Category Archives: movies

Trailer Music: X-Men: Days of Future Past vs. Star Trek Into Darkness

A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer.  It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song.  Compare:

I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic.  What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?

I am not aware of the origin of this song of who wrote it, and I haven’t been able to find any credible information on it yet, but this doesn’t strike me as such an egregious trailer music choice as when Man of Steel used the score from Gandalf’s death scene.  Maybe this is just one of those songs that gets featured in trailers a lot.

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I Suppose I Have To Blog About This Divergent Trailer Now

With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing.  I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything.  For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears.  I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar.  Watch the trailer for yourself:

Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four.  And it’s totally apparent in this trailer.  In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:

Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.

I am not okay with this.  I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16.  If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris.  I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl.  I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.

Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up.  I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session.  But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!”  It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.

Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides?  Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity?  Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon?  (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink.  Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art.  And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?

Tris runs her fingers down Four's faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).

I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book.  I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting.  When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.

In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is.  As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops.  I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.”  I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues.  I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”  I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme.  I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely.  I felt I could relate to that, too.

I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED.  Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well.  But that’s not what the story is about.  At least not to me.

The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration.  But Four is too old.  Tris is too defiant.  (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).

Ugh.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days.  What do you think?

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Thoughts on “The Bling Ring”

I saw Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring last night, and I loved it.  It captures a based-on-real-events drama that, in the director’s words, “is so contemporary, it’s really a story that could only happen today.”

bling-ring group shot

I thought it was both funny and a sad a cultural condemnation, but only because it so brazenly exposed the obsession with superficial values that most of us are implicit in encouraging.   .

What I loved most were the insights through the little things; details like ringleader Rebecca wobbling in her heels when she’s walking away from casually robbing unlocked cars on the street.  And the collage of celebrity pictures cut from magazines that were plastered all over a wall in her room.

I did think it was a little strange (or maybe sad is a better word) that the kids kept referring to gossip blog dlisted.com to find out when celebrities were out of town; I mean, I find it sad that they could be avid readers of dlisted.com, which is written with a very snarky tone towards celebrities, continually mocking them, and not have that attitude alter their idolization of the stars.  Are they just too dumb to realize it’s negative attention, or do they crave and envy the attention to so much they don’t care?  I suspect it’s some of both.  After all, their idol Paris Hilton’s house is decorated seemingly entirely with pictures of herself.  And when they go out clubbing, they seemed only interested in posing for selfie after selfie.  I wish I had been keeping a tally of how many pictures they took of themselves.

Nicki complains that Marc is "stressing me out" when he's worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news.

Nicki complains that Marc is “stressing me out” when he’s worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news.  Because none of them seem capable of processing how their actions might affect anyone else or their own futures, and nothing is more important in this moment than that Nicki not feel the burden of stress.

I laughed at lot throughout the movie, mainly at vapid or unbelievably self-centered dialogue from Emma Watson’s character Nicki.  The actress has talked about how she prepared for the accent partly by watching hours of reality television, and I noticed an awful lot of vocal fry in her lines, which is totally on-point.  I thought she pretty much nailed the accent, except in some of the scenes when she was speaking very quietly her natural accent peeked through a little bit.  Like when her mom asks if she got a new dress at the dinner table and she makes up an answer to cover for the fact that it’s stolen, she drops the -r in “my manager”.  But overall she was very good.  My favorite lines by her included “Your butt looks awesome,” “Let’s go to Paris’s, I wanna rob,” “You’re stressing me out”, and everything in her statement to the press outside the courtroom (“I wanna lead a country one day for all I know”) and in her Vanity Fair interview scene, (“Mom!  Shut up! It’s MY interview!”)

 

But despite all that laughter, I also found much of the film to be incredibly sad, like Marc confessing his constant worry that he wasn’t attractive enough to be liked.  “I know I’m not ugly but I never saw myself as an A-list-looking guy.”  I just wanted to tell him “oh, honey, almost nobody has genes that good, don’t make that the standard you compare yourself to!”  It’s the same heartache from chasing unattainable body-image standards that so many young girls feel trying to look like the photoshopped-into-impossibilities images in magazines.

And in the scene where they break into Lindsey Lohan’s house, and the camera lingers on Rebecca spritzing herself with LiLo’s perfume and admiring herself in the star’s mirror while her eyes fill with tears and Marc’s voice-over states that this was her highlight, all I could think was how utterly sad and pathetic it was that the moment that made her happiest was pretending to be somebody else.  She was an amoral, selfish a-hole, but I still felt bad for her, the emptiness of her dreams, and the futility of trying to adopt an identity that isn’t yours instead of just accepting and being yourself, in that moment.

The scene where Sam flippantly handles the gun that they find under Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox’s bed made me incredibly uncomfortable, because she seems to have absolutely no concept of how dangerous it is, that the instrument she’s holding could permanently maim her friends with the slightest slip, or even kill them.  And she just thinks the fact that Marc is bothered with this realization is funny.  It’s a pretty perfect metaphor for the reckless behavior the Bling Ring kids exhibit throughout the film, with no thought to the possibility of consequences.

And I love that the last shot is a fresh-from-truncated-jail-sentence Nicki, on a talk show, looking straight at the camera and shamelessly self-promoting her website.  She has apparently learned nothing.  But hopefully the audience has.

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In Which I Am A Super Picky Fangirl (Divergent Style)

Entertainment Weekly has revealed this week’s cover, which features Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four from the upcoming film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

I don’t love it.

But let’s start with the positives: the background is fantastic.  A dystopic Chicago skyline, just like the American book covers have featured.  I’m glad that Four is included and it isn’t just narrator Tris, the way Katniss appeared solo in EW’s first look at The Hunger Games.  Thank goodness Tris isn’t portrayed wearing nail polish, because she wouldn’t.  It’s good that the title word is featured boldy, and I like that the font and color remind me of the way it appears on the book cover.  And the text on the left promises we’re about to get more pictures from the set, which will be great.

However.  I hate the total lack of connection between Four and Tris in this pose.  Did they even take this picture together, or where they photoshopped into the same frame?!  They have Tris, whose casting I’m still iffy about, giving us a steely stare in an effort to convince us she’s so tough and Dauntless but they deprive us of Four’s eyes which, lets face it, is what we really want to see.  And not only is he looking away from the camera, he’s looking away from Tris!  There’s nothing about their body language that hints they’re going to be a couple, except the fact that they’re on a magazine cover together.  This glimpse of Four is basically the same as the one other picture revealed so far, except we see a piece of his Dauntless logo back tattoo curling up around his neck on both sides instead of just one.  This is the best view we’ve gotten so far of Tris’s raven tattoos, and while I think they’re okay I’m disappointed at the direction they’re flying.  She gets the ravens to commemorate the family members she leaves behind when she chooses the Dauntless faction, along her collarbone because it’s close to her heart.  I can’t remember if the text specifics the direction of their flight or not, but I always imagined them going towards her heart, not away from it.  Flying away from her heart makes the whole thing sadder and more pessimistic, like they’re getting further away from her even as she tries to hold them close.  I realize that’s an extremely nit-picky criticism, but while I’m at it, Four’s hair looks like it’s thinning on top.  And speaking of hair, why does it look like Tris is wearing a wig?  Was her hairline photoshopped to be a little too perfect?  And I don’t like her pants.  Why do movies always feel the need to make costumes different from regular clothes, when the setting doesn’t require it?  I guess costume designers need something to do.  But the Dauntless initiates don’t walk around with knives in their over-pocketed pants.  And these pants are almost gray, but she should be wearing all black.  So the shirt is the wrong color too.

In conclusion, I am a curmudgeonly old fan of the young adult genre and I will never be satisfied.  Unless maybe one of the photos inside the magazine is a really awesome one of Four; then I might forget all the negatives and swoon over its perfect capturing of his good looks plus self-determined resolve plus sensitivity.  No pressure, Theo James.

**update**

There are some more pictures up now on EW’s website, but I’m not really feeling any more optimistic about them.   The one I’m including below has got to be the derp-iest running ever from both of them.

Herp derp derp, getting of the train at Dertlers

Ermagerhd, Derntlerss!

Furthermore, one of the scan of the inside pages of the magazine circulating on tumblr shows that EW has chosen to caption an image from the scene where Tris is molested and nearly killed as “FRENEMIES: Excelling at Dauntless training can be dangerous, as Tris learns when her fellow initiates become jealous and attack her.”  As I vehemently pointed out in a post on tumblr that has over 100 notes of agreement, “frenemy” is a completely inappropriate word to use to describe a scene where three people, two of them antagonists against Tris from day one, make a pre-meditated attempt to throw her over a bridge to her death.  And grope her chest while she’s dangling over the bridge.  This does not fall under the definition of “frenemy.”

Just terrible

Worst, most tone-deaf moment in Divergent movie marketing so far.

Finally, my instinct about the direction of the bird tattoos was correct.  While it’s not really a huge deal, I don’t see what they’ve gained by changing it.  It had more meaning as written, and pretty much all the fanart I’ve reblogged on divergentfanart has drawn the bird tattoos flying the way they’re described in the book:

But I understand now what Tori said about her tattoos representing a fear she overcame–a reminder of where she was, as well as a reminder of where she is now.  Maybe there is a way to honor my old life as I embrace my new one.

“Yes,” I say.  “Three of these flying birds.”

I touche my collarbone, marking the path of their flight–toward my heart.  One for each member of the family I left behind.

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Man of Steel Movie Reaction

*Spoilers Ahead, Obviously*

Things I Liked:

First of all Henry Cavill is so hot, amirite?  Like, so hot that he’s literally on fire within seconds of appearing on screen. And then later when his mom says “You’re beautiful.  We saw that the moment we laid eyes on you,” I was like “yeah you are, and yeah we did!”  And at the very end, when puts those glasses on, and smiles at Lois’s “Welcome to the Planet,” he’s literally almost too adorable to stand looking at.  I can’t find a picture of that scene online yet, but if you’re reading this you probably already saw the movie and you know what I’m talking about.  (Is this a good time to remind everyone that I have a giant Henry Cavill poster from Immortals in my bathroom?)

This boy is on fire.

This boy is on fire.

Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane was a lot less annoying than the pushy version in the old films, yet still very much retained that assertive-journalist-who’s-not-giving-up on-a-lead vibe.  I liked her.

I loved dream-state confrontation between Zod and Superman, when they were at the Kent farm (but not really) and the world-building machine was over the field, and Superman suddenly went from wearing a t-shirt to his suit, and sank into a pile of skulls.  The visuals felt very much like something out of the pages of a comic book.

The music was very good, and I’m almost willing to say they’ve recovered from that initial trailer music mishap where they played Gandalf’s death song from The Lord of the Rings.  But whyyyyyy is the Man of Steel soundtrack so expensive?  I couldn’t afford to buy the whole thing, so I had to choose a couple favorite songs, and I’m not done pouting about the fact that I don’t have the complete soundtrack.

As I’ve already blogged, I loved all the Kansas shout-outs.

Because I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, I was delighted to spot both Alessandro Juliana (Gaeta) and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo) in small speaking roles.  Alessandro was one of the military guys, and Tahmoh was one of the leads that Lois questioned to get to Clark.

I loved when he first figured out how to really fly, and then accidentally crashed into a mountain.  The joyous tone of that “I can fly!” scene reminded me of one of the best parts of John Carter, when the title character figures out how to take giant leaps in the low gravity without falling on his face.  It’s a similar “this is awesome, and fun!” feeling.

It was a tiny moment, but I loved it when the fellow fish-boat worker “saved” Clark from a falling trap, because I thought it was showing a teeny example of how living among humans had fostered his empathy and sense of justice and responsibility: if you see someone in trouble or in danger, you help them.

This is not a like or a dislike, just a curiosity: who came up with the clunky, unimaginative name “world-engine,” and how can I get a list of translations of Zod’s line “Release the world-engine!” when it gets dubbed into other languages?  Because I bet there would be some funny ones.

Also, this part.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Was it really necessary to spend so much time on Krypton at the beginning?  We get it: he’s not from this world.  I would have preferred to see more of Clark’s formative years rather than getting them piecemeal through flashbacks the way we did, which maybe there would have been time for if we hadn’t had all that Kryptonian backstory.  “Ooh, Jor-El rides a giant dragonfly/dinosaur creature.”  Well that doesn’t add to Superman’s storyline at all, so who cares?

Also, why add the extra layer of drama with the “ooh, he’s so different and special because all other Kryptonians have their careers predestined, but he’s going to have to choose.”  I mean, it really doesn’t matter what other Kryptonians’ lives were like, because either way Kal-El would still be the only person with superpowers on planet earth, and would still have to choose how he was going to use his powers, whether for good or for evil.  The “first natural birth in centuries!”, not that it would matter how he’s born since we’re sending him to a different planet anyway!

Furthermore, all of Jor-El’s platitudes about choice and leading humanity sounded exciting in the trailers, but within the movie they just fell flat.  There was a lot of vagueness about leading people to exist in a somehow better state, which I guess Kal-El was supposed to inherently know how to do, or maybe it was because he was reading Plato that time he got bullied at the auto shop?  And there was too much talking about how Superman could show humans this better path without any showing the audience what was meant by that, or how he would go about doing it.  I mean obviously humans aren’t going to be able to fly and be bulletproof and have x-ray and laser vision, so I have to assume Jor-El meant that he could instill values of fairness and justice and helping protect the disadvantaged and live peacefully and stuff like that.  Which Superman spent basically zero time doing in this movie.

And Jor-El’s motivations were all over the place, anyway; first it sounds like he wants to rescue his son from the destruction of their planet, but then it’s “I broke hundreds of years of tradition because CHOICE,” (which, isn’t it ironic that Jor-El CHOSE to have a natural son and then said he wanted his son to be able to make choices for his own life because Jor-El couldn’t…like, didn’t you just?), but then when Clark finds the ship and talks to the memory of his father Jor-El wants him to lead humanity to a better future, but then later he says he wants him to be a bridge between two worlds, but then it’s revealed that he secretly all along wanted him to be  the host of an entire potential world with the DNA of all engineered Kryptonians in his cells?  WTH?!

I agree with everything in Devin Faraci’s post on Badass Digest about the excessive destruction at the end of the movie.  And again, maybe there would have been time for more dramatic development, showing Clark struggle to figure out what the right course of action for his life is, if the whole last third of the movie wasn’t just battles.

I don’t know how I feel about Jonathon Kent’s death…I mean, I guess it was okay, but I wish they would have shown it earlier, so that Clark wandering around like a bum for years and not using his powers at all would make sense.  Like if they would have shown him losing his dad because he respected his wishes not to reveal his powers much earlier, and then showed scenes like the one in the bar where he just silently takes the blows from the drunk and doesn’t fight back, which would have felt more intense if we knew “oh, he’s holding back because if he doesn’t it’s like his dad’s death is meaningless and he should have just saved him”.

And when Clark expresses a wish that his dad could have seen what he became, his mom says something like “oh, he did,” and we flashback to kid-Clark in a red makeshift cape it makes no sense.  Why would he be dressing up like a superhero if there weren’t any superheros yet??  And anyway the cape is not what Jonathan Kent would have been proud to see, it would be seeing Clark save people.  So why not show a flashback to a young Clark helping someone or fighting for justice in some innocuous little incident, and Mr. Kent watching and smiling a half-grin because he knows that his son is on the path to someday fighting for those same values on a global scale?

To sum up, when/if they make a sequel, I would like MORE DRAMATIC CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, LESS SUPERFLUOUS AND OVER-EXTENDED BATTLE SCENES.  Please and Thank you.

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Kansas Shout-Outs in Man of Steel

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, it’s no secret that I am both a proud Kansan and a movie-lover, two qualities which contributed to an analysis of the fictional setting of Looper and which I shall now employ to nerd out about all the Kansas references in the new Superman movie Man of Steel.

It’s no secret that Clark Kent grows up in the fictional town of Smallville, Kansas, although according to a recent article in the News-Leader, Smallville wasn’t linked to Kansas until the 1978 “Superman: The Movie.”  I haven’t read enough early Superman comics to know whether that’s true or not, but the Kansas connection is not in any doubt right now considering the town of Hutchinson is going to be officially re-named “Smallville” for a day on June 21, while across the state in capital city Topeka Clark Kent will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame.  Clearly I am not the only Kansan nerding out these days.

Even though the farm grew corn instead of wheat, it felt very familiar.

Even though the farm grew corn instead of wheat, it felt very Kansan, as did some of the scenes when Superman flies over farmland, and the one where he gets beat up in the muddy parking lot outside “Sullivan’s Truck & Tractor Repair”.

The first official shout-out to the Sunflower State came during a flashback to a young Clark Kent struggling to focus with his hypersensitive and powerful senses in a classroom.  The teacher is heard saying “…when Kansas became a territory,” and then directs her attention to the clearly disturbed boy who is freaking out that he can see everyone’s skeletons.  “Clark?  I asked if you could tell me who first settled Kansas?”  she repeats.  I absolutely loved this, because Kansas History is actually required 7th grade curriculum in this state.  (I guess we can infer that Clark in in junior high in this scene!)  I remember learning Kansas history, although when I read through the current curriculum standards just now (to research whether or not it was still required) I don’t remember the answers to all the suggested questions.   Still, the introduction to the section on Kansas history says “The course should seek to build a connection or relationship between the student and the state,” and here I am over ten years later blogging about Kansas pride, so it must have been effective.

The second Man of Steel Kansas-specific reference was when Cark’s adopted father revealed the truth of his alien origins, showing him the ship he arrived in and the mysterious command key that was inside.  “This was in the chamber with you,” he says.  “I took it to a metallurgist at Kansas State.  He said whatever metal it’s made of didn’t even exist in the periodic table.”  That would be K-State, home of the Wildcats, in Manhattan, KS.  It makes sense to me that Mr. Kent would have gone there rather than the other major university, KU, because as a fifth-generation farmer, (a fact he mentions in a later argument with Clark), he likely would have gotten an agriculture degree from K-State, so he would have more ties to and been more familiar with that campus than rival KU’s in Lawrence, KS.

Later, just before Zod takes over all televisions to send his message to the people of earth demanding Kal-El be handed over, Clark is watching a football game between at 12th-ranked KU and an unranked Lousiana Tech.  This got the biggest laugh of the whole night from my audience, likely because KU athletics is definitely not known for their excellence in football.   Basketball is what the Jayhawk nation is dedicated to and passionate about.  As one commenter on a Kansas City Star article that mentioned the Kansas references in Man of Steel put it, “You know it’s a work of fiction because nobody watches KU football games.”  It’s been “liked” twice as many times as the comment below it, that asks “I do, does that make me Superman?!!”

There was also a KU shout-out in one of the trailers for the movie, when Clark can be seen wearing a KU t-shirt.  That scene must have been edited differently for the movie, because I don’t remember being able to see it in the movie itself.

Rock Chalk, Superman's a Jayhawk.

Rock Chalk, Superman’s a Jayhawk.

It’s the tornado scene, though, which deserves its own mention here because when Mr. Kent shouts to “Go for the overpass,” I almost yelled “NO, THAT IS THE WORST PLACE TO GO!”  Seriously, there are tons of resources that will tell you this is a terrible idea.  (**update** Weather officials have responded to this scene specifically, reiterating that you should not seek shelter from a tornado under and overpass.)  If you’re out driving on a highway when a tornado strikes, the safest thing to do is get out of the vehicle and lay down in the lowest possible ground you can find, like probably the ditch next to the road.  The Kents should have known that.  And why were there so many people out on the road anyway?  Even if there wasn’t a tornado watch, (in which case most people know not to go out if they don’t have to,) that looked like more cars than you’d normally see on a Kansas Highway that isn’t the intersate…unless maybe it was a holiday weekend?

Anyway,  back to Kansas references: when Superman passes out in the Kryptonian ship’s atmospherics and has a dream-state confrontation with Zod, he starts out clad in a Kansas City Royals baseball shirt.  Someone in my audience at midnight let out a loud “YESSSSS!” when that shirt appeared, but everybody else only chuckled.

The filmmakers weren't very subtle with imagery like this one of the giant American flag mural meant to symbolize Kansas being "as American as it gets."

The filmmakers weren’t very subtle with imagery like this one of the giant American flag mural meant to symbolize Kansas being “as American as it gets.”

Finally, towards the end of the film when Superman confronts one of the military leaders about trying to follow him with a spy drone and the officer demands to know how the government can be reassured that he won’t one day betray their interests, the cheeky reply is “I grew up in Kansas, General.  About as American as it gets.”  That line got a decent laugh from the audience in my theater, but I didn’t really like it.  I suppose that in Superman’s defense there isn’t really a good answer to that question, and maybe he was just trying to deflect it with humor.  But  it makes two assumptions that are neither true nor helpful in the divisive political gridlock this country seems trapped in.  The first is that it assumes that the implied Midwestern values are “really” American, and people who live on the coasts or in a blue state are somehow un- or less-than American.  Like it or not, the reality is that America is made up of both liberals and conservatives, that as a collective whole we share more beliefs than we care to admit, and that our system only works when we’re able to work together and find compromises, so stating that a particular area is “more American” than others not only insults those not from the selected area, but it invalidates all other possible perspectives from citizens as “not really American”.  Besides, it isn’t even accurate to prescribe the same values on every single Kansan; just like the country at large, we’re a collection of individuals with various opinions and views.

The second assumption is that a person doesn’t change their thinking or values when they grow up.  The storyline in Man of Steel established that Clark spent several years wandering the earth outside of Kansas, including working on a fishing boat.  That means he would have encountered other ways of life and lines of thinking besides what was accepted as normal in his hometown.  That doesn’t mean his convictions would have necessarily changed, but when you see that other people live and think differently than you it changes your perspective on the world.  I’m definitely speaking from personal experience, having grown up in a town where “diversity” meant that we had Catholics and Protestants, and then spending years in the liberal cocoon of a university campus, but I think it’s probably a truth about growing up everywhere, that at some point you have to re-examine the assumptions you’ve made and decide whether you still believe them.

What do you think?  Am I being over-sensitive about a line that was meant as a joke?

Let me know in the comments if you noticed any other Kansas shout-outs that I missed.  There was one other instance that I was afraid was going to become one, but was thankful when it didn’t.  It was when Superman was fighting Zod’s female henchman, and she went on a little rant about how Kryptonians were more evolved than humans, so they deserved to take over the planet because “if history has proven anything, it is that evolution always wins.”  The subtext is that teaching evolution in Kansas schools has been very controversial, but I was glad the movie didn’t actually make explicit reference to the fact that our state school board elections are national news by having Superman bounce up off the pavement and say something like “Well in Kansas, we’re not so sure about evolution!”   I do wonder if there was an earlier version of the script where he did, though, because in the film he actually doesn’t respond verbally to her diatribe at all.

Anyway, I give the movie an A- for having so many great Kansas references, and the only reason it’s not an A+ is the tornado-sheltering-under-the-overpass scene.  Maybe I’ll post my thoughts on the movie apart from the Kansas aspect later.

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Only Six Months Until “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”!

This week we got to see the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Sometimes I feel like I’m just a puppet of the people who work in movie marketing, because I was totally focused on looking forward to Man of Steel this week and then Catching Fire in the fall, but about five seconds into watching this trailer all I could think about was “December can’t come fast enough! I need to start working on my costume! I need to start thinking of themed snacks I can bring to have while we wait in line for the midnight showing!”  And then I listened to the soundtrack to the first film for the rest of the day and re-watched the trailer dozens of times.  I mean, I’m not complaining, it was a glorious day, I just feel like I’m too easily manipulated into excitement over these things.  But I don’t care!  I love it!

GAH, so exciting, so lovely, so perfect!

Look, there’s Beorn in bear-form!  If you recall, I predicted that the visit to his cabin would be a good place to pick up the storyline for part 2 since it’s a natural refresher for the audience of the names of all the dwarves as they come in two at a time and Gandalf introduces them all to their host.

The barrel ride escape from Mirkwood is definitely being done differently from the book, because they’re not shut inside with lids closed for a silent ride, but honesty it’s going to be a lot more fun to watch this way.  I”m not totally sure why CGI-elves with bows drawn are chasing them, but I’m sure it’s for dramatic effect as I don’t recall Beorn attacking the dwarves in bear-form ever in the book, either.  I am a little more concerned about the elves chasing the barrels only because it’s going to make them look like poor shots when they miss them all, and I like to imagine all my elves with the ridiculously accurate aim that Legolas epitomized in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I love what we’ve seen so far of the new character of warrior elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily.   (I’ll be posting a preliminary analysis of her braid hairstyle later).  I can’t believe I’m even hearing rumors that some fans are objecting to her inclusion;people saying that do realize that there wouldn’t be a female character other than Galadriel in the whole trilogy if she’s not in it, right?   These movies, like all adaptations are not “the book” but their own version of the story, so just accept it and enjoy it.  Or if you’re going to say Tauriel is non-canonical and shouldn’t be included then you’d better complain about every single other element that’s been changed or added, too.

The peek at the dragon at the end reminds me of Gollum at the end of the first trailer for the first movie.  It’s the exact same format, a sinister scene right after the title.  But it’s a formula that works, and I love it.  I wish we could see more of Smaug’s body, because I need to start figuring out how it might be possible to make a dragon costume to wear to the midnight premiere, but I have a feeling they may want to save the full reveal for the movie.  At least I know what colors to use now, and the full shape of the head which is a lot more to go on than the eyeball shot we got at the end of An Unexpected Journey.

The best thing about this new trailer, though, is that director Peter Jackson shared a youtube video of some fangirls watching it for the first time, and then he posted a video of Evangeline Lily, Orlando Bloom, and Lee Pace in their Mirkwood elves costumes, watching the fangirls reaction and fangirling over the fangirls.  It might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

I honestly think I may have watched the above video more times than I’ve watched the actual trailer so far. I get a vicarious thrill for the fangirls, (sisters who have a webseries called Happy Hobbit), being able to see that the actors truly appreciate their enthusiasm.  (The sisters later posted a reaction-t0-the-reaction, which has been dubbed “Hobbitception“)  The part where they thank Peter Jackson and the actors for watching their video and say “If we can give back an ounce of the joy that you give us through all of your hard work then we’re more than happy to play the part of the fool and have you laugh at us,” reminds me of the sentiment I tried to express when I posted about spending weeks crocheting dwarf beards for last year’s Unexpected Journey, and the part where they squeal “she knows we like her!” in regards to Evangeline Lily/Tauriel is delightful, and when one sister tries to calm the other’s freakout over the fact that Orlando Bloom comments on their attentive faces with “well, we’ve seen his face”, it’s all just pure fangirl gold.

I mean, this might be the only time we see Thanduril smiling, and he’s not only smiling he’s flapping his arms just like I and millions of other fans did when we watched the trailer.

And look at adorable Legolas imitating Smaug!

 

I’m serious, this is my new favorite thing, like, at all.  Of all books and movies and shows and songs that I love, this is my favorite.  Actors fangirling fans fangirling them.  In a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien.  It’s a delight.

 

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Fictional Green Eyes, part 3

Ever since I posted my first collection of green-eyed fictional characters (and commentary about how a disproportionate number of them are “evil” characters,) many of my friends have been been helping to point out green-eyed characters that they notice, and I’ve noted a few more on top of that, enough to have posted a second collection of green eyes, and now a third.  I’m pleased that this third collection includes more positive examples, because, if you recall, my interest in green-eyed representation in fiction is fueled by the fact that my own eyes are green.  And I am not an evil/jealous character, (usually).

I can’t believe I forgot all about James Cameron’s Avatar in the previous installments of my green eyes series!  All Na’vi have blue skin and green eyes, and are cat-like and awesome.  I especially love fierce Neytiri.  This definitely counts as a positive, big-screen glorious 3D example of green-eyed character representation, although there’s no quality ascribed to the eye color for the characters in the film itself.  But it’s still cool!

All Na'vi have "rikeana menari" (or, you could say "menari arikean"); "leaf-green eyes."

To describe her own eyes, Neytiri would say  “rikeana menari” (or “menari arikean” since word-order is fluid in Na’vi); “leaf-green eyes,” according to the bit of nerd-research I just did on learnnavi.org.

The title character in John Green’s Looking for Alaska has green eyes, that are mentioned by the narrator several times, (because he’s totally in love with her and notices stuff like that.)  Here’s one such description, from the first day he meets her:

But even in the dark, I could see her eyes—fierce emeralds. She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.

This is a tough one for me to categorize as a “good” or “bad” green-eyed representation, because it’s hard to categorize Alaska herself as a “good” or “bad” character.  She’s…fickle.  Impulsive.   Hot and cold.  I think in this case, though, her green eyes are one of the things that set her apart as “different” and “desirable” and “mysterious” to the narrator, and I’m certainly not going to complain about that.

Lena Duchannes, as described in the book Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, has green eyes.  Movie-Lena, played by Alice Englert, has dark brown eyes, which I actually think fits the whole “Is she going to ‘go dark’ and destroy the world or not?” thing better.  But as written in the book, it’s another example of green eyes being somehow sinister and associated with witches.  I mean, Lena finds the term ‘witch’ pejorative, but that’s essentially what Casters are.  So it’s not a fantastic green-eyed representation, but I might be biased because I really didn’t care for the book itself.

After I posted my first two green-eyed collections, a friend insisted that I should watch Big Trouble in Little China, a cheesy 1986 movie in which an immortal Chinese sorcerer is targeting women with green eyes as a key element to his plan to “please the god of the east” and regain his mortal form.  There were several great quotes about green eyes being awesome in this film, but I don’t know if I’ll be adding it to my personal DVD collection because it was ridiculously cheesy.  Maybe even gloriously cheesy.  Maybe I do need to own it…

“All I need is a woman, a special kind of woman with dragon-green eyes, and I can be whole again.”

-evil sorcerer Lo Pan

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“She has green eyes, you know how rare that is, Jack?…Beautiful green eyes, like creamy jade.”

-Wang Chi, describing his soon-to-be-abducted fiancee.

Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Kim Cattrall as green-eyed Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Another friend sent me a message to let me know she’d found another green-eyed character through her daughter’s love of Tinkerbell and friends.  As she put it, this is technically a “good” green-eyed character, but not necessarily the most admirable.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell's fairy friend.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell’s green-eyed fairy friend.

Although vampire Edward Cullen is mostly known for varying between golden/amber or black eye color, depending on how long it’s been since he last swallowed blood, when he was still human Edward Masen his eyes were green.  Bella learns this detail about the object of her obsession from Carlisle in New Moon, and of course she swoons over this fact like she does everything else about Edward.

“But [Edward’s mother] Elizabeth was alert until almost the very end.  Edward looks a great deal like her–she had that same strange bronze shade to her hair, and her eyes were exactly the same color green.”

“His eyes were green?” I murmured, trying to picture it.

“Yes…” Carlisle’s ocher eyes were a hundred years away now.

It’s hypocritical of me to say that Alaska’s green eyes count as a positive since they mark her as unique and yet be annoyed with Edward’s original eye color being colored green by the author with a possibly similar intention, but the Twilight obsession with unique eye colors and with Edward being totally perfect and different and better than everybody in every way makes me resent this particular instance of a green-eyed fictional character.  Maybe it’s just that I don’t like his character (and the way he obsessively and unhealthily controls Bella and their relationship), and that’s why I don’t want to share eye-color attributes with him.

I recently stumbled across a gifset of Pixar’s How To Train Your Dragons on tumblr, and realized that all the dragons have eyes that are shades of green.  That movie is adorable and dragons are awesome (and in this case, not really villainous) so I’m going to call that another positive.

I’ve saved my favorite for last; the main character in the recent animated film Epic has green eyes, and I mean really green eyes.  They are fantastic; bright and dark, complex, sparkling with flecks of gold towards the iris, just like what I picture when I read a description of a character that says they have green eyes, or in my head when I’m imagining a flawless version of myself.  Seeing them on the big-screen was a delight.  Unfortunately, the character herself was kind of blah, and the story felt a little undercooked, but it did have a lot of imaginative world-building elements and some great animated action sequences.  I mean, warriors riding hummingbirds?  Terrific!  And there was green and green eyes everywhere, and this might be my new favorite green-eyed representation in fiction.  For now.

Mary Katherine "M. K." of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

Mary Katherine “M. K.” of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

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Divergent Casting

I know I’m way late to the game with this post about my reaction to the castings for the Divergent movie, since they’ve already been filming for about a month now.  And I’m behind in general on this blog–sorry!  Part of the reason is that I hate to post sub-par content, so when I don’t have time to really polish and fully research a topic, it lingers in draft-land for ages.  The other reason is that I did a half-marathon (my first!) this spring and training for that took up a lot of time that might have otherwise been spent writing.  Also I’m lazy and I don’t get paid for this blog so sometimes I choose to watch netflix instead.  But still, I’m sorry I dropped out of action for awhile there and I’ll try to finish more of my lingering drafts soon and get them posted.

So, Shailene Woodley has been cast as the books’ narrator, Beatrice “Tris” Prior.  I am “meh” about this casting; Shailene seems to be landing roles all over the place lately, so I’m sure she must be talented. I just haven’t seen much of her work, and I don’t really get a Tris vibe from her at all, maybe partly because I know she’s a hollywood actress who has been on lots of red carpets and at the oscars and stuff, which doesn’t match one of the things I related to about Tris’s background of being raised in a strict, selfless, conservative environment.  But I know it’s a movie and good acting means you don’t have to be like the character in real life, so I’ll wait for the movie to come out and hope she surprises me.

The first official image released for the movie featured Tris in the knife-throwing scene found in chapter13 of Divergent.  The scene has also been re-written from Four's perspective, in the novella Free Four.

The first official image released for the movie featured Tris in the knife-throwing scene found in chapter13 of Divergent. Veronica Roth has also released a re-written version of this scene, told from Four’s perspective, titled Free Four. You can read it online or download it to kindle.

Ansel Elgort, who is playing Tris’s brother Caleb in this film (but will also star with Shailene as the Augustus Waters to her Hazel Grace in The Fault in our Stars) tweeted a picture of the Prior Family the other day, with Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn as their parents.  I think they do look like they could be related.  I hope the actors are able to make me feel as strongly about their…I’ll juts say “choices of actions”, to avoid anything to spoilery–at the end of the first book.

One of the castings that I am most excited about is Kate Winslet in the role of villainous Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews.   I think she will be a fantastic adversary for Tris, and I just hope the script allows her to have subtle complexities so she’s not a one-dimensional power-hungry monster.  I think Kate Winslet is a good enough actress to be able to portray that in Jeanine’s mind, what she’s doing is for the collective good.

A fan-made edit of Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, from tumblr. Unsure of the original source post.

A fan-made edit of Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, from tumblr. Source for image.

Maggie Q displaying Dauntless atitude as Nikita on the CW show.

Maggie Q displaying Dauntless atitude as Nikita on the CW show.

Another casting decision for this movie that could not be more perfect is Maggie Q as Dauntless faction member Tori.  She administers Tris’s aptitude test, inks Tris’s tattoos, and warns her to keep her Divergence a secret.  This casting is great for two reasons; one, if you’ve seen even a single episode of Nikita you know Maggie Q can totally pull off the Dauntless wear-black-shoot-guns-do-reckless-stuff attitude.

Second, her inclusion (and that of Zoe Kravitz as Tris’s friend, fellow Dauntless initiate Christina), means that the character diversity in the books is not being completely erased in the translation to film.

Someone asked Divergent author Veronica Roth about this before the movie was announced (click “source” to see her complete answer, as  I’ve only included part of it here):

If the series ever gets turned into a movie, would you insist that the POC characters (biracial tobias, asian tori, and black christina, for example) are played by POC actors/actresses?

I really hate whitewashing. I really do. It’s VERY important to me that it not happen. And I have communicated that already, and will continue to communicate it as clearly as possible (even via interpretive dance or sternly worded limericks, if necessary), to the people who are involved with the Divergent movie stuff as it proceeds.

So: if the Divergent movie happens, I promise I will USE MY WORDS to the very best of my ability.

source

My only quibble with Zoe Kravitz as Christina is that it flips the size difference between her and Tris as described in the books.  Tris is supposed to be physically tiny, and often underestimated because of it, while Christina is tall and confident, but in real life Shailene Woodley is several inches taller than Zoe, who is book-Tris size.  I don’t want to get hung up on the actors’ appearance because I know that the acting is the important thing, and there are movie magic tricks that can be done, but I worry that it might change their dynamic.

I’ve saved the best for last.  One of my top literary character crushes, the badass yet sensitive Dauntless would-be leader and my, I mean, Tris’s, love interest, known as Four, will be portrayed on screen by Theo James.   I don’t have much to say about this other than I AM SO EXCITED, and fully confident that he will be amazing in this role.  I mean, just look at him!

source for image.

Is that the tip of a Dauntless-flame back tattoo curling around his neck? Also, hello biceps. Hello brooding brow and chiseled cheekbones. Please be as good as you look!  source for image

You know, my predominant emotion about Divergent being made into a film is excitement, and I think the casting of characters is pretty great, but I am a little sad that once the film is out there will likely be less original fan art like the talented pieces I’ve been collecting on my divergentfanart tumblr, since people will start to sketch scenes featuring the actors instead of  basing their drawings on their own interpretation of the description in the book.   But then, it’s hard to be sad about the prospect of being forced to re-blog pictures that look like Theo James.  I think I’ll survive.

Which Divergent casting are you most excited about?

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A Capitol Error

The marketing for the Catching Fire movie, sequel to The Hunger Games, has been mostly great so far.  (Well, despite that Finnick mis-step).  This week, they’ve been releasing individual cast member photos in Capitol Couture style.  The first was Effie Trinket and premiered on the Capitol Couture tumblr, which is designed to front as if it is a fashion blog existing in the universe of the Hunger Games series.  (Even its url, .pn, is a nod to it’s location in the fictional country of Panem.)

Effie Trinket's Capitol Couture portrait.

Effie Trinket’s Capitol Couture portrait.

These portraits started off really strong.  They featured characters like Ceasar Flickerman, Cinna, and our first official glimpses at Johanna Mason and Beetee.

We got a new picture of Katniss, which I thought was fantastic, styled in an extravagant white gown that I assumed was one of the 5 wedding gowns she’s made to model for the Capitol audience’s voting pleasure so they can select which one she should get married in.  I mean she would obviously never style herself this way.

Katniss Everdeen's Capitol Couture portrait for Catching Fire.

Katniss Everdeen’s Capitol Couture portrait for Catching Fire.

Peeta matches Katniss in an all-white outfit, and is seated in a chair the same style as the one she’s standing beside so that they can be easily photoshoped together.  His boots even look to me like they could be hiding a prosthetic leg, if you want to pretend the first movie didn’t drastically alter the extent of his Arena injuries.  Maybe Katniss is standing because she’s the one who takes the most active stance against the Capitol, but maybe Peeta’s sitting because he’s the one who got stabbed in the leg?

Peeta Mellark's Capitol Couture portrait for Catching Fire.

Peeta Mellark’s Capitol Couture portrait for Catching Fire.

But then, everything in this wonderful, creative campaign was tainted when they threw in a picture of Gale.

Gale Whatshislastname's inexplicable Capitol Couture portrait.

Gale Hawthorne’s inexplicable Capitol Couture portrait.

Gale’s inclusion in this series makes no sense on a number of levels.  Firstly and most obviously because Gale never goes to the Capitol.   How would he have the opportunity to be styled and sit for this picture, and why would the Capitol be interested in profiling him anyway?  Gale is known to the Panem television audience only as “Katniss’ cousin,” hardly on the same level as Game fixtures like the mentors, stylists, tributes, or announcer like all the other featured characters in this series are.  Gale would definitely not be featured before Prim, at least.  (Maybe there’s a Prim picture yet to surface?)  I mean, yes, I know that in reality the actor Liam Hemsworth would pose for whatever promotional pictures his contract stipulated, and that the movie’s marketers want to emphasize him because he is an important figure in Katniss’ life (and because they’re trying to encourage a Team Peeta vs. Team Gale Twilight-esque atmosphere), but they’re the one who set this whole portrait series up as if it were coming from the shallow drama-obsessed Gamemakers of the Capitol!

Now they’re just completely undermining themselves, because this inclusion of Gale–holding a single white rose, which appeared to mark Tributes at the 75th Annual Hunger Games, until his out-of-place picture showed up, and no it doesn’t make sense to say “well then the white rose symbolizes those who rebel against President Snow”, because if that were true then Haymitch and Cinna should each have one as well–only forces me to be reminded that this whole thing is for a movie and despite the promise of creativity is actually being handled the same annoying way Hollywood handles everything.  Reduce complex characters and interpersonal relationships to BOY LOVES GIRL, MAYBE!  Assume that the audience is too stupid to pick up on nuance or notice blatant inconsistencies.  Never let a main character wear protective headgear for an entire battle sequence, etc.

I mean would it have killed them to feature Gale some other way, in some other campaign, or in a solo image styled and released separately?  I’m not the only one that noticed this discrepancy, by the way; many of the comments on Gale’s portrait at fansite Mockingjay.net point out the same thing.  What do you think?

I don’t think I would be so frustrated if they hadn’t been on such a spectacular streak with the let’s-pretend-the-Capitol-is-a-real-place campaign, until this point.  Maybe they’ll have it mastered in time for the next film, though.

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