Review: “Elena Undone”

I am a queer person, and I use the word queer as an umbrella term for for non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people. If you dislike the term "queer", you may not want to read this post.

Finding movies with LGBT+ characters is difficult. Finding movies that focus on LGBT+ people is even harder. Finding movies on LGBT+ people that isn't about AIDS or social condemnation or being rejected by family or any of the other depressing tropes that seem to come with queer narratives is damn near impossible. Most queer stories end unhappily, like Blue Is The Warmest Color, and most of the time in horrible tragedy, like Brokeback Mountain.

But as I was perusing the gay side of Netflix one day, I chanced upon a movie called Elena Undone, a lesbian romance between a pastor's wife and a free-spirited writer. It sounded like a cookie cutter lesbian romance (shy, innocent straight woman falls for mysterious, seductive lesbian and cheats on her neglectful husband with her), but I was bored, so I thought "what the hell" and hit play…and I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, as I predicted, it pretty much follows the standard formula for lesbian romance films, but I still enjoyed the movie. In this instance, the plot felt less like a tired old tread and more like a cozy blanket to wrap myself up in. Warm, soft, and familiar.

It's an indie film, and its format is unusual. Tyler, a mutual friend of Elena (the pastor's wife) and Peyton (the writer) narrates the film through his sparse cut scenes. Tyler is a "love guru" and believes in the idea of soulmates. Elena and Peyton's actual story is interwoven with clips from Tyler's informative video about finding one's soulmate, and therefore serves as a narrator of sorts for the evolving romance between the two women. It's an interesting idea, and works surprisingly well.

And then of course there's the electric chemistry between the two female leads. Both actresses exude affection, intimacy, and desire when they're onscreen together. Their making out/love-making scenes are luxurious and pulsing with heat. I haven't seen two lead characters with such a magnetic attraction since…well, since I watched the third season of Hannibal.

But the best part is, the women get a happy ending. They have their issues, as real people in real relationships do, but in the end, they find each other again and realize that they were meant to be together. It's a poignant yet simple ending.

The movie isn't perfect (the pastor character and the homophobic church member are a little flat), but it's a movie I'd gladly watch again. I'm a romantic at heart, and I've always loved the idea of soulmates, so I was glad to have found a real movie about two women were perfectly made for each other. If you can get past the dumb title, I recommend this film as an effective feel good story for when you're blue.

Oh, and for all you Supernatural fans out there, Peyton is played by Traci Dinwiddie, who was Pamela Barnes, the psychic who had her eyes burned out from trying to see Castiel. ~TRL

Buffy Best To Worst – Season 2

**Spoilers for season 2 of Buffy if you haven’t watched it.**

#19: “Go Fish”: ugh. It’s so bad. It’s probably the worst episode of Buffy – or anything – ever (except for maybe “Where The Wild Things Are”). I mean…fish rape????? Uuuuuuuugh. For such a good season, it’s such a turd. It’s totally skippable, if y0u’re not OCD about seeing every episode.

#18: “Killed By Death”: this episode is just unnecessarily gross. Der Kindestod is even more horrifying than certain grinning, suit wearing floaty monsters from season 4. And the child acting is a little too convincing. Plus, Buffy’s fear of hospitals just seems to have been made up for the sake of the plot (although, if you’re reading ahead, say, in season 6, it makes a little more sense). It’s pretty mediocre; it only stands out because of the horrifying monster of the week. The two shining moments are Cordelia, as usual, hitting the nail on the head about Buffy “needing a monster to fight so she doesn’t feel so helpless” (Cordelia is so understatedly brilliant), because tact is just not saying true stuff, and a defenseless Xander standing up to Angelus to defend Buffy. Yes, it was another faux-white knight moment for the Xan-Man, but remember, this was more than just Xander’s racism/jealousy at play here. Angelus had just killed Jenny Calendar in the previous episode. No doubt the rest of the gang was still mourning her and feeling a bit bloodthirsty. I get so pissed off with Xander sometimes, especially in season 3, but I have to remind myself, going back over the high school seasons, that Xander grows as a character and won’t always be that awful, mean high school boy.

#17: “Some Assembly Required”: this episode and the next one are the episodes I consider straight up filler. It’s an interesting idea, obviously a play on the Frankenstein monster and his bride, but it was just such a cheesy episode. It would have belonged in season 1 better, I think.

#16: “The Dark Age”: this one is just like SAR above; an interesting premise, poor execution. It is nice to get some insight into Giles’ life as “Ripper”, but this episode just didn’t do it for me. Probably a matter of taste.

#15: “Ted”: now we’re getting into the episodes that are bad but in a funny way. Let me put it out there right now: Joyce’s new boyfriend, old Jack Tripper…is a robot. There. That’s the twist. And if you’re older than seven, you probably saw it coming from a mile away. However, it does touch on a topic that will be revisited in all seriousness in season 3: what if a Slayer, a supernaturally enhanced superhuman, killed a normal human being? What would be the repercussions? Buffy, being a moral individual, immediately feels regret for what she’s done and confesses to the police. Now, granted, Buffy probably didn’t intend to murder anyone, she just wanted to rough Ted up a bit. And to be fair, he was a grown man getting physical with a sixteen year old girl. If Buffy wasn’t the Slayer, she might not be able to defend herself. But Buffy, having the advantage (Ted being a robot aside for the moment), doesn’t have the right to manhandle a normal person like she did. Luckily, Ted wasn’t really dead – or human – and Buffy gets a pass. This time.

#14: “Bad Eggs”: if the plot of this episode seems familiar, it’s because it’s basically a fusion of Alien and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I like this episode. It’s amusing, and a little bit suspenseful. And the Gorch brothers are fun idiot villains. By the way, if the running theme of sex for this season wasn’t clear before, it should be fairly blatant in this episode. Buffy misses Sex Ed and the lecture on the consequences of teen sex, for one, and the monsters of the week take the form of eggs, the symbol of human fertility, and the big mama is basically a giant vagina with teeth that swallows a man whole. Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel are getting cozier and cozier. They make out against a headstone reading “In Loving Memory” that the camera lingers on. Yikes.

#13: “Reptile Boy”: this episode is fluffy and light and just a bit of fun. Cordy and Buff invade a college frat party, Xander get dressed up in drag, and Buffy kills a giant snake monster. Again, the sex theme is heavy here. Buffy and Cordy getting drugged and chained up in the basement for the Makita demon to eat by the frat boys is an obvious parable about date rape. Not to mention that the Makita (named after a brand of tool, aptly) is a giant penis that Buffy, er…circumcises. But rape undertones aside, it’s a fairly fluff episode. Also, it goes to show that whenever Buffy acts like Cordelia (representative of her past “normal” life before Slayerdom – metaphorically speaking, like a child), bad things happen.

#12: “When She Was Bad”: after watching Passion of The Nerd’s review of this episode and then reading Mark Field’s in-depth guide, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality, I understood the point of the episode I’d missed the first time through I watched. Buffy returns from a summer away from Sunnydale and is inexplicably acting like a bitch to her friends. She’d been killed by the Master in the last episode of the first season, and had gone through trauma she needs to confront. But remember, Buffy’s self-sacrifice is symbolic of her committing to her destiny: Slayerdom. Growing up. Xander and Willow are still in their “kid” phase and Buffy sees them, and Angel (because remember, Angel, being a vampire, can never “grow up”), as not understanding what she’s going through, which is why she tries to push them away. Meanwhile, Giles (her mind) is what Buffy sees as having pushed her into her destiny before she was ready to accept it. And the one who forces Buffy to face her issues is none other than Cordelia, her mirror, the symbol of her old life. So now I get the point. This episode still isn’t as resonant with me (even though I’m a 20 year old college student), but I ranked it higher on the list because I feel like me not getting it is my bad, not the writers.

#11: “Inca Mummy Girl”: Oz! Hooray! IMG, like “Reptile Boy”, is another fluff piece which I enjoy. I gotta say, Xander gets some of the best centric episodes, as you’ll see when you get to my number five item. It’s fun, it’s a little heart wrenching, and Buffy saves the day in the end. Nuff said.

#10: “Passion”: I’m surprised Passion ended up so low on my list. I feel like it should be higher up because it’s so important, but this is due to my own preferences, so whatever. Anyway, so it’s just after Valentine’s Day (when Angelus is notorious for wreaking especially sadistic havoc), and Angelus decides to toy with Buffy and her friends. The whole drawing people as they’re sleeping thing is super creepy, but I think what officially wigged me out was Angelus’s assault on Willow’s fish. I’d like to mention: I like fun villains. And Angelus is fun. He enjoys being evil; he gets off on it. And in the end, he kills Jenny Calendar – doesn’t even drink her, just heartlessly snaps her neck – and arranges her in Giles’s bed as the final offense. I feel like I should have been sadder about Jenny, but the fact is, she was an underdeveloped character. I didn’t care when Spike roasted the Annoying One, and I didn’t really care about Jenny. She was cool, but she was little more than a plot device. I only mourned her because Giles did. The significance of her death only makes Angel a corporeal killer in the eyes of the viewer. There will be no coming back from this. By the end of the episode, Buffy declares that she thinks she’s ready to do what she has to do.

#9: “What’s My Line”, Part 1 and 2: these episodes, once again, explore the idea of Buffy’s identity as the Slayer, a topic we will revisit over and over (buckle in). WML contains a lot of golden moments: Willow and Oz finally meeting, Xander and Cordy making out in Buffy’s basement, Buffy kissing Angel in vamp face (which Darla said she would never do); I even kind of liked the scene with Dru torturing Angel. Not that I want Angel to suffer, obviously, but you think about it from Dru’s perspective: this is the man who killed her entire family and tortured her until she became a creature of pure evil like himself, and now he’s good and fighting against her and Spike. Of course she’s pissed. And then, of course: “I om Kendrah. Te Vampeer Sleeyir.” (Okay, I’m sorry, but that accent is so fake. I mean…”cheek fie-eet”!) It brings up an interesting idea: Kendra is here now, and is obviously more dedicated to the cause than Buffy, so why couldn’t she take over and be the Slayer and let Buffy live a normal life? Well, it’s like Kendra says just before she leaves: “You act like Slayin’s a job. It’s not – it’s yah life.” And it’s true. Buffy can’t escape her destiny, no matter what. Growing up isn’t optional. The only thing we can do is accept it or we become objects in the universe. Accepting unchangeable facts of life isn’t weakness. It’s what we do to deal with those facts is what makes us truly strong. There’s two really great quotes about choice in this season that you should pay attention to: Buffy’s speech in “Lie To Me”: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice, but you have a choice“; and a line from the demon Whistler’s line that I’m posting at the end of the post under “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2.

#8: “School Hard”: this is a FUN episode, in which we get the introduction of Spike and Druscilla. The whole episode is just brilliant. It’s good pacing, action packed, and obviously an homage to the movie Die Hard. I can’t pick what I like more: Spike’s swagger, his and Dru’s creepy yet tender affection, Angel pretending to be Angelus and offering up Xander to Spike as a snack, Buffy and Spike’s “will we need weapons” scene, Joyce finally standing up for Buffy…but I think my favorite part was Spike throwing a caged Annoying One into the sunlight. I actually cheered at that part.

#7: “Lie To Me”: this is such an important episode in the whole series. Like I mentioned above, it sort of sets one of the mission statements for the show: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice but you have a choice.” Buffy’s friend Ford is an important avatar for Angel and his character arc later in the season, but the words Buffy tells him will come back and resonate in a pivotal moment for her. Plus, it’s a Spike and Drusilla heavy episode, which are always fun. Okay, so the vampire wannabe cult is a little bit lame, but for me, it’s a enjoyable episode over all. I crack up every time at the scene where Angel is dissing the groupies, then one dressed exactly like him walks past. And Chanterelle, the blonde girl from the wannabe gang, will be a sort of important character later on, in the first episode of Buffy season 3, “Anne”, and later on Angel: The Series.

#6: “Phases”: I love Oz-centric episodes, and they’re few and far between. Oz is such an intriguing character. He’s the most relaxed of the Scoobies, but inside him he’s got this raging monster. Some people think this one falls flat after the emotional circus that was the “Surprise”/”Innocence” two-parter, but it’s one of the ones I look forward to personally. Kane the werewolf hunter is pretty lame with his stock character sexism, but otherwise this is a great episode. And the last scene between Willow and Oz is so adorable.

#5: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”: like I said with IMG, Xander has the best one-offs (with the exception of “Teacher’s Pet”). This is definitely one of them (it’s a close contest between this and “The Zeppo” in season 3 to be totally honest). I always love the love spell trope (as long as no one gets used against their will and the spell caster learns their lesson, of course). Amy from “Witch” is back, and Cordy continues to reveal her hidden depths. The only complaint I have is that, according to Giles, Angelus is his most sadistic and destructive on Valentine’s Day, but Angelus doesn’t actually really…do anything? Yeah, he tries to kill Xander, which would have been really cruel to Buffy, but he originally went to the Summers’ house with the intention to kill Buffy. So what’s so special about that, exactly? It’s not the great act of pure evil I expected from Angelus. One would think some torture would be involved first, like the stalking he does in “Passion”. I think they were scared about making our pal Angel too evil, only giving him a few sparse moments like when he snapped Jenny’s neck, or crushed Buffy’s heart in “Innocence”, or tortured Giles just for fun. Angelus is supposed to be all big and bad, and I would have liked to have seen more of that.

#4: “Halloween”: this is one of the most iconic Buffy episodes, and for good reason – it’s awesome. It’s on most people’s lists for “favorite episodes”, mine included. It’s just pure fun. Soldier!Xander, ingenue!Buffy, ghost!Willow, Oz making another cameo, and of course, Cordelia in her cat suit. I don’t have much to write about this one, but it’s just really good.

#3: “I Only Have Eyes For You”: since this is a list being made according to my personal preference, and I’m a sappy romantic at heart, IOHEfY naturally ranks high on the list, and in my opinion is one of the best one-offs of the whole series. It’s one that I’d gladly go back and watch just for the hell of it. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s bookended by the two clunkers of the season, “Go Fish” and “Killed By Death”. The metaphor for the episode, the ghost lovers being mirrors for Buffy and Angel, can be a little in your face, but not in a bad way. It’s totally logical, and you don’t really understand the poetry of it until the culminating scene taking place in the school with the possessed Buffy and Angel. The only complaint I have really is the parameters of James’s supernatural powers. Telekinesis and possession are par for the course for ghosts and poltergeists, but where did James get the power to summon the bees? Or transmogrify the students’ lunches into snakes? In this sense, it seems like James has whatever superpower the writer gives him so that it’s convenient for the story. But I’m willing to overlook some silliness or plot holes if the episode is overall good, and this episode overall is very good.

#2: “Surprise”/”Innocence”: now we’re finally getting the meat of the season. The arc of season 2 is Buffy sleeping with Angel, Angel losing his soul, and Buffy being forced to essentially take down the man she loves. Now, I don’t think Joss is trying to send any negative messages about having sex, or even having underage sex (because technically Buffy is only 17, and Angel is an immortal 20-something). I think he was trying to make commentary about losing yourself in your passions and losing focus on what is truly important. Take the arguably two most iconic teen romance stories, Romeo and Juliet, and Twilight. In both stories, the teenage lovers completely lose themselves in each other and their relationship. Being in love is fine, but when being in love with someone is your only character trait (*cough, cough* Molly Hooper *cough*), you as an individual disappear. Instead of taking agency and trying to resolve the conflict between their families, Romeo and Juliet are so wrapped up in their tragic love for each other, that it ultimately leads to their self-brought demise. William Shakespeare says it in the very beginning of the play: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;/Whose misadventured piteous overthrows/Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.” The whole point of R+J is that teenage love is hormone-fuelled idiocy. And similarly, Buffy loses herself in her passion for Angel. The back half of the season is about Buffy having to rebuild herself now that she no longer has her boyfriend. This isn’t to say that Buffy is weak when she’s with Angel – a woman loving a man isn’t inherently weak. But she neglects her responsibilities (“Bad Eggs”) because she is too absorbed by him. Season 3 is more about Buffy finding herself again, but everything post “Innocence” gives her the building blocks for that reclamation, culminating in her ultimate sacrifice in “Becoming, Part 2”.

And the episodes are both so well done, “Innocence” more than “Surprise”.  The scene where Buffy finally finds Angel(us) again after sleeping with him feels like a gut punch, the way Angelus slyly uses every tool at his disposal to utterly destroy Buffy. Angelus is my favorite Big Bad of the entire Buffy pantheon because he’s so diabolical and all the time while wearing the mask of our beloved Angel. It’s the third greatest landmark of the whole series, in my opinion, apart from the end of season 5 and the next item on the list…

#1: “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2: season 2 contains two emotional wallomps (three if you cared about Jenny Calendar), and this is the one that totally breaks me every time. I’m of course talking about Buffy being forced to murder her true love. Having to kill Angelus would already been traumatic for her, but having to kill Angel is just so much more brutal. So much more in fact, that she runs away from Sunnydale, since she’s been thrown out by her mother, kicked out of school, and it seems to her that her friends are rooting for her to murder Angel. Admittedly, I don’t much care about the vampires’ evil plan, but as always, the greatness lies in the characters: Angel’s backstory, Angelus torturing Giles, Spike and Buffy’s reluctant collaboration, Willow’s creepy sudden possession by magic, Buffy “coming out” to Joyce as the Slayer and her monologue about how she’d prefer a normal life but that’s simply not in the cards, Xander’s Lie, and of course the heartbreaking scene of Buffy having to kill a newly-resouled Angel. Also, one of the most adorable and unusual friendships in all of Buffy, Spike and Joyce.

There are two things that always stand out for me in this two parter – the part during Buffy and Angelus’s epic duel where Angelus seemingly has Buffy defeated, with his sword to her face.

Angelus: No weapon. No friends. No hope. Take all that away, what’s left? *pauses, then makes to stab Buffy*

Buffy: *calmly grabs the sword and looks Angelus in the eye* …me. *butts Angelus in the face with the pommel of the sword*

(God, I just want to stand up and cheer at that scene.)

And then, Whistler’s voiceover, which I mentioned above:

Whistler: Here’s the thing: there’s moments in your life that make you, that set the course of who you’re gonna be. Sometimes they’re little, subtle moments. Sometimes they’re not. Bottom line is, even if you see ’em comin’, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.

A Comparison Of Unfortunate Events

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**Spoiler free!**

As a child, I was a huge reader and re-reader, especially of one book serial by “Lemony Snicket” (Daniel Handler) called A Series Of Unfortunate Events. I think I have may read the whole series through even more times than I did Harry Potter. I also rewatched the 2004 film version starring Jim Carrey many times (to be fair, I didn’t own that big a collection of DVDs and VHS tapes back then and Netflix didn’t yet exist).

And speaking of Netflix, I was very excited when an actual series with the entire story, all 13 books, was announced to be aired online. I waited in anticipation for months. So when the series was posted about three weeks ago, I devoured the first eight episodes like the Lachrymose leeches did poor Ike Anwhistle (too soon?). So I thought I’d write a post comparing the 2004 Nickelodeon movie to the 2017 Netflix series.

The direction for both adaptions is somewhat Burton-esque (Helena Bonham Carter even made a brief, faceless cameo as the Baudelaires’ mother in the film). The movie is reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands in style (especially costume); the series more like Big Fish. The movie definitely took its own path, plotwise, but seeing as it was adapting a 13 short novel series (well, the first three books) into a 110 minute movie, it was really good, and earnest. Plus some of the original scenes that weren’t pulled straight from the book (like Klaus’s “this is not home” monologue) are really well written. Meanwhile, the Netflix series is pretty true to the books (except for Violet’s pink dress from “The Bad Beginning” – Violet canonically hates pink), and is a real treat for someone who’s read them over and over like I have. We actually get to delve deeper into the mythos of the secret society V.F.D. in a way the film couldn’t do, although I have to admit, part of what made the books so enticing was all the mystery and suspense behind it. The series just gives it all away up front. We even get to see Lemony Snicket’s face, whereas in the movie, all we got was a voiceover and unrevealing shots of Jude Law. I’m not saying you have to have read the books to understand or enjoy the Netflix series, but it’s clear that it was designed for fans of the source material. One thing I thought was interesting was that the series borrowed the spyglass from the movie, even though it was never in the books.

The acting in the movie is clearly superior. The child acting from the Netflix series tends to fall flat sometimes, like participants in a middle school play. Neil Patrick Harris’s Olaf is clearly a replication of Carrey’s portrayal, spliced with Barney Stinson and Doctor Horrible (maybe some Dougie Houser on the side). What I’m saying is, NPH is playing NPH playing Jim Carrey. I was delighted at the diversity in the series, however (Sir and Charles confirmed as a gay couple, finally!); it was a pleasant change from the pasty white complexion of the movie (even Cedric the Entertainer was white). I was so excited when I realized that Mr. Poe was being played by the same actor who played Mr. Trick from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The actors playing Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine from both adaptations, respectively, differ from their counterparts yet are delightful to watch in both cases. I found it amusing that Catherine O’Hara, who played Justice Strauss in the 2004 movie, played Dr. Orwell, the optometrist/hypnotist, in the Netflix series. But I have to say, I think the best actor in the entire series is Patrick Warburton. I’d only ever seen PW in frat bro roles like Puddy on Seinfeld or Jeff Bingham from Rules Of Engagement. But it seems like Warburton was the only (adult) actor in the series who was playing it straight the whole time. I have to admit, I always did envision Lemony Snicket with a British accent (like Jude Law’s portrayal), but Warburton’s ironic deadpan really sold me on his performance. Oh, and the genderless henchperson. I love he/she/them too.

There’s many great things to love about both the movie and the series. I thoroughly enjoy both adaptations and would highly recommend either one. The score to the movie by Thomas Newman is one of my all time favorites. And the Netflix series, since there are two fifty minute episodes for each book, explain a lot of things that the movie – and the book series itself – didn’t address. Like, why did the employees of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill stay there when all the pay they received for their work was coupons and gum? Or how did Count Olaf, a man who is clearly an enemy of the Baudelaire parents, end up with custody of their children?

However, if ever another version of A Series of Unfortunate Events is made, can we have an actually scary Olaf? He terrified me as a child, and I’m sorry, but Neil Patrick Harris is not scary. ~TRL

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

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Spoiler alert! Proceed with caution.

The other night, I saw Marvel’s Doctor Strange, starring Sherlock Holmes, Regina George, and Hannibal Lecter. I mean, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, and Mads Mikkelsen.

One of these days, I’m going to have to rank the movies in the MCU in order of preference, but this movie would defnitely make top ten – maybe even top five. I’m going to try not to kiss Ben C’s tight white ass this entire review, but it’s going to be very difficult, so bear with me.

First of all, gotta say, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen), of all the Marvel throwaway villains, is probably one of the least sucky. And his motivation kind of isn’t stupid? It’s new, I’ll give it that. His motivation stems from pain, which always makes me more accepting of villains, but his plan isn’t stupid complex and convenient like Zemo from CACW. Anyway, in the beginning when he chops that dude’s head off, I muttered to myself, “bon appetit” (’cause, you know, Hannibal), and the guy three seats down fucking choked.

Second thing I gotta talk about is Rachel McAdams. Wow, a female lead who wasn’t completely badly written! Yes, they follow the basic formula of “she’s in love with the main guy and she’s helpful for like one scene”, but it’s actually not so lame this time? That’s two points it has up on Civil War.

Third, Karl Mordo was really cool. He reminded me of Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onnz from Supergirl. Wise, has that sharp sense of humor, charming but stern. And I think he has the potential to be considered an awesome villain, like Loki. (It’s really sad when there’s only one good villain in your franchise.) And Tilda Swinton was pretty good too.

Fourth: THE VISUALS EFFECTS. OH MY GOD. JUST…WOW. KICK ME IN THE DICK.

Okay, now onto Cumberbatch.

Just…yaaaaaaaaaas. Look, Internet, I know you all think BC gets too much praise, that we only love him for his beautiful lizard face, but the truth is, Benedict is a brilliant actor, plain and simple. It’s amazing to me how he can play roles as drastically different as Khan in Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, and Alan Turing from The Imitation Game. Again, the man is a genius. I’m really curious as to how he’ll do as the Grinch. He’s one of those actors that has such a well-known face, but he plays every part with such nuance that he’s literally unrecognizable in every role. Why do you think he gets cast in everything? It’s just not because he’s marketable, fam.

Now, on my Tumblr (my new account, @salve-regina-mills, is doing rather well, thanks for asking), I made a post comparing DS to Sherlock…there’s a lot of similarity (at one point Strange literally pops up his collar…come on). But in no way would I say Ben was just recycling his Sherlock persona for Strange. The two are very different characters. Stephen Strange is truly and unapologetically an asshole, and he only gets worse when he loses the one thing that makes him special, but then he grows as a character (obviously) and becomes the awesome Sorcerer Supreme. Also, I think BC was really good in the action sequences. And yes, I realize it’s mostly special effects since this is a movie about magic, but I mean, acting wise, he could play a badass. Oh, and I never had one of those “Hey look, a fake American accent” moments with Ben. And I’m usually good at picking out those moments. And Strange’s humor in the movie is distinct from the other quippy Marvel heroes. Tony Stark is the king of arrogance, Peter Quill is more meta like Deadpool, and Scott Lang is very self-deprecating. The humor in Doctor Strange isn’t really in Stephen’s one liners; it’s in the reactions…or, lack thereof (Oh my God, Wong. “Try me, Beyoncé!”).

Anyway, great movie, cogent plot, good pacing, witty dialogue, fantastic cast, spectacular visual effects. Again, probably in my top five in the MCU. Go watch it, it rocks. ~TRL

Problematic Pairings – Hannigram

UGH! I deleted my entire Tumblr account by mistake! I’m such an ass. Well…*sigh* anyway…

Hey, guys. So I just finished the first season of NBC Hannibal. And it got me thinking. So today, we’re going to be discussing problematic ships. And no, I don’t mean like the Titanic. I mean romantic fictional pairings (canon or not) that could be considered controversial. Now, as you probably drew from the title, the topic of focus will the “flag”ship of the Hannibal fandom, that’s right, you guessed it, Hannigram (Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham).

Nothing is completely black and white. Every ship has its issues. From the fairly vanilla pairings like Destiel, to the highly problematic like Harley Quinn/Joker, every ship has room for discussion about serious issues like whether or not the relationship is healthy. Hannibal centers around the relationship between the infamous cannibalistic psychopath, Hannibal Lecter, and the forensic scientist destined to bring him down, Will Graham. Unlike most m/m pairings, this one is actually canon, according to series creator Bryan Fuller. While they never kiss onscreen, their relationship is quite plain. The cinematography is set up to make the viewer subconsciously pick up on romantic/sexual undertones to their scenes together. Hannibal and Will even canonically have a “daughter” together. They’re good friends (in the beginning, at least), and Hannibal, despite being a psychopath, seems to legitimately care about Will.

However, that doesn’t stop Hannibal from framing Will for the murders he commits in season 1, which result in Will being incarcerated in a mental hospital for the criminally insane, or taking advantage of Will’s fragile sanity to make him a killer like himself. So is this relationship healthy? Obviously not. Not even taking into consideration that Hannibal is a serial murderer who eats people.

These kinds of problems arise when shipping the protagonist with the villain and they need to be addressed. Just how problematic is Hannigram?

Well, let’s compare it to two other popular enemyslash pairings. Take for example, Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty from BBC Sherlock. I’ve talked about Sherlock at length before, but in brief, Sherlock is a show about the famous British detective, set in the 21st century. In this adaptation, James Moriarty, Holmes’ classic arch nemesis and hacky gay stereotype, is in love with Sherlock Holmes and wants him all for himself. He’s been stalking Sherlock since they were tweens, and his long game is to “burn the heart out of Sherlock”, or in other words, to make him insane and evil like himself. Apart from the intellectual challenges Moriarty presents in “The Great Game” and wanting to bring him to justice for his crimes, Sherlock is not interested in Moriarty in the slightest, is afraid of him, and just wants to be left alone by him. This is not a pairing I support. Moriarty is a stalker and an abuser (and possibly a sex offender?), and Sherlock wants nothing to do with him. There’s no question here that this pairing is toxic.

But on the flip side of the scale, let’s talk about a pair of friendly enemies. Two individuals who have known each other since they were kids, who enjoy their battles with each other, who have actually saved each other’s lives on multiple occasions and had proper freak-outs at the prospect of the other’s death, and despite being mortal enemies, consider themselves best friends: the Doctor and the Master from Doctor Who. There are of course problematic aspects to this relationship, such as the Master’s possessiveness of the Doctor and gleeful willingness to murder any and all of the Doctor’s friends to have him all to his/her/themself. This relationship is so bipolar; you can have the Master slapping a tied down, defenseless Doctor, and the two of them sacrificing their lives for each other with tearful, loving, shared gazes, in the same episode (I could write a novel on “The End Of Time”). At the end of the day, while their relationship obviously generates issues, and certainly isn’t the healthiest, the two are on an equal level, enjoy each other’s company (to a point), and are usually hungry for more interaction. There’s a reason this pairing is nicknamed “Best Enemies”.

So that’s an example of a very negative and a (mostly) positive relationship between two enemies. But where does Hannigram fit in? Well, there’s pros and cons to Hannibal and Will’s relationship to be sure. I can’t call myself an authority because I haven’t seen the whole series, but even in the first season, the homoeroticism is present. From Hannibal sniffing Will to “we will be her fathers now” to the weirdly romantic swell of music in the last scene of season 1 when Hannibal visits Will in the sanitarium (coupled with the strangely pissed-off-yet-sexual way Will says “Doctor Lecter”). Contextually speaking, Hannibal is trying to seduce Will to the dark side, so it makes sense that he should be, well…seductive. Whether or not Hannibal really has feelings for Will or if it’s all a part of the game he’s playing also should be taken into consideration: can a psychopath love? And if so, can they love selflessly? There’s a strange balance between the two men: Hannibal, being a psychopath, by definition, cannot feel empathy, and Will feels pure empathy, which fascinates Hannibal. They’re a yin and a yang, light and dark, although Will definitely grows darker thanks to Hannibal’s influence. But could the opposite happen? Could Will influence Hannibal to draw closer to the side of good?

Well, we could sit here and debate all day. I’m eager to watch the rest of the series and see how their relationship evolves, especially if the tentative season 4 comes to fruition. Thanks for reading. ~TRL

Movie Reviews: Divergent & God’s Not Dead

This past Friday, I went to the movies and saw two great films: Divergent, and God’s Not Dead.

Divergent, as you may know, is based on a popular teen’s novel by Veronica Roth. It’s about a dystopian society (of course) sometime in the future, in what used to be Chicago. The main character is a girl named Beatrice (Tris) Prior. The city is split up into five factions: Abnegation (in which Tris resides), which honors charity and selflessness; Amity, the faction of peace; Candor, which is all about honesty and justice; Dauntless, for the brave and daring; and Erudite, where the intelligent live. Tris and her brother must choose which faction to live in. To prepare for this, they and their friends are given tests to see where they belong. Tris’s tests reveal that she is something called “Divergent”, which is dangerous. Ultimately, Tris chooses Dauntless, for the brave. I won’t say much more, but let’s just say there’s suspense, action, a little romance, you know. Everything you want in a teen movie.

The acting is fantastic. Shailene Woodley plays Tris, and boy, is she good. Do you want to know what I first saw Shailene Woodley in? Freaking Felicity: An American Girl. And now she’s in basically the new Hunger Games, AND is starring in the other movie based off a popular book for this year, The Fault In Our Stars (And NO, I’m not going to see it, because I know what happens and I can’t stand sad endings!!!!!). She’s come pretty far, am I right?

But you all probably know what a good movie Divergent is, because it’s so popular. I’d rather focus on the other movie I saw, God’s Not Dead. It’s about a college kid whose philosophy professor forces his class to sign a paper saying “God is dead.” But the kid is a strong Christian and refuses to sign the paper, so the professor makes him debate him in class over the matter. If the kid loses, he fails the coarse.

It’s a movie about faith. The film also involves an Indian girl whose traditional Muslim father will not allow her to practice Christianity, an faithless reporter diagnosed with cancer, a businessman who has lost his morals, and others. Even though a few sad things happen in the film, there’s ultimately a happy ending. The kid’s endeavor ends up touching many lives, including that of his bitter professor. It’s a highly uplifting film, and I encourage all Christians to not only see it, but invite their friends whose faith is struggling. Even you don’t believe in God, it’s a wonderful story.

Well, until next time, my friends.