retsuko: (required vamp reading)
In Movies:

Let Me In: I had a long argument with myself about whether I should see this or not. The original is so good that it really doesn't need remaking, I thought, unless you're making it for the lazy masses who don't want to read subtitles. But then a line in a review caught my attention: "If a story is good enough to be told once, isn't it good enough to be told again?" I mulled this over, gently sent my snobbery off an errand and then snuck out of the house while it was gone so as to see the movie. And the pay-off was 99% of what I hoped: "Let Me In" is a solid film that doesn't copy the original, exactly, but keeps almost everything that made the original so good, atmospheric, and masterful. What it adds is mostly fairly good: the New Mexico locale and the 1983 setting work well (I thought there was no other place that would embody the desolate solitude of the Swedish original; turns out I was wrong), the 80s soundtrack is well-integrated and at times endearing and funny. Perhaps the best addition is a prop, the exact nature of which I don't want to give away, but hints more at the backstory of two of the characters in a wonderfully succinct and touching manner. What the American version does add that works somewhat less well is more gore. This vampire girl is truly a monster, and she moves like one when she feeds, attacking her victims in a decisively animalistic way; on the other hand, the CGI never feels forced or overdone (scrambling up trees and buildings, she slips and struggles, not graceful but entirely predatory). But the acting jobs from everyone involved are amazing and easily make up for the violence and gore factor. The only way that this film falls short is the lack of subtlety in its message: that the bullies who threaten our hero are more monsters than any supernatural force. (Hearing Owen scream from pain and fear as he was tormented was far worse than avoiding seeing the really gory moments.) But the both versions end on a pitch-perfect note, and both deal with the horrors of everyday life contrasted with the greater struggle of good and evil, and the consequences of evil on the human soul. The remake is well worth your time, especially if you like your horror relatively slow and tension-filled, and filled with characters who are achingly, truly human.

And, Signs revisited: And speaking of contrasting everyday life with horror, [ profile] yebisu9 and I re-watched this last night. I had a wonderful time remembering seeing it in theaters with [ profile] karabean and [ profile] dunkelza and then regretting seeing it as I listened to the trees swaying Right Outside My Bedroom Window as I was trying to go to sleep. I know that the general consensus about this film isn't good; people seem to find the story contrived and the scares pointless. But I'm going to commit sci fi blasphemy and argue that this is a damned good movie, and that the only reason it may fail as science fiction is because it really isn't science fiction: it's a dramatic character study that just so happens to have science fiction elements. And even though some of the scares are contrived, there is nothing quite like the grainy video footage about 2/3 of the way through, of the creature invading the children's birthday party. That you cannot see its face makes it even worse: the unnamed, unidentifiable horror, contrasted with the mundane party hats that the kids are wearing is a hundred times worse than seeing this thing right out in the open. And it's no surprise that the thing won't show its true face; the central conflict of the story (Graham's struggle to regain his religious faith and the cause that led to this crisis in the first place) isn't revealed, either, until almost the very end of the story, when the dramatic tension has reached a boiling point for everyone involved. The aliens aren't so much aliens as they are personifications of demons that Graham's internalized since the death of his wife and their threat against our heroes is only as real as his faith, which slowly but surely comes back, healed and renewed. What a satisfying story! So glad I watched it again. (And glad that there aren't too many trees that sway menacingly outside our apartment.)

On TV:

Undercovers: I really, really want to like this show, but there's just something missing that makes it, sadly, not possible for me to do so. It feels a little too much like a poorly run Spycraft RPG, with the requisite plot twists and turns as told by a 17-year-old game master whose view of the CIA is limited to what he's seen in James Bond movies and on late-night TV shows like that one with Pamela Anderson as a bodyguard. I was actually pretty excited to see it, because, hey, a show with two leading characters who aren't white (*gasp*! On a major US network?!), with sexy costume changes and exotic locales? I should be so there! And yet... after two episodes, I am left a profound sense of "meh". It doesn't especially help that other than our heroes (who are likable enough but oddly flat), there aren't any characters who I really like or identify with. I also find especially annoying the convention of "if you have one spy skill, you have them all!". For example, in the most recent episode, Tish Jones Samantha shows off her skills in "sexpionage" (*snerk*), interrogation, surveillance, and bomb defusing. Call me crazy, but I was under the general impression that just because you can do one of these well doesn't mean you're automatically great at the others, especially the bomb defusing part. I know this is meant as a fast-paced comedy show and that I am probably taking it far too seriously, but it rankles of lazy writing, and of 17-year-old game mastering skills. I would like to see something written for those of us with at least 25-year-old game mastering inclinations.

Also, on TV, House's 2-episode score card so far:
Adorable Children in Peril: 1
Writers Breaking Episode Formula: 0.5

More formula-breaking and fewer adorable children in peril, please!
retsuko: (love this show)
I will admit that I was pretty psyched to see that all my favorite shows (with the exception of "V") are coming back this fall, and am looking forward to reconnecting with beloved plotlines and characters I love to love (or love to hate, as the cases may be.) Without much further ado:

House: I really, really hope that this season has our misanthropic hero back to his normal old misanthropic self, except for the times when he's with his new love interest. Because, really? I tune in to this show to see Hugh Laurie acting like a bastard. I really don't give a damn about contrived moral and ethical dilemmas, and I would prefer not to see adorable children or pregnant women in peril. The appeal of this show largely lies in Laurie's impeccable delivery of insults to people who (most of the time) deserve them. In fact, 90% of the time, House acts as my Greek Chorus, confirming my beliefs that everyone on a dramatic TV show lies (because, if they didn't, where would the episode go??) and saying snide and inappropriate things to people who've behaved in bad ways. And it's all very cathartic, and snicker-worthy, and I am very pleased. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this premiere episode because of its departure from the usual formula, and because of Lisa Edelstein's very wonderful performance. She and Laurie have amazing chemistry and watching them interact was more touching than I expected. So, yay for "House"! Now, like I said before: no more adorable children in peril plots, please! I can't stand them anymore.

In the guilty pleasure department, there is Hellcats, which is arguably one of the stupider shows I could be squandering my time on. But my pregnancy-addled brain that craves simplicity and safe excitement is completely sold. Or at least it was, until last night's plot line, in which our main character effectively practiced law without a license in order to show her meanie/hawt law professor that his assignment wouldn't get the better of her. (Meanie Prof assigns her a "top secret" project: research X case and report to him about it; said case doesn't exist, so Main Character and Annoying Fellow Student file a complaint themselves on behalf of the named party, so the case *will* exist. Ha! Take that, meanie prof!*) For some reason, this egregious storytelling error got me all flustered and annoyed afterwards. I like my guilty pleasure TV to be free of real life implications in all major ways, and this was a pretty major real life deal-breaker. You think I'd be more invested in complaining about the utter lack of feminist deconstruction of the whole "cheerleading is empowering!!~!@1!" line of the plot, or the part where everyone on the show is ridiculously good-looking. (Seriously! It's like Derek Zoolander was in charge of the casting! There was even break-dance fighting in this last episode!) But no, what really annoys me is the law thing... well, that's where my brain is now, anyway. Anyway. Will I watch again next week? Given my brain power at the moment, survey says... most likely. Maybe some cheetos will improve the viewing experience...

* I also hate the storytelling trope of the Impossible Assignment. I have given open-ended assignments to my classes before, and ones that I knew were difficult, but not impossible to actually to do. Giving students an assignment that's literally impossible to finish/complete (without resorting to cheating), in order to "teach them a lesson" about failing and build character? Bitch, please. Way too arrogant for words.
retsuko: (love this show)
On TV so far this fall:

Flashforward: Although I'm a little sick of the writers acting as if the audience didn't watch the previous episodes, I really do love this series and can't wait to see where it goes. And John Cho is fabulous--I do hope his character doesn't die!

House: House, you bastard! Wait, I need more of that and less of House being a reformed addict. I watch this show firstly in order to see Hugh Laurie's brilliant acting job of being a total asshole to all those around him (particularly foolish people); secondly for soap opera drama between the secondary characters; and thirdly for thorny moral medical dilemmas. This season has been way too heavy on #2 and #3 and far too light on #1.

I did get a huge kick out of Wilson calling House "Sookie", though. And James Earl Jones is always an amazing actor to watch. Unfortunately, these two things could not save the rest of the episode.

Dollhouse: It's easier to write about this show in terms of the unaired episode "Epitaph One" and the episodes so far this season. So, spoilers ahead for both of these, starting with Epitaph One )

Then, we have the two episodes of this season so far, which have been incredibly lackluster and gleefully returned to the same problems that I had with the show in the first place as if "Epitaph One" never happened (or never *will* happen, depending on your point of view). In fact, the show upped the level of skeeve with the second episode in which Topher somehow managed to alter Echo's body so that she could lactate and awaken her Mothering Instinct, (which, of course, all women have lurking around their edges--watch out, it turns them into knife-wielding psychopaths!!) so she could mother some lazy schmuck's baby after his wife died. This lead to scenes along the lines of NO THEY BE STEALIN' MAH BUKKIT BABEH!, which were creepy and tiresome at the same time, not unlike a slasher film around the two-thirds mark. Attention, Dollhouse writers: I don't want a slasher film; I don't want soft-core fetish mindf*ck porn. I want a well-thought-out sci-fi drama that doesn't treat its female characters like disposable whores and actually goes somewhere with its very interesting premise. Is this possible?

(Also? Alexis Denisof's character's goofy accent?! I am glad to see him back on TV, but WHUT.)
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. )

May 2016

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