Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie and Book Reviews

(or "How I Spent My Christmas Break When I Wasn't Taking Care of My Wife, Who's Had The Flu.")

So.  If you read the last post, then you know that Sally's been down with the flu since Christmas morning.  In fact, I have to take a minute to acknowledge how awesome my kids are, because Sally went down--hard--right in the middle of opening presents.  We'd each opened, like, two gifts when she keeled over.  She literally slumped in her seat, turned green, and then announced that she was going back to bed.  And the girls--without complaint--sat down, had breakfast with me, and waited without complaint--for more than two hours!!--for Sally to get back up and finish opening the rest of the presents with us.

It was amazing, really.

Anyway, since then, the girls and I have been watching movies and reading, almost non-stop.  And Hannah's been drawing.  In order, we've watched:

Not the story of a boy & his reindeer.
We went to see Frozen on Christmas night after Sally went back to bed.  The girls thought it was hilarious.  I liked it okay.  I mean, I don't think of myself as some kind of uber-feminist, but I have daughters, and I'm conscious of what they see and how they think about themselves.  So I liked the fact that in Frozen, there was at least a reason for the girl to be boy-crazy.  There was a reason why she fell in love with the first guy she ever met--twice in one day!  She was as lonely as anything, and--this is experience talking--being in a situation like that will, in fact, make you fall in love with the first person who pays any real attention to you.

Personal opinion: this is why so many West Pointers marry badly the first time out.  I'm just sayin'...  You lock a bunch of super-horny dudes up in a grey granite monastery for four years, and they're not gonna come out and necessarily make the best personal choices, not immediately anyway.  That's reality.  It's also the dynamic that's at work in Frozen.

I liked that the power of sisterhood overcomes, that the girl's own sacrifice is what saves the day, that ultimately the boy's heroics are nice but irrelevant.  All of that worked for me.  Granted, I don't think a princess and a guy with a reindeer are gonna work long term, but that's not even implied, so kudos.

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
Percy Jackson is a blatant ripoff of Harry Potter.  That doesn't make it bad, but it doesn't mean that these movies are exactly good, either.  This one was particularly nonsensical in that slightly more than half of it takes place out on the open ocean, a place where our hero--as a son of Poseiden--has god-like super-powers but often forgets to use them.  But what are you gonna do?

Emma in particular really liked the first Percy Jackson movie, so we had to watch the second one.  That said, if you're not eight, you may well miss the magic.

My kids were playing Just Dance 2014, and among other songs, the theme for Ghostbusters is on there.  By this point, we'd not seen Sally in about thirty hours, and I think everyone was getting a little stir-crazy, so I went downstairs and put the original Ghostbusters on Netflix.

It's still a great movie.  It holds up really, really well, and the kids enjoyed it a whole bunch.

I will say, however, that there was quite a bit more sexual content in there than I remembered.  I mean, it isn't like super-sexy or anything, but the screenplay was written by Dan Akroyd, and what sex is in there is both hard and direct.  I wound up having to ask my kids to avert their eyes a time or two, and we very nearly had an awkward conversation, but then didn't have to.  I wasn't really wanting to explain  why the guy was the "Keymaster" and the girl the "Gate Keeper".

Anyway, a good time was had by all.  Still, Parental Guidance is definitely recommended.

The Blacklist
Sally woke up Thursday night and wanted to watch TV.  There's not much on that I like, and we're all caught up with the shows that we do watch, but I'd heard good things about The Blacklist, so I convinced Sally to give that a try.  And, I mean, it's not a bad show, but it's basically exactly the same show as Agents of SHIELD, which is again the same show as Fringe, but neither is nearly half as good as Fringe was.  After watching a few episodes, I'm to the point where I think that Agents of SHIELD and The Blacklist are both half of a show, that SHIELD needs more intrigue and Blacklist needs more fantasticalism, and both need more superheroes, and oh by the way, it's tacky that they keep blowing up planes as a shorthand to show terrorism.  It's like having the bad guy kill children in order to show that he really is a bad guy, and... Oh yeah, they did that, too.  *sigh*

Both those tropes need to die, tomorrow.  I use cheap writer's tricks as much as anyone, but those two are exceptionally cheap, and frankly, I never want to see either again.  Ever.

Anyway, James Spader is very good, of course, and the show's not bad, but seriously, I keep waiting for Agent Coulson to walk in and take command because, come on, these FBI guys are all dumb as shit.  The crew from Agents of SHIELD is mostly dumb as shit, too, but the ones on the Blacklist are really ridiculous.  At least SHIELD has Melinda May.  That's the only character on either show that's both original and whom I really like.

Anyway, neither of those shows is in the same league as Arrow.  Granted, Arrow isn't a procedural, but still...

Not for the faint of heart.
Alias is an old Brian Michael Bendis / Michael Gaydos series from Marvel, circa 2001 - 2002.  They only printed twenty-something issues, and even the trades are out-of-print now, so I had to get my copy down at The Strand when Sally and I were down in SoHo for our anniversary.  She wrapped it up for me and gave it to me for Christmas.

I'd heard that Alias was good, but wow, it really is.  Terrific.  Bendis is so good with these small, personal stories.  I wanted this particular book because it's part of the source material for the forthcoming Jessica Jones series on Netflix, which is part of Marvel's new series deal.  You may remember that they're making four: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, maybe not in that order.  Back in the early 2000s, Bendis wrote Alias, about Jessica Jones, at the same time he was writing Daredevil, and Luke Cage and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) were both frequent guest stars in each book.  Then Bendis got the New Avengers, and he made it about Cage...  That in itself was unbelievable, really.  Anyway, I don't know, but I would imagine that this is the playbook that the new Netflix series will follow, only it looks like they're gonna brand it as "The Defenders" rather than the "New Avengers", which is fine with me.  Alias was ground-breaking stuff when it came out, and it's still pretty amazing.  I imagine it'll hit the Netflix crowd like a pop-culture jackhammer.

Bottom line: Jessica Jones has super-powers and used to be a super-hero, but she quit, and now she's a private investigator.  The book is basically a rumination on our celebrity-obsessed culture (because what isn't anymore), told from the perspective of someone who had fifteen minutes of fame, maybe ten years ago.  And yeah, I'm diggin' it the most.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I'd never planned to skip The Desolation of Smaug, but now that I've seen it, I sure wish that I had.  It was, if anything, even slower than the first Hobbit movie, and that one was incredibly slow.
Great poster.  Lousy movie.
I took both kids, and I think Emma enjoyed it, but Hannah was bored stiff for all but the parts with the dragon, and I personally don't understand why they added so much bullshit to the story that's totally unnecessary.  The Hobbit is a great book, purposefuly short, and not at all dull.  It's not quite Fletch, but it has absolutely nothing in common with these latest Peter Jackson movies, to the point where I actually wish that someone else would make a movie out of the book--one movie, two-and-a-half hours in length--and tell the story the way that Tolkein did.  That's a great story.  This decompressed crap is gonna give people entirely the wrong idea about the book, and that cliffhanger they ended with is ridiculous.  At this point in the book, there are maybe two chapters left, and Bilbo spends one of them unconscious.  How they're gonna turn that into another three-hour epic, I have no idea.  Frankly, I'm not sure I want to.


  1. I enjoyed reading your Hobbit film comments. Personally, I feel asleep watching the Hobbit part 1 on TV, so I'm right there with you are they are slow moving.

    Hope everyone is feeling better. :-)

    1. We're getting there slowly but surely. Sally was (finally) out of bed yesterday, and she looks almost normal today. But you can really see that the flu took something out of her.

      Thanks for asking.