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June 2011

CultureGeek: Summer catchup!

My apologies, dear readers. I'd like to say that the crazy book tour is the reason I've fallen behind in the reviews. But really, there are two reasons:

• Movies now cost ten freaking dollars a ticket.

• We lost the Tivo zapper.

No kidding, the second was more of a blow than the first. Three weeks ago the Tivo remote control went missing, and it turns out that lovely, streamlined, no-button design on the Tivo renders it utterly useless without a remote. You can't watch what you recorded, and you can't watch TV unless you rewire your system. Oops.

So we still haven't seen the Smallville series finale and we're more than a month behind on In Plain Sight and Memphis Beat, and I had to catch Falling Skies via iTunes. On the other hand, I've become quite familiar with my Netflix subscription. The zapper resurfaced today, and I swear it was smirking.

Here's some thumbnail reviews of the summer thus far:

• Fortunately, Falling Skies was not, as I feared, drawn from my as-yet-unpublished novel and therefore I do not have to go stand in traffic. It was, however, somewhat dull in part one of the pilot and I have not yet felt a driving need to look for part two. The premise is neat and Noah Wyle is a strong actor, but the rest of the crew isn't all that interesting. The structure of the rebellion was better in the original V and the characterization was more interesting in the remake. I'll check out the second half on principle, but unless it really grabs me, Falling Skies can just keep falling. The Tivo is full.

• Wow, did Pirates of the Caribbean 4 kind of suck. I mean, it could have been awesome - Penelope Cruz as a female pirate who stands toe to toe with Capt. Jack Sparrow, Ian McShane as a growly Blackbeard and returning favorites Gibbs and Barbossa. But the tenacious lovers Elizabeth and Will are replaced by an utterly dull clergyman and mermaid who manage not to charm us in the slightest while failing to convey any actual affection in their brief "romance." They try to kill the mermaid and we just don't care. Oh, there's plenty of swash to buckle, and Cruz manages to lift the movie out of its doldrums with her scenes. But what POTC forgot is that Sparrow is the crazy character who wafts in and out of someone else's main story. He's the flavor, not the main ingredient. I won't be adding this one to my collection.

• Screamingly bad reviews for Green Lantern and Cars 2 aren't the reason I haven't seen them; see above re: $10 movie tickets. I'll probably go see the green fella because there are males in my house who absolutely must, but nothing's going to get me to see Cars 2 short of a free ticket. Don't take my word for it: read the in-depth review from TheFerrett, whose opinion I have generally come to trust in areas of movies.  

The one that surprised me the most so far: X-Men: First Class. I expected to hate it, as I hated X3 and Wolverine. Instead, despite some fairly predictable plot twists, it was a fun, exciting comic-book movie that tied in the backstory we sort of knew to the new movies. It must have been daunting to step into the shoes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan, but James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender manage it. Fassbender in particular, and the young Bill Milner as Magneto's younger self, do a very good job with Erik's unhappy history and the hideousness of the Third Reich. The rest of the crew do as expected, with some fun 1960s/Kennedy-era twists (and a main plot intersecting with the Cuban missile crisis that doesn't entirely make me want to hurt people).

Kevin Bacon is, I'm sorry to say, not up to the menace that we felt from Brian Cox as William Stryker. But he's not really our villain. Ignorance and prejudice is, and since that's the theme of X-Men from the start, I didn't hate this movie. Also, look for the best superhero cameo in a decade, man. You'll know what I mean.

• What's coming next? Well, Super 8 is at the top of my list. In coming weeks, we'll see the final Harry Potter, Captain America, Cowboys & Aliens (they're really not going to change that title?), Rise of the Planet of the Apes, remakes of Conan and Fright Night and, unfortunately, The Smurfs.

I suppose eleventy billion of you will go see the latest Transformers debacle this weekend, and I can't stop you, but I can throw myself to the ground before you and beg. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.