Tag Archive | film

EMP Museum Seattle (review = image heavy!)

The EMP Museum in Seattle is like someone asked “what is Nicole a nerd about?” and made a museum (minus the board games, get on it EMP!). The EMP Museum used to be the “Experience Music Project” but has grown to be generally a pop culture – film, movies, music etc – museum in a gorgeous Gehry building.

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I was lucky enough to be in town while the Star Wars costume exhibition was showing, and made a beeline to see that first. It is a mix of costume and design information from the newer prequels, and also the original trilogy. Even though I’m not as much of a fan of episodes 1-3, the costuming is incredible and it was amazing to see it close up.

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But I did get the most, nostalgically, out of the older info, designs and costuming. I especially loved the sketches and inspiration cited for many of the costumes, and the droid design. Beautiful stuff.

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Next stop were a couple of smaller exhibitions as part of the (what I believe to be) permanent displays. I didn’t know they were part of the museum (I planned my visit poorly, obviously) and I was so excited to wander through. The first was “Can’t Look Away: the Lure of Horror Film“. There’s a little bias on some of the content due to the directors that consulted & curated clips of their favourite films (Roger Corman, John Landis, and Eli Roth), but it does a great job at looking at the genre overall, highlighting the history of the iconic movies in the genre, looks at monsters and fear and has loads of cool artefacts on display. I legitimately flipped out at the Sean of the Dead shirt. It had a lot of great information, and was a good primer for those not familiar with horror movies. And the design of the space, plus the audio playing around there, was perfect.

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Heading out of horror into Sci-Fi, the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction exhibition has a bit less of a narrative, but still showcases the vastness of the genre  in film and TV very well, old school and new. Terminator 2 is one of my fave all time movies, so I geeked out a lot at that little glass case, but really enjoyed all of the stuff on display. So much is from a private collection, I’d love to be in a place to have that stuff in my own collection!

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Onto something slightly more laid back, the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibition was thematically a gorgeous space (down to the stone walls, magic tree structures and fake pine needles on the floor) and had a lot of my favourites in there. I really enjoyed the interactives they had on various screens in this exhibition too – taking quizzes to see what kind of fantasy archetype you are, creating a map of a fantasy kingdom etc. It was a real treat to see the Princess Bride costumes and weapons!

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I wandered the “main” part of the building after that, popping into the Indie Game Revolution exhibition and also checking out the very cool Sound Lab interactive (I learnt to play a little hook on the piano!). Marveled at the massive guitar installation, too.

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My last stop was the Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition. I came a little late to being a fan of Nirvana, but in the mid 90s I was a huge fan of grunge in general, especially Pearl Jam. And that also influenced a lot of the music I ended up getting into, especially other punk and riot grrl. This blurb about the exhibiton says it as well as anything else: “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses explores the public and personal story of a single band, but it also invites visitors to discover the underground music scene in which Nirvana developed.” I very much enjoyed the look at the band’s development in context of the local scene, and especially the ‘oral history’ of music around that time, which was accessible at screens throughout the exhibition to sit down and explore. There were also lots of music stations throughout the exhibition to listen to Nirvana’s music from certain periods, along with their peers.

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I felt a lot of emotion and connection to the exhibitions I saw at the EMP Museum. Usually when I’m visiting a museum in a city, it’s pretty history-centric, about a place/culture/environment. This was about stuff I loved, and it was great to have that experience when visiting a museum.

The EMP Museum is open daily, you can buy tickets online & also (like I did) get them as part of the Seattle City Pass. The price is a little high, but for the extensive content on display, I believe it’s worth it – especially when you are passionate about pop culture!

Snowpiercer – a vague review/more like a really enthusiastic recommendation

Snowpiercer poster

The most brutal enemy that we can face is ourselves, and Snowpiercer lays out that struggle bare. Post-apocalyptic class struggle on a moving train with heavy dashes of action, fighting, violence and even touches of (somewhat absurd) humour at times make a package that is hard not to enjoy. There’s no hand-holding explaining of the plot, but instead you’re made to understand as it unfolds with dialogue and metaphors all around. You know enough about the characters to feel for them, root for them or against them. You are caught up in the fight from the tail of the train forward with everyone else.

I went into this movie really knowing the bare minimum other than “generally gritty sci-fi action post-apocalyptic excitement” – which I think helped greatly so I could get caught up in the ride, so to speak. I don’t actually want to spoil the movie with plot points, which is why I’m keeping this review fairly vague (if you’d like to read more specific/spoil-y stuff, then Rotten Tomatoes has all you need, and the Filmspotting podcast has a good spoilerish discussion). Here’s some awesome stuff that might entice you:
– Gritty underbelly of the lower class
– Dystopian future
– Humans fucking shit up for themselves and each other in big ways
– The fight for equality
– Weird protein blocks to chow down on
– How the hell does life on a constantly moving train work anyhow
– Intense and crowded fight scenes
– General ultraviolence
– Getting attached to characters when maybe you shouldn’t
– Set/costume design and direction that make sci-fi a pleasure to watch, and you’re never taken out of the atmosphere that’s generated by that.
If any of this sounds awesome to you, you’ll be enthralled and entertained with Snowpiercer, and I encourage you to check it out on the big screen if you can! It was so, so good and I want to watch it again to revel in the detail/build up of story.

TCAF 2014 Wrap Up!

This past weekend was the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)! Held for free at the Toronto Reference Library (with some off-site events), it’s a veritable cornucopia of incredible talent. In addition to artists and publishers having stalls in the Reference Library, there’s also a buttload of workshops, panels & events to attend if you feel so inclined. I always try to get to some of the events each year just to hear people talk about the awesome stuff they create.

Lynn Johnston's TCAF poster 2014

Lynn Johnston’s TCAF poster 2014

Opening night was “Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton, In Conversation”, a discussion moderated by Raina Telgemeier. Lynn Johnson created For Better or For Worse – I don’t know if this was ever syndicated in Australia, because I don’t recall reading it growing up. It was interesting to hear Lynn speak about her work, being in newspapers, and of her place in the industry when it was far more male-dominated than now, and the way she just kinda trucked through it dealing with it in a kind of “give as good as you get” mentality. This was in contrast to Kate Beaton’s career now, which is very internet-centric, instant gratification, and not without issues surrounding sexism being a female creator. I really enjoyed hearing the both of them talk about their creative process, their influences, and in particular what from their own lives influences their comics (be it in a roundabout way for Johnson, or a direct autobio way for Beaton). A fantastic and entertaining way to spend an evening listening to two fantastic Canadian creators!

At the #TCAF kickoff event! In conversation with Lynn Johnson and Kate Beaton (@beatonna).

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Saturday morning I decided to hit up some panels, as most of the rest of the day’s lineup didn’t interest me so much. First thing was a ‘draw-off’ between comic artists Jeremy Sorese (Little Heart), Liz Prince (Alone Forever), Britt Wilson (The Greatest Book On Earth), Joey Weiser (Mermin), plus two audience volunteers. Pictionary-style, one member of a team drew from a prompt (some kind of movie genre) and their team had to guess what it was. There was a lot of awesome creativity on show considering the 3-minute sketching limit! It’s really fun to watch people sketch on the fly like this. Here’s Britt Wilson & Liz Prince during their rounds (road trip and tearjerker were their prompts):

Britt Wilson kicks off the draw-off panel at #TCAF!

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Liz Prince's contribution to the draw-off! This is fun to watch. #TCAF

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Next panel (in the same room which became inexplicably hot) was “What Do Women Want? Writing Comics for a Female Audience” – moderated by Chromatic Press’ Editor Lianne Sentar, and with creators Laura Lee Gulledge (Page by Paige), Kate Leth (Adventure Time), Joan Reilly (The Big Feminist BUT), and Noelle Stevenson (LumberJanes) in the spotlight. This panel was full to bursting with amazing ladies from the industry with excellent perspectives. I liked a lot of the input the moderator Lianne had to the conversation, but unfortunately her moderation wasn’t too structured – the discussion flowed naturally, but much of what could have been discussed was covered only briefly or not at all. That’s not to say that the discussion wasn’t interesting, however! Lots of talk about male versus female gaze, females as consumers and a demographic, the portrayal of women characters in comics, and the like. Kate Leth is so smart, and dang articulate and knowledgeable, about this stuff!

There was a bit of discussion towards the end about what drove the people on the panel to create the titles they have, and it was great to hear the varied perspectives, because that means that there’s an enriched diversity of comics out there for female-identified audiences (especially younger ones!). I liked what Noelle Stevenson had to say about content – basically, not to shy away from things that have been typically portrayed as masculine (violence, for instance), but include those as well as more emotive stuff; this came up in a discussion of characters as well, that we need more female characters of all persuasions to balance out the inequity currently in comics. I’m really glad I sat in on this panel – while I haven’t done a great job at recapping it, there was a lot of inspiring stuff being discussed. It made me go in search of The Big Feminist BUT, too! I already read the Adventure Time and Lumberjanes titles & love them to bits. The panelists:

Time for the writing comics for a female audience panel! What a hugely awesome line up. #TCAF

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After the panels, I went into the Reference Library to browse. It was overwhelmingly crowded. And, I know how busy it gets, but it was a big mass of people to walk through, gosh… Downstairs it was really tough to get close to a lot of tables (like, three people deep). Luckily in the upstairs section there was a capacity limit, so once you lined up to get into that room it was much more manageable to browse.

Going to panels first means #TCAF exhibition hall is now crowd level: my worst nightmare. Oof.

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Despite the hard work of browsing, I ended up picking up some totally rad stuff, primarily from female creators. I can’t wait to dig into the books! I had a quick flip through the Pugs Guide to Etiquette already and have read Cat People and I LOVE THEM. PS. I also flipped out when I realized the creator of Perry Bible Fellowship was there and had this strip (Unicorn Power) for sale, which is Adam’s most favourite. He even has the shirt.

My #TCAF haul! A lot of great stuff. Lots of female creators too, which is heartening. #comics

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In the evening was a screening of the Killing, prefaced by a discussion between Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Fatale) and Darwyn Cooke (Parker, Selina’s Big Score), hosted by guest interviewer Cameron Ashley (Crime Factor). They (mostly) discussed the noir genre & their interest in it, especially from a professional standpoint. They went off on tangents an awful lot, but at least it was entertaining. And the movie was really good! A little dated, but an excellent heist movie, and tense. I’d have never guessed it was a Kubrick.

Q&A with Brubaker and Cooke before Kubrick's 'The Killing'. #TCAF

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I had to get on with weekend-y stuff on Sunday mostly, but I did meet up with my sweetie to sit in on the Adventure Time panel at the end of the day. Michael DeForge, Becky Driesdadt, Kate Leth, Jesse Moynihan, and Ryan North were all on the panel, a mix of folks who work on the comics and on the show, moderated by Frank Gibson. First of all they had a Pictionary-style draw-off:

Kate Leth draws #TCAF as a prompt at the Adventure Time draw off / panel. #adventuretime

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Then it was time for audience questions. The perspective between the comics and show folks was an interesting one, especially when talking about creative control, and how much stories are planned out / tie into the other formats. What a lovely bunch of folks, and a nice way to end the festival!

See you again next year, TCAF – may I have more savings to spend, and more energy to navigate crowds/go to all the panels!

Hot Docs reviews – Part #1

I’m seeing 4 films at this year’s festival (much lower than previous years!). Here’s my reviews of what I saw last weekend – and I have two more coming up this weekend.

Aaron Swartz - photo credit Hot Docs site.

Aaron Swartz – photo credit Hot Docs site.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (website) 4.5/5 stars

Aaron Swartz’s death was huge news last year. I had never heard his name until that point, and reading around after the news broke I was surprised that I hadn’t – Swartz was an instrumental figure in internet circles and Hacktivism, and his influence was far and wide. This doco primes the viewer with a pretty decent look at his history – from a young age he was a bright and articulate kid, and became enthusiastic about programming during his childhood – which led to him taking part in major projects from his early teens (he was one of the authors of  RSS at 14! FOURTEEN.) His intelligence and natural abilities meant he enrolled in college early and it brought him into a world of budding possibilities for what could be created for the use of the internet. It was fascinating to see how much he’d taken part in during his very short life – co-creating Reddit,  Creative Commons licensing  and much more – in addition to becoming heavily involved in internet activism and a leader in the anti-SOPA movement.

Swartz moved from creating products to working on creating positive experiences; for everyone to be able to use the internet and access information freely. He was dogged in his pursuit of this, and unfortunately it contributed to his demise – but by no fault of his own. He created a script that could access the journal archive JSTOR and download articles – he set up a computer at MIT to do this, and was found out and arrested for it. Mind you, there was no sensitive/non-public information stolen, he was not seeking to profit from this – he just wanted the information to be free. The charges brought against him and the surveillance by the FBI wore him down. Eventually after charges were revised to include many felonies and he faced 35 years in prison, he took his own life.

This documentary really set up his story in a powerful way – it would be hard to doubt that, despite his idiosyncrasies and personal difficulties at times, he was well loved by those he interacted with. Colleagues, friends, lovers – everyone admired his spirit and the work he did. (I encourage you to read what Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow wrote about him after his death.) Everyone knew that all Swartz wanted was to make the world a better and fairer place. It was heartwrenching to see overblown and malicious criminal charges – undisputed by MIT (their calling for charges to be lessened or dropped could have ended everything) – bring someone who was so bright with such potential down into such a dark place. It was an emotional documentary at the end, but also overall a fascinating look into Swartz’s life. The interviews and clips used were edited together expertly to tell his story with a very passionate tone; my only gripe is that it could have been more tightly edited to bring it down to 1.5 hours or less. I hope that those he influenced can take up his work and fight for the causes he was working for. I encourage everyone who is interested in technology, the internet and the freedom of information to see this documentary.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks – photo credit Hot Docs

The Way of All Flesh 3 / 5 stars

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Henrietta Lacks, I would encourage you to try and track this doco down – it may be online somewhere, as it was made in 1997, and it’s just under an hour long. (I hadn’t realized it was part of a retrospective when I got my ticket, but it was still very interesting!). Putting aside the age of the interviews and quality of the film, the information presented was very interesting. Henrietta Lacks died in hospital in 1951 – before her death, cancerous cells were removed from her cervix and cultivated in a lab (without her family’s knowledge or permission). This cell line became known as HeLa and have been used in labs for cell biology ever since. The way her cells transformed knowledge about cell biology and cancer was instrumental – but certainly the ethics behind how they were procured were not sound; this doc also briefly covers racial issues tied to the use of her cells without permission. Her family was finally notified and Henrietta received recognition, but far too late. A very interesting case of medical ethics – one would wonder what turn medical history might have taken had her cells not be sampled and kept alive to this day. Ultimately, I wish this documentary had delved deeper – but I suppose the timing of interviews etc in the late 90s was right considering when the cells were taken and when the research was taking place.

Things I love Thursday – getting back into the swing of it.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit here and there as far as a routine for me. There hasn’t been much time for regular posts except maybe for the TILT ones. I think I will hold off on the Digital Dozens for the next little while to give myself some space to post about some other stuff in the meantime as inspiration strikes.

For instance, about.. Hot Docs!! One of my favourite film festivals. We didn’t get a pass this year because we couldn’t justify the time/money cost, but I’ll be seeing 4 films which I’m excited about. Tonight I’ll be going to see The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron SwartzI may do wrap-ups as the festival goes, or one reivew post at the end. We shall see.

I love to drink hard cider. Especially as it’s warming up. And especially Angry Orchard, which we can’t find here in Ontario – so we drank a bunch while we were in Niagara Falls NY, and brought some home to Toronto! Mmmm. Apple ginger is my fave.

As much as I loved being away for the Gathering of Friends, it’s nice to be back at home in my own bed, my own space, with my wee family. Although I don’t think things will be any less busy for the next little while, I still have home as my oasis. The upcoming search for a new place to live come June stresses me a little in this respect, because there is imminent upheaval.. I just have to hope our new place will be as homey!

I love Apiecalypse Now bakery! It’s easy to on a Thursday, when they open for the weekend and are posting pictures of all the treats.. mmm. But also, I love that I can buy ready-meals from them that are made with care, that are delicious, have fun labels, and that also benefit some charities! Like the delicious BBQ soy ‘pulled pork’ I grabbed out of the freezer for sammies earlier this week – a portion of the proceeds went to  sponsoring Joachim the pig at Cedar Row Sanctuary! If only I hadn’t missed all the Easter goodies last weekend. Read an awesome review over here.

Photo credit: Apiecalypse Jen.

 

What are you loving today, internet friends?

Miss Representation – a documentary mini-review

The other day I watched the documentary Miss Representation – from their site, “the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Thefilm challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”

I usually don’t see a lot of advertising other than in print – I don’t watch commercial TV, so really all I see is the stuff before films at the cinema. But just the other day I was outraged by the ridiculous portrayal of a woman vs a man in this super gross X-Men tie-in ad for a Carl’s Jnr burger (not to mention the whole sexualization of meat issue..). I can understand that companies need to advertise, but what I can’t abide by is how frequently advertising looks like this. It frustrates me that tactics like this exist, and persist. This is just one drop in a huge bucket of offensive advertising/media.

The documentary speaks to this issue quite a bit – the portrayal of women in order to sell to men is so woven into media advertising, and it’s even become par for the course in how TV shows are produced in order to support that advertising. It’s interesting (and yes, frustrating) to see the statistics and people talking about this issue, as well as more broadly the portrayal of women in news media as well as TV/movies/print. They speak with some very savvy teenage girls & boys, as well as interviewing a range of academics & people from the industry – men and women.

Of course, the picture it paints is not a great one. Media has shaped the way that women see themselves, and the way that they see each other – not to mention how they’re viewed by men. I’m a 34 year old woman who still can’t get past the fact that I inherently feel like I should have a flat stomach and no love handles, so I understand what sort of affect this can have on a person. I think it’s even more overwhelming for teenagers and young adults now, though.

While the film is fairly blatant and doesn’t sugar-coat, it does also look at some aspiring ways that young people are trying to take charge and change the status quo. Young women who are trying to be leaders, even though society tells them they shouldn’t (even in the most subtle ways). Teenagers who are calling bullshit on the ways women are portrayed in the media. The movement that the film is trying to create with ideas like #notbuyingit, and the push for media literacy for not just young people, but everyone.

If I had the skills, I think I’d be crusading for media literacy, myself. By not passively dismissing some form of media (be it news, advertising, entertainment) and questioning it to understand the motives and how it represents, we can challenge stereotypes and harmful messages that have been driven home for years in damaging ways. This documentary is a great start towards understanding that, and the implications of mis-representations in media. I encourage you all to check it out, and especially watch it with the youth in your life – or encourage them to! Watch the trailer below, see if there’s a screening near you, or catch it on Netflix like I did.

A long time ago, we used to be friends.

Last year, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter to raise $2 million dollars so he could make a movie to wrap up the story of our favourite teenage detective. They exceeded that expectation & then some, raiding over $5.5 million, with almost 100,000 backers. I didn’t back the project because I wasn’t financially able to back then, but at the rate it was quickly funded, I knew I could spend my dollars in the cinema this year. And that I did! A few months ago I decided to start rewatching the series along with Adam, who’d never seen it. We got through season 1, and then Parks & Recreation took over our viewing lives – oops! So we did the highlights of season 2, and then got about halfway through season 3. (It didn’t end up affecting Adam’s viewing of the movie too much). So come last Thursday, I was pretty excited to get to the cinema and see what Veronica and her Scoobies (see what I did there?) had been up to. 

So far, the ratings have been pretty decent. You can read some reviews here to compare to mine, which is more of a personal reactions/thoughts compilation and entirely biased by me being a huge fan of the show. Here’s a good one at Wired,  and a couple at the Mary Sue – one from a newbie, and one from a fan. [Edited to add an excellent review from Linda Holmes at NPR that covers many issues I have.] Naturally all have spoilers. Which reminds me –

In case you haven’t seen the movie and care about these sorts of things, I will be talking about spoilers below, so don’t scroll beyond the pretty picture! You’ve been warned.

9 years after we left her in California, Veronica Mars is finishing up her law degree in NYC, about to take the bar. She’s got some fancy career prospects on the line, and lives with her boyfriend Piz who’s now working for NPR. Peachy keen and hunky dory! Then her stupid butt ex-boyfriend Logan gets accused of murder (again.. yep!) and she’s drawn back to Neptune to initially “help him find a good lawyer” but instead ends up slipping into those old comfortable PI shoes (to go with the comfy nostalgic purse we see reappear) and staying longer and longer to help Logan, disappointing Piz to the point of him breaking up with her (not to mention blowing a job offer in a huge way). This was one of the big disappointments of the movie for me – not that I can’t buy Veronica is obsessed with the investigating, and to another extent Logan, but that Piz really got the raw end of the deal with losing the woman he loves – and her not seeming too heartbroken over it, honestly. That’s a bummer. But I guess I’m just “Team Piz” and not “Team Obligatory Psychotic Jackass” 😉 Beyond this, I’m Team Veronica – and although she admits that the life of a PI is obsessive and she’s an addict, I think a lot of her decision to eventually stay in Neptune was also due to her reconnecting with Logan. I wish it’d been a decision without involving either Piz or Logan, but then where would the romantic drama be, eh?

Beyond this, I really enjoyed the movie. It was a great old-school mystery with many layers, as VMars plotlines have always tended to be – and Veronica latches on, gets in deep and won’t stop until she reaches the conclusion. Of course, it’s complicated because Logan has been implicated in the murder of his girlfriend. That guy just trails tragedy ’round, eh? Helpfully, this coincides with the Neptune High 10 year reunion! Lots of familiar faces all around. This is where a lot of nostalgia (and a heaping of fan service) comes in – it’s basically watching a bumper episode of VMars rather than a movie that stands on its own. I kept thinking about how the tv series & movie relate to each other and how a VMars newbie might interact with the movie & its tone (knowledge of the characters being implicit to understanding their relevance of appearing). It reminds me a lot of how Serenity followed Firefly – and how so many people saw & loved Serenity as its own thing, and then sought out Firefly to watch afterward.

As a low-ish budget movie, this did feel like TV made big rather than cinema. But that didn’t lessen my enjoyment in the least. At every appearance of a familiar face, no matter how little their role, I felt joy and connection to the story of old and the one I was currently watching. I loved seeing where Wallace & Mac were at, and that they are still so close to Veronica – Wallace’s reactions to Veronica asking for help were priceless. It was amazing how Dick is the same person, and was hilarious comic relief (along with James Franco’s terrific cameo). When Veronica visits Leo, my head just about burst with how awesome their interaction was (Leo’s SASS!!). Madison Sinclair getting her stupid face punched. Veronica schooling Cliff on law! Principal Van Clemmons, bless his face. There were a lot of HOLY SHIT moments, like Deputy Sacks 😦 And WEEVIL 😦 😦 The shock of Keith being only just pulled out of the car accident. Gia being shot. Oh my gosh. I’m also still trying to get over the weirdness of Logan in that uniform..

I really loved the little throwaway mention from Leo that he thought Veronica had joined the FBI – definitely fan service there, considering the context – this ‘trailer’ for Season 4 of Veronica Mars, the ‘FBI years’, which of course was never realised due to the show being cancelled. In another life, indeed.

Veronica’s sarcasm and fierce personality were still on fire here, despite coming 9 years on from when we saw her last – I appreciated that. I appreciate that she admits she’s flawed but she just wants to do what is right. I think that if she’s working with her Dad again – and maybe Mac?! – with the benefit of some life experience and amazing law school education, she’s gonna be brilliant. I suppose we’ll see.  The movie gives an overall sense of foreboding as far as the feeling of Neptune – cops planting evidence, lots of corruption, rich kids still in a position to get away with shit. This didn’t wrap up neatly – I can see they’re maybe angling for a follow up movie to deal with the corruption in the Sherriff’s office, considering Weevil’s bad turn at the end. As damaging as it might be for her personally, Veronica’s choice to stay in Neptune at Mars Investigations will likely be better for Neptune overall. (And maybe, just maybe.. we can get a sense of how Duncan’s doing with his daughter Lilly? There’s got to be a way he and Veronica have kept in touch.. )

I am really itching to rewatch this as soon as possible, to relish in the details, as well as finish up season 3!