I’ve watched several movies lately, on small and large screen, and would like to write a bit about them. There will be spoilers in the detailed sections below so here’s the spoiler-free short version:
- Ex Machina: Ugh.
- (Star Wars) Rogue One: it had lots of explosions. Lots and lots. And fighting. Script, characterisation and plot all very weak. Way too long too.
- Golden Years: not nearly as fun as it looked or should have been.
- How She Move: Interesting and enjoyable movie about a young woman who uses dance to change her circumstances.
- A United Kingdom: thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.
- Frozen: superb. Disney princesses have come a long long way.
- Star Trek Beyond: excellent, in so many respects.
Detailed thoughts on the movies (spoilers)
Programmer Caleb Smith wins a one-week visit to the luxurious, isolated home of Nathan Bateman, the CEO of software company Blue Book. The only other person there is Nathan’s servant Kyoko, who (Nathan says) does not speak English. Nathan has built a humanoid robot named Ava with artificial intelligence. Ava has already passed a simple Turing test; Nathan wants Caleb to judge whether Ava is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness, and whether he can relate to Ava despite knowing she is artificial. [Wikipedia]
We watched this DVD with friends. It was a lot of tedious talking between three characters. There was also unpleasant stuff about one man exercising power over the female and another male, and about men watching and judging the female.
About half way through two of us took the dogs out for a walk.
By the time we came back the female android was liberating herself in a somewhat obvious metaphor about female empowerment.
I found the film to be a bunch of terribly male, boring, tedious, self-indulgent twaddle.
The story follows Jyn Erso, daughter of the unwilling designer of the Galactic Empire’s superweapon the Death Star, and her mission to retrieve the schematics so it can be destroyed. [Wikipedia]
My quick review on Twitter said this:
it had lots of explosions. Lots and lots. And fighting. Script, characterisation and plot all very weak. Way too long too.
I need to say I’ve never been a Star Wars fan and have not seen most of the movies. I did see one of the earlier movies and found it way too long and a bit tedious. I also saw the 2015 movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens and really enjoyed it.
I think the following quote from Feminist Frequency explains why Rogue One failed for me:
But while Rogue One succeeds in the big-picture sense of depicting a crucial moment in the rebellion’s struggle against the mighty and oppressive Empire, it fails to make us care about the individual characters who are swept up in this conflict. The film is so densely plotted, so busy advancing the particulars of its story or plowing through one of its many visually impressive action scenes, that it rarely takes the time to breathe and let us get to know the people who are doing the fighting. [Feminist Frequency, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review]
At one point I actually thought that the robot K-2SO was the most interesting character. Sigh.
Law-abiding retired couple, Arthur (Hill) and Martha Goode (McKenna) live a quiet life in suburbia, tending their garden and socialising with friends.
But fate, the pensions crisis and a steadfast refusal to accept the injustice of old age force Arthur and Martha into a life of crime. Refusing to take the loss of their pensions lying down and to fade away into their declining years, they decide to fight back and take back what was theirs in the first place. They decide to start robbing banks. [Wikipedia]
This British film looked like a must-see. The premise offers a lot of potential for fun and hilarity. Unfortunately the film missed.
It wasn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours but while it was light and pleasant, it was much less funny than I anticipated.
One day I was scouring iTunes, looking for something reasonably light to watch and landed on this one.
Unable to afford the tuition needed to fund her private school education, Rayanna or Raya (Rutina Wesley) returns to her family home in the city while reluctantly re-evaluating her future. Upon learning that the top prize for an upcoming step-dancing competition is $50,000, Raya uses her impressive moves to earn a coveted slot in her good friend Bishop’s (Dwain Murphy) predominantly male JSJ crew. Isolated from the local women due to jealousy and separated from her fellow dancers by her sex, the ambitious dancer is subsequently kicked off the team for showing off during a preliminary competition. Now, if Raya has any hope of realizing her medical school dreams, she will have to either earn back Bishop’s trust or organize her own dance crew and start over from scratch. In the end, she eventually learns “how she move”. [Wikipedia]
I enjoyed this North American film. The plot held no surprises, but the music and dancing were entertaining, and it was interesting to see some aspects of North American culture.
Step dancing was a new term for me — it seemed a bit like a modern take on tap dancing with street dancing mixed in. It was certainly fun.
As a Kiwi, there were a couple of specially interesting, jarring, points in the movie. There was an early scene showing Raya leaving the private school along roads lined with huge, expensive houses and ending up in what I take to be
the projects — tall tower blocks of ugly apartments. While I’m sad to report that New Zealand has its share of homelessness and poverty, we don’t have anything quite like that.
In another scene Raya appears to be outside a prison — an awful concrete bunker of a place with a security guard and teens smoking outside the door. Then I realised that was a school.
In something else I watched recently, set in a US schoolroom, there was a strange giant yellow button on the wall. After a while I spotted something that gave it away to be a panic button in case of a school shooting. That was a huge shock. School shootings are a totally foreign concept for Kiwis. Things like that bring home that although we have our share of social problems here in New Zealand we really do live in a sheltered and safe society.
Based on a true story, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) is the Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana). In 1948 he meets and falls in love with London office worker Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). But their interracial relationship is not approved of by either of their families, nor by the British and South African governments. Seretse and Ruth must defy family, apartheid and the British empire to return from an imposed exile to their African kingdom, and assume power after independence. [Wikipedia]
This was a moving, enjoyable and powerful film and I’m glad I went to see it.
It’s shocking that society can set up such enormous opposition to personal happiness based on something as arbitrary as skin colour. The fact that the word
interracial even exists is bizarre. I set to pondering on how it would be if that arbitrary characteristic were perhaps height —
mixed-height relationships — or eye colour.
That’s not to suggest that I’ve never come across racism before; of course I have. I examine my own racism almost daily and am always discovering new areas of my own privilege. One of those privileges is as a white woman, a pakeha, being able to stand apart from racism, as I’m never on the receiving end of the negative behaviours, and to think about it as a concept.
This movie gave me plenty to think about.
One thinking point was to realise the difficulty for the white woman coming into a black society whose experience of white people was that they saw themselves as superior, treating black people with disdain and disregard. The character Ruth had a struggle to show that she wasn’t the same as the others in order to be accepted.
Racism sets up an insidious framework of expectations on all sides.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, the film tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on an epic journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal pet reindeer, and a naïve snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. [Wikipedia]
I’d heard about this Disney animated movie, and sceptical, decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did, as I thoroughly enjoyed it, even wishing I’d bought it instead of renting.
And on a side note: iTunes should give a discount to those who buy a movie after initially renting.
It turns out Frozen is a musical that works on several levels. I’m sure it would entertain children, but it also has themes and stories that work on an adult level, with a young woman (the older princess) locking herself away from fear of her own abilities.
One of the delights of this movie was that the two princesses weren’t like those of old, needing some prince to come and rescue them. Instead the younger princess, a daring and adventurous girl, is the first out the door to rescue her sister.
The handsome young ice cutter assists her in her quest, at one point rescuing her, while she later rescues him in return.
The snowman was a cheerful and delightful character who also played a significant role, at one point dragging the frozen princess to the fire to warm up while speculating about how wonderful fire is, and keen to experience the summer sun.
This movie was creative, fun and allowed the female characters to be full, real, active, rounded people.
I just wish other film makers would learn to make their female characters into ‘real’ women. And to have more women. And more women in leading roles. After all, it’s 2017, for heaven’s sake!
The Enterprise is dispatched on a rescue mission at short notice after an escape pod drifts out of a nearby uncharted nebula. The survivor, Kalara, claims her ship is stranded on Altamid, a planet within the nebula. The rescue turns into an ambush when the Enterprise is quickly torn apart by a massive swarm of small ships. Krall and his crew board the ship, and unsuccessfully search for a relic called the Abronath that Kirk had obtained for a failed diplomatic mission. Krall captures and removes many crew members from the ship. Kirk then orders the crew to abandon ship as the Enterprise’s saucer section hurtles towards the planet. [Wikipedia]
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the first episode I saw as a kid back in the 60s. Some of the recent movies have been an OK diversion, but Star Trek Beyond is far and away the best. I loved it, and for many reasons.
It has great action scenes, and everyone gets a turn at doing heroic and important stuff. When the crew crashland on the planet they’re all dispersed, so the story covers what they all do to save themselves.
There are two excellent strong female characters: Jaylah, a warrior, played by Sofia Boutella, an Algerian dancer, actress and musician, and Commodore Paris, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, an Iranian-American actress about the same age as me. Even Uhura, often the only female of note in Star Trek, had actual things to do in this movie.
So, it had women, great women.
Not everyone spoke American — there were various accents to be heard. In fact, I enjoyed the diversity in the cast.
We saw Mister Sulu heading off on leave with his male partner and their child.
There was humour, and plenty of it.
There was wonderful creativity: the concept of the space station was stunning.
There was space, planets, space stations, and of course space ships.
And, of course, we had plenty of the unlikely, couldn’t possibly happen moments so characteristic of Star Trek in general.
I want more like this: fun, action, creativity, originality, with women in important lead roles doing active things.
Oh, and Jaylah’s a superb character we could do with a lot more of. With any luck the film makers will bring her back.