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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Meta: Why Redemption Isn't What It Used to Be...

I'm a little annoyed at myself for wading into this debate, and I'm only posting this now because I spent a whole evening writing it and don't want to have wasted my own time. Suffice to say, if you're tired of on-line drama and the hornet's nest of discussion surrounding villains and redemption and the line between fantasy/reality, then maybe give this post a miss.
As you may have noticed, there's plenty of friction in the Star Wars fandom at the moment, and if you haven't noticed, you can probably guess what (or who) it's about.
Spoilers beneath the cut – nothing major, but if you want to go in completely clean, steer clear.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: The Goonies

Having devoured the second season of Stranger Things this month, I'm sure I'm not the only one who suddenly found themselves struck with a desire to revisit all things Eighties. The Goonies was a staple part of my childhood, and probably a formative viewing experience when it comes to my love of treasure hunts, child independence, and Ragtag Bunches of Misfits.
Watching it again years later, I was relieved to find that it holds up really well – not only in its practical effects, but its plot and characterization too. The script is tight, the group dynamics are fun, and there's so much foreshadowing and pay-off strewn throughout. More impressively, the jokes are still funny and the score is fantastic. Even now, the sound of those five descending notes sends shivers down my spine – you know the ones.
To be fair, some people hate this movie. I get where they're coming from and I won't pretend that the nostalgia filter hasn't an effect on my fondness for this movie, but you gotta admit Richard Donner and Stephen Spielburg struck gold with the film's basic premise: "kids hunt for pirate treasure." I'm sold just with that, but they also throw in two elements that raise the stakes exponentially: they need the money to save their homes from developers, and are pursued throughout by dangerous criminals.
There you have it, the ultimate in escapist kid adventures, and there's so much good stuff throughout that I'm going to forego my usual reviewing formatting and write a point-by-point commentary about all my favourite things in this movie...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Da Vinci's Demons

I have just finished re-watching Da Vinci's Demons for reasons I can't quite explain. It's not under any circumstances an objectively good show: the plots are too messy, the characters too static, the premise too bizarre for that. It never made that big of a splash online, as there was no fandom to speak of – and certainly not much publicity either.
And yet it managed a respectable three seasons (far better shows don't get so lucky) with a beginning, middle and end, and at times I found it truly fascinating – just as much for what it did wrong as it did right. I think I can most liken it to Salem: totally different in content and purpose, but also a three-season, below-the-radar genre show that was consistently entertaining and which I saw through to the end almost despite myself.
SPOILERS for all three seasons...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Woman of the Month: Michael Burnham

Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery
There are some very divided opinions when it comes to Star Trek: Discovery, and it's hard to know how much of it is honest criticism and how much is wrapped up in the usual backlash over a diverse cast, female protagonist and LGBT couple. Naturally there's the They Changed It Now It Sucks complaints from old-school fans, and some warranted anger over how heavily Michelle Yeoh as the captain of the Shenzhou was promoted, only for the show to promptly kill her off and replace her with a white male captain (even if it is Jason Isaacs).
Rule of thumb: no one can stop you killing off minority characters, but for goodness sake – don't use their presence as a selling point if you're going to just get rid of them. It'll backfire, big time. Just ask Jason Rothenburg.
But standing at the centre of the show is Michael Burnham, and I don't think anyone could deny she's its strongest element. She's the foster daughter of Ambassador Sarak and Amanda Grayson; a human being raised on Vulcan as part of an initiative to not only prove unity between the two species is possible, but that a human being can exemplify the ideals of logic and rationality as well as any Vulcan.
There's her inner conflict in a nutshell: she was born a human but has the upbringing of a Vulcan, and her nature and nurture prove difficult to reconcile. This internal dichotomy reaches a head when her ship is endangered by Klingon vessels: cold logic tells her to handle the situation in an unorthodox way, but what leads to a terrible decision is her emotional desperation to save her captain and fellow crew members.
Her misguided actions, brought on by that potent mixture of Vulcan superiority and human fallibility have dire consequences, and when the show truly starts she's been deemed a mutineer.
It's a great setup, in which the external chaos of the Federation/Klingon war mirrors Michael's internal struggle, not to mention the crippling guilt she feels over her captain's death and the role she played in starting the conflict in the first place. This blend of self-loathing and inner confidence is what makes her so interesting, and I like how this review describes her: "always thinking, always questioning, genuinely curious about her surroundings and genuinely thoughtful in her choices – even the bad ones."
And with season two confirmed, we're going to get to spend a lot more time with her!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reading/Watching Log #22

Wow, I got through a lot of stuff this month. I'm not sure how I managed it since my free time is still severely limited, but here we are: six books, four movies, two shows and a micro-series (at least that's what Wookiepedia calls Forces of Destiny).
Just like in September, I've been striving to finish book series that I started (sometimes years ago) and never completed, which means more from Sarah J. Maas, Danielle L. Jenson and Rick Riordan – though in the course of reading their back-catalogue, they've all published something new. Which is funny, since I also finished the second half of Storm of Swords, written by the world's slowest author.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Standing Tall: #20

This was one of my favourites, mostly because it reminded me of the fish in Fantasia, but according to the artist Ira Mitchell-Kirk it was meant to represent the bubbles of joy we all feel when we receive a tax refund (probably because it was sponsored by NZ Tax Refunds).
For most people though – especially those living in the red zone – it symbolised how it feels to be part of the rebuild: like a goldfish, rubberneckers stare from afar as they swim in circles.
Either way Bubbles had a beautiful design, and I especially liked the way the backdrop moved from dark to light blue at the bottom to light at the top; moving from the depths of the ocean to the sky.