We have winter. We will have more.
Saw “Wreck It Ralph,” which I enjoyed and forgot. It’s meant to be enjoyed at the moment and then recollected with approval months later when you walk past the TV and see the kids are watching it, and recollected with anticipation when you’re in the theater and there’s a trailer for “Wreck It Ralph 2.” I feel the exact same way about “Despicable Me.” Watched it, enjoyed it, had a few problems, forgot most of it except the pervasive and delightful Franchness of it all, loved the minions as we have been genetically programmed to love - small, big eyes - and then got a nice little warm spot when the trailers for 2 come on and the main character moans with exquisite pleasure “ahhh, despicable me.”
Except he’s not despicable, any more than Ralph is a bad guy. SPOILER: RALPH IS NOT REALLY A BAD GUY.
What I enjoyed: nailed the 80s machine experience. No in-between work on the characters who were 8-bit in the gameworld; they moved with a natural jerky movement that was still fluid. Loved the startling callback to the Mad Hatter and Ed Wynn in the King Candy character. Thought: well, it’s Disney, they can do that without being sued. (Disney computer animation division is just knocking them out, BTW; first “Tangled,” and now this.)
What was just okay: as well-developed as the story was, that was a lot of time in the Sugar Rush game. Expected more platform hopping - but they’ll save that for the sequels, I expect. The 3D was utterly underwhelming, alas. I didn’t even know it was in 3d. When the movie started people put on their glasses, and I though, well, hmm: we didn’t get glasses.
When we showed up the 1:10 was sold out, so we bought the 2:10, 3d, and walked around the mall for a while. Southdale is almost all finished. It’s really sweet. It’s as modern an update on midcentury modern as you’ll get; the designers really understood the bones of the place and its story as the Mother Mall:
Yes. And I don't care whether or not it's comfortable. It's right.
We went to Bath and Body and Beyond Whatever and smelled candles, and discovered that my scent preferences are different than my daughter's. This was not a surprise. She has this ghastly caramel-vanilla-sugar scent she sprays in her room, and it’s like being in vast hangar where they slaughtered Mr. Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. She got a can for her room; I got the yearly ration of BALSAM FIR, which might as well be EVERGREEN MORNING or PINE SERENITY (daughter’s description, intended as a sarcastic comment on spray-naming conventions). Then we went to the Apple Store, which was near its fire-marshall capacity population. By which I mean it was full of fire marshalls. As usual:it smelled. Always the goaty barn-scent there. Not coming to a Bath and Body Words near you.
Then the movie, which, as I said, was in crappy 3d. I checked my ticket to see if we had paid 3D prices. We had. But it wasn’t. When the movie concluded I went to the manager’s desk, and he looked up with a smile and said “Wreck-It Ralph not in 3d?” Why, yes.
Comped. So! Great. We had small hamburger at Five Guys, did some grocery shopping, and went home in fine high spirits. A Grand Day Out.
We did not, however, stop at Rib Coffee.
Napped, good and hard. Dreamed of a cruise ship that tended to roll over 360 degrees in rough seas. Woke, and finished a big overhaul of the Travel section. And now I will watch "Prometheus."
I watched it Thanksgiving night, and was underwhelmed: as I tweeted, it was like watching “Alien” on Valium through a sheet of blue glass. Ace, in this post, sums up everything I felt - there’s the dismay I get when I see a Scruffy Crew that’s intended to hit the Hip Spot for the audience. The original “Alien” crew was scruffy, but also Ragtag and Begrimed, because they were Working People in Space. This crew was hipster-scruff, and that meant Attitude in the case of the punk geologist, and nerdy goofiness in the case of the hoodie-dude scientist.
Charlize Theron’s Sharon-Stone-in-Spaaaace was ridiculous; slacker-scientist guy who looked like he should be in an Apple commercial was rote beta-male, complete with the inarticulate utterances we have come to expect from the breed. (“Uh. Wow. Okay.”) The crew was either three guys or 12; depended. Idris Alba as the captain was wasted; the script gave him no authority or presence.
What it didn’t do was answer the questions it raised, so I suppose I’ll see the sequel. I tweeted some remarks about the movie, and was informed that there’s a great TED talk that explains a lot of it, but brother, if your movie requires people to listen to a TED talk to understand its glaring blaring gaps, there's a problem.
Absent: dread. I remember feeling that oh-shite tremor from the opening moments of “Alien,” an effect accomplished in no small part by the score. There was none of that in “Prometheus.” In fact the score worked against the movie on occasion, laying down a noble theme more appropriate for a Spielberg or Star Trek movie. That one-two tick-tock theme of the original "Alien" was the sound of some remote, uninterested heartbeat observing the proceedings, with no stake in the outcome. Only curiosity in who won in the end, perhaps, but even that was slight.
Absent: continuity. En route to the big heap of stone where the action takes place, the scientist asks the punk geologist to see if it’s a constructed structure or a natural formation. Good question - or rather it would be, if we hadn’t seen four more in the valley in the distance. So Ridley Scott did not think we would notice.
When they get into the structure and discover that the air is breathable, they remove their helmets. Good idea. Not like there's any dramatic opportunity in claustrophobic space helmets, with the amplified aspiration and constant visual reminder that the exterior environment is deadly. Also: there is writing on the walls of the chamber.
Which no one notices.
Shortly thereafter we have A) punk geologist’s freakout over fossils, which is the Scottish version of the native bearers fleeing in goggle-eyed terror when they behold a massive carved face in the jungle, and B) the convenient low-res holographic replay of big guys with elephant masks running through the tunnels, which was activated by David the Robot, who incidentally declines to say “hello, fellow explorers? There’s writing on the wall here, and not only does it appear to be a control panel, but it’s active, and I can read it. Also, I can operate it.” Nah. Not mission-critical info.
After this the punk geologist and hoodie-nerd decline to explore any more, and want to go back to the ship. Of course they get lost, despite the fact that punk-geologist released four autonomous mapping droids ten minutes earlier. If this level of storytelling had affected the original "Alien," they would have wandered around the abandoned ship, split into two groups, gotten around to John Hurt's unfortunate condition eventually, and filled up the spare time with that most fascinating aspect of suspenseful movies, bickering.
It’s the sort of movie where someone says “The murals are moving. Bag the head” and this is supposed to make some sort of sense.
As for the head of the creature, no big deal: when the scientist strolls in on a reanimation experiment, he’s content to watch the revelation of human countenance on the artifact while swigging from a bottle, up to and including the moment when the head kablooies in a shower of goo. His reaction? He hops off an examining table and walks off. You see, a few hours after touchdown the idea of extra terrestrial life that confirms to his particular these is old and busted, because he doesn’t have all the answers right away. So, drink.
It goes without saying that the strong female scientist is the focus of the story, since that echoes the original. But Ripley worked because of Weaver’s worried, skeptical performance, not because the script called for a Strong Female Lead. She inhabited the character and gave it strength, in no small part due to Weaver's ability to communicate Ripley's fear. She was terrified. Nooooomi Rapace did what the script required, and did it well, but there's never any doubt she will prevail, because that's how things work these days.
It reminded me of something I saw in the preview for “The Croods,” a CGI movie about primitive humans on the obligatory journey that has many colorful revelations about Life and the World and Family; the story posits a big burly dad who is afraid of the outside world, and cautions everyone the family to stay in the cave. Of course the rebellious daughter wants more, and pushes them all to explore the outside world. Fine. If you believe that the entirely of society’s messages for young girls consists of “Math is hard!” and these things are brave stances against the hairy sweaty funk of the patriarchy, I suppose these plot-points are turbo-tastic. But if I was the father of a small boy instead of a girl, I’d think . . .
Gosh, it would be nice if the Dad was a strong, smart character. Gosh, it would be great if the sons in the movie were the ones who wanted to explore.
I suppose Ralph is a good male role model. Santa Claus as well, at least in his Rise of the Guardians trailer. Of course I have to see that; it’s William Joyce. Not crazy about the Easter Bunny character design. The preview’s focus on Jack Frost as the dreamy non-threatening boy for the tween crowd was disheartening. But Santa has stones, as far as I can tell.
But that’s next weekend. We don’t talk Santa until the calendar says December.