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Friday, May 3, 2019 07:58 PM
On the Viewer - some movies
 by Fëanor

I saw some movies.

Avengers: Endgame - Perfect. The Infinity Saga is just an incredible cinematic achievement, and this is the triumphant capstone. I spontaneously cheered multiple times, I cried a lot, and I laughed. It finds clever ways to revisit all the characters and major events of the saga. It's brilliant, thrilling, rounds everything off in a really satisfying way, and paves the way to the future. I can't wait to see it again.

Glass - The third in Shyamalan's superhumans series, along with Unbreakable and Split. The concept underpinning Split - that trauma can somehow provide you with superhuman abilities - is problematic, but there's no denying these are all effective thrillers with great drama and action, and clever twists and turns. Glass takes what's come before, mixes it all together, and takes it all one step forward. Shyamalan is paving the way here for his own superhero cinematic universe. I'm curious to see where it goes next. Plus, I want to know what that girl's powers are. She's gotta have powers, right?

John Wick - Took me a while to get to this one, but yeah, it's as good as people say. It's a revenge story coupled with a "hitman tries to get out of the life but is dragged back in" story, but manages to rise above the cliches of both with some fascinating world-building, a dark sense of humor, fun performances, and ridiculous, over-the-top action. Also, it references Baba Yaga, which I always support. And sad Keanu encourages you to adopt shelter dogs! Beware, however: a puppy dies (along with dozens of people, but come on, it's the puppy that hurts).

Suspiria (2018) - A remake of Dario Argento's 1977 bloody horror masterpiece. This one features an eerie soundtrack by Thom Yorke, and Tilda Swinton perfectly cast as Blanc, a combination dance teacher/den mother/coven leader. She also plays two other parts in the film (one of whom is an old man!), which I only realized when looking at the cast list afterwards, as she is completely unrecognizable in the other two parts under piles of makeup. The movie is set in 1977 Berlin, with the backdrop of a hostage situation and associated political and civil unrest lending tension and menace to the proceedings. Though it features powerful visuals and interesting camera work, it lacks the rich colors of the original and is sometimes so dark you can't see what's happening, which is always frustrating. But it does leave you as shaken and slightly bewildered as the original. The cast is almost entirely women, with only a few bumbling tertiary characters played by men, and it is at least in part about mothers and daughters. But mostly it's about sensual violent dance magic and naked Satan worship. Good times.
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not)
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018 04:20 PM
(Last updated on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 07:37 PM)
Book Report - Wolf in White Van and Universal Harvester
 by Fëanor

John Darnielle is better known as the heart and brains of a band called The Mountain Goats (who are great, by the way), but he has also written two novels, both of which are freakish, bizarre, puzzle-like, and completely unclassifiable. The first, Wolf in White Van, is about a man named Sean Phillips with a debilitating disfigurement that he acquired during an incident when he was a teen, an incident which the whole book revolves around. What happened, and why? You will eventually discover the answer to the former question, but the latter is more complex and is never explicitly answered. You have to provide the answer yourself from what you learn of Sean, through a non-chronological series of scenes from various parts of his life, both before and long after the incident. In between these moments from Sean's life are inserted scenes from a post-apocalyptic play-by-mail text adventure game which the main character designed and runs. The game ends up figuring largely in another tragic incident that happens later in his life.

Wolf in White Van is about the secret pain people carry in their hearts and the inexplicable and horrific acts that pain can lead them to perform. It also looks at life as a complex web of interconnected choices, each one shunting you off into a new story. Sometimes every choice is a terrible one, and all you can do is try to choose the least terrible.

Universal Harvester seems at first as if it's going to be a piece of straight genre fiction - namely, horror. Customers of the Video Hut in a small Iowa town in the eighties begin to return movies with odd complaints. They say there are other movies on the tapes. In fact, strange, disturbing footage which seems to involve torture has been spliced into the middle of bland Hollywood fare. And some of the scenes include recognizable landmarks from nearby. Jeremy (an employee of the video store who lost his mother in a car accident some years ago), his father, his boss, and one of the customers of the video store (who Jeremy has a bit of a crush on) are all drawn into the mystery of the sickening, suggestive footage and eventually find its source: a lonely farmhouse, and the lonely woman who lives there, who has her own tragic past.

There are many deeply disturbing and chillingly suggestive sequences in Universal Harvester, and for most of the book you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for a twisted religious cultist to leap forth and start dealing out grisly death. But if that's what you're looking for, don't read this book. What Universal Harvester ends up being about is (like Wolf in White Van) the secret pain that people carry in their hearts and the strange rituals they can find themselves engaging in to try to assuage that pain, to fill the hollow place inside them. It's about the ways people deal with life-destroying losses. It's about the deep and complex bond between parents and children and the awful scars that are left when that bond is suddenly snapped. It's also about the deep currents that can run just underneath the surface in small towns. Although there are plenty of creepy moments throughout, it's ultimately a very sad story about broken people. This does make the book a bit frustrating and disappointing; it feels like you're being promised one thing, and then the curtain is pulled back and what's actually there is something quite different. But it's still a very powerful story masterfully and beautifully told by Darnielle, who has an incredible way with words. Darnielle's books are gorgeous, intricate, grotesque mazes that you have to navigate carefully, lest the minotaur that lurks in them find and devour you.
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not)
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Monday, September 24, 2012 02:19 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Dune (Not), Harry Potter (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Mario (Not), Mashups (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shirts (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Weather (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Friday, June 22, 2012 03:57 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Business (Not), Cartoons (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Diablo (Not), Diablo 3 (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Muppets (Not), News (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Science (Not), Tolkien (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Monday, May 28, 2012 07:23 AM
(Last updated on Monday, May 28, 2012 10:18 AM)
On the Viewer - The Avengers
 by Fëanor

In a way, it was all leading up to this. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk: all the individual origin stories of individual members of a team - the super team: The Avengers. But ensemble movies are hard. Could they pull it off? Could they bring it all together and tell a story about that team without short-shrifting any of the members of that team?

It was certainly a good start that the individual movies were so great. And they were great because they avoided the major pitfalls of superhero movies. Instead of disposing of the origin story in the first fifteen minutes and then spending the rest of the movie packing as many explosions, villains, and sidekicks into the story as possible, they spent the entire movie telling the origin story, and focusing on character, and on the character's arc, and on the becoming and the changing of that character. Tony Stark doesn't say "I am Iron Man" until the very last shot of Iron Man, because it's only then that he's changed enough to be Iron Man; the entire movie has been his origin story, his growth into the person he is in that last scene. Thor is also all about Thor growing up, coming into his own, becoming worthy of the power and the responsibility that's his. Captain America is about a good man seeking a cause and a purpose, becoming lost along the way, and then finally finding his mission, only to have his whole world snatched away from him in his moment of triumph. The Incredible Hulk is about a man coming to grips with the fact that there is a monster inside him.

With all these heroes and their characters firmly established, Avengers attempts to tell a story about all of them figuring out how to work together as a group against a common foe. And it succeeds beautifully, because those characters have been so well established and are so well inhabited by the actors, and because writer/director Joss Whedon handles them so well and with such a good sense of humor. It also helps that Whedon realizes a character is pretty boring if it's not still growing and changing, and thus he gives all these characters individual conflicts and obstacles to overcome.

For the purposes of the film, the Avengers are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, who's new to the part, but easily masters a difficult and oft-attempted role), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Captain America (Chris Evans). I'm not sure if that was ever the exact lineup of the Avengers in the comic books, but the lineup of the Avengers has changed so often over the years, and included so many characters, that I wouldn't be surprised. It's no coincidence that the only two non-super-powered people on the team (Hawkeye and Black Widow) are also the only two people on the team who didn't get to star in their own movies before this one, but were only introduced as secondary/tertiary characters in somebody else's movie (Hawkeye first appeared in Thor, and Black Widow in Iron Man 2). Because of this, Whedon spends a bit more time introducing these two characters, and gives both of them central parts in the film's conflict. Hawkeye is revealed to be a nearly superhuman bad-ass when it comes to archery, thanks in part to his really snazzy multi-function quiver. Black Widow's specialty is lulling her enemies into a false sense of security - making them believe they've got her safely in their power - and then quietly getting all the information she needs out of them before kicking their asses. She's pretty fantastic. And of course, like everybody else on the team, Black Widow and Hawkeye have their own flaws and demons.

The movie opens with the introduction of the main villain, who happens to be the same villain from Thor: Thor's brother, Loki (a fascinatingly twisted and flawed character played with grinning relish by Tom Hiddleston). (Although we learn right away that there's actually an even more powerful villain pulling the strings behind and above Loki, we won't learn that character's identity until the end credits have already begun rolling.) In the opening scene, Loki takes possession not only of the Red Skull's secret weapon from Captain America (an incredibly powerful magic cube called the tesseract), but also Hawkeye, and Thor's scientist friend Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). In the process he pisses off Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), which is never a good idea. It's Fury who decides to finally activate the Avengers Initiative and assemble the super team to beat all super teams in an attempt to stop Loki. He's aided by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Coulson (given wonderfully nerdy life by Clark Gregg) and Hill (Cobie Smulders, who does a competent job with a character that is sadly mostly free from personality and individuality).

Which means it's time for some extremely fun introductory/assembly scenes, with lots of funny and clever dialogue, and then lots and lots of action. Whedon even fits in a traditional element of all superhero team-up stories and has the heroes fight each other first before coming to their senses and joining up to fight together.

As I said, each of the team members has their own flaws and conflicts, and together they're just a big bundle of drama that's just waiting to explode, with Dr. Banner/the Hulk as the powder keg at the center, and Loki as the match. Can Tony Stark rein in his ego and inability to follow the rules and learn to work in a group? If it comes down to it, can he put his selfishness aside and sacrifice himself for the common good? Can Steve Rogers pull his mind out of the past, come to grips with the insane world he's been thrown into, and lead this team? Can Thor forget that Loki is his brother and do the right thing by the people of Earth? Can Banner really hold it together long enough to help out before he smashes his own friends to bits? Is Hawkeye so lost that he'll really betray his own planet? Even if he doesn't, can he live with the guilt of what he's done? And speaking of living with guilt, can Black Widow handle the skeletons in her own closet, while also taking down her own lover, should the need arise? And can they all keep fighting for S.H.I.E.L.D. even after learning all the dirty little secrets Fury is keeping from them?

If you're familiar with Joss Whedon's work, you'll have no trouble recognizing his style here. The clever, sarcastic dialog peppered with pop culture references is front and center, as are some favorite narrative constructs. If you like Whedon's stuff, you'll like this. If you don't usually like Whedon's stuff... well, you might like this anyway. It's pretty fantastic. And of course, by the end of the movie, we're all set up for an Avengers 2. Or an Iron Man 3. Or a Captain America 2. Or what have you. The point is, more is clearly on the way, and I am more than okay with that.

As I've already mentioned, and as you should already know if you've seen any other Marvel movie recently, there's more movie to come even after the credits have started rolling. But The Avengers ups the ante in this as well as in pretty much every other category and gives us two post-credits scenes. The second one may now be one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history. It's simple and silent and warm and hilarious. A cherry on top of a seriously delicious and well constructed sundae of a film. I'll have another, please.

UPDATE: Some favorite moments (includes spoilers):
  • Harry Dean Stanton, whom you may remember from Alien, has a cameo as a random guy who asks Dr. Banner if he is an alien.

  • Dr. Banner reveals his secret ("I'm always angry") before turning into the Hulk, punching a giant alien monster once, and causing it to immediately crumple and die.

  • Banner: "I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spit it out."

  • Coulson patiently waiting on hold while Black Widow dispatches her captors. "This moron is telling me everything!"

  • Loki starts doing a standard bad guy speech and the Hulk just pounds him on the ground a couple times and walks away, leaving him in a crater. "Puny God."

  • We zoom out from Stark Tower at the end and only the "A" in "Stark" is left. Avengers Tower!

  • Tony: "Why is he 'Phil?'"

  • Loki tells everyone to kneel and one old German man stands up. Cap protects him, and points out that a guy asked everybody to kneel in Germany once, and Cap ended up disagreeing with him.

  • Banner: "Sorry, that was mean. I wanted to see what you would do." Black Widow stares at him wide-eyed.

  • Tony: "Better clench up, Legolas."

  • Tony making a joke about Life Model Decoys. (Nice reference!)

  • Cap silently handing Nick Fury a ten dollar bill.

  • Also, I don't think Coulson's really dead. Fury probably let everybody think he was dead so they'd have the inspiration to join together and fight for his memory. I hope so, anyway; I love Coulson.
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Comic books (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not)
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Friday, April 27, 2012 04:33 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

I didn't have time to do my usual thorough examination of the entire internet for this entry, but I figure I'll post what I have now and maybe add more later, we'll see.



Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Fringe (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Language (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Sesame Street (Not), TV (Not), Twitter (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:06 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Captain America (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Food (Not), Game of Thrones (Not), Iron Man (Not), Links (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Monty Python (Not), Movies (Not), Muppets (Not), Photography (Not), Politics (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Scooby-Doo (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Simpsons (Not), Song of Ice and Fire (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Street Fighter (Not), Thor (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not)
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Monday, February 13, 2012 11:04 AM
(Last updated on Monday, February 13, 2012 12:19 PM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Books (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Harry Potter (Not), History (Not), Holiday (Not), Indiana Jones (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Monty Python (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), Transformers (Not), Vampires (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Thursday, January 26, 2012 11:40 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Fairy tales (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Monty Python (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Tarsem (Not), Video (Not)
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Monday, December 19, 2011 12:21 PM
(Last updated on Monday, December 19, 2011 01:49 PM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Hey, remember when I used to post things like this to this here blog?? Thought I'd try it again, just to see how it goes. Enjoy!

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Advertising (Not), Aliens (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Boardgames (Not), Comedy (Not), Commercials (Not), Craft (Not), Food (Not), Gaming (Not), Holiday (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Mashups (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Song of Ice and Fire (Not), Star Wars (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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