Sunday, July 24, 2011

Minimalist Movie Reviews

There are bloggers who deliver erudite, thorough, well-balanced thoughts on cinema. And then, there is Apprentice Writer. She delivers one word or plus on movies as subjective fancy strikes her. Choose you loquaciousness.

Robin Hood
1. *Sigh*
+. There was a lot to like about this adaptation: Cate Blanchett, cinematography, Cate Blanchett, the care that went into architectural, costuming, and landscape features, Cate Blanchett. But the positive aspects were overshadowed by the shamelessness of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe trying so heavy-handedly to recreate 'Gladiator' glory. Not once, but twice, they tossed in the signature move of a weapon being thrown up at Crowe on horseback at full gallop who, of course, catches it one-handed and despatches some villains with suitable flourish. Living in the past, much?

1. Girlpower!
+. How far Disney princesses have come. From role models of yore that were all of the same apparent ethnic background, forever waiting for some prince to come change their lives, letting themselves be exploited in the meantime, and sometimes, just sleeping all the time (how's that for the ultimate passive character?) . Heroines offered up for little girls today look different, think for themselves, snatch up whatever items are handily available for self defence, negotiate, work hard, and see beyond shallow looks (Mulan - crossdressing, Princess & the Frog - amphibious transformation, Rapunzel - negation of hair as female power). Superb animation, lots of humor, hero to be redeemed; what's not to like about this movie? Appealing for any age.

How Do You Know
1. Quirky.
+. AW had no expectations of this movie, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. She has no special love for Owen Wilson but he was exactly right for the role of egocentric superjock who sincerely makes an effort at genuine commitment, with some stumbling on the way. Reese Witherspoon was convincing as the woman finding her way in a new life who doesn't seem to follow "typical" female thinking processes about love, as she puts it. Paul Rudd played the guy he always plays, but it worked. A quiet, odd, gently pleasing little movie.

1. Whaaaa????
+. Was this movie thought provoking and creative? Sure. But: perhaps AW is intellectually no longer up to par. Perhaps she was too tired or distracted to put together all the clues provided to form the full answers to the questions the movie posed. Whatever the impasse, by the time the final scenes rolled around, she was hopelessly confused about the many clones of each character that needed to be accounted for and was clueless about what really happened to the wife, the as always mesmerizing Marion Cotillard. AW thinks this is a great example of a movie that is trying too hard.

Arn: The Knight Templar
1. Nope.
+. Good points? is kind of nice to see a movie about the Crusades that does not have England or France as the protagonists' home base, and AW supposes it is instructive to be reminded that even though Scandinavia is known as the global elite in terms of egalitarian society these days, historically it may have been just as misogynistic as other parts of Europe in the name of the Church.

Not so good points? When making a movie that spans two decades, it is probably a good idea to have makeup and hair artists on staff who are skillful enough to prevent the hero and heroine looking exactly the same throughout. It is probably also a good idea, when including battle scenes, to, you know. try and make them convincing. AW kept watching on the principle that Swedish movies don't come her way every day, but it all fell apart during a climactic confrontation between rival Swedish factions when one side begins its advance, the other faction's archers raise bows, the commander of the first side suddenly shouts "It's a trap!" and - the second side looses its arrows.

ARE YOU KIDDING????? THAT'S IT????? AW was expecting something along the lines of the sharpened logs that impaled the cavalry from 'Braveheart', or the ground falling away like in "Prince Caspian". But a medieval army that is surprised by a generic arrow volley? Come on.

What do you say, Gentle Reader? Agree? Disagree?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Health Promotion

When being honest about your (licensce plate) feelings may not be such a good idea.....

Three of these mustaches are natural - but which?

Llamas disapprove of public displays of affection.

Yet, for some reason, the fashion of America brides cuddling up with grizzlies and Canadian brides cuddling up with polar bears just hasn't caught on....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: PILLOW TALK

Freya North

Sourcebooks, July 2011 (reissue)

Women's Fiction

Premise: After a brief period of non-acted upon attraction when they were teens, a London jeweller and rural teacher meet again.

Cover: Title - Relevant on two levels: it signals 'relationships' as theme, and points to the sleepwalking and insomnia that bedevil hero and heroine. Art - colors and cartoonish font and illustration look like classic chicklit, and the story contains several elements that point in that direction (if we all did not know that Chicklit Is Dead. Or so we keep being told). Altogether, the cover gives a good indication of what the reader will find inside.

What Works: It is very easy to like the protagonists. Artist Petra is passionate about her work, good to her friends, and doggedly determined to keep up her relationships with her divorced parents and stepsiblings despite zero energy on their part to make an effort in that direction. Arlo is a former rock singer/songwriter who now teaches music at an uppercrust private school, and seems genuinely fond of his pupils and sincere in carrying out his duties.

Their story is not about tumultuous passion or wild adventure, but rather, the quiet moments and steps that build up on each other to help everyday people decide whether a relationship is worth sticking with or no longer functional. This is pretty much the opposite of what happens in genres like urban fantasy, space opera, or stories that involve, let's say, espionage, so it is a refreshing and thoughtful change from those types of novels.

Apprentice Writer also found it interesting how sleep was used to underscore what is going on. How, where, with whom, how effectively we do it - all become symbolic of trust and affection. AW liked how it was developed beyond the simple euphemism for sex that is often deployed in contemporary fiction.

What Doesn't: The story hinges heavily on the protagonists not knowing how to get in touch with one another. As young(ish), hip(ish), (partial) Londoners, this trampled AW's suspension of belief. Just because the protagonists liked riding bikes does not convince her that they were so retro that don't know how to operate Facebook, Google, or even something so low-tech as a phone directory.

There was also a moment when the Petra thought she was reliving a very negative experience with her former boyfriend all over again with Arlo, and takes certain immediate action without allowing Arlo even a minimum of opportunity to share his point of view. AW supposes that the reader was intended to take this as a sign of the degree of hurt she had experienced. The way it came off, though, was as childish. It felt like one step away from being too immature to be deserving of the genuine adult relationship she had set her sights on.

Overall: A pleasant beach read, especially for those who miss stories in a chicklit direction.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Notable Quotes

How to describe a goddess? It would need to be in a way that sets her apart from mortals, of course. Regarding Hera:

"Her hair was the color of blackmail, her spine like a guillotine..."

from "Gods Behaving Badly" by Marie Phillips