Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Inhuman Condition

I have graduated from vlog adaptations of classic literature to a web series with an actually original story:

er-inhumanconditionInhuman Condition by KindaTV

Category: Web series

Find it on: YouTube

What it is:
An urban fantasy web series. In this world supernatural creatures are out and the public is not happy, imposing all sorts of regulations against them. The main protagonist is a psychotherapist who tries to help three young supernaturals: a werewolf, a zombie and, maybe, a god and becomes more and more involved in their personal problems and in social tensions.

How I found it:
As one of my background shows I watched Carmilla (without great enthusiasm, though) and checked what else the production company had available. I mostly liked the title but I’m not that demanding when it comes to web series anyway so I started watching and was surprised by its quality.

Summary judgment:
This show quite surprised me with its professionalism and I really wanted to find out how it ended.

Best things about it:
The acting is pretty good and I found the world of the story quite convincing.
It’s like a well thought-out short story in the supernatural genre and I’m impressed with how all the threads were neatly tied towards the end.

Worst things about it:
I guess it might be a bit depressing when you think about some of the themes but it didn’t bother me and I’m generally sensitive to such things. In other words, you should be fine.

Other pluses:
I really enjoyed Tamar’s story (even if the traitorous lover was stolen from Orphan Black). The other two patients were also very convincing in their actually-very-human stories.
I guess the metaphor is a bit heavy-handed and you know I’m not a fan of those but it didn’t bother me enough to take away from my pleasure in the story and that is an achievement by itself.

Other minuses:
I’ll be honest – with the way I watch these things, just with the corner of my eye and mostly listening to the dialogs I don’t feel qualified to judge many aspects of the shows which would actually require careful watching so I’ll say: none.

How it enriched my life:
It made a busy Saturday way more fun.

Fun fact:
I was actually happy to have a ton of work on Saturday once I started watching the show because it gave me a chance to finish the whole series.

Follow-up:
I would watch season 2 if they ever made it. For now I will give another KindaTV show a chance.

Recommended for:
Any genre TV fan, really.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Everydailiness

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: IKEA

This is a bit unusual, I guess, but I spent a lovely half-day in a local IKEA store and I thought to mix it up a bit with an extremely unobjective and unresearched review of the IKEA experience. Side note: IKEA, sadly, is not paying me for all the nice things I’m going to say (as is no one else for the rest of nice things I say here; too bad). Also, I know they are a corporation and so are, probably, inherently evil and bent on taking over the world but I haven’t noticed so far. (I do acknowledge that YMMV more than usual with these reviews though.)

er-ikeaShopping in IKEA

Category: Pastimes

Find it: Around; it’s probably somewhere there

What it is:
An international network of stores with furniture and other home accessories (which you knew, of course). It originates from Sweden and has a lot of environmental concerns in its brand image, which I generally approve of. Each store has a cheap restaurant and a lot of examples of (very) affordable minimalist design. Seriously, it’s quite hard to buy such a simple bookshelf as Kallax at this price anywhere else.

How I found it:
Honestly, I’m old enough to remember when the first IKEA store opened in our (broadly understood) neighborhood and even then it was a treat for us kids to go there and just browse. Well, it was mostly about browsing then because our parents couldn’t afford many of the things that were being sold, what with the crazy 90s economy around here.

Summary judgment:
I love a morning in an IKEA store. I know it’s more of a quirk than anything else, particularly as I’m not a great fan of shopping in general, but these trips are like going to a fun park for me.

Best things about it:
It’s entertaining for me. I like finding out about IKEA’s new solutions and designs, particularly that many of them have been working well for us. For most products the relation of price and quality is good too, unlike in many other similar stores.

Worst things about it:
I wish they put more of their money where their mouths are and did even more for ecological and sustainable furniture production and selling: more certified wood in furniture, more recycled paper in their instructions, more recycling in general. However, as I said, I didn’t really research any of this, it’s only my general idea drawn from reading labels and I might be unfair.

Other pluses:
I really like their restaurant: it’s cheap and fast and you can usually find something interesting there, as you can in their little store with Swedish products. Strawberry milk drink is my favorite thing and that elderflower drink is pretty good too.
Some of their designs are classics, and rightly so, for their smart lines and the simple elegance that, I feel, some people don’t give enough credit to.
I didn’t care so much before I had a kid but some of their toys are brilliant and one of our son’s favorites. He learned many words with their toy food and the rats serve as his security blanket. Now I’m always curious what new toys they have come up with because some of them are really surprising but the toy department is probably the one where I actually have to exercise my will power not to buy unnecessary things.
I like how IKEA is at least talking about clean and sustainable solutions and how, for instance, they have started (supposedly?) using exclusively wind power. I hope they will continue with this direction because it gives me hope.
Sometimes you can buy really pretty cookbooks in their store.

Other minuses:
If you choose a day wrong, you will be stuck among sooooo many people.
And a little nerdy trivia: not so long ago IKEA used to use their special custom Futura typeface for everything, which was incredibly beautiful (seriously, it was like the Sistine Chapel for a type nerd) but then they replaced most of it with Verdana, which is, well, not beautiful. And now whenever I remember how much better everything from signage to packaging could look, it just makes me sad.
There is also a special kind of IKEA experience, which is way less fun, and it’s buying huge pieces of furniture. You first find their locations in the magazine, then you locate the packages on the shelves and you struggle to put them onto the carts which never seem to go straight (and good luck trying to make the magazine employers help you). Some of them will always be in a different magazine where you need to go separately. Once you’ve done your waiting in the checkout queue, you maneuver the unwieldy cart into the transport station to order transportation (and there’s invariably another queue) and voila, you leave it there for the drivers to take care of. Was I really personally needed to take the packages from shelves and carry them those couple of meters to the transport station? No. No, I wasn’t. That’s DIY taken too far.

How it enriched my life:
Honestly, that’s probably not viewed as very classy by many of you, but probably a half of all the furniture we have in our house comes from IKEA (in case that wasn’t yet clear). And I always have fun when I go there to buy something, unless it’s very, very heavy.

Fun fact:
For my husband’s last birthday we actually went to IKEA instead of to a real restaurant, stylish people that we are. Sure, it was partly to save time and buy some things we needed but it was a nice kind of celebration all the same.

Follow-up:
As they didn’t have the color of coffee cups we needed we’ll be going again some time soon(ish).

Recommended for:
People who are not snobby about their furniture, don’t hate shopping too much and can enjoy simple things in life found in surprising places. People whose children don’t go into fits when their parents refuse to buy them something, I guess.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Inhuman Condition

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Younger

So far these reviews have showed you a slightly untrue version of me. As untrue as, say, a 40-year-old pretending to be 26? No, not like that, but still I didn’t review a single TV show and it’s really TV shows that take up most of my cultural interests (after books, I guess). However, you caught me at a special time when after a 2-month detox I stopped watching TV shows for a while. However, I got back to Younger as an ironing show (very much a thing for me) and in the middle of the second season started watching the rest without any ironing as an excuse.

er-youngerYounger (seasons 1–3)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon, as streaming TV. S1 | S2 | S3

What it is:
A really, really silly (but fun) show about a woman who gets a divorce and starts looking for a job in publishing. When no one wants to hire a 40-year-old, she pretends to be 26 and, of course, gets hired immediately (in the most non-toxic publishing house on the screen). She starts leading a double life, fitting almost seamlessly into her new identity because she’s that young at heart. It’s produced by Darren Star, of Sex and the City fame and some of it carries. (This pun was so unintended. Not sorry though.)

How I found it:
I remembered it had good reviews and it sounded like something you don’t need to pay much attention to while it’s on so, in other words, a perfect show to watch while ironing.

Summary judgment:
It’s a TV bubble gum, only better because I don’t really like bubble gum and I enjoy this show a lot.

Best things about it:
It’s fun, light-hearted and prettily shot. The interiors and the actors look good and the emotional drama is enough to keep you interested without really getting you down. And yes, there’s space in everyone’s life for exactly this kind of a show. And, as you may expect from the guy who brought you Carrie Bradshaw, clothes are awesome sometimes.

Worst things about it:
The premise is totally unbelievable. Sometimes it actually adds to the fun but sometimes it forces the writers to employ desperate measures to avoid the whole secret unraveling. Like, spoiler, when Thad gets killed by a metal-beam-ex-machina at the end of season 2? Almost made me stop watching. (Only it didn’t.)

Other pluses:
I like that it avoids any obvious villains (except for comic relief) and that Hillary Duff’s character is actually a friend not a rival, as one would expect her to be when she first appears. The writers make female friendship very much a theme and that’s good.
I really like Charles. I don’t like Liza all that much but I think I still ship them. It’s the “will they, won’t they” that really keeps me interested but I’m just this predictable kind of viewer.
I also really like these sitcommy, 20-minute-long chunks of my casual TV because I can always squeeze an episode into my busy day.

Other minuses:
The music is awful. It tries so hard to be young and fresh – and what do I know, maybe it is – but I just find it grating.

How it enriched my life:
It made a lot of ironing (even more) fun and relaxed me. I also learned some (probably inaccurate) things about 20-something New Yorkers.

Fun fact:
It’s probably not so much fun but this show has been a wedge that broke my resolution and since I watched it, I’ve gotten back to watching some TV (significantly less than before though).

Follow-up:
I will be watching season 4 to see who learns the truth at the end of it. There are only really about two people left who don’t know in all of New York.

Recommended for:
People who want to watch something easy and relaxing and are not bothered by obvious holes in the story but can instead focus on pretty clothes and mildly funny jokes.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: IKEA

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales

Just so you know, I’m not only reading Regency England romances (in fact, contrary to the impression the last few posts might have made, I’m not reading a lot of them at all).  And so today let me share a pretty different work, even if it does come broadly from the same island.

er-scottishfolkandfairytalesScottish Folk and Fairy Tales edited by Gordon Jarvie

Category: Books

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Published in Penguin Popular Classics series, it is what it says: a collection of Scottish folk stories.

How I found it:
I spotted it lying on my friend Z’s table. At the time I was reading Tam Lin by Pamela Dean and was interested to read the original tale – which I did on the spot. A few months later when Z was done with the book, I borrowed it because since then I started looking for stories on fairies and this seemed like a good source.

Summary judgment:
I liked it. It reminded me of how I used to read collections of folk fairy tales as a kid (and how many of them were pretty inappropriate for a kid, to think back on it).

Best things about it:
I like how varied it is. Pretty much every story is of a different character, even a different genre. They seem to come from different periods and focus on different functions of a folk tale.

Worst things about it:
Of course, that means some of them fell flat for me.
Also, I have a soft spot for Penguin Popular Classics but such collections, which contain sometimes opaque elements, would benefit from some introduction and the editor’s notes and this series simply does not include those.

Other pluses:
Here go my favorite stories: “The Seal Catcher and the Merman” – it has a clear image of selkies and even an ecological message. “The Magic Walking-stick” – it was completely different than what I expected, a Victorian short story rather than a folk tale, and it had very well drawn setting. “The Lonely Giant” – well-crafted story with a memorable protagonist. “Through the Veil” – Conan Doyle rarely disappoints and while this is very much a Victorian short story, it’s a good one.

Other minuses:
Some stories simply failed to interest me at all, like “The Milk-white Doo” (not a great introduction to the book) or “Adam Bell.”

How it enriched my life:
I learned about a selkie palace and who Thomas Rymer was.

Fun fact:
Penguin Popular Classics were the first books in English I ever owned. I got two Alices by Carroll and one Conan Doyle (I think The Hound) for Christmas and then kept getting them for various occasions when I discovered, to my delight, that my English was good enough to read them. So I know there are better Penguin series but this one will always have a soft spot in my heart. Also, they are dirt-cheap, which is always nice.

Follow-up:
It made me want to re-read The Golden Bough so I have to dig it up because I know I have it somewhere.

Recommended for:
Anyone interested in fairy tales or Scottish folklore, of course, but not inquisitive enough to need additional editorial notes.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Younger

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Zootopia

I may not follow most of modern cinematography but I’m reasonably up to date with animations (except for Minions; can’t stomach those) and recently I caught up on

er-zootopiaZootopia

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A 2016 animation about a city of anthropomorphic animals which have left behind their days of hunting and being hunted and instead live together in a civilized state – at least, until some of the predators start to go wild again. An ambitious rabbit police officer is determined to solve the case with the help of a fox con man. In other words, it’s an animated action movie for kids, with a thinly veiled social message of tolerance.

How I found it:
I think the usual way, a trailer on IMDb. We also have friends whose child is just the right age to follow up current animated movies so they update us on what is good.

Summary judgment:
The story and animation are okay but the metaphor doesn’t really sit with me.

Best things about it:
The animation is pretty good, especially the attention paid to creating all the different environments in which different animals live – not just the more or less natural environments but the more creative ones, like the small district and the rural bunny area.

Worst things about it:
Okay, I know the message about tolerance and not stereotyping people is extremely important and current but it really took away from my pleasure of watching the movie. Not only was it extremely unsubtle but I couldn’t help feeling it didn’t exactly work. The more you get into the metaphor, the more unconvincing it becomes.

Other pluses:
The characters are pretty likeable, particularly the fox. I’m also glad a strong, determined female character continues to be favored by Disney and girls get new role models (even if to me personally Judy felt extremely on-the-nose). The message that if you try hard enough you can achieve anything is worth repeating and maybe it will become true one day.
I suppose the allusions to classic action dramas are exciting for people who actually watched them?

Other minuses:
So, this metaphor… I feel the more you scratch at it, the more it doesn’t work because the animals can’t really change who they are, can they? So some of them are born with tendencies to prey on the others? And Judy and Nick can’t really be together, can they? All sorts of problematic.
And I do know metaphors are never complete analogies (sidenote, I did read Metaphors We Live By and I do find it insightful) but this one just doesn’t convince me. It might be my problem, I’ll admit.

How it enriched my life:
I always like spending some time watching animation and it’s a pretty, fast-paced, generally pleasant movie with a positive message if you don’t overthink it.

Fun fact:
We love foxes in all shapes and forms so a fox as the main character will always be a plus. And little Nick was almost too cute.

Follow-up:
I’m not at all excited for Zootopia 2. Also, I wish they didn’t make series of all the movies because the next ones are almost never good.

Recommended for:
Mostly children. And for people who like both action movies and children’s animations.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Old Friends and New Fancies

Yes, this seems to be the year when I grow a bit obsessed with Jane Austen. Well, not truly, because I still don’t remember anything that happened in Mansfield Park (I seriously need to re-read it and see if it’s as bad as I remember) but here’s another thing inspired by the great Jane and written by someone much more obsessed than me:

er-oldfriendsandnewfanciesOld Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton

Category: Books

Find it on: Amazon if you want it in a pretty book format. Or you can download a free copy from Project Gutenberg.

What it is:
The first published Austen fan fiction! In 1913 Ms. Brinton wrote a story in which characters from Austen’s novels interact and continue to fall in love and be talked down to by lady Catherine de Bourgh. It focuses particularly on three couplings and the obstacles they face (mostly obstacles of unsuccessful communication): Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mary Crawford, Georgiana Darcy and William Price and Kitty Bennet and James Morland.

How I found it:
This one was less random than my usual book finds: I found it on two different lists of books recommended for people who like Jane Austen.

Summary judgment:
It is exactly what it claims to be: a work of overflowing love for the originals. It’s not written with as much talent as the six novels (which I never expected it to be) but it’s entertaining enough.

Best things about it:
It is skillful enough at recreating the characters and the atmosphere of the originals. The story keeps you mildly interested and some of the characters get more space than they did in the original books.

Worst things about it:
I guess it’s not exactly exciting reading? It didn’t bore me but I can see it being difficult for some people. Then again, you can say the same about Jane Austen.

Other pluses:
I liked the appearance of some of my favorites, like Elizabeth and Darcy and Mr. Knightley. Nature and places play an important part and are well recreated.

Other minuses:
Some characters were hard to bear. I don’t really remember the original Mary Crawford but for a positive heroine I found her obnoxious. Kitty didn’t get her due either: Austen tell us in Pride and Prejudice that Kitty got more serious and respectable after Lydia’s removal but Brinton chooses to ignore that. Oh, and poor Emma.
But most of all, as is, sadly, too common in romances, male characters are rather bland and unexciting.

How it enriched my life:
I liked how it put more life into Georgiana than she ever had. It also reminded me that I need to re-read at least three of Austen books.

Fun fact:
Brinton really dislikes Emma. She only seems to see the Emma from the first half of the novel, who tries to matchmake people with little thought or concern for anything. But you know, I never found Emma as annoying as most people do, maybe because my first contact with her was through Gwyneth Paltrow’s version and I quite liked her.

Follow-up:
This: Longbourn (another fan fiction, sort of). Mansfield Park. Persuasion. Sense and Sensibility. And then some other things from that list of recommendations. But it will take a while because I like to mix up my reading and not spend a few months in Regency England.

Recommended for:
If anything I wrote in the “What It Is” section sounds interesting, go for it. But it’s for pretty hardcore Austen fans or people who really like this mostly carefree, slow atmosphere.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Zootopia

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I talked a while ago about my soft spot for vlog adaptations of classic literature and I figured it was time to return to the one that started it all:

er-thelizziebennetdiariesThe Lizzie Bennet Diaries by Pemberton Digital

Category: Web series

Find it on: YouTube

What it is:
An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the form of vlogs recorded by Lizzie Bennet. Her sisters, particularly Lydia, and some other characters also star. Lizzie is a communications student who works on her diploma, Jane is a fashion designer and Lydia is… Lydia, of course. Bing Lee and William Darcy arrive and shenanigans ensue, all more or less as Ms. Austen had planned.

How I found it:
Do you know that I don’t even remember? When I came upon it for the first time, the series wasn’t even finished yet though it was already in its last, less interesting, stage. I remember watching it (like, regularly watching rather than just having it play in the background; good times) around Christmas and devouring it very fast.

Summary judgment:
It’s surprisingly good. It keeps the spirit of the story fresh while – mostly – successfully adapting it to new realities.

Best things about it:
It’s really well-acted. Lizzie and Lydia are pretty amazing: not only do they know how to act (which is less frequent in these things than you’d expect), they also interpret Bennet sisters for the modern age. It has drama, emotions and humor, all the while remaining faithful to the original.

Worst things about it:
Weeeell, okay, this is not my Darcy. And I’m saying this in the nicest possible way because the actor seems like a fun guy and this character is almost impossible to pull off (defnitely up there with Gatsby) and also costuming doesn’t do him any favors… but no, that’s not a believable Darcy.

Other pluses:
It’s quite entertaining and while it doesn’t exactly keep you surprised (the story is preeeeetty well-known) it certainly keeps you interested.
The actors have some fun with playing their characters pretending to be other characters (it makes sense if you watch it) and I’m a sucker for this (let’s talk Orphan Black when I catch up).
The romances mostly hold up but the aspect of sisterly relations is particularly well developed, perhaps more so than in the novel itself.

Other minuses:
Eh, this costume theater thing is a bit too cutesy for me. I get what it does and it gives the actors the chance to have fun (and the producers to save some money) but it becomes too celebrated within the narrative itself and then it irritates me even more.

How it enriched my life:
It opened my life to the rich world of vlog adaptations of literature, but we already talked about it, I think.

Fun fact:
I was once listening to a podcast about various adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and the author claimed The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to be the best adaptation out there. Well, it doesn’t beat the 1995 BBC one, in my opinion, but it really is pretty good.

Follow-up:
I’m sure more vlogs await though I don’t currently have a specific list.

Recommended for:
Jane Austen fans. People who like a good story with relatively low production values and don’t take their entertainment too seriously – and conventionally.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Old Friends and New Fancies (yes, still Austen)

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