nick isn't well-versed enough in the Grimm world to know or understand what the mellifers are trying to warn him about/protect him from.

Speaking of Adalind, I am more curious than ever about the hexenbiests' relationship with Nick's boss, police Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz). If Renard is wholly invested in the fairy tale world, why hasn't he made a move against Nick? Is he hoping to turn him, running a bigger game, or is something else at stake, a secret that has yet to be revealed? Theories? :)

The buddy chemistry between Nick and Monroe is a highlight of this episode. Mitchell is just hilarious and I'm loving his very dry sense of humor. It was especially funny to see the "dog jokes" play out, as Nick bribes Monroe to employ his blutbad sense of smell with a bottle of Bordeaux. Monroe's all offended until he realizes he has something to gain. *wink* I'm really getting curious about his backstory -- for someone who comes from a long line of Grimm haters, one gets the feeling he's really enjoying his "work" with Nick though he'd probably die before admitting it. It was also nice to see Nick's girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) have something more to do than just welcome Nick home -- she doctors Hank's bee stings and offers some veterinary insight into the habits of bees. It was a limited scene but a welcome expansion of her role.

Grimm has quickly become one of my favorite new shows of the fall season, all the more so because I didn't expect to like it as much as I do AT ALL. The fairy tale/police procedural mash-up is just genius so far in the show's run. The Oregon settings are lush and almost otherworldly at times, the perfect backdrop for fairy tale monsters to come to life. I am loving the excellence with which each episode is filmed and the shots are framed, very reminscent of film noir -- intense and absorbing but thus far not *too* creepy. :) But most of all, the cast is clicking unbelievably well -- especially Nick and Monroe. The humor sets the show apart, and coupled with an intoxicating, suspenseful atmosphere -- well, with fairy tales turned on their heads what's not to love?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disney reimagined, take two...

A couple of months ago I was introduced to the work of Claire Hummel, and her series of prints where she reimagines classic Dinsey princesses in accurate period costume. When I visited her shop today for the first time in several months, I was thrilled to discover that she has added three new prints to the Disney collection!

Rapunzel (Tangled), late Regency

Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), 1920s

Mulan (see artist's note)

I have purchased a few prints from Claire Hummel's shop and have been quite pleased with the quality and service -- this could be a fun Christmas gift idea for any Disney fans in your life. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Once Upon a Time 1.4: "The Price of Gold"

The Price of Gold was Once Upon a Time's most controversial episode yet! (Okay it could just be me, the last scene had me almost throwing something through the television.) But more on that in a bit. :) This episode introduces a real power player from Fairy Tale Land -- Cinderella (Jessy Schram). Fair disclosure: I have a very decided bias towards the "princess stories" when it comes to ranking fairy tales -- Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White are "the big three," if you will. To the show's credit the writers throw a major twist in Cinderella's story -- instead of being sent to the ball by a beloved fairy godmother, Cinderella makes a deal with the devil -- literally. After Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) basically blows up the fairy godmother, in her desperation to escape her life of drudgery Cinderella promises him anything if only he'll work magic in her favor.

Interestingly enough Rumplestiltskin actually tries to talk Cinderella out of this -- he reiterates one of the show's major themes -- that all magic comes with a price, the implication being that the price is too dear to pay. But Cinderella persists and foolishly signs a veritable "blank check" -- she'll give Rumplestiltskin whatever he wants, whenever he requests it. As the previews for this episode hinted, Rumplestiltskin demands her unborn child. This raises the question of whether or not the show will ever tell the "traditional" Rumplestiltskin story, where he teaches the maid to spin straw into gold in exchange for her baby -- demanding too many unborn kids is apt to get a little weird, no?

Back in Storybrooke, I LOVED how Cinderella's story translated into Ashley's, the single, pregnant maid desperate to better her life so she can provide for the child no one thinks she can handle -- the child her Fairy Tale father-in-law arranged to "give" to Mr. Gold. And given as how I've always thought the Prince (Tim Phillipps) -- in the Disney film, anyway -- never had much of a personality, seeing that in Storybrooke he allows his father to talk him out of stepping up and caring for his unborn child wasn't too much of a stretch. Considering Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) own past as regards children, it was a given that Ashley's plight and doubts were going to hit home with her. The impact Ashley has on Emma was a most welcome one, as it gave Morrison her best opportunity to date to show some real emotional investment in Storybrooke and its world. (But seriously, yes Emma really was stupid enough to give Mr. Gold another blank check promise... *sigh*)

As Henry (Jared Gilmore) points out, Emma is the only one who can come and go from Storybrooke at will because she wasn't cursed in Fairy Tale Land. I really liked how this hour played with this idea that Emma is transforming who she is and who she wants to be now that she's met Henry. It seems likely, given her strong response to Ashley's doubts regarding motherhood, that perhaps she was convinced that she "had" to give up her child for adoption -- and she's been running ever since, with no desire to put down permanent roots until Henry started to weave his way into her heart. Gilmore's performance is one of the best parts of the show -- Henry is precocious and earnest and funny and sarcastic in turn -- and really like his relationship with Emma. I'm DYING to know what code name he was going to give her -- I'm thinking it is a clue as to what her Fairy Tale identity would be. Thoughts?

Couple of other things -- I loved the fact that we got to see Cinderella and her prince interact with Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) in Fairy Tale Land. As a kid I used to wonder what it would be like if -- as seemed logical -- they all inhabited the same world. *wink* Kudos to Charming for showing himself to be a prince among princes -- I wasn't terribly impressed with Cinderella's prince, but to his credit he did come through in Storybrooke, which was sweet. :) And I also liked Ruby's (Meghan Ory) friendship with Ashley, as it added some welcome and much-needed depth to what to date has been a pretty shallow character.

And now onto the ISSUE I mentioned at the beginning of this post -- Regina (Lana Parrilla) and the Sheriff (Jamie Dornan) ARE HAVING AN AFFAIR??? WHAT THE HECK???? Does this completely blow my personally beloved theory that Sheriff Graham is the Queen's huntsman out of the water -- because I like to think that the huntsman who spared Snow White wouldn't be shacking up with the Evil Queen (blech!!). I DON'T WANT GRAHAM TO BE EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do he and the mayor have this thing going on because his memory's been wiped by the curse??? (I realize I'm grasping at straws here...) It's not that I'm entirely sold on him as a romantic possibility for Emma, either -- though he's all flirty and "will you come work for me blah blah blah" and now I learn he's sleeping with the enemy? NOT COOL, no not AT ALL.


This Sheriff development is very upsetting, people, very upsetting...

Off to go sulk now... *wink* Throw me some hope in the comments! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mirror, Mirror - first trailer!

Not to be outdone by Snow White and the Huntsman, the other Snow White retelling has debuted its first trailer:

Well that was different, hmm? I've gotta say, the Huntsman film is looking better by the second...but maybe this is jus ta really, really bad trailer that unintentionally makes Mirror, Mirror look like a made-for-TV SyFy movie? It certainly isn't doing Julia Roberts any favors. Thoughts?

Winner of Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing for a copy of the new short story collection Jane Austen Made Me Do It! There were eight entries in the drawing:

1. Anne Mateer
2. Kristin
3. Heather
4. Michelle
5. Carrie at In the Hammock Blog
6. Svea
7. cyn209
8. Megan

And the winner, chosen with the help of, is:

#6 Svea!!

Congratulations! An e-mail is on the way requesting ship information. Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing, and most of all thanks to Laurel Ann for sponsoring this contest and allowing me to help celebrate her book release!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman

The Bridegrooms
By: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah
ISBN: 978-1-60142-137-1

About the book:

Tragedy hit the Allenhouse family on a hot summer night in Ohio when a mother of four vanished. Eight-yeara-old Vada virtually grew up overnight and raised her three younger sisters while her father lost himself in his medical practice in the basement of their home.

Now Vada is a grown woman, still making her home with her father and sisters. Her days are spent serving as an errand girl for Cleveland's fledgling amateur orchestra; her evenings with Garrison Walker, her devoted, if seemingly passionless, beau.

Dizzying change occurs the day the Brooklyn Bridegrooms come to town to play the Cleveland Spiders and a line drive wallops the head of a spectator. The fan is whisked to the Allenhouse parlor, and questions swirl about the anonymous, unconscious man.

Suddenly, the subdued house is filled with visitors, from a flirtatious would-be sportswriter to the Bridegrooms' handsome star hitter to the guilt-ridden ballplayer who should have caught the stray shot. The medical case brings Dr. Allenhouse a frustration and helplessness he hasn't felt since his wife's disappearance. Vada's sisters are giddy at the bevy of possible suitors. And Vada's life is awakened amid the super-charged atmosphere of romantic opportunity.


Allison Pittman follows up Stealing Home, her first baseball-themed novel, with The Bridegrooms and the story of one week that changes the lives of the Allenhouse sisters forever. Left bereft of their mother’s care as children, when the woman chased the promise of excitement and romance with a handsome stranger, the girls and their loving, if prickly, father have made an art of survival. The eldest, Vada, has especially sacrificed much in order to step into her mother’s shoes at the tender age of eight – as the de facto mother figure, she has sacrificed a lifetime of girlish dreams in the name of responsibility. The arrival of a dashing star baseball player and a wounded spectator bring a bevy of heretofore unimagined romantic possibilities to the Allenhouse home, leaving Vada questioning her future. Is true romance the giddy feelings elicited by a handsome stranger, or the constant – if boring – faithfulness of a long-time local suitor? Startlingly different yet fully realized, Vada and her sisters only commonalities are blood and a desire to be loved for who they are. The journeys they take to realize the hope of romance are as varied as their personalities, and therein lies the charm and power of The Bridegrooms.

With The Bridegrooms, Pittman proves that her gift for rendering small town Americana and all its accompanying charm on the page is unparalleled. From the excitement surrounding an amateur orchestra’s performance to the thrill of a baseball game to sister Hazel’s involvement in the burgeoning women’s suffrage movement, Pittman captures the heartbeat of small town, turn-of-the-century life. I loved how Pittman explores the ramifications of the mother’s abandonment on her daughters' lives – this is not an issue I can recall seeing often explored in Christian historical fiction, and I applaud her for the raw honesty with which she explores the fallout vis-à-vis the daughters’ relationships with their father, each other, and how they view themselves. Each sister’s personality, hopes, and dreams are unique and well-drawn, bringing to life the mores and conventions of a forgotten era and reminding the reader with startling clarity that the more things change, the more one constant – human nature – remains predictably unpredictable.

The heart of the novel is an examination of romance and romantic ideals – it is perhaps ironic to find such an honest exploration of such in a story whose appeal lies largely in its nostalgic charm. Against a backdrop that a 21st-century reader such as myself is too often tempted to idealize, Pittman balances her charming depiction of the minutiae of the era with an unflinchingly honest look at four very different women and their heartbreakingly honest desire to love and be loved. Whether you see yourself in one or all of the Allenhouse sisters doesn’t matter, for each woman’s journey is a sheer delight to watch unfold. Youngest Lisette’s obsession with the trappings of status nearly blinds her to the true treasure of unfettered adoration, while Hazel’s good nature masks a fear of rejection that leaves her hiding behind letters, hoping her spirit will capture a man’s heart where she fears her looks fall short. Althea, silenced by her mother’s abandonment, is the steadiest and most loyal sister, but she must decide if her faith can speak louder than the fears that keep her silent.

And then there is the centerpiece of the novel – the gloriously conflicted Vada, caught between her dreams and her reality. Through Vada, Pittman reminds readers of the blunt truth of the fact that emotions can lie, and true romance is not simply a giddy feeling or a handsome face (that’s nice, not gonna lie), but a decision made anew every day and walked out in attitude and action. Vada’s beau Garrison may *seem* staid and boring, at first blush not fitting the ideal hero of a romance – but his faithfulness and loyalty will melt your heart. In each character’s story, Pittman reminds us that true romance SHOWS UP every day, no matter how one feels or is tempted to respond in a fit of pique. The love that each Allenhouse sister discovers during the tumultuous week the Brooklyn Bridegrooms come to town mirrors the faithfulness of a God who longs to meet us where we are and will catch us when we fall. Pittman’s tale is rich in nostalgia and timeless in the truths it reveals about our desire to be known and loved, and that love lies often where one least expects it – right in front of our eyes.


Suggested film pairings: In the Good Old Summertime and Take Me Out to the Ball Game -- but only if you like classic musicals. *wink*

Shadowed In Silk by Christine Lindsay

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shadowed In Silk
WhiteFire Publishing (September 1, 2011)
Christine Lindsay

Christine Lindsay writes historical Christian inspirational novels with strong love stories. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as the themes in her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK which is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India. SHADOWED IN SILK was the Gold winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical.

The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home. It’s a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids and grandkids come home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.


She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women...but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Shadowed In Silk, go HERE.

Watch the book video trailer:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grimm 1.2: "Bears Will Be Bears"

I'm happy to say that now that we're three episodes into Grimm, the show has continued to improve each week. This take on fairy tales is just COOL. :) Episode two, Bears Will Be Bears, picks up shortly after the end of the premiere episode -- Nick (David Giuntoli) is at the hospital being treated for a potentially fatal injection of spider venom -- an attack meant for his seriously ill Aunt Marie (Kate Burton). Poor Nick hasn't had a whole lot of time to wrap his head around the idea of seeing monsters every where he looks.

Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) pick up a DUI investigation at the station, where Gilda (Amy Gumenick) cops to a breaking and entering and begs their help to locate her missing boyfriend Rocky (Alexander Mendeluk). She claims that as the two were fleeing the house, she heard screams and animal-like cries. And so comes the introduction of this week's fairy tale -- a very effective modern adaptation of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," only this time the child character is transformed into Gilda, a free-wheeler out for a good time at the expense of the law. It fits really well, since I always felt Goldilocks was a bit off kilter in her insistence to try out everyone's food, chairs, and beds. Just sayin'... *wink*

The family whose home suffered through Gilda and Rocky's shenanigans are the Rabes, a well-to-do family with an interest in rare native artifacts, such as a bear claw-type weapon that Nick's seen before in Marie's trailer. The family patriarch is played by Currie Graham, a familiar face to viewers of everything from The Mentalist to Fairly Legal and everything in between. I thought it was fascinating that the moment their son loses control and Nick sees him in his true form -- that of a Jagerbar, humanoid bears with a deep respect for their cultural history, a history that is celebrated during the Roh-Hatz hunt, when young jagerbars transition from boys to men. The Roh-Hatz is an invention of the show, but connecting the bears with native cultures is a logical step that nicely brings Goldilocks' story into the 21st century.

Nick and Hank have a nice on-screen "buddy" chemistry, but by far my favorite aspect of the show is Nick's "unofficial" partner, the blutbad Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell). He is so freaking hilarious and the beauty of it is, one gets the feeling he's not even trying. He's just so wonderfully sarcastic. And the idea that "the big bad wolf" is a clockmaker and does pilates in his spare time -- well, it's a wonderful mass of contradictions but it plays against type, goes against Nick's (and viewers') expectations based on the wolf's role in the Grimm canon. I think it would be fun to have an episode at some point that focuses on Monroe's background and his family -- but until then, I'll take scenes like this episode provided, where he reluctantly agrees to Nick's request to protect Marie at the hospital, and then "gets a little carried away" (thug missing an arm? um...yeah...)

This episode saw Marie pass away (that woman had some SERIOUS moxie), but I wouldn't mind seeing her return in a flashback, perhaps as Nick revisits his childhood looking for clues to his identity as a Grimm and the true nature of his parents' deaths. I liked the revelation that there are other Grimms in the world that Marie didn't have contact with -- are these Nick's cousins or something? Would love to see Nick meet a fellow Grimm someday, especially if their approach to the "Grimm calling" is substantially different from his own.

Any theories about the fairy tale identity of Nick's boss, Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz)? I'm trying to decide if I think he's a canonical character or not -- if the former, he's definitely a big whig, calling the shots in attempting to control Nick and kill Marie. Could he be somehow related to Adalind (Claire Coffee), one of the hexenbiest witch women who seem to exist to do his bidding?

Thus far I'm really liking Nick's character and how he's handling his startling new ability. As Marie tells him shortly before her death, there's a reason he's a cop and a Grimm, the two callings dovetail nicely together. I expect his personal life will get even stickier now that Marie is gone -- he may be quick on the uptake, but this is a lot to take in. I really like his relationship with his girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), so I'm not looking forward to seeing that blow up, but I expect serious tension as the dangers against Nick escalate.  

I'll try to have my episode three post up soon, but until then I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've given Grimm a try!

Book Giveaway Reminder: Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Just a reminder, you have until midnight November 14, 2011 to enter to win a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose! Simply leave a comment on THIS POST. Winner will be announced November 15th. Good luck!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pan Am 1.7: "Truth or Dare"

Pan Am's seventh episode was an interesting mix, facing the racial tensions of the 1960s head-on through Laura's (Margot Robbie) eyes, while underscoring the fact that these characters -- in this case the stewardesses -- continue to LOSE THEIR FRIGGIN' MINDS when it comes to men. *sigh*

We're at the point in the show where supporting characters make welcome second appearances -- in this case, Mike the reporter (Colin Donnell) who was charmed by Maggie (Christina Ricci) on the Berlin flight. That was an unexpected but welcome moment of continuity in a freshman drama. Apparently they have a little somethin' somethin' going on -- and I've gotta say given Maggie's rather bohemian, free-wheeling character I am not really surprised. :P In Maggie's case, such shenanigans make some sense -- when it comes to the Cameron sisters, however, that's another story (or so I thought based on their introduction). But given the fact that apparently a current show *has* to have characters sleep around to be relevant/edgy/whatever, I shouldn't be surprised, right? I'm glad this show doesn't stray into terribly explicit territory -- but the lack of relational morals, I guess you could say, is a frustration in a show that otherwise I've really grown to love over the last few weeks. (Rant over.)

Since Laura moved in with Maggie, it's apparent she's become something of a wild child, getting completely sloshed at a debriefing party where the guests of honor are the last flight's passengers -- a group of sailors very, VERY happy to be on leave. In a brief flashback to the beginning of the flight, the girls are playing truth or dare, and Laura reveals she posed nude for the photographer assigned to do a magazine story on Pan Am stewardesses. (Seriously, HOW STUPID IS THIS WOMAN?? Like these pics are not going to back to haunt her -- what a DUMMY!) Laura's this weird mix of wildness and naivete -- the latter particularly evident in her interactions with Joe (Gaius Charles), the lone black sailor on the flight. The two made a connection, but Laura's not quite at ease because of his race. She doesn't confront her feelings until Joe is beaten up just for being seen in public with her. This is a huge wake-up call for Laura, and probably her best moment on the show -- until she decides he should be her "first." Girl, you've known him for ALL OF TWO DAYS. Does no woman on this show worry about getting pregnant? That aside, Joe was a real charmer, and I wouldn't mind seeing him make a return appearance.

Meanwhile, Kate's (Kelli Garner) relationship with her Yugoslavian boyfriend Niko (Goran Visnjic) is about to go completely south. When she learns that he's about to leave for home, worried for his safety she calls Richard (Jeremy Davidson) for help. When he sends the CIA to her apartment in an effort to forcibly turn him into a US asset, Kate is horrified (they drag him out wearing a HOOD! oh the drama!). The Kate and Niko storyline is pure soap opera but gosh I have to admit that that in this episode I loved it. She's the frustrated but noble idealist, he's the wounded lover facing near-certain death...the type of drama (tinged with big implications -- personal turmoil highlighting larger political issues of the time) this show does really fairly well. I look forward to Visnjic's return to the show, should Pan Am continue to find its legs ratings-wise.

Besides the spy storyline, my favorite moment of this episode came courtesy of Colette (Karine Vanasse) and Dean (Mike Vogel). After (hopefully) coming to his senses regarding Ginny, Dean and Colette share a really sweet moment during the sailors' flight. During the truth-or-dare game, Colette revealed that she's always dreamed of flying -- and later during a shared moment alone together in the cockpit, Dean lets Colette take Ted's (Michael Mosley) seat and turns the controls over to the co-pilot's control. The look on Colette's face is just priceless -- Dean needs to realize what a gem she is ASAP. Thus far, Colette is by far my favorite of the stewardesses. Vanasse is a terrific actress, able to convey such depth of emotion with a simple look or half smile, and character-wise Colette seems the -- wisest, perhaps is the word I'm looking for.

Going forward, I would really love more Colette centered stories -- she really hasn't been featured since the Berlin episode. Plus, she has the potential to redeem Dean in my eyes from the whole Ginny mess. :P I also really want to see Ted's character featured more prominently -- he's rather been in the background since the Rangoon episode. It's interesting that I felt Laura made Ted more responsible, etc., while she's gotten wilder as the show has progressed. Also -- now that Kate's had her heart broken and woken up to the harsh realities of spying, I hope she'll be given missions with greater stakes -- and that she'll handle them with some aplomb. The Niko relationship has accelerated her maturation, a bit too fast perhaps, but nonetheless needed in the long-term. Looking forward to the show's next flight! :)

The Song of Lunch on Masterpiece

This Sunday Masterpiece Contemporary premieres The Song of Lunch, starring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. I have it on good authority (hi Lori!) that this is a pretty good program -- any thoughts? Here's a bit about the story:
When a middling copy editor/failed poet meets his former lover for lunch 15 years after their affair, he finds that everything — and nothing — has changed. From the tablecloths to the wine to his former lover, wealth and success now gloss the surface where kitsch and passion once held sway. He is bitter, petulant and increasingly inebriated; she is glamorous, generous, and eventually provoked. A dramatization of Christopher Reid's acclaimed narrative poem, The Song of Lunch stars Alan Rickman (Harry Potter films) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, film version) in the unnamed roles of He and She. Waiter, I'll take the nostalgia special with a side of recrimination and finish with regret, for a lunch that celebrates love and ambition with poignancy, humor, and affection.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Snow White and the Huntsman - 1st trailer!

Any excuse to post this nice shiny new Chris Hemsworth poster for Snow White & the Huntsman is a good one, right? *wink*

The first trailer for the June 2012 release debuted on Apple today -- I can't find an embeddable version yet, so click through to watch the trailer on Apple.

Half Lord of the Rings, half Alice in Wonderland 2010, my first take is dark, edgy, but potentially pretty awesome. And Charlize Theron is ROCKING the Evil Queen thing! Needless to say, I'm now a tick more interested in this film than I was when I first posted about the two upcoming Snow White films last month.

just because...

...I just found this picture. So of course I had to share. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview with Jennifer Morrison

I ran across an interview TV Line did with Once Upon a Time star Jennifer Morrison. In the interview, she discusses the upcoming appearance of Cinderella, Emma's relationship with Mary Margaret, the winter finale, and the reveal of the true identity of the Sheriff (please be the Huntsman, please, please, PLEASE!!). Check it out below:

James Lester's Sardonic Witticisms

No matter how up-and-down Primeval episodes may be, one thing has remained constant -- Lester's (Ben Miller) snarky comments. I love him. :) Check out this compilation of his top five witticisms from the new season of Primeval, starting Saturday!

Pan Am 1.6: "The Genuine Article"

I'm finally getting caught up on episodes of Pan Am, go me! *wink* This week took the crew to Rio sans Kate (Kelli Garner), who was unexpectedly sidelined by her CIA handler Richard (Jeremy Davidson). The fallout from her liason with the handsome Yugoslavian diplomat Niko (Goran Visnjic) is about to get more difficult than she ever expected -- no longer the means to an end, Niko is her new target. And since their romance quickly heated up, Kate's about to discover just how difficult it is juggling her spy life when her heart is deeply and unexpectedly involved.

I'm probably just projecting here (HA!), but I sort of felt like Richard was a bit exasperated with Kate for getting involved with Niko. While I felt like the previous episode's "twist," where Kate slept with Niko on their first "date" was completely unnecessary and out of character (to date), Garner makes it obvious that Kate has fallen and fallen hard for the handsome diplomat. And who wouldn't? When Visnjic delivers that line at the amusement park about his thoughts being "full of her" I could've died. Too perfect. *swoon* And he tops that off by revealing his anti-communist stance -- beliefs that could cost him his freedom at the very least under Tito's regime, well I for one can't blame Kate for falling in love with a potential political martyr. Just sayin'. I'm really looking forwad to seeing how he responds to the revelation that Kate is a spy -- because even though he didn't start out as her target, he's going to assume she's been manipulating him the entire time, surely. The plucky Kate is, I think, about to discover a very personal cost to her spying larks...

Speaking of people acting out of character, it was refreshing to see Dean (Mike Vogel) start to get fed up with Ginny's (Erin Cummings) shenanigans, especially when she has no qualms about playing her lovers against each other -- a fact that Dean doesn't appreciate considering his competition, Mr. Henson (Scott Cohen), is a Pan Am VP. Dean's fling with Ginny has caused me to lose a lot of respect for the character -- she seems like such a FLAKE. And seriously, why is Dean even giving Ginny the time of day when Colette (Karine Vanasse) is around?? Colette is so much classier, and the concerned/wounded looks she casts Dean's way when watching Ginny play her little games just KILLED me. Unfortunately for Dean, his brush with fire is apt to have major consequences...

The Rio trip highlighted Maggie's (Christina Ricci) backstory, and we finally get to see what makes the most unconventional member of the crew tick. Maggie's penchant for flouting convention and authority finally catch up with her prior to this trip, as she's called on the carpet by the Pan Am brass for insubordination. With the job she perhaps didn't realize she valued so much at risk, it is revealed through flashback that Maggie got to where she is today through a lot of fast talk and charm and outright lying -- basically, doing whatever needed to be done to achieve her desired end result. Every time she's been caught in a lie or a situation she didn't want anymore, she simply moved on -- but her job as a stewardess is where she draws the proverbial line in the sand, much to her surprise.

While shopping in Rio Maggie and Laura (Margot Robbie) are hauled in to a police station for questioning after (on Laura's part, unwittingly) purchasing stolen goods. All of Laura's illusions about her erstwhile mentor and friend come crashing down as a stressed-out Maggie reveals (some of) her transgressions. It's a very telling moment for Maggie when, after the girls are "rescued" by Ted (Michael Mosley), she tearfully thanks him for "always showing up" -- a trait she sees lacking in herself? In her desperation to keep her job, Maggie turns in information Mr. Henson about Ginny, his mistress/secretary, and Dean -- and it is glaringly clear she's not proud of herself, perhaps for the first time realizing that she doesn't really like who she's allowed herself to become. I cannot WAIT to see the fallout from this for both Dean and Maggie in future episodes!

The Monte Carlo episode frustrated me because the hookups seemed like a cheap ratings ploy, out of character and out of step with the time period and tone of the show thus far. However, I will say that I like the fact that this episode appears to indicate that the show is going to explore the consequences and emotional toll of the aforementioned hookups -- something many (most?) dramas seem to dismiss as irrelevant.

Thoughts? :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Once Upon a Time 1.3: "Snow Falls"

I rather feel like I'm going out on a limb here, but what the heck -- Snow Falls is my favorite episode of Once Upon a Time yet. In the interest of full disclosure, it's highly possible I rank this episode so highly because I am a romantic sap. This episode just worked for me on all levels, plus it gave me the first real hope I've had since the show began that it could continue a successful season(s?) run beyond what initally felt like a six hour or so miniseries-length premise.

This episode reveals how Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) met, and to the show's everlasting credit I was really and truly pleasantly surprised by the set up. In Fairy Tale Land the Prince was on the verge of proposing marriage to a snotty blonde (Anastasia Griffith), part of a distasteful but necessary political alliance. Their coach is robbed and a pouch of jewels stolen -- most importantly his mother's ring. Shockingly the thief turns out to be Snow White, who is apparently living a rather Robin Hood-esque existence in the woods as the Queen's (Lana Parrilla) most wanted. To say that sparks fly when the two meet would be an understatement -- and the Prince is anything but "charming" (I really liked how Snow bestowed that moniker on him just to irritate him!), and Snow is far from the ladylike princess of legend.

Cut to the real world for a moment -- in Storybrooke we see just how much Mary Margaret wants a happy ending (even if, thanks to the curse, she doesn't fully believe in the possibility) as she ends a disastrous first date with a local doctor. Henry (Jared Gilmore) takes a particular interest in Mary Margaret's happiness (as any good grandson should, right? LOL). He theorizes that if she reads Snow White and Prince Charming's story to the John Doe in the hospital, he'll remember who Mary really is and wake from his years-long coma. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) convinces Mary Margaret to play along, sure Henry's plan will backfire. When John Doe responds to Mary's voice by grasping her hand, both Mary and Emma's shock is very well played -- one gets the feeling they are startign to suspect there's much more going on than they are willing to admit to.

As an actress, Goodwin is doing an extraordinarily good job of conveying Snow/Mary Margaret's emotions with simply a look. Snow is confident and self-sufficient, but not wholly unsusceptible to the Prince's presence -- and Mary Margaret just breaks my heart with her palpable longing to know and be known, to connect with that special someone. I loved how the simple act of John Doe grasping her hand drove Mary to find him when he wanders into the woods -- she's connected with him and though she doesn't fully understand why she's compelled to act. The way this episode played with the idea that these soul mates have an undeniable connection across time and space (sorry to delve into Doctor Who territory there for a sec -- HA!) was incredibly romantic. I am a diehard romantic, but the use of the "you found/saved me" lines (not to mention Mary employing the kiss story beat to wake John, in a nice reversal of the legend) in Fairy Tale Land and Storybrooke just killed me with their poignancy, especially since John Doe is completely out of the Storybrooke loop. Goodwin and Dallas have tremendous on-screen chemistry and look forward to seeing how their story plays out over the season.

While the John Doe wake-and-rescue storyline plays out in Storybrooke, we're treated to a lovely look at the Prince and Snow's adversarial introduction. When its played like this hour gives us, the whole "I like you but I'll die before admitting it" convention never gets old. First, when the Queen's huntsmen catch Snow while she's enroute with the Prince to retrieve his ring, he saves her -- once again revealing that the man has some mad fight skills, and for all I may find the occasional CGI shot in Fairy Tale Land lacking, the Prince's sword-wielding heroics are a WIN EVERY TIME. EVERY SINGLE TIME, PEOPLE! (I'm developing quite the thing for my man Josh Dallas, aren't I? HA!) Note to the writers -- any time the Prince fights an episode automatically gains tons of bonus points.

I love the way the show takes a very adversarial Snow White and Prince James/Charming and plays with the fairy tale ideal of love at first sight. In Fairy Tale Land, Snow and the Prince each take a turn saving each other's life. The first time, when the Prince stops the Queen's men from killing Snow, Goodwin lets her dawning attraction slowly blossom on Snow's face, only to have it crushed by the Prince's response of "let's get my stupid ring!" was so, so well-played. And when Snow later saves the Prince, the realization that there's something between them, something they don't understand but can't deny, is nicely reflected in their real world counterparts -- heart-breakingly so because John Doe is just awakening from a years-long coma. Making the Prince's erstwhile fiancee his real world wife is a terrific way of throwing a wrench in the Snow/Prince reunion. At this point I think it is possible they're not even really married -- but Mary Margaret's powerful reaction to "losing" John Doe just when they've "found" each other KILLED me, so it'll be interesting to see how the show navigates the snobby blond chick obstacle.

A few quick notes -- I liked having the Queen/Regina in the background for a change. I'm rather torn, though, on just how much Regina knows -- is she fully aware that her curse is dictating events in Storybrooke, or did the curse wipe her memory (as I suspected last week) and she's operating on some preset playbook? Regarding Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan), another favorite guy, this episode leaves me more convinced than ever that his fairy tale identity is that of the huntsman who spares Snow White. He's at the beck and call of Regina but doesn't seem entirely at ease with her orders -- thoughts? It was a hilarious touch seeing two of the seven dwarves -- Grumpy/Leroy (Lee Arenberg) and Sleepy/Walter (Faustino Di Bauda) -- make brief appearances as hospital security guards. And Gilmore as Henry is in a fair way to delivering one of my favorite child actor performances. I love his earnestness, his pure faith in the fairy tales and this never say die attitude he has to his whole situation.

So fellow Once fans, chime in with your thoughts as I'd love to discuss this episode! :)