Review: Pendragon

About a year and a half ago I watched all the behind the scenes videos from this film and decided that when I grew up I wanted to be a filmmaker. Since then I’ve met people who worked on Pendragon and met people who knew people who’d worked on Pendragon and I’ve felt quite jilted because I didn’t get to work on it. And yet, despite all that, I never saw it. The problem with independent films is that you usually have to buy it to see it, and I’m just one of those people who will put off buying something for months, regardless of how badly I want it.

But finally I was at a friend’s house who owned it, so we watched it. The funny thing about a well-made movie is that there doesn’t always seem to be much to comment on, so it’s great fun to nitpick an independent film. It has character, and like most characters it has flaws. A controversial movie or one with flaws tends to be the most popular, at least in the internet culture because there is actually something to talk about. I found more to talk about with Pendragon than I did with any other film I’ve seen in the past two years. And good or bad, that’s a good thing.

ACTORS
The problem with family made films is that family members get the main parts regardless of how well said family members act. Also, because they’re family members, it can be a lot harder to teach them to act. Wenneveria had a lot of promise as an actress, but not enough experience. Artose was pretty good. Cadeyrn was the best actor in the film. The acting was one of the biggest giveaways that this was a family made film.


MYTHOLOGY AND RESEARCH
There were several things this film did that I positively loved. The welsh names were brilliant. The research was very well done. All the text was in Latin. The roman history was good. While it didn’t follow the Authurian mythology it didn’t betray it either. You could see places where you could tell it was based on King Arthur and it’s a very good representation of what might have actually happened.

FIGHT SCENES AND CHOREOGRAPHY
The individual fight scenes were very well done, in my humble opinion. The sword dance was beautiful. I thought it was a brilliant way to have a girl in a dress swordfight without having her act in a very unfeminine manner. (Which would both some people, and wouldn’t others, all of which is beside the point.) If I ever need a good choreographer I’m going to contact the people who did Pendragon first.

However, the big battle scenes were not good at all. I’m not sure what the difference is in a realistic battle scene and one that looks like a bunch of guys dressing up, but they looked like guys dressing up and standing around in the woods. They would have done much better to only show close ups during the battle or to avoid the battles altogether. The wide shots of the armies were just another betrayal that it wasn’t a multi-million dollar budget film.

COSTUMES AND SETS
Artos’ mother looked like a Roman general.

I was informed by a costuming expert that everyone of Wenneveria’s dresses was from a different time period and none of them were the right one.

Everyone was a little too clean…

The entire army was in blue. You can pull this off in a fairytale film, costuming the army in the King’s colors, but not in an accurate historic one. I understand they probably wanted visual confirmation of which army was which, or they wanted to be artistic, and on stage or in a different genre it would have worked, but not this one. Every time I saw them all in blue I kind of sighed in frusteration. That just doesn’t happen.

The sets were absolutely incredible. Watch the behind the scenes videos and they become even more incredible.

PLOT AND CHARACTERS
They definitely could have used a better script writer. The story line is riddled with plot holes and the characters tend to be somewhat wishy-washy. In places the dialogue was painfully modern, and in places it was clearly written in an archaic style. I think the script held the actors back more than anything. But overall the plot made sense, Artose had a nice character arc, and I was happy that everybody got to live happily ever after.

THEOLOGY
This was the other very modern element. I didn’t have an actual problem with the fact that every other conversation was a sermon… except that it’s a sermon from the wrong time period. Arthur was very religious. You can’t read through the myths and not pick up a constant stream of prayers and rituals, church services and pleas in the name of Christ. They could have told the same message in a historically accurate way, but instead it sounded like a modern Evangelical church. People back then didn’t have the same theological problems, the same solutions to such problems, or the same resources we have now. It was their one area of research I was very dissapointed in.


CONCLUSION
I loved it. It was exactly what I expected it to be. It’s not an earth shattering achievement, it’s not overwhelmingly awesome and miraculous; it’s a very good movie made by a lot of determined and talented people. It was a first film, and it shows, and it shows us all that first films can be incredible. In spite of it’s flaws it’s a success, and we love it more for not being perfect because we can aspire to the same thing.

Unfinished Beginnings: Introduction

It being my birthday and all I feel like I ought to post something deep and reflective and… birthday-ish. But I’m not even here, this is an automatically scheduled post that I wrote a good two weeks ago.  Right now I’m somewhere in the city of Chattanooga doing any number of things with any number of people, and completely ignoring the fact that it’s my birthday. I’m celebrating next week with two of my siblings. So instead I thought I’d introduce a new series to you.

I have a notebook full of stories that never made it past page two. Some are good ideas, some are lame ideas, some I simply don’t have time to mess with, some are too underdeveloped to be useful, and some I’m just clueless where they came from or how they ended up in my notebook.

It’s a green notebook, it’s labeled “June, 2008” but I  call it the notebook of Unfinished Beginnings. Rather than let those beginnings moulder forever at the bottom of my priority list from which they shall never rise I present them to you, to read and ridicule, steal or borrow, or generally draw inspiration from.

101 Things I’ve Learned: Don’t Open the Door!

*Bugs Bunny carries the Wolf to the door and throws him out*
*He slams the door shut and starts back across the room*
*The door knocks*
*Bugs turns back and opens it*
*The Wolf comes back in*

It’s not a very common problem among more serious minded heroes, but it pops up enough in cartoons and comedies that it should be warned against. You’re safe inside. Outside lurks the Bad. If you open the door the Bad will come in. If the door knocks, if you hear a strange sound, if you think it’s gone, whatever the Bad may do to tempt you, do not open the door. For the minute you do the Bad will come inside and you are no longer safe.

“I do hope nobody answers.”

Parallel Episodes: Freaky Friday

“I wish I could switch places with you for just one day!”

So said the mother and daughter of the thrice made movie “Freaky Friday”, whereupon they promptly were granted their wish, finding themselves imprisoned in each other’s bodies. But there are other versions of this tale, ones in which the switch isn’t to teach them a lesson, nor is it voluntary.

Spock performs a Mind Meld

with Kirk.

Star Trek: Turnabout Intruder

Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise has always had enemies and always will. This particular enemy is a woman who envies him his command, believing he was chosen because it was a man’s world. Her feminist views are revealed to be simple excuses when she uses a device to switch bodies with Kirk and attempt to take control of the ship. When Kirk, trapped in the body of a dying woman who is known to be jealous of his command, attempts to explain what has happened he is ignored on the grounds of the woman’s former instability.

Stargate SG-1: Holiday

When exploring strange devices on strange planets don’t go grabbing things that look like they’re meant to be grabbed! Dr. Daniels Jackson switches bodies with a strange old man named Machello, but nobody realizes it at first, since the old man passes out, and Daniel pretends to be himself until he’s safely away from the others. While attempting to investigate Daniels’ disappearance Colonel Jack O’Neill and Teal’c also switch places. Finally connecting the device to the mind swaps they set things right by playing a strange variation of musical chairs.

Machello’s device

Both episodes involve mixed up consciousnesses with bodies, and begins with no one believing the swap actually happened. Holiday is the episode I couldn’t watch because I knew the entire plot as a result of seeing Turnabout Intruder. Another episode worth mentioning that doesn’t quite fall into this category is Doctor Who: the New Earth.

What episodes have you seen that fall into the “Freaky Friday” mold?


Review: Tangled

If you’re anything like me you’ve already read way too many reviews of this movie. Despite the fact that I avoid reviews before I watch a film at all costs this was one case where I simply couldn’t get away from them. I kept trying to get the movie from the library, but first other people had it, and then I was busy, and then it mysteriously disappeared… well, two days ago I got to watch it with my cousins.

Firstly, as a general rule I do not like Disney Princess Films. The Little Mermaid was a disgrace to the fairy tale community. We’re not even going to talk about the Princess and the Frog. The only similarity between Aladdin and the Arabian Nights was the name of the prince. So when I saw they were making Tangled I couldn’t have been less interested.

The main plot of Rapunzel is as follows: An evil witch steals a child, and locks her in the tower. The only way up is by climbing the girl’s hair. A handsome prince hears her singing, climbs up into her tower, and they fall in love. The witch finds out, cuts off Rapunzel’s hair, blinds the prince, and throws them both out. After considerable trouble the two are reunited, Rapunzel’s tears heal the prince’s sight, and they both live happily ever after.

Tangled has all the elements that require it to be recognizable as a Rapunzel story. An evil witch, a girl in a tower, the longest hair in the world, and a magical healing from tears. But since the original Rapunzel story doesn’t have a whole lot of plot (the girl sits around in the tower weaving a rope ladder) they added to it considerably. But unlike with Little Mermaid, they added to it in a good way. I, the fairy tale purist, loved it. Granted, it was still obviously Disney, but it was good in spite of that.

Flynn is very lovable. Rapunzel is adorable. Maximus is flat out hilarious. Stupid, totally unbelievable, but all the more hilarious for it. Every disney film has it’s talking animal sidekicks, and I think part of what endeared this one to me is that the animal sidekick’s didn’t talk. They just had a lot of personality.

Of course, I can’t write a Tangled review without adressing the issues brought up by all the critics…

Rebellion

“This is just a part of growing up. A little adventure, a little rebellion…that’s good. Healthy, even.” – Flynn Rider

Well, the first thing I’d like to point out is that Rapunzel isn’t rebelling against her mother. She’s rebelling against an evil witch. You’re supposed to rebel against them. But that aside, the basic principle he’s advocating still needs addressing. I had one friend tell me that quote was the only part in the movie she really didn’t like, and I agree. If I’d been writing the script I would definitely have put it differently. However… Flynn is telling the truth. Children do need to grow up. And if their parents don’t let them grow up (as Mother Goethel did) then rebellion is the natural and, dare I say, healthy result. I’m not going to get into the whole question of kids who’s parents won’t let them grow up, so I’m simply going to refer you to a simply spectacular series on the subject by Micahel Pearl: Jumping Ship.

Feminism

“When will my life begin?” – Rapunzel

Well, you know, she asks a very good question. She’s a girl in a tower with an evil witch who has never seen another human being. Talk about having no purpose in life. Another thing pointed out by a reviewer is that Rapunzel takes the lead, rescuing Flynn from all kinds of dangerous situation. However, Flynn wouldn’t have been in those situations if not for her; she simply turned out to be an asset rather than a liability. She’s just a girl who knows how to take care of herself, which is admirable. She fights with a frying pan. What could be more feminine than that?

Romance

It’s a Disney Princess Movie. ’nuff said.

Conclusion
Possibly the first Disney animation I’ve ever seen that I actually liked. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen very many, their reputation scares me away.) The music was breathtaking, the character lovable, it was hilarious, dramatic, and tragic. It was more or less true to the story, which is sure to win points with me if nothing else does. The ending was brilliant. And I finally got it from the library so I’ll be watching it with all the small ones in a few days.

Blue or Green?

Also known as “Noticeable Gaps in the Editor’s Attention Span.”

Last night I finished Ted Dekker’s “Blink of an Eye”. It was very good, actually, except for one question that has been driving me crazy since I encountered it. The following quotes are all excerpts from the book listed in the order I read them in. They are all descriptions of the same man, as seen from the viewpoint of his female companion.

His eyes shifted past her, lost in bright blue astonishment.

Under his tossed blond curls, behind his clear green eyes, Seth’s mind was encountering the future.

“Your eyes are like the blue waters of the Al-Hasa oasis.”

Seth looked at her with his pretty green eyes, now darkened with sadness and fatigue.

Are Seth Border’s eyes blue or green?

The Al-Hasa Oasis

Parallel Episodes: It’s Alive!

It’s never been alive on your world before. It never occurred to you to check and see if it wasn’t exactly the same as it’s counterpart. Why would you ask the ground if it minds being stepped on? Why would you question your right to eat a tomato? And yet, this is scifi, and you never know.

Today’s parallel episodes are Watergate from Stargate; SG-1, and 42 from Doctor Who. Before I proceed any further I simply must point out the interesting coincidence that both episode titles rhyme with the show title. Try it. “Watergate – Stargate, 42 – Doctor Who.” Fascinating.

42

The TARDIS is thrown off course in response to a distress signal and ends up somewhere in the farthest parts of a cargo ship. Turns out the cargo ship is a sort of illegal fuel harvester, the engines have been sabotaged, and they’re heading straight for a nearby sun. The title comes from the fact that they have only 42 minutes before impact with the sun.

Well, around 32 minutes into this the Doctor has to go outside the space ship and comes back in genuinely terrified. The ship had been harvesting hydrogen from the sun, but guess what? The sun was alive. It’s a life form, and they’d hurt it, and it wanted vengeance. Cue all kinds of terrible things to happen for the remaining 12 minutes of the show.

Watergate

The Americans are always our heroes, and they just aren’t quite stupid enough for this to happen to them, so suddenly the Russians have a Stargate of their own! And of course, they’re the Russians, and they don’t know anything, so they call in SG-1 to help them when their gate gets stuck open. They’d found a world that’s completely underwater and had build a submarine to explore it, and had brought back a sample of the water for analysis.

When SG-1 arrives on the scene the sample has gone missing and everyone in the base is dead. So they take the sub and go to explore the world to find out why the gate won’t close. They get very stuck. Because guess what? The water is alive. The Russians took a sample away, but it’s a life form and they hurt it. It wants the sample back, and it holds the sub as hostage until it’s returned.

The Parallel: Is it also a coincidence that they deal with Fire and Water? So, in both episodes we had a large, usually non-sentient life form that had part of it taken away and wanted it back. In both there are lives at stake, and in both it happened through an act of stupidity on the part of people who aren’t main characters.


What did we learn from these two episodes? Always scan for life before taking anything away from a large usually non-sentient body. As for which one I liked better, it would have to be 42. Because Doctor Who is awesome that way. And a raging sun is a lot more terrifying than relentlessly crushing water.

A Glimpse of Eternity

“That’s what I see. All the time.
And doesn’t it drive you mad?”

“It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the earth’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it because everything looks like its standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet spinning a thousand miles an hour. And the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go… That’s who I am.”

A few weeks ago I was attempting to explain time loops and time paradoxes and time-space continuums to a friend of time. Her reaction was to get increasingly dizzy as I expounded upon fixed and flux time, and how something could be everywhere and everytime.

“You are tiny. I can see the whole of time and space; every single atom of your existence. I can see everything. All that is… or was… or that ever could be.”

I explained about the time-space vortex, and how it was everywhere, not in just one location. Time is like a sphere, and we are tiny threads running over it. And I tried to give examples of how something affects all of space-time, not just one part. Not just one time period, or one location. It’s more than being everywhere at once, it’s being everytime at once. Literally everywhere, all encompassing. No beginning or end. It doesn’t exist in time for it is time. Then I was struck by a sudden thought.

“And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us.”

That’s what Eternity is. It’s not a measurement of time… it is time. It’s all of time. It’s past, present and future. When the bible talks about being with Christ for Eternity it doesn’t just mean for the rest of time. It’s not from here on out. It’s here, and always. We’re not just with him for forever, we always have been. From the beginning, to the end, and back again. We were never without him. It’s Eternity, Forever, and with everything. Every moment in history, every part of time and space, outside it and beyond… so completely, utterly, and totally encompassing, beyond any restrictions or dimensions that logic or rationality can explain. And that’s dizzying, eh?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God and the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Parallel Episodes: Introduction

About a year ago, when my brother was just getting into Stargate I sat down to watch an episode with him. Ten minutes in I had the unsettling feeling that I recognized it. That wasn’t possible; the only times I’d watched Stargate was with him, and he didn’t watch them twice, and besides, there were parts I knew were new. So what was it? Ten minutes later I figured it out and almost quit watching the episode because I knew exactly what was going to happen, the entire plot of the episode and the ending. I had seen it before, but not on Stargate. It was a Star Trek episode.

Sure enough, the entire plot played out as I predicted, to my brother’s annoyance. Suddenly I began to see resemblances in other episodes from other things, and I realized that storylines could be duplicated… and I call them parallel episodes.

Every good science fiction geek knows that every time you make a decision a parallel world is created. Well, here’s a new one for you to remember; every time you create a Science Fiction show a parallel episode is created, and that’s what this series is here to prove.

101 Things I’ve Learned: Sonic Earplugs

“A word of advice! If you’re fighting a man with a sonic screwdriver, never let him near a sound system!”

Timelords may have exceptional ears that allow them to tolerate the high frequency noises emitted by makeshift sonic weapons, but most other humans and aliens do not. Therefore, as a word of caution, whenever sonic devices may be involved be sure to include earplugs.

“What is that thing?”
“It’s a sonic stun gun. Wreaks havoc with your inner ear, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, you happen to be wearing some of these.”