Monthly Archives: July 2016

End of Watch

81rLDztUK7LThere was a time when I claimed that Finders Keepers was not a sequel to Mr. Mercedes. Likewise, I can now claim that End of Watch is not a sequel to Finders Keepers. Sure, they’re in the same continuity and with mostly the same characters, but except for acknowledging that those things happened in the past: not a sequel.

But: End of Watch is a sequel to Mr. Mercedes. So, y’know, there’s that? Now that I’ve clarified the interactions between the books, though, how am I supposed to review the third book of a trilogy, absent massive spoilers? I’ll say these things:

  1. It was good, and I liked it.
  2. I liked it less than either of the other two books, but not enough to dim my enjoyment of them; all of the characters remained meaningful and important to me throughout. (Holly Gibney, especially, is pretty much the best.)
  3. I think the main reason I liked it less is because after two books of solid mystery detectivey stuff, throwing in a supernatural element just did not seem to belong anymore. If you read this as a standalone book, which it would be maybe barely possible to do, you would not have this problem. All the same, I had it.

So, yeah. That was definitely a book I liked reading, and I hope King keeps writing new books like usual. The fact that they cannot all be the best in no way detracts, y’know?

Star Trek Beyond

MV5BMzQ4Njk3MTQ1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQyODg5ODE@._V1_SY1000_SX660_AL_First of all, it’s weird that “Star Trek” has turned into an imperative verb in the new movie series. I mean, it is, right? Who is being commanded? I guess probably Kirk. (I reject the idea that the audience is the object.) And that established, Star Trek Beyond what?

Given ample use of spoilers, I could probably wax rhapsodic with theories and themes galore that might or might not fit the bill; but there’s no use in spoilers here. That said, I do have more questions. This one is more from the original series, but I had reason to be reminded of it. Given that the Enterprise‘s five year mission is to expand the borders of known space, why are they so frequently coming across Starbases? My best answer is that it’s not the random exploration we’ve been lead to believe, but instead a boring grid pattern search, such that the Federation is expanding somewhat close behind them at any given moment. Which is a sensible way to do things, but it definitely kills a lot of the cowboy mystique that has grown around Kirk’s era of Starfleet.

Anyway, though: this is definitely a Star Trek movie, and for once does not suffer from JJ Abrams’ fundamental misunderstanding of the size of space. There are other reasons to watch it, but that should probably be enough all by itself? Also, it is way, way, way better than The Search for Spock, even if I belatedly notice at least one parallel to that flick.

Ghostbusters (2016)

MV5BMTU0OTQ5NDMzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUxODMxOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,673,1000_AL_I actually saw two movies on Thursday prior to departing for a camping trip. As usual, I have squandered my chance at a timely review of a new release movie. This happens with such reliability that this can probably never be my actual job? No, I’m kidding, there are much better reasons for that outcome than lack of timeliness. Still, though, I’m here now, so let’s talk.

Ghostbusters, right? There’s been a lot of chatter for months about this movie, mostly along feminist lines. On one side of the divide are people complaining about an all female cast of main characters taking over the reins of a major nostalgia franchise. On the other side are people who want to slap the smirk off the first group of people, because, Jesus, how is this a thing someone can justify complaining about in 2016? (I, uh, may have an opinion in this race.) For my part, my complaint from the start has been, why is this a reboot? Why not a next generation sequel? This complaint, while I have not really let it go after the fact, was never enough to keep me out of the theater.

Anyway, though, the outcome? I’m gonna stay away from plot, because you know what’s up. Four women in New York with unlicensed nuclear reactors strapped to their backs are out to solve a ghost problem. Anything less would be impossible for you to know, and anything more is best saved for the theater. But was it worth it? I have mixed feelings.

See, on the one hand, they drew so very heavily from the nostalgia well. Yes, I loved the movie unabashedly, but it’s not really easy to tell if I’ve been puppeted into feeling that way. On the other hand, and I think this is key: every moment that I walked out of the theater laughing about and already quoting back and forth with my friends was a moment that was new and fresh to the new characters. I hope it passes the test of time, and I hope any potential sequel is neither a pale facsimile of this one nor a tired retread of a plot that already exists. Because I really want to see it again already. I know for a fact there are jokes and sight gags I missed; and more importantly, I want to get some of those lines down solid, because I wouldn’t be surprised to be throwing them around in casual conversation 30 years from now, just like I do with the old lines today.

Finding Dory

MV5BNzg4MjM2NDQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk3MTgyODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Remember Finding Nemo? If my website hadn’t died while I was getting ready to start this review a couple of hours ago[1], I might have more to say about whether I remember it, but apparently that will not happen anytime soon[6]. But here’s what I remember of relevance: when that one fish whose name I had forgotten lost his kid Nemo, he found another fish whose name I had forgotten to help him out. Later, a sequel!

Thanks to the power of advertising, I now know that the second nameless fish is named Dory, and of course if there was going to be a sequel, they’d keep the name scheme intact, which also necessarily informs the plot. See, Dory, as you may or may not remember from the original[2], suffers from short term memory loss. Which means that once upon a time, she got lost, and she’s been lost ever since, even though she made new friends eventually like Nemo and what’s-his-name. I mean, it doesn’t mean that, but you can intuit it from her previous state of being completely alone in the ocean.

And then she figured out she got lost, and decided she wanted to get found, and there you have it: Finding Dory. That said, it’s a Pixar film, and therefore a kid movie[4]. That said, I actually felt like it was backward from the usual kid movie formula, in a way that maybe Pixar has always tried to achieve but with varying degrees of success. Because, this felt to me like a regular movie that has some jokes and gags thrown in to appease the kids in the audience, but mostly the eyerolling can be kept to a minimum.

I’m not sure this is even a justifiable take, but my reasoning is because of how delicately the concept of a mental disability was handled. On the one hand, yes, Dory causes a lot of her own problems, and it’s clear from both movies that when she’s on her own, she’s in a lot of trouble. She relies on the kindness of others to function in the world. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t improve the lives of those others in countless ways, and the film is careful to stay aware of both sides of Dory’s coin. There’s nothing especially trite here, nor anything especially dismissive.

….okay, both parts of that last sentence are untrue, because it is, after all, a kid movie. But the things that were trite were the inevitable result of a necessary happy ending[5], and the things that were dismissive were in service of the theme. You have to hold up the ugly mirror to see past it, to coin an implausible metaphor.

Anyway, it was pretty dang good. Also, the 5 minute short film with the sandpipers (a type of ocean bird that lives in tidal regions) was freaking revelatory. Not worth the price of admission, probably, but maybe you can find it somewhere on the internets or in the future even if the main event is not your cup of tea.

[1] Not unlike my Pixel C died randomly yesterday; lesson: I should stop touching technology apparently.
[2] I did not[3]; I only remembered that her personality was quirky in some way.
[3] Perhaps ironically? Probably not though.
[4] If you don’t believe me, try sitting through the endless crap parade that informs the previews.
[5] If you think that’s a spoiler, you don’t understand much about Pixar.
[6] Outcome, now that the site is back up: I don’t have a review of Finding Nemo. So, uh, nevermind?

Would You Rather

MV5BODE3OTY0MzAtYWQzMy00MDdiLTlkOTItNzY1NWNjY2ZkNjBhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMjk0NjI@._V1_SY1000_SX679_AL_The difference between rich people and poor people, in a nutshell, is this: if you are rich, you can spend your money any way you want to. You can hire personal painters or musicians under the patronage system, or you can make bums fight on camera, or you can throw elaborate annual dinner parties for groups of strangers, where eventually they will play a high-stakes children’s game for your amusement. If you are poor, you can hope you find the rich person who wants to improve the atmosphere of the world to be your patron, but most likely you’ll only find the other rich people instead. Good luck!

Would You Rather capitalizes on a grimly plausible premise and a consistently recognizable cast, to maybe rise above what could have been a by-the-numbers entry into the gross-out subgenre of horror. I mean, it’s pretty by the numbers; they establish a heroine early on, and her impossible situation is of course very sympathetic, but the will she / they or won’t she / they is played out to good effect, the whole movie long. (Even the people who obviously will are characters that I found fascinating rather than mono-dimensional cardboard.)

That said… it’s still a cheap horror movie of functionally no social or historical value.