John Wick, Chapter 2: Keanu, Self Will Always Love You

Have you ever walked out of a film so struck by awe and wonder your skin is abuzz? Has a film ever left you so joyful and drunk on adrenaline that it made you more hopeful about the world? Has a lead performance in an action film ever had such balletic grace it made you marvel at the possibilities of the human body itself? This is exactly how I felt watching John Wick: Chapter Two, the sequel to the surprising 2014 action hit.

— Angelica Jade Bastien, rogerebert.com

Existential Crisis of the Day: To See or Not to See Fifty Shades

Fifty Shades Darker or John Wick 2?

Self is a big fan of Dakota Johnson.

Yup, that’s right. DAKOTA JOHNSON.

Plus, the Jamie. Come on. Ever seen this guy’s back blown up on the side of a building?

Well, self has. London, 2015. Somewhere in the South Bank. That back was pretty fine.

She is also a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Yesterday, an NPR reviewer called John Wick 2 the apogee of something: “designer violence” or “designer mayhem” or, anyway, something designer. Niiice!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

American Horror Story: Evan Peters

When self was in London, this past summer, she walked all the way from Russell Square to the Odeon on Shaftesbury just to see X-Men: Apocalypse. And about halfway through, Quicksilver appeared. And then self remembered his scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

A week later, she was in Oxford. And her hotel was right across the street from a movie theatre. She had time to see the Bodleian but not the Ashmolean. And she even got to see X-Men: Apocalypse again. And all because of Evan Peters.

By now self knows he’s a regular on American Horror Story. But she is such a fraidy cat, she never risked watching a single episode. Until today.

What else to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? She decided to watch American Horror Story. She scanned, episode by episode, until she got to one called “Coven,” which she thinks was either in Season 2 or Season 3.

The opening credits were a compendium of scary sights. But self was able to endure.

TRIGGER WARNING: Some Not-So-Nice Things, i.e. Horror, Depravity, Sexual Deviation and — need self say more?

Jessica Lange appeared, all floozy and wrecked. Then Emma Roberts appeared, in trashy faux-fur and miniskirt, side-eyeing a shirtless next-door neighbor. Then Evan Peters appeared, blonde. In flannel shirt. On a bed. Next to a blonde who looked significantly older.

Then it appeared that his head had at one time been separated from his torso. Not only his head, but also his arms. Everything was still healing, but there were a lot of sutures.

Then, a younger blonde appeared, rescued Evan Peters, and returned him to his mama, an awfully decrepit-looking Mare Winningham (She had a stud on her chin. Way to go, Big Mare Mama!). Then Evan’s Mama began to kiss him on the mouth. It took some time before self realized that the writers of this show were indeed going to go there — Holy Cow! This is one crazy show! So depraved (by American TV standards, that is)! She loved it, just loved it!

Apparently, every single oddball character actress in America is in this show. Aside from the aforementioned Jessica Lange, Mare Winningham, and Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates is in it.

Characters are all kinds of deviants. Huh!

It was getting dark and self was getting major creepy vibes, so she stopped watching after just two episodes. But, kudos to the writers and producers for putting such wickedly anarchic stuff on American television. And for keeping it up for six seasons.

Stay tuned.

It Begins

In the movie self just saw, Ben-Hur actually says “Wow.”

It’s a tad too long, but the final chariot race was thrilling. She saw it in 3D, which wouldn’t ever be her first choice, because 3D usually makes her dizzy, but she was short on time and had to grab the first screening that came up.

And she did not get dizzy! In fact, she forgot she was watching 3D about 10 minutes after the screen went black and this message appeared:

PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES NOW.

Today self, having forced herself to re-read the first 30 pages of Northanger Abbey, is finally beginning to see the point.

She must have been so tired earlier, when she first began reading. That’s the only explanation she can come up with for the words dancing like spots before her eyes.

Now, self has arrived at a part where Catherine is sure of her attraction to Mr. Tilney, and is still very equable to her best friend’s brother, John Thorpe. He’s such a natterer. But Catherine is much too nice to drive him away. Besides, she’s too humble and self-effacing to think that she has an actual suitor.

As self realized after reading Middlemarch last year, if a young woman is moral enough and innocent enough, her rich inner life can well prove to be her undoing: She can convince herself of the rightness of self-sacrifice like nobody’s business.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Random Thoughts on Summer 2016 Movies

SUMMER!  SUMMER IS HERE!  WOOT HOOT AND HIGH FIVES!

Self swore, way back in January, that she would find joy again in watching movies. And she has! She has! Even when she was in venerable Oxford, UK, she managed to watch “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Captain America: Civil War”! (Which is probably why she ran out of time before she could drop by the Ashmolean. But she is not a complete Philistine: she did spend time in the Bodleian, and took a one-day poetry workshop at Saint Hilde’s)

So, let’s see, here are the list of summer movies she’s seen so far:

  • Me Before You (Emilia Clarke meets Bridget Jones: Clarke is too adorable!)
  • The Shallows (Blake Lively and her cute butt and her long legs and her killer smile meet a totally focused great white in the wilds of — Latin America? Mexico? Where the pretty Texan encounters very chivalrous men. The only un-chivalrous man who comes within Blake’s orbit gets . . . umm, well, let’s just say: Payback’s a bitch)
  • Love & Friendship (Xavier Samuels: What is her life? AAAARGH. When you put a handsome man in period duds, it’s lights out. At least, as far as self is concerned)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (Let us give credit where credit is due: the only reason self watches anymore is Evan Peters)
  • Captain America: Civil War (American snark rules! Especially in this series! YES!)

She will probably end up seeing Independence Day: Resurgence even though it has Liam. And mediocre reviews (Liam, you need a new agent! Pronto! Someone who can find you movies that convince people you can actually move!)

Of the above, the best ‘summer movie’ movie is, in self’s humble opinion, The Shallows. Any movie that can evoke hoots, laughter, and finally a triumphant YEEEES from a California audience has definitely earned its spot in the Best Summer Movie pantheon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death (3 May 1616)

It is also the 400th Anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’s death, what a coincidence!

Seriously mind-blowing.

Self is in Oxford. She went racing to Victoria Bus Station two days ago, lugging the Mother of All Suitcases, only to find that the bus she had tickets for had left at 1:30 a.m. She got in line at the ticket booth (30 minutes wait) and then explained to the lady that she was from America, she made a terrible mistake, she was aiming for 1:30 p.m., not 1:30 a.m. The woman was so kind, and put self on the 1 p.m. bus. She also booked self’s return trip: 15:30. “That’s 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “All right?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry to be such a stupid American!

The last time self was in Oxford was to attend the Saboteur Awards, which were held in a tavern. That was a fun time. She was a finalist in the novella category.

That was two years ago. How quickly time flies! Of course, she did not win, but it was such an honor just to be a finalist.

Yesterday, self went to a fabulous open-air market on Gloucester Green, and then she caught the last showing of Captain America: Civil War at the Odeon. What a great movie. Sorry, but Marvel cornered all the sass: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle,. The women are great actresses: Scarjo, Ellen Van Kamp, Elizabeth Olsen. (Not that J-Law isn’t. Self loves J-Law. And also Sophie Turner).

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, though, she thinks that Fox should really do their utmost to hang on to Evan Peters(Quicksilver), as he is the only element in their whole Brit-actors-chewing-scenery cinematic universe who is capable of delivering sass on the level of, say, Robert Downey, Jr. And Lord knows, the X-Men could do with a bit more sass.

Now, where was she?

Oh, right, Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary! So, she has determined that she must see at least one thing today that is connected to Shakespeare. As it would be pretty lame of to leave Oxford having only seen Captain America: Civil War.

She does a little internet search and finds that there are quite a number of Shakespeare exhibits in Oxford, operating concurrently. Mama Mia! What an absolute plethora of riches!

She’s going to spend the entire day rushing from one exhalted library to another.

Starting with the Weston. Because the Weston has, in addition to an exhibit on Shakespeare, a map of Middle Earth, annotated by Tolkien himself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“X-Men: Apocalypse” Has One Bona-Fide Break-Out Performance

“X-Men: Apocalypse” has produced a break-out star.

And it’s Evan Peters.

Seriously?

Seriously.

Here he is in “American Horror Story,” doing the Banana Fana song (Official Title: “The Name Game”) with Jessica Lange. He is never not enjoyable to watch.

And he is the ONLY reason self would ever contemplate seeing an X-Men movie. Heck, she might be back in the Odeon tonight. Who knows?

Stay tuned.

 

“X-Men: Apocalypse” at Odeon, Covent Garden

Self spent three hours in the British Museum, then walked to Shaftesbury. It was a beautiful Sunday in London. Crowds were out walking, and tourists were arriving (How did self know they were tourists? Because they were pulling their suitcases along behind them)

The Odeon is quite a nice cinema, with very plush seats. Self was hoping to see “Captain America: Civil War” (Notice how all these superhero titles have colons now? Like book subtitles?) but on learning that the next show wasn’t until two hours later, and “X-Men: Apocalypse” was on in 10 minutes, she opted for “X-Men.” Besides, self will never not enjoy a J-Law movie. The girl is simply a hoot.

It’s a very long movie. At first, self went all gooey-eyed over James McAvoy rocking a thin top under a tweed jacket, plus 70s long hair. Not even the materialization of Nicholas Hoult in glasses could detract from the utter, utter  fabulousness of James McAvoy (Later, he appears in a lavender t-shirt. Which is sort of a shock because: Would Charles Xavier really be caught dead wearing a lavender t-shirt underneath a tweed jacket but anyhoo)

The movie has Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique iteration appearing in posters all over the world, like she’s some kind of rock star. Which is amusing.

Michael Fassbender is always very intense. Nothing new there. He sings, too, if dear blog readers want to know (For heaven’s sake, self felt like saying, as soon as he broke into song: it’s just a lullabye to your daughter, why are you singing like you’re at an audition? Perfectly in tune. Even, loud. Self finds Fassbender so annoying: he’s so good and yet he has to keep reminding you of it. He never — at least in self’s humble opinion — disappears completely into a role. Self is always aware, watching him, that she is watching a Fassbender performance)

But self only realized after Evan Peters appeared, more than halfway through the movie, that he was going to save it. The best scene in the last X-Men movie was his. And when he finally makes his appearance in this one, self actually laughed out loud, so great was her joy at seeing him again.

You know how you know you’re watching a movie in a British (as opposed to an American) cinema? Self watched the last “X-Men” (Days of Future Past) movie in an American cine-plex, and the audience was in stitches over Evan Peters. This time, she belatedly realized, after she was doubled up and chuckling, that she was the only one laughing. In the entire theatre. Everyone else was still as stone. Graven, if you will.

What? How could one not enjoy the leather pants, the sass, the playing of Mrs. Pac-Man, the whole Dude Affect? He’s got that role nailed to a T. Not even J-Law comes close in capturing the antic spirit, the rebelliousness, that made teen-agers the world over embrace the X-Men comic book series.

Here, for those who might have missed it, a link to Evan Peters as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

By now, self finds the thwarted, twisted love between Magneto and Mystique so repetitive and — just get over it already, you two! Either hook up or stop making goo-goo eyes at each other!

In the end, self always knew Magneto would turn. He always threatens to go bad, and then he turns. There is just nothing new in this universe anymore.

But please, more of Evan Peters?

Self loves that when Quicksilver (who is actually Magneto’s son) is asked by Magneto what he is fighting for, he doesn’t say something corny like, “I’m your son!” There’s this moment of hesitation. You can actually see Quicksilver tempted to say it. But he doesn’t. He saves it for another day. Instead, he simply says, “I’m fighting for my family, too.”

Yes! That’s a sure sign that the filmmakers are planning to make something of this relationship in a future “X-Men” movie. Self expects Michael Fassbender will milk his new role as Quicksilver’s father to maximum dramatic effect, but  it’s not him self is looking forward to watching, it’s Evan Peters.

And oh yes, Sansa  Stark saves the daaaaaay! Self was so happy that Sansa gets to kick ass, finally! After all the torments she’s had to endure in Game of Thrones!

The bad guy is played by Oscar Isaac. God, what a waste of a face! He is completely unrecognizable; he could be Darth Vader, for all we know.

Stay tuned.

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