Got a bunch of DVDs this week: The Mask of Zorro, Spring, Remember, The Boxer's Omen, The Conjuring, and Doctor Who Series 9.
At the movies: Maggie's Plan is a delightful indy film which presents a tangled love triangle between Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore in a screwball, but essentially Shakespearean, comedy set in intellectual New York (if you work with academics, it's even more fun). The plot? Gerwig's character Maggie has a plan to have a baby and raise it by herself, but a love affair throws everything out of balance. Does that mean she has to give up on the plan though? Well-observed humanity mixes with the hand of Fate to craft push us towards a satisfying conclusion, while foreshadowing much of the action from the first act in subtle but memorable ways. And there's a sequence set in Quebec that tickled us most of all, probably on an unintended level. Usually, these small films pass me by in theaters, and I have to discover them on DVD. Glad this year is going so well on that front (but never wait for a second week, they're here just one, then gone).
DVDs: Kaiju films are a guilty pleasure and none are guiltier than Gamera's. In Gamera vs. Gyaos, the giant turtle goes up against a big pterosaur that can't bear the sunlight and has, among its weapons, a supersonic scream that acts as a cutting laser. It's pretty awesome, and leads to a lot more monster gore than casual kaiju fans are used to. Unfortunately, while the big fights are big fun, the human stories are pretty dull. Jostling for attention are the prototypical little kid who has all the ideas and who screams the monsters name ad nauseum, and a plot about a land deal and whether or not villagers want to sell so a highway can run through their region. Deathly dull. I kind of tuned off when the monsters weren't on screen, but thankfully, they often were, and if there's one thing Gamera opponents don't lack, it's a variety of attacks that keeps the action interesting, Gyaos included.
13 Sins (actually Netflix) is a high-concept thriller, actually a remake from a Thai film, about a game that offers 13 challenges that will change your life. Starts out small, for small amounts of cash, but take it to the extreme, and you could be a millionaire overnight. How far would you go? Beyond that question, which the audience may ask itself, there's nothing too remarkable about the film. I mean, it's effective enough, with a clever plot that makes use of all its characters, but it's not revolutionary, and it never answers some of the questions it asks. If the idea is to see if you can turn people into monsters, then our protagonist is surely more resilient than most, often following up his "sins" with an attempt at making amends. You can judge for yourself if he's redeemed or damned at the end. I wouldn't call it ambiguous so much as vaguely written. Fairly enjoyable, but don't ask too much from it.
Books: Punk poet Kathy Acker's Don Quixote is no easy read, and I do feel that she started losing me as the philosophical parables that make up most of the book piled up. Far more than Cervantes' classic retold, this story of a woman going mad after an abortion and branding herself a knight deconstructs gender in an insightful way, and presents women's narrative as a largely male creation. Despite Don Quixote herself usurping a male role from literature (and Acker poaches from the entire history of literature, not this single work), getting out from under what men have decided women should care about is next to impossible. Don't expect anything straightforward. I wouldn't call this a story so much as a manifesto, and that's perfectly legitimate, even if it did start to wear on this reader after a while.