Monthly Archives: May 2012

Swan Song

You guys. You guys. Do you know how long it’s been since I finished a book? Thanks to the magical powers of the Internet, I can reasonably speculate. Two and a half months. I… I am literally convinced that the last time I went two and a half months without finishing a book, it was because I had never finished a book. Like, ever. Because I was still three or something.

If you have any questions about my job (which, to be clear, I had only just accepted when I started reading), I think all of the meaningful answers lie in the previous paragraph, and anything else I could say is just window dressing. But anyway, yes, I have read a book. It is Swan Song, by Robert McCammon. It is one of those apocalyptic nuclear war books from the ’80s, only it shares a lot more in common with The Stand than with the Deathlands books I’ve been reading lately (and may skip ahead to, since they go so well with camping and also I am about to be camping).

See, there’s a nuclear war, and then different people, like a bag lady and a quasi-pro wrestler and a Vietnam vet turned survivalist slumlord and the embodiment of evil and a girl named Swan who has an affinity with plants and may or may not be extremely relevant to the title of the book slowly start to shuffle their way across post-nuclear America toward one another for a dramatic showdown between good and evil. I liked it pretty okay, but if I had it to do over again, I would have been reading much shorter and faster books, so that I might have had a chance to enjoy this more when I eventually did read it. (Or, possibly if it was spread over two weeks instead of ten, vast flaws would have been revealed? There is no way to know!)

I of course liked the apocalypse sections, as always. The eventual post-apocalypse was saved from being too simplistically preachy by likable characters. The downside was that the majority of evil characters were too caricatured. If you tell me that a fourteen-year old boy is going to point an unloaded .357 at his dad’s head and pull the trigger several times as a joke, you can’t justify that by calling it foreshadowing. Not unless you plan to do something to make him nuanced and redeemable later. Otherwise, he was just a budding psychopath from the start, and that’s not a very interesting entrant into the armies of evil. But the good characters, yeah, pretty likable and maybe even two-dimensional in many cases. And of course there’s always that apocalypse.

Safe (2012)

I actually saw another movie the same day I saw The Avengers (the first time), which is why I remember it even less. You know, not as good, plus just as long ago without a refresher. It’s not that Safe was bad, by any means. The truth is that Jason Statham has made an exceptionally good movie, full of non-stop action, with a likeably dark hero, a strong but nevertheless screwed person in danger, and scads of bad guys out to get them both. And he’s made this movie close to a dozen times now!

In this particular case, the likeably dark hero is an alcoholic, down-trodden MMA fighter and the strong doomed person is a little girl with a photographic memory, and the scads of bad guys are Triads and the Russian Mafia and crooked cops all after a big payday that can be scrounged from what she’s seen lately. And then comes about 70 minutes of punching, kicking, shooting, and chasing. Enjoy!, if it’s the kind of thing you’re into.

(You may be wondering if this would have been a longer, more thorough review if it had happened right after I watched. Answer: doubtful.)

The Avengers (2012)

It’s been I suppose weeks since I actually saw The Avengers, which is as personally frustrating as it is lame. But the larger problem (even though I’ve seen it twice) is that it makes it hard to remember any specific discussion I may have wanted to engage. So, obviously it was good. You already know that because I saw it twice. (Savvy viewers may also have known it because of what a good job has been done with the various properties leading up to this moment, or because they’ve watched Joss Whedon’s writing/direction in other formats.)

But let’s say you’ve done none of those things, and now you’re wondering if you want to go see a movie in which the Norse god of mischief acts as a catspaw for an invading alien army bent on conquering the earth and also stealing a head-sized white cube filled with limitless cosmic power, and then a bunch of Marvel superheroes attempt to quip aside their differences and prevent this clearly bad outcome? The answer is yes, and here’s the reason why: even though it may not be the best plot you’ve ever seen, it is very probably the most comic-booky plot you’ve ever seen, and not only is the dialogue consistently great, but practically every moment (and 100% of the moments in the third act) were among the most fun I’ve had at the movies.

Put another way: would definitely watch a third time.