Category Archives: Film

Right now in pop culture

A few impressions from having too much time on my hands:

I am really looking forward to the Winter is Coming series on HBO.  The previews have been fantastic, and even though Sean Bean is a good 15 years older than the role he portrays…it’s Sean Bean.  If you want noble + troubled in fantasy, he is a go-to guy.  The rest of the cast as seen in the previews seems fine, if a little too clean and pretty for the grimdarkgrim world George R.R. Martin created.

Having now seen both The Adjustment Bureau and Source Code, I am reminded that the hardest thing a science fiction film can do is nail the ending.  Both of these decent science fiction movies fall short in that department, and though Source Code is a superior movie in acting, directing, pacing & all the rest, the second of its two supposed endings is SO weak that it cast a pall over the rest of the movie that I had previously enjoyed a great deal.  Boo!  I like a twist now and then, but really, stop writing kooky endings that invalidate the entire emotional premise of the rest of the movie.

I have read about a third of Patrick Rothfuss’s immediate bestseller The Wise Man’s Fear, and so far it’s enjoyable, if not as “squeeee” as the first book in his Kingkiller series.  The university bits have a sort of puckish Harry Potter vibe to go with the carousing and magical exposition, and while I’m enjoying it, it’s starting to feel more weighty and less downright entertaining than the last book.  That said, Rothfuss can actually write funny, and for epic, high-faluting fantasy, that’s fairly rare.

Something else I’ve been enjoying:  Michael Stackpole’s At the Queen’s Command, his fantasy retelling of The Last of the Mohicans and assorted other colonial novels and sources.  It’s an alternate French & Indian war with dragons and magick gunpowder, and while the characterization is SO broad (no old country person can do right, though at least a few new country people seem capable of doing wrong), it’s an entertaining treatment of a historical period I’ve always found fascinating.

I want to believe.

I held off on watching the new X-Files movie, I Want to Believe, as long as I possibly could.  Well, not “possibly.”  I could have scratched it altogether.  But the X-Files are the only bit of pop culture I’ve ever been enthralled enough with – as a fictional world – to call a “fandom,” so I figured I should finally give it a shot.

Besides, it was free.

In short:  I should have let it go.  It wasn’t a wretched movie, but it was a movie that coasted on the series’ long-dwindled relevance and brought nothing new to the table.  Spoilers ahead, of course.

I was never a Mulder/David Duchonvy fan.  The character actually irritated me in a deep and abiding way, the same way I’m usually irritated at overconfident men who assume they’re always right and that their worldview is the perfectly correct one.  I watched the show for Skinner, and the Lone Gunmen, and the cool monster-of-the-week plots.

And, of course, Scully.  Scully is, to my way of thinking, one of the most complex characters in sci-fi television:  a medical doctor who heals, an agent who kills.  A woman committed to being the rational foil to her whackadoodle partner, despite being whacked upside the head most episodes with a whole lotta supernatural stuff.  A committed Catholic who survives a terminal disease.  A woman who fell in love with the most inappropriate partner ever – someone who will never stop tilting at windmills – and knows it.

Annnnd, unfortunately, I Want to Believe reduces her to a shrill (and I use that word deliberately) character whose entire job is to drag Mulder down, man.  She’s the Bert, he’s the Ernie, and while he says over and over that he can’t do the job without her (and she and Skinner do save his life in the end), Mulder never even considers a speck of compromise.  Yes, they end up in a tropical idyll once the credits have rolled – but do you think he’d keep hanging out in a cabana with her if someone told him there was a sea monster off shore?  Nooo.

I am not going to get into fangirl details.  I am not going to whine about how, um, when the show left off, Doggett had the X-Files.  Didn’t he deserve a mention, a cameo?  And how Skinner was woefully underutilized, and the FBI agents who looked up Mulder in the first place (played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit) didn’t seem hooked up to the greater FBI as a whole at all.  Waah, waah, fanbulance.

But what I will say is that the movie took an interesting plot – a psychic who is also a horrifically damaged human being, a villian who is trying to keep his lover alive at grotesque and murderous cost – and drowned it in tension between two characters who, seriously, know each other better than this by now.  Scully’s sub-plot to save her young patient seemed very much like Carter et. al. were trying to give her her own windmill to tilt at, and that could have been interesting – after all, Scully is no stranger to dogged pursuit herself.  But it felt disconnected, and made the church she’s always found such refuge in an enemy, without really exploring that at all.

Sloppy writing, boring pacing.  A missed opportunity.

District 9

This is going to be a short review, and only somewhat spoilery, considering that I walked out 45 minutes before District 9 ended.  It was obviously technically brilliant; I’ve never seen effects like that, and I was shocked at their effectiveness.  The constant shots of the mothership looming over Johannesburg were just breathtaking.

And, I thought it was an emotionally absorbing film – too absorbing, for me.  That’s why I bailed; I couldn’t stop crying after one pivotal scene for the alien the humans called Christopher.  There was something so heartbreaking about the moment, and so disgusting about the humans who’d gotten him into this predicament, and it hit about fifteen repulsion buttons of mine, so I fled not long after.  I know how the film ended; I know that most reviews say the part I missed was the weakest part of the movie.

The whole thing made me extraordinarily thoughtful.  I’m still parsing through lots of blog entries regarding racism in the movie, and I’m certainly not at a point that I could speak intelligently about it.  I do know that the first thing I think of when someone mentions South Africa is apartheid, and given my age, I doubt that will ever change.  I know that the juxtaposition of the white talking head authorities (both in the company in the film and as commentators in the documentary framework) and the Nigerian gangsters made me hugely uncomfortable.

Mostly, I just empathized so quickly, so immediately with the aliens that I could not, in any way, sympathize with the main human character (though his physical predicament, and his treatment by his fellow humans, left me shaking and horrified).  I could not empathize with his dilemma in the least, which is odd for me.  I can usually find something to (ha) humanize, in almost every character of stage, screen, or page.  But the main human character was so relentlessly horrid – though now I am remembering his devotion to his wife – and caused so much hurt and pain.  It gets me going emotionally again, just to think about it.

Don’t go if you hate shakycam – one of our party had to leave early because of that, and we both sat in the lobby of the theater fiddling with our iphones until our other friends emerged.  Don’t go if you (like me) have major squick buttons about people transforming into not-people.

It’s a brutal, effective, scary, technically well done film, but I had nightmares for two days afterward, and I sort of wish I hadn’t seen it.