caitri: (Gamora)
Tonight we tried to watch the Hamildoc but it seems that either the fandom swamped the stream and broke PBS or the DOS attacks were involved. (FWIW the issue I had was in buffering, so I only saw maybe two minutes of synced sound and video....whev, I'll watch it tomorrow. Sigh.)

Anyway, instead we watched Warcraft, or at least I did (Scott fell asleep pretty quickly), and....it turns out I have A LOT of feels about it. Like, if you look past the uneven CGI and the messy script (like, seriously, did anyone who doesn't play the game understand half of what was going on?), it does a lot of things rather brilliantly: it manages to have several women characters, none of whom are objectified or abused; it shows how sometimes pretty much everyone can be doing something for the right reasons and how often this actually works out badly; rather bravely it manages to take a fantasy summer popcorn film and make it an actual tragedy. That is no small thing.

The thing that struck me, too, is how it pretty much does all the things that Game of Thrones (books and tv) are lauded for, in terms of gritty storytelling and realism and so on, and manages to do so **without** boobies, rape, incest, extended torture sequences, some more rape, and problematic white saviorness. (Although we could have some interesting discussions about how race is codified in other ways, there are actually more POC in Stormwind than there are in Star Trek. Which is a whole other kettle, but anyway.) The final big battle scene isn't Ran, but we nonetheless watch most of the characters we have come to care about die and--this is the kicker--it isn't cool at all. It's *sad.* It's *sad* when Draka dies to save her baby, it's *sad* when Durotan chooses to let Guldan kill him so people will turn against Guldan (and it doesn't even WORK!), it's *sad* when Llane asks Garona to kill him so that she can survive and work for peace within the Horde. People complained about how the fight scenes weren't cool, and....I kind of think that was the point. War is awful and people die and that's awful.

You see this in the game, too, but I also like how the narrative shifts between sides so that it starts out "For the Horde", blends in the middle, and ends in "For the Alliance." I thought that was a lovely bit of bookending that also made its point about how each side has both heroes and villains, and the whole shades of grey thing. There are a couple of scenes where Garona Halforcen acts as translator, and when POV shifts the highlighted speaker is heard in English that sort of emphasizes who sees themselves as heroes in a given moment. (And I have feels about Garona acting in a liminal space too, and how that was done. Like, a lot of them.)

TL;DR Warcraft was surprisingly complex and I liked it a lot, especially the gratuitous scene when Khadgar turned an NPC into a sheep, because I haven't seen low-level spells like that in ages.
caitri: (Hawkeye)
I went twice before I sat down to write, so: TL;DR I REALLY LIKED IT AND I HAVE A LOT OF FEELS.

All of the spoilers, with analysis )

Um, I think that's it. That's a lot. But yeah. so. Many. FEELS!
caitri: (Is this a kissing book?)

Went with a gang of folks to go see The Imitation Game yesterday. I'd put off going because I'd read a negative review from a source I typically trust (which, I don't even remember where now). Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised; though it's a bit clunky, there's some genuinely good writing in there too. The theme of comprehension and communication especially, though it falls a bit short as the writers/Cumberbatch portray Turing as someone more or less on the high-end if the autism/AS spectrum. There's a bit when bb!Turing is given a book on ciphers from his bestie/child beloved who explains that ciphers are a way of sending messages where you say something but mean something different. Turing counters, "But ALL talking is like that. Everyone says something and means something else, and you're supposed to just know what they really mean!"

[Also: That awkward moment when you feel the only person who could understand you is this fictionalized gay computer programmer. Oy.]

The friendship/love between Turing and the sole woman [as depicted in the film] on the team, Joan (Keira Knightley), is also very well done. Joan is portrayed as basically the first friend/confident Turing has had since he was like ten. When her parents demand she come home--because of course they don't know she's off saving the world--Turing panics and proposes marriage to keep her there, then angsts about it because he's gay. This is one of those moments where the chemistry is all wrong; particularly as played he feels way more ace than gay, especially in the scene where one of the guys is basically like "dude, I know your homosexual, not gonna judge" and I relaly felt that THAT scene would have been much better with some sexual chemistry between the two. (Especially since dude later says he'll happily blackmail Turing if Turing reveals he's a spy. That double-betrayal could have been so. much. better.) Turing eventually tells Joan he can't marry her because gay, and she's like, "So? I know that. You're also the only one who respects me for my mind and I am INTO THAT and we can actually be quite happy together in these deeply sucky and repressive 1940s and 1950s" and Turing is still like, "No! [I really want to save you from blackmail and spying and stuff because I love you too much to let that happen, also you're a woman, so.] GAY GAY GAY!" And then in the end when he's all quivery because of hormone treatments from the chemical castration and stuff she tries to take care of him and it feels awkward.

Also, they criminally underused Charles Dance. Like, Tywin Lannister is freaking awesome, why give him some glowery moments and then basically lose him for the entire last third for no apparent reason? He comes in to turn off and bash the Turing machine and there's a heavy moment where all the other cryptographers come in and say, "If he's fired! I quit!" and they are all left alone because they can't lose their best cryptographers. (At this point in the theater I turned to Scott and whispered, "Good thing they weren't under the Bush administration, huh?")

Mark Strong was also awesome. This is one of his rare moments of playing a scary Good Guy, and--he's very good at it. His MI6 Officer discussions with Turing are always great. "Oh, so and so's not in prison, I just wanted to see what you'd do. Here, take this, there's a thing to do." And he disappears in the end too; as one of my friends asked, why didn't he come back to save Turing in the end? Ah, right, fiction.

In short, it was clunky but well done, and it's nice to have a true and difficult story told to a broader audience. Turing is treated as bit of a martyr--again, rather awkwardly, as one friend noted that they mention the other 49,000 people who were jailed and chemically castrated for being gay, but Turing was the one that MATTERED because HERO. Interesting audience, too; we were like a group of eight thirty-somethings and I swear everyone else in that nearly full theater were in the 50-80 range. I feel like this says something but I'm not sure what.

caitri: (Charles mouse)
Spoiler alert, just so you're aware--Smaug is actually Khan.

But seriously, folks )

In conclusion, I LIKED IT A LOT AND I HAVE FEELINGS.

ETA: Signalboosting The World Hobbit Project, a massive fan study about response to PJ's films. Please take 10-20 minutes to help academics really get what makes fans tick!
caitri: (Charles mouse)
We went to go see Hector and the Search for Happiness because it stars Simon Pegg. I read the book a few years ago and thought it was a pleasant trifle; somehow the subtle racism of it was less annoying because French. The short version of the story is, middle-aged emotionally retarded white dude travels the world and a number of exotic brown people explain to him that happiness is love and family and stuff.

This sounds terrible but it's not because Simon Pegg. Simon Pegg is fucking AMAZING in this movie and I would like to nominate him to replace Benedict Cumberbatch as The Guy In All the Things.

The cute and charming bits I expected, the dramatic bits not so much. While most of the film is light and fluffy, there are a number of scenes that are intense or just emotionally heartbreaking, and did I mention that Simon Pegg is fucking amazing? Because he's fucking amazing in this, he'll make you laugh and then he'll make you cry and then you end up laughing and crying AT THE SAME TIME because cf. Simon Pegg is fucking amazing and he needs to be in All the Things.
caitri: (The Hammer is my Penis)
The Maze Runner is probably better than it has a right to be, but it's still not that good. (I mean, I know the lead actor can actually act, I've seen him do it on Teen Wolf, but man, talk about forcing an emotional range of A to B on him!) I kinda gave up ten minutes in and played "What's that source?" for the rest of the movie. "Oh, that came from Lord of the Flies. Oh, that came from Ender's Game, Oh, that came from Hunger Games. Oh, that came from Serenity." Etc. YAopoly would make a pretty nice party game, actually.

Actually the best part was the number of POC in it, including main roles. So, there's that. Tiny niblets of hope and all that.
caitri: (Casablanca Karl)
We went to go see Sin City 2 tonight and I've been thinking about it; it's not as bad as I had heard from reviews, it's--just not good either. I've been thinking about why that is; one reason is that the pacing and the story structure are messy and it just isn't coherent, and the other is that it's rather flat.

One of the best things about the original film, I thought, was how it interwove three different narratives together and then bookended them with minor characters. This film doesn't do that at all, though it tries, I guess? There are three main narratives, that intertwine slightly--which is to say, you see elements in each of them that kind of foreshadow the next one; kind of like Cloud Atlas but not really (and Cloud Atlas was a mess too, but a glorious one). But each story seems to fall just short of what it could have been: I honestly didn't get the point of Marv's story in the beginning, and kept waiting for something to happen that would conclude it; it took me way longer than I should have to realize who Dwight was (not helped by the fact that Josh Brolin replaced Clive Owen, and the characterization was different enough that they might as well have been different characters anyway); Johnny/Joseph Gordon-Levitt's story was okay, I guess; Nancy's story, the one Miller wrote specifically for this film was utterly bland.

Let me back up a little. I read all of the Sin City books in a rush years ago and ate them like candy. Their greatest strength was how they were such a great pastiche of the old crime and noir stories and comics of the forties and fifties. That they all took place in some menacing Anytown, USA, "Sin City," that was both totally retro and totally contemporary, made sense: they were about pain and rage and in some real sense a kind of impotence--an acknowledgement that things would never change but a determination to go down fighting anyway.

Sin City 2 doesn't have that quality. It doesn't even have the pain or the rage. We laughed at a fair bit of the dialogue when it edged over from noir into outright parody; we laughed at several of the sex scenes for this same reason. Way to take Eva Green and nudity and make it funny, gentlemen. Wtf.

That said, there was a lovely image of Green swimming nude that was shot in a very art deco sort of fashion that was very lovely; especially when you see her in silhouette before a full moon, ready to dive, and she looks very much like the goddess Manute says she is.

Also, Manute made me miss Michael Clarke Duncan, may he RIP. I went nuts trying to figure out where I know the replacement actor from; turns out he was the All-State Man. I was amused.

Anyway, I kind of hope Rodriguez ends up doing another cut for dvd. I feel like there was a good film buried in this one, and I'd like to see it.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
Okay, so I was one of the people deeply dubious of James Gunn directing because of his problematic history with women characters. I sort of imagined that Joss Whedon had a sit down with him beforehand and was like, "Strong women or bust, minion!" and Gunn was all "Aye aye, sir!" In short, you know how women in the Marvel!verse tend to be awesome? YES! So I'm going to focus on that for this review, because the film itself is unapologetic cheeseball space opera. I'm not complaining about that, btw--space opera is something we have needed for a LONG time. (Especially underscored by the tediously long snorefest trailer for Interstellar that proceeded this movie. Oy. If it spends more than twenty minutes in space I'll be surprised. Anyhow. Here, have my feels:

*Gamora

Okay, so I unabashedly love Zoe Saldana, and while she wasn't given a whole lot to work with here, let me tell you what sets her apart. She's set up for the villain to become a good guy trope, and you know what? She does that all on her own. SELF-RESCUING PRINCESS YOU GUYS. Starlord doesn't awaken nascent feelings of good in her, she doesn't become a good guy because of the love of a good man, she is ALREADY A GOOD GUY who finds the crushing Terran bewildering and annoying and, eventually, cute, because he IS a good guy and she hasn't seen one of those before. Also, the shirtless scene from the promos? Totally not in this film.

*Nebula

We see very little of her, and though the adverts set up her and Gamora against each other, it's not...actually a huge thing. And actually, she herself is characterized similarly to Gamora, in that she too is making her decisions based on her desire for vengeance etc. and not because of daddy issues and whatnot. The fight between them is brief and nonsexualized, and they absolutely set it up for her to come back later.

*Nova Prime

Glen Close has a very small role here, but still bigger than Benicio del Toro's. She's in charge of the Nova Corps, and briefly: She always makes the right decisions and all of the men under her command (and its overwhelmingly men under her command, esp. with the pilots) follow her orders without question and to the end. Which, on the one hand, this is a small thing, on the other--how often do we really see women in power like that in films? Or hell, on tv? Not that often.

*Rocket

Congratulations, Bradley Cooper, you took a talking raccoon and made him hilarious and surprisingly affecting. Seriously, Rocket has more emotional moments in this film than anyone else, and they are all the better for coming from the comic relief. There's also a great, small scene where Rocket breaks a bit when drunk because he can't deal with people mocking him anymore. "I never asked for this, to be experimented on and torn apart and unmade over and over and over!" he says, voice breaking, and congrats, that's how the RACCOON joins the ranks of Clint and Natasha and Bucky in terms of horrible things happening to good people who then have to deal with it after. And while the epic friendship/bromance of Rocket and Groot is funny, its also very real. Rocket's the only one who can translate the different iterations of I am Groot, and it also says a lot about this hilarious, foul-mouthed character that the one he loves and who loves him is a gentle talking tree.

*Groot

So many small, beautiful moments. Quill calls him "the giving tree" and he's not even really joking. This is a character that could have been awkward and isn't and it's so great when something comes together like that.

*Drax

He is fucking hilarious. That is all.

*Starlord/Peter Quill

Congratulations, Chris Pratt, you have made it to my Chris List with this film. Starlord is the Mal from Firefly, the man of honor in the den of thieves.

Of all things, the Guardians together *really* remind me of Firefly in a good way, because they are a found family, and they are kind of dysfunctional, but they are also just *so great* together. There's a key scene towards the end where they come together and it reminds me a bit of The Avengers, only they come together not because of a devastating loss or to save the world (although that's certainly there) but because at the end of all things, sometimes what you have to do is trust in each other. (Okay, that line is from Pacific Rim but it utterly illustrates the sequence in question.)

Some other notes:

*I love how the "Awesome Mix" soundtrack is used throughout the film in a surprisingly organic way. All of the 80s jokes are surprisingly affectionate, and it's one of those cases where nostalgia just really, really works.

*Nathan Fillion's cameo is the blue dude in the prison. He has like three lines. I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been listening for him like the little nerd-bat I am.

*I really, really hope the presence of the Kree are helping to set things up for Captain Marvel.

*The post-credits scene is the most meta and pure fucking gold thing I've seen in cinema outside of a Mel Brooks film.

In short: This movie is absolutely worth checking out, and likely has a fine future ahead in Saturday afternoon fodder. I am deeply happy.

ETA: One last thing: Sean Gunn--Kirk from Gilmore Girls has a small role in this film. Watching it drove me nuts to figure out who he was, and low and behold, he's James Gunn's brother. Also, apparently Gunn from Angel was named after the Gunn boys, whom Joss had worked with previously. How about a small world?
caitri: (The World is a Mess)
Snowpiercer is a movie that lives up to its (by now considerable) hype. It is gorgeous, so I highly recommend watching it in the cinema if you can; lots of work went into the details and they need to be enjoyed.

It is also dark, and fairly violent in spots (I closed my eyes in parts, and I am not typically squeamish). But that said, one thing I find particularly noteworthy after the fact is that the violence isn't gendered--unlike many (most) films there's never a point where a villain threatens a woman to appeal to the hero, etc. etc. Similarly, there is no romantic component, though there are plenty of women characters. There are also plenty of POC.

And Chris Evans. OH MY GOD. He has a long monologue towards the end and its just--it's horrifying and beautiful and real. He is such a fucking great actor and that scene just shows what he's capable of, and it breaks my heart he wants to leave acting when he can do stuff like that.

The writing. Just. This is one of those movies that so aptly demonstrates what SF as a genre can do that no other genre can. It's provocative and I can't stop thinking about it. Just. Wow.

Basically you should all go see this movie, the end.
caitri: (books)
It was funny watching these two films back to back: Scott *really* wanted to see Edge of Tomorrow, which I disliked so much I insisted we go see Maleficent asap. So.

I do not understand the good reviews Edge of Tomorrow is getting, I'm going to say that straight up front. It is tedious, trite, goes on for ages, and does nothing whatsoever interesting. No, I take it back, I liked the mecha suits: they are proof we could have an excellent Starship Troopers film if anyone ever cares to make it.

Seriously though, it is the male fantasy/fairy tale: Weeny man Tom Cruise develops masculinity through War, gains affirmation in the eyes of others, and gets rewarded with a hot girlfriend. Emily Blunt's Rita is that classic Strong Female Character in the sense that her awesomeness is there for a male reward, and it is transparent that's what she's there for in each scene in which the characters go "OMG she's with him?!" It was exhausting and nauseating, and while I don't typically hate Tom Cruise, I did want to beat him to death with a spoon after this movie.

[Has anyone on my f-list read All You Need is Kill, the Japanese book on which the film is based? I'm curious if it is better or worse, esp. with regards to sex roles.]

In contrast, Maleficent: OH MY GODS YES. This is a film I can't wait to watch with my yet unconceived daughters and any other small girl younglings. It's fun both as a transformative work--every line and beat from the original is there, flipped and changed--and as a visually nuanced film. Someone mentioned that the fairies were surely inspired by Brian Froud--yes, yes, yes! (Also, memo Disney: I would ABSOLUTELY pay to see a film of Froud's Faeries, I'm just saying.) I also love how Maleficent herself is visually coded as both devil (horns) and angel (wings); it really speaks to patriarchal Christian revisionism/co-option of goddess figures from other cultures.

Slight tangent here: I adore the modern use of fairy tale "retellings." Fairy tales themselves are a genre whose roots are specifically found in the political and proto-feminist writings of women in 17th/18th c. France and Europe. As happens, the fairy tale gained respectability when male writers--including the best known of them, Charles Perrault--began publishing fairy tales that removed and repurposed the material of the women writers. (If it sounds like what's going on with contemporary YA, YOU ARE SO RIGHT.) Fairy tales became codified by the Grimm brothers in the 19th c., who did some retooling so that the girls and princesses all became passive, the mother figures all became evil, etc. etc. Make no mistake: this was patriarchal social violence to specifically women's writing, and that's what we've been stuck with, up to and including Disney's oeuvre of the 20th c.

This is why Maleficent becomes doubly interesting, because it's a transformative text that takes on and criticizes it's original: there is a dialogue with Disney's Sleeping Beauty not just in the storytelling and visuals but within the writing itself: "This is not the story you were told" etc. etc. This is about how history transforms narratives and *especially* women's narratives with a patriarchal agenda.

Within the story itself, just, here, have bullet points:

*The symbology of feminine Nature and masculine City/Civilization. Very Margaret Mead, but even so, it absolutely works, especially in the context of "developing patriarchy.

*The symbolic rape of Maleficent: She refuses to be broken, and she maintains her power. Likewise at the end when her wings are restored. Just: I love that we have this developing cinematic language of victims reclaiming their power, when we have this insistent history in cinematic and other textual narratives that this can't happen, better off dead, etc. etc.

*Women's power is shared power. Women's relationships are about mentoring and respect. (In specific contrast to the "pixies" that have total buy-in into the patriarchy, who view women's relationships as antagonistic, etc. etc.)

*True love is the relationships of family/found family.

*The prince: TOTALLY not into dubcon. He probably saw the "1 is too many" ads and was all "I would like to use my privilege to not buy into this destructive system, thanks."

*Diaval: I love how his relationship with Maleficent develops and how he is very much the anti-Stefan. Not only is he not threatened by Maleficent's power, but that lack of fear is what makes him her friend. I love how there's the ongoing joke of he doesn't like being transformed into this or that, but when she transforms him into a dragon, not only does he use his serious newfound strength to save her (note: he doesn't have to do this, and in any other narrative where we'd have a subservient male he would be filled with hate and not try to protect her), but I think she kind of realizes his friendship and love for her, because you notice at the end his clothing has transformed into a total echo of hers: a sort of royal garment that covers him completely (versus the sort of open shirt "you're pretty" outfit he has worn the rest of the film) with a feathered shoulder-garment that looks a lot like hers. I also love how they are flying together at the end, and that she is allowing and sharing her joy of freedom with him. The more I think about it, the more I think of him as a sort of counterpart to Pacific Rim's Raleigh Beckett: he is a male nurturer--he feeds baby Aurora, he always thinks protectively/defensively rather than offensively, and most tellingly, particularly after her rape, he is a male that Maleficent actually *does* trust. His power comes from accepting strong women, not fighting them.

*I love how Aurora is coded as beautiful not just because of her physical beauty but because of her openness and love for the world. This is a baby that goes up to a woman clothed in black with horns who reeks of "OH MY GOD WHAT DO" and is like "YOU'RE SO PRETTY I LIKE YOUR FEATHERS HI!" I love how she eagerly identifies Maleficent as her fairy godmother does not come off as naive and stupid--which it could have easily done--and instead comes off as a young woman who has paid attention her whole life and knows who genuinely does love her. (Which also makes her underplayed heartbreak at her father's coldness so sad, too.) I like how Maleficent confers the crown on her at the end, because again, shared power of women, women's community and continuity, etc.

In short, IT WAS A REALLY GOOD MOVIE AND I LIKED IT A LOT.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
Last night we went to see Belle, a film I was very much looking forward to and was delighted to see playing in town.





Inspired by the true story of a legitimized mixed race daughter in the upper class of 18th c. England, the film flirts at being a romance even as it touches on one of the major legal stepping stones towards the abolition of slavery. After all, a woman in possession of a fortune must also be in search of a husband who isn't an utter douchebag.

Narratively, the film walks the line of "OMG there were black people in England!!!" and "be cool, there were TOTES black people in England." It doesn't always work; there's a tell-tale opening scene when a white dude in the shitty part of town picks up our young heroine and all of the white folks make goggle eyes. Like, there's only the two black people in the scene--the young girl and her aunt--but, come ON, there was a thriving community of ~250,000 blacks in London. Much later there's a scene when Belle and her cousin Elizabeth are in London for the season and Belle is struggling with combing her hair, and the black maid shows her that it's easiest to start from the ends. Which...it seems like this is the first time Belle has ever seen another black person? And I guess she's had to comb her hair the hard way for 21 years? The ONE SCENE with more than two black people in it is the climax at the end, when there are numerous black men in the balconies of the court, and NONE of them have lines, which reminded me uncomfortably of Django Unchained.

Newsflash, screenwriters: black people had a helluva lot to do with the abolitionist movement; it wasn't all just about white allies. JUST SAYIN'. (Amazing Grace is guilty of this sin too.)

I thought the film did a good job with the, ah, subtleties? flavors? of various kinds of racism too. Draco Malfoy appears as, er, Draco Malfoy--seriously, I kept waiting for him to call Belle a mudblood--who has nothing but disgust for Our Heroine, while his brother is the "nice" sort who thinks Belle's a babe and would totally be down with marrying her because she's rich and "overlook" the fact that she's brown and whatnot. Those conversations reminded me of all of the "Spock and his human mother" moments in Reboot; I was a little bit surprised that Belle actually didn't say "Live long and prosper" at the end there.

One of the things the film got very close to getting right was the friendship of Belle and Elizabeth, but even that was a little odd. Elizabeth hates that Belle can't eat with the family when company is over because reasons, and she's often sympathetic, but she is also absorbed in finding herself a husband and somehow can't tell Draco is a douche. There's also a scene where Belle is trying to explain that Draco is a douche and Elizabeth accuses her of lying and it's just an ugly, unfortunate scene that didn't really work for me on any level. It felt kind of shoved in, like someone said to the writers "you need to put some character tension in" and rather than say "you don't think 18th century mores make ENOUGH tension?!" they went ahead and did this.

Another narrative weakness was that the film never quite got at what the status of race actually WAS in ca. 1780. There's a scene where Belle asks if the black maid is a slave or not, and her uncle says that she's free and under his protection. "Like me," says Belle. Maybe a British audience would have been up on the fine points on this topic, though I doubt it, and the average American audience definitely wouldn't be. Seriously, a succinct three line paragraph at the beginning could have clarified this.

In short: it's a great film that's gorgeous, has great acting, and will hopefully be useful for having better conversations on race and history, but it also totally takes all of the easy paths of storytelling, and a complex story like this needed more.
caitri: (Steve and Bucky)
I HAVE SO MANY FEELS, YOU GUYS. It exceeded my already very high expectations. It did everything right with POC and women characters. Just asdfghjkl;!!!!!!!!!!1

Spoilers and more feels )

IN CONCLUSION: THIS IS A VERY GOOD MOVIE AND I LIKED IT A LOT.

I think it's a great movie even if you don't like superheroics and you just want espionage thriller stuff.

ETA: Scott and I were eagle-eying a lot. We're reasonably certain Steve lives somewhere in Bethesda; we're pretty sure the mall scene takes place in Friendship Heights. It's not clear where Sam lives esp with the trees but my vote goes towards somewhere in Silver Spring.
caitri: (chris vocabulary)
So Divergent is one of those cases where the book and the movie are kind of the same thing, but you pick up on whole different aspects of them. For instance, with the book I never quite bought the world-building, but it was a heckuva page-turner, so you could put things aside and not have to think about them. With the movie, you don't notice it as much because it's about as believable as, say, someone deciding to build a ginormous fence around Chicago being a good idea or defensible. (Seriously, it's a fence. Not even a tall wire fence like say between Texas and Mexico, I mean this multi-story affair that also has gaps big enough for multiple people to walk through. It looks cool, but WHAT IS THE POINT?!

I digress a lot. Okay, so in this world teenagers have to decide what virtue-faction they are going to be in the rest of their lives (because life-changing decisions at 17 have always worked out well for everyone). If you're a nerd you're in Erudite and do sciencey things, if you're nice you get to be in Amity and farm, if you're honest you're in Candor (Scott was greatly entertained that the honest people are the lawyers), if you're Amish I mean Quaker I mean just very selfless and into public service and truly ugly clothes you're in Abnegation, and if you're into metal and piercings and tats and cops/military you're Dauntless (that was one of the great things that bemused me in the book but really didn't work for me visually: the people with the most piercings were also the ones who were in constant melee combat, because that ALSO works SO WELL). And if you somehow totally fail out of life I mean the factions, then you get to be dirty and homeless (maybe the author's a republican? I got nothin') forever the end.

PLOT-TWIST! The heroine is Divergent, someone who can be MANY THINGS ALL AT THE SAME TIME, and so CANNOT BE CONTROLLED BY THE STATE! And so she tries to blend in and stuff, and passing the tests so she can be Dauntless and get tats and not be homeless is really important. Oh, another thing that seemed like a good idea at the time was also pumping teenagers with hallucinogenic substances so the PTB can analyze their dreams and know who they are. And stuff. Because reasons.

Now when I was reading the book a few years ago I mentally hiccuped over the relationship our heroine, Tris, develops with her Dauntless-teacher-trainer person, Four. If I recall, in the book she is 17 and he is like 19 or 20, so it's like....okay, I find the power in this relationship uneven at first, but....NO ONE IN THE BOOK IS BOTHERED BY IT AT ALL, so I guess the 10 week training thing is...manageable? Because after that they'll be equals? (Again, nothin'.) But watching the movie...they made the actress up so that she looks maybe 15 and the dude up so that he looked 27, which EW! EW! EW! Don't get me wrong, he's totally smokin' hot, but EW! I checked IMDB and they actually only have a 7 year age difference so they are both in their 20s, but STILL.

(I also came away from this movie with a minor crush on Zoe Kravitz who was so teeny with such cute hair in this movie, OMG. The girls' friendship was one of the best things in this movie.)

Okay, other things about the film that annoyed me:

*The trains! The trains with seemingly no drivers that are also passenger trains without actual platforms and--okay, does no one actually run these things?? I mean, I imagined while reading the book that it was post-apocalytpic world where we had developed really cool automatic trains or something, but nope, these were just good old Chicago trains. That went by themselves. Somehow?

*The guns! Some of which look like 1950s ray-guns with six-shooter thingies, and some were really big regular small arms, and some were really ginormous video-game style machine guns. There's a lot of violence/suggested violence and I think they maybe used the weird looking guns to somehow get a PG rating.

*Back to the trains! At the end they're escaping on a train where they'll go "all the way to the last stop" and see what lies beyond. Because...you could always do this before but no one ever did? Because reasons? ... I told Scott that the best ending would be they get all the way to the end and find the rest of the country carrying on like normal. "Yeah, Chicago went kinda crazy. It was a March Madness thing, we think? Yeah, we sort of forgot about you guys. Huh. Well, you're teenagers, would you like to go to a real school now?"

*Actually said ending didn't even make too much sense because they were clearly trying to hedge their bets and have some narrative closure in case they didn't get a sequel, but totally didn't want to do tons of rewriting in case they DID get a sequel. So, awkward. Now, in the book, this is what turned me off, because a lot of dramatic sudden stuff suddenly happens in like the last 25 pages, whereas in the movie they set that up pretty neatly so it just becomes the third act. So that was an improvement.

Final verdict? It was some fun cheeseball.
caitri: (Casablanca Karl)
Just got back from seeing Monuments Men and still processing my feels. I haven't read the book but have read articles on the topic over the years, so I'd really need to check to see how much of the film was given the "Hollywood narrative" over the facts. The question asked in the film frequently, "Is art worth lives" is a great one, and of course the film answers "Obviously." I start here because when I worked with rare books my boss told me on the first day that my life and those of my coworkers was worth more than the materials we worked with, and to be mindful of that if it ever came to it. It didn't, but it is the question you have to ask yourself: What is life balanced with history?

To be fair, Clooney does his damnedest to try to show the value of art in wartime. It's a WW2 movie, based on real events, so we know how things come out from 1943-45. (Note: It is a WW2 film, but a fairly clean one. When the characters arrive on Normandy Beach after the invasion the sand is rather spotless. I am given to understand that, historically speaking, that wasn't the case. But I guess they needed that PG-13 rating.) Glancing references are made to the Holocaust with the expectation that the audience knows enough to fill in what the characters don't know. For instance, a minor character is a German-born Jewish American soldier who mentions that growing up he wasn't allowed into a museum to see Rembrandt's self-portrait. He later mentions that his grandfather was sent to Dachau, and Clooney's character comfortingly says, "Hopefully you'll see him again soon." Which of course--yeah. Dramatic irony, this is not the best way to use it? Later Damon's character finds a portrait that he takes back to the empty apartment where it had belonged; Cate Blanchett tells him, "You know they are not coming back? They are all gone," and he replies, "My job is to return art. This is where I can start." This is a bittersweet scene, and one of the more perfect ones of the film.

The seven Monuments Men aren't traditional soldiers in the narrative; they are all art curators, professors, and architects who signed on to the job to save art but were kept out of the war because of age and health. There is a brief training scene for some of them for humorous purposes which--I felt uncomfortable about. And a couple of the characters do very stupid--if human--things that get them into trouble later on, but it was like, "Have you NO common sense at all?!" I'd be curious to see if this was part of the real story or just the adaptation.

All the principals were great of course, though they under-used Cate Blanchette I think. John Goodman's character was very hammy. Bill Murray had some really great moments, esp serious ones. Seeing Matt Damon with gray in his hair makes me inexplicably sad, though; I guess he's just always going to be the beautiful boy from Dogma to me.

I wish they had taken a little more trouble at the end to tie the film in with contemporary efforts. All they needed was a few sentences at the end, come on. Instead we have a series of archival photos of the real men with the real art to close the narrative, as it to say, "Good job, team." The Monuments Men were a specific group in WW2, yes, but--look at the work of the modern curators in Iraq to save their historical artifacts and art from American soldiers, look at the Arab Spring in Egypt where citizens were camped out to protect their museums. Saving art and culture isn't an American occupation, it is a world occupation that continues today.
caitri: (Charles mouse)
This is going to be very disjointed because it's a kind of disjointed movie. Like, Julie and Julia disjointed in that there's kind of two movies in one going on, and only one of them is a good movie.
Spoilers )

The movie went on a bit long in places, but was enjoyable because, again, Emma freaking Thompson, and the cast of minor characters. Also, during the credits there were a number of archival photos of the rl Disney and Travers, and then an archival recording of Travers and the adapters discussing/arguing the opening scenes--which itself had been adapted earlier in the film. So if you're a history geek, you'll likely enjoy that.
caitri: (Eomer)
I loved it. Of course I loved it. Was there ever gonna be any doubt? I will say I thought its pacing was greatly improved from the first film; everything flows together really well. I also like Smaug; I really, REALLY like Smaug, and my reaction to him (much like the funky birds in Avatar) was that we are SO READY for a Dragonriders of Pern movie*.

*Minus the creepy rapiness,please and thank you.

Anyways. Last year I saw the first film in both 2d and 3d; this year it was 3d, and I think we got the fancy filmstock version that's hyperfast and hyper-real. It takes some getting used to; in some places people move so fast while talking that I almost wonder if they were dubbed as the fluidity of their movements do not seem to line up with the measuredness of their words.

Before I continue my review under the cut, I'm also going to admit that I've never finished reading The Hobbit (though I've read and reread LOTR a couple times). I tried as both a child and an adult and could just never stand his writing-for-children style; it made me grit my teeth. So all of the notes that follow are from the perspective of someone who likes the films and who has a fair bit of extra-textual knowledge from scholarship and other sources. So.

So. Many. Spoilers. )
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
Like pretty much everyone else said, this movie is a vast improvement on the first (and I liked the first one); it's amazing how much difference taking the extra time and money really shows in a production (a lot like the difference between Twilight and New Moon). Also, there were trailers for Divergent and posters for Vampire Academy, so even though I'm not particularly invested in those books, I am delighted at how studios are eagerly throwing money at women writers.

Before I go on, I've gotta say I was muchly relieved by Samuel Claflin's performance as Finnick. Although I still think Chris Pine would have been better. (Once a headcanon, always a headcanon....)

Okay, here be spoilers.

Why haven't you read the books yet? )

I kind of want to go again. And maybe finish that HG/Trek fusion I've had in my WIP folder for years.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
Surprising no one, I *loved* it! I mean, I really enjoyed the first one, but this one was much, much tighter in both writing and execution.

I went to both a 2d and a 3d showing. FWIW, I don't think going to 3d is worth it--the viewing experience wasn't that different from 2d--but it had a different trailer for Cap 2 with more footage of the elevator scene, a close-up of the Winter Soldier's metal arm and his face. (They decided to go all Green Arrow and give him a make-up domino mask, which drives me a little nuts as that has EVEN LESS PURPOSE than an actual domino mask. Sigh.)

Note: There are two post credit scenes, ala Avengers: one midway through and one at the very end. (Most people left by then. I swear, it's like Coloradans have never seen a Marvel flick before. Yeesh.)

Non-spoilery thoughts:

*Tom Hiddleston utterly stole the show. From everyone. Not hard with Hemsworth and co., but with Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo--damn, son.

*The design of Asgard. You get to see even more in this film, and it's so. fucking. beautiful. It's like Art Deco and Scandinavia had a beautiful steampunky baby.

*Jane Foster/Natalie Portman was much better this go around. They made her more dorky but more understandably so if that makes sense. I always thought one of the weaknesses of the first film was how we have every reason to see why she'd love Thor, but much less why he would be drawn to her. Whereas in the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes iteration, Jane was an EMT and her bravery in going into danger unarmed to help people utterly won Thor over--and I always just *loved* that. In this movie she gets to show off some more of her science know how and be adorkable about it--and you get to see that Thor just loves her passion and adorkableness. Which I really liked.

*I'm glad Zachary Levi was in it, but--it was only for like three minutes. C'mon, guys.

*The Dark Elves. Does anyone recognize their language? It didn't sound like AS/Germanic to me, and I'm wondering if it was some form of Welsh?

*Also, Chris Eccleston, I love you, but they didn't give you much to work with, did they?

*Heimdall/Idris Elba. Can we talk about his eyes? Because they are like anime levels of expressive. The man is in yellow contacts and let's focus on his eyes to show his thoughts. LET'S ALSO ADD SOME STARS AND STUFF BECAUSE HE IS A GOD WHO WATCHES ALL. Just. *shiver*

Spoilery thoughts:
Spoiler spoiler spoiler )

One thing the reviews have brought out is that this film has a light touch, which I agree with, and think makes a pleasant change. I loved IM3 and its dissection of American politics and terrorism and such, and I think Cap2 will be similarly interesting, but--it's also nice to sit back and look at some pretty with some swordfights. It really, really is.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
So this was the first action movie this summer that I loved without reservation. It was good writing, good acting, gender dynamics that made me SO HAPPY, POCs everywhere...yeah. ALL OF THE FEELS.

The thing that struck me the most is how I think this is the first film I've seen with a m/f dynamic where the woman doesn't have to "prove" herself. From the start, Raleigh wants Mako as his partner, and Pentecost forthrightly says that he knows she'll be a great pilot, he just doesn't want her out there because ~fatherly feels~. I love that the lead female character is not sexualized, is clever and physical, and is completely accepted.

I also liked that their love story, if you can call it that, isn't the typical love story; there's no fake obstacles, there's no misunderstandings, blah blah blah. It's "you're awesome, I'm awesome, let's be awesome together." I'm not sure exactly what their relationship is exactly--it's not standard romance, but it feels way more than just platonic.

**Sideways note, part of the drift-compatibility seemed to be genetic, as all teams we saw (up until the end) were siblings or father/son. The Russian team shared a surname but it wasn't clear if they were siblings or a couple, and they could be read either way.

I liked the idea of reading Raleigh and Mako as platonic just because that's something you don't see in popular culture, but I'm also not sure if that's what was going on. They never kissed but they did check each other out...well, she checked HIM out at the beginning, and he just said she looked good in the suit (which could be read either way).

I don't know, either way I just love them.

And Idris fucking Elba. IDRIS FUCKING ELBA. Just. asdfghjk. Okay. Let's start with how unreservedly awesome it is to have the BAMF leader be a POC whom everyone else follows without hesitation and whose loyalty is complete, who gets to make the St Crispin's speech AND gets to be the literal knight in shining armor to a young girl (did anyone else cry? I cried) and also the noble sacrifice play (I cried more).

And also: the abundance of POCs everywhere. It may seem like a small thing, but having the ton of Asian people in the base made me happy--it wasn't "let the westerners save people" it was "let everybody save everybody."

And Ron Perlman, because he just needs to be there, for reasons.

Sigh. I went twice. It held up really well on a second viewing. Definitely the most solid movie of the summer.
caitri: (books)
Just got back from Whedon's version of Much Ado. SO MANY FEELS, YOU GUYS!!!!

Seriously, it was like when I went to see The Hobbit, and was so happy to see everyone--but even exponentially greater. Wesley!!! Fred!!!! Coulsoooooooon! Dominic!! Simon Tam, I didn't even KNOW I had missed you! Topher, when did you get all cut?! Andrew! Mal! BriTaNick! WAITRESS OF DESTINY, YOU DIDN'T EVEN GET CUT THIS TIME!

I love so much about the whole thing, especially the composition of "Ladies, Sigh Not So"--I really hope Amazon has that. I also love how it's one of those film versions where everyone clearly understands the words they are saying (something that should seem obvious but is so often lacking in Hollywood productions).

That Whedon goes with the interpretation that Beatrice and Benedick used to have a thing works really well, especially as set up through the wordless prologue/flashbacks. On the other hand, I didn't get the sense that it worked for those versions of the characters, and REALLY didn't work with the sexual context/comparison of Hero and Claudio. Any thoughts on this?

I have mixed feelings about how they handled the Ethiop line--on the one hand, way to acknowledge something in the text, on the other hand...hmm. Oh well, Claudio always was a problem, wasn't he?

Also, I think Reed Diamond and Clark Gregg should always be bros in everything, forever and ever. The end.

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