Hello!  *waves hand frantically*

Wow, I haven’t written in forever.  Sorry!  My excuse is that I’ve had crazy piles of work and have been dealing with crazy people.  Crazy. Oh, all right – maybe it’s just me that’s crazy.  Nuf said.

In any case, let’s catch up!  My favorite way to catch up, naturally, is to talk about movies.  Oh, I’ll throw in some books this time too – just for good measure.

Playing with Live Grenades and Big Guns

The Losers (based on the comic series by Andy Diggle) is a testosterone-fest, a good old action flick in which the men are real men, and the women are too. I went to see it on a rainy Saturday when my mind was pretty much an exhausted blank, so it was perfect. The story line is neither complicated nor fascinating. It’s the movie you make when the Mission: Impossible franchise and The A-Team are already taken. But it’s a whole lot of fun to watch!

The five guys who call themselves “The Losers” are a squad of special ops soldiers who get sold out by Max, a phantom power-monger in charge of, oh, everything. Yada yada yada, they make it out alive and they come back for revenge. It’s pretty formulaic. A few not-so-shocking twists are thrown in – Aisha (Zoe Saldana) turning out to be someone other than they think, Max (Jason Patric) having a deadly agenda, and Roque (Idris Elba) turning against his boys.    

For me, the best things about this movie were seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan (as Clay; JDM is always fun to watch, like a contemporary John Wayne, only smiley, with his slow, gruff voice and tritely deep epithets), watching Chris Evans (as Jensen; I have a thing for hot men who make me laugh), and checking out Óscar Jaenada (as Cougar; the strong, silent, and deadly type … fine by me).

No offense to the other two team members, but Roque turns out to be a bad guy – oh, quit whining about spoilers; you’ll see that one coming ten miles away (and I’m not even one of those annoying people who say “Ooh, I know who did it!” halfway through a film … you know who you are) – and Pooch (Columbus Short) is sweet, but he lost me when he started running way too soon after being shot in both legs. Oops.

All in all, I do recommend this flick as a fun action romp. If you don’t expect more than that, you’ll be happy as a … I dunno, a soldier with a big gun?

C+

What’s More Fun, Reality or Fantasy?

If you know me, you know my answer to that.  You’re asking the wrong girl to capitulate that the life led by people in the film Surrogates (based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti) is, um, wrong.  If I could pick a lovely and indestructible body to go out into the world for me while I remain in the comfort of my own home, well—

Hey, I don’t think I’m alone here!

Apparently, the people in this verse feel the same way, since the world is now populated by surrogates (robotic “doubles,” mostly) while their operators sit at home, plugged in – and that lifestyle is what gets them in trouble. They are letting machines control them, so some say.  They have lost their humanity, some complain. But they have done so willingly. There is no robotic virus spreading, there’s no villain trying to gain control of all the surrogates, and there’s no plot involving artificial intelligence vying for dominance.  The conflict?  The earth mamas and papas think it’s not right and want people to go back to basics, like living their own lives.  But they turn out not even to be the ones doing something about it.

I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and in the realm of important messages it can carry, this conflict is just not compelling.  The only consequence provided in this film is a Deus ex machine contrivance – the creator of the surrogates himself has an attack of conscience.  The premise is interesting and has great potential (as a similar premise did and met its potential in I, Robot), but the antagonism and climax of this film are weak. Also weak are some eleventh-hour robot heroics, with Peters’ surrogate (Radha Mitchell) suddenly leaping tall buildings in a single bound, when all we’ve seen the surrogates do thus far is go to work for their human owners.

I’m also a Bruce Willis fan, but his presence in this movie left me sadly lukewarm. He plays a cop named Greer; his surrogate is the younger, buffer version of himself (yes, with hair), but he is stiff and mechanical, with dead eyes. The “real” Greer is worn-out, flabby, vitamin D deprived, and depressed over his wife drifting away due to an earlier tragedy – it’s a wonder that the homebound detective has enough muscle tone and energy to do what he accomplishes in the end. The upshot of Willis playing these roles is that we never see him as we have all come to love him – snarky, wily, and aggressive.  Anyone could have played this character.

Surrogates is reminiscent of Minority Report, I, Robot, and Children of Men, but in my opinion, all of those movies are better than this one in numerous ways. But if you like the hopeful-ending dystopian genre, you might enjoy this as another example. Just don’t expect anything awesome.

C

So, after seeing these two films over the last couple weeks, I had an interesting thought.  If I were in a place and time in which surrogates were available, I know the surrogate I’d want. I’ll take the Chris Evans model. XD

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

If these movies I just reviewed are the ridiculous – energetic mind-candy – then the books I’ve been reading do seem like the sublime. Well, at the very least they are splendid. I’m referring to the wondrous mystery-thriller trilogy of “Girl” books by the (very sadly) late Stieg Larsson. I know, LOTS of people are talking about these books, and it’s with good reason.

When I first got a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it scared the pinballs out of me that it was 12,879 pages long (yes, I’m exaggerating, but not much) and I had to read it in a few weeks if I wanted to be able to talk about it at my book club meeting.  But once I got past the first few chapters of explanation and background (it’s really more than background – everything is integral to the story), I could not put it down. It went very fast!  And I was hooked.

I immediately ordered a copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire and started in on it.  Almost done with that one now, and it’s long too.  After that it’s just a matter of waiting for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to come out in paperback (or saying, the heck with it, and ordering the hardcover).  Then, done with all three, I’ll collapse in a sorry heap and be heartbroken that they all were not longer.

So, why is this saga so special? The books contain intriguing mysteries that suck you in and keep you guessing.  The characters are an amazing blend of people who are complete individuals and unlike anyone you’ve never met, but you still “get” them. That’s a testament to the author knowing his heroes and villains, and walking every inch of their universe with them.  And there is detail, and more detail, and more detail … but it’s all there for a reason (I think I can find several coffee shops in Stockholm without a map now).  But most of all – and most importantly – these books are immensely fun to read. The relationships, the character’s thoughts, the action, and the descriptions combine to immerse you in another world – one of murder and missing people and cover-ups and mobsters – made safe only by the fact that you’re not actually in it.  Gleefully fun!

Big fat A!

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