Ocean’s Eight

June 11, 2018

So it turns out the rabid fanbois only care if something is gender flipped when it’s out of their own childhoods. Which only goes to prove that their mindsets are frozen at age 12. Ah well.

I liked it. It starts slow and Deb (Danny Ocean’s sister) is kind of unlikable to begin with. But she acquires charm later on. Mostly, like the other installments in the series, this is about watching a number of very good, charismatic actors with a ton of chemistry work together. They’re all great. The heist is a pretty good puzzle, mostly clever with some neat twists, but also reliant on some technological handwaving that you just kind of have to get over.

But one of my favorite parts was a line of dialog in passing that went meta:  “We’re doing this for the little girls who are watching who might want to be criminals some day. Let’s do it for them.”

Indeed.

 

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I really, really liked it. Probably unreasonably and inordinately. But it made me really happy and was fully in the spirit of all the books and novels and games and fanfic and spinoffs and everything that has kept Star Wars alive for the last forty years. I never thought I would hear the words “Corellian YT1300 freighter” spoken in a line of dialog in a Star Wars movie and yet here we are. There’s a point in the big second-act action set piece, Han is piloting the Falcon for the first time, and the soundtrack has the Death Star escape battle music from A New Hope that rolls straight into the Asteroid Field music from Empire, which are two of my favorite bits from all the movie soundtracks, and it was totally manipulative and I loved it and I knew I was the ideal, perfect audience for this movie. So much fan service — a lot of it more subtle than you’d think. There’s a single throwaway line of dialog in Empire that gets set up in this film.

It’s a classic heist film, and it’s also a character study of this kid who grew up in really terrible circumstances but he’s got some really big plans. The plans always go awry, but that’s okay — he’ll just make bigger plans next time. He’s learning along the way. When to run. When to shoot. Who to trust. Han’s intentions are always bigger than his abilities. This film shows him learning not to adjust his intentions, but rather to bluff harder, talk faster, and force his abilities to catch up. It’s great.

The trailers won me over with the moment Qi’ra tells Han “I may be the only person in the galaxy who knows what you really are,” and Han gets that flicker of doubt in his expression. That flash of uncertainty, when he’s trying to be cool but he realizes he isn’t sure what she’s going to say — he isn’t sure what he really is by this point. Nailed the character in one scene, so I thought the movie knew what it was doing.

In the film, Qi’ra actually follows up with what she thinks Han really is. And it’s the right answer, the one that means that in ten years or so he will end up at the Battle of Yavin, trying to decide what to do.

 

Deadpool 2

May 23, 2018

Deadpool 2 is exactly what it says on the tin. If it seems a little less shocking and surprising than the first one, it’s because it isn’t the first one and we know what to expect now. So it was never going to have the same jolt, I think.

It even does that thing the first one did where it’s essentially a basic, conventional superhero story:  our previously lone-wolf hero has to learn to work with a team and become a mentor to a semi-cloying moppet. I’m not really being fair here, Russell is much more than a moppet, I actually like the character. But still, this is a Trope, and now both Deadpool movies have hung their cosmetic subversiveness on really familiar formulae. It’s a bit jarring, at least to me. I’m still grappling with what’s basically a kid-centric story told through this incredibly violent, raunchy, foul-mouthed filter. The more I think of it the weirder it gets.

Oh, and this one thing: BIG SPOILER HERE:

I WARNED YOU

HERE IT IS

GO BACK WHILE YOU STILL CAN

So the movie fridged Vanessa in the first scene and that made me so angry. Because this wasn’t “we’ve killed off beloved characters because we’re telling a good story and we’re setting up something big we promise” of Infinity War.  This was “we can’t figure out how to tell stories about people in stable, happy relationships so we need to kill off the love interest to give the hero angst.”

Except, you know, time travel and they undid it at the end, I guess.

But I still spent a big chunk of the movie being disappointed and frustrated.

 

working working…

May 11, 2018

I have somehow once again got myself to the point where everything I have to work on are revisions. Like, five of them. I’ve been feeling super-productive and now I’ve just stalled out. Argh. Okay, gotta get some of this done.

Meanwhile, I’ve been laughing because I’ve seen a bunch of posts about what a great and underrated movie Speed Racer is and just want to remind everyone that I loved it and told everyone to go see it ten years ago.

 

Not just spoilers, but a prediction:

So I saw Infinity War again and I really really really meant to pay attention to the structure, because it’s not a three-act structure and I want to figure out how they juggled all those stories and characters. But I got sucked in to all the amazing heart-wrenching things happening on screen just like before and didn’t pay attention as well as I wanted. This time, the most heartbreaking thing was Vision’s line to Wanda:  “It shouldn’t be you, but it is.” Ugh. Paul Bettany. Weeping.

I think I’m going to have to wait for the DVD and sit down with a pen and paper and do a flow chart. Because basically, this is three movies spliced together and none of the seams show, and it’s great. I thought there were four movies, but I think it’s just three, it’s just that the connective tissue is all the B-stories connected to the A-stories.

The A-stories are Tony, Thor, and Thanos. They have the character arcs, they have the plots, they lead the side quests, they’re driving all the stuff.

The B-stories:  Bruce is the B-story to the Thor plot. Gamora is the B-story to the Thanos plot. And I didn’t see it at first, but I think Vision and Wanda are the B-story to the Tony plot. Which I missed because they don’t actually interact through the entire film, but Vision is Tony’s creation, basically, so yes. They’re connected.

What’s genius about all this and why I’m going to have to draw a flow chart at some point is the B stories are the glue that hold the A stories together and successfully merge it all into one movie. They’re the ones who cross over. They’re the ones carrying the overall plot from one character to the next, one scene to the next.

I’m having trouble fitting one character into all this:  Captain America. It’s my one disappointment, that’s not actually a disappointment but it is something I missed. The guy barely does anything except have a couple of grand entrances and be his earnest adorable self. (“I am Groot!” “I am Steve Rogers!”) But I trust Marvel. They’re setting us up. Oh God, indeed.

I think the next movie is going to be all about him. My friend pointed out that we don’t have a three-act structure because we’re missing the third act. One of the pivotal lines of the film is Steve’s:  “We don’t trade lives.” That’s a message of the whole film, really:  you don’t get to sacrifice individual lives. The cost is too high. You can’t put a price on it. (That Thanos is the one character who is all, Yup, I’ll sacrifice a life, sure thing! reinforces that he’s the villain.)

Except…except…everyone in the universe gets exactly one life to trade:  their own. We don’t trade lives. Oh Steve.

Marvel is setting us up.

 

Avengers: Infinity War

April 30, 2018

Well, I loved it. I thought it was damn near perfect, given the bar this film had to clear. Guys, when Captain America appears the first time, with the Avengers theme swelling in the soundtrack — the audience cheered, for real. Can’t argue with that. And I loved that the film just went there. They did not pull the punch. I’m so impressed, and actually feeling a bit psychopathic because everyone around me is in mourning and I’m sitting here screeching YES! YES! YES!

So, I wrote a big long take on the movie…and decided to save it for my Lightspeed review. So that’ll be out soon. Meanwhile….

SPOILERS!

I was not expecting that the one scene that made me really cry was the heart-to-heart between Thor and Rocket. Like, where did that come from?

 

a warning and a rewrite

April 25, 2018

I watched The Titan on Netflix and it’s so bad I can’t stop thinking about it. Never have I seen a science fiction movie so apparently uninterested in its own premise. The whole mission is “We are going to surgically and genetically alter humans so they can survive on the surface of Titan,” which is awesome, but then the main conflict of the story seems to be “OMG these test subjects are radically changed, this is terrible!”  And I’m just agog, like, isn’t that what we were going for? Not to mention there’s no freaking way they would send them home to live in their fancy suburban houses with their families at all once they start injecting them. These scientists were stupider than the scientists of Prometheus.

Really, what they should have done is model this thing on The Right Stuff combined with the Outer Limits episode “The Architects of Fear.”

So I’m going to rewrite it, right here, right now. Just to get it out of my system.

First off, this is a serious military medical operation. No fancy suburban houses which doesn’t make a lick of sense. Once they start getting injected, the subjects are locked up and hooked to monitors 24/7 so the docs can intervene the minute things go wrong. Second, we aren’t going to pretend that this isn’t a one-way trip. (Seriously, in Titan they kept acting like they were going to come back from this.) We also aren’t going to pretend that someone who’s been radically altered to live in the super-freezing methane world of Titan could also somehow survive on the surface of Earth. And third (there’s a lot of issues here), they’re astronauts going to explore Titan. This isn’t about trying to move the entirety of humanity to Titan because Titan is somehow better than environmentally destroyed Earth because, whoa, dude, seriously.

So our main characters are our main test subject and one of the women doctors on the team. They have a bit of history but it didn’t work out. There’s still a spark. This will be important later. The subjects were all chosen because they have no families because it’s a one way trip because that’s how stuff like this works. But the emotional connection between these two will help the main test subject survive the procedure, which sounds really corny but if you sell the relationship hard enough it will work. Plus, human/alien kissing.

We get to know maybe five of the test subjects, and there are rivalries and conflicts. The best part of Titan was showing the start of some of the adaptations — they’re underwater for half an hour, they’re surviving in sub-zero temperatures, etc. So that’s what we focus on. Also, there are hints that Things Are Not What They Seem. That what they’re being told — they are astronauts training for a mission to Titan — is not actually what the guy in charge is planning. Maybe he’s a rogue scientist conducting illegal human experimentation on the sly. Our main character doctor will figure that out. Things will get fraught. Meanwhile, some of the subjects are having trouble adjusting to their new adaptations. They worked so hard to change the bodies, but they didn’t adapt their minds. (Titan touched on this, but went the easy route of turning the subjects into murder-creatures, which was really uninteresting.)

In the midst of this comes the tipping point:  our subjects are far enough along they can no longer survive in Earth’s atmosphere and the temperatures are too hot. They get hermetically sealed in their own environment. The conflicts between them come to a head. Our Doctor tries to break up a bloody fight — she’s in their enclosure in a full environmental suit — and gets seriously hurt. When she wakes back up/gets back to the lab, things have changed. She didn’t see it before because she was so close to them, but the test subjects are really really alien now. (The creature design on Titan was pretty good, I’ll give it points for that.) And the big brass has stepped in to take over the program from the questionable lead scientist. And they don’t see the test subjects as human. Our Doctor has to convince them. (The test subjects are all still wearing their uniforms. This is important. They look alien, but they also look like astronauts.) There’s an implication that if she doesn’t, the test subjects will be killed.

Meanwhile, the launch window to get them to Titan is closing. Our Doctor takes matters into her own hands and rallies the launch crew, her fellow doctors, etc., to get the surviving astronauts to the launch, to make sure the launch happens and they can fulfill their mission and do lots of awesome science on Titan.  And I hate to admit it but this is all going to look like the end of E.T. and I think that’s okay.

The end of the movie, Our Doctor gets a selfie of the three of them on the surface of Titan. It’ll be awesome.

**

So, as usual, I’m not offended that the movie was bad so much as I’m offended that this was a really great idea that was completely destroyed by really thoughtless writing and a cloying moppet (Isn’t it sweet that the kid still recognizes the alien as his father?! No. No it is not. It’s manipulative.). Now, I’m not actually going to write the above synopsis because I’m not all that interested in this specific story, to be honest. I think it would make a good movie. But all this ground has been covered in written SF.

What I am interested in, what I do think would make a great written story, is what happens 10 years later:  these radically altered astronauts have been living on Titan for 10 years. How are they doing? Hmm, must ponder…