Reign

Jan. 20th, 2015 07:09 pm
Mostly to prove that I am capable of blogging about something besides recent publications, let's chat about the first season of that gloriously, unrepentantly terrible show Reign, which I just finished watching.

Oh, internet. You warned me, but you didn't prepare me.

For those who have missed the show so far (and I'm not blaming you), here's what you need to know:

1. One of the characters wanders around wearing a burlap sack on her head. Sometimes she hums things.

2. Anne of Green Gables – that is, Megan Follows – is in it, playing a character named Catherine d'Medici, who has to put up with a character called Mary Queen of Scots. And someone called Francis who has a lot of sex. Any resemblance to the actual historical personages with similar names is purely coincidental.

3. Also there is a character called, and I am not making this up, Lola.

4. Most of the acting, except for Megan Follows, who is surprisingly good (surprising mostly because finding anything good on this show is surprising) runs from serviceable to terrible, with Terrance Coombs, playing the completely made up for this show king's bastard son Bash who almost becomes king without anyone thinking "King Bash? Is that really the branding we should be going for?", mostly managing to avoid the "You want me to say this line? Really?" look but often failing and Celina Sinden, who plays the mostly made up for this show Greer, perfecting the "Look, we all have to earn a paycheck" look in most of her scenes, which I appreciate.

5. As far as I can tell, conversations in the writers' room go somewhat like this:

"Ok, in this episode, at least two people need to hook up. No need for a reason, just have them hook up. Also, someone has to be poisoned."

"We did that last week."

"Maybe trying burning someone this time? And then, back to the poison!"

"Got it!"

6. Speaking of which, in the first episode five girls – Mary and her four handmaidens – say very serious and nice things about the importance of keeping their virtue and finding husbands. By episode 10 four of them have had sexy times without the benefit of marriage, generally with more than one person.

The fifth one is dead.

I'm not making that up.

7. Naturally in episode 16 a marriage happens between two of the characters for no particular reason except "Hey, you are getting married" and by episode 17 they are friends and by episode 18 not so much and by episode 20 all happy again except that one of them IS FIGHTING THE DARKNESS which may complicate things.

8. For a show that takes the CW's love for love triangles to new extremes (every episode features at least two, more usually four) it manages to get through an entire season with only one threesome. I am impressed. Not in a good way, but I am impressed.

Two of the people in that threesome end up dead. The other one gets all involved with The Darkness.

I'm also not making that up.

9. As you might be gathering this show likes killing people off.

10. This is the sorta show that when it needs a forger, suddenly for no apparent reason a character with no reason to know how to forge anything, hi, Greer, is an expert forger. I appreciate this.

11. Also, this is the sort of show that happily divides everyone into three religions: Catholic, Protestant, and Pagan. This is how you can tell the difference:

Catholics live in castles and are Catholics and can easily be deceived by actors pretending to be priests who are very very against any type of BDSM play that might involve or refer to crosses. Some Catholics love Mary and want her to take over England. Some Catholics hate Mary and don't seem to be aware that England exists. Some Catholics speak in what the show would like you to think is an Italian accent, to show that they are from "Rome."

Protestants live in castles, are all YAY ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND (who so far hasn't shown up in this show, but I'm expecting it at any point, and before anyone points out that the historical Elizabeth and Mary never met, let me just note that this is not the sort of show that cares about that sort of thing at all) and hate Mary and want her dead.

Pagans do not live in castles. They have Evil Whistles (really); sometimes fall into frozen lakes (also really); believe in the Darkness (also really) and hunting things and hanging people up by their feet. Sometimes they say "gods" which is a total giveaway and they are into foot tattoos.

I hope I have now given you all a deeper appreciation of European religious conflicts in the 16th century.

12. Once this show mentioned Turks. We didn't see their feet (or them; just their wedding gifts) but they love Mary so I assume they are Catholic. At least in this show.

13. The Darkness I've been mentioning? Is very very helpful for a Darkness! It provides things for the side cast to do when the main cast is debating whether or not they should poison someone or attack England. Also, the Darkness helpfully predicts meteor showers and plagues. This is the sort of information I need from my Darkness.

14. Characters on this show are not nearly as excited about heading off to Trinidad for the duration of the show as they really, really should be. (I don't know why Trinidad, but that's where they went.)
Like its predecessor, Thor, Thor II: Into Your Wallet Again is a nice, fun, thoroughly cheesy popcorn flick that once again manages to criminally underuse both Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba, though Hopkins at least seems to be thinking, eh, got my Oscars already, ha ha.

And, like its predecessor, it was in desperate need of snark:

By the mighty power of Thor, there be snark ahead! )
Two separate things caught me about the film. One was how, in such contrast to the original series, it offers a very bleak vision of Starfleet Command – this is far more the Star Trek of Deep Space Nine, but even that had a more optimistic touch at times. And two, of course, was just how badly various elements needed to be snarked.

I loved the film but fleets of Enterprises could have sailed through the plot holes with time to spare. )
I present you, oh readers, with choices: you can read my nice serious discussion of Oz the Great and Powerful over at Tor.com, or you can just head straight for the snark:

Aggressively spoilery snark ahead! )
I finally got around to seeing Arrow, which a rather alarming number of you suggested I snark.

And...surprise: I kinda liked it. Oh, this is certainly not a great show, by any means, and some of the more feminist minded among you are not going to be thrilled by some of the plot lines, and [personal profile] aliettedb is going to groan out loud at the Evil Island plot line, and the script has some decidedly weak points, and I think we can all agree, quite kindly, that the acting....varies. But – blame it on dizziness and fatigue, if you like, it was also surprisingly fun on a pure popcorn level.

Nonetheless, I'd been called on to snark. So, as a reader service, the first episode:

Cut to save you from snark! )
Revolution

One sign that your new fall show just may be running into a few, say, credibility problems is when a number of people beg me by email, Twitter and text message to snark the show.

Never one to fail to provide partial customer service on this blog, I did indeed finally sit down to go through it. Slowly. (My attention kept wandering, and honestly, in this case it is not my fault.) And I must say that apart from the generally eh acting, the overabundance of exposition, the predictable plot "twists", the constant and kinda disturbing bunnies, and mindboggling indifference to ordinary things like, say, not entirely at random, "physics," "biology," and "alcohol production," it –

Eh. No. The show did manage to pull itself together, sorta, in the last two minutes, but everything prior to that was worthy of some serious snark.

So here you go, readers! Spoilery for the entire first episode. )
Without trying to, I happened to watch this in a theatre one quarter filled with a generally appreciative and polite audience of employees of Universal Studios and excited Twilight fans whose in and post film comments perhaps colored my snark here. (Spoiler: the Twilight fans all felt, without exception, that Twilight is a much, much better movie, a verdict that I shall not comment on further.)

Anyway. This, as the Twilight fans agreed, is a Film With Problems. Not visual problems – it looks great throughout and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were all just as glad not to have this in 3D. But script problems. Acting problems. (Particularly with Kristen Stewart, where the kindest word I can use is "miscast.") Turning Ray Winstone – yes, that Ray Winstone – into a dwarf problems. Unexpected Bambi and stealing from Japanese anime problems. Accent problems. Christianity problems. (Seriously, film. What?) Snow White not being particularly likeable problems. Me spending the film cheering on the Evil Queen problems.*

As such, it needs snark. A lot of snark.

So, let us not delay. As always, major spoilers below. )

Avengers

May. 9th, 2012 11:31 pm
Shorter version: The best Hulk film, like, ever. Hulk Smash! And I don't even like the Hulk.

Longer version: Things go boom! Tony Stark quips! Thor makes sure we can all see how well cut he is! The one woman on the team isn't given any superpowers, but makes up for it by actually doing kick ass stuff. The film otherwise massively flops the Bechtel test, although it does spend quality time staring at the butts of the three women characters with speaking lines. As films do. (Gwyneth Paltrow arrives briefly for the twin jobs of snarking and showing off her legs.) I would have been offended if we had not gotten some equal exploitive time with Thor and to a considerably lesser degree Captain America and Hawkeye. Frankly, I think the next Thor film should just cut to the chase and call itself, "Thor: The Abs. The Shoulder Muscles. The Butt." to, you know, save time. But I digress.

This is not, to put it mildly, a deep movie. It is, I grant you, a bit more thoughtful than last year's Thor, but that's not saying much. Sure, a couple of characters try to speak deeply about freedom and choices and trust and heroics and an old guy stands up to remind us that Fascism and Dictators are like, bad, yo, and Captain America isn't really sure that the current world is an awesome place, and some Wall Street offices suffer collateral damage, yay, and if you head out to the bathroom you might miss the conversation about Guilt. But whatever. It's not going for deep. It's going for fun.

And that it delivers, mostly thanks to Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) who is like, wait, I get to make fun of my coworkers? More please! Tom Hiddleston (Loki), who apparently looked at the script, said, well, if I have to say this crap, I may as well say it with far too much conviction, and, the surprise, Mark Ruffalo as HULK SMASH. He's also pretty good as Bruce Banner, but, let's face it, HULK SMASH.

AND SMASH AND SMASH. It's the main reason to see the film.

Also, there is a blink and you will miss it Oz reference. Just saying.

Looking forward to seeing the half hour of deleted scenes on the DVD, which apparently include Captain America meeting up with his love interest from the previous film. Also not here: any scenes between Thor and Natalie Portman "I'm not an astrophysicist, I just play one with great abs," although the film does include two lines of dialogue to explain her absence, without using the phrase "Ms. Portman demanded way too much money for a cameo" which was impressive.

Snarky version:

As a reader service. )
Full disclosure: it's been years since I saw the first Clash of the Titans film, which I don't recall enjoying that much, and I missed the remake entirely, so I came in with pretty much no knowledge of what had happened before. Which turned out not to mean much, but I anticipate. Second, I must admit to a slight bias when it comes to the classical gods, and by bias, I mean that Athena was, hands down, the most awesome of any of the Greek deities, bar none. She fights, she weaves, she turns people invisible, she inspires them to say the right things, she wears beautiful sandals on her beautiful feet which are apparently so awesome Homer can't stop talking about them, she's not in this movie, although she's listed in the credits.

I'm just saying. Which means it's time for snark.

Because oh, does this film need snark. )

In Time

Nov. 8th, 2011 08:11 am
My initial reaction to this film, on Twitter, was that it was even worse than The Three Musketeers. After sleeping on this for a bit, I realized that I was wrong: The Three Musketeers is a much worse film on pretty much every level.

In Time is just more frustrating.

Largely because the concept is excellent, and here and there, the film allows us tiny glimpses of what it could have been, but wasn't. (Like, on a minor note, if the theme of your film is that everyone stops aging at 25, make sure that everyone looks 25, instead of, say, early to mid thirties, and cast actors who are actually in their mid twenties, instead of, say, early to mid thirties. Justin Timberlake is 30; Cillian Murphy 35, Vincent Kartheiser 32, Johnny Galecki 36, and so on. ) Unfortunately, aside from those tiny glimpses, the execution is mostly inept, and rather than an intriguing film about time, life, and class distinctions, we have a film about women wearing very uncomfortable clothing and some kinda inept chase scenes.

It's not the fault of the acting – even Justin Timberlake tries, and it's not his fault that his character's actions generally make little to no sense. Or the beautifully done, sometimes even intriguing camera work. No, this is the fault of just not thinking.

So, you know. Snark!

Because I can always make time for snark. )
Oh, this movie was so gloriously, gloriously, terrible.

But before I get into the snark, first, a disclaimer: about midway through the movie, the theatre, for whatever reason, decided to turn on the heat, making me a bit dizzy and forcing me to pause and pull off my sweater, causing me to miss some of the Star Trek moments.

Second, three warnings: one, as reader [personal profile] thette has correctly noted, those of you with an interest in accuracy in your historical costuming should probably avoid this film, however spectacular the hats. Two, those of you with no interest in accuracy in your historical costuming may well find yourself distracted by the hats. And three, seeing this movie while accompanied by a chemist may well result in an upset or distracted chemist who will point out the various places where the film got the physics wrong. This includes some stuff with the hats.

Third, portions of this film were actually – hold your shock – almost ok, particularly the bits focusing on the Three Musketeers who are all fairly decent in their roles, although the actor playing D'Artagnan should never be allowed near a period piece or, for that matter, a camera again.

The rest, however, demands snark. A lot of snark.

So here we go! Spoilery, even if you've read the book, because, let's face it, it's not much like the book. )
This is the movie that Russell Crowe reportedly walked out on, and honestly, after seeing it, who can blame him? I am imagining the meeting between the producers and script writers now:

Script writer 1: We've got a wildly expensive idea for a movie for you. It's set in Australia!

Producer 1: Ok, cue the budget for kangaroos. What's the story?

Script writer 2: A prim young British aristocrat arrives in Australia and realizes that to avenge her husband's murder, she has to take part in a cattle drive across the Badlands of Australia as the kangaroos look on HELPLESSLY in the background! Fortunately, a hot cattle drover is THERE to help her. We're calling him Drover for the laughs. (Really. Everyone calls him Drover. I was assuming for the laughs.) They can even kiss in the rain.

Producer 2: Hmm. Not sure that's enough story.

Script writer 1: Fortunately, the Japanese are invading!

Producer 1: During the cattle drive?

Script writer 2: No, after. Because, you know, bombing runs are tough on the cows, and we want to use Real Cows. For realism. To go along with the Fake Japanese Airplanes and British Warships we'll be using later.

Producer 2: I dunno. See, I don't think Australia, in World War II, had enough going on, what with Japanese bombings and so on. People need something big.

Script writer 1: Well, I suppose we could throw in a third plot, touchingly and respectfully showing the tragedy of the aboriginal Australian population and their forced cultural assimilation as the Japanese approach, complete with bar fights!

Producer 1: Sounds like a bit of a downer.

Script writer 2: What if, while all the evil characters are happily comparing the aboriginal Australians to children, we, you know, go deep and cast the main aboriginal Australian as a child? With a nice added primitive aboriginal Australian in the background chatting at the wind and lugging a spear around. We can even throw in a nice lesson about racism!

Producer 2: Which is?

Script writer 1: If white people mistreat aboriginal Australians, the aborigines will get shot by Japanese!

Producer 1: That's nice.

Script writer 2: Plus, this will give us the chance to have the adorable aboriginal kid stop a cattle stampede by wiggling his fingers.

Producer 2: I dunno. I'm just not feeling it yet. Got any villains?

Script writer 1: Apart from, you know, the Japanese invaders and the hellish, hellish Australian weather that we'll be depicting through careful CGI imagery?

Producer 1: Yeah. We just don't think that's enough.

Script writer 2: How about an over-the-top villain who for some reason wants to take on still more cattle on the eve of a freaking invasion AND is racist AND also fathered the cute little aboriginal kid?

Producer 1: Wait, so the aboriginal kid –

Script writer 1: Is actually half-caste, yes! Just ADDS TO THE DRAMA.

Producer 1: Or...not.

Script writer 2: We can have the villain twirl his moustache!

Producer 1: Or...not.

Script writer 1: Ok, we'll lose the moustache. But I guarantee you'll want it back later, when the villain gets ready to kill all of the cute little orphans that inexplicably survived the Japanese bombing attack.

Producer 2: But SOMEONE dies, right?

Script writer 2: A couple minor characters, sure. And to add more tension, we can even pretend to kill one of the leads off at one point, leading to a TOUCHING MOMENT against a SMOKE FILLED SCREEN.

Script writer 1: Plus, we've filled in any potential dull moments with Amusing Stock Characters, including the Well-Meaning Drunk Guy Who Gets Run Over By Cows; the Chinese Guy With Amusing Mispronunciations of Words; the Other Wise Black Guy; the Sassy Black Woman; the Black Woman Who Dies For a Poignant Moment; the Mean Bartender; and some Disapproving Stuck Up British Socialites In Australia For Unexplained Reasons.

Producer 1: Hmm. I'm just not sure -- cattle stampede, World War II, adorable children, drinking, vengeance for a husband's murder, a mysterious Australian bushman, various spear throwing and excessively fake looking bombing -– do you really think you'll be able to fill an entire move with just this?

Script writer 2: Well, we've thrown in Hugh Jackman's naked chest.

Producer 3: And Nicole Kidman?

Script writer 1: She's promised to look into the camera without blinking a lot.

Script writer 2: And everybody will sing from The Wizard of Oz. A lot.*

Producer 1: Well. I'm sold.

To be fair, when the film isn't focused on little CGI boats and planes, it looks magnificent. And the actors do what they can with the very limited script and dialogue (although you get the distinct impression that Jackman wanted huge changes to the script). Kidman and Jackman even manage chemistry together. The actor playing the aboriginal kid is cute and will hopefully manage to have a career beyond this. And I have to admit that I fell over laughing when the response to the Japanese bombing was to play "Somewhere – OVER THE RAINBOW!" On a little harmonica. It is a moment of utter if unintentional awesomeness.

And to be further fair, had the film focused on just one storyline – the cattle drive, World War II, or aboriginal assimilation, combining any of these with the epic romance, it might have worked. As it was –

Well. It had a cute kid playing "Over the Rainbow" on the harmonica as the Japanese were bombing everything. Great stuff. Plus, you know, Hugh Jackman's chest. There's something to be said for that.


*Er, not that they could. A tiny, tiny bit of research would have shown that The Wizard of Oz film had not, in fact, been shown in Australia by the events depicted in this movie. But as I've always tried to say, Oz is magical and even defies time and geography, so I'm willing to let this one go.
Snark SLIGHTLY delayed by US Open in Golf. And now....


Green Lantern:

Ok, first off: I never really read the Green Lantern comics. So I know pretty much zilch about the universe, the characters, and so on, except for the pretty cool rings and the lighting effects, and I have no opinion, and by no opinion, I mean, none, on which Green Lantern is "the best" – Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart or Kyle Raymer, names I just got from Wikipedia. (If they are wrong this is entirely Wikipedia's fault.) In fact I may be the only person here slightly more familiar with Alan Scott than the rest of the Green Lanterns, this because for years my only exposure to Green Lantern was in a compendium of the Great American Superheroes, focusing on works on the 1940s and Wonder Woman in all of her S&M glory. This was not the best of exposures to Green Lantern.

Second off, it might be best to not see this film with a scientist. Just saying.

And now, on to the spoilery snark. )
So, er, yes. It's been a week full of major and minor irritations. Among the minor irritations: the sudden realization that I had not, after all, kept my promise to say lots of interesting things about X-Men: First Class. Or even a lot of dull things about X-Men: First Class.

Let's get the important stuff out of the way: yes, I had fun with the film, even though it is not exactly good in many places and is unquestionably and oddly sexist in almost all of its places, has some disability fail at the end, and inexplicably never allows its main couple to just make out already. Mind you, since the film is set in the 1940s and the 1960s, some sexism is to be expected. What's odd, though, is that's not the sexism the film is depicting. Equally oddly, the only non-sexist male in the film is one of the bad guys. The good guys…yeah. And we probably shouldn't get into the equally odd racial and political stuff.

But, and this is important, things blew up!

Anyway. If you want a deep, thoughtful take on the film, try Abigail Nussbaum, who gave this film considerably more intellectual attention than I did. If you want to realize just how hilariously tragic the lives of the X-Men are, try io9's sad summary of their lives. And if you want snark, just keep reading below the cut.

Mutants on snark! )

Thor

May. 10th, 2011 11:53 am
Based on the lousy trailers, I arrived at Thor prepared to snark away. To my surprise, however, this turned out to be an awesome popcorn flick and a lot of fun, thanks largely to the performance of Chris Hemsworth as Thor, with his, yes, this is ridiculous, but just roll with it attitude, which entirely made the film, and various amusing dialogue bits. Not deep, or anything, and if Natalie Portman is entirely believable as a Hot Chick she was considerably less believable as a Serious Scientist, but you can't have everything.

Still. I'd gone there to snark. And if snarking a film where the lead refuses to take himself or any of the dialogue seriously is difficult, well, I was going to try anyway, even if I will be the first to admit this is not one of my better attempts. Films need to be bad for that.

Cut for spoilers and snark. )
So, I Am Number Four. Quick disclaimer: certain parts of this film made me dizzy, forcing me to shut my eyes. S informs me I missed nothing and was probably better off.

The film can best be summed up as, "Finally! The film that makes Twilight look good! Complete with iPhones!" But for those of you who want more, The snark! )
So, The Eagle, a quasi-Roman flick with swords, muds and horses. But first, why, oh why, ARE WE TURNING JANE EYRE INTO A HORROR MOVIE? This is wrong, people, wrong. Gothic, sure. Madwomen in attics, sure. Horror, not so much.

While you're contemplating that, onto the snark. Yay snark! )
How, how, can a movie with cowboys, ninjas AND CLOWNS go so terribly, terribly wrong?

Let's find out! )
Not as bad as the previews suggested, but still, more than worthy of snark. If you do choose to see it, I suggest waiting for the DVD and fast forwarding through the boring first third of the film and just going straight to the parts with the UNSTOPPABLE TRAIN. Trust me, you won't be missing much except for Chris Pine's underwear. Which, granted, might be a selling point for some of you.

Cut for spoilers, not that there's much to spoil here. )

Robin Hood

Jun. 22nd, 2010 09:37 am
So for Father's Day, we headed out to Downtown Disney to see Robin Hood, picking that theatre since it offered the only showing of that film that was a) not on during the Italy World Cup game, b) not on during the U.S. Open in golf, and c) not adjacent to a parking lot filled with happy Harry Potter fans. By such restrictions are our decisions made.

Anyway, my father loved the film, my brother liked the film, and I, of course, felt the need to snark the film.

In which we watch a singer/songwriter from Great Big Sea reconsider this whole acting gig. )

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