Friday, November 9, 2012


It occurred to Apprentice Writer today that she has not stopped in here in a long time.

This is because she is currently ensconced in a hugely intensive course of study and barely has time to shower, much less wax poetic (or some such) over books and movies.

Please bear with her as she becomes more educated, and hopefully, more employeable.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top 10 Older Books Not to be Forgotten

Bridget of "The Broke and the Bookish" hosted a Top 10 Tuesday with this topic.  Apprentice Writer interpreted "older" somewhat loosely; here her picks:

1. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde
Wildly creative novel of a world where the class system is organized according to ability to see colour.  Readers may be more familiar with the author's equally creative Tuesday Next series or Nursery Crimes   series, but though this first of a series has it's moments, it is more thoughtful and less comedic than the other two.

2. The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
The first in a trilogy about the most famous wizard of all, Merlin, and his relationship with King Arthur.   I read this as a teenager and the author's lovely writing and compelling voice had a huge impact on me.

3. The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
Read this in middle school.  Was my first taste of dystopia, a genre I still enjoy.

4. White Oleander, Janet Fitch
Loved this novel that asks some hard questions about mother-daughter relationships and how parenthood is really defined.  Great book club read.

5. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
A beautifully written, gut-wrenching novel about living under dictatorship and why the caste system must be dismantled.

6.  A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
The antidote to the previous novel, also set in India, much easier to read by virtue of taking place post-dictator and with middle-class characters rather than those on the fringes.  Though I think it's important for people to inform themselves of hard realities (such as described in AFB, above) I also think it's important to realize that in such complex societies such as India, it's not all misery all the time.  ASB demonstrates this very enjoyably.

7. Foundation, Isaac Asimov
My first science fiction title, many years ago, and I loved it.  Now reading with my boy, after he accepted the idea of absorbing an Asimov novel in book form after  seeing the Hollywoodization of another Asimov title (I, Robot).

8. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Was blown away by this most unusual tale.  When the big reveal happened at the end, I went straight back to the start to look for the clues I'd missed.

9. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
First novel I ever read set in South America.  Was swallowed up by the world, which seemed so exotic to my teenaged self.

10. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Powerful story about the very different ways members of a family react to moving to Africa.

There you have it, Gentle Reader.  Agree/disagree?  What would go on your top ten not to be forgotten list?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pleasures of Reading

Everyone knows you are supposed to read to your children to foster all kinds of good brain / education / learning attitude type things.

So, sure, Apprentice Writer read to her children, when they were little and not so little.

What very many people don't know, however, is the exquisite delight of having your children read to you.

Apprentice Writer has developed the habit of having junior apprentice writers #1 & #2 read to her from the breakfast bar as she goes about cooking the family dinner.  In this way, she is re-reading the Harry Potter books, and, at long last, the great classic 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

It is so much fun to rediscover an old favorite through new, youthful eyes, and to be able to interpret a tale with a teenager!  Highly recommended.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Popcorn

Apprentice Writer has been having more of a retrospective than progressive reading summer this year.  Since she has been doing more rereading of old favourites than new reading of unknown novels, she hasn't much in the way of book reviews to offer.  Instead, here some minimalist summer popcorn reviews.

SUMMER LAUGHS (the good kind)

Wild Target 
One word:   Yes!
More:  Emily Blunt is one of Apprentice Writer's favourite actors, and she is in top form here as a petty criminal who gets in over her head.  Rupert Grint channeling Ron Weasly as a muggle petty criminal, Bill Nighy as a prissy master assassin, and Rupert Everett as an art-loving antagonist are all just icing on the cake.

(Off topic question:  How does Bill Nighy always get paired up with romantic interests so much younger than him?  It's like it's written into his contracts or something.  Look at "The Girl in the Cafe" and even the Pirates of the Caribbean films as cases in point.)

One word: Scenic.
More:  The latest in the so-called Princess movies has quite possibly the best-looking animation AW has ever seen, though she was only able to understand what was being said due to her children's frequent viewing of the Shrek movies.  There are many funny bits, a great re-do of a key scene from Tarzan, and the most feminist ending of any Disney princess movie.

SUMMER LAUGHS (the unintended kind)

Cowboys Vs. Aliens
One word: Please.
Granted, the title makes it clear from the start that strict scientific realism should not be expected.  AW can accept that.  What she can't accept is when a fantastical/futuristic type story's own internal logic is flagrantly abused.  There is a scene when characters summarize what they know of the aliens' potential weaknesses, which boil down to:  they see better at night than day.  This observation is made during the day (i.e. when the humans are at an advantage).  Do they use this and attack?  No, they wait till night, when they hold celebrations with huge bonfires - apparently, to make it easier for the aliens to find them.  Very funny.  But this wasn't supposed to be a funny movie.

One word:   Non-credibility.
More: Zoe Saldana, to put it charitably, is slender.  The kind of slender that non-charitable individuals might call borderline anorexic.  This figure makes the cat-burgler  parts of the movie seem believable, but the climactic mano-a-mano fight scene with someone much taller who outweighs her by fifty odd pounds ridonkulous.  Yes, AW realizes that slighter people can do amazing things against larger opponents if they are quick enough and have proper training - but not, she thinks, if the opponents are just as quick and have the same training.  It looked like a Ryan Lochte/Ye Shiwen situation all over again. But the non-intentional humour came in when the protagonist disregarded the wise advice of Kate Beckinsale's vampire character from the otherwise dreadful movie "Van Helsing", who observes: "If you're going to kill someone, kill them.  Don't' stand around taking about it."


London Boulevard  /  Drive

One word:  Argh!
More:  Colin Ferrel and Ryan Gosling's characters have more than a little in common with one another. They are both struggling to do what they consider the right and moral thing, against heavy odds. They can both be very frightening if they consider the situation justified.   They are both of such calibre and strong nerves that strangers can recognize their quality in very short order.  Why, then, does it ultimately take so little to bring them down?  AW was practically beside herself, yelling "ARE YOU KIDDING ME???" at her television screen at key moments in each film, unbelieving that Ferrel's character didn't take steps against something so basic, and that Gosling's character (who was fully aware of a particular character's modus operandi) put himself so actively in the way of risk.  The frustration was so intense it compromised AW's appreciation for two such strong performances, given that the choices were the depressing conclusion that the characters could have avoided certain situations, or the equally depressing conclusion that the message of both films ultimately was that evil will weigh you down no matter what.
AW figures both actors owe her a great comedic performance right about now.  Another "Crazy Stupid Love" and a bit less intense "In Bruges" will do nicely, thanks very much.

What about you, Gentle Reader?  Seen any of these films?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quote of the Day: WRITING

"You're not a writer!"

"Yes, yes I am a writer."

"Blogging is not writing.  It's graffiti with punctuation."

(Doctor character to independent journalist-type character, in Contagion)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Apprentice Writer is fascinated by the phenomenon of identical twin movies.  You know, the ones thAT seem to share the same DNA in terms of logline yet seem worlds apart in execution.  Examples previously reviewed in this space were the drudging No Strings Attached vs. the unexpectedly entertaining Friends With Benefits.

Today's Installments:  In one corner, The Change Up.  In the other Crazy Stupid Love.

Both involve a devoted husband/father figure suddenly plucked out of his regular role (one by body-switching magic, the other by spouse who chooses to separate) and plunged into the role of free-to-look-at-other-women bachelor (one by landing inside the form of single best friend, the other by being taken under the wing of mega ladies man).  It is no doubt clear to the Gentle Reader which one Apprentice Writer liked and which one she loathed.

The problem was not casting, given that she likes all four male leads.  She has no clue whether Jason Bateman or Steve Carell actually are dads in real life, but she completely accepted them in those roles.  She is also very fond of Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling, and no, it's not just because they are fellow Canucks.  It's because she thought RR did a great job in The Proposal and RG did a great job in any movie she's ever seen him in.

The problem also wasn't premise, because she is willing in the case of books and movies to accept story-based paranormal phenomena (although, it must be said, the method by which the body change occurs is stultifyingly juvenile and if AW had taken this as an indication of the quality of the film as a whole and stopped watching at that point she would have saved herself time and grief).

The problem was lack of good story, lack of good dialogue, lack of charm, and most importantly, lack of any sort of likability of any of the characters - all of which CSL had in abundance.  Apprentice Writer predicts that the scene between Emma Stone's character Hannah and Ryan Gosling's character Jacob (if you've seen the movie - you know the one) will become as iconic as Meg Ryan's in When Harry Met Sally.

The only part of TCU which AW liked was the following instruction from bachelor character to dad character about to embark on the singles scene and trying to make himself look good:  "This is called hair product.  Too little and you look like a pedophile.  Too much and you look Persian."  This made AW howl, because she is married to a Persian man. Though he is innocent of gel excess, she has been to many a party where other Persian men were guilty.  This cracked her up, not just because it was true, but at the indication that the Persian community (at least, in Los Angeles) is so sizeable and certain habits so well-known that Hollywood believes the joke will have meaning for mainstream audiences.

The only part of CSL that AW didn't like was the speech ending scene (just like she didn't like speech ending in Scent of a Woman), because of the sermonizing speech, because there was absolutely no reason for the babysitter and her parents to be at that graduation, and because of the squick factor of how things ended between the son and the sitter.  But she loved that things did not end in black and white for the married couple, and that the bachelor character didn't try to justify himself to the dad or go overboard in trying to be convincing about character change.  It made sense for his character, and it was good for the movie. It is, perhaps, significant that even Mr. Apprentice Writer recently quoted the movie during a mutual shopping trip when he urged AW to "...Be better than the Gap!" which made her laugh.

Altogether, AW is left with the certainty she will watch CSL repeatedly, and with the question:  which movie developed the concept first, and which one piggybacked? Was the original conceiver rewarded with the superior film, or did the hijacker actually do a better job with the pirated premise?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Insults of Note

Ever since Monty Python's Flying Circus famous insult culminating in "...and furthermore you smell of elderberries!", it has become a mark of honour to come up with a noteworthy insult.

Apprentice Writer would like to nominate one:

"The problem is, your head has the proportions of a styrofoam peanut."

Ryan Gosling's cool bachelor character to Steve Carrell's uncool divorced dad character during sunglasses shopping, in Crazy Stupid Love.