Double Feature Weekend: World War Z and Pacific Rim

A friend of mine said that she’s been pretty disappointed with the summer movies so far.  Until this weekend, I agreed with her since Man of Steel was overall a big disappointment.  I do think there are still some fun and actually good movies still left to see before we all go back to the daily grind, Wolverine, Elysium, and The Butler just to name a few.

I’ll start by saying that neither of the films I saw this past weekend were ground-breaking, revolutionary, mind-changing, or really, actually, good.  Also, seeing them once is probably enough for me, and a litmus test for a film really out to be that you want to see it again. So, if you’re looking for a great film that’s really worth the time and money, you can go ahead and skip these two.

That being said, I enjoyed both of the movies this weekend, and I especially liked seeing  them at great theaters with comfy seats and good sound systems.

I’ll start with Pacific Rim since it’s the easier to review. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors because he’s so willing to just completely indulge his imagination.  In this film, it’s almost as though he said, I really wish that I could see a giant robot fight Godzilla and from that, he made a movie.  It was fun, and the highlights of the film were the giant robots and monsters.  The main characters were almost indistinguishable — literally, for ten minutes I couldn’t tell the difference between two blond guys even though one was supposed to be the protagonist and one the antagonist.  Still, the point of this film wasn’t plot or character, it was spectacle and what a spectacle it was.  It made me wish I were 10 years old again so I could pick my favorite giant and have imaginary fights with the monsters.

Now, World War Z was quite different than PR.  The spectacle was actually distracting from the story in this film — the racing zombies were just a mass of indistinguishable danger and when they weren’t racing, they were funny even though I”m not so sure they were meant to be.  What I liked about this film is the serious way in which the question was answered about what would happen to the world — not just a single place like London or Atlanta — if there were a zombie like virus released.  Beyond that, it showed what would happen to family and how families would change and adapt in this situation.  Brad Pitt played Gerry Lane who was just a realistic good person with military type experience instead of some ridiculous over-the-top superhero.  His family and their plight was just as interesting as Gerry’s.  I especially enjoyed the roles of Karin (Mirielle Enos) and Segen (Danielle Kertesz) who were shown to be just as heroic in their roles as Gerry was in his.  It was a refreshing approach to the summer blockbuster, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  The two distracting parts of the film were minor: the zombies sounded like pterodactyls and clicked their teeth when in hibernation mode which was funny rather than eerie; and then there was music that sounded distractedly close to the 28 Days Later movie soundtrack which may have been homage but maybe not.

Overall, it was a great way to spend a few hours this weekend.

Parade’s End and On Being Cumberbatched

Perhaps I should begin this review with a reference to my earlier one of Star Trek: Into Darkness, where I posted a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch and lauded his ability to be so, so deliciously ruthless.  Well, I went to see the movie again after that review, and upon a second viewing, realized that not only was BC a wonderful actor, he was so wonderful that he actually became the focus of the movie, that he was literally what I was watching and watching for throughout the movie.

Fast forward a month or so, and imagine me, here at home, about to do some tedious work that requires me to sit still for hours on end.  My solution: find something on Netflix to play in the background. I consulted my queue and saw Kahn sitting right there!  in Sherlock, a BBC show that I’d been meaning to watch for ages but had previously skipped over in favor of other stuff.

I did not make up this name nor do I endorse it. That being said, it is kind of funny and clever.

So, I watched the show and think it is brilliant!, despite JRP’s objections to SH saving The Woman (which I find to be totally plausible).   Then, out of curiousity, I decided to follow BC on Instagram (he’s not on IG, BTW, but Mindy Kaling is!), and found out that he has 155,000+ pictures and videos posted (with 3,000+ added in ONE DAY).  I was absolutely blown away by the fandom that has developed for this actor and by their chosen name, the Cumberbitches, and that liking this particular actor has a name as well, in which his name has become a gerund, as in I have been cumberbatched, which loosely translates into being fascinated by him and his work.  My astonishment comes from the fact is: Benedict Cumberbatch is not THAT cute.  He’s slightly awkward and goofy looking. And, he’s acting in parts that are pretty high on the Geek factor — Star Trek?  Sherlock?  Stephen Hawking? Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? It’s not like he’s the next Channing Tatum.

So, what is it, then, that inspires such admiration, mostly from girls, who are willing to post thousands of pictures of him and endow themselves with monikers such as “unhealthybenaddiction,” “sherlockedcumberbabe,” and “the cumberqueens”?  Perphaps, it is the deep voice?  Yes, that’s part of it… and it’s biological, the attraction to men with deep voices (and women with higher pitched voices…).  His voice is pretty nice. He is, after all, the voice of Stephen Hawking and Jaguar.  Okay, but voice can’t be all of it or we’d have a bunch of RickWOmEn (as in Alan Rickman).

So, maybe it’s the eyes? Yes, they are nice, and yes, they have their own blog, and they are heterochromatic, but lots of folks have nice eyes.

I can’t speak for all of them, of course, but for me, I think it’s that he’s just genuinely a good actor, and I know this after watching Parade’s End, a co-production of HBO and BBC.

This show explores an era that I am woefully lacking in historical and cultural knowledge about (I know who Franz Ferdinand is… kind of… but not much more, at least not much that doesn’t have to do with teaching Frost or Hemingway)– the time period before, during and after World War 1–and it is set in England (mostly). ( Just so you know, I am not a Downton Abbey watcher, so I have no basis of comparison, though I think that show has a similar setting.)  The main characters are Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch), Sylvia Satterthwaite Tietjens (Rebecca Hall), and Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), who are involved in a very complicated and long-lasting love triangle.   The series is written by Tom Stoppard, perhaps best known for Shakespeare in Love but I love Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead best, and is based on the trilogy of novels by Ford Madox Ford.

This series was utterly fascinating, in part because it exposes so much of the issues of the time period.  The Tietjens, though, are the real draw to this series.  Every decision and action and motivation, every single one, was one that I agonized over with them.  Now that I’ve finished watching, I wish more people I know had watched the show or read the books so that we could discuss, in depth, the decisions of all the characters, but none more so than Sylvia.

Throughout the show (and even in the adverts for the show,  where Sylvia is called “manipulative” and presented as the one who orchestrates a “destructive marriage” between Christopher and “the beautiful but cruel socialite Sylvia“) Sylvia is cast as the antagonist and villain to Christopher’s heroism,to his stoic and steadfast commitments and his decency. Sylvia and others call him “the last descent man in England,” and he is portrayed as just that.  So, what does that make the woman who takes advantage of that decency?

But, it is Valentine, though, who makes us question Sylvia’s villainy, though indirectly.  In her suffragette convictions, she shows just how much women had to fight for and just how restrictive society was for women during this era.  It is Sylvia, after all, who is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love, Christopher, because she will be ruined and cast out of society because of a pregnancy.  And, yes, she doesn’t know who the father is — Christopher or Drake– but the last time I looked, it takes two people to make a baby.  While Christopher and Sylvia aren’t in love, she tries the best that she can, given her circumstances, to create a happy and loving marriage.  Again, the failed marriage isn’t solely her fault — Christopher does very little to comfort or love her, other than providing her with the protection that his name and their marriage affords her.  It is Sylvia who gave penance for five years, who bucked cultural norms to make it to France to try for a last valiant effort of reconciliation, and who was willing to change almost everything about herself to try to fit into his notion of the ideal woman.

While I think that we’re supposed to see Christopher and Valentine’s love as the pure, sweet and good love that we all seek, I wonder if it isn’t Sylvia who shows us what love really is.  She spurs Christopher to seek out happiness, to grow and change, to be able to admit that he’s wrong, and to see the world as it is, rather that as he would want it to be.  Those lessons come at a great cost, including her own hurt feelings and her potential societal ruin as a divorced woman, but I wonder if the price is worth it, after all. Because Christopher is such a good man, a man who struggles on and strives to do right, it seems like it, at the end since he is, finally, happy.  His happiness only comes about because Sylvia finally frustrates him enough that he, too, is willing to go against what society deems acceptable and go after love, instead of tradition.

The series is not flawless, by any means.  It plods in certain areas.  The social cues and distinctions are not quite explained.   The overt visual symbolism becomes a little too much after you’ve seen it for the seeming 100th time. And, sometimes, I just couldn’t understand what the heck they were saying.  Adelaide’s portrayal of Valentine was wonderful, but she was weak in comparison to Cumberbatch and Hall, so a stronger actress might have changed the dynamic of the love triangle in interesting ways.

Cumberbatched!

At the end, though, I can say that I am glad to have been cumberbatched long enough to discover this show.

Man of Steel: Good enough… but not Super

When I first saw the preview for Man of Steel, I was a little disappointed and considered not going to see the movie in the theater.  My friend, Jason, challenged me to a movie review mash-up (go read his review here). He didn’t like it at all, but I liked it a little more.

Mostly, my initial disappointment came from the choice of Superman.  Henry Cavill played Humphrey (Yes!  The Humphrey who picked on my beloved Tristan) in Stardust and Charles Brandon in The Tudors, and I just couldn’t imagine him transforming into Superman (BTW, what’s up with the British invasion?  Henry Cavill plays the ultra American superhero– Superman– and Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincoln.  I think Americans must spend too much time on the phone to be American now).  Also, I thought he was just TOO good-looking… I mean Superman is supposed to be good-looking, but not THAT good-looking…

Hello!

Well, after seeing the movie, I can tell you I was not disappointed in Henry Cavill and definitely don’t mind his looks.  Yowza, that is one handsome man. I can’t say they chose Cavill just because of his ability to act… but maybe  also for his biceps and traps, which after seeing them, is somewhat understandable.   As far as his acting goes though, I think he was pretty good, as he has a subtlety to him that actually undercuts the muscles and pretty face.  Okay, my girl-gushing over the cute boy is over…

Yowza! He sure looks super, doesn’t he?

As for the film, I give it a decided “ho-hum.”  I guess if it were on TV and I was home and there was nothing else to watch, read or do, I would watch it again, but it was just okay.  I expected more.  I mean… it’s SUPERMAN!  I can remember watching the original, Christopher Reeves as Superman movies as a child and feeling wowed by them. I hated Lex Luther, and I was scared of General Zod (Terrance Stamp) and hated him, too.  I wanted Superman to save the planet, I wanted things to be better, and I believed that he could make things better.  I was really, truly inspired by Superman, by his unwavering need to do good and to help others.  His altruism was inherent, in an idyllic but perhaps not unrealistic way.  Even now, those movies still retain that feeling of Superman as being a really, good, in fact… a superman.

This movie tries for inspiration, but it fails. Part of the reason I think the movie falls flat of super is that it explains too much.  Guillermo del Toro, in his discussion about Pan’s Labyrinth, talks about how Hollywood explains too much and how too much explanation can actually rob a story of its magic.  That is exactly what happened in this film.

Knowing that General Zod (Michael Shannon) was born and crafted into a soldier whose soul mission in life is to protect Krypton makes me feel sorry for him.  I mean, he can’t help it that he’s trying to protect Krypton, that’s what he’s SUPPOSED to do.  Feeling sorry for someone takes away from the hatred we’re meant to feel for the guy who wants to destroy Earth and kill Superman.  I mean, the movie kind of made all the Kryptonian characters into robots gone amuck, except, inexplicably Jor-El (Russell Crowe, who I’ve still not forgiven for ruining Les Miserables) and Lora Lor-Van (Ayelet Zuror).  If they can conceive a child and a rebellion… then why can’t anyone else?  If they were willing to save their own child, why not save others?  Saving just him, given what we know in this film makes them seem selfish and short-sighted.

The problem with over-explaining the mythology is that when the explanations don’t make sense, as these don’t, then the story and the myth feels like a let-down.  And that was exactly what happened. I felt let down.

The other problem with this movie was too much building crashing and general destruction and computer graphics.  At some point, it’s just annoying, and I reached that point about 1 hour into the movie.  By the time there was a giant machine re-setting Earth’s mass or whatever that was, I just wanted the entire movie to be over so that I could quit seeing buildings crash and have characters I’d only seen for 3 seconds prior suddenly be used for dramatic tension, when I’m supposed to be ever-so-concerned about his/her/their possible impending death. And, oh, god, the annoying destruction caused by the Kryptonians as they fought!  Please!  Superman can walk without making dents and ride in a truck, he’s not THAT heavy.

Overall, though, I still give this movie a good rating.  That’s mostly because of Lois Lane (Amy Adams).  In previous versions of Superman, Lois was the typical damsel-in-distress and was, to be frank, pretty annoying.  She just seemed to sit around and wait on Superman to save her, after doing something rash and stupid to get in trouble.  This Lois, though, is tough, she makes her own decisions, and she remains ethical, truthful and brave throughout the movie.  The moment where she hugs Superman at the end, well, it was totally corny, but I appreciated that they showed the comfort and compassion that she could offer.  Another positive was Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Diane Lane as Martha Kent as Clark’s parents.  And, again, they shone in the film because they showed true understanding, love and compassion, even for a child that wasn’t biologically theirs or something they even really understood.  These three, really, were the inspirational characters in the movie.  It’s because of them that I understand why Superman chose humans instead of Krypton.  They showed that even though human kind is flawed and imperfect, there are still enough of us that are, really, altruistic and kind, and maybe not idyllic, but good enough.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Well, I tried so hard to avoid reviews before and after seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I failed. But only a little bit, and since it inspired the format for this review…. well, I guess it is okay.

When the first Abrams’s Star Trek was released, I went to see it as a last minute decision, I think. I’m not a Trekkie (I’ve watched ST on and off through the years, but casually not obsessively),  and therefore didn’t have an entire set of expectations for what the movie was SUPPOSED to be.

I loved it.  From start to finish.  From Pine to Quinto. My only real complaint was that Shatner didn’t get to make a cameo. (Still!  Couldn’t they let him walk by the camera in a red shirt or something?! Come on!)

For this new ST, I once again tried my best to avoid all the hype about the film until now, when I can take a moment to process and review the film on my own.  I wouldn’t even talk to Joey or Brad about it in any depth because I didn’t want their opinions to unduly influence my own.  Plus, they’re both smarter than me, so I didn’t want to feel inadequate.

Then, BLAM! Facebook got me.  A friend posted this as a review of the new movie: “The only thing wrong with Abram’s Star Trek is that it misses the point of Star Trek.”

Now, I feel like I have to figure out what the POINT of Star Trek is.  I don’t know what other folks think the point of the show/movie/book/series/franchise/enterprise (yes! another bad pun. I’ll be here all week, folks.  Don’t forget to tip your bartender) is.

I’ll start with why I like Star Trek: because it’s fun.  Yes, it’s fun.  It presents a series of ideas, situations, and characters that are full of possibilities, and it almost always does so with a sense of joie de vivre and, while being serious in imagining an idyllic future world, there’s always been a bit of a tongue in cheek presentation.

Don’t agree?  Well, explain this:

Okay, so costumes were a little iffy back in the day.  This was before computer graphics.

So, how about this:

There’s no way they had Picard deliberately ordering Earl Grey, hot over and over again as a signifier of the long-lasting influence of the monarchy in England.  Nope, it was just fun.

This new film may not get to whatever other folks think the “point” of Star Trek is, but I thought it was amazing. Literally, “causing great surprise or sudden wonder.” 

From the moment the film started to almost the last minute (the credits at the end made me feel dizzy and headachy, not amazed… and there wasn’t even a sneak peak of more Klingons!), I was continually surprised and in wonder.

What else is the point of Star Trek, according to me, the expert-non-Trekkie?  Characters that are utterly memorable.  I can tell you that from this point forward, Zachary Quinto will always be “that guy who played Spock,” just like Leonard Nimoy (although when he was on screen this time, I thought, WILLIAM BELL!).  And, woah,  Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn (more later.  And, that guy’s name does not fit his ability to be so so deliciously ruthless.  His name makes me think of the kindly uncle in a Jane Austen book, who always has scones and tea and crumpets).  Chris Pine once again embraced and redefined the role of Kirk, making him a much more nuanced character, without overtelling.

I haven’t read the reviews, but I imagine that what folks don’t like is Kahn.  In the original series, Kahn was a barbarian genius (love that paradox), who was only allowed to live because Kirk was so far advanced that he could admire even Kahn and see how Kahn and his people deserved a chance to live, despite our much less advanced notions that Kahn should be executed. Okay, let me make this simpler:  Kahn = bad, but Kirk = good because he thinks even Kahn=bad should get to live.

In this new Abrams version, Kahn is the one who is more advanced and is maybe even more advanced than Kirk (we don’t know for sure, since Kirk gets put out of commission and it’s Spock who goes after Kahn).  It’s the rogue members of Star Fleet, those who believe in weapons and war, represented by Marcus (Peter Weller!  Robocop!), who is the bad one (okay, Abrams, we get it. Preemptive strikes are bad.  Is this the metaphor for everything in Hollywood now? ) because he (Marcus) manipulates Kahn by holding the people he loves hostage and makes him (Kahn) build weapons so he can kill the Klingons before the Klingons kill the Star Fleet. Kirk recognizes Kahn’s essential goodness, despite his appearance of evil and violence, because Kirk himself knows that he could be pushed to be evil in order to save or avenge his friends.  In this version, we’re not quite sure if Spock is right to almost kill Kahn at the end, but Spock realizes that he too has the human urge to kill.  Wait, human urge to kill?  Is that right?  Yes, the urge to kill is linked with the human urge to love.  We love so much that we’re willing to kill.

So, again, let’s simplify:  Marcus = bad, because he’s killing BEFORE something bad happens and has no regard for innocent lives and chooses war over any sense of empahty.  Got it.  Kahn = good or bad?, but with definite bad tendencies because he’s willing to kill, even innocent people, in order to get back his loved ones, which Kirk realizes is a strong motivator and can drive people to do unthinkable things.  Kirk and Spock = good because they both wait for bad things to happen first, then try to kill.  Okay, that’s a little confusing.

I’m guessing the true Trekkies, who get what Star Trek is really about, don’t like this convoluted message.  It’s much simpler and maybe more admirable in the original versions.  I do like this though, but I think it’s because I’ve always been interested in what makes people evil and how we define that line, that thin, thin line between what is good and what is evil.  Spock’s absolute certainty at the beginning of the film is undermined by the end, when he is willing to kill Kahn until Uhura (Zoe Saldana, who had some really great moments) stops him.  That line, that understanding, is one that we all come to, provided we’re thoughtful people who are willing to question and grow.  A strongly held belief should come under question.  A “what-if” is much different than a “what-is,” and until we’re in that moment, we don’t really know what we’ll do, do we? That’s what Spock learns.

Now, hurry up Abrams. I’m ready for Kahn to come back to life in the next movie!

Random favorite moments:

  • The creatures on the red-tree planet drawing the spaceship.  I totally took that as a nod to Ancient Aliens, the best thing to ever happen to Sci-Fi geeks, who want to pretend aliens are chilling out, waiting on us to smarten up so we can travel around with Ford Prefect.  Thanks, NatGeo!  (This ignores the crazy folks who take the show a little too seriously…)
  • The nods to the original film, like Spock yelling “KAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNN!” and the dialogue between Kirk and Spock as Kirk dies
  • Everything to do with Scotty
  • Dammit, Spock, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician
  • Kahn’s complete silence for the first 10 or so minutes he’s on screen
  • Sulu in the captain’s chair (hey, how about George Takei’s cameo!?)
  • People in the theater clapping and talking when certain things happened on screen, like when Kahn was revealed as Kahn (though I had figured that out about 1 minute before the movie made it clear)

Not favorite moment:

The random shot of Carol, the admiral’s daughter (Alice Eve), without her clothes on. I mean, I get it. She’s gorgeous.  But, we know that already.  I mean, she’s the girl who played the girl who is out of the Geek’s league.   The original Star Trek had scantily clad women all over the place.  But, they often made SENSE, in terms of story.  The 5 second shot of her hot bod felt pretty stupid, like they HAD to have a naked girl and Uhura wasn’t having it.  Abrams, tsk, tsk.  Next time, you can at least make having her half naked make sense… since she is going to hook up with Kirk and have his secret baby!

Now, I’m off to read some reviews, finally.  Maybe they’ll tell me what the point of Star Trek really is.

Hemlock Grove Review: A Gypsy is a Gypsy is a . . . SQUIRREL! Ooh, yes, Vampires are Greek! No, Roman! Wait, there are Nazis!

Okay, so I know it’s been a while since I reviewed anything, and it’s not exactly a movie I’m about to review.  Last November, I finished my dissertation (Yay!) and after that, the idea of writing ANYTHING made me almost physically ill.  Now, I’m recovered though, so back to reviewing!

Up next, I  will be going to the actual movies to see Star Trek: Into the Darkness.  I already have my tickets. ‘Cause I’m cool like that.

Why did I watch Hemlock Grove?  Well, my friend and excellent writer, Jamie Ridenhour, was watching it, so I decided to check it out.  He gave up, understandably, after episode 7, and I almost wish I had too.  Plus, Netflix told me I’d like it, and I thought Netflix knew me, like really knew me. Oh, Netflix, I thought we were friends and now I’m not sure you know me at all.

I am going to write this Hemlock Grove review in a near approximation of how the show was actually presented, which means there will be no clear sense of order, except some level of chronology (though that will be shaky too), many non sequiturs, and little-to-no sense of transition or unity.  Also, if you don’t like spoilers, go away quickly.  I write reviews for people who have already seen the show, so are therefore already spoiled (ha!  my pun was almost as bad as this show):

  • You know, when I was freshperson, I once drank a bottle of wine before a party.  I remember feeling so licentious, so very “breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law.”  (I also threw up.  And, then I didn’t drink again till I was in grad school).  Apparently, in HG, there are no laws about teens drinking at all.  I guess that makes sense as no one in this show seems to actually be teenager-ish, except for the two, silly blond girls.  Except, even they kind of seem more like middle school aged with their antics and dressing up, though they have very strong opinions about other girls and sex and appearance and actually use the word “trollop” at some point, I’m pretty sure.  This break from anything close to reality while also being somewhat close to real problems (girls feeling pressure, girls being mean to other girls, hard for girls to enter into sexuality, etc…) pretty much sums up the entire show, when characters act in ways that only kinda, sorta make sense.
  • Why does Olivia dress only in white, with an occasional one color accent?  Why is her accent completely unrelated to her back story?  Why does she need those eye drops?  No explanation, except Olivia doesn’t make sense.  I don’t know why, but I’m okay with that for the first part of the show.  Once they tried to explain her, she made even less sense,which again brought me back to “Why does Olivia do anything?”  We just don’t know.
  • Clementine’s line:” Quid pro quo, Clarice” was great.  Kandyse McClure would have made a great Clarice.  Now, why did the writers chose to reference Thomas Harris?  I don’t know, but I did like her delivery of the line.
  • tzulkameenop:  No, that’s not a real word, but pretend it is and it’s Greek, and therefore really important.  Until it’s not.  Actually, I just wanted to tell you a Greek word.  This show is really just a practice for a vocabulary test.
  • Hey, you know what? I’m going to tell you a long story that has some great meaning, all while smoking a cigarette.  If your mind starts to wander, then I’ll totally understand, but just realize that I’m about to say something really important. Keep listening to me as I speak in a monotone voice and smoke, and you should really keep listening to me because I’m telling a story that’s really important.  AHHH! Cut away from the action!
  • Speaking of smoking, is smoking making a comeback?  I thought people had stopped smoking in real life and on TV.
  • Chalk?  They have chalk!  I had a chalkboard once, about 3 years ago, when I was an adjunct.  It was so hard to find real chalk. Yet, these “teenagers,” found it with no problem.  I had to go to a specialty education store, no kidding. I guess Wal-mart would have it, but I can’t see Roman heading over to Wally World.  
  • Hey that cat you love?  The pretty gray one?  Well, get ready.  She’s going to die so Peter can act like a zombie to have a memory.  ‘Cause you know, killing cats is a known way to strike up a memory.  And, the memory he sacrificed the cat for?  Well, it tells him the same thing his mom and whatever Destiny is to him have been telling him: Run away.  So totally worth it. Bye, bye Casper, your death is the only one that made me sad. Next up, bacon grease is irresistible to crazy werewolves.  Why did Roman have to fry up 80 pounds of bacon for about 1 ounce of grease?  Oh, yeah, I forget: there is no why.
  • Destiny is a prostitute/psychic/scam artist/medium with an amazingly nice apartment.  This doesn’t really make sense, but at least she was scantily clad most of the time she was on screen.
  • Peter and Roman saying “Shee-Yit” was totally cringe-inducing.  And, why are Peter and Roman so excited about the baby?
  • Holy shee-yit, this last episode dragged on and on.  If the show had been set up as an explanation of Godfrey family, instead of a crazy werewolf gone bad murder mystery, I might be more willing to not be annoyed by this episode. Peter and Roman have a nice bromance going, until Peter runs away and breaks Roman’s heart.  So, Roman is a vampire/angel/werewolf hunter/brother with telekinetic powers who kills his own mother?  And Olivia dies from her tongue being bitten out?  What?  Okay, again, I have to remember: this show doesn’t make sense.

In all seriousness, I wanted to like this show because I love supernatural stuff.  I also like shows with elements that are nonsense and surrealistic.  Really, in spite of my complaints in this review, I do. I love Twin Peaks and hoped this show would capture some of that surrealism, which I haven’t seen on TV since TP wrapped up.  Surreal does not equal ridiculous though. I was superstoked about Famke Jansen (her accent didn’t bother me the way it did other folks) and Lily Taylor.  I just can’t like this show though.  Here’s why:

The show had horrible things happen, like when Roman raped that girl, but for no reason and with no consequence.  He rapes her, then tells her to forget about it, and then NOTHING happens.  While I realize that this actually represents what happens in real life (seriously, if you want to be depressed, go look at how many rape cases are actually tried, then how many of those result in a conviction.  It’s really low and really depressing), I think the show needed to show Roman at least have some sense of guilt about it.  No, he only feels guilty for insulting some guy in a bar.  All the dead girls in this show (because of sexual activity…cause you know, this is still 1569 and we’re all still Puritans), and this rape scene reinforced the idea that women, especially sexually active ones, are so, so expendable.  I didn’t like my stepdaughter reading Twilight, and I wouldn’t like her to watch this show.  This show reinforced so many awful stereotypes and ideas.  I thought we were moving past some of this, really, but apparently, not in Hemlock Grove.

There were some good things about the show though:

  • Dougray Scott, Bill Skarsgard, and Joel de la Fuente
  • Kandyse McClure. I remember her from Battlestar Galactica, and I still like her.
  • The werewolf explanation.  When it finally came, it was pretty good, though I’m not sure drinking water out of mud is THAT depraved. Also, what librarian knows how to change into a werewolf…?  Oh yeah, this show doesn’t make sense.  I did, really, like the line, “That’s the thing with whispers.  You put a thousand of them together, you get a howl.”
  • Shelly.  She’s a total badass. I will probably watch the next season because of her, even though it pains me to admit it.

I said this about Jamie’s book before and I’ll say it again, if Netflix wants a werewolf show, they should totally buy his book, hire a hot guy, like Bill Skarsgard (seriously, that Skarsgard family did something right to end up with Bill and Alexander) (On second thought, maybe not him.  He’d actually be a better fit for a thinking- zombie-monster or a Jekyll/Hyde character or maybe Dorian Gray.  Or, hey, an actual vampire!  Maybe they’ll put him on True Blood!), or someone, but definitely not the guy who played Peter, and produce that one.  It is fun and interesting, has a plot and makes sense.  This show, meh, not so much.  It just has too much going on while at the same time having nothing go on.  Maybe a better editor for Season 2?  And, writers, someone please be willing to at least look up the word “verisimilitude,” okay? Oh, and hire some women who don’t hate other women to help you write the script.

If you read this, you might also enjoy this real-time review of HG.

Two good songs in the last episode, here for your enjoyment.  Elektrik People “Make Me a Bird” and Perfume Genius “Sister Song.”

Moonrise Kingdom

 

So, I’ve seen most  Wes Anderson films, I think.  I’ve watched Rushmore, maybe more than once, and I’ve actually taught The Royal Tenenbaums, or considered teaching it or at least watched it during class, something like that.  In general, I like Wes Anderson films.  My problem, though,  comes from the fact that I can’t really remember them; I only remember that they make me feel nostalgic for a time I’ve never known. Even TRT, which for  a while I considered to be one of my top 10 films, well, I can’t quite remember it.  I remember very distinctly certain scenes, like Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) in the bathtub, explaining to Etheline (Angelica Houston) that the TV won’t electrocute her because she tied it up or the scene where Henry (Danny Glover) falls into the hole at the archaeological dig site.  I remember the colors and most of the clothes of that film, mostly, but I have no idea what Royal (Gene Hackman) wore, mostly because I remember the scene where he’s getting the massage and is, therefore, mostly naked.  And, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller’s characters and roles in the film, well, those are, right now, somewhat murky.

When I decided to see Moonrise Kingdom, it was partially because I’ve like the Wes Anderson films I’ve seen (I think) and I thought this one looked pretty fun.  But, I also wanted to test out my ability to remember enough about the film to write a review about it the day (or two) after I’d seen it.

Damuscus Hummus, very good stuff

Before I start the review, I’ll say that I was practically in a Wes Anderson film prior to seeing this movie.   I went to a local, Mediterranean place for some yummies, including damascus hummus, a place I’ve been to a number of times but a new place to my friends from out of town.  The restaurant has great food, usually, and this location has better food than at the exact same restaurant at other locations.  The service, though, was not quite what it’d been before.  The waiter’s enthusiasm for Moonrise Kingdom and the Nickelodeon Theatre (the only place showing the film in Columbia) was only superseded by his utter and complete sincere honesty, without any filter at all, so much honesty that it in fact bordered on idiocy.  When asked about an item on the menu, his reply was, more than once, “I have no idea.”  Then, when my MisterE ordered something ) that sounded disgusting to me), the waiter replied “Woah, I’ve never even heard of that.  I don’t know what that is.  How do you spell it?” as he grabbed the menu out of MisterE’s hand.   There were even more moments like that during the brief time that he spent with us at the table.

While in other circumstances, that may have been annoying, I was completely amused.  His honesty, at that level, was hilarious.

As was the conversations and perspectives of the characters in Moonrise Kingdom.  Wes Anderson successfully showed in this film how funny, really, really funny, saying exactly what you’re thinking and being perfectly honest about it can be so surprising and therefore so amusing.  My favorite moment that shows this happened on the Moonrise Kingdom beach, when Sam (Jared Gilman) tells Suzy, played wonderfully by Kara Howard, (after she explains how being an orphan means that his life is more special) “I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”  There was also a level of appreciation for absurdity in life, like the moment when Sam offered to give the kitten some of the leftover fish parts and Suzy denied that request stating that the kitten only eats Pure Fish kitten food.

Oh, if I had the time and money and energy, this would so by my Halloween costume this year.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable.  The Narrator (Bob Balaban) kept the story book feel that is a Wes Anderson characteristic, plus I found his poses and outfits, especially the gloves, to be hilarious, though the funniest outfit goes to Social Services (Tilda Swinton), mostly because of that wonderful and terrible hat.

So, it’s two days later, and I’m sitting here trying to remember the movie, exactly what happened.  I can’t really. I remember Suzy’s poofy underwear (what a great detail!), I remember Bruce Willis’s  wonderful scene with Frances McDormand.  I remember some stuff about an orphanage and a church show, something about Noah and the flood.

No, wait, it was spelled funny, Noeh and the Fludde or Noah and Flooddeee something like that.  Wait, I’ve never even heard of that,  How do you spell it?

Magic Mike

This blog posting comes from my friend over at Twenty Thousand Roads, who introduced me to the outrageous humor of Kenny Powers… check out my blog here.  As a payback for putting Can on my husband’s Spotify playlist and as a sort of dare, I suggested Joey take his “very pregnant” (I’m quoting him here…) girlfriend to see Magic Mike (a movie I can’t believe he beat me to seeing).  This is his very funny review of the film, which unexpectedly also turned into a bemoaning of the sexual oppression that men face.  I wasn’t aware that men felt so sexually oppressed, given the near constant exposure of women and their bodies in an unrealistic and sexualized manner, but now I know.  Thanks, man.

Magic Mike, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Man-Ass

Imagine a scenario:  the hottest new movie in the land stars Selma Hayek as an aging but still hot leader of a troupe of strippers, two of whom are played by interchangeable Hollywood starlets like Megan Fox and some chick who got famous for snorting lines off of Lindsay Lohan’s breasts.   When this little movie—let’s call it Destinee’s Destiny—opens, groups of middle-aged men cram the theaters, hooting and hollering at the screen every time Selma slides out of her G-string.   What a bunch of creepy old perverts, you’d think, and you’d be right.  But if you flip the genders, this describes the vibe surrounding Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh’s new ode to man-ass.

AKA Panty Dropper

When I agreed to review this movie, I didn’t realize what a phenomenon it was going to be.  I lucked out on missing the opening night because the movie sold out faster than twenty-dollar dvd players on Black Friday.  I thought I’d lucked out by missing what would essentially be a bridal shower gone bad, but it turned out the sell outs lasted all weekend.  The first Sunday afternoon showing was also nearly sold out, packed to the rafters with groups of women ranging from sorority girls to grandmothes, all tanked up on church and Appletinis from Outback.  The estrogen was so thick that you could cut it with a knife, and the atmosphere so electric that I actually got heckled walking into the theater.  “Didn’t nobody tell you this was chick movie?” a woman asked as we walked by, looking for seats.  Luckily, I’d gone to the movie with my lovely, very pregnant girlfriend, who was there to fend off the ladies in case things got out of hand.

Mmm, look at that ass.

Before I start my review, let me say this:  I get it.  Every fucking movie ever made is absurdly full of gratuitous T & A, even the ones with supposedly strong female characters.  We live in a culture saturated with images of women as sex objects, so this movie is only turnabout as fair play, blah, blah, blah.   Still, ladies, you need to have a little self – control.  Jesus.  The sight of Matthew McConaughey’s oiled-up bare ass taking up the entire screen speaks for itself.  You don’t have to praise it out loud like you’re at some kind of Pentecostal church service for sinners.  So let’s just calm down and forget about the half-naked men (okay, point granted:  if this was a film about female strippers they’d be full-frontally buck-ass naked for most of the movie) and focus on the merits of Magic Mike as cinema.

Going into the movie, I thought that there were two ways it might go.   Either it would be a dark character study of a protagonist caught up in a self-destructive but oddly alluring lifestyle, a la The Wrestler or Boogie Nights, or, god forbid, it could be a thinly disguised romantic comedy with six-pack abs and taut, hairless butt cheeks as window dressing.   It turns out that Magic Mike splits those two possibilities pretty much straight down the middle.  It’s not a bad strategy, but the result is a movie that often feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.  It seems afraid to follow its characters down to the depths that it only hints at, and the obligatory love story seems tacked-on.

Not quite this kind of Threesome I bet.

For all its booty-shaking and marketing aimed at horny housewives, Magic Mikeis really a bromance at heart.  It follows Mike, played competently by Channing Tatum, whose moves make it clear that he’s worn a glittery thong or two in his day, and his new buddy Ryan (Alex Pettyfer).  Mike is a veteran stripper and budding entrepreneur, and Ryan is a young fuck-up who bumbles into the stripping business and idolizes Mike. The promiscuous (the movie opens amid the morning-aftermath of a threesome) and drug-fueled lifestyle to which Mike has been hardened proves too much for Ryan, who threatens to flame out in a sort of male-strippers-gone-wild descent to rock bottom.  Ryan’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn, who probably got the call because the producers wanted somebody pretty but not prettier than the boys, tries to shield him from the stripper life, and predictably Mike falls for her, secretly desiring the escape from the lifestyle that she represents.  Though it seems to shy away from what it wants to be, the movie manages to be genuinely compelling in spots, and though it’s not The Wrestler, it’s certainly not Showgirls either.

None of that seemed to matter to the women in the theater, because if Magic Mike doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be, it certainly does know that it wants to take its pants off and hump the stage.  And it does.  A lot.  The Cock Rocking Kings of Tampa—who never actually show their cocks, alas—spend plenty of time on stage.  Led by Matthew McConaughey who seems to approach the role as a sort of self-parody, the mostly-naked dance routines that bring women to the theater in droves actually serve to build the characters and thankfully aren’t the actual centerpiece of the movie.   I might be alone in this sentiment, however.  One woman sitting a few rows behind me spoke to the screen during one of the movie’s breaks from ass-shaking.  “Stop talking so much and shake your thang, baby,” she said to Mike.

If I’d said that during Showgirls, I’d have been asked to leave.  I’m just saying.