ljlee: (kira)
I'm not a fan of Sherlock. The show has clever references and is visually well-crafted, but Watson's Throwing Off the Disability in the first episode turned me off big time and I have seen little from subsequent, passing views that there is anything there to interest me.

Nevertheless, when my visiting mother-in-law wanted us to watch The Abominable Bride special I went along with it. Well actually I was like, "Wait, how about Suffragette?" at the last minute but my husband had paid the VOD system by then, so The Abominable Bride it was. Besides, it turned out that our subscription doesn't carry Sufragette anyway.

Spoilers for The Abominable Bride )

The Abominable Bride left me fairly confirmed in my opinions. (Which is what experience usually does to opinions anyway.) Sherlock is a slick, smart show that draws a lot of drama from the relationships between its well-defined principal characters. It doesn't go much deeper than that, though. This holiday special, like the show itself, doesn't have much in the way of self-awareness or moral authority, and that in a nutshell is why Sherlock doesn't interest me.
ljlee: (muzi_laugh)
Dragon Blade 2015 posterMark was feeling a little down on New Year's and we searched for movies to watch. We both wanted something historical and he hit upon Dragon Blade, a piece of historical fiction (with heavy emphasis on "fiction") that was supposed to portray a clash between the Han Dynasty and Roman Republic on the Silk Road. I remember mentioning this movie to [personal profile] lb_lee a while ago, and it came out in early 2015. With that sexy premise and a star-studded cast of Jackie Chan, John Cusak, Adrien Brody and more, it looked promising in theory. We had both seen the trailer, though, and didn't have very high hopes. Still, we just wanted to see cool battle scenes and turn off the higher brain functions for a while.

The critical brain, however, is not so easily turned off in geeks and ended up making everything gloriously funny. I don't even know where to start. There's the hilariously implausible idea that a branch of the Han military were basically UN Peacekeepers dedicated to keeping the peace on the Silk Road without hurting anyone. (Jackie Chan beating up both sides of a fight to break it up totally counts as hurting in my book, though.) There were the unnecessarily drawn-out fight scenes. There were the huge leaps in the story that left the audience scrambling to fill in the gaps. There were crowds of men screaming in slow-motion about every half hour like they won the Superbowl, while emotional music swelled in the background trying to manipulate the audience into joining in the undeserved emotional moment. It was Hollywood's Greatest Hits put together without any structure or design, making for one of those incoherent movies where you're left wondering at the end what the hell it was all about.

In which I proceed to spoil the entire movie )

Okay, so not everything was funny and some things were just rage-making and the whole thing sucked. Still, there were some spectatular battles and fight choreography as advertised, and plenty of unintentional comedy to laugh at. The production values were high and would have worked in a better put-together movie. This possible glimpse into the future of Chinese blockbusters--the movie did fairly well in China--is both instructuve and disturbing because, as I said, Dragon Blade learned some of Hollywood's lessons very well. The disturbing part is that the lessons don't stop at overdone CGI effects and manipulative swelling music.
ljlee: (reading)
As previously discussed, my first foray into Anne McCaffrey's Pern series was a couple of out-of-order volumes that I found alternately intriguing, boring, and creepy. About twenty years later, I made a second entry the way it should have been all along, with Dragonflight, the 1968 novel that started the series.

My impressions were as follow:

Two positives, two negatives )

In short, as Julie Andrews sang, the very beginning is a very good place to start. Dragonflight was a better start for the series than my original introduction, and it certainly had a lot of fun elements. The experience was marred for me, however, by the narrative playing favorites and getting into outright rape/abuse apologia. (Yes, it was published half a century ago. No, that does not make it harmless.)

Next up is Dragonquest, which I read once before and have almost entirely forgotten. I don't have the patience to re-buy and re-read it, so I think I'll follow along with Silver Adept's deconstruction instead.
ljlee: cover to Apocalypse World (apocalypseworld)
I read the Pern series only in part and badly out of order. A long time ago, and we're talking around two decades, I found Dragonsdawn and Dragonquest in a bookstore and read them one after the other. I found them a) to have some good ideas, b) boring in the execution, and b) skeevy as hell in places.

Discussions of rape and reproductive coercion. )

Fast forward to the present, where [personal profile] chordatesrock got a bout of nostalgia about the series and asked if I wanted to read the series, in proper order this time. I decided to see if that made things better, and hoo boy. If I thought the abusive relationship dynamic in Dragonsdawn was bad, Dragonflight would deliver much, much worse.
ljlee: (Default)
The second half of LoK Book 2 did some really interesting things story-wise, including telling the story of the first Avatar and providing an ending with real consequences, one that set the stage for the next and arguably the best season of the show. There were some weaknesses in the buildup that I think undercut the conclusion, but overall I was okay with the season. I could see its flaws, but I had fun watching and certainly I wasn't enraged by the end, which is always a plus.

Some spoilers )

For all its imperfections, however, the ending of Book 2 made lasting changes to the world--something Book 1 miserably failed at--and set up the events of Book 3: Changes. For that reason I think of it as a bridge season, and the Book 1 that should have been.
ljlee: (Default)
I've been hearing a lot about how good Books 3 and 4 of Legend of Korra were, but I didn't particularly feel like watching Season 2 after hearing lackluster reports about it. My sources disagreed on whether Book 2 was safely skippable, and I went back and forth until I finally decided to bite the bullet and watch one episode. If I hated it, I could always stop and move on to Book 3.

Spoilers, and why I find Iroh despicable )

In sum, the first half of Book 2 is a giant leap over Book 1 and far less infuriating. It has actual character development, real consequences, and moral complexity. It was a lot of the things Book 1 should have been, and while it's no replacement for a strong first season it's good to see the effort being made.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
I went and saw the last Hobbit movie, Battle of the Five Armies, over Christmas. As Christopher Orr of The Atlantic said: At least it's over now. That's literally the title of his review, and I cannot think of higher praise for this incoherent, boring, and just plain insulting series.

If you haven't figured it out yet there are going to be spoilers here, all right? The book has been out for the better part of a century and all. You have been warned.

On Dwarves and Dwarvish )

The story, Dealing with Dwarves, is available on Fanfiction.Net.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias was recommended by [personal profile] splinteredstar on the [community profile] write_away writing books recommendations thread. I really liked it and recommend it even more for its introductory chapters than for the master plots, though the plots weren't bad, either.

A good book hiding an even better book )

Still, even in its disparate parts 20 Master Plots was well worth my time for its intelligent discussions about story, plot and morality. If nothing else I would recommend Chapters One and Four for the theory of plot and deep structure.

See also: 20 Master Plots smacks down Plot Versus Character, at least in my febrile imagination.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Jeff Gerke's Plot versus Character starts with the premise that fiction writers tend to be strong at one of plot or character and struggle with the other. It may seem simplistic, but it's a dichotomy my own experience bears out. Even those writers who are good at both tend to have a dominant "hand" in their strength as a writer. Ursula Le Guin is no slouch in the plot department, but her stories are distinctly character-driven. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote deeply sympathetic and memorable characters, but the larger story always came first.

On character building and the character arc )

Despite my criticisms, I don't regret reading Part 1 of Plot versus Character. It had genuinely witty and helpful advice, and I was given a lot of food for thought. While I think the author's treatment is incomplete or inconsistent at points, I recognize the value of being wrong because it's an opportunity to clarify things through disagreement and debate. At other points, the author simply did things differently than I did and that's not a matter of being right or wrong.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Bird by Bird was the first book recommended in a thread I started about writing advice books over at the[community profile] write_away community. I've made it something of a project to read the recommendations in my free time. I started with Bird and finished it over a weekend traveling to another city and back.

Here's what I thought )

So, bumps and all, Bird by Bird is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in a perspective on the ups and downs of a writer's life, especially one that is funny and compassionate at the same time. I liked it a lot.

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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