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Movies


The Dark Knight Rises
2012 movie wrapping up director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. I didn't like it as much as the other two, but I thought they did a pretty good job with Catwoman. Also, I really want Bane's coat. (Costume designer Lindy Hemming "personally designed Bane's coat, which she admitted took two years to complete. The design was difficult as Hemming struggled to find a tailor in Los Angeles who could work with shearling.")

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Continues the tradition of telling the history of Middle-Earth by means of focusing on the humans that hang around with hobbits, with special emphasis on battle and escape scenes. This tradition started in Fellowship of the Ring. I saw it with a sweetie, who left to go to the bathroom (which was located on the other side of the theater) when the troll fighting scene in Moria started. When she came back, the scene was still going on. Well, in this movie, I could have spent half of my time in the bathroom and still not missed anything but battle scenes. Then again, since the title is Battle of Five Armies, I suppose I knew what I was in for going in. I watch these because I'm a Tolkien fan and Jackson's designers have done a fabulous job designing a Middle Earth that mostly tracks with the one that's been in my head ever since I first read The Hobbit at age 9. I don't think the plots track so well but I don't particularly care about that.

Planet B-Boy
2007 documentary about the 2005 Battle of the Year award for crew b-boying (aka break-dancing). The competition has taken place in Germany annually since 1990. I would have liked it better if I had understood more of the moves.


Episodics


Agent Carter
Marvel series about a woman agent in the 1940s just post-WWII. She was romantically involved with Captain America and played an important part in the war. Now that the war is over, she's working in a covert agency called Strategic Scientific Reserve but the men treat her like an office girl. So she starts taking secret missions on the side. First two episodes were very good and the third episode was pretty good.

Doctor Who
I heard that Netflix probably wasn't going to remove Doctor Who permanently after all but the threatened removal is a game of chicken with the BBC. Nevertheless I'm determined to catch up on Doctor Who before February 15. I'm currently in the middle of seaon 7 (11th Doctor with companion Clara Oswald. I REALLY LOVED the episode "The Snowmen."

Fiction


Jasper Fforde, The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)
Competently narrated by Emily Grey. Fforde is a science fiction / fantasy writer comparable to Pratchett and Douglas Adams in his extremely high "clever idea to text ratio," absurdist humor, and complex world building. I'm liking this one better than the others. There is an extremely high clever idea to text ratio, and it makes me laugh fairly often. I recommend the first two books in this series, but I particularly liked this one, in which the protagonist leaves the "real world" and enters the "BookWorld," in which stands the Great Library (containing all books ever written, and all books ever attempted but not finished — the well of lost plots), and in which the organization Text Grand Central manages software that allows books to be written and read. Anyone who has worked in publishing or writing is highly likely to enjoy it.

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Movies

To Catch a Thief
Hitchcock with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (and Edith Head doing costumes). I haven't laughed this much over a movie in a long time.
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I recommend all of these (except GRRM). More detailed reviews on request!
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Movies

Advanced Style
Ari Seth Cohen has a street fashion blog called Advanced Style which focuses on stylish people (mostly women) aged 50 and over (usually a lot over). The blog has spawned a coffee table book, a coloring book complete with paper dolls and this documentary, which features a few of the women he photographs regularly. All of them live in New York City. You see them working (one works in a vintage clothing store, several teach), being photographed for ad campaigns, singing in a nightclub, being part of a flash mob at New York Fashion Week, visiting Los Angeles to appear on the Ricki Lake show, and more.

Edge of Tomorrow
Tagline is Lather. Rinse. Live. Die. Repeat. Time loop movie. Fairly entertaining in that twenty-teens excessively seriously dystopian way that movies can be. I liked the female protagonist, played by Emily Blunt, and that there was almost no (spoiler) romance between her and Cruise's character, although there was a little. (Wikipedia says the kiss between them at the end of the movie was unscripted and was Blunt's idea. I think it was a bad idea.) (end spoiler) I also loved the cranky old general character played by Brendan Gleeson.

Gravity
An astronaut and a scientist inexperienced in space travel get stranded in space. Much effort was put into making the space environment seem realistic, although the scenario is less realistic. If you can see it in the theater in 3D, definitely do that, but if not, it's wonderful in 2D on a large home TV also. Great soundtrack. Sandra Bullock is an amazing physical actress.

The Last Unicorn
Animated 1982 film of Peter Beagle's 1962 fairy tale. Liked it a lot. Proves that (spoiler) "the princess marries the prince and everyone lives happily ever after" trope could be subverted long before Frozen came along (end spoiler).

Men in Black 3
This one wasn't as good as the first one but was better than the second one. Doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but has Emma Thompson as the head of the agency. Boris the Animal and Griffin are fun aliens. Time travel to the 1960s is generally fun.

Shaft
Speaking of time travel to the 1960s...oh wait, this one was made in 1971, but close enough. One of the first and most iconic blaxploitation films, although apparently it annoyed white audiences for making too much of racism and black audiences for not making enough of it. (Gee not much has changed in 43 years.) The relationship between Shaft and his white contact in the police is fun. Everyone is wearing rust colored turtlenecks and lounging on fake fur rugs. Lots of product placement. If you want to make a point about male characters who would be called Mary Sues if they were female characters, be sure to mention Shaft. Now I want to do crossover fanfic with Shaft and James Bond.

Fiction

Up from the Grave, Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress #7)
This is the last book in the Night Huntress series, although Frost has written other books set in the same universe. I'm somewhat incapable of explaining why I like these books, so have a collection of funny (some intentionally, some not) lines instead:
  • "Baring the majority of my breasts"
  • "That’s how two vampires, a medium, and a dog came to sit around a Ouija board in the back room of a floral shop."
  • "The fact that I hadn’t known what I was doing when it happened was almost moot by comparison."
  • "Groin cleavage"
  • "Changing someone into a vampire was downright prissy-looking by comparison."
Oh, and I really didn't like the way she described Detroit.

The Sittaford Mystery, Agatha Christie
Audiobook, well narrated by Hugh Fraser, who does a wide range of voices well. Published in 1931. Not part of a series, although it was rewritten for a TV show in which Miss Marple became the crime solver. Set in Dartmoor (English title: The Murder at Hazelmoor). The rural nature of the area, along with its bad weather, and the fact that someone can hide upon the moor play into the plot, but not the beauty or loneliness of the scenery as in Conan Doyle's or Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes in Dartmoor mysteries. My favorite characters are the chief crime solver, Emily Trefusis, who is the accused man's fiancée; and Caroline Percehouse, a cranky and very smart old lady. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is mentioned in the context of his being interested in metaphysics. I had trouble keeping some of the other characters straight. Enough red herrings to feed an army.

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Movies


The Expendables
Good-natured way over-the-top ensemble old guy action movie, directed by Stallone, with cameos by Schwartznegger and Bruce Willis, and a good performance by Mickey Rourke.

Nosferatu
I have never acquired a taste for the kind of acting that is often done in silent movies and my experience of Nosferatu suffered from this, but I'm glad I watched it. I wish I knew more about all the ways it was influential on movie-making. There's a famous scene where Nosferatu rises straight up out of his coffin. I found myself mumbling "wire-work."

Episodics


Hawaii Five-0 (reboot)
We're watching season 2, and enjoying this more since Masa Oki became a regular character

Fiction


Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost (#2 in the Night Prince series)
Vampire romance. I like them except that the plots are too heavily driven by manufactured relationship angst of kinds that would make a sensible person run screaming in real life.

Fire in the Blood, Blood on the Water (Vampire Files #5-6) by P.N. Elrod
It's the early 20th century in Chicago, and a journalist who was recently made into a vampire (Jack Fleming) works with a human British P.I. who used to be an actor (Charles Escott). They associate with gangsters and femmes fatales a lot but they mostly have modern middle-class values (e.g. the vampire doesn't hunt human victims but drinks from cattle at the Chicago stockyards). Although these are technically 2 novels, they come in an omnibus (Vampire Files part 2) and Blood on the Water doesn't really stand alone. I was pretty annoyed at the ebook because it was a badly done OCR conversion and had not been adequately proofread. For example, there is a character named Escott, but his name is spelled Escort half the time. And one character has a book called The Invisible Matt on his desk. I like the protagonists a lot and there are quite a few very competent female characters in the series. And this vampire has a really good romantic relationship that has no manufactured angst at all.

Nightingale's Lament (Nightside #3) by Simon R. Green
I want to like this series more than I do. Green has a fabulous imagination at times, but it's mixed in with a lot of fairly cliched noir tropes and moralism.

The Moor, Laurie R. King (Mary Russell #4)
This is really well written in loving detail. I loved her descriptions of the moor and it was amusing to see Holmes reacting to people wanting to talk to him about The Hound of the Baskervilles. The mystery itself I didn't care that much about...the villains were not very interesting, and for the most part the solving of the mystery wasn't very interesting either; it was more of an excuse to get Russell and Holmes interacting with local folks. For calibration purposes, I don't know anything about Sabine Baring-Gould. I will read more of this series.

The Sittaford Mystery, Agatha Christie
Audiobook. I picked this up while reading The Moor and was amused to discover it is also about Dartmoor. It's a little Dartmoor fest over here.

Games


Little Inferno
This is the most adorable, bizarre game ever. You have a fireplace and you can buy stuff and burn it. Weird things happen when you burn certain stuff. And you have a penpal. If that sounds boring, I hope you go try it out anyway.
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Movies


Frozen

I loved the "Let It Go" song and scene, but otherwise I didn't like it that much.
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I promise not to accumulate such a huge backlog of these in the future.

Movies


Captain Horatio Hornblower
Gregory Peck 1951 movie. It seems like Star Trek: TOS swiped some of the theme music and sound effects from it, as well as the concept of "Hornblower in spaaaace.") Pretty good sea adventure. I found the romance annoying.
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Movies


Appleseed: Ex Machina
2007 anime movie. A sequel to the 2004 Appleseed, which I saw but can't remember a single thing about. Deunan, a human, and Briareos, originally human but now in a cyborg body, are lovers and special ops partners. (Spoilers for general plot points) Briareos is injured in a battle and while he is recovering, the team leader tries to pair Deunan with another agent, who looks like Briareos used to look when he was a human, because he's a bioroid engineered from Briareos's DNA. Deunan is not happy about any of this. Some people try to take over the world with a satellite network, and the special ops team tries to stop them. I really liked this for the beauty of the fight choreography (especially in the opening scenes), for the relationships, and for the exploration of body and identity issues. It's a bit like Ghost in the Shell but more grounded, if that makes any sense.

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Movies

The Bodyguard
Thai gun-fu/wire-fu action comedy. We stuck it on our Netflix queue several years ago because we like Tony Jaa. We started watching it with few expectations and ended up REALLY impressed. The director-star, Petchtai Wongkamlao, is a SUPERB actor and comedian. There are lots of very long choreographic gunfights and kung fu fights in various styles. Tony Jaa is on screen for only a few minutes in a scene set in a supermarket. The funniest scene was (no, I'm not going to tell you, it's funnier if you don't know what's going to happen). The star is a little plump but nothing is made of this. There is another fat guy in the movie who wears outrageous costumes (normally I wouldn't like this, but the people making fun of this character are portrayed as ridiculous and he is portrayed as dignified; also they make fun of his costumes and not his size, so it didn't bother me). One of the actors appeared to have Down Syndrome. On the less enjoyable side, there was some sexism and body mockery among some minor characters that did bother me, but the rest of the movie made up for it. For all that I liked it, I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to these genres.

Guardians of the Galaxy
I made a separate post about this.

Episodics

The Wire
Seasons 1–4 were the best serious television I've ever seen. We had heard that Season 5 was good, but not as good as the other seasons. We watched three episodes and were not very happy with it, so we decided to stop watching. The episodes of Season 5 we watched had moments, but overall it was feeling meaner than the previous seasons, and we thought that some of the character development wasn't right. E.g. it really bugged me that McNulty went from all-but-teetotaling throughout season 4 to drunk-off-his-ass and cheating every night starting in episode 1 of season 5 and no reason was given for the change at all. I also looked at the plotline for the rest of the season and I didn't want to watch Omar or Prop Joe or Snoop getting killed although I'm sure the actors turned in great performances on those scenes.


Nonfiction

Robert Greenberg, Mozart: His Life and Music
Series of lectures by a professor of music. He is way over the top; listening to him is more like listening to a stand-up comedian than to a typical professor. But if you don't mind that or like it, it's fun. Of course he spends much of the time vociferously debunking various myths about Mozart's life. (One I didn't realize was a myth, although I should have, is that "Amadeus" is not Mozart's real middle name; that is, he was not christened that and didn't use it during his lifetime, except as a wordplay.) There are bits of good music, if you like Mozart music and/or his contemporaries. I thought Greenberg could have done a more thorough job of explaining what to listen for in the music, but he did do some of that.


Fiction

Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)
Continuing

Tessa Harris, The Anatomist's Apprentice (Dr Thomas Silkstone Mysteries #1)
Narrated by Simon Vance, who is very skillful but I am starting to hate him. This series "uses a fictional character Thomas Silkstone to examine the beginnings of forensic science, anatomy and surgery" (sez Wikipedia) and is set in the late 1700s. There's a lot of dissection/autopsy porn. It's got a classic mystery plot (country estate, lots of suspects, dark family secrets revealed, etc.) that's done well until just before the end. There's also a romance, which I didn't find very compelling. I didn't like the ending very much.


Games

A New Beginning
Daedalus point-and-click game/story about time travel and environmentalism. I got sucked into it (there's good voice acting and the Bent Svensson character is interesting), but I didn't really like the story. There is an interesting female protagonist but she gets verbally abused a lot throughout the story (for incompetence), she has a technical job but constantly has to ask male characters about technical stuff, and then she sacrifices herself at the end to save the male protagonist. There were some things I liked about the gameplay, but I am not clever at lateral thinking (or grinding through trying every combination of possibilities) of the kind that this game often relies on for its puzzles, so a lot of the puzzles were too obscure for me, and I used a walkthrough.

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