Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014) -- Initial Thoughts

This may strike you as silly, but I'm being totally serious:  this is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that made me think, "This is aimed squarely at teenage boys."  I'm not saying that's a terrible thing, but that was definitely the vibe I got from it.  In fact, it reminded me of teenage boys I've known, thinking they're all cool and hilarious when really they're just stuck on themselves.

And it's not that I didn't enjoy this movie, because I did.  It was funny, and a sadder than I'd expected.  And by the end of the scene with Star Lord dancing his way over to his Indy moment, I was charmed.  It kept me engaged, though in the final Big Battle, I did start to feel like everything was taking a little longer than it ought to.

But there were moments sprinkled throughout that I loved.  (Here comes the spoilage.)  Him dancing through the weird alien planet, that cool force-field net thingie they put over the bad guy's ship, the whole idea of turning off the artificial gravity, and pretty much anything with Groot in it.

The trouble is, Groot was my favorite character.  He's the only one that touched me and made me curious to know more about him.  And, alas, they saddled him with zero backstory, the inability to say more than three words, and no character growth.  Okay, there was literal growth, but not inner growth.  He started out sweet and nice and kind and protective, and he remained that way throughout.  The other characters did have growth, but I didn't care that much about them.

So while this was a nice ride, that was pretty much all it was.  I'm not left with a need to see it again; I'm not left wanting to spend more time with these characters.

I've heard that some people thought this was better than The Avengers.  Um.  Except, it's pretty much exactly the same story as The Avengers, only with less compelling characters.  With no Loki.

Perhaps that's the best thing I can say for this movie:  it's made me really appreciate Loki.  Wow.  What a villain he is!  I never cared a whit about what did or did not happen to this Ronan person -- admit it, if he hadn't been played by Lee Pace, he would have been completely forgettable.  Pace did at least make me notice that he had really pretty eyes, and he did the best he could with what he was given, but in the end... I didn't care about him at all.  Now, Loki?  I have spent countless hours wishing so hard I could like Loki!  Remember how angry I got over his non-death?  I've got some serious emotion invested in that guy.  Ronan?  Well, he had really pretty eyes.

And so, in the end... I liked this better than I'd expected, but I didn't love it.  I'm sure I'll rent it from Redbox when it comes there because I saw in the end credits that Nathan Fillion does the voice for one of the inmates, so I'd like to listen for him.  And I think Cowboy will get some good laughs from the movie, it's worth seeing once with him.  But I have no desire to own this or watch it over and over.

I have never before posted a gif on my blog, as I find them sometimes fun and mostly annoying, but... this was probably my favorite moment in the whole movie, so I'm taking the plunge:


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ukrainian Independence and Christmas Shopping

Ukraine.Keep calm.Black cotton shopping bag. Eco- Friendly Tote. Tote Bag.Beach bag

Would you like to support Ukraine's fight to remain independent from Russia, but you don't live anywhere near Ukraine and don't know how you could possibly help?  Cowboy has had a brilliant idea:  search Etsy for Ukrainian sellers (here's a handy link), and buy things from them to give people for Christmas.  (All images in this post are also links.)

Ukrainian Kozak with wife

Cowboy says, "At the very least, you'll be helping someone whose income has likely dropped 20-40% this year.  At best, you'll be helping Ukraine with badly needed foreign exchange AND supporting the Ukrainian troops against the (pro-Russian) separatists, because much of the Ukrainian army's financial support is coming from private fundraisers and donations."

Custom handmade wooden fashion journal  / Ukraine / Leather stripes / ready to ship

If you're concerned that your money might be going to Russian-supporters instead, Google the city name listed in the Etsy shop.  The farther west, the more likely to be pro-independence.  Some sellers might even have pro-independence blurbs in their shop descriptions or items in their shops.  I even found this awesome shirt that says "Ukraine blooms in my heart."  Not only that, but the shop owner says that "This t-shirt is being sold to support Ukrainian military units fighting to free Eastern Ukraine. The entire amount earned from selling t-shirts will be transferred to the proven volunteer organizations engaged in logistical support of Ukrainian military forces."

T-shirt "Ukraine blooms in my heart"

So if you're someone I buy Christmas or birthday gifts for, don't be surprised if you get something made in Ukraine this year!  I bought my kids some puzzles from this Ukrainian Etsy store last year, and I'm totally getting some for our little friends this year.  And maybe some more for my kids too :-)

Puzzle Train. Wooden toys, wooden puzzle, eco-friendly handmade toys for babies, children, kids

(And yes, I start my Christmas shopping early.  If I'm not starting to buy gifts by May, I feel behind.  I hear this is an ISFJ trait, actually, the desire to find the perfect gift for someone we hold dear.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

"The Seven Samurai" (1954) -- Initial Thoughts

I've wanted to see this for many years, ever since I found out that The Magnificent Seven (1960) is a western remake of it.  Over the years, I've seen this named on a lot of "greatest films" lists, "movie-lover must-watch" lists, etc, so I have to admit I came to it with high expectations.  But I was also half-expecting to be disappointed, since so often when a movie gets that much hype (::cough:: Citizen Kane ::cough::), I end up underwhelmed.

I'm happy to say that I did like The Seven Samurai.  However, I didn't like it nearly as well as The Magnificent Seven, and not just because one is about cowboys and the other isn't.

What surprised me the most about this is just how closely The Magnificent Seven follows it.  Not just the same basic story -- poor villagers being repeatedly pillaged by outlaws hire champions to defend them -- but down to how some characters were introduced and some of the characterizations.  Cowboy and I had a lot of fun pointing out the similarities to each other.  That might be what I enjoyed most about the movie, in fact.

Let's start with the characters and how they were similar to those magnificent gunfighters.  The main character, Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura), was awesome.  Brave, resourceful, not above resorting to trickery to save a hostage child... he was one cool cat.  He was quite a bit like Chris (Yul Brynner), only even more world-weary.  And he had hair.  Eventually.

My next favorite was Kyuzo (Sieji Miyaguchi), a master swordsman who had about six lines -- almost exactly like the nearly wordless Britt (James Coburn) who competes only with himself.  I really loved one scene where he just ran off into the night to singlehandedly capture some enemy firepower.  Comes back several scenes later, exhausted and triumphant.

Then there was the young kid, Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), out to prove himself and become a grown-up samurai.

And probably the most memorable character was Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), a clownish swordsman who pretends to be a samurai.  In The Magnificent Seven, those two characters got combined to become the humorous youngster, Chico (Horst Bucholz).  Kikuchiyo annoyed me at first, with his apelike antics and childish humor.  But later on I became kind of fond of him, like the samurai did, so that was a very effective bit of characterization.

Another of the samurai was introduced exactly the same way as Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), chopping wood in exchange for a meal, quipping drily about his situation.  There was also one who was an old friend of Kambei's, just like Harry (Brad Dexter) is an old friend of Chris'.  And there was a cheerful, resourceful guy who was basically Kambei's second-in-command, like Vin (Steve McQueen).  Sadly, I had a hard time keeping those three apart, as I'm not familiar enough with Japanese actors or names to remember who these they were.

So.  Four very memorable characters and three I got all mixed up.  Considering this is a foreign film, entirely peopled with actors I've never seen before, that's quite good.

Only a handful of the villagers were at all interesting or had any development at all.  ("Yohei!  What's wrong with your face?")  But to be honest, as many times as I have seen The Magnificent Seven, I really can only pick out about six of the Mexican villagers as different characters, and I don't know most of their names (so I give them little nicknames, like "Traitor" and "Mr. Purple Shirt" and "Excitable Guy"), so that's not a big difference.

The bandits, though, were a big disappointment.  Even if I wasn't used to Calverra, Eli Wallach's charming rogue of a bandit leader, I would have been disappointed by them.  They're mostly just faceless baddies.

Um, yeah, this has kind of turned into a comparison between the two movies, not a straight review, but... my reactions to it are all tied up with the remake that I consider to be the finest western ever filmed.  Would I watch this again?  Maybe some day, but not over and over and over.  It starts slowly and gets saggy in places, though not enough that I ever got bored.

Is this a family-friendly movie?  Um.  The violence is non-gory.  There are a lot of scenes of guys wearing nothing but these loin cloth things, so you can see the sides of their butts.  And although it's not shown, it's made clear that one character sleeps with a village woman.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Join My Piratical Blogathon!

Avast, me hearties!  Belay that racket and give a listen!  Stop yer bung holes before I keelhaul ye and...

...sorry.  It's just that I love pirates.  Fictional pirates, anyway.  And ever since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated by historical pirates like Captain Kidd and Blackbeard, too.  So for a while now, I've been considering hosting some kind of pirate event on my blog, and I've finally decided that I want to host my very first blogathon!  Next month, on September 19, which is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, in case you didn't know.  (And if you didn't, why didn't you?  Arrrrrr!)

How does a blogathon work, you ask?  Well, it's a cooperative thing.  Lots of different bloggers all post about something related to one topic or theme on their own blogs on the same day.  And then someone (me, in this case) compiles a list linking to all the different blog posts, and everyone goes and reads everyone else's posts, and it be a fine way to spend a few days while ye're marooned someplace.

For this blogathon, you can post about anything pirate-related, whether it's a book review or movie review, a discussion of costumes in various pirate movies, something historical about real pirates, a comparison of different pirate movies or books -- totally up to you!  You just have to sign up for your topic here any time, and then remember to post about it on September 19th.  I'll do the hard work of linking everyone's posts to the main post here on my blog on that day, you don't even have to fill out a Linky box or anything!

If you love pirates (fictional or real), leave a comment on this post saying what kind of post(s) you'd like to contribute.  I'll add it to this master list so everyone can see what's already being written about.  And yes, I'll be writing at least one post for this myself :-)  I know this is giving you more than a month's warning, but I figure you might need time to read a book or get your hands on a movie and watch it.

A Piratical Blogathon Master List

Hamlette -- movie review of The Black Swan
Hayden -- Arabella Bishop, forgotten heroine from Captain Blood
Hannah -- movie review of Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
DKoren -- movie review of Cutthroat Island
Lydia -- female pirates
James -- movie review of The Princess Bride
S.W. -- movie review of Captain Blood
Heidi -- movie review of The Sea Hawk
Eowyn -- movie review of Yankee Buccaneer
Lynn M. -- movie review of Treasure Island (1990)
Hannah -- book review of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Carissa -- review of Pirates of Penzance
Kara -- book review of Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

Here are a bunch of buttons I created for this, perfect for your blog's sidebar.  Please also consider writing a quick "look what's coming!" post on your own blog to spread the news -- I'd like to gather as large a crew of scurvy bilge rats participants as I can!  Copy the code under the buttons to put them in your sidebar or use them with a blog post.  You can also copy the bigger versions I used above to put them in a blog post.

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="HamlettesSoliloquy" width="200" /></a>

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="HamlettesSoliloquy" width="200" /></a>

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="HamlettesSoliloquy" width="200" /></a>

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="HamlettesSoliloquy" width="200" /></a>

Saturday, August 09, 2014

"Hercules" (2014) -- Initial Thoughts

How sad is this:  I almost didn't see this movie in the theater!  I kind of knew this was coming out at some point, cuz I'm a Dwayne Johnson fan, but Entertainment Weekly said zilch about it, and I never saw a trailer, so if my best friend hadn't gone to see it and said, "Dude, why haven't you seen this?  It's loads of fun!" I wouldn't have seen it at all.  Even then, I almost went to see Guardians of the Galaxy today instead, because it's Marvel and I like the songs in the trailer.  But I'm having serious trouble mustering up enthusiasm for Guardians -- I have this nagging fear it's going to be annoying.  Still, last night I looked at showtimes for this morning and discovered that the only Hercules showtime that would work would be for 3D.  And ponying up the extra $4 for 3D -- not my favorite activity.  So I decided to see Guardians after all.  Except this morning, I was like, "No, I'm pretty much guaranteed a good time if I go see a Dwayne Johnson swords-and-muscles movie, and I have had a long, hard week -- I'm going for the good time."  I'm so glad I did.

(If your eyebrows are raised right now, and you're going, "Hamlette is a Dwayne Johnson fan?  What?!?!" um... yes.  Ever since I saw The Scorpion King in the theater.  Twice.  Really dig him.  And relate to him, in a way -- like, the characters he plays, if I was a big, muscly guy instead of a small, non-muscly chick, I'd totally play those roles.  The way he plays them.  So.  Sorry if I blew your mind or messed with your ideas of me, but, there it is.  I know I haven't mentioned him on here lately cuz of um, no good reasons except it's been a while since I saw one of his movies, but anyway...)

This movie.  It's fun!  It wants to be fun!  Have I mentioned how much I love movies that are just here to have fun and give you a good ride, and aren't all pretentious with their seriousness and topicality and artsyness?  This is one of those movies.  And a well-made, well-acted fun movie, to boot!  Which are the best kind, of course.

Erm, yes.  Dwayne Johnson = good actor.  I did say that.  I meant it, too.  When it comes to watchability, to making me care about a character and feel what they're going through, to making me root for them with all my fist-pumping movie-goer heart?  Has that in spades, folks.  You don't believe me, go watch Walking Tall or The Rundown.  Or this!  Go watch this, quick, before it disappears from theaters!

Right.  Adrenaline mixed with enthusiasm makes me a little incoherent, have you noticed that?  :-D

So this takes the basic legend of Hercules and kind of skews it a bit.  Hercules the demi-god, son of Zeus and a human, had to go on all those quests to earn Hera's favor, etc.  In this, he has this band of followers that sort of helped that legend grow a bit -- Hercules isn't a demi-god, he's just a big, strong, fierce, mighty warrior.  And a good man.  And he's got this sad past, and he's got his friends, and they're mercenaries, and they get hired to protect this old king and his kingdom from a bunch of marauders.  Lots of thrilling heroics ensue, and then... then things get reeeeeeeeeeeally interesting.  And I was sitting in my theater seat literally bouncing up and down, alternately whisper-shouting, "YES!" and "NO!" and probably really annoying the three senior citizen ladies sitting behind me.  That's okay, though, they annoyed me early in the movie with their non-whispered conversation about non-movie-related things.  I was also fist-pumping, I clapped my hands at several points, and I laughed a lot.  A lot.

Cuz two of Hercules' followers are played by Ian McShane (remember how great he was in Jack the Giant Slayer?) and Rufus Sewell, and they were both zinging off these one-liners and funny asides and, wow, loved it.

And hey, when did Rufus Sewell get so hot?!  Oh my goodness, he was actually distracting me from Dwayne Johnson at times, which is no mean feat.  He should have grown this beard and gotten all slice-and-dicey years ago!  Not that I didn't love him as Ladislaw in Middlemarch, cuz I pretty much bought that series just for him.  And he's been loads of fun in everything from A Knight's Tale to Amazing Grace, but I have never seen him this attractive.  Keep the beard, Rufus!  And the arms.  The attitude you've always had, thank goodness.

While we're discussing the followers, I have to mention Atalanta, a no-nonsense Amazon archer played so nicely by Ingrid Bolso Berdal -- I loved her!  Wanted to be her!  Totally accepted by this band of butt-kickers, no one's drooling over her, she's not just there for the eye-candy -- I want more characters like her in my movies.  Immediately.  Yeah, her costume shows skin, but let's be honest, it's no more skin than Dwayne Johnson's baring.  Really, really liked her.

Okay, so anyway, thank you, Deb, for being the best friend I could ever have and encouraging me to go see this!  I'm so glad I didn't wait for DVD, though I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a copy.

Is this movie family-friendly?  No.  Lots of violence, a fistful of swearwords including one f-bomb, and lots of scary moments.  My kids can see this when they're like 17.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"How do you stalk a deer with a hat? What're you going to do, throw it?"

Look what I found at the book store yesterday!  Sorry I couldn't manage to get a pic showing the back brim too, but yes, it's an honest-to-goodness tweedy deerstalker.

I have a penchant for hats.  I've always wanted a deerstalker, even though they're absolutely uncanonical.  They still make people think of Sherlock Holmes, they make me think of Sherlock Holmes... what's not to love?  :-D

EDIT:  Here's a better shot where you can see the back too:

Friday, August 01, 2014

I'm Giving Away Some Books...

Just so you know, I'm giving away 20 books from my own collection on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice.  I know some people follow this blog and not that one, so just wanted to give everyone a heads-up!