Lean, Mean, Killing Machine

Jason Statham is back in his own star vehicle, Wrath of Man. The man who The New York Times‘s Michiko Kakutani once called a “bullet-headed looker” is back.

You know who else is back? Josh Hartnett. Yup, that’s right, Josh Hartnett, who self hasn’t seen on the big screen since The Faculty (1998!). When not required to be a heartthrob, the guy can act. Self means, really act.

And you know who else is in this movie? Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood. Who plays the badest badass she’s ever seen in a movie in a while. The kind of bad guy you’d cheer to see vivisected. Good turn, Scott Eastwood! (From certain angles, she swears she almost thought it was Clint)

The final set-piece, self didn’t think she took a breath once. It was all action, and the action had the remorselessness of a yakuza movie. Or of The Raid.

Who is that actor who plays Jason Statham’s son in the movie? Self has never seen him in her life, but he is well cast. She looks him up later — he has that kind of fey quality some British actors have when very young, but the actor turns out to be from OREGON. Big surprise! Turns out Americans are capable of turning out their own fey, young actors. LOL

There is no “closure,” not really.

Self would say she still liked Mortal Kombat better, since Wrath of Man is so unrelentingly grim. But she liked it ever so much more than Here Today, which put her to sleep.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Back to Grimdark: Joe Abercrombie’s The Trouble with Peace, Book Two of The Age of Madness

Since the pandemic — not to mention the threat of gun violence — made self a couch potato (Excuses! She was already a couch potato before!), she was able to finish Dark, Salt, Clear this afternoon. Yes, she read the second half of that book practically in one sitting. Helped along a little by the discovery that Lamorna Ash is 23. Or was, halfway through the book.

Also, self learned she spent eight days, not eight months, on the Filadelfia. And was quite a lot of the time tipsy, at least while on land (This is not a judgment. In fact, it’s quite endearing. But it’s a little hard for the reader to put herself in Lamorna Ash’s shoes afterwards, just sayin’)

All of this was revealed gradually, about halfway.

But, what a writer. She managed to get a whole book out of eight days on a fishing boat! And powerful writing it is, too.

Self will admit that at least part of her skepticism is attributable to envy. HOW CAN A 23-YEAR OLD WRITE THIS WAY, HOW.

Anyhoo, self has returned to the universe of The Age of Madness. Orso, who was a wastrel prince in Book One, is now KING in Book Two! And he is trying. Really trying. Even though he had the leader of the rebellion murdered and displayed his broken body in a cage, he wants to be a benevolent and wise King.

The first scene is a sort of cabinet meeting, and there are about twelve characters all talking at once. But since self has seen this sort of thing before (in Book One of The Age of Madness), she knows not to get antsy, she knows her patience will be rewarded.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Expanse, Season Five (Quick Comments, No Spoilers)

A few things about the first three episodes, which dropped Dec. 15 (and which self has already watched twice)

  • Splitting up the characters creates great narrative drive.
  • The scale of this universe is tremendous. Just the scope of the whole production, the ambition and sweep — not even Battlestar Galactica had that.
  • The actor who played Erich, Jacob Mundell, is amazing. Once again, props to whoever casts this series. Can’t imagine any other actor who could play this role. They apparently found Mundell in Chicago.
  • Drummer’s grief over Ashford broke me.
  • Beltalowda is a thing.
  • Absolutely hate Filip, he is trash. Points to the actor who plays him, Jasai Chase Owens.
  • Monica Stuart, as played by Anna Hopkins, is a lot of fun to watch. Wonder why she never makes a pass at Holden, lol. Even just to worm some information out of him. She seemed pretty ruthless, in the books as well.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

TENET on a Wide Screen

If any movie was going to lure self back to the cine-plex, it was Tenet. The buzz about it was ridiculous. She went to first screening today.

Tenet is a gorgeous-looking movie. That opening sequence was pretty audacious. Think anarchy at a classical music concert. People stomping on violins etc. GULP. Trills of recognition: similar scenes on the TV news every night. Not as dramatic as stomping on violins, but the same feeling of dread.

Our first sight of John David Washington is after a character says “Wake the Americans” (LOL) John David Washington cracks open his eyes. Is there anyone in the world at this moment who gives more intense side-eye than John David Washington? Don’t think so. All thanks to Denzel, not only for his amazing ouevre, but for his amazing genes. As for who smolders better, Denzel or his son, after Tenet self has to say, definitely JDW. Denzel can do other things better (like Shakespeare), but his son has super-sexy smouldering eyes!

Do not ask self about the plot. Do not even go there. A Christopher Nolan movie has to be experienced, not analyzed. Also, how great do these men look in suits? Self likes the fey affect of Pattinson: great foil to JDW. She wonders how he will do Batman. He has a good jaw, which means he’ll look great in the Bat-mask. But, self digresses.

MILD SPOILERS

Self did object to the tired damsel-in-distress-as-a-way-of-cracking-villain-inside-circle thing (and btw, if you’re going to use that trope, why not commit, why not have the woman fall madly in love with JDW, why the reticence?) Second, Kenneth Branagh doing the older husband/villain: he seriously has to do that role again?

But the action sequences — especially the opening scene, and a pincer move in the end: one set of soldiers moving forward, the other moving backwards — don’t ask self to explain, seeing it on wide-screen was WILD!

There were empty rows ahead and behind her, maybe 10 people tops in the audience. No one talking, much less coughing or sneezing. She felt safe. More social distancing than at her local grocery, for sure.

Just to feel normal for one afternoon: so worth it.

She enjoyed the previews (there were about 10, which might seem a tad excessive, but just to show you how long it’s been, self did not mind one bit. In fact, they could have showed 15 previews, all self would have said was: Thank you). The trailer for Dune was whew! Scorching! It had Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

IMMIGRATION NATION Premieres on Netflix

Quoting from Vanity Fair’s Don’t Look Away from Immigration Nation, HWD Daily, 3 August 2020:

  • Few docuseries are as urgent and infuriating as Immigration Nation, which premieres on Netflix today. Filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau gained rare access to ICE agents and detention facilities, following officers, bureaucrats, and asylum-seekers through our broken system. “Most of the time,” Sonia Saraiya writes, “what emerges is a system increasingly designed to maximize the immigrants’ suffering.” Particularly under the current administration, “it seems that the immigration process has been changed primarily to make immigration as difficult and painful as possible. Donald Trump cannot, on his own, outlaw immigration. But he can cruelly disappoint those who dare to hope that the U.S. could be their home. It’s striking that these apparent undesirables are mostly guilty only of believing they could belong in America; they’re being punished for believing in a dream.”

Watch, and stay safe.

 

 

Sentence of the Day: Hilary Mantel in NYRB, 11 January 2007

She had not been encouraged to consider physical decay; when she had made her triumphal entry into France, and crowds turned out to see her, ugly people had been warned to stay away.

— from The Perils of Antoinette, a review by Hilary Mantel

That is such a Hilary Mantel sentence. The tone is so calmly authoritative that one doesn’t even pause to ask: WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR ‘UGLY.’ (Missing teeth? Pox-scarred skin? So many possibilities!)

The NYRB is making the entire piece available, through April 2020.

 

About the Little Women Movie

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  • The casting was so on point! Though self was initially skeptical, she eventually fell in love with Timothée Chalamet as perpetually lost rich boy Laurie. A scene towards the end, with the youngest sister, Amy, was one of the best in the movie.
  • Amy was always her favorite sister. Why? Who knows. Was it the fact that she always felt left out, that she had artistic ambitions, that no one ever seemed to take her seriously? The actress who plays her has a doll-like appearance BUT (and this is a good thing) a surprisingly deep voice. Also, she has a sharp practicality. Kudos to the screenplay for highlighting this aspect of her character.
  • Loved Laura Dern as Marmee, who has to utter the film’s treacliest lines, but who always brings a dash of spice to her delivery. Even when she says, Girls, we are offering up our Christmas breakfast to a needy family who has nothing, self never thought of saying, You cannot be serious! Dern just brings it.
  • Also loved the merging of timelines — Self has read the book many, many times (at least 10 times) so she was waiting for particular scenes. All the scenes she loved most were in the movie. And she did not think this merging of timelines made the film in the least bit choppy. In fact, everything seemed to work better this way.

Self’s only quibble was that Beth the consumptive did not look consumptive, her face was too round.

But the cinematography, the framing of shots, the way the camera would linger on the actors’ faces and then pull back, all the wide angle shots of houses and fields — lovely.

Details of absolutely no importance: Saoirse Ronan has the longest, slenderest fingers self has ever seen. Timothée Chalamet has the longest eyelashes. The actor who plays John Brooke is gorgeous. Emma Watson looked a little mouse-y (perhaps it was the hair color?). A short clip where Laurie does an exuberant dance (while out on a porch with Jo) looked very 2000-modern and was the only jarring thing in the entire movie.

Self never felt the slightest temptation to nod off (which is happening to her more often, even while she is watching the best movies)

Overall: an enthusiastic 5 stars!

Stay tuned.

Lens Artists Challenge # 65: PICK A PLACE

  • “Each of us at some point has visited a place that holds special memories.” — Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 65

This was an easy post for self to write. She just got back from attending Cal Shakes’ Macbeth. The Grove Talk by Philippa Kelly, Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg is a Don’t-Miss.

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Philippa Kelly Giving Her Grove Talk, Before MACBETH

Have been watching plays here every summer since 2001 (Romeo and Juliet: Adam Scott played Romeo).

Tonight’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were played by a couple who suddenly put everything into a new light. All hail, Rey Lucas and Liz Sklar, for bringing the sexy back to a play first performed in 1606. These two are the youngest actors self has ever seen play Mr. and Mrs. Spot-on, the casting! For the first time, self understood the heat between the two;  she could see the similarities to film noir. In addition, because self and her party were seated third row from the stage, she could see every change of expression on the actors’ faces; it felt so intimate.

Also, for the first time ever, self heard Macbeth call someone a “whey-face.” lol lol lol

Her one complaint might be that The Weird Sisters were not witchy. Or not witchy enough. Of course self got very excited at hearing the immortal lines: Double double, toil and trouble. She just wishes there were an actual cauldron.

She wonders if there was ever a production where The Weird Sisters were replaced by giant hand puppets. During intermission, she eavesdropped on the people behind her who were describing a performance of Macbeth at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “There was a big pool of blood right in the center of the stage. And whenever a character did something bloody, they would supply themselves from the pool.”

That, in self’s humble opinion, sounds gimmicky to the extreme.

Philippa Kelly’s pre-show Grove Talk was fascinating — self wished she took notes. It revolved around the unmasking of identity, and how paradoxical it is that when people remark that “someone has changed” it usually means that the person’s true identity is finally being unmasked and undone.

Gregory also made self aware of the fact that the first actor to play Lady Macbeth was a boy, because back then women were banned from taking roles in the theater.  Women’s parts were played by boys whose voices hadn’t yet broken. Has there even been a modern staging of Macbeth where they use a boy for Lady Macbeth? She thinks not, but it would certainly give the play a whole new spin.

P.S. The Bruns Amphitheater was FREEZING and self needed to rent blankets. Her lips got totally chapped and her hands were frozen. For some reason, all self had on was a denim jacket and a scarf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fans Deserved Better. The Characters Deserved Better.

It’s only been a few days, but already self wants to forget.

She agrees with what USA Today’s Kelly Lawler says below:

‘Game of Thrones’ Ends with a Whimper

This isn’t what we signed up for.

When Game of Thrones premiered eight years ago, it was instantly clear that the series was something different. It was a story that broke the conventions of the fantasy genre, not one that was a slave to them. Tragedy and injustice were as baked into the series’ identity as dragons and battles.

But that’s not the show that aired its finale Sunday night. In the final episode, The Iron Throne, the show was unrecognizable. It was hacky; it was cliched. Every character left standing received a saccharine coda. Closure is one thing, but pandering is entirely another.

The Iron Throne would have been a fine ending for a different kind of TV show. It would have been a satisfying landing for a series that had long warmed hearts.

Self still can’t bring herself to watch the last three episodes in their entirety. She only watched the last half of the finale, just before Jon sticks a sword into Dany and she dies with nary a WHY? Or a look of wounded betrayal. Come on! Jon didn’t look anguished when he did it. The whole scene was so by-the-numbers. Empty, empty, empty. And for a series that dominated self’s life for at least eight years, that is a huge disappointment.

Stay tuned.

Snark: Game of Thrones S8: E4

How much did self hate this episode? She couldn’t even get beyond the first 10 minutes.

Spectacle and ‘big’ scenes that make no sense make for very poor storytelling.

At least, in Episode 3, Melisandre was there to lend some gravitas to the proceedings. Even then, Arya killing the Night King was a bit — too easy. There was so much footage of her stuck in a library and dodging the wights (good extended sequence). Suddenly, Melisandre shows, reminds Arya to say “Not today” and Arya mysteriously runs away. Only to re-appear at the exact moment the Night King reaches for his sword to behead (?) Bran. (Oh, that was super-tops of Bran to remain so still — even, abject — in his wheelchair. Self has not liked Bran for a few seasons, but in this season he is positively shining)

Self cannot believe the last two episodes EVER of Game of Thrones are going to have so much Euron. He’s like the Iron Man of the series and he does not deserve it. Go away, Euron. Instead of more Euron chewing the scenery, we could have had small, quiet moments of connection between Brienne/Jaime (not sex) and Arya and Gendry and Jon and Ghost.

Oh, and after all the angst of Tormund/Brienne/Jamie, Tormund sees the writing on the wall and basically goes, Oh well! I’ll just lose myself with two whores. What? Not even a tear shed for what-might-have-been? Oh well. Guess he wasn’t as hung up on Brienne as the show led us to believe.

The happiest ending for the show would be for Sansa to take everything — have her stomping over Danaery’s corpse with some really kickass Dominatrix boots.

Arya is not a character anymore. She’s just a stone-cold assassin. Without Gendry, her character has no depth. Her interactions with Gendry in Episodes 1 and 2 were the most unforced interactions we’ve had on Game of Thrones for quite a while. These two just have a natural chemistry (See: Forge scene, Episode 2). It’s a crime to have her utter nonsense to Gendry like: “Anyone would be happy to be your lady” blah blah. It’s even more of a crime that Gendry goes down on one knee to propose. And what fool told Gendry to make his eyes super-big and round for that scene? Joe Dempsie is one of the most natural actors on the show. Here he obediently followed directions instead of going with his instincts. If you want to know what should have been on camera but got left out, go read the New York Times interview with Dempsie.

So, Gendry is tied to Dany now whereas before he was tied to Jon. So in the big battle, Gendry will be against the Starks. This truly, truly sucks. Will Arya have to kill him? Oooh!

Stay tuned.

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