• Daily Life

    Picoreview: Cats

    Picoreview: Cats: I have seen it twice and have no regrets.

    Simultaneously, there are an awful lot of things I’d have done differently. I’d have started by not casting Rebel Wilson, or doing *that* with her song. Especially the latter. A great deal could have been forgiven if they’d stuck with the stage show’s method of creating the cockroaches and mice (which is “have the cats dress up as the cockroaches and mice”, which was funny rather than horrifying and mind-bleeding, and as I use those words, I remind you that I actually quite loved this movie, which perhaps gives you a standard of 1. my trustworthiness about movies in general, and 2. how awful it was).

    I also, and this is EXTREMELY KEY, would have put the dancers in unitards of appropriate cat colors, and used motion capture reference dots like they do with, say, Avengers. Apparently what they DID was just putting the performers in green suits and hope the animators could deal with it, which…

    Look. I was not one of the people who ran screaming from the trailer. I was DELIGHTED with the trailer. I *genuinely feel* that the costuming and CGI here are the natural progression of the stage show into modern film production special effects. That said, you really have to use those tools correctly, and…they did not, in this case. In fact, given that there were NO REFERENCE DOTS for the animators to work with, it’s astounding they managed as well as they did. Those poor, poor animators.

    But honestly, I did love it. It’s a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the stage show. They cut a couple of songs and added one as an Oscar contender and it should definitely not win. For inexplicable reasons they attempted to insert a Macavity subplot, which would be fine if CATS had ANY PLOT WORTH MENTIONING TO BEGIN WITH–

    –and here I interrupt myself to say that a lot of people see its plot as “a bunch of death cult cats get together to see who is going to die next,” and I find that really interesting because I honestly never thought it was about death. It’s about the new life, the next life, because cats, of course, have nine. I genuinely never saw it about “choosing somebody to die,” because it’s right there in the text: Old Deuteronomy will choose the cat who will now be reborn and go on to a different Jellicle life. So I’ve been sort of dismayed by all the IT’S ABOUT CATS DYING takes, which I feel miss the point.

    Anyway.

    Idris Elba, unexpectedly, was quite terrible. My sister, with whom I went to the movie the second time, could not handle Ian MacKellan’s Gus lapping up milk and things, although I honestly thought he was really wonderful in the role. For reasons that were meant to induce tension and instead were sort of embarrassing (and tbf, even having loved it, a lot of it was embarrassing), they made Mistopholees incompetent, which was weird and wrong.

    But overall, truly, the first time through I just enjoyed it hugely and the second time I was frequently sitting there just enjoying this unironically and then I’d look over to see my sister watching the film through the fingers pinching her the bridge of her nose, and then the absurdity, the absolute INSANITY of it, would strike me, and I’d start laughing.

    I said this to Deirdre, who said, “I ENJOYED it, it’s just so fucking BIZARRE I’m questioning my entire childhood.”

    Also Deirdre: this is EXACTLY like the stage show

    Her son, who came with us: BUT WHY

    Me, in Deirdre’s ear, at the Addressing of Cats, regarding Munkustrap: I love his emotional integrity

    Nephew, simultaneously in her other ear: that guy is having paranoid delusions

    Deirdre: 😂😂😂

    I feel like this nicely sums up the possible spectrum of reactions to CATS. :) :) :)

    Also my nephew, after several minutes of baffled ranting (“what IS a jellicle cat? Why did it have no plot? What was GOING ON with those mice?”): I think I want to see that again

    So there’s that. :)

    On the topic of “What IS a Jellicle cat?!?”, Dad got me a copy of Old Possum’s Book of Cats for Christmas, and I learned something: TS Elliot had written the poems for a 4 year old godnephew who called dogs “poor little dogs” which he pronounced pollicle dogs and cats “dear little cats” — jellicle cats. (Pollicle is much less of a stretch than jellicle, there, but I’m not a 4 year old in 1932 or whatever so what do I know.)

    On one hand, this is totally unnecessary information for the show. On the other, IT’S ACTUALLY VERY USEFUL TO KNOW. Because although there’s AN ENTIRE SONG telling you what a Jellicle cat is, that song, and others in the play, are also full of contradictions. Like, I’ve spent my whole life unclear on why there are songs about Jenny Any Dots, whose coat is of the tabby kind with tiger stripes and leopard spots

    when Jellicle cats are black and white

    and Busterphor Jones, who’s not skin and bones

    when Jellicle cats are rather small

    on the other hand, Jellicle cats are roly poly but

    Macavity’s a ginger cat, who’s very tall and thin

    and so on and so forth full of inconsistencies. On a fundamental level I always apparently wanted ‘Jellicle’ to somehow correlate to a breed, and having learned this one stupid little bit of trivia about it being a small child’s word, I NO LONGER HAVE THAT NEED.

    I don’t know if I’ve still got my CATS program from the Broadway show in 1987, but I don’t remember it *having* that bit of trivia, which I feel would have made my life just a little bit less uneasy for all these years.

    Anyway, the truth is CATS works better as a stage show. The immediacy of the cats being on the stage, of the audience being there literally surrounded by the story, allows what my sister not incorrectly referred to as the FUCKING BIZARRENESS of it to slide away a little. I really don’t think it’s the makeup or the CGI. I think it’s the intimacy of theatre vs the remove and physical size of the movies.

    I am, however, still *really hoping* that there’s gonna be a sing-along at my local theatre before it leaves… :)

  • Daily Life

    Picoreview: Terminator: Dark Fate

    Picoreview: Terminator: Dark Fate: This is the sequel I’ve been waiting for since I was eighteen years old.

    Look. I’ve got a lot invested in Linda Hamilton, okay? She and Ron Perlman taught me to love both poetry and my name. She remains the single physical icon I would emulate if I…had a personal trainer and an unlimited budget and a massive feature film promoting me…;) I love her. I’ve thought for a long time that I love her more than her acting skills are worth, but actually, having watched Dark Fate, I’m not at all sure about that anymore. She’s better in this than anything I’ve ever seen her in, and that’s partly because the role is well written, partly because she’s old enough to be out of fucks, and partly because, tbf, she’s been in a fair amount of awful stuff. :)

    But Dark Fate is straight-up the movie I’ve been waiting for since 1991. It’s the first Terminator film since T2 that understands who the hero of these stories is, and honestly, to me, that’s everything. I was trying VERY HARD not to go in with high expectations, because it’s been 28 years and a lot of bad movies (and one pretty decent tv show, even if I’m an outlier who does not care for the actress who played Sarah Connor in that show), and really there was absolutely no way Dark Fate could live up to my hopes.

    And I would be lying if I said it met my expectations. The truth is that it exploded my expectations immediately and left me wide open for just seeing what the hell happened next. I had a tension headache at the end of it, okay? I was all in.

    The opening night audience applauded when Hamilton made her entrance. (The second time I saw it, the woman beside me fist-pumped violently.) At the end credits, the woman I was with on opening night seized my arm when Mackenzie Davis’s name came up on screen and she blurted, “Is that her? Is that the name of my future girlfriend?” (I assured her it was. :)) She and Hamilton played off each other like oil and water, they were great. The third woman in the film, Natalia Reyes, whose journey parallels Sarah’s in T1, probably did a better job than Hamilton did in the role 35 years ago. They were all terrific, but Hamilton holds the film together and I was there for it.

    Gabriel Luna, as the new Terminator, actually has a chance to act, and dear stars up above that man is charismatic. Holy moly. HOOOLEEEE MOOOOLEEE. And Arnie, who is actually a very funny man, gets to be deadpan funny in this, which is honestly all I could ask for from him.

    But it’s Hamilton’s show, and she knocks it out of the park. I’ve seen it twice and hope to see it at least two more times before it’s out of the theatre. It kills me that it’s not doing well at the box office, because I really, truly think it’s the best Terminator film in decades, but being good doesn’t necessarily mean able to overcome, what, three other sequels? and a tv show? At the box office. Yeah. I’m really hoping positive word of mouth will give it legs, though.

    (There appears to be two kinds of responses to it. John Scalzi and me are on the “holy shit YEAH” side and other people are…not. :))

    I dunno. Because of the polarized responses, I feel like it’s hard to say OMG GO SEE IT to everybody. But at the same time…OMG, GO SEE IT! :) :) :)

  • Daily Life

    Picoreview: Glass

    Picoreview: Glass: This is definitely the kind of movie M. Night Shyamalan would make to wrap up his Unbreakable trilogy, and not the kind of movie I would make. :)

    I liked it better than I expected to, really. I didn’t see Split, which looked too horror-ish for me, and also because of the political aspect of how badly disassociative identity disorder is portrayed in it. That said, I mean…they’re comic book movies, so if we pretend it’s not intended to be a real-world portrayal of DID and that rather, there’s some kind of comic book thing which causes people to occasionally break out in mulitiple personalities, then we can just accept that James McAvoy is in fact very good at all of his different personalities. It only took me a couple minutes to be able to tell, just from his body language, who he’d switched to, which is pretty great acting.

    Samuel L. Jackson was both underutilized and key, which is a somewhat weird combination. There’s a great moment that appears to be full of compassion that I thought was just magnificent, in wonderful manipulative keeping with the character. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis was Bruce Willis. Honestly, the bit I liked most about him was that the same actor as played his son in Unbreakable was his son again in this film, which doesn’t often seem to happen (I’m still angry for you, kid-who-played-Jack-in-Pitch Black-but-didn’t-get-to-reprise-the-role-in-Chronicles of Riddick!). :)

    Shyamalan’s gotten into this position where he’s expected to have A Twist at the end of his films. There were a couple of good reveals, one of which met and then exceeded my expectation, and the other of which was possibly twisty enough to be a proper twist, but I considered it more of a reveal than A Twist. I liked it, though, and it fed into the whole story structure very well.

    Overall, for me it was a…a not-quite-satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It was…yeah. I just wouldn’t have done what he did, so it’s artistic differences, but I do think what he *did*, works within his universe. So. There you go. :)

  • Daily Life

    Picoreview: Alita: Battle Angel

    Picoreview: Alita: Battle Angel : This was much better than I expected it to be. OTOH, I expected it to be very, very, very, very bad indeed.

    I thought the story might be okayish but that the CGI would be–I was not convinced by it in the trailers. It just looked creepy, the anime face. The proportions looked wrong. I thought they’d landed squarely in the uncanny valley and had been unable to do anything about it. So I was really surprised to find that the CGI is by and large very good. It’s not…*real*. Or realistic. I don’t know how many years out we are from realistic anime CGI like that, but this year wasn’t it, and I’m not sure if they were really trying to achieve it or not. Either way, it’s largely pretty good CGI.

    The story, OTOH, is a hot mess.

    Now, I don’t know the source material (except for being aware it exists), so I can’t say how well it matches the story presented on the screen. But what I want to talk about is the story structure, because from a writer POV there were things they were obviously *trying* to achieve, and it’s very clear to me what went wrong and caused them to fail.

    Spoilers after the cut. If you stop here, you can take away the knowledge that actually I’d go see another one, so despite the hot mess-ness of it, I overall enjoyed it pretty well. :)

%d bloggers like this: