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John Tells Liz What Happened In “Endless Love”

Dear Frank,

endless-love-poster01Look who’s back! That’s right, our dear friend John Ross is back to continue his anthropological survey of what teenage girls seem to be into these days. His dedication to science is a blessing to us all.

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

Scott Spencer, the author of the novel Endless Love, really, really regrets selling the movie rights to his book.  In this devastating op-ed in The Paris Review, he equates viewing Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 movie adaptation to being stabbed in the heart, and predicts that the 2014 remake will be a “Valentine’s Day massacre.”

My reaction to the new remake was somewhat similar in that it also involved stabbing.  That is, during the film, I wanted to stab myself in the eyes and ears, and when it was over, I wanted to go to a crowded place and see how many people I could stab before the police shot me.  That might maybe cancel out the experience of watching the new Endless Love remake.

Spencer himself describes the book as an “unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession,” and from what I’ve read of it, that sounds about right. Read the rest of this entry

John Tells Liz What Happened In The New French Extremity Movement

Dear Frank,

As you know, our good friend John Ross usually tells me about properties related to or derived from female-skewing young adult literature. Today, he’s taken a… different path. But it should be an interesting time!

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

Cat FrightenedIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…for most people. But for many, the holidays have the potential to be the most depressing time of year, a time of “unrealistic expectations and excessive self-reflection.” To make matters worse, everything pretty much shuts down — you can’t go to work, you can’t go out, everyone’s gone home to be with family or loved ones — leaving you with not much to do but sit there and dwell on how single you are, how little you’ve accomplished this year, how it’s dark at 4pm, or whatever.

This is also true of the characters in many of our most beloved Christmas movies. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol is subjugated to intense self-reflection, forced by ghosts to relive the most shameful moments in his life and even visit his own grave. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey reviews all the missed opportunities in his life that eventually drive him to commit suicide. In the end, however, they always wake up reborn on Christmas and proceed to go bug nuts insane, running down the street, hugging everyone, throwing money around and shouting elatedly.

But this catharsis is only possible after a dark night of forced purgation by an inescapable, seemingly omnipotent entity. Only after they’ve reflected on their sins and faced death can they truly appreciate life.

Wait a minute… That sounds familiar… Read the rest of this entry

John Tells Liz What Happened In “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”

Dear Frank,

John Ross is back! John Ross is back! Having survived “50 Shades of Grey” and “The Host,” he’s once again about to reveal the secrets of lady-focused drama. Is it because he loves the act of epistolary recapping? Or because this blog gives him a reason to do things like watch movies based on young adult fiction? That is between John Ross and his maker. All I know is, we benefit.

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

The-Mortal-Instruments-City-of-Bones-Poster-535x792My expectations were below gutter level when I went to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. At the time, it was at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and based on my previous experience with a young adult novel franchise turned movie — The Host — I made sure to sit near the back just in case. But then halfway through the movie, when I did in fact have to go to the bathroom, I found myself holding it because I didn’t want to miss anything. Whether it was intentional or not — I still can’t tell — this movie is fun to watch!

Now I know the point of this is to fill you in on everything that happens in the movie but honestly I couldn’t tell you. I had no idea what was going on half the time. Like other teen novel adaptations, you get the sense that the filmmakers had to leave in everything from the book or face the wrath of its fans. (Too bad the World War Z novel wasn’t popular with teenage girls.) But that’s what I love about these young adult novel adaptations: Were it not for this fear of pleasing the fans, no one in their right mind would make a movie as batshit insane as this one. Read the rest of this entry

John Tells Liz What Happened In “The Host”

Dear Frank,

Remember when our friend John told us about “50 Shades of Grey“? What a good time that was! And now he’s taking on another bit of “Twilight”-adjacent storytelling. Because Hugh Jackman forbid we actually watch “The Host” ourselves.

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

The_Host_PosterFirst, a quick disclaimer: When I saw The Host, there were teenage girls in my theater and they were all laughing out loud at the same parts that made me laugh out loud, so while I usually try to go easy on movies for which I know I am not the target audience, I have no qualms with tearing into this one. Besides, The Hunger Games was my favorite film of last year, so maybe I am the target audience.

Believe it or not, I didn’t know that Stephenie Meyer was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least. LDS church members are compelled to get married very early in life and abstain from sex until marriage, unfairly burdening all their romantic decisions in high school with the weight of eternity. So it’s no surprise that Meyer’s characters routinely struggle with their hormonal impulses as this directly conflicts with the marriage vows that they will eventually be bound to until the end of time. No doubt her work connects with young people growing up in similar environments, but for the rest of us it gets really irritating.

Ironically, no one is as preoccupied with sex as people who have been taught that sex is evil or sinful, and that’s what makes Meyer’s characters so incredibly frustrating: No matter what’s happening, you’d be hard pressed to get them to think about anything but their hormones for five fucking seconds! Read the rest of this entry

John Tells Liz What Happened In “50 Shades of Grey” (Part 2)

Dear Frank,

When last we met, our friend, writer and filmmaker John Ross, was telling me what happened in the best-selling erotic not-technically-“Twilight”-fan-fiction-except-basically-still-“Twilight”-fan-fiction novel “50 Shades of Grey,” leaving us with this breathless cliffhanger:

Ana wakes up the next morning to find herself in Grey’s hotel suite in Portland where they did the photo shoot. Don’t worry, they didn’t do anything. As he explains over breakfast, he won’t touch her unless he has her “written consent to do so.” What does he mean by that?! Refrain. He assures her that all will be revealed later that night, at which point, I guess, he will finally touch her. But in the elevator, he can’t seem to contain himself and—pinning her arms above her with one hand and grabbing her hair with the other—proceeds to try to fit her whole head in his mouth. Afterwards, he promises to never do that again until the paperwork is signed. What paperwork?! What is this mysterious man’s mysterious secret?!

Now, we go further down the rabbit hole, as things intensify for not-Bella-and-Edward’s relationship, as does John Ross’s use of “Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” as a coping mechanism…

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

502bdd39acc01.imageI wish I could say that a lot of what you’re about to read was made up by me or embellished for comic effect. Such is the sadness of the Fifty Shades of Grey experience: reading it, knowing it is not a joke. Until the ending, that is, when another writer seems to suddenly take over, but we’ll get to that.

That night, Christian picks Ana up and flies her via helicopter to his penthouse apartment complex. After Ana signs a non-disclosure agreement (kinky!), she’s all ready for him to make love to her. But Christian needs to explain something to her first: he never makes love, he fucks…hard. Record scratch! Big reveal: Christian Grey is a dominant, and the only relationships he’s ever had were with women who agreed to be his submissives. This is the only kind of relationship he’s ever had, ever will have, and ever wants to have. And if Ana signs a contract, she can be his submissive too! Read the rest of this entry

John Tells Liz What Happened In “50 Shades of Grey” (Part 1)

Dear Frank,

Here’s the true story of how this came about — at an engagement party a few weeks ago, your friend and mine John Ross (a writer/filmmaker based in Los Angeles), mentioned that he was looking for a good excuse to read the best-selling erotic novel “50 Shades of Grey,” so he might learn what all the hype was about.

Because one of Liz Tells Frank’s proudest traditions is other people telling me about stuff, I immediately said to this nice Nebraska-born young man, “You should tell me about it so that I don’t have to tell Frank about it!” He proceeded to buy the book that night at his local grocery store (because apparently they are seriously selling “50 Shades of Grey” in grocery stores). And then, everything for John changed. For the better? Let’s find out….

Love,
Liz

Dear Liz,

502bdd39acc01.imageFifty Shades of Grey tells the story of Anastasia Steele, leader of a four-man Ghost Team call-signed “Hunter,” tasked with extracting an arms dealer named Christian Grey from a terrorist-controlled compound in Sucre, Bolivia. After using her remote surveillance drone to tag and execute the surrounding hostiles, Anastasia at last breaches the compound — taking out the last remaining guard with a silenced double-tap.

His body drops to the floor to reveal Christian Grey, bound and tied to a chair — her objective. She flushes. She can see the heat radiating from his toned physique through her thermal optic tac scope. Her breathing accelerates. Her optical camouflage deactivates and she starts to feel a pinch down there. Her subconscious is pinned down but her inner-goddess is providing cover fire—there’s just something about him that she can’t keep away from!

That is a pretty accurate snapshot of my psyche while reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I played a lot of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, because it was the only way I was going to get through the book—by taking frequent breaks to kill people. It was rough, Liz. There were moments when I wanted to take the book out to my driveway, run it over with my car, then light it on fire — for example when I would read an exchange like this:

Read the rest of this entry

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