Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Just go see it.

Mad Max: Fury Road is quite possibly the best action movie I've ever seen.  There is nothing extraneous in it; it is taut, linear and exposition-free.  The mostly practical stunts are incredible - Cirque du Soleil performers were apparently hired to fling themselves around on long, bendy poles whilst attached to battle-cars careening through the desert.  Tom Hardy, as the new Max, is good and has a complete character arc even though he has scarcely any dialogue.  Charlize Theron, on the other hand, is incredible and a complete bad ass.  I want her on my side when the apocalypse comes.  The non-headlining characters are amazingly well-rounded; the Wives refuse to be victims and Nicholas Hoult, as warboy Nux, is both hilarious and heartbreaking.  The two hour movie is nearly non-stop action; when the theater lights came up, I was completely exhausted and yet, if I'd been given the option, I would have watched again, right then, immediately.  The worst part of the whole thing was having to get into my meek, poky little Subaru Forester afterwards and then drive calmly home, obeying all the traffic lights.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mini book reviews: Alanna: The First Adventure and Sabriel

I think I picked these books out of an NPR Book Review page, probably something listing a bunch of young adult/science fiction and fantasy titles - I can't think where else I would have found them.  They aren't new books - Alanna is from 1983; and Sabriel is from 1995.

Alanna: The First Adventure - by Tamora Pierce.  When their father decides to send them off for training, eleven year old twin, Alanna and Thom, hatch a plan: tomboy Alanna, who wants to be a knight, will disguise herself as a boy and go off to learn sword-fighting, horsemanship, chivalry and the lot, while her brother Thom, who has a facility for magic, will go to school to learn to be a sorcerer.  Young "Alan" makes friends - and enemies - quickly at the castle, and throws herself into learning how to be a knight, showing remarkable skill with a sword; she is also unable to entirely distance herself from magic, and once she saves the prince's life, she becomes entangled in palace intrigue.  As the title suggests, the book follows Alanna's exploits, only barely checking in on Thom, following her through the first couple of years of her training.  This Alanna book, the first in a quartet, is written for very young adults, or better yet children.  The writing is not particularly sophisticated, the characters are not well developed and the plot seems written in rather broad strokes.  I've read children's fantasy that are clever, intriguing, well-written and intricately plotted - this is not one of them.

Sabriel by Garth Nix.  Sabriel is a particular kind of sorcerer, an estranged native of the Old Kingdom and daughter of the Abhorsen, trained to go into Death, ushering lost souls into the light and keeping Death's more gruesome denizens from overrunning the earth.  On her eighteenth birthday, she was supposed to meet with her father; he never shows up, instead sending a messenger to her with his enchanted tools and bells for safekeeping.  Sabriel enters the Old Kingdom, on a quest to look for him.  Along the way she makes some strange acquaintances and good comrades, and ends up wading deeper into Death than she ever has before.  I liked Sabriel more than I did Alanna, but again, this book seems lightweight (despite all the death and destruction and scary scenes) somehow.  It switches point-of-view oddly a couple of times, which was distracting enough to pull me out of the story, and the characters are pretty thin.

Friday, May 1, 2015



I know, I'm supposed to be finishing up Ultraviolet but I have gotten completely sidetracked with Netflix's Daredevil. I haven't been totally binge-watching it - limiting myself to two or three episodes a night because (1) it lasts longer that way and (2) I fall asleep if I try to stay up longer than that.  I feel not binge-watching it probably is a good thing too: I just love it but it is extremely violent and quite often graphic.  I'm talking on-purpose self-impalement through the eye and pulpy decapitation via repeated car door slams, in particular.  I don't think these two instances were necessarily gratuitous because in the first example, it showed how scary the Kingpin is that a minion would rather off himself gruesomely than deal with the aftermath of betraying the boss; and in the second, the character doing the decapitating has, up until this point, been remarkably smooth and controlled and the sudden switch is all the more terrifying.

I think Daredevil is very well cast.  It's grim and dark (both literally and emotionally/figuratively) and yet still human and funny.  Some of the action/fight scenes are simply amazing, including this one spectacular one-take shot with Matt Murdock vs. many, many Russians in a long corridor.  I've seen up through E8 and am hoping to get through the rest of the season this weekend.  Avengers ... Ultron is just going to have to wait.