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Scarface and Assumptive In Love Heat – A Look At CW’s Beauty and the Beast

Lionman Scarface and Shoulderpads Assumptive In Love Heat

AKA, Beauty and the Beast on the CW

Elena-

Boy, where to start with this piece of work.

Actually let’s start with me.  I love fairy tales, and I love fairy tale reworkings.  “Beauty and the Beast” was always a particular favorite of mine, probably because it dealt in consequences—everything that happened to the characters was a direct result of something they did.  They don’t suffer misfortune, they suffer karma, and that idea has always resonated with me.  Learning to take responsibility for one’s own actions and their consequences is effing hard, which is why some people have to get turned into a beast in order to appreciate that lesson.

Rachel –

I like fairy tales when they are as weird as possible. Turn them into cartoon musicals with anthropomorphic wall clocks? Gold. Reinterpret with Ron Perlman dressed as Lion-O in an 80’s hair band? THE BEST AND PUREST OF GOLDS. CW had a few choices to make when they decided to re-make George R. R. Martin’s (yeah…let that process for a bit) Beauty and the Beast, which ran from 1987-1989 on CBS. Let’s just say they haven’t impressed me with their choices thus far.

What I liked about the original (which I have dubbed Lionman and Shoulderpads in Love) was Vincent’s physical inability to be anything other than a Lionman. Sure, Catherine fell in love with him and learned to see into his heart and beyond his (totally hot) scary Lionface cleft lip, but there wasn’t any cure or magical potion that would turn Vincent into Ron Perlman.  That is what made that show so addictive. Watching those two interact with each other around the apparently insurmountable species sexual incompatibility was addictive and cheesy. OK, mostly cheesy, but yelling at Linda Hamilton about how she’s just being a prude because hot lionman sex is something she should TOTALLY go for (your mom watches this show…haaa) is pretty much the best viewing experience ever. *

Anyway, it seems like the CW has gone the absolute opposite direction. The new Vincent is not beastly at all in appearance. The tiny scratch on his face is LAUGHABLE. The Beast is on the inside, and that is just boring. BORING BORING BORING. That is all the ex-boyfriends any of us ever had! I AM SERIOUSLY UNIMPRESSED, CW. There better be something else going on, like Catherine’s utter lack of likability being because she is the Beast in this version. That would be interesting.

But then there’s the plot…

Elena-

Oh, you mean, the “plot.”  This storyline?  Not so much about actions and consequences. Not at all about that, in fact.  All these characters are complete reactionaries.  Something happens to them, and they react to it.  Unless there is a complicated backstory to be revealed later, the “detective” did nothing in her past that caused her mother’s murder, just like there is nothing in the beast’s choices that showed why he deserved to become a monster on the outside. Yes, the events that follow from those two life-altering moments are connected, but they are a string of events that derive from things that were done to the characters, not from some choice the characters made for themselves.

Just in the basic set-up, therefore, this fails as a reworking of the fairy tale.

But it fails in other ways, too.  First of all, the beast is way too studly to make a believable beast, as Rachel pointed out.  Even when he gets mad and kills things he just looks like manbearpig, and the rest of the time he looks like a tittybaby for being all emo about his one little scar. Wah, wah, wah.  Go tell it to the one-legged man, so he can hump it on down the road.  It’s no wonder she’s all, “Who WAS that hot beast that saved me in the woods?  Oh, it’s you! Let’s bone.”

Rachel-

Can we also talk about how far-fetched it is that a super-hot and well-educated doctor guy who joins the army after his brother is killed in the 9/11 attacks (seriously, CW…WTF is WRONG WITH YOU?) would then be chosen for a super-secret Gamma Ray project in the first place? One of my favorite parts of the story is that Vincent the former Doctor, when asked what was done to him…has no idea. BUT YOU ARE A DOCTOR. Did they put the gamma rays up your butt? Was it a pill you swallowed? Did a withered old lady shove a rose in your face and cackle? YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME IDEA!

Elena-

Exactly.  It would have made more sense if he had done it to himself, you know, performing illegal medical research. At least that way it would have been his choice and his consequences, instead of being victimized and hunted by these evil government agents. Yawn.

Rachel-

The script is so poorly written that the cliché lines “Needs a new decorator,” “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?” and “We are going to save each other!” ARE THE BEAST LINES. It’s like the writers let Yahoo! Answers write the script!

Elena-

I want to go back to the theory Rachel posed above, that maybe this entire show is a switcheroo and she is the beast, hence why he doesn’t need to be beastly.  This idea makes so much sense to me that I hope it’s true, even though I think it might be unintentional.

See, her character seems like a pretty standard female lead, hence why I think her beastliness was not intentional…but she really set off a lot of my civil rights bells.  She’s either totally corrupt or totally incompetent as an officer of the law, and either we are supposed to accept this because she’s like all cops or we’re supposed to admire her as the main character and overlook her flaws (like so much urban fantasy asks us to overlook completely bullying behaviors by the heroines, because that sort of thing is okay when you are 5 feet tall and 98 pounds). Sorry, no.  Let’s look at a checklist from one episode of Detective Catherine behaving badly:

  • She doesn’t enforce laws impartially, but according to her own whims (arrest the guy who just dumped me, he has pot)
  • She uses her authority as an officer of the law to trespass by lying about having a warrant (oh, hai hot doctor beast, I just knew you were in here after my first legitimate visit…guess I smelled your hot beastly pheromones or something)
  • She steals evidence from a suspect’s property without a warrant or permission or proper forensic documentation (beauty sample log)
  • She leaks information about an ongoing investigation to someone outside her department and steals evidence to release to someone outside her department (secret subway meeting with…CIA? friend).
  • She happily goes along with it when her friend steals evidence that implicates her and no doubt erases the log entry for it.

…this is our model cop heroine?  Frailty, thy name is Catherine, indeed.

Look, I apologize for getting so serious, but it’s a topic that really matters to me, and I get up in arms every time I see a positive portrayal of cops behaving badly. That means people see the actions and don’t realize what the behavior is or write it off because she’s “really the good guy and not hurting anyone,” which makes it more likely that people will tolerate such behavior from public officials in real life…which is how innocent people end up imprisoned, bankrupted by asset forfeiture despite never being convicted of a crime, or on death row.  What this show needs is Judge Dredd (or even just Rookie Anderson), clearly.

Anyway.  I didn’t like her, found her to be vacuous and self-serving, and corrupt on a small scale that could grow exponentially because the only moral calibration she seems to make is whether following a law or protocol makes her feel good and acting according to her own emotions.  The Law is above that!  (Can you all see the annoyed Judge face I am making right now?  Can you picture it?)

Rachel-

Yeaaaah, she’s lame. She’s too young to be a detective, and she has this super false way of speaking like every word in the script is a revelation to her brain. I’ll blame that on a combination of writing, directing, and acting. It’s like when Christian Bale went for the Batvoice and no one stopped him. Lana Lang decided to try a phone sex operator voice. It doesn’t work. Catherine also seems extremely physically capable. She throws three grown men around on a subway platform without mussing her hair. It’s the Buffy-effect maybe. Or maybe they did that because the writers wanted a strong female character that wouldn’t need constant saving from Vincent…even though she does actually need constant saving from Vincent. I like that they didn’t go the rape route like the original did (It was a “violent attack” with a sexual assault implication). I’m so sick of female protagonists in fantasy stories being raped. I’M SO SICK OF IT. So points to CW for leaving that the hell off the table.

I’m worried this show is going to turn into the capable girl gets all lame and helpless around her boyfriend and then when he hits her (it is INEVITABLE that he hits her, guys, accept it. He even screamed in her face that he would) becomes really dependent and apologetic a la Bella Swan. PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.

Elena-

It’s funny you bring up Bella Swan, everyone’s favorite robot bride impersonator, because I got very little sense of him except that he’s basically Edward Cullen.  Creepy stalker protector with a saving people complex and a self-loathing hatred of the monster within.  Got it.  I had trouble believing his claim of being imprisoned there for fear of getting caught.  He could totally be wandering around New York without attracting attention because he’s not a beast except when he’s upset (maybe he just gets really terrible sidewalk rage?).  Everyone thinks he’s dead.  Stay away from the military recruiting centers and the UN, and you’ll never run into anyone you shouldn’t.  No need to stay in the rusty, filthy post-industrial loft unless you just LIKE being emo and tragic and broody (cough *Edward Cullen * cough).

(Speaking of his rusty filthy post-industrial loft with the crazy science experiments being run by his biochemist friend to try and cure him…LAMEST MAGIC CASTLE EVER.  That is all.)

Rachel-

I miss the mist-filled NYC sewers full of libraries and homeless people in Renn Faire gear.

Elena-

Me too, and I didn’t even watch the original!

So let’s sum this one up:  the fight scene was pretty bad, the dialogue was terrible, the plot was thin, and the murder investigation seemed tacked on. She should be something besides law enforcement, because then they wouldn’t have to do a murder of the week thing—news flash, Castle already has the market on the buddy-cop/we want to get nas-tay show.

I will confess that, for some reason I can’t explain, the last scene made me want to watch next week, just to see if some of these issues were pilot shakes.  I think I’m a sucker for dudes who stand on top of buildings and stare torturedly into the night inwardly screaming about fairness and true love.  But I don’t hold out much hope for redemption.

Rachel-

I might actually check it out next week just to see what the show looks like when it’s not a network executive-pleasing pilot. I highly doubt that Catherine will turn out to be the beastly half of this pairing (even though it would be AWESOME) just because the manbearpig has already flashed its CGI face to the audience. Maybe the CW will surprise me. I thoroughly enjoy The Vampire Diaries (yes, that’s right, I have eyeballs and ovaries. Sue me.), and they’ve done a lot to that show to make it genre subversive.

If not – may I suggest ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Another horrifyingly bad show with questionable costumes and a Beast who is oddly hot despite his moss-covered teeth.

ENJOY.

* Yes, Catherine has Vincent’s Lioncubbaby but that was only because she quit and the writers had to kill her off and still maintain a connection with the last two seasons. It’s the worst only because they never show them MAKING THE DAMN BABY. Which is all we ever wanted.

Dredd Is The Perfect Blockbuster To Close The Summer – Review

Directed by Pete Travis

Based on 2000 AD‘s character of Judge Joe Dredd

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Elena-

I…am not?  Can I admit that in a column about going to see a film?

I’ll be honest here, when Rachel said she wanted to see this movie I thought she was joking.  Then she demanded it in exchange for Lawless and I knew she wasn’t.

It looks terrible. Derivative, mindless dystopian action flick with the requisite battle-hardened commander who has to learn to believe in his troops and rookie girl who will be the only one of the team to survive.

Also the premise is a blatant rip-off of The Raid: Redemption, in that it’s a small group of soldiers going into a building full of criminals that gets locked down until they either fight their way to the top, and out, or die trying.

I will be generous and say some of the effects look like they could be interesting, but I will have to see how they are played out in the wider context of the scene.  Let’s hope this one is better than I think it will be.

Rachel –

I’m interested in Dredd because IT IS THE LAW!

Okay, because it’s a comic. A long-lived, crazy, sometimes brilliant comic that examines and critiques modern ideas of law and justice in the most hyperbolic way imaginable. In a way that could only be done via comic book (and now that the world accepts them…comic book movies). Plus, anything to get the Stallone version out of my consciousness.

What would make it awesome?

Elena-

If it’s got as much absolute badass action as The Raid: Redemption and as little concern for the plot and characterization.  Seriously, that film managed to set up in about 2 minutes the rest of the movie, and while it did manage to make you care a little about a couple of the characters—and learn not to care about others—mostly it was about how many different kinds of badass fights they could fit into 87 minutes.

Alternatively, if the filming is really interesting and shows me something I haven’t seen before with slow motion effects or relies on film technique instead of CG, then I will probably not feel like the whole thing was a waste of my time.  That is as close to awesome as I expect this one to reach barring some amazingly creative fight scenes.

Rachel-

Judge Joe Dredd IS awesome. This movie will be awesome if they just…let him kill bad guys and be really grim. I’m hoping it’s not a rehash of the super dramatic (and used for fodder in the Stallone version ((sobs))) storyline about Joe’s brother Rico being BAAAAD. I haven’t seen that in the trailer, mostly I’ve seen a set up for a Rookie and Dredd party. I’m okay with that.

What would make it suck? 

Elena-

If this movie tries to focus on a story that turns out to be cliché, predictable, and something SF fans have seen done better elsewhere.  There is nothing wrong with being a pure action movie; that is, a movie of pure action.  As long as you recognize that’s what you’re making and commit to it, the results can even be objectively good.  But you have to commit to that.  Alternatively you have to build a really compelling story and characters and sacrifice some of your action.  If you try that, and fail, it’s going to suck.  Actually if you try for straight action and fail it will also suck.

I really hope the people who made this movie watched Shoot ’Em Up and Sukiyaki Western Django a few dozen times before they started filming….

Rachel-

Aside – I don’t know what Sukiyaki Western Django is…but I assume it was extremely important to Tarantino’s latest Django Unchained…and that makes me want to watch it because I love me some Tarantino but I like to be able to watch his movies AND get the references. So put that on my list. Where does one acquire it?

Elena-

Actually it has nothing to do with Django Unchained, although it is a film Tarantino was connected to. But you would love it—lots of crazy, choreographed, over-the-top action. So Netflix it anyway.

Ahem.  Carry on.

Rachel-

Back to the question at hand – It’s going to suck if it’s too fluffy. If it’s one of those boring, plodding, predictable action movies. BUT I would love if this were a straight up action movie. Robocop is coming out, the Expendables franchise is a clear nod to the 80s/early 90s action movie golden age, so if it’s a liiiitttle cheesy 80s action grind, that would be fine.

Additional thoughts on production or casting?

Elena-

Well, it has been a while since I watched a good bad movie. I’m kind of hoping that even if this one is shit, it’s at least the kind of awful that is super-fun to mock.

Rachel-

EOMERRRRR! I love me some Karl Urban. That guy loves a role in which he is utterly unrecognizable. Remember his part in The Chronicles of Riddick? With the Snape-punk hair-do and the 40 pounds of armor? Plus he’s got a sexy voice. And when it comes down to it…Dredd is going to be all about an actor comfortable in armor with a sexy voice. DONE, MR. URBAN. DONE AND DONE.

Reaction to film?

Elena-

I have to eat my words on this one. Dredd was actually really enjoyable. Legitimately good, if you are down with retro sci-fi dystopian action, which I am.  I think the preview for this movie was terrible—it made it seem cliché but unaware of its triteness, whereas this was obviously a throwback movie.

What it reminded me of in tone and approach was Doomsday.  I loved that movie.  It was obviously derived from Mad Max, but it took pride in getting the small things right (since everyone knew the big idea going in).  Dredd pulled off a similar feat, treading familiar ground in a way that was pure existential enjoyment.  After seeing it I do think there was a connection to The Raid: Redemption…as with Hunger Games and Battle Royale, there was just one scene too many that was staged the same way for me to think this was convergent creativity.  But Dredd could have done much worse for inspiration—for example, the original Judge Dredd movie.

So what did this movie do especially right?

First, I loved the slow motion scenes.  I expected them to be kind of lame (I mean, “slow-motion lame” is not a saying for nothing), but instead they were a visual treat.  I did not see the movie in 3D, so I can’t speak to how the scenes of water or shattering glass looked through the glasses, but I thought they were quite beautiful in digital 2D. I have not seen very much digitally enhanced slow motion like this, with such a focus on the small things.  Those scenes were really quite fantastic.

Another bonus was that they left Dredd an inscrutable badass (Badass Alert!) and let the rookie be the character you sympathized with and got a backstory on.  The truth is, whatever drove Dredd to become what he is will diminish him as a character.  Does anyone in the universe think Vader is more of a badass now that we know his story?  Fuck no.  Dredd is the same kind of figure.  If you know the human emotion or loss or anguish that drove him to become the best and most honorable judge in the mega-city, he will seem kind of pathetic for not being able to get over it and move on with his life.

I enjoyed Lena Headey in the role of head gangster bitch in charge.  If I had seen her in this before starting GOT I might have been less skeptical of her as Cersei.

I liked the ending.  It was not what I expected—minor spoiler, I expected a huge fight the way martial arts movies build up to, and the final conflict was not that—but it was a satisfying climax.

I really don’t have a lot of complaints about the movie.  I’m sure I could find plot holes, but I walked out disinclined to dwell on them.  Judge Joe Dredd took me out and showed me a good time and never pretended like he was going to be more than a quick and dirty fling.  There’s a time and place for that kind of film, and this was mine.

Rachel-

“MOMMY I WANNA BE A JUDGE JUST LIKE DREDD!” I screamed the moment the film was over. And then went home to practice my frowney-face.  What do ya think?

For swears. That flick was awesome! And yes, it was a straight up action movie. For those of you unfamiliar with the comic, don’t worry. You will not be required to know any of the story-line or characters. All you need to know is what you are presented with, and you will enjoy yourselves. It’s a hyper-violent, live-action video game of a movie. It’s funny in parts but not silly. I defy you to watch it and not think Dredd is the coolest dude in the universe and to wish for a sequel so you can get to know him better. It’s the perfect adaptation. It totally stands on its own, it’s true to the feel and characterizations of the comic for fans, and it allows for the adaptation of more complicated storylines should the movie be a hit.

For a Dredd fan the movie is pretty perfect. It was SOOO Judge Dredd! It wasn’t a direct adaptation of any Dredd story-line I know of. It was more like “Here’s a day in the life of Judge Dredd.” Perhaps a direct adaptation of the CHARACTER of Dredd. Someone on Twitter said that they liked Dredd more than The Dark Knight Rises, and I think the reason for that is that Dredd felt like the character from the comic book, while TDKR didn’t really feel like Batman. Not really. I’ve read that the original scripts were populated with all the robots and villains from the comic but that they ended up being a bit surreal and hard to introduce to a new audience quickly. This approach is smart. Most of the people I know have no idea who Judge Dredd is and establishing this character, who he is when he isn’t in some dramatic story arc, is the best way to start what I assume the studio hopes will be a franchise. Reviews are good for the film, though the box office gross was disappointing in its opening weekend. The franchise idea may be killed, but at least we’re left with a film that stands on its own.

Dredd does a lot of showing instead of telling. What do Judges do in Mega-City One? They are police. Police that can arrest, sentence and carry out that sentence all in one go. They have rules. They have standards of procedure. They even go through training to find out if they have what it takes to be a Judge. This may be post-apocalypse, but by God order will be restored via the Law. This is where they introduce Judge Anderson (a character from the comics) as a Rookie who is shadowing Dredd for the day in a field test to see if she can rise above her substandard test scores. Off they go to a mega block 200-storey complex. A buildng so large residents can live and work inside of it for their entire lives. The particular mega block they are called to has been taken over by a gang run by a woman named Ma-ma who is flooding Mega-City One with a unique drug called slo-mo. Their drug is in high demand, so Ma-ma and her gang have a lot of fire power. Once Dredd assesses the situation, he decides to go get Ma-ma for sentencing, and our movie commences.

The plot is pretty simple, and you won’t see Dredd go through any revelations about himself or what it means to be a Judge. That’s the Rookie’s job. In fact in an interview in Empire writer Alex Garland talks about how slowly the character of Dredd changes over time that he evolves “in the way that a glacier moves: you look a year later and something actually has shifted! I tried to be true to that.” Even the structure of the film itself reflects the unyielding, unbreakable march of Judge Dredd. The action comes fast and hard.

There ARE a few low spots in the film. I was hoping Judge Anderson’s psychic abilities would be integral to the plot (considering the character eventually heads up her own title), but I see that the writers wanted to keep the focus on Dredd. He is the hero of this story. Lena Heady, who I thought would be fantastic as the psychopath drug lord Ma-ma, was actually a letdown. I do not find her to be a particularly subtle actress, and Heady chose to play Ma-ma quietly, to let her malice exist in her silence and slow movements—but she just kind of came off as sleepy.

Elena-

I disagree…I thought she came off as drugged-out and yet still malicious enough to slaughter people.  None of her henchmen seemed like they were using, so the fact that she was became a testament to her badassery and why she was running the gangs and the building.

Rachel-

The design for the film is pretty great. They made the Judge Uniform cool but didn’t adhere so slavishly to the comic designs as to appear…well…hilarious (see the Stallone version if you don’t believe me). The weapons were cool, the helmet was plausible, and the ghetto interiors of the mega blocks were claustrophobic. Dredd was shot in Cape Town, South Africa, and it actually LOOKS hot and sweaty even in the interiors.

Besides the faithful adaptation of character and intent, Dredd is amazingly violent, but the violence is so over the top that it’s not disturbing. The script plays with the idea of justice, it’s not totally mindless, but the over the top violence was more action movie and less horrifying shit I never want to see again. Just the way I like it.

The perfect kind of action blockbuster to close out the summer. I hope you like it too. Embrace the LAW!

Lawless Is A Film To See Again and Again – Review

Director: John Hillcoat

Based on The Wettest County in the World (2008) by Matt Bondurant.

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Elena-

I want to see this movie because John Hillcoat is directing it.  I cannot overstate how profoundly I love The Proposition.  I will probably watch every movie the man ever directs just to see if he can match that one, even if the brilliance of his Western was an accident.  Lightning can strike twice in the same place, right?  But I feel like The Proposition was not accidentally brilliant; I feel like The Road, his other directorial effort, will more likely turn out to be the anomaly in his catalogue of films. That movie was controlled by a studio who did not want to risk a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel’s adaptation on a film with “atmosphere.”  R rating or not, they weren’t going to allow any barbecued babies or long, lingering (what they thought the pleb’s would consider “boring”) shots of a burned out world, and that lack of those shots and details were what caused The Road to fail as a film.  So I would be interested in seeing it only because of the director.

However.  Other reasons:  Tom Hardy. Gary Oldman. Guy Pearce. Shia Labeouf. It’s pretty much a man-doberge cake.  Yum.

Rachel-

I’m actually not into gangster movies unless they’re directed by Guy Richie. They tend to be a little too much “reality” for me. The “reality” of just how horribly and creatively violent people can be. I also don’t like war movies. (Hyperbolic violence is my flavor. Tarantino. I like it when it is highly choreographed.)

HOWEVER, I’m a sucker for Piedmont movies about hillbillies because it’s where I’m from (ish). I enjoy parsing the accents. This is why I suffered through the bleakness of Winter’s Bone and gained a whole lot of respect for Jennifer Lawrence before the atrocity that was The Hunger Games put her on everyone’s map. Plus Gary Oldman. I’m also willing to let Tom Hardy mumble his way through another movie in my presence and to watch him and Shia mumble at each other while sweating. They’re basically both the same guy, right?

What would make it awesome?

Elena-

It will be awesome if it lives up to my expectations as a proper follow-up to Hillcoat’s debut.  The reviews I’ve seen give me hope.  “Atmospheric” has been tossed about—a good sign.

So, for those of you who have not seen The Proposition, what I am looking for from this film is a beautifully framed, visually expansive movie with unapologetic brutality and thoughtfully gray morals.  No heroes, but no all-black villains, either.  And gloriously violent.  That combination of elements, well-constructed and well-executed, would catapult it to the top of my best films of the year so far list.

Rachel-

Aw hell, I don’t know! I saw the trailer, and it looks like it’s going to be hillbillies shooting gangsters and drinking moonshine. Sounds great! I take special joy in “period” movies that have really accurate sets and costumes. So, it will be awesome if everyone looks especially smelly.

What would make it suck?

Elena-

It will suck if the movie is all action.  What makes any really epic revenge tale (which this one looks like it will be) great is the slow burn.  I am patient with films which take the time to breathe but bored by movies that should take the time for character/setting development and don’t. I mean, it’s one thing to give me a movie like The Raid: Redemption which sets up a plot inside of two minutes and proceeds to be nothing but action for the next 90—I’m fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is a movie that is more than gimmicky action but doesn’t take the time to develop anything; Public Enemies comes to mind as a recent disappointment in that style.

Rachel-

If all these non-Southerners (and non-American, sheesh!) really SUCK at their regional accents. That shit will send me right over the edge if I have to listen to True Blood style accent mangling. I’m talking Ewan McGregor (whom I love and adore, forever!) in pretty much any movie in which he was required to have an American or American Southern accent. WTF?

Additional thoughts on casting/production?

Elena-

I’m really curious to see how Tom Hardy does playing an American, and if this role is a bit more nuanced for him than most of his recent ones have been…more of a character and less of a smart-ass action hero.  He sold me on his acting skills with Bronson and has not done much that required a stretch since.  I’m curious as well to see how Shia LaBeouf handles a grown-up part in a film made for grown-ups.  I will forgive him any number of Transformers sequels if they enable him to make artistic movies, and he turns out to have a knack for character work.

Nick Cave wrote the screenplay again (he also wrote the screenplay for The Proposition) and will no doubt have a hand in the scoring.  That makes me happy. Nick Cave is a weird dude of many talents and perversions, and his involvement ups the odds of my getting what I want from this movie.  Also I expect the music will be extra-fab with him arranging it.

Rachel-

Tom Hardy yada yada snore. I’m interested in seeing that kid from Holes do his best to pretend he was never in Indy 4 or Transformers 11. Gary Oldman is always a huge draw; it’s a pleasure to watch an actor like him transform himself. From the trailers I gather he’s going to be rather despicable, that’ll be fun!

Mostly I am seeing this movie because Elena wanted to, and I’m making her watch Dredd later this month so she’s making me see this one. Full disclosure, folks. You like it.

Reaction to film:

Elena-

LOVE.

This movie was what I wanted it to be.  It was full of characters, it was richly set with beautiful, lingering shots of the back-hills scenery, it was shockingly violent, it was funny in ways a movie with this storyline has no business being funny…I just enjoyed every second of it and want to see it again already.

Lawless felt like the less awkward, more commercially viable cousin of The Proposition.  It had the film-making elements that made me love Hillcoat’s first movie so much, but it was less bleak, and less ambiguous as to who was hero and who villain.  And it was set in America in a time that is currently in vogue rather than making a Western out of the Australian outback.  So the gorgeous cinematography, the patient pace, the spot-on musical selections, and the unexpectedly quotable script were all there, but in a packaging that the average moviegoer will respond to.

I was surprised to see Rachel call this a gangster movie, because it seemed to me like more of a back-woods resistance fighter movie—if nothing else because the obvious heroes were not gangsters themselves.  This instinct turned out to be correct, as the Bounderant brothers were certainly not gangsters.  They made charming anti-heroes, of three local boys making good in what was theoretically an illegal operation but which the local law bought into, until they got bought by some townies.

Shia LaBeouf had the traditional coming of age arc, from trembling youth to suave and unrepentant outlaw.  He was fine in the role, though it didn’t seem like it held many challenges (nor was it meant to).  He shone in the comic moments, but probably the best scene was the climactic ending, perhaps because he was so effective in the more light-hearted moments.  Tom Hardy stole the show for me, though, as the taciturn Forest.  He said as much with grunts and “hm” as other characters did with monologues and soliloquies.  I thought the whole production was well-cast.  I didn’t notice anyone’s accent at all, so that tells me they were competently to well-handled, though I confess I don’t know enough about Virginia hill accents to tell you how nuanced the linguistic performances were.  I could have used more Gary Oldman just for the sake of more Gary Oldman in pinstripes and bowler hats, but he wasn’t really called for in the story.

As I hoped, the movie runs a slow burn to an epic conflagration, though it does have moments of conflict and action in the run-up that keep layering the tension and upping the ante.  Happily, the ending delivers on the promise of those scenes.  The violence never feels gratuitously gory, but it is shocking and visceral.  You don’t always see it coming, and even when you did the scene plays out in a way that wasn’t how you expected.  Hillcoat pulls no punches in those moments, and he excels in making you feel what is happening on-screen.  Can’t lie; I squirmed more than once.

Also the music was awesome. Not as weird as I expected, though the score is full of Cave’s consonant sounds to ratchet up the tension, but most of the music was traditional or intentional replicas.

All in all, Lawless succeeded for me on pretty much every level, and it has enough commercially friendly elements for me to give it an unqualified recommendation.

Rachel-

Hot damn, y’all! I liked it!

It’s beautifully filmed in what looks like North Carolina? It’s got old timey cars, rattletrap huts, sweaty hats, hypnotic hymnals, and A MAGICAL CARDIGAN. Yes, folks, this is not a film about bootlegger hillbillies in Virginia as you were promised. IT’S BETTER. It’s a film about a magical cardigan that renders its wearer immortal!

Yup! Mystery Solved! Frodo’s almost forgotten mithril armor has been forged anew! It is now The Cardigan of Immortality!!! Capable of keeping its wearer alive through all manner of plausibly red-neck near death experiences! Never knew a cardigan was standard issue during WWI, did ya?

Why, it is SO impressive that had Joey the War Horse been given a standard issue US Cardigan (oh, England!), the damn horse would have FLOWN around Europe in his search for the boy Albert, and we wouldn’t have had to sit through tedious friend-making in France or tank-vaulting in…Germany?

What was I talking about?

Oh Yea, Lawless. It was good. The accents weren’t half bad. Sometimes they got a little yeehaw, but for the most part I was OK with them. They weren’t exactly Piedmont accents, but they weren’t twangy bullshit noises, either! Huzzah!

Art direction was stellar. Acting was top-notch, though there was very little Gary Oldman (saaadness), and Tom Hardy didn’t have that many LINES, though his physical acting was great…except for when he tromp-walked around like Bane. Is that just how he walks? Shia played the same earnest kid he always does, but with a southern accent. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska’s characters seemed tacked on for plot development, but their scenes were generally welcome respites from the grimy, sweaty gun-toting scenes.

Surprisingly this film has some genuinely funny moments. Tom Hardy’s character “Forest” is a man of sometimes comically few words. Enjoyable and well-made. It IS a little slow…but not tedious. The tension builds and builds and builds some more, and you squirm a little in your seat in horror of what is to come. I checked my watch exactly once at the hour and a half point just to see if I could make it until the end of the film without having to leave my seat. I have a hard time watching movies that keep you in that extended state of tension. Masterfully done.

If westerns and “gritty” anti-heroes with limited vocabularies isn’t your thing, then you can skip it. Gary Oldman makes only one gangster appearance, tommy-gun in tow. Guy Pearce’s villain is tragically forced in a cast of much more nuanced characters, but it has a satisfying ending (a surprise ending for me! I was sure it was going to be bleak) and a lovely romanticizing of 1920s hill country living. Less gangster and more Piedmont Western.

Let’s hope Elena can enjoy Dredd as much as I enjoyed Lawless!

Killer Joe Is Earns It’s Rating With Enthusiasm – Review

With NC-17 movies, you’re never sure going in if the rating is going to be legit or if it’s essentially kowtowing to the Puritanical morals that still rule too much of the entertainment industry’s decisions.  Killer Joe, I’m happy to say, earns its rating with enthusiasm.  Starring Matthew McConaughey in the titular role, the film is, above all, a completely successful delivery of what its title promises:  a brutal, morally gray movie about a man who is a killer for hire.

Killer Joe is brought in by a simple family of questionable morals to kill their estranged mother when she takes out a life insurance policy benefitting her daughter Dottie.  Joe doesn’t work on speculation—cash up front or nothing—but Dottie’s innocent sexuality intrigues him enough to work on a retainer:  her.  As Joe’s relationship with Dottie deepens, so does his control of the entire family, and his hit on the mother brings consequences none of them could have predicted.

The climax of the movie is reminiscent of Michael Hanneke’s Funny Games as Joe’s sadistic personality pushes his victims to see just how far they will bend before breaking.  The scene is both exquisitely torturous and disturbingly erotic.  And, unlike Funny Games, there is never a question as to whether the victims deserve what they get.  The dishonesty and dishonor with which they have all behaved—barring Dottie, who is, like the archetypal innocents of melodramas, spared because of her honest purity—leaves only the question of whether they got exactly what they deserved or if the punishment exceeded the crime.  The film makes no attempt to answer that question for the viewer, and I expect different people will have different answers.

This film is one I will happily re-watch.  It was satisfying and not quite predictable on the first watch, and it has the kind of textual depth that means multiple viewings will reveal new humor and nuances every time.  It was well-filmed and tightly edited; at 103 minutes, there isn’t any fat that could have been trimmed, but yet the film never felt rushed or underdeveloped.

Killer Joe is a wonderful character and, while the role is not a stretch for McConaughey, one he plays with the suaveness and aplomb that are his hallmarks.  The rest of the characters were equally well-cast, especially Dottie.  I needed the same number of frames as Joe to recognize her allure—I never once questioned why he would be willing to work with only her as compensation, nor that he would consider the whole messy job a success if she was all he walked away with.  And that understanding was entirely because of [Juno Temple].  She was, perhaps, a more important role to get right than Joe himself; the entire premise of the movie falls apart if the audience cannot understand why she motivates him to proceed as he does.

Killer Joe is based on Tracy Lott’s stage play by the same name, and while the film is not an obvious adaptation of a play (the way, say, Carnage is), the origin makes sense upon reflection.  There are essentially five characters in the movie, with a handful of extras that could easily have been scripted in to add visual interest and depth of world to a film.  The scenes which take place somewhere besides the family’s trailer could easily have been relocated for the same reason.

If you like unapologetically brutal movies, you can’t do better than Killer Joe.  Highly recommended for those who like that sort of thing.

An Illustrative Review of The Dark Knight Rises

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Rachel-

No one who reads our column will be surprised that I am a huge Batman fan. I think I was introduced to Batman through the excellent Batman: The Animated Series as a kid, but since Saturday morning episodes weren’t enough for me I was also picking up whatever comics I could get my hands on.

I love Batman. I love the whole Bat Family! They’re all so DAMAGED!

Needless to say, I’ve seen Nolan’s Batman Begins (I FELL ASLEEP in the theater watching that, you guys…I own it, though, so I’ve since seen it several times. I hate it. I HATE IT), and it’s not my cup of tea. Nolan’s obsession with making Batman realistic, the made-up character of Rachel…. The Dark Knight is much better and far more watchable, but I still feel like Nolan’s take on Batman is more like a Bond film with a different suit and not a comic book movie. I’m interested in The Dark Knight Rises because I want the Nolan trilogy to end. That’s kind of harsh. But it’s true. I’ve sat through the other two and I’m going for some Batman kicks.

Elena-

Can we change the question to be “why are you not interested”?  Because I am not interested.  Do you guys remember how when The Dark Knight came out in theaters, everyone loved it—and I mean everyone—except there was always that one token friend or friend of a friend that you had who didn’t like it, but they were such a minority they were almost the exception that proved the rule?  Y’all recall that?  I was that one friend.  I was the one person I and all of my friends knew who didn’t like the movie.

I liked the first one okay.  I don’t have a strong attachment to Batman or any of the old manifestations, so I didn’t mind the attempt to make it more realistic and less comics.  Whatever.  The directing was good, and the story didn’t piss me off.

The Dark Knight was awful for me. Too long by about an hour, waaaaay too many ancillary and pointless plotlines, and I guess it made me dislike Batman’s entire ethos because it is clearly not preventing awful people from doing awful things but rather punishing them for doing awful things.  Totally different thing.  Drop the Joker off the building, city-destroying disaster averted.  Oh, wait, what’s that, it would be immoral to do it?  Look, I’m as libertarian as it gets on civil liberties, I respect things like due process more than 99% of politicians would like, but that’s if you’re acting within the law—it’s to prevent the government from trampling your rights.  In the context, Batman has SEEN the Joker plan atrocities and LAUGH.  And his decision as a goddamned vigilante is to not kill him when he has the chance?  THE FUCK?  And then that shit went on for a whole nother 90 minutes before it was over.  It’s the closest I’ve come to walking out of a movie in recent memory.

I’m still traumatized by that one.

So I was only enthused about TDKR in the abstract, in the sense that if it exists to finance Nolan’s next Inception then I am all on board with him making it…I just don’t want to see it.  The one thing that would make me want to see it would be if it turns out to be, as the title suggests, Batman giving up his morality to actually be a dark knight who kills the motherfuckers before they can burn his ghetto to the ground.  Give me THAT movie, and MAYBE I will go see it.

What would make it awesome?

Elena-

I believe I just answered that question.  Abstain from redundancy.

Rachel-

What would make it awesome is if Batman is in the movie? The other two films show Bruce having to discover then rediscover Batman. If Batman has to re-Batman again in another hour and a half of “inner struggle” about how Gotham doesn’t need Batman…I will freak out.

I’m hoping for some Catwoman action. Out-smarting all these tech obsessed boys would also be great.

What would make it suck?

Rachel-

I know already that it’s going to be three hours long…so that will probably suck. Only because I know how the Nolan Batman films can DRAG, and sitting there for three hours while Batman batrasps at me and moons over dead fakeRachel will suuuuuck.

I’m really nervous about Bane. Why is Bane British? Why can I not understand him in the trailers? What’s going on with his aerosol mask?  Is this movie going to be one unintelligible guy shouting at another unintelligible guy with Anne Hathaway making stupid jokes in between?

Elena-

It will suck if it is as needlessly overcomplicated as the second one was.  That many plotlines that are ancillary to the main story are basically masturbation fodder.  Which, fine, if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’m not, so save it for the director’s cut and let me skate out of this with only two hours of my life lost and not three, k thx bye.

Thoughts on casting/production?

Rachel-

I am ambivalent about Tom Hardy. He’s cloned Captain Picard from Stark Trek: Nemesis. He has puffy lips. Those lips will supposedly never be seen as he is playing Bane, and Nolan’s version of Bane is a dude permanently hooked up to Darth Vader’s respiratory machine. I don’t know why. Will we learn why?

Elena-

Wait, Tom Hardy is Bane?  Suddenly I almost want to see this!  Hardy is still on my automatic-cred list because of Bronson.  It’s going to take a few more stinkers from him for that glamour to wear off…although he does seem to be trying pretty hard to just play the same character every time now.  I guess that’s ergonomic.  Maybe Bane will add some range to his recent portfolio.

Rachel-

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is both really interesting and really terrifying. Hathaway has that old-fashioned brunette with a round face look that Nolan casts IN ALL OF HIS FILMS. The Catwoman costume I’ve seen is OK. It’s a black jumpsuit with stupid-ass goggle cat-ear things. There appears to be no whip. She also wears RIDICULOUS shoes. Nolan is so obsessed with making everything hyper-realistic, but he’s got Catwoman in shoes she wouldn’t be able to climb around buildings on. So I’m going to assume that she doesn’t climb around buildings and she just wiggle-walks everywhere…hopefully while flipping everyone off. Her casting is definitely a callback to Julie Newmar rather than the Darwyn Cooke design with the head gear, goggles, and short hair.

Elena-

Gotta be honest, Hathaway is a challenge for me. She is one of those actresses that I can never see as the character; I always just see her as Anne Hathaway, even though I think she actually is kind of okay at acting?  Maybe?  So she seems pretty much like a terrible choice to me for Catwoman.  But I don’t know who would do it better so why not?

Reaction to film: ***Spoilers Abound***

Elena-

So.  Convince me to see this one. If you can.

Rachel-

Welp….

That was…that was, well actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, Batman did have to re-Batman his Batman for two hours. WHY? WHY CAN’T HE JUST BE BATMAN?

Bruce has spent the last eight years being a shut-in with a cane (why he needs the cane is unknown, because he seemed FINE at the end of the last film…I guess he was shot?) even though, and this is the fundamental part of Batman that Nolan seems to not understand, Bruce would never STOP being Batman. This is an issue that comes again and again in the film, culminating in an ending where Bruce permanently gives up Batman.

WHAAAT?

That’s just a Batcation, right? Bruce is going to get bored in about 12 seconds (five seconds after Selina realizes spending all her time with a no-longer-super-rich dude not stealing things suuuucks) and head back to Gotham and the mansion he left to the city for a Vigilante Orphan Boys Home. He’ll go down into the Batcave and let notRobin know how to sign in to the Batcomputer and then call out to Alfred, who would also HAVE NEVER LEFT BRUCE, “Alfred! Bring me another Orphan Boy!”

And all will be well with the world.

Wedging Bane in as Talia’s protector and tying it all back to the League of Shadows in Batman Begins felt a little forced, an attempt by Nolan to bring his trilogy full circle. (I see what you did there, you Lazaraus Pit hater! GHOST LIAM NEESON CAN BITE ME!)  However, I still appreciated the fact that Nolan dipped more into the comics for TDKR than in his previous Batman films. Several scenes seemed pulled straight from the comics, if not in meaning then at least in visual language.

I still found Bane to be absolutely unintelligible.  I got maybe every fifth word. It was incredibly frustrating. Nolan’s attempt to make Bane more intelligible seems to have been to just up his dialogue track by 200 percent and give us the finger. Thanks. That didn’t help at all! It just made Bane seem like he was being dubbed in and mixed by a telenovela team.

Elena…I know you are not into Batman, so I want to make it clear: ROBIN’S NAME IS NOT ROBIN. His name is also not John. I…don’t understand how this happened. Nolan is so anti-Robin that he’ll make up a dissatisfied cop character and…NAME him Robin? IT’S SO WEIRD! There are plenty of actual Robin name’s to choose from but…well, what’s wrong with naming him Richard?

If he was worried that his heavy-handed foreshadowing throughout the film was ruining the surprise, then keep the John name and change the “actual” name stupidest last line for a movie ever from “Robin” to “Richard.” What? Was he worried that people who didn’t know DICK about Batman wouldn’t get the reference?

Here’s a thing…

…How about you shouldn’t CARE! If my mom watched that movie and didn’t get why having him named “Richard” (assuming “Dick” was too old fashioned) was related to the character taking on the Batmantle, as it were…WHO CARES?! My mom isn’t watching this film. You know who is? FANS. People for whom the reference is a Google or a lean over to the person next to them away if they didn’t get it already.

ROBIN IS NOT HIS NAME. That would like me becoming “Rachel Gal” and then attempting to have a secret identity.

UGH. THAT WAS REALLY ANNOYING.

I think the people who are really into the Nolan Batman films are fine. I’m glad they enjoy them. I’m glad that they can watch those films and read the comics and not have issues. I’m not one of those people. I don’t think an adaptation should slavishly follow the source material, but I do think that the main identifying characteristics and personality of the most important characters should make it from page to screen.

Nolan’s Batman has always been a tool for Bruce Wayne to go from damaged child to well-adjusted adult. Batman is something that holds Bruce back, if Nolan’s Alfred is to be believed. In actuality Batman has always been more than a mask and more than a symbol. Batman IS Bruce Wayne. The play boy, the rich kid…he is the tool of Batman. Bruce is the mask. Nolan doesn’t think this, and so I’ll never like these movies as much as some of you, but I respect that Nolan has ushered in an era of comic book movies as more than comedy action flicks. They should be as topical and inspiring as the comics. Hopefully though, the next Batman reboot won’t take it QUITE so seriously. I’d like to see a Gotham that has room in it for a Batman that never gives up.

Elena-

Even your fake enthusiasm was not enough to sell me on this one.  Maybe some pictures might help?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises Doesn’t Disappoint – Review

Last night I excitedly headed to the BIG theater in my city to see a movie I just couldn’t wait for, The Dark Knight Rises. I want to preface this review by saying that I went into this movie with high expectations. After the impressive film, The Dark Knight, I felt like this film, the ending of a trilogy, had to be better than the previous, though I had in my mind it might be an impossible standard.

However, The Dark Knight Rises does NOT disappoint. I will say that I did not think it was better, but it was on par and as good as the previous installment.

The film pulls the audience in very early on with the almost immediate introduction of Bane. We are only a few minutes into the film when we are introduced to the main “villain” of this tale and with it the story quickly begins its jaunty three hour ride. Not to mention I was ecstatic to see Petyr Baelish make an appearance ( or  Aidan Gillen for you non Game of Thrones watchers.)

We also are very quickly introduced to Anne Hathaway’s character, Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. I was totally against her in the role from the minute her casting was announced. It wasn’t that I didn’t think she couldn’t handle the role, I just have never really liked her in her other projects. (I also have a spot in my heart that is taken by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.) BUT, Hathaway’s performance was almost flawless. She portrayed the sultry, confident cat burglar who is actually not evil, isn’t a villain. I also found her to be a great foil for Batman/Bruce Wayne. Her ideals and actions are opposite his but deep down they are very similar – they want to get out on their own terms. You can see the chemistry between the actors from the get go and it only grows through out the film.

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT. (need I say more?)

YES. THIS.

Also his acting was fantastic and I sense Night Wing on the horizon.

This movie did make me feel like an idiot though. Not in the way you think. There is a HUGE twist at the end, that still surprised me. After it was revealed, I felt dumb for not seeing it sooner. It might have to do with some misdirection by some of the cast members in interviews, but I was definitely caught off guard by the big reveal. I won’t give it away here because you deserve to experience it on your own if you reading this before seeing the film.

One thing that I disliked what the time framing. After Bane comes to power and Batman (is somewhere else entirely) there is no frame of reference of how much time is passing. We can ASSUME it is at the least a few weeks, but there is no real knowledge of it has been week, months, or even a year. It’s not like I was some cliched montage or some equally annoying shit, I just want some frame of reference. We only find out how long it has been right before the action is about go down and someone outright says it. But it takes to long to establish that more than a few weeks as passed. I found it to be slightly lazy on either the Director’s part or the screenwriters part.  However, while cinematically, this bothered me, it in no way hindered the actual movie for me.

Most of all, this film was a great addition to the trilogy as awhole. It flowed seamlessly from the end of The Dark Knight to create something you can watch back to back without missing a beat. It looks similar to the first two and was just as action packed and character oriented as the rest.

Also: TEARS WERE SHED. The ending was PERFECT. Tears of sadness followed by tears of joy. (There is just something so heartbreaking about watching Alfred blubber that released the floodgates of tear waterfall.) The ending gives closure to  not just this film but the entire trilogy. It packs everything up in a neat little bow while closing the stories of some characters and opening the doors of others.

Seriously, who can watch him breakdown and not at least tear up?

The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot Is Surprisingly Fun – Review

The Amazing Spider-Man

Elena-

As a Spider-Man fan, you obviously think the world needs another manifestation of Spidey. True or False? Discuss.

Rachel-

Well…this is kind of a trick question for me. While I was OK with the first two Raimi Spidey flicks, the third one was so heinous that I’m all for throwing all of them out and pretending they never existed. IT WAS THE MOST HORRIBLE THING. THE MOST. Plus I was never really sold on Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker anyways, mainly because HE ISN’T FUNNY AT ALL.

So yea…I guess we did need a reboot of the Spiderman franchise if only to make something better. Do I think we needed ANOTHER origin story? Absolutely not. Everyone gets Spiderman. Nerd bit by a spider is now a super hero. LET’S MOVE ON. Let’s just make movies out of some of his better story arcs. Like THAT is a novel idea.

But that didn’t happen. We got another origin story.

Still. SPIDERMAN! Do you even like Spiderman? Or are you a DC person?

Elena-

Ha!  You can’t trick me with your false dilemma!

The truth is…NEITHER.

There. I said it. I admitted it in public after three and a half long years:  I am a nerd who doesn’t do comics.

Look, I have nothing against them. I just didn’t read them as a kid, and they have never grabbed me as an adult, and so I have no intimate knowledge of or attachment to any comic book heroes.  As a general rule of thumb, superheroes bore the shit out of me.  I think I just don’t like the amount of disbelief I have to suspend in order to accept the stories is too much to bear.

Spiderman is…um.  At least he’s not Superman?  At least he’s supposed to be nerdy and lame and kind of smart so at least he’s better than dumb jock whose only power or relevance is that he’s an alien?

Rachel-

This Spidey is British and his girlfriend is Emma Stone. Do you like this better than Tobey “SadSack” Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? <—- I almost typed Kristen Stewart…the horror.

Elena-

Shudders.  Oh, god, the horror indeed.  Heart of Darkness style, “the horror…the horror.”

Anyway, yes, I like this pairing better. I don’t know why Tobey didn’t do it for me, but I was never interested enough in him or KiKi to actually see any of their movies.

When I saw the studio was making another Spiderman movie, I just assumed Tobey wanted to get paid too much and they replaced him.  Instead it’s a complete reboot, which I guess I am actually the person they were after?  The one person on the continent who might have been caught by an origin reboot but would have ignored Spiderman 4: The Amazing Face-Lift? So, congrats, Sony, you reached me.

I quite like Emma Stone, and while I am skeptical of Andrew Garfield—I liked him in whatever movie was our introduction but found him a weak-ass in Never Let Me Go (or maybe that was just what the character was written to be and he played it brilliantly)—I figured if nothing else I’d have a laugh picturing the Bachelor contestant from a couple seasons back who looked exactly like him. Seriously.  She exists. Her name escapes me, but it was the season that happened right after NLMG came out, and that was all I could see every time she was on screen.

What did you think?  Did Andrew Garfield make a better nerd cum dark avenger than Toby McGuire? Did starring in Never Let Me Go give him more nerd cred coming in?

Rachel-

I didn’t think I would like Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker as much as I did. True, he was a little less nerd and more hipster guy, but whatever. He’s skinny, he gets tongue-tied around girls, he cracks really lame jokes. That’s the Spiderman I know and love! Rock on, Andrew. (It helps that he gave a pretty heartfelt speech at last year’s Comic Con in a poorly fitting Spiderman costume about how much Spiderman meant to him growing up.) So I think he’s worthy. I think he is definitely worthy. Plus… DUDE DOES HIS OWN STUNTS.

Go cry somewhere else, Tobey…no one likes you.

Elena-

With a franchise that has been rebooted as many times as this one, do you still hold out hope for something new?

Rachel-

I’m just grateful I don’t have to sit through another Green Goblin story. (yet) Here’s the thing – a lot of Spiderman’s classic enemies are FUCKING STUPID. The rhino guy? Sand man? Mysterio? (OK, Mysterio could be cool…) So they don’t have a lot to pick from when it comes to appealing to the douchey masses. And no, we can’t have Venom or Carnage in the first movie of a trilogy. That would never happen.

I thought it was smart to bring Gwen Stacey back. It distances the franchise from the Raimi films, and it gives the comic book fans a character we love. I also liked the way they handled the Uncle Ben and Peter dynamic. We got to know Uncle Ben and they modernized Peter by taking away the embarrassing early amateur wrestling story line while still keeping homage to it in the film. The bullshit with Peter’s parents is a retcon we’ve all seen before, and it’s just as boring now as it was then. JUST FLING WEBBING AND BAD GUYS AND BE SARCASTIC. It’s all we want from Spiderman. Everything else is just bullshit.

Spiderman is a uniquely city-dwelling super hero. His power basically STICKS on the fact that there are lots of tall buildings around so do you think Spiderman is an ALL AMERICAN hero? (This movie came out on the Fourth of July and so this is fucking relevant, no?)

Elena-

Um.  Uniquely American?  No.  Uniquely urban?  Yes.  But London has tall buildings.  L.A. Tokyo.  Hong Kong. Dubai. Uniquely Manhattan might be a better way to put it, since I am not sure any other city has the sheer length and breadth of skyscrapers crammed together that Manhattan offers a man of Spidey’s proclivities.

I do think since superheroes tend to be vigilante crime fighters they are all drawn to cities just because that is where the higher concentration of people are and thus where the higher concentration of crimes and/or potential targets for domestic terrorism are. I am guessing that Spidey flinging from pine tree to pine tree along the western Louisiana/eastern Texas meth corridor would be less interesting to watch for most people.

So tell me about your viewing experience. How many drinks did you need to get through it? Were you able to make up a new drinking game for this new franchise?

Rachel-

I was fairly entertained actually. I thought it was OK. I thought the middle was too long, the crane scene was embarrassing to watch and the soundtrack was HORRRRRRIIIIBBBLLLLEEE. Distractingly bad? Especially during the Lizard boss fight in the high school. Did you notice it? It knocked me COMPLETELY out of the film it was sooo bad.

Other things that were weird:

The film eventually gave up on a bunch of early storylines, like how Peter’s parents were basically super-secret genetic scientists who may or may not have genetically engineered their son to become a super hero if were ever bitten by one of their super special engineered spiders. Or something.

It also dropped the illegal experimentation on people story line (did that evil corporate douche ever make it off the bridge on his way to the veteran’s hospital?)

Lastly it dropped (but I think this time on purpose) the storyline involving Peter finding the man that murdered Uncle Ben. This was pretty smart, though, because it’s just more origin story shit, and I’m glad it went away. I didn’t want to watch Peter get all sad in the rain after he brought the killer to justice. I just wanted to see webslinging across the NYCscape. So bravo on that.

Everything else I assume was taken out because they realized in the editing room THAT IT WAS LAME.. Or they are planning on bringing it back for the sequel…which would suck.

E tu?

Elena-

I, too, found this movie surprisingly enjoyable.  I basically walked in with the resolution to leave after an hour if I was not engaged by then.  I wanted a popcorn flick; what I did not want was to feel like I’d have had a better night on my couch with Uncle Redenbocker and a True Blood catch-up marathon.

I…stayed till the very end and will probably see at least the first sequel.

Yeah.  It was pretty fun.  Not brilliant or original in any way, and I had to stop myself from thinking about it too much as I watched, because…oh my god, so many holes to poke about the world-building and medical tech.  I think my biggest issues were (1) Peter’s reluctance to go all civil libertarian on Gwen’s dad and make a crack about how the NY po-po was too busy harassing minorities about Mary Jane (see? There was a place for her in this film, after all!) to catch actual criminals versus victimless crime facilitators, and (2) the super-fast genetic changes, and (3) the super-fast lizard-limb growth.  Because, you know, lizards and starfish grow back their limbs spontaneously and not cell layer by cell layer over the course of months.  And resequencing someone’s DNA can happen in a matter of SECONDS.  You know, how viruses do it.  Except OH WAIT, NO.

What. The. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I also felt the limits of the genre as I watched it.  Like, there were a lot of interesting places a movie like this could have gone but to go there would have meant it was not an action film.  When Uncle Ben died I almost walked out, because I just cannot deal with any more guilt-driven angst “Oh, no, if I had only stepped in and stopped that guy RIGHT THEN Uncle Ben would still be alive, ergo I must never refuse a call for help againnnnn!”  Luckily they did not use that tactic.  The whole “with great power comes great responsibility” bit was annoying but not as much.

See, Peter here reminded me of a guy I knew in college. I could use Simon Tamm’s speech about River making him look like an idiot-child for this guy. Everyone we were friends with would talk about how he needed to use his “gifts” for the world, like he owed the fucking world something just because he was born with this hyper-intelligence.  He just wanted to play music. And I have no issue with that. I don’t believe in the idea of obligations to society just because of what you were born (or in Peter’s case became by accident). I think it would be a more interesting story to me to have someone like him who just wants to be normal.  Like I kind of thought halfway through that Gwen’s being a researcher and super-smart herself would lead to him asking her to cure him.

I think he likes being special too much, though. I really appreciated that they touched on the angle of how much of an asshole Peter was to Spark (or whatever the Jock’s name was)…how easy it is for bullying to go both ways so there is no clear victim and no clear bully.

I…don’t want to talk about the lizard man.  That whole thing was awful.  I could understand why the scientist gave himself the therapy but the fact that he suddenly became a boring super-nanny villain was just the lamest thing ever. The voice-over thought process in the sewer…oh, god. That was just embarrassing.

Name what (if anything) this version did better than any of the other Spiderman movies (recent or otherwise)

Rachel-

Speaking of webslinging…I really liked the way they did it in this film. They restored the man-made webslingers and really took advantage of Garfield’s athleticism to recreate moves we see in the comic books. I wasn’t a fan of the first person webslinging. That felt pretty gimmicky, but the rest of it was great. I also felt like this film was actually set in New York whereas Raimi’s films always LOOKED like they were filmed on a lot somewhere, probably on purpose, knowing Raimi.

I also got really, really happy when Peter was studying in his room while sticking to the wall. It’s the little things.

Elena-

And tell me about what this version utterly failed to achieve.

Rachel-

They certainly didn’t reinvent anything. The Lizard design was pretty bad. I’ve said it before and I’ll always say it – he looked like a goomba from the Mario Brothers movie. A goomba in a lab coat. Same grin.

I don’t know how rewatchable this film is either. I’ve only seen it once, so I can’t say I won’t enjoy it again, but the middle felt so long that I left the theater doubting whether I’d ever really want to watch it again.

That’s probably a terrible thing to say about a movie that I didn’t think was all that bad, but it’s true.

Elena-

I think that’s a really fair assessment, actually.  It was enjoyable to watch at the time. Not something I will dwell on or watch multiple times.  Any sequels will be subject to the same test this one was: is it more entertaining than being on my couch, yes or no?

I didn’t see anything here that could be iconic…nothing that will inspire this generation of kids to love Spiderman above all other superheroes.

Rachel-

I also thought that they really jumped the gun on rebooting the Spiderman franchise NOW. I think if they had waited even a year or two they could have rebooted with Ultimate Comics Spiderman – Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker. This new (he first appeared last year!) Spiderman is a young kid from Brooklyn. A young black kid. He may not be an icon yet like Parker, but Miles is important, and a super hero film featuring a big time title character played by a minority actor would have been HUGE. Sony and Marvel missed the boat on that one, but I’ll bet it happens eventually.

Of course…maybe we’ll see a John Stewart Green Lantern or a Justice League movie first! If DC can EVER GET IT’S SHIT TOGETHER.

What will you do if Hollywood forces yet another superhero origin story down our throats next summer?

Elena-

What I always do: ignore it unless it proves itself more interesting to me than its genre.  Yeah.  That’s pretty much how I handle them, always.

Do you see any hope for the future of this version of the franchise?

Rachel-

A fangirl can dream that Sony will work out something with Marvel and we can at LEAST get a little Spidey cameo in the next Avengers film?

Pretty please?

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Fails To Impress – Review

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Directed by : Timur Bekmambetov

Starring: Benjamin Walker

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Seth Graham-Smith (novel/screenplay)

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Elena-

I am interested in this movie primarily because all or at least significant parts of it were filmed in New Orleans. I spent a month last year running past a cordoned off section of grass in Audubon Park that was being grown out for use in this movie (seriously, it was labeled). It was enough to make me curious.

The premise…eh, the premise.  At least it was an original story, which is more than I can say for Seth Grahame Smith’s atrocious mangling of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I am still upset about not for messing with the canon of Austen but for doing it so fucking badly why did he call them underwear the whole book and oh my god why were there ninjas what the fuck that made no fucking sense and I need to take a deep breath or two and—

Okay. Yeah. So, at least an original story might be easier for him not to fuck up? And maybe there will be good costumes?

Rachel –

I am interested in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because I can read English. How can you NOT be interested in a movie that portrays the 16th President of the United States as an axe-swinging Buffy?

HOW CAN YOU NOT?!

Now granted, I have seen the director’s past works (Nightwatch, Wanted) so I know I’m not in for a Tarantinoesque, tongue-in-cheek homage to the genre (is “Vampire movie” a genre yet?). I am in for a bunch of CGI with a lot of slo-mo and hopefully Benjamin Walker’s naked body.

Elena-

Wait, wait, wait, Nightwatch director did this one? THAT is why I’m interested! Nightwatch was pretty badass, if I recall correctly.  I mean, I think it was. I saw it on the pre-theatrical release rough translation that didn’t make much sense subtitles. Or maybe the story just made no sense? But I liked how he handled the film and the vampires in it….

What would make it awesome?

Rachel-

If it WERE a Tarantino film. IT WOULD BE SO AWESOME. Alas, it is not. So I guess it will be awesome if it is funny. The book itself isn’t hilarious beyond its mash-up premise (much like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the other Seth Graham-Smith book you’ve heard of), but this is a film adaptation, and by god the premise is so silly they might as well go full comedy.

It’s going to be pretty hard to sit through 2 hours of actual Abe Lincoln grimly dispatching vampires if there isn’t any humor. Give us the Buffy quips!

On second thought – maybe this should have been a Joss Whedon film? I’ll be Enver Gjokaj could pull off Abe! (He can pull off anything…. Including my shirt *puts on sunglasses * YEEEAAAHHHHHH).

Elena-

Hm. I think for me what will make this movie awesome is if they can make me forget I’m watching a movie where Abe Lincoln hunted vampires. Either laughter or emotional investment work to take me to that magical place of unselfconscious suspension of disbelief.

What would make it suck?

Elena-

Ninjas.  Seriously, if there are any fucking ninjas in this movie I am walking out of the theater, review or no review.

Aside from that…if it is a Hollywood CG reach-around flick that proves this director only has a vision when he has no budget. That kind of backslide from a promising start always pisses me off.

Rachel-

This is a vampire movie, it’s supposed to suck.

WHY DO YOU ALL HATE PUNS?

This is designed to be a terrible film. So I think a better question would be – how could this film not be FUN? And if it takes its premise too seriously and tries to deliver a straight action film that just happens to star a creepy Lincoln face and a top hat…it will suck.

Thoughts on casting/production?

Rachel-

Well, I’m not going to lie. I’m not a big fan of Timur Bekmambetov. Even James McAvoy’s beautiful face didn’t allow me to see past the fact that he was curving bullets by…essentially…bending his arm. WHAT? DEAR TIMUR – PHYSICS.

But, seeing as this is a movie about how Abe Lincoln is a freaking vampire hunter – I think I’m going to be OK with suspending all rules of the universe.

As to the film’s star, Benjamin Walker. I have no idea who he is? I have a bunch of friends who are into the NYC theater/Broadway scene and they all know exactly who he is – a talented stage star. So awesome! I love it when hard working theater dorks get a fat paycheck. Maybe Ben Walker is the next Hugh Jackman? Is there dancing in this movie? (Thinks about the axe-ballet in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) TWIRL BENNY, TWIRL!

Elena-

I…no.  I didn’t know this was a director whose work I’m familiar with, and I don’t recognize any of the actors, and all I know about the production was the local scuttlebutt about the filming possibly being the reason for half the flock of Bird Island abandoning the site, which if that’s true is inexpressibly upsetting to me from an ecological standpoint since the Audubon Park rookery is one of basically three sites in the entire state where waterbirds nest and breed.  Bird Island being abandoned would be like the Central Park red-tails leaving.  So…second what Rachel said?

Reaction to film:

Rachel-

I think maybe Benjamin Walker took my “twirl” wish to heart. BOY TWIRLED HIS DAMN ASS OFF!

 LOOK AT THOSE TWIRLY BASTARDS!

Full disclosure: I saw this movie with my friends on one of their birthdays. We got drunk on rum beforehand, and I made the birthday girl wear a top hat with a tiara affixed to the front and carry a toy axe. I spent approximately half of the movie laughing my highly sugared ass off.

But not because it was funny.

At one point, I shouted “WHAT IS THIS MOVIE ABOUT?” (Don’t worry. There were only four other people in the theater with us, and they were shouting too, I think.)

We all walked out of the film with shell-shocked looks on our faces. The plot is pretty thin on this one, guys, and it deviates a lot from the book. Abe Lincoln’s mom is eaten by a vampire, and he spends the rest of his life fighting vampires with the help of this vampire he meets, and the bad guy from A Knight’s Tale runs the Confederate army. It is mostly a slow-motion movie with CGI settings in which Ben Walker axe-twirls his way from one sunglass-wearing vamp to the next. Ramona Flowers and Wash from Firefly make a few appearances. Even though the movie covers 30 or so years, no one ages. Except Lincoln, who bizarrely goes from super handsome Ben Walker to creepy wax figure Lincoln. I saw it in 3D, and the slow motion and CGI effects are so cluttered that there are entire scenes where I kind of just sat back and thought about inkblots and sand drawings.

The main conceit of the movie is that evil sunblock-wearing vampires want America to have slaves because it makes it easier for them to have super boring parties in their shitty mansions with walking buffets. Or something. This made me feel squicky, not gonna lie. I’m not sure I’m at the point in my life where I can … write off slavery as something resulting from supernatural bullshit in an action movie. Lincoln even uses the Underground Railroad to transport silver to Gettysburg so they can kill the vampire army! I MEAN WHO WRITES THIS AND THINKS IT’S NOT OFFENSIVE?  Lincoln was basically Moses…an axe-twirling, horse-catching, train-crashing Moses. Only he was a white dude, and the Hebrew slaves were black. Squicky.

OH right…the HORSE TOSSING. Let’s talk about thaaaat.

So there is this ridiculous scene where Lincoln chases a bad vamp via a herd of horses that magically transport them from somewhere in Illinois to the Grand Canyon. This CGI herd of horses runs and runs while Lincoln and vampire ride and run and hop their way across them. The vampire picks up a horse…and CHUCKS it at Lincoln who CATCHES the horse, puts it down and swings up like Legolas to continue riding the horse.

WUT? WHAAAAT?!!!

I don’t even.

Elena-

No CG horses were harmed in the making of this film!

Not a joke, y’all.  There’s a scene where the herd is scuttling along the edge of the mysteriously grand canyon in the middle of Illinois, and the horses that start to fall off the edge all manage to regain their balance and not fall to their deaths.  Seriously, this movie was like Abe Lincoln of Mars with its regard for (by which I mean, complete and utter ignorance of) the actual laws of physics.

Rachel-

Meanwhile Lincoln has this superhot vampire friend who is remarkable only in his sunglasses collection who teaches him not to be a bigot against vampires (but we already know Lincoln isn’t a bigot because he’s also got black friends)…and also teaches him the way of Vampire fu. It makes you crazy strong even if you are NOT  vampire, and that is why Abe can catch horses and chop down trees in one fell swoop.

Elena-

Yeah, about that…how was that “one stroke” when he took like…10 swings?  And then the tree falls?  Um. Unless he was hitting a different tree each time I’m pretty sure there was a cumulative effect happening.  Just sayin’.

Rachel-

SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS MOVIE?

Abe Lincoln, who does nothing but lie to people in the film (hilarious?), was strangely uncompelling. The action scenes were monotonous; the blame slavery on evil vampires plot made me uncomfortable, and most importantly it wasn’t funny. I can’t imagine how torturous this film would have been if I had not been inebriated.

Elena-

Alas, for any of our readers who might have been interested in a sober analysis of the film, neither can I.  I, too, got rummy for this film (literally…by drinking RUM, because I live in New Orleans, which in the summertime is basically the Caribbean and used to be sugar cane capital of the continent, and rum is what we drink here).  I went straight college style, just before the movie I dumped a third of my Coke into the toilet and poured in the bottle. I was worried I might miss (“I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob”) the opening of the movie because of my liquor detour, but I took that time anyway because I saw this movie on Thursday after a full week to contemplate its 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and…no.  Anyway, I didn’t miss a thing except a couple shitty previews for shitty movies I know I won’t be seeing.

Right. So, the movie.  The movie was…yes: the movie was.

Rachel covered the salient points of how there was not much of a plot and the various “characters” just kind of showed up and said lines and how the action on screen was frenetic and hard to follow.  And derivative.  There was nothing new in these action sequences, just 50 Shades of Neo.

Rachel hits the point that underscores much of my discomfort with urban fantasy as a genre: it reduces either or both human problems and human redemption to the mercy of non-human influences.  Both are insulting.  Reducing both the entire argument for secession to “we want slaves” and the entire concept of institutionalized slavery to being so vampires have an easy food supply is just…asinine. As a Southerner I am insulted by the implication that the only reason the South won some of the battles was because the Confederate Army was all vampires.  As an American I am saddened that the single most devastating war in our history was reduced to righteous humans versus evil, evil vampires. I guess that whole brother versus brother thing was just a lie.  Riiiiiight.

I actually think the idea of vampires fighting because they wanted a nation of their own to be quite compelling. If the film hadn’t been so set on blaming slavery on the vampires, there could actually have been a really compelling subplot about what the vampires wanted and how maybe their desire for freedom was perhaps legitimate.  But instead the vampire leaders were all caricatures of villains, and not nearly smart enough to have actually been around long enough to be certain they were immortal.  They couldn’t train rob as effectively as the crew of Serenity, and they lived in mansions that were old and run-down and shitty even though IN THE TIME THIS IS SET THE HOUSE WOULD HAVE BEEN NEW.  In the end I think my complaint is pretty much the same as it was with P&P&Z:  there was a lot of potential for a really great story, and all of it was squandered.

But at least the vampires were appropriately monstrous in their miens.  And none of them sparkled.  And they at least tried to show the progression of time via Ramona Lincoln’s dresses.

Still.  None of it was enough to make this movie good or even enjoyable.  All I can say is, it lived up to every bit of its 35%.

Nerd Haiku: Truly Geektastic – A Review

I recently got the chance to review another book by author Robb Pearlman. After his novel “Spoiler Alert” caught my attention, I jumped on the chance to review his new effort, “Nerd Haiku.” I love nerdy things and I love haikus so I pretty much knew I needed to read it.

The book is collection of 200 haikus that capture so much of the essence that makes up being a nerd and more. If you love Sci-fi, fantasy, time travel, super heroes, and so much more you’ll find at least a couple haikus to make you laugh out loud. I have to say that this one of my favorite reference books yet. It is not only witty, but also clever, and completely honest.

There is a reference to almost everything that is great. Firefly, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Walking Dead, A Song of Ice and Fire, and countless superheroes make an appearance.

“Vampires/Buffy

The Walking Dead/ well-placed ax.

It’s a yin/yang thing.”

The best part of the poems though is that it doesn’t alienate people. It is not just for hardcore fans, even casual fans of the genres will enjoy reading the references. Even those people who read the comics/books or those who just see the television/movie adaptations can all enjoy the references. Unlike his last book, there aren’t very many spoilers in this collection of pop culture phenomena. Reading these poems will not only allow you to see your favorite characters in a new way but in some cases may remind you of long forgotten stories that you loved. In fact, after reading all 200 haikus, I had the urge to go back and read/watch almost every reference it made.

Pearlman also calls things like he sees them but in a humorous way. As a self-proclaimed nerd himself, he knows what is up.

Some of my favorites:

“Who’s faster, the Flash

Or Superman? This is a

debate without end.”

“You’re such a nice girl

Please dont disappear on me

like Kitty Pryde did.”

Pearlman also combined several of my favorite story settings into one making my brain sufficiently happy.

“Asgard, Gotham, Hoth,

Middle Earth, Winterfell, Oz,

There’s no place like home.”

 And he is right, there is no place at home. So if you are a member of geekhood or nerdom,  definitely check this book out. You won’t regret it.

Playing The Game of Thrones With The Season 2 Finale – Review

Episode 10: Season 2 finale, “Valar Morghulis”

Elena: This episode was, I think, on the whole better for those who only watch the show. I don’t know if that has quite happened enough to be called a trend yet, but I think we are beginning to see points where the changes are chapping even the most calloused of book fans’ asses, and those of us who don’t know what was in the books or should have been on screen don’t question what happens or think less of it, because we have no basis for comparison. We only react to what did happen, not what we thought would happen or what we wanted to happen.  Well, the part about what we want may not be totally true—I imagine the internet would have rioted if Tyrion came up with a case of the deads, since we all wanted him to live.  So I guess that seems a good time to ask Rachel what she thought of how HBO handled Tyrion’s fall from grace?

 

Rachel: HBO continues to give Peter Dinklage all the good scenes! But it’s not all jokes. Dinklage is showing Tyrion is one of the more complicated characters in this story. It’s not so fun seeing Tyrion afraid, but waking up after The Blackwater is probably the scariest thing Tyrion’s ever experienced. Ending the season with the cocky Tyrion in a forgotten room, unsure about his health or his future is pretty pitch perfect.

Pycelle is back up, Tyrion is down, and I don’t think any of us know what to think of Shae. I loved that scene between Shae and Tyrion. Shae is the only person Tyrion ever confides his fears in, the person he shows any weakness to, and she in turn always tells him exactly what she thinks. Her dismissal of his “I’m a monster” statement is pretty much how I felt about his injury. POOR BABY. You got a booboo?

I knew they weren’t actually going to chop off his nose and force Dinklage to wear a terrible prosthetic for the rest of the series. I’m hoping they keep it extra juicy and infected looking otherwise, we’re in the same situation I felt when I saw The Phantom of the Opera, and Gerard Butler’s HIDEOUS FACE was really just a handsome dude with a  sunburn….

Not gonna lie, when Tyrion cried I definitely got choked up. What do you think Elena, do you trust Shae with Tyrion’s emotionally scarred heart?

Elena: This was the episode where you feel sorry for Tyrion because he was riding high and thinking he was the big man in King’s Landing only to get brought lower than ever when his dad strolls in and saves the day with the Knight of Fucking Flowers (literally….Loras fucks flowers. Peach blossoms, specifically. Like what I did there?), and suddenly it’s like Tyrion was never in King’s Landing and had nothing to do with saving it.  Joffrey gets to sit there and pretend like he didn’t piss himself on the battlements, Tywinning lets his horse shit all over the throne room, and Tyrion isn’t even allowed to watch the joy of Papa Lannister starting to put his dipshit grandson in his place (because you know if anyone can control King Fucktard the First, it is Tywinning).  Instead Tyrion is in a monk’s cell somewhere with Maester Pycelle cackling over getting revenge for the beard-trimming, while Tyrion is moping and being depressed over the fact that he is now “a monster as well as a dwarf.”  Um, I think that line made more sense in the books.  Having a pretty clean battle scar isn’t quite enough to make someone a monster, especially not in a land where the men in charge are, as The Hound likes to point out, killers and knights themselves.  Probably half the lords in Westeros have battle scars.  They just make a man look like…well, a man.  Welcome to the big boy club, Tyrion.

As to Shae, I am reluctantly impressed with her that she chose to stay with him.  I almost think she means it.  Maybe she still sees him as just the best thing that’s ever happened to her and a better prospect than anything else she could find, but she seemed genuine in her anger on his behalf.  Fuck this place and these people, they don’t respect you so let’s just leave.  Tyrion would be no one across the sea, even if he still had money, so she can’t just be with him because of his being a Lannister.  I might not “get” their relationship but it seems like it’s being built into a real one, maybe not Robb and Talisa style lusty and frantic love but the solid, trusting kind of love.  At this point I trust her not to run out on him…but I don’t trust her not to get herself killed off or imprisoned and then used against him later.

Rachel: The cut from the Tyrion/Shae scene to Robb and Talisa being married was hilarious. Those tricksy writers! Also hilarious? The entire wedding scene.

WUT? That was the cheesiest, stupidest thing I’ve ever seen! Let’s be real…if Talisa is from Volantis, girl doesn’t know any chants about the Seven! They were married under the Seven when Robb is supposed to be the King of the GOD DAMN NORTH?!

This show can be so uneven about details! Robb is also part Tulley, so fine. There’s your argument for the ceremony, and this all would have made perfect sense had he married Jeyne Westerling. But he didn’t. They changed her to Talisa and made up this hugely complicated reason for why she’s even on the continent in the first place, so it would only make sense they be married in the Northern tradition, and I realize this is nitpickery of the highest order but I’m just going to be that person right now.

Cut later to Cat trying to tell Robb what an ASSHOLE he has been to the Freys…too much is being made of how disrespectful Robb was to Cat (duh, he just defied her wishes and married some landless ho, and you think he’s going to apologize?) and not enough about how there is one angry Bridge-having family out there. Robb has mightily offended the Freys and as yet has no siblings to placate them with other marriages. He’s lost Winterfell to Theon.  He’s ignored every piece of advice Roose Bolton has given him.

Robb might be pretty, but he doesn’t even have the family duty that Ned had and so might win the award for Stupidest Main Character of Season 2. Elena, do you agree?

Elena: CONCURMENT ACHIEVED.

Normally I am pro following your heart.  And, Robb, I GET why you want to marry a woman you think is going to be a better queen for you and an inspiration to your people, someone hard and yet gentle, tough and yet compassionate, strong and brave and independent.  The thing is, you are being very un-Stark right now.  Is that your Tully side creeping out?  Are any of Ned’s children proper Starks?  Maybe Jon should count himself lucky he’s Ned’s bastard and not another Tully spawn, since that set of genes is starting to seem overpowering.

Because here’s the problems I have with Robb’s decision making.  First, it’s unnecessary.  Talisa is obviously willing to be kept on the side if you are where her heart is.  Maybe that doesn’t bear up once you’re actually married, but maybe it does.  She seemed like she understood.  Second, it wrecks an allegiance and will piss off your bannermen.  It makes you look kind of…well, not a man of your word.  The reason they are following you is because you were a Stark.  Being a not a man of your word is basically saying you’re a Stark only in name.  How can they trust you now?  Especially when you didn’t ride back to retake Winterfell?  You aren’t keeping your promises to your allies or your own kin…how can any man who rides with you expect you to keep a promise to him now?

The thing about building trust is, it means you keep promises even when it is really inconvenient or hard for you to do that.  You should have kept the bridge.  I hope you don’t regret burning it too much later.  I hope Talisa’s magical hoo-ha is enough to hold your throne.

Yeah.  Good luck with that.

So speaking of Winterfell…shall we swing North for a bit?

Rachel: God, the Winterfell scenes are where I went from a smiley, happy TV-watcher to an increasingly grimacing, pissed-off book person. WHAT IS HAPPENING, YOU GUYS? The majority of the changes make sense to me. They’ve streamlined Theon’s journey (gotten rid of Reek entirely?) and decided that it’s just easier for the Iron Born to hit Theon over the head, burn Winterfell down, and leave.

Right? At this point I kind of don’t know what the heck is happening. I have my theories about how to get to the next stage, but since this is a no-spoil discussion, you guys are just going to have to hit me up on Twitter for them.

Meanwhile Osha, Bran, Rickon, and Hodor emerge from the Winterfell crypts to a devastated and empty, largely bodiless Winterfell. (One can only assume the Iron Born took people with them). The only one left was the dying Maester Luwin. The scene in which he says good bye was rather powerful and drives home that the North is a place of Duty and Honor. Under the Heart Tree he bids Bran go North. We even got to hear Rickon speak like a human being instead of a feral child (I was genuinely shocked when he said something and sounded normal). Super sad. Bran is now on his own. His only adult ally is a wildling woman, plus he has a simpleton and the direwolves (YAY DIREWOLVES! DID YOU SEE THEM? I LUFF THEM). Rickon has mastered speech, which is a definite plus, but I don’t know how much fighting he can do? Give the kid a rock I guess.

Between the Iron Islands being in open revolt, Winterfell burned to the ground and its people killed or scattered, Jon far beyond the Wall, and Robb stuck somewhere in the Riverlands with decreasing options…looks like the Starks are in for a hell of a season 3.

Elena: Okay, am I the only one who had zero doubts about what happened at Winterfell?  Asha took her 500 knights and surrounded it, then went annoying-sister apeshit on her brother.  I figured the men on the inside with him recognized that horn and that’s how they knew to just bonk him on the head and go home.  Then Asha the expert pillager burned a stone keep down.  If anyone can do it without dragons, it’s her.  I mean, self-evident, right?

I heard from Rachel that this was not obvious if you had read the books because you were expecting something else to happen.

You guys: this is why I’m not reading the books until show’s done.  It’s just so much more enjoyable for me to watch, not only when I don’t know what’s coming but also when I don’t expect one thing and get something else.

Anyway, about Maester Luwin’s suggestion to Theon that he run to The Wall.  Luwin had an interesting comment, that he doesn’t serve the family—he serves the place.  I wasn’t sure he meant it until he said all that about the Night’s Watch.  He really did want to save Theon from himself.

Too late.  Theon was all ready to go down in a blaze of glory…only to have his sister take that away from him.  But the sequence just proves all over again that he’s not really getting the Iron Islander ethos.  I cannot imagine any pirate being willing or interested in a martyr’s death when there is a tunnel to escape via.  The fact that Theon was ready to choose death over being seen as a coward is very much a Winterfell thing.  Pirates don’t give a shit about how they are seen. They give a shit about staying alive and getting their plunder.  Why would they die for a shitty keep on a shitty steppe somewhere shitty and not by the sea?  That was Theon’s last gasp of hatred for the Starks.  Guess he really did hate them.  I can tell you why, Robb….

I look forward to seeing what happens to Theon now that he has been pwned by his sister once again.

Shall we speak of happier things?  Tell me what you liked best about this episode.

Rachel: The throne room was my favorite scene in the entire episode. A bunch of powerful liars in a room together being forced to pay homage to a megalomaniac douche. HA HA. It’s amazing. From Tywin refusing to walk anywhere on foot, to the farce of putting Sansa aside in favor of the vast wealth and men of the Tyrells. Hilarious. When Maergery made her speech about having a love for Joffrey take root deep inside her, the only person I felt bad for was Joffrey. He’s the only one in the room who doesn’t seem to understand that everyone is full of shit. A castle full of vipers ready to devour him; the only thing holding them back is tradition and his chaotic behavior.

IT’S GONNA BE GOOD.

Anyone else hear Sansa echo Cersei’s “Enjoy” when Maegaery stepped into the limelight? Stupid Littlefinger had to ruin it by creeping in like he always does with his “you’re not free, yet!” speech. Go creep on Harrenhal, Petyr! I hear it’s LOVELY there!

No, I love Littlefinger. They’ve made him inscrutable in the show by making him tell everyone his plans, all the plans being different. It’s just as effective as book Littlefinger, who mostly keeps everything to himself but the pointing and the laughing. The end result is “creepy fucker who knows too much and says too little of substance,” and that’s all we can really hope for.

Elena: I was laughing my ass off through this entire sequence. From that perfect plop of horse shit (seriously, I think they just made everyone wait while the camera rolled on that horse’s ass until it dropped a load) to Joffrey’s haplessness in the face of grown-ups to Sansa’s amazing acting skills…goodness.  I WANT MORE OF THIS, PLEASE.  Rachel and I talked on one of the podcasts about the lack of courtly flourishes and politicking in the show thus far.  This was the first scene where we really got to see it in full flower, the platitudes and false speaking and posturing and obeisance to the proper form.

I will admit, I was not actually sure Joffrey understood he was allowed to set Sansa aside.  I believed him when he told Margaery he could not break his vow…like I thought he actually meant that.  I thought that because of how confused he looked when Pycelle stepped forward again and said the gods didn’t require him to keep promises to traitors.

I hope he was the only one in the room not acting, because that underscores that the point Littlefinger made to Sansa is also true of Joffrey:  it’s a room full of liars, every one of them better than you.  Joffrey, for all that he has been invested with the powers of the kingship, is still a little boy who wants to be led except when he is throwing a tantrum.  He is weak, malleable, and dangerous only because he is marginally insane.  If he did not have that edge of psychosis…he would be an utter puppet.  Instead he will become a puppet through the manipulation of his weaknesses and ignorance and self-absorption.

I am sooooo interested to see Margaery square off against Cersei.  I think in her Cersei will find an apter pupil than she did in Sansa…and someone who will not overtly compete with her.  The longer I’ve had to think about this, the more convinced I am that Cersei wanted Sansa gone because Sansa threatened her—threatened to expose Cersei for what she is and be an example of what she should have been but isn’t. Sansa was too scared and ignorant to realize that every time she said the perfect thing or showed just that flash of ladylike courage, it made her more and more unacceptable to Cersei.  Sansa would have made a tragic but noble figure as Joffrey’s queen.  She could make someone like The Hound disobey his master for her sake.  She had the ability to inspire pity and pride and loyalty…and it would be loyalty to HER, not to the king.  And since she is the daughter of a man killed as a traitor for being too honest and too honorable, and the sister of a rebel king…a city of people more loyal to her than her husband must have made Cersei’s butthole pucker up with fear.

Margaery, on the other hand, will not overtly compete with Cersei because she will be playing the game of eager queen-to-be learning the game from her mother-in-law.  She understands that it is a game, and overt competition will be the quickest way to lose what she has within her grasp.

Littlefinger’s bit at the end was priceless.  The people at work thought he did it out of kindness, out of love for Cat. Hahahahahaha.  Oh, hell, no.  He might have a weakness for Catelyn Tully Stark in that he still has emotions about her…but I don’t believe for a second he still loves her.  I think he still wants revenge for that rejection.  I was shocked he didn’t offer to marry Sansa just to keep her safe from Joffrey…wouldn’t that be the ultimate in your FACE to his old love?  Marry the daughter who looks just like her but is ten times more submissive, so he not only upgrades to the younger model as an older man but also upgrades it to a personality he can completely control?  Personally, I think that is his goal.

Sansa best watch herself if she stays in King’s Landing.

GIRL, YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE WITH THE HOUND!

Rachel: Can we talk about Stannis now?

My favorite lobster king is having issues with being so thoroughly defeated, but then again who wouldn’t be having a hissy in their high tower table-map room if they just got Tywinned ten seconds before total victory?

I feel for you, Stannis. I feel. And I can understand why a godless man who yearns for greatness, such as yourself, would stare into the ambient lighting and see your inevitable greatness staring back at you. Clearly Stannis hasn’t given up.

Or they’re just crazy.

Even then, I would expect Stannis to talk about his missing, presumed dead, right hand man Ser Onion! NO TEARS FOR YOUR BESTIE? C’mon Stannis!

Look into the flames! Do you smell onions?

Elena: I don’t have much to say about this scene, since, obviously Stannis wasn’t going to give up the war just because he lost the battle, and just as obviously Melisandre is going to make sure she has a firmer hand on the second campaign.  But all I could think watching it was how much he looked like Eric in The Little Mermaid when that evil sea witch has him under her spell.  And then their relationship suddenly made perfect sense, and I felt really sorry for Stannis.

Even more sorry for Davos, who lost his son to that bitch’s shell spell!

Ugh.  Let’s go someplace where the bad guys don’t win!  Like…Jaime and Brienne!

Rachel: Ya know, strictly speaking, book-Brienne wouldn’t have vengefully castrated that guy to kill him. But I think it makes her more interesting when she is more overtly pissed off about how women are treated in Westeros. It’s nice. In a cast of characters that feature plenty of strong and interesting female characters, not many of them are outspoken about the role of women in their society. Cersei complains but acquiesces; Arya is still too young for her rejection of feminine roles to be a social statement. Asha is an interesting case, as she fills in for her father’s absent sons, but the contrast between her and Brienne is that Asha embraces traditionally masculine roles without any regret, while Brienne is far more sensitive. Forced into masculine roles in order to gain agency for herself while at the same time pushed away from feminine roles due to her size and appearance—at time it seems that Brienne had no choice. It was either take control of her life through violence or live life as an unloved,  mocked wife of whatever man offered her father the best deal. Something Asha doesn’t have to contend with – plenty of men find her appealing, and it seems the Greyjoys have no compunctions about women inheriting.

The relationship between perfect manly man/family honor Jaime and imperfect female/imperfect male family rejecting Brienne is, as I have said before, one of the best relationships in the entire series. They make each other more interesting simply by being in each others’ proximity! Not to mention the hilarity of no bullshit Brinne calling out Jaime’s every utterance.

The cast is only going to get bigger as we move into season 3, but I hope to see much more of The Jaime and Brienne Show!

Elena: This sequence.  Oh, my god, this sequence. I think it might have been my favorite moment of the show when Brienne kills those Stark men and we see Jaime’s face in the aftermath.  And he’s basically like, “I…might not be able to beat her.  Holy shit, this woman is FIERCE.”  Like…Brienne is such a badass that she turned Jaime Fucking Kingslayer into a lisping gay man for a couple seconds.  That was amazing.

So can I confess something?  I didn’t realize the bodies were women until they talked about them being she’s.  I thought Brienne was just that respectful at first, which seemed oddly naïve, but one thing I will say about Westeros…there has been a lot of abusing of women but not too much killing of them, at least so far.  So her reaction, even aside from any considerations of latent anger a lady knight might have about the way women are treated by men, made more sense. In fact, WAS it anger on behalf of women (vs men) so much as it was anger on behalf of INNOCENTS (vs ravagers and false knights)?

Either way I’m glad they stopped.  I’m glad we got to see her in action one more time this season, I’m glad Jaime got to see it so maybe he’ll stop mouthing off every five minutes, and I’m glad we got to see the complicating factor of her not working for the Starks but only Catelyn.  That…is going to come back later, I sense.

Rachel:  And in things that just won’t stop coming back…Ros met Varys.

While I LOVE me some quality Varys time…this scene was bull. Like Varys would stroll into Petyr’s whore house in broad daylight to offer his top whore a spying position? HBO is really trying to make Ros happen for us. I won’t deny that she might know her share of juicy bits—isn’t that what Petyr uses her for? I think this scene was just an excuse for the writers to reiterate that while Petyr seems to desire legitimate and public power, the motivations of Varys are still pretty unknown. Sex doesn’t work on him, so Petyr is at a disadvantage when it comes to manipulating his rival (are they rivals?), but Petyr might be in better with the nobility – since HBO sent him on a tour of Westeros this season.

You never know with Varys. All you really know is that he’s a eunuch. HBO seems really fixated on telling us that repeatedly. And we know that whatever Ros decides, no one wants to be stuck between Littlefinger and the Spider.

Elena: This scene just made no sense to me.  I expect Varys is right and Littlefinger is criminally underusing her.  But do we really think Littlefinger doesn’t have a line onto every man (or woman) who walks into his brothel?  Come on.  He’s not going to let his Commader Ros Riker of the whoreship Cunterprize become a spy for his greatest enemy.  Please.

If HBO takes that route and she survives more than two episodes of it, I call bullshit.  Maybe they just wanted a scheme to kill her off?

Oh, and speaking of characters killed off:  Goodbye, Jaqen H’ghar!

Rachel: It’s time for terrible poetry.

 

Goodbye Jaqen H’ghar

we have watched you from afar

kill every man the wolf desired

and part your hair so ’twas two colored.

 

Elena is going to ask me if you ever come back

I will distract her with Syrio flack

a beauteous man if there ever was

a deadly genie, a faceless one.

 

Elena: RIP, Hot Jaqen!  Your new face did NOT amuse me.  But I know why you did it: you didn’t want Arya to regret her choice.  I would not regret that choice after seeing your new mug, so well done.

Also…where the fuck are all these different magical people coming from?  None of them are from the Seven Kingdoms.  What is up with that?  No indigenous magic on the entire fucking continent?  Rachel likes to call the Stark kids wargs and snarl about the fact that HBO is cutting their connection to their wolves and Bran’s prophecy-dreaming, so what else is indigenous to this part of the world that we aren’t learning about?  I mean, across the sea we have the witches like Melisandre, the Faceless Men, the sorcerers of Qarth, the Targaryens and their fire-magic…what happened here?  Why didn’t they have all this shit?  No wonder they were so fucking defenseless when the Targaryens showed up with their dragons.  And if the Targaryens were all that was keeping it off the continent…no wonder all of these new beings are adventuring across the sea now!

Anyway, on the Arya plot front…we now have the Continuing Adventurs of Arya and Hot Pie and Gendry.  Arya wants to find Robb or rescue Sansa.  I love that she finally remembers her sister.  Has Sansa thought about her at all?  She would never have brought Arya up, of course, since that is obviously a subject you just don’t talk about in front of…well, anyone in King’s Landing since they all have egg on their face for Arya escaping without a trace.  But I wonder if she thinks about her.  Surely?  But Arya was the one whom Ned reminded that blood is blood, and when winter comes family will matter more than anything.

Interestingly, given that Starks at least start as the focal point of the series, the action across two seasons so far has been to put as much distance as possible between all of the Stark children.  They are all separated from their family right now.  They all have to make new families…Arya with her boys, Robb with Talisa and his men, Jon with his brother crows and now the Wildlings, Bran and Rickon with Osha.  Sansa…Sansa is the only one truly alone.  Poor little bird.

Dany and the House of the Undying (are all her dothraki back from the dead?):

Rachel: I would probably have made it through the episode in enjoyment despite the Winterfell confusion if not for everything that happens with Dany and Jon (who I will get to in a second).

Ugh… I feel like such a chump! Getting all “Elena, TAKE NOTES WHEN PEOPLE TALK TO DANY IN THE HOUSE OF THE UNDYING”. Um…yea, about that….

WHAT IS FRAGGITY FRACK SHIT HUH?

Can I just say that not ONE of the “visions” Dany saw in that episode occurred in the book? Do I treat them as canon? IN which case – did HBO just spoil the hell out of us by showing us the Iron Throne covered in ash, the ceiling burned away by what we assume would be Dany’s dragon fire?

DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?

And the Drogo thing – I guess it was nice that we got a cameo, but, damn, that fake beard was gross looking! EWWW DON’T TOUCH IT.

So yea, I was hoping for at LEAST the “Three” prophecy since Dany uses it to examine and govern her decisions from here on out. It’s so disappointing to see one of the most important moments in a favorite character’s storyline get completely and utterly cut. Sigh. I’m also going to assume that the dragons succeeded in burning down the house of the Undying? I get it – the fire budget was all used up in “The Blackwater.”

Just…go, Dany. Go buy a ship. Go somewhere. LEAVE QARTH. Leave weirdly and for no reason at all heterosexual Xaro. Leave him and that dumb ho, Doreah, locked up in that empty vault. TAKE the golden peacock! (BTW – raise your hand if you were all, “Where did all of Dany’s Dothraki come from? Weren’t they all dead?)

March onward to your incredibly boring Feast and Dance storylines! ONWARD, I SAY! And this time you don’t even have an idea of what direction to go in because you never heard Quaithe’s “you must go East to go West” prophecy, either!

So…just…go. Go be aimless. Have some temper tantrums. Lose your dragons repeatedly. I don’t even care anymore.

Elena: I was underwhelmed by the House of the Undying itself.  It seemed…well, honestly, here’s what it seemed.  It seemed like that could have been an entire episode by itself—I mean, Labyrinth made a feature film out of the exact same premise—and because it could not be its own episode, the true threat or power of the place was diminished.  I felt like there should have been traps there, or more obvious prophetic type visions…something besides a couple random flashes of other places and a quick jaunt from The Wall to the Nightlands (or wherever Drogo was supposed to be).

That being said…the ending of her sequence, both endings really, was fucking awesome.  When she looked at those chains and then at her dragons and was like…fuck this.  Dragons, take my fury and make it burn. MAKE IT ALL BURN…I think I squealed like a school girl.  That was the best.  And I was just thinking…um, sorcerer?  I know your powers just came back and you’re feeling your oats and everything, but…what part of DRAGONFIRE do you not quite get?

The ending with the empty vault was also fabulous.  I half-jokingly wrote “watch it be empty” in my live blog and then got to feel uber-smart when it turned out to be true.  What a clever man he was!  All he had to do to be the richest man in Qarth was TELL everyone he was the richest man in Qarth so many times they eventually stopped asking for proof! Amazing!  I actually wonder how many of the so-called richest men in Qarth were actually rich at all, or if they all just put their actual wealth into their world-at-hand and kept nothing in reserve but pretended they had ten times more where that came from?  Was Qarth basically the double-mortgaged American gated community of Westeros?  Where everyone drives a Lexus but lives in an unfurnished house and eats nothing but beans and rice because they have no money left to spend?

So Dany has enough for a small ship, and now her dragons have found their fire.  I still don’t think it’s enough for her to go “home” yet.

This is something Rachel mentioned to me in our drunkcast, that Dany sees things in the House of the Undying that shape her decisions from here on.  The fact that she didn’t makes me wonder if she is going to continue to have her agency as an individual undermined by plot events that force her path to turn, versus her choosing to turn onto a different path?  Like will she get shipwrecked instead of choosing to wait to cross the sea until she can do it on the back of a dragon because she saw a vision of herself flying into the Seven Kingdoms for the first time?  That sort of putting her at the mercy of tangential forces rather than making her the centrifuge of her own momentum.  I much prefer characters who both have agency but are forced to react to the world around them.  Even when they make poor choices (cough *Robb* cough), I still prefer the ones who are able to be actors and not simply reactors.

Rachel: Speaking of visions left out of The House of the Undying scene was one which, coupled with a memory/dream of Ned’s that the writers left out of Season 1, is the basis for a theory on Jon’s parentage. But that seems to have been erased from the show, so please GOD don’t bother Googling any algebra equations that solve for J. (Really, don’t. You’ll be spoiled IMMEDIATELY about events because the internet assumes if you are Googling book theories that you have read the books).

And that isn’t even the stuff that had me all mad and yelling in the street (actual. I was yelling in the street). No, see…I’m pissed off about Jon vs. The Halfhand. Because they spent all damn season stretching the storyline beyond the Wall. Spending multiple episodes at Craster’s Keep and digging latrines and chasing girls through the snow, and they didn’t have TEN SECONDS for Qhorin to tell Jon that one pivotal line, “When the time comes, you do what they ask of you.” Because Jon kills the Halfhand UNDER ORDERS. Not because Qhorin spends a bunch of time pushing him and calling his mother a whore – but because Qhorin knows that if the wildlings have captured him they will kill him slowly, OR his death can be used by Jon to gain acceptance into their group as a deserter. Couple that with Jon playing it like he killed the Halfhand because he can and wants to fuck Ygritte – that’s what this scene should have been. Instead it’s a stupid scene. A STUPID SCENE. Is it clear that Jon did not want to kill one of his heroes? Is it clear that Jon is doing this to gain information about the army that Mance Rayder is massing beyond the wall because it is a threat to the realm?

Is Jon just too much of a traditional fantasy hero with a special destiny to make it in the big bad world of HBO dramas? It’s like, “Oh, ya know, Jon is too good. Let’s make him a fucking dick. We can call him stupid for an entire season and then have him kill the old guy at the end for being disrespectful.” Was that a round table discussion or is this a result of over editing?

Ughhhhhh. UGHHHHHHHHHH!!! I’M SO MAD ABOUT IT AHHHHH!

And then there’s the scene at the very end, at what I am assuming is the Fist of the Firstmen? Sam and co (YAY DOLOROUS ED) have been digging latrines for approximately 12 episodes, and they hear the three horn blasts that mean Walkers. So everyone runs back to camp except for Sam, who hides behind a rock and watches the Others come by on their undead horses directing the movement of a whole mess of White Walkers. Remember the Walkers we saw last season when Jon injured his hand? Remember how they were fast and strong and scary as hell?

Now look at these Walkers.

Do they not seem a little…Shaun of the Dead to you?

Whatever. At this point I’m just over here mumbling about the honor of Jon Stark and how Qhorin Halfhald is a HERO!

Elena:  Rachel’s reaction is what happens when HBO tries to be subtle.  The elements of this being a hugely pivotal (except not at all because he was only faking!) role in Jon’s life are there.  We have heard the boys whispering about how that’s Qhorin Halfhand, and I think it was explained to Sam who he is.  We had Qhorin’s comment to Jon LAST episode we saw them, “I hope you can do what needs to be done when the time comes.”

But the way this was staged…weak.  It made Jon look like a little Lord of Winterfell who is lost North of The Wall, not a man of the Night’s Watch who is consciously rejecting that life.

Maybe the show writers wanted to slow down Jon’s growth from an angry youth to a full man, and thought that showing him make that kind of momentous decision less than a year after leaving home was too soon.  Maybe they thought we thought the Wildlings would see more potential in a malleable youth than a man of strong convictions.  Or maybe they really are doing what Rachel suggested and trying to diminish the most admirable sides of the characters it’s easiest to like in the books because HBO doesn’t like its viewers to have easy heroes.

I don’t know what their decision process was.  But I know this:  I was confused about why Qhorin was talking about Jon’s parents.  That Jon could be goaded to kill a man for calling his mother a whore has exactly dick to do with his willingness to join the Wildlings.  Jon has been captured.  It’s not like he’s getting back to The Wall ever anyway, most likely…so it’s not like he could have been thinking (er…if it wasn’t planned that he kill the Halfhand) afterward that “oh, shit, killing the Halfhand means I can’t go back.  Oops, guess I’ll just join the Wildlings then.”  And from the Wildlings point of view, the fact that he killed Qhorin Halfhand in a fit of rage for insulting his mother would just make him look more dangerous a prisoner, but not a more likely prospect for conversion to their cause.  Jon wasn’t fighting for his freedom in their eyes, but from hot emotion.  The fact that he won would have made him look like a badass, sure, but they would have watched that battle, shrugged at the outcome, bound him tighter, and walked on.  They would not have looked at him and said “now you are one of us.”  It. Made. No. Sense.

If Jon and Qhorin had been arguing about loyalty to the Night’s Watch, and not betraying secrets and their brothers, and Jon was like “Fuck the Night’s Watch, I didn’t want to go but I had nowhere else, I’m 17 years old and I’ve never really kissed a girl and the Night’s Watch wants me to die an old man—or a young one—who has never really kissed a girl, so fuck that, and fuck you if you don’t like it.”  HAD THAT BEEN THEIR ARGUMENT THE “HE’S ONE OF US! HUZZAH!” REACTION MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

But, y’all, that was not Jon and Qhorin’s argument.

This is not to mention…there was no retaliation from the Wildlings for him killing their most valuable prisoner?  COME THE FUCK ON.  If they know enough about who Qhorin is to be impressed that Jon killed him, then why on earth would they have let him be killed?  They all just formed up a sparring ring and let them have blades, really?  Because it’s not like King North of The Wall Mance Fucking Raider would have wanted to debrief Qhorin Halfhand or anything.  Not at all.  No chance of that!  The Wildlings reaction was just…unbelievable, when I sat down later and thought it through.

I am also upset over the future interplay between Jon and Ygritte now that the fight was about his whore mother (or was she?) and not his desire to be his own man and have his life back.  Because if he had said “I’m taking my life back” then he would have had to put a move on her.  This way, he can still be all emo and reluctant to bed her until he realizes it’s part of his disguise and mopes about it for an episode first.  I would much rather see him take a positive action to embrace his own sexuality rather than having to be seduced.  Sigh.  As much as I am all in favor of ladies doing it—Talisa style—that doesn’t mean I want MEN to be the ones getting seduced against their will and understanding and moral code.

Actually…looking back at the sex we’ve seen this season…the bulk of it by far has been women seducing men against their better judgment and very much being the sexual aggressors.  And I am quite sad to realize that perhaps the most sexually equitable relationship IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING SHOW so far has been Cersei and Jaime.  You guys, there is something seriously fucked up when the people with the healthiest sexual relationship are the twins doing each other.

I’m actually quite serious about this.  Talisa pulled a romance novel hero on Robb where she was like, “I’m going to seduce you even though morally you are reluctant because you will enjoy it, so just like back (or stand back, whatever) and let me do the rest.”  Fine, so they are probably healthy up after he makes his choice about it, but still, putting your boobs in a man’s face and expecting him to make a morally responsible decision at that moment is…questionable at best.  Cersei is using her power as Queen and Head Bitch Lannister in Charge to use Lancel at her whims.  Margaery is more than a match for poor Renly…or would have been, had he lived.  Melisandre and Stannis?  What black magic did she use to overcome his normally prosaic and plodding moral compass?  Osha having to do nothing to slit Theon’s throat in his sleep (had she so chosen) except drop her robe.

And then in the more traditional roles of men using women we have Craster with his daughters, all the whores who got fucked and abandoned or abused along the season, and Shae, whom Tyrion might love but who is still paid for her work and that puts her in a position of subservience at least until she can make him so in love with her he’ll do anything to keep her (at which point she moves to unhealthy column #1).  Regardless of what is worked out after the wedding, any woman married off for political reasons is, as Cersei put it so elegantly, being “sold like a horse so he could ride me whenever he wanted.”  So…yeah.  Where’s the healthy couple with no power dynamic or discrepancy at play?  The most fucked up relationship of them all.

I had not really thought about this until now.  Just wow.  Possibly most fascinating is that in aggregate this season has had a lot of exploration of female sexuality as a weapon.  Back to Cersei, who seems to just be speaking all the truths, telling Sansa to learn how to use it.  So much for women being helpless…but Margaery Tyrell already proved that being more feminine than most can be much more powerful than Sansa made it seem.

Overall Thoughts on Season 2

Rachel: All in all I found Season 2 to be much more uneven than Season 1. It had some absolutely fantastic episodes and moments, but it also seems to be slipping dangerously close to re-imagining. Season 1 was so true to the novels, and with all the events and characters we’ll see from the Storm of Swords storyline – this show could easily go the way of HBO’s other fantasy series and look upon the books as mere inspiration for the show itself rather than a guide to the storyline.

Maybe that won’t happen. Maybe they’re stretching some revelations in order to up the drama of the Season 3 premiere. Here’s hoping, because as much as I love Tyrion Lannister and all the other baddies of Westeros, it’s the heroes that keep me coming back, and so far HBO seems to be ignoring them.

Elena: I enjoyed Season 2 much more than Season 1, and I think that had to do with my having read the first book (or, mostly).  I do hope Rachel is wrong and the show maintains a decent amount of integrity toward the source material, that they have a plan for all the sideplots they are lopping off or shortening or shifting about.

For Season 3 I am hoping for more of the courtly politics and intrigue, and some more characters to meet up the way Jaime and Brienne have.  For example I think Sam and Bran would become BFF’s if they met.

In the meantime, everyone is in a safe (enough) harbor, and I am content to gestate my anticipation for a full nine months before shadowbabying forward to Season 3.