Category Archives: entertainment

movies, music, TV, and other entertaining/amusing posts

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (viewed in theaters 16 April 2014)
A pretty decent superhero film, definitely better than the first one, though I understand the need for the latter for the former to make sense. There weren’t really any surprises in this film, though Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) managed to get through a third entire full length feature film without unnecessarily becoming some other character’s love interest. (Ugh; can you imagine? Uuuuugh.) I like that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is portrayed as chaotic good, more or less. Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson’s) car chase scene seemed unnecessary, but it was nonetheless fun. (Though I admit it would’ve been less fun if he hadn’t survived it.) The Winter Soldier doesn’t break out of the superhero/villain mold, but it doesn’t try to, and that’s okay.

Mulan (viewed 06 April 2014 at home)
Mom’s choice for family night after she discovered that Dad had never seen it. (The rest of us were also properly offended, of course.) Good movie, though I had forgotten how violent and creepy the Huns actually were. Watching the film makes me want to learn more about the legend of the woman who inspired it, though I’d prefer reading a book for children at first since my knowledge of Chinese history is at a very primary school level at this point. Watched the deleted scenes for the first time and realized that some things are deleted for a reason. Also, I was perturbed that the main directors and artists, etc., were all white men. It irritates me that they took a Chinese legend and basically appropriated it into Western culture. Ugh.

The Littlest Rebel (watched 30 March 2014 at home)
Grandma’s family night choice, “in memory of Shirley Temple” (who died in February). Now, I realize that it was produced in 1935, but honestly, the racism apparent in this film is atrocious. The use of black face, the slaves afraid of being freed by the Union, and the slaves as part of the family is just… too romantic for me to swallow. The only half-decent thing about it was that it made me think about my education in regards to the Civil War, which was strongly biased toward the Union and against the Confederacy… and for good reason, you’d think. In this film, the Confederates are the good guys (or, at least, the title character’s father, who is a Confederate officer, is a good guy) and the Union soldiers don’t do anything for their cause by ransacking and then burning down the family home. Oh, and also, the mother dies, and nobody ever ever looks that good on their deathbed.

Gravity in 3D: see One Paragraph 18
Though I’d have liked to watch this through again, I already saw Gravity in October, and since it started at 10:15 PM after having watched three movies that day already and I had work the next morning at 7 AM, I decided to cut and run while I was still feeling not terrible.

American Hustle (viewed 01 March 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Best disclaimer a movie’s ever had: “Some of this actually happened.” Seriously. The costumes were amazing; the story was ridiculous. Don’t know how I feel about Christian Bale with a combover, but he certainly acted the skeevy-car-salesman type well. Reminded me of a lower class version of the guy Leonardo DiCaprio played in The Wolf of Wall Street. By this point, I had also noticed that seven of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture were based on true stories, and the remaining two (Nebraska and Gravity) were films that could’ve easily been based on true stories; they were all basically realistic/historical fiction.

Her (viewed 01 March 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
You know what? This film was actually pretty good. Weird, but good. I really like the actress Scarlett Johansson (who voiced the intelligent AI Samantha), though I didn’t realize she was in the film until afterward. I seriously identified with the relationship talk that Theodore and Samantha had about loving someone and loving other people at the same time. That was difficult for him to take and it showed, but I truly, deeply believe what Samantha said is true: “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.” See also the discussion at Feministing.

Captain Phillips: see One Paragraph 17
I skipped this film because I didn’t want to get seasick all over again, especially when it was only the second of five films on the second day of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase this year. Ugh.

New work elsewhere!

I’ve been a busy writer these days. I’ve got a review up at Hippocampus of Butterfly Tears: Stories of Entrapment to Empowerment.

I was also hired last month to write articles of interest for the 2Shopper blog, and my first two posts have already gone live! Check out First Week in April is Read a Roadmap Week (published April 4) and Do we really need another excuse NOT to do housework? (published today). I’ll be posting more at the 2Shopper blog this month and next (possibly longer), so keep a sharp eye for some great new articles.

Hope your week goes well. Good hunting.

John Carter

John Carter posterI saw John Carter at the beginning of May with my sister and decided that it was important enough to write up a legitimate review of it, rather than just a paragraph for One Paragraph. Unfortunately, that means I’m only getting to it now, just shy of three months later.

I hadn’t paid the film much attention until my dad mentioned he wanted to see it but didn’t think he’d be able to. Shortly thereafter, I managed to get my sister to go with me, and when we sat down in the theater, I’d seen a single preview and she hadn’t even gotten that much. We didn’t really know anything about anything.

The minute I discovered it had a young Edgar Rice Burroughs in it (oh, the joys of an author’s self-insertion), I knew the time period the original novel—1910s or 20s. The movie is based on the dime store novel A Princess of Mars, but the name was changed to John Carter of Mars (not to be confused with the novel of the same name) and then simply John Carter because producers (marketers?… well, someone) feared the title would cause fewer boys and young men to see the film. The film lived in development hell for several years before finally being released in early March this year, to mediocre reviews.

I remember telling my sister upon exiting the theater that the film was basically a mish-mash of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune and she correctly pointed out that Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars actually pre-dates all three of those franchises by several decades. (Burroughs, most famous today for his Tarzan novels, is said also to have inspired sci-fi greats such as Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke.)

Anyway, I liked it. I mean, it wasn’t the greatest film ever made or anything (that was impossible before the project began since it’s based on a novel that’s hardly the best piece of science-fiction ever written), but after hearing that it wasn’t worth my time, I was pleasantly surprised.

Dejah and John
Dejah, the original novel’s title character, and John, the film’s title character

That’s not to say the film was completely unproblematic. To the best of my recollection, it failed the Bechdel Test. There were moments it could have passed, but… no. It really bothered me that the title was changed—the sexism should be evident, and it’s a cyclical thing. (Boys don’t want to watch perceived “girly” movies because of sexism and so producers/directors/whomever reinforce sexism by catering to the “core audience”—boys.)

There are issues of race paralleling a cowboys versus Indians motif. Red Martians (of which Dejah is one) are civilized, humanistic people who live in cities and use science and technology to war with one another; Green Martians are completely uncivilized, living on a “survival of the fittest” model outside of the cities and who war with each other using more “primitive” tools (bows and arrows, spears, and animal mounts). The whole thing, in that respect, was just eye-roll-inducing. Not to mention the completely unambiguous morality (all good people are good and evil people are only evil), damsel in distress (sub?)plotline, and gender essentialism that all the characters displayed. Ugh.

Here’s the thing, though. All those things are issues I have with the novel, and the film was basically forced to follow an outdated, racist, sexist plot in order to “stay true to the original work”. The films creators, to their credit, gave Dejah a more active role than simply “damsel in distress” (though she does fall into that trap near the end anyway), and made John totally fine (if a bit surprised at first) with her intelligence and natural leadership. So, they were trying, I guess, but they really didn’t have that much to work with without rewriting the plot completely.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom—the Martian name for Mars—stories, however, spanned more than ten novels published between 1917 and 1964, so what do I know? Oh well, I at least have to get my dad to watch it to see what he thinks.

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The Chipmunk Adventure (viewed at home 9 May 2012)
Gave this movie to my sister for her birthday—we both have fond memories of it from when we were kids, so watching it again was a trip down memory lane. The Chipmunks and the Chipettes trying to “out-rock and roll” each other is always the best part. I hadn’t realised when I was a kid, though, how much blatant lack of respect for other cultures there is in this film. It’s nostalgic, but it’s also completely problematic.

Captain America: The First Avenger (viewed at home 7 May 2012)
Watched this with my sister in partial preparation for Marvel’s The Avengers, which came out in theaters May 4th. We’ll be watching them lead-in movies in chronological order (that is, in regards to their respective story lines, not in the order they were produced). Captain America was actually better than I was expecting. (Maybe I just have really low expectations for superhero movies? I don’t know.) Sister had already seen it, but she didn’t mind watching it again. I liked Tommy Lee Jones character the best, I think, and Bucky. Looking forward to Iron Man, which is next on the list, even though I’ve already seen it.

The Voice New Testament (31 March 2012 via eReader)
This new translation is written in stageplay format with a lot of “context” added in by Biblical scholars. I like the context itself, and I thought I would like the format, but instead the format ended up being very distracting; it reminded me of a Myspace webpage with popups and music and glittery annoyances every few words. Okay, it’s not that bad, but the format was still distracting. I hoped to get into it, but the “context” sections kept pulling me out of the narrative, and that seems like a flaw (possibly a fatal one) when the scholars’ very purpose is for a new generation to read Scripture as a narrative (as opposed to verse by verse).

Midnight in Paris (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
AMC saved the best for last, in my opinion (though the Academy didn’t agree with me on that count, so take that as you will). I didn’t like this film the best because it was the best film, but because it was so much better than I was expecting. Neither my sister nor I like the actor who plays the main character (and actually, he was about as I expected in this movie, too, so) but the story was really neat. Maybe I liked it because it was about a writer trying to find his voice or maybe I liked it because it features some of the most-lauded writers of the early twentieth century, but either way, I was pleasantly surprised. Someone mentioned it was full of geek, but really it was full of smart. Hell, I don’t even like Fitzgerald’s or Hemingway’s writing, but I got excited anyway because WRITERS! I did like Gertrude Stein (in the film and otherwise), though, so.

The Artist (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
The second-to-last film on the docket for the second day. A silent film with an epic score and only about a single minute of non-silent material (literally; I’m not joking). Also the second movie of the day about making movies (the first was Hugo). It was all right, and the audience was strangely quiet during the showing, but I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time. (Maybe everyone else felt that way, too, and that’s why no one was speaking under the actors… because there were no lines to speak under.) It was all right, like I said, and it won the Oscar for Best Picture, so I guess yay?

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
Two difficult movies in a row. The main character (the child) reminded me of Bennett. I didn’t like seeing the towers fall again, though at least this time it wasn’t over and over again like it was on “The Worst Day”… I liked the idea of a Sixth Borough, but it hurt my heart to see so much of New York City that I miss so desperately. I felt sick afterward. I don’t know what that means for someone else, but I think for me it’s still too soon.

The Help (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
Oh man, The Help was a hard movie for me. Racism sucks no matter the era, and I’m still having a really difficult time being okay with the agent of change being a Southern white woman rather than the main characters themselves. As a young white woman writer myself, I identified with Emma Stone’s character and cringed at the bleach-blonde racism of the other white (women) characters. I think part of the reason it’s so hard for me is because I don’t I’m that much better. When was the last time I stood up against racism? Is it a regular thing for me, or do I hide behind my privilege just like most other white people in this country? I fear/suspect/know it’s the latter, not the former. And I hate that. And I hate being confronted with it even though I know I should willingly do so.

Hugo in 3D (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
This was the first film my sister and I saw on the second day (of two) of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase. It was in 3D! We spent the first five minutes swatting the air because we kept thinking it was snowing on us. Obviously, we (1) see a lot of snow, and (2) see a lot of movies in 3D. >_> Obviously. Anyway, it was a cute story, and I liked the lesson I got from it, which was “if all the Earth is a machine, and machines only come with exactly the number of parts they need (and not any extra), then each of us an important part of the Earth since we can consider ourselves all necessary parts.” Although I’m not so mechanically inclined as Hugo, I think someone telling me that when I was feeling desperate in high school and college might’ve helped. I don’t know, but it made me think of my younger self and wonder what someone else could’ve done to better reach out to me. As a side note, I went into the film thinking it was a cartoon, but it isn’t, so just be aware of that if you watch it for yourself.

The Descendants (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Sister and I actually arrived late for this film because I miscalculated how long it would take to eat dinner. Turned out it didn’t matter much that we were around 15 minutes late because it was thankfully nothing like The Tree of Life and we were able to pick up the story after a short while. George Clooney was really good, actually, and I liked the story. In the end, though, I at first thought the plot was too realistic (if I wanted real life, I wouldn’t go to the movies, after all, right?) and then that it wasn’t realistic enough (because of the way the family predictably ended up handling the sale of their inherited land).

The Tree of Life (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Holy sheesh what is this movie I don’t even. Seriously. Also, Brad Pitt again? Really? I mean, it was billed as an imppresionistic… and it most definitely is. It’s allegedly about a son’s relationship with his father but it has the beginning of the world and dinosaurs and everything I mean what. It was Art with a capital ‘a’, If you know what I mean. It was good, I guess, but it felt like one of those movies that rich snobs talk about. Wing better than the others over expensive glasses of wine and I’m standing there with a root beer and totally out my depth. I didn’t understand it and it was exhausting to watch.

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Moneyball (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Part of the first day of AMC Theaters’ Best Picture Showcase. It was all right, but I don’t particularly care about Brad Pitt or the Oakland As (or baseball at all, for that matter), so it didn’t blow me away or anything. Based on a true story, for what that’s worth. Sister taught me about tasks (something an actor does so that his or her character seems more human/relatable/realistic/credible) and then expressed her frustration with Pitt because all his characters seem to have the same one: eating. I didn’t notice until she pointed it out, but yeah.

War Horse (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Saw this as part of AMC’s BPS (first day of two) with my sister. Decent film. Epic panning cinematography and depictions of war, as one expects from Steven Spielberg. Il liked the boy’s mother the best, I think, and her statement to her husband when asks if she’ll leave him if he loses the farm: “I may hate y’more, but I’ll never love ye less.” It was nominated for an Academy Award, after all, but I mean… it’s about horse, soo…

17 Again (viewed at home 2 February 2012)
Stupid movie with an unoriginal plot, but one I’d probably watch again if I didn’t want to think too much. Perfect for my mom because—although she’s not stupid—she dislikes violence and movie sex and likes happy endings. Corny through and through. The kid dresses as “K-Fed” and subsequently (of course) gets made fun of, so the next day he shows up dressed as… Tom Cruise. I’m not kidding. Also, the puns. OMFG. I thought it was cute that he kept forgetting he was 17 again, though. Yeah, I’d probably watch it again, even if it was just to show it to my mom. Such a dumb movie, though. Uuuuuugh.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (viewed in theaters 29 January 2012)
I chose this film because it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor (among other nominations) but then realized that it also has in it one of the actors I follow. (Yes, I follow some actors’ careers, okay? Don’t judge me.) Went to see it with Bobby, and it was okay, but it wasn’t what I was expecting (I don’t know what I was expecting), and I don’t think it really turned out to be my cup of tea. I mean, it’s a war movie, but with no actual war. (That’s the Cold War for you, I guess.) It’s set in the ’70s, so while I understand the rampant sexism, I still didn’t like it. I did like the hush-hush insider names for everything, though: Control, Circus, etc.

the Alice stories (read 17-25 January 2012)
And by that I mean Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which I finally made the point of reading myself after having seen quite a few TV and movie adaptations of said. Here’s the thing. It really pissed me off that in every single adaptation I’ve ever seen the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are combined into one character, so I thought that reading the original stories would help deflate some of that anger. Unfortunately, it only made the anger righteous instead of tamed, so. Really, though, I would honest-to-gods love to see just one screen version of the Alice stories that doesn’t conflate the two. They’re not even from the same game! Grr argh /knashing of teeth.

Tin Man

Tin Man titleOfficial | IMDb | Wikipedia

So I finally watched Tin Man, which has been on the list at least since last Ferbruary. T_T How come it takes me an entire year to do anything I want to do? Jesus, it’s no wonder I can’t keep a hold on anything important and mostly just end up putting out “this is urgent!” fires. Ugh.

All right, so. Tin Man is a science fiction, steampunk-ish, very much not-for-children retelling of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, most notably (but not completely) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s in three parts, each part a little over an hour and twenty minutes long, and as each part progresses, it moves progressively away from the original stories.

I liked the tin woodsman character—Cain. As the title character (in the foreground in this first image), I expected his backstory to be the most interesting, and I wasn’t disappointed. I liked the scarecrow character—Glitch. I even liked the cowardly lion character—Raw. DG, though, is… well, she felt like the weak link, except that she was the only reason the others were hanging out together, since they certainly wouldn’t have on their own. Hell, I even liked Akadelia, though I admit she was pretty much a cut-and-dried, run-of-the-mill villain. Her costuming was the most elaborate, but if you’re a sorceress/empress ruling all of the O.Z. (the Outer Zone), why not indulge a little and wear whatever the hell you want?

Speaking of Azkadelia: her character became simultaneously more complex and simpler as the story was revealed. I liked that I didn’t understand at first why she was conversing with herself, but I didn’t like that her motivation was, in my opinion, pretty spectacularly classic villainy “I’m going to blot out the sun and rule the world O.Z. bwahahaha BECAUSE I CAN” nonsense. I mean, her motivation wasn’t… very complicated. (Well, that’s not quite true, but the true villain of the story actually isn’t that complicated, and Azkadelia is that person for most of the proceedings, so. Like I said, Azkadelia’s character becomes simultaneously more complicated and less as the story goes on.)

One thing I thought was unfair was Azkadelia’s name compared to DG’s. I mean, seriously; they’re sisters: how can the elder be named Azkadelia, of all things, and the younger not feel inferior with a name like DG? That’s not really even a name; it’s just initials, for christ-sakes. Yes, yes; I know why she’s called that (and in case you don’t figure it out yourself, it’s revealed near the end of the third episode), but come on. I kept thinking someone would slip and finally call DG “Ozma” but my hopes were in vain. Ozma isn’t the grandest name in the book but you have to admit that it’s a better fighting name when it comes up against something like Azkadelia than DG is. Really, now.

I already mentioned my annoyance/discomfort with Neal McDonough, so let me just say that Tin Man in its entirety at least passed the Bechdel Test, but I’m not sure enough about the interactions between female characters that I can safely say that each episode passes. I’m pretty sure each ep. passes since Azkadelia speaks with the lavender-eyed woman about DG a lot, but I’m not 100%. If someone wants to double-check that for me, I’d be grateful.

DG and Cain

The first episode was basically a rehashing of The Wizard of Oz we know and love, but with less singing. If you can get through that (maybe even enjoy Dorothy a’la the modern day—who knows?), the other two episodes are much more interesting, I think. Mostly, I just wanted more. I wanted more backstory, more scenic history, more complications, and more complicated characters. Two-dimensional characters are boring, and of the group, DG and Azkadelia were the most two-dimensional. DG just acted like a petulant child most of the time (and it usually worked out in her favor, so I guess that’s fine…) and Azkadelia, as I mentioned, is strange.

This mini-series is on par with Alice, another of SyFy’s retellings; not completely unforgettble, but at least worth my time. Of the recent SyFy miniseries, though, I still have to say Battlestar Galactica is the absolutely the best, with Dune coming in second place.