Tag Archives: review

Red Riding Hood – DON’T SEE THIS MOVIE

(Just for clarity’s sake, there will be spoilers ahoy, because you’re not going to see this movie as it is SO awful)

 

Seriously, it is a REALLY bad film.  Once upon a time there was a good script, but I think it was killed by a committee whose sole aim in life was to make something in their own image.  The only two glimpses of the good script are at the end of the movie, one the “what big X you have grandmother” scene, and the other which was the twist to the whole movie – which had never been foreshadowed so was less of a twist and more of a “HUH???”.

Anyway, the director, Catherine Hardwicke, managed to get poor performances out of every actor in the movie.  Gary Oldman, who is at his most entertaining when chewing the set, provided an incredibly wooden performance and I was much relieved when he eventually died.  The pouting underwear models were wooden and unbelievable – as was pretty much everyone on set.  Let’s get into the breakdown of everything.

Quick story synopsis – There is a village, and for the first time in a couple of generations the “wolf” has killed a villager.  The villagers decide to go and hunt down the wolf and their priest calls a witch-finder.  No hilarity ensures.  The body-count builds, but no one seems to care much, and eventually after the witch-finder is dead, we discover who the wolf is (werewolf), and everyone lives confusedly ever after.

The movie is set in a village, in the middle of some mountains – it looks a bit like the German Alps or Scandinavia.  Given the period(ish) clothing and basic living conditions, I would suggest that it was the Dark Ages, or perhaps if generous the Middle Ages.  Everyone was surprisingly clean, with perfect hair, teeth and skin.  No one was sick, no one was disabled from injury and everything was clean (they even washed their hands).  When it snowed, they didn’t put warmer clothes on.  I do get that people who live in cold climates have a different sense of what is cold and what is not cold, but their breath didn’t fog and there was no mud after the snow was trampled into the ground.  It wasn’t really believable.

So, with the whining about the unbelievability of the set up out of the way, let’s move to the story itself.  Now Valerie (Red Riding Hood herself) has a really bad day.  Her love interest tells her that he’s just found out that she’s now betrothed to marry the other underwear model.  They decide to run away together, but then the church/alarm bell sounds and everyone returns to town.  Valerie’s sister has been killed by the wolf, and there is much wailing.  Afterwards, while they are preparing the body (Valerie, her mother, and Valerie’s friends) of her sister for burial (which never features in the film), Valerie’s betrothed comes with his family to pay their respects.  Valerie climbs the stairs to the loft of the cottage and retreats.  Her mother follows her and they talk about how important it is that Valerie marries this underwear model than the other one, because this one has more money, and how the mother didn’t marry the man she loved either, and that’s just the way it is.

This is pretty much the end of the dead sister plot device.  No one is sad in this film when someone dies.  There are some immediate tears, but life goes on and a couple of hours later people are partying, working, whatever again like the dead person never existed.  The townsmen go off to kill the wolf, believing that it lived in a nearby extensive cave system, when they return with a wolf corpse (and the dead body of the betrothed’s father – again briefly touched upon death, just another plot device), they throw a party.  The witch-finder turns up just before the party, tells everyone that he knows that the wolf is not yet dead because his wife was once a werewolf and he had to kill her to save himself and his children, and then he wanders off with his army while the party is prepared.

It’s more of a rave than a party, and if I EVER find the choreographer of the dancing in this movie I will stab them repeatedly. The love interest is off dancing with another woman (after telling Valerie that they should go their separate ways), and Valerie is upset.  So she grabs another girl and joins in the dancing.  It’s a cross between the lambada and stately court dancing and is truly awful.  Faux-lesbianism is incredibly wrong on many levels, and this movie doesn’t make it any more right.  With a witch-finder in the village, I’m sure nothing else would attract his attention more than two women apparently dancing sexually together.

The wolf turns up, savages a few villagers, quite a few soldiers and then escapes.  During this the village idiot (yes, they even had one of those) is suspected of knowing who the wolf is, and he’s captured and tortured.  His sister (because apparently they didn’t have parents), goes to the witch-finder to bargain for his release.  She gives him all her money (which isn’t much) and when he isn’t impressed offers her body to him.  He’s still unimpressed so she offers information “about a witch”, specifically that Valerie can communicate with the wolf.  Once Valerie is captured, the informant goes back and demands to see her brother, and she’s shown him crumpled on a bed of straw.  We never find out if he is alive or dead, and again some minutes later the plot-device is discarded and everyone moves on.

Death as a plot-device certainly doesn’t endear me to any of the characters or the movie in general.  Oddly, perhaps, I am more likely to engage with characters who experience the full range of human emotion, including grief that family or friends have died.  Even shock that a massive werewolf is bounding around the village would be a good start.

This movie could have gone places.  It could have been a great feminist movie about a woman taking a stand against the kyriarchy and living independently despite the unfriendliness of the world (does anyone ever wonder WHY Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lives out in the forest away from the village?).  It could have been about a woman (or group of women) rewriting the rules of their society in order to make their lives fairer despite the wolves – because in the end Valerie ends up killing the wolf.

It could have been good, but it really wasn’t.

 

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Revisiting my childhood (Part 1)

I think I might write a series of articles over revisiting various things I loved during my childhood, and going back and finding if they have any appeal to me as an adult.  I don’t know how frequent they’ll be, but I thought I’d start with a series of books by an author I adored (one of many) when I was growing up in Alice Springs.

Given my mother’s love of Science Fiction, and the religious viewing of Doctor Who, it isn’t all that surprising that as soon as I discovered that I loved to read (which would have been when I was around 10 years old or so) that I found the science fiction books at the public library.

Today’s post is on the Last Legionary Quartet by Douglas Hill (now out of print, but available second hand on Amazon and in second hand bookshops (where I got mine)), a typical space faring adventure but with some really interesting tweaks.  First up, the first book of the series, Galactic Warlord was published in 1980, a time I certainly associate with bad science in science fiction, however Douglas Hill has gone out of his way to ensure that the science in the books is as accurate as it can be.  Space is three dimensional and a vacuum (so no noise in space), and performing sudden manoeuvres in space will result in g-forces being applied to the craft and pilot.  Some future technology is incredibly similar to 1980s technology with tapes and keyboards in use, but there is a large array of energy weapons, faster than light travel and different worlds, so that certainly makes up for it.

The next best thing about the series is that it is not sexist.  Yes the main character is male, but it is clearly stated from the beginning that he is from a world where the entire adult population could be turned into an army, where everyone is trained to be a warrior from early childhood, and that his squad’s gender make-up was secondary to its capability.  So the main character could have been a woman.  Women are not written as sex objects, nurturers, princesses needing rescue or victims of circumstance, they are strong, capable, leaders, agitators, aggressive, good, evil, wise, and just like men.  At one point the hero hesitates in attacking a woman, not because she is a woman but because he thought she was on his side and his friend.

Another positive in the series is that there are humans who settled on other planets in the galaxy (it turns out that humans are the only sentient life form in this galaxy), and who have developed beneficial mutations to survive on those planets.  Those planets are collectively known as the “altered worlds” and the emotive word “mutant” is rarely used throughout the book.  The inhabitents of those planets are referred to coming from the “altered worlds”, but no value judgement is made about any difference that has developed in that group of humans.  Additionally, any individual who comes from those planets (and this holds true for all individuals in the book regardless of where they have come from) is taken to not be a representative of their race/planet/home world system/type.  So if someone is evil in the book, that person is evil, not all people like them.

That last positive that I’d to note out of this series is that the hero can’t always win the day on his own.  He has a non-human companion – an alien from another galaxy, who is female and non-humanoid – who comes to his rescue, shields him when required (she’s a telepath), and who is completely capable on her own.

This series really lives up to my memories of it – in fact I’d forgotten how awesome they were.  I’m enjoying it immensely and only have two books to go before I’m done.  They’re quite short – so all four books is normal novel size.  I was sad to find out recently that Douglas Hill had died just after submitting the final manuscript for the last book in another of his series (one I haven’t read in its entirety), but given how good The Last Legionary Quartet is turning out, I’m going to go and hunt down all the books of his I can, and enjoy them all.

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Aliens

NOTE: SPOILERS!!

I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood collection (containing Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), and I’ve been thinking about alienness, specifically how we react to things that are very different to our experience or how we’d actually react if aliens arrived tomorrow.  This post was also partly inspired by e.smith’s post, “I can’t help myself, it’s innate” and by my girlfriend’s reaction to slaters.

A small, multilegged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae
A slater, a small, multi legged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae. Photo credit: Joe Buckingham*

So, after reading Dawn, I thought about whether or not I’d be repulsed by aliens or scared by them, and I thought about all the science fiction I’ve watched and over the years, and all the weird and wonderful creatures I’ve watched on nature documentaries and how I react to seeing something for the first time.  I’ve had conversations with my husbands (yes that is plural and it is not a typo) about what we’d do if spaceships hovered over the city (I’d run to the hills, they’d want to stay and watch).  My initial reaction to new and different things is caution.  If I found a creature that I’d never seen before, I’d watch it before deciding whether or not to touch or interact with it.  I’m not likely to know if a creature is going to sting me, bite me, poison me, spit at me or any other defensive reaction.  In the event of aliens hovering over my city (a la Independence Day – terrible movie, but fits this scenario well), I’m going to want to wait and watch and see if I’m likely to be harmed before approaching something new… so in that way, I understand Lilith’s reaction to the aliens, though without the corresponding fear – mostly because I haven’t experienced a true level of alienness.

And I wonder, does the fact that I have been exposed to science fiction since I was old enough to start remembering TV (Dr Who to begin with), mean that my reaction to an alien, if I ever come across one, is going to be different to someone who hasn’t been exposed to as much science and speculative fiction.  In most SF, aliens are taken as given, and it’s rare that a human panics when they first come across one, and they’re either on the side of humans or against them – depending on which story is being told.  Will that influence me, make me cautious instead of scared?

It’s an interesting train of thought, and one clearly I’m unlikely to tease out further in my lifetime – what with the current lack of aliens wandering around.  It’s also not something that many current SF writers (that I have read – please provide suggestions below if you know of any others) are addressing currently – that being how humans would react if aliens turned up tomorrow and were not evil.  District 9 put aliens in a slum and otherwise generally ignored them.  Galaxy Quest had a couple of characters faint, but generally the cast of the TV show got on with saving the universe, with help from some fans.  Babylon 5 only briefly touches on earth’s first contact with aliens, specifically the Centari who lied to them about them being distant relatives, but no mention of mass panic.  Many stories have a government or secret organisation out to kill the alien, but everyone else harbours it and keeps it safe.

I’m enjoying Lilith’s Brood, and am most of the way through Iago now.  The ideas and issues identified by Butler in the series are as fresh and current as when she wrote them.  I do recommend the books to anyone who hasn’t yet read them.

*Joe Buckingham’s Flickr link here

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Movie Reviews

Ok, two movie reviews for the price of one… or something.  Spoilers everywhere (where I think relevant) and these are just my thoughts… so if you don’t want to be spoilt on either Inception or Scott Pilgrim vs The World, go and enjoy my Flickr photos (shameless plug).

Inception

I think I’ll just divide this review into the good things and the negative things about this movie, then I might remember my thoughts for wrapping it all up.  I meant to write this review some time ago, but got distracted with a holiday to Alice Springs, so here goes:

Positive

  • The first movie with some original concepts that I have seen in AGES.  It was quite refreshing to think my way around a new universe.
  • The special effects were STUNNING.  This movie could sell itself on those alone, and I do know that quite a few people went and saw it at the cinema for that alone.
  • The story twisted and turned and the ending was unclear.  A lack of guaranteed happy ending with a big “BUT?!?!?!” added to an already great experience.
  • Not all the characters were white.  This was fantastic.  The “good guys” were from all over the world and the “bad guys” were generally all white.  Two white American males, one Subcontinental male, one East Asian male, one British male, and one white American female made up the “good guys”.

Negative

  • There was only one female in the team.  There was no reason why there could not have been more.
  • The movie failed the Bechdel Test
  • The female characters were reflections of the hero’s story, with Leonardo’s character’s wife being a subconscious projection (she no longer existed as an individual) and Ellen Page’s character being the helpful assistant to Leonardo’s character to help him get on with life.

Coherent wrapping up type thoughts have failed to materialise, so I will move onto the next movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

I’ll go with a narrative style here.  Be warned, there are spoilers.

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So, I know quite a few women who are not interested in seeing yet another movie about a boy having to fight something/someone to win the girl as a prize/rescue the girl.  Oddly enough, although the boy does fight the evil exes, this is not a movie about a boy having to fight to win the girl as a prize/rescue the girl.  The actual ending (hence the spoiler warning) is about fighting, not for the girl, but for yourself and gaining self respect.  It also focused on Scott learning to like himself and realise that he is a great guy without having others tell him that – which at the beginning of the movie was really annoying.

The movie does pass the Bechdel Test, though narrowly.  There are named female characters who have (albeit brief) conversations about topics other than a man.  Given the movie was about a man, this pass is actually unexpected – though apparently the comic, which I haven’t read, passes the Bechdel test beautifully.

The pop-culture references are fun and overall the movie is very silly.  The sound-track is awesome and the filming beautiful.

The gay house-mate/bed-mate of Scott is sweet and funny, and the less creepy Culkin (Keiran) played the role perfectly.  As a character his queerness was not an issue, he was gay and that was perfectly normal, as was the main (and presumably straight) character sleeping in the same bed as him.  The fact that he had multiple partners during the movie could be viewed as problematic (all gay men are sluts!) but it wasn’t played in a negative way.  After all there are plenty of straight men portrayed in movies with multiple partners and that is rarely negative (women doing the same thing is a completely different story).

Although Scott fought a female evil ex, and that ex referred to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character as a “hasbian”, the ex being a lesbian was again just a thing.  She was no more evil or anything than the other exes.

So yes, I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to.  And now it is time for bed.

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