Guns and girls.

This is going to be a very nerdy post: Three reviews of things, the first of…

The Miserable, and the wretched.

Saw Les Misérables yesterday.

Honestly, a musical is not my cup of tea, but the movie was just fine. I have familiarity and appreciation for the story, and the musical, from my youth, so I was curious to see how it would be adapted, and like everyone else, I had heard good things about the performances of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. I suspect they’ll both get Oscar nominations, but Anne Hathway is the one with the real shot here. She does a lot of heavy lifting with the relatively limited role of Fantine and even in her short time here no one hits the strides and the heights and depths that she can plumbs so easily. Jackman is good, but not as good as her. Plus, he’s got the unfortunate timing of potentially being nominated for Best Actor in the same award season as Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

I dreamed a dream.

Tom Hooper, however, is as boring in his direction as he was in The King’s Speech, and possibly less so. Somehow that film was both nominated and managed to win the big awards, but I don’t think that will be the case here. Especially not in a year that produced a Lincoln, a Zero Dark Thirty, and a Life Of Pi.

Anyway, minor flaws of the film that aren’t so minor: Way too fucking long and not interesting enough to sustain that length. The stuff towards the end with the June Rebellion was dreadfully boring, and anytime Jackman, Hathaway, or even Russell Crowe as Javert weren’t on screen, you found yourself checking your watch. I did enjoy Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (she’s just doomed to always play the gothic clown now, isn’t she?) as the Thénardiers, and they did provide some much needed comic relief to the film, but their rendition of the film’s second most memorable song was pretty boring.

Anyway, my second review is of…

Mad hilarity, merciless action, dark cynicism, and incorruptible bravery.

Gun Machine, the new novel by Warren Ellis.

This is a fun, slightly nuts book, which is the usual from Ellis. His first novel, Crooked Little Vein, was a silly but interesting little pulp travelogue through America, and Gun Machine comes from a similar place, but it’s more of a harder crime novel. This is Warren Ellis sodomizing writers like James Patterson and Ed McBain with his ideas, sort of.

The premise is simple: A cop stumbles upon an apartment filled with guns, hundreds of them and nothing else, and each crime can be traced to a different unsolved crime. Somebody has been keeping these guns all this time as trophies.

I believe I read somewhere the book has already been optioned to be developed into a TV show, which is… exciting, I guess. Granted, they’ll take the premise, and they’ll tone it down. They’ll have to. This book is a little nuts, and filled with a lot of little minutiae that’s probably closer to the harsh reality of crime in a big insane urban cityscape, but not the kind of thing that the flyover states are ready to tune into from their local affiliate. The first scene of the book, for example, involves the main character’s partner getting half of his face blown off by a shotgun blast delivered by a ranting naked man.


That said, there are lots of little ideas and the basic premise that could easily translate into a very interesting serial procedural. That, and I would like to see the type of characters that Ellis writes on either the small screen or the big screen, as they’re usually broken, mouthy creatures who are incorruptibly brave (a nice way of putting it from the Wired review quoted as a blurb on the cover) and very good at what they do.

Half of this book is written in the parlance of the internet, almost as if Ellis got tired of scanning the internet landscape and fueled some of that excitement and anger into a writing frenzy. At the same time, as a fan of his comic books and ideas shared in various places online, I am excited to see him evolving in a new medium, but I can’t say that it feels like he’s challenging himself here. But I have to say that I would secretly like to see Ellis tackle one of his nonfiction books that have more than one foot inside music theory and hauntological futures (which he is working on, thankfully), or maybe some kind of insane sci fi novel – I would love to see Warren Ellis become the new Harlan Ellison – or really get into TV, writing for Doctor Who or resurrecting Quatermass, something like that.

The second review being of…

Victorian values.

“The Snowmen,” the recent Doctor Who Christmas special.

I miss talking about Doctor Who, here or anywhere else. I really need to develop a venue for that, but as far as this episode goes, in short: This was a merely so so episode with great characters in it. Matt Smith is always good and shining with the Doctor, and only improves as he continues to play the character, and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are welcome ongoing returns to the series, and I can’t say enough nice things about Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara, who is mysterious and a serious breath of fresh air. If I’m being honest, I may be doing this post solely to post pictures of her.

That said, this episode was not great. The webisode prequels were more interesting than a good deal of the regular plot of the episode, and I thought it was brave that the threat that the characters were facing down was given an extreme back seat to the character moments.

More guns.

Steven Moffat’s writing is always great, but if I had one major criticism of his tenure on Doctor Who as the showrunner it would be that everything feels too rushed. I assume that the fickle nature of television and the constant need to up the ante is what causes that, but as much as I enjoyed season 5 as the shakedown cruise for a new Doctor, companion, and way of looking at the show, season 6 seemed very rushed, big on set up and small on payoff, possibly because the payoff had to be pushed forward, forward, forward. Part of me wonders if a lot of that was necessitated by the upcoming 50th anniversary special.

That special lead to a lot of new additions in the Christmas special, including the introduction of Smith’s face in the main credit sequence (which I’m positive they’ve been threatening since he took over the role) and a redesigned TARDIS console room that brought back a lot of the blandness of the poorly executed production design from the show’s earlier regenerations in video with rubber monsters back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Cosby sweaters and scripts

And I’m as curious as the next person about some of the big things to come, like the presumed payoff of the First Question, but eventually it could get tiring to constantly finding situations for characters to say, “Doctor… Who?”

Anyway. That said, I’m looking forward to the second half of the current season and the (re)introduction of Clara, Mark 3. I suspect that she’ll be everything that we had assumed and hoped that Amy Pond will be, and I’m really looking forward it. The show regenerates each time a new Doctor steps out of the ashes of the previous one, but as they keep rightfully so telling us, the show is about the companions and the view they provide, and it really feels like the show could come to life again with the addition of Clara. I’m excited.




Filed under podcast miscellaneous:

Just a nice little tidbit that I didn’t want to forget, in preparation for the next episode of Time Travel Murder Mystery.

Hell is a teenage girl.

Some actors were born to play certain roles in their career. I could go into timeless examples – Olivier and Hamlet? Maybe, I don’t know – but it’s all foreplay for me to say flat out: Jennifer’s Body is Megan Fox. Megan Fox, this is your movie.

A short career, so far, of being the half an Angelina Jolie clone, the girl with the bizarre comments on red carpets and disses on the hand that feeds her in interviews, the plastic surgery, it’s all lead to her seeking to be two things: Hot and weird. Megan Fox, Jennifer’s Body is when you jump on that goal with a sleek sort of power.

The plot, as simply as I can muster it: Megan Fox is the titular Jennifer, the alpha high school girl in a small town in the middle of nowhere called Devil’s Kettle, and Amanda Seyfried is her “plain jane” best buddy, Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. They’re an odd match, but have been friends since their were little kids playing with barbies in a sandbox in a flashback that gets repeated a few times, so you know they’re in it for life. This leads, of course, to the hot one being insecure and playing on and feeding off of the insecure one, undermining her constantly, a relationship that only gets weirder after…

They go to a rock show at local bar where an indie band “from the city” is playing, wanting to “reach out to all their fans, even the ones in the shitty places,” and an accident happens. Fire! The club is a massacre, Great White-style, which then leads to the band sneaking off with Jennifer, who survives, in their group rape van to perform an occult ritual. It’s hard being an indie band, they realize, and you really need Satan if you want to make it. So, thinking that Jennifer is one of those all show and no play kind of virgins, they offer her up to the dark forces, all the while a cappella-ing “867-5309/Jenny.”

Needy is sure that the worst has happened to her best friend, but Jennifer shows up at her house later, covered in blood and throwing up demonic fluid. While not being a virgin – not even a back door virgin anymore – something went wrong and she’s been turned into a avaricious demon (I’m fighting using the word “rapacious” that I’ve noticed in every other review), her sexuality overpowering, and she now hungers for the flesh and guts of all the young men that desire her. Then, through a series of so so moments of horror as the demon girl hunts and eats her young male prey, the movie turns into a sort of revenge flick as the sidekick gets her payback.

That’s the plot, and the first thing it should tell you is something that I felt when walking out of the theater: It was like I had taken a time machine back to 1986 to sample one of their tasty treats of throw away horror-comedy cinema.

That, and the Diablo Cody-ness is just dripping off the screenplay to this thing. Cody is a smart writer, and while the movie definitely thinks it’s smarter than it is, with metaphors and allusions and promises of empowerment and message never quite fulfilling their potential, it never scrapes at the lofty goal it feels like it’s heading for. And dialogue-wise, it feels like a sequel to Juno, with some lines a perfect dissection (or perhaps celebration?) at how ridiculous teen lingo of any day can be, some lines being useless (“Move on Dot Org!”), and some almost so cringe-worthy that they’re hilarious (“It smells like Thai food in here. Have you two been fucking?”), but lacking a majority of actors that could handle the material with the ease of Ellen Page, etc.

It’s kind of funny, that in my catching up of True Blood recently, I vividly remembered the scene where Sookie tells Bill that she can understand the new turned vampire Jessica as well as he can because a lot of the thoughts and feelings a vampire feels when newly turned are exactly like those of a teenage girl. That line was playing vividly throughout my head during my viewing of this film. I thought about it as I silently asked myself if this movie is about the “monstrosity” that is a teenage girl’s sexuality, overpowering as it it is both metaphorically and onscreen here, and I thought about it everytime Jennifer and Needy used their pet names for each other: Monistat and Vagisil.

But I also thought of the half remembered mission statement that I saw in an interview with Diablo Cody weeks ago, that she wanted to make a movie that the young feminists and the horny teenage gore-loving boys would go see together. In that regard, that movie is a total success. And if you’re in the mood for just some horror fun, especially one where the girls get to have some fun for once, then you’ll be just fine.

And in a it is what it is sort of way, the casting of this movie is absolutely perfect.

Like I said earlier, this is the movie Megan Fox was born to play, though I would certainly highlight that she’s better at the “weird” aspect of who she is rather than the hot, but still, she perfectly captures the sometimes vapid, sometimes frighteningly insightful and observant nature of any teenager, but especially a teenage girl. Even before she turns demonic, you can tell that her Jennifer knows her way around her corner of the world perfectly, especially when she tells Seyfried that their breasts are smart bombs, “just aim these things and shit gets real.” She knows how to get what she wants, especially considering what other people want, but she doesn’t know her own worth yet. In this regard, the title of this film could not be more perfect.

Amanda Seyfried, on the other hand, is both perfect as her nerdy, bookish best friend, who just looks surprisingly normal to me, rather than the typical adjectives that mean “geek.” Especially when standing next to Fox, I don’t know how you can look anything but normal. But she’s also refreshing and fantastic in this film, getting to enjoy both “good girl” and “bad girl” states, a mesmerizing make out scene with Fox, and a truly horrific instance of first time sex with her boyfriend that, if anything, sums up this film’s combination of the horrific and the naively arousing better than any of the scenes with the demonic Jennifer.

But that said, there’s a fascinating interplay between the two girls during the more rosy days of their friendship, and a playful attraction that pops up between them at times that just feels natural and not gimmicky or as cliche as it would elsewhere.

I mostly remember Seyfried from Mean Girls, of course, and people tell me she was great in Veronica Mars. She’s the real star of Jennifer’s Body and I look forward to and expect her to continue to be great in a lot of things to come.

And then there’s the biggest shock of this entire movie: Adam Brody. That’s right, Seth Cohen.

Seriously, nevermind the fact that Gossip Girl was developed as a series by the same guy who created The OC, how is Adam Brody not getting royalities from that show as well?

I don’t even want to talk about Adam Brody here because I’m still having Vietnam flashbacks to In The Land Of Women, which I think Benjamin Light will agree with me on: Everyone should subject themselves to that film.

In Jennifer’s Body, Brody plays the diabolical lead singer of the indie band Low Shoulder who comes to the small town to play a show with an insidious goal in mind: finding a virgin to sacrifice to Satan. Brody explains to the soon to be dead Jennifer at one point that it’s hard out there for an indie band, that you can’t always get  yourself on some shitty movie soundtrack, and that really only leaves the Devil to turn to if you want any lasting success. Nevermind that the band’s involvement in the roadhouse fire tragedy leads to some great jokes about the music industry and the way we grieve as a commercial society (annoying benefit singles where 3% of the profit will go to families affected by the tragedy), but Brody is perfect in this film. He’s got that bizarre look of an asshole indie rock singer charisma down, something that makes you question why teenage girls are attracted to a lot of these guys in the first place (maybe it’s the manscara?). There’s something almost Brandon Flowers-esque happening here.

But more importantly, Brody’s the only actor in the piece that both seems to handle Cody’s dialogue with ease and almost devours it with a gleeful intensity. Watching his character, I couldn’t help but think that, post-The OC, there was really only two ways that Seth Cohen could go: 1) total suck and mediocrity, which is more likely than anything else, or 2) embracing evil and having a little fun, much as he does here. And as smarmy and villainous as he is, you almost want to see him succeed to live and be smarmy another day. Or, to at least, have gotten a death scene worthy of what a prick he is.

Speaking of the music, I half love the soundtrack to this film and half could give a shit about some of the sonic bullshit that I heard. Like every teenage movie, there was a new song playing, er, blaring on the soundtrack every 45 seconds. Half of it was good, some weird, and some of it is what I assume the kids are listening to these days. Sigh. The poor kids these days. They’re clueless. But towards the end, Hole’s “Violet” starts playing and it felt like the movie really reached a certain apotheosis that it desperately needed to. What better stab at the rage and frustration of a young woman is there than this band at that stage in their career? Neither graceful nor honed, it felt like a perfect addition to this hot mess. Or maybe I really am just that big of a 90s nut and “They get what they want, but they never want it again” somehow reminds me of the trials and tribulations of the girls I went to high school with? Of course, there’s also the fact that “Violet” is off of Hole’s Live Through This, which contains the song, “Jennifer’s Body,” that the movie gets it’s title from.

In conclusion, three things I just want to throw out there: Firstly, this would make a great high school date movie. Without a doubt.

Secondly, I don’t understand women or teenage girls anymore now than I did before seeing this movie, or even when I was a teenager myself. And that’s probably how it should be.

And thirdly, the devil should start a rock label. I bet he’d sign some really killer bands.