retsuko: (spoilers!)
This was… an oddly lackluster pair of episodes, considering everything that happens within them.

Skin of Evil: )

We'll Always Have Paris: )

Signs it’s THE FUTURE: We can maybe reboot the brain after death? No? Maybe? Uhm. Time travel! Theoretical physics?!

Signs it’s NOT THE FUTURE: Our Star Trek villains are still just guys in capes.

The writers’ ‘ship: Yar/Worf, and Crusher/Picard, but Picard’s attention is elsewhere. Poor Beverly.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
These were another two episodes that didn't really... stand up, or congeal, or something. They weren't actively bad, though, and they did show off some seriously good character moments for the people involved, but they've left me with more questions than answers.

When the Bough Breaks, and Mama Said Knock You Out! )

And then, Home Soil: She is possessed of a highly abstracted reality. )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE: Terra-forming a planet! The future, ladies and gentlemen! If science fiction has taught us nothing else, it's that nothing could possibly go wrong there!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE: Uhm... there's still a necessity for HR and legal, both of which are sorely needed in both of these episodes. This week on Star Fleet: Law and Order, Contract Law! Existentialist debate! Kidnapping and extortion!
retsuko: (Default)
Uhm, wow. These two were pretty crazy.

The Naked Now: Everyone acts like they're drunk, and Wesley drives the ship in the PG-est drunken orgy I've ever seen. )

Code of Honor: No one likes the prime directive. )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Someone wears a metallic lame jumpsuit. Definitely the future.
* Their goblet technology is YEARS ahead of us. YEARS, everyone!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Plague is still around, or at least, in our vision of the future, plague is still a problem on a large scale.
* Bureaucracy ruins everything. People still complain about it, and at some length.

FASHION Side talk: I know that there are other blogs devoted solely to critiquing the fashions of Next Gen, and I won't go too heavily into that, but I do want to know where the costume department got ahold of all that weirdly ridged fabric and why it figures into almost every costume they make. Also, Wesley Crusher's sweaters are just the ugliest damn things I've ever seen. And, finally, Troi's outfit gets worse with each passing episode; the "belt" of the pink ridge stuff is almost like an arrow that says "Vajayay this way!" and I just want to take Troi shopping for something, anything better than that.
retsuko: snarky quote :) (capital letters)
My subtitle for the last installment in this franchise was, "The Hobbit: Everything's Coming Up Arrows!" and after careful reflection, I came up with a few more for this final chapter:

The Hobbit: Everyone Has an Ironic Steed!
The Hobbit: Women and Children First!
The Hobbit: Orcs are the WORST. (Also up for consideration: the title above, and Orcs are the jerkiest jerks ever.)
The Hobbit: Wait 'till HR hears about this!
The Hobbit: No, seriously, let's catch the express bus to Gundebad, we can hitch a ride back afterwards.
The Hobbit: Not without my mommy-/daddy-issues! (Close second: Family is sooooo embarrassing.)

I don't mean any of these in a mean-spirited way; I really did enjoy the film, and there are so many beautiful elements in it that I'm willing to ignore a lot of weirdo plot contrivances (most notably that the map of Middle Earth that I thought I had pretty clearly in mind was *completely* wrong.)

Spoilers, I suppose... )

In summary: Lots of fun all around. I've read some pretty negative reviews of this film, and I'm not sure what the reviewers went into the film wanting. It's called "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies," not "The Hobbit: Peter Jackson sat down and asked YOU what you wanted out of a Hobbit movie," for gosh-sakes. There are five armies, there is a mountain of cursed dragon gold, and there are more than a few heroes. What did everyone expect, Citizen Hobbit? The Maltese Dragon? I don't know. Anyway, I thought it was fun and diverting, and that's exactly what I wanted when I went in, so that was perfect.
retsuko: antique books (books)
I used to be so excited for the Monday night block of shows. But Gotham has been... somewhat uneven (another entry for another time) and Sleepy Hollow has become even uneven-er. This used to be a show that I would unreservedly recommend to all and sundry because it was so much fun. Somewhere along the line this season, though, that fun just drained away, and last night's mid-season finale clinched it for me.

Specifically, a lot of spoilers: )

And even more specifically, solving a problem like Katrina: )

I do love this show. I love Abbie Mills, and the Mills sisters working together (and the episode with them last week was the strongest all season long). I love Crane vs. 2014. I loved Abbie's speech in last night's episode about how she wasn't going to let Moloch take away any more people--that's the core of part of the reason I love the show right there: it's a story about a strong woman, who is surrounded by other strong women (because in the scene in the church before Henry showed up was Abbie, Jenny, and Katrina vowing to shop evil, with Crane chiming in, a rarity for a mainstream network show.) Most of the men on the show (when a romantic subplot isn't ruining everything) are compelling characters in their own right, and I want to know their stories, too, but the most interesting thing about the story remains Abbie, and her facing down evil with a platonic partner. I want the show to go back to that, and stop shoe-horning in people I don't care about, and subplots that go nowhere. I'd like it to be funny again, too. Basically, I want to go back to that feeling of recommending it to all and sundry, not the way I feel right now which is, "It's OK, but..."
retsuko: (fierce!)
Parts of last night's episode worked well enough, but the central plot device of the episode was the disturbing Mystical, Forced Pregnancy trope. These kinds of episodes never end well for me, because they either become a political screed (any episode where Camille Paglia is a spiritual consultant worries me greatly) or they are gross and wrong and hit all my squicks.

On the plus side, though, it should be said there was plenty of time for Abbie to be awesome, and I liked the inclusion of Reyes and the local police force as "Abbie's army," although that plot arm made me nervous because if it had gone wrong, I was worried that Abbie might have lost her job. I also thought that Sleepy Hollow is the only show I know where a disguised PSA about Election Day suddenly becomes plot relevant and is genuinely entertaining. I also loved the final dialogue at the end of the episode, where Crane realized how much he loves Katrina, and he and Abbie were able to shore up their resolution to defeat the bad guys.

On the minus side, I have the following concerns:

1) Who are Henry's minions? Cultists? Sorcerors? Rogue demons? (What's a rogue demon? Heh.) I feel like this could be resolved so easily with just a few lines of dialogue, and it would lend urgency to the story. After all, what's Henry going to do next week when all of these thugs are in jail? Does he get them from rent-a-thug? Are there more? Do they have a health plan and benefits? Etc.

2) I am very tired of the is-she-or-isn't-she-EBIL plot meandering for Katrina. Just really tired of it. Seriously--either your character is evil or she's not, and we need some definitive plot confirmation one way or another.

3) And speaking of Katrina: OMG, where to begin? I began to wonder if the real reason the show has held back on letting her come into the main timeline is because a witch as powerful as she is would upset the balance of reality. If Katrina is as powerful as the story says she is (and the glimpses we've gotten every now and then), then she could, almost single-handedly, make things work out for our heroes in the coming battle. I would rather see her try that and die heroically than be stuck in the background as a half-neutered character.

3a) DAMMIT, mystical forced pregnancy trope: I don't like to see characters suffer like that, and I really don't like the idea that women's bodies are incubators that can be highjacked and used for demon baby vessels anytime. It's also lazy writing: if Moloch could have done this from the get-go, why didn't he try it sooner, and with anyone else? Nope, it had to happen at this specific time to this specific character. (Yes, it was inferred that Henry's minions had tried with other people to no avail, but OF COURSE it works exactly the way it was supposed to when it was Katrina's time.) It's almost as if this storyline was a punishment for her omissions of truth previously. (UGH, the implications of the whole thing give me the heebie jeebies.) The resolution was also ridiculously rushed and particularly deus ex machina.

I started thinking about this trope and wondering if there were ANY narratives that did it "right," or if it was even possible to do right at all. The only other show I could think of that attempted something similar was an Angel episode from first or second season where Cordelia gets magically knocked up overnight and we had to go through the whole "pregnant ladies eat crazy things!" blah blah. Is there any show/storyline where this trope has been used for anything other than a rape allegory? Can it even be done without inspiring some level of squick? And what would it take to retire this particular trope from the writer's handbook? ;p
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
Full disclosure: I am not a super-fan of this character, but I like him well enough that I stayed up late last night to watch the pilot of the show. (I regretted this somewhat this morning.) And I'm pretty OK with the decision to watch the thing, because there was enough Done Right to balance out the Wrong/Annoying/WTF. In many ways, this episode felt really like a pilot and not a presentative episode of what the show's going to be like as a whole: lots of exposition crammed in (and I mean crammed into every second of almost each shot, for good or ill), characters not really standing out (other than Constantine himself), and a whole lot of "look, look, this is cool and shiny! People will like it! Buy it!" I fervently hope that this frenetic, sales-focus approach will dissipate over the next few episodes and just let the stories breathe, because there is a lot that the writers can do here with a lot of talent.

Among the Things Done Right: I like Matt Ryan as Constantine--he looks perfect, and even though his accent isn't, strictly speaking, correct, it's good, and his speech has the cadence and tone that I imagined for the character. He's good at weary, but not whiny at all, and he acts like a man who knows the cost of too much and not enough power. His looks, as I said, are almost eerily like the character stepped off the comic book page. Of course, when we see him as a person, I kept thinking, dude cannot tie a tie! Depending on your feelings about the character, this either makes him adorably rumpled or distractedly uncaring, both of which (again) Matt Ryan carries off well. The settings around him were a bit on the generic side (probably to hide the fact that they are NOT London), but the effects for the spirit world overlaying ours were very, very nicely done. I also like the look of the magic that we saw--wards and glyphs all over the place, a lot of dramatic flame, and a nice bit of scare/ick during the cold open involving cockroaches. Another plus was Jasper's hideout, which is basically the most awesome occult library ever, and contains the helmet of Doctor Fate(!)*, as well as a bunch of other, plot-related things. The entire episode could have taken place in this setting, and I would have been fine. Harold Perrineau's appearances were good in the same way, although far more cryptic. Still, though, an entire episode of his character and Constantine sniping at each other, and I'd put up my feet and settle in quite contentedly.

But the flip side of this is that because there was Harold Perrineau's character, and Chas, and one other guy whose name I've forgotten, the token female character got almost totally sidelined, even though she was supposed to be a featured character. (I know the actress isn't a regular on the series, and her character was written out by the end of the episode, in a way that felt like a DM trying to compensate when a pivotal PC suddenly has to leave the table early.) I felt sorry for her, mostly. The dynamic between her and Constantine was very much like the Doctor and a new companion, and I think people's experience of the show depended a lot on their tolerance for that sort of power imbalance. Half of the dialogue was like this:

John: [Cryptic statement about Liv's powers/the occult/adversaries.]
Liv: [Reasonable question or freakout about any of the above.]
John: [Deflection or cryptic warning about adversaries.]
Live: *eyeroll* or *distracted*

Matt Ryan's performance saved this from being condescending nonsense; he never acted as though he knew more than she or thought her inferior. It seemed more like he was juggling too many things in his head to answer properly. The other half of the time, a plot element would come along and interrupt the conversation, stopping any power imbalance talk in its tracks. In the end, I really didn't blame Liv for leaving, although it was mostly because I hadn't even had a chance to invest in her one way or another.

My biggest other quibble with this pilot was the decision to bring Constantine's past mistakes forward so quickly. The adorable-child-in-peril plot device is something that really, really grates on me, because there's only so many times it can be used before it gets old. This episode brought it out... about four times in total: twice in flashback, once in explanation of said flashback, and once in person during the big showdown at the end. I think a far more effective method of introducing this plot element would have come at the very end of an episode that built to it. After a prolonged fight against a much scarier demonic villain, a sidekick character demands to know why Constantine risks life and limb to help people he's never met and/or barely knows, and in a tight close up, he says something like, "Wasn't fast enough before. Never gonna let that happen again." BAM--compelling character shown through his actions, rather than just words, and a tortured soul to boot. I think it's fine for characters to mysterious pasts or refer to stories we never learn the entire truth about. Not everything has to be Chekov's gun. I would have preferred a more straight-up urban fantasy adventure, with implications around the edges instead of front and center.

My only real WTF about the whole thing is that for a show that features demonic villains, angels, and magical powers, there was absolutely no appearance of the word "God." Constantine only invoked a Creator, and when he did other spells, he named symbols ("the power of the Star of David, the power of the Cross.") I'm a bit confused at the absence of any larger divine presence, and while I'd like to think it's because the writers are rejecting the standard either-or, good-evil, God-Devil dichotomy, I suspect the truth is more aligned with fears of alienating religious viewers. I need to go back to the comics now and see what sort of spells Constantine uses there.

But I'm eager to tune in next week, because as I said before, this show has a lot of elements that I do love, and I think with some time, it could really grow into a strong contender for an awesome, fun DC show. Given their track record thus far, I'm willing to give them a lot of leeway to get it right.

* If this means that Zatanna gets an appearance later on, I will probably die of SQUEE.
retsuko: (Default)
Through Hulu's terribly commercialized interface, I was finally able to see the Agents of Shield pilot. (I work Tuesday nights and missed it.) I tried to go in with very few expectations, and for the most part, that strategy paid off. I was pleasantly surprised when unexpected references were made, or this or that actor showed up (happiest surprise=Ron Glass, who I hope isn't just making a cameo here.)

What I liked:

Fitz & Simmons: These two characters were having the most fun, and I think the actors must like each other very much, because their banter was believable and funny, very true to life and not at all nerdish stereotype. They also had the most personality of any of the characters, although the others all had HINTS dropped about background information that will no doubt come to light soon enough.

J. August Richards: The character and the actor were both fantastic. Richards is such a good actor, and it was a joy to see him on my TV screen again. Spoilers regarding who he played: )

Union Station: Yay for a real L.A. location! I love that station and have often felt it would be a perfect setting for a movie or show, and it did not disappoint. I was trying to guess from the lighting what time of day the crew was shooting during, and I think it was relatively early morning, judging from the brightness of the light.

Lola = Ha ha ha, excellent! :)

What I did not like:

Grant Ward: I hate to judge a character so quickly because he does have all season to evolve, but if this is the character the audience is supposed to identify with the most, then AUGH/BARF. I don't care that he has Issues, or that he's the Best Espionage Agent Since Romanov (oh hell no), I think he's an arrogant, insufferable douchebag, and I was pleased as punch when spoilers happened. ) If he's going to continue as the central hero, then I hope he loses his arrogant B.S. really fast.

What I am "meh" about:

There was something about this pilot that felt... kind of mechanical. With other Whedon shows, especially Buffy and the first few seasons of Angel, I had the distinct impression that no one was telling anyone on the staff of the show what to do, that as long as they didn't go completely over the top, they were left alone to construct plot arcs as they liked. But this show has so many factors leading into it, and so many people producing and executive producing. It seemed a bit forced in parts, and even though Clark Gregg had a great time lamp-shading some of those forced bits of plot and/or character make-up, they were still there. I hope this feeling will go away with a few more episodes, but this sort of problem is often the thing that makes me break up with TV shows.
retsuko: (Default)
In Movies:

Iron Man 3: Now I know what that giant bunny was doing there! Being symbolic and spoilery! )

On TV:

Doctor Who, Spoilers through "Nightmare in Silver" (which, in and of itself, was a pretty awful title; it sounded like a terrible fanfic written by a 15-year-old who thought themselves quite clever...): Read more... )

The Office, Series Finale: That was a really lovely ending, exactly how I want to think about that group of people. I'm surprised the writers, actors, and staff pulled it all off, but they did, and well done, too!
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
I've made up a tag (below) solely for this entry, and I suspect I'll have cause to break it out again.

Spoiler-rific talk for the first two new episodes of Who, The Rings of Akhaten and The Bells of Saint John. )

Short version: they're fun, but I can't help feeling like something is missing. I think this series needs to get its sea legs more, and I'm optimistic that this can happen.

Speaking of sea legs, next week, it's snakes (or possibly just one snake) on a sub! Whee!

May 2016

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