Thursday, June 9

lately in entertainment.

lately in entertainment - april/may 2016


Captain America: Civil War - Though it often feels like yet another Avengers ensemble film (only Hulk and Thor are absent from the lineup), the storyline of Civil War is driven by Steve Rogers' priorities coming into conflict with Tony Stark's values. Already under a microscope after the disaster in Sokovia (the end of Age of Ultron), the Avengers are basically grounded by the U.N. after Scarlet Witch accidentally sends an explosion into an occupied building. Just as he had to face the consequences of being an arms dealer in the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark is confronted with the human collateral damage caused by the Avengers, and supports international oversight for the superhero team. Captain America doesn't trust the plan - as he puts it, "the safest hands are still our own." Where I thought I was going to clearly side with Steve going in to the movie, the film actually forces viewers to consider and understand both points of view - and to see the blind spots in each hero's vision. 

Steve's blind spot, of course, is his best friend turned supersoldier, Bucky Barnes, who is on the run from authorities after being framed for a bombing attack, and who the Internet has convinced me is a precious cinnamon roll. In pursuit of the real bomber, Steve teams up with Sam Wilson, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Scott Lang (Ant-Man), who is just thrilled to meet big-name superheroes, with sneaky help from Agent 13 (Sharon Carter). Tony teams up with Rhodey, Black Widow, Vision, Black Panther, and his ringer, Spiderman, who's freaking out even more than Scott. The resulting fight is the most comic book thing I've ever seen on screen, complete with a Spider-Man who is finally an actual teenager narrating his experiences the whole time. Obviously, someone's going to get hurt with that much muscle and power facing off, and the characters end up learning a lot of things they never wanted to know. I'd be fine with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely writing and Anthony and Joe Russo directing everything Marvel from now on - every character had clear, often conflicted, motivations that seemed completely believable.

The Huntsman: Winter's War - Since Thor isn't in Civil War, we also had to show our love for Chris Hemsworth by seeing his current film with "war" in the title. I was surprised by how much I actually loved Snow White and the Huntsman, but was a little skeptical about this prequel until I read a newspaper review that described it as the kind of movie that's so bad, it's good, and classed it with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Far from the gruff, silent Huntsman of the original film, Chris Hemsworth chews up the scenery and seems to love every minute of it. At the beginning of the movie, we learn that even though Snow White's kingdom is at peace, the mirror is driving her mad. She orders the mirror to be taken to Sanctuary so that the kingdom will be safe from its dark magic - but it is stolen along the way. Her husband, King William (hello there, Sam Claflin), and dispatches Eric, the Huntsman, to find the mirror, along with a couple of dwarves who insist on accompanying him (Nick Frost reprises his role from the first movie). This storyline allows the filmmakers to include Snow White in the form of a disheveled Kristen Stewart stand-on shown only from the back, then move the plot away from her kingdom so it's less strange that she isn't in the film. The threat to the mirror turns out to be Freya, Queen Ravenna's younger sister who basically turned into an evil version of Elsa from Frozen when she was betrayed by her lover. She's the one who kidnapped Eric when he was young and turned him and an army of other children into her elite Huntsmen, and the one responsible for the apparent death of his wife, Sara (if you've seen the commercials, you've surely worked out that Sara is alive). Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain all seem to have a great time playing badass women in this movie, and there are even female dwarves this time around.


Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard - The American Revolution isn't a period of history I've done much reading about, but I got sucked in to this historical fiction novel. The main character, Eliza Boylston, is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and lives a charmed life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While it's completely normal to her to visit homes staffed with stableboys, coachmen, footmen, maids, butlers, and cooks - all slaves - Eliza's one real quirk is that she feels most comfortable in the kitchen, and her family's cook Cassie is her one real friend. For Eliza, there has never been any doubt that Cassie and other slaves are human, but she has never had to question their standing in her privileged society. As the Revolution comes close to home, Eliza's parents can no longer pretend that concessions like wearing homespun fabrics instead of imported gowns are mere inconveniences, nor can they ignore their son Jeb's participation in the rebellion when he marries Elizabeth Lee and moves to Braintree, home of John and Abigail Adams and "the despicable Quincys." Eliza takes for granted her family's beautiful home and wealth until personal tragedies devastate her and Cassie, forever turning her against her family's idea of "society." In 1775, the Boylstons have to leave Cambridge to seek refuge with an uncle in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she falls in love with a slave named John Watkins and makes a choice that will change her family forever. Though the synopsis I read led me to believe Our Own Country would be a romance novel, I would classify it as a bildungsroman - Eliza's coming of age and transition from naïveté to independence.  Though the Boylstons are fictional, Daynard obviously conducted intense research to write this novel, and it made me want to learn more about the Adamses, the Quincys, and their pastoral home.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - I'm going to try to keep up with Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club picks, and luckily my local library has British journalist and feminist Caitlin Moran's book available in ebook format! As Moran's wry personal essays (with titles like "I Become Furry!" and "I Need a Bra!") make clear, becoming a woman is very confusing and happens, whether we want it to or not, without a manual. Moran's writing is reflective of her working-class British roots (the very first page had me Googling to find out what a Yob was), pop culture literacy, and intelligence. Raised in cramped public housing with five younger siblings by parents who were the only hippies in town, Moran's pubescent milestones were common knowledge. Her focus as a feminist, and the lens through which she presents the instances in her life when being a woman was most perplexing, is not "on the big stuff like pay inequality," but on "all those littler, stupider, more obvious day-to-day problems with being a woman," or, in other words, "All the Patriarchal Bullshit." Her response is to "look it in the eye, squarely, for a minute, and then start laughing at it."

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima - Finally got around to reading the second book in this series recommended to me by several of my students and I liked it even more than the first because the two main characters' storylines finally came together for good - at a magical school! Is there a better setting for YA literature? As the book begins, former streetlord Han Alister and his best friend Fire Dancer are headed to Oden's Ford, the campus that is home to Mystwerk House. Princess Raisa is masquerading as a cadet at Wein House, the military school, to escape themarriage her mother tried to force on her. Their mutual enemy, wealthy and powerful Micah Bayar, and his twin sister are also bound for Mystwerk House, meaning that Han and Raisa both have to keep their guard up. At Oden's Ford, finally surrounded by people from all walks of life, Raisa learns that she will need to understand much more than politics to be a good queen, and Han finds out that the Bayars aren't the only ones after his secrets. Chima combines effortlessly lovely prose with witty dialogue and action-packed suspense.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital ARC of Our Own Country free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 comment:

  1. I haven't gotten around to watching The Huntsmen but it's on my to watch list. I really meant to catch it when it first came out but got sidetracked. Your review has reminded me to just get to watching lol.