Monthly Archives: December 2012

Jack Reacher

Okay, admission time. Tom Cruise is one of those people you’re just supposed to not like, and considering the way he turned Katie Holmes from an actress into a birthing pod for a few years while simultaneously trying to do the most damage to the mental health industry since we elected an actor to the presidency, well, I get why it would be fair not to like him. But Katie Holmes has been set free and there haven’t been any bizarre mouthpiece moments in a while, and pretty much from the scenes where he made fun of himself in Tropic Thunder until now, the man hasn’t made a bad movie. Which is still probably not enough reason to like him, but dammit, the man has charisma on the screen.

It was my mom who picked us going to see Jack Reacher though, not me. Since I retroactively consider this to be a good decision, it’s probably not fair to disclaim the choice, but, y’know. So, I don’t know much about those books and I didn’t know much about the movie except that action would occur and also that some people were pissed about casting a wiry dude who is probably shorter than me to play a 250 pound slab of giant on the page. (Which, incidentally, has anyone read those? Are they any good? Because my unread bookshelf is not already groaning under its current load or anything.)

…I suppose I’ve given away, by now, that I liked it? Because yeah, if this turned into a franchise, I would keep watching. There’s this guy who has very obviously, with evidence all over the damn place, just sniper-murdered a group of five people walking around on their lunch breaks at the waterfront, but he says he didn’t do it and asks them to fetch along Jack Reacher. Reacher shows up, and, under unlikely circumstances, starts investigating what really happened. And instead of punching his way through everyone involved like the previews kind of implied, there’s a smartly written mystery to be unraveled, with lots of tension and comedy to break the tension, and you know, I laughed frequently and all the characters worked, and what more do I need? Plus, Tom Cruise makes for a pretty great PI type. Also, no worries, there is in fact a lot of the gunplay and car chases and judo that you’d expect from an action movie after all, but there’s a lot more here than what I expected is all I’m saying.

Red Dawn (2012)

Dude, this movie. I have very little to say about the Red Dawn remake, because it only really ever hit one note. Sure, it hit it to hilarious effect, but since it was not the intended effect, I cannot give them even that much credit. …and since it hit a note that Team America: World Police had already hit (on purpose!), it’s not like I was already offering much credit in the first place.

See, there are these kids in Spokane living their Teen America lives, when all of the sudden, North Koreans start paratrooping in and taking over. So what’s a bunch of newly orphaned American heroes to do? That’s easy. Head off into the woods, get some guns, wander back into town, use those guns to steal better guns, then high-five each other a lot, wave their guns around while collaborators sneer (and then get blown up) and the downtrodden non-resisters cheer (and then never get shot by their occupiers), and eventually pull the USMC’s bacon out of the fire.

If all of this sounds like a NRA fantasy without the blue helmets, well, I did say it was entirely hilarious, right?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It occurs to me that, if I am to go to the bother of seeing a midnight movie premiere, I ought to at least have the common decency to get my review up before release-day proper has begun. I would try to defend myself by pointing out the incredible lack of sleep I was dealing with, but if I’m being honest, well-rested Chris would probably not have written his review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Part One of Many yet either.

So, let’s see. Was it good? It was, but at the same time… here’s the thing. One of the great strengths of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in cinematic form was that it pared Tolkien down to manageable levels. Because not everyone wants to watch dwarves dance around a kitchen making fun of their host to song and dance collectively written on the spot, is why. And so I want to grouse and complain that some degree of editing should have occurred, yet I really cannot do so in good conscience, because it’s fair to say that there are 13 potentially identical characters out of the 15 that are central to the plot, and Jackson has avoided that trap pretty neatly. And I doubt he could have without paying careful attention to every beat that Tolkien provided. Plus, the small hints of what was going on that Bilbo could not see (that will certainly provide a great deal of meat in future movies) were absolutely worth adding. So, in summation, this trilogy will be way too long and way too Tolkieny, but Jackson has made a compelling case for why he did it this way, and I cannot ask for more. (If I had not enjoyed myself, I could, but, yeah. Good movie. With internal-to-this-entry character growth in multiple places, even! But the rock fight was kind of dumb.)

I would be remiss, at this point, to not mention that this is a kid-movie. It’s less obviously so than many, but, y’know, kid-book, kid-movie. That is how the formula works. So don’t be surprised by your memory that it is a classic instead of a kid-book. I mean, it’s both, but you’ll only accidentally forget the one. ….and then there’s the technology.

So, the 3D? Quite good. The IMAX? Always dandy. 48 frames per second, which is the shiny new tech introduced by this movie? I believe that it was successful. The image was hyper-real, and I have no idea if this is what people want in the theater, but there’s no question now that it can be done. The biggest problem was with speed; several action shots seemed to be on a slight fast-forward, like when you turn too fast and the world lurches just a little bit. Which is to say, I’m pretty sure The Hobbit will be looked upon as a really clumsy implementation of 48fps in a few years, but for ground-breaking, you really could not request a better representative. (However, if that’s just how it will always work, then I kind of expect the experiment to fail.)

A Crown of Swords

I consider A Crown of Swords to be the most underrated volume in the Wheel of Time. Not because of how incredibly good it is (although, to be clear, it’s very good), but because of how fashionable it was to absolutely hate the book upon release. Yes, there were people dismissing the series by the sixth book and even the fifth[1] one, but here in book seven is where it became fashionable to do so. And I will not lie, I was very much That Guy my own self.

I even know why I was so put out at the time.[2] Part of it was the horror of only ten days passing. Not because those ten days failed to be exciting and action-packed, but because each successive book had already represented a slowing of the pace, and if things had continued at that rate (they did not, but who was to know at the time?), future books were apt to dedicate entire chapters to treatises on the inflexibility of Lan’s facial expressions or on Elayne’s bathing habits. But mostly it was that the driving plot of the book (the quest for weather rectification in Ebou Dar) ended so abruptly, both without a satisfactory resolution and more importantly with an imperiled cliffhanger for my favorite character. And that was before I knew it would be a four year cliffhanger instead of the already untenable two I expected at the time!

So yeah, annoyances. But that’s the joy of this reread in a nutshell: no delays between one book and the next, I am reading the entire motherfucking series from start to finish, with nothing in between, no other distractions of any kind, just the story all in one piece. It’s fair to say I came around on this book for its own merits years ago (it is the last one I had read three times already, I reckon) when I could see it as part of the whole, er, pattern instead of just for what it disappointed me by not delivering Right Now. But it’s also the book that has improved the most for me over time for that specific all-of-a-piece reason. Sure, it has slow chessboard parts, but the main-plot excitement parts are absolutely as exciting as any in the series, which I fear I will not be able to say about this next book.

We’ll see, I guess!

[1] I have a friend who was a little annoyed by my cavalier mention of Moiraine’s storyline in The Fires of Heaven, just as if he ever actually plans to finish the series, even though he stalled in that book something like eight or ten years ago now.
[2] Okay, immediately after the time, I should say. I do not believe that there is more than one book in this series (and quite possibly not that many) that I disliked while reading it. Only after the fact, when I was digesting what I had just experienced and contemplating what was (unfairly?) delayed to future volumes, have these annoyances ever cropped up.