Friday, December 21, 2012

Movies & Books

Most of our screen-time has been devoted to slowly and methodically working our way through seasons 1 through 4 of Sons of Anarchy (a project that we started in the beginning of September, to give you an idea of just how limited our screen time is of late).  In between that, we've managed to see the following flicks.

The Cabin in the Woods was a cute, clever little spin on the genre, with the signature Joss Whedon touch and sense of puckish humour which we're obviously big fans of.  It was very wink and a nudge and pop-culture savvy and it wasn't too scary, which are all elements I look for in horror.  It was enjoyably disposable.

This movie was a snooze and a half.  WHAT WERE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT?  It was sooo snoozy!!!  NOTHING HAPPENS!!!  There are long, meandering conversations that go nowhere, there is little to no character progression, and you don't care a whit about any of them.  Channing Tatum is winning and proves (kinda sorta) that he can carry a serious role, but in all honesty, we were just bored out of our skulls.  I will say that his dancing skills are top notch and some of the dance sequences were entertaining, but the whole thing had that lazy, lackadaisical Steven Soderbergh indie-vibe that didn't seem to really suit the subject matter, or how the film was marketed.  Negative 10 stars.

The Campaign is another flick that gives you precisely what you expect.  We watched it around the time of the US elections, and because of what was happening with Uncle Rico, it hit a little too close to home.  It was funny enough and satirical enough, but I find that Will Farrell movies are so predictable that I'm getting tired of his performance and the performances of all the usual supporting characters.  

I wanted to like Brave, I really did.  But the first Pixar film featuring a female heroine (what took them so long?!?  Ask Joss Whedon what he thinks of that!) was a disappointment.  The story was beyond slight and lacked a lot of emotional resonance.  Nothing really happens and the dialogue and sight gags and general big thoughts on what makes people (or inanimate objects) tick that's usually characteristic of their work was missing.  It seemed like this was strictly for the kids, whereas Pixar's most successful (to me) films say things that resonate with both adults and children alike.  Brave was all about making one point and one point only, and that single-mindedness resulted in a lacklustre finished product.

Laini Taylor's follow up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was probably my most anticipated fall literary release.  And boy, does Days of Blood and Starlight deliver.  I know that the majority of my paltry readership doesn't go for YA fantasy, but good lord...was this ever enjoyable and fulfilling and a rollicking good read.  We are instantly swept back into the world that Taylor created and our relationships with the characters deepen in a plot that while not filled with constant motion, still manages to move the trilogy along and keep you invested.  This one was much more about the characters than the first instalment.  The friendship between the lead, Karou and her friend Zuzana is really sweet and readers invested in the series have their emotional ties to story arcs tested and renewed.  I am simply desperate for the third book.  I need to find out what happens!  I'm not sure that this will ever get turned into a film - it should...I think Peter Jackson, if he's ever done with mangling J.R.R. Tolkein's legacy, would be a good fit.  Actually, Guillermo del Toro would be THE BEST at bringing to life this world of other dimensions and chimaera.  I hope somebody is listening!!!

I gave the second book in Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy a shot.  I finished it, but through force of will.  I think I just might not be into Libba Bray.  I find she likes to bludgeon the reader over the head with period details in her novels (this one is set in Victorian England) and I also find her characters so unlikeable.  Also, there's too much waffling back and forth and the same things get repeated (for instance, a central character is a mousy, poor teenage girl who doesn't stand up for herself when she's getting picked on, and this continues AGAIN AND AGAIN).  I mean, I guess I get it.  That's pretty true to life.  People generally don't have giant revelations that result in 180 turns on their essential character traits...but still.  The books are over-long and Bray leaves such a heavy breadcrumb trail that the reader gets frustrated for the character's obtuseness.  I'm not going to finish the series.  I need a break from her for a while.

Ahhhh, Zadie Smith.  You gorgeous, incredibly gifted liteary phenom, you.  Is it possible for you to publish anything that doesn't instantly become the pet of literary newspapers and the intelligentsia that read them's hearts (that sentence hurts to read, I know).  What do educated, liberal white people love to read about?  Poor people (check).  Poor non-white people (check).  James Joycean stream of consciousness writing styles (check).  People in housing projects (check).  Stories that validate what they think of poor, non-white people who live in housing projects (check).  This is a series of interconnected stories about a group of people who all grew up or live in North West London in the same housing project.  Each section deals with a different character and it's written in a post-modern, Joycean kind of way.  I should note that I loved Smith's first novel (the one that launched her into the hearts of salons everywhere), White Teeth.  This one though, lacked the humour and obvious affection for the characters that White Teeth had.  In this case, I found N.W. to be kind of patronizing.  It seemed to be offering up these people's stories for the benevolent (or otherwise) white gaze.  I didn't like it at all.  

I'm currently reading Jess Walters' Beautiful Ruins and then I'll be following it up with The Mansion of Happiness and Behind the Beautiful Forevers.  I've got my holiday reading cut out for me!


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