Monday, December 24, 2012

'I Recommend: 'A Game of Thrones' Book & 'Ruby Sparks' Film

Jeff Dodge's Recommendations:

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R.R. Martin

(Image courtesy of Bantam Spectra)

I first heard about this series around the time that season 1 of the TV show adaptation was on the air. Everyone was talking about HBO's Game of Thrones. And I noticed all the awards and accolades it received. And what piqued my interest was that people were comparing it to Lord of the Rings, and that author George R.R. Martin is the American J.R.R. Tolkien. But I guess I never took my interest any further than that--until earlier this year when season 2 marketing and promotions were in high gear. Then I broke down and read some of the information on the Song of Ice and Fire wiki page and Martin's wiki page so I could get a better sense of what this series was all about.

But I made the decision that I wanted to read the books before starting on the TV series, or at least the books that the current/past seasons have been based on. And while A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, is quite a long read, I managed to come out the other end being glad that I read it. Now, keep in mind that I'm used to reading big books (the one that comes to mind is Harry Potter).

While I am giving it a #1 Recommendation in this post, the book is not without its faults. Because the story is so long, Martin has put what seems like a planet-full of characters within these pages, and it's at times very hard to keep track of who's who and all that. Fortunately, we spend enough time with the main characters that we feel like we know them, at least. And some of my favorite characters are Tyrion, who the others call an Imp and a Dwarf, Arya, a little girl who doesn't always act like the proper lady that she's expected to be, and Daenerys, who's forced to marry Khal Drogo. There are other characters like Joffrey that you look forward to reading about because of the way Martin has written them, no matter if they're more on the villainous side or not.

It's no secret at this point that there's nudity and sex in the series; I knew that going in. So if that's something you're not comfortable reading about, then maybe this isn't for you. But I love what Martin has said about it. He said that we put violence galore all over in books, TV shows and movies. But yet, it's the sex that everyone gets all up in arms over. He makes a great point there.

I will admit that once in a while the writing gets a tad dense, but I think that's to be expected with something like this (in a way, akin to LOTR again). But that didn't really stop me too much with enjoying the various storylines and characters. And I found myself, especially in the latter half, really anticipating what happens next--and that's definitely a sign of a good book. I won't spoil this if you haven't read the book or watched season 1 yet, but I was blown away by the cliffhanger ending. It paints such a vivid picture in my mind of what it looks like that I can't wait to get my hands on the DVD to see how the show depicted it or what they may have changed. (That may have come off wrong since that scene involves breasts, but I didn't mean it in that way.)

So here's what my plan is going forward with this series. Now that I'm done with book 1, I will be watching season 1 very shortly here. And then sometime in 2013, I'll be reading book 2. And what I want to do is read a book then watch the season(s) that the book is based on. An exception is I heard from someone that something mentioned in book 3 is shown in season 2, so with something like that, I'll probably end up reading books 2 and 3 then watching season 2. And I also know that book 3 is being split up into two seasons, so that's something to look forward to as well. It's definitely going to take me a while to get through the entire series (there are still two more yet to be published after the five already out), what with the other books being much longer than A Game of Thrones, and the most recent, A Dance with Dragons, over 1,000 pages. Whew!

Ruby Sparks (on DVD)

(Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

It's unfortunate, but indie films don't always get a lot of attention. And when I heard about Ruby Sparks, I knew I had to watch it, especially as someone who's a writer and enjoys watching these types of stories that are about writers. Calvin Weir-Fields is a writer who had a hugely successful novel, but has had a hard time trying to follow it up with something, well, good. But he has a dream one night where he meets this woman that inspires him to write once he wakes up. He starts writing about her, and what do you know, she comes to life! That woman is Ruby Sparks, and Calvin is obviously freaked out by the whole situation. It's a simple story hook, but this movie easily manages to create something that is enjoyable from start to finish.

I don't want to give a whole lot away, because you should experience the ups and downs for yourself. But when you think of a fictional character coming to life, the idea of playing God and being able to control her surfaces. But it's not done in the most blatant way at first, because Calvin is kind of a reserved, modest guy. And when you get to play God, you have to deal with the consequences and how it will affect you and everyone else around you, including the person you're doing this to.

There are a couple things that irked me. There's a scene with Calvin's family in which some of them smoke marijuana. I found that inclusion to be very unnecessary. And I'm not saying that to prove a point against pot or anything, but since this movie is rated R, it's almost as if the screenwriter/producers/etc. said, well, we know this will probably end up being R or close to it, so we might as well just go for it and have them smoking. Also, there was no follow-up to his relationship with his mother (or the guy Ruby almost got in a pool with, for that matter)--it seemed like there was more to their relationship than meets the eye, but it wasn't explored further.

I've said that this is such an enjoyable film, and the ending suits that style and makes for a very fitting conclusion to this story that is at times upbeat and at other times tragic. The resolution and ending tie things up in a way that don't seem out of place, but make you go, yeah, that's definitely how it's supposed to end.

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#1 Recommendation: A Game of Thrones

With the end of the year quickly approaching, I'm hoping to have up my reviews of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Catfish: The TV Show within the week.

Follow me on Twitter @TheJeffDodge. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to tweet me, e-mail me or leave a comment below.

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