Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Directed by Edgar Wright. Written by Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright.

Preconceptions: I know several very frightening fans of Scott Pilgrim (not the least of whom is Lipglosszombie over at Open and Shuttered). I was nail-bitingly worried I wasn't going to care for this flick and that it was all going to end in torches and windmills (again). As usual, I broke my own rule and read the source material before seeing a movie I intended to review and while I liked the comics alright, they didn't speak to me the same way they do to a lot of people I know. I figured the movie would be a similar experience and one that ended in a frightening mob.

General Review: I actually enjoyed this a whole pile more than I did the comics (which I suppose will get me a different frightening mob). Edgar Wright (as well as being surprisingly handsome for a director) kicked some serious ass in the directorial department. I can't remember the last time I saw something this experimental that was also so entertaining (mind, I shamefully haven't seen Inception yet). It's been a while since I've been able to freely gush about the directing of a film and say that it's more than simply competently made. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is far more than competent. Wright's ability to use editing to enhance comedy took some fairly funny material from the comic and made it hilarious. I figured the premise didn't really rate a two hour movie, but it didn't feel two hours long. The quick pacing also meant we were never mired in 20-something drama and were always moving forward.





But I mentioned experimental and the directing certainly was that. There was liberal use of words and sounds appearing on screen to make it look like more the comic. It evoked the different styles of games that informed the visual choices in the comic as well. The use of strong colours and stark black and whites also made it look more comic-like.

Most of the choices of what to cut and what to keep were excellent. We manage to hit most of the main points of a six digest comic in just one movie, without much having to be sliced for time. The bulk of the streamlining done made sense and, more importantly, I didn't feel like the movie was a mere book-end to the comic series. Unlike some other comic adaptations, you could easily see Scott PIlgrim vs the World without having any prior knowledge of the series. It wasn't just a nice piece to go along with the series, it stood on its own, made sense and was enjoyable. My only beef with the movie does lie in the story, however. Ramona (our female lead) is much more passive in the movie than she is in the comic. Rather than feeling like she's helping Scott fight his demons while he's helping fight her's, it comes off as extremely one-sided. Ramona stands almost entirely helpless and it irritated the ever loving bejesus out of me. I was kinda disappointed not to see the fight in the library between Ramona and Knives, but that's not a beef, I just thought it was a cool scene.

Ellen Wong (as Knives) utterly blew me away. She was adorable, funny, tragic and dangerous by turns and my favourite character by a country mile. I hope that I have the opportunity to see her in another flick soon. Michael Cera seemed like a strange choice to play the lead, given the hyperbolic highs and lows we watch Scott go through (and given that I still haven't seen him play a character that wasn't just Michael Cera). But I gotta say his sputtering, understated style worked well in the role.

I know there are at least some of you out there who (like me) were only lukewarm about the comic. If something is about people dealing with their boring relationship problems, I typically don't care a whit about it, either. Trust me on this: the Scott Pilgrim movie will make you forget that it's based on dull relationship stuff. It's oozing with charm, skillfully directed and very funny. Go forth and rent it.

Aside: If I hadn't just gone a wacky colour with my hair, this movie would have forced me to do so out of absolute envy of Ramona's hair.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weeks Too Late: 3:10 To Yuma

3:10 To Yuma. Directed by James Mangold & Written by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt & Derek Haas.

Preconceptions: While waiting on tenterhooks for the new Coen Brother's western to finally be out (eee! just a few more days), I decided it would be fun to look at the last big popular western, 3:10 to Yuma (and since I'm pretty sure Mangold got paid per the times he made actors say 3:10 to Yuma, I'm going to see if I can get on the same trolley by typing 3:10 to Yuma as frequently as possible). I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about this flick and was excited to see it.

General Review
: Seriously. They must have said 3:10 to Yuma four or five times during the course of the movie and every time it raised my hackles. "Quit being self aware, movie that isn't meant to be self aware," I shouted.
As I watched the opening scenes, which were totally devoid of action, I felt rather like Homer and Bart seeing Paint
Your Wagon:



Christian Bale seemed to be some sort of pacifist of the old west and once we cut away from him, we find the notably surly Russel Crowe doing wildlife sketches. I jest, but it does take a while to get into the gun fighting and whoring. And there is a lot of philosophical debating between action sequences. In a show like Deadwood, filled with likable and complex characters, I'm content to let them soliloquize at me. In 3:10 to Yuma, where the hero is a a wuss and most of the supporting cast might as well be cut outs, I am not transported by the navel gazing.

It wasn't all grizzled men spitting and wondering about the meaning of it all, however. It was nice to see Alan Tudyk getting work (though the razor quick among you won't be surprised to hear that he's still a leaf on the wind) and I can think of few places where I've seen Russel Crowe used to better effect. It is a strange and disturbing universe when I enjoy him substantially more than Christian Bale, so kudos to you Russel Crowe and your genuinely charming portrayal of a charismatic psychopath. Despite the creepy thinness of his beard, Ben Foster played an unusually loyal second in command and it was a nice change of pace from the cartoonishly back stabbing second.

The score was also something to write home about. It evoked Ennio Morricone's work in the Spaghetti Westerns without blatantly ripping it off (no soulful whistling for one). The directing was competent if not particularly noteworthy and the setting is gorgeous. The action sequences (when you get to them) aren't confusing or sickening and the last battle is just plain cool (it reminded me of more than one frustrating escort quest in video games).

All in all, it really didn't need to be the full two hours. There wasn't enough character meat or spectacle to keep my attention for that long. Ignore all your natural impulses, because Christian Bale really isn't worth noting, but Russel Crowe is. If you like the genre (and, inexplicably, you haven't seen this yet), you'll probably enjoy 3:10 to Yuma, but only as a place holder. It's alright fodder while waiting for the next great western comes along. Unfortunately, this isn't that great western.


Aside: I know it's more than a little nit pick-y, but in a scene towards the end of the movie, Christian Bale asks a Federal Marshal to prove his credentials. The Marshal put his badge under the door to prove he's legit. He then walked into the room, still wearing his badge. The rest of his guys walked into the room, still wearing their badges. Then Christian Bale throws the badge back at the Marshal, who continued to be wearing it. I guess they carry spares?*



*This review has been brought to you by embedded video and 3:10 to Yuma (clip used without permission but assuming fair use for the purpose of review).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov

Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov
ISBN: 0-679-72339-0

Blurb:

Speak, Memory, first published in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then assiduously revised in 1966, is an elegant and rich evocation of Nabokov’s life and times, even as it offers incisive insights into his major works, including Lolita, Pnin, Despair, The Gift, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and The Defense.

***

My Thoughts:

Some years ago in an English class, I read Nabokov’s Pale Fire and I instantly fell in love with his use of language and the multi-layered story he wove.  Naturally, I crammed my Amazon wish list full of his other works and promptly neglected to buy any of them in the haze of undergraduate life, where, fickle as butterflies, students flits from literary flower to literary flower.  An apt simile considering Nabokov was an avid butterfly hunter and spends a significant portion of the book discussing this habit!

I have to admit, I’m somewhat wary of reviewing a piece of non-fiction, and especially an autobiography.  It presents the danger of sitting in judgment of the life portrayed on the page, which is not at all my purpose here.  Luckily, Nabokov’s autobiography is so inundated with his prose-style that it feels more like a novel than an account of his early years.  Really, though, Speak, Memory is a meditation on memory, on the past and on piecing oneself together bit by bit.  And, as any unreliable narrator in a first person narrative, Nabokov will focus on the tiniest detail of his childhood for pages on end, dwelling on it with some hidden significance in mind, while, on the other hand, he doesn't discuss meeting his wife or their wedding at all.  Events which I feel are significant and deserve mention, but then, through not discussing them he is able to maintain privacy in the midst of offering an autobiography.  At the same time, these choices cunningly play on the vagaries of memory.  Our minds cling to certain sights, sounds, smells and completely elide others, leaving us with this strange mosaic of a past.

Now, being a lazy reader there were some sections I skimmed – for instance when he describes in detail the positions of chess pieces in a chess problem he created.  I read the account of how he came up with the problem, how he constructed it within his mind and how it was solved, but the actual list of positions was too much for me.  Also, the inclusion of rather seamless French sentences made me acutely aware of my lack of knowledge when it comes to anything beyond English and German.  Actually, the whole book left me with a sense of inadequacy – in a good way, not in a depressing way, making me want to apply myself with a little more rigor to my studies, in particular my bilingualism.

The book also has value as a historical document, in a sense.  It brought out an aspect of Russia, the Revolution and Communism that we don’t often think about – or at least it appears that we don’t.  While much has been written about the persecution of artists and the re-appropriation of land under the Communist regime, the human toll of these practices is not as easily portrayed.  Nabokov's remembrance makes these events real and shows some of the darker undercurrents of the Revolution's aftermath through a sensitive, personal story of flight.  The image that the villainous landed gentry were overthrown due to their ruthless abuse of the peasants is one that lingers in the West despite everything that's come to light about the regimes of Lenin and Stalin.  This idea is beautifully countered in Nabokov's work.

Last, let me say that the feeling of longing for his homeland is palpable and really spoke to the immigrant in me.  While not exiled and certainly able to return at any time to the place from whence I came, I could relate to the mixture of longing and dread that Nabokov talked about when he discussed going back to Russia.  Things will invariably be not as they are remembered and sometimes nostalgia is better than its attempted alleviation.

I think that if you’re interested in Nabokov’s work there are better places to start than with this autobiography.  Personally, I would recommend Pale Fire since it seems a little more approachable than the famous Lolita, which might be the next novel of his that I seek out in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

Postscript:  As next weekend marks this Xmas holiday thing, I will not be posting a review, but I will regale you once more on the first day of the New Year to give you something to read while you nurse your hangovers, my pets.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Girl On Week Action: Lovecraft Unbound

Lovecraft Unbound. Edited by Ellen Datlow.

This is the text version of our glorious podcast which can be found here:
The MP3 version
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Aside (via Wren):
Well, some of you may have heard my recent appearance on the Halloween special (episode 87) of critically acclaimed Sarcastic Voyage Podcast (which I was totally invited to because of my comedic skill and not at all because my husband and good friend run it). During the course of the show, while liberally and irritatingly plugging this very blog, I may have mentioned that Doomwench had reviewed Lovecraft Unbound...ahem...she hasn't. I hoped this would slip by people, it very much didn't, so here I'm staying late at the GoBA offices to write a punishment review for my mistake. But, my punishment doesn't end there, as Doomwench doesn't trust me with her column and is standing over my shoulder making me take dictation of her thoughts on Lovecraft Unbound as well (we take media accuracy very seriously here). Fortunately, the subject matter was easy to get through. Since Doomwench purchased this book over a year ago, it's been making its ever more crumpled way through the ranks of our friends (each one reading it and then going out to purchase their own copy). All of us have found a handful of new authors to love (ones besides Caitlin R. Kiernan) thanks to this collection. So please enjoy the public shaming that is our Lovecraft Unbound review.

General Review (via Doomwench): Ah, Lovecraft Unbound, you wouldn’t believe how difficult it was to divide up these stories, nor would you believe the immense pressure of picking my two favourites– there were too many good pieces from which to choose. Alas, I did narrow it down after some haggling with Wren.

The first story I want to talk to you about is Amanda Downum’s “A Tenderness of Jackals.” Before coming across her work in this anthology, I had never heard Amanda Downum’s name, but this tale pulled me in and held me in its grip like a velvet-lined vice. Some of the references to ghouls and warrens were – to me – reminiscent of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s novels. The setting evoked a long history of murder, atrocities and a serial killer (Fritz Haarmann) I’ve had occasion to read a bit about in the course of my research on vampires. Downum presented a realistic setting and then through the character of Gabriel and the wolves in the shadows urging him on to hunt and kill she added a wonderfully realized element of the uncanny. I came away feeling haunted and wary of the shadows on a cold night.

Second, I’ve chosen “Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips, another name with which I was not familiar prior to reading Lovecraft Unbound. For me, this story is what “At the Mountains of Madness” could or should have been, rather than the somewhat dull slog that it actually is (I will freely admit that it’s one of my least favourite Lovecraft tales, you may tar and feather me if you like). There is a tangible sense of the madness of explorers in here, and a seeping cold that hits you as you read about these people living on a huge ice berg and finding something in the ice. I don’t want to tell you much more than that because you really have to read it to get the atmosphere – that sense of cosmic dread that Lovecraft was so good at portraying in his best stories, which also permeates through Phillips’ piece.

Now, with a collection with so many solid contributions we couldn’t just pick two stories each, so here are my runner’s up for top spot. Joyce Carol Oates’ “Commencement” was a great spectacle of a story and for a good part of it you’re waiting for the world it presents to shift into the unheimlich and it’s satisfying when it finally happens. The other piece I’ve chosen to mention is “In the Black Mill” by Michael Chabon which for me evoked the best of Lovecraft’s depiction of Innsmouth – a city where the inhabitants don’t seem quite right and the protagonist is left attempting to unravel the mystery that starts to gnaw at him. The more he learns, the greater the feeling of dread – it was really well done and stuck with me for a good while.

For me, one of the few that seemed to miss the mark was “The Office of Doom,” by Richard Bowes. Don’t get me wrong, I see the potential for a very potent narrative in it – but that potential is never realized. The attempt at the humor in it fell flat as well. In my mind, the shortcomings are focused on one important fact: Bowes leaves all the wrong things unexplained and gives us explanations and details about things that really detract from what the thrust of the story should have been, both in terms of making it funny and giving it that sense of pervasive dread that I associate with Lovecraft inspired works.

General Review (via Wren): Picking just two out of this excellent collection was none too easy. We both kept saying things like "this was one of the strongest stories in the book" about 15 of them...and there are only 20 stories in it. Despite the challenge presented to us by the overall excellence of the stories, "Mongoose" (by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear) and "the Crevasse" (by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud) made the biggest impression on me. "The Crevasse" captured one of my favourite things about Lovecraft (besides making fun of him for being a weird guy who was afraid of women) and that is the sense of forbidding isolation. There are few people besides Lovecraft who've made me buy that we're all unimportant and surrounded by a universe that is vast, uncaring and filled with things we can't possibly understand. In "the Crevasse" we follow a group of Arctic adventurers who have been out on the ice long enough to hate each other (I think that'd be about 10 minutes for me) dealing with one of these unknown monsters. It's a lonely, frightening story that wormed its way into my subconscious and stayed there.

"Mongoose" is less obviously Lovecraftian, sure there are the giant pulsing horrors and some excellent sci-fi elements, but this could have easily been in a non-Lovecraft collection. And I mean this in the best way possible, I didn't read it thinking "oh well they swiped this from the Dunwich Horror, I see what they're doing here." I read it thinking "what a surprisingly charming story with a great use of language and culture." In this story we're on a space station that's been infested with trans-dimensional monstrosities and our main characters are the exterminator and her highly intelligent pet. Ahem, I certainly didn't immediately connect to this because of my love for dangerous adorable animals...at all. It alludes heavily to Alice In Wonderland in a way I haven't seen before, which is damned difficult because those books are about as heavily referenced as anything can be, and the world building was particularly impressive for such a short story. I've since checked both of the authors responsible for this and have fallen in love with Elizabeth Bear. Unfortunately, I've found Monette's solo work to be insufferable and dull.

As for my two runner's up, a couple of the stories attempted to make Lovecraft funny and failed spectacularly, "Come Lurk with Me and Be My Love" (by William Browning Spencer) is the only one that managed it. It was both light hearted and disgusting. "The Din of Celestial Birds" (by Brian Evenson) was another well done piece that captured the Lovecraftian theme of hopelessness. Along with being beautifully written, it had the feeling of impotence against forces beyond our control, that shouts Lovecraft at his best.

Despite the superlative nature of these stories, there were certainly a few stinkers. I have yet to read an anthology where every story was a winner. "Catch Hell" (by Laird Barron) was not a winner. The story of a woman dealing with her warlock husband isn't a bad idea in and of itself. However, is an idea that I've seen in more than one 80 and 90's anthology of horror shorts (including the infamous Merlin's Shop of Mystery as done by MST3K). It has some alright atmosphere, but it's too long for such a simple idea and for a story about revenge it really doesn't have any teeth. Finally, you'll see the dramatic twist coming from a mile off and it's actually the same twist as in the aforementioned MST3K movie.

The Houses Under the Sea (via Wren): As those of you who've been reading us for a while know, we could easily be called a Caitlin R. Kiernan fan blog. After a bit of arguing and threats of a duel to the death, we decided the best way to talk about CRK's "the Houses Under the Sea" would be to cut the baby in half and do it together. CRK's short stories are typically very strong and this is easily in the top five of her best. She juggles what to show and what to keep mysterious better in this than in almost any of her other works.

The Houses Under the Sea (via Doomwench): I think the voice is also one of her strongest to date, the narration really draws you into the story. I was keenly interested not only on the uncanny elements of the story, but in the characters, both the narrator and the half-mad Jacova Angevine. There is such a sense of personality to both of them, and coupled with the sense of the unfathomable Kiernan creates a very compelling story.

Lovecraft Unbound is an excellent short story anthology, it's gotten us both jazzed about several writers we were totally unaware of beforehand. And writing such a long review together turned out to be a lot more fun than we were expecting it to be. So, go out and buy a copy of this book and look forward to seeing more reviews like this one in the future.

Terry's review of Lovecraft the man: Lovecraft was....not cute.

Announcement: The Girl On Book Action Podcast

While writing the review for Lovecraft Unbound was a punishment for Wren (for being a liar), it also turned out to be pretty fun. Which partially explains why it got so very, very long. We realized that things were getting even wordier than usual, which is why, for the first time, we've also posted this in podcast format. We didn't want to be disloyal to those of you who prefer reading with your eyes, so we've also put it up as a ridiculous wall of text (please don't be scared off!). The wall of text also contains a few pictures that, for obvious reasons, couldn't be included in the podcast.

Don't fear, loyal readers, we'll still be writing our twice weekly reviews, but from time to time we'll also be posting these short, snack sized, podcasts.

Please let us know what you think.

Links (kindly hosted by aalgar.com):

The MP3 version
We're also on iTunes
RSS

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Overwinter by David Wellington

Overwinter by David Wellington
ISBN: 978-0-307-46079-0

Ahem, I know you are wondering why I’m blathering at you before I even give you a blurb.  I’m reviewing part two of a series and even the blurb will have spoilers for part one, so if you have not read David Wellington’s Frostbite and aren’t fond of spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now.  I will point you to my review of the first part in this series here; perhaps you’d like to read that instead.

Blurb:

Cheyenne Clark – a woman whose hatred for werewolves has turned her into the very thing she most despises – prowls the Arctic Circle on the trail of an ancient secret, hunting for the one thing that could remove the lycanthropic curse and make her human again.

Yet standing between Chey and her goal are a werewolf hunter armed with a diabolically brilliant weapon, a centuries-old werewolf with her own mysterious agenda…and Chey’s own complicated feelings for the man who doomed her to this existence but on whom her life now depends.

Worse, with every hour that passes the wolf inside Chey becomes more powerful.  It won’t be long before the woman disappears completely, and only the beast is left.

***

Aside: I'm back!  I hope you all enjoyed last week's guest post!  And thank you to AAlgar for his awesome review.  I may need to check out Ringworld at some point in the future.  Now, let me review for you, my pets.


My Thoughts:

Hmm.  I have mixed thoughts about this novel, to be perfectly honest with you my dears.  On the one hand, it offered up some really fascinating mythology and a rather nice origin story for the werewolves, on the other hand, the end seemed rushed and somehow was not at all satisfying.  The casual writing-style also irked me, which is probably a symptom of reading so many books with amazingly poetic language.  Oh, and the characters weren’t particularly dynamic or you know, three-dimensional.  Gripe, gripe, gripe.

When I read Frostbite almost a year ago, I was taken with how innovative Wellington’s approach to the werewolf was and this, at least, is still true in Overwinter.  The whole concept of the curse and the Inuit mythology woven throughout the narrative are both really captivating and not something I’ve read before now.  The setting was amazing again – and there were some great descriptions of vicious storms and snowy, bleak landscapes through which the wolves had to trek.  We got to meet some more animal spirits and all of these were great, even if they acted as deux ex machina in parts.

The story started to fall apart with the characters, though.  Somehow, they seemed more like cardboard cut-outs than people – aside from the incarnations of the animal spirits.  I liked the dynamic between Powell and Chey in the first novel, but here, with the burgeoning romance it just felt too forced.  Really, the only time I enjoyed reading about the main cast without any reservations was when they were wolves, because the wolf dynamics seemed natural.  I could certainly tell that an effort was made to make the human interactions believable and to show Chey’s struggle with her feelings for Powell, but it just didn’t resonate strongly enough to make me care.

I won’t give away exactly what happens at the end, but I will say that it leaves one storyline unresolved.  The oppositional force just tucks tail and runs and then we don’t ever hear about the repercussions which were discussed earlier in the book for this kind of failure.  So it felt like that a whole bunch of chapters talking about Holness, the spy working with big business to deal with the werewolf problem, were a waste of time.  Does he get punished for failing?  Or do his employers see the end as a victory and he gets rewarded?  We will never know!  That seems like a bit of a hole right there.  I didn’t spend all those chapters with him thinking about his fancy clothes just to have this lack of resolution in his storyline.  Blech.

It’s really a shame, because there were quite a few neat things in this novel.  Varkanin’s ploy to deal with the werewolves, especially Lucie and some of the back story to Powell and Lucie in Europe when he was first made a wolf during WWI, the spirits and the setting, hell, even the cure is innovative, but overall at the end I felt disappointed.  I think, ultimately, I just didn’t care about the characters enough to care about the outcome.  So, I’m still torn between the unique aspects of the story and the lack of emotional appeal in the characters.  I will sit on the fence on this one, but if you’ve read the first one, I don’t think you’ll hate this conclusion.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boy of the Month: SPIKE! I mean, James Marsters



Where you know him from:

1. SPIKE!!! From Buffy!!!

2. Captain John Hart from Torchwood

3. Brainiac from Smallville



Why I think he's dreamy:

You may have noticed by now that some of my favorite cute boys are stars of science-fiction/fantasy/horror-type shows. This is probably because I watch a lot of science-fiction/fantasy/horror-type shows, and there are a lot of cute boys in them.

James Marsters has been on my Top Five list twice now. The first time was because I adore "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and Spike was by far my favorite character. What can I say, I like the bad boys who then become slightly-less-bad boys through acquisition of a computer chip and/or a soul. One of my favorite things about his role on that show is his wonderful fake British accent. So when he was on Smallville as Milton Fine (aka Brainiac) with a terrible sort of Middle-American accent, he, not inexplicably, dropped right off the list. (Maybe it was the accent, maybe it was just that he had to stand next to the younger & prettier Tom Welling, who knows?)


But then, as if he knew just what to do to win back my adoration, he guest-starred on the sexy Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood... as an ex-lover of the omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness. And then John Barrowman and James Marsters made out, to the delight of geek-girls everywhere.



SIGH...

As if that's not enough to make you like the guy, he also sings.


Recommended Viewing:

This...



This...



And this...




Now go back and watch Buffy from Season 4 onward, because I know you want to.


In Summation:

Talented, sexy, and apparently an open-minded guy. What's not to adore?


You're welcome. ;p

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Best Worst Movie

Best Worst Movie. Directed & Conceived by Michael Stephenson.

Preconceptions: While I had heard of Troll 2, considered by many to be the worst movie ever made, I hadn't actually seen it. And watching a documentary on something I know nothing about seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.

General Review
: Best Worst Movie is a bit of a break from the usual horror, sci-fi and obscure fare that we normally treat you to, here at Girl on Book Action. But I was looking back at the last couple of reviews and realized that I've been a bit of a Negative Nelly over the last month. I wanted to tell you guys about something I'd really enjoyed. Strangely enough, that turned out to be a documentary.

This flick tells us all about the beloved-ly bad horror movie Troll 2. Michael Stephenson, the director, was the child lead in that fateful horror and he takes us on a journey exploring the cult movie.
As it happens, you don't need to be a Troll 2 enthusiast to enjoy this movie. I'm told I may have spoiled a magical experience for myself by seeing the documentary first. So, if you're looking for wizardry in your viewing, maybe go see Troll 2 first. My point is that Best Worst Movie holds up without having seen Troll 2. The documentary gives you all the context you need to enjoy it on its own merits.

In Best Worst Movie, we get the typical "where are they now" montage of the cast, director and writer. But more interestingly, we see the story of George Hardy (the father in Troll 2) learning about Troll 2's ironic appeal and that he's become a cult figure. Very much in the vein of King of Kong, the people in this documentary are characters and it's cleverly edited to tell a story. Unlike King of Kong, George Hardy is a likable main character. He's genuinely charming and it's fun watching him discover that he's become sort of famous. Quite a few of the people involved with Troll 2 are larger than life and occasionally cartoon-ish. As our recent guest blogger (and less interestingly, my husband) AAlgar, pointed out watching this was very like watching a Christopher Guest movie. We actually found ourselves re-casting it with Guest's stable as though it were fiction.

Due to the aforementioned clever editing, Best Worst Movie felt more like fiction than a typical documentary does, and I mean this in a complementary fashion. There are some rather heart-rending moments when George realizes what it means to be a cult hero rather than actually famous. Not to mention finding out that one of the actors has gone off her rocker. I've seen a lot of documentaries attempt to do this and come off as disingenuous. This movie doesn't force a story where there is none, it's very natural.


Admittedly, this is less of a critical review and more of a recommendation. Best Worst Movie was funny, interesting and an all around good time. It's worth seeing whether or not you're a Troll 2 fan. Now that my interest in Troll 2 has been piqued you could very well be seeing a review of that in the not too distant future.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Girl On Book Action: A Special Guest Review on Ringworld

Okay, let’s put our cards on the table here, before we get too carried away: I am not a girl, I don’t read a lot of books, and my fairly sedentary lifestyle makes “action” as inaccurate as any other word in that title. No, friends, I am a guest here, and the best kind of guest at that: the kind that is invited due to nepotism. Because while Wren would like you to believe that she is a fully autonomous and capable woman, the fact is... okay, that’s actually true. But she’s also my wife. Which means I am entitled to all the special privileges inherent in that role — namely, being invited to wreck up this fine blog with my Y chromosomes and my unsettling musk. Rest assured, though, that keeping in the spirit of Girl on Book Action, I shall be composing the following review wearing a wig and a dress. I also shaved my legs, not that you even noticed.

I’ve been on a bit of a classic science fiction kick of late. I grew up in a small town (with an appropriately small library), and from the time I was able to pick up a book and make sense of it (1980 or thereabouts) until that horrible time in the teen years where it suddenly becomes uncool to be seen reading, I utterly devoured pretty much any science fiction I could get my hands on. I have incredibly fond memories of the imaginative hard sci-fi of the 60s and 70s (remember, our library was small, and not exactly up-to-date with the latest stuff). And yet, somehow in my adulthood, I’d barely managed to touch much of any of it. I’ve spent the better part of the past decade or so reading comedic fiction and fantasy. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to return to my literary roots and recapture the boyhood excitement of reading about big ideas and exotic settings.

This quest brought me to Larry Niven, whose “known space” stories have been in print since the mid-60s and culminated in Ringworld, a book that nearly everyone I know has heard of, but almost no one has actually read. Technically, Ringworld builds on stories including those collected in Crashlander and Known Space, as well as the novel Protector, but Niven does a decent job of filling in the necessary details for those who may have missed those books.

In a nutshell, Ringworld tells the story of an interstellar relic similar to a Dyson’s Sphere: an unfathomably huge structure erected around a star, intent on collecting the majority of its energy rather than simply the tiny portion that a planet would receive. Whereas a Dyson’s Sphere would (hypothetically) enclose the star in a delicious techno-candy shell, the Ringworld is — you guessed it, a ring. So the surface area is substantially less than a Dyson’s Sphere, but we’re still talking about something like three millions Earths worth of surface, so don’t get grabby. It’s big, all right?

The main protagonist of Ringworld is Louis Wu, whom we join as he races via magic transport booth from time zone to time zone, to celebrate his 200th birthday for as long as humanly possible. Louis is a shining example of Niven’s idealized future, and essentially serves as an acknowledgement of the mess he’d written himself into over the course of his Known Space stories. Namely, once humanity’s main problems have been solved and we’re effectively a race of enlightened, disease-free immortals, we’re going to get bored. Humans, as Star Trek has been drilling into our heads for the better part of 40 years, are driven by challenge and adventure and hardship.

Enter Nessus, representing the Pearson’s Puppeteers. The Puppeteers are one of the primary reasons I’ve taken to Niven’s work as much as I have — they’re nothing like any aliens I’ve seen in popular entertainment before, both in appearance and in psychology. Their bizarre mix of cowardice and mind-bogglingly overreaching manipulation makes for a compelling sometimes-antagonist/sometimes-teammate. You’re never quite sure what the Puppeteer’s agenda is, and this is a good thing. They always keep you guessing.

And that’s one of the things Ringworld does especially well, as our small party of adventurers (Nessus, Louis, a young human woman named Teela Brown and a Kzinti called Speaker to Animals) is drawn to the mysterious cosmic artifact: mysteries. The perspective keeps shifting, and people’s motives and goals are constantly being called into question. The purpose and the origin of the Ringworld itself are never revealed directly — even in the end, you’re left with questions. But they’re not the unsatisfying “when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?” sorts of questions. They just sort of make you realize, like any good sci-fi story should, that the technology and the locations, while important elements of the story, are not the story itself. We get character growth and epiphanies and all the sorts of things that literature is supposed to give you. And while Niven does occasionally go off on technobabble tangents, they never threaten to consume the most important element: the story. Also, I’m told the technobabble is bona fide science babble, but honestly, between you and I, I’m not sure I’d know the difference.

What I love best about this book are the big ideas — at least a dozen of them crammed into a few hundred pages. Granted, some of these are ideas that were initially conceived for the preceding short stories, but here they get a chance to be fully fleshed out, and their consequences and ramifications explored.

Ringworld is, in short, one of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. I wish I could say the same of its sequel, The Ringworld Engineers, but sadly, I cannot. Which is not to say that it’s bad, exactly. Mostly it just feels like a substandard return to a story that wasn’t entirely begging for a follow-up. There’s some clumsy retconning, there’s some repetition of themes that were dealt with better in the original, but mostly there’s sex. Early in the book, Niven introduces an alien word - rishathra – that means “sex between species that are distinct enough not to breed with one another.” The Ringworld Engineers is full of rishathra. It’s not that the previous stories of Known Space were prudish – Niven actually has quite a forward-thinking attitude toward sex and gender equality and that sort of thing. It’s just that, before this book, he seemed capable of dropping in a reference to casual sex or polyamorousness or whatever, without distracting from the main story. The Ringworld Engineers felt almost like an excuse to write the sci-fi equivalent of some book with Fabio on the cover. And the overall story is weaker for it, in my opinion.

So, yeah. Read Ringworld. Read the stories that build up to Ringworld. Maybe give The Ringworld Engineers a miss. Then again, you certainly don’t have to take my word for it. I am, after all, only a man.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Announcement: Upcoming Guest Post by Ron "AAlgar" Watt

Please welcome the first guest blogger in a series that I like to think of as: Doomwench Is Overworked. Yes, cupcakes, your favourite literary reviewer is going to be ducking out a few times over the upcoming months so I invite you all over to the Girl on Book Action offices, where I'll be throwing wild parties and probably setting the building aflame.

Our first guest is noted man about the internet Ron "AAlgar" Watt. You can find his many creative endeavors at aalgar.com , among these are the critically acclaimed Sarcastic Voyage Podcast, which both Doomwench and I have both enjoyed being on and the Post Atomic Horror Podcast which is wonderfully Star Trek-centric. AAlgar has taken time out of his busy schedule because he really believes in our blog. Yup. Nothing to do with the whole marriage issue at all.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Splice

Splice. Directed by Vincenzo Natali & Written by Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor & Vincenzo Natali.

Preconceptions: Oooh! This looked to be an intelligent sci-fi flick, partially funded by my hard won Canadian tax dollars. I can think of few artistic projects I'd like to fund quite as much as a smarty pants sci-fi movie. And double ooh! Sarah Polley is in it. I'd also heard quite a few people buzzing around about how neat this movie was. All in all, I was jazzed to have an opportunity to watch it.

General Review: For those of you who, unlike me, are not desperately trying to believe that Canada has a movie industry, the plot run down is fairly simple. Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are tragically hip (ha-ha Canadian humour) scientists who have been splicing animals together for...science, I guess. And some sort of protein strain that will improve the health of livestock, or something. Anyways, they're meddling with unknowable forces and decide to throw a bit of human DNA into their Tesla-cocktail. It'll shock you to hear that things don't go particularly well after that.

Ugh. Well. This movie got my hopes up a couple of times. The creature design and CG integration were really something special and I'm still quite partial to Sarah Polley...but wow. Splice had some very specific ideas about gender roles that it was determined to shove down my wholly unwilling throat. Every time the flick started to do something a bit complicated about how men and women react to having children, it veered off into tired and demeaning cliches. Apparently, we're meant to buy that men can't be expected to control their sex drives and that women are incapable of rational thought once their nurturing instincts kick in. Yup. This edgy movie about futuristic technology has 1950's expectations about gender. Space age!

The graceless handling of sex issues wasn't the only thing that twisted my panties, though. Nope, it was also weak sci-fi. It's another movie talking about man being punished for trying to play God. Didn't I just do a review on Frankenstein? Y'know a sci-fi/horror novel from the 1800's, that covered this issue? Why let me have a look: yes, I did. Splice has nothing new to say on the subject of unwise scientific tinkering. I know there is insightful sci-fi out there, exploring new themes, this just isn't it. And having the main characters be sexy young people who say nerd a lot doesn't make this movie any more relevant.

Visually, yes it was impressive. I liked the look of the creature and how it aged and developed. It looked great interacting with the cast and the sets. Delphine Chaneac and Abigail Chu both did some excellent physical acting to make the CG believable. The sets were fairly simple, but I believed I was in a large R&D building despite only seeing a few rooms in it. This was all done for a reasonable budget, but didn't look cheap or like it was being filmed in the director's basement. It was shot competently and I didn't feel ill watching it.

Excellent CG, being well shot and a couple of good actors were all this movie had going for it. The script was unconscionably weak. Issues that demanded to be taken seriously, like our main characters finding out they were lying to each other and being discovered in huge ethical breaches, were shoved aside for a slap-dash horror ending. Instead of having to deal with the dilemmas brought up in the second act, the writers decided to make a monster fighting scene instead. While I'm typically all for monster fighting, if you're writing a smart character piece that (up until the last ten minutes) is entirely driven by cerebral issues, you can't throw a battle in at the end, clap your hands together and consider it a job well done.

I finished watching this movie feeling completely unsatisfied. It didn't solve any of the problems it created, its depiction of what could have been complex characters was cartoonish and shallow. Also: it wasted a perfectly good alien monster. Please, take my word on it, save yourself the energy you'd squander being irritated by this movie and give something else a try. Like...oh say...Moon.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Girl on Book Action: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum

The Drowning City by Amanda Downum
ISBN: 978-0-316-06904-5

Blurb:

Symir: The Drowning City.  Home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers.  And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.

For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown.  All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir.  But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers.  As the waters rise and the dams crack, even the dead are plotting.

***

My Thoughts:

You know, this book was quite enjoyable.  I’m glad that I decided to check out Amanda Downum’s work after encountering one of her short stories in Lovecraft Unbound and since I’m a little late to the party I don’t have to wait too long for the second part in this trilogy to be published.

Now, let me gripe just a little before I tell you all the good things.  My complaints are rather minor ones anyway.  The only real issue that I have is that, at times, it might have been nice to know more about the world in which the story is set.  I’m not expecting to have 50 pages of info-dump about the history of the place, and there was a good bit of world-building interweaved with the narrative, but I admit to feeling a little lost in some spots.  I wanted to know more than I was told, which I feel is as much a compliment as a complaint – I was interested in the history of Symir.  And I cared about the back stories of the characters, and the religions and social structures and governments and all that so I wanted more.  That’s the griping done with, on to more positive things.

I really liked Isyllt; she was believable and a solid main character.  She wasn’t all-powerful and perfect; in fact, she gets hurt and sustains some permanent injuries over the course of her adventures.  Her necromancy was fascinating and I’m hoping that in the second book there is more explanation of her powers and what she can do with them.  I especially enjoyed the binary opposition between Isyllt and Asheris who was fire to her ice. I might have been partially biased toward Asheris because it’s been unusually cold in these parts the last few days and his furnace-heat was mighty appealing as I cowered under blankets and clung to cups of tea to keep my fingers from freezing.  Anyway, I digress.  Most of the characters had enough depth to them to make them memorable and none seemed like they were just thrown in to move along the plot or provide a brief distraction never to return.  The relationships between the cast were at times painful, at times touching, and sometimes tense, but always intriguing.

Something else I appreciated, aside from the lush setting and believable characters, was that Downum isn’t scared to kill someone off, or break their heart, or maim them.  People get hurt, people die and only a few are left standing at the end.  I dislike novels where there is no sense of real danger when the heroine is off fighting against the odds, because you know that she’ll just magically get out of whatever trouble she’s in.  Not so here, there might be victory at the end, but it comes with a high price, which is as it should be in a novel about espionage and revolution.

Oh, and I haven’t actually discussed the setting at all.  It was lush, warm and damp.  I felt like I was in some sort of Asian version of Venice – what with the canals and the constant talk of curries and rice and monsoons.  What really stuck with me throughout was the sense of humidity and warmth – which again might have been a reaction to the dismally cold weather hereabouts.  I also completely identified with Isyllt’s discomfort in the humid, warm place with her pale skin and dark hair and while she ultimately dealt with it with some grace, I know that I would have been a wimp about it and sulked in some relatively cool place, wishing for home.  Who says I'm a wuss about the weather?

All in all, I recommend this novel.  It’s fairly short and for its length (about 350 pages) it packs in quite a bit of intrigue, fighting and magic.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the second part as I very much want to learn more about Isyllt, her powers and what other trouble she will get into.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Dark Star

Dark Star. Directed by John Carpenter & written by Dan O'Bannon & John Carpenter.

Preconceptions: John Carpenter has done a couple of horror movies I really love. The Thing (1982) is a favourite. In the Mouth of Madness, while less good, was one of the first Lovecraftian movies I saw in my formative years and has a special place in my heart. But it's been a long time since he put out much of anything except for the two truly awful Master of Horror shorts, so I was pleased to sit down in front of Dark Star, one of his early flicks. I had another reason to be excited to see this movie as well, it's been cited as the inspiration for a couple of my favourite things: Red Dwarf and MST3k.

General Review: Oh me, oh my there is a lot John Carpenter music in this movie. I respect the man as a director, I do, but every time I hear one of his synth scores I want to give up and watch something else. However, I have been rewarded, more than once, with a fun movie for putting up with the score and so I was determined to ignore it and solider on. Sadly, I can't recommend you do the same.

The run down of the movie is pretty simple. Four guys are stuck out on a deep space mission to blow up unstable planets in order to make systems easier to colonize. They've been on this mission for over a year and are starting to go space crazy (like you do). Their captain died and their ship is starting to deteriorate. As one of the only people I know who doesn't dig 2001: A Space Odyssey, I was pleased to see someone poking fun at it (this is one of the few things Doomwench can't call me a philistine about, however, since it seems to be beneath her notice). Unfortunately, Dark Star fell into the trap that too many parodies do: it sometimes just became the thing it was making fun of. Yes, John Carpenter, I agree that many of the scenes in 2001 were painfully long without really building much atmosphere, but seeing you do the same on a shoe string budget, completely without jokes, isn't funny. It's even MORE tedious. I'm not sure how a movie that didn't reach the hour and a half mark felt long, but Dark Star succeeded. I'm fairly certain there is a meaningless small talk scene that I'm still watching.

Fortunately, it wasn't all snooze inducing scenes and watching the bearded men of space chit-chat. Watching the crew communicate with their dead, cryogenically frozen captain was actually chilling. I think it was meant to be wry and sort of funny, but it was successfully horrific instead and something that would make for a neat sci-fi horror idea. You wouldn't think the beach ball alien (the only intelligent life the crew have found and, subsequently, brought on board to be a mascot) who is chased around the ship in a funny, Looney Tune way, could become anything frightening, but O'Bannon later re-worked the creature into the Alien (y'know from the Alien movie series). Weird.

The acting is about what you'd expect for a 1970's low budget movie where the writer is one of the main actors, but given the lackluster dialogue I don't know that a pile of talented performers would have improved things. Strangely, O'Bannon looked quite a bit like Kurt Russel in the Thing, Carpenter seems to have a type.

There are also some fairly funny scenes where the crew are attempting to talk a sentient bomb into not exploding and some successful black humour. But all these good elements are pearls strung between the long "look how 2001 we're being" scenes that don't have jokes or spectacle. By the end of the movie the good parts had even started to become irritating because I'd nearly be at the point of turning it off to try something else when they'd tease me into giving Dark Star just a few more minutes. "Ah," I'd think "we've finally gotten to the good part." Nope. We never really did.

I could see how Dark Star influenced some other shows that I'm quite partial to and that was neat, and I could see what Carpenter and O'Bannon were reaching for. If it'd been funnier, weirder or scarier it might have succeeded. But it was a patchwork of different things that didn't hang together well and the writing just plain wasn't strong enough.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Girl on Book Action: In the Night Garden: The Orphan's Tales, Volume I by Catherynne M. Valente


In the Night Garden: The Orphan’s Tales Volume I by Catherynne M. Valente
ISBN: 978-0-553-38403-1

Blurb:

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice.  Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history.  And what tales she tells!  Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars – each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before.  From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales – even, and especially, their teller.  Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams.  And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun…

***

My Thoughts:

Ah, my pets, in truth, I very much wanted to read Valente’s new book, but this little Doomwench spent all of her book-buying money for the next little while and thus cannot read The Habitation of the Blessed just yet.  (The sad fact is that it might be for the best considering the onslaught of a research paper not written in English and much needed thesis readings).  Fortunately for me, and you, dear readers, I did still have In the Night Garden waiting patiently on my ever-growing to-be-read shelf, so my Valente craving was sated.  Now, without further blathering from yours truly, let me tell you about this lovely thing.

I loved every moment spent turning the pages of this book, adored letting the story-within-the-story-within-the-story wash over me and pull me into the black depths of the horrible things happening.  I don’t have words to express how I feel about the intricate web Valente weaves; how she pulls the threads of the seemingly disparate narratives together so skillfully that you barely even notice that she’s done it.  Suddenly you go – but I know this character from an earlier story and your memory dredges up a whole new backstory to what you were reading, which adds layers upon layers of meaning and depth.  Sometimes, I wanted to cry, because life is very hard and the people in this book are not spared from gruesome fates like in some other fairy tales.  No, here maidens are turned into monsters by evil wizards and there is no magical fix, only a slow coming to terms with the horror and wonder of new shapes.  Here, grandmothers seek revenge and fail, dying in their grandchildren’s arms amid a wash of blood.  Girls can be foxes and geese can be girls.  The stories are magical and heartbreaking.

Some of the outcomes might be seen as predictable, but I see them more as archetypal myths and Valente shows quite a bit of skill in tapping into them.  A myth is something we recognize in the deep recesses of our minds, so of course we might see the outcome early on, that doesn’t mean the story is any less important, beautiful or worth reading.  Not everything is about a suspenseful, surprise ending – you know, that whole bit about the journey being more important than the destination is often true, especially when it comes to lyrical, meandering fairy tales.

I thought that perhaps for the purpose of this review I would pick my favourite of the stories-within-stories, but I realized that I can’t, because they are all interconnected in a way that doesn’t allow for favoritism of that sort.  I do have to say that I was quite fond of Knife in the first part, “The Book of the Steppe,” and the history of the griffins and Giota in “The Book of the Sea” was so lovely and sad.  Honestly, the whole thing left me with a wistful, melancholy sort of feeling, aching with the beauty of it.  Reading this was like being in a wonderful, terrible dream (and if you’ll allow me a small personal confession, I’d much rather be dreaming these stories than the recent batch of stuff my subconscious has spewed up while I sleep). 

The language, of course, was sublime.  I love the way Valente strings together a sentence.  And I rather wished that I had someone to read these tales to me, because I think they would sound amazing.  And, as we all know by now, I am a sucker for a pretty type-face and layout and In the Night Garden has both.  For a bibliophile like me, the way this book looks is a feast.  More books need to come with gorgeous illustrations and pretty lettering.

Hmm, so I’ve gushed quite a bit and I know Wren is going to read this love-fest and tell me that I need to think of something negative to say, because otherwise how do my dear readers know that I’m thinking critically about the book I’m presenting to them.  Normally, my fallback in these situations is that I mention that there were typos, because most books of any length will have at least a couple, but alas, I can't remember coming across any here.  So, I’ve thought about it and I’m drawing a rather profound blank…I guess, umm, the book was sort of heavy?  You know, to hold up while I was reading.  My arms got tired after a while.  So there’s your critical engagement.

Now, stop reading this review (it’s about to end anyway) and go find a Valente story, maybe buy one of her novels and let her take you away on a sea of language to the realm of myth. 

If you require an instant fix, and I know you might, why not try “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Time/Space” which you can read at Clarkesworld Magazine here or, if you prefer you can listen to it here (also via Clarkesworld - and the narration is really good).  You can also find my review of Valente's also excellent Palimpsest here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood. Directed by Les Orton & written by Dylan Thomas.

Preconceptions: Hmm, modern movies? Movies people have heard of? Doomwench writing movie reviews? I think things have gotten far too accessible around these parts. In order to combat this, I've dug up Under Milk Wood, a short animated film, based on the poem by Dylan Thomas. That should put us firmly back on the unbeaten track. While I've read a bit of Thomas, I'm not much of a poetry enthusiast and hadn't read this one. Not being able to speak to the accuracy of the movie version will be a nice change of pace.

General Review: Be warned that this movie is only minimally animated. While the backgrounds are quite pretty and the character design is good, we spend a lot of time staring at unmoving paintings. Any time that the movie can get away with a character standing stock still to deliver their lines, or we can hear the lines coming out of a picture of a house, we will. Fortunately, good voice acting and solid writing makes up for sparse animation, every time. In case you, like myself, don't spend your evenings in a Masterpiece Theater style study, reading leather bound poetry (I've seen Doomwench's house and I know she doesn't have one of these rooms and yet, it's still where I picture her spending her time) here is the skinny on the poem. It's a wry look at the beauty and mundane horror of simple village life. We start by getting a look at the dreams of the townsfolk and then follow them through a typical day, knowing what we know about their secret fears and hopes.

It isn't a surprise that it's pleasant to listen to Richard Burton read pretty words. He'd probably win second prize in a nice reading voice contest (the winner, of course, being Stephen Fry). What is surprising is how well I followed along through the different feelings of the piece: the grotesque, the idyllic beauty and the comedy. This movie switched its gears constantly but kept me on board. It managed to walk the fine line (extremely fine for me, due to my lack of sophistication) between these contrary feelings. I laughed with Under Milk Wood and I felt uneasy at the everyday madness. I also felt roaring support for Miss Cottage who plans to "sin till [she] blows up." This flick is full of similar great lines.

The voice acting deserves more than a nod, as well. I could have easily been bored by the often stationary animation, but I wasn't because of the excellent voices. Not only is it studded with aging big time stars, but the overall size of the cast made Milk Wood feel like a village full of distinct characters, rather than a small room with five guys in it (something that's all too common in animation).

While the animation is bare bones, Orton made a lot of interesting choices. There is a subtle difference in how the characters look in dreams and in real life. Another more overt, but still good visual choice, was the way the blind Captain imagines the things he hears. The look of the movie is very cool.

You might think that Under Milk Wood isn't going to be your thing. I think you'll be surprised. It's funny and weird and will give you a shot of culture without feeling stuffy (plus, animated nudity).