Monday, November 26, 2012

Breaking Dawn, Part II

Unless I miss my guess, I have at least one reader/friend who’s gonna want to know how I feel about Breaking Dawn, Part II.


I feel like I need to back up and talk about my feelings about Twilight in general, so here goes.  I had a friend who really loved the first three books, told me to read them, and then read book four.  She hated it so much that she INSISTED that I read all four books, just to see what happens when a series goes completely wrong.


I eventually audio-read the series, because that’s what I do with books I care about only marginally. The time in the car must pass regardless, and this way I can at least get in on the pop culture conversation.


My review was, in general, that the books were, and are, boring.  They are easy to read, and the pages mostly fly by (except during long, seemingly unedited dialogue sections) but that nothing happens.  Girl meets vampire, boy and girl fall in love, vampire baseball, girl is taken away from anything that might be interesting, girl goes to save mom, girl is saved by vampires.


The end.  At least for book one.


The bigger problem I had with the books as I was reading them were the sheer number of love story riffs that basically said that if your boyfriend breaks up with you, you’re better off dead.  Ick.  Just ick.


Oh, and the dude falling in love with a baby.  That was touchy too. 




So.  I read the books, and wrote up reviews for the blog I used to post to, Fox Valley Geeks.  That’s been shut down now, though you can locate it if you really want to.


Then I was forced to get into a relationship with the movies, because my wife wanted to see what the fuss was all about.


I was sorta-kinda okay with this, mostly because I figured the movies would take out most of the dull stuff and leave only the interesting bits.  I was more or less right about this.  Frankly, the movies didn’t deviate much from the books.  They weren’t allowed to.  And it worked out well for them, as they spent a few hundred million dollars and will probably pull in over four billion dollars by the time they’re done.


Pretty great investment, really.


The joke was, they had to keep taking out boring conversations to insert action sequences that weren’t in the actual text of the books, because it was the only way to keep the audience awake.  Heck, in order to keep the third movie interesting, Stephenie Meyer had to write a whole new book about a new vampire, so they could cram scenes from it into the movie so people wouldn’t go into a coma waiting for something to happen.


And here is where my story takes a bit of a turn.


For a long time, I had a no money clause with the series.  I got the books from the library, and borrowed copies of the movies so I didn’t have to actually lose any money in the process.  In the end, my wife insisted on buying the books, but I would only do so during the holidays, when the price would drop to four bucks for the paperback.


But then it all fell apart.


Kara’s friend was going to be around for the holidays, and she wanted to see Breaking Dawn in a theater.




It’s a little more insulting to pay for something you don’t care about, and now I was paying good money to watch mediocre actors say not-very-entertaining lines.  What’s more, it was only the first part of the story, which meant I would have to go back and see the second part in a theater as well.


And see it I did.


Hoo, mama.


The joke here is that the movies should have been exceptionally long.  The final Twilight book is a massive doorstopper of a thing, somewhere north of 700 pages.  But much like the previous books, nothing actually happens.


There are probably close to 100 pages that involve a wedding.  There’s a massive section devoted to the honeymoon.  And then finally, Bella gets pregnant and the plot tries desperately to kick in.


The problem is, the book is hamstrung by the fact that Bella is the hero, and the book is told in the first person.


Now, the story tries to skirt that by moving the perspective to another character for a while, but, blah.  At that point Meyer had already demonstrated that she didn’t have the guts to hurt a character in an important way, much less kill them. 


So, the baby is born, Bella becomes a vampire, Jacob falls in love with the baby.  The vampire police show up to kill the baby, because baby vampires are bad, mmm-kay?  And then… they talk it out.


Oh, there’s some bits where other vampires show up to act as witnesses or whatever, and Bella learns she’s even MORE special than everyone already thought she was.  But those are subplots that, in the end, have little or nothing to do with the actual story.


The book, and the series, was a complete failure at that point.  But the fans, who mostly hated the ending, still loved the characters.  I guess they just tried not to think about how it ended, or something.  And then they all went to see the movies of the book they hated.


Why talk about all of this?  Because I still, at this point, have no idea why they broke the movie into two parts.  I mean, except for the part where they get the money.


The thing is, Part II first offers the audience a really, really long credits sequence.  It looks pretty terrible, as though it was cobbled together from stock footage by an intern whose only job was to make it last as long as possible.


Then the movie jumps right into Bella waking up, and then there’s a feeding sequence.  The joke is that it’s supposed to be hard for her not to eat a human, only they don’t bother showing just how hard it is.  So it doesn’t matter.


Then she meets her creepy CGI baby.  The baby grows up.  Despite the fact that Bella had to give her up family to become a vampire, she doesn’t give up her family.  The decision is, of course, made for her, as are all her decisions.


She gets a house.  She beats a guy at arm wrestling.  Her toddler gets spotted by another vampire who turns her in because there aren’t supposed to be vampire babies.


Then we meet a bunch of vampires who, ultimately, won’t matter to the plot at all.  As a bonus, the movie totally strands Lee Pace, a really brilliant actor, by giving him terrible dialogue and almost no personality.


Everyone gets ready for the Volturi to show up.  They show up.


And here’s the big twist, so don’t read this, if you don’t want it spoiled.


In the books, they talk it out.


In the movie… there’s a giant action sequence with lots of fighting, and I gotta say, it’s actually pretty great.  It is, in fact, hands down the best sequence in all five movies, and I really enjoyed it.  Important people died.  Fates were changed. 


And then, in my favorite moment in a movie theater this year, it was revealed to be a dream sequence.


And a woman two rows down from me yelled out, “Seriously!?”


It was the best thing ever.


Of course, this was supposed to be “the future,” as shown by Alice.  Except, if you’re paying attention, you know Alice can’t see the future when werewolves are involved.


So either she made it up, and the dude who checked her head was an idiot, or the movies managed to do something interesting by violating their own internal rules.


And so it goes.


The movie comes to an end, and then we got ANOTHER really long credits sequence, for every single character in all five movies, followed by even more credits.  Long story short, they padded the heck out of this flick in hopes that you wouldn’t notice that if they stuck the two movies together, and cut out the dream sequences and credits, they could have cranked these things out in a not-as-moneymaking three hours.  Probably less.


Word has come down from on high that Meyer is now saying “Never say never” to future vampire stories.  I don’t really know what they’d be about, since all the characters involved seem to be set up for eternal youth and beauty.




I think I’ll go back to watching The Vampire Diaries, thankyewverymuch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What I'm Watching: November Already?

It’s times like this I realize I’m a terrible blogger.  If John Scalzi gets emailed a question, he runs to his blog and answers it.  A friend of mine sent me a kindly email saying he read my blog and asked me about Revolution, and silly me, I sent an email back to him.


This is why I’m not famous.  I’m sure there are other reasons.


So, what I’m watching and mostly caught up on…




As my friend pointed out to me, it’s a flawed show.  The one geek character is fat and has glasses, both of which make little to no sense 15 years after the power goes out.  Resorting to hard labor alone should have made him a bit more fit and trim, and his prescription has probably changed six times.


But, look, this is not a science show.  They are not consulting the Sagans and asking how this kind of thing works.  It’s an action/adventure show, and glasses are a synonym for smart on TV.  We should probably count ourselves lucky that he’s not carrying a D and D manual around.


Ultimately, I’m neither in love with the show nor bored with it.  It’s fun, it has some solid moments of humor, and they’re working overtime to keep surprises coming at the audience every week.  They’ve even managed some nice emotional moments, which can be hard to do this early on in the run of a series.


I’m good with it, and will watch it to the end of the season. 


Warehouse 13:


Did I do a wrap-up on this?  I don’t recall doing one.  They upped the episode count to 20 and broke the season in half, and while I know there’s going to be a reset button at the end of the season, I kind of don’t care.  The show has been almost impossibly brutal and well-done this year.  And while they haven’t gotten quite at deep emotionally as they have in the past, I do not care.  This might be my favorite show right now.


I just wanna see how they’re going to get out of this little mess they’ve been making.


Modern Family:


People get mad because the show wins awards, even though it’s “not as good” as it used to be.  To which I say, feh.  The show’s writing and performances were new and fresh a few years ago, and while every episode is no longer solid gold, it’s still filled with great writing and excellent performances.


Crawl off this show’s back, critics of America.  Be nice.  If this was a new show, starting today, you’d claim it was the best sitcom running.




In emailing a different friend, I observed that when your big guest star that you bring back during sweeps is the nearly forgotten guy from Road Trip, you clearly didn’t plan to run for eight seasons.


But at this point, Supernatural is the third-highest rated show on the CW.  And while every season shakes off a few more superfans, the ratings drops are incremental compared to younger and more famous shows (Remember when Gossip Girl was A Big Deal?  It’s blowing out a 13 episode season to wrap things up, and the audience ain’t coming back for a visit.). 


Every year I wonder out loud if the CW itself is doomed, and every year it manages to hang around.  At this point, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Supernatural didn’t run for ten years.  Or until the CW goes off the air.  Could go either way, really.


As for the show itself, it’s shaking up its format and trying to rework the relationships of the characters a bit.  I appreciate the effort, to be sure, but it isn’t quite there yet.  They have a great overarching plot (find a prophet and the word of God and send all the demons away forever) and they haven’t enlisted EVERYONE THEY KNOW to help.  That’s nonsensical.


And Sam and Dean are arguing, because it makes with the drama, but even that feels a little off.


It’s a new showrunner issue, and I’m sure it’ll get better.  And I’m loving the show as I watch it.  It’s just later that I go, “Well, some of this logic doesn’t quite track.”


South Park:


Not a banner back half to the season, but funny in spots, and tying the sale of Star Wars to the Presidential election got pretty danged brilliant.


The Vampire Diaries:


They’ve been forced to resort to a 60 second explanation of what’s going on every week.  Not even a “Previously on…”  It’s literally, “There are vampires.  And original vampires.  And witches.  And werewolves.  And hybrids.  And…”


They should probably just put someone at the front of the show helpfully holding up the DVD box sets of the first three seasons and saying:  “Go watch these, then come back.  Or you’ll be hopelessly lost.”


This year, so far, they’ve added Hunters, and because of the fact that the show churns at warp speed, we’re down to exactly one person on the show who is human, with no supernatural abilities at all.


And credit where credit is due: There’s only one character on the show I’m kind of sick of.  Unfortunately, it’s Elena, the leading lady.  They’ve given her this death wish that she’s now forced to bring up at least six times and episode, and if the show could get rid of her, I think I’d be okay with it.


Heck, they’ve already set up the same actress as another character, so they could just bring her back, change the focus of the show, and carry on. Right now, something needs to change.


But maybe I shouldn’t whine so much.  The fact that the show can go at Mach nine and still have tricks up its sleeve is a minor miracle. 


The Big Bang Theory:


They’re still shaking up the cast, slapping characters together and trying to squeeze the funny out, and for the most part, they do all right.  I have noticed that over the last couple of years they’ve started shoving more and more characters in, which generally indicates a problem.


It’s their version of Cousin Oliver syndrome, only no one on the show is having a baby (well, actually, now that they’ve married off two characters, I can see the baby thing coming, because they’ve gotta do SOMETHING for season six, right?) so they add a couple new people to the cast just to keep things clicking along.


You know what?  The show works, and I laugh sometimes.  Good enough.




I’m not terribly enamored with New York, mostly because I’m not all that sure what to make of it.  Rachel spent a bunch of years being the big star at home, and now the premise is supposed to be the big fish in the big pond, but I’m not feeling it.  The dance instructor thing feels like Sue 2.0 (or rather, 3.0, since that had that other women taking Sue on back in Ohio) and I have no idea what to make of the Kurt thing.


They broke up the various relationships (even though one was technically already broken…) so maybe the New York stuff will start to work better, but, eh.


Meanwhile, back home, they’re already recycling plots from the first season of Glee.  Of course, now Mr. Shu is headed off somewhere (I can’t say I care all that much) and Finn is now taking over Shu’s season one issues, where his personal life is a wreck and the only thing that ever mattered to him was Glee, so now he’s going to lead that…


Meanwhile, we’ve got Rachel 2.0 going through the same love quadrangle with the new Finn (he was the Glee Project winner in case you didn’t know) and the new Puck (Puck’s half-brother) and the new Quinn/Santana crossbreed, Kitty.


Really, all we need at this point is for Finn to start an affair with Shu’s lady, and we’re pretty much back to season 1 in toto. 


Am I hating it?  No.  I’m still enjoying the musical numbers, which is just about the only thing that ever made sense on the show anyway.  I’m neutral on Grease, though recognize it’s a much-beloved musical.  Which means this week is gonna be extra-iffy for me, I suspect.


I always go back to Degrassi with this show, because Degrassi is now 12 seasons into its latest incarnation, with 17 seasons in total, and it still manages to bump along well, even though they’ve traded out every cast member.  They’ve created new people with mostly new problems, and the number of times a plot has repeated pretty much completely I can count on one hand.


Come to think of it, I’m even more disappointed that we didn’t get the show we were promised, where Tina steps up and learns how hard it is to be the star.  And Blaine actually has to fit in now that Kurt’s gone, instead of just moping.  They’ve got a new and interesting story idea to approach with Unique, but they’re sort of cramming it in the corners so all the 2.0s can get more screen time.  Eh.


Like I said.  The performances are still fun.


The Walking Dead:


Much has been made at how the show has been invigorated this season, and I have to confess I’m impressed so far.  They managed a handful of action-packed episodes, they’ve dragged the characters through some vicious but fun-to-watch storylines, and they did a nice job setting up the Governor.


They’re clearly looking to shake things up this season, and while it hasn’t quite made it to Vampire Diaries levels of speed, they’ve got a nice head of steam going.


Can they maintain?  That’s a tough question, as the comic got way, way bogged down in the prison section of the story.  But they’ve wandered off the comic storyline quite a ways at this point, and I think that’s given them the kind of freedom they need to keep going big.


This might be the season that finally works out all the kinks.  Here’s hoping.


(An aside: I’m using the phrase “Shake things up” too often.  I’d apologize, but, hey, it’s not like it’s costing you anything…)


Community – Seasons 1 – 3:


My wife and I finally got around and through the whole show, catching up just in time for the new season to show up, only that didn’t happen.


Look, it’s critically acclaimed, and I get why everyone loves and I get why it doesn’t do better.  It’s a show about TV and movie tropes, and they regularly acknowledge them and try to turn them on their head.  If you grew up spending too much time watching a flickering screen, it’s the greatest thing ever.


But if you don’t get the joke (my wife didn’t watch nearly as much TV as I did, and some of the episodes are a complete mystery to her) some of the episodes just ain’t that fun.  And if a new viewer tunes in, catches the episode where they make fun of Westerns, and goes, “I hate Westerns, I’m never watching this show again,” well, that’s one more viewer they didn’t get.


Right now, they’re set to show back up at the start of next year, covering for all the shows that are coming to an end either on purpose or through the failure to find viewers.  If they stuck Community into the Scrubs rotation, and tossed it 18 episodes a year to fill in for failure shows, the audience will follow it.


Could happen.


As for what I think of the show?  I dig it.  I think it drags itself a little too far into unreality sometimes, but I’m good with that.  It’s the show that’s not afraid to try everything. 


And unlike Glee, which is equally as random, this show actually has fairly consistent characters.  Who saw THAT coming?


And that’s where I’m at now.  I’m way looking forward to the coming new year, wherein I’ll finally be able to dive into the latest in Degrassi episodes, catch up with Being Human, and watch Warehouse 13, Spartcus (Final season! Nooooooooooo!) and Game of Thrones.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Girl, and the Election

I’ve been reading a lot about voter demographics today. In short, a surprising amount of the election yesterday was determined by the black, Latino, and female vote.

My daughter, the Ethiopian girl learning Spanish in her bilingual school, is the new face of the United States.

I am proud to live in a country that has come so far, and hopeful that our nation can continue along this path. When she steps into the voting booth thirteen years from now, I hope that her opinions and choices are respected, and that the faces of our government reflect that of my child.