Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Preemptive Critic - Fall 2014 Edition

Feels like a long time since I dusted off the ol' P-EC. Let's see... what have we got this year...

Inside Out

If anyone can make a fun movie out of the crazy, mixed-up emotions rattling around in someone's brain, it's Pixar. I also expect some element of a classic tear-jerker to surface in this story.

I preemptively love this movie.


I have absolutely no idea what is going on here. Nothing like this was in the book, even in a dream-sequence. I know they're going for drama and angst - but the image of Tris's mother being taken away in a building on the end of a crane is completely laughable (then I'd start crying because this means Ashley Judd is still working - which was my only complaint about Divergent). If this was the only thing I knew about this movie, I wouldn't even give it space on my blog.

That being said - I wasn't that impressed with the marketing for Divergent and I thought that was an excellent movie when all was said and done. So, I preemptively (but cautiously) love this movie. But their marketing still sucks.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Knowing how the book ends - Thorin, NO!

It's an end of an era. And quite a bittersweet one at that (thanks to Billy Boyd). Unless Peter Jackson finagles a way to adapt The Silmarillion to a point where it's feasible to actually make a movie of it (highly unlikely), this is the last film outing for Middle-Earth (at least, for several decades - until the inevitable young, hot-shot director wants to take a crack at a sub-par reboot). So, go out with your big guns blazing and your emotional violins cranked up to eleven.

I pre-emptively love this movie. And I need to buy stock in Kleenex, like, now.

The Peanuts

Simply for playing "Linus and Lucy" in the trailer, I pre-emptively love this movie (please don't be like The Smurfs)


I wasn't particularly impressed with the idea of a live-action Sleeping Beauty (to me, that was always the most boring Disney Princess movie, even when I was a kid. Simply put - the fairies do all the work in that movie and get no credit for anything!) So, I still haven't gotten around to seeing Maleficent (I hear I'm not missing much). However, live-action versions of Cinderella have been around forever. And Disney's animated Cinderella was my favorite of the Old School Disney Princesses (still is, actually).

Just going by the trailer - on first viewing, the only person I recognized here was Helena Bonham Carter (because, well, it's Helena Bonham Carter). Then I saw the cast list. Cate Blanchett, Hayley Atwell, Lily James, that guy from Game of Thrones whose character got killed (yeah, that narrows things down...) For the sheer face that I did not recognize any of these people and I should have - that means that I'm going to see a movie where the actors disappear into the characters (rather than see - oh, I don't know, Tom Hanks in a Walt Disney cosplay). Which means I pre-emptively love this movie (bonus points for that twist of the stepmother finding the glass slipper at the end. I mean, how's that going to shake out?)


I'll be completely honest - I wasn't sure what to think of the idea of a Peter Pan origin story (particularly since NBC's doing their whole Peter Pan Live! thing - kind of felt like overload). But then, I saw this post on Tumblr - and I'm more than a little on board with this. Like a lot on board with it.

(I have so much love in my heart for good-hearted Captain Hook. Particularly if he's going to be played by the likes of Colin O'Donoghue in Once Upon a Time and Garrett Hedlund in Pan. YES PLEASE!)

I pre-emptively love this movie.

Jurassic World

Chris Pratt's in this?? GIMME!!

(ahem) I pre-emptively love this movie.


2015 is going to be a good year for the movies. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Heart of Gold Shines

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.08, "Smash the Mirror" - Spoilers!

[A Quick Note On My Subject Line: I've been (kind of trickily) using lyrics from Frozen to head up my Once Upon a Time reviews this half-season. I couldn't really think of one to fit this episode, though (not one that I hadn't already used). But then I remembered the song the choir sings at Elsa's coronation - "Heimr Amadalr." The lyrics are Old Norse and I found the translation here (it's a great article about Norse music and chants and well-worth a read - guess HISHE got a few things wrong in their Frozen parody video). Anyway, I chose this particular lyric in honor of Emma learning to love herself and control her powers. And it has nothing to do with anyone else. And I mean absolutely NO ONE else, so get that idea out of your head right now.]

You know, if Once had more two-hour long episodes, I would watch the hell out of that. They do some pretty amazing stuff with more time to flesh out storylines. Also, some pretty painful stuff. But that comes with the territory.

First off all - Rumplestiltskin -

Now that's out of my system (for now).

One of the things I've enjoyed most about the Once meets Frozen is how seamlessly the Frozen storyline has paralleled what's been going on in Storybrooke. I've talked about how (before I knew Frozen was coming to Once) that I thought there were a lot of parallels between Queen Elsa and Emma Swan. Especially about magic and learning to love yourself and accepting the love others have for you too. And - oh man - did this episode deliver on that parallel. And I'm glad that I wasn't the only one seeing that as well.

Something that Once excels at is the ability to parallel the past with the present. Usually, the parallels happen because the fairy tale characters' stories are running alongside their modern day counterparts - but this time, it's more thematic than character-driven. Sure, Elsa's in both stories, but her role is vastly different in both scenarios. It's like they're already telling us what's going to happen in the present by showing us what happened in the past. It's quite clever and a lot of fun to watch.

Another thing - I'm glad that this season takes place after the events of the movie. I'm glad that Elsa and Anna (and Kristoff, of course) have already experienced all that growth that came from Anna's sacrifice of true love. Earlier this week, ABC put out a sneak peek of Elsa coming to see Anna in the prison cell and Elsa was all about "Aunt Ingrid said you attacked her and you're a terrible awful sister and you're going to be punished!" I called "shenanigans" on that one because - that wouldn't make a lick of sense (unless Ingrid was doing something pretty damn shady to get Elsa to believe her over her sister). But, luckily it turned out that Elsa was smarter than that and she had a plan (*insert "called it!" happy dance here* And it was a pretty ingenious plan.

Back in Storybrooke - well, let's deal with some... not exactly happy things. Actually, it makes life even more complicated, but that's what were here for. Robin and Regina have reconciled as much as they can (off-screen. On a family show) - which, while that's great for the shippers (and I count myself among the Outlaw Queen fans), man, that makes things tough in reality. Though it's interesting that Regina recruited Robin to be part of Operation: Mongoose and finding the author of the book. And boy, did that plot escalate quickly. Again - Once plays the long game with this stuff. I'm sure this will come back to be resolved in Season 4B (the eternal optimist side of me says so anyway).

Elsewhere, Emma's still missing. Henry does find her, but her magic's still going absolutely nuts and she accidentally hurts him, which leads her to go find Mr. Gold for a solution.

Excuse me -

And for those of us who've been paying attention this season and Know What's Up - the solution that Gold doesn't-suggest involves Emma being sucked into the Sorcerer's Hat Of DOOM! But yes, her magic won't be able to hurt anybody ever again! No problem.

(what a jackass)

To Emma's everlasting credit, she calls home and tells her folks that, yes, everything's going to be peachy! Getting rid of my magic, Mom and Dad! Be home in time for dinner!

(what gets me is that David and Mary Margaret actually thought this was a good idea. Man, the idiot ball is strong in Storybrooke tonight).

With Team Charming benching themselves in this round (to be fair, Henry's kind of got a good reason), it's up to Hook and Elsa - in their own individual ways - to step in and be there for Emma.

Of course, Killian knows precisely what Rumple's got going on. Because he was there the first time that lying sack of horse manure used the hat. So, he goes to Gold's shop to corner the wily old Crocodile (and yes, I jumped about ten feet in the air when Killian barged into the shop, shouting for Gold to show himself. There has never been a reason for Killian to be so pissed, but damn if it wasn't delicious to watch). Problem is, Gold isn't there. And neither is Emma. And what follows is the most heartbreaking scene in the history of heartbreak and if Colin O'Donoghue doesn't get nominated for a all the awards next year simply on the strength of his performance in this episode, there is zero justice in the world and I don't want to live on this planet anymore. That phone call where Killian confesses everything about the hat and Gold and the dagger and the blackmail - I mean, that would be enough. But there's that last line where he says he hopes Emma doesn't forgive him because that means she got the message in time to save herself. I had to think about that one - why in the world wouldn't she forgive him? But - in an episode that revolves around loving yourself and believing that you are enough - Killian Jones simply doesn't believe that he is good enough for anyone, least of all Emma Swan. Sure, he's got that cocky attitude and confident swagger - but that's all just for show. Deep down, he still thinks of himself as someone who's done awful things and been consumed with revenge and there's no coming back from that. Even now, even after all the heroic things he's done - he still believes that he is nothing more than a villain.

And here, my friends, this is why Killian is my favorite Once character. This is why I completely buy into the character twists the writers have given Captain Hook, even when I'm still a little iffy on Rumple and the Evil Queen. You want villains? Okay, villains - there you go. All kinds of motives to do bad things and get in the way of happy endings and all that schtick. Rumple just goes after more power - even after he promised on his son's grave that he would try to be a better man in honor of Neal's memory (well, that all went to shit after this episode, didn't it?) Regina - well, Regina tried to do good at the end of Season 3, but that went flying out the window at the first sign of trouble. She blames the author of some magical book and not herself for her own choices and her response to those setbacks. Killian - what does he do? Completely fesses up to his mistakes, even when he thinks it's going to cost him the one person that he cares about more than anything else, including himself.

And even after all that - Emma never got his message.

Speaking of Emma - that Snow Queen's twisted as all get out. I mean, yes, we got her tragic backstory last week. But, again, her response to trials and setbacks doesn't exactly recommend her for sympathy. If anything, I'm voting with Elsa and Anna to get that chick back in the magic urn.

Yeah - still not loving the whole idea of her making up her own family and forcing people to be part of it. I mean... really??

So, Emma makes a really crappy choice. One that the Snow Queen doesn't want her to make. And at this point, I'm torn. Rumple and Ingrid both are at odds with each other and I don't want either of them to get what they want. Who do I root for? The obvious answer is Emma - but what she thinks is going to make her happy isn't really going to solve the problem. In fact, it'll probably make things even worse. But keeping her magic - well, she can probably do a lot more with her magic than locked away in that old hat.

But we're forgetting one key player in all this. Someone who has magic and who's had it go berserk on her and who learned to control her emotions and, thus, control her magic. Someone who, long before it was officially announced she was going to be part of this story, I believed would have some wisdom and advice to impart to Emma - if only some intrepid fan fiction writer would oblige.

People - this is why Queen Elsa of Arendelle was brought on Once Upon a Time. Because she's been exactly where Emma is. Scared of herself, scared for those she loves, trying to run away (which, remember, up until last season was Emma's go-to solution for everything). Elsa did what nobody - not even Regina - could do. She showed Emma how to accept herself. And absolutely everything about herself. Her magic, yes, but also her past and her mistakes and her doubts - everything that makes Emma who she is.

Oh wait - I have a song that goes along with this. Hang on -

What's incredible about this is that Elsa is virtually a stranger to Emma. Sure, they've grown to be best friends throughout this season, but there are people who've been in Emma's corner for a lot longer. I guess it takes someone you just met to point out what your loved ones have been pointing out forever before you finally believe it (and this is not a dig at Emma. How many times has a parent or sibling or other family member said something to you and you just dismiss it as "Oh, you have to say that" and you ignore it?) But because it's Elsa saying these encouraging things to Emma and pointing out that she's been able to control her magic even without Anna around - there's something to be said for speaking from experience. It's like - Emma couldn't believe in true love before she met her parents and learned their story that she could believe in it for herself (that's what last season's finale was about). This season, Emma had to learn for herself that her magic was a good thing and it was part of her - it's not just a tool to be used in last-resort emergency situations.

And she can even make fun and pretty things with it. Like fireworks. Happy 4th of July, Storybrooke!

(okay, it's probably actually March, but you get the idea).

Other Things I Liked/Noticed -

- Robin Hood and Will Scarlet "breaking into" the library. During normal business hours. Good job, boys.

- This is me putting on my librarian hat - Why in the name of all that is good and holy is The Cat in the Hat shelved next to the car repair manuals?? Belle - what kind of cataloging system are you even using?? The Drunk-and-Passed-Out-in-the-Gutter system?

- Regina owes someone a quarter. No-effing-kidding.

- Elsa believing in Anna up until her very last moment before she's completely sucked into that urn. My heart...

- Someone on Tumblr pointed this out - when Emma takes Elsa's hand, the rainbow-light-magic-wave of True Love magic spiraled out. This is because Emma is the Product of True Love(tm) and that's what her magic is made of. I thought that was a nice touch.

It kind of feels like we're at a turning point here. And here I'm going to get into the part of the episode that had the RAGE MONSTER rearing its ugly head. Because here is yet another exhibit of Why I Hate Rumplestiltskin and Wish All Manner of Death and Destruction Upon His Head. Emma's fine - she didn't choose Door #1 and get hit with the mother of all zonks! and things are going to be okay. But Rumple's got Killian tied up in an effort to stop him from going after Emma. Killian's back to being all swagger and confidence and "yeah - eff you Dark One!" And this is where I'm back to being quite concerned for my favorite pirate captain. Because Rumple is a pain in the ass and he lives to cause grief in my life. Apparently, so does Ingrid. Because that little bit of info she whispered to Rumple last week? I knew it was going to come back and smack Killian in the head. And - behold - I hate it when I'm right.

(PS - Did anyone else twig that the last time Rumple had Killian tied up at the same time he's working to kill someone Killian loves was clear back in Season 2 when Rumple killed Milah? I could have happily gone my entire life without making that connection, but since I had it pointed out to me, I need to share the suffering. You're welcome).

Rumple rips out Killian's heart (Killian's bright and shining and pure heart, it must be said) and now, he's got himself a puppet that he can use without resorting to blackmail. And... I don't like where this is going. Because if Rumple can use Killian's heart to free himself from the dagger... Killian's either going to be trapped in the hat or dead. And since the writers would be batshit insane to kill off one of their most popular characters, I predict that Season 4B is going involve Killian being separated from Emma in some way because of that rat bastard Rumple and Emma's going to have to go on some kind of rescue mission to get him back (details not important at this stage). One thing's for sure - there is angst ahead for the good ship Captain Swan. And while I'm glad to see this because it means there's some deliciously wonderful storytelling coming for my favorites - it also means that this is going to hurt and it's going to hurt bad.

(I couldn't even fully enjoy Emma and Killian's little reunion because I knew that Rumple had Killian's heart in his pocket and I was constantly waiting for something terrible to happen because Rumple now has the means to control Killian and anything Rumple has control over is mucho no bueno).

For now - I have two weeks to stew in my rage and shouting and DAMN YOU RUMPLE! before the next episode.

(they enjoy my suffering).


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our Choices More Than Our Abilities

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, "Act 9: Serenity, Princess" - Spoilers!

(yeah, spoilers from twenty-plus years ago...)

One of my favorite things about Sailor Moon is - and always has been - the backstory. What happened before Usagi Tsukino tripped over a cat in her rush to school and subsequently became a superhero. I adore the story of the Silver Millennium - of the Princess of the Moon and her friends, the Sailor Guardians of the Solar System (all princesses in their own right). How the Princess fell in love with the Prince of the Earth Kingdom and war broke out and everything went to hell and back (okay, maybe not the "war breaking out" stuff, but conflict has its place in storytelling). When I finally read the manga, I loved how we got so much more of that story - even in later arcs, there would be flashbacks of what happened in the past and how it applies to what's happening in the present. It's one of the things I enjoy about Once Upon a Time as well - paralleling a fantastical world with modern life.

The episode begins where the last one left off - Tuxedo Mask jumps in front of an attack meant for Sailor Moon and (it appears) he's dead. That act of sacrifice activates these "sealed memories" that Sailor V was talking about last time and everyone remembers the Silver Millennium - when Usagi was Princess Serenity and the Sailor Guardians were protectors of the Moon Kingdom. And - here's the important part - Serenity falls in love with Prince Endymion of the Earth. Which is a huge no-no, since the Moon and the Earth basically hate each other. War breaks out between the two worlds and the Dark Kingdom destroys both kingdoms in the process - but not before the evil forces are sealed away. Everyone dies - but then everyone is reborn in a new and quite ordinary life, with the hope that life will continue, but if the Dark Kingdom resurfaces, the Sailor Guardians can be reawakened to defeat them again.

(that's the Cliffs Notes version - just go watch the episode. It's worth it).

The thing about this first story arc with the Dark Kingdom is how the story is mirrored. Good and wonderful things happen, but then people come in to ruin those good and wonderful things (kind of like trolls on Tumblr - oh snap, I went there!) and tragedy strikes. But here, tragedy strikes and it's awful and terrible and Usagi is heartbroken beyond belief - but she shows how resilient she is and the strongest moment of this episode (which, I don't think this was in the manga or any other version of Sailor Moon that I'm aware of) is when she stands up and says -

I need an applause gif... hang on...

If there is a linchpin of this entire story - and something I wish fandom would focus on more - it's that Usagi is not bound by her past. She is not obligated to hold to the choices she made in her past life or the circumstances in which she finds herself. In fact, that is one of her defining character traits. She is not a victim of her birth or her situation or the bad things that happen to her. Nor is anyone else around her. Look at the people she chooses to make her friends - loners, outsiders, misfits. And none of that matters to her. But it goes beyond that - in her own way, she teaches the people she loves that they don't have to be held prisoner to what life has given them.

And then, when Usagi has been kicked in the head, these same friends come in and help her out. Because that's just what they do. Not because they're all Sailor Guardians or anything like that. Because they're all friends and they're all in this together.

Look, I'm getting ahead of myself. But this episode was just that good. I've enjoyed everything that Sailor Moon Crystal has to offer so far, but I feel like this was a huge turning point. It's a key moment in the plot as a whole and there's a lot riding on this part of the story. Everything here just worked the way it had to. Yeah, it kind of feels like an inbetween episode - a lull between HUGE moments in the story, but this was the perfect place to put it. Especially since they're going to the Moon Kingdom next episode (oh man - I can't wait for more backstory!!)

Other things -

Sailor Mercury got her visor!

Luna's kind of starting to figure out what her role ought to be with Usagi. It helps that they all remember what's really going on and that Minako is the actual leader of the Sailor Guardians. Still, Luna was really hard on Usagi and her recognizing that she needed to do better by her is a huge turning point in Luna's character growth. The original anime didn't do that very often, but it's done beautifully here.

Speaking of Sailor Venus - I talked last time about how I was not a fan of how Minako in the live action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon was characterized. How she was cold and distant and not in any way part of the group she was supposed to be the leader of. But Crystal Minako is so much better. Yes, she takes her leadership responsibilities seriously. But she's also much more caring and compassionate, especially when Usagi is completely melting down over losing Mamoru and the return of these painful memories. It's a huge step in making this team of superheroes - and, more importantly, this group of friends - work together as a team. I love this entire dynamic that's being created here.

Speaking of group dynamics - the Shitennou seem to be getting some valuable group cohesion together as well. I'm eager to see where Crystal takes these guys (not wanting to spoil anything - but I have theories that I think would serve all these characters well).

Stupid rock. It's your fault all this happened.

Anyway - the next episode promises to have a lot more backstory. Stuff that's probably only ever been dealt with properly in fanfic. And all I can say is that it's about damn time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast Episode #20 - The Promise of a Soldier

This week, we hit the milestone of 20 episodes! ~*~confetti~*~ And with the conclusion of Doctor Who Series 8, there's no better time to discuss the two-part finale, "Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven" as well as Series 8 as a whole. How did the return of [spoiler redacted] hold up and did Peter Capaldi's first full season live up to expectations? Join us as we recap and discuss everything that we can think of (if we haven't died of feels first).

News links and mp3 downloads found at this link.

Split the Ice Apart

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.07 "The Snow Queen" - Spoilers!

Dear Everyone in Storybrooke -

*deep breath* All right - I'm okay.

No. No, I'm really not.

Okay, so what the crap just happened? Well, the Snow Queen employed proper use of psychological scarring on Emma Swan. But that doesn't excuse that whole scene of Mary Margaret and Baby Baelfire at Disney Princess "Mommy 'n Me" being a "First Time Mom." (I mean - seriously??? Does Dairy Queen have Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in on her evil schemes or something? GAH!!)

(I know, I know - I'm trying to be a calm and rational reviewer right now. And it's just not working! Let me try talking about flashback stuff -)

So, in the Arendelle of the past, Ingrid and her sisters, Gerda and Helga...

...discover that Ingrid has ice powers and they make a pact that they're going to conceal them because they all love their sister. But that leads to Ingrid being left out of some important things in her sisters' lives. But that doesn't matter because - ~*~sisterly love~*~. Which, I've got three sisters. I get that (more or less, I guess). Still, Ingrid wants her powers gone, even against the wishes of Helga and Gerda. Three guesses where they end up going??

Good gravy, I'm going to smack him.
All roads lead to Rumple, I guess.

So, Rumple gives the sisters the gloves (you know, the gloves) and the urn (you know, the urn) - but he also insinuated that Ingrid didn't need anything more than her sisters' love and their bond and promise to always be there for each other - symbolized by the yellow ribbons the girls wore on their wrists (and the fact that Rumple wants the ribbons is proof that the sisters' love has imbued the ribbons with some form of magic). But Ingrid still gives that up and it's all downhill from there. The Duke of Weasel Town (that's what I'm calling him because he deserves it - even though I laughed my butt off when I saw that they included him in the Arendelle flashbacks. That was just great!) tries to move in on Ingrid and she defends herself with her magic, but Helga (who Weasel Boy is supposed to be engaged to) gets in the way and she dies.

I'm going to talk about Helga's death for a while here. Because that scene more than any in this episode really got to me. Like I said, I've got three younger sisters. All when we were growing up, I often felt like I needed to look out for them and protect them because that's what big sisters do! Except there were more than a few times where they were looking out for me. And there were more than a few times when I did things that hurt them - whether on purpose or accidentally. In fact - there was one time where I broke my sister's collarbone (to be fair, we were all rough-housing and my brother jumped on us and that knocked me into my sister and we both landed kind of funny, so that's how it happened), and I felt terrible about it for days afterward. I mean, she healed up fine and everything was okay eventually, but, you know - the looks that my parents gave me when it happened and then they rushed her off to the hospital... I was left at home to stew in my own guilt and try to forget what had happened and tell myself that it was an accident (hard to do when your sister's in a brace for six weeks).

Back to Arendelle - Helga's dead and Gerda comes upon the scene to find Ingrid completely wrecked by what she's done (Weasel Town conveniently sneaks off to somewhere else - rat bastard). Instead of trying to piece together what's happened, Gerda...

...traps Ingrid in the urn and goes to Grand Pabbie to erase all evidence of Helga and Ingrid and begins her path to Parental Suckitude (even though it's presumably still some years before Elsa is born).

(Gerda, honey, after all this crap you've pulled with your sister and your daughter - there ain't no way you're coming back from this in my eyes. So, deal with it).

Okay - can I talk Storybrooke now??

All right - maybe just some of the happy things. Because there were some.

Things I Liked/Noticed -

- The good ship Outlaw Queen sails on! (HOORAY!!) Weeeeeell... it's not taking on so much water anymore. That's progress! (I hope).

- Will Scarlet, oh how I adore you! (though what happened to Anastasia, I'm kind of scared to find out).

- Henry getting ready for work - "I'm getting married." HENRY, YOU PRECIOUS NUGGET!

- Rumple may still be on my shit list, but a magic potion to make old things new was pretty good. I do enjoy his interactions with Henry. They make me... not quite as mad as I could be at Rumple. He's still on my list, though.

- I don't know if this was deliberate or what, but Hook checking himself out in the mirror. Hot stuff, baby.

- Brighton Sharbino as young Ingrid. Dead ringer for Elizabeth Mitchell. Take a bow, Once casting! (are we sure Brighton isn't her daughter or niece or something?)

Now can I talk Emma and Snow Queen and ULTIMATE HEARTBREAK??



Seriously, that whole time - THAT WHOLE TIME - in the sheriff's station made me want to punch somebody! (preferably the Snow Queen, but I'd have taken Rumple in a pinch) Like, how long has Emma Swan gone without people who love her and now she has everything she wanted and YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE HER RUN AWAY FROM THAT??

I really want to know what happened when Ingrid was Emma's foster mother. I'm sure it'll get brought up at some point in a future episode. But there is some nuclear grade shady crap going on there. I mean, if you want someone to be your bestest best sister-friend-thing, how is turning Emma and her current family and friends against her going to accomplish this? (or her against them - whatever).

Of course, SNOW WHITE IS NOT HELPING!! Mama Snow, dear heart - CAN YOU NOT??

So when Emma Swan Fan Club (Charming, Hook, Elsa and - honorary member for this episode - Belle) come running into Rumple's shop because Queenie has frozen the doors of the sheriff's station shut and they need magic to get in. Rumple reluctantly agrees (Belle's puppy-eyes have that effect on him) - except Hook stays behind for a moment to point out that Rumple has been very nonchalant about this whole Snow Queen business, especially considering how many villains have come to Storybrooke with the express purpose of killing the Dark One (presumably, Killian is including himself in that count). Rumple laughs it off, yet I can't shake the feeling that Rumple is getting a bit irritated about perceptive our favorite pirate captain is. Which sets up nicely for something that happens at the end of the episode and (probably) will have major repercussions for next week as well (I'm coming to that).

Back at the sheriff's station, Dairy Queen engineers a complete emotional breakdown for Emma, which makes Emma's magic go berserk and destroys en entire wall of the building just as everyone is coming back to get Emma out. Emma is still freaking out and her magic takes out a light pole, which nearly takes out Hook, who gets shoved out of the way by Charming (oh man, the metas that have been written about that), who gets hurt. Snow rushes over and says Emma's name in that surprised/shocked/disapproving voice (again - NOT HELPING!) and Emma runs off in the yellow bug (not before Hook tries to stop her, but she's too fast or he's not fast enough - regardless, it's painful).

In the midst of all this, Dairy Queen escapes and she later goes to Rumple to make a deal, which I'm sure is full of rainbows and ice cream and purple unicorns (RIGHT?!!) Which sets up this epic two-hour episode they have planned for next week. Which, I'm just gonna go ahead and make a pretty bold prediction of what it's going to entail -

Just a hunch, mind you. But I'm fairly confident in my assessment.

Emma's boys to the rescue. Which will not end well, I'm certain.

(if I'm this keyed-up after this week, what's next week going to be like?)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This is How You Character Development

Review/Recap of Doctor Who, Series 8, Episode 12 "Death in Heaven" - Spoilers!

*My subject line is fine. It's a play on a popular tag on Tumblr wherein a post talks about character development and how a show or movie or whatever does that without being overbearing because that's the fan/analyst's job. Also, Tumblr isn't very good at grammar usually. It's a social convention. Anyway...*

Finale time! And, yes, Missy is indeed the Master. And she ended up killing a crapton of people (including Osgood. Like - WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR???) And the Doctor became President of the human race (eh, it's not like he'd do any worse a job than anyone else we could think of right now). And Clara became the Doctor. And she's so good at lying that even the opening credits believed her (that threw me for a loop). And the dead all became Cybermen. And Danny Pink is a Cyberman. And he loves Clara in spite of it all. And he saves the world. And Missy gets roasted.

Did I cover it all?

Look, I'm not going to pretend that Missy's plot made one damn bit of sense because it doesn't (to use her own words - "Bananas!") The Master is traditionally a crackpot lunatic anyway, so I can forgive some of the incomprehensible stuff here. But what matters in this story - as has been the case throughout Series 8 - is the character stories. How the Doctor, Clara, and even Danny feel about what's happening.

It all looped back around to "Am I a good man?" And the answer is no. The Doctor is not a good man. He's an idiot. Because he's trying to fix things in a universe of chaos. A universe that defaults to insanity and hopelessness and negativity (which, I just described internet fandom. Oh Moffat, you sly old troll, you). The Doctor does what the rest of us do - tries to do good where he can and hope that it makes a positive impact on the people he's trying to help. Sometimes he does, most of it time it blows up in his face. And those are the times that the Master gives him his own ready-made army while the Doctor, bless his heart, stares in disbelief and horror thinking -
h/t Hyperbole and a Half
At the same time, the Doctor also inspires other people to do good things. And they, in turn, inspire him (I think of that sweet shout-out to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart when Cyber!Brig saved Kate at the end. That was awesome in a creepy sort of way. Eh, it's Doctor Who - they can get away with such things).

Clara and Danny. FOREVER HEARTBREAK. Damn, why does Danny have to have an honorable streak a mile long (to irritate fans, I think - especially some of the female fans. Which, I just don't get, but I come from a radical school of thought that tends to actually think well of men generally and not want to rip a man's head off for holding a door open for me. Crazy, right?) I can't fault Danny for his actions. In fact, I have to applaud them. But... Clara and Danny were going to be happy and together and have cute little "Ozzie and the Squaddie" babies! ...sigh... I hate my life choices sometimes.

But no, Cyber!Danny takes the army he's given by the Doctor and he saves the world. Because it's the right thing to do. And in the end Cyber!Danny, has to go off with the rest of the Cyber!Humans (I'm not calling them proper Cybermen because it's just wrong in this case - converting the dead... what kind of sicko... oh, right. The Master...) But he does use the trans-mat bracelet thingy to send the boy that he killed back to Earth in the hopes that Clara can get him back home to his family (if indeed his family is still somewhere in the war-torn Middle East).

Other Things I Liked/Noticed -

- Chaplet Funeral Home. As in, Dodo Chaplet. I don't know if that was deliberate or not, but I'm going to say that it was.

- This whole episode was an updated version of a Third Doctor story - the Doctor, the Master, UNIT... yup, it's all here!

- The portrait of the Brigadier in UNIT Force One (did the plane have a name? Too bad, I just gave it one).

- The only planet that can say the Doctor is on the payroll (his paychecks probably keep getting lost in the mail, though).

- WHY DID MISSY HAVE TO KILL OSGOOD??? (the Doctor was totally going to take her with him! And she was excited about it!! MISSY, YOU BITCH!)

Bottom Line - The Doctor, for all his good intentions (even giving Danny the trans-mat thing so her can get back to Clara), sometimes screws up. Sometimes Gallifrey isn't where Missy said it was going to be. Sometimes you have to put on a good face so your companion doesn't freak out or worry about you (but, apparently, you're not allowed to worry about the people you care about because that demeans them as human beings - right, fandom?) And this is where we leave the Doctor - lying to Clara about finding Gallifrey. Conversely, this is where we leave Clara, lying to the Doctor about Danny being back and everyone being happy and lovely. This is what flawed characters look like. Especially flawed character who are trying to mask their imperfections - just like we all do. We all go around saying things are okay when they really aren't. Even this week - I had some things happen to me that left me screaming and wishing I could break something (I didn't have a TARDIS console handy to beat my frustrations out on - I had to make do with a pile of papers on my desk). But I didn't want to bring anyone else into my misery and woe - they've got their own lives and problems and I don't need to add to their burdens. Yet... it might have made things better if I opened up and talked about it. Like I kept wanting both Clara and the Doctor to do - to tell each other what really happened and try to help each other through it.

That was a downer ending. Damn.


CHRISTMAS! And Santa Claus!

(Wait - I thought the Doctor was Santa Claus... oh well...)

So - here's my prediction. Going by the mid/post-credit thing with Nick Frost as Santa (which, with a name like that, how could he NOT be playing Santa Claus?) - old Father Christmas is going to put things right with the Doctor and Clara. Somehow, it's going to happen. Because miracles happen at Christmas and we need something happy to close out this year.  I do, anyway.

Series 8 Reviewed -

As a whole, Series 8 was pretty damn amazing. A few missteps, but not enough to make me dislike it. It was vastly different from anything else New Who has done, which I appreciate (especially with a new Doctor and all that). The characters and stories were interesting - they certainly prompted a lot of emotion from a lot of people (whether positive or negative, which is a good thing. The worst thing that can happen to a story is that it's simply "...meh...") Peter Capaldi is one of the very best to be the Doctor and I hope he stays on for a long, long time. And keep Jenna Coleman around as long as possible - I can't see Capaldi with anyone else (Osgood would have been great - but I guess that's not going to happen. Eff you, Missy).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Secrets and Sealed Memory

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 8 - "Minako, Sailor V" - Spoilers!

Oh boy. Sailor Moon Crystal. You do NOT skimp on the feels, do you?

It’s strange - I've known the basics of the Sailor Moon story for a long time. I first read the manga (which is what Crystal is very much based on) years ago. It’s the version of Sailor Moon that, if it comes right down to choosing one version, I prefer over all the others. But maybe it’s seeing the manga brought to life with animation and voices and music - it gets to me. Right in the squishy, emotional center.

Let me start with the last episode a little bit. Sailor V has appeared and distracted Zoicite enough that he decides to book it out of there. Also, V-chan drops the “bombshell” that she is the lost moon princess the other Sailor Guardians have been searching for. So, that’s potentially why Zoicite gets spooked and takes off. The Sailor Guardians are in awe of this new revelation - the princess that they've searched for is finally here! And she certainly knows how to do this whole “Saving the World from the Dark Kingdom” business. She’s been doing it quite a bit up to this point. In fact, she was the first Sailor Guardian to be awakened! (even got her own video game franchise - which, that’s how you know you've made it!)

I’m going to talk a little bit about the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (more often referred to as PGSM) in talking about Sailor V - only for comparison purposes and what I think they did right with Crystal’s take on V-chan. There will be some spoilers for that, and a little bit in general. So, fair warning there.

First off - Sailor V is actually Sailor Venus (that... wasn't actually a spoiler for anyone, was it?) And one thing that I continually did not understand from the manga or even the original anime (and somewhat in PGSM) is that Venus was purported to be the Moon Princess. Like, what does Venus have to do with anything related to the Silver Millennium or the Moon Kingdom? I mean, that just screams “I’m really the decoy! I’m not who you’re looking for!” And we might possibly be able to buy it, if the opening and closing credit sequences didn't spoil the crap out of who the Moon Princess really is (and the fact that Usagi wears her hair in odangos - I’m just sayin’).  So yeah, the identity of Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom - worst kept secret EVER (not just to spoilerphobes - it’s actually a problem IN STORY).

Yeah... no.
That’s the easy thing to discuss. This next thing deals with Sailor V directly (Minako Aino, in her civilian form) and will bring in other Sailor Moon versions, particularly PGSM. And it delves into Unpopular Opinion Territory, so let me get my riot gear out...Okay - ready. When I saw PGSM Minako - I really did not like her. Episode after episode, she. Just. Would. Not. Join. The. Team. I kept waiting for her to have her huge epiphany that she may be the leader of the Sailor Guardians, but a leader needs to actually, you know, lead. And not do this half-assed show up at the last minute and berate the others for being crappy Sailor Senshi! And a little trust toward your compatriots wouldn't go amiss either! I get it if you wanted that her be her Big Issue and what isolates her from others, but it just went on too long and I never got the feeling that this group of Senshi were ever very cohesive and I never fully felt like it was a group of girls that I could cheer for. I certainly could cheer for certain individuals, but not the whole team and Minako’s attitude toward the other girls was a big part of that turn-off. So, yeah, PGSM Venus - no bueno for me.

In some respects, it seems like Crystal Venus has a lot of those same hang-ups as in PGSM, but they are toned down so much more. Part of that has to do with how she and Artemis have been guiding the other Guardians via the Arcade command center and through the Sailor V game. Establishing that relationship from the get-go helps when Minako and Artemis are there going “Hey, we’ve been doing this for so long, please learn from our experience, and trust us.” Also, the condescension that bugged me about PGSM Minako and Artemis isn’t here at all. It’s less about “We know better than you” and more “we want to help lead the team.” And that goes a long way toward fixing my current fan relationship with Minako.

Also - that scene where Minako is determined to finish out her mission solo, but Artemis tries to dissuade her was a key thing as well. It helps that it was immediately followed up with the other girls intercepting Minako to invite her to go to dinner with them. Even if Minako blows them off and takes off on her own anyway - that was more effort in trying to help Minako feel like part of the group than ever happened in PGSM.

(I know, I know - I’m making a lot of comparisons with PGSM, but I watched that one over the summer and I kept thinking “I hope this isn't what you guys do with Crystal.” So, in this one episode, at least, I’m glad that my fears were unfounded).

Also - I find it a little bit funny (knowing that Sailor V really isn't the Princess - crescent mark on the forehead be damned) that Sailor Jupiter saved V-chan after Kunzite started blasting the rooftop and Sailor Moon fell. V-chan was concerned about Sailor Moon, but nobody seemed to notice because the Princess was in danger.

Another funny thing - the girls would call her “Sailor V” when she was in her civilian form, then correct themselves and call her “Princess.” As if that concealed her identity any better. I mean - she did give you guys a name to call her by. Why couldn't you call her “Minako”? These weren't enough to bother me too much - I’m just picking up on these things.

There wasn't a whole lot dealing with Minako personally, but that’s because the episode was still surrounding her in so much mystery. The thing about her secret mission, the hints of lost memories for the other girls and Luna, even Usagi’s dreams of a battle where she is Princess Serenity and calling out for someone named Endymion (nope, noooooo whacking huge anvil-sized clues there!) - Minako’s full-on character study is going to come later, because right now, she is deflecting attention from who the real princess is. That’s her mission in-story, it’s her mission to the audience as well. Which is kind of clever, if you think about it.

The other story - which will likely dovetail into the whole Big Reveal of who the Princess really is and where the Silver Crystal is hiding - is Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship. Where last episode they were just starting to fall in love with each other (with a lot more grace and believability than in the original anime, it must be said), the aftermath of this first battle where their identities are known to both of them - it kind of rocks them in different ways. Usagi’s confused as to why Tuxedo Mask would take off right after the battle, especially since the “Princess” appeared. Mamoru is feeling guilty that he couldn't protect Usagi. Not in the way that he thinks he has to in order to be with her. He definitely loves and admires her, but his problem is that he doesn't think he deserves her because of all the things he admires about her. Plus, he’s also been having dreams about Princess Serenity and this new person that comes in and claims to be the Princess... that throws a wrench into everything.
(Huh. That would be a storyline in and of itself with Mamoru trying to get close to Minako, thinking that she’s the Princess that he’s supposed to be finding the Silver Crystal for. None of the incarnations of Sailor Moon have ever dealt with that aspect of the story - that Mamoru loves Usagi, but they both think that Minako’s the Princess and they both think there’s supposed to be something there, but Minako is all “Oh HELL NO” about it. So in that way, it’s not a straight-up love triangle (which I abhor). Might be something for fanfic to explore).

There is a really sweet scene when Usagi randomly meets Mamoru in the park (and he’s studying up on crystals - apparently the whole thing about his priority being Usagi and not the Silver Crystal went out the window when he couldn't do anything to save her. Rats). Usagi tells Mamoru that she has his pocketwatch and he tells her that he has something of hers as well and they’ll trade next time (and it’s damn adorable when she’s all “I never gave you anything!” but the episode flashes back to the Masquerade when she lost her handkerchief). It’s like - they don’t really have to talk about their inequalities regarding their powers and abilities. And that’s totally on Usagi’s part. She has this way (with everyone) of disarming people from their anxieties. Especially as it pertains to the people she cares about - and that is no more apparent than in her feelings for Mamoru. Is she very good at communicating it? Well... not in so many words. But it’s more of her overall attitude toward him that puts him at ease around her. Even though he’s quite possibly the worst person ever when it comes to expressing what’s in his mind and heart (even though he obviously loves her quite deeply and honestly).

And then - there’s poor Luna. Who gets all kinds of flack from fandom for being so single-minded, especially when it comes to Usagi. Luna clearly has expectations of what the leader of the Sailor Guardians should be and Usagi is not it at all. But beyond that, Luna feels guilty for failing to notice that Usagi is in love with Mamoru, who just happens to also be Tuxedo Mask, who Luna isn’t sure they can trust (Luna wasn’t there when the fight with Zoicite went down - dammit. That would have explained so much...) To be fair, Luna’s got a huge job as it is - finding the Sailor Guardians and preparing them to fight the Dark Kingdom, even without expressly knowing why. Which is why I’m glad that Artemis came to talk to Luna - tell her that she’s done a good job, considering she hasn’t had all the information she needed. Turns out her (and the other girls’) memories have been suppressed so as not to put any further undue burden on any of them. But the time is coming (or maybe it’s here - the scene cuts to something else right as is sounds like Artemis is ready to give Luna her memories back) and Stuff’s About To Get Real.

Which brings me to the climax of the episode. Kunzite (who, I presume is the leader of the Shitennou - that’s what I've always been led to believe, anyway) challenges Sailor V (I mean, the Princess) in an attempt to get the Silver Crystal. Minako goes out on her own (and where this is her first episode with the Sailor Guardians, it makes sense for this to happen. But if it happens in further episodes and she keeps thinking she has to be this lone wolf character, I’m going to throw things) and faces down Kunzite. But the other four Guardians come flying in to help. Literally - they use (I think) Sailor Teleport to get to the top of Tokyo Tower where this showdown is happening. And the girls - yeah, everyone’s flying everywhere (to which I say - That’s The Best Thing Ever!) There is one little moment where Sailor V is about to tell Kunzite about his true self - which, again, lends to the idea that Crystal is going to include the Senshi/Shitennou relationships.

I’m going to cut in here with a note about the possibility of Crystal including this storyline:

Personally, I don’t care one way or the other about these four ships - Mercury/Zoicite, Mars/Jadeite, Jupiter/Nephrite, Venus/Kunzite. They are solely based on one piece of artwork from the manga that was just a chapter title page and those often have little bearing on the story beyond looking pretty. Fanfic writers have played around with these characters forever and that’s fine. However, since a lot of the people who've been unduly hating on Crystal also seem to despise the idea that Senshi/Shitennou could happen here (I don't know why there seems to be a correlation between the two and I'm really not interested in finding out why) - and I truly do not care one way or the other - I say Let’s Do This Thing! Because I am so damn tired of all the hate that Crystal has gotten for not simply being the ‘90s anime updated, for not being absolutely 100% perfect animation, for not being All Things to All People, for not coming with a cotton candy dispenser, or whatever else people want to bitch about (where 3-4 years ago the same people were anguished over having no officially licensed Sailor Moon anywhere at all) - you know what? If the haters are going to hate on something anyway, might as well do something to get them out of the clubhouse entirely. That sounds harsh and may be unreasonable to some, but if you don’t like something, don’t come in here and try to ruin the fun of the people who do like it (the number of Sailor Moon Tumblr blogs that I had to unfollow because they just couldn't say anything nice about Crystal...)

Anyway - I’m not here to carp about the Perpetually Malcontented and Those Who Ruin All Our Nice Things. The other Sailor Guardians aren't about to let their Princess take on Kunzite by herself and now we have a full Sailor team and Sailor V doesn't have to do the Lone Wolf thing anymore. Which is awesome and a huge strength to the overall Sailor Moon story - always has been. You have to love the hell out of it (well, I do).

But this episode isn't done yet! Because Tuxedo Mask shows up to catch Sailor Moon when she falls off the top of the tower. In an emotionally-charged moment where she is surprised and elated that he came to save her, she takes the initiative and kisses him. She admonishes him to get away to safety before jumping back into the fray. Well, Tux isn't about to let his girl take all the risks by herself - and he jumps in front of an attack meant for her -

Which leads us directly into the next episode. And all those "Spoilers" I've been not-avoiding because they're 20 years old and I'm too excited to talk about them? Yeah - that's what we're getting. *excited*

All your questions are about to be answered!