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Friday, November 13, 2015

Links and Updates

The last time I made one of these posts, the full-length Star Wars trailer was released the very next day. I've been dying to talk about it ever since.
On a scale of one to ten on the "how much do you love Star Wars?" spectrum, I would place myself at about a seven. I enjoy the films (even the prequels) but have never read any of the supplementary material or watched The Clone Wars – I wouldn't even know where to start. The original trilogy wasn't what I would call an intrinsic or formative part of my childhood, as it wasn't until I was about ten or eleven years old that I watched them in their entirety (and for some reason I ended up seeing The Return of the Jedi first).
But I enjoy them immensely, am looking forward to sharing them with my nephew, and fully appreciate their importance in cinematic history.

Then I watched this trailer. Wow. It's pure magic. I got chills, and quite possibly a few tears in my eyes.
I've said it before, but I think that editing and scoring trailers is an art form. What goes first? What comes last? What do you introduce and what do you hold back? How much can you give away without spoiling anything?
I've seen some trailers relate the whole damn plot of a movie, and others that give no indication whatsoever as to what it's really about. But this ... this is perfection. I don't know how or why, but I don't think I've ever felt this much pre-emptive affection for any two characters before in my life.
Perhaps the greatest surprise was the fact that Daisy Ridley's Rey comes across as the film's protagonist; dominating the first few frames and showing up frequently throughout the rest of the two minutes and thirty-five seconds. The second great surprise is that there's no sign of Luke – though I'm avoiding any and all speculation on the off-chance that someone will stumble across the truth.
Yes, this time around I'm going to avoid spoilers like the plague so that I can see the film with as few preconceptions as possible. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see it before my dashboard explodes with meta and gifs and the like, but if it's anywhere near as good as the trailer, it'll be the Star Wars sequel we deserve.
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The first images for Fantastic Beats and Where To Find Them are out, yet despite my initial excitement for the project, the synopsis and character profiles failed to capture my imagination. I don't know why, but Harry Potter fervour seems to have died down a bit – perhaps they should have waited a few more years before letting it make its big comeback (especially with this Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play coming out, which for the life of me I just can't seem to fathom).
And of course, the fact that only white people seem to exist in 1920s New York. And I really had my heart set on Dev Patel as Newt Scamander, dammit!


It all looks a bit Doctor Who-ish to be honest. I sincerely hope I'll warm up to it closer to the release date, but for now I'm disappointedly "meh" about the whole thing.
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We've got some news on the upcoming season three of Penny Dreadful! I try to avoid spoilers, but this article managed to sneak its way under my nose.
My prediction that Doctor Jekyll/Mr Hyde would be the latest literary character to be introduced was correct! (Though perhaps not surprising – the only other serious contender was Jonathan Harker).
More surprisingly (and excitedly) Patti LuPone is back, not only as a regular, but not as the Cut-Wife. Apparently she's Doctor Seward, an American therapist who treats Vanessa after she readmits herself to the mental asylum. This is interesting on so many levels. First of all, I'm assuming that this is the Doctor Seward of Bram Stoker's Dracula, making her the first Gender Flipped character of the series.
Second of all, what does it mean that Patti LuPone is playing her? Is Seward some sort of reincarnation or relative of the Cut-Wife? Is it just Vanessa hallucinating that particular form on a different woman? Does it have symbolic value (like the same actor always playing Mr Darling and Captain Hook?) Or did the writers/producers just love the actress enough to recast her in a completely unrelated role?
Shazad Latif will play Doctor Jekyll which is a promising casting choice, though I'm a little more leery about the description of Wes Studi's Kaetenay "an intense, enigmatic Native American with a deep connection to Ethan." I'm all for diversifying the very white cast, but I'm also wary that they're introducing a "mystical Native American" to replace the black guy they did nothing with for two seasons before killing him off when the actor got rightfully bored with the role and left for another project (I'm assuming).
Obviously I'll withhold judgement until it screens, but I await with trepidation. We also get Brian Cox as Ethan's father, Christian Camargo as zoologist Alexander Sweet, and Samuel Barnett as Seward’s mysterious young secretary. It's certainly a lot more sausage to add to the sausage fest, but there are two new female characters to help balance the scales: Jessica Barden as Justine, who will apparently serve as an acolyte to Lily and Dorian Gray (hmm, so is she another immortal?) and Perdita Weeks as "a rebellious scholar named Catriona Hartdegan, who has a wide range of knowledge of the supernatural." Hey, I can get behind that!
It seems like a huge array of new characters for a nine-episode season, so I hope the original cast don't get squeezed out as a result. But hey, with the exception of a few anti-climactic finales, John Logan has so far been able to keep all his juggling balls in the air.
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Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is heading for the small screen after the dismal failure of its film adaptation in 2007. I think it'll do much better with the extra time a television series can afford it, though it'll still be a challenge to portray this world on a smaller budget – the daemons alone will be a complete headache to conceptualize.
Also, I'd love to see Angel Coulby as Serafina. I think she could capture that impossible blend of earthiness and otherworldliness that has always defined the character, though they're much more likely to go for someone who looks/sounds like Katie McGrath.
But speaking of Angel Coulby, the latest BBC Pure Drama trailer has a couple of clips for her latest project Undercover (though she herself doesn't appear). I'm surprised to see it so soon, especially when there's been no promotion for The Tunnel as yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing her twice in 2016.
And no one told me they had adapted Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None!
***
I came across this fascinating article on Jack the Ripper. It's a few years old by now, but it's a sobering condemnation of the glamour and intrigue that surrounds the figure. In fact, it rather shocked me into realizing that the ITV miniseries Whitechapel (centring on a contemporary copy-cat killer recreating Jack's murders) reimagines Jack's final victim as a nurse rather than a prostitute, perhaps to make the threat to her life more harrowing, and her subsequent rescue by the heroes more worthwhile.  
Sure, there is some in-show justification for this (the killer was her co-worker) but it's still a disquieting thought.
It also reminds me of a show I'm currently revisiting: a short-lived 2000 series called The Others that explores the experiences of a group of psychics and their clients. Among the thirteen episodes is a strange but haunting story involving one of the psychics meeting a woman called Mary Jane in his dreams and gradually falling in love with her. The third-act twist is that she's Mary Jane Kelly, and that the shared psychic dreams are occurring in the days before her grisly murder.
It may not be the only Ripper-inspired drama to humanize one of his victims, but it's surely the only one that gives a victim more narrative importance than the killer. I hope I find the time to talk more about the show soon.
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Finally, my Tumblr dashboard led me to this wonderful essay called Superheroes and the Gender Politics of Anger, one which rips into the frustratingly unfair tendency to a) keep female characters in the dark about their male colleges' vigilantism, and b) the even more frustrating tendency to brush over their feelings of anger and betrayal when they do find out.
This paragraph in particular nails it:
Women’s anger isn’t pretty or useful to men. It prevents them from cheering their male superhero on from the peanut gallery; it makes them unattainable in a way that’s not because the hero is being admirably noble. Also, it makes their faces go all scrunchy, and we can’t have that; never forget Jessica Alba being told to “cry pretty” on the set of Rise of the Silver Surfer, or, more recently, Joss Whedon telling Elizabeth Olsen to keep her face calm during Age of Ultron’s fight scenes because an angry, combative face was unattractive.

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