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: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
This is a crazy pair of episodes: one that was really pretty good, and one that was... well, uhm, I'll take it to the comments.

Lonely Among Us: Are You Aware Everyone is Behaving Strangely? )


Signs that it's the FUTURE:
* Uhm... energy being? The idea of colonizing another planet is pretty standard sci-fi, so there's that, but, generally, both of these episodes would have worked out in non-sci-fi contexts pretty well.

Signs that it's NOT the FUTURE:
* Dude, why doesn't the Enterprise have a firewall? This is the third time where the computers have just shorted out and/or been vulnerable to alien attack. If the ship is so sophisticated, surely the engineers planned for the computers to be invulnerable, at least in most of the ways that it counts!

* Also, the lighting in these episodes is STILL SO WEIRD. Everyone in Engineering apparently works in total darkness OR with the help of one florescent lightbulb.

Unintentionally Funniest Lines:
* A possessed Crusher, on what had happened to Worf: "A temporary... mental aberration." (I love this excuse, and will use it from now on, as much as possible.)

* Picard, on uncertainties: "Why has everything become a 'something' or 'whatever'?"
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: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
So, the cold open for last night's Gotham featured a character we'd never met before, high on a Plot Device drug, running screaming at the camera. This image pretty much encapsulates the show for me: it's loud, it's not subtle, and if I'm willing suspend a lot of disbelief, it's fun in a "did they really go there?" sort of way. The best scenes involve Jada Pinkett Smith and her mob boss character's machinations, sexual and otherwise. The worst ones... I dunno. There's a lot of violence that's mostly necessitated by the plot, and there are a lot of minor villains who serve as antagonists of the week. The show is exceedingly well cast, but the writing feels kind of flat and predictable: Antagonist is introduced, Gotham City Police react carefully and sensitively like a blunt instrument and beat lots of people up, Jim Gordon does some detecting where no one else will, villains plot, and confrontation, and then foreshadow-y, meta-plot scene and credits roll.

My other big problem with this show (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Arrow, which we're catching up with on Netflix) is that I have yet to see any reason why Gotham or Starling City is worth saving. Gotham, in particular, is a dingy, grimy, just plain awful place that doesn't seem to have any kind or altruistic citizens, just wall-to-wall gangsters, homeless druggies, and criminals, with a few rich people here and there to be offended by the very presence of the lower class. Even the trees in the final moments of last night's episode were dirty--it's a freaking park on a sunny day, and the trees were just patches of dingy green and darkness. Seriously, TV shows, what gives? I don't think it would be a stretch to have an episode centered around someone who's trying to do actual, genuine good in these cities, not as a vigilante, but as a social worker or community advocate (and Councilman Blood on Arrow doesn't count, since we have yet to see him actually doing anything in the very community he's meant to represent.) All cities have their issues with crime and poverty, but I have yet to travel to a city that doesn't have any good people in it, or a nicely landscaped park or museum with adequate lighting somewhere. Further, adding some nice people or places wouldn't diminish the grimdark tone the writers/production people are going for, it would make the dark seem darker by comparison. Come on, shows, surprise me! Make me want to visit Gotham or Starling City!

I'm definitely enjoying this season of Sleepy Hollow more, but last night's episode brought up a few problems: Spoilers, of course. )
retsuko: watanuki freaking out with a pig in his hands (omgwtfbbq!)
In the Love It category of Oscar nonsense:

~Ang Lee has just made right to the top of my "Super Awesome and All Around Must-See Filmmaker" List. Granted, he was on the there before, but last night, he muscled his way straight to the top. Further, he was one of the few filmmakers who thanked the author of the book their movie is based on! Seriously, what the what, Hollywood.

~FASHIONS: TEH SHINY! There were a lot of looks there were just plain pretty this year. I hope a lot of stylists and publicists were well compensated for their efforts! (My favorites were Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, Olivia Munn, and Adele.)

~Adele and Shirley Bassey were amazing! And Christopher Plummer's speech about the Best Actress category was both funny and classy.

As for the Shove It category:

~OMG, WTF and BBQ. The first link is Buzzfeed, so perhaps avoid the comments, and the second is a much more reasoned critique from The New Yorker, but for sanity, possibly avoid the comments there, too. Anyway, I guess I should start out by saying that I am definitely not a Seth MacFarlance fan, so I was likely predisposed to be critical; that said, I'm still flabbergasted that some of the jokes were allowed to air. Seriously: domestic violence is funny how/why? Actresses taking risks for their roles is... worthy of making an entire song about how you can see their boobs? I feel like much of MacFarlane's material was an extended monologue based on a montage of The Soup's "Chicks, Man" segment.

~ This year's ceremony felt particularly long, and by the end of it, I was glad it was over.

So, next year... Amy and Tina, yes? Yes? Please?
retsuko: (spoilers!)
In Books:

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, by Craig Marks: I gave up on this about 100 pages in. Here's what I said on Goodreads: "I don't think that I was the target audience for this work. After about a hundred pages, it was just a blur of people talking about cocaine-fueled orgies in between making videos, casual misogyny, and poor business decisions. I should say that I am highly impressed at the author's interviewing and editing skills; without careful thought and planning, this work would have been even more disorganized and confusing. And it is amazing to think that the cultural influence that MTV had came from such a tiny germ of an idea executed by people who had almost no idea what they were doing at the time. This said, it completely lost my interest in the long list of interviewees and overall tone of the book, which was self-congratulatory and completely unaware of the implications of its content." I still stand by that. I was hoping my impression would have changed with a few weeks' time, but I'm still dissatisfied.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, by Ellen Forney: I'm already looking forward to reading this again. It's a very honest, open look at Forney's grappling with bipolar disorder and how she overcomes it (and what this process entails.) I've been a fan of hers for a while, and I'm amazed after reading this that she was able to create the excellent, insightful comics that she does/did, given what she was going through at the time.

How to Be a Woman, by Catie Moran: An excellent, funny piece of writing, with an honest, wry tone. Essential reading for any card-carrying, 3rd wave feminist. Hell, it's essential reading for just about anyone!

Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire: I did enjoy this book, but I cannot remember reading anything like it, where I was so worried that the main character would die (despite the fact that I know she's the protagonist through the whole series.) She had so little to go on, and the forces she was up against had so much. Honestly, I kept wanting to hug her and tell her it would be all right, even as I suspected that it wouldn't. McGuire has a great eye for character and setting, and her descriptions of San Francisco make it a living backdrop, not just a location for the story to have short scenes in. I'm eager to read the next book in the series, but after a little while, when I've had some time to let my worry-urge rest.

On DVD/Netflix:

The Five-Year Engagement: Sometimes when you watch a movie, there's ONE SCENE that is so much better than anything else that the rest of the film just wastes away in comparison. The Five-Year Engagement was one of those movies, where there's a terrifically funny scene about three-quarters of the way through between Emily Blunt and Allison Brie. It was so good, in fact, that I wished the film had just been those two funny ladies, being their awesome, hilarious selves. The rest of the story has some OK bits, but nothing measures up to that particular sequence.

The Campaign: What a determinedly odd movie. Parts of it were funny, but other parts of it were so over the top, I don't know what to think about it.

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Season 2: Perhaps I've been reading Escher Girls a little too much, but the women's character designs in this are really starting to bug me. It's one thing to have to simplify a costume or a body shape for the sake of easy animation, but when all the female characters have the same exact body proportions, it really starts to get dull, visually speaking. (And, for the record, these measurements appear to be 38-18-42.) The other annoying thing is the rebranding of the show to write out the token regular female character (Wasp) and token regular person of color (Black Panther) in favor of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk. Wasp and Black Panther could easily hold my attention as a super-team all by themselves, and their absence in the recent storylines is distressing.
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
In Movies:

Beasts of the Southern Wild: I am so glad that I had a chance to see this on the big screen, because the acting from everyone involved is simply amazing, and the landscapes of post-Katrina Louisiana, even though they were once familiar sights, look truly alien when they're enlarged.

The most amazing acting job comes from the star of the film, 6-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis. This little girl has such a force of personality that at one particular plot point, I would not have been surprised if the forces of the universe realigned themselves to reflect her view of reality. The character she plays, Hushpuppy, lives with her father, Wink, in The Bathtub, a decrepit Bayou community directly in the path of the Hurricane. Poverty is everywhere around her, yet she's not bowed down by it (or anything, really.) The places and people she cares about are unreliable at best, and she's often adrift in a rickety boat, at sea. Yet there is nothing to suggest that the viewer should pity her or bemoan her losses. This is simply her reality, and she's going to negotiate it as best she can.

In many ways, this movie reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki at his best. The titular beasts, when they appear, would not be out of place in Princess Mononoke, and Hushpuppy's heroic efforts in the face of adversity place her aside Sen in Spirited Away. But this movie is its own story, in no way a retelling of someone else's story. In some ways, I think it's the most uniquely American movie I've ever seen, although its vision of America is not altogether a positive one. The magical realism that permeates the plot is what separates it from a simply depressing tale of a poor little girl and her alcoholic, dying father. In this story, actions have consequences, and the consequences make all the characters the people who they are. That the consequences are giant, magical beasts makes no difference to Hushpuppy and her friends; they're there to be faced and dealt with, and then moved on from.

One word of warning to those with sensitive stomachs: much of this film is shot with a handheld camera, and sometimes the results are a little nauseating (although, again, given whose perspective this story is being told from, dizzying makes sense.) It's a really beautiful story even with all the sad parts in it, and it would make a great family movie for older children who are prepared to handle the pathos in the story. As I said, it's well worth seeing on the big screen, and I hope it gets a lot more press--and hopefully, Oscar nominations all around.

And now for something completely different:

Lady Gaga's "Fame" (Black Fluid version): This product is made of crazy, and as with all things Lady Gaga, it's so crazy that I can't help but love it for its over-the-top, obvious shamelessness. That said, I have no intention of buying a bottle, especially not for $79 a pop. "Fame" is reportedly the first perfume that is black (it looks like watery India Ink in the bottle, which was also attacked by a gold-plated, insectoid Chthulu monster that got smacked into the cap and decided to stay there) but sprays on transparent. It does in fact spray on transparent, and the scent is... well, this isn't what I think "fame" smells like. For all of the hype surrounding its release, I think this is a really conventional scent. It's perfume-y: a little alcoholic, slightly musky, not floral or girly. It's reminiscent of the more interesting things that Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab does, but it doesn't surpass those, at least not the ones I've tried and liked. But the thing that I found most annoying is that it scent didn't last. This seems to be a big issue with all the modern perfumes I've bought, even the good BPAL ones: unless you douse yourself in the liquid, the smell's pretty much gone in a few hours. And, while I don't want to be reeking of a particular scent for hours and hours, it would be nice if it would last, say, an evening. "Fame" lasted for barely two, and by the end, it was a ghost of its former, wafting self.

It's entirely possible that this is a meta construction of the perfume itself, that Lady Gaga and her perfume designers want to make part of this experience something like the fleeting nature of fame itself... except that I don't think that's it at all. I think the more you apply this, the sooner you'll buy another bottle; I also think that the ingredients to make this truly last would jack up the price something fierce. And since this is a high-end product, but not so high-end that Macy's can't sell it, that would be counter-productive for the company and stores. So it's a short-lived fragrance.

My biggest/silliest quibble, though, remains: this isn't what "fame" smells like, at least in my mind. Fame would smell something like tabloid magazine ink, champagne, caviar, and celluloid all mixed together, which I can only guess would be disgusting. (Sean John's "Unforgivable" cologne has the same problem--it needs to smell like cheap booze, cheaper perfume, and desperation, not like a generic musk.) I think I'd be more on board with this perfume if it were called something like, "Monsters' Ball" or "Bad Romance". Right now, of course, my opposition to it remains largely an ideological convenience, designed to keep my money safely in my wallet.
retsuko: snarky quote :) (capital letters)
In Books:

Bleeding Out, by Jes Battis: So, I have really loved these books and was sad to read that this one would be the last. I understand that Battis has another career and other projects. However, I am very disappointed in this narrative, and I don't really feel like it was a fitting end for any of the characters, except one, and she was not the main one. More, with spoilers: )

Anyway, the failings of one volume don't mean that the rest are bad, and I don't want to steer anyone away from these books. I would say that the first half of the series is excellent, and well worth your time. The second half, and particularly this last book, is really for die-hard completists and masochists like myself.

At the Movies/On DVD:

Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1: I have tried to keep my opinions largely to myself on this whole thing because, as the internet advises us in one of its few wise moments, it's OK to not like things, but don't be a dick about the things you don't like. However, the Twilight movies are utterly bewildering to me, and they are not improved with alcohol and good snarkery from witty friends. I really don't understand the popularity of these things when they are so poorly paced, written, and acted. OK, yes, in theory, I can see the viewership squeeing over RPatz and TLaut (who really is fairly easy on the eyes, I will admit), and I suppose that with a lot of squinting and excuse-making, the Bella/Edward love affair could be a kind of crazy-stupid that people wax all gooey-eyed about. But this movie...! It was dull beyond my wildest dreams. Even when there was action, it was poorly edited and I couldn't see what was happening. It should be exciting! Vampires v. werewolves! Except... well, the fight scenes were done as though a group of teenagers with no real-world fighting experience was RPing the whole thing, and pausing to argue about the rules along the way. Further insult to injury! )

The Amazing Spiderman: This was surprisingly entertaining. Sure, there were pacing problems here, too, but the acting was so good that I didn't care. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have real chemistry together, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field class up the whole experience something fierce, which is ironic since Martin Sheen works to class himself down, mostly succeeding. Stan Lee has the funniest cameo he's ever had in a Marvel movie. There are all these wonderful little details in it, like the perfect set dressing of Peter's room and the awkward poses of the high school photos he takes. Hell, even his camera is perfect. I enjoyed this so much more than most of the other superhero films I've seen recently.
retsuko: watanuki freaking out with a pig in his hands (omgwtfbbq!)
I'm not sure exactly where to start with this movie. On one hand: it was worth seeing on the big screen. On the other: What the hell was that?!

Spoilers, and general discussion along the lines of SUBTLENESS: LOOK INTO IT. )

In sum: Uhm... I can't summarize this into "yay" or "meh". Those with body horror triggers/squicks may want to avert their eyes at least three times. Those with birth horror triggers should probably steer clear of the whole thing. I'm not sorry we saw it, but it's nowhere near the awesome that the first Alien movie was. The design aspects of the ship itself, though, were beautiful, and the spectacle of the whole movie is undeniably amazing. It's uneven at best.
retsuko: (fierce!)
I'm pretty loyal to most of the shows I watch, and this either has to do with a plot I'm invested in, or characters I care about. However, as I blogged about previously, when a show gets down to *one* character I care about, I'm pretty hard-pressed to keep up with it, and then if a bad plot comes along, it's curtains for the show in general. A case in point is "Dexter", a show which I've been watching on DVD since season 1, but am thoroughly done with now. This most recent season, the fifth one, was rife with plot contrivances, disturbing subject matter (more so than the series' usual fare), and characters behaving utterly unlike themselves. More here, with spoilers. )

In sum: it's a challenging season, and I'm glad it's done now. This break-up was sort of odd, in that I'd read that this season was wildly uneven and knew the basics of the plot going in, but I was still unprepared for the level of squick I found there. I suppose I'd still recommend the first few seasons of the show to people who like that sort of thing, but in general, I think I've had it with serial killers and semi-true-crime TV shows.
retsuko: (don't like where)
Originally posted by [ profile] twbasketcase at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Originally posted by [ profile] gabrielleabelle at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Okay, so I don't usually do this, but this is an issue near and dear to me and this is getting very little no attention in the mainstream media.

Mississippi is voting on November 8th on whether to pass Amendment 26, the "Personhood Amendment". This amendment would grant fertilized eggs and fetuses personhood status.

Putting aside the contentious issue of abortion, this would effectively outlaw birth control and criminalize women who have miscarriages. This is not a good thing.

Jackson Women's Health Organization is the only place women can get abortions in the entire state, and they are trying to launch a grassroots movement against this amendment. This doesn't just apply to Mississippi, though, as Personhood USA, the group that introduced this amendment, is trying to introduce identical amendments in all 50 states.

What's more, in Mississippi, this amendment is expected to pass. It even has Mississippi Democrats, including the Attorney General, Jim Hood, backing it.

So if you sometimes pass on political action because you figure that enough other people will do something to make a difference, make an exception on this one. My RSS reader is near silent on this amendment. I only found out about it through a feminist blog. The mainstream media is not reporting on it.

If there is ever a time to donate or send a letter in protest, this would be it.

What to do?

- Read up on it. Wake Up, Mississippi is the home of the grassroots effort to fight this amendment. Daily Kos also has a thorough story on it.

- If you can afford it, you can donate at the site's link.

- You can contact the Democratic National Committee to see why more of our representatives aren't speaking out against this.

- Like this Facebook page to help spread awareness.

I contacted the Democratic party website and hope to report on a fruitful response from them. I think what most right wingers and so-called right-to-lifers tend to forget is that the long term consequences of a law such as this one are increased poverty and greater instances of child abuse and neglect. I do not understand how a group of people can claim to "value" life and still work to make it more difficult and dangerous for others 10, 20, 30 years down the line. Although I suspect these measures will not hold up in court, millions upon millions of dollars will be wasted in legal fees, as well as time and energy that could be spent educating young people on the proper use of birth control and/or eliminating poverty in our country. I also wonder when we will see the first pictures of women who attempted abortions by themselves and bled to death. I have a sinking feeling that these pictures will be the things that will finally rally the centrist majority of America into action.
retsuko: (plothole?)
Falling out of love with a pop culture phenomenon is a disquieting sensation, especially when it comes suddenly or after you've spent time telling other people how good said pop culture phenomenon was. You're reading or watching something, quite happily, and then there's some moment of squick or poor writing that kills the experience. The question then becomes one of forgiving the momentary lapse of storytelling, or giving up completely. In most cases, I'm willing to give the story and its writers the benefit of the doubt. Delivering a reliably entertaining product on a weekly basis is difficult and it comes as no surprise that every now and then there are slip ups. But there have been times, recently, when the writing/acting/subject matter just killed the show for me, and a pop culture break-up was inevitable.

Case in point #1:
Manga: Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 1, by Usamaru Furuya

The Good: I love the premise of the story, which is that after surviving a freak accident that killed his best friend, ordinary high school student and artist Hikaru suddenly finds himself with the power to draw whatever is in his classmate's hearts, and with the help of his dead best friend (who appears like a little angel on his shoulder), travel into the drawing in order to fix whatever is wrong. The artwork in this is quite good, and the sequences within his drawings are delightfully surreal.

The Bad: Hikaru is an anti-hero, antisocial and disinterested in actually interacting with his classmates. On one hand, this sets up a good transformation for him over the course of the story. But this also makes him a little tough to envision as the hero at all, as he whines and complains about how difficult it is to deal with others. The other major problem is that the worries of high school students, although lovingly rendered in Dali-esque detail, are really not anything profound in the grand scheme of life. A stronger story would have our hero taking his skills to the outside world and tackling more major problems (other than "I am jealous of my sister!" or "I don't understand my father!")

The Straw That Broke This Reader's Back: That's supposed to be normal? EW. )

Slightly more lighthearted case in point #2:

TV Show: The Cape

The Good: I love cheesy, Silver-Age style comic book stories, and this show initially promised a goodly amount, in all of its melodramatic, velveeta glory. Vince Farraday is a cop in scenic Palm City, framed for murder and presumed dead after a suspiciously convenient explosion in a train yard. However, a traveling circus of thieves takes him in, and its ringleader teaches him to bide his time for revenge by learning secret martial arts techniques and assuming the secret identity of The Cape, a masked vigilante, friend of the weak and helpless, etc. It's The Count of Monte Cristo meets Superman, with a little bit of Andrew Lloyd Weber's The Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good measure.

The Bad: With a show that's cheesy, you're skating a thin line between camp and just plain stupid. For example, we're supposed to believe that the hero's best friend, who'd worked with him for years, doesn't recognize his voice or the lower half of his face when he appears in costume. Or that Palm City has attracted an abnormally high number of baddies with random disfigurements over the years. Or that there's a street that looks like something from the set of Bladerunner where the villains' henchpeople just happen to end disclosing their masters' schemes in low voices to the gang of heroes. Or that the evil Ark Corporation that's supposedly slowly taking over the entire town appears to be staffed by the head villain, his one lackey, and no one else. And the list goes on and on.

The Straw That Broke This Viewer's Back: I think somewhere in amongst all the above mentioned stupid, the total misuse of Summer Glau's character started to bother me the most. She had so little to do, other than bickering with the hero and apparently running an influential website that was going to take Ark Corporation down. (Although we never saw evidence of its influence.) But in last night's episode, the writers decided that there was nothing for it but to make her the damsel in distress, captured by a hitherto unknown baddie, whose origin story was preposterously dumb. (Apparently, he was so ugly that his mother abandoned him in a mental institution a few days after his birth, where he learned to make neurotoxins and tormented the staff who'd bullied him as a child...?!*) So now she's waiting for our hero to come and save her, and there's only one episode left... and I'm done now.

* Also, if you're going to have a villain who's supposed to be that monstrously disfigured... spend more money on make up. He just looked like he had a black eye, not so much with the disturbingly ugly.

The annoying thing about both of these is that they had potential to be so awesome. Of course, I will vote with my wallet and remote control, and not buy/watch them anymore. It's just disappointing when something with potential turns out to be poorly executed.
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.

Worst Band Names, 2010

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 07:42 am
retsuko: (music!)
The Onion A.V. Club's list of the worst band names of 2010 is here! As usual, there's some brilliantly crazy and stupid naming jobs:

* Stop with the unicorns, already! As much as my inner 4th grade girl's heart thrills every time she sees the word 'unicorn', it doesn't lend any "badass factor" to your band name, just an arched eyebrow of 'O RLY'. Examples:

Sex Unicorn (... what?)
Unicorn Basement (... sort of what?)

* Unintentionally funny? It's hard to tell anymore, since one of the bands claims that their life's ambition with their naming choice was to be featured in the Worst Band Names list. Regardless, intentional or not, examples:

Dangermuffin (I'm picturing a little English muffin, dressed up like Danger Mouse, threatening some bad guy and getting stepped on.)
Feng Shui Ninjas (This would make an awesomely crazy one-shot comic book, along with the Sushi Police.)
Begin By Gathering Supplies (... OK. And then?)
Piano Fondue (Is this a dinner theater battle band?)
Federal! State! Local! (It's the exclamation points that make this one work.)

* Second Person: You're not sure, but you think this is a bad trend for band names:

Kill You in the Face (... whut.)
Music Hates You (For listening to this band?)
You Might Think We're Sharks (Oh. I was thinking you were killer whales, but I'm glad you set me straight on that.)

Anyway, enjoy. Warning: Good for hours of time wasteage!
retsuko: (they wrote whut?!)
In Books:

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, by Jennifer Block: I must confess that I read a great part of this book gaping in surprise and outrage; Edvard Munch's "Scream" and I sat on the couch, paging through chapter after chapter of alternately creepy and disheartening work on the over-medicalization of birth, demonization of midwives and their work, and the disenfranchisement of women from their own pregnancies. Block skillfully traces the history of medicalized childbirth from the early 1900s to the present day, weaving the historical information in between anecdotes from midwives who practice their work illegally and mothers who want to have a say in the birth of their children after horrific experiences where their wishes were ignored, and in some cases, their lives endangered. The saddest part of this narrative is, perhaps, the (difficult to substantiate) cases of women who've had cesareans with their first pregnancy who want to give vaginal birth with their second, but are told by doctors and insurance companies that they're not "allowed" to do so. In some cases, these women are able to find midwives (legal or otherwise) who will assist them, but in some cases, they simply go it alone (which can be deemed to be abusive to the child, depending on the State the birth occurs in.) Block also presents compelling evidence that the standard, hospital method of giving "natural" birth (the mother lying on her back, pushing, inducing labor, etc) isn't necessarily the most healthy method for mother and baby, either. Too often, she argues, births and the birth process are treated in a way that doesn't take into account the parents' desires and ultimately, threatens the health of mother and child.

Block, a former editor of Ms. magazine, is clearly bewildered why issues of childbirth and methods of delivery aren't part of more pro-choice/pro-women groups' agendas (and are, in fact, often ignored in political platforms of these groups). Having read this, I have to say that I agree with her confusion over this issue. Given the over-politicalizing of the early stages of birth/conception, I am surprised that the final months of pregnancy don't warrant the same kind of attention, especially with some of the stories that Block relates of women being arrested for trying to give birth at home, or the forced c-sections for women who say they don't want them. (One of Block's most interesting subjects is a vehemently Catholic, pro-life couple, who end up marching in the Pro-Choice march in Washington to support a woman's right to choose how she gives birth after the mother is forced to have a c-section by her doctors.) Ethically speaking, Block asks, do women have a right to natural birth, and at what point can the state step in, if at all?

Block's own agenda came through very loud and clear throughout the book; she's very anti-c-section. I didn't entirely agree with all her points on this issue and thought that trying to link flesh-eating bacteria infections to the operation, in particular, undermined her argument. What I came away with from this book is that when it comes time for my own pregnancy, I am going to call the shots, no matter what, but knowing this will be an uphill battle. (One of my life goals, which is to avoid major surgery, was definitely affirmed by reading this work.) However, after reading this, I certainly don't begrudge anyone else their choices in delivery, as long as those choices are well-informed and not governed by an overburdened, overinsured medical system that only cares about statistics and speed of birth.


Prom Night in Mississippi: Three years ago, Morgan Freeman's hometown, Charleston, Mississippi, was still having racially segregated proms. Freeman heard about this and decided that he wanted to do something about it; that the idea of having a "black prom" and a "white prom" in 2007 was morally repugnant. He offered to pay for the whole prom if it were integrated. This film chronicles that offer and the responses in the school and surrounding community, and ultimately, the prom itself, in 2008. The strengths of this film lie in its careful attention to detail, like the students emerging from rundown houses and trailers in their prom finery, or the touching relationship between one of the few interracial couples at the school, Heather and Jeremy. The students, as a whole, talk about racism rather wearily, something that their parents are afflicted with and that must be worked against in order to make the school and the community a better place. A group of parents (who refuse to be interviewed, except through their lawyer) still throws a white prom, to the dismay of some of the students. But in the end, the integrated prom happens, and goes off without a hitch. The filmmakers cut back to Freeman, who says that he simply wants to give the students a place to socialize and talk, and it's clear this is accomplished. (There's a great couple of shots of the girl's bathroom where the black and white girls fall to talking about whose dress is the prettiest, and what their dates are going to be like.) Ultimately, this is a very hopeful film, that despite the outrageous ignorance and prejudice, racial harmony will out, especially in the hands of the younger (and wiser) generation.
retsuko: (surprising read)
I had heard this book being billed as "Harry Potter grown up", and recommended along the lines of "C.S. Lewis, but with sex!" And... it's sort of like that. It's a retake of the "lonely boy gets a chance to study at awesome magical school and has adventures" young adult fantasy plot, and there is indeed growing up and sex. There are also some very familiar plot devices on loan from Rowling, Lewis, and T.H. White, among others. And Grossman's writing style is lyrical and interesting, and the book did suck me in fairly quickly. Yet this was not a particularly good reading experience, mainly because the main character was so freaking unlikeable, and because the last third of the book was so anti-everything young adult fantasy novel trope. Generally speaking, I'm all for books where typical plot contrivances are shown to be useless and mockable, but when this is coupled with characters who are (mostly) useless and mockable, it doesn't end up working.

Let's start with what worked: Grossman's description of magic and the teaching of it is spot-on: magic is more difficult than a calculus exam taken in the dark with a five-piece swing band playing over your shoulder. And the teaching of it is best left to antisocial weirdos, in a rarefied, Anglophile school atmosphere that only the twice-selected of the selected few get into. To whit, a quotation from one of the professors:

"The study of magic is not a science, it is not an art, and it is not a religion. Magic is a craft. When we do magic, we do not wish and we do not pray. We rely upon our will and our knowledge and our skill to make a specific change to the world. This is not to say we understand magic, in the sense that physicists understand why subatomic particles do whatever it is they do. Or perhaps they don't understand yet, I can never remember. In any case, we do not and cannot understand what magic is, or where it comes from, any more than a carpenter understands why a tree grows. He doesn't have to. He works with what he has. With the caveat that it is much more difficult and much more dangerous and much more interesting to be a magician than it is to be a carpenter."

The Magicians is strongest when Grossman describes just how difficult, dangerous, and interesting it is to be a magician, and what the costs of failure are. Unfortunately, those parts are few and far between as the teenage plight of the main character and the bickering between him and the rest of his compatriots takes center stage throughout most of the novel. The main character, Quentin, reminded me a lot of the guys I used to go to high school with, whose problems often sounded like one long whine along the lines of, "WOE I am reasonably smart, but secretly very sensitive, so I adopted this fake jerk surface attitude and now I wonder why I can't get a date and my family is so rich and I can go to Harvard, but no one likes me and I'm lonely and my life is hard and WOE." This got old pretty quick in high school, and it got old pretty quickly in the novel, too. I was willing to give Quentin the benefit of the doubt--after all, having your universe turned upside down by the revelation that magic does exist isn't something you process in a day, or even a month. But Quentin never got over this, and stubbornly refused to be happy, even when presented with all the things he had ever wanted. Now, take that character, age him about five years, and make him a magician with supreme, universe-altering powers, and give him access to wildly huge amounts of money, and guess where that gets him. (Hint: it ain't happy.) It's sort of like Catcher in the Rye, Part 2: Holden Caulfield, Magician!.

The other aspect of the plot that's handled in a fairly tricky fashion is the final third of the book, where all the main characters find that they're able to travel to the magical land of Fillory, the subject of children's books that Quentin knew obsessively. Fillory is obviously a parallel of Narnia, complete with talking bears, trees, and other magical creatures, and I got the repeated feeling that Grossman didn't care for Lewis' Aslan, a benevolent, God-like power who lets bad things happen to good people. (Quentin argues with the God-figure in Fillory, explicitly asking him, "You are a god, and things are really falling apart up there.... Why would You let Your people suffer like that?") The other portion of this part of the plot is the revealing of the Bad Guy and the battle against him, which is well-done and properly menacing, and hits all the notes perfectly for action and suspense. But, again, without particularly caring whether the main character makes it through or not, the battle doesn't have that much resonance, especially when an earlier, very obvious plot device comes into play.

The character who I liked the most was Alice, Quentin's love interest. In fact, I would have been far more interested in the story were it told from her point of view (although her single-minded to devotion to Quentin grew wearisome and seemed highly unrealistic.) Without going into too many plot specifics, Alice turns out to be the key to success on many levels, and on many occasions, and her choices reflect true bravery and courage. It's too bad that she ended up relegated to second-tier status when she could have easily held the plot up on her own.

In sum: this is definitely an arresting read, and I wish I could ask Grossman questions about his particular authorial choices (and axes to grind). I would like to shake the main character around until he came to his senses. But I do think Grossman did nail a central point--teenagers, and most people, if really finding themselves gifted with fearsome powers, would have a tough time distinguishing between good, evil, and pure selfishness. Magic isn't like an injection of ethics; it's like alcohol: it changes everyone who imbibes it, for better or worse.
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.


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: (eels in the photobooth)
Dear Flashforward: There's so much here that I like, but it's bogged down with a lot of stupid and very poor pacing. More spoilers, more plot advancement, less treating the viewers like two-year-olds-with-no-long-term-memory, please! )

Dear Office: Aw, don't ever change. Well, maybe a little, but not much. We need more subtle scenes, like Tobey showing Pam how to throw a punch, as if he's been planning to punch Michael for years, but never quite worked up the guts to do so. We need more Andy singing and more thwarted Dwight. I would dial down the awkward a notch, but that's just me.

Dear Code Geass: WTF. I mean, sincerely, what the hell is going on here? You can either have a re-write of world history and a rebels-taking-down-the-empire show, OR you can have a harem-esque, high school romantic comedy drama anime. Mixing the two leads to some really, really weird moments. It's like Star Wars with a cast of far more cliched characters, reset in a Southern California high school; Darth Vader's the superintendent of schools, Luke Skywalker's a scrappy transfer student with a plan to cancel all pep rallies, and Princess Leia's the captain of the swim team. It works well, but only sometimes, and in that weird, fanfic-y way that doesn't necessarily equal quality. Oh, and did I mention that there were giant robots? It gets crazier, with spoilers! )

Constant Viewer
retsuko: (they wrote whut?!)
A while back, I wrote about the trailer for "Repo: The Genetic Opera", assuming that it would come out in theaters and I would go and see it on a sunny morning at a cheap showing. Then the movie wasn't released in the way I expected it would be, and when it moseyed over to San Diego, I didn't think I could stay up until midnight to see something potentially disturbing. But thanks to Netflix, the DVD is in my possession (albeit temporarily.)

And, honestly? I might have to watch this again.

I mean, I was surprised by how much I liked it. On the first viewing, it reminded me of a report that I did in eighth grade world history about the Globe Theater during Shakespeare's time and how the performers used ox blood during the blood-letting scenes because it looked more dramatic than any other type of animal blood (according to my source at the time.) There's a lot of blood in this, but it seems ox-blood-fake, set dressing for the sake of the overall tint of the film, and not actually belonging to any human being. And the music is crazy, running the gamut from Broadway-style crowd scenes (a chorus of singing prostitutes, a la Les Miz and Miss Saigon!) to punk to Puccini. But somehow it works, and I cannot say what the best thing about it is, the music or the singing or the acting, or the general over-the-top staging and melodramatic story. I suppose the best way to summarize it would be "Bertold Brecht meets Iggy Pop meets Elvira meets Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde meets West Side Story and they all do drugs together and then get in a knife fight and sing and it's a strange kind of AWESOME!"

I remember... I dismember!: This ain't your granddaddy's opera. Spoilers ahead, too. )

To those who were concerned about the squick/horror level: If you've seen any 80's slasher movie, I think you've seen the gore you're going to see here. If you don't like torture, you should probably stay away, although I thought those scenes moved by very quickly and didn't bother me like I had expected.

I may never think of Anthony Stewart Head in the same way again, though, that's for damn sure. I should also add that I was in a very specific mood when I watched this; I wanted something completely different and strange, and I wanted music, and I really, really enjoyed it. I think it I had been in a more fragile or introspective mood, I would not have enjoyed it and this entry would be very different.

Of course, the real question that I have is, will this be the new Rocky Horror Picture Show? Rocky is kitschy, campy fun. I don't know if I would call this movie "fun", although a lot of the music is very stirring. I don't think I can picture people singing along with Sarah Brightman's aria... and I'm not sure what props you would bring with you to Repo (maybe little glass vials?). On the other hand, this already has a kind of cult following, and if the midnight showing at the Ken is any indication, it could certainly happen. And if it comes around again, and there are people in costume... I might just have to go this time.
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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