Monthly Archives: July 2009

Lost and Delirious

MV5BMjYzMDk0NDEzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzQzNTcxMTE@._V1__SX1217_SY887_My latest Netflix movie is Lost and Delirious. And I’ve watched it, which was a positive experience. Yet I have been staring at this mostly blank screen for the majority of the day. I think it’s that my opinions are too many and too contradictory. In short, the chick from The O.C. is sent to an all-female boarding school, where she becomes roommate with a pair of seniors, one hard-nosed and feminist, the other vivaciously popular. At first, it looks like one of those coming-out-of-the-shell stories in which Mischa Barton would have been the main character embarking on her journey toward personhood. Then, at the end of the first act, it veers sharply into one of those obsession thrillers in which our purported main character mostly serves as the audience’s window on the action when it is revealed that her roommates are engaged in a sexual relationship.

And I think it could have made a fine obsession thriller too, except that it couldn’t make up its mind to commit to that. For every scene in which a new boyfriend is about to die in a sword fight and simply isn’t taking it seriously enough yet, there are three in which someone screams and runs out of a room / across the school lawn. And it’s not like that’s unrealistic high school obsessive behavior; it’s that the swords and the pet falcon are, and after it was hinted that I might get that movie, it became the one I wanted. Still, what was left behind was good stuff. Surprisingly good acting from a variety of very young actresses, modernly relevant sociosexual politics, not terribly many overwrought or thematically pushy scenes. And, y’know, sword fights.

Spike: Lost & Found

I have a tendency to regularly troll a number of area Half-Price Books, looking for ever more cheap, used copies of the huge stack of Ultimate Marvel comics that I read. I end up seeing a number of other titles as a result, and grab the odd one now and again. Today’s such find, Lost & Found, was an extremely short Buffy-themed comic set more or less as an episode in Angel’s final season. In a sequel to the Gem of Amarra sequence, Spike and Angel go looking for yet another vampire that seems to be able to survive the sunlight. It’s not a bad little story, short though it be. It tries and (I think) fails to provide much in the way of character development for Spike or Angel, but if it had been the main arc of an actual episode in the show, I would have liked watching it. To be perfectly clear, it very much needed a secondary arc to have felt fully formed, though.

Ultimate X-Men: Magnetic North

Historically, I’ve been down on the Ultimate X-Men titles as compared to the other ongoing series. I know there was a point, several books ago, when I changed that opinion. Magnetic North marks another such shift, as this is simply one of the best Marvel Ultimate titles I’ve read, period. Almost every minor and major event in the past several books is pulled together into one web of intrigue, surrounding the escape of Magneto. It is both too complex and too good a story to get into in more detail than that, and in all honesty, I think the title and the cover[1] revealed as much as I already have anyway. It has a cinematic plot, with almost as many story and character twists as there are pages to turn. I just cannot stop being excited over these books!, and more the further into them I get.

[1] at least, the cover of my copy, which does not match the one Amazon shows.

Ultimate Secret

Ultimate Secret continues the Ultimate Galactus trilogy in much the same fashion as the opening volume. That is, it tells a reasonably good story whose main flaw is feeling entirely too short. I mean, most of the Ultimate books have felt like discrete storylines in the lives of our heroes. The Galactus books, on the other hand, have felt very much like part of an (extremely incomplete) ongoing story. It is not particularly a flaw, except that it makes it hard to feel much excitement for the review; it’s as though I’m reviewing thirds of a book, instead of three books.

Another way it matches the first volume is that it uses the Galactus story to talk about other characters entirely that had not yet been drafted into the Ultimate universe.[1] In this case, the fight is against the alien Kree who are sabotaging mankind’s space program, in the hopes that when Gah Lak Tus arrives, the planet will have no survivors. The story was decent, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Again. I’m really relieved this is only a trilogy, as I’m not sure I could take much more pushing back the payoff.

Except for the lack of character continuity, what this has most reminded me of is the old G.I. Joe event weeks when they’d present a five-part series in which Cobra and G.I. Joe were crossing the world in search of parts for a doomsday machine, and inevitably Cobra would manage to get all the parts, fire up the machine, and then lose anyway. The continuity meant that each episode had a series payoff feel, unlike these books, but there’s still definitely a race across the world in search of clues feel. (Does anyone but me remember those episodes fondly? I mean, clearly there’s a movie studio that hopes so.)

[1] Captain Marvel? Really?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m genuinely unsure what to make of the 6th Harry Potter movie. It took its time and worked hard to include what was necessary, unlike some of the previous films. Lots of backstory was ditched, but it kept the important bits. And they did a great job with the character interactions. Every cylinder fired really well[1], honestly, except for the parts that dealt with the central storyline and mystery. The Half-Blood Prince’s identity scarcely registered as a mystery in the first place, despite so many revealed reasons as to why it might be troubling. Voldemort’s secret was mostly an afterthought, though I suppose it being the main focus of two more movies will make up for that. And the climatic scene felt, well, rushed.

But what I can’t decide is how it would have looked to a newcomer. Were the scenes unsatisfying because the script and the direction weren’t quite up to it? Or because I was able to choose the pacing in the book, and the movie simply didn’t live up to my preferences? You’ll have to ask someone who came at these from a different direction, I guess, because I’ve got nothing to go by here, except what I’ve already said. On the bright side, it was pretty good in itself, just not as satisfying as I had hoped. Alan Rickman, as usual, is the tops. Oh, and speaking of bright sides, I think I recommend an afternoon or evening viewing. It’s a very dark film, visually, and emerging into the bright of summer would be… disorienting, at best.

[1] Okay, Daniel Radcliffe is simply not keeping up with the emerging talent of his co-stars. Pity.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

You would think, given a decisive lack of job, that I would have plenty of time to read, right? And I can’t in any real honesty say I haven’t had, but I somehow haven’t been reading much nevertheless. Less than usual, even, which is a bit puzzling. I guess all those lunches at work added up? Anyhow, what I have been reading is a perfectly serviceable Star Wars book. I wish I could say more for it, but it really very much reminds me of the early books chronicling the chaotic period after the fall of the Empire, before the people in charge had started taking firm plot-based reins on the progression of the extended universe. So, some of the books would be top notch, some would be godawful bad, and the majority would be like this: perfectly okay, good Star Wars feel, but ultimately forgettable.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor suffers the most, I think, for being so plot-based. After a 20 book series with an epic plot and a 9 book series with reasonably epic character progression to follow it, it’s just hard to go back 30 years and read a standalone book that has yet another take on the dark side of the Force and how different people perceive it, yet another wholly alien species that must be understood if the day is to be saved, yet another stack of TIE Fighters and stormtroopers. The characters were all on, and that means a lot. And there’s a reasonably good running gag behind the awkward title. But on the whole, it was entirely too missable for my tastes. I hope the next one I read, which delves the farthest yet into the future of that universe, is a substantial sight better.

Resistance: Fall of Man

After long delays[1], I have finally gotten a PlayStation 3, what with the Blu-Ray playing capabilities and all. Resultingly, I also snagged one of the handful of PS3 exclusives that also looked in any way entertaining. And even more surprising than all of this combined, I finished the damn thing. It’s ever so slightly possible I may play through again, because there are lots of pieces of paper with more storyline that I missed and new weapons to kill the alien/zombie hybrid things with. In realism land, I won’t. But I might, and that’s a piece of shock in itself.

Resistance: Fall of Man chronicles a non-specific divergent history without an apparent World War II in which some kind of weird bio-experiment (that seems a lot more plausibly like alien technology to me) goes awry in Russia over the course of the 1930s and ’40s, and then suddenly breaks free and conquers all of Asia and Europe in a matter of months. The especial deadliness comes from the fact that the majority of humans caught up in the conflict are converted into new waves of killer alien/zombie hybrids themselves. So, never-ending supply of new soldiers. And now it’s late 1951, England has all but fallen, and it’s time for some random American dude to have a weird immunity to the alien takeover thing that makes him even more hybridized than the others, insofar as he gains powers and yellow eyes but retains his essential humanity, and then, y’know…. payback time.

I probably should be tired of games whose main point is to be mankind’s alien-killing service? But not yet!

[1] I mean, it launched, what, 2.5 years ago? I are slow!

The Real Cancun

Going into it, I considered that this may be my most embarrassing review ever. And if you’ve been reading this for any amount of time, you know that’s saying kind of a lot. It’s like, The Real World, right? Sort of the first big reality TV show, took over MTV and removed all hope of music videos ever gracing those airwaves again? Yeah, that. Some years later, they decided, hey, what if we made a movie about these kinds of people going to Cancun for Spring Break and getting nakeder than MTV generally approves of since the early ’80s? And then they did so.

And, y’know, The Real Cancun really is about what you’d expect. It’s like, let’s take a whole bunch of college age students, give them way more than they can afford, and let them do random stuff. In the Real World, that turns into weeks of annoying drama interspersed by fake community service work, or maybe that stuff like happens on Donald Trump’s show? The point here, is that I don’t really watch much reality TV and have no clear idea what happens except what I’ve tried to ignore while others were watching. But it turns out that if you reduce the time they spend together to just a week or so, put them into lots of wet t-shirt contests (and beefcake contests, to be fair), and (especially this one) change the show’s duration from weeks of 23 minutes down to about 90 total, it’s a lot more palatable. I, ever so slightly, cared about what happened to these characters.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Remember what happened in Transformers? Me neither, so I’ll join you in reading that review before I proceed. Yeah, right, okay, no new giant robots, missing Allspark, etc. Anyway, I know they had a happy ending in which the bad guy was vanquished and I guess the Allspark bit it, so no more giant robots? Except: now there’s a new bad guy that’s even badder and more important than Megatron, except we’ve never heard of him before. Which, okay, fine. And the giant robots have been on Earth for 17,000 years instead of showing up when their Allspark crash-landed by random chance. Which seems maybe less plausible?[1] And they have a new plan for making giant robots, although it technically involves the death of every living thing on the planet. Lucky it’s the giant robots having this debate; if it was humans who needed to destroy Cybertron to perpetuate our species, the giant robots would all be toast before you could finish Clapping Off.

Still, Transformers 2 was a pretty good movie. Megan Fox remains hot and occasionally runs in slow motion. There were a lot more tiny robots, the same amount of giant robots[2], a few distressingly racistly-typed robots[3] to detract from that, and at least two ancient robots. The military dudes were acceptably military, the conspiracy dude was John Turturro, and he’s generally good, right? And Shia LeBeouf was that young guy that gets lots of big roles for teenagers in movies these days; whether that is deserved, I choose not to speculate.[4] Plus, another cosmic-scale plot. So, yeah. Michael Bay has done quite well, here, putting together a solid, entertaining, explosions-filled movie filled with only a few missteps. Ninety minutes’ worth of adrenaline, entertainment and such, and through the art of movie magic, skillful casting, and blindingly-talented script oversight, he was able to cram that ninety minutes of entertaining film, with I’m sure no small amount of effort, down into a mere two and half hours of screen time.

Oops. Still, the good movie is in there, if you want to dig for it and can let your lizard brain be entertained by explosions, overt racism, and Megan Fox in the meantime.

[1] I grant the possibility that I missed some explanation for this during the first reel. But I’m pretty sure not.
[2] Though they look distressingly similar in robot form
[3] I could have gotten past the accents and attitudes with little more than an eye roll, but buckteeth, and one of them gold? You’ve got to be shitting me. I mean, seriously.
[4] Clearly, starring opposite Megan Fox is not deserved, though. I mean, it’s possible she’s going to be the better actor of the two of them in another year or so, which just indicates what I’m trying to say here.

Hack/Slash: Return of the Revenge Part 4

I don’t know if I’ve said lately how much I appreciate that there’s a generic horror-movie comic around that simultaneously makes fun of and embraces all the relevant tropes. (I mean, last time they had by God Chucky, right?) So: Hack/Slash, thank you muchly for existing! I keep seeing indications of a movie version on the horizon, but I kind of don’t want one, as once it’s a movie, the tongue-in-cheekness of it all flies right out the window. Still, it’s pleasing that the comic’s doing well enough for people to consider that.

One consequence of this appreciation is that I have bought (well, a year ago) and read Return of the Revenge Part 4, in which, as you might possibly expect, old nemeses crawl out of the woodwork to trouble Cassie Hack and her monstrous companion Vlad once more. I know I already said it in the previous review, but I am very much in enjoyment of the month-to-month storylines version of the comic that has only recently (for me) started to occur. Every single issue has just a ton of stuff going on. In this book alone, we have an ongoing quest to discover the whereabouts of Cassie’s long-missing father, an Archie comics parody, and secret society hot tub lesbians. Plus the revengencing enemies I already mentioned, some brand new enemies, the progressing personal lives of the five-ish regular characters in the series, and some pretty brutal moral dilemmas that are only now starting to be planted for eventual dire fruit. Good times!