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Pirates and Zombies and Mermaids, oh my

6 May

So I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (aka PotC IV) and IT WAS SO GOOD!

No, really, it was!

I know there might be some of you out there who were a little disappointed by the last two movies and, well, if I’m being truly honest, even I didn’t love them as much as I absolutely adored the first one.

(Before watching PotC I: CotBP, when asked about my favourite movie I always said Titanic because that’s a movie everyone liked, right? Then I saw Pirates and I was like, “THIS! This is my favourite movie of all time.” And it was. And it still is. I still haven’t seen Titanic.)

But this movie? Oh, it’s almost back to the first movie’s level of AWESOME. (Yes, that did need to be in all caps. Deal with it.)

In case you haven’t seen the trailer yet:

I think the more honest title for this movie is Pirates of the Caribbean: Watch Captain Jack Being Awesome.  The last three movies were good, but this one is definitely the Cap’n Jack Special.

We do get to see beloved side characters again, a great storyline, exciting chase scenes, swordfights…and there are some really cute deckhands if you pay attention to the extras.

I’m too full of squee right now for this to be a coherent review, so I’m just going to end by saying PotC IV is amazing. Go see it! [Comes out on May 20th]

Time Travel Theories

19 Apr

So, there are three main types of time travel. Or, at the very least, that’s the way I tend to classify time travel events in my head whenever I think about it. Which I kinda do a lot, because I’m that much of a nerd. Whatever.

With slight adjustments for the details of a particular time travel event, I really believe that these three categories can be applied to explain and classify every instance of time travel in comics/movies/books/TV shows/etc.

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1. Time is Unchanging: All time travel that happens was always meant to happen. There’s just one timeline; all events are fixed and built into it and can’t be changed. In fact, trying to change or avoid things often means that you, the time-traveller, are the one who makes them happen.

Ex: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure| Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban| Kate and Leopold| Premonition| Supreme| Timeline.

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2. Time as a River: Time travel can change certain things, but the things that were meant to happen will happen eventually. You might be able to change small details or delay things, but eventually the timeline will correct itself. It’s like throwing rocks into a river: pebbles make ripples, where you can see the tiny effects, but it won’t change the major flow.

Ex:  Doctor Who| Journeyman| Terminator| The Time Machine

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3. Time Changes into Alternate Timelines: The act of time travel always causes a change of some sort, and an alternate timeline branches off from that moment. This is where the most significant changes can happen and so it’s the most commonly seen. This one’s the most complicated just because different ‘verses deal with the role of the traveller and the state of their timeline in so many different ways.

Some ‘Role of the Traveller’ options:

  • merge with your other self and have memories of both timelines (I’ve only ever seen this in Harry Potter fanfiction, but it exists)
  • replace your other self (Batman/Superman Absolute Power)
  • cause yourself to never be born (why Marty fades in Back to the Future)
  • you and the other you(s) can exist simultaneously (old and young Spock in the ’09 Star Trek movie);

Some ‘State of the Timeline’ options:

  • jump between the past and the future making and seeing changes instantly
  • changes in the past create a new timeline, completely erasing yours giving you nowhere to jump back to
  • jump to the future and return to the past to create a new timeline based on what you learned

Ex:  13 Going on 30| Back to the Future| Batman/Superman: Absolute Power| Charmed| Cinderella 3: A Stitch in Time| Eureka| Heroes| Star Trek

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Can you think of more examples of time travel?

Is there anything that doesn’t fit into these categories? Anything that should be reclassified?

Why I have hope for the Green Lantern movie

12 Apr

Answer = the new extended trailer.

Where the original trailer came off as cheesy, predictable, and hinted at the possibility of a badly animated super(skinny)suit, this trailer looks… epic.

It’s funny (his attempt at an oath actually made me laugh) and yet properly dramatic (the actual oath sounded almost inspirational).

It has snippets of exciting action scenes (explosions and fights and spaceships) and looks beautiful (aliens and settings that actually look cool).

Watching this trailer actually makes me want to go see this movie!

(I mean, I would have watched it anyway because it is a superhero and there’s no way I could say no to anything involving superheros, but now I’m way more likely to go see it in theatres)

Spoiler-free Book Review: The Court of the Air

10 Apr

If I’m being perfectly honest, I bought this book because of it’s cover.

It’s got a pretty font! And there was a cool looking balloon. And a super-cheesy, yet tantalising, tagline. (“A fantastical tale of high adventure, low-life rogues, and orphans on the run.”)

Can't argue with its appeal

Luckily, it managed to live up to my font-driven expectations.

Slotting this book into a genre actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be; all I have to do is string words together until they encompass it: it’s a steampunk Victorian fantasy adventure novel.

I think my favourite part about this book is how it shoves you into this new world and just goes, without tedious pages of background explanation. Through the clever use of jargon (in this case, words that are similar enough to their ordinary usage that you can understand their meaning, but used in unusual ways so the world still feels different) you’re plunged into the world without fanfare.

This is one of the few books where I’ve instantly thought “This would make a really good movie.” (Normally, I’m a stickler for original formats: I appreciate the nuances found in a book that a movie wouldn’t be able to convey. And vice versa; I’m an equal opportunity stickler.)

But this book? Would make an awesome movie! This world, done right, would be absolutely beautiful to see on the big screen. There’s so much unique detail: steam-powered living robots, fey mutations and magic users, armoured crab-people, flying bat-winged tribes…and those are just the character possibilities.

You know what would be even better? If it was animated. Not as a kids’ movie, and not necessarily computer animated because I don’t think you’d get the level of detail that this world deserves…but an old-school hand-drawn animated movie. Oh, why don’t I have any artistic skills? I really want this to happen now.

The Court of the Air can be enjoyed as a good old-fashioned adventure novel: exploring and experiencing a new world with the characters as they run for their lives from mysterious forces trying to kill them. (Always fun, right?)

Or, for the literary analysts among us, there’s plenty to read more deeply into. Examples:

  • Political commentary easily conveyed by exaggerating the parliamentary procedures (they actually fight each other during meetings in order to get proposals approved).
  • Social commentary thinly veiled in the described class structure and differenced between the many species/cultures mentioned.
  • Religious contradictions examined, for instance, through the fact that steambots are more spiritual than humans, whose religion is almost indistinguishable from political theory.

The world doesn’t feel as crazy-expansive as most sword-and-sorcery novels do; it’s not spread-out so much that you feel the characters are taking months to trek across it. Not to say that it isn’t good world-building…there are plenty of aspects of this world mentioned in passing which hint at a larger and more detailed universe (which seems like it’s more fully explored and expanded upon in the sequels).

The other covers in the series are just as awesome, and more than enough to encourage me to finish the series. (Yes, I’m shallow in that way. And now I’ve admitted it on the internetz. Damn.)

Has anyone else read it? Want to let me know what you think?

Shut up, Crime (and read this)

6 Apr

Yeah, I watched Super last week, but couldn’t bring myself to write a review: it’s good, but not really my sense of humour. Luckily, I went with a friend (who shall be known on this blog as SparklyCupcake, for now) and she wrote it for me.

It’s not that I’m slacking…it’s an optimal delegation of work. 🙂

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Have you ever dreamed of being a superhero? Of gliding through clouds like the man of steel, or smashing through walls like his green-skinned counterpart? Their tales are fantastic and larger than life and understandably alluring. After all, who wouldn’t want a utility-belt full of crime-fighting wonders?

If you ask me, that list of people is a lot longer than it should be. To borrow an oft-quoted phrase from a movie that frequents late-nights on cable channels: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

And I’m not entirely convinced that most people who dream of karate-chopping faceless thugs who steal old ladies’ purses could shoulder that responsibility. The dark knight may possess the gritty resolve to hide in the shadows until he’s convinced that the men he’s observing on the seedy docks of the outer city deserve it, but most of us aren’t so blessed.

Maybe like Frank D’Arbo, your patience will be tested by a couple who cuts in front of you at the movie theater. Peter Parker may have looked the other way but Frank (aptly portrayed by Rainn Wilson) feels the need to unleash the justice of his trusty wrench across their faces until their bloody penance streams down their faces. This is why you should watch this movie, not just to cast doubt on the fantasies you’ve been nurturing since childhood, but because it’s destined to be a cult classic.

"That'll do."

The director said he wrote the script many years ago but didn’t want to move ahead with the project until he found the right person to play Frank. But it’s hard to believe that the role wasn’t written with Rainn in mind: Frank completely embodies the earnest eccentricity that has made his Office character a household name. An introverted fry cook, Frank creates his superhero persona Crimson Bolt after avision strengthens his resolve to rescue his wife (Liv Tyler).

"Beware crime."

After he decides to fight evil, with his wife’s drug-dealing boyfriend at the top of the list, Crimson Bolt and his wrench begin to terrorize pedophiles and thieves across the city. Frank’s calm and self-aware narration provides a jarring contrast to the celebratory gore that is frequently splashed acrossthe screen. That’s the beauty of this movie though; it’s able to seamlessly encompass the extremes of slapstick comedy and heartbreaking loss without losing the audience. Although some of the violence isclearly gratuitous and you occasionally wonder if you can really root for a character like Frank, his single-minded determination to save his fallen angel keeps you loyal until the end.

"Come here. I want to try something."

Out of all the characters, Liv Tyler’s Sarah, was probably the least explored. Throughout the movie we’re reminded that she’s in need of rescue both from herself and those around her, but we’re not givenmuch else to work with. Perhaps it fit the movie’s purposes to have a stereotypical damsel in distress toembolden the hero. Or maybe we weren’t supposed to think about Sarah as much as we were supposedto focus on what Frank was driven to do for her.

Ellen Page’s character Boltie, the Crimson Bolt’s ‘kid sidekick’, isn’t as easy to quantify. A fumbling twenty-something with a superhero fetish, she immediately attaches herself to Frank upon learning his secret identity. Like many of us would be, she isn’t content waiting for crime to happen and is perfectly comfortable with brutally punishing the people she thinks deserve it. Her enthusiasm for explosives taking down bad guys is an odd match for her childlike energy and junior-high vernacular, butit’s just another example of the contrasts this story thrives off of. Her excitement is infectious, her transgressions are oddly forgivable, and she was easily my favorite character after Frank.

"What are those?" "Pipe bombs. I'm not sure I'm doing it right."

To briefly tie up some loose threads, there are many other things that made me love this movie. I haven’t seen a lot of Kevin Bacon flicks but this movie has made a fan out of me. He brought an undeniable swagger and complexity to a character that could have easily been a two-dimensional villain,like a modern-day Bowser. Also, it was evident that the soundtrack was carefully chosen and I think they generally made great decisions both with the titles and their placement. And finally, despite it all, this movie made me want to be a superhero. Apparently all it takes is the decision to fight evil and a bloody wrench.

David Bowie crosses the ocean with panache

20 Mar

I just finished watching the US version of Life on Mars (starting off my Spring Break by marathonning old shows) and ohmygod that was such a better resolution than the UK version!

Life on Mars is a little obscure, so I’ll summarise: The premise of the show is that a detective in present day (2008ish) gets hit by a car and winds up in 1973. . Hi s name is Sam Tyler. He doesn’t know why or how or how to get back or if he’s dreaming or in a coma or just insane. He works as a detective in the past, dealing with the differences in the time periods. He has weird interactions with himself as a little boy. He uses the best aliases (Tom Cruise, Luke Skywalker, etc). And he deals with time travel in the tongue-in-cheek/Marty McFly way, making references to things he probably shouldn’t, which makes the show fun!

 

I love the many things they kept the same about the US remake: Sam’s goody-two-shoes, by-the-book personality doesn’t jive with the way they do things in 1973; he wears the same clothes: that shirt with the ridiculous 70’s collar and a leather jacket; he has an adorable, but weird romance with Annie; he has an adorable but weird father-son/bromance with his boss; he’s really really confused about why he’s in 1973; he has awkward interactions with his family; he uses police techniques from the future…

But they also added so many little things that made the show different and more American: for instance, one of the first differences Sam notices about the 1973 world is that the Twin Towers are still standing; you also get all these tantalising references to politics of the time, with references to how honest Nixon is when you know that Watergate is lurking.

In the end, like US The Office remake, the US version of Life on Mars went in its own direction and emerged as a show that was good on its own merits, rather than just coasting on the waves of the original’s success.

Where the UK version was this super-surreal experience, where the viewer was just as confused as the main character, if not moreso, the US version toned it down quite a bit. Not to say that you didn’t understand US!Sam’s confusion and disorientation and wonder about the mystery of his apparent time travel, but you weren’t immersed in the experience as much as in the UK version. I actually liked it better this way because the viewer got to do just that, observe and empathise, but wasn’t necessarily forcibly perplexed and befuddled by the weird of the show.

And, without massive spoilers, let me just say that the US version’s ending was so much more satisfying than the UK one. After two seasons of confusing and contradictory theories about why Sam was in the past, the UK series finale is bittersweet and only sorta resolves the issues. You never really know if he was dreaming or actually in a coma and if he can go back to 1973 or if he’s dead or what. The season finale of the US version, on the other hand, gives an explanation and conclusion that actually explains everything and ties all the weird and confusing elements of the show up in a neat little sci-fi bundle. It’s satisfying and was (at least to me) unexpected and clever!

 

It’s only 17 episodes, and is on DVD and Netflix. Watch it when  you need a quick time-travel fix.

Firefly Returns (sorta)

6 Mar

Reading the title of this post might have given you the (false) hope that the cult-classic TV show Firefly was finally getting more than 14 episodes…but, alas, you would be mistaken.

(Yes, I let you believe it for a sec. Bad Marz. But, rather than just being mad at me, reflect! Reflect on why you felt that angry at my raising and dashing of your hopes and remember that it is because Firefly is awesome. It’s awesome and you love it and even that brief moment of hope was totally worth it because it reignited and reminded you of your love of this series.)

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, SHAME on you. Firefly is easily the one TV show that every single geek has to see.

Here’s your chance to watch it on TV, conceivably in the right order…already better than when it first aired. The Science Channel (of all things) is going to be airing all 14 episodes of the Firefly TV series on Sunday nights.

For me and other lovers of all things space cowboy, our favourite cancelled-before-its-time TV show is baaaack.

The Science Channel’s making it more science-y (and thus relevant to the channel’s title) by explaining the theoretical concepts behind the fiction. Apparently, terraforming might not be that far away.

The two hour pilot, Serenity, plays today at 8:00pm ET. Episode 1, The Train Job, will play at 10:00pm.  Every Sunday from now on, they’ll replay the episode from the week before at 9:00pm and play the next/new episode at 10:00pm. Watch it! That’s an order you should be happy to follow.

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