Hate that Cat

hate cat

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat is a super quick read, perfect if you have a book report due tomorrow and hadn’t started a book. Though Creech’s Walk Two Moons is among my favorite novels for children, Hate that Cat didn’t grab me.

Evidently, Hate that Cat is the second book in a series. The hero writes letters to his favorite teacher and shares all his thoughts about poetry, cats, dogs, and writing with the teacher. The book introduces young readers to poets like William Carlos Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. The most interesting facet of the book was that the narrator’s mother is deaf and he can sign ASL.

For a mature reader, there isn’t much in the theme that isn’t well worn ground. The book doesn’t delight readers of all ages, which is a hallmark of the best of children’s literature. The narrator seemed like a cookie cutter Creech hero, but one who shares little of his personality or background.

Orange

th

While the story started out intriguing, Ichigo Takano’s Orange sure presents a lot of shilly shally-ing. This manga, or Japanese comic book, is about Naho, a high school student, who receives letters from her future self. The future Naho lives 10 years ahead of the present and somehow wants to advise the present Naho on how to prevent the cute new boy at school from committing suicide. Naho’s got a crush on the new boy, Kakeru, but she’s quite timid about that. Another boy, of course, has a crush on her and can see the chemistry between Naho and Kakeru.

Kakeru moved because his mother committed suicide so now he must live with his grandmother in the countryside. There’s never any mention of his father, which seemed odd. Kakeru feels responsible for his mother’s death. If he had only gone straight home after school that one day . . . The other characters have no special characteristics.

The story starts out intriguing, but Naho’s ever-present hesitation and questioning of the letters from the future make her extremely indecisive. Since the story goes for 384 pages, I expected some resolution. There wasn’t any. It ends with “to be continued.” So who knows whether Naho and her pals’ efforts changed Kakeru’s future. It doesn’t seem worth reading another 300+ pages, many of which will probably be repetitive to find out.

The art is pretty standard Japanese manga style. More creativity in the art would have helped, but I don’t think the publishing companies care.

CSI: Cyber Crime, Review

This image was downloaded from Serienjunkies.de

I caught this new CBS show when I was in Beijing. The plot was cookie-cutter and predictable. The character’s emotions were flat and simplistic. There was really little suspense and I pitied the actors in this franchise. Were they promised better writing?

In this episode the FBI Cyber team discovers that an evil computer genius has tampered with the airport outlets where people can charge their electronic devices. It’s called juice jacking, when the devices not only get charged but all the data is copied and sent to the criminal. In this story, starring Patricia Arquette, shortly after their data’s stolen, victims received a message instructing them to send $200 to an account or all their data would be put on the internet.

It’s a nefarious crime. I suppose each week, viewers learn about the multitude of ways they can be victimized via cyber criminals. There’s definite potential for drama, but the flat-footed characters would be hard to watch each week.

Gosford Park, No Downton Abbey

Gosford-Park

I began watching Julien Fellows’ Gosford Park with high hopes. After all, I love Downton Abbey and Fellows won the Oscar for this screenplay.

I was disappointed. Sorely. Despite an all star cast, Gosford Park lacked a single character I found charming or likable. There was one Scottish maid who seemed mousy but nice. She wasn’t enough to carry a film of this length. The characters all came off as cold, greedy and indolent. The upperclass people spent money like water and had nothing but disdain for each other and got no joy from their money.

The downstairs servants weren’t much better. Though not as spoiled they were all out for themselves in a different way. No warmth at all. They just wanted to get their work done with as little fuss as possible. Anyone who upset their system was glared and scoffed at.

One theme that rose was how the servants felt overshadowed by their employers. I can see that, but the grass isn’t always greener. If they worked in offices, their lives would also be precarious and as one of my new colleagues asserts if you work for one company for a long time, that company forms your identity to a great extent. So if they traded their apron for a factory uniform it’s not sure that they’d be happier or more secure.

Sexual harassment was rampant as the lord of the manor couldn’t keep his hands to himself, but in a store, office or factory women run into that too.

For the first 75 minutes we see rich people bicker, whinge and finagle for money. Then the plot picks up when the lord who’s a churl gets murdered. Yet the investigation is so incompetently carried out that I just couldn’t buy it. In the end we do learn who did it, but by then I barely cared.

Fellows sure deepened his understanding about character and plot by the time he started Downton Abbey.

Cemetery Junction

cemetery_junction01

I started watching Cemetery Junction with anticipation. Since Ricky Gervais wrote it with Steven Merchant, I hoped for comedy. I didn’t get that. No big laughs here and yet the drama didn’t satisfy. It’s the story of three pals in the 1970s. One, Freddie Taylor, who’s no doubt named after Frederick Taylor who pioneered the science of management, wants to move up beyond his working class status. He sees his grandmother and parents as stuck in a rut. He takes a job selling life insurance door-to-door for a company run by the father of a pretty girl he went to school with. His friends are in dead end, low paying jobs and their lives are rather routine though they have more fun out at the pub or dance club than their parents do watching TV like zombies. Freddie wants something more, for himself. He soon sees through the empty promises of his job and hopes to avoid the mechanical life he sees even those who succeed at his job are stuck in.

There are plenty of stories and films that address this dilemma and most are more interesting. I’m not sure why this film was made or whom it’s for. Earlier such works were novel and were made for the youth of the 60s and 70s who were struggling to break out of the routine the 50s imposed. Nowadays young people seem to be swimming in choices and from my vantage point it seems fine to choose a different p

Blue Jasmine

blue_jasmine_640

Woody Allen‘s 2013 film was Blue Jasmine, the story of the financial, social and emotional fall of Jasmine, the wife of a wealthy wheeler dealer. I saw Blue Jasmine on a flight and am glad I didn’t fork out the money to see it in the theater. It’s not one of Allen’s finest, though the actors do a good enough job given the script.

After her Madoff-like husband, who we only see in flashbacks when all was well, loses everything, Jasmine moves in with her working class sister in San Francisco. Shell-shocked from the fall, Jasmine hopes to rebuild her life and regain her status. She is ill at ease in her sister’s world and looks down on her sister’s boyfriend, who’s something of a working class caricature. In fact, that’s the problem I had with the film – it’s full of stock characters and although Jasmine spends a lot of time looking back at what went wrong and pondering what she should do next, it’s all so superficial. When the film started, I’d hoped for more, for a more serious version of the heights Allen attained with Midnight in Paris. It’s hard to summon much sympathy for Jasmine as she is delusional and the world she lost was so empty anyway.

The dialog is typical of Allen’s style, but that’s hardly enough to make watching Blue Jasmine worth the time. All in all, I found the film annoying and disappointing. I wish Allen didn’t feel compelled to direct a film a year. Better to spend more time getting the story right, than to offer us substandard fare.

The Goldbergs

the-goldbergs

When Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Jeff Garlin” href=”http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0307531/” target=”_blank” rel=”imdb”>Jeff Garlin announced he was doing a sitcom that was an improv 1980’s version of The Wonder Years, I was excited. However having watched the premier, I’m disappointed. The show doesn’t live up to the promise.

With a grouchy dad, jaded older sister, an annoying brother and a bright likeable middle school boy, family structure is like The Wonder Years. However, other than the nostalgic voice over and the family structure, The Goldbergs doesn’t compare to The Wonder Years, which isn’t a surprise because the 80’s doesn’t compare well to the 60’s. No Vietnam, no hippies, no Haight Ashbury, no Woodstock. If you’re going to dramatize the ’80’s, you need to make the characters less ordinary. This comedy seemed so canned and predictable. It’s jokes were tired and the story was weak. I felt a bit sorry for the actors, but then I remembered they’re paid a fortune and I’m not.

Also, it seems the writers just don’t understand new comedy. They’re need to watch Outnumbered, and watch it repeatedly so they see what’s possible. Studying Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Simpson’s wouldn’t hurt either. I suppose if a friend mentioned that the show really improves and the pilot’s an anomaly, I’d give this another try. The Goldbergs might work if it centered around the father as someone who grew up in the 60s and realizes how pale the 80s were in comparison. Well, that would work for me ~ if the writing were better.