Cinderella! *swoons*

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 07:23 am
retsuko: lady rainicorn and princess bubblegum from the pilot episode of Adventure Time (PB + Rainicorn)
I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, but probably not for the reasons that anyone else in the theater did. A side note, before I begin, has to do with the Frozen Fever short that played before the movie. It was... cute. So cute. And so merchandisable. It reminded me of the articles I read about the Sailor Moon manga's plot being timed around various school holidays and celebrations in Japan so that brand new merchandise would be on the shelves in time for girls to see it during breaks. In this case, Elsa and Anna got new dresses (ka-ching) and there were little snow golems that appeared every time Elsa sneezed (d'awww, plushie!) The song that accompanied the major plot was cute, but it didn't have the staying power of the songs in the original movie. I guess I'd call the whole thing harmless, if it didn't seem to be such a cash grab.

But, yes, anyway, the movie itself. The Good parts: the costume porn was Spec. Tac. Cular, and the set dressing excellent. I could have watched an entire movie set at the ball, because I suspect there was more set dressing (of the food porn variety) that there wasn't time to show. The animals that Cinderella talks to were actually cute, not cloying. The transformation (and "de-transformation") sequences were top-notch. Helena Bonham Carter appeared to be having the time of her life as the Fairy Godmother.

Not-So-Good: It's been widely observed that parents in Disney movies don't last long, and this movie had that issue in spades. Not only do Cinderella's parents die from Plotdeviceitis, but the Prince's father died, too, of some unspecified malady. (3 parental deaths in one movie is a lot!)

Another thing that stuck in my craw was the constant reiterating of Cinderella's saintly mother's dying advice: "Have courage and be kind." While this is good advice, it's not especially nuanced or universally applicable, although this movie gamely tried to prove otherwise. This phrase started to annoy me on the level that "With great power comes great responsibility" did in the first Spiderman movie. It's one thing to explore an idea, but it's another to bludgeon the audience repeatedly with it. There were scenes that showed this idea effectively--Cinderella admonishing the Prince not to hunt the stag, for example, was a very nice way to show us this dictum in action, but annoyingly, the writers worked the aphorism into the dialogue at the end of it, blergh--but the idea hovered over the entire thing so omnipotently that it was like a single-minded deity running the entire show.

On the good side, there was a lot of effort made to humanize the prince, which is nice, I guess, because my memories of him from the animated movie are somewhat on the "cardboard cutout" side of things. In this case, the Prince was so handsome and winsome that the first scene he appeared in... well, it was like the first scene in Maison Ikkoku where Kyoko meets Coach Mitaka, he turns around to greet her, and he's so handsome that his teeth sparkle. I honestly kept waiting for this Prince's teeth to sparkle like the bishounen hottie he was meant to be. Fortunately, he wasn't a jerk or smarmy during any of this, and as it turned out he was smart enough for a pivotal plot twist to take place. So yay for that? But he's not the star of the thing... Cinderella is. And Lily James is just lovely, and she played the whole thing as well as she could. But I didn't leave the film liking Cinderella as a character any more than when I'd come in, and I feel like there was a real missed opportunity there. There's a lot that's good about the original animated film, and the story is timeless and appealing, but I wish this version, with all its beauty, had set its sights just a little higher in terms of character development for its heroine.

A side note: if making animated princess films into live action spectacles is the new thing, can we please do The Princess and the Frog next? Tiana is the BEST, Lottie is hilarious, New Orleans in the 20s would be a great setting, and I would pay all the monies to see that.
retsuko: (girl reading)
i09 has an interview (or the report of one) with a 7-year-old girl about the DC reboot, specifically, its treatment of Starfire. The author's seven-year-old daughter, who loves comics, comic book characters characters and Starfire in particular, has some salient points to make, but the most interesting one to me is that in the new comics, Starfire doesn't do anything except pose in a bikini. And this is, for all intents and purposes, exactly true. I don't pick up comic books hoping to see my favorite female characters in a cheesecake spread; I choose titles because I want to see female characters who do good and take action. This is especially true for cape/superhero titles. I bought "Captain Britain" because Faiza Hussein actively participated in battle and wielded Excalibur; I buy "The Unwritten" because I'm really, really curious to see what Lizzie Hexam is up to this issue and just how she fits into the larger world that Mike Carey has written; and I first picked up "Elfquest" (my first real comic book!) because all the female characters were active and well-rounded. Hell, even "Empowered" has our titular, bondage-prone heroine DOING good, as much as she can, because (as she herself says in the middle of one particularly high stakes battle) "This is what I do!"

Oh, crap, I'm back to that question of "why?" again. Why read comic books at all, if the DC reboot is the sort of sexist nonsense that passes for mainstream comic book content? Because I love stories, and I love stories told in this way. And because I do think that the industry can change and gets its act together, even if it takes a whole bunch of missteps beforehand. And because I need to know what's happening in "Rasl", "Locke & Key", and "The Unwritten". Will I be picking up any DC titles anytime soon? Other than their Vertigo line, it's unlikely. Voting with dollars is probably our only recourse at this point.
retsuko: (they wrote whut?!)
I'm at a loss to describe the level of poor writing squick that ruins the last twenty minutes or so of what is otherwise is a very serviceable and tidy horror movie. Suffice it to say that I've read enough terrible fanfic to know badfic when I see it and "Splice" unfortunately shifts from something an intelligent 25-year-old has written to something that's more appropriate to a R-rated sexual freak-out written by a socially maladjusted 15-year-old. This was incredibly disappointing, because the rest of the film is actually rather good. I like horror movies that are a long, tension-filled exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop, and "Splice" was this in spades. Two scientists, both too arrogant for their own good, create creepy-looking worm-like creatures in order to replicate proteins, drive the plot, serve the evil company they work for, etc. What's next? Create a human-thing creature, naturally! As I said, the plot is a long wait for something bad to happen as a result of a lot of incredibly poor/arrogant choices on their parts (of course with the noblest of intentions). I'm sure there are a million problems with the "science" in this movie (not the least of which is along the lines of WHY?!), but it's presented in a fairly convincing way. It quickly becomes obvious that the motives in creating a human-hybrid monsters are incredibly poor; one of our heroes wants to have a baby without the inconvenience of getting pregnant, while the other craves the God-like treatment he thinks they'll inevitably receive from the scientific community. The creature itself is convincingly creepy at all stages of its development. Its final, adult incarnation is chillingly played by Delphine Chanaec, who manages to portray something that can mimic human emotion but not understand it, and only use it as a means to an end. And, as I said, the first 3/4 of this movie is very good, with the tension slowly building. (There's also an unintentionally funny sequence that's very reminiscent of the moment in "King Kong" when the first public display of Kong goes horribly wrong.) But the last twenty minutes... how the mighty fall. All semblance of the bigger thematic plot goes AWOL, and befuddled chasing through the woods and a truly disturbing sexual/linguistic thing happens. Why, movie, why? The only thing I can think of is that the writers realized they'd painted themselves into a corner and didn't want some kind of happy, compromising ending. But, surely, there are better ways to get out of a plot corner than this! Well. Rent this with your bioscience-minded friends to make fun of, and cringe at the badfic ending. Or simply skip the last twenty minutes.
retsuko: (plothole?)
As a reward to myself for getting the taxes mailed off, I stopped into Starbucks for an iced mocha and the latest Entertainment Weekly, which happened to be the summer movie preview. Huzzah, I thought, so many movies I want to see, listed in a convenient month-by-month manner! The first write-up is for the new Angelina Jolie spy thriller, Salt, which I had seen a few previews for and was looking forward to... until I read the article.

Long, overdone paragraphs made short: the role was written for a man, but switched to a woman! From the tone of the write-up, you'd think this is the most revolutionary thing EVER done. But, wait! There's more that had to be changed!

"But the process was trickier than just changing the hero's name and adding high heels."

Seriously: this character is on the run from the cops and federal agents, accused of being a double agent for the Russians, and you're worried about her heels? What will it take for writers to realize that when a character's running from something, there's absolutely no way she'd get very far if she's wearing heels?

But, wait! There's more stupid to come!

"'In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt saves his wife, who's in danger.' says [director Phillip] Noyce. 'And what we found was when Evelyn Salt saved her husband in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little...' In the end, Salt's husband... was made tough enough that he didn't need saving, thank you very much."

HORRORS: A MAN NEEDED SAVING. It's 2010, people: a man can stand to be rescued by his kick-ass superhero wife and not be worried about the state of his testicular fortitude. And, conversely, what they're saying is that had the character stayed male, the poor woman-wife would have still been in peril and needed saving. What about making her tough enough that she didn't need saving, thank you very much? This sort of thing makes me so mad: why are we still falling into traditional gender roles even as we make progress in subverting them? Is it because writers think audiences will be so intimidated by a strong female protagonist that their brains will explode if there's not a strong enough male figure to "balance" her out? That's bullshit, plain and simple. We've been presented with unequivocal strong male protagonists over and over again for years, but cultural mores have obviously progressed and changed. When we will get to see a movie where the heroine saves the hero, without needing any additional male help, and without hand-wringing over the state of the poor rescued man's state of mind?

So, in sum, my enthusiasm for Salt has considerably diminished. Maybe I'll watch art house movies all summer long instead.
retsuko: (gwen)
As I blogged previously, both "V" and "Flashforward" went on five-months hiatuses (hiati?) to increase dramatic tension to build buzz (and let the writes do some tinkering to the scripts, I suspect). Both have recently returned, but only one has snapped up my attention from where it left off, while the other continues to flounder, a sad-eyed fish on the chopping board of my "whatever, I've got better things to do with my time" feelings.

Specifically, V, why did we ever fight? Let's never bicker over stupid things again! )

But in the meantime, FlashForward, why do you bore me so? )

In the case of both shows, I forgot the names of the minor characters entirely and am still trying to put them back together. However, in the case of FlashForward, when other characters used the missing names, I found they just weren't as good as the nicknames I'd mentally assigned while I attempted to figure out who was who. "Natalie" isn't as interesting as "Moon-Eyed CandyStriper" and "Bryce" isn't anywhere near as good as "Mr. Sensitive".

If you're interested, my mental names for the characters of the shows: )
retsuko: (eels in the photobooth)
"Hot Tub Time Machine" is a pretty stupid movie, but we saw it for free, and [ profile] yebsiu9 enjoyed it. It was the kind of movie that had a few good ideas, and one good actor, but squandered a lot of its potential on dumb, none-too-subtle jokes. The only bright spot in the convoluted mess is Craig Robinson, who plays his character with a world-weary, not-quite-defeated-by-the-crazy-yet pathos. (In fact, Robinson brings a genuine human touch to just about everything he does, especially as Daryl on "The Office".) Other than him, the actors and the script can't decide where they want to go with the story: Look how lame things were in the '80s comedy? Coming of age story for the man-child within? Goofy sci-fi comedy? Romantic comedy/sex farce? (There is a lot of explicit sexual material, so much so that I was appalled that people ahead of me brought their 5-year-old with them. Just... no.) Goofy ski weekend shenanigans comedy? It's all over the place, and it never makes much of a point, except in two areas, which I will bitch about below:

1) A *man* changing *his* name when he gets married?! BLASPHEMY. )

2) Men never get clinically depressed, and therefore, their suicide attempts are funny! )

In sum: Hurrah for gendernorming! NOT. I guess, go see it if it's free, and you're looking to lose some brain cells, or have time to kill. Otherwise, save your money and go do something productive for the sake of the human race.
retsuko: (plothole?)
Dear Heroes: I think I see where you're going with this, and I'm not entirely thrilled. )

Dear House:

Just keep doing what you're doing. I'm extremely glad you're getting away from the "adorable children in mortal peril" plots.

Love, A Fan of the Snark

Dear Dollhouse: ARGH. You're making this difficult. )
retsuko: (comfortable with uncertainty)
What a satisfying experience "Coraline" was, an entirely creepy and endlessly inventive movie that pushed the limits of a "children's movie" and its PG rating, but never fell into sentimental or dull territory. What's especially wonderful about the movie is that it lead me to go out and buy the book, something that I've been meaning to do for some time now--and this an equally satisfying reading experience, but even more scary and rewarding than the movie. Movie!Coraline needed the help of an invented character to solve the problem, but book!Coraline solved everything by herself and worked to be brave in the face of incredible, palpable danger.

I also enjoyed the 3D part, too. I'd never actually been to a 3D movie before and was surprised at how the textures seemed richer than a regular film. I also enjoyed elements of the story coming "off" the screen, although it was a little hard to suspend my belief. The most beautiful 3D effect came after all the credits were over and was worth the extra money for the silly glasses.

Both book and movie are great, but their good points were inversely proportional. Spoilers ahead. )

Short kvetchery: I know it is unrealistic of me to expect that there will be no children at a children's movie. However, children under the age of 8 should NOT see this film, and there were too many of them in the theater with us. I felt especially sorry for the little girl behind me who said, several times, "Mommy, I don't like this movie" only to be shushed by her mother. (This whole exchange was highly ironic, considering that one of Coraline's complaints in the movie and the book is that adults never listen to her.) On the whole, the kids were well-behaved and didn't make a huge fuss. But I wondered what would happen later, after the movie was over, when they got home. This is the kind of movie that would have bothered me as a child. (Especially the dolls--I never liked dolls as a little girl, and this movie would have sealed my hatred for them.) I understand that it's hard for parents to think of things to do with their kids sometimes, and especially on the long weekend. But I did want to stand up and say, "Really? This movie? With your kids? Are you sure? Because there's a good-looking National Geographic 3D Undersea movie next door that might be a better choice."
retsuko: (plothole?)
[ profile] 7runninghorse was kind enough to lend me this book club read, and I am so, so grateful to her because I did not spend a penny on this stupid and rather repugnant murder "mystery". Not since my near-scientific fascination in 6th grade with the plot devices in "Murder, She Wrote" have I seen such blatant and boring plot contrivances, or such cliched and un-engaging characters (and even more frustrating, the characters who were slightly interesting/sympathetic were the ones who suffered the most and whose stories ended in the most inconclusive ways).

The thing that really gets me about this book is that the violence and injustice in it should be shocking to me. I shouldn't be reading about the serial killer's collection of his victims' eyeballs and thinking, "Ho hum, stupid." I shouldn't be reading about the torture and murder to gay teenaged prostitutes and thinking, "Another two-dimensional character bites the dust." I should be disgusted and outraged, and I thought the main character, or at least *some* character in the book should be as well. Instead, we were treated to the cliched anti-gay policeman who had covered up evidence, the television journalist who only cared about getting the story and being promoted, and the main character who showed almost no emotion about the case through the entire story. Part of this was professional detachment on her part, but it started to grate on me that she showed almost no interest in helping out these poor kids until the end of whole thing, when everything got out of control and she confronted the serial killer.

Oh, and the serial killer: when you have only so many characters in the story, but are skipping around between their points of view and writing the serial killer's point of view without mentioning his name... it's not too hard to deduce who the killer is. It's the only character whose point of view hasn't been presented in connection with his name. It also doesn't help that, like "Murder, She Wrote", the killer had a pivotal but small role to play in the first act of the narrative, and then showed up again every now and then until he was discovered. It's always the quiet but helpful ones!

Also: The serial killer targets teenaged boys, and when I learned that the plucky sidekick's son is an adorable teenaged boy, I crossed my fingers that the killer wouldn't kidnap him and hold him hostage in the last act. And guess what happened! Damn you, author! Why must you fulfill my expectations in this disappointing way?

Anyway. Skip this read if you value suspense, logic, and a good story. I finished the book, but only to find out if I was right about everything. And, unfortunately, I was.
retsuko: (bookshelf)
Lots of recs in this entry...

[ profile] yebisu9 and I just finished watching Satoshi Kon's anime "Paranoia Agent", which, despite one episode we skipped entirely, turned out to be one of the most engrossing anime series I've seen in a long time. Click for more. )

We also attended a screening of the breakdancing movie, "Planet B-Boy", at the Ken. Were we the unhippest people in the audience? Astoundingly, no! )

Reading-wise, I have just finished Douglas Rushkoff's phenomenonal book Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say. I won't make a joke about coercing you to click here to read more. )

I'm also halfway through China Mieville's UnLunDun and loving every minute of it. This is a steampunk update of The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland with a soupcon of John Bellairs and a few pages of the old Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful collections as added spice to the main plot. I recommend this to anyone and everyone; although it's written for children, it is by no means childish. I may never think of giraffes as cute ever again.
retsuko: (lost no evil)
I can't think of a witty introduction, so let's go right to the spoiler-rific OMGWTFBBQ fuss! )

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