March 27, 2017
I haven’t been going to a lot of movies lately. Busy with other things, underwhelmed by current offerings. What am I not seeing?
Life: Oh hell no. Monster in space rehash. Nothing about the trailers interest me. When are movie astronauts going to learn not to poke the squicky pseudopod?
Kong: Skull Island: I’ve actually been hearing pretty good things about this. And, you know, Tom Hiddleston. But it just seems so loud.
Power Rangers: Or as the trailers suggest, The Breakfast Club: The Gritty Reboot. I have absolutely no nostalgic attachment to the Power Rangers. In fact, along with The X-Files, it was one of the shows that started up right before I left for my year abroad in the U.K., and I was shocked to return home and discover it had somehow gotten mega-popular in my absence. (Ah, the days before ubiquitous internet…) I didn’t get it. Oddly enough though, I’m getting good reports about this one as well. Still not inclined to go see it.
Beauty and the Beast: I may actually go see this. I haven’t decided. Again, I have no real emotional attachment to the original animated film. It may turn out that I’m such a sucker for ornate costumes and musicals and fairy tales that I go see this like a junkie looking for a hit. Plus, Dan Stevens of Legion is the Beast? That intrigues me.
Also, if you’re a fan of Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, and you have not read Robin McKinley’s first novel Beauty, you should go do so immediately. And then quietly reflect on the fact it came out a dozen years before and think to yourself, wait a minute…
March 17, 2017
So, this is like a “What If?” story about the worst of all possible X-Men worlds. Grim, dystopian, and entirely predictable. The movie opens with Logan killing a bunch of guys. Every third scene after that is Logan and Mini Me killing a bunch of guys. Apparently, there are exactly three ways to kill someone with adamantium claws, and they do it over and over and over again, and by the end of this thing I was super bored.
You know what I’d like to see? The version of this story with no fight scenes. Here’s how that works: The best parts of the movie were, like, Laura and Charles bonding, and Laura having to figure out how to eat a nice family dinner, Logan playing caretaker to both of them — a role he is entirely unsuited to — and Charles trying to balance medication with his increasingly erratic control of his powers. Imagine a movie with all of that, and the threat of violence dogging them through their whole trek, but not actual violence. Imagine the tension. And then the only fight is the one at the end, when all that tension bursts.
But see, that would have been a lot harder to write. This one? This movie was lazy. The fights were the least interesting part, but they just kept happening. And I don’t care if she has the highest kill rate in the film, Laura is still a cloying moppet.
And I just want everyone to know that there are no mountains, pine forests, aspen groves, or anything but preternaturally flat, wind-blasted prairie on the border between North Dakota and Canada.
Honestly, my favorite part of the whole thing was seeing Marjorie Liu’s name in the credits. Good job, Marjorie!
March 6, 2017
I think we’re about to hit peak superhero. There’s been another recent expansion of the genre, and how successful it is will determine how sustainable the whole genre is.
Logan. I haven’t seen in yet. I wasn’t planning on seeing it, because the trailers seemed self-indulgent and cliche. I’ve been tired for awhile now of Wolverine being the focus of the X-Men franchise — he was never my favorite. And there’s my cloying moppet rule. Wolverine + cloying moppet? Ugh. But the reviews and reactions to it have been phenomenally good, and now I’m curious. And another rated R superhero movie, so I guess that’s a thing now. Don’t know when I’m going to get to this, but when I do you’ll hear about it.
Powerless. Another one I haven’t seen yet. (See, this is how I know we’re saturated, I just can’t keep up with everything.) I’m curious, though, because it’s a different model — within the DC franchise, but adjacent to it, not involving any of the tent pole characters. A little like Agents of SHIELD, maybe. Oh, and a comedy. Trying something new, successful or not, so good job there.
Legion. Basically the reason I’m writing this whole post because I saw the first episode last night and it pretty much blew me away. What joy, that this genre can still blow me away! It’s X-Men, apparently, but a corner of that world I know nothing about, and it turns out I really like not knowing who these people are or what comes next. I’m resisting googling it all. The story didn’t even look like a superhero story until the word “mutant” is mentioned, and it’s mentioned so casually that the flow of the narrative isn’t jostled at all. I think it does for the superhero genre what Mr. Robot does for cyberpunk, which is apply post-modern storytelling conventions to a genre story. It’s delightful. I hope it can maintain this feel.
So, I know what I’ll be watching this week.
February 22, 2017
Finally caught the biopic about Johnny Cash and June Carter, and I’ve got a couple of thoughts.
I love movies about artists because there’s often some bit about creativity that jumps out and speaks to me. In this one, for me, about the most powerful scene is when Cash and his band are at their first audition at a local record studio, and they’re playing some hokey old gospel standard, and the owner stops them. They’re not good, he doesn’t want to hear more. Cash asks, was it the song or the way he sang it? The owner says, (paraphrasing), “The way you sang it.” Cash: “What’s wrong with the way I sing?” Owner: “I don’t believe you.” Cash gets upset here: “You saying I don’t believe in God?” They go back and forth on this, until finally the owner boils it down into a magnificent speech about playing from the heart: “Imagine: you’re washed up in a ditch, you’re dying, and you have time to sing one song, you only have one song to tell God who you are and how you feel. You get one song, one chance — is that really what you want to sing?” And then Cash shyly, haltingly, sings “Folsom Prison Blues” in public for the very first time, and there’s this moment of tension and understanding, where the owner realizes that yes, he’s a great singer and Cash knows how he has to go forward for the rest of his career.
And it’s true, and it’s great. At the event last weekend I was asked what the worst writing advice I ever got is. I get this question a lot, and I always say: “Write to the market” is terrible advice. Because if you’re only doing what you think will sell, if you only worry about trying to be popular and trying to give people what they want (without maybe understanding what they really want), you’re going to end up singing that hokey unfeeling gospel song instead of becoming Johnny Cash. Or whoever you were meant to be, you know?
The second thing I got from the movie: Waylon Jennings. He shows up as a side character a couple of times, because he’s always showing up as a side character in biopics of musicians. Because he was that kind of musician — he knew everyone, went everywhere, made a mark. But is he ever going to get his own story?
But maybe that is his story. And I think back to the moment when he gave his seat on that plane to the Big Bopper, and then the plane crashed and killed him, and Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. Musical history changed, and Jennings is right on the fulcrum of that.
There’s a story in there. Gotta think about it.
February 13, 2017
My current knitting project is a giant shawl done on #4 needles. For non-knitters, #4 needles are small (not the smallest), and make dainty little stitches. This thing is going to take me all year. It’s gonna be gorgeous, but wow.
So I’ve been watching some TV while I work on this.
Voltron. This is a Dreamworks Animation reboot running on Netflix. I watched a ton of 80’s Voltron as a kid, enough that I pretty much adored that scene in Pacific Rim when Gypsy Danger draws a sword out of nowhere and slices a ro-beast — I mean kaiju — from shoulder to hip. So I had to give this a try. And I like it. It’s cute and fun and has the spirit of the old show while updating some things (and very surreptitiously and neatly adding another girl character). I’m halfway through second season and Shiro is about to go do something foolish, I fear. But that’s what he does so it’s okay.
Taboo. I’m only a couple of episodes in, but I’m intrigued. This is Tom Hardy in 1814 London going up against the East India Company. There’s some very pointed post-colonial critique going on, which I hope to see more of. In the meantime, it’s sort of the evil opposite of most Regency-era stories. I gotta tell you, when Jonathan Pryce (playing the head of the East India Company) drops an f-bomb I about jumped out of my seat. I’ve been watching him in movies for thirty years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say fuck. Huh.
CW DC superhero shows. These days, I just flat-out call this the Superfriends.
And a movie:
Lego Batman. Well, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. The first five minutes were kind of my favorite, where the pilots of McGuffin Air manage to poke at both The Dark Knight and Tim Burton’s Batman. So yeah, a little meta going on there.
February 6, 2017
Is it really the final chapter?
I’m going to take them at their word, because they did some stuff that really did make this seem like the end. But in Hollywood, never say never, because this is the year we’re getting sequels to both Blade Runner and Twin Peaks and dear god when will the 80’s movie recycling jamboree ever end?
Anyhoo. I STILL LOVE THE RESIDENT EVIL MOVIES. This series has been so consistent in delivering exactly what it promises, with stylish techno action set pieces held together by theme and aesthetic more than plot, and making that entirely okay. Alice continues to be magnificent.
I actually have a lot more to say about this movie, but in a strange twist it looks like I’m going to be reviewing it for Lightspeed next month, so I’m saving my analysis for that. Because really, with this ostensibly being the Final Chapter, I have a chance to review the franchise as a whole. With the release of this film, the previous chapters have been popping up on TV, and I’ve caught some of them, and I’ve been developing some ideas. Whatever you say about the plot and action of these movies, I’m going to propose that thematically, they’ve been impressively consistent. These movies are saying something, and next month I’ll talk about what that might be.
Until then, the usual review applies: if you like the Resident Evil movies, you’ll probably like it. If you don’t…then why are you asking?
January 27, 2017
I finally finally got to see this one, and it’s earned all the buzz it’s gotten. Absolutely everybody should see it. It’s just about perfect. Inspiring, but also enraging, and also about SPACE and it’s got plenty of spaceship stuff.
Everybody should see it. I think it would make a really cool double feature with The Right Stuff.
And it’s a great demonstration of the concept of societal privilege. In that privilege isn’t about getting extra stuff — it’s about all the crap you don’t have to do, all the hoops you don’t have to jump through because the playing field isn’t level. It’s about not having to explain yourself every time you walk into a room.
This should win all the awards. Well, this and Arrival should win all the awards.