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Stranger Things 2: Chapter Four Review

STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER FOUR: WILL THE WISE What does it want? – Joyce I don’t know.

It came for me and I tried, I tried to make it go away, but it got me, mom. I felt it everywhere. I still feel it.

I just want this to be over. – Will Mike has found Will doing a Matt Saracen impression on the football field, if the Dillon Panthers quarterback had just had an evil monster take up residence inside his body. So really, their connection stops at a location.

Will doesn’t care for baseball, so it’s reasonable to assume he’s also not a pigskin fanatic either. “True sight” is mentioned again, but it’s all speculative, although it feels like the right play for Stranger Things based on the past. This unfortunate child is also not a fan of his new “spirit,” for lack of a better word, and he has virtually no idea what’s happening to him. He’s also blacking out to some degree, unable to process the actual Will Byers when under the creature’s control.

At first, he’s unwilling to be honest about what’s happened, but Joyce breaks through when she tells him she believes him and that he has to tell the truth in order to get through to people like Dr. Owens. The biggest problem for Will is that he isn’t always cognizant of the real world anymore.

When Jonathan comes home to find his mother and brother asleep, we see the younger Byers’ eyes fluttering and in motion, but no one else does. Whether Will could describe that to anyone the next day is very much in doubt. But, he’s also rolling with a 95 degree body temperature, and in an utterly terrifying moment, he refuses to get in the warm bath.

Why? “No. He likes it cold.” All right bro, it’s about time to lock you up for a while.

That’s the one that broke the bank. I no longer trust you in any respect. Mike, as always, understands Will before anyone else, and when he tries to visit his friend at home, Joyce mentions to him he isn’t feeling good. “It’s about the Shadow Monster, isn’t it.” Her mouth agape, she lets him in, and realizes the friends know far more than the folks, even when the folks are quick on the uptake.

Eleven, for perhaps the first time ever, really understands what it’s like to be punished by an actual parent. She was disciplined by Brenner, but classifying him as a selfless father would be grossly incorrect. Hopper might be overdoing it a bit, but his rules were designed to keep her safe.

He isn’t doing this because he wants to control her. He’s doing this because he fears for her life and well-being if she’s discovered again. But, El is still a kid, and thus she responds to his scolding and his decision to remove her television (and her Eggos) for a few weeks with a tantrum, including mentally turning over shelving units and cabinets as she destroys the home the two pieced back together one episode ago.

She went too far when she told Jim he’s “like Papa,” leaving Hopper to respond aptly. “Really? I’m like that psychotic SOB?” Eleven moves on from that line to inform Hopper she hates him, to which he responds she’s a brat.

Yes, this is the same conversation you’ve probably had with your parents during a weak moment, except that you weren’t able to take it to the next level and use superpowers to throw a dictionary at your dad. Very smooth work from Nancy and Jonathan tipping off the proper individuals to lead to a capture at the park. Just when you think they’re paranoid as they spot various shady characters lurking around, almost all of them converge to force them to the government facility and we figure out they were right all along.

They also felt they needed to get in that building in order to get answers, plus they wanted to record incriminating comments, and they succeeded. Owens shows them what he believes killed Barb, calling the new gate to the Upside Down “one hell of a mistake.” This time, no one’s been able to “pull this weed,” and he and the country are worried about what the Soviets would do with it if they found out about its existence. Here, we see Stranger Things tying in the culture and global conditions of the mid-80s to explain why Owens and his crew are acting in the manner they are.

Originally, it seemed obvious these people were villains, but that may not actually be the case. They appear to be interested in getting answers and protecting the nation, and they aren’t doing weird experiments on children. Brenner was a cretin.

Owens is a doctor. There’s a big difference. We’ve got to discuss Billy again, because good lord is this an awful character.

He’s supposed to be a problem, but the issue is he serves almost no purpose but to be mean to his sister. He’s just a complete prick, and worse, he might now also be racist. The conversation about Lucas wasn’t exactly above board, as he commands Max to stay away from “certain types of people.” It’s not overt, but it seems believable that Billy is riddled with internal trouble and prejudice.

Again though, it’s a terrible character, and thus far, there has been zero redemption to be found. Billy scenes are ones that no one will remember fondly, and that has nothing to do with Dacre Montgomery’s acting. It’s just a bad role.

Hopper is back at the patch after we discover Will’s drawings all correlate into something larger. “Killing…vines. Destroying vines.” He realizes the pumpkins and the three mile radius where everything has been dying may indeed be controlled by these roots. So, he’s got a shovel and begins to dig.

Why he chose to do this with none of his deputies or no one else around is anyone’s guess, but for Stranger Things, it just means he’s putting himself in grave danger, which is good for the series. Jim has always operated like a cowboy, so it’s not out of character to act rashly and without fulling considering the consequences. While he’s calling 811 before he digs, Eleven has found a box labeled “HAWKINS LAB” after observing a door in the hardwood floor.

Inside the container are various folders and news clippings, included one manilla folder labeled “Ives, Terry.” And here we go. “Daughter Jane Taken When She Was a Baby” is the first headline she finds inside the folder, and then a photo of Brenner with Terry. She’s a bright kid, so it doesn’t take her long to figure out what she’s actually seeing. The blindfold enables her to enter her special sensory deprived place and find her mom in a rocking chair, but when she disintegrates, we’re left watching El sobbing and screaming.

No one wants to see this poor girl shouting “Mama” into an empty black space. It’s heartbreaking. Even though most of this year’s El scenes have bored me, at least until we discovered the box, we still feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for that character.

Less sympathetic is Dustin, who not only hid Dart and brought him back home, he also fed him and left him in his cage, under a sheet, while he went to school. The most obvious moment of the season was him returning home to a shattered cage and a missing monster. He sees skin left behind, he sees black stuff on the rug, then on his chair, and then he finds Dart, who looks at him and screeches.

Dart had to turn around to see him though, because he was busy. What was he doing? Well, he was devouring the family cat.

And when he screeches, his head forms into a familiar shape. Yep, this thing Dustin had a bond with is indeed a baby Demogorgon. Brilliant work.

This was so predictable, but still effective, because of what it means for the rest of the season. As for Dustin, as I said yesterday, you’re not fit to wear that Minnesota Science Museum hoodie. Please turn it over to the front desk and walk out of the room in shame.

Also, go tell your mom her cat is dead. Then tell her it’s your fault, because you allowed a demonic creature to murder it. Maybe couch it by telling her how much money he’s saved the family on Whiskas and Temptations treats.

And then, we got the single best moment of the season so far, complete with a wonderful piece of camera artistry. Hopper takes his shovel to the pumpkin patch and begins to dig. He does some serious work, is fairly deep into a hole as the sun goes down, and he finally stabs into something that seems alive when he strikes it.

There’s a gurgling sound, and even deeper holes emerge. Hopper chooses to descend into the hole, which drops him into an area that’s been tunneled out under the surface. As soon as he hits the ground, we see that infamous air quality that comes with floating, shiny objects everywhere.

Jim Hopper is in the Upside Down. In a flat out brilliant finish, the camera then rotates 180 degrees, leaving Hopper visually upside down, spinning him slowly. We see his predicament, the effect is immediate, and the episode comes to an end.

THAT was awesome. It was only about ten seconds total, but it was by far my favorite spot in the season, and maybe in the series. It was a goosebump-inducing choice, and it worked hugely well.

A perfect finish, although now Hopper is ALONE in the Upside Down and no one knows where he is. No one even knew he was headed to a diseased pumpkin patch in the first place. So, that could be tricky.

What’d you think?

I’m @JMartOutkick.

Leaving Outkick, Come Again Soon.

Movie Review – The Stolen (2017) – Flickering Myth (blog)

The Stolen, 2017. Directed by Niall Johnson.
Starring Alice Eve, Jack Davenport, Richard O’Brien, Graham McTavish, and Stan Walker.

SYNOPSIS: Recently married ?migr?, Charlotte, is settling in at her new home in New Zealand. Her happiness seems complete when she gives birth to a son but, when he’s just months old, her home is raided, her husband murdered and the infant is kidnapped.

A stranger in a foreign land, Charlotte goes in search of her baby, determined to find him whatever she has to do. After making us reach for our tissues with Mum’s List[1] last year, director Niall Johnson has ventured down under for The Stolen, an antipodean western about another mother with another mission.

He’s taken a wrong turn. On the face of it, it’s an idea with a certain potential. The spirited Charlotte (Alice Eve) is getting used to a different way of life in rural New Zealand, thousands of miles away from her home in Oxford.

She’s spirited and hardly turns a hair at the idea of learning to shoot. It’s a skill she puts to good use when her husband is murdered and her baby son kidnapped. The local police search for the boy for three months, then advise “it’s time to move on” but they were never interested in finding him from the start.

So Charlotte decides to take matters into her own hands and tracks him down to a township beyond the mountains. Up until then, you’re prepared to go along with the idea, but once she gets to the township it’s downhill all the way. You know as soon as saloon proprietor Russell (Richard O’Brien) opens his mouth to reveal a ludicrous accent that it’s only going to get worse.

And it does. The storyline, such as it is, completely unravels with the arrival of Jack Davenport: his character’s involvement with Charlotte makes no sense whatsoever, his accent is even more unconvincing than O’Brien’s and his waxed coat sports decidedly 21st century fastenings. Tut, tut.

For a western, The Stolen looks remarkably and unconvincingly clean. Apart from the occasional muddy puddle in the township, there’s very little sign of dirt, even on the gold miners who you would expect to show some evidence of their labour.

It looks like a squeaky clean TV series from the 90s – Dr Quinn Down Under, perhaps? – complete with a feisty woman at the centre of the action. But there result is flat, meandering and deeply dull with characters that are mere sketches rather than being fully formed, so that the actors have little or nothing to work with. Somewhere inside this shambolic mess is a decent idea for a film.

It’s set in an attractive landscape, which momentarily lifts the movie out of the doldrums, but the plot is close to silly and the direction flabby. Back to the drawing board. Flickering Myth Rating[2] – Film ? ? / Movie ?

Freda Cooper.

Follow me on Twitter[3].

References

  1. ^ Mum’s List (www.flickeringmyth.com)
  2. ^ Flickering Myth Rating (www.flickeringmyth.com)
  3. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)

The White Book by Han Kang review – the fragility of life


Rituals of mourning and remembering ... Han Kang.




Rituals of mourning and remembering … Han Kang.Photograph: David Levene for the GuardianFiction in translation[1]Book of the day[2]

The White Book by Han Kang review – the fragility of life

The author of The Vegetarian has written a powerful autobiographical meditation on the life and death of a newborn sister

When I first read Han Kang’s modernist masterpiece, The Vegetarian[3], its accumulative effect was shattering.

I knew that I was engaging with the most sophisticated kind of writing intelligence. How thrilling it was to discover the work of a major contemporary Korean writer. But what was it about?

The core of the story features an apparently unremarkable woman who refuses to eat meat and is therefore subjected to crazed violence by her family. Yet it is also about authoritarian control, all the dimensions of desire – including the renunciation of desire – and the ways in which we make a bid to live a life that feels less wrong. Han won the 2016 Man Booker International prize for The Vegetarian, along with her translator Deborah Smith.

Quite right, too. It requires immense skill to translate the literary techniques at work in a novel of this kind: the depth charge of its pared-down language, its cadence, the intricate web of connecting conversations with readers, and above all, the aesthetic sensibility of the whole composition. Smith also translated Han’s astonishing 2016 novel, Human Acts[4].

The White Book is not designed to have the narrative reach of those two novels. Instead, it is a fragmented autobiographical meditation on the death of the unnamed narrator’s baby sister, who died two hours after her birth. Han wisely gives as much value to those heightened two hours of life as she does to her death.

The story of her birth, as narrated from the point of view of the mother, who is 22 when she is obliged to deliver the premature baby herself, is simply told.

Now and then her mother would be struck by a sense of foreboding and give a corner of the quilt a tug, but the baby’s eyes opened only briefly, grew dim and then slid shut. At some point, even that scant response was no longer forthcoming. And yet, before dawn, when the first milk finally came from her mother’s breasts and she pressed her nipple between the tiny lips, she found that, despite everything, the baby was still breathing.

Though she had, by now, slipped from consciousness, the nipple in her mouth encouraged a soft swallowing, gradually growing stronger. Still with her eyes closed the whole time. Not knowing what boundary, she was now passing over.

It is as if this story itself has become a womb in which the author “has grown up inside”.

Han wrote it while she was on a writer’s residency in Warsaw. When, in the novel, she walks around a building that was once destroyed in a 1944 air raid and then rebuilt, she observes how it has been faithfully reconstructed, incorporating into its new structure an old pillar that had survived. She understands that her sister’s presence, like that pillar, is part of her history, and wonders if in writing about her death, she could give her new life.

This Sebaldian idea is the most interesting aspect of The White Book, and it certainly inspires its most substantial writing. The narrator proceeds to make a list of the white things that are directly or obliquely in conversation with her sister’s death and life: swaddling bands, salt, rice, bones, pills, hair, breast milk, fog … She hopes that the process of writing “would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound”.

The book is structured around the white things that become part of the rituals of mourning and remembering. Reflecting on a particular white pebble, Han notes: “If silence could be condensed into the smallest, most solid object, this is how it would feel.” The dominant theme is of transience, of fleeting life and the acceptance of human fragility. A snow storm in Warsaw erases the detail of its streets, yet when it falls on a black coat sleeve, it will “reveal its crystals even to the naked eye.

Mysterious hexagons melting clean away.” Now and again, another colour interrupts this palette of white: the red feet of a bird, a crane making its way out of the water towards a rock. Only when the creature believes it will not be hurt by the human observing its journey does it stand still and allow the sun to dry its feet.

At its most engaging, the writing edges close to becoming a brilliant psychogeography of grief, moving as it does between place, history and memory. If Han’s monotone is relentlessly poised and never flinches from serene dignity, perhaps it could not be written in any other way. It is a pleasure to come across a white thing that is not as literal as white pills or white hair, such as the phrase, “laughing whitely”, an expression the narrator explains probably “exists only in her mother tongue”.

To laugh whitely means to laugh but not to mean it: “Laughter that is faint, cheerless, its cleanness easily shattered. And the face that forms it.” The White Book is a mysterious text, perhaps in part a secular prayer book.

I admire its intention, form and purpose. Some of the most affecting writing comes when the narrator speaks directly to her baby sister. “I wanted to show you clean things. Before brutality, sadness, despair, filth, pain, clean things that were only for you, clean things above all.

But it didn’t come off as I intended. Again and again I peered into your eyes, as though searching for form in a deep, black mirror.” Translated seamlessly by Smith, The White Book succeeds in reflecting Han’s urgent desire to transcend pain with language.

o Deborah Levy’s memoir, The Cost of Living, will be published next year. To order The White Book for ?7 (RRP ?10) go to bookshop.theguardian.com[5] or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over ?10, online orders only.

Phone orders min p&p of ?1.99.

References

  1. ^ Fiction in translation (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Book of the day (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ The Vegetarian (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ Human Acts (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ bookshop.theguardian.com (www.guardianbookshop.com)