Guns and girls.

This is going to be a very nerdy post: Three reviews of things, the first of…

The Miserable, and the wretched.

Saw Les Misérables yesterday.

Honestly, a musical is not my cup of tea, but the movie was just fine. I have familiarity and appreciation for the story, and the musical, from my youth, so I was curious to see how it would be adapted, and like everyone else, I had heard good things about the performances of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. I suspect they’ll both get Oscar nominations, but Anne Hathway is the one with the real shot here. She does a lot of heavy lifting with the relatively limited role of Fantine and even in her short time here no one hits the strides and the heights and depths that she can plumbs so easily. Jackman is good, but not as good as her. Plus, he’s got the unfortunate timing of potentially being nominated for Best Actor in the same award season as Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

I dreamed a dream.

Tom Hooper, however, is as boring in his direction as he was in The King’s Speech, and possibly less so. Somehow that film was both nominated and managed to win the big awards, but I don’t think that will be the case here. Especially not in a year that produced a Lincoln, a Zero Dark Thirty, and a Life Of Pi.

Anyway, minor flaws of the film that aren’t so minor: Way too fucking long and not interesting enough to sustain that length. The stuff towards the end with the June Rebellion was dreadfully boring, and anytime Jackman, Hathaway, or even Russell Crowe as Javert weren’t on screen, you found yourself checking your watch. I did enjoy Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (she’s just doomed to always play the gothic clown now, isn’t she?) as the Thénardiers, and they did provide some much needed comic relief to the film, but their rendition of the film’s second most memorable song was pretty boring.

Anyway, my second review is of…

Mad hilarity, merciless action, dark cynicism, and incorruptible bravery.

Gun Machine, the new novel by Warren Ellis.

This is a fun, slightly nuts book, which is the usual from Ellis. His first novel, Crooked Little Vein, was a silly but interesting little pulp travelogue through America, and Gun Machine comes from a similar place, but it’s more of a harder crime novel. This is Warren Ellis sodomizing writers like James Patterson and Ed McBain with his ideas, sort of.

The premise is simple: A cop stumbles upon an apartment filled with guns, hundreds of them and nothing else, and each crime can be traced to a different unsolved crime. Somebody has been keeping these guns all this time as trophies.

I believe I read somewhere the book has already been optioned to be developed into a TV show, which is… exciting, I guess. Granted, they’ll take the premise, and they’ll tone it down. They’ll have to. This book is a little nuts, and filled with a lot of little minutiae that’s probably closer to the harsh reality of crime in a big insane urban cityscape, but not the kind of thing that the flyover states are ready to tune into from their local affiliate. The first scene of the book, for example, involves the main character’s partner getting half of his face blown off by a shotgun blast delivered by a ranting naked man.

Gun

That said, there are lots of little ideas and the basic premise that could easily translate into a very interesting serial procedural. That, and I would like to see the type of characters that Ellis writes on either the small screen or the big screen, as they’re usually broken, mouthy creatures who are incorruptibly brave (a nice way of putting it from the Wired review quoted as a blurb on the cover) and very good at what they do.

Half of this book is written in the parlance of the internet, almost as if Ellis got tired of scanning the internet landscape and fueled some of that excitement and anger into a writing frenzy. At the same time, as a fan of his comic books and ideas shared in various places online, I am excited to see him evolving in a new medium, but I can’t say that it feels like he’s challenging himself here. But I have to say that I would secretly like to see Ellis tackle one of his nonfiction books that have more than one foot inside music theory and hauntological futures (which he is working on, thankfully), or maybe some kind of insane sci fi novel – I would love to see Warren Ellis become the new Harlan Ellison – or really get into TV, writing for Doctor Who or resurrecting Quatermass, something like that.

The second review being of…

Victorian values.

“The Snowmen,” the recent Doctor Who Christmas special.

I miss talking about Doctor Who, here or anywhere else. I really need to develop a venue for that, but as far as this episode goes, in short: This was a merely so so episode with great characters in it. Matt Smith is always good and shining with the Doctor, and only improves as he continues to play the character, and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are welcome ongoing returns to the series, and I can’t say enough nice things about Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara, who is mysterious and a serious breath of fresh air. If I’m being honest, I may be doing this post solely to post pictures of her.

That said, this episode was not great. The webisode prequels were more interesting than a good deal of the regular plot of the episode, and I thought it was brave that the threat that the characters were facing down was given an extreme back seat to the character moments.

More guns.

Steven Moffat’s writing is always great, but if I had one major criticism of his tenure on Doctor Who as the showrunner it would be that everything feels too rushed. I assume that the fickle nature of television and the constant need to up the ante is what causes that, but as much as I enjoyed season 5 as the shakedown cruise for a new Doctor, companion, and way of looking at the show, season 6 seemed very rushed, big on set up and small on payoff, possibly because the payoff had to be pushed forward, forward, forward. Part of me wonders if a lot of that was necessitated by the upcoming 50th anniversary special.

That special lead to a lot of new additions in the Christmas special, including the introduction of Smith’s face in the main credit sequence (which I’m positive they’ve been threatening since he took over the role) and a redesigned TARDIS console room that brought back a lot of the blandness of the poorly executed production design from the show’s earlier regenerations in video with rubber monsters back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Cosby sweaters and scripts

And I’m as curious as the next person about some of the big things to come, like the presumed payoff of the First Question, but eventually it could get tiring to constantly finding situations for characters to say, “Doctor… Who?”

Anyway. That said, I’m looking forward to the second half of the current season and the (re)introduction of Clara, Mark 3. I suspect that she’ll be everything that we had assumed and hoped that Amy Pond will be, and I’m really looking forward it. The show regenerates each time a new Doctor steps out of the ashes of the previous one, but as they keep rightfully so telling us, the show is about the companions and the view they provide, and it really feels like the show could come to life again with the addition of Clara. I’m excited.

Remember.

This is my next tweet.

I was really bored earlier.

It’s an old fad, but somehow something on the internet got me to click over to That Can Be My Next Tweet! and I put in a few usernames of people  I follow and laughed at the results, and then, of course, I put in my own name.

The year is ending, and this blog is ending, and looking at some of these are funny. They’ve aggregated a pretty good simulacrum of the kind of things I’ve tweeted about in the last 6 to 12 months.

Maybe I should be worried about that.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?”

“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to kill you.”

“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to die.”

“Begin.”

Thanks, Benjie. After this, 69 posts to go.

No hugging, no learning

My first thought, upon walking out of the showing of (500) Day of Summer at the theater, was: Fuck. I wish I’d seen this movie 9 years ago instead of High Fidelity.

High Fidelity

Which is no knock on John Cusack’s last great film. But when Rob asks the question, “What came first, the music or the misery?” we all know what he means. We’ve got 3 generations raised on a shared history of pop songs, rom-coms and happy Hollywood endings. Rob still got his Hollywood Ending, more or less. For High Fidelity, it was daring enough to suggest a happy coupling with no plans of marriage.

500 DaysPoster

(500) Days of Summer is the movie for all those people who didn’t get the happy ending. It’s kind of an anti-romantic comedy, while still suggesting that the idea of romantic happiness isn’t totally absurd, just hard to attain. John Cusack convinced us, a decade ago, that with the right musical tastes, self-deprecation, painful yearning and a timely death in the family, you can, in fact Get Her Back. It made for an enjoyable movie, but did it not make High Fidelity ultimately as culpable as all those thousands of love songs Rob decries? High Fidelity told us what we wanted to hear, but (500) Days of Summer tells us what we need to hear.

Day 488

I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel do not end up together. If they did, there’d be no reason to make this movie. This is a wonderful, charming, devastating, enjoyable movie that cuts very deep into your soul. If you are a man who walks out of this movie without seeing a piece of himself on the screen, then fuck you. This is not a movie of happy banter and meet-cutes, it’s about playing music by a band you know she likes, hoping she’ll notice, and getting nothing. As Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, back when he was good: “The one you love, and the one who loves you, are never, ever the same person.”

Tom and Summer

I could go on and on here, about the way the movie portrays memory in relationships to heighten the good or the bad, depending on mood, but there are other, better reviews written out there. I just wanted to say that I really liked this movie, probably my favorite of the year so far. I mean, what’s not to love about a film where Gordon-Levitt’s Tom Hansen looks at his reflection after nailing Zooey and sees Han Solo winking back at him? If Tom ultimately learns any life lessons, he’s willing to forget them immediately upon meeting a new target of infatuation at the end of the film. And ain’t that how it always goes.

We've all been here.

I’m telling you all this, because I’m going to absolutely bury the next movie I talk about. So don’t say Benjamin Light never liked a good film. I’m not pure hater; I just have standards.

Judd Apatow does not.

The movie review headlines just write themselves

The movie review headlines just write themselves

There a million flaws I could nitpick in Funny People, but I just want to focus on one scene and one joke. They do well enough to illustrate Judd’s complete lack of talent. (Yes, I actually watched this movie. I am a masochist. It’s 2 and half fucking hours long. Seriously)

Adam Sandler’s George Simmons has beaten cancer and gone up to Nor-Cal to steal Leslie Mann away from her husband. Leslie obliges by making George go down on her, then forcing him to watch a home video of her older daughter performing Cats in a school play. George finds it vaguely entertaining in a “youtube unintentional comedy” sort of way, and when Leslie calls him on it later, he’s like look, I’ve been to Broadway, I’ve seen the real Cats.

Leslie Mann glances over at the Hollywood Actor she's cheating on Judd with

Leslie Mann glances over at the Hollywood Actor she's cheating on Judd with

Properly delivered, and with balls, this is a great joke. Comedy is about taking risks, after all. There’s plenty of laughs to be mined in telling someone that their kid is a hack. But here’s the problem: it’s Judd Apatow’s kid. And Leslie Mann is Judd’s wife. If Judd had any balls as a comedian at all, he’d play a joke like this up. But instead, it gets tossed off a signal to the audience that George is To Be Frowned At. Because how could you not like watching Judd’s cute kids in their home videos?

And therein lies the problem with Apatow. Always striving for the sentimental bullshit he didn’t earn. He name-checks Seinfeld, but he’s learned (sic) nothing from Larry David?

The Gold Standard

The Gold Standard

This is also another example of the Peter Jackson corollary: if you feature your kids prominently in more than 100 frames of your movie, you’re a self-indulgent ass. Nobody cares about your wife and kids, Judd. Your movie is an hour too long and real comedians would have taken the piss out of a mom who entertains herself by putting peanut butter on her face for the dog to lick off. There’s actually a whole scene devoted to letting us know that Leslie Mann still fits into her old jeans and has nice abs. Yeah, we get it, Judd. Bully for you. P.S. You’re Jewish? Hoolllly Shit! I never would have known that. You only announce it five times in every one of your movies, as if anyone in 2009 America gives a shit about your religion.

"These two pages are the script, we improv all the unfunny bits."

"These two pages are the script, we improv all the unfunny bits."

It’s nice to see that audiences are finally moving beyond this hackish crap. Which doesn’t mean that Americans are getting less stupid, but even they know to look askance at a movie that calls itself Funny People and delivers ads that are not. $23 million opening for a $75 million budget film? That’ll put the brakes on the Apatow mediocrity train. “The Third Film From Judd Apatow” intones to trailer. Christ, what a prick. Sorry, Judd, but even hiring Speilberg’s D.P. won’t make you a good director.

There is hope. (500) Days of Summer averaged more $$ per screen than Funny People.

There is hope. (500) Days of Summer averaged more $$ per screen than Funny People.

In conclusion: Benjamin Light has been saying that Apatow and Rogen sucked for two years. Nobody wanted to admit it, but now you know. People will call this a “backlash,” when Judd was never very talented to begin with, he just had a knack for hating women and appealing to the mouth-breathing mediocrity of his base. Gravy train’s over, Judd. Go ask the Farrelley’s how the ride back down the hill feels. Counterforce 1, America 0.

The Arch Villain Of Romance.

A short post today, again on the moon, and in the form of poetry. I’m not the world’s bigger poetry lover, not by any means, but sometimes it’s just too good to pass up. So hopefully you’ll enjoy this and then maybe go out and look up at the night sky with someone you love? Or, at least someone you will have above average sex with, I hope.

The Moon Versus Us Ever Sleeping Together Again

by Richard Brautigan

I sit here, an arch-villain of romance,
thinking about you. Gee, I’m sorry
I made you unhappy, but there was nothing
I could do about it because I have to be free.
Perhaps everything would have been different
if you had stayed at the table or asked me
to go out with you to look at the moon,
instead of getting up and leaving me alone with
her.

Middle of the week music.

Wednesdays are so fucking boring.

Aren’t they?

At least there’s a new Lost tonight. “Alright! Let’s get started…”

from here.

Facebook backs off on changes to their terms of services.

Geronimo’s descendants sue Skull and Bones over his remains.

Wannabe vampires are totally pissing off real vampires.

Musique by Gustav Klimt. Or, if you will: Photo of a woman playing an instrument, Musique, Die Musik, Music, or The Music.

It shall be known by one name: the McNuggetini.

The 50 Coolest Song Parts (and let me tell you, #1 could not be more perfect).

“It was like Mario Bros. but the ghosts were, like, vaginas.” Kanye West created x-rated video games as a kid. Who didn’t?

The above image, illustrated by Christina Haberkern, is from my absolute most favorite new site: Dinosaurs Fucking Robots. They may as well just call themselves FTW.

from here.

Ben Lee “Kids” (MGMT cover)(mp3)

Los Campesinos “This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics” (mp3)

Broken Social Scene “Puff The Magic Dragon” (Peter, Paul, and Mary cover)(mp3)

Blur ft. Francoise HardyTo The End (La Comedie)” (mp3)