Slayers Next

Anime Leave a comment

 

It was interesting to watch Slayers Try so soon after Lost Universe, because they not only spring from the same source, they also tell significantly different versions of very similar stories. Slayers Try proves that you can achieve a lot more if you focus your storytelling and develop your characters sufficiently, although it does have the admitted benefit of two series’ worth of audience knowledge behind it.

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Club Dead

Books 1 Comment

Sookie Stackhouse’s innocent abroad schtick was getting slightly on the nose, so I wrote an open letter to her based on the events of Club Dead. Bear with me, and try to forgive me for writing to a fictional character:

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Cowboys & Aliens

Film, Sci-Fi/Fantasy 1 Comment

Cowboys & Aliens was dead before release. Many people, having forgotten the Cowboys and Indians of their youth – or having a youth spawned after we realised that genocidal war games aren’t the best things to aspire to – didn’t recall what was being referred to.

On top of that, they thought the idea was stupid, forgetting that the latter day prophet Gary Larson had foreseen it years prior:

(And believe me, it’s not that hard for multiple people to come to this same conclusion – but it’s strange that the most common source of this image has a tape mark on it.)

 

So a double genre piece is a hard sell to a lot of people.

“That looks like the biggest waste of a cast in Hollywood history,” one of my friends told me. While that’s far from accurate, Cowboys & Aliens is a strangely sterile affair – it’s as if it wants to be good and exciting but can’t quite jump the required hurdles, ploughing ahead in a straight and flat line.

 

I’ve seen outright hatred for this movie, but anyone who would put it on a “worst of 2011” list plainly hasn’t seen a bad movie this year. This movie isn’t deserving of excess praise, but it’s done nothing to earn derision.

 

Cowboys & Aliens is basically stunningly competent; never impressing, occasionally confusing, and sometimes raising racial quandaries, it gets the job done, and done okay.

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The Guard

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One of the best films of the last few years is In Bruges, a melancholy comedy about a pair of Irish hit men who found themselves in Bruges. I was delighted then, to see Brendan Gleeson in a film so thoroughly unlike In Bruges while being simultaneously reminiscent of it. It wasn’t until the day after that the penny dropped: The Guard is the brother of In Bruges, just as its writer/director John Michael McDonagh is the brother of In Bruges’ writer/director Martin McDonagh. Funny, that.

 

The Guard, of course, hits an entirely different emotional key: that of endless and shameless laughter. It’s the sort of film that will suddenly attack you a couple of days later while you’re washing your hands and you’ll audibly crack up. It’s a haunting film, but not in the traditional sense of the word: it’s good enough to lodge itself into your brain, to store itself up for inopportune moments of hilarity.

 

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Freedom

Books 1 Comment

 

It’s easy to say something like “when you come down to it, all American literary fiction is the same”. It’s incredibly trite and flagrantly untrue, but there is something in the work of authors like Jonathan Franzen and playwrights like Tony Kirshner that strikes me as indelibly American. I don’t believe that only Franzen could have written Freedom, but I am certain that only an American is capable of writing a novel not necessarily of this calibre but of this thematic texture.

If there’s one thing that Freedom has, it’s texture. Reading it is a frequent struggle against its characters and the society that they find themselves in, a hyper-real America that can have only been imagined by one on the ground suffering under its excesses and political metamorphoses.

The Corrections was published on September 1, 2001, and I’ve long harboured a belief that Franzen was probably upset that he had just missed out on infusing his novel with the post-September 11 shell shock that infected many authors in the intervening years. With Freedom he gets his own back, capitalising not only on September 11, but also the ensuing incursion into Afghanistan, the global financial crisis and even the rise of Obama. By waiting so long between novels, he’s had a lot to draw on – and six years can disappear in the space of a page.

Freedom is a good book. A divisive one, maybe, but still one worth the time to read.

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Living Dead in Dallas

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Sookie Stackhouse returns for round two, and Charlaine Harris decides that one story isn’t enough: she needs to nestle a second one inside the first, like some sort of weird matryoshka doll of bizarre pacing choices.

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Jane Eyre (2011)

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While Jane Eyre does not have the distinction of a Kate Bush song dedicated to it, Charlotte Brontë’s story is perennial, with at least 24 adaptations having been produced to date. The 2011 effort, shot on the wild and windy moors of northern England, is a welcome addition to a crowded canon. Gloomy but not relentlessly so is this tale of an intelligent young woman of indomitable spirit.

 

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Friends With Benefits

Film 2 Comments

 

Much has been made of the fact that Friends With Benefits has the same concept as No Strings Attached, which came out much earlier in the year, and that each of these movies featured a key member of the Black Swan cast.

This is irrelevant: Justin Timberlake is objectively better than Ashton Kutcher. That’s as far as this needs to go.

 

Friends With Benefits is another movie about people disillusioned with love as it is represented in romantic comedies. By being incredibly self aware it tries to suggest that it’s above romantic comedies, but really it’s fooling no one: Friends With Benefits is a romantic comedy, albeit one that only has a couple of moments to be ashamed of.

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Dead Until Dark

Books 2 Comments

 

Vampires! They’re goddamn everywhere! When they look back on the start of the 21st century, will they wonder what we were thinking, or will there be no fiction without vampires?

 

Of course, not all vampires are born equal. There are some that are unreadable, and there are those that offer themselves to you with no real challenge: vampires on cruise control. The Sookie Stackhouse novels (AKA the Southern Vampire Mysteries), which became the TV series True Blood, is one such vampire series; easy enough to read without causing much concern, but also without approaching greatness in any capacity.

 

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Green Lantern

Comics, Film Leave a comment

 

Given the two month release delay and the awful trailers, I always knew that Green Lantern was not going to be a good movie. Periodically I see movies that feel more than anything like I’m sitting in a darkened room, staring at a screen, and Green Lantern falls precisely into that elite circle.

 

Green Lantern is a special kind of bad movie. It’s not dull, but it is singularly unengaging. It has a relatively good cast who either don’t bother or founder in its roles. Its action is stupid and the CG is unforgivably bad for a 2011 production. There is very little indeed to like about a film that is more toyetic than anything else; this is the first comic book film since the 21st century “renaissance” that is blatantly geared towards children and the sale of toys.

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