Jason Bourne Suffers from SML Syndrome

Jason BourneI enjoy action/adventure movies. I’ve seen the first 3 Bourne movies a couple of times. I knew the kind of movie to expect when I went to see the latest installment.

It was an adrenaline-rushed, action-packed, car-chase-scene-explosion movie. Pretty much what I expected. It was enjoyable in that way.

But there were two things in the plot that set my teeth on edge and actually ruined the overall experience for me (especially the first one).

Major spoilers ahead – you have been warned.

The beginning of the movie had me internally cheering. Two fierce, intelligent women were headlining the action. I was particularly excited about the return of Nikki and really curious about the way they were going to develop the character of Heather Lee.

And then it happened. Nikki, who has evaded the CIA and anyone else looking for her for years and has repeatedly shown herself to be clever and resourceful falls victim to SML (Solitary Male Lead) Syndrometm.

With SML Syndrometm, female supporting characters have to be neutralized in order for the SML to pursue his solitary quest alone. They also must die in order to provide the SML with an extra emotional impetus for achieving said quest.

Marie suffered from SML Syndrometm in The Bourne Supremacy dying at almost the exact same point in the movie, if I remember correctly (it has been a while since I’ve seen that one). It’s one thing to get Nikki out of the way so Bourne can do his thing, but there was basically zero narrative reason for it to have to be a death. She and Bourne have obviously not been in contact since the end of The Bourne Ultimatum. She has gone her own way in a lot of ways, which is clear from the work she is doing when she finds the information about Jason’s father. And there were a lot of ways her character could have added some interesting dimensions to the plot if she was off causing little bits of mayhem on the side.

And, if you don’t have time for that, which I get – it was, after all, already a 2 hour movie, then just have her run off into hiding. Dying is not the only way to get rid of a character like that.

The main reason Nikki had to die was so that Heather could take her place (because heaven forbid we have more than one major secondary female in a movie like this /sarcastafont). Heather basically ended up being Landy and Nikki rolled into one with her own little ambitious quirk.

However, I did really enjoy her character and I loved that, even at the end, you weren’t entirely sure what she was playing at other than giving herself a foothold up at the agency. She helped Bourne, but it isn’t clear whether she does so to serve her own purposes, gain his trust, and have a super soldier on her side when she moves up or if she really wanted to help him and it happened to help her too. I liked that ambiguity in her character.

And that leads me to point two. What ruined her character for me is that she is the only one who is suspicious of/frustrated with Dewey. It is consistently only the females in the agency who come to the realization/suspicion that Bourne is looking for something else and that there is more to the story and that there is a larger cover up/corruption going on. And the thing with this plot point, as with the first, is that it would have been so much more interesting for, say, Jeffers to start realizing how corrupt Dewey really was. I kept waiting for it to happen. There were even little moments in Vegas where he hesitates in his conversations with Dewey. As he’s running for the suite where Bourne is going after Dewey I kept waiting for Jeffers to pause, to reconsider, to realize Dewey needed to be stopped.

Instead, they shot him. Lame.

So, yes, it was an entertaining shoot-em-up action/adventure flick. It was a Bourne movie. But these plot points made it feel more like just a rehash of earlier movie plots than as interesting a development to the Bourne franchise as it could have been.

R&E Watch Gossip Girl: S1 E6

So E and I decided to watch Gossip Girl together because we’ve both been curious and it just seems like one of those shows you need to watch with someone else. And we fully intended to talk and comment (rather snarkily it must be admitted) while watching. We watched the first five episodes previously and made some rather hilarious sidenotes and snarky commentary, so when we sat down to watch more today I thought it would be fun to keep a record. If you’ve seen the show I’ve tried to include some brief scene descriptions to set the stage for our comments. If you haven’t watched it and want to join us on our ridiculous journey, it’s streaming on Netflix right now.

So here you have it. The first installment of R&E Watch Gossip Girl.

S1 E6: “The Handmaiden’s Tale”

R: I can’t hear Serena’s last name without cracking up. I also love that it’s three words – van der Woodsen

R: Oh my. Nate has Bieber-hair.
E: *laughs hysterically* Now that’s all I can see. He’s totally tossing it back off camera all the time.

-Blair makes Jenny run all the errands and then tells her she can’t go to the masquerade ball.
E: Jenny really is Cinderella.
R: It’s a freaking masquerade ball. No one would even know that she was there.

-Dan tells Vanessa he’s working on a history project instead of admitting he wants to go to the ball with Serena … After already telling Serena that Vanessa was Jenny.
R: What. Why is Dan lying?
E: Let’s just lie to everyone. LIE TO EVERYONE.

-Rufus and Vanessa have a heart to heart about Vanessa running away a year ago and coming back now. All couched in very vague terms like “Things have changed since you left.” Super helpful.
E: Why is Dan’s dad talking to Vanessa about this?
R: Why didn’t he say Dan was seeing someone else? This is so ridiculous.

-Jenny is sad that Blair wouldn’t let her go to the ball and Vanessa is comforting her and convincing her to go anyway.
E: (about Jenny and Blair) Break up with her. BREAK UP WITH HER.
E: Oh no. Vanessa is going to go there and then she’s going to see Dan and it’s going to be a whole thing.

-The masquerade ball starts
E: GUESS WHO’S DRESSED AS THE DEVIL (Chuck of course)
R: *laughs hysterically*
R: It’s nice that when you put on a mask no one knows who you are.

-Dan helps the drunk guy on the sidewalk not get run over and then uses his mask and name to sneak into the ball.
R&E: *in unison* NICE

-Chuck goes after Jenny again, but not knowing it’s her.
R&E: *gagging noises*
R: Does she have a plan? I hope she has a Taser in her dress somewhere

-Dan steals Serena on the dance floor.
E: Nice.
R: Smooth.

-Jenny convinces Chuck she’s actually into him.
E: Jenny is setting him up. Oh man. Greatest girl ever.

-Vanessa sees Dan and Serena kiss.
R: Why is Vanessa so mad? She left, hasn’t talked to him for a year, drops back into his life and expects to just pick back up with him again? Come on.

-Jenny locks Chuck on the roof in his underwear.
R: *cackles evilly*
E: Yes. YES.

-Rufus approaches Lily after they kissed
Lily: “It made me…”
Rufus: “Nostalgic?”
Lily: “Nauseous.”
E&R: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

-Jenny runs out of the party after switching masks with Serena (and wearing her jacket too for no real apparent reason except PLOT) so that Nate can think she’s Serena and confess his undying devotion until Jenny runs away and Blair tries to stop her, thinking she’s Serena
E: She has the bracelet. SHE GRABBED THE BRACELET
R: SHE IS CINDERELLA
E: OMG

-Dan and Serena say they like each other.
E: Awww. Good.

-Nate’s dad let him take the fall for the COCAINE that is actually his, but he can’t admit to his wife that it’s actually his so he’ll let her believe Nate is doing drugs instead.
R: Oh. My. Werd. His dad’s going to let Nate take the fall for the drugs. Like seriously.
E. What.

-When Dan returns home from the party and finds Vanessa in his room with apology dumplings and closes the big sliding door to his room.
R: I feel like it’s a problem with closing yourself into your room with Vanessa with the history and stuff?
E: Oh, all right.
R: Maybe? Hmmm

E: Of course, I know, Vanessa’s going to sabotage Dan and Serena somehow.
R: Obviously.

Why I’m So Annoyed at Walking Dead’s “Thank You”

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Obvious, but I felt it had to be said. Also, some minor spoilers connected to the graphic novel, though nothing specific.

I am okay with main characters dying.

In fact, I kind of like the fact that some tv series are finding ways to move on even without characters that were major characters, if not the main character.

I understand that The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic world where people die. A lot.

And I also understand that in a “real” apocalyptic situation people would die. Randomly.

But this is a television show. It is a construct of fiction.

I am okay with main characters dying if it a) advances the plot or other characters’ development or b) is a fitting end

Because this isn’t real life. We watch these shows, especially violent, suffering filled, death saturated shows to see those who live. To see that one person can make a difference. To see that choosing to do the right thing isn’t always easy, and sometimes it costs a very high price, but that it doesn’t make it any less right. To see that people can survive even in the middle of the worst possible circumstances.

I don’t watch shows like this to be reminded that life is random and people can die in mundane ways. Of course, the truth is, minor characters die randomly and mundanely all the time. And, to be blunt, that’s why they are minor characters. That’s why we meet new groups of people. Because, in this world people die. Randomly. Violently.

But this is the truth about fiction – we craft it. It is written. It is designed. It isn’t real life.

walking-dead-glenn-nicholasWhich is why I am still so angry over Glen’s death.

He isn’t the first main character to die. He isn’t even the first that I’ve been upset over. But his death is the first that made me spitting angry. That made me stalk around my apartment muttering angrily to myself. That made me want to give up on this show (though I won’t – not yet, anyway).

I had a feeling Glen’s death was coming soon. Just a sense that his character’s arc was coming to a close. And having read the graphic novel and seeing the direction the show was going in its echo of the book’s plot arc I just had a feeling. I knew it wouldn’t happen exactly the same as the books, because it was too similar to Hershel’s death in the tv series. But I knew it was coming.

I just thought it would mean something. That it would represent the growth we’ve seen in his character since the beginning of the series. That it would be more than a tragic accident from being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.

It felt random. Pointless.

And real life can often feel that way. Good people get sick or die for no apparent reason. While evil people survive or even excel.

I see that every day on the news, in my friend’s Facebook feeds, in the posts on Twitter. Real life can really suck sometimes.

I don’t watch tv for real life. I don’t get caught up in a fictional world because I want pointless random happenstances. I watch it because I know that it’s crafted. And I want it to be crafted for a greater reason than, hey let’s kill off a main character because I think it’s about time to kill someone else important off. Which is what this felt like.

I want my illusion back. I want a death to feel like it has a purpose. That it’s part of something greater. I want to believe.

Why I’m a bit obsessed with Tahereh Mafi’s writing

ignite meToday is the release of Ignite Me, the 3rd and final book in Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me trilogy. I decided to reread the first 2 novels and the novellas in preparation. The thing that I loved the most about the experience is how I picked up on little details I hadn’t noticed the first couple of times. The way that the writing still felt fresh and new and delicious as the first time I entered into Juliette’s world. The way that the characters breathe and live.

Reading these books is like eating a box of exquisite chocolates. Each sentence is a different flavor to savor and linger on. The poetic imagery and deft descriptions make these books more than just a heart-pounding and breath-taking experience. It makes them a joy to read… and reread. And I am so excited to see where Tahereh takes us in this final installment in the trilogy. And I will be one of the first in line to buy anything else she writes.

If you aren’t familiar with the trilogy, Shatter Me, Unravel Me, and Ignite Me, along with the companion novellas Destroy Me and Fracture Me follow the story of Juliette Ferrars, a girl who has lived through the most horrific abandonment and psychological and physical torture you can imagine. Not only is her touch lethal to (almost) anyone she comes in contact with, but she has managed to hang onto her humanity so that the idea that she might hurt someone with this gift/curse is almost more terrifying to her than anything that has been done or said. Abandoned by her family, locked up, manipulated, viewed as a tool or an asset, this seventeen year old girl has managed to keep her sanity and her conscience in the face of unimaginable pressures. Over the course of the first two books she has to deal with the things that have happened to her and find a way to move forward. Adam, the only person to show her kindness for most of her young childhood, and Warner, the only one to truly seem to appreciate and accept everything about Juliette (including her power) are vying for her love and her allegiance.

I will leave you with one quote that particularly stood out to me when rereading Shatter Me this time:

“The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” (Tahereh Mafi Shatter Me p. 25)

Why I love audiobooks

I’ve loved audiobooks for a long time. I remember getting them on tape from the library and listening to them as a family. One of the first books I remember listening to was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (which is a fantastic book btw, and I highly recommend it!)

series unfortunate eventsI have some favorites when it comes to audiobooks and audiobook narrators. There are classics like Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter series and one of my all time favorites is Tim Curry narrating The Series of Unfortunate Events – one of my favorite series with a favorite actor? Brilliant!

When I was in grad school I had a commute that was about 3 hours a day total. Since I was so busy reading for my classes, I was rarely able to read anything I actually wanted to. Audiobooks (and my local library <3) made that commute bearable and allowed me to read things I wanted.

I also have used audiobooks as a way to listen to classic books I never got to and that I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to as quickly like To Kill a MockingbirdA Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and recently Lolita and Rebecca.

But I recently started thinking about why I love audiobooks so much. And if audiobooks are impacting my enjoyment of a story. My sister can’t listen to audiobooks because she is much more of a tactile learner and has a hard time absorbing the story just through auditory means. I, however, have never had a problem with this. In fact, sometimes I can listen to a book much more easily than read it.

Here are a couple of examples: I spent much of my life sad that I don’t really care for Jane Austen’s books. I love the movie adaptations, but I tried to read Pride and Prejudice no less than 10 times and never made it through the 1st chapter (for someone who rarely gives up on a book no matter what this is significant). I forced my way through Emma because it was one of my friend’s favorites and I figured that I couldn’t say that I disliked Austen unless I’d actually read a whole book. But when I had to read Pride and Prejudice for my first master’s English class I had a brainstorm and got the book on audio. And I liked it. In fact I went on to read (or rather listen to) Sense and Sensibility next. And while I’m still not a big fan, at least I can enjoy it.

I also recently listened to A Catcher in the Rye, reading it for the first time. And I am almost positive that I would not have been able to make it through if I’d tried to read it rather than listen to it. The narrator completely sold me on Holden in a way that the text probably wouldn’t have. This was also true of (and I’ll probably get at least one incredulous/nasty comment about this next point) the Twilight saga. I listened to the first book on audio – read it before it became a phenomenon. Just thought I’d pick up the new audiobook that had come in at the library and I knew absolutely nothing about the book. I really think that the audio had a big impact on my enjoyment (yes enjoyment) of that series (no I’m not a twihard, but yes, I own the books and have read them more than once and still like them).

beauty queens  I’ve had a rocky relationship with Libba Bray’s books as well, but I really wanted to read Beauty Queens because the premise just sounded too hilarious to pass up. I got it on audio with Libba Bray reading it herself and it was hilariously brilliant. I definitely enjoyed it so much more because of her narration.

fault in our starsOne final example to get to my point (really, there is a point). I have heard so many good things about John Green’s A Fault in Our Stars, but I have not had a good relationship with John Green’s fiction so I kept putting off reading it. Then our library got it in their audiobook section so I thought, why not. And I fell in love with the book. Then yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook that they had just finished the book and were disappointed that so many people loved it when she thought it was forced and, I think “maudlin” was the term they used (don’t quote me on that). Now this friend and I match up in so many ways in what we like book, movie, and tv-wise that I was rather surprised by how strongly she disliked the book that I had loved so much that I bought in for my Nook before I had even finished the audio. And I started to wonder whether I had liked the book as much as I did based on the performance of the narrator than I would have if I’d read it.

I’m pretty sure it didn’t influence me hugely – both of the other John Green books I’ve read were also listened to as audiobooks and I didn’t really like either of them – but I have a feeling that it did impact my reaction.

A really good narrator can make a book more enjoyable while a bad narrator can destroy a book. Another point – I got The Great Gatsby on audio years ago (yes, I had never read it in high school) and the narrator was so horrific that I gave up on it after about five minutes and ended up not reading the book until this past fall. So essentially, that bad narrator kept me from reading and enjoying a books.

So audiobooks are a wonderful thing and I think that the narrator has a huge responsibility because, how they interpret the text can have a massive impact on how a reader enjoys or dislikes that work. As for me, I’m going to keep on listening to more audiobooks. But I’m also going to think more about how much of an impact the narrator has on my feelings of the story itself. Not because I think it’s a good or bad thing that the narrator can have that much power, but simply because I find it interesting that they do.

Why I love it when Hollywood doesn’t take itself too seriously

We were recently shopping and stumbled upon a rack of $3 movies. There is some sort of law that requires us to then browse the entire rack and purchase at least one title. As we were looking through we stumbled across a movie that had a remarkable explanation for its R rating (I don’t remember what the movie was and it is, frankly, beside the point).

DSCN8497As you can see, it is rated R because of language and “werewolf attacks” – not violence, not gore but specifically “werewolf attacks.” I can’t quite explain why this cracks me up so very much, but it does. This is a tiny little thing – most people would probably not even notice this, but I find it hilarious.

I also love when there are little easter eggs hidden in the credits because, let’s face it, how many people actually read the credits. Nowadays many people will wait through the credits to see if there is a hidden scene or outtakes or something like that, but it doesn’t seem that many people (though obviously there are some) who actually read them. I have a habit of doing this. Not in depth and not every line, but I love looking for odd names or misspellings (if you look at the end of Dante’s Peak they misspell Pierce Brosnan’s name once) or anything else out of the ordinary. This paid off recently with Frozen when there was a disclaimer that “The views and opinions expressed by Kristoff in the film that all men eat their own boogers are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company or the filmmakers. Neither The Walt Disney Company nor the filmmakers make any representation of the accuracy of any such views and opinions.” I love that someone took the time to put that little bit of nonsense in. And that I caught it in the theater!

cats don't danceAnother one that I have always appreciated was in the credits of the animated feature Cats Don’t Dance (which is an absolutely fabulous and much-overlooked film that I should write a post about soon). In the credits there is a disclaimer that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film. Although some were erased and had to be redrawn.” I mean, come on. That’s brilliant.

These are the kinds of things that make me love the movie industry. I’ve been thinking of this because Oscar season is upon us. And while many of the films that are recognized by the Academy are wonderful films and I have nothing against it, the thing that has always bothered me about the Oscars is how very serious everything is. Sure, they get someone to host it who tells some jokes or pokes fun at things, but the selection of the films and those that win always seems very narrow to me. There are a lot of wonderful movies that are Action/Adventure or Romantic Comedies or Science Fiction that rarely get a nod much less a win. I think if the industry could just take itself a little less seriously (like some of these films) things could be a bit more entertaining.

*Disclaimer: This is just my opinion and if you like the Oscars the way they are, that is perfectly fine. I just have issues 🙂

 

Why I was ALMOST satisfied with Despicable Me 2

I finally got a chance to see Despicable Me 2. I loved the first one and as the second one ended I announced that I felt it was a sequel that lived up to its predecessor, something that is rare indeed.

And I did like it. I liked the continued development of Gru. I loved the addition of Lucy. The girls (especially Agnes) were as adorable as ever. And the minions. I can’t seem to put my finger on my enjoyment of their ridiculous almost 3 stooge-esque humor. But they crack me up.

So why did I begin to have this niggling sense of dissatisfaction? I pondered on this for a while until I figured it out.

Antonio.

He is introduced as Margot’s crush. He is the son of the (SPOILER ALERT) villain. He is seen breaking Margot’s heart as he dances with another girl. Gru freezes him. The end. Really? That’s it?

As I thought back, I realized that throughout the entire ending segment as they fight El Macho, I was waiting for Antonio to reappear. Either as the sidekick to his father’s villainy or as the good guy who tries to stop his father or to save Margot. Either one would have been fine. I kind of like the idea of him being in on the plot the whole time too. But nothing. We get absolutely nothing of him.

Which makes me wonder what his purpose was in the movie, other than to add some hilarious scenes of Gru dealing with the fact that Margot is growing up. But these are so incidental to the plot as to be unessential. He flirts with Margot, dances with another girl, gets frozen. I don’t understand the plot point. In fact, I just went to Wikipedia to refresh my memory of his name and this side plot isn’t even mentioned in the plot summaryAT ALL.

I mean, he’s not even there to be a real love interest for Margot! That would have been slightly annoying, but at least served a purpose. Instead I felt as though a thread was woven in and then just left to fray.

By now it should be clear that animated features aren’t just for kids. Adults – even adults without children – watch these movies, enjoy these movies. There are nods of humor throughout most animated films for the adults watching. So please, for the love of film art, don’t leave such gaping holes in your plots!