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And I thought the first episode was amazing!

I'm not saying it got cheesier. I'm just saying that if I ran a drive-in movie, this would be the summer special.



These men are just confused that they are one of the few promo stills available and 80% of them haven't even appeared in the miniseries yet. Mostly because this miniseries is a battlefield they aren't on. You know who's on that battlefield? The people under this cut.

Five Things About Episode 2 of Pillars of the Earth. )
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So, I'll be doing the episodes of The Pillars of the Earth one at a time, since it's all my ancient laptop can handle before Netflix crashes my computer for the night.

The good news is, this kind of comedy gold is worth every frustrating moment. I'm going to hit five things in every episode worth watching it for. We'll slap it behind a spoiler cut, I guess, though the book's been out for twenty years. (Also, this is so unrelated to the book that it wouldn't matter in any case.)



Look at those hostage eyes. You know you're in for a treat!

Five Reasons to Watch Episode 1 of Pillars of the Earth. )
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
Or, if you're me, any day!

Up at Fantasy Magazine this week, I posted Ten Cheesetastic Fantasy Flicks for Summer. For once, there's no competition for which one is best, because they're all the best!

Except maybe Xanadu is the best.



(Look at those hostage eyes. Yipes.)

The thing is, some of the movies on that list are cheesy but legitimately good. The Mummy, for example, is pretty unapologetic summer-blockbuster pulp, but I've seen it quite a few times and it always holds up, because Pulpy and Bad are not synonymous, even though a lot of things that aim for Pulpy end up at Bad. (That's another essay. I'm just noting it here.) Lost Boys is awesome, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is amazing. I'll even make a case for Earth Girls are Easy being a pretty solid flick! (Somewhere, Joseph Campbell is cringing.)

But there are some movies (...XANADU) that defy explanation.

Explaining it more doesn't help. )

(I've seen this movie like, six times. It never gets any less confusing.)

It was hard to choose a representative clip. The scene where the sisters wake up from the mural they're painted on (really happens) is pretty good. It gives the right tone for the film, both because the song makes you want to slap your ears off, and because it looks like the people actually in the scene were just as confused as anyone else, and the choreography was called out in a series of impromptu orders. ("Look at your hands! You have some hands! Have more hands! HAVE MORE HANDS.")

But I think this clip has to win.




Notes: this clip has been severely chopped, so you are missing out on the Gene Kelly-led rollerskating step routine and the part where Kira and her sisters sing this in half a dozen different styles, including Country Western, in which Michael Beck (SWAN, WHY) has to shake his shoulders like he's trying to wrench an arm out of the socket so he can be excused to the medic and just keep running and never look back.

Also, many of those sisters aren't the same sisters from the beginning of the movie. I'm just saying, that's the kind of show you're in for.

An awesome one.

WIPs

Jun. 24th, 2010 11:11 pm
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
Please note, I apparently don't have time to write about anything in depth, but plenty of time to make graphics about what I'm doing. Mmm, logic!




1. Reference image for a story I'm working on; originally was used for a story I just finished, but this image had another purpose. (It's a worker.)

2. If I am not writing a story about someone in a coat of some kind, then I am writing a story about a post-human singularity...in which robots wear coats.

3. This looks like a still from a fantastic movie. It is, in fact, a still from One Night with the King, which is an absolutely terrible movie you will be seeing more of shortly.

4. Ditto. This is from Bathory. Not pictured: Hans Matheson painting a portrait of a baby that's been stored inside the block of ice. (Oh, it happens.)

5. This is a picture of a juggler. Technically, he's from an Anthropologie catalog, and he's probably just a juggler because Hans Matheson found another stand-in. In my imagination, he's my imaginary circus boyfriend. His name is Ben. You will probably see him again.

6. The novel currently with my agent takes place in a river city. This picture was from [livejournal.com profile] vintagephoto, and the time between me seeing it and me right-click-saving cannot be measured with modern instruments.

7. My next novel is set in the 1920s. Researching dance crazes of the time is repellent, grueling work that I absolutely do not enjoy whatsoever, but it has to be done.

8. Because it's never the wrong time to watch Gleaming the Cube.

9. Inception. I have a piece about this movie lined up for Tor.com; in the meantime, just know that Joseph Gordon-Levitt must have signed an extra wire-work clause or something.
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A few days ago I mentioned the cheeseball glory that is Dhoom 2.

Today, we do a Bollywood 180 for Jodhaa Akbar, a sweeping historical drama based on the life of Akbar the Great.

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai star in both. I'm glad I saw Hrithik in this before I saw Dhoom 2, and that is all I will say about that. (Aishwarya…does her best.)



Nutshell: In 16th-Century India, Jalaluddin is the young emperor of Hindustan, handsoming his way across the country, trying to be wise and just and whatever. Jodhaa is a stunning Rajput princess who's married to Jalaluddin as a gesture of solidarity between Hindus and Muslims. Will these two incredibly genetically blessed people ever fall in love? Will Jalaluddin ever reconcile the two religions at war under his reign? Will this movie's eight bajillion subplots ever get resolved? We'll find out…in real time. (This movie is awesome, but it is also about eight years long.)

Let's hit it. )
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So, this weekend I saw Splice. I will be talking about it tomorrow, but it's just not the sort of blog entry I want to face on a Monday. Especially since I also saw Dhoom 2 this weekend.

Dhoom 2 stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, who had been paired to great effect in Jodhaa Akbar (despite Aishwarya's lack of actual acting ability). I thought, "Well, they did well in the other one. Let's check out Dhoom 2!"

Do you guys remember the first Mission: Impossible movie, when everyone had latex masks on all the time and they spent four hours just double-crossing each other and jumping around pulling off latex masks to reveal other latex masks and shooting bullets in an arc and running around and pulling off other people's latex masks, and you spent the whole movie thinking, "What is wrong with these awful people in this movie I don't understand?"

The maker of Dhoom 2 looked at that movie and said, "This is missing two things: dance numbers, and a man dressed up to look like the Queen. I can fix this."



And so, Dhoom 2 was born. )

Best part: I was thinking about writing this up, and I thought, "Well, it won't be the same without a compilation of Hrithik Roshan walking in slow-motion towards the camera with his shirt unbuttoned and his scarf fluttering in the wind, but where the hell am I going to find that?"

Turns out someone made it, and put it to a love song. Thank you, internet. Thank you for everything.

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Short WisCon report: it was great, except for the hour prior to my reading at the Lightspeed launch, where I had a more serious case of nerves than normal and ended up pacing outside like I was a screwball reporter waiting for a phone call. The reading went fine, though, and everything else was a blast.

Today at Fantasy Magazine, I run down the Top Ten Magical Realism Films, which doesn't sound quite right, but Magical Realist sounds like a wizard who's like, "Listen, I can summon the beasts of the ocean, but my day job is in Indiana, so you tell me."

One of my favorites on this list is Lawn Dogs. It's a modern fairy tale in the good sense and the bad, in that uneven way where the concepts sometimes outstrip the dialogue, and some of the visuals are awesome and some are heavy-handed. (The suburban parents are perkily banal! He's a free spirit because he dives off bridges naked!)

On the other hand, in the opening scene where Mischa Barton's character is making sugar-cookie-girl-with-raisin-bellybutton cookie drones for her Brownies equivalent, and her parents are talking about super-suburban nothing in the background, a fly lands on one of the cookies and she looks at it a moment and then grinds it into the cookie alongside all the raisins. A moment like that...sets the right tone, let's say.

I remain surprised this movie isn't more popular (though it was hard to come by for a few years, so it's not like anyone had a chance to stumble upon it). It was one of the first times I saw Sam Rockwell; I looked this up after seeing Galaxy Quest and realizing Rockwell was the guy from The Green Mile and thinking he was probably pretty awesome in his other stuff, too. (Hint: he is.)
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This is what happens when you hit your biannual Bollywood kick right before you get on a plane: this song, in a loop on your head, for two hours.

Here's the thing: it's a really upbeat, catchy song, performed by Madhuri Dixit (who, for my money, is one of the best in Bollywood). If you do not read the lyrics, it sounds like the best time ever.

But if you read the lyrics, it is the happiest song about questionabe-consent field-going EVER.



This alternate translation is even less encouraging of flirty/fun-time readings, since the words "by force" appear often.

I saw somewhere that this is a folk song? She said, not knowing a damn thing. (Then again, that might have been YouTube comments, which are hardly citable.)

Of course, if it was, everyone's folktales/songs have undertones of Ye Ole Questionable Materiale, so it's hardly fair to single out any particular song from anywhere (and using only one of many possible translations) for having strange subject matter (I mean, Grimm's Fairy Tales, anyone?). I'm just saying that I first came across this clip without the translation, and enjoyed having it stuck in my head, and then I found the translation, and now I don't know what to think. It's too catchy to be wrong! Right?

P.S. It has now been stuck in my head four days and counting. I don't even know.

P.P.S. The movie this is from is Anjaam, the first pairing of Madhuri and Shahrukh Khan, who would go on to partner her in several movies, my favorite of which is Devdas. (I have a total soft spot for sweeping historical epics, as you'll see.) The plot of this movie, summed up as succintly as possible on Wikipedia. (You should click it; it's a work of art.)

I have seen this whole movie, and can confirm it is exactly as cracktacular as it sounds. Immediate addition to the list of my favorite potboilers.
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Wow, that was kind of a long hiatus! (I made the last one in 1996, it looks like.) I know this has become something of a habit, like that time I tried to make a picspam of my French vacation and only got two-thirds of the way through, so if you are a literalist it looks like I never actually came home but am instead blogging from an attic somewhere overlooking the amusement park in Rouen. (Note to that person: well-spotted, mon frère!)

But I have my act together now, and the time has come for another Catherine Cookson Experience!

Today's is different from most of the others, because I genuinely love this one. It is a pulpy mess, and I enjoy every second of its cheesy glory. You will be able to tell this soon, but I thought I might as well warn you up front: this one is awesome, and I have the eight thousand photos to prove it! This is The Rag Nymph.



Vital Stats:

Era: 1850s, looks like.
Heroine: Millie
Siblings that require looking-after: Well, initially Millie is the one who needs looking-after (when you were niiiiiiiine!).
Illegitimate (Self or sibling): It's like a Law and Order episode; it takes you almost until the end to find out, and by then you don't even care.
Asshole Father?: Oh, jeez. Every father in this thing is a total jerkbag.
Romantic interest(s): Mr. Bingley, Paul Atreides. Tough call!
Bairnsketballs: Nope.
Fistfights: Somebody knifes a pimp. It counts!
Assaults: Oh jeeeeeeeez.

Under here, more When You Were Nine goodness. )
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
Last week I stumbled on what is possibly the best historical doc ever on the Discovery Channel:

Cleopatra, Portrait of a Killer. (To be pronounced "KILLAH!" with Gloria Swanson eyes.)



On the right, Arsinoe. On the left, a KILLAH.


Their premise is that Cleopatra, because she hinted around at various Romans until her brother/husband and her half-sister got bumped off and left her sitting pretty on the throne, is a stone-cold killer. Also they have an extra five minutes to fill, so we're going to reconstruct some bones we found in Arsinoe's tomb and decide where she came from! (Not interesting enough for its own show, I guess, but apparently a nice way to bring home the fact that Arsinoe was dispatched by a KILLAH.)

Here's the problem with that: they must think we have never heard of a royal family before. Killing each other is what royal families more or less exist to do. (Last one standing gets the throne, you guys!) So, the fact that Cleopatra exerted some influence to rid herself of rivals to the throne is business as usual, and doing everything you can to keep yourself in power is not only business as usual, but history sort of vilifies you if you can't manage it, so you might as well really go for it and become Oxnard the Wrathful or whatever instead of Plinkerton the Waffling.

(Also, if we're talking about someone who is not afraid to fight for the throne, the ghost of Henry VIII heard this TV show title and looked up, superoffended.)

On the other hand, "Cleopatra: Portrait of Moderate Political Acumen" doesn't have the same ring to it, I guess.




But long as we're still competing for incestuous, murderous royal families, there's another amber-filtered desert-dwelling monarchy that makes Cleopatra's friends look like an episode of Blackadder. Just saying.

On the plus side, this had the best history-documentary extras EVER. They were really going for it, especially Cleopatra and Arsinoe, who did more intense-head-turns-to-the-camera than any other history documentary has ever attempted.

I think I've talked about this before, but I REALLY love extras. Extras in big movies, extras in small movies, accidental extras in crowd scenes, extras who look right at the camera, extras who are falling asleep, extras who outdance the leads, extras who are into it above and beyond the call of duty and gesticulate wildly in the background having a peas-and-carrots fight. But perhaps no extras are closer to my heart than the extras in historical documentaries, who usually look a little confused as to why they're doing whatever they're doing, but gamely push forward into a castle siege or something, just like they were told.

These extras came to win, though. They threw shade at each other and had silent freakouts and threw jewelry all over the place! I actually enjoy this Cleopatra in a completely non-facetious way, and watched the entire hour because I loved how much fun she was clearly having. You make it happen, Cleopatra!

Below, a clip from the show for your enjoyment. (She was a KILLAH!)

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Today on Fantasy Magazine is the start of a miniseries I'm pretty excited about. This is one in a series of lists that will be tackling fantasy's top ten fight scenes, in a variety of categories. And this time I'm actually counting down from ten to one, which I have never done before, and was not easy. (Don't think I love you any less, Atreyu!)

Today, we begin with The Duels.

Soon to come: one-against-many, epic battles, over-the-top campfests, etc.

And I have to say, after rewatching umpteen fight scenes to put these lists together, I'm thinking of also nominating Top Ten Physical Therapy tricks or something, because unless you're animated, these fights are grueling. (Sorry, Prince Philip.)
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There's something ceaselessly awesome about silent films. They're a living time capsule of social mores, markers of technological leaps, proof of humankind's deep affinity for storytelling, employer of piano-players everywhere.

The great ones are fantastically evocative and moving. The bad ones are hysterical.

Conveniently, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is both!



Also apparently a little judgey! )
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Over at Fantasy Magazine today, I cast my granny-eye across the room and tackle some of Fantasy's Weirdest Relationships. Jareth the Goblin King gets first pick, but he's far from the only creeper on this list.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list; if I tried to make an exhaustive list of all the questionable relationships in fantasy movies, I'd be here twenty years from now. This is the Whitman's sampler of uncomfortable dynamics, with one exception: The Sea Prince and the Fire Child. That movie is one of the best examples of weird relationships ever. It is just an endless cocktail party of interactions that are Not Quite Right.



This is one of those things, like The Red Shoes or The Linguini Incident, that I spent my childhood thinking no one else had ever seen. (To be fair, that might be because whenever I said, "Have you seen [movie]?" the other person would pull a face and say, "What? No." in that tone you reserve for people who ask you if you've ever eaten a roach.)

If you've seen this movie, you know what I mean when I say that this movie messes with you. For those of you who are new to it, be prepared to make one or all of these faces:



Let's do this thing. )
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Today, two great tastes that taste great together: Olympic Pairs skating, and the greatest sports movie ever made, The Cutting Edge.



Here's the thing about The Cutting Edge: it's a seriously early-90s movie, as evidenced by D. B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly. It is super-predictable. It also tries to tackle What Ambitious Women Are Up Against, and ends up saying, "Ambitious women are up against an awful lot! Poor thing; let's give her a boyfriend to help her with that."

On the other hand, it is a movie that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about pairs skating, so at least it's useful! It will be especially useful when applied to the Pairs event that just wrapped at the Vancouver Olympics.

It's a bounce spin into a throw twist? )
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Today at Tor.com, I talk about SyFy's new reimagined-fairy-tale movies of the week. First up will be Beauty and the Beast (naturally), starring Estella Warren (naturally).

Do I think this will be awesome? Yes. But it has some serious work to do if it's ever going to compare to the most amazing version of this story ever broadcast, and I think you know which I mean.



This one. (Immortalized here on Greendale Elementary's picture day.)

Now, this show is not amazing for its overall storyline (which was three ounces of story in a two-gallon jug). Nor is it memorable for its individual episodes, which tended to be like the 90s remake of The Tomorrow People, in that almost every episode featured someone new learning about the underground society that has existed in secrecy for decades, except that judging by the discovery rate on the show, by now everyone in New York probably knows about it and just doesn't realize it's common knowledge because it doesn't come up in conversation. The Underground Renaissance Faire: New York's best-kept secret.

But neither one of those is the element that makes the show truly timeless. That would be the wardrobe.

You do not even know how many pictures are under here. )
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Today at Tor.com I talk about some awfulsome Christian horror movies.

Two things about this article:

1) I am not joking about The Prophecy. Simon is a wounded angel hiding in the abandoned wing of a school, and when he realizes Gabriel is coming for him, he coaxes little Mary close enough that he can spit the soul he's carrying into her body so Gabriel doesn't find it.

This is not weird in terms of heavenly amorality, ends justifying the means, etc. It's unsettling, but the whole idea is that the heavenly agenda can't be understood by mortal men, so that's all fine. But what this means in real life is that Eric Stoltz looked at the script and went, "Okay, I fight an angel, sure, I talk to the agnostic, okay, I make out with a twelve-year-old, sure, and then Gabriel kills me. I don't see any problems here! Sign me up!"

And seriously, Eric Stoltz is creepy enough without watching him French kiss a child, okay? You can't un-ring that bell.


2) I kid about Stigmata, but no joke, I think that movie is awesome, and here's why.



Lift a stone, and you will find me. )
glvalentine: (omg no)
Over at Tor.com today, I tackle the first wave of this year's genre pilots coming out of pilot season, including something so awesome/hilarious I can't even speak of it with a straight face: they're making Push into a TV series.

On the surface? Smart. A small group of photogenic people running from a shady government and hooking up with a series of semi-famous guest stars has proven to be sustainable for at least four decent seasons.

However, this pilot has not been picked up by a network yet. I am wondering if maybe they aren't sure how to handle the casting of some of the characters, since our underage heroine was a little underdressed, and that will get super-awkward every week at 9pm, you know?

ALSO THEY ARE MAKING HAWAII FIVE-O AGAIN. WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS.
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Up at Fantasy Magazine, I talk about the implications of Avatar winning the Golden Globe. (Spoiler alert: the people who vote for these awards seem really susceptible to marketing.)

However, for purposes of the article, I operated under the assumption that these special effects will change the game in the way Cameron bragged they would, and thus might be employed to better effect in stories that don't totally blow, and suggested two. One of them is a remake request that will come as no surprise to anyone who reads Questionable Taste Theatre, but I'm dead serious when I say: SOMEONE WHO IS NOT JAMES CAMERON IS WELCOME TO MAKE THAT. (That someone also should not be Michael Bay. Or M. Night. Or most people. Ugh, just give it to Peter Jackson.)

Anecdote! Cameron kept inviting other important directors to play with the equipment (hey-oooo) while he was in pre-production, ostensibly to share this important information but clearly to brag about how awesome he was and try to distract people from his screenplay. Those invited included Peter Jackson, which has to take some balls, considering that out of all the criticism of the Lord of the Rings movies, "shitty special effects" was really not one. Plus, Jackson knows how to do a subtle effect well, JAMES. (Bilbo lunging for the ring in Rivendell: never not creepy.)
glvalentine: (omg no)
At Tor.com today, I talk about major changes for Spider-Man 4, none of which sound good.

On the other hand, if you had told me after Batman and Robin that someone was making another Batman movie, I would have asked to slap that person in the face for merely thinking such a thing. And then we got two pretty awesome Batman movies. The moral here: it's a good thing I am rarely within slapping distance of people. The other moral: sometimes grinding a franchise into the ground means you are free to start over with something better.

In case anyone was smart enough to avoid Batman and Robin, and are foolish enough to do so now, consider this a primer/warning; a brief photo essay of the sorts of faces you will make while watching this film, presented without commentary.



There's just something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl's lips. )
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So, among the many graduates of Awesome British Actor Camp, there's a little subculture of actors who are probably perfectly nice people who enjoy things like accounting and pinochle. Unfortunately, they have a particular aura about them that make them look like escapees from a gang of creepers.

If they really were a gang, and nine of them were being chosen to go up to the Bronx to hear Cyrus give his big speech, Cillian Murphy would be the leader. Dude is an awesome actor, but no one is ever surprised when he turns into a total raging revenge murderer an hour into 28 Days Later, is all I'm saying.

Second one chosen would be Hans Matheson.



If you need more evidence than his face, it's under the cut. )

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Genevieve Valentine

September 2010

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