jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Luke Scott (dir), Morgan

Hanna crossed with Blade Runner, with the atmosphere of Alien. Those latter two shouldn't come as a surprise for the first film from Luke "Son of Ridley" Scott. I wouldn't call it a horror movie but I wouldn't necessarily disagree with someone who did.

The plot revolves around a bunch of scientists who've created an artificial young female human named Morgan. Morgan has poor impulse control and nonstandard thought processes. Lee has come from "corporate" to visit the remote lab and decide whether the Morgan project should continue. As you might expect, Things Go Poorly.

I liked it pretty well. I found Morgan's disconcerting affect and Lee's iron-clad control entirely believable. The setting (Northern Ireland playing upstate New York) is gorgeously green and foggy, and adds to the melancholy-ominous atmosphere. The only character who does something unforgivably stupid (psychiatrist Paul Giamatti) is established immediately as a pompous idiot; everyone else's stupid decisions are justifiable.

Here there be spoilers )

Also, a strong Bechdel pass. In fact, I believe it may fail the reverse-Bechdel, as I don't think there are ever any conversations between two male characters that aren't about a woman.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Ghostbusters (2016), Paul Feig (dir.)

I'll be honest: I had mixed hopes for the new Ghostbusters movie. I liked the last two McCarthy/Feig collaborations, The Heat and Spy, but the Ghostbusters trailer looked ... questionable at best. Then again, I do enjoy getting out with friends, and Steph was super excited about it. So, what the hell.

Verdict: it's good.

Comparisons to the original first: it's more action-y and less witty, especially in the last third. It's also WAY less wincingly sexist (seriously, Venkman is just AWFUL for so much of that movie). And it's got great cameos by many of the original cast, which, yay.

What's good? Holtzmann, of course. Kate MacKinnon's off-balance-FOR-SCIENCE-AND-GADGETS schtick is maybe even better than Egon's was. Leslie Jones's Patty is good too, believable and respectable and a full character in a way that maybe Winston Zeddimore never got to be. (Sidenote: Ernie Hudson's story of the rise and fall of his part is heartbreaking and I would pay good money to see the Winston movie.) Chris Hemsworth as Kevin the himbo secretary is PERFECT. "Which of these makes me look more like a doctor... the one where I'm playing the saxophone, or the one where I'm LISTENING to the saxophone?"

What's not so good? Oddly, the leads. Melissa McCarthy is basically playing Melissa McCarthy, and when it works it's good and when it doesn't it's just kinda there. Kristen Wiig's nervous-academic, half Ray half Venkman, works but doesn't quite gel with the rest of the team dynamic. They're all funny and competent, don't get me wrong, they just ... felt not quite together.

CGI is CGI is CGI, it's very pretty and didn't do much for me. The extended ghost-fight in the third act dragged on a bit. Honestly the entire second act dragged. In the first movie this is when they're being the Ghostbusters and being super-busy capping ghosts and arguing with William Atherton's EPA agent, and here it's ... they take a couple of jobs and figure out what's going on and get low-key arrested by Agent Omar.

But it's funny. Not enough consistently low-key chuckle-funny for my taste, but a decent amount of laugh-out-loud funny throughout. And the most cringeworthy moments are in the trailer, so if like me you're considering passing on it because of the trailer, don't. It's a good time.

And safety lights are for *dudes*.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
J. Michael Straczynski (dev.), Babylon 5, most of.

General: Groundbreaking but flawed. Fatally hamstrung by attempts to tell a single story over five seasons through the loss of actors and network sabotage. (Full disclosure: I also despise bound book-fragments and have trouble reading individual issues of comic books rather than full storylines.) I don't regret having watched B5 but I doubt I'll go back to it.

S1: Occasionally cringe-inducing, but decent. I'm enjoying Sinclair, and the Sinclair/Ivanova/Garibaldi triangle. G'kar is a jerk and Londo is mostly kinda sympathetic. Delenn needs more to do. Vir and Lennier are great. Needs more Kosh, and more Morden.

S2: Sheridan feels like a nonentity; half his appearances make more sense if I think of them as written for Sinclair's background instead, and the other half lack personality. Londo's transformation to jerk is complete and I find myself sympathising with G'kar. Needs more Kosh, and more Morden.

S3: Looks like Londo will suffer no consequences for committing fucking GENOCIDE at the end of last season. On the bright side, Sheridan developed a personality! Also the return of Sinclair, who... I can understand why the actor had to be replaced. On balance this is probably my favorite season. Needs more K-- DAMMIT.

S4: Meh. The conclusion of the Shadow War feels rushed. The quick and easy resolution of the civil war even more so. I cannot believe that the people of Earth just said "Oh, we've been duped into believing the xenophobic crap Clark was selling us, our bad" and embraced Sheridan with open arms. I also disapprove strongly of G'kar suffering for Londo's sins.

S5: No Ivanova. No real point to the story. We abandoned ship not quite halfway through. I've been meaning to at least watch the Neil Gaiman episode and the closer for over a year now and haven't managed to work up the desire.

(Currently watching Futurama, which holds up surprisingly well.)
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
16) See ten movies at the Vancouver International Film Festival. (10/10) 2015-10-04

I did not expect to knock that off the list this year, but this was a decent year for VIFF movies. And I've still got at least two more coming this week.

Very good: A Tale of Three Cities, High-Rise, Ayanda
Good: 600 Miles, 808
Not bad: Beeba Boys, The Anarchists, The Classified File, A Perfect Day
Not my thing: The Assassin

many many films )
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Final count: of seven movies, one I very much enjoyed, one I enjoyed well enough, two that were alright, two that I disliked, and one that utterly baffled me. Down from last year, which had two I liked a lot, one that was alright, and two that I disliked. Oh well.

Zero Motivation, Ow, Elephant Song, Libertador )
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Vancouver International Film Festival time again.

Based on an unscientific and statistically insignificant random sample, film is unsurprisingly terrible at women. Also at making movies I like.

Black Fly, Rekorder, The Fool )

Both Black Fly and Rekorder have, as their last scene, a backstory revelation that is supposed to cause one to Finally Understand the characters' torment and See The Film In A New Light. This lazy O.Henry crap is something newbie writers are warned against, and now I understand why.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Ben Wheatley (dir.), A Field in England

I saw this movie over a month ago. I'm still not entirely sure what it was I saw.

The plot, such as it is: in the midst of a battle in the English Civil War, Whitehead the scholar has been tasked with arresting a man who's stolen some valuable documents from his master. He falls in with two soldiers, one a drunkard and the other a fool. The three of them are accosted by Cutler, who lures them on with promises of an alehouse. Cutler turns out to be an assistant to the alchemist O'Neill, the very man Whitehead is meant to be arresting. O'Neill forces Whitehead to use his psychic gifts to locate a treasure that's been buried somewhere in the field they find themselves in, and the others to dig it up.

From there things get weird. (Ha.) There are hallucinogenic mushrooms, there's a broken scrying-glass, there's what might be a wizard's Certamen or might be simply a bad trip. In the end Whitehead may have grown into an acceptance of who he is and the life he's been born into. Alternately, everyone may be dead. It's hard to say.

The movie's been advertised as a horror movie, which is almost entirely inaccurate but no more so than any other descriptor I can think of. It's less disturbing than, say, Jacob's Ladder. It may be the most sui generis movie I have ever seen. It's funny and visceral and beautifully shot and on rare occasions oddly touching, and sometimes very difficult to watch. The scene of Whitehead and O'Neill in the tent had me wincing-- and all we see is a tent, and all we hear is screaming.

It is an Experience. Had I more film vocabulary and inclination/ability to dissect visual arts, I could have a field day working out what it all implied and suggested-- not meant, nothing so direct, but how it worked and what exactly 'worked' means in this case. As it is, it washed over me like an unexpected ninety-minute ocean wave, leaving me shivering and wide awake and pretty sure I'd just been hit by something I couldn't describe.

I think I'd recommend it but I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to.

(Trailer. Other, more coherent, opinions: Greer Gilman, whose brief review put this on my radar some months back; Sonya Taafe.)

Jim Jarmusch (dir.), Only Lovers Left Alive

I confess, I was sold on this from "Tilda Swinton as a vampire." Indeed, it has that, and Tom 'Loki' Hiddleston as her vampiric lover, and John Hurt as a vampiric Kit Marlowe, and Jeffrey Wright as a human doctor who seems to have wandered in from another type of vampire movie entirely.

This is like no other vampire story I've ever read or seen. Unsurprising; it shouldn't be my kind of thing. The lighting, the camerawork, even the dialog, all feel slow and langorous. Images, ideas, pop up because they fit and then are discarded: the wooden bullet, the mushrooms, even Ian. This is a movie that is very much in love with being a movie, and is taking its sweet time about it. If it were in prose I expect I would find it deathly dull; on screen it's absolutely perfect for what it's doing. (Jeffrey Wright's character seems to think he's in Dracula, or maybe Interview; he doesn't seem to grasp that they just don't care about him. This is, as you might expect, hilarious.)

I think (he said, reflecting on the movie and on [personal profile] rushthatspeaks's review) that this is in part because it's Adam's (Tom Hiddleston) movie, and Adam is overcome by ennui. Tilda Swinton's Eve is clearly still having a lot of fun with her life, but she also cares for Adam, and so she travels from Tangier to Detroit. (Side note: early 21st century Detroit is an amazing, amazing setting for a vampire movie.) And then, for reasons which aren't exactly plot-related because the movie doesn't have a plot as such, only characters and events, the two of them are forced to flee back to Tangier, where perhaps Adam will learn to enjoy unlife again after all.

Visually stunning, very funny, and some amazing acting from everyone involved. Highly recommended.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Francis Lawrence (dir.), Constantine

I'm a Hellblazer fan from way back (where 'way back' is defined as 'the late nineties,' which will get me scoffed at by people who actually are Hellblazer fans from way back). I got excited when I heard they were making a John Constantine movie, a decade ago now, and then immediately switched from 'excited' to 'indignant' at the reveal that the actor playing Constantine was Keanu Reeves. (John Constantine has blond hair and a Liverpool accent, as well as a great deal of personal presence and charisma. Keanu Reeves ... does not.) So I never got around to seeing the movie. From everything I'd heard, that was quite okay.

Then at some point I became a fan of Tilda Swinton, because she is awesome, and at some point after that I found out she was in Constantine. And I stumbled across a cheap copy of the DVD on Monday night, and [personal profile] uilos needed a Bad Movie to distract her from test stressing, and, well.

So, that was two hours of my life I'm not getting back.

How bad was it? Chas Chandler, London cabbie and Constantine's oldest friend, became Chas Kramer, Constantine's young apprentice, portrayed by Shia LeBoeuf. That right there pretty well sums it up.

Everything about the movie that wasn't either Tilda Swinton's Gabriel (who is fantastic in her one scene in act one and in the last twenty minutes, and otherwise entirely absent) or Djimon Hounsou's Papa Midnite was terrible. Not even 'so bad it's good' terrible either, just plain bad. The plot makes almost no sense, the characters (again, Gabriel aside) are an insult to cardboard cutouts and occasionally have similar names to characters from the comic, and the scenery... um. They sure do love their early-21st-century CGI backgrounds.

On the other hand, it's made me want to dig out my old back issues of Hellblazer, and to rewatch The Prophecy (starring Christopher Walken as Gabriel and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer), so I guess it wasn't a wholly negative experience.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
One of the 101 things I'd like to do over 1001 days is to see ten movies at the Vancouver International Film Festival. As noted elsewhere, due to poor scheduling I've only got two VIFFs before the end of my thousand nights and a night are up, so that's five films per year. This year due to various scheduling difficulties (Farthing Party, work, other commitments, not bothering to pick up a film schedule) I didn't start looking into this year's movies until Wednesday night, and the festival closed on Friday. Luckily I found five I was interested in, and the scheduling worked out.

These two were from Thursday. I'll write up the three from Friday later.

Ludwig II )

Grigris )
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Hal Duncan, Vellum

The prologue is absolutely amazing: a fractured narrative of a university student who tracks down a book that may or not have been written by God. Highly atmospheric, chock-full of conspiracies and esoterica. Excellent.

Shame the rest of the book didn't continue in that vein. Instead we get a compelling enough retelling of a Sumerian myth and a lot of interesting stuff about names, and reality, and creatures that may be gods, or angels, or demons. Then it shifts gears into a retelling of Prometheus Bound in several different timelines, and at about that point I got fed up with having been badly misled by the prologue. Into the go-away pile.

Walter Jon Williams, Dread Empire's Fall: The Sundering

Continuation of very good space opera; devoured in the space of about eight hours, with various breaks. Spoilers follow.

Midway through the book the two viewpoint characters, who have been smoldering at each other despite a communication screwup early in book 1, get together, and it is brilliant and incandescent and I loved it. Then they have another falling-out due to Secrets Being Kept and Not Speaking To Each Other, and spend the rest of the book blaming each other and obsessing. Which, argh. It keeps them from being in the same place for the rest of the series, and it is perfectly realistic, and if I never see this particular plot device again I will die happy. I just want to shake them both.

Apart from that frustration, still very good.

Eden of the East

Anime. Picked this up awhile ago because the back cover copy looked promising: conspiracies, amnesia, all that good stuff. Two episodes in and it is a romance between two irritating people with random conspiracy stuff thrown in at times. Based on the Wikipedia summary it will continue to irritate me for another nine episodes as the conspiracy stuff gets more random. Bah. Into the go-away pile.


Jan. 31st, 2013 09:45 pm
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Ronald D. Moore (dev.), Battlestar Galactica, entire.

Executive summary: So. That happened.

A couple of weeks ago I noted elseweb that Based on how Season 4 has been so far, "on Sudafed" is going to be the ideal way to appreciate the BSG finale. I was totally right.

What I liked, overall: the vast array of well-developed flawed-yet-sympathetic characters. The smaller (1-3 episode) plot arcs.

What I disliked: Gaius Baltar and the fact that this turned out to be The Baltar Show. The Final Five. Any and all instances of "God/s did it." The larger plot arc, especially from late season 3 on.

Spoilers below.
The Final Five are Keyser Soze, a man disguised as a woman, a guy who's been dead the whole time, and a sled. )
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
After two seasons, I am saddened to report that Burn Notice is not My Show.

Why not? )

quick bits

Apr. 7th, 2012 08:45 pm
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

A very modern novel, and very strange throughout. E.g.: the narrator, who for much of the book cannot recall his own name, spends a great deal of time in conversation with his soul, who has no name; "For convenience I called him Joe." Filled with bicycles, questionable metaphysics, and footnotes and asides about the nonexistent works of a fictitious philosopher named De Selby. It doesn't say a whole lot, I think, but the way it says it is at least entertaining. I could hear O'Brien's Irish brogue in my head the entire time I was reading the book. I think I would have loved it to death had I the good fortune to encounter it in high school.

Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon

Fantasy derived from Arabic cultures rather than European, featuring an old wizard and his young paladin sidekick. Light and fun. It reminded me a great deal of the Master Li & Number Ten Ox books, and of Lloyd Alexander's The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha. If you're in the market for a popcorn fantasy novel you could do a lot worse; if you're looking for something substantive, this is unlikely to do the trick. Unfortunately I'm mostly looking for substance in my fiction these days. I get all the fluff I need from television. Speaking of which...

Ronald D. Moore (dev.), Battlestar Galactica: Season 1

Military SF concerned with how the military system can coexist with the civilians it's there to protect. Individual episodes range from "okay" to "pretty good;" nothing's blown me away yet, and the things that I've objected to aren't so problematic that I'll stop watching. The humans and the episode-to-episode plots are good. Big problems that I can foresee include 1) the religio-mysticism is currently getting on my third-to-last nerve and seems to be growing more prevalent, and 2) I cannot see any rhyme or reason to the Cylons' actions. (As a friend said, "There are many copies, and they have a plan... but the writers don't.")
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Links go to trailers:
  • In Bruges: a heartwarming Christmas tale of two UK hitmen laying low in a scenic Belgian town after a hit gone wrong. Only for "heartwarming" read "dark and thoughtful and sometimes quite funny and always, always, dark." I enjoyed it, I think; would watch again but not for another year or two. (See also: F***ing Bruges, a 90-second clip of all the swearing in the movie.)
  • Young Adult: a character study of the kind of woman who was popular in high school and never had to learn how to be an adult. Also funny but that's not really the point. I've enjoyed all of Jason Reitman's other films (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and the sublime Up In The Air) so I figured, why not? Well done and discomforting and I'm not sure I'd see it again. (I didn't so much care for Juno either, which makes me think I just don't get on with Diablo Cody's scripts.)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: a slow-moving Cold War espionage thriller starring an almost unrecognizable Gary Oldman. I loved it but I'm a sucker for twisty plots and watching people put pieces together, and this had those in spades.
  • The Artist: there's really no point in making a black-and-white silent movie in 2011 unless it a) is about late-twenties and early-thirties Hollywood and b) uses its lack of sound as commentary. The Artist does both, quite well. I'm glad I saw it, and even more glad I saw it in a theatre: it seems the kind of thing that's a little pointless to watch in the privacy of one's home.
In front of those I got a bunch of forgettable trailers, plus one for Ralph Fiennes's modern-day Coriolanus which I will probably see, and one for a Margaret Thatcher biopic to which I said, out loud, "You have got to be kidding me." I really don't feel like I'm missing anything by not indulging in more pop culture, especially not at $13 a pop for a matinee.

Over Xmas I also read all of Azzarello & Risso's 100 Bullets because I never did get around to finishing it, and then for good measure reread Ennis & Dillon's Asshole Irish Vampire Preacher, neither of which moved me as much as I'd hoped. Cassidy's "Ye're a wanker, aren't ye?" is still the greatest thing one can say to a goth, and 100 Bullets has its own crowning moments of cool ("You can't feel numb. You can only be numb." Or, "...they'll tell you about some noble bullshit that killed her." "How do you know?" "I'm noble bullshit.") but ... I dunno. The glimmers of interesting depth are drowned in gore and patriarchial crap.

The interesting thing about the end of Preacher is that at the end of it... nothing's changed. Tulip and Jesse are back together, and Cassidy's out doing whatever Cassidy does. Sure, the Grail's broken, and God's been shot, but honestly? None of that affects the characters at all. We're /told/ that Jesse and Cassidy have grown up some but we don't actually see it.

I seem to be less impressed with comics than I used to be. I'm almost afraid to reread Sandman, it's been so long.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
It's no Muppet Movie, but it'll do.

80s Robot was absolutely perfect. Ditto Neil Patrick Harris. Jack Black, being somewhat Muppet-like himself, was acceptable.

The Muppets themselves are... not quite right, in a way that's both more subtle and more jarring than if they were actors fifty years older than their first performances. (Mostly noticeable in Kermit's singing, but bits of voice and characterization are off for many of them.)

Occasionally the self-referential humor felt heavy-handed. "We'll travel by map" worked for me; "This is gonna be a short movie," not so much. I think The Muppet Movie got away with it because it was a film-within-a-film.

Mostly it needed the human characters to not be the main focus. Also more Statler and Waldorf.

Good times. Recommended despite the nigh-Muppetless first twenty minutes.

iron men

May. 14th, 2010 10:52 am
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
(One of these days I'll get back to books. I'm currently about halfway through Anathem, which is sort of like the thinky bits of the Steerswoman books set in the New Sun universe, and is also nine hundred pages, so it'll be a bit.)

[livejournal.com profile] uilos and I watched Iron Man on Tuesday night, and were pretty underwhelmed. (It's been a very long time since I saw someone hack into a computer by using the simple command "Access secret files.") Evil bald Jeff Bridges was pretty awesome. Other than that. . . it snapped my disbelief suspenders at the point where the bad guy sees Stark testing some sort of flexible leg armor and neither kills him immediately nor demands to know what the hell he's doing, and I never really recovered. I don't require those hours of my life back, but I'm pretty sure I could have come up with a better use for them.

I mention this because I saw Iron Man 2 last night with [livejournal.com profile] nixve and am now of the opinion that the first one was a cinematic masterpiece. Yow. I can't recall ever seeing a movie quite that relentlessly mediocre. Explosions and robot fights and pseudoscience that was an order of magnitude worse than in the previous film ("Congratulations! You've just discovered a new element! I've analyzed it and it can serve as a replacement power source!") and just very very little to recommend it. You'd think it's hard to go wrong with giant flying robots beating each other up but Iron Man 2 manages it.

I'd like to think that a movie like this lives or dies on the strength of its supporting cast. . . but Samuel L. Jackson was a great Nick Fury, and Sam Rockwell did an amazing job as the slimy and barely-competent industrialist Justin Hammer, and I'm tempted to nominate Garry Shandling for the Senate because he would fit right in at any hearing, and even they couldn't make it worth watching. And evil bald Jeff Bridges has been replaced by evil scruffy Mickey Rourke ("so, just Mickey Rourke"), and Don Cheadle is utterly wasted as Stark's sidekick, and Scarlett Johansson exists solely to traipse through hallways beating up security guards for a scene.

As a two-hour trailer for The Avengers. . . it makes me not want to see any more superhero movies.


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"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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