Tuesday, January 27, 2015

To Be Takei – my review

To Be Takei is a 2014 documentary by Jennifer M. Kroot about George Takei, the actor and activist. He’s (arguably) best known for the role of Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series and films.

I loved it. (By the way, it’s quite rare for me to say that.) In the documentary, George Takei talks about his life – Star Trek, his being in the closet and coming out, his marriage, his work in politics, his activism, even his popularity on facebook.

But beyond the sci-fi and the gay activism and his funny and strange laugh, to me the heart of this film, and the absolutely heart-breaking part of the film, is when George Takei talks about his time as a child in a U.S. Internment Camp for American citizens of Japanese descent during World WarTwo.

To Be Takei is fun and funny, sad and heartbreaking (I had a good little cry), informative and absolutely joyous. I would rate it five out of five stars. In fact, I did rate it that, on the netflix.

In my life, I’ve met a couple of famous people, and while it was interesting to have met them, I didn’t get all crazy and excited about it the way many people do; that’s just not me. I just don’t care about the idea of meeting celebrities. But this film makes me wish I knew the man, George Takei, in person. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Some other reviews

I just posted a review of something I was watching. It was basically the review I’d just posted on netflix, with a few additions and changes. I thought I’d look back my other netflix review and post them here, too.

I haven’t written a whole lot of netflix reviews, especially compared with the outrageous amount of stuff I’ve watched on netflix. I think most of these reviews were prompted by something in the movie or TV show pissing me off. Yeah, I guess I’m just full of negativity. Sorry.

Dragonfyre (2013)
My review from 1 December 2014: 

This movie passes the Bechdel test (at least 2 female characters who have names, who talk to each other about something other than men). Good for them! Of course, that's no indication of the quality of the film. It's probably “easier” for this sort of film to pass the Bechdel test, as it is not about romantic or sexual relationships. There's not even a love interest, which could easily happen.


The movie is so-so. It's not what I would call a good movie, but it's far from horrible. A few interesting ideas. Probably not terribly expensive to make, compared to a lot of films. It’s a
B movieIf you’re okay with that, then, by all means, give it a go.
Syfy channel TV show about a town where supernatural things happen. 
My review from 20 August 2014:

I miss the days when netflix allowed you to rate each season of a TV show separately. Often shows take a few seasons to get good. But sometimes, as seems to be the case with Haven, a show will start out pretty good and go a few seasons basically maintaining that quality. It wasn’t the best show ever, but I liked it well enough. And then something happens – maybe it’s new producers, writers, directors come on board. Or maybe it’s that the same writers just get bored or run out of ideas. So the show changes. 

In this case, Haven season 4 is when it changes. And I think it’s not as good. The basic story goes in a whole different direction, new characters are introduced (some “work” and others don’t). I was disappointed. It just sort of feels like a different show. Seasons 1-3: three stars Season 4: two stars. I haven’t seen season 5 (no TV, just a computer).

My review from 14 July 2014:

If you obsessively consume all things fantasy, or, if you like to have something playing in the back ground while you do something else, then watch it. But if you’re looking for a show you can get into, skip it. 

Season 1: My general feeling: meh. The story, etc, is okay. It’s a lot more subtle than your typically fantasy-type show. But at times the dialogue is unsuccessfully quirky (that is, it TRIES to be quirky with a line here and there, but it just doesn’t work). Some of the acting is not good, as if the characters simply do not believe or feel what they’re saying. Yes, there’s a werewolf, etc, but I wouldn’t call it a “werewolf show”, not in the style of action-oriented shows (Twilight, etc). Hemlock Grove is more of a moody mystery/drama with a few supernatural elements. 

Season 2: For me, it’s less interesting than season 1. On the plus side, the (failed) quirky dialogue disappears, and the acting is generally better. But the story is less interesting – some mystery, but it’s nothing I cared about. One promising character who had a big turn at the end of season 1 is gone, explained away with one line of dialogue. Another season 1 major character basically disappears, making brief appearances in a couple of episodes. And there’s a point where they resurrect a dead character, only to kill that character off again after a minute or two. Why bother? There are a few new players introduced; they seem like they should be important, or mysterious, or dangerous, or SOMETHING, but they just fall flat. And a couple of minor characters from season 1 get much more camera time but no significant character development. Basically, season 2 is kind of bland. 

Oh, and a picky detail thing: if you’re going to quote Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, at least be accurate. Or, better yet, find some other moody poem to quote – something not so overused. Yeah, do that. No more TV shows or movies slouching toward Bethlehem from now on, okay? Thanks. 

My review from 26 May 2014:

Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones with a touch of the style of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but without anything to make me care about the characters or their situation. Also, the writing is mediocre at best – unlikely and lucky things happening &/or characters somehow knowing things they just wouldn't know with no explanation how such things came to be.

The story seems to rely on the audience's interest in the current fad of stories in which young people are thrown unprepared into a sort of magical world and have exciting adventures. And, of course, the ending sets up the possibility of future installments. There are other books in the series, but I hope additional movies never happen. It would be a waste of money and time for more like this. MAYBE the book is better. I haven't read it, and nothing about this movie would make me want to do so. 

An archaeologist from the future goes back in time to learn about love.
My review from 27 May 2012:

I don't write many reviews, but I feel compelled to say something. I don't watch many movies like this, but it looked kinda cute. This is a formulaic, made-for-tv, romantic comedy. And it was really nice: nothing deep, nothing meaningful, but exactly what you'd expect for a formulaic, made-for-tv, romantic comedy. The lead actors/characters were compelling, and I really rooted for them.
The film made no missteps...until the last 2 minutes. And even then, it fit into the formula. But one significant detail was off. I'm not going to “give it away”, but it made me say, out loud to nobody else, “NO!” It pissed me off that they got so much right, and this one thing wrong. Argh!

(Ya know, I don’t remember what the thing was that pissed me off, but I do remember being pissed off.) 

Mankind: The Story of All of Us – my review

Mankind: The Story of All of Us is a 12-episode program on the History Channel. It highlights various people and events and shows their impact on the world.

I recently watched it on netflix, and here’s what I thought.

While this show seems generally well-produced, well done, I just couldn’t keep watching it. I gave up a little ways in to the 8th episode. I sort of enjoyed the first few episodes, but the more I watched, the more annoyed I got at the way they described almost every event or situation as the same sort of game changer, a new era, etc. Of course, it’s true. They’re picking events that had a significant role in history, BUT it feels like lazy writing to play them up the same way. It’s like saying about everything. “Here’s an awesomely awesome thing that was awesome and led to awesomeness.” Please find some different ways to talk about history.

Also problematic for me were two of the men (Richard Machowitz and William Bodette) who talked about anything military: wars, battles, weapons technology. They just seemed, to my ear, to be glorifying violence. I realize that war has been a significant factor in human history. But these guys, ESPECIALLY Richard “Mack” Machowicz, just seemed to have a violence hard-on every time they spoke. There were others on the program (like Mike Loades) who talk about war and fighting and the impact it had without sounding as if they wished they had been there bashing in heads along with the Romans or Incas or whomever. It’s okay to get excited about history, but I don’t want to hear a couple of aggressive macho dudes talking about their fantasy life. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Just say no

I just wish people could learn how to say “no” instead of coming up with some kind of answer that’s supposed to let down the other person easy, to not hurt their feelings. I’m tired of answers that sound like “yes (or maybe) though not right now,” but which are, in reality, “nope, it’s never going to happen.”

I realize this probably sounds like I’m talking about a specific person and situation without really saying who and what it is. But no, I’m not referring to one specific thing. This kind of happens a lot. It might be asking someone on a date (not that I’ve done that lately) and they reply with some plausible reason they can’t – it’s not a “no” and, since I (foolishly) want to believe people and take them at their word, it sounds more like a “yes, I’d like to but can’t just now.” Or it might be asking someone to model for me, and they say they’re interested but can’t find the time just now. Or perhaps trying to get a group of people together for some event which they’ve all expressed an interest in doing; yet when you actually invite them, almost no one can ever make it.

In some cases, it’s probably not that they don’t want to do whatever you’re asking, so when they say they’re interested, they do sort of mean it. Yeah, sure, they’re interested, but they’re simply not interested enough to actually bother to make the time to do it. Of course, I’m convinced that in many other cases people just don’t know how to say “no” or they think they’re somehow doing you a favor by not coming right out and saying it. I’ve probably ranted about this before, but... I would prefer that someone say “no” clearly, unambiguously.
You asked me if I’d like to do this thing. Well, thank you for the invitation, but no. I have nothing against you personally, or maybe I do, but either way I’m not going to do this thing you’ve mentioned. Best of luck, though.
See? How hard is that? Might I feel slightly hurt by that? Yeah, possibly. But if I ask you about doing something, and you keep making up excuses that make me believe you want to say yes, I’m gonna keep asking for a while, maybe a few days or weeks or months. And then when I finally get it – that you’re actually saying “no” and have been all along – I’ll probably feel whatever that initial amount of hurt would’ve been, multiplied by the length of time we’ve been engaged in this little dance of denial, or multiplied by the number of times you’ve said “no” while pretending to say “yes”. So, you’ve not spared my feelings; you’ve actually hurt me more at the end of it all, in addition to the small disappointments I felt all along when you’ve said, “I want to, but I can’t right now.”

Maybe most people in the world don’t have this problem. With them, you can make up an excuse without feeling like you’re the sort of person who says “no” – as if that somehow a horrible thing to be. Maybe most other people in the world get it. They probably have enough human social interaction to have learned the myriad ways in which we lie to each other on a daily basis. They’ve learned the lingo, the code. But I haven’t. For some reason I seem to think that people are genuine; even if they’re stupid and petty, when they speak they mean what they say, they tell the truth. It’s probably because that is largely the way I interact with other humans – I tell the truth.

I’m sure this is why I, as a writer, rarely if ever think about subtext. I don’t come up with scenes in which people are consciously lying or trying to manipulate each other to get something.

Hey, here’s a thought. Perhaps I am actually some alien placed here to study you humans, or maybe I was accidently forgotten and left behind. But I developed amnesia and grew up thinking I was a human. Maybe that’s why I just don’t fit in here.

Come back aliens! Take me home! It’s just not working out here!