Tag Archives: movie reaction

Reasons Why “The Last Airbender” Movie Sucked

*I recently rediscovered this rant, which was originally posted as a note on my facebook page in July of 2010, before I started this blog.  I am re-posting it here with additional photos added.*

This is just my rant against M. Night Shyamalan’s murderous destruction of a story that I loved in his live-action movie version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Book 1: Water).  The main reason it sucked is apparent from the first of the credits: Written, Directed and Produced by M. Night Shyamalan.  I would venture to say few people are actually talented to wear all these hats on a single project, and it’s painfully obvious after about 5 minutes that Shyamalan should never have been in charge of writing the script, or at least should have had someone he had to listen to when they said “this sucks.”  The script is terrible!  The dialogue is terrible!  It would have stood a fighting chance otherwise; mostly great costumes, beautiful backdrops, good CGI, great music.  But it doesn’t matter because the storytelling was terrible.

Shyamalan treats the audience alternately like we already know the story and like we’re stupid idiots that need every plot point spelled out through Katara’s weeping narration.

In the “audience already knows” category:
-Aang is named in narration before we see Katara ask “what’s your name?” and see him reply “I’m Aang!”  So, we’re just supposed to have known during earlier narration that it was referring to him.

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-Momo isn’t named until he’s in the spirit oasis batting at tui and la and Aang says, “Momo! Be nice!”  So again, we’re just supposed to have known that somewhere along the way they named the creature that we’ve barely been seeing Momo.

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-The Avatar state is NEVER MENTIONED!  Even the role and function of the Avatar himself is poorly explained. Gran-gran (excuse me, “Grandma”, who for some reason has a British accent) simply says “With his mastery of the four elements he will begin To change hearts, and it is in the heart that all wars are won.”  Um…what?  Why don’t you say that he will bring balance, that he is the only one with the power to stop the fire nation from taking over the world.  Is this supposed to be clever foreshadowing for the finale?  Because it’s not worth it.  Understanding the purpose of the Avatar is perhaps the most important part of the story, so this is a huge flaw.


In the “audience is stupid” category:

-Sokka says “The Fire Nation’s Plan: supress all other bending.”  To be fair he had to say this in response to Aang’s earlier, “The Fire Nation is up to something” captain obvious statement.  DUH the Fire Nation is up to something, and it’s called world domination, and I can think of hundreds of more interesting, less insulting ways to convey that FN=bad guys.

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-Sokka: we need to go to the Northern Water Tribe, blah blah, “It’s led by a princess because her father died.”  What? First of all, not cannon, second of all, what difference does it make that she’s in charge, thirdly, just say it’s led by a princess, you don’t have to explain how monarchies work, or better yet don’t say anything about the freaking princess.  When we get there we’ll know.

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-Katara: “Aang, the Fire Nation knew the Avatar would be born into the Air Nomads, so they exterminated the Air Nomads.”  *sigh* really my problem with this line is the repetitiveness (“Air Nomads, Air Nomads!” doesn’t M. Night know about co-referential pronouns?)  Also, Aang is 12; does he even know what “exterminated” means?  Do the kids in the audience?  Is this an attempt at a lower rating by not saying “killed” or “wiped out,” or is it, (more likely), M. Night making use of the handy right-click synonym function in Microsoft Word?  Ooo, exterminate, that’s classy.

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-Possibly the most annoying narration was at the North Pole.   Katara says, “We presented ourselves before the royal court.  The princess and my brother became friends right away.  Aang was accepted to learn water bending,” blah blah blah, “The city prepared itself for the battle they knew would come in the ensuing weeks.”  (“Ensuing,” again, I’m sure was a synonym word choice.)  But none of this was necessary because, as I said, we’re not stupid idiots.  If we see people bowing in front of other people who are seated and fancily dressed, we can infer they are the royal court.  If we see close-ups of a girl and guy eye-ing each other and smiling, we can infer that they like each other.  Because that’s what they do in every other movie.   So don’t narrate us to death!  Show, don’t tell!

“He’s bending fire from nothing!” Cower in fright, even though this is totally normal in the show! The reduction on bending powers in the movie was shameful.

In the “just terrible” category:

Sokka: Is he breathing?
*Katara nods*
Sokka: Did you see that light shoot into the sky?

YES SOKKA, we all saw it!  We even cut away and saw Zuko see it miles away.  What a stupid, unnatural thing to say.

FN Soldier: “If you were the Avatar, you’d have to be an airbender. Are you an airbender boy?”
* Aang bends air at him*
FN Soldier: “How is he doing that?!”

He’s BENDING AIR you idiot, you JUST SAID it!

Paku: “Hooooooooooooooooooooooo!” *camera pans down line of Water Tribe soldiers*

This was just…stupid.  It wasn’t even a war-cry hoooo, it was more like a musical note.  Was he trying to do a wolf howl? Fail.

(Roku’s?) Dragon’s great advice:

“You must let this [grief] go. As the Avatar you are not meant to hurt people. Use the ocean. Show them the power of water.”

Did I say great advice?  I meant non-sequitor, nonsensical advice.

Katara: “Did the spirits tell you anything?”
Aang: “Yes. I know what I have to do.”
Katara: “We have to go.”

How do YOU know, Katara?  What if the spirits told Aang to stay right there?  Why are you asking and then telling him what to do?

Yue: blah blah I’m saying exactly what will happen next because the audience might not get it otherwise, they’re stupid you know, blah blah meanwhile i’m about to rub Sokka’s cheek off, blah blah:

“It’s time we showed the Fire Nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs.”

Well, way to take an articulate stand for something vague.

picture of sokka and yue kissing

Vague and meaningless statements about beliefs are so romantic!

Aang: “Some of the monks can meditate for four days.” *sits down to meditate*

Um, that’s very interesting Aang.  Thanks for telling us just now.  So, are you saying your plan is to meditate for several days while everyone in the Northern Water Kingdom dies in the battle that is going on right now?

Zhao mentions his “secret underground library” four separate times, “scrolls from the secret library” four times, and “decipher the scrolls from the secret library” twice.  Because we might have forgotten, in the minutes between those lines, where he got those scrolls.  Which is a minor subplot anyway.  Mention it once, and thereafter just say “the scrolls”.  Come on.

Misc. complaints:
Katara should have had hair loopies.  Real ones.  If I can figure out how to do it to wear to the movie premiere, why can’t a massively-budgeted Hollywood movie?

The Fire Nation bow should have been preserved.  The one from the original show, I mean, with one hand in a closed fist and the other a flat sideways palm on top like a flame.  Instead, we see Zhao clap his fist to his heart like some fascist when he’s presented before Ozai.  This really ticked me off because it’s such a small thing, so why, WHY change it? Stripping yet more of the richness and originality away from the story.

I hated the Blue Spirit’s wig.

Apparently all you need to incapacitate a troop of FN soldiers is a dust cloud.  They can’t walk through it.

Apparently, if you’re doing a scene with Ozai your location title can be as broad as “Fire Nation,” but if you’re doing Zuko it has to be as stupidly specific as “Fire Nation Colony 15”.  WTF?!  Fifteen?!

I hated the version of Katara Shyamalan presented.  In the show, she is compassionate, stubborn, hot-tempered, loyal, bossy, strong, courageous and an excellent fighter.  In the movie she is a weeping, emotional, weak mess.  Nearly every line is delivered on the verge of crying.  Even in her self-declaration, which for some reason happens almost at the end during her fight with Zuko:

Zuko: “Who are you?”
Katara: “My name is Katara, and I’m the only water bender left in the Southern Water Tribe.”

It sounds like she’s about to burst into tears.  And why would she bother saying all that at this point anyway?  It’s just so…out of place.  Show-Katara would say something like, “I’m Katara, I’m with the Avatar and you’re not going to touch him! *water whip*” Movie-Katara uses only defensive bending, and except for her two second spar with Zuko and when she randomly ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier in the Earth prison, she literally stands by and watches while other people fight.  Show-Katara would have been all over the place kicking ass.  Show-Katara wouldn’t be hyperventilating and saying “Calm down, we’ll find him!” to herself.  It’s disgraceful the way Shyamalan has ruined her character.

Movie-Katara ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier.

Oh yeah, and the bending was not nearly as impressive as it is in the cartoon.  It seems in movie-Avatar universe, you have to do an awful lot of waving your arms around before anything happens.  Either that or it has to happen in slow motion.  And it takes six syncronized-stepping Earthbenders to make a tiny pebble dangle in front of the camera.

p.s.  If you were a fan of the original show and need a place to vent and/or read other fans’ criticisms of the movie adaptation, I highly recommend this forum thread from AvatarSpirit.net dedicated to the “unintentional hilarity” in the live-action disaster.   It’s very therapeutic.

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Stuff I Thought About While I Watched “Savages”

I saw Oliver Stone’s Savages the other day.  It was intense.  I liked some elements and couldn’t stand others.  The main thing I didn’t like was the narration.  Blake Lively’s monotone (as “O”, short for Ophelia), insists on interrupting the action with needless commentary.  I’m sure it’s included because this movie is based on a book, but when will filmmakers learn that book-narration rarely translates to the visual format of storytelling on screen?  Sometimes the narration in this film was distracting or actually more confusing because she’d say “meanwhile, so-and-so blah blah blah” and I’d be thinking, who’s so-and-so?  But when it cut to them I’d recognize the character immediately, so all the narration did was make me confused where I otherwise would have been fine.  Other times the narration forced me to roll my eyes and scribble down a snarky comment; either way it was continually pulling me away from the story rather than helping immerse me in it.  Some of the worst narrated lines included:

  • “Just ’cause I’m telling you this story, doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of it.  Yeah.  It’s that kind of story.”
  • “Every successful business has an origin story.”  Really?  Like every unsuccessful business doesn’t have an origin story?  Like every person or organization or movement ever doesn’t have one?  Why even say this?!  Total waste of time to even mention it, completely annoying to try to make it sound like it’s somehow unique to this story.
  • “Dope’s supposed to be bad, but in a bad, bad world, it’s good.  Chon says drugs are a rational response to insanity.”  The logic of one pothead regurgitated by another pothead who is too stoned to come up with her own thoughts.
  • [the best pot in the world is] “right here in California, USA.”  Oh great.  Go ‘merica!  We always have to brag about being the supposed best at everything in the world, even illicit drug production.
  • “Ben is Buddhist, Chon is Baddhist.”  I mean do we really need this cutesy description to understand the boys are polar opposites?  No.  We do not.  It’s obvious in everything from their actions, reactions, facial expressions, and movements.  Stop narrating this story to death.
  • “I looked up the definition of ‘savage’…”  NO.  YOU DID NOT.  YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT.  Citing dictionary definitions is the absolute worst.  And it’s completely unnecessary!  By this point the film has defined “savages” very well through the characters!  I actually really liked the “savages” theme and the way that both sides used it to label the other, until O ruined it with her insipid voice-over.

Other things I thought about while watching this movie:

Why do the cartels use emoticons in their threatening cyber-communications with Ben and Chon?  LOL.

I love the code-switching between English and Spanish that ruthless cartel leader Elena demonstrates, mainly when she’s yelling at her underlings.  Code-switching is just cool.  Actually, that scene was released as a sneak-peak before the movie came out, and it’s on youtube legitimately.

That torture scene where the guy’s eyeball is hanging out was just gross.  I couldn’t really look at it, and I distracted myself by thinking about how it reminded me of that episode of The Guild when Codex is flirting with a stunt guy who just came from set and has a fake eyeball hanging off his face, too.  So I’m sure it was just make-up in Savages, but it was a lot more disgusting than in The Guild.  Although Codex does immediately vomit after he makes her touch the squishy fake eye-ball.  (It’s a great show, written by and staring my hero Felicia Day, and you can watch it all online here.)

Stunt guy neighbor makes Codex touch his fake eye-ball in season 2 of The Guild.

What’s with the Shakespeare references?  I’m guessing it’s a theme in the book, since O makes reference to the fact that she’s named after a character in Hamlet, and says that “people are willing to go Henry the 8th on this.”  Is there also some famous Shakespeare quote or passage that directly deals with the idea of who or what a “savage” is?  I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

There’s a scene where, **SPOILER ALERT**, Elena suddenly looses the upper hand in her attempts to manipulate Ben and Chon into doing what she wants, because they kidnap her beloved daughter.  She’s obviously shaken and she immediately agrees to do whatever they want to get her daughter back.  Her voice looses it’s hard edge and becomes more of a shaky whisper.  Then she screams for her entourage to get out, and when she’s alone in the room she collapses crying and pulls off her wig of shiny perfect hair!  She’s not bald, her hair is just in a wig cap.  But I thought it was interesting, this explicit link between a female with power and her beauty.  Earlier, when Elena was still plotting and scheming and in control, she was shown applying face cream, and she always had perfect make-up, that long shiny hair, and expensive jewelry.  And when she looses her power, she looses her beauty too.

Elena, beautiful and bitchy, before she looses her power.

It’s definitely not the first time a movie has implied a mysterious link between female beauty and power.  Movie women are rarely just powerful, they have to be powerful and beautiful, and if one of those attributes is threatened, so is the other one.  We saw another explicit example of this recently with the evil Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman.  I mean, the entire Snow White story is about women fighting over who is the most beautiful and therefore the most powerful!  Or think of Regina George in Mean Girls–of all the pranks that Caty and her friends try to make the queen of Girl World less popular, the only one that works with the masses is making her “fat” and “less pretty.”

Queen Ravenna, who quite literally derives her power from stealing others’ beauty to maintain her own.

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Prometheus: Second Viewing

Things I Noticed This Time:

  • the barren planet that the Engineers seed animal life on in the opening sequence already has plant life.
  • the earthworms that somebody steps on in the big room swim into the black ooze, and get morphed into the bigger worms that kill Millburn.
  • It’s David that notices that the giant stone head is “remarkably human.”  Like himself.
  • I think David sprayed the canister with liquid nitrogen or something while in the cavern in order to be able to handle it without it oozing all over everything.  when he goes to retrieve the single drop later he has to break apart the ice.
  • David’s fingerprint has the Weyland logo on it.
  • David never smiles except:
  1. when he sits in the Engineers’ Captain’s chair
  2. When he’s standing in the middle of the Engineers planetary projection
  3. When he hears the heartbeat of the Engineer in stasis
  4. When the Engineer places a hand on David’s head, right before ripping it off of his body.

Things That Annoyed Me:

  • the music is unoriginal.  it sounds so familiar, like i’ve heard it before in another movie.
  • Why do i care that there are 17 crew members? we never learn most of their names. they all die.  Shaw ends the movie by saying she’s the last survivor.  Why do we need these meaningless statistics typed across the screen?
  • Why does everyone on the ship drink from sippy cups?
  • Vicker’s push-ups are wimpy
  • Chalier is such an a-hole , the entire time. I hate him.  I think even his death is selfish, he knows he’s dying and wants it to be over faster.
  • They spend two seconds flying around the planet before deciding where to land.  They explore only one location.  Why didn’t they fly around the world once before landing?  Why did they assume the Engineers were all dead based on such limited data?
  • Why would they assume a carbon dating device would render accurate results on a specimen on an alien planet?  They don’t know if the rate of carbon decay is the same here.  Too convenient to get such a fast answer.  Same with the DNA-human match.  “Their genetic material predates ours.” oh really?
  • How does Fifield get lost?!  He’s the one with the readout on his arm from the scanner “pups.”  Earlier they ask him, “which way?”  So why suddenly when he and Millburn split off does he start wandering in circles?  (other than the fact that the script needed them stranded so they interact with the aliens and ooze and die.)  Also when they are supposedly “lost” Millburn tells the captain their exact location.  So…why are they lost?!
  • When Fifield and Millburn find the huge pile of dead Engineers, Fifield warns “don’t touch!” but forgets his advice when dealing with the worm/snake.  (maybe it is arrogance that a non-humanoid creature can’t possibly be a threat to superior human intelligence?) in any case it’s stupid. “here hissing and hostile alien, let me pet you!”
  • Why are there different styles of spacesuits?  The first expedition they wear plain blue, but later they have blue with orange stripes or tubes, and there are some random crew members in orange and silver suits that are more bulky (who are just in the scene to be killed by a raging, morphed Fifield anyway)
  • Why did they try to make the “Weyland is Vickers’ father” reveal such a big deal?  It was pretty obvious.
  • It’s really stupid that Vickers and Shaw don’t just run sideways to avoid being crushed by the ship.
  • It’s really stupid that there’s such an impractically-shaped axe on board the lifepod.
  • It’s really stupid that Shaw spits out a “you have no idea what fear is” retort to David’s “I was afraid you were dead.”  that expression doesn’t usually denote literal fear anyway.  He’s just communicating with normal human language usage. there’s no need for everyone to keep hammering him over the head with the fact he’s a robot. unless it’s actually a defense mechanism the humans are using the elevate themselves above him.

is the captain in on the secret Weyland agenda from the beginning? Is that why he lies to Fifield and Millburn about their feeds not streaming through?

Things I’m Interested in Analyzing Further:

  • David’s humanity
  • David’s motives
  • David’s and Shaw’s similarities
  • What motivates Shaw to keep her ‘faith’?

(see also my other post analyzing Prometheus).

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“Avengers” Is Awesome, And Totally Quotable

I have now seen Joss Whedon’s Avengers twice, once in 2D and once in 3D.  (The 3D is absolutely worth it, by the way).  I absolutely loved it, as I do pretty much all thing that Joss Whedon creates.  In the hands of another director this might have been a very clunky storyline with superheros crammed in together for no reason, but Joss weaves everyone together naturally and keeps it fun and exciting and badass and hilarious.

If you’re confused about the tag scene after the credits, this is a great article explaining who appears.  If you’re wondering how the Hulk was suddenly able to control his Hulk self, it’s a matter of debate but here is one explanation.  If you are and have been a Whedon fan like me, then you probably already know this but here is a letter Joss Whedon wrote to his fanbase and posted on whedonesque.com.

Really my main complaint with the movie is that Thor should have left a freaking postcard for Jane Foster.  She’s gonna know he was on earth, it’s all over the news!  And if I were her I’d be pissed he didn’t take the opportunity to message me.  Also I wish they would have explained how Banner was able to control Hulk better, but even so Banner/Hulk was probably my favorite character in this movie.   I hope there is a director’s extended edition, though, and that it shows Thor taking 5 seconds to leave a memento or note or something for Jane.  Also, I totally want to see a Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo, written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Because then we would finally have a good Hulk movie.

I love that each character in The Avengers is partially defined by his or her dialogue style–Capain America uses outdated phrases that would have been modern for him back when he was frozen in ice (“this guy packs a whallop!”), Thor verbally stomps around in “thee”s and “thou”s, (“I do not look to be in a fighting mood!”) while Stark is of course flippant, sarcastic, and constantly running his mouth, (“That man is playing Galaga!  Thought we wouldn’t notice–but we did.”).  There are a plethora of great, quotable lines in this movie, and I probably haven’t caught them all yet, but after two viewings here is what I have so far (spoilers, totally, obviously):

Professor Erik Selvig: “The teseract is misbehaving”

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Hawkeye: “The cube is a doorway to the other end of space, right?” *shrugs* “Doors open from both sides.”

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Loki: “I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

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Loki: “Freedom is life’s great lie.  Once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.”

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Black Widow: “We’ve kept our distance, but now we need you to come in.”

Banner: “And what if I say no?”

Black Widow: “I’ll persuade you.”

Banner: “And what if the…other guy says no?”

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Black Widow: “We’re facing a global catastrophe.”

Banner: “Well those I definitely try to avoid.”

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Nick Fury: “The world has gotten even stranger than you already know.”

Captain America: “At this point I don’t think anything would surprise me.”

Fury: “Ten bucks says you’re wrong.”

(later, when the ship flies and becomes invisible via high-tech reflection panels, Captain silently hands Fury a ten dollar bill).

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Pepper Potts (to Coulson): “Phil!  Come in!”

Stark: “Phil?  His first name is ‘Agent’!”

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Stark: “I’m gonna pay for that percentage comment in some subtle way later, aren’t I?”

Pepper: “Not gonna be that subtle.”

(…later…)

Stark: “Y’know, I thought we were having a moment.”

Pepper: “I was having 12% of a moment.”

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Coulson: “When he’s [Banner] not that thing though he’s like a regular Stephen Hawking.”

Captain: *blank stare*

Coulson: “He’s like, a really smart guy.”

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Coulson, to Captain: “It’s an honor to meet you, officially.  We’ve met before, I watched you while you were sleeping.  I mean, I was present while you were unconscious.”

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Black Widow: “Gentlemen, you might want to step inside.  It’s gonna get hard to breathe.”

Captain:  “Is this a submarine?”

Banner: “Really.  They want me in a submerged, pressurized container?”

(it turns out to be an airship)

Banner: “Oh no.  This is much worse.”

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Hawkeye: “I need a distraction, and an eyeball.”

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Captain, to Loki: “Y’know, the last time I was in Germany I met a man like you.  We ended up disagreeing.”

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Stark, to Loki: “Make a move, Reindeer Games.”

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Stark, to Captain: “You mighta missed a couple things, y’know, doin’ time as a Cap-sicle.”

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Captain: “Stark–we need a plan of attack!”

Stark, jumping out the plane: “I have a plan–attack.”

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Captain: “There’s only one God, ma’am.  And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

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Thor: “Do not touch me again!”

Stark: “Then don’t take my stuff.”

Thor: “You have no idea what you’re dealing with!”

Stark: “Uh, Shakespeare in the park?  ‘Doth mother know, that you weareth her drapes?'”

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Jarvis, after Iron Man’s suit absorbs a lightning bolt from Thor’s hammer: “Power at 400% capacity.”

Stark: “How ’bout that.”

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Thor: “Loki is of Asgard.  He is my brother!”

Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in two days.”

Thor: “…he’s adopted.”

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Fury: “I’m interested in knowing how Loki turned two of my men into flying monkeys.”

Thor: “I do not understand.”

Captain: “I do!  I get that reference.”

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Captain: “Is everything a joke to you?!”

Stark: “Funny things are.”

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Captain: “Big man in a suit of iron, take that away, what are you?”

Stark: “Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.”

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Thor: “You people are so petty.  And tiny!”

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Banner: “Sorry kids, I guess you don’t get to see my party trick after all.”

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Captain: “It seems to run on some sort of electricity!”

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Random Farmer: “Are you an alien?  From outer space, an alien?”

Banner: “No.”

Random Farmer: “Well then, son, you’ve got a condition.”

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Stark: “Loki, he’s a full-tilt Diva.”

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SHIELD pilot: “You guys aren’t authorized to be here!”

Captain: “Son-just, don’t.”

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Stark: “Actually I’m planning to threaten you.”

Loki: “Should’ve left your armor on for that.”

Stark: “Eh, it’s seen a bit of mileage, and you’ve got the glowstick of destiny.”

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Stark: “If we can’t protect the earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.”

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Hawkeye: “Wanna give me a lift?”

Stark: “Right–better clench up, Legolas!”

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Council Member: “Directory Fury, the Council has made a decision.”

Fury: “I recognize that the Council has made a decision, however given that it’s a stupid-ass decision I have elected to ignore it.”

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Loki: “Enough!  You are all of you beneath me.  I am a god, you dull creature!  And I will not be bullied by–

(Hulk thrashes Loki around like a rag doll)

Hulk: “Puny god.”

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(Stark is lying on the ground, unresponsive.)

Hulk: “RRRRRRRRROOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!!”

Stark: “Whaaaaat the hell?  What the hell just happened?!  Please tell me nobody kissed me.”

Captain: “We won.”

Stark: “Hey, all right, yeaaaah, good job guys!  Let’s call it a day, not come in tomorrow.  Ever heard of shawarma?  There’s a shawarma joint two blocks from here.  I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”

Thor: “We’re not done yet.”

Stark: “And then…shawarma after?”

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Chitauri leader (tag scene): “Humans–they were not the cowering wretches we were promised.  They are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled.  To challenge them it to court death.”

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Hunger Games Midnight Premiere

ZOMG you guys, who else watched The Hunger Games last night at midnight?  It was so amazing, right?  (Full disclosure, this post is being written on one hour of sleep and half a can of redbull, so please excuse any typos or outbursts of incoherency.)

I would have to say it was one of the best midnight movie premieres I have been to so far in my life.  I mean, it certainly doesn’t compare to the magnitude and scale and passion and costumes of the last Harry Potter screening I went to.  But I felt extra satisfied at this one because all of the work I put into preparing activities for my friends and fellow fans paid off, and people enjoyed my efforts just as much as I had hoped they would.  Seeing their delighted faces and eager excitement was so rewarding it would have almost been worth it even if I hadn’t seen the movie.  (But I DID see the movie, and loved it–more on that later!)

The two things I was most proud of last night were my tribute training target and my silver parachutes.  I painted the target (with help from some of my siblings) from screenshots of this clip.  It looked amazing, and I got permission from the manager at my theater to display it in the lobby.  People were lined up using it almost the entire time, and I got to see one young teen’s jaw-dropping gasp when she walked in and saw it (and then spent a good forty minutes or so monopolizing it) that just made it so worth while.

The beautiful target my lovely siblings helped me paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The silver parachutes were made from a half yard of fabric I bought and some ribbon, with silver Hershey kiss anchors.  They had notes attached to them that said “A gift from your sponsor–may the odds be ever in your favor!”  I got permission from the manager to go upstairs and open the projection window and throw them out into the audience (about an hour before the show started).  I had hoped that everyone there would understand what they meant, since I couldn’t predict where they would fall exactly.  (They didn’t exactly float but they didn’t plummet either; I tried it with gum anchors and that was too light.)  It could not have gone more perfectly.  The first girl to catch one was actually also the first person in line in the lobby and was wearing a legitimate tribute training replica shirt like the ones in the movie, so you know she was a big fan.  (I mean, everybody there at midnight is a fan.  But she was a fan).  She and her friends screamed when they caught their parachute–“WE HAVE A SPONSOR!  YESSSS!”  It was like I was a benevolent, unseen Gamemaker.  I loved it.

I also brought trivia questions, which I made mostly from skimming through the book with a little help from the Hunger Games wiki, and the last tribute still “alive” in the Trivia Arena won.  We decided an incorrect answer was a wound, and if you got three wounds you died.  I didn’t think to bring arrow stickers or something, which would have been awesome, so we just taped the slips of paper with the questions on them to people that got them wrong.  That led to some joking about where they had been injured–lost legs, arms, or ears–wherever they stuck the questions.  As prizes I had a bag of trading cards that I let people choose from (blind), and the actual victor got to choose from a bag with bigger prizes (official tie-in magnets and small Hunger Games figurines.)  I gave out the same prizes for winners in Rock, Poison, Arrows tournaments, which is what I decided the Hunger Games version of Rock, Paper, Scissors would be.  Rock crushes poison, poison kills archers so it beats arrows, and arrows beats rock because it is a distance weapon but rocks are only effective up close.  I’m sure the logic isn’t perfect but whatever.

I’ll update later with my thoughts on the movie itself, but I can summarize by saying: loved it, great companion to the books that really enhances the world and the story, Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, and Wes Bentley killed it.  Definitely going again.  Wasn’t wowed by Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta but wasn’t disappointed in him, either, (I think the script just didn’t make him as likeable as the book).  Would definitely recommend fans of the books to watch the movie, and fans of the movie to read the books.  Lastly, why is there an “official soundtrack” if NONE of the songs on the album are featured in the film, and only two are played during the credits?

P.S. Here’s my awesome friend @martinchughes sporting his Seneca Crane beard!

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Things That Annoyed Me About Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Movie

*SPOILERS BELOW*

  • the opening sequence.  so weird and unrelated (except in tone) to the rest of the story.
  • dissonance between written and spoken language.  because it’s an English adaptation but it’s set in Sweden, so, like, they pretend they’re speaking Swedish and it’s coming out English, I guess?  But the signs and cat food containers are still in Swedish?
  • why is Daniel Craig doing a British accent?  I guess he might as well, in light of the above complaint.
  • ((do they have Marlboros in Sweden??  This causes me to doubt everything I learned from Die Hard, in which John McClaine can tell that the terrorists are “mostly European, judging by their clothing and…cigarettes.”))
  • wth, Blomkvist, that’s very ineffective highlighting!!  you don’t highlight every single word but one or two on a page, that negates the purpose of highlighting which is to mark key words or important bits out of the whole thing that your eye will jump to next time.  Now your eye is going to jump to the whole damn page, in other words, no particular part, in other words, why the hell are you even bothering to highlight?!
  • why are Blomkvist’s glasses perpetually dangling off his face under his chin?!  Gross.  Put them on top of your head when they’re not on your eyes like a normal person.
  • how does Blomkvist immediately recognize that super-grainy black-and-white photograph as being Anita?! to speed up the story i suppose, (fine by me, this movie is too long as it is), but then the picture isn’t really that important later so who cares?
  • seriously! the language thing is so jarring! they’re spelling out a bumper sticker from an old photo in an effort to track down a lead, “K-something, R-I-F, oh, it’s carpentry!”  They are spelling in Swedish and speaking in English.  RIDICULOUS!
  • is it even possible to stitch a wound using dental floss?!  that doesn’t seem like a good idea.  why not just use super-glue?
  • why do people in movies do stupid things like break into the houses of people they suspect to be serial rapist murderers, without waiting for backup or telling anyone where they are going, especially when said house is full of glass windows through which you are easily visible as you snoop through their house?!

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Things That Annoyed or Delighted Me About MI4: Ghost Protocol

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Annoyed:

  • Too much verbal rehashing of the same situations, by robotic “your mission” voices and the team. Pick one or the other.
  • Agent Hunt is right next to the building as it explodes and only gets a “minor concussion”?
  • Hunt thrice demands “Pen.  Pen!  Pen!” from Agent Brandt but draws on his palm rather than think to ask even once “does anybody also have a piece of paper?”
  • Hunt and Brandt should have at least attempted Russian accents when they met with Moreau, right?
  • Bad guy reveals his face to Hunt complete with “dun dun dun dun DUN” music.
  • Agent Carter codenamed Venus and given seduction role.  Of course.
  • Hunt’s arm doesn’t break when he falls violently onto the car elevator?  Yeah right.
  • Hunt’s “intentional 100 meter drop” in a car straight down doesn’t leave him incapacitated?  Yeah right.

Delighted:

  • Subtitled translation of Russian cursing written as “M@%#*$!!”
  • Simon Pegg! (Agent Dunn)
  • This line: “Gameface. Gameface. Kremlin gameface.” (-Agent Dunn)
  • Subtitled Russian in Russian when knocked-out Agent Dunn wakes up, only switching to English subtitles as his head clears enough to make sense of what he is hearing.
  • Brandt: “Your line’s not long enough!” Hunt (dangling from Burj Khalifa): “No shit!”
  • Cultural detail of call to prayer in background of Dubai scene
  • Russian bad guy has Russian keyboard
  • Agent Carter allowed to change back into pants.

Questionable:

  • Do flares really light underwater?
  • Wouldn’t people in the other rooms of the Burj Khalifa see this guy climbing up their window?
  • Don’t some countries have missile detection technology and a response plan to fire back if fired upon?  I’m pretty sure if a nuke actually launches the mission to stop world destruction has failed.

Noticed:

  • Agent Carter must have gone to the bathroom and re-did her ponytail first thing on the jet, because before boarding her ponytail has a part and while talking to Hunt on the plane it doesn’t.

Conclusion:

I guess my annoyance and delight were pretty even.  I enjoyed watching, it was definitely entertaining, and also dumb.  What do you think?

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Breaking Dawn part 1: pagelady’s Snarky Recap

Did you see Breaking Dawn, and laugh at it?  Did you not go, but wish you knew which parts to make fun of?  Or, do you just want to know what happens in this particular sparkly vampire installment, besides what is obvious from the trailer?  Well, Happy Holidays, because the following is my gift to you: a recap of the whole tedious thing.  (Okay, I’ll be honest, really it’s a chance for me to over-share my opinion on every detail.  You’re welcome.)

To start off, we get a literal “breaking dawn” behind the Breaking Dawn title card, similar to the literal “new moon” and “eclipse” we got to open the last two installments.  Since this is a “part 1,” it makes me wonder what they will do to open the “part 2” next November?  Because almost every single Harry Potter movie (except the first one) starts with a WB logo floating towards us in the clouds, usually accompanied by Hedwig’s Theme.  (In Goblet of Fire they use a different song, and the logo floats towards us in the dark).  But in HP 7.2, the movie started with Voldemort getting the elder wand before the logo and title card, so will Breaking Dawn 2 do something similar?  (And *ugh*, I cannot believe I’m talking about Harry Potter within the context of Twilight, it feels so wrong.)

Bella gives us a strange, disembodied voice-over: “Childhood is not from birth to a certain age, and at a certain age the child puts away childish things.  Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.”  What?  Is this movie about Bella leaving childhood?  I don’t remember this quote.  Is it in the book?  Dagnabit, now I’m having to get the stupid thing off my shelf again.  Checking…okay, well OF COURSE it’s in the book, it’s a Twilight movie and it must appease its rabid fanbase.  (The quote in the book is worded slightly differently, and attributed to Edna St. Vincent Millay.)  It doesn’t seem to fit as well here as the opening quotes from the other books/movies, but it’s in the book!  So it must go in!

Moving on: Jacob.  Shirtless.  Within the first 15 seconds of the movie.  This time his disrobing and angry, emo running away are motivated by having just received an invitation to Bella and Edward’s wedding.  In sunny Florida, Bella’s mom also receives an invitation, which is how she finds out her daughter is officially getting married.  (This is to show how Bella and her mom aren’t close, so we don’t feel bad that mom will pretty much fade entirely out of Bella’s life in part 2).

That shirt is coming off in 3...2...

Bella is wearing heels.  But she can’t walk in them!  She drags her feet awkwardly across the Cullen’s back porch while Alice oversees the wedding furniture placement being carried out by the other Cullens.  Bella questions whether she really has to wear these shoes, complaining that she’s already been “breaking them in” for days.  Alice insists, saying that everything has to be “perfect.”  The f–k, Alice?  I will never understand women who truly believe in fashion over comfort and practicality, and besides, it’s Bella’s wedding!  Why doesn’t she get to decide what she wants to do/not do?  I guess taking an active stance on something other than “being with Edward” would be pretty out-of-character.  (Also, Ashley Greene has RUINED the character of Alice for me.  She was one of my favorites in the books and now I can’t see past the famewhore.)  Bella pensively stares at Edward, who is pensively staring from a window at everyone else in his family doing all the work for his big day.  What is he doing just standing up there uselessly by himself?  It’s so…weird.  Alice jumps into Bella’s eyeline and instructs her to “Go home and get some beauty rest.  That’s an order!”  Pleased with herself, Alice smiles and shrugs and does one of those happy little “hmph!”s.  I want to barf up my popcorn.

Bella looks around her nearly-empty bedroom, which I assume is so bare because she has been packing to move in with Edward after the wedding.  Inexplicably, one of the items remaining in her room is what looks like a home-made painting of a sheepdog.  It’s right by her bed.  It’s really distracting.  Bella leans over to touch the dreamcatcher that Jacob gave her in New Moon, and feels an unnatural breeze ruffle her hair.  That’s how she knows her vampire fiance has just flown/jumped in through the window, and sure enough, she turns around to see him standing there like a creep who would sneak into a girl’s bedroom to watch her sleep every night for months without telling her.  (Seriously.  He does this.  In the first one.)

Edward is “Just checking to see if you’re getting cold feet.”  But, “nope,” Bella’s feet are “toasty warm,” she says.  But is he having second thoughts?  “I’ve been waiting a century to marry you, Miss Swan,” says Edward, setting an impossibly high ideal for romance for young girls everywhere.  (Ladies: no man will ever tell you he’s been waiting “a century” for you, unless maybe he’s using hyperbole.  And if you don’t know what hyperbole is, maybe you should take an interest in furthering your own education beyond an MRS degree.)

Edward is worried that Bella still doesn’t understand the full gravity of the choice she’s making to become a vampire.  “I haven’t told you everything about myself,” he says, and we get a pretty decent flashback to rebellious Edward with red eyes in the earlier part of the 20th century, stalking murderers and rapists to kill and eat, like a blood-sucking, mind-reading Dexter.  “All the men I killed were monsters, and so was I.  They were all human beings and I looked into their eyes as they died and I saw who I was, and what I was capable of.”  Bella justifies, “They were all murderers, you probably saved more lives than you took.”   Then she says “I know I can do this, and I’ll tell you why–because you did.”  Ugh, eye-roll.

Jasper and Emmet show up to drag Edward away to his bachelor party, which doesn’t involved strippers (“boring!”, shouts Emmet), but rather “a few mountain lions, maybe a bear,” Jasper assures Bella.  Edward bids his lady goodnight, saying “I’ll meet you at the alter,” and Bella intones that she’ll “be the one in white,” which Edward says is “very convincing.”  That entire exchange is almost word-for-word straight from the book.  Bella turns out her light and crawls into bed for the last time as single lady Miss Swan.  Seriously, why is this picture of a sheepdog in her room?!

It’s the wedding!  Bella walks towards  Edward between rows of white-clad wedding guests.  She reaches Edward and they smile at each other, then turn towards the minister.  Oh no!  It’s not a minister, it’s the Volturi!  And Edward’s mouth is bloody, and there’s blood on his pretty white tuxedo, and on Bella’s dress, and all the guests are dead in a giant pile beneath their feet, and blood is oozing down the aisle.  (Now that’s a vampire wedding!)  It’s a fake-out, people.  Bella was having a nightmare.

Now it’s time for the real wedding.  Alice is doing Bella’s make-up, chiding, “What did I tell you about beauty sleep?”  Rosalie offers to help do Bella’s hair.  “I’m not offended by your choice of groom,” she explains.  “Just my blatant lack of respect for mortality,” clarifies Bella.  “Essentially,” smiles Rosalie.  “Weddings!  They bring everyone together,” simpers Alice.  I want to punch her in the face.

Charlie and Rene (Bella’s mom and dad) are headed upstairs at the Cullen house to see their daughter.  Charlie notices the frame full of graduation caps hanging on the wall.  “That’s creative!” gushes air-head Rene.  “Or weird,” mumbles Charlie, ripe to be let in on the Cullen’s little secret in part 2.  Rene and Charlie adore Bella’s wedding-day beauty and give her a her “first family heirloom”, which is a haircomb that doubles as a “something old” and “something blue.”  Rene tears up talking about how Bella can pass it on to her eventual children and grandchildren, and Bella and Rosalie get emotional knowing Bella will never have children.  (But the audience has all seen the previews and/or read the book, so we know she’s totally going to get pregnant and we’re not that moved by this scene.)

"It was your great-grandma Swan's", says Charlie, and Rene explains " we added the saphires."

It’s nearly time for Bella and Charlie to walk down the aisle!  Trumpet Voluntary is being played quietly by a string quartet in the background while they wait inside the house.   Outside, human high school friend Jessica wonders aloud whether Bella will be showing or not.   “Bella’s not pregnant,” defends other human friend Angela.  “Um, okay,” says Jessica sarcastically (and hilariously.  Anna Kendrick is golden.)  “Don’t let me fall, Dad,” an emotional Bella implores.  “Never,” responds the steadfast Billy Burke as Charlie (who steals every single scene he’s in.  Like in all the Twilight movies.  I love him.)

I don’t know what the music changes to for the actual processional, but there’s a piano and cymbals so I’m pretty sure it’s movie-soundtrack-music and not actual-organic-to-scene music.  Which is just as well.  Because the whole thing is such high fantasy, why should even the music be realistic?  Bella and Edward’s vows are all intercut, and they are straight-up traditional, followed by “I do.”  Like, the editing makes it look like “I do” is the end of the vows.  And, it’s kind of a minor detail, but it annoys me because it’s just another example of an unrealistic expectation that girls who idealize these stories will carry with them.  Because “I do” is typically said before the vows, like almost the first thing, “Do you so-and-so take this man/woman so-and-so to be your lawfully wedded such-and-such…”  Whatever.  This is a fantasy.  But it bugs me.  I’m also annoyed by how much Bella and Edward make out, at the wedding.  Like, you’re in front of a minister, and all your friends and family, and this is awkward.  They’re seriously lip-locked for 45 seconds, and the camera pans around to show empty chairs because, like, they think they’re in their own little world I guess.  The music is Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” which is the same song they danced to at prom in the first movie, so that’s kind of sweet, but they’re still kissing and it’s like, enough!  Can you be a little respectful for your guests and stop sucking face already?!  Bella does look beautiful though.

Bella and Edward finally come up for air long enough to host their reception.  Several people give toasts, and they’re pretty funny.  Then Edward stands up and things get a bit mushier.  “It’s an extraordinary thing to meet someone you can bare your soul to, who’ll accept you for who you are.  I’ve been waiting for what seems like a very long time to get beyond myself, and with Bella I feel like I can finally begin, so I’d like to propose a toast to my beautiful bride: No measure of time with you will be long enough, but let’s start with forever.”

Esme Cullen with the Denali sisters, whose names I can't remember. Irina, Kate, and....something else.

While mingling with the guests, Edward introduces Bella to their “cousin” vampires, fellow human-blood-abstainers visiting from Alaska.  One of these vampires is upset at the presence of werewolf Seth who was also invited to the wedding, because the vampire that the wolves killed in New Moon had become her lover and now she’s hurt and vengeful.  This is important because in part 2 she’s going to cause a lot of grief for the Cullens, involving the Volturi, but for now Edward shrugs off the tension by saying “What’s a wedding without a little family drama?”

Then Jacob shows up, which Edward the mind-reader picks up on, and Edward leads Bella away from the party near the woods so that her for-all-intents-and-purposes ex-boyfriend can have some totally inappropriate alone time with the bride.  At her wedding.  Bella is so happy to see him she’s almost crying.  Jacob is saying he’s sorry to be ruining her wedding, and that he’s “just trying to appreciate your last night as a human.”  Bella shrugs that it isn’t her last night, and tells him she won’t be turned into a vampire until later because “I don’t really want to spend my honeymoon writhing in agony.”  Jacob wonders what the point of prolonging her transformation is, because it’s not like they can have a “real” honeymoon.  “It’s gonna be as real as anyone else’s,” defends Bella, and then Jacob gets very angry and in danger of phasing and Edward and the other wolves have to run in to push him away, and Bella finally tells him to back off, saying, “I mean it’s really none of your business.”  THANK YOU, Bella, now why didn’t you realize that it was really not appropriate for you to be discussing details of your honeymoon with this guy to begin with, and why were you dancing secluded and alone with him at YOUR wedding, and why was Edward cool with this and not jealous and hurt?  This is ridiculous.  I hate this scene.

Finally it’s time for Bella and Edward to leave, so Rene and Charlie say goodbye (and Charlie breaks my heart, again, telling Bella of his house, “you know it’ll always be your home, right?”)  I notice as they drive off that nobody decorated their car, not even a tasteful sign or window paint.  This is strange to me, it’s like they don’t have any friends, (which is kind of true, they only hang out with each other).  I mean, were all the humans too scared to touch their cars?  Did Emmett and Jasper think it was beneath them?  Did Alice forbid it, proclaiming it a tacky gesture?  I think it’s fun, and loving.  And it doesn’t have to be tacky.  And Prince William and Kate did it, and they are royalty, so I’m just going to assume it’s because the Cullens don’t have any friends, then.

A lovely, tastefully decorated wedding car. William + Kate. See how it's done?

This is where the movie gets REALLY tedious.  We see every little detail, (mainly because there’s not really much else that happens in this first half of the book.)  Now Edward and Bella are driving to the airport.  Now they’re riding in a taxi.  Now they’re walking through the partying streets of Rio, now they’re kissing, now they’re riding a boat.  Now he’s carrying her through the door, and she’s looking around, and the camera is panning around to show us their island cabin.  OMG, there’s a bed!  They’re totally going to do it.  But first, Bella says that she needs “a few human minutes,” and Edward says he’ll go for a swim in the ocean to wait.

Bella’s “human minutes” are set to “Sister Rosetta” (by Noisettes).  She brushes her teeth.  She washes her face.  She shaves her legs.  She tries to pick out something to wear, but Alice has only packed her skimpy lingerie.  Sitting on the floor wrapped in a towel, Bella tells herself, “Don’t be a coward,” and walks out to the beach, dropping her towel by her husband’s slacks, and joining him in the water.  I’m impressed that Edward steadfastly looks at her face and never her chest, but really, it wouldn’t be less chivalrous of him to ogle her nakedness, because they’re married now.  It’s okay!  You can look at your wife.  Anyway, they have sex.  They start kissing in the water and then it transitions to the bed, with mostly close-ups of their faces and his back, (which is awfully freckly for a vampire).

Breaking Dawn: the one where they do it.

The next morning, Bella awakens in a cloud of drifting pillow feathers, and remembers another sex montage set to Sleeping At Last’s song “Turning Page”.  “If I had only felt the warmth within your touch, if I had only seen how you smile when you blush,  or how you curl your lips when you concentrate enough, I woulda known what I was living for all along.”  It’s a pretty appropriate remembering-sex song.  But all is not well in paradise.  Edward is upset that he left bruises all over Bella, and they have this whole argument and he says he’s not going to touch her again “like that” until she’s a vampire.  If you want more details about this scene, just read it in the book, the dialogue is almost word-for-word.  The thing that I fixate on in this scene is that Edward’s polo shirt has a wrinkle in it, right across his chest, and it’s so annoying, and then finally he sits down and it straightens itself out.

Then we get another montage, this one to “From Now On” by The Features, wherein Bella and Edward while away their time on their secluded island playing chess, hiking, swimming, and not having sex.  One night Bella has a dream that Edward touches her “like that”, and she wakes up crying, and Edward’s all, “what wrong?” and there she is literally crying and begging for sex.  I’m so uncomfortable watching this.

Some of the wolfpack members

Fortunately we skip to La Push beach, where Jacob is sulkily waiting to hear that Bella has become a vampire, so he can go kill treaty-breaking Edward.  But Alpha wolf Sam says that’s not going to happen, and now Jacob is sulkily wishing he’d taken his birthright of Alpha male when he’d had the chance.  Watching their imprinted brother wolves happily frolicking with their imprintees, disenfranchised (and single) pack member Leah enviously wishes she could imprint, because “any kind of happy would be better” than what she feels now, but Jacob is disgusted by their condition, because “none of them belong to themselves anymore.”  That’s called foreshadowing, folks.

Back to Isle Esme and the excruciating minutiae of Bella’s every little experience.  She awakes to find herself alone, with a note from Edward saying he’s gone the mainland to hunt and will be back before she wakes up.  “You’re late,” Bella observes to herself, tapping Edward’s note.  (You’re late, I laugh to myself, having read the book and knowing the upcoming plot twist.)  She opens the fridge.  She gets out some chicken.  She cooks the chicken in a pan, and eats a spoonful of peanut butter.  She takes a bite of chicken.  She feels sick.  She runs to the bathroom.  She pukes in the toilet.  (Do we really need to see every little detail?!  I guess there really isn’t anything else to show, since they’re trying to stretch this book out into two movies).  Edward is back now, and Bella asks him to bring her her bag.  When she sees the unopened box of tampons, she starts to figure it out.  “How many days since the wedding?… I’m late.  My period is late.”  Told ya so!

Edward is standing still in catatonic shock.  His phone rings and Bella answers, talking to first Alice and then Carlisle about this seemingly impossible new turn of events.  “Carlisle, I swear, something just moved inside me!”  Finally Edward snaps out of his shock, and runs around the room at vampire speed packing all of Bella’s things.  There’s the controlling young man that I remember from the earlier movies/books!  Bella touches her belly while listening to “Requiem on Water” by Imperial Mammoth, and decides she wants to keep the baby, and then Edward totally kills her happy motherhood buzz by stating “I’m not gonna let it hurt you.  Carlisle’ll get that thing out.” Oh, and also, their housekeeper is suspicious of Edward’s nature, and upset to see that Bella is pregnant, and says in her native language that Bella is gonna die.  This is semi-important for part 2 as well, (the fact that a Brazilian native has folklore knowledge of vampires and vampire-human babies.)

Back in Forks, Jacob has learned from Charlie that Bella caught a bug and had to cut the honeymoon short.  “She sounded…off,” says Charlie.   Convinced that this coded language means she’s a vampire now, Jacob vrooms off on his motorcycle to barge into the Cullens and see for himself.  He’s relieved to see that Bella is alive and human, on the couch.  “You look terrible,” he says cheerfully.  (And she does.  It’s CGI and make-up, but she looks…awful.)  Then she stands up, and oh snap, Jacob sees the cause of her condition in that pregnant belly.  “YOU did this,” he yells, lunging at Edward.  “We didn’t even know it was possible,” explains Carlisle.  (See, they don’t have vampire sex-ed.  Nobody told them how babies are made!)  Edward agrees with Jacob that the baby/fetus is a danger to its mother and should be terminated, but Bella insists, “No.  It’s not his decision.  It’s not any of yours!”

Carlisle tells Bella, "The fetus is incompatible with your body."

Edward wants Jacob to try to talk some sense into Bella, which doesn’t work, but which does produce the brilliant line, “and when you die, what was the point?  Of me loving you, you loving him…how is that right for anyone?  Because I sure don’t see it.”  It’s okay, Jacob, none of us see much “point” to this story, either.  Unable to deter Bella from her decision to carry the baby to term, he states “I know how this ends, and I’m not sticking around to watch.”  Oh, Jacob, I wish I had your courage of conviction.  I know how this is going to end too, and yet here I am watching the whole damn thing.  For the second time.

Jacob phases into wolf form and runs through the woods to join his pack, replaying words and images from what he just witnessed to telepathically relay them to the collective pack mind.  (Because they can hear each others’ thoughts when they’re in wolf form, remember?)  It’s kind of cool at first, but when they meet up and try to have a semi-structured meeting, it devolves into hilarity.  It’s like a cartoon, with the actors growling lines of dialogue at each other as we see snarling wolf snouts with lips that don’t move.  Which, they wouldn’t move their lips if they were just thinking it…but it’s hilarious.  The funniest part is when Jacob defies Sam’s orders to attack the Cullens and destroy this unknown danger.  Jacob shouts, “I.  Will.  NOT! I am the grandson of Ephraim Black!  I am the grandson of the CHIEF!  I wasn’t born to follow you, or anyone else!”  Nepotism for the win.

"I. Will. NOT!" haha, cracks me up every time.

Jake forms his own little wolf pack with Seth and Leah, (although Leah has to beg him to let her stay and pleads “I don’t have to [like you], I just have to follow you.”  Because males have all the power in the Twilight universe.)  The mini-pack is protecting the Cullen house from Sam’s pack, who, having lost the element of surprise, decide to wait for an opportunity to strike.  Meanwhile everyone inside the house is waiting around, Edward in a hilarious turtleneck sweater searching for information on half-vampire babies on Yahoo! while “Cold” by Aqualung and Lucy Schwartz plays in the background, and Bella sits with her legs tucked underneath her in a posture that is impossible for women who are actually pregnant.  But maybe this is another one of the things that’s different with half-vampire hybrid pregnancies, besides the super speedy development rate.

Carlisle tells Bella that her heart will give out before she can deliver, and he won’t be able to “save” her by turning her into a vampire if that happens.  Bella accepts this and says she will just carry the baby as long as she can.  “You have to accept what is,” she tells her bitter husband.  Edward, not accustomed to not getting his way, throws a fit.  “We’re supposed to be partners, but you’ve decided this on your own.  It’s you that’s decided to leave me.  I’ll be the one to miss you, and I don’t choose that.  I don’t choose that.”  I mean, it would suck to be in his position, but when in any previous moment of their relationship did he treat it like a “partnership”?!  Come on.  He’s just pouting because he’s not getting his way.

"I thought he was like me, but he's not, he's like you. Good, and pure, and happy."

Not to worry, soon he’s won over because he “hears” the baby.  He’s a mind-reader, remember?  Although, I’m not sure what he’s “hearing” or what he’s picking up on in order to tell Bella “he likes the sound of your voice…and mine.”  Because unborn babies don’t, you know, talk yet.  They aren’t producing language, they haven’t even been exposed to anything except intonation patterns.  I mean, I guess Edward “sees” into people’s minds too, since he usually witnesses Alice’s visions, but…I’m not sure how to make sense of this part.  No matter, it restores harmony between Bella and Edward, and that’s what’s important.  It’s the only thing that matters, ever.  Right?  RIGHT!?

But they still have a problem–the baby is absorbing too many of Bella’s nutrients, and she can’t keep any food down.  They don’t know what it wants.  Then Edward hears a good idea in Jacob’s thoughts.  “It wasn’t an idea, it was a snide comment,” clarifies Jacob.  “What was it?” inquires Carlisle.  “I was just thinking he probably wants what every bloodsucker wants–someone to sink his teeth into.”  Bella’s gonna have to drink blood, you guys!  “He’s thirsty,” says Rosalie.  “I know the feeling,” says Emmett.  The audience laughs.  Then they (the audience) gasp and recoil when Bella takes her lips off the straw in the donated-blood-cup and says with blood-covered teeth that it “tastes…good.”  News flash, Twihards, vampires drink blood.

None of the Cullens have hunted in awhile, and Dr. Carlisle needs to be at full strength to deliver this baby/try to save Bella.  So Jacob helps create a diversion, distracting half of the wolf pack by telling them he’s planning to kill the baby (“I’m the only one who can get close.  They trust me.”) while Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett make a run for it.  “You played us!” snarl the wolves.  Jake goes inside the Cullen house to find out whether the vamps made it out.  (Yes).  Rosalie prods Bella to tell Jacob about the names she’s picked out for her baby.  “If it’s a boy, E.J.  Edward Jacob.”  Seriously, Bella?  Who names her baby after her husband and ex-boyfriend?  That’s creepy, and weird.  But not as weird as the name she’s thinking of for a girl–“I was playing around with our moms’ names, Rene and Esme…and I was thinking, Renesme.”  Everyone in the audience laughs.  Jacob makes a face.  Edward sucks up to Bella by saying “No, it’s not too weird, it’s beautiful.  It’s unique, which certainly fits the situation.  I like Renesme.”

Bella drops her cup of blood.  She reaches to grab it as it falls to the floor.  OH MY GOD, her back breaks, she falls on her kneecaps, (*crunch*!) it’s the grossest thing ever!  Edward catches her head just before it, too, falls on the floor, and it’s time for an emergency, disgusting c-section.  The birth scene is mostly shot from Bella’s POV, so we see Edward and Jacob’s frantic faces (and Rosalie’s for a bit before she’s overpowered by the smell of blood and kicked out).  We see a glimpse of Bella’s bloated, bruised stomach, and it’s pulsing because the baby can’t breathe and is kicking to get out, and it’s HORRIFYING.  Edward bites through the placenta (we hear it, don’t see it), and comes up with a bloody mouth cradling a bloody little baby.  It’s Renesme!

Renesme is bloody except for around her eyes, like she was wearing googles in the womb. Either that or Edward licked her eyes clean?

Edward lays the baby on Bella’s chest, where it promptly bites her.  *crunch*!  Bella smiles and then appears to die.  Rosalie takes the baby while Edward and Jacob frantically work to revive Bella.  Edward stabs a syringe of his venom into her heart, bites her extremities, performs chest compressions, and varies his inflection to try to save her.  “You’re not dead.  You’re NOT dead.  Come on, come ON!”

Jacob can’t take it anymore.  He tells Edward, “I won’t kill you, that’d be too easy.  You deserve to live with this.”  Bella’s dead, and he really is going to kill that baby now.  He sneaks up on Rosalie holding Renesme in a chair by the fire.  The baby is looking over Rose’s shoulder, and shifts her eyes to connect with Jacob’s.  Boom, cheesy voice-over of Jacob explaining what imprinting is while we see images of grown-up Renesme (which helps make this slightly, but only slightly, less creepy).  Jacob literally falls to his knees worshiping this newborn.

"It's like...gravity. Suddenly your whole world shifts, and you would do anything, be anyone she needed. A friend, a brother, a protector."

The wolves know that Bella’s dead.  They’re racing through the forest for a rumble at the Cullens.  The vampires are outnumbered, since those on the hunting trip haven’t returned yet.  Edward has to leave Bella’s side to go fight.  They’re losing but nobody is dying, (because this fight didn’t happen in the book so nothing consequential can come of it), then the other three vampires show up and it’s more of an even but still very tense stand-off.  Finally Jacob gets off his knees in the living room and comes running out between the two groups.  “Stop!  If you kill her, you kill me!” he declares.  Edward explains, “Jacob imprinted.  They can’t hurt her.  Whoever a wolf imprints on can’t be harmed.  It’s their most absolute law.”  Might be my favorite line in the whole movie.  Definitely competing with “I. Will. NOT!” for funniest line.

So, everything is cool now, we just have to wait for Bella to wake up as a vampire.  (Oh yeah, her heart started beating again).  As the venom burns through her veins, her hair gets shinier, and her bony body fills back in, she remembers her human life to a remix of “Bella’s Lullaby” by Carter Burwell (from the first Twilight movie).  Her human life memories consist almost entirely of scenes with her and Edward, but also that one time she was a ballerina (that they used in the first movie), and an impossible memory of herself as a baby with Rene and Charlie.  Then, as the music swells, the last little red blood cell crystallizes with vampire venom and her heart beats one last, shuddering time.  It’s dead quiet, (haha), as everybody holds their breath and waits.  Edward’s waiting, but Bella’s eyes are still closed.  Alice is waiting, all the Cullens are waiting.  Bella’s eyes are…OPEN!  BAM!  RED EYES!  THE END!

There’s a little scene with the Volturi after the initial credits, (which are rather jarring in red, white, and black and set to “I Didn’t Mean It” by The Belle Brigade.) Aro, Caius, and Marcus learn that “Carlisle has added a new member to his coven,” and kill off their human secretary because she mis-spelled “Carlisle”.  Marcus sighs for most of his dialogue and Aro says their feud with the Cullens isn’t over because, obviously, there is a part 2 yet to come, and “they have something I want.”

So that’s my Breaking Dawn recap.  Please feel free to leave me your comments, but only if they’re glowing compliments.  It’s my most absolute law.  Just kidding.  I’m not a super-controlling vampire.

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“There’s a Bomb in the Oven” and other great lines from the movie ‘Abduction’

No-one should ever have to watch the movie Abduction.  It’s just…bad.  It’s kind of like Bourne Identity for kids, but written by people trying way too hard to make it relateable to “kids these days”, (so a villain actually threatens to kill all of the heroes facebook friends), and lead Taylor Lautner is overacting so much, it’s awkward.  As a service to you, then, the internet public, I will recap everything here to spare you from ever having to watch it yourself.

It begins with Tyler Lautner’s Nathan pulling a Death Proof move and riding on the hood of his friend’s car while they drive to what turns out to be your standard high-school-movie kegger. I think this is supposed to show that his character is reckless and thrill-seeking, but it actually makes him look like a douche because he screams “WOOOOOOH! WOOOOOOOOH!” the whole way, in a pitch that’s far too high to be considered badass.

^not actually Taylor Lautner. he wishes. for his stunt he was plastered against the windshield the whole time.

So they get to the party, and the dialogue and action come to a standstill so we can switch back and forth between close-ups of Nathan and some girl’s faces when she arrives, because, you guys, OMG, they like each other or something!  At least I think so.  Either that or she stopped walking because all the thoughts fell out of her brain, and he just stared at her because she maybe had a booger hanging out of her nose?  But, oh no, she has a boyfriend.  He busts up their close-up eyeballing of each other by walking through their line of site, and also he bumps into Nathan when he walks by, which almost leads to a fight, except then not, because she whispers something in his ear and manages to pull him away.

Nathan’s Sarcastic Sidekick Friend (who doubles as his token minority friend) says, and I am not making this up, this is a verbatim quote: “Whoa!  That was exciting.  Let’s go get drunk!”  The first of many amazing lines of dialogue.  It’s almost Shakespeare.  This friend, by the way, makes fake IDs for people, so add tech geek or criminal to his character’s list of stereotypical labels, your choice.

Nathan and his friends drink.  Cut to, him waking up without his shirt on the lawn, and the party hostess and her friends are picking up the red plastic cups and beer cans littering the lawn “before my parents get home,” so he pitches in, even though she says “you don’t have to do that.”  I’m so confused, I thought his character was a reckless drunken idiot, now I’m supposed to think he’s a fabulously mature guy because he picks up two pieces of trash voluntarily before his dad drives up and honks the horn all mad?

His dad is played by Jason Isaacs, (I love him!!) and I guess Nathan didn’t ask permission to go to this party, or overstayed his curfew, or else Dad is upset about the underage drinking.  It’s one of those things, for sure.  But he’s an unconventional parent, because for punishment he makes Nathan box with him in the backyard.  Apparently this is something they do all the time, and it probably is pretty punitive to have to work out with a hangover.  Nathan keeps getting beat by Dad, and complains “This is bullshit!”  Dad snaps back, “I’ll tell ya what’s bullshit, bullshit’s getting so drunk you can’t defend yourself.  Fight, and watch your back!”  He also says some other stuff about how Nathan has to use his head and be patient to win against Dad because Dad is stronger.  Also, Nathan has a Mom.  Or else a cougar girlfriend who is his Dad’s sister?  She watches them through the window and shakes her head, calling them “my boys.”  So it could be either one.

Later, when Nathan is taking out the trash, the girl he likes (who is conveniently his neighbor) is conveniently breaking up with her boyfriend in her driveway.  Boyfriend drives off, so clearly she’s fair game now.  The girl’s name is Karen, I don’t remember when we learn that so I’ll just stick it in here, and she’s played by Lily Collins.  So far her part has pretty much been wordlessly staring at things.  She wordlessly watches her newly minted ex-boyfriend drive off, then wordlessly gazes at Nathan across the street, then wordlessly goes back inside where she probably stared silently at her hairspray can.

But it’s time for school!  Or, a quick-cut Hollywood approximation of school anyway.  Karen is a cheerleader!  We know she’s the prettiest and most popular because she’s the only one who’s allowed to show her midriff, and also she’s front and center in the squad’s formation.  All those other non-speaking-role cheerleaders have to keep their shirts on, or else we might notice one of them by accident.  Meanwhile, Nathan is on the wrestling team with two of his friends, athlete friend and sarcastic friend who is bad at sports (but good at faking IDs, remember,) who wonders out loud why “you guys made me go out for wrestling” after losing, again.  Nathan says, “it’s fun!” because he wins his matches and doesn’t care about his friend’s feelings.  They don’t wrestle in singlets, because that would not look cool, and also because they’re not a real team.  If they were they wouldn’t want their sarcastic friend to be on the team with them just so they could hang out, because his constant loosing would bring the team scores down.  (That’s how you know it’s a movie, not real life).

Nathan drools over Karen while she’s at her locker, and she says “uhhh, I don’t want to go to class!”  (You don’t believe that these are real quotes, do you?  I promise, they are.  Every single one.)  Nathan and Karen conveniently have class together, and conveniently they get paired together for a group project which the teacher says is worth a ridiculously high percentage of their grade.  They have to do theirs on child abductions.  I don’t know what class this is supposed to be…Social Studies?

Karen comes over to Nathan’s to work on their project.  He’s playing Xbox but frantically throws dirty laundry into a corner and changes his shirt and practices a pose or two between the time she rings the doorbell and gets escorted to his door by Mom.  Mom asks if they “want the door open or closed?” which is how you start to suspect she’s not his real mom!  Because real moms say, that door is staying open, mister!  Because you are sixteen and you are doing schoolwork, not impregnating the neighbor!

Mom needn’t worry, Karen seems to think Nathan is beneath her.  She scoffs “huh! You still like games,” when she sees the paused screen.  Um, yes, you piece of snot, 16-year-old boys like video games.  So do 20 and 30-year old boys.  Know who else likes video games?  Girls!  Including this one.  So…I don’t know why you made your observation all snobby like it was an insult.  Who doesn’t like video games?!  I guess the cheerleaders that are popular enough to show their midriffs.

They find a website with photographic projections of what missing children might look like today.  After Karen leaves, Nathan discovers that one of them looks like him!  This discovery is so shocking that he has to touch his chin in uffish thought as he ponders its significance.  (Later he says “we have the same chin!” when defending this belief that the abducted child is him, so maybe that’s what he was going for here, but it just looks…stupid.)

Nathan wonders whether the missing child in the photo is really him…

He clicks on the site and tells a stranger in the website’s chatroom that he thinks he’s seen the missing kid.  The kid’s name is Steven, I think.  Twist—the website is a fake!  The person chatting with him hacks his webcam and starts a trace!  Nathan gets suspicious and closes his product-placement Macbook, but not fast enough.  (Lesson: don’t chat with strangers on the internet!)

Nathan goes over the Karen’s, after lying to his parents that “nothing” is wrong.  She doesn’t believe that the missing kid is him, but he gives her the we-have-the-same-chin line, and produces his old shirt which is the same as the one in the picture and even has the same shoulder-stain.  They decide that she will come over to his house again later that night.  (This is a pretty serious project.  Three study dates within six hours?  When is this thing due, tomorrow?)

Nathan confronts his mother when he gets home.  He asks if she’s really his mother.  She starts crying, and he starts sniffling, and she says she needs to go get his Dad because “he’s a part of this too” before she can tell him the truth.  She says, “you’re what made us a family.  I love you, you’re my son, and nothing’s gonna change that.”  The music is pretty cliché.

Nathan doesn’t get to hear the truth from his “parents” because the bad guys show up.  (Second lesson: don’t lie to your parents about what’s bothering you.  If you say “nothing” and go confide in your neighbor girl crush instead, your parents might die.)  Mom busts out some fight skills, but there are two bad guys and only one of her.  Nathan sees her die, and the bad guys (dressed like ninjas all in black) see him see them.  He runs back into his room and climbs out the window.  Dad hears the commotion and comes inside and fights, too.  Nathan circles back around to the back door.  Dad sees him and tells him to run, to get out of here, and then he gets shot.  (Oh no! Jason Isaacs!  I’m sad.)

Nathan starts to run, but then remembers, “Karen!”  She’s planning to come over!  He told her just to walk in!  Her bared midriff is in danger!  He goes back and fights some bad guys to save her.  I think she might use a fire iron to hit one of them, I can’t remember.  Maybe there is only one left by that point anyway.  Nathan rips off the pwned bad guy’s mask and demands to know who they are, what they want, etc.  The bad guys says, “I’ll tell you what you want to know, but I’m not gonna die here.  There’s a bomb in the oven.

Thanks for the heads up, bad guy!  Unfortunately he dies anyway, because Nathan and Karen use up the time they could have spent dragging him out of the house by going to the oven and opening the door.  And yes, there is a bomb, conveniently one with a big fat timer on it counting down, so they know they have seven seconds to wordlessly stare at each other and run and jump into the swimming pool before the GIANT EXPLOSION THAT DESTROYS THE ENTIRE HOUSE!  Kids, don’t try this at home.  If you are not a movie star and someone tells you there’s a bomb somewhere, you get the hell out of there and call the bomb squad.  If you must go and look for it, and it’s in the oven, don’t freaking open the door!  What if it’s wired to explode when you do?  At least try turning the oven light on and looking through the little window, am I right?  Oh, and also, have a pool in your backyard so you can jump into it when your entire house explodes in a giant fireball.  Seriously, they come up for air and stuff is still flying around and Karen suffers a dainty shoulder wound and they have to go underwater a second time.  (I think they just wanted to make their day of underwater filming be used in more than just one shot.)

See, this is what I’m talking about. You can see what’s inside the oven without opening the door and risking death by alleged bomb.

Nathan zooms Karen and her dainty shoulder wound to the hospital, on a motorcycle that somehow escaped unscathed from the explosion and is ready to go even though it’s what Dad was tinkering with right before he came inside and joined the fight.  Whatever.  At the hospital Nathan calls 911 from a payphone, but is connected to the CIA instead.  They tell him to stay where he is and make the classic mistake of referring to him by name before he identified himself, so that he gets suspicious.  The CIA guy says he needs to trust them, but Nathan parrots what his Mom said when he was grounded after that party, “trust needs to be earned.”

Then Sigourney Weaver shows up—she’s his shrink, did I forget to mention that?  He has a recurring dream about watching a woman die through some sort of veil, and she’s treating him for “rage and insomnia.”  (You know what kind of creatures are sleepless and given to violent rages?  Vampires!  Now that would be an unexpected twist!)  She says he needs to leave right stat now, because she used up all their extra get-away time filling a dozen balloons with helium so they could block the security cameras with them.  Doctor Shrink doesn’t think Nathan should stick with Karen, because she’ll only slow him down.  But Nathan and Karen can’t split up, because they haven’t kissed yet.  So they both jump out of Doc’s SUV and tumble down a grassy hill into some tree cover, and all the CIA guys keep chasing after Doc and then you see another GIANT EXPLOSION and assume Doc just died in a fiery, fiery, fiery car crash.  Did she have tubs of gasoline in the trunk?  What is with these ridiculous explosions?

What I suspect Taylor Lautner would look like if he turned out to be a vampire in this movie….

Nathan and Karen now have to get in the water, I guess to cover their tracks from bloodhounds or something.  So they swim out to a little pile of clustered driftwood and breathe heavily while they stare at each other, avoiding a searchlight.  It’s awkward.  Then when they’re back ashore (same shore, or did they swim to the other side? Who knows,) Nathan pilfers some blankets from a random woodland dweller’s clothesline, but neither he nor Karen seem to know how to make efficient use of them.  Instead of wrapping the blankets up around them, because, you know, it’s cold and they just got soaked, they spread one down, sit on a corner of it while the other one is loosely draped around themselves, and then they stare at each other and breath heavily and slowly, slowly recline. It’s so awkward, yet all I can think about is how they ought to pick up the other half of the blanket that is just lying useless on the ground and wrap it around themselves.  How stupid are these kids?!  They’re going to freeze to death.

The next morning, having miraculously escaped death by freezing, they hitch a ride from a trucker to an address in Virginia that Doctor Shrink told them about.  Oh, did I forget to mention that Doctor Shrink told Nathan she was a friend of his father’s?  “Your real father!”  But nobody is there.  Nathan gets a gun and a cell phone with weird, matrix-y text on it’s screen, from his dad’s desk.  Karen enters the room towel-drying completely dried hair, and then fixes the collar on his jacket like they are an old married couple.  “Thanks,” says Nathan.  Oh, the chemistry.

They go to visit Nathan’s biological mom’s grave.  I think they get the address from his dad’s computer, somehow, because he had flowers delivered there or something.  And they go to the cemetery and ask a fat nerdy kid with freckles working there if he can give them contact info on whoever ordered those flowers delivered.  Fat kid says no, that’s not allowed, but Karen is a cheerleader with midriff-baring powers, so if she smiles at this poor loser he’ll do it.  (That must be how they got the ride from the trucker, too!  Good thing Nathan didn’t ditch her when Doctor Shrink recommended it! ) I guess they get an address, because then they board a train.  Nathan decides to bring the giant gun he got from his dad’s place, because there’s no such thing as security screening for train travelers.

The first thing Nathan and Karen do when they open the door to their little sleeping compartment on the train is complain about how not nice it is.  They say something like ‘it’ll have to do’ or else ‘it’s better than nothing.’  Um, excuse me, didn’t you spend last night on the ground, soaking wet and cold?!  This is a huge step up.  Good grief you kids are so effing whiny!  It’s like you acted each scene out by itself without remembering any of the surrounding context or thinking about how it fits into the larger narrative!  Seriously, I think that’s why there are so many awkward Nathan/Karen shots, because every single scene they’re trying to make it obvious that they like each other.  Yeah.  We get it!  More story, less teeny-bop romance, please!

Ah, but we’re just getting to the actual romance part of the movie!  Karen’s all, remember that time we hooked up in the summer before (or was it after?) 8th grade?  How come you never called me after that?  And Nathan’s like, oh yeah, I remember, um, I dunno why I never called, I mean I totally liked you and everything.

Karen: “Are we gonna die, Nathan?”
Nathan: “No. I won’t let that happen.”

*first kiss*

**second kiss**

Karen: “Wow.”
Nathan: “What?”
Karen: “That’s better than middle school.”

***third kiss***

Nathan:”That’s because I know what I’m doing now.”
Karen: “And no braces, either!”

**they continue making out**

Karen:”We should get some food.”

**snog snog snog snog**

Nathan:”Yeah. I’m starving.”

**smooch smooch smooch smocch**

Karen:”I’ll go.”

*kiss*

Karen:”Um, I’ll knock twice before keying in.”

Oh, Nathan! Will you protect me from the braces in middle-school kisses?

So Karen goes to the food car and literally talks out loud to herself while she selects edibles about whether or not Nathan will want to eat them.  I mean, she’s right to be concerned, because teenage boys are notoriously picky eaters, right?  Meanwhile, a bad guy has caught up with Nathan and they fight.  (Nathan actually opens the door to check and see if Karen is coming, so, we never get to find out if the bad guy would have been able to figure out the super-secure “knock twice” code that was Karen’s idea.)  The movie is so bad by this point that they try to improve it by bringing back Jason Isaacs!  In voice-over, anyway, repeating the lines he told hung-over, punished-by-boxing Nathan about using his head and being able to beat a bigger, stronger opponent.  Nathan wins, although he hurts his hand with one of the punches–he ultimately throws the dude out the window, only to turn around and realize that Karen saw him toss a body out of a speeding train, and now he’s definitely not getting to second base.  At least not on this train ride.

Oh my lord, is this movie freaking over yet?  I am so tired of writing this recap.

The train stops because the CIA found the body.  Don’t worry, it really was a bad guy.  See, Nathan’s real dad is a spy.  He’s recently stolen some pretty important intel, a list of double-crossers, and the bad guys are after Nathan to use as leverage to get the intel back, and the CIA are after Nathan to protect him, allegedly.  Anyway, Nathan and Karen try to make a run for it into the woods by the train but there are too many CIA people, and they lure them out by reminding them “you must be hungry,” and also by complying with Nathan’s demand to answer the question, “What’s my real name?!”  Because, remember, the website of the missing kid said his name was Steven.  They say his full name was Nathan Steven, or else Steven Nathan, and his mom wanted him to be called Nathan but his dad wanted Steven, so that’s why there’ the two name confusion.  Nathan is satisfied with this answer, (which is kinda dumb of him because there is no way for him to know whether they are lying to him or not, but either way he’s outmatched and surrounded anyway,) and comes out of the trees.  The CIA guy buys him “a burger and a milkshake,” and they sit in the window of a local burger joint while they talk about all the stuff I said at the beginning of this paragraph.

CIA guy says they’re involved in a war, but “it’s a polite war, it’s not about bullets and bombs, it’s about information.”  Riddle me this, then, if it’s not about bullets, why have there been so many guns involved?  Why are there CIA snipers on every surrounding building, protecting Nathan?  More importantly, if Nathan needs to be protected by numerous armed guards, why is he sitting in front of the freaking front window?!  Seems like they’re just making their job needlessly harder.

Wouldn’t you know it, the bad guys catch up, take out the snipers, and shoot out the window.  I don’t remember how but of course Nathan and Karen get away and are driving to who knows where, and Nathan shows Karen the phone with the matrix-y stuff on it that he found at his dad’s and says he thinks it’s the list they are all looking for.  Then his phone rings, and when he answers it Baddie Bad Guy is all, mwah-ha-ha, thanks for spilling your guts, I turned your phone into a listening device and now I know everything!  Baddie Bad Guy says Nathan better hand over that list, or he will kill all his friends, and their parents, “and when I’m finished, you’ll be responsible for every friend you have on facebook!”  Simply horrifying.

Nathan and Karen meet up with Sarcastic Sidekick Friend, (the one with fake ID skills, remember?)  He’s made them some fake IDs!  And also placed something at the stadium where Nathan has arranged to meet with Baddie Bad Guy.  (It’s a gun.)  This totally makes sense, because only Baddie Bad Guys know how to figure out who someone’s facebook friends are.  The CIA would never be monitoring Nathan’s closest friend in an effort to find and protect Nathan again.  Fake IDs can be easily manufactured in a short time period, cell phone calls and texts are never hacked, especially not when you are being specifically targeted by the CIA.  And teenagers can totally easily sneak guns into stadiums, no problem!  The whole thing is just so stupid.  At one point somebody makes a comment that Nathan is surely his father’s son, because of how resourceful and skilled he seems to be.  So, to anyone who’s ever trained to be good at anything, it’s just too bad your parents weren’t good at it.  If they had finely honed skills you’d have inherited them at birth.  Training, schmaining!

They go to the stadium.  Karen’s job is to take pictures on her cell phone?  Nathan and Baddie Bad Guy have a chat.  Baddie gets the gun that was taped under Nathan’s seat, because he’s had more experience and maybe some actual training.  Is this the part where Nathan finds out/remembers that his mom was killed?  By Baddie Bad Guy?  That’s what the reoccurring dream was about.  The veil he watches her die through is a bedskirt.  He’s hiding under the bed and she gives him her gas mask while the room is pumped with poison.  Aww.

No time for sentiment!  Nathan needs to show off his parkour skills.  I mean, he needs to run away from Baddie Bad Guy.  And, lure him outside?  That’s what his Spy Dad tells him to do.  What, his dad?  Yeah, he calls him or something.  And says that Nathan needs to trust him.  Nathan’s forgotten about the whole “trust needs to be earned, said the woman I thought was my mom” thing, or maybe he’s realized that he’s been trusting no-one this whole time and it hasn’t exactly worked out for him, or maybe he’s just run out of things to slide down and wall-kick off of, but in any case he does lead Baddie Bad Guy outside the stadium.  And Spy Dad takes him out.  Nice shooting, from the mysterious shadows at the last second while the music swelled!

This is totally, 100% believable.

Turns out the main CIA Guy was on the list of double-crossers, so he’s had an ulterior motive all this time.  Oh, snap!  Spy Dad, on the phone with some other CIA guy, says they have to “let ’em go.  He’s family.”  In reference to Nathan.  Because clearly that’s a good idea.  He’s still in high school, and more or less orphaned, because even Spy Dad admits “Nathan, I’m your father, but I’ll never be your dad.”  So I don’t know what kind of stability this kid can be expected to have.

Oh, wait, Doctor Shrink will take him in.  Yeah, she didn’t really die in that giant SUV explosion.  “How’re you doing with all this?” she asks, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “You okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m fine,” he replies, and I snort out loud and can’t decide if this line was meant ironically or not.  Doctor Shrink continues, “and Nathan–about a certain young lady, I was wrong.  You should hold on to her.”

“Yeah,” says Nathan, because he starts all his sentences that way, “she’s worth it.”  And with that, it’s time for Nathan and Karen to go off and be alone where they can make out again.  Karen tells Doctor Shrink “Don’t worry, I won’t keep him out too late,” and the newly minted legal guardian just lets them go, and that’s how you know his real mom really is dead, and the CIA doesn’t train their operatives in how to parent.  First his fake mom let him shut the door when he had a girl over, now his second pseudo-mom lets him go off with his girlfriend without a curfew and without even knowing what address he’ll be coming home to!  His house blew up, remember?  He killed a guy and threw him off a train, snuck a gun into a stadium, broke a bunch of crap, ran away from the CIA multiple times, and he’s not the least bit in trouble?!  Not even let’s-sit-down-and-have-a-serious-discussion-about-the-consequences-of-your-actions in trouble?  I guess not, all because Spy Dad said “let ’em go.  He’s family.”  Or, just because it’s a movie, where there’s no such thing as limits or consequences for main characters.

And like every movie, this one has to end with the lead kissing the girl, so that’s what they do, sitting in the now-empty stadium.  “Y’know what the problem was, back in 8th grade?  I just wasn’t ready for you yet.” *kiss*, credits, finally this torturous film is over!  I know I skipped and condensed some stuff, it’s because it was boring, and also I didn’t want to put in any more effort than I already had.  I mean it was a waste of my time to watch the stupid thing, and arguably more so to write this time-consuming recap.  I hope somebody appreciates reading it.

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Problems with “Project Nim”

I went to a screening of the documentary “Project Nim” recently.  The film is in very limited release, but it is very interesting and worth checking out if you get a chance.  I went out of an interest in the project itself, since it is one I have heard referenced numerous times in my linguistics classes, but I didn’t know all of the specifics.   Well, this documentary wasn’t interested in the science and data.  It was much more focused on the people involved, and seemed to be questioning whether this whole project was even very “scientific” at all.  It’s also seems directed towards making the point that Nim’s treatment over the span of his life was unjust.

isn't baby Nim just adorable?

The film is actually based on a book written by Elizabeth Hess, called “Nim Chimpskey: The Chimp Who Would Be Human.”  I have yet to read it myself, so I can’t comment on how the movie may differ from it’s print source of inspiration.  Like most documentaries, the narrative is largely told by various interviews with those involved recalling anecdotes and opinions about their experiences, and there is also some archival footage of Nim playing around or signing.  Although there wasn’t as much information on the actual data and results as I was expecting, it was still an incredibly fascinating look at the interpersonal dynamics behind such a famous research project.

I definitely came away from the film with some unflattering impressions of many of the individuals involved with Nim, (crazy hippie, naive assistant, smarmy, lecherous, callous professor), but it’s difficult to tell how much of those impressions are due to the way the movie was edited.  We of course don’t see anyone’s complete interview, only the most relevant (or outrageous) soundbites.  And there are shots included of Herbert Terrace, lead researcher on the project, smoothing down his mustache in-between questions, which is perhaps unfair footage to include since it’s not really part of the interview and makes him look like a creepy old man.  But then, he admits that he slept with two of Nim’s teachers, and “[doesn’t] think it affected the science at all.”  (I remain unconvinced on that point.)  Also, it’s hard to think of  a context that would make many of the quotes by the woman who was Nim’s original primary caretaker, Stephanie LaFarge, sound sane.

One question that kept occurring to me as I watched was how such a seemingly unorganized, unplanned project  was ever funded or approved in the first place.  Every experimental research project that I have first-hand knowledge of from my own University is ten times more methodically planned, organized, approved and executed than Project Nim appears to have been.  Were the seventies such a different time period?  In a similar vein, I couldn’t help but wonder how a project with such obvious flaws brought such acclaim and academic career advancements for many of those involved.

Nim with one of his teachers, Laura-Ann Petitto

As much as I disliked Terrace by the end of the film, I had to agree with his conclusion, (based on my limited observation of the sessions and data included in the film), that Nim did not display syntax and was merely performing signs as a behavioral, not linguistic, response to elicitation.   However, this experiment was not conducted in a way that conclusively shows chimpanzees are incapable of acquiring language naturalistically!  It was a sensational case because of the way that Nim was raised with a human family, but neither Stephanie nor any of her children knew any sign language before Nim came to live with them.  They learned individual signs and taught them to him explicitly.  Later, an undergraduate Research Assistant, Laura-Ann Petitto, takes over Nim’s instruction, (because Stephanie refused to take notes, charts, or schedules, insisting Nim “wouldn’t have thrived” in such an orderly environment), and constructed daily lesson plans for the chimp.

Does any of that sound remotely like the way human babies acquire language?  Do their mothers learn one or two words a day and then teach it to the baby?  Do their nannies make lesson plans, and quiz them on the words they were taught the day before?  Of course not.  Children learn language by being exposed to natural language use going on all around them, and yes, sometimes directed towards them.  If Terrace really wanted to investigate whether a chimp could learn language “like a human”, he should have placed him with a family that regularly used sign language to communicate not only with him, but with each other.  It struck me as very strange that Nim’s handlers, in the clips shown, used only signs with him, but wouldn’t speak verbally while signing, yet they spoke out loud to one another in his presence.  What a confusing linguistic environment!  No wonder his signing never resemble human language!

In many ways, watching this documentary reminded me of what it was like to read the book Genie: A Scientific Tragedy, a similarly behind-the-scenes look at another very famous, often-cited linguistic case that was also surrounded by ethical controversies and interpersonal drama among the researchers.  I think there’s probably always some degree of drama when people work together on anything, but it seems that these high-profile cases attract more of it.  The movie “Project Nim” does a great job of presenting the juiciest bits of that drama up for our entertainment, but hopefully it also provides an opportunity for some critical analysis on the way this and any scientific experiment ought to be conducted.

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