Tag Archives: film

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I waited over 24 hours before sitting down to this review.  I wanted to temper my initial reactions with the wisdom of time, as well as examining the thoughts of others and collecting awesome gifs for my blog version of things.

This review will be in two parts:  the first half will be my overall opinion with care to avoid major spoilers.  If you haven’t yet seen the film and want a non-obsessive-fangirl opinion of the film, this is for you.  The second half will be where I delve into the nitty gritty, both good and bad, and will be flagged as such.  All set?  Let’s begin.

The Dark Knight Rises
Overall Rating:  7.5/10

Although I enjoyed the first two Batman films in the previous series spawned by Tim Burton, I am one of the first who will say that Nolan’s reboot of the franchise has been brilliant.  Batman is not a fluffy, light superhero.  He is a truly dark man, living in a city of darkness and struggling to be a symbol of hope when he himself has little of it.  He’s an anti-hero, and Christian Bale has played him well.

I found the first installment, Batman Begins, to be a little dull and slow to move, but fully appreciated that it was the mythology establishment of the trilogy.  Kind of how half of The Fellowship of the Ring bored me, with me waving my hands at the screen saying, “Get on with it!  Go journey already!”  The Dark Knight, however, was brilliance.  Movie perfection.  This is thanks to the astounding talents of the tragically departed Heath Ledger, whose pitch-perfect performance of the Joker is breath-taking and unnerving – just as it should be.  The entire plot of that film, and the downfall of Harvey Dent, is so relevant and befitting the Batman/Bruce Wayne Nolan created with the first film.  I was left highly satisfied and wondering precisely how Batman would return.

With The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), we pick up eight years later.  Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, his business empire is going down the shitter, and Gotham City is oh-so-proud of its law, inspired by the heroic Harvey Dent, that keeps criminals locked away without parole.  Yes, the good times are a-rollin’ in Gotham City.  For the rich, anyway.

You see where Nolan’s going already, don’t you?  It’s ripped from the bloody headlines of the past few years.

Bruce is pulled from his crippled state of melancholy by Selina Kyle ripping off his mother’s pearls from a safe – and his fingerprints in the process.  Curious as to how the hell his magic safe got cracked, never mind why anyone gives a crap about his prints, he boots up the magic toys of the Bat Cave and eventually slaps on his suit again.

Simultaneously, we have a scene where an aged Commissioner Gordon ends up being taken prisoner in the tunnels beneath the city during a routine criminal chase and notes that, O hai! there’s a whole gang of people building shit of a nefarious type down there, led by, as one brilliant person on Twitter called him, “a Scottish Foghorn Leghorn with a dollhouse radiator stuck in his mouth”.  Gordon gets away severely injured, rescued by budding sleuthy cop John Blake.

We all know these worlds are going to collide in bloody fashion as Bane takes over Gotham City with a bang, so I’ll leave the major plotting here for now and move on to my general comments…. Although first:  props to Alfred for smacking down Bruce and being tired of his shit.

Visually, this is a Nolan film, and that’s a positive.  It’s as dark and brooding as any viewer would want a film like this to be.  The gadgets are cool, the costumes fun (aside from Catwoman – the ear-goggles combo was kinda childish), and everyone looks the part, right down to Bale hobbling with a cane after years of body-punishing crime-fighting.

Spinning off of that, the mortality of the characters is also something that’s handled realistically overall, which I appreciate.  Bale’s Wayne has visible scars and internal damage that’s true to what the average man would endure while playing superhero.  He looks older, somewhat less muscular (fitting since he’s been out of the game for eight years), and has to work to get back into shape.  Gordon, too, has aged and is slower, weaker and exhausted, yet still mentally with it.  He relies on Blake for his body while training his young mind.

The theme of mortality -0f the difference between a man and a symbol – is prominent in this film, as well as the notion of yin and yang.  Specifically, as one character puts it, you need to fear death to truly fight to survive.  It’s where that last push of strength comes from, that adrenaline surge that allows us to defeat obstacles.  If we don’t care about the consequences of failure, we cannot rise as champions.

All this said, TDKR has several huge issues with it that result in a film that falls flat and is frankly predictable, something Nolan isn’t guilty of in past work.  For starters, let’s talk about casting issues.  Anne Hathaway as Catwoman… ugh.  Seriously?  We all know she got this job because she is, for reasons I cannot fathom, a Hollywood “it girl” right now.  While she’s certainly not as terrible as Halle Berry’s version, she’s incredibly irritating and unconvincing for most of the film.  For starters, she doesn’t look sexy or seductive, with or without the suit.  I’ve never seen her that way, and every time she prances on screen, she reminds me of a teenage girl playing at Lolita to the annoyance of a man who’s after a grown woman.  Her strange accent she’s adopted for this role isn’t sultry or sinister; it just sounds… fake.  She needs to fire her acting coach and find another.  Most importantly, I don’t buy her as a love interest for Wayne, nor do I buy her as the poor, troubled woman who just doesn’t believe she can be a good guy (more on this in the spoilers section).  Frankly, all she’s got going for her is flexibility and spiky heels.

Bane…  I can let go of the fact that I expected him to appear larger than life.  What I can’t let go of is the fact that I couldn’t understand half of his dialogue, and given that Nolan is huge on dialogue as a part of his message, this is a tremendous issue.  My fiance had serious issues making out over half of what he said, so it wasn’t just me.  It reminded me of one of my bitches about Inglourious Basterds:  when a dialogue master castrates his own dialogue, a film is made lesser by it.

In general terms, before hitting the spoilers, the plot comes off tired (and, to a degree, ripped off from The Dark Knight and also preachy in its left-wing slant, which is bad since I’m a lefty-libertarian), takes too long to get going, skims through what should be the bulk of the film, and twists at the end in such a way that you will roll your eyes at how Nolan destroys everything he’s set out to do for the first two hours (or, in the case of Batman, the entire trilogy).  It’s not clever; it’s so painfully obvious in foreshadowing that even I, someone who hasn’t read the comics, saw so much of it coming.  I never felt that way in the first two films.

Whew!  Here’s where I suggest you leave if you have yet to see the film.  See it, by the way, if you’re a fan of this trilogy.  Just don’t expect it to come close to The Dark Knight.  As with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second film is the best film, because the director isn’t just grasping to go out with every bang he can ram into a flick.

Seen it?  Let’s really chat.

This blog entry really nails a lot of what irked me, so I’ll give a nod to a like mind before beginning with my first bitch:  I hated the ending.  Hated it.  I actually loved the initial ending, and even the second ending.  God, I feel like I just watched Return of the King for the first time all over again, because this is deja vu.  But the ultimate ending…. ruins everything for me.  It wimps out on a powerful ending.  Worse, you roll your eyes and realize that yes, Alfred did actually spell out the goddamn ending for you a good hour ago.  It’s not clever, Nolan; it’s corny.  You’re capable of better.  If the point of this entire film was to comment on the mortality of men versus the eternal life of a symbol, then Wayne should have died.

After all, what you’re telling me is that a) even though he told Selina that he couldn’t use autopilot, she somehow managed to meet up with him and flee, where they waited around for Alfred’s ass to conveniently come to his damn cafe and see him; b)  that, if Alfred hallucinated that finale, he actually thought Selina was a good girlfriend for him; c) that he somehow managed to leave a bag of goodies for Blake for pick-up in this process (I was willing to suspend that one and believe that he sat it aside before the final showdown brawl); and d) that Lucius never noticed for six months that Wayne fixed the autopilot.

Sorry, but no.  Your original ending was fine.  You pulled a serious Deus ex machina out of your ass.

Speaking again of Hathaway’s character:  I don’t buy any of her plot with Wayne.  I don’t buy her as a poor, hapless girl unable to catch a break or change.  I don’t buy Bruce forgiving her for setting him up to get his back broken by Bane and ass whooped.  I don’t buy Bruce even getting over the pearls, let alone selling him out and destroying his fortune.  I don’t buy her not knowing just how much damage she was doing with her thefts.  Last, I don’t buy him trusting her in the grand finale to suddenly be a good girl, let alone her sudden love for him.  Total. Bullshit.

Next plot issue:  the general class war theme is tired, not timely.  First off, we already had that in a more subtle and intriguing fashion during The Dark Knight, when the Joker pits the two ferries against each other.  I literally felt, watching this film, like Nolan had planned for Ledger to be in the third script and when that went to hell, he watched CNN for a day and went to town.  Strangely, he somehow spins from his initial message, delivered by Selina, of “How dare the rich think they can be so powerful and leave nothing for us down here?” to “The poor murder and riot without impunity and this is why the big, powerful cops and government have a right to slaughter the uprising and be in power forever.”  It’s like a backhanded compliment to Occupy.

How Nolan makes the lower classes come off…. Uh…. Yeah. Fail.

Next issue:  I concur with the above…  The whole “Bruce fails and fails to escape” shtick got old fast.  In fact, it’s used just to accelerate time like a diluted montage, just so Nolan can skip over most of the five months of class war.  I don’t get it:  you spend forever getting us to this point and we get maybe ten solid minutes of the anarchy and reversal of fortunes, featuring a horrifically underused Cillian Murphy.  Forty-five minutes in, the main conflict was still in the distance.  I know because I looked at my cell phone, bored and wondering how long I’d been watching the film for.

Blake recognizing Wayne was vastly oversimplified.  Instead of also pointing out his hiatus and connection to past events, all he can say is that, “You’re a rage-y orphan like me with a mask, so you’re Batman”?  No no.  Levitt is fantastic in this film, and I’d love a spin-off with HIM, and I did enjoy the end acknowledgement of what I knew from moment one, but his deduction skills in that scene were unbelievable.

Last point of contention:  the castration of Bane’s character.  Really?  He’s just a crying man in love with Miranda/Talia?  Ugh.  I liked him better as the unstoppable beast Batman just couldn’t overpower who’d out-thought him as well.  Kinda didn’t care for the Miranda twist at all.  I would have much rather seen her die and that spark Batman’s final surge of adrenaline.

Summing up:  casting, aside from Hathaway, was stellar; the core message of death/mortality/symbols and class war was a good idea executed imperfectly; but ultimately, the film becomes an indulgent piece of wank that doesn’t know when to quit.  Luckily for Nolan, a lacklustre film of his is still a great film by overall standards.  It’s just not a worthy conclusion to this trilogy.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DVD Blogentary – PontyPool: Virgin Viewing

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a very long time.  So excited to see this unique take on zombie apocalypses!

Here there be massive spoilers.  You’ve been warned.

  • Okay, I think I should be high to watch this.  I’m scared and confused by this intro.
  • It was a dark and snowy night…
  • CLSY – Keepin’ it classy during the zombie apocalypse.
  • Well someone’s hot for intern!
  • Cat fight!
  • You down with OPP busts on weed?
  • Oh snap! This guy’s like old, drunk Howard Stern with less fart jokes.
  • Pissed off listeners are strangely pleased listeners, or so Mazzy claims.
  • Small town Ontario is cooler than this producer bint thinks.
  • A radio station in a church basement…asking to be set on fire.
  • Code 48!
  • 912 is actually a great idea.
  • Drunk ice fishermen dragging huts… this, I’d like to see.
  • Weather chopper is actually a Dodge on a hill.  Bwahahahahahaha.
  • Protest in a blizzard?  What’s wrong with people?
  • Oh wait, they’re zombies.  They like the cold.
  • YAY, DEAD PEOPLE!
  • Trauma = news photo without a caption.  Awesome quote.
  • Lawrence and the Arabians.  OMFG.
  • If you fall off a camel, you cannot hear.  Did you know that? I didn’t.
  • Blood!
  • Okay, little bitch be crazy.  Gibberish is awesome.
  • Babble, babble, rabid zombies.
  • Okay if someone swarmed my car making windshield wiper sounds, I’d be seriously scared.
  • Cannibals!  Naked and slaughtering in the snow.
  • Bam!  Shut down en Francais!
  • “Avoid being endearing, avoid the English language, and o hai, don’t translate! Merci!”
  • Quarantined!  Dum da dum!
  • It’s all Honey The Missing Cat’s fault.  Cats will kill us all.
  • Okay lady, he’s been dealing with crazy shit on the phone about dead cannibal boys with no hands crying like infants and carrying flyers about dead cats. GIVE HIM A BREAK.
  • Deadly, murderous echolalia.  Fuck yeah!  Might as well get them to sing “It’s the End of the World as we know it”.
  • Oh shit, the intern’s imitating the kettle whistle.
  • She’s missing Mazzy, apparently.  Yup, he tapped that.  Knew it.
  • So the fake weather chopper guy was the Pedobear?
  • Viral videos!  No, just kidding, it’s the words.
  • “It’s fine. You’re breathing. That’s your top news story.”
  • Okay dude, she just threw up her guts. Literally. And died.
  • This doctor is so excited by people dying from this virus.  Like, excited as in he created it.
  • Good job bitch, you puked in the tiny room you’re all trapped in.
  • This movie is secretly a message from the Canadian government to justify mandatory French classes.
  • Good point: how do you not understand a word?
  • Kill is kiss.  Of course it is.  How else would we incorporate romance?
  • Fiance: “Good thing he didn’t say kill is blow job.”
  • One last radio show!  Kill the language, save the world.
  • “Do we really want to provide a genocide with elevator music?”  LOLZ
  • “It’s just another day in PontyPool!”
  • Best. DJ. Ever.
Tagged , , , , , ,

DVD Blog-entary: To Save A Life – Virgin Viewing

I’ve been intrigued by this film for some time now, ever since seeing the trailer for it online.  I walk into it with a dual hesitation:  1) will it appropriately handle the topic of teen suicide?; and 2) how Christian will this Christian film be?

Despite being a staunch Pagan, I do not mind Christianity per se.  I do mind feeling preached to, being told I am evil for differing beliefs or being beaten about the head with a proverbial Bible.  I have devout friends that I love dearly.  I enjoy the music of Jars Of Clay, a Christian band.  Can To Save A Life straddle that fine line and remain appealing to all audiences?  Can it treat teen mental health and problems realistically and accurately?  Preliminary reviews suggest it does, but let’s find out, shall we?

Obviously, expect major spoilers…  scroll to the end if you just want my final opinion.

To Save A Life:  Live Blog-entary

  • Is it bad that from the moment I heard the original title, How To Save A Life, all I can do is sing The Fray song of that same name whenever I think of this film?  Speaking of, they definitively have a Christian slant to their music and I LOVE THEM.  Be like The Fray, movie.  Be like The Fray.  *clicks play*
  • Outreach Films… Accelerated Entertainment.  Well, 2 hours isn’t accelerated, but it’s definitely outreach.
  • We begin with a funeral inter-cut with a Goonies-esque moment on bikes and talk of treasure hunts.
  • Damn, little boy!  Diving in front of a car?  That’s some serious bromance.
  • The guilt is screamingly apparent:  Jake’s BFF Roger spends his life with a hindering limp after saving his life, and winds up dead at 17… I’m wagering by his own hand.
  • “Basketball jones!  I gotta basketball jones!”
  • You know it’s a Christian film when the lead girl is introduced in sixties style pigtails.
  • Ugh, jerk.  You diss your friend for a not-that-pretty snob?  Lame.  How do you diss a sweet kid who saved your life like that?  Main guy Jake is a d-bag, indeed.
  • And they never talked again until Roger was dead…
  • Did he just make a “did yo’ Momma” joke?  Bwahahahaha.  Between this and the rap music to set the “cool kid scene”, it’s trying a little hard.
  • Typical woman:  “I want kids, so you want them” – at age 17.  Oh my lord.
  • OMFG they’re both going to Louisville!  Yay, dumping your friend for brainer girlfriend who soothes your “dad lives through me” speech a la Andrew of The Breakfast Club.
  • Oh my God kid, you’re a high school senior.  Stop fake sportscasting while shooting hoops alone at night.
  • Shooting up the ceiling of the school, eh?  Well, that will get you attention.  Hey Jake, guess who played a huge role in this downward spiral?  Yep, you.
  • Did he seriously just call a full court press more intense than a suicide? *facepalm*  And Jake fist-bumped that shit?  *headdesk*
  • Pastor just happens to come to the basketball game and “introduce himself” to Jake.  Yep, Christian movie.
  • CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!  Kegger!!!!!111111
  • The music sounds like it was composed by the “Friday” people.  Sung well, though.  Guess they blew their soundtrack budget on the studio players.
  • Of course, randomly the school loser du jour arrives in a wizard hood thing at the cool kids party to be mocked in front of Jake, thereby initiating the plot…
  • Oooh teen sex!
  • Bwahahahaha, DrunkJake is hilarious.  Jumping off a roof and shit.  At least his girl jacked his truck to keep him from a DUI.
  • ARRGH!!!!  “The Dawson’s”.  The Dawson’s what?  And why does only a single Dawson merit a sign?  My inner grammar nazi is sobbing.
  • Well, at least you know you suck, right Jake?
  • Wow, Dad, way to shit on his parade.
  • “Can he pay yo’ bills?”
  • Jake’s so angry at his failtastic parents, his non-religious ass just went to church.  Wow.
  • Rainbow-phobic…. Oh, lovely.  Irritated.
  • Oh wow, it’s a Christian concert for teens!  Rock out, teen band!  Everybody clap and sing!  You can order the album by phone from Time Life records.
  • “Waaaah!  You want me to apologize for stealing your truck?  You were supposed to buy me roses and wine after deflowering me.  And now you’re thumping Bibles and my daddy left me for a cult.”
  • Wow, this bitch is insensitive.  “Oh so your former bestie killed himself?  Whatever!”
  • LOLZ half the Bible group kids are stoners and Jake’s listening to Hooked On Jesus tapes.  Bwahahaha.
  • And here come the cool kid friends to shame him for talking to the lesser minions of their school.
  • This pastor talks about Christianity like smoking up for the first time…. Ahh, gateway religion!
  • And here she comes to reclaim her trophy boyfriend and dreamy future baller meal ticket.
  • They have an actual belt for the beer pong champion of their clique.  OMFG.  These kids are so cute.  They’re like kids without parental supervision for the first time.
  • MySpace.  REALLY?
  • This Coke chugging sock game is brilliant.  This pastor is pulling some serious prankery.
  • Amy my dear, no one is judging you.  Unless you previously humped the entire church youth group.
  • “There are people out there killing themselves and you’re chugging soda through a sock.”  EPIC QUOTE.
  • Aww, Jake started a lunch group at school for the church kids.  You go, Jake.
  • Amy moved on to his teammate way too fucking fast.  Hoor.
  • “Get your bling – buy a class ring!”
  • *snort* They baptized him in the ocean.  These are moments where I feel this film drifting from a plot into an infomercial for Buddy Christ
  • A-dork-able: he asks about how often girls shave their legs.
  • Jake’s dad is a wanker.  I loathe him every minute he’s on screen.
  • Oh pardon me, it’s OUR-Space.
  • Aww, Jonny is a-dork-able in every way.  He’s my favourite.
  • Dude! Pro-life vs pro-choice action up in here.  Have to agree though:  it’s her body.  Not yours.
  • This is so not this boy’s day.  Finds out he knocked up the girlfriend, walks in the door and watches his mom bail on his cheating POS father.  After several minutes of fluffy fun in quads and ice cream, it’s like boom!
  • “God is not some little genie or vending machine.”  *snort*
  • Christian prayer moment with meaningful music crescendo…
  • OMG, nosy kid, just because you have a pathetic haircut doesn’t mean you can eavesdrop and manipulate people.  Just go get some scissors.
  • Wow… How did no teacher notice the walls covered in Burn Book drawings?
  • Well look at that, bitchy Amy.  Your only friends are the church kids.  Learned a lesson?
  • WTF is wrong with wanker hair son of the main priest?  Calling a bomb threat with a kid’s cell phone to make his life hell?
  • Okay, wouldn’t it have been simpler to start yelling that asshole has his cell phone and therefore, the kid’s been falsely accused?  Also, what cops don’t search a kid under arrest for a bomb threat and find his pill bottles of suicidality?
  • Hooray!  Open abortions:  Jesus’ pleasing compromise solution to teen pregnancy.
  •  Wait, Jake deferred a semester (as I would have said), but Amy didn’t?  Um… WTF?  She was offered early entrance for her awesome grades and they couldn’t defer her?
  • Close on a magical highway shot…. and a life saved…
  • There are more soundtrack songs featured in the credits than throughout the entire two-hour film.

 

Final Verdict:  It’s a little too heavy on the Christianity to be fully accessible, which is a shame, since the topics of teen suicide, self-harm and pregnancy are handled realistically.  The message is powerful and needed, and while in the end, it’s not God preventing the suicide, but human decency and compassion, the fact remains that the middle half of the film is beating you over the head with being Christian.  A shame.  Worth a watch, but not a movie I’d ever watch again or purchase.  Hooray, Netflix!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Beyond Twilight: Victimization of Women in Twilight Fanfiction

True story: I’ve written Twilight fanfiction.

I am the first in line to criticize the plot, characterizations and anti-feminist nature of Twilight.  I read the books while bored working in security, and treat the movies as a soap opera akin to Passions, creating drinking games for home viewings.  I’m far more enamoured with Alice than Edward.  It was my love of Alice – and anger at how Meyer shortchanged the character’s back-story – that led to my first fanfiction in the fandom.  This in turn led to a random midnight musing of “What if the characters were in Empire Records?” and then, a one-shot that blew up to become an intricate examination of mental illness, and ultimately a revival of my original fiction writing.

You see, many fanfiction writers create their stories as a means of testing their skills, toying with a plot idea in a way that yields ample feedback, or simply amusing self and others “in on the joke”.  I read fanfiction from multiple fandoms because I appreciate a good tale in any form.  There are true talents in the fanfiction world, and I wish them well in original pursuits.

In discussing fanfiction based on Twilight as of late, a somewhat disturbing trend emerged that sparked a broader discussion.  Specifically, several of us commented on the now-prominent trope of “Victim-ella”:  a Bella that is battered/abused/raped as a key plot feature.  Why the rampant storylines of this nature, we wondered.  Were writers channeling their personal experiences, going for shock value, or romanticizing violence against women?

For me, to understand the phenomenon, there are two angles to appreciate.  First, the canon story and characters of Meyer’s series are a breeding ground for victims.  Consider the Cullen women and their back-stories:  Rosalie Hale is gang-raped and left for dead when Carlisle finds her and turns her; Alice Brandon is committed to an asylum, abandoned by her family after realizing her father has hired an assassin to kill her, and stalked by James; Esme Evenson is beaten by her husband, and eventually attempts suicide when her infant child dies.  Happy beginnings, huh?

As for Bella Swan, she is nearly gang-raped (rescued by Edward in Port Angeles), stalked and nearly killed by James (again rescued by Edward), must become a vampire or be killed by the Volturi, deals with Jacob forcing his advances on her (with her father congratulating him for going for her), is stalked by an army of baby vampires and a vengeful Victoria, and is the key player in a war bent on killing her daughter and imprisoning her and her family.  Did I mention the fact that Edward creeps her, makes her decisions for her, leaves her to protect her and manipulates her friendships and relationships?  I mean, he offers Jacob as a sexy baby-making playmate to convince her to abort Nessie!

At the same time, Bella has an unhealthy approach to their relationship. Edward is her life, period. She has no real interests or hobbies outside of him once she has him. Until she’s pregnant, she truly orbits him like Renee says. Her self-worth is tied into him loving her. Even at their wedding, Tanya makes her insecure, even though anyone with a brain can see Edward’s sole focus is Bella.

Is it any wonder then, given this canon, that All-Human (AH) Alternate-Universe (AU) fanfiction often spins off into the realm of violence against women?  With that foundation, it’s no wonder that inexperienced fic writers – fans who simply have a whim of an idea and write it, figuring “anyone can do it” – will step in and create stories with Bella as a damsel in distress, escalating it further and further to the point where raped/beaten Bella is the norm. They continue to up the ante, exaggerating the core canon.  I’m not immune to this, either: in one of my own AU-AH stories, Alice and Rosalie are survivors of sexual violence and deal with alcoholic parents; in another, Bella is struck by angry men in one scene.  It’s not difficult to conceive of these female characters in peril precisely because each and every one has been in dire circumstances with devastating psychological effects.

The other angle to consider is the main demographic of fanfiction authors:  women, 18-45 years of age.  Given the statistics on violence against women, it is no wonder that women craft these stories.  Many are, indeed, drawing from real life.  Be it a cruel boyfriend or an abusive husband, a large percentage of women behind the computer screen are coping with their own pain.

But here I’d like to draw the distinction between Victim and Survivor:  while a Survivor storyline traces the healing trajectory and has the character emerge stronger than ever, a Victim storyline centres either on the Damsel-In-Distress motif that’s been a constant for centuries, where only a man can save her and “fix her” with his love, or worse, it veers into Victim-As-Titillation, where rape and abuse are sexualized, romanticized and condoned, as our heroine “redeems” the Big Bad Man and lives Stockholm-Swooning Ever After.

These latter stories are the disturbing ones for me.  They perpetuate dangerous beliefs about relationships and what women should tolerate, and also insult those who have endured violence by minimizing their trauma/making it romantic.  Sadly, this is nothing new, particularly in crime thrillers and suspense stories:  women in danger are “sexy” and sell.  Men in danger, whimpering and begging, are an affront to our internalized notions of masculinity and femininity.  Male readers dismiss them as weak and uninteresting, not worth saving via identification with the usually male hero; women cannot relate to their struggle and vulnerability, because it is women who are faced with danger so often in their lives.  Men have privilege, and thus, we cannot sink into a world of men in peril.  We can also look to the media and tabloids, finding a culture of women needing to be saved. Rihanna and Chris Brown. Whitney and Bobby Brown. Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva.  “The beat(ing) goes on…”

Even the strongest heroines fall prey to old themes:  in season six of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Spike attempts to rape Buffy, proclaiming she loves him and will remember when she feels him inside her; in season seven, he is granted his soul and magically, through self-mutilation and pitiable demeanor, Buffy suddenly forgives, forgets, entrusts him with her sister and, in a way, loves him at last.  In Veronica Mars, Veronica is nearly killed, raped and ridiculed for it, and puts up with psychologically unhealthy relationships with men – one of whom (her big love of the series) threatens her, controls her, then sleeps with the woman who roofied her.

Hell, even Disney trains young girls to have a dysfunctional view of love. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourites, but seriously consider what’s going on: he threatens her, holds her hostage, threatens to starve her if she doesn’t obey… and she loves him anyway. The Little Mermaid? Gives up her voice and whole world for a stranger who’s cute.  It’s a tale as old as time all right, Mrs. Potts.

Bringing us back to the fandom at hand, I took a wander through past reads on Twilighted, a site dedicated to fanfiction for the Saga that is “well-written”.  In examining Twilight fanfiction, I present a few summaries of stories involving violence against women in the fandom – healthy and dysfunctional.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a taste of what is out there, provoking ire and concern.  In fairness, I’ll stick to completed or actively updating stories as much as possible.

In alphabetical order:

Beautiful Hitchhiker by emarroquin: In the opening chapter, Bella has James demanding sex from her in exchange for a lift in his car, Bella refusing and being assaulted, and in swoops Edward (a stranger) to pick her up from the side of the road.  Despite the terrors of James and his knife and gun, Bella is screwing Edward in his car within the first few chapters, and they’re going at it non-stop throughout.  In between, James and his serial killer/rapist partner stalk them etc.  Oh yes, and they have a LOT of sex.

Break Even by TwiStar_Junkie:  Another Bella in peril story, this one sees Bella tolerating beatings from James, her husband, for years, even as Edward picks up the pieces and cleans wounds.  She tells him she’s pregnant and is beaten beyond anything before, and finally leaves him.  Edward the rescuer engages, offering to raise the baby as his, move her in, etc. – as her best friend.  He hasn’t revealed he’s in love with her, and she hasn’t revealed her love.  That’s somewhat grating (and years of standing by respecting her decision to stay with him is hard to appreciate if you’re in love) but at least the emotional healing work is realistic and the love affair sweet.

Could Be Worse, Right? by Savage:  In answer to the question posited by the title:  not really.  A tale of human trafficking, Edward purchases Bella as a sex slave, treats her as awful as that entails… and well, this scene happens and rage ensues:

I still didn’t understand her reasoning, and as much as that part of me wanted to just say “fuck it” and go with whatever the hell was happening here, there was the other, albeit smaller part that wanted answers.  Needed answers.  As much as it was physically painful to do so, I pulled back from her, kissing her lips softly just a couple more times before I looked into her eyes.
“Why?” I asked softly, just trying to make some kind of sense out of any of this, and figuring it was a hopeless task.  I knew why I wanted her – it was far too obvious – but I didn’t understand why she wanted me.   Not at all.
“Why what?”
“Why…how can you…want this?”
The backs of her fingers brushed my cheekbone.  She brought her mouth back to touch me briefly, gently running her lips over mine.  I let my hand glide down her side until it rested on her hip.
“Because I can see the man inside of you,” she whispered back.  “He’s not what he tries to show everyone else.  He’s not even what he thinks he is.  He wasn’t trying to do anything…evil.”
Even as I kissed her again, I didn’t believe her.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said with my lips still against hers.  “I can’t make up for what I’ve done to you.”
“But you have tried,” she responded.  Her fingers twisted into my hair and she pulled me hard against her mouth.  I felt her tongue on my lips, and I welcomed it…craved it…longed for it.
I would never be able to refuse her again.  It just wouldn’t be possible.
“I know what you really wanted,” she told me.
I felt that lump in my throat again.
“I wanted sex.”
“No, you didn’t, Edward,” she corrected me.  “That’s not what you wanted at all.”
“It isn’t?”
She slowly shook her head from one side to the other.
“You wanted someone to stay with you,” she said.  “You wanted someone you could trust – who you knew wouldn’t leave.  That’s not a bad thing to want, Edward.  You just didn’t know how to find that without doing something stupid.”

Fridays At Noon by followstrouble1017:  Classify this one under “tolerates abuse far too much”:  Edward is a rich, controlling asshole.  Bella is his waitress at a posh restaurant, where he treats her like garbage.  When she retorts, he’s turned on.  He pushes his way into her life, refuses to respect her opinions on accepting his money, keeps secrets but demands she tolerate his boorish behaviour… and she does.  Even when she’s in danger of being killed out of spite towards Edward by James.  There’s far too much “I can fix him” tolerance here to be healthy.

Love and Obsession by michelly: The entire plot of this one centres on Bella’s abusive relationship with James, who is also an Italian mobster’s relative, Edward rescuing her (along with her entire family) after she finally admits everything (she’s knocked up and said abusive love affair has been completely secret), and then makes stupid mistakes in Bella fashion to “spare” everyone else’s lives.  Grows more confabulated by the chapter towards the end.  I blame canon for this one.  That and apparently blind family and friends for not noticing months of relationship including sex in a room down the hall.

Mental by MaraPore321:  Not updating often, but worth noting if only for how disturbing it is.  Amplifying the canon notion of deadly Edward and enraptured Bella, the story takes place in a mental hospital.  Edward is confined for the murder of 14 women, at the behest of a voice in his head.  Bella, a new employee at the hospital, quickly becomes the object of Edward’s affections, even as the voice wishes her dead.  Edward beats an orderly who sexually harasses Bella; she swoons despite herself.  Edward orders her to say she belongs to him, that she won’t have sex with her husband anymore; she agrees and does not find cause to change jobs or report Edward.  Disturbing as hell, and not in a dark romance fashion.

Sins of the Father by bethaboo: I’m conflicted about this one, but enjoy it overall.  Edward is the troubled son of an IRA member who is kidnapped by his Irish side; Bella is inadvertently dragged in as a fan disillusioned with his loss of musical direction.  While primarily a story of Edward’s reconciliation with his history and family, his behaviour towards Bella can be emotionally abusive and worse, Bella tolerates it a little too much for my liking.  It’s hard to imagine why she’s fallen for him at times, but ultimately, it seems intent on not excusing Edward, which is a huge plus.

Speak Now by SaritaDreaming, wmr1601: Irksome shock value usage of sexual assault here.  Plot is kicked off by a plan conceived by Tanya to drug Bella, have Mike mack on her to send Edward running into Tanya’s arms, and Bella finding out years after marrying Mike, sending her to break up Tanya and Edward’s wedding.  The plausibility of Mike recording the conversation, let alone having to have drugging involved, grates deeply.

Teenage Dirtbag by palewhite_n_icecold:  This one decidedly falls under the umbrella of dismissive towards violence/thrown in to spice up plot.  Bella is dating super-popular jock, Jacob.  One day, Bella decides that Jacob is an asshole and tries to break up with him.  Jacob decides to try and rape her.  Lucky for her that Edward swoops in with Alice and Jasper and saves the day.  Of course.  Jacob spins the story to make Bella into a tramp.  Rather than march into a police station with her bruised arms and get some justice, the foursome concoct a weird scheme of Bella and Edward fake-dating to get Jacob to snap and reveal his douchebaggery in front of everyone, thereby saving Bella’s reputation.  You know, because that’s what really matters here.  Also, Bella has no problem macking on Edward after this trauma.

The Letter – changed_by_edward:  In the opening chapter, Bella recounts being nearly date-raped by a drunken Jacob, her father blaming her for the assault, and then marrying verbally abusive Mike Newton (who also rapes her within the marriage if she refuses sex).  These plot points fade fairly quickly – Mike re-emerges for mild drama during a court case – but these traumas are quickly set aside to deal with child-neglecting Tanya (Edward’s ex) and Edward’s borderline-abusive rap persona.  No matter, though:  Bella loves EC Velvet anyway.  She changes him, softens him and all is magical.

The Ride by aylah50: One of my favourite fanfiction stories of all time, hands down.  Written by a survivor of sexual violence and it shows in the raw honesty, emotion and journey Bella takes throughout the story.  Edward is no rescuer; Bella saves herself.  She heals herself through her own strength.  There are stumbles and falls along the way.  Haunting and beautiful.

30 Days of Darkness by Mkystich:  Ever seen or read Kiss The Girls?  Then you know the plot of this one.  Brutal, graphic violence against women.  Women fight back.  Women struggle to heal.  Not a pretty story, but not titillation either.

Turn To Stone by nikkipattinson: This is one of the stories that is centred on sexual assault, but is realistic and of the “healthy” variety.  One of my favourite stories, it centres on Edward and Bella’s relationship, her first since a violent sexual assault that nearly killed her.  The twist: Edward defended Bella’s rapist on a previous charge, getting him acquitted days before he attacked Bella.  Heartbreaking, raw and a tale of mutual redemption, Edward doesn’t just save or rescue Bella; they work together.

***

I will have more to say on this topic in general in the future, but for now, what are your thoughts?  Is violence gratuitous in fiction?  Is it more so in fanfiction?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Days of Netflix Finds: After.Life

After.Life

Genre:  Suspense/Drama
Rating:  4/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Soul Survivors, Identity, The Jacket; people who would have liked I Know Who Killed Me if the dialogue and acting were way better;
Special Warnings: Lots of scenes in a funeral home – may bring out the squick in you

My girl boner for Christina Ricci is the primary reason I decided to give this film a go when it popped up as a new addition to the Netflix Canada collection.  I heart Christina forever.  But there’s plenty more reasons to give After.Life a play.

Ricci plays Anna Taylor, a teacher with a detachment towards life, including her devoted boyfriend Paul (Justin Long).  As Paul prepares to propose to his beloved Anna, her paranoia and disbelief that he (or anyone) could ever love her leads to her rushing out, assuming he is having an affair or leaving her.  Driving recklessly, Anna crashes her car – and ‘awakens’ on the table in the funeral home.  Liam Neeson informs her that she is dead, and he will help her cross over as he has done many times with many other lingering souls.

Obviously, Anna doesn’t take this news well.

Also unable to cope, Paul refuses to believe Anna is gone, an emotional breakdown only fueled by everyone refusing to let him see her body (he is not family, legally, and her mother has barred him access, blaming him for ruining her daughter’s life).  The more he persists in trying to push past Eliot’s locked doors and thin explanations, the more he begins to wonder, as Anna herself does:  is she really dead at all?

Although imperfect, After.Life is worth seeing for two reasons:  1) Liam Neeson is creepy as fuck, which was so jarring to me – in a good way; and 2) beneath the storyline, there’s an excellent thought process on living and dying, communicated predominantly through Eliot’s discussions with Anna as he prepares her to accept her death and move on.  It’s a thinking movie that perhaps gets lost beneath the suspense on the surface for some, and a better movie than the reviews suggest.

How do you die when you’re already dead?

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

12 Days of Netflix Finds: Brick

Brick

Genre:  Mystery/Modern Film Noir/Dark Dramedy
Rating:  4/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Cruel Intentions, Veronica Mars, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Breaking Bad, Gossip Girl
Special Warnings: Drug use, violence

Brick kept coming up in our recommended films for weeks; I suspect it was the run I did on rating suspense films and watching B-grade horror that did it.  Upon noticing the cast, I decided it was worth a go on the promise of their talent; luckily, it paid off.

Brick is a modern film noir-esque mystery set in the world of high school, much like season one of Veronica Mars.  The dialogue stands out as somewhat anachronistic or simply ‘off’ for a group of teenagers, but it’s a calculated approach that works most of the time.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is brilliant in this movie as Brendan Frye, a loner high schooler whose life shifts drastically when his ex-girlfriend (and still crush) turns up dead.  Understanding that the police will never unravel the mystery of how she came to die, Frye sets out to do it himself, manuevering his way into the seedy drug world of the spoiled brats among his peers, prying out the clues that will lead him to Emily’s killer, and why she made a desperate phone call to Brendan shortly before her demise.

This film will be a bit of an acquired taste; the storyline shifts all over in the same fashion as Go, and the stylistic elements will either intrigue or irritate you.  But the movie is worth seeing for Gordon-Levitt’s performance alone.  Intelligent, darkly sarcastic and able to take a beating without missing a sleuthy beat, he steals the entire show.  Settle in with a tall drink, and lose yourself in the seedy world of Brick.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Days of Netflix Finds: UHF

UHF

Genre:  Comedy
Rating:  4.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Weird Al, Seinfeld’s Kramer; people who enjoy feel-good yet goofy humour-loaded films (particularly the 80s flicks ie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; people who enjoy light movies with a deeper message if you want it/no message if you prefer it
Special Warnings: None

I clapped like a little girl when this film showed up in the New Additions section of Netflix a while back.  It’s one of those movies that I love because it never tries to be more than it is, and it’s damn good at what it’s trying to do.  Plus, Weird Al Yankovic is a genius.

UHF tells the story of George Newman (Yankovic), a slacker dreamer who loses minimum wage job after job due to his daydreaming ways.  Specifically, George is obsessed with TV – think the classics:  Beverly Hillbillies; Leave It To Beaver; The Addams Family.  When George’s uncle wins a flailing local TV station in a poker game, his aunt convinces him to let George run it.  After all, it’s already a sinking ship of debt; how much worse can George make it?

Although things start rocky, George’s decision to have his janitor hosts a children’s show for a night turns the station into an overnight success.  Soon, little ol’ channel 62 is thriving – outdoing a rival VHF station.  And the owner of channel 8 will not stand for it… and will destroy channel 62, at any cost.

Filled with parodies, offbeat humour and a “little guy can make it” feel, UHF is a movie that makes you smile and laugh, and as a bonus, it’s family friendly.  Throw this on TV over the holidays and revel in the stellar cast.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Netflix Find: Girl 27

Girl 27

Genre:  Documentary
Rating:  3.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Those interested in media and pop culture, social constructions of violence, sexism, and gender, true crime story buffs
Special Warnings: centred on sexual assault including dramatizations from old films, graphic descriptions

Girl 27 was a film that came up randomly in the Documentary category on the Xbox app, and I decided to check it out late one night.  The story seemed intriguing:  a massive conspiracy allowed a rape to go unpunished, the survivor shamed and never given justice.  Given the time frame, even the accusation itself was bold to pursue.

I would have given this film a higher rating if the maker/narrator of the story wasn’t so full of himself, particularly in the first third of the film.  When he gets on topic, the documentary is well researched and juxtaposed cleverly with cinematic representations of sexual assault and the inherent sexism in the scripting.  The most moving part, and the reason I recommend the film, is the interviews with Girl 27, Patricia Douglas.

Douglas, an extra/dancer working for MGM, is called along with dozens of other women to a private ranch.  It’s disguised as a casting call, but the women have really been brought in to entertain the distribution sales team.  Drunk beyond drunk and showered with comments leading them to believe that they can have anything they want at this retreat, one man decides to take everything from Douglas: her dignity, her innocence, and later, her reputation.

The story is poignant, and sadly, we haven’t come very far in our treatment of sexual violence.  For that reason alone, Girl 27 is an important watch, but not for the faint of heart.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Netflix Find: Asylum

In this new feature of the blog, I’ll post each week about a film or television series I’ve found digging through Netflix that, for one reason or another, is worth watching.  Posts are based upon the Netflix Canada library; the odd title may not be available in the States.

Several months ago, having neither cable nor the ambition or time to rent/see movies in the theatre (and castrated by Hulu’s ‘US only’ bullshit), fiance and I subscribed to Netflix.  In Canada, Netflix is still getting properly off the ground, mainly due to laws being far more restrictive this side of the border in terms of negotiating rights to stream material.  At this point, I’d say it’s two-thirds of the way there:  there’s a lot of mainstream material now, but it’s still lacking brand-new releases by many distributors, and also, their recent removal of A&E material annoys me.

Netflix is kinda like a pop culture dumpster dive:  you reach in, dig around, and hope beneath the trash and stained carpets, there’s a cute antique chair that will look great in your living room.

Starting today, and posting at least once weekly, I’ll be directing your attention towards my personal finds.  I’m ballsy:  I load up movies I’ve never heard of with casts of unknowns and see if it wows me.  I ‘dumpster dive’ often at Netflix.  Sometimes, I find horrid movies, but frequently, I find the diamonds in the rough.

Asylum

Genre:  Horror/Thriller
Rating:  4/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Horror afficionados; fans of Nightmare On Elm Street 3; anyone with an appreciation for B+ grade horror.
Special Warnings: trigger alert for self-injury, suicide

I trolled up Asylum by cruising what was new on Netflix a few weeks ago, and bookmarked it to watch later.  It caught my attention for two reasons:  1) it was made by some of the personnel of Final Destination 2, and 2)  I am currently writing a novel set in a school built over an asylum, and figured it inspirational.

Now, before I begin my review, let me stress this:  horror is a tricky genre.  If you are not a genuine fan of it and all its sub-genres (slasher, suspense, paranormal, cheesy/B-grade, grindhouse-y goodness), you likely walk into such films ranking them all against, say, Silence of the Lambs or Seven.  This is unfair:  you can’t rank critic-appealing flicks against those made for the love of blood and scares.  Asylum isn’t meant to be a deep and psychologically challenging film; it’s meant to be a wild ride of gore and, for the afficionados, a night of laughs with friends similar to the spoofing done in the Scream franchise.  If you walk in expecting this sort of film, you will not be disappointed.

This film is essentially a mash-up of Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, A Haunting In Connecticut, House On Haunted Hill and a dash of Pulse. Madison moves into rez at Richard Miller University, traumatized by watching her daddy blow his head off as a child and her brother following suit one year ago. Right away, she meets a bad boy that you know will be her love interest, and a collection of fellow dormies (love the convenient mix of males and females on the same floor, by the way). They kick back with booze, learn the 16 year-old super nerd is a hacker and – oh yeah! – their dorm used to be an asylum where the doctor tortured the patients, and they eventually killed him in revenge.

Guess what they do next? They go looking through the abandoned asylum-y parts, of course! Yeah, it’s cliche, but I’ve seen far worse. And of course, this unleashes the happy Doctor Krueger upon them.

The set-up is a little slow (twenty minutes plus) but once the tipsy teens break into the restricted construction zone once housing the offices of our merry Doctor, the spooks, scares and slaughter comes fast and furious.  It’s very Nightmare On Elm Street 3 so if you know that film, you can guess at the horrors awaiting these latest ‘patients’.  I particularly enjoyed Mark Rolston as Doctor Burke:  he slays, quips and mocks his victims in Robert Englund form, and makes the blatant homage a delight.

Look: if you genuinely enjoy horror, whether it makes you spooked or just amused, this flick is well worth the time over a bottle of wine/several beers. The death scenes are gruesome fun, the good doctor has some cool tools, and the slaughter comes pretty fast and furious in the back half. There’s no twists to shock you; it’s formula and straight up. But if taken as a fun homage to Freddy with a few modern twists, Asylum is a solid movie. If, however, you only like intellectually stimulating horror/thrillers, and can’t separate in your head the difference in the bar set by those flicks versus standard slashers, skip this. You can’t compare Hannibals to Hostels, so don’t bother.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

DVD Blog-entary: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – The Virgin Viewing

Project Intro/First Film
Second Film

We’ve reached the last of the films I’ve actually seen any part of, which is kind of exciting.  It means the next five are all absolutely fresh.  That said, I barely remember any of this one, because at the time, I had no interest in the franchise and didn’t know the backstory, so nothing made much sense.

The book was sorta meh for me; I enjoyed it mostly, but again, like the first, it began a little slow for me.  We’ll see how the movie fares now, in the third installment of the Blog-entary of Harry Potter.  Snacks prepared… Accio movie!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Blog-entary

  • Um, isn’t it illegal for Harry to cast spells back home?  Why is he making light?
  • Aw, Harry is no longer a Baby! so I can no longer tag him as such.
  • Float away, you ignorant cow!  Bwahahaha!  Dudley got owned by a button.
  • Um… Harry, did you leave Hedwig?! WTF?  You prick!
  • What’s with the Rasta bus ghost thingie? LOL
  • There’s Hedwig! Now I’m okay again.  I was enraged for a few minutes.
  • What’s with all the Beatles hairdos on the Weasley boys?  *facepalm*
  • There’s a chill in my bones…. oh shit, it’s a Dementor!  Don’t just stare, Harry… Oh, er, oops.
  • Okay, what the hell?  Lame ass choir, GTFO.  I want my food porn and Dumbledore 2.0.  Speaking of, I like him way better.  The first one was too kindly and docile.  Dumbledore always struck me as the Gandalf for the series.
  • Trelawney is a total ROFLcopter…  I couldn’t take this bitch seriously, either Hermione.
  • “You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.”  Oh, Ron. You’re still the best.
  • Draco got a wankery haircut too!  What the hell?  Was this the precursor to Bieber bowls?
  • “You’re supposed to stroke it.”  That’s what she said.
  • Oh, Hagrid! You’re so bloody naive… Like a big, hairy child.
  • “I’m the king of the worlllllllllllllllllllllld!”
  • Malfoy is a goddamn idiot… but we all knew that.
  • On a cinematography note, I am so glad to be rid of Columbus.  He’s done great work before (Rent) but this is a vast improvement.
  • You know, they know how awful the Dursleys are. They are BARELY guardians. Why couldn’t they sign off on his form?
  • Snape so has a boner for Hermione.  Jerk off.
  • Seriously, Harry?  NOT the time to dream up shapes in the clouds storming by.
  • Mischief managed!
  • Ugh, stupid singers!  Knock them down, Harry!
  • God Harry, your anorexia is going to kill you.  EAT! ;)
  • Buckbeak :(
  • Why does Harry not question the fact that Lupin a) knows how to use the map and b) even knows it’s a map?
  • Bam! Bitch went down! Bam! Hermione, super bitch!
  • BUCKBEAK :(!!!!!
  • “Why don’t you run along and play with your Chemistry set?”
  • Puppy!
  • BUCKBEAK :D!
  • Expecto motherfucking Patronum!
  • O hai Sirius! Here to save you, LOLZ.
  • Harry breaks his brooms almost as often as his bloody glasses.  #random

Final thoughts:  One bitch:  the constant fade to black, fade back in device got extremely tired.  Very one trick pony.  The creatures continued to be rendered in awesome ways.  NOT ENOUGH NEVILLE.  I know shit has to be cut, but bloody hell! I’d happily take another ten minutes to have a few more moments with the Weasleys or Neville.  I also miss the parts where Hermione would be dying from homework and such, and it would have been nice to see them faking their charts for Trelawney.

Next:  my favourite book, Goblet of Fire! Whee!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements