Ask Me Anything – Round 2 (The Questions)

Hey folks

In light of everything going on in Indiana and the various bits of legislation floating around states I thought it time to do another Ask Me Anything

You may ask me *any* question about *me* being Trans or in general about LGBTQ. No Question is Taboo. There are plenty of sites that discuss “What not to ask someone who is trans” and for this you may ignore those. I  know that for some people the questions are very personal, very private, and often can be something they are not comfortable being asked or answering – especially publically. I respect those people and their feelings on the matter.

I believe if I can answer people’s questions I can end a little ignorance in the world and hopefully make it an easier place for someone like me. someone who doesn’t have the awesome coworkers, employer, and friends that support them. I can maybe make it easier for people to understand why some laws can hurt and some places are dangerous for us.

Rules:

  1. Any question may be asked.
  2. If you don’t want to ask in a public forum you may contact me privately. I will post the question, but not indicate who asked it. Some people want anonymity.
  3. All answers will be from Jessica’s point of view. I do not claim to speak for the trans community. I can only speak to my experience.
  4. Questions around Faith/Religion/Etc will be answered to the best of my ability.
  5. Questions on Law, Facts, Figures. I am not a lawyer, but I am a data-hound. I will fact check myself before quoting stats and give references. If I misquote. Call me on it. I will make apologies and edits as needed.
  6. If I can’t answer a question or do not feel comfortable answering a question due to lack of experience in an area (Gender fluidity, Aces, etc) I will say so. Respect that I am respecting those individuals and groups.

How to reach me:

  • Facebook – PM me or post to the wall as a reply to this post.
    • Amusedinthedark
    • Jessica Darke
  • Email
    • AmusedintheDarke@gmail.com
  • A reply to this post on AmusedintheDark.com

 

When will I answer? 

Probably this weekend if I get enough questions. It’s a lil insane at work, but this is important to me.

Darke Reviews – Insurgent (2015)

I love March. It marks the beginning of the end for the toughest time in the 9-5 and the beginning of movies worth watching in the theatres – at least it usually is. This year is really not off to a good start and I just looked at April and with one major exception (Furious 7) there is next to nothing until Age of Ultron. I also seem to be among the few who did not like Cinderella last week; at least until the Walker brothers discussed it recently. So this week we got the sequel to last years Divergent.

Does Insurgent live up to it’s name and break the trend?

First, let me compare a bit to last years review. My friend at the coffee bar at the theatre told me there was a near full house for earlier showings yet my show was near empty. This time, the house was nearly full in one of the largest rooms they have there; which tells me this one grew despite the mediocre ratings the first one got. I still haven’t read the books, though they do look nice in my library – which means this review is still going to talk about the work from a purely cinematic standpoint. My last review talked about dystopian teen fiction at length for a bit.

Divergent took the tact of giving us a movie about class-ism or elitism and threw it out the window by giving us a main character who isn’t of any caste. It’s a pleasant twist. Insurgent continues the story of Tris Prior, a divergent, picking up days/weeks after the events of the last movie. This time the story is as much internal as it is external dealing with Tris facing her demons within and without. I rather enjoyed the conceit as we have a world where that can actually be a real thing to you.

Rather than keep the writers from the last film, three new writers come in. That’s usually not a good thing as my rule of three comes into play. I haven’t mentioned the rule for awhile and have some new readers. If you get to three or more writers for a film there is a degradation in the quality of the film. Too many writers, rewrites, and cooks in the kitchen and it tends to show in the final work. It does here too. Newcomer Brian Duffield was involved, working with Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale, Angels & Demons, I Am Legend), and Mark Bomback (The Wolverine, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). I can’t tell what Duffield did for this movie as I have nothing to compare against. Goldsman brought his ability to write someone facing their own psychology, while Bomback brought a sense of reasonably well written action. By their powers combined, however, we get a bit of a mess.

The movie, much like the first, meanders a bit too much and has some odd pacing and tonal switches. It wants to address some things and then decides not to. It gives you threats then promptly ignores most of them. Like the first I have an overwhelming sense of meh for what I watched; and yet an interest to see what they do next. I am not sure how that works more than the movie falling to Middle of the Trilogy syndrome where it comes across as mostly filler but provides a set up for a more interesting finale.

I think the writers are not solely to blame for me not caring too much, as the director is the one who brought us one of the most bilious, refuse laden, nausea inducing films I have ever watched R.I.P.D.. I have such contempt for that film and likely find Robert Schwentke to blame for any flaws in films he works on. While, again, I have not read the books, I blame the director for me being deeply annoyed with most of the characters in the film. I blame the director for wasting Shailene Woodley as Tris.

I do not blame Shailene (Fault in our Stars), she actually does a good job. I understand her logic. I understand her fears. She makes sense and every decision – makes sense. That is so rare and most of that comes from the actor being able to pull off the nuance of emotions. Sadly something happened between the last movie and this one (I’ll blame Schwentke) with Woodley and her romantic co star Theo James (Underworld 4) who plays Four. I could be missing something but for the better part of the film I don’t feel chemistry between them, which is sad as much of the film needs that. There are exceptions, but not nearly enough.

Kate Winslet, as Jeanine, is one cat short of being a Bond villain.  Jai Courtney still annoys me and I am reasonably certain they used a cardboard cut out in two scenes with him and they turned in a better performance than the actor. Ansel Elgort (also Fault in our Stars) does well with what he has, but I don’t think he has much. Miles Teller (Footloose, Whiplash, and the upcoming Fantastic Four) is surprisingly enjoyable; even when he’s a jerk. He just makes his character work. The rest of the cast is entirely not worth mentioning – which is unfortunate.

From a technical perspective I’ve already hinted at some pacing issues. There are horrifically bad CGI birds that keep coming. When CinemaSins gets their hands on this, I fully expect at least one Birdemic joke; they are that bad. They are also totally unexplainable from the cinematic narrative. Someone who read the book might be able to explain them but from someone who only has the cinema to go from they make no sense. Most of the green screen is hidden and the action is pretty good. It isn’t perfect from a CG perspective but it does better than most.

TL;DR

Once again I find myself in the category of meh. I don’t think I had high hopes for this one. It proved me right as it is clearly a middle less interesting film that serves no point than to prepare us for something new with Allegiant.

If you liked the first one, or have at least seen the first one. Continue the story. Give it a watch, you won’t feel your time is wasted. There are some genuinely good moments amidst the ok ones.

If you haven’t watched the first, you’ll want to before watching this. If you don’t you may care even less.

There’s nothing major to see here. This isn’t the game changer for 2015 we were looking for. I don’t suppose I believed it would be, but it would have been nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darke Reviews – Cinderella (2015)

I apologize to all my readers for the hiatus, we’ve had a bit of a dry spell with movies and my 9-5 ( 6 to 5?) takes dominance in this time of year. Have to afford all these movie tickets somehow neh? I remember my reaction for this particular films teaser with just a long tracking shot of the glass slipper and hearing that Kenneth Branagh was expected to direct. Overall though I did not have a lot of faith in the live action version of the film as Disney is hit and miss with me on their conversions. Alice in Wonderland was garbage and I enjoyed Maleficent as examples. I was cautious about this film and have made an active choice to avoid reading anything about its production including casting. I find out in the 11th hour that Helena Bonham Carter is in the role of the fairy godmother and my heart sinks a bit.

So where does Cinderella fall? Does the slipper fit and is it magic?

This might be one of the most adapted stories ever (Dracula holds the title last I checked) and has been made and remade ad nauseum for decades with varying degrees of success. In America the concept of a “Cinderella story” is a cultural norm that nearly everyone knows regardless of seeing the original animated. This is one of the Disney flagships with Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The original three princesses that in my opinion have defined the studio as much as the Mouse has. Who does Disney hand the reigns to adapt the story for the big screen to? Chris Weitz, the man behind the box office bomb The Golden Compass and the direct of the Twilight sequel New Moon. Excuse me while I examine the water in the Mouse House and wonder what the production team was thinking. Alright, it’s been eight years since his last script, he could have gotten better right? I am not sure. The story does next to nothing new, it almost does less than nothing new and that is a feat in and of itself. Should I blame the writer if he was told to just make the original film over again?

Does blame fall on the directors chair instead? Kenneth Branagh’s career began to boost to life with Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (a veritable catapult to the mainstream), Othello, and Hamlet. With that pedigree the man should easily be able to take a fairy tale and bring it to life. He is a near expert at the period piece conversion from writing to screen with the Bard being his go to guy. Yet, these are the drama’s of Shakespeare. Not his fantasies, not his comedies.  So instead of giving the writer the brunt of my disdain I send it Branagh’s way. Sure he has been nominated for the Oscar and Golden Globe a combined 8 times, but not every director is successful on every film. Again I feel the studio had some pretty tight reigns on him, yet within those constraints he still failed.

Let me be clear, had I not been seeing it with someone I may have walked out during the first act from pure boredom. I was bored and even mildly annoyed by what I was being given for too much of the movie. It was unnecessary, bloated, and significantly weaker than many of its cheaper counterparts over the decades. I know the actors here are better than they gave us and that allows me to blame the director for the greatest flaws within the film. How Blanchet moves as Lady Tremaine is right out of a stage production or comedy it is so exaggerated and over the top, but when you compare that to the others around here who are not performing the same way it sets her apart. This weakens one of Disneys greatest villains. The woman is evil. Maleficent is bad, but this woman is supposed to be a tangible evil that makes your skin crawl with only the great Tchernabog to beat her as the most evil. Did we get that? No. Blame I can lay solely at Branagh’s chair.

I am sure someone is reading this and thinking of other reviews they’ve heard or read. I am sure they think I might not like fantasy, fairy tales, or stories like this. Quite the contrary. I *love* a good fairy tale. I love the idea of a fairy godmother. I want to be the fairy tale princess. I need fairy tales in my life and they count among my favorite films. That is why this movie is such a sin to me. For the better part of the movie it is just dull. It has no magic and no life. It just seems to be for no other reason than it can be.

Surely something is good? Yes. Cinderella herself, as played by Downton Abbey’s Lily James and The King in the North – Richard Madden (thats a game of thrones reference). Madden’s smile, sans Stark beard, can light up a room. He defines a prince charming here and is hands down the best character in the movie. James for her part isn’t given a lot of actual interaction with others, but is able to move herself through the picture in a way that allows her to steal the scene most of the time she is on screen. She does have one scene where my eyebrows went up wondering what direction she was being given but she gave whatever it was her all. Blanchet is entirely wasted here. Lady bloody Tremaine and she gets to do nothing. In his supporting role Nonso Anozie (Xaro Xhoan Dazos from Qarth – another Game of Thrones alumni) is another character who is just comfortably enjoyable on screen; while Helena Bonham Carter seemed to channel Jack Sparrow as her role model for the fairy godmother, right down to eye and body motions. It was actually a bit distracting.

Along the distracting lines – the CG work. I expect better. Some was not too bad, but when it was bad it was distractingly so. Places where practical effects would have come across a thousand times better had CG used to their detriment. It doesn’t give me hope for Beauty and the Beast.

TL;DR?

I was nervous about the film. Sure. Sadly the film met those expectations and left me bored or annoyed for the better part of its running time. I have seen many review headlines that are contrary to my opinion and I am glad that they took something from it I didn’t. Neither I nor my partner for this viewing particularly enjoyed it. We found it lacking in many respects with out enough to bring it back up to a pass. It doesn’t do anything interesting or particularly new with the story and that works against it.

If you have kids that want to see it or are curious, matinee it at best. I think the kids may be a bit antsy in all the set up in Act I.

If you were on the fence about it, I have to advise against this movie. If you need a good Cinderella story watch the film Ever After. Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston are incredible in that movie and it works end to end.

I as always am open to understand what I didn’t see. If you do see this and don’t agree with me – tell me please. I am curious to what you saw that I didn’t. In the meanwhile, I have two more reviews to write from films this week and hopefully some more reviews in the coming weeks as we ramp up once again towards summer blockbuster season.