The short answer is ‘sort of’. Because SFF is genre fiction, it inherits and works through tropes and motifs from past works and sub-genres (many of which were implicitly partriarchal, heteronormative and based on the values of ‘white’ societies). In order to represent alternative viewpoints, therefore, modern SFF has to work very hard to subvert those past norms. Sometimes the subversion is successful but, often, the subversion goes unnoticed by the reader and the reader considers the book poorly written or unintentionally cliched. Tricky. Want to read about the subject in more depth? Then have a look at the new Luna Press collection of essays on the topic. I’ve got an essay in there (based on my PhD), and so have the likes of Juliet McKenna, Kim Laikin-Smith, and many more: https://www.lunapresspublishing.com/single-post/2017/04/01/Ten-Strong-Voices-Join-The-Luna-Family
One of Wolverine’s claws no longer fully extends. He’s short-sighted. He has a gammy leg. His body is slowly being poisoned by the adamantium in his skeleton. He’s getting old. Professor X (Charles Xavier) has dementia and can’t control his mental powers, so has to be sedated the whole time. Wolverine is working as a driver in order to buy black market drugs to keep Charles comatose. They’re waiting to die and these once proud men are now pathetic.
It’s a terrible thing to see your heroes brought so low. They have a dream of buying a yacht called ‘The Sunseeker’, but we doubt they’ll ever have enough money for it. Then a woman and child on the run come to them and beg for help, offering them money. The child is one of the first new mutants to be born in generations. The corporations are after her, but a comic book that she has promises there is sanctuary in the north for her kind. Wolverine tells them it’s all a made-up fantasy and that dreams never come true, but they’re all too desperate not to try it. One last adventure.
This is a dark film, a melancholy film. A winding down. It’s sad, but there is hope. The torch is handed over to a new generation. Fear not, then, for it’s not the end of the franchise! It scores 8.5 out of 10 from me – good though the film is, it still suffers from repetitive and unnecessary fight scenes, and Logan passes out like a dozen times in a handful of minutes (poor editing and plotting really). Yet it’s the best X-Men movie in a good number of years.
So another Eurovision approaches. If you recall, Ukraine’s protest song (against Russia) won it last year. The event is scheduled for Saturday 13 May 2017. The UK’s entry is by Lucie Jones (Cardiff-born, X Factor finalist 2009) and called ‘Never Give Up On You’ (see link below). It’s a pretty enough ditty, with the odd Celine Dion moment, but the song never really ‘builds’ so might be a tad boring and repetitive for many listeners. Also, you know that the whole Brexit thing means we’re gonna get even fewer points than usual (as if that were possible). Could be the ol’ nul points for us.
Just watched Del Toro’s movie Crimson Peak. It’s got just about every gothic motif going – and sometimes it’s not entirely clear why. It’s all sumptiously staged and filmed – to the extent that it feels a bit stagey. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain put a lot of effort into the acting – so much, in fact, that it feels overdone and hammy. Hiddleston’s inevitable bum shot is a bit random too. A random hammy bum, Mr Hiddlebum.
But is the movie the ‘botched horror’ that some critics have described? No. Within itself, Crimson Peak is consistent and the narrative thread is coherent – an American heiress is seduced by a lordly philanderer who marries her and takes her back to his gothic mansion in Cumberland, where he inevitably begins to poison her (just as he has poisoned umpteen wives before her) while bullying her into signing over her wealth to him. It very very much reminds me of Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber, just a bit less feminist. Stylistically, there’s a lot of Tim Burton going on as well. None of these things are bad things actually. And it remains camply engaging throughout – in large part because vital information is released in a drip-drip fashion and because Del Toro is a master of the techniques of ‘suspended disbelief’. All in all, then, I’d say this movie has all the ingredients of a cult classic (including Tom Hiddleston’s bum). I’d score it 8 out of 10 – the movie, that is, not Tom Hiddleston’s bum.
I’m as much a fan of Kate Beckinsale in PVC as the next person, but does it justify this fifth movie in the Underworld series? Sort of. Does this movie advance our understanding of vampire lore? Sort of, cos of the ‘Unseen World’ that Kate (aka Selene) travels to – unfortunately the Unseen World remains just that for the viewer, unseen. Anyway, Kate returns from that world with the power to move around super quickly just in time to save the eastern coven of vampires from the lycans (werewolves). Phew. The End.
Yes, the plotting really isn’t great. It lacks the surprises and ‘credibility’ of the earlier films. The fight sequences aren’t too good – none of the originality of the first movie, and a decided lack of ‘rules’/’plausibility’ to proceedings. Example: the female baddie is winning a fight, but then gets distracted by the fact she can now survive in the daylight, except her distraction then allows the goodie enough time to get up and kill her. Sheesh. Another example: Selene is being beaten by a far stronger opponent at the end of the movie, but then she rushes around behind him and pulls his spine out. Double sheesh. On top of that, a lot of the acting is wooden (except for wonderful cameos from Charles Dance and Lara Pulver). BUT, all that said…
There are ideas and moments enough to stop you from switching off. The internal politics and scheming of the vampires are as delicious as ever. The northern coven, with its white apparel and more peaceful philosophy, is intruguing indeed. The references to Michael and Eve are tantalising and leave us wanting to know more. Although I’m only giving this film 6 out of 10, it’s a stepping stone movie and I will be watching the sixth one. Oh yes, even if just for the PVC.
Drew Barrymore (ex-Charlie’s angel) is a realtor (real estate agent) showing prospective buyers around a house. Entering the bathroom, she starts throwing up (enough to kill a person). When she wakes up, she has a curious appetite for flesh. Her womanising boss tries to force his attentions upon her that evening, so she eats him…
So goes the Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet. It’s grossly funny. At first, there are only upsides to Drew being a suburban zombie: she’s immensely strong, she is liberated (cos the undead are governed by the id and primal urges only), she still looks normal and she has a supportive husband (played wonderfully by Timothy Olyphant, the guy who was the sheriff in Deadwood). But then her hunger for flesh starts getting them into trouble, her behaviour in public is often inappropriate (to say the least) and her toe drops off in the bath. They need to find a cure before it’s too late!
What really works about this show is that each episode is only half an hour, meaning the plot has to be tight, it’s high tempo and the humour needs to be as sharp as it is zany. At the same time, it’s a social satire. Drew and her husband get into domestic role reversal, their daughter is often more responsible than they are, and Drew’s ambitious women friends are made to look drab and uninspiring.
Santa Clarita Diet definitely offers something new with regard to the zombie genre, therefore. It’s very self-aware (sending up geek culture as much as it celebrates it), always surprising and often shocking. The situations the family gets itself into are as humorous as they are credible – making everything surreal/hyperreal. And good surrealist comedy is sometimes hard to come by. It scores 8.5 out of 10 from me, and I’ll definitely be watching series two when it’s released.
Made by the Wachowskis (who brought us both The Matrix and the incomparably beautiful Unbound), does Sense8 deliver on the innovation, special FX, gorgeous cinematography and tightly twisting plot that we might expect? Yes, it does. The premise of the series takes a bit to get to grips with (indeed, the first series takes a few episodes to explain it properly), but it’s well worth sticking with.
Eight individuals scattered around the world start sharing in each other’s thoughts. They share knowledge and, thereby, their individual skills. So, the South Korean character is able to share her martial arts ability with the character in Nigeria, who is in trouble with local gangsters. The Icelandic DJ is able to inspire the Amercian cop who’s losing his way in the urban jungle, and so on. Going about your day-to-day life while seeing and experiencing what’s happening to someone else in an altogether different context also leads to a host of humorous juxtapositions and mixed up conversations, of course. Sense8, then, is definitely about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
As you’d expect of any piece created by the Wachowskis, there are bigger and deeper themes too. In sharing yourself with another person so intimately, the nature and boundaries of sexuality and being are explored and often challenged. Some would say there’s an LGBT agenda going on (and there is a strong trans character), but that’s to underestimate the work and, for me, to do it a disservice. All agendas are going on – it is our very humanity that is fundamentally being considered here.
Sense8 gives us a masterclass in the avoidance of exposition (‘Show don’t tell’). It keeps us guessing and engaged. Those who apply their intellects are rewarded by insight and revelation. You get out what you put in, people. Sense8 also brilliantly creates suspense, using ambiguous signs, failed attempts at rationalisation and then truly monstrous revealting moments. It’s intriguing, gripping and terrifying all at the same time.
If you like your fantasy and TV viewing ‘smart’, then Sense8 is for you. The first two series are available on Netflix (or in box-set, I imagine). It scores a 9 out of 10 from me. Time well spent.