Monday, July 25, 2011

Lost season 6- A review (spoilers, but of course)

So I felt that season 6 did provide a reasonably coherent answer to what happened on the show. What did I feel about the season in general? (this will, of course, contain spoilers!)

Well, it was a mess, no doubt, but Lost is always a mess. The flash sideways sort of worked to introduce an extra mystery to the show without over burdening it, while the main show continued with a reasonable sense of urgency. Certainly not-Locke was a compelling presence, who oozed threat, and made good on his promises, and there was some fairly good journeys this season. Yet the flash sideways, which I'll take about in a minute, meant that some of the journeys just didn't really conclude. I'm gonna take a look at individual characters and see what worked and what didn't.

Sawyer, who had lost Juliette, was clearly a man who had lost his way for a while, but was still pretty decent- the show did not forget the growth this character has experienced since the first season. He was mostly compelling throughout, and a lot of fun to be with. Unfortunately I really want to see what life he got off the island. Because the show shows us who leaves the island, then has them in the afterlife (and way to explicitly state that show..), it doesn't give us time to finish off their arcs when they leave the island. A little closure here would be nice. After all, Sawyer never did leave the island. We can assume he won't go back to being a con man, but it'd be nice to see what.

I have the same problem with Kate and Claire, although slightly less so- we can sort of guess that they'll work together to raise the child, but after Kate finally declared her love for Jack (oh, and show, we don't fucking care about Kate and Jack. We have not cared since the second season.) it seems a bit funny that she's never gonna come back to the island to check on him. I guess she left with the impression that the island was going to collapse, but she didn't know.

Claire and Sayid were also a mess. Why on earth did the show introduce that stupid infection thing? It doesn't actually make a great deal of sense- the infection was pretty clearly shown before as being the Dharma initiative basically lying, and introducing another element during season 6 seemed so pointless. Both Sayid and Claire seemed genuinely deranged and evil, until they weren't. Sayid suddenly sacrifices himself, having been utterly evil up to that point. What was going on there? He rose from the dead long after the restoring waters were meant to help him. For that matter, the entire scenes at the temple were a distraction. For a season that was meant to wrap the show up, it seemed to have a lot of time to waste. Every single scene in the temple was a waste of time that didn't further the plot, and added another needless level of confusion (wait, how come no-one has EVER mentioned this before!). The show did this when it simply didn't need to- why introduce that bodyguard only to blow her up? It just wastes time. I guess there was an attempt to get some emotional weight from Kate feeling guilty about Claire's state, but Claire literally vanished (this wasn't explained either), so the audience sympathies are hardly with her.

On needless death, I felt like the Kwan's deaths was just mean. Its my strong belief that main characters should almost always be killed in emotionally compelling ways. For instance, the redemptive death of Charlie- he has betrayed many people, and dies trying to save everyone. Thats compelling because it has meaning- he is being karmically punished to some extent, but he also chooses the death. The Kwans, however, spend the entire series wanting to be together. They get their wish in death, I suppose, but its an arbitary element- Sun gets trapped, and there aren't enough oxygen tanks. This isn't something they brought on themselves, and their death doesn't help anyone. They just die. Its nasty. It sort of sets up a motive for the others to kill not-Locke, but that was pretty damn present as it was- Sayid's death would have done it.

On characters that did work, Jack and Hurley were pretty good all season. I usually don't like Jack, but I actually think his frustation, then acceptance of the island was pretty damn nifty. I enjoyed it a lot. Hurley, who is always good value anyway, settles into the role as the new Jacob in the most natural way- he seems a sensible fit, for a more caring island.

Finally Ben was sadly a bit of a mess anyway. While he's always a fun character, it was pretty damn clear that the writers did not know what to do with him. Still, his terrible pain at having lost his daughter, and his final revenge on Widmore, was splendid fun.

On the episodes themselves, they were mostly fun. I actually wish they'd replaced the flash sideways with the flash back back episodes. i'd have much prefered to see the plot exposition spread out across the series than dumped into some pudgy episodes in such a clunky method. The main problem with the flash sideways is that its claimed that these people are all soul mates and will find each other in the afterlife to go heaven. Well fine, but that would have happened no matter what happened in life, so do I really need to see it? And I can live without another sodding slow motion hug, thanks a lot Lost. Jack seeing the plane fly off is carthatic, everyone smiling at each other in a church... not terribly. That said, earlier bits, when lost lovers found each other was genuinely pleasing, and it would have been a shame to miss lovers reunions.

So, a conclusion? I think this series could have been a lot better. It had some right ideas, but it padded badly in places, and didn't so some characters the justice it could have. But it was fun, as Lost always has been, and could have been so much worse.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lost season 6 an explanation (obviously contains spoilers)

Yes, spoilers will abound from here on out. I will be unapologetic, so leave now lest I be forced to mock ye for not reading properly.

I went into this season incredibly late, but unspoiled, with the strong impression that this season wasn't very good. The mysteries were not, apparently resolved, and the show turned into a bit of a mess. So I was set up for disappointment, and as can sometimes happen with this preperation, I found myself mostly enjoying it.

For the most part, the mysteries are resolved, or at least a convincing narrative can be done to explain the mysteries. I've seen some blog posts which dismissively call the solutions magic, to which my response is

a)what scientific response for mystic numbers would make you happy?
b)magic is a fine solution as long as its relatively consistent.

Now I'm not sure the explanation entirely works throughout, but for most things its pretty good. So here's my impression of the answers behind the show.

Some time in the past, an island was created which was the source of good and evil for mankind. Whether it existed before humans did is not terribly clear. Still, once humans existed the island needed protection, because it (or its creator) knew that humans might want to abuse the source for their own gains. So a protector was appointed. This was potentially the mother, but it could have been someone before her. The protector was capable of setting rules for the island, was incapable of death by aging (and maybe by physical harm. This is not incredibly clear). The protector was not all knowing, but had an intuitive connection with the island which gave them an idea of what to do. In particular, they could certainly be wrong about things, too mean or mistrustful. The mothers attitude towards people is very different towards Jacob's for instance. When a protector felt that their stewardship of the island was coming to the end they could pass their powers on to a worthy succesor.

We skip to 44 AD, where the mother sees the chance to raise children who she believes she can make "good" (she is convinced that men are evil and venal creatures), and thus good enough to replace her. She favours the man in black, who is an extremely smart child. Jacob sees this, and is filled with sadness and jealousy. Eventually the man in black realises that his true mother was murdered by the protector, and he decides he wants to leave the island. He teams up with some men on the island, who have investigated the properties of the island.

While the source of the island cannot be accessed directly by anyone other than the protector, it has an impact on the island itself. In particular, the island is almost impossible to get to or leave, and has some crazy physical properties. In certain places the sources reaches up, causing massive electromagnetic fields. These can be harnassed to do various things- possibly giving free energy. The man in black has accessed one, and is planning to use it to move the island, which will presumably give him his freedom. The mother cannot allow this, and kills everyone in the camp (I'll note here that I'm not sure the man in black leaving the island is awful at this point, but accessing the source will be. Also, the mother is a leeetle crazy). The man in black kills her in response. Jacob, outraged by his actions, makes a massive mistake, and hurls the man in black into the source. Such an act, fueled by Jacob's envy and anger, creates a monster where a man once was.

For a time Jacob and the man in black coexist relatively peacefully, with Jacob trying to prove that man isn't as bad as his brother and mother believed, and his brother trying to prove him wrong. However, with the coming of Richard, the man in black actively tries to kill Jacob. Jacob realises that if he dies, its possible that the man in black (incidentally, thanks SO much for not giving him a name, show) could leave the island and cause much suffering. Jacob realises he needs to not just search for a replacement, but for someone who can finally kill the man in black. As a result, he recruits Richard to aid him in this, and to set up an active community of people who work for Jacob. He also hires some bodyguards to try and protect against obvious attacks on his life.

Fast forward, and the Dharma initiative has discovered the island. They intend to manipulate the island for its properties. They probe hard, and cause the incident by drilling into access to the source, which nearly destabilises and destroys the island, forcing them to set up the hatch. Jacob, at this point, appears to have become non-communicative, leading the others to sieze on to a new leader, Ben, who notices the obsession with Jacob and pretends to be able to communicate with him. Ben wipes out the Dharma initivative and changes the Others into a religion worshipping the idea of Jacob. The notion of lists comes from Jacob's candidates, but I believe that its basically a religious copy of the notion, without any help from Jacob. I'm not entirely sure why Richard doesn't step in here- presumably Jacob has stopped talking to him, or he's too busy doing research into the Oceanic flight passengers for Jacob to notice the others being subverted, and by the time he gets back its too late.

Meanwhile Jacob, who has gone through a long list, only has the oceanic passengers left. They are his lost shot at finding a replacement, and he directly inteferes to make sure they land all at once. Every time he has tried before the shadow monster has manipulated the candidates into turning on each other. And again, with the landing of the survivors, the smoke monster tries to do the same, and when that fails, endeavours to have them leave the island.

Then, with Ben, mad with jealousy, murdering locke, the shadow monster has an opportunity. Locke had been positioned by Jacob to replace Ben, who had corrupted the others, and as such was considered a prophet like figure by them. With his corpse to copy, the monster was able to finally engineer Jacobs death.

Events follow as on the show from now on, and are pretty straight forward for the most part. By depowering the island Jack depowers Locke, which allows him to kill the smoke monster, then save the island.

The only thing left is the flash sideways. Thats pretty explicitly explained on the show, but I have my own little pet theory. The explanation of it seems to take any agency out of the hydrogen bomb, which apparently didn't work at all. I prefer it to mean that the hydrogen bomb allowed the central cast to draw themselves into this meeting place before they moved on, a fantasy that they created together, to retreat to in death. If its just something we ALL go to, it hardly has any significance for the show, so this gives it some relevance. (hint, this was not my favourite thing about the last season)

So theres the explanation. Some thoughts on what I felt about the show in my next post. I think this explanation covers most of what needs to explain. There are a few holes

-why didn't Richard know Ben was faking it?
-The whole Claire's baby thing was apparently a red herring
-The infection nonsense makes no sense, and doesn't even seem to be true! (both Claire and Sayid act nobly in the end) I'll talk about this alittle more in my next post
-The numbers are technically not explained, but I think thats ok- they're just numbers with mystic significance. I'm not sure what explanation would suffice here
-I've skipped some points on Widmore and Juliette, but they're pretty self explanatory, I think.

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Sunday, July 03, 2011


Bridesmaids is a splendid little comedy. It owes more to Knocked up than it does the Hangover, being a collection of set pieces and improvised comedy. As always with such films, the quality is dependent on the quality of the performers, who are all very funny and engaging.

A long the way theres some emotional truth- the notion of losing friends you've had for life, and people growing past you, is an interesting one, and a fruitful one. Its also really, really funny in places, and just enjoyable to watch.

There are some flaws. It feels a little too long, and Megan is a little too broad for me, it actually feels like its hit the lowest ebb (which films like this always have) twice (although it does comment on this), which makes it feel a bit oddly paced. Still, it wins itself back. I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

X-men, first class

I give the most up to date reviews.

I am going to go ahead and give the new X-men a thumbs up. It gets the fundamentals correct, with the main thrust of the story being about a battle between idealism and pragmatism, with Xavier thinking the best of people, and Magneto the worst. Both McAvoy and Fastbender do splendid jobs, although the latter slips into an Irish accent somewhat into the film, which is a tiny bit embarrasing. Still, their stories are compelling, and this is what drives through the film, and powers past many of the flaws that the story possesses.

Along the way there are other effective tales- the younger x-men are mostly forgettable, but Raven and Beast's struggle reflect their "parents", and as a result are the most interesting. The other mutants are, sadly, decoration, and they are given paper thin personalities- the film probably spends more time with them than necessary, as we have no real incentive to care about their struggles.

The script is probably the films weakest part. While its fine when dealing with Xavier and Magneto, everything else seems to have come from film cliches 101

"God help the russians if they cross that line."
"God help us all."

"Can you fly this thing?"
"Fly it? I built it!"

URGH. Not only are both those selections terrifically cliched, they actually add nothing to the film. Theres no reason to actually have them there other than to fill dead air.

But, for the most part, the film works. It could have been better, but it could have been worse, but the central conflict is compelling and fun, and worth a watch.

Now for nitpicking time!

-Kevin Bacon was a lot scarier with a moustache, rather than a groovy submarine dwelling villain who wears a goofy helmet.
-January Jones can't act. Also, her diamond form can be crushed by metal. Huh?
-The CIA agent wears ludicrously sexy underwear to work
-Apparently Kevin Bacon can absorb all force except a shiny penny. I guess he was killed by the force of irony?
-Xavier decides to hide from the government. In his massive mansion, under his own name. Lets hope the CIA didn't do any paperwork!
-Urgh, every single time they had to say someone's name, it felt like a massive wink at the audience. "No.... X-men!"
-I love that Azreal and whirlwind man (did he even get a name?) have NO lines in the film.
-Beast's face mask looked really, really silly.
-When magneto decided to cause an international incident by invading the Russian base, Xavier looks utterly powerless. If only he had some way to control Magneto's actions!
-I love that the expert in genetics they choose is a newly graduated phd student. Man his supervisor must be PISSED. Admittedly his supervisor doesn't have mind powers, but thats just sheer blind luck on the cia's part.

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