retsuko: (spoilers!)
No spoilers about Gotham, except to say that I like what I've seen so far, and the casting is perfect for almost every role. It does feel very organic, like this could have happened before other Batman!verse events, although the timelines are off for a few of the major characters. The only quibble I have with it (and I realize it's pretty damn ridiculous) is since almost all the characters are villains/heroes in the making, Yebisu and I started wondering if every character had some significance in the story's future; we forgot that sometimes an ugly mob thug is just an ugly mob thug.

Of more immediate squee-ish interest to me is Sleepy Hollow. Spoilers ahoy! )

Trailer Park:

* Dammit, Annabelle trailers: I do not need another phobia. While I'm sure the actual movie won't be that scary, whoever edited these trailers (there were two) is to be commended for making the whole thing as spooky and awful as possible. Also, who buys a creepy-looking doll like that? What the hell, people?

* Kingsman: I am all for Colin Firth as a suave British secret agent who can kick ass, but this movie appears to have some worrisome strikes against it: 1) February release date--not January dumping ground, but not prestige, either; 2) Lea Michelle appears to be in it, with a British accent (uhm...); and 3) How is this not The Avengers, but without Emma Peel?
retsuko: (spoilers!)
Like the tin says: spoilers! )

In non-spoilery bits:

* Did anyone see it in 3D? I think there were a few sequences that might have been made more exciting with that, but I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

* How does everyone pronounce Smaug? My Dad, when reading it aloud to me, always pronounced it as "Smog," but all the actors had a thing with "SmOWgh" going on. Other than my Dad ironically referencing the annoying pollution problem, was he totally off the mark? :S

* We shelled out for Arclight again (*sighs*), at a 21-and-over showing. I still think movie chains that encourage alcohol consumption are missing out on potential merchandising profit by not offering drinks that are relevant to the movies being shown. For example, I would have bought mead at a Hobbit showing, or I would buy a martini at a James Bond showing, etc. etc. But it was the same old liquor, and overpriced at that.

* In the trailer park: Christopher Nolan's new project is inscrutable, other than using stock historical footage; "Edge of Tomorrow"/"All You Need is Kill" is either going to rock or suck, but it's still hard to tell which; and "Jupiter Ascending" looks like the Wachowskis are attempting something completely ambitious, visually speaking.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
Somehow I've made it to lots of movies in the past few months and not blogged about them! To whit:

Man of Steel: This is one of the most beautiful movie soundtracks I've heard in a long time; it sounded hopeful, which is a quality a lot of music aspires to, but very little actually achieves. The main theme was gorgeous and subtle, and I liked the way it slipped around the edges of scenes and moments. The rest of the movie... well, subtle and gorgeous aren't words I'd use to describe it, but it wasn't terrible or terrific. It just was. I liked seeing smart!Lois Lane, and I loved the scary female villain, Faora, and there were several very good examples of showing and not telling, most notably the first truly heroic act Clark attempts as an adult. (If running onto a burning oil rig to rescue its trapped workers isn't super-heroic, then I don't know what is.) But the whole of the film felt rather flat and contrived. It didn't help that General Zod looked a lot like Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute on the "The Office" (I kept expecting Zod to try and sell paper products or beets to the bewildered people of Metropolis) and seems to have attended the acting school of "Come on, skull, pop out of my skin!" Maybe bargain matinee-worthy if you've not seen it and/or are invested in the Superman mythos?

Much Ado About Nothing: As counterpoint to all the bombast of Man of Steel, this movie is all fizzy and spritely fun until it's suddenly not, which I think is more Shakespeare's original's fault than anything Whedon or his cast did wrong. I'm convinced that Amy Acker was born to play Beatrice; she embodied the role in every good way, and I was so happy to see her showing off her marvelous range and dramatic gifts all over the place. It's a strange little story--contrived drama! star-crossed lovers! dumb assumptions about foolish things!, but I knew that going in, based on the title alone. :)

The Heat: It's not Bridesmaids, but it's respectably hilarious and actually has quite a bit of tension and pathos at its core. I think Paul Feig is trying to sneakily jumpstart a national dialogue about terribly lonely people and how they live their lives (or don't), and the majority of the pathos lay in both of the main characters tackling that solitude they'd built around themselves, or that other people had built around them. It was actually a little touching to see genuine feelings and personal growth in the midst of violence and profanity. Definitely get out and see this if you have the chance; it would be nice if this made a nice little profit and showed the studio, oh, hey, lots of people would like to see more movies with cool ladies in them! Surprise! Sarcasm!

Fast and Furious 6: This was surprisingly excellent in many ways, and its diverse cast and largely gender-balanced script put so many other movies to shame that... well, I'm going to say this, even as I disbelieve I'm espousing the statement as a whole, but: HOLLYWOOD COULD LEARN A LOT FROM THIS MOVIE AND ITS SUCCESS. Ahem. I didn't think this was a waste of time at all, not by a long shot, and Yebisu and I have been having a very entertaining time ever since catching up on the ones in the middle of the franchise that we missed (which, so far, haven't been as good #6.) I did tire of the macho slugfest towards the end, but that's how I feel with a lot of guy movies, so... still, as a whole, it was awesome, fun, and entirely stupidly entertaining. (Also: Han/Giselle = OTP forever!)

In the trailer park department, other than the Hobbit, Part 2 trailer, I think I've not seen anything that I've been super-excited for. I was doing pretty well with The Conjuring trailers until the one that was with The Heat started pushing my "OMG-Children-In-Peril" button, so that one's back in the DVD watch pile.
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
It seems that in every time-travel related movie/tv show/short story/etc. these days, there's a part where the characters complain about how time travel is a fundamentally headache inducing plot device. Invariably, these discussions are cut short, either by literal violence or by a sort of conversational misdirect, like silly words ("wibbley wobbley timey wimey... stuff") or a put down from one of the speakers that amounts to a bit of linguistic violence ("stop asking questions, stupid!"). I'm not sure what these conversations ultimately do for the script itself, other than add little moments of levity between action sequences, or provide an opportunity for the writers to appear metaphysical. Most of the time, I do love these moments because watching the characters do the mental gymnastics required to facilitate the plot without giving the viewer/reader a headache is funny.

First up on the headachy time travel front is "Looper", which is the movie that "Inception" wanted to be--exciting and intelligent, with great acting and a very tightly constructed script. Most of the time in movies today, I think to myself that the writers could have cut twenty minutes out of middle and nothing would be missed; in the case of "Looper", those middle twenty minutes were important and well-used. Spoilers ahead, but I'll try to keep the ending out of them. )

In a semi-related genre, spoilers have been unavoidable for the mid-season finale of "Doctor Who". I made it there fairly unscathed, but in the interests of not ruining it for others: Spoilers for everything, especially the ending. )

Side note, from the trailers: The Lioness Mother, who defends her child against almost all evil (even from BEYOND THE GRAVE), appeared in several trailers. There was the monster!Mother in Guillermo del Toro's "Mama", who appears to be Sadako's cousin, given her fondness for grotesquely bent limbs and stringy hair; contrasted with Judi Dench's mastermind!Mother/M in "Skyfall", where the strong intimation is that Mother loves you enough to kill you dead for plot purposes. I'm not sure what this heralds about feelings towards mothers right now, but it's a slightly nicer trend than zombies, so I guess I can get behind it.
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
In Books:

The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold: This was an excellent book, although reading it felt, at first, felt like a real slog. Bujold is a highly accomplished storyteller, of course, but her prose is so dense that the first quarter of the book felt like an overstuffed lasagna. Just when I thought I'd finished with one layer, bam! There was another, and it had more meaty detail than the last! And once I got used to this, then it was fine. I enjoy lasagna-books, even if they're a little slow to get into. At times, though, it was so dense with personal politics, royal intrigue, and character development that I forgot that I was reading a fantasy novel. Mentions of magic would eventually make their way back into the story, and about halfway through the book, when we came to the titular curse, I finally got into my stride with the characters and the setting and it was a fantastic read. I loved the scope of the conflict, and I was highly impressed that minor details, mentioned only a few times in passing, turned out to have a large influence on the plot as a whole, and that no character was forgotten. Greatly enjoyable overall!

On DVD:

Happy: This popped up on Netflix, a documentary that neither Yebisu nor I had ever heard of. It turned out to be a solid piece of short filmmaking, although there were still a few sequences that were overly long. The ideas and questions the film asks ("what is the nature of happiness?"/"why are some people happy and others are not?") are simple, and the answers they produce are incredibly interesting. My only problem with the story was somewhat problematic depiction of African tribes, a sequence that made me worry that the writer and producer had never taken any sort of anthropology courses in their lives and were romanticizing the events they saw in an irresponsible fashion. But the rest of the movie was so interesting, and the people profiled are highly compelling. The individual stories of happiness reveal some amazing people who've overcome tremendous odds or are giving of themselves in a wholly beautiful way. (The European banker who quit his job and moved to India to minister to the sick and dying in one of Mother Theresa's charity homes brought tears to my eyes. This is compassion at its absolute best and most essential.)

On TV:

Doctor Who, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" & "A Town Called Mercy": Cut for any spoilers... but mostly general thoughts here. )

In other, random notes, I have seen two horror movie trailers recently that involve people moving into a house, finding a box of old movie reels/VHS tapes and watching them to REVEAL HORRORS that happened to the previous residents of said house. Besides "twisting" (read: sneaking around it in an effort to appear clever) the found footage convention that is making its way onto so many people's bad lists right now, I can't think of any narrative reason for any character to watch these movies. If I found any movies/photos/personal memorabilia from previous residents of a place we were living, I don't know what I'd do, but it sure as hell wouldn't involve nosing through any of it. I mean, who says, "Oh, hey, let's watch these old, unlabeled movies! For kicks!" What if it was gross amateur porn? You'd sure regret that choice in a hurry.
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
A roundabout lead-in to my thoughts on this movie: when I lived in Japan, I went to see "Boys Don't Cry" as part of the Kochi City Modern Art Museum's series that I mentally translated as "films that some people here might want to see but won't get a wide release because the material is too challenging to translate." Going in, I really didn't know what BDC was going to entail. I went with my foreign friends Scott and Maggie, and the three of us were the only foreigners in the theater. Well. That rape scene is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had at the movies. I wanted to crawl out of my skin, or turn off my ears during it--it was that awful. But the strangest thing was that no one else in that theater made a sound during that scene. I wanted someone else to cough, or fidget, or do something that would let me know that I wasn't alone in my discomfort, that another human being in the audience found the material on screen as morally repugnant and unsettling as I did. It was all I could do not to cry loudly--I think I may have sprained something internally from holding my emotions in.

Then the movie was over, and the staff played the trailer for next week's film: "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut." (That trailer wasn't a palate cleanser, per se, but it did break up the tension in my soul a bit.)

Anyway, this leads me to my thoughts on "The Hunger Games": I channeled about 10% of that uncomfortable from BDC, which I hadn't done in a movie theater in a long time. And, annoyingly enough, the audience here did almost the same damn thing. Spoilers for a particular scene; you probably know the one I'm talking about. )

Side notes:

* The archery nerd in me really wants to try shooting some of those beautiful arrows Katniss had.

* Katniss' fire dresses were beautiful, especially the second one. I have to admit that if I could buy clothes that did something amazing like that, I probably would.

* The food in the Capitol did not look very appetizing. I kept expecting someone to say "Here, try these larks' tongues!" Although that would have been on the "very obvious" side of the equation.

* MAC cosmetics gets a special thank-you in the credits, and holy crap, do they ever deserve it! It was like their whole color palette was on display in the Capitol. I did love Cinna's gold eye liner, very striking and beautiful.

* Trailer Park: We saw the "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" trailer, and Jacob was loudly booed by someone down in the first row (ha ha); "The Avengers" is interesting me less and less with each passing promo (not enough ladies, too many mans); and "Titanic" in 3D will not be something I spend my money on.
retsuko: finn & jake's fist bump of awesome (fist bump!)
I am so pleased that I had to chance to see this movie in theaters, even with the annoying English dubbing and the insipid songs that Disney found it necessary to add. The artwork and storytelling were so beautiful and detailed that any inconsistencies in the plot didn't matter. I just wanted to see more, more of the gorgeous scenes and all of their wonderful, little touches, 90% of which I am certain that I missed. One nagging thing that I did find strange was the dub script's decision to whitewash as much of the script as possible. To me, this was an inherently Japanese movie, from the very opening shot of the city to the sound of the omnipresent cicada chorus. So, why rename almost all the characters with bland English names, except for the villain? It made little sense.

Fortunately, the good of this story far outweighed the annoying side problems. Arrietty and her family (mother, worrywart Homily and father, steadfast Pod) were lovingly drawn and animated characters. One of Miyazaki's recurring themes is the family that survives troubles together, stays together, and this was a strong element of the plot throughout. Their home beneath the floorboards of the house was beautifully decorated, far better than the dollhouse awaiting them in the child's room; one of the stamps on the wall that they used for decoration was a stamp that I sent while I lived in Japan, and the chess piece (a knight) as foyer artwork was a brilliant touch. The detail with water and how it would work for small people was also cleverly done--the Borrowers' water doesn't pour, but drips from faucets and teapots in tiny beads. I want to watch the whole thing again, just to see their little home in all of its collected glory.

I also liked the movie's willingness to play with a sense of scale. Kitchen table legs suddenly became mountain ranges that Pod needed double-stick tape to scale, and the refrigerator did double duty as a monolith of epic proportions. Really, though, scale is what this movie is all about: all the characters' senses of right and wrong were different from one another's, and it was from these differences that the major conflicts sprang. The human boy, for example, thinks he's doing the Borrowers a kindness by giving them the dollhouse's kitchen; however, he never stopped to consider the scale of his actions, which were on the apocalyptic side, from the Borrower's point of view (can you imagine the roof of your house being ripped off by a gigantic hand?). Arrietty senses that it's not right to just abandon her new friend, but talking to humans--being seen--is off the scale of wrong, according to her parents' experience and lore. And the afore-mentioned villain's sense of proportion is so out-of-kilter that she's willing to give up everything just to be proven right. This was a fairly serious movie, and I was a little surprised at how much was at stake, from the get-go. Arrietty escapes from the cat as if it's nothing, but the cat is monstrously huge, and it has a good memory. Her existence, and her parents', is touch and go. It's not surprising that they think themselves the last of the Borrowers in the whole world. All seriousness aside, though, this is a wonderful movie, one that I think families will all enjoy on different levels. And what a great achievement that is, especially given the trailers of supposedly kid-friendly movies we had to sit through first.
retsuko: (plothole?)
On TV, last night was the season finale of The Office, accompanied by the very strong rumor that Catherine Tate will step into the Crazy Boss role that Steve Carrell vacated. This is exceedingly good news because it means that I might just keep on watching the show next season, and not give up as I'd planned. (The promised performance by Jim Carrey was mercifully brief, and I admit I exhaled a little when we realized he wouldn't be around more than his one scene. That guy is comedy poison.) Although CT's appearance was short, she was very funny in the role of "Uber-Boss's seriously say-anything crazy best friend" and I think her presence could be a real plus. The rest of the episode... well, it was sort of meh. Spoiler-specific further fannish babbling ahoy! )

I should say that the best moment of comedy last night came from Pam, who was trying different accents on the phone to stop temporary boss Creed from running Dunder-Mifflin into the ground. This short scene that ran with the credits was delightfully silly and over the top, and it made long for times when the rest of the series was that way, too.

In the trailer park department: the trailer for the Tintin movie is here. And...argh. I have many, many mixed feelings about this endeavor. The Tintin books, after the Sunday funnies, were my introduction to comics and despite their multitude of failings, I have a strong loyalty to them. And I know that the script was in good hands (Moffat had his paws on it), and that the plotline of The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure will make for a good story (they're probably the most accessible of the series as a whole, what with the secret scrolls in the masts, spies, underwater treasure, and almost all of the beloved characters appearing in one place.) Also, Steven Spielberg, although his involvement isn't necessarily a mark of absolute quality anymore. But... there's something strange about the trailer and the project that worries me. The whole thing is CG, and while the characters look like themselves... that's weird in and of itself; Tintin comics are supposed to be flat and two-dimensional, but the movie shouldn't look like that. (Or have 3D pasted on.) I fear the movie will also bring Herge's narrative troubles to the fore: the racism/colonialism in the art and plots, and the utter lack of female characters other than Bianca Castafiore (who, admittedly, is a majorly entertaining character), and these in turn will overshadow the tremendous beauty and ingenuity in Herge's design and illustration. And it's this last point that makes me the saddest. Herge was an accomplished and talented artist, and even with all the good intentions in the world, you can't bring this aspect to the screen if you're adding adventure/3D/SFX extravaganza! to the proceedings. Just... argh. I want to be excited, I really do. But this is too easy to screw up, and the screw up vibe is hovering around this trailer in a way that's far too close for comfort.
retsuko: (reading is sexy!)
At the Movies:

Thor: Right off the bat, I want to say that the 3D was not worth it, not at all. 3D makes everything look murkier and darker; the effects weren't made more or less spectacular; and it actually gave me a bit of a headache, especially towards the end. We ended up seeing that show because it was the *only* time we could get to the movies, and that was that. Frankly, after this 3D experience, I don't think we're going to be seeing any movies in 3D again, unless it's a film made specifically for 3D and one that gets universally great reviews regarding that aspect of the production.

But, anyway: Thor! We quite enjoyed the whole production, which managed to be fairly engaging despite taking place across 1,000 years and 3 separate dimensions. Instead of being convoluted and dull, the pacing was fairly good, and the plot maintained its urgency, even towards the final three-quarters of the story, where things normally begin to flag. I was also highly impressed that Natalie Portman's character was a true astrophysicist, in that she had made most of her equipment by hand.* Asgard was... pretty. I mean, when we first see it, it was shining and golden and pretty, and I wanted to spend a lot more time there. (I was also very curious what the people there who weren't Gods spent their time doing. There appeared to be a lot of people walking around, and what were their jobs? Palace staff? Writers, artists, poets? Scientists? Warriors-in-training? They also had some very interesting and out-there fashion choices, and again, I really wanted to find out what they were doing when not attending demi-God's banquets.) There was some gorgeous prop design, which was regrettably gone in flashes of too-fast editing.

The acting was good as well. Chris Hemsworth is certainly easy on the eyes (*cough* More shirtless Thor time was needed *cough*) and he played Thor with a much more gentlemanly flourish than I was expecting. (The only Thor I've read until now is Neil Gaiman's version in Sandman, and his Thor is more of a frat boy/football player/all around drunken lout.) Tom Hiddleston was excellent as Loki, who lurked like Iago around the edges of the story, waiting for his day in the sun (er, maybe "day on the ice" is more appropriate?). And Idris Elba was fantastic as Heimdall. He had this amazing, otherworldly presence that the character was meant to have, and all the scenes with him were just fascinating.

I had only a few, spoiler-rific questions here: )

Anyway, it was great fun, all things considered. A nice way to start the summer movie season.

* Having grown up with astrophysicists, I'm always on the lookout for certain character traits and for the most part, although she was a little too well made up, Portman embodied the character very well. My only quibble was that her lab/workspace was far, far too neat to belong to any scientist.

Trailer Park: I realized I have almost no interest in seeing the new Pirates of the Carribean, mostly because the trailer was exhausting. X-Men: First Class, on the other hand, continues to be appear to be made of awesome and win, even if we do have to sit through the Hellfire Club, who are the lamest villains in almost all comic book canon, IMHO. There appears to be a very depressing, violent film with Zoe Saldana on the horizon about one woman's vendetta against the drug cartel members who slaughtered her parents. And Super 8 appears to have been pitched along the lines of "E.T., but darker, and with a movie camera."

In Books:

The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris: This book took me about six months to finish, which is not my normal track record. I started to wonder, around Christmas, why I still bothering, since I had so little energy, and there were other books clamoring for my attention. I think that this story and its characters had gotten their hooks into me, and in the best of all possible ways. I felt committed to finding out what happened these people, no matter what the consequences. (The last book I felt this way about was the excellent The Terror, by Dan Simmons, last blogged about here.) This plot was certainly different than a historical horror novel's, and while there were certainly some similar aspects between the two (a nameless dreaded problem constantly on the characters' horizons), The Unnamed is not a horror novel, but an extended allegory about compulsion, desire, and love. Ferris' prose is never overdone or dense for the sake of sounding good; it's a pleasure to read a story in simple terms. There are some dark patches in this story, and the ending's a little sad, but it's well worth the time and energy to read. Even if it takes 6 months. :)
retsuko: (harry)
This movie felt different from all the others that proceeded it; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 has more in common with a tense zombie movie like 28 Days Later or the empty landscapes of the plague decimated population of the excellent BBC series Survivors than it does with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. There are lovely and sad scenes where our three heroes, reluctantly on their own, wander through beautiful but deserted spaces (most eerily, a trailer park that seems like a setting straight out of a horror movie instead of a coming of age story full of magic and wonder.) Magic is not in short supply, but wonder and joy are, and the stakes could not be higher. The threats in this movie (to our heroes, to their world and the people they love) are more fully realized and the mood of the entire film is dark, dark, dark waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. And when it does drop... bad things happen, and they keep happening. Put together, it's a tremendously satisfying and dark story, and cuts off at a very natural point. Spoiler-filled discussion ahead. )

tl;dr version: Relentless tension still makes for a great plot and excellent acting work makes this a real treat. But the best treat of all will be seeing Part 1 and Part 2 together. XD

Trailer Park:

~ Green Hornet and Green Lantern duke it out for green-related superhero movie.
~ Cowboys & Aliens got a disbelieving laugh from the audience when the title finally came up, and I'm inclined to agree. Seriously: you spend all that money to hire Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, and make all those pretty special effects and blow stuff up, and you couldn't think of a better title?
~ Yogi Bear: O RLY (Addendum: Justin Timberlake... WHUT.)
~ Am I the only one who's not dying to see the new Tron movie? This trailer made it look very headachy and predictable. (I invented A.I. OH WAIT THE A.I. HAS TURNED AGAINST ME!!!1!)
retsuko: (reading is sexy!)
Recent Fannish Excursions:

In Movies::

Prince of Persia: I have to review this in two ways, because there are two readings of this film warring for supremacy in my head. First of all, this was a pretty fun popcorn movie. Jake is sure easy on the eyes, and he really lays on the swash(buckling). But the actors who really steal the show are Alfred Molina and Steve Touissant, who play a self-styled anti-taxation rebel and bad-ass, dagger-throwing warrior, respectively. Whenever they're on screen, the story becomes ten times funnier and better, and almost makes me forget that I'm watching a movie based on a video game. (Which was hard at times, because I could almost see the different "levels" of the gameplay story announcing themselves onscreen.) But the second part of my opinion of this film is the epic race!fail. For a movie entitled "Prince of Persia", I kept wondering where all the Persians were. (There is one second-tier character who is Persian, but he's in it for maybe about ten minutes, total.) While I was mostly distracted by the action and the HARDCORE PARKOUR enough to not mind during the actual thing, I did keep noticing this inconsistency, and it did bother me quite a bit afterwards. (Also, in the inaccuracy department: [livejournal.com profile] yebisu9 was outraged over the incorrect armor and weaponry the minor characters wore and used.) Uhm. Rent it to make fun of it? There's a lot of guy-liner, and there are a few moments that might be improved with drink?

In Comics:

DV8, Issues 1-3, Text by Brian Wood and Art by Rebekah Isaacs: An interesting take on the "anti-superhero" tale, where the characters with powers have been treated as Gods, and not with good consequences for anyone involved. The framing device (the sanest of the super powered characters is being interrogated by the company who sent them all to this location in the first place) works nicely, as does Isaacs' artwork, which is expressive and dynamic without being cluttered or overdone. My only worry is that the way the issues have been structured leaves no room for the overarching plot to see any kind of resolution. This is an 8-issue miniseries, and so far, it's been focused on one of eight characters per issue... so it looks like we may run out of time? I don't know. Anyway, I'm along for the ride, but preparing myself for slight disappointment in metaplot terms.

In Books:

Mercury, by Hope Larson: I have already sung Larsen's praises as a writer and artist, but this engrossing story makes me want to sing them all over again, and more loudly. The story is split between past and present. Present-day Tara Fraser is alone in Fort Hill, Nova Scotia, while her mother works in Edmonton, and is starting 10th grade. She's trying to fit in with her friends and a potential new boyfriend at her school, all while dealing with her fact that the family homestead burnt down over the summer. Meanwhile, in 1859, Tara's ancestor, Josephine Fraser, is trying to please her mentally unstable mother and confront her feelings for the attractive but penniless man who's come to the family farm, swearing that there's gold in the hills. The story unfolds in a leisurely, careful way, and as usual, Larsen's gorgeous black and white illustrations set the moods of the narrative. There's also a beautiful hint of magical realism, buried treasure, and a sweet romance at the heart of this wonderful coming-of-age book. I hope people buy the hell out of this because I want more of the same.

Changes, by Jim Butcher: I can't remember if I blogged about this at the time when I read it, and if I did already, I suppose my opinion has changed enough that I can blog about it again. There's a gigantic twist ending that I won't reveal, but that feels a little anti-climatic, and it's one I've been mulling over ever since. I've since come to the conclusion that this phase of the story is The Empire Strikes Back of The Dresden Files series, and that's mostly OK by me, although my OTP was similarly thwarted in both works. There's a lot at stake in this installment, and that sense of drama and urgency is what sticks with me, after I get done finished thinking about the annoying "booga-booga!" twist. Part of me wishes the TV series had not sucked so much, because this is one book that I'd like to see in movie format; there's enough drama and excitement to make a very satisfying film.

Trailer Park: Why, oh why, Neil Patrick Harris, are you involved in any way, shape, or form with The Smurfs? Did you need money? I have some dollars lying around, and they are all yours. You can come over here for dinner if you want. Seriously. I predict next summer that the damn la-la-la-la-la song of my childhood will be the worst earworm of all time. And 3D? WHY. D: DO NOT WANT.

Movie Rec: "Iron Man 2"

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 07:33 pm
retsuko: (fabulous jack!)
I often find myself watching movies and wishing I could watch a reframe of the same story from another character's point of view, and with entirely different action. In this case, I found myself wishing I could watch "Iron Man 2" from Pepper Potts' perspective as she tackled the enormously complicated and frustrating job of being C.E.O. of Stark Industries. Imagine the challenges of this position: Tony Stark is a never-ending legal/public relations nightmare; it's entirely unclear what Stark Industries does when Tony's not involved; and she appeared to have only two allies: Scarlett Johanssen (ScarJo), masquerading as a secretary disguised as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and the trusty limo driver whose name I never caught but stayed at her side, loyal and brave. The movie "How I Ran Stark Industries for Whatever Time Period this Movie Represented, Starring Pepper Potts" wouldn't be a smash hit, but I would watch it with great interest and sympathy for Pepper, who didn't have a lot to do in the main narrative, except bicker adorably with Tony and build up the UST something fierce.

Without getting my above-mentioned wish, I should say that "Iron Man 2" is entirely adequate as a movie: it's fun, it's loud, there's a lot of property damage and violence that kept my inner 10-year-old-boy happy, and there are a ton of nerdy references, starting with Stan Lee's cameo (blink and you'll miss it) and ending after the final credits have rolled. I expected to dislike Tony a lot more, but he was surrounded by characters who kept calling him on his B.S., which was refreshing, especially given that there was a lot of B.S. that Tony needed to take ownership of. But he's still an essentially likable character, especially when I think that I don't have to interact with him personally.

The side characters and villains pick up a lot of the slack in the storyline, and all of them do admirably well. I liked Don Cheadle very much as Rhodes. He's the down-to-earth best friend that Tony needs (and possibly doesn't deserve.) ScarJo was quite lovely, but when the fight scene finally came around, I kept wishing she'd put her hair in a ponytail, or keep it out of her face somehow, because in the little martial arts practice I've had, I know that the last thing I'd want is my pretty, curly hair flipping into my line of sight and ruining my moves. Sam Rockwell is a great, if a little useless, villain and as always, seeing him do a dance of revenge is fun, fun, fun. Mickey Rourke exudes menace as the vengeance-driven Whiplash, a character who's a lot more dangerous than he initially appears (or that his name would imply). Sam Jackson is fabulous, minimally, and makes me long for the rumored "Avengers" movie so that we'll get a larger dose of his awesomeness.

So, yeah, it's popcorn fun. It's what summer movies are all about for me: nothing serious, just a lot of cars destroyed, uncomplicated morals introduced ("with great power..."), and witty banter here and there. (Rockwell's monologue about his weapons is the funniest bit of writing in the entire movie.) Yay testosterone!

In trailers: The testosterone parade continues with "Grown-Ups", "The A-Team", "Avatar: The Last Airbender", and, weirdly enough, "Twilight: Eclipse" which was packaged as "Werewolf v. Vampire SMACKDOWN (with just a smidge of pouty romance and the ugliest damn engagement ring I've ever seen)". The best trailer prize went to "Inception", the new Christopher Nolan thriller with Dicaprio, Ellen Page, and Ken Watanabe (Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer). "Inception" appears to be about dream espionage, or dream sorcery, or industrial sabotage, or some combination of those three, and it looks as though combined with Satoshi Kon's "Paprika", we will have the best dream-themed double feature in the history of ever.
retsuko: (soots)
When I see a movie as over-hyped and disputed as "Avatar", it's often hard to just view the film as a whole, a coherent story/product, without thinking of all the blog essays I've read bashing it and the general consensus of "pretty but MEH" I've heard from most people who've already seen it. And I'm very well aware of the violence inherent in the system political problems that are inseparable from the main story. So I'm pleased to say that even with all the problems, there is still a highly beautiful piece of filmmaking in here--not subtle by any means, but filled with gorgeous, captivating visuals of amazing creatures and a truly wondrous world.

OMG TEH PRETTY: The plants on the planet Pandora are simply gorgeous and reminded me of deep sea creatures. The trees are majestic and stunning; there are floating mountains and bioluminescent flowers; there are cool horse- and dragon-like creatures, and the whole thing is one big feast for the eyes. Really, I would have been happy if the entire movie was spent flying around the planet, looking at all the native flora and fauna, and being immersed in a completely different world. The 3D elements of this part of the movie were absolutely worth the extra $3 to rent the glasses.

HOWEVER.

Ahem, James Cameron? SUBTLETY: LOOK INTO IT! Spoiler-rific comments follow... )

In short: James Cameron produces something that, while it has significant political issues, is a solid, entertaining, and beautiful piece of work. The story may be overdone and hackneyed, but, by gum, I was on the side of the native people fighting back against the white colonizers, and it's pretty hard not to be. Well worth the bargain matinee and extra 3D admission.

~~~

Trailer Park: "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" looks like a great deal of franchiseable fun; Tom Cruise does not entice me at all to see movies anymore; and "Piranha 3D" looks a terrible, goofy throwback to monster movies of the '50s and '60s.
retsuko: (bookmarks)
In Books:

The Killing Hour, by Lisa Gardner: SO BORING. I didn't even get past the opening exposition because the characters were so cliched and trite. I should care that there's a serial killer; I should care that the main character has a horrific past she must escape from. But this is the thing: I shouldn't have to work to care. The writing should grab my attention from page one, not from page something-after-I-put-the-book-down. As I mentioned to [livejournal.com profile] yebsiu9, this is the book that I would read in an airport if my flight were horribly delayed and I had read all the other magazines and books I was interested in and the flight was *still* delayed.

The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan: SO WONDERFUL! In pitched contrast to the above, this book was highly worth it, a worthy conclusion to a stellar series (now I'm just sad it's over!) I now await the movie with some trepidation. The main source of trepidation is two things: 1) Chris Columbus as director and 2) an already-major retooling of the plot. I urge everyone to read these now, quick, before the movie gets over-hyped and the pictures of the characters as the actors who play get locked in your mind.

In Movies:

Bright Star: I'm still puzzling over whether I liked this or not. It was a beautiful movie--the lighting, the costumes, the sets, the acting. It was so pretty and in some cases, so still, like an insect in amber. And it was a pleasure to hear poetry read aloud with reverence. But in the end, I feel like something was missing. I think my tolerance for the Romantic poets isn't enough for me to be enthralled by Keats as a romanic hero. I kept thinking to myself, if I hear one more poem about fairies..., and then, bam! Another poem about fairies! So, uhm, yeah. If you don't like the Romantic poets, go find your beautiful movies somewhere else; if you're even one more iota into the Romantics than I am, then you will probably love this to pieces.

And, in trailers: Out of four trailers, there were 2 movies directed by women; 3 movies about women, and 2 movies about women of color (Palestinian and black South African). This made me quite happy. It's not representative of the movie industry as a whole (we were at our local art house theater), but it's a step in a good direction.

In Comics:

Beasts of Burden, Issue 1, Evan Dorkin (words) & Jill Thompson (pictures): Do you like your talking animal comics tempered with horror? Then look no further! Beasts of Burden features a gang of talking dogs (and a token cat) battling supernatural forces in their idyllic town and its surrounding forest. The monster they face in this first volume is actually rather frightening and very lovingly, creepily drawn. This reminds me a lot of the old Alfred Hitchcock horror anthologies I enjoyed as a kid.

On DVD:

Return of the King, Director's Cut: I was surprised at how much better this was than the original version I saw in the theater (which was stirring and all kinds of exciting, don't get me wrong.) But this extended version made so much more sense and was paced much more effectively than its theatrical release counterpart. Three different storylines were at work at any given time, and I was equally invested in all of them. There was only one scene that I didn't really need to have watched, but the rest of it was so well worth it that one problem instantly fell by the wayside. What a treat these films were! I felt like I was sitting around the campfire, listening to an epic told by a master-storyteller.
retsuko: (evil laugh)
The ending credits of "G.I. Joe" have the Black Eyed Peas' song "BOOM BOOM POW" playing loudly. This song is a aural encapsulation of everything the film was about: too-rhythmic editing, loudness, and an affected hipness that worked in some places, but not in all.

On one hand, a lot of things work in this movie; my inner-8-year-old boy was highly entertained because nothing ever stopped happening. The sword fighting sequences between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were admittedly pretty damn thrilling (although the final outcome leaves lots of room for potential sequel); the gadgets cool; and the villians' plots reasonably well crafted enough to be slightly plausible. I should pause and say here that the film is made 100x better by the presence/performance of Chris Eccleston and his wonderful Scottish accent. While I could tell he was having a good time playing the bad guy, he never camped up the role or overdid it. Heck, if you're feeling ambivalent about the film, wait for the video and then fast-forward to all the scenes with him in them and you'll see all the best parts.

However, there were several things that made me stop and shake my head in various states of dismay/disgust/general wtf?!-ness. For starters, a lot of the plot was driven by assumptions along the lines, "Well, here's something incredibly dangerous, but I'll just take dealing with it into my own hands, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG--", followed by ironic editing to show things going horribly wrong. There was also a major plot point that hinged on the fact that several characters who were supposed to be fully functional adults apparently had the emotional maturity of 5-year-olds. In the design phase of the movie, I had also hoped for fully clad heroines, but alas, Booberella the Baroness wore a lot of cleaveage-revealing outfits, and Scarlett ended up in "armor" that looked like it had been spray-tanned on. (Granted, Scarlett was a crack shot with her awesome crossbow, so that made up for booberella the less than dignified costuming.)

I was super psyched to recognize one important set location--the Huntington Japanese garden! I've rung that bell! I've observed that bridge and wished that I could stage a staff fight on it! I've wished I could sit in that tea house and... well, it doesn't have anything to do with the movie, but I was very excited.

One review I read commented that this movie was like "Team America: World Police" in live action, and while this is mostly untrue, I did want to smack whichever production designer thought it would be funny in the Paris set to have a mime in a black and white striped shirt and a beret, a man carrying a large bunch of balloons, a bread shop for one of the main characters to smash into (long story), and a pair of lovers interrupted in their making out beneath the Eiffel Tower. If the streets had been paved with croissants, I would not have been surprised. It's also a sad measure of my state of mind that when I watched the general path of destruction woven through the streets of Paris, I thought, "Wow, insurance agents would have had a field day with this."

Anyway, the short version: A great movie to see to indulge your inner ADD-addled child who likes loud noises and cool things. Pure summer junk food. For sustenance, turn to something else (like the preview of the new Martin Scorsese horror film, "Shutter Island" which looks like all kinds of beautiful, creepy, and awesome.)
retsuko: (what?)


A rock opera from the director of "Saw" starring Anthony Stewart Head, Alex Vega, Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton.

...

This could be the new Rocky Horror Picture Show. Anthony Stewart Head has the most amazing singing voice and the trailer does have a lot of crazy eye candy. However: Paris Hilton and the guy from "Saw"? That's two strikes against it to me. It could be a hot mess of "why did we spend the money on this?!"

Here's to finding out when November 7 rolls around, anyway!

May 2016

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