Sunday, July 19, 2015

Series: Summer Lovin' - Week 5

Welcome back from Summer Lovin' hiatus, everyone! It's been a crazy busy few months here at Just About Write between Comic-Con, new writers, and holidays. But we have returned with your favorite summer-themed series, ready to tell you all about what we've fallen in love with this week. So without any further adieu, let's get to it!

Joining me in my adventures this week are:

Dive in with us, please. :)

What Jenn's lovin': Paper Towns by John Green

Why she's lovin' it: When I was in high school, my circle of friends was basically a giant book-sharing one. We passed around novels we thought were interesting or compelling, so much that during any given time, one of us had someone else's book. One of the books that we passed around back then was John Green's Paper Towns. We loved it because it was a compelling story about a young, idealistic, hopeless romantic named Quentin and the object of his affection -- the elusive and mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman. But we really loved it because it was set in Orlando. We knew the places Q and Margo traveled. We recognized the names of the buildings downtown and the roads they drove on. We felt an intimate sense of connection to the novel that we didn't feel to most because we felt like we were actually on the journey with Q and Ben and Radar.

Flash-forward almost ten years later and I'm re-reading Paper Towns in order to prepare for the release of the feature film next week. Honestly, I'm getting the exact same sense of joy and happiness from re-reading it as I did the first time all of those years ago. John Green has a way of describing youth and adventures in a way that resonates with even my 26-year old self. I love that even though I know how the book ends, I'm still engaged in the story. That's what makes a great novel and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie once it is released!

What Lynnie's lovin': Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Chloe Bennet

Why she's lovin' it: I’m an action junkie. This is not a secret. What is perhaps not as wildly known is that I love action sequences that are heavily weighted in realism. Think Taken. Every hit means something; no movement is wasted. So color me surprised, intrigued, and all gooey inside when I’m sitting there catching up to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and see Chloe Bennet go full BAMF in episode 19 of season two. She’s out to rescue her friend and potential love interest, Lincoln, and homegirl does not hold back.

I love that it’s a gunfight, instead of the typical hand-to-hand combat you see everywhere, and not the static, ‘crouch behind boxes and pop up occasionally to shoot my gun’ sequence. She moves with the temperature of the room, reacting to the H.Y.D.R.A. agents’ assaults fluidly, sometimes missing the mark but always staying on point. It’s brutal and messy and makes you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of a video game. I haven’t seen another gunfight like it. Ever. It’s Kung-Fu meets pistol play in an epic smack down that Chloe Bennet handily owns. I can’t believe it lasts only forty seconds.

The rest of the season is good, too, but, seriously… Best. Fight. Ever. I fell in love a little. Chloe Bennet is now officially my forever TV wife.

What Hope's lovin': Masterpiece's Poldark

Why she's lovin' it: Allow me to geek out for, say, 500 words or so. I was enthralled with this series within a matter of minutes, and that’s why it’s my pick this week. I LOVE history, so this show is basically my television comfort food. It has gorgeous sets and landscapes, and the cinematography is so well done. Visually, it’s stunning. Poldark isn’t all scenery, costumes, and soaring soundtracks, though. The storyline moves along quickly, with plot twists, all-out fights, and a duel. There’s a wonderful balance of darkness and light, of drama and those quiet, pensive moments you’d expect from the genre. The only downside is the storyline moves along so quickly that within the span of the first four episodes, a year or so has passed.

The series revolves around a Revolutionary War soldier who returns home to England after the war as a changed person. He inherits a mess of an estate and mine, and constantly battles his society’s ideals about class and, as a result, others’ opinions of him. He’s a very stubborn, brooding character (so much brooding) with a strong sense of loyalty and justice for those who work for and depend on him, which makes his character so likable. He supports his cousin Verity’s decisions and defends her right to have a say in her life, which is awesome for the era. The cast of characters are rounded out very well, including an awkward and strong-willed kitchen maid; a grumpy pair of servants; scheming bankers; an indecisive ex; a whole array of all your typical 18th century mining common-folk and wig-wearing, parasol-toting elite. I say “typical,” but truly, none of the characters are flat.

One thing I really appreciate about this series is how much it shows and doesn’t tell. So much is explained to the audience in silent moments and by actions; and in writing, actions do almost always speak louder than words. Within the first fifteen minutes of episode one, there was so much more character development than a lot of shows can manage in their first few episodes. This has so much to do with the acting, the camerawork, and the dialogue, the latter of which walked on the right side of that line between giving us the information we initially needed and becoming clunky with exposition. The characters are so silently fleshed out that even in the pilot, you can already understand how each one thinks and typically reacts.

If you love history, or just enjoy a good period drama, definitely check this one out – at the very least, the pilot. This season is halfway over, but it looks like season two is in the pipeline. It’s based off a fourteen-book-long series (I haven’t read them), so if ratings go well in the UK and Masterpiece is happy with it, this could potentially be with us for a while. You can catch it on PBS on Sundays at 9 PM EST (no commercial breaks for the win!), and you can find previous episodes on PBS’s website/app and iTunes.

What Lizzie's lovin': Re-watching Gilmore Girls

Why she's lovin' it: You know how everyone has a comfort food? That one thing that makes them feel better when they’re down. Be it ice cream, chocolate, pizza or just fried stuff in general, everyone has one: the go-to after a bad day at work, or a fight with a significant other. Well, if the term comfort-TV existed (I’ve looked this up, and since it apparently doesn’t; I think we should seriously consider starting a campaign to make it a thing), then Gilmore Girls would definitively be my comfort TV.

Maybe it was the food itself. Gilmore Girls was the show of my teenage years, and having these role models that not only didn’t diet, but that could have lengthy conversations about the food they were going to devour was a very freeing thing for 16-year old me. Pigging out was okay! The Gilmore girls did it! Diet? Ha! Lorelai would laugh.Or maybe it was the setting. We’ve all wanted to live in a town like Stars Hollow, even if we’d probably hate it if we actually lived in such a place. (Reality has a way of never measuring up to your dreams)

Perhaps it’s none of those things. Maybe it’s just that Rory Gilmore made it okay to be the girl who studied, the girl who read tons of books. The girl who waited to have a boyfriend. Or that Lorelai Gilmore was essentially the mom we all wanted to have and now aspire to be.

Or all of those things combined. Or Luke, and Jesse, and even Dean giving us unfair expectations about love. (Fine, mostly Luke.)

Point is, after an exhausting week, Gilmore Girls is the thing that makes it all better. The one place where I forget everything. Most of the time I don’t even need the food, just the distraction of knowing that in Stars Hollow, Emily Gilmore will still require Friday night dinners, Lorelai will still demand her breakfast served with the eggs on the side so they’re not ogling here, and Rory will still be drinking much more coffee than a growing teenager should.

And thanks to Netflix, it’s all there, just waiting for me. I can just sit down and enjoy. In fact, I’ve long suspected Netflix was made by a lazy person for the benefit of other lazy persons because I don’t even have to press a button; its default setting seems to be this-person-wants-to-continue-watching instead of this-person-wants-to-go-outside-and-see-the-sun.

Comfort. It comes in many ways, shapes or forms. For me, it comes in a Gilmore Girls-sized package. Try it. I promise it’s even better than the ice cream! (And probably better for our waistlines.)

What Ashley's lovin': The Astronaut Wives Club

Why she's lovin' it: I honestly can’t stop talking about how much I love The Astronaut Wives Club. It’s basically Desperate Housewives meets Mad Men, which makes the perfect combination for a summer show – with the overall theme of female empowerment.

The series is based on Lily’s Koppel’s book of the same name, which is based on the true story of the original seven Mercury Astronauts and their wives. Actually, mostly on their wives (hence the name).
We’re introduced to seven amazingly different women when the series begins, and despite those differences, no one else in the world knows what they’re going though, so have to stick together. I mean, they are literally watching their husbands get launched into space and wondering if they’ll make it back in one piece. Add to that the invasive media coverage, since they’re allowing Life Magazine to cover their stories exclusively.

But the thing I love most about these women is that they are inspiring. For example, Annie Glenn has the guts to turn down a visit from the Vice President because she isn’t comfortable speaking on camera without knowing exactly what she’ll say. She has a stuttering problem, and being in the spotlight makes things that much more difficult for her. By the way, if you’re so inclined, you should Google her. Remember, these characters are all based on real people, and Annie Glenn went on to do some amazing things.

Then there’s Rene, who initially comes across as a bit of a trophy wife, but turns out to be fiercely motivated and independent. When she doesn’t like Life Magazine’s approach, she insists on writing her own article, which touches on some personal details I won’t say here so as not to spoil them. But that’s just the start. When Rene wants something, she goes after it full force. And she isn’t afraid to tell off powerful men when they deserve it.

As for the other wives, there’s Trudy, who really just wants to be an astronaut herself; Betty, who is sweet, funny, and loyal; Jo, who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind; Marge, who surprises everyone with stories of traveling overseas while single (remember, this is the 60s); and Louise, who, okay – she’s actually not all that likeable. But we’re still sympathetic to her story, as we are all to all of the women. These are also characters we’re inclined to invest in really quickly, even Louise, and even her not-so-fantastic husband, Alan. Aside from all that, the show stays true to history – not just with the details of the characters, but also with the astronauts' missions, civil rights, and so on. Heck, they even make sure the food is authentically 60s. They also splice in actual footage from the missions, which is pretty incredible.

Oh, and did I mention the clothes?! 1960s fashion at its very best, you guys.

Everything I’ve said so far seems pretty serious, but this is actually a light, fun show to watch. Sure, there may be the occasional “it looks like we may have lost an astronaut” moment, but there are also the women’s silly interactions with each other (as well as brutal honesty on how to dress) as they become closer friends.

Seriously, if you haven’t seen this show yet, go catch up!

What Megan's lovin': Very Good Girls

Why she's lovin' it: Gerri and Lilly have just graduated high school and after much consideration, the two girls make a pact to lose their virginities before heading off to college. After a day at the beach, the girls meet a guy selling ice cream. Gerri hits on him while Lilly stands idly by. As they leave, the young man snaps a shot of Lilly. Gerri becomes sort of enamored with the idea of this guy and tries to find him in any way she can. However, when she's walking home from work one day, she sees her picture pasted throughout her neighborhood asking where she lives. While Lilly's family goes through trials, David, the boy from the beach, comes in at just the right time and changes her world.

But it's a secret she has to keep from her best friend; the best friend that is also wanting to sleep with David. It's through this random guy found on the boardwalk that both girls deal with love, loss, death, friendship and family.

Okay, let me be real with you. I was off of the Dakota Fanning train. I was convinced that being in that big budget series about watered down vampires had stolen her quality acting from her. But this movie changed my opinion. I think she's back, guys, and it's totally exciting. Not only that do I think that, but there's also the absolutely stunning talent of one miss Elizabeth Olsen in this movie. I'm serious, you guys. I'm fully aboard her train and think that we're going to see some truly amazing roles from her. (If her sisters didn't design some amazing clothes, I would say she was the best Olsen, but she's close.) This movie also featured Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Clark Gregg, Richard Dreyfuss (if you don't love Mr. Holland's Opus, we can't be friends) and the person I wish I was when I was younger, Kiernan Shipka. It has a stellar cast and though slightly bizarre at times, I thought that it was refreshing among all the remakes and reboots. Wait, did I mention that it had amazing original music from the magnificent Jenny Lewis? Did I leave that out? Well, it's so perfect to each and every scene and I just love it so much. It adds a nice layer to the film itself.

Bonus Lovin': Masterpiece's Wuthering Heights. I couldn't make a decision and this was a close second. It's got Tom Hardy as the driven-mad-by-the-loss-of-his-true-love Heathcliff and it's the first time since Laurence Olivier that I believe it. I'm not a huge fan of this classic, but I really enjoyed this two-part miniseries.

What Chelsea's lovin': Amy Schumer's Trainwreck

Why she's lovin' it: It's been a slow movie season for me. Most of what I've seen this year I quickly forgot or wrote off as fun summer fluff. There's nothing wrong with those kinds of films but eventually you get burnt out on the same old things. Trainwreck written by and starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow rejuvenated summer movies and hit me this weekend in a way most films haven't. Like the majority of the films I watch, I went into this one having only seen whatever trailer they throw in front of my It's Grace videos on YouTube. Being a fan of Schumer's TV show though, my hopes were pretty high. The romantic-comedy had me laughing tears of hilarity and feels, and I immediately regretted finishing my 44oz drink 10 minutes into the film.

The film follows writer and commitaphobe Amy Townsend whose father taught her at a young age that "Monogamy isn't realistic": a mantra she has kept with her throughout her whole life. Amy is perfectly fine not dating and we get to explore several of her sexual encounters, including the closest thing she has to a relationship with John Cena's hilarious Steven. Their awkward sex scene is one for the books. When she is assigned to write an article about sports doctor Aaron Connors, the two get drunk and hook up, resulting in Amy breaking her no sleepover rule. Aaron wants to immediately call her his girlfriend while Amy tries to shut him down. She finally relents when Aaron gives her dad stitches and charms her in the process.

What I love the most about this film is how realistic Schumer portrays this woman. We don't have the Type-A Heigl that Apatow gave us in Knocked Up but this strong, smart woman who knows what she wants but can also be a hot mess. There's no slut-shaming or demonizing her because she drinks and sleeps around. You cheer for her in the beginning and love it when she breaks a guy's heart. When she does fall for a man and decide to try a relationship, you believe that she's doing this for herself and not just to drive a story plot point. And if none of this interests you, then go for Tilda Swinton. Her presence in a raunchy comedy is something I never knew I needed. And we get the oddest We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion with her and Ezra Miller.

What Jen's lovin': Rookie Blue & Missy Peregrym

Why she's lovin' it: Rookie Blue is one of my favorite summer series. I'm in the middle of a speed-binge to catch up on season six. Well, as speedy as one can be in 42 minutes of required viewing. I classify Rookie Blue as a procedural because they follow the "case of the week" format. However, there are overarching storylines carrying throughout the seasons. I'm three episodes into season six and Rookie Blue still continues to do what it does best -- provide fun, fast-paced storylines, with an occasional scary moment tossed in for good measure.

Two things anchor Rookie Blue -- the cops' friendships:

and Sam and Andy's love story:

I'm pressing pause on season six, mainly because I need to talk about Missy Peregrym. Missy plays the lead in Rookie Blue -- Andy McNally. Andy is a girl's girl. She's funny, smart, brave, loyal and a little goofy. She's slightly anally retentive, but as a Type-A gal myself, I consider that to be a positive. She's spectacularly gorgeous and has, in my opinion, the perfect body. Andy is someone you can admire, but still have a beer with -- like I said: a girl's girl.

Andy and Sam are Rookie Blue's epic love story. Over the course of six seasons they've gone through various stages of will they/won't they. We're in a serious "they will" upswing in this season, but the series decided to toss fans a curve ball. During one of their "they won't" phases, Sam dated Marlo... who is now pregnant with his child. Obviously, this complicates things for Andy and Sam. Sam is committed to Andy and raising his child with Marlo. He believes he can do both.

Andy is more conflicted. She has no idea how to that. Should she bow out? Maybe Sam should be with Marlo. The source of Andy's pain boils down to this -- the man she loves and wants to build a life with is having a baby. And it's not with her.

Missy took this material and ran with it. She's turning in a tour de force performance this season. The shock and devastation when Sam told her the news was gut-wrenching. Words were not possible. Andy simply waved Sam away, gasping for air, as she said: "I just need a second. Or a day... or three." Or when Sam told Andy the baby was a girl. Missy shifted from shock, to surprise, to joy, to sadness in almost effortless beats. Smiles and excitement were intermixed with tears and pain. Ultimately, Andy exhales and says: "You're going to have a daughter. She's going to adore you." Emphasis on you.

No matter how close she is, Andy still feels separate from Sam and his experience. Those emotions are complicated, but Missy translates them on screen so simply. The audience can understand every emotion Andy is feeling because Missy makes her so relatable. The real clincher, and I'm talking Emmy-worthy, was the truck scene. Sam's truck is sacred ground for the "McSwarek" love story. Many important moments have occured in the truck or by the truck. But the scene in "Perfect Family" is probably the most important truck scene... ever.

Sam is gutted that he can't give Andy a "perfect" family. The case of the week featured a nuclear family that, behind close doors, was anything but perfect. Rookie Blue played it a little heavy-handed, but the essential point was this: the makeup of a family doesn't make it perfect -- the love within a family does.

Andy: Did I want to be the woman to make you a father? Yes. And when you saw your child, did I want you to see a mixture of me and you in the perfect little human being? Yeah. But just because this isn't what I pictured it doesn't mean I fold. Okay? I have no idea how to do this. And I know it's not going to be easy. But what I can say is that... I love you. And I will show up. And we're gonna figure this out. I promise you there's not going to be a day where that child does not feel wanted or loved by me.
What else is there to say? That's love. That's family. If you are ever curious how you get to forever with someone -- that's how. You don't need to know how to handle everything. You just need to show up. It's funny. This may not be Andy's child, but she just exemplified everything a mother is and should be. Missy so encompasses Andy you could feel the depth of her pain and loss of her "imagined" happy ending in equal measure to her love for Sam. This new family was one she didn't imagine, but accepted with her whole heart. The words were beautiful, but Missy gives them life.

Watch the scene. Bring some tissues. Then binge Rookie Blue. You can thank me later.

What Laura's lovin': NBC's Parenthood

Why she's lovin' it: Usually when I decide to watch a show, be it live or on Netflix, it’s completely Twitter’s fault. I see people on my timeline talking about a particular show, character, or actor and know that I must someday see what all the hype is about. More often than not it takes me a while to get around to watching whatever show it is that’s caught my attention but I almost never regret it when I finally do give into the persuasive powers of Twitter. All of this is to say that when the final season of Parenthood started airing on NBC and tweets started coming in fast about it, I realized that I had been missing out on something truly special. With the finale having aired, one that everyone championed as one of the best finales ever, I finally decided to give it a chance. Just recently, I finished the series, even having gone out to buy season six so that I could see how it all ends, and like usual I was not disappointed.

There are a lot of things that Parenthood does right, which usually leads to every episode ending with the audience in a pile of tears. They deal with very real topics, be it cancer, autism, single parenting, separation, or even just the everyday struggles that life brings. Because of this, almost every single person in the audience can relate to one storyline or another, giving the show the ammunition it needs to pack such an emotional punch. We see these characters go through things we’ve gone through, or perhaps are even still going through ourselves, and can’t help but relate to them.

For example, just recently I moved out of my childhood home (and like Crosby dealt with the struggles of finding mold at our new house) and had to deal with saying goodbye to a place that held so many happy memories. On our last day there, I looked to a neighbor’s house, one that had recently been sold, and saw a new family there, laughing and playing outside. It not only made me feel better about selling our house, knowing that it was someone else’s turn to make memories, but also took me back to a particular scene in Parenthood. I was watching the show as our move was happening and having an experience so similar to the one that Zeek and Camille had when they returned to their old house really made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

Obviously that’s just one small example of how someone could connect to this show in a positive way. For people who have struggled with cancer or autism, I can only imagine how powerful watching these character’s journeys must have been. With such a talented cast and crew, they manage to address each issue in such a way that really makes you understand what it means to be a member of a such a close knit family that has to constantly struggle with the challenges of life.

Along my journey through Parenthood, certain characters, relationships, and storylines drew me in more than others. And like Zeek, who declared Sarah his favorite at the end of the show’s fun, I too had my favorites. Through it all, Amber remained a constant favorite character, as she grew and adapted to the difficult world she was thrown into. Mae Whitman is an incredible actress and did an amazing job of showing Amber’s transition from a troubled teenager into a successful young women. Not a single person can say they didn’t cry when they found out that Amber named her baby Zeek.

Other favorites were Joel and Julia’s relationship (their separation absolutely killed me even though I knew it was coming), the adorable Jabar, Adam’s role as the oldest sibling that everyone could turn to, and of course Max Burkholder’s portrayal of Max Braverman. For such a young actor to portray a character with a disease as complicated as Asperger's and do such an incredible job is truly something special. Some of the shows most powerful moments came from Burkholder, the scene where he breaks down in the car about another kid peeing in his canteen being one that sticks out the most. I learned a lot about Asperger’s from his portrayal of Max as well as through the character of Hank and can’t think of another show that has done such a good job dealing with such a sensitive topic.

I loved every second of Parenthood and am so glad Twitter inspired me to give it a chance. Just yesterday, I rewatched the pilot which ends with "Forever Young" playing as the family watches Max play baseball. Six seasons later, they ended the entire show with the family playing a game of baseball on the field that they scattered Zeek’s ashes, with the same song playing over the scene. If that’s not enough to make you cry, I don’t know what is.

That's what we are all lovin' this week! What about YOU guys? Hit up the comments below and let us know your thoughts. Until then. :)

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving the Astronauts Wive's Club as well, and I only started watching that at Ashley's recommendation, so I'm thinking I should probably listen to you girls and get onto what the rest of you are loving. We've got good taste here!