Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Supernatural, the Winchester boys

If anyone told me I'd watch 'Supernatural' for character development and dysfunctional family dynamics I'd have scoffed, wouldn't you? Looks don't carry a show, but we'll make an exception for these guys Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

Dean and Sam Winchester fight Supernatural bad guys as they search for their father. Why not right, if they're in the way? These boys don't work for Fox Mulder, it's actually their family business ever since their mother was killed by a demon.

Dean Winchester waits for more pie

Dean Winchester is the older brother, and I am all for Team Dean, baby.  He shifted gears from child to adult the night he ran from his burning home rescuing baby brother Sam in his arms. Left motherless and with a grieving absent father Dean was forced into a parenting and protective role over his brother for long stretches. With little life experience to draw on, Dean's thrust into adulthood was made possible by adopting his father's set of values and beliefs almost verbatim, stretching himself into a Dad-shaped Hero ideal.

As the good soldier following his father's orders and taking care of little Sam this allowed their family unit to survive but Dean's growth was stunted: a man-child ever playful, indulgent in food, alcohol and sex yet unquestioningly devoted to the demon hunting family business.

In his dutiful loyalty to his father's orders, Dean inadvertently enables their father's neglect by taking on the role of sole mother, father and older brother to Sammy. Supernatural takes us along Dean's journey as he gains insight into the boundaries of his role in the family especially towards his brother and redefines himself as distinct from the ideology his father imprinted on him.

It's a story about family conflicts with a sexy backdrop of male, female and demon eyecandy. In the pilot we learn that younger brother Sam left the family business in anger. As Sam grew up the arguments grew more and more bitter until he got out. He needed room to become the individual his experiences and personality have incubated, not the pre-prepared mould from his father and brother. If he stayed the only way they could get along would be if they treated him as an adult. Yeah right. Only when Sam and Dean must work together after the disappearance of their father that they must compromise and grow with the flow.

Sam Winchester and his perfect hair

In the academic world, Sam is your run of the mill brainy kid. Education is an attractive refuge from the dysfunction of his real life. By stepping out of his role as a Winchester foot soldier - the baby of the Winchesters, he gains the freedom to explore his own identity. Instead of vampire killer he can be a ...er... lawyer.

Physically stronger and book smarter than Dean, Sam's shortcoming vs Dean is his lack of gut instinct. Others just have to appeal to his analytical mind - leave a few misleading clues and false evidence and he would connect up all the dots in a wrong picture. In the same situation, Dean wouldn't trust the evidence. Gank first, ask later. Eventually Sam must learn to trust his intuition and the advice of others, whereas Dean learns to question orders and the judgement of those supposedly superior. Both must bridge the gap from their personal extremes in order to work as a team.

Supernatural lures its target audience with burly heroic characters, but it was the twisted brotherly love-hate relationship that hooked me for the five season back-to-back viewing. A family drama told between salt bullet shots, exorcisms and stakings. Give it a go, it's a bumpy ride but strangely addictive.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Opening Credits of Game of Thrones

Spoiler-free and deserving of its own blog post. I give you.... 
the opening credits!
(I know, it doesn't fit properly, but I just don't have the heart to reduce it)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why you shouldn't dismiss 'Game of Thrones' (if you're over 18)

1. It's Not Really Fantasy

At first I dismissed 'North and South' because the trailer showed me just another period drama. What's the point of watching old stuffy stuff? It also had a hero that wasn't traditionally handsome. Unforgivably shallow but true.

Why the embarrassing glib confessions? Because I don't want people passing over Game of Thrones just because it's 'silly fantasy stuff'.  The only reason Game of Thrones sits in the fantasy genre is because the geographical setting technically doesn't exist. It's really a human drama.

Nice suit.

Take for example Jon Snow (picture above). His dad Ned had an affair with Jon's mother and because he's such a good father he takes full custody of Jon. Enter Ned's wife Catelyn, a Jon-hater with the burning red fury of a cheated wife. Jon grows up desperate to prove himself just as good as any of Ned's legitimate sons, but with Catelyn's chilling glares he comes to realise he'll never be anything if he stays home. So he goes to the one place where all men start equal, the military. See, no elves or fairies!

Fantasy is always a hard sell because the names are so corny, like 'Wizard's First Rule' by Terry Goodkind or 'Ship of Destiny' by Robin Hobb. Silly names sound like the games children play, and no one takes that seriously. But these characters are well thought out, full of anxieties and back story. They're forced to make bad choices to avoid worse situations, and unlike in most fantasy you really care about them.

Normally I avoid fantasy. My friends have been pleading with me to read 'Chronicles of Thomas Covenant' by Donaldson but I can't get past the blurb. "...outcast destined to become the saviour of an alternate world..." Oh please. I'm so over reading about the weedy misunderstood dreamer that turns out to be the world saviour. I also can't stand the melodramatic posturing in these overly expensive tv dramas - there's no real heart. But Game of Thrones is different. Just give it a chance, a 3 episode chance?

More about Jon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Game of Thrones: Episode 1 Preview - real deal this time

Big budget! I'll bet in a blind test you could be fooled to think it was the first 14 minutes of a major hollywood blockbuster. Nothing spared on special effects, horses, swords or fur capes. Just as well too. You don't want to wake the dragon, ie Game of Thrones fandom. (Scandals have broken out over the colour of someone's eyebrows)

I'm sure some eyes rolled just then, but if you're a part of any fandom you'll know how obsessive some people get. Not me of course, um, other people who start blogs and make fanvids as outlets for their obsessive admiration. : )

Here's the verdict: So far so good. To be fair, viewers should watch the first 3 episodes before they decide to keep watching or not. This show's biggest problem with winning audiences over is the attention investment at the start. With action happening in 4 cities among 5 major families this is a formidable hedge of family trees to jump over. The story is so densely packed with action they don't have a scene to waste.

Which brings me to my only peeve about this preview. Not that I'm ungrateful for the 14 minutes, but I wish it was a different 14 minutes! Could we have spent less time in the snowy forest and more time with the Stark family? Scary corpses don't need as long an intro as Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb, Catelyn, Ned Stark and Jon Snow. Trim the frostbitten bodies and we could have glimpsed the King and his conniving royal family.

Ned Stark: father and stickler of justice in the cold north. Too bad nobody held him accountable for cheating on his wife - surely something should get chopped off for that indiscretion?

Catelyn Stark: loving mother to her kids, and a cold bitch to Jon Snow. Only for the last 14-17 years though. Plenty of time to get over it and move on.

Bran: training on the bow, but prefers climbing.
Jon Snow: kind, strong, independent and just itching to prove himself.
The closest thing to a good guy this show has. If I was on the receiving end of Catelyn's evil eye for 14 years I'd carry more baggage than him.

Arya: cute little tomboy, good with a knife, bad with a needle.

Sansa: I'd call her a foolish child, but that'd be too kind on the stupid brat.

For a spoiler-free intro to the Game of Thrones world, go here where all these images came from.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Game of Thrones: Episode 1 Preview

"I've been dealt a cruel blow by the hand of fate"

That's what I thought today as I clicked in vain on the links to this preview. Work has provided me a laptop for my travels.

No administrative rights sorry.
No Flash player installed sorry.
No Youtube allowed sorry.
Apparently my version of Windows 7 is not authentic either, it claims.

That's ok. I've only waited 2 years for this moment. Thankfully this hotel has a business centre. I'm saved!

What? No speakers? Haha, a trip to the mall has fixed that! Now nothing stands in the way of my ep1 fix. Nothing!

So... I can't embed it into this post because I'm on a foreign language version of internet explorer and I have no idea what the Chinese (Traditional) words for 'Embed video' are. Here's the link.


Just waiting for it to load up...brb

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From Hollywood to Hollywood

Someone sent me a DVD to review. Cold requests aren't really my thing but I was too curious to turn down an indie-indie movie made over three years. Yup. Three.

It really got me thinking, and not just about how to phrase the review but also if the tables were turned. If I spent three years of my life making a movie with my sibling how would it turn out? Brothers Coen and Wachowski get along, and the Afflecks are doing well. How would you keep motivated? I get bored waiting for VHS tapes to rewind, let alone a three year family event.

'From Hollywood to Hollywood' was made by two brothers Scott and Jeff Bushaw on a tiny budget and a big dream. It's not the kind of movie that gets reviewed on this blog with its period drama focus. (Clearly the brothers don't subscribe, they've just cast a wide net)

So was it watchable? I'll be blunt. It totally didn't suck! The script is as good as any gross-out comedy I'd pass up on the big screen. The acting is as serious as my Christmas rendition of Rocky Balboa, but if you made it through The Expendables you could handle this. It's hard not to think of it as a home movie, but who cares right? Everybody had fun.

What I did mind was how much I ended up caring about the downtrodden gay porn star brother Skyler. Shame on the writer for putting him (and me) through that debacle near the end; he deserves better. As for the loser older brother Dempster, this character is so awful he distracted me more from the movie than the amateur performances. Not even Adam Sandler movie sidekicks are this annoying!

If 'Road Trip', 'Harold and Kumar' or Adam Sandler movies 1996-2003 are your thing, From Hollywood to Hollywood is great for laughs. Keep writing, Scott. There's another blog post in three years with your name on it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Game of Thrones 101

Hi remember me? Something has stirred me from hibernation. I'll be taking things very slowly, starting with this youtube clip.
In 2011 the rest of the world will wake up to A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book, A Game of Thrones is getting made into an HBO tv series and here's the inside look.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fanvid love for Game of Thrones

Nothing says I love you like a tv series fanvid before it's even aired!
Watch this one in awe of all the beautiful people.

Courtesy of Xipriota
Here are some of my favourite characters from the story/series. Funny enough they're all underdogs.

 Jon Snow

Tyrion Lannister

Blogposts will be short and infrequent until October - I've got trenches to dig, people and furniture to move and more travel.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Winter is Coming in Spring 2011

Fantasy readers will know that some book series go on forever. Sadly, Robert Jordan died leaving his Wheel of Time series unfinished. Let that be a warning to you Mr George R R Martin. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and keep writing! The fate of too many fictional characters and unresolved plots is at stake.

I have mixed feelings about the HBO adaption of A Game of Thrones. Of course it's every fan's dream to see it realised with a big budget and fitting actors. There's a fantastic website with up to the minute news on the anticipated Spring 2011 release called Winter is Coming with a cast list longer than Little Dorrit, and that's only from the first book. BUT... what about the rest of the book series? I want my closure!

There are only two series I've fantasized about adapting if I'd been tv writer. This one, A Song of Ice and Fire, and other one by Robin Hobb, The Farseer Trilogy. What sets these 2 writers apart from the seething mass of humdrum fantasy out there is character development. It deserves its own blog post where I can gush freely about my Farseer-love. I've converted plenty of people to Robin Hobb's writing, far more than the measly few who've taken to North and South! Has anyone read Robin Hobb? What did you think of Fitz and the Fool?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Inception, waking up and letting go

Have you ever had a dream so enjoyable you didn't want to wake up? Or been so engrossed by something that you wanted to take the story further after it ended? (*cough* North and South)

There's a lot of hype about Christopher Nolan's latest movie with words like "stunningly complex" and "mind-blowing". That's bound to disappoint some people with the expectation of greatness already planted in their minds. Inception is a detailed allegorical movie that puts all its emotional eggs in one basket and shakes it all around.

It's a twist on the 'one last job of a heist movie' where waking up to find it was all just a dream is actually the aim! When you're unconscious you're left mentally unguarded, and people like Leonardo di Caprio and his posse can slip inside to steal your secrets. Something much harder to do is to subtly plant ideas which you'll remember after you awaken. Think 'The Matrix' meets 'Oceans 11' with some shades of 'Solaris'. Imagine you dreamed you went to sleep and dreamed you went to sleep and dreamt some more...get it?

Was it any good?? Well...yes. I'd recommend it to anyone who appreciates movies as a vehicle for new concepts or special effects. It's worth watching solely for THE COOLEST MOST ORIGINAL FIGHT SCENE EVER. Finally I can associate Joseph Gordon-Levitt with something other than Tommy from Third Rock from the Sun.

My favourite part of Inception (image from CinemaMerde.com)

It's pretty easy to see the allegory to film-making and the cinematic experience, but there are plenty of other interpretations, like substance addiction, online computer games, social networking sites and even religion. But with so much happening on screen there are bound to be weaknesses, three in fact.

1. The Ellen Page character, or Exposition Vehicle. She sees some weird stuff in Leonardo di Caprio's dreams and spends the rest of the movie nagging him like that buzzer on my alarm clock Monday mornings. Annoying!

2. You can spot Leonardo's big mysterious secret long before it's gravely and dramatically revealed. I hate it when that happens. Probably because I got a little confused at times that I had to guess ahead just to keep up with the story.

3. Only two characters get developed: Leonardo and the corporate guy #2, the rest are cool archetypal story props. I wouldn't have had a problem with this if the movie hadn't made such a big deal out of Leonardo's unresolved issues. All the recurring imagery is a powerful reminder of his guilt and regret, but at the emotional climax I wasn't convinced his character had earned the closure. In the interest of keeping this spoiler-free, I'll leave it at that.