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Archive for the ‘Diversions’ Category

 

Last week, I checked out Pixar’s new film Brave.    I had been looking forward to this movie since I saw some of the early trailers.   The red hair is very eye-catching.   For all those not familiar with Brave, the movie follows Merida, a young Scottish princess who is at odds with her mother over marriage.   After an explosive confrontation with her mother, Merida runs away and finds a witch who presents her with a way to change her fate.

There were some things that I really liked about the movie.   I found the artwork absolutely gorgeous, and the action scenes amazing.   Also the humorous bits were great and guaranteed to entertain the kids who go to see it.  I also found some scenes with Merida and her mother to be very touching and, because of certain plot relevant instances, humorous.

However, overall Brave wasn’t quite what I was expecting.   The trailer made the movie seem more…epic, for lack of a better word.  The title certainly calls for an epic-level heroine, doesn’t it?   However, that doesn’t quite happen. The plot definitely focuses on Merida’s relationship with her mother, and, in that regard, it plays out fine.  I think the teenage and pre-teen crowd will relate more to Merida though; Merida herself, although she is Katniss-like with a bow, is not really what I’d consider hero material.  That being said, I can see a lot of kids relating to her.

My only other complaint was that some of the crazy worldbuilding aspects didn’t quite mesh with the plot, and the whole movie came out awkward.   That being said, Brave is still fun to watch and worth a look.  Just don’t expect what the trailers suggest.

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Guys, have I got a movie for you:  Summer Wars.   Kenji is a typical teenage boy; he’s super awkward with girls, but he is really good at math.   He also participates in Oz, the online global community.   When classmate Natsuki drags him to her family reunion only to have him pose as her fiance, Kenji is overwhelmed.   Things get crazier when an AI–or artificial intelligence– hacks Oz, creating havoc in the community and world at large.   Kenji teams up with his new friends to take on this menace that wants to start an apocalypse!

Oh, my gosh, this movie was so amazing!   There were so many good points.  The concept of the world and artwork for characters and the online world were on par, and the story brilliantly flowed together.  I liked that not one concept introduced was superfluous–everything was wrapped in the plot and had a strong resolution.    Kenji is a brilliant combination of awkward and determined–I related to him and thus cheered for him.    I can keep on going about what I like about Summer Wars, but I won’t.   I think you get the idea.   So, go check it out!

 

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So, there’s a new movie out, called the Avengers.   You might have heard of it.   I confess to knowing, well, almost nothing about Marvel or comics in general, but I still wanted to see this movie.   It looked fun, and I’m one of those people who loves a good, fun action movie.   And boy was it a good, fun action movie.

I’m not going to go too much into the plot.  You can find it on most movie websites, and, if you go see it, things should be clear enough.   Just know that Loki is the main villain.   Overall, I really liked the movie.   The action scenes are made of awesome, and the tension is maintained throughout the film.  There were moments when I wasn’t sure things would pull out, and I liked that bit quite a bit.  However, the awesome action scenes weren’t the only high points of the movie.   For one thing, I really liked the interaction between the cast.   The movie doesn’t just have tension between the villains and the heroes, but among the heroes themselves.  I liked that; all of the cast have their problems, and everyone plays off each other so well.   There are humorous instances like The Hulk punching Thor after they’ve been fighting together, or instances where there is a clear danger in their interactions, such as The Hulk losing it in a flying aircraft carrier (not sure why it’s there.  I suspect someone demanded a cool base, and got it).   The interactions between all of the cast are clever and witty.    Since Joss Whedon directed it, I am not entirely surprised that all of these good things were there, but I am still glad that these aspects were in that movie.

Another high point for me was Loki as the villain.

I am definitely more of a Norse mythology buff than a Marvel fan, but I was excited that Loki was the main antagonist for this movie.   When I saw the teaser at the end of the Thor trailer, I was super excited.   However, what I wanted to bring up was how well Loki was portrayed.   Tom Hiddleston, the actor, did a fantastic job.   I thought this Loki was very much like the one that appears in Nordic mythology–he was complex rather than straight up evil, even if his actions were not condoned by the morals that governed the film.  He was also clever and completely chaotic.   I’m sure that no one else cares about this portrayal of Loki as much as I do, but I still wanted to throw that out there as another high point.

So Avengers…go see it.

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So I saw the new Hunger Games movie yesterday.  I’m assuming that most of you are familiar with the plotline, but I’ll provide a quick summary.    Panem is a world made of a Capitol and 12 Districts.  Once the Districts rose up in rebellion, but the Capitol continues to punish the districts every year by demanding two Tributes–one boy, one girl–to fight in the Hunger Games, where Tributes are forced to kill.   Katniss Everdeen of District 12 volunteers for the Games in order to save her sister Prim from a certain death.   The threat of death in the arena, however, is the least of her problems.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  I was particularly impressed with the setting and scenery.  Some of the landscape shots are absolutely gorgeous, and I loved how the director portrayed the Capitol and its inhabitants.  Everything is as sterile and the people are as outrageous as I pictured them when I was reading the books.   I also thought they did a great job establishing the contrast between the Capitol and the different Districts.  I was also reasonably pleased with the casting and portrayal.   Favorite performances were probably Katniss, Peeta, Rue, Haymitch, and Effie.  I think they capture the characters, and their acting matches up with what I pictured in the books.   I thought this version of Katniss was subdued, but I liked that subdued sort of anger.   The actress does a good job of conveying her uncertainty and affection toward her family.   Together, the cast makes for a very moving picture.   I was pleasantly surprised with Haymitch because I did not think he looked scruffy enough when I saw the original cast images.  Rue is adorable and is very well portrayed.

My two complaints revolved around some of the shooting choices and some of the plotting/pacing.   I occasionally found some of their shots, such as some of the fighting shots and Katniss’ hallucinations, to be a bit dizzying.  I understand why they did it, but the frequency of these types of shots was really annoying.   I also felt like there were jumps in the plot and contributed to a minor lack of cohesion.  I didn’t remember the books well enough to fill in the gaps, so sometimes I felt somewhat confused.  None of these really made me want to stop watching the movie, so I consider these points fairly minor.

I’d recommend the movie.   It stays pretty true to the book and is tastefully done and appropriate for most ages.

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Welcome back to the second season of Lars Von Trier’s Riget!  Remember, be prepared to take the good with the evil.   The second season begins after the birth of Little Brother (Lile Bror in Danish), a freakishly large baby.  Despite his monstrous appearance, Little Brother is a rather gentle soul.  Nevertheless, his birth heralds the coming of something far worse for The Kingdom.  Be prepared for the comedic high-jinks of the staff and some extremely creepy going-ons as Mrs. Drusse tries to find and stop the cause of the sickness in the Kingdom.

The second season was definitely fun.   The comedic aspects are just as good, if not better, than the first season.   There is some brilliant sarcasm, and Helmer is as awful as ever.   If anything the absurdity of the characters was more apparent, and that made the series enjoyable.   Additionally, there are some brilliant side plots, like Mosegard the hospital director going off to figure himself out, even as the Kingdom is being evaluated for malpractice.    However, as much as I enjoyed these elements, I did not feel that the second season was as cohesive as the first season.   While there are some definitely interesting things going on and intriguing questions brought up, I did not like the complete helter -skelter of the overarching plot.  With the first season, there was a guiding force behind solving the mystery of the little girl’s death.  The second season potentially had many different forces, but none really took enough precedence to really push the season to a strong and final climax.  I also thought Von Trier was just trying to be too weird and thus did not really give himself that opportunity to really resolve anything.  Since there is unlikely to be a third season, that really hurt the overall quality of the second season.   That being said, if you’ve seen the first season, definitely watch the second, as it’s fun.   Just don’t expect it to be as good.

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Translation: "The Kingdom"

 

In Denmark, there is a hospital utterly committed to science.   Eagerly, they press on with their scientific goals and steadfastly deny the presence of the supernatural or unaccountable.   When Mrs. Drusse, a patient and spiritualist, hears a girl crying in the elevator, she begins to investigate.   Meanwhile, the hospital is alive with the high-jinks of the doctors and researchers.   But things are going to change: there are cracks in the modern edifice, and the door to the Kingdom is opening.

I loved the first installment of Lars Von Trier’s The Kingdom (Riget in Danish).   It has a nice blend of humor and darkness that makes the show a lot of fun to watch.   I thought it was well-paced; Von Trier slowly adds the weirdness to the story until the last episode when he dumps a whole bottle of weird in.   I don’t mean that in a bad way–it is done quite beautifully, and I think the second season’s going to be wacky  and awesome.    I also liked the exploration of good and evil.   Most of the characters are somewhat dubious–mostly because they are driven to commit to their goals, and so they might be argued to cross that line into evil.    Despite the dubious nature of some of the character, I think there is a clear line, and  a reminder of that very deed haunts the hospital.  I think that the second season will give a stronger portrayal of the evil, as things will get darker.

I also loved most of the characters, partially because the actors do a beautiful job of portraying them.   Memorable characters include Swedish doctor Helmer, who is a magnificently horrible person.

"Danish scum!" is his catchphrase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, really, he is–he’s a horribly incompetent surgeon, and his biting tongue and arrogance know no bounds.  He is beautifully portrayed, and I love to hate him.   I am also a huge a fan of the eccentric and elderly Mrs. Drusse because of her undiminished committment to spiritualism and her grim determination.   I also really like most of the other doctors because they all have such delightful quirks.

Elevator shafts are not scary for elderly spiritualists!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to the second season.

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My Top Webcomics

I like to read webcomics.   My interest started in undergrad, and, over time, I have come across and started following many, some of which I follow almost compulsively.   Seriously, I have “webcomic time” worked into my daily schedule.  I have a lot of respect for many of these artists and storytellers, who not only create something, but put it out on a very public domain.    I have learned a lot about art and story-telling them   Still skeptical?  I thought I’d give you a taste of what’s out there by listing off a few of my favorites.

1.  The Zombie Hunters (Jenny (Romanchuk) Adams)

Volume One Cover, copyright Jenny Romanchuk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I have been reading this one for as long as I have been reading webcomics.   The story is set in a post-zombie outbreak world, and the survivors must strive to eak out an existence for themselves.   The main focus is a team of zombie hunters on their missions and personal trials.

I really admire the artwork–it’s gorgeous, very detailed, and accurately reflects the situations.   The storytelling is excellent–it is a gritty world, and, over time, Romanchuk’s story-telling and characterization has grown to reflect that.

2. Girl Genius (Phil and Kaja Foglio)

Agatha, protagonist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This wild and crazy comic is a fun mix of adventure, romance, and mad science!   Set in a slightly altered Europe, it follows the story of Agatha Heterodyne, who discovers that she is a “spark”–an individual with almost supernatural creative and scientific abilities, with a bit of madness thrown in for good measure–as well as the last living heir of the Heterodyne family, a Spark family with a reputation for brilliance and madness in equal doses.   Throughout the course of the story, Agatha, with the help of her new friends, followers, and love interests, comes into her family inheritance and her abilities.

I really have loved watching Agatha grow in confidence and generally as a character.  Check out earlier parts of the comic, and you shall see what I mean.   I am also a huge fan of the developments of the artwork.  The plot is not well-knit as, say, The Zombie Hunters, it is still extremely fun and tends to be extremely funny, as many of the characters and their reactions to situations provide comic relief.

3. Wapsi Square (Paul Taylor)

Monica, with her demons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The description of this comic is “supernatural slice-of-life”, and it works.   It follows Monica Villareal, an anthropologist with a huge rack and some powerful inner demons.   The comic follows her and her friends–including three golems and a demon barista–as they deal with the supernatural problems of the world as well as their personal tribulations.

It took me awhile to adjust to the art style, but it’s really grown on me.   What I love most though is the characters–Taylor has done a superb job of creating well-rounded, strong female characters.   Additionally, the manifestation of the demons further aids these character explorations.  I frequently like to re-read the archives in order to relive my favorite parts.

4. The Phoenix Requiem (Sarah Ellerton)

Nurse Anya Katsuvoka finds a well-dressed man in the snow during All Soul’s Eve.   After she nurses the greviously injured Jonas Falkner, Anya finds her comfortable, if slightly dull, world turned topsey-turvey as Jonas lands in it feet first.   Anya is charmed by the charismatic man, but others find him suspicious.  Indeed, there is something odd about the mysterious young man.  However, there is a plague, and Anya, who wishes to be a doctor, wants to do something to save her village and everyone she holds dear.    As their affection deepens, Jonas and Anya must face everything together.   This story has ended, but the archives are still up for enjoyment.

I think the main thing that took me in initially was the art; it is absolutely gorgeous, and I suggest you read the comic for that reason alone.   Additionally, Ellerton did a marvelous job with the setting and plot.   She has incorporated magic very well, yet it does not completely overtake the story.   The characters are enjoyable, and the plot is delightfully executed.

Volume 1 cover

Anya and Jonas

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