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.

“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.


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.

And Now, Several Years After Watching the Movie Adaptation

Self began reading a new book today, Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

She’s read two other novels by McEwan, the more recent one being On Chesil Beach (the book The Economist says should have won the Booker).  Can’t say it slayed her.  She found the narration a little too mannered, too fully conscious of itself.  (Self thinks narration should be as clear as glass.  Any hint of obfuscation and she starts losing interest. Pretty quickly.  Before you can even say “What gives?”)  Still, kudos to McEwan for devising a plot that was pretty audacious and unusual, not to say minimal.  And at least she was able to read to the end of On Chesil Beach, which was not the case with the other McEwan novel she has tackled, Saturday (weird title).

Now, however, after having reached just p. 6, self already knows that Atonement is something else entirely.  McEwan is, as they say, “firing on all cylinders” with this one.

She saw the movie.  She sat there crying.  Can anyone do “tragic” as well as James McAvoy?  She doubts it.

And, as dear blog readers are certainly aware, when one already knows the ending of a book, that is some pretty huge baggage one brings to the reading of it.  After all, it’s pretty hard to ignore the proverbial “elephant in the room.”

But, once again, self, you have digressed!  Why can you never get straight to the point?

So, here’s the passage that triggered this post:

At the age of eleven she wrote her first story — a foolish affair, imitative of half a dozen folktales and lacking, she realized later, that vital knowingness about the ways of the word which compels a reader’s respect.  But this first clumsy attempt showed her that the imagination itself was a source of secrets:  once she had begun a story, no one could be told.  Pretending in words was too tentative, too vulnerable, too embarrassing to let anyone know.  Even writing out the she saids, the and thens, made her wince, and she felt foolish.

Will Atonement attain the heights set (in self’s mind) by Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go? Self thinks it just might.

Stay tuned.


Of Note Today, 3rd Wednesday of May (2011): Watching Mel

Self mailed out a piece. It’s one of her short short ones (She’d call it prose poetry, but Zack says her work will stand a better chance if she stops describing it as such — people shy away from anything with the word “poetry” in it, he says. Next time she does a send-out, she might try describing her work as “TransGenre.” She thinks that might have a nicer ring)

Self is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she actually sees some sun (A miracle!)

Bella, the old beagle, seems uncommonly hungry this evening.

Self saw a movie with Mel Gibson, the one with the strange title, “The Beaver.” It was in one of her favorite theaters, Palo Alto Square off Oregon Expressway. (The other movie showing there was “The Conspirator”, with James McAvoy. But she’s heard terrible things about this movie, just terrible. So, even though James is ever-so-cute, she settled for Mel)

Time was when Mel was absolutely the most gorgeous living man on the planet. Now, he sounds like Michael Caine (She won’t go so far as to say he looks like Michael Caine, for he doesn’t. Not yet, anyway). In fact, self thought Michael Caine might have made a good stand-in for Mel, in this role.

In “The Beaver,” Mel plays the CEO of a toy company (called “Jericho” — Ha ha ha!) and can only communicate with anyone by talking through a hand-held puppet (the “Beaver” of the title). In a very smart ploy, he hands out pre-printed cards that tell people that the puppet has a therapeutic purpose (She thinks the movie called it a “prescription puppet”). When he is not talking through the puppet, he is absolutely miserable, as witness what happens when he and his wife, played by Jodie Foster, celebrate their anniversary at a swank restaurant and she makes him cut out all the beaver foolishness (at least while having dinner). Then he has nothing to do except listen to her earnest pronouncements, and we have nothing to do except gaze at the sad wreck of a face of Mel Gibson.

Then there are some very dark moments towards the end. But all is saved by the presence of the absolutely hot young Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a cheerleader and valedictorian who develops an inexplicable fondness for nerd son of Mel Gibson, played by an unexpectedly tall Anton Yelchin, who self last saw at the console of the starship enterprise, beaming up Spock, Kirk, and all secondary characters in J. J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” re-boot of many moons ago (Self is so tired of waiting for news of a sequel!)

The movie was directed by Jodie Foster and is quite good — at the very least, it gives us another opportunity to ogle Jodie’s tremendous physique — she just looks so strong, so physically strong, like she could blow will-o-the-wisps like Angelina or Maggie Q right out of the water. One of the best things about Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” was watching Jodie march around in tall stilettos, with calves as oiled and sleek as one of Schwarzenegger’s biceps. Ugh, self just realized that’s a terrible comparison. But, dear blog readers get self’s drift.

Alas, self did not arrive early enough to go to the cafeteria in one of the next-door buildings, the one that sells absolutely scrumptious lemon and apricot bars. Instead, self decided to follow the lead of a woman ahead of her at the concession stand, who purchased a box of mini-Nestlé crunches for $3.95. It took self about 15 minutes to gobble the box’s entire contents.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Watched “Unknown” Yesterday and Lived to Tell the Tale — Er, to Deliver This Capsule Review

Self is quite bemused at Liam Neeson’s turning into the new Harrison Ford.  Whatever.  Even at his age, he is very easy on the eyes.

The plot of this movie hinges on Liam Neeson absent-mindedly leaving behind his briefcase (with the all-important identifications, i.e., a passport)  at the Berlin Airport.  He doesn’t discover the loss until he arrives at his hotel, and then has to catch a cab to take him back to the airport.  Since this is movieland, the cab Neeson hails turns out to be driven by a woman.  And not just any woman:   Diane Kruger. What are the odds, dear blog readers?

Diane Kruger turns out to be a refugee from Bosnia:  her whole family was murdered, etc etc.  And, more important, she turns out to be conveniently un-attached.  There does happen to be a male friend, but he has a wife and children back in Senegal.

Now, aside from being a wicked/good cab driver, Diane Kruger apparently knows all the best underground clubs in Berlin.  And in addition possesses enough arm strength to man-handle (or at least do creditable damage to) two of the meanest-looking thugs you ever saw wearing dark coats.

The theater at the first screening yesterday was absolutely full.  Full of middle-aged people.  Wow!  Our generation has finally found its new poster boy!  Liam Neeson!

The only boring part of “Unknown” was the car chase scene.  Everything moved at a fairly predictable clip (Self forgot to check if Mr. Neeson’s car was a stick shift):  self knew that some cars would turn turtle and crash, and that some other cars would blow up, and that some would hit Liam Neeson’s car broadside, and that no one would be able to catch up to Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger.

In the movie, Berlin looked very very cold.  Self has been there in October, and it was actually quite pleasant.  A very important scene takes place at a photography exhibition.  The exhibit consisted of blow-ups of people’s faces in extreme close-up.  Self couldn’t help but think:  Stella Kalaw is way better than this!  Stella needs to get herself an exhibit in Berlin, on the double!

So, yesterday, self saw a couple of fab previews.  One was of that Matt Damon/Emily Blunt Matrix/Bourne clone whose title self cannot remember; another preview was for Battle:  Los Angeles; yet another had Ryan Reynolds taking off his shirt for only the xxxxth time (for The Green Lantern of course); and, most thrilling of all, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender!  Together in an X-Men movie!  Oh happy happy joy joy!  Self loves that James McAvoy is so versatile.  She certainly likes him in action mode.  The other day, she was able to catch “Wanted” on TV.  That was a truly enjoyable movie, one of her favorites the year it came out.

Of additional interest:  self decided she was hungry enough to spring for the Black Angus beef hot dog sold at the movie concession stand.  She must admit:  she’s been itching to try it ever since it got added to the food offerings, perhaps a year ago.  Imagine her shock at being told the price:  $5.  And it didn’t taste noticeably different from the regular hot dog, which is Nathan’s.  Since self thought it would be too embarrassing to tell the check-out girl that she had changed her mind, she actually did fork over her $5.  And afterwards thought:  How unbelievable!  You have just paid $5 for a length of hot dog that’s about six inches (not, of course, including the bread, which would make the over-all item longer)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Oh, Blog (Farewell for a Day or So, While Self is Airborne)

Self has been very remiss, staying away from you all day, not even checking the Olympics coverage (though it seems Bode Miller got a bronze!)

The weather was gorgeous, self took full advantage by pruning, weeding, fertilizing, arranging the new plants she bought from Wegman’s this morning.

She stopped to say hello to the neighbors, whose kids were selling lemonade for 50 cents a glass on the corner.

But, perhaps most important, she and hubby went to the Guild in Menlo Park and saw “The Last Station.”  And self would just like to say this:

Contemporary Scotland’s greatest gift to the English-speaking world is:

Ta-ra!  Lights, Applause!

James McAvoy!

The way that man can cry on-screen is just unbelievable!  But he does it in a way that is not wimpy!

When self was expecting with Dear Son, she happened to be reading War and Peace.  And was so ardently in love with Prince Andrei Bolkonski that she named son after —  Prince Andrei Bolkonski!   (Naturally, without the Bolkonski)

Self wishes the film-makers had chosen a different title for the movie, because by the time famous writer Leo Tolstoy (who they kept referring to as “Lev” in the movie, very confusing) got to “the last station” (duh), she knew he was about to expire.

Helen Mirren is still a dish.  Self well remembers this actress in horrible “Caligula” of 30 years ago, and then in “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.”  Talk about a career arc!  Self loved every moment of Mirren’s performance.

And now self must finish packing.  She almost considered leaving her laptop behind  —  after all, she’s only going to be in the DC area for four days (Dear Cuz said today:  bring sneakers.  It is snowing, heavily), and Dear Cuz has even scheduled a reunion with self’s old Manila classmates, for Wednesday night.  What’s four days in the life of Kanlaon?  But then self decided she might be bereft during those three-hour layovers in Denver airport!  So she relented and is bringing her laptop.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Scene From the Much Anticipated James McAvoy Movie

I informed him in exchange that my Christian name was Philip.

“I don’t take to Philip,” said he, smiling, “for it sounds like a moral boy out of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fell into a pond, or so fat that he couldn’t see out of his eyes, or so avaricious that he locked up his cake till the mice ate it, or so determined to go a-bird’s-nesting that he got himself eaten by bears who lived handy in the neighborhood. I tell you what I should like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith — would you mind it?”

“I shouldn’t mind anything that you propose,” I answered, “but I don’t understand you.”

“Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There’s a charming piece of music by Handel called ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith.’ ”

“I should like it very much.”

“Then, my dear Handel,” said he, turning round as the door opened, “here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the table, because the dinner is of your providing.”

Oh, how very British is the above conversation. Self confesses she can just see James McAvoy uttering half of those lines. Perhaps the other half would be uttered by some British actor of manly mien, maybe Tom Wisdom. Just not Hugh Grant, for he would destroy it with his facial twitches.

Anyhoo, the conversation is a passage from the book self is currently reading, Dickens’ Great Expectations. A quick scan of Amazon reader reviews revealed that over half of the readers felt the book’s subject was very dark indeed. Self doesn’t know yet what this means, for she’s on p. 218 and the darkness has not yet descended.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

“Red Cliff” : Not the Same John Woo

This is John Woo’s first Chinese movie in — heck, who knows how long?

This was supposed to be a return to his roots, a return to the era before he went Hollywood with “Broken Arrow” and “Face/Off.”

After watching “Red Cliff” (which is three hours long, dear blog readers), self will now have to put him in the same category as Oliver Stone, as an example of a director who is going on the downhill slide. (If you don’t believe self, just rent “Platoon.” Then watch “World Trade Center.” Watch John Woo’s Hong Kong movies, the ones with Chow Yun-Fat. Then watch Read the rest of this entry »


At last, self has found it! The New Yorker review of “Wanted” !

The review was written by Anthony Lane. Following, some choice quotes (The “him” in the first quote refers to the director, guy with the gorgeous name of Timur Bekmambetov):

    “Wanted” begins with a flashback, but not for him the gentle glance over the past month, or the childhood cameo; instead, up comes the dauntless title “1000 years ago.” One day, presumably a wet Thursday, a secret society of medieval weavers suddenly decided to create an even more secret society of global assassins. This was done, apparently, to maintain “the balance of the world,” a principle reiterated later in the film, but the episode leaves you panting to know more. Why weavers? Why not potters, or pastry cooks? Until now, I never made the connection between haberdashery and homicide . . .

* * *

    Bekmambetov was born in the Soviet Union, and this is his first film set in the United States, but “Wanted” never feels solidly American, and not just because James McAvoy keeps slipping into his native Scottish. He plays Wesley Gibson, who loathes his existence. Given that it involves both accountancy and cuckoldry, he may have a point, and the twitchy Gibson is the heir of a hundred other movie mice, headed by Jack Lemmon in “The Apartment.”

* * *

    You don’t tell Angelina Jolie to go away; she tells you. In “Wanted,” she plays Fox, one of the fraternity of killers, who informs Gibson that his father was the doyen of the group, that he was wiped out only the day before by a rogue operator, and that he, weedy Wesley, must learn the ropes and avenge this foul, unnatural crime. Hamlet was under the same obligation, but, lacking access to high-powered rifles and exploding rats, he took longer to finish the job.

* * *

Self will leave the rest of the review to dear blog reader’s imagination. Stay tuned.

Self and Hubby See “Wanted!”

Angelina rocks! James McAvoy rocks!

Self never laughed so much in a movie, not since watching — hmm, the first Austin Powers movie? “There’s Something About Mary”?  Jason Stathan in “The Transporter”?

Truly, this was an action movie to end all action movies.

If you’ve ever longed to see a woman who looks like Angelina Jolie suddenly materialize at your elbow while you’re standing in line at Long’s and waiting for a prescription to be filled, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever longed to see Angelina on top of a train do a graceful backward bend (at the knees) to avoid having head chopped off while train enters a tunnel, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to see James McAvoy’s gorgeous mug get beaten to a bloody pulp by a beefy Spaniard/Transylvanian uttering outrageous insults like “Pussy,” then this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to be submerged in a vat of wax, then this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Morgan Freeman get — Nay, self will with-hold information about what lies in store for Morgan Freeman, just for the moment.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie directed by a guy whose first name is “Timur,” then this movie is for you.

Self cannot possibly encapsulate in one short review all the delights of this movie, which include ricocheting bullets, gazillions of (bomb-carrying) rats, and a brief back-nude shot of Angelina showing that she has thirty-plus tattoos on backside alone, and that’s not even counting the ones which (self learned from reading Vanity Fair ) represent the birth place coordinates of all her large brood.

When self left the theatre, she decided that she would never be able to see another action movie, not for at least another six months, not unless they can promise delights as many and as varied as all of the above.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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