rowyn: (Default)
Lut and I watched "Love Never Dies" on Sunday, which was .... really pretty bad. We saw "Phantom of the Opera" last weekend.

I am going to rant about them, with lots of spoilers, below. Although really, "spoiler" is the wrong word, because the good things about them can't be ruined by revelation, and the story is already so execrable it can't be spoiled further.

I don't like the story of "Phantom": the title character is the only one with any personality to speak of, and he's a monster. He stalks the female protagonist, tries to control her, manipulates everyone, murders multiple people, and destroys the opera house and probably kills more people to cover for kidnapping her at the climax. And we're supposed to feel bad for him because he's been feared all his life for his scarred face but ... yeah. I am not really up to excusing murder because people are mean to you. Most of the people he kills weren't even directly mean to him. They're just random fellows who happened to be in the way at the time.

Anyway. Didn't really like any of the characters, and the plot often made no sense. For two examples: Carlotta, their diva, refuses to perform early on, so they have Christine fill her role. Everyone -- literally everyone -- is like "wow, Christine is so much better than Carlotta."

Next, the Phantom says "I want Christine in the leading role of the next production," and offers a vague threat if the new managers don't comply. Carlotta refuses to play the leading role in the next production. The managers proceed to beg Carlotta to perform, for no apparent reason except "cut off your nose to spite your face".

Second example: there's a scene where Raoul defeats the Phantom in a graveyard duel, and Christine says "don't kill him!" So Raoul walks off with Christine and makes no attempt to, oh, capture the murderer instead. Then, in the next scene, some weeks later, Raoul is plotting to ... capture the Phantom. Oooookay. Like you could've done that in the last scene but you decided to wait until now for drama, I guess.

Still, setting aside the cardboard characters and the incoherent plot, the film was an over-the-top spectacle: gorgeous sets, costuming, dance numbers, etc. The music is fantastic. I got a little bored in the middle as what passed for the story just dragged on and on and they ran out of new music, but the ending was touching.

I have seldom seen a story less in need of sequel, and "Love Never Dies" is definitely the sequel that "Phantom" didn't need. This was a recording of a stage show, and was, I gather, the sequel to the stage musical. It references key events that didn't happen in the film. Either that, or it's set in a Phantom AU, maybe one where he's not a murderer who intentionally destroyed the opera house. (The intro references him being "chased by an angry mob that regards him as being responsible for the opera fire", which made me say to Lut, "Perhaps because he was responsible for the fire?")

Regardless, it's set a decade after the opera house burned down. It's set in Coney Island, where the Phantom is running a creepy carnival-like show under the name of "Mister Y". The choreographer who was his friend in the "Phantom" runs the show, while her daughter Meg is one of the stars. Meg is forced to performs some mediocre musical numbers by way of making Christine look good, which is just depressing all around. The sets were lovely but the music was uniformly meh. I am not sure if the choreography was also meh, because the camera tended to focus on the protagonists whenever some big complex number was happening. So you didn't really get to see the complex numbers. In an effort to make Phantom look more like a romantic hero, the script turns Raoul into an emotionally abusive man who gambled away his fortune and put his family deep in debt. He resents his wife for having a valuable skill (singing) that might bail them out of his mess. OK, so now I hate Raoul AND the Phantom.

In case you might hope, "maybe the Phantom has matured in 10 years", NOPE. When Christine hesitates at his offer to hire her for a single song, he threatens to abduct (and possibly kill) her son if she won't perform for him.

Oh, and if you were thinking "how could I hate the men of this show more?" Ding! We have an answer! Phantom and Raoul make a wager: If Christine performs the song, Raoul will leave her alone forever. If Raoul talks her out of it, Phantom will pay Raoul's debts anyway, plus a bonus.

Neither man tells Christine about the wager, so Christine thinks she choosing to sing a song that will get her family out of debt and then she can get back to her life with her husband.

Oh, and stage manager + daughter are bitterly resentful of Christine because the Phantom is basically dumping everything they worked for into Christine's lap. In case you thought anything might end well for anyone or you were hoping for someone to like.

There is no possible resolution where anyone is happy, which is okay because no one really deserves to be happy. Christine randomly dies at the end. This is probably the best thing that could plausibly happen to her within the constraints of "things anyone who wrote the rest of this garbage fire would think of doing". At least she can't be tormented by the horrible men in her life any more.

If I were the sort to write fix-it fics, I would change the ending to: "Christine, stage manager, and daughter kick Raoul and the Phantom out of their lives, go on to run successful theatre without them." If it needs romance, well, Christine and Meg will make a cute couple. Fin.

Frozen

Jan. 31st, 2014 10:41 am
rowyn: (just me)
I saw this film last Saturday, and like everyone else I know who saw it, I enjoyed. It was atypical of Disney Princess films in several key ways that I enjoyed, and typical in some other ways that I was meh about, and one thing that got on my nerves enough that I'm going to write about it.
Read more... )
rowyn: (Default)
Lut and I saw this movie in the theater when it first came out in 2003. At the time, our take was "It was okay." I recall having some trouble tracking what was happening during the movie. By the time I started reading the Aubrey-Maturin books last year, I had forgotten almost everything about the film -- I think there were a total of three scenes I still remembered, and I'd forgotten the central conflict entirely.

I've read fourteen of the Aubey-Maturin novels now. A month or two ago, I was talking to one of my co-workers about them and mentioned that I'd been thinking of watching the movie again. "Oh," she said, "I own that movie. I got it in a clearance sale two years ago but I've never actually seen it."

This week, I came to work and found it lying on my desk. "I haven't watched it in the two years since I got it, so don't worry about rushing to get it back to me," she told me.

Last night, Lut suggested watching a movie, and I asked, "Are you willing to watch "Master and Commander" with me again?" He good-naturedly agreed.

And omigosh, I had so much fun watching it.

It's a pastiche of Aubrey-Maturin novels, with a number of events that never took place in the books or were significantly altered from them. Probably the scenes that struck me most were the ones that were not merely invented for the film, but which would never have taken place in the books -- were, in fact, completely out of character. Some examples behind the cut tag:

Click here for spoilery examples. You know you want to. If you haven't seen the movie by now you're probably not going to anyway. )

One small discrepancy that nonetheless amuses me: Tom Pullings is described in the books as, at one point, receiving a disfiguring facial scar that makes him 'hideous'. In the movie, Pullings has a facial scar but is portrayed by the very handsome James D'Arcy who is not in the slightest less handsome for it. I don't know why that entertains me so, but it does.

I loved seeing all the characters from the books: "Omigosh Killick!" (who is just exactly like Killick from the books) "And there's Pullings! Mowett! Bonden!" ♥ And seeing the Surprise and hearing the drum as they beat to quarters and watching them clear the ship for action. Even watching a film doesn't quite make me feel like I have the whole picture, like I really understand what's actually happening, but it does give a very different perspective. Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany did very well as Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Crowe quite looks the part (he makes a fine blond!). Bettany looks nothing at all like Maturin but nonetheless manages to evoke the feel of the character. (The scene where he asks Aubrey to let him walk across the island and meet them on the other side! ♥)

I find this a rather interesting situation to be in: having read the books, I know all the ways in which the narrative and the characters have been altered and in some cases mangled. But even so, my familiarity with the source material made me enjoy the film so much more than I did when I saw it with no background. It kind of reminds me of the way I loved even bad Star Trek movies, because it was so much fun just seeing all those familiar faces again. Apparently sometimes it's better to have read the book first even if the film isn't as good as it.
rowyn: (studious)
Lut and I saw this movie in the theater when it first came out in 2003. At the time, our take was "It was okay." I recall having some trouble tracking what was happening during the movie. By the time I started reading the Aubrey-Maturin books last year, I had forgotten almost everything about the film -- I think there were a total of three scenes I still remembered, and I'd forgotten the central conflict entirely.

I've read fourteen of the Aubey-Maturin novels now. A month or two ago, I was talking to one of my co-workers about them and mentioned that I'd been thinking of watching the movie again. "Oh," she said, "I own that movie. I got it in a clearance sale two years ago but I've never actually seen it."

This week, I came to work and found it lying on my desk. "I haven't watched it in the two years since I got it, so don't worry about rushing to get it back to me," she told me.

Last night, Lut suggested watching a movie, and I asked, "Are you willing to watch "Master and Commander" with me again?" He good-naturedly agreed.

And omigosh, I had so much fun watching it.

It's a pastiche of Aubrey-Maturin novels, with a number of events that never took place in the books or were significantly altered from them. Probably the scenes that struck me most were the ones that were not merely invented for the film, but which would never have taken place in the books -- were, in fact, completely out of character. Some examples behind the spoiler tag:

  1. In a couple of scenes in the film, Maturin is shown telling Aubrey to reconsider his actions as captain -- for instance, saying that it is foolhardy for them to be chasing the Acheron, and later questioning his decision to flog a seaman for insubordination. This is absolutely out of character for Maturin. First, Maturin has tremendous respect for Aubrey's judgment in naval affairs and rarely even considers the possibility that (a) Aubrey might be making a mistake much less (b) that Maturin might notice if he was. Questioning the wisdom of pursuing a larger and more dangerous vessel? Never happens. Second, even when Maturin does disagree with an action Aubrey takes as captain, Maturin will not say anything about it. This is not a matter of deference to his captain, or fear of disagreeing; it's mostly a strong sense of not my place to say. Just as Aubrey is not going to second-guess Maturin in a surgical operation, Maturin is not going to second-guess Aubrey in command. They don't do the armchair-quarterback thing.

  2. On a related note, Aubrey asks Maturin at one point his opinion on the crew's reaction to recent events. They have a little back-and-forth about naval vs personal roles and informers ("Now you're sounding like an Irishman" "That's because I am Irish") and then Maturin answers the question. Again, this is something that would never happen: not only will Maturin not say anything that smacks of informing but there's almost no occasions where Aubrey even asks him to (because Aubrey knows he can't answer and wouldn't want him to.) There is a tremendous social stigma against informing -- particularly for Maturin, a former agitator for Irish independence, but even Aubrey, who as captain gets a lot of secrets withheld from him that it would be extremely useful for him to know, has an extreme distaste for the idea. Basically, Aubrey feels that informers are terrible for a crew's morale and trust in one another, and so it's ultimately better to be left in the dark than it would be to encourage a culture of informing.

  3. In the film, Aubrey gets the idea to disguise the Surprise from an insect camouflaged as a stick that Maturin and Blakely found in the Galapagos. Disguising a vessel -- as something more dangerous, or less dangerous, or as belonging to a different nation* -- was an established part of naval warfare in this period and Aubrey does it all the time in the books. It's clever, but it's not innovative.
* One of my very favorite tricks along these lines: Merchant vessels would paint sailcloth with fake ports for cannons on them and hang them along the sides of the ship, to make it look like they were military vessels carrying cannons. In a double ruse, you get military vessels hanging the same kinds of panels over their actual gun ports, so that they look like merchants trying to look like warships. XD

I found these choices of particular interest because I can see why the filmmakers made them. In the first, they want to show that Aubrey is taking a sizable risk based on his personal judgment, and while in a book O'Brian can do this by showing Aubrey's internal narrative, in a film it's far more powerful to have two characters arguing instead. And of all the available characters to have argue with Aubrey, Maturin -- who is outside the chain of command and Aubrey's particular friend -- is the only one remotely plausible. In the second, they're trying to show the way that the captain is out of the loop, and the distinction between Maturin's relationship with his friend as opposed to his captain. So these two cases are sacrificing allegiance to the books in favor of making the situation more understandable to the viewers, which is a not-unreasonable choice. In the third, they're making the story fit traditional narrative structure better, by tying together the 'naturalist' and 'naval warfare' sections of the story and by giving a source for inspiration within the confines of the story. I don't really like the ahistorical nature of the last (because it misleads the audience about the nature of naval combat in the period), but I can still see why they did it.


One small discrepancy that nonetheless amuses me: Tom Pullings is described in the books as, at one point, receiving a disfiguring facial scar that makes him 'hideous'. In the movie, Pullings has a facial scar but is portrayed by the very handsome James D'Arcy who is not in the slightest less handsome for it. I don't know why that entertains me so, but it does.

I loved seeing all the characters from the books: "Omigosh Killick!" (who is just exactly like Killick from the books) "And there's Pullings! Mowett! Bonden!" ♥ And seeing the Surprise and hearing the drum as they beat to quarters and watching them clear the ship for action. Even watching a film doesn't quite make me feel like I have the whole picture, like I really understand what's actually happening, but it does give a very different perspective. Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany did very well as Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Crowe quite looks the part (he makes a fine blond!). Bettany looks nothing at all like Maturin but nonetheless manages to evoke the feel of the character. (The scene where he asks Aubrey to let him walk across the island and meet them on the other side! ♥)

I find this a rather interesting situation to be in: having read the books, I know all the ways in which the narrative and the characters have been altered and in some cases mangled. But even so, my familiarity with the source material made me enjoy the film so much more than I did when I saw it with no background. It kind of reminds me of the way I loved even bad Star Trek movies, because it was so much fun just seeing all those familiar faces again. Apparently sometimes it's better to have read the book first even if the film isn't as good as it.
rowyn: (thoughtful)
This isn't so much a review of Sucker Punch as an analysis. I wrote it nine hours after I went to see this light fluffy film about schoolgirls beating up on monsters, and found myself still thinking about it. I couldn't get it out of my mind. Inception was interesting but it did not make me think about it. Sucker Punch sucker-punched me after all. I didn't expect it to be thought-provoking, yet here I am.
Spoiler cut )
rowyn: (Default)
This was a 2008 independent film; Lut turned it up on Netflix instant watch and we decided to give it a look.

It's a strikingly beautiful film, shot in black and white and in the style of a 40's noir film. "In the style of a 40's noir film" bears further explanation. The props, costumes, sets, and tropes are very much 40s-style. Men wear suits and fedoras. They drive 40s-style and dial telephones with actual rotary dials. One of the characters is a torch singer at a lounge. Yet the film is emphatically not set in the 40s: the characters carry cellphones (which sound just like to old-fashioned mechanical phones when they ring), do internet searches, and the gender dynamic is modern, not period. To call it "anachronistic" feels wrong; it's not an accident but a deliberate choice, and one that mirrors that film's central theme, so I thought it worked well.

Other things work less well. The plot is thin, the characters underdeveloped, their motivations unclear, and the acting is uneven. (By "uneven", I mean not so much that some actors were better than others, but that the actors did a better job in certain scenes than in others). The use of symbols is overdone, but at times clever*. It is a clever film in some ways, but it comes across as ultimately more pretentious than smart.

For all that, I'm glad we watched it. It had an interesting central premise that was difficult to carry off at all, and to a certain degree it succeeded. So I'm impressed by that.

* OK, the use of Dali's "The Persistence of Memory"? That was a really good choice.

Spoilerish details on the premise )

Overall, it's not a movie I can recommend unreservedly, but I think it's worth seeing. It's also quite short at 80 minutes long. (IMDB puts it at 87 minutes, but the last 7 are credits).

Iron Man

May. 7th, 2008 09:12 am
rowyn: (Default)
Miscellaneous thoughts on the "Iron Man" film. One sentence review: Good movie, plenty of plot holes, fun anyway, worth seeing in the theatre.

Spoilerrific! You all saw this opening weekend anyway, didn't you? )

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