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Friday, July 31, 2015

Women of the Month: Joy and Sadness

Joy and Sadness from Inside Out
The last time I doubled up on a Woman of the Month entry was for Korra and Asami back in December. For obvious reasons I couldn't bring myself to choose just one to showcase, and now I find myself in a similar situation for Joy and Sadness. Their relationship is just too important for this entry to divide them.
Walt Disney once said "for every laugh there must be a tear", and that could very well form the backbone of Inside Out, for at its core it is the relationship between joy and sadness. And because this is Pixar, we’re not just talking metaphorically. This is the actual relationship between a personified Joy and Sadness. Both of them are emotions within Riley Anderson's head, and since Joy is usually front-and-centre of Riley's life experiences, ensuring that all her happy memories are stowed away safety in the recesses of her mind, she can't quite figure out the point of Sadness.
At first glance (and perhaps in the hands of any other film studio) the point of the story would be Sadness learning to lighten up and embrace Joy's eternal bubbliness and exuberance. But this is Pixar we're talking about, and so across the course of Joy and Sadness's journey through Riley's mind, it's Joy who must eventually learn that she can't suppress the very natural emotion of sadness and to let go of her controlling tendencies so that Riley can learn to be an emotionally mature twelve year old girl.
And because these two emotions are personified women, it's also a portrayal of a friendship that grows in understanding and respect across the course of the film. The character design itself is a clue to this development: whilst Sadness is a blue blob of unhappiness (almost tear-shaped), Joy is a pixie-like bundle of charm and energy – but with a mop of blue hair that serves as a visual indication of her emotional counterpart.
It's a great movie, and also one that has female characters front-and-centre – even though Joy and Sadness are really only "women" in the sense that their voice actresses and bodily forms indicate as such. That's what makes them so unique. Their characters could quite easily have been male (as some of their emotional counterparts are), but they aren't really female at all. It's great.
That ... may have made more sense in my head.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Arrow: Suicide Squad

What do you know, a Diggle-centric episode! Not to sound too cynical, but this show doesn't have a stellar track-record with Diggle. It's usually content to have him expound exposition (when Felicity isn't around) and ask Oliver if he's sure this is the right thing to do – and that's about it really. When he does get some attention it's usually in a romantic subplot that falls flat (sorry Carly) or feels incredibly retconned (hey Lyla).
And yet his rapport with Lyla certainly has more chemistry and potential than his awkward attempts to date his brother's widow, and the fact that she's embroiled in some pretty dodgy government dealings means she can bring some interesting storylines to the table. As in this case.  
After a booty call is nearly interrupted by Amanda Waller, Diggle is roped in along with Lyla to oversee the first incarnation of the Suicide Squad. Now, I'm not well versed with the DC comic book verse, and my familiarity with this unit is confined to what I saw of it on the animated Justice League and the recent movie trailer. But I do know it's a team made out of bad guys that are considered totally expendable, and that's it's a fairly popular component of this particular franchise.
Which means that this Diggle-episode not only gives him the honour of introducing the Suicide Squad to the audience, but lets him do so in a way that doesn't include Oliver in any capacity (him being too preoccupied with his own broody subplot). Heck, he even gets the flashbacks all to himself!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The 100: We Are Grounders Part II

I was going to write this up last week but then I got hit by a delightful case of the flu and have spent the last six days in bed. I hate being sick. Especially when it lasts this long and I can't even do basic chores. I could moan about all this for a while longer, I really could, but I'll spare you and get to The 100 finale...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Arrow: The Promise

I feel that this is an episode the show has been building up to for a while now: the one in which the flashback sequences take over the bulk of the episode's run-time, while the contemporary scenes make up the framing device. By doing so, it amplifies the importance of what happened on the freighter; not only in providing a turning point for Oliver's transformation into Arrow, but also in setting up the root of Slade's vendetta (which I still have problems with, but  we'll get to that).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Arrow: Time of Death

Yikes, it's been a while since I last caught up with Arrow! Since then the third season has ended, the fourth been announced, and a second spin-off commissioned (technically two if you count Vixen). But Arrow remains my "enjoyable enough when nothing else is on" show, which may not sound like high praise – but I wouldn't keep commenting on it if I wasn't engaged.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Review: The Borgias

As I announced on Tumblr last month, I had at my disposal a long weekend, a bag of lollies and three seasons worth of The Borgias, so it felt the time would be well spent marathoning the show in its entirety.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best idea. What I've learned from the experience is that binge-watching can be surprisingly draining, especially if it's for a show you've never seen before. Coming fresh to a brand new story requires a certain amount of concentration in order to keep track of all the plots and characters, and about five hours into a show filled with intrigues and political machinations, I was pretty beat.  
But this was something that had been on my to-watch pile for a long time, so at least I can say it's finally under my belt. And naturally, I have thoughts...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Links and Updates

Well, Christmas Comic Con has come and gone, and my goodness did it leave a bonanza of interviews, previews and trailers in its wake. It's like all my birthdays came at once! Let's look at some of the highlights.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The 100: Contents Under Pressure, Day Trip, Unity Day

All my current shows have come to an end, so it's time to return to the backlog of shows I need to catch up on! The 100 is at the top of this list (I'll get to Arrow in due course) particularly since I'm watching three-at-a-time, which means I'm burning through the first season pretty quickly.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Penny Dreadful: And They Were Enemies

And so season two of Penny Dreadful comes to an end. In many ways this finale was exactly what I had expected (a few surprises mixed in with at least one total anti-climax) and in other ways it veered considerably off the beaten track.
In one thing however, we can be clear – and it's something that I've mentioned throughout several of these reviews: John Logan does not care about plot. This show is about characters, atmosphere and theme (namely that only monsters can destroy monsters).
Look too closely at the storylines and they will crumble as completely as the head of that Vanessa fetish. Because has the devil forgotten he can appear to Vanessa in the guise of anyone he likes? That he's already done so as Malcolm and Ethan? So why does he suddenly need a creepy doll as a transmitter?
I would say this sort of thing makes Penny Dreadful a work of style over substance, but then you watch Eva Green going face-to-face with Satan in a diabolical chant-off involving a carefully-made replica of herself and how can you not think this show is a work of pure genius?
But I'm getting ahead of myself (not too far though, as this dramatic confrontation clocks in at the twenty-minute mark). The most pressing question of course, is did Sembene survive last week's wolf attack, as we all hoped and prayed he would?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Meta: Why Atlantis Sunk (the show not the city)

The BBC's Atlantis came to a definitive close on the 16th May of this year, though you'll be excused for not noticing considering only a handful of people seemed to be watching it by that point. Cancelled at the end of its second season despite having plans for five in total, I'll admit to having a sort of Bile Fascination with the project in the wake of Merlin and the knowledge that most of the writers, producers, directors (and in a couple of cases, actors) had moved wholesale from one show to the other.

On this blog I enjoy cross-examining stories and attempting to discern what a writer was striving to convey with this or that creative decision, but at the same time I try not to put words into the mouths of other people. After all, no one really knows what's going on behind the scenes of any given project.
But in this case, it is oh so very tempting to look at Atlantis as an obvious attempt to recreate the success of Merlin. And having reached that conclusion, you can't help but feel that the show's own creators really hadn't the faintest idea whatsoever as to what made Merlin so popular.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

(Seriously, that's the episode title).
So this finale snuck up on me a little bit, as for the past few weeks I've been under the impression that this was a ten-part miniseries. Truth be told, I think this adaptation could have benefited from more breathing room with which to explore Susanna Clarke's meticulously crafted alternate-history, but it captured many of the book's most important plot-points and certainly provided a twist on the usual BBC period drama. It's never going to be a classic, but as an adequate adaptation of the source material I don't have too many complaints.