Veronica Mars, episodes 1–8

[Screenshot]I got on this boat late too. I miss a lot of trends, and in this case, I was clearly missing out. Veronica Mars is hip, sexy, and engrossing. This is mercifully not my socal crowd, but it’s definitely got the flavor of the LASD axis right, and some of the timeless rhythms of high-school. It’s nice to see a seriously gritty teen drama, actually, and the noir-invoking mood is a nice trick. You may have noticed that I have a lot less to say about things I like than things I dislike, and Veronica Mars is no exception. High production values, generally good acting, and a superlatively crafted script bring this all together. What more can I say? You’ve either already seen it and made up your mind, or you’re even more out of touch than I am.

Apropos of nothing: Kristen Bell’s in a computer-graphics-animated direct-to-DVD version of Flatland, which was supposed to be out months ago. I want, and you should too. No, she isn’t a quadrilateral. She is, like Huey Lewis and the News*, too hip to be square. She’s a hexagon.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

* Yes, I had to look that up. I don’t remember the 80s that well.

The Last Unicorn

[Screenshot]Ah, Rankin/Bass. You broke my heart with the poorly aging animated Hobbit, but I can forgive you for this. The animation is not notably better than The Hobbit, but it’s generally sufficient and somewhat less shy. The material is generally meatier and more mature, and it shines through to a large extent. The music manages to rise above its bland pop-folk roots, and the voice acting is surprisingly good. I kind of figured I was in for a treat from the rambling, jokey patter of the butterfly (a bit character not seen again), and I wasn’t disappointed. The dialogue remains mostly silly and lighthearted without becoming completely trivial. In fact, to the extent I have an objection, it might be the sudden change of tone once the action switches to King Haggard’s castle. Also, the action begins to somewhat drag from the castle on, which is a bit of a pity, as it’s my only real complaint about what’s otherwise an engaging and entertaining delivery from a studio I’d otherwise pretty much disregarded.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Banlieue 13

[Screenshot]I read good things about B13; I can’t remember where. I knew it was a French action thriller; I didn’t know much more, but I expected an interestingly different take on the genre. I probably should have looked closer and noted Luc Besson’s name on the project, which might have meant most anything, but would have given me different expectations. This is better than The Transporter, but worse than, say, Léon. Which is a pretty wide range there, but it’s in the bottom half of it. The plot, acting, and characters are all pretty damn silly, and they aren’t redeeming this one. What’s it’s primary redeeming quality? David Belle in a starring role. David Belle does only one thing—parkour—and he does it very well. Which means the best part of this movie is over in the first 20 minutes, after the first rooftop sequence. For the rest of the film, our heroes go places in cars and grimace with guns and martial arts. All very well for an action thriller, but can we please let the main man just do what he’s good at?

Two plot points were altogether too stupid for me to let them pass without comment: first, the entire “big boss” fight with Yeti. It would be nice to have the hero in an action film, for once, deal with the freakishly strong slow guy intelligently. Namely, not engaging him at all, and just zipping around while he tries in vain to lumber after. Especially with the time pressure and all. The other plot point is really a characterization-continuity thing with Damien. Through pretty much the entire film, he oozes contempt for both his coworkers and the authorities they represent (including before he meets Leïto, so it’s not a front for his benefit). Why does he turn into an authority-worshippnig robot at the worst possible moment?

Anyways, if you can ignore the incredibly stupid story and people inhabiting it, B13‘s not a bad way to kill some time. Think The Transporter with a real athlete instead of a smarmily British refugee from a Guy Ritchie film (and I say this as someone who liked Jason Statham).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Fraggle Rock, episodes 1–6

[Screenshot]I had a sort of a dim awareness of Fraggle Rock as a kid, but I’m pretty sure I never watched more than 5 minutes at a time and never got an idea of what it was. Years later, with it recommended as one of Jim Henson’s masterworks, I feel compelled to revisit it. It’s something of a mixed bag: I think it doesn’t hit the mark quite as often as the Muppets’ properties did, but it aimed higher and more ambitious. The worldbuilding in Fraggle Rock I definitely approve of: there’s racial interaction there that’s complicated and pretty subtle for a children’s show. I’m not sure I got a feel for the series as a whole, since the first couple episodes were, to a large extent, about establishing characters, which I think was done more or less successfully. I’ll have to return to Fraggle Rock again sometime, see how the world which is already pretty well-developed develops further.

In technical issues, Fraggle Rock is as excellent as expected from the Jim Henson company. The puppeteering is expressive, and there’s a lot of singing. Maybe even too much, but, y’know, it’s a Henson production, so I should really expect it.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.