QuikReview: Alfred the Great


When making an epic, several ingredients are absolutely necessary. One of them is faces that look authentic for your era and location, or which, in a pinch, just look authentically something. Another is a slightly ponderous style which modern-day Hollywood has forgotten. Long takes in the middle or far distance are essential, especially long takes with a moving camera and natural lighting (nice scenery is a plus). Then you need actors who can hold up to this style, maintaining their poise and staying in-character through extended moments of silence. If they can continue to actually act during those pauses, so much the better. Then, a script of the sort which must be enunciated clearly and with good diction. A really great soundtrack is an absolute must. Quite important is color and set dressing. Historical accuracy is not all that important.

This movie scores highly but not perfectly in almost all categories. It’s soundtrack is not particularly great (in fact it’s barely there at all), and the script has occasional clunky stretches which no amount of dignified, clever diction can save. Otherwise, I give it an 8/10. All the faces are well-cast and suited to their roles, the actors commit to their lines; the camera moves slowly and smoothly; costumes and sets are convincingly medieval without being uniformly muck-brown (thank God.) I’m not really worked up over this movie, but it’s worth a watch and perhaps a rewatch.


Oh, that’s neat. The first battle is set at the the Uffington White Horse!

Alfred to his father-in-law: “If you try to run away, I shall have you executed.”
Father-in-law: “By God…ah think ye mean it! [to self, rubbing chin]…but that’s if he can find me…”

As total burns go, “The son she bore you calls him father,” has got to be one of the worst there is.

Hey….is that Michael York under that moustache?


If you need one character to give a lengthy monologue to empty space to make their feelings clear to the audience, your script isn’t good enough.

There’s a pitiful lack of wild-haired savage sidekicks in fiction these days. Wild-haired savage sidekicks are the best.

Rated: An tara an tara tan!

Is it for a school project? Readlist

ING TO WRITE A SENTENCE HERE. GODDAMN. cover-a-regular-rafael-grampa-red-smoke-cover


– The Last Days of Henry VII – Robert Hutchinson

– Cannibalism, Headhunting, and Human Sacrifice in North America: a History Forgotten – George Franklin Feldman

– Before the Golden Age – (SF anthology) edited by Isaac Asimov

– BRZRKR – Matt Kindt “and” Keanu Reaves. (I mean, it’s a comic book. I have low expectations, and they were pleasantly met. Also, I’d like to be up to speed on the story when Keanu stars in the film version.)


– ….so somehow I stumbled over the Russian TV miniseries Sophia, which is a dramatization of the life of Sophia Palaiologina (niece of the last Byzantine emperor, who married the first tsar / Grand Prince of Rus / Duke of Moscovy). Watching historical drama in a foreign language is so much less painful than watching it in English.

– Now that Easter season is over, I’m going to take another crack at Risen.

– Wheelman – that movie with Frank Grillo and he’s in a car all the time OH FUCK YOU WORDPRESS I AM TRY

Marnie – Winston Graham – Book Review (repost)

Marnie is a 1961 novel by Winston Graham (no, I’ve never heard of him, either) which was adapted into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock (who does sound familiar) in 1964. The movie met mixed success, despite starring Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren. The book apparently has been mostly forgotten.

The book is way better than the movie. I know, shocking.

Plot: Margaret “Marnie” Elmer, an attractive, intelligent, perceptive young woman, steals money from the companies she has worked for to support her crippled, widowed mother. She’s done three so far and is confident in her abilities to lie as readily to her employers as to her mother, but taking a job as cashier to [COMPANY] turns out to be the step too far.

Marnie is twisted–although not lacking in empathy, she is remote and distant enough that it might as well be the case. On this job, however, she starts to connect with people, interacts with people (especially: male people), and this starts to change: she has conversations, makes friends, and the firm’s part-owners, Mark Rutland and Terry Holbrook, take an interest in her. Terry is an affable slimeball, but Mark is a gentleman–and also sincerely in love with Marnie. Enough to cover for her when she makes her move, search when she disappears, haul her back by the ear, and….

….blackmail her into marrying him.

Mark’s also an idiot, because he thinks that this will all work out fine, somehow.

Marnie, however, has what TVTROPES helpfully categorizes as Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality. She goes absolutely berserk at the thought of consummating the marriage, a state of affairs which continues through the honeymoon until Mark gets fed up and–Trigger Warning–rapes her. (He apologizes after.)

He also insists that she see a psychiatrist.

Marnie’s sparring with the psychiatrist, with Mark, with Terry (who is smart enough to suspect something is up with his partner’s new wife when it’s that bloody obvious), her alternating escape plans and tentative efforts to acclimatize herself to her situation–and efforts to find a new source of cash to bring home to Mother–take most of the novel’s second half.  Despite heroic efforts of resistance on Marnie’s part, the good doctor makes some progress at helping her realize that she really is missing something: there are in her past events that don’t add up, memories that can’t be real, wrong dates, unlikely coincidences. It takes genuine tragedy to make the breakthrough, but, finally, at the extreme end, Marnie finds the key to it all….

The end reveal is different in the novel than the film (again, the film was dumbed down a lot), enough so that I didn’t expect and won’t spoil it here. In the movie, the issues are resolved by a chat with Mother and a good cry, and Marnie is now at peace with Mark and mankind. (Or, er, humankind.) Here…the reveal doesn’t so much show all to the audience as it does give Marnie the tools she needs to understand what others have told her about herself: that she isn’t evil or crazy–just, in a highly specific and also harmful way, sick.

Marnie finds this knowledge, Mark’s support, and her own newfound awareness, empowering enough to walk through a door and face down her enemies at the cliffhanger climax of the novel. We don’t know if Marnie will go to jail after all, but now she has the stability to handle a trial, and is able to accept Mark’s love (no, his feelings) at last.

The book, which is first person, is primarily a character study of Marnie…and she’s a fascinating character. She lies easily and smoothly. She can remember the day and hour she decided to steal for the first time. She loves her mother, but also somewhat despises her. She loves her horse. She’s extremely intelligent, good with numbers, a quick learner at whatever she turns her hand to. She was raised in poverty by a poorly educated and unintelligent woman with a twisted view of the world.  And Marnie was twisted by that worldview, shaped by it, and yet grew up all right mostly, except for the few little parts in her that bent a little too far out of shape and broke.

Mark is an interesting character well, although as the novel wears on, Marnie’s loathing for him does not diminish, and his patience never fails, he does strain credulity. The version of him played by Sean Connery is actually quite good, either because Connery’s charisma pulls it off, or because he does lose his temper occasionally.

Terry Holbrook, a book-only character, is someone who might have been excellent when  played by George Saunders. My exact notes on Terry state: “affably despicable when he’s bad, affably smug when he’s being nice.” Marnie headbutting him in the nose was a definite high point for the book and his character. Focusing the book more on corporate intrigue, backstabbing, and blackmail, would have been interesting. A different book entirely, but interesting. In the movie, Terry’s character is converted into Mark’s jealous step-sister, Lil Mainwaring, either because Diane Baker was more photogenic or Saunders was too expensive.

What else do I have to say about this….Oh yes. So I’m working on a thesis that the difference between an OK work and a great one is: horses. Fort Dobbs? Last Train from Gun Hill? No focus on horses, and they’re…OK at best. Quantez? With a comparable cast, budget, and script, + horses? It’s much better than OK. Maybe not “great”, but very good. The Subtle Knife books? OK but then sharply declining in quality: no horses. Narnia? Not only horses, but Talking Horses; a classic. The Dragaera novels? No horses. The hero even has to do his wandering the earth on foot. They absolutely don’t hold up to re-reads. Lord of the Rings? You have Bill the Pony, the entire country of Rohan, and Shadowfax. LOTR is a seminal work on which the entire modern fantasy genre is based. The Blue Sword? It’s literally swords-and-horses fantasy and it won the Newberry. (…a blue ribbon…?) So. Yeah, um, back to the topic.

Marnie’s love for her horse, Forio, is one of the most human things about her, and the thing that motivates her the most. A reviewer elsewhere derided Marnie’s going to an injured Forio first, instead of her husband, as evidence of a terrible person, and as  unrealistic. That reviewer has obviously never owned a horse before, or heard one screaming.

Anything else…Well, Marnie is an excellent narrator. Objectively, she’s a terrible person–a liar, impersonal, resentful, a thief–but from the inside she’s understandable and even sympathetic. Her steps toward finding her own identity, settling into the role and community of “Mrs. Rutland” are actually rather heartwarming to read.

And I’m out of things to say about this book, except that I was up until about 1:53 a.m. reading it.

Rated: Five stolen payrolls out of five.

Desiree (1954) – Movie Review

desiree-movie-poster-1954-1020524669TLDR: it’s a historical romance about the sister-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte. And that’s basically it, aside from a couple of accents on the e‘s.

So! It seems, on first viewing, to be a promising true-to-life tale. Historically, Desiree’s sister Julie married Joseph Bonaparte, eventually becoming Queen of Spain (temporarily); Desiree and Napoleon were engaged to be married but then he threw her over for Josephine….which, given Napoleon’s luck and Josephine’s, turned out to be all for the best as far as Desiree was concerned. She married a Marshal Bernadotte and somehow therefore ended up as Queen of Sweden.

And basically that’s the plot. The problem is, the movie follows Desiree, who (historically) was painfully uninterested in politics…and, unfortunately, so is this movie. There are no battles, no intrigues, no duels, and critically, no suspense and no action. And, actually, damn little melodrama, too. Historically, there doesn’t seem to have been much romantic tension continuing between her and her famous brother-in-law. In this movie, however…Which is weird, given that this is a frickin’ historical romance, hello. Normally this  would put this movie squarely into the BORING, Turn It Off category for me. And, um, well, it kind of did. I gave up about an hour and a half in (when Desiree leaves Sweden and returns to France and I had to take my laundry out of the washer) and skipped to the end.

What the movie lives or dies on is its style, its actors, their chemistry, the script and how well they deliver their lines. Well, the style–cinematography, costumes, sets, etc–is fine. The script is also fine. It even has occasional clever moments that made me laugh out loud, so props for that.

So, what about the actors?


Marlon Brando enunciates his lines with some intensity but without a whole lot of effort….and yet also without affectation. It’s an acting style that has sadly gone out of style, along with long, wide or medium shots that require actors to stay in character and, y’know, act for more than .02 seconds at a time. Apparently Brando didn’t think much of this movie or his performance in it, but, who cares? He’s young, handsome, and he did well enough. The other male lead, Michael Rennie, is incredibly tall (he was 6’4 and visibly towers over the other characters, including Brando), extremely aquiline, superbly congenial, and considerably handsome. Neither his role nor the script requires much from him, but when you’re the heroic figure–as Bernadotte kind of was historically, or at least, someone who ended up powerful, respected, and on the winning side–there’s a certain square-jawed stiffness to be expected.

Jean Simmons is perhaps the most theatrical of the entire cast: her naive and passionate Desiree has no guile, no cunning, and no brain-mouth filter; but she has a genuine sweetness and this, plus her complete earnestness–and utter commitment to the role–makes it far less annoying than it could be. As a melodramatic heroine, she’s also…fine. She sweeps, sobs, declaims, and flings herself about with great proficiency. Merle Oberon has the more thankless role as Josephine. Oberon is in heavy makeup and somewhat past her prime–as suits her character, who was six years older than Napoleon. Actually she has a fairly tiny part, but never mind, she’s still good.

And, lest we forget, this movie is a hell of a lot better than its equivalent would be if it were made in the modern time. Still, all in all, as much as I like Michael Rennie, this one is not a keeper.

Some of the best lines:
– “Oh no, General. It wouldn’t do. You can see for yourself–not that you’re too old for me…it’s that I’m much too short for you.”
– “Sire…it is about the virgins.”
“What about them?”
None can be found at court.”
(slightly puzzled but mostly annoyed) “….why must we have them?”
– And then, there’s also Bernadotte’s magnificent put-down to Napoleon: “Would you make me a greater man than yourself–by obliging me to refuse a crown?”

Rated: It’s fine.

Mistress Wilding – Rafael Sabatini (repost review)

Mistress Wilding by Rafael Sabatini, hardcover with dustjacket

There’s just something about swashing buckles that hits the spot. This is why Captain Blood, Sea Hawk, Scaramouche, The Three Musketeers, and their lesser children–like Pirates of the Carribbean–exist. Rafael Sabatini might not have been the first, but he is the best of the best. And with the best you get cunning heroes, ravishing heroines, billowing sails, cannonade, heaving bosoms, cutlasses, sabers, rapiers, flintlocks, the high seas, highwaymen, and those really nice lace cravats.

Unfortunately, Mistress Wilding isn’t one of the best. It isn’t even in the top ten.

Its cast is simple:
– Ruth Westmacott-slash-Wilding, who is wonderful, gentle, rich, beautiful, and rich, and also beautiful, while furthermore beautiful and slightly spineless.
– Richard Westmacott: who is worthless.
– Rowland Blake: who is also worthless, and after Ruth’s money.
– Ruth’s Cousin Diana: who is jealous of Rowland Blake, and the second most proactive character in the novel.
– Anthony Wilding: who is the hero.
– Nick Trenchard: who is the hero’s psycho sidekick, the most proactive character in the novel, and the guy who actually disposes of the villain while the hero is making out with his wife.
– Some other people.

Its plot is likewise simple:
– Richard’s life is in danger (due to him having insulted Wilding)! Ruth must appeal to Wilding to save him. Wilding saves Richard, at the price of Ruth and Wilding getting married.
– Part 2: Richard’s life is in danger (due to him trying to backstab Wilding)! Ruth must appeal to Wilding to save him. Wilding saves Richard, and then has to run for it.
– Part 3: Wilding joins the Duke of Monmouth, but the rebellion is doomed to failure. This part is quite boring. No heaving bosoms at all.
– Part 4: Wilding’s life is in danger (due to Richard being part of a plot against the Duke)! Ruth must save him! Woo, a plot twist! Then Wilding saves the Duke.
– Part 5: Ruth’s life is in danger; Wilding gallops madly after to save Ruth! Surely there will be bloodshed this time, our gallant hero will seize the villain who rode off with the lady over his saddlebow…wait, no fight? More talk?
– Richard betrays Wilding. Oh no, who could have seen that one coming?
Wilding is sentenced to be shot! But he’s given one minute to reconcile with Ruth! She luvs him! Woo, finally! And then he’s marched out to be shot, but, y’know.
…marched out to be stood up in front of a ditch. In the dark night. While wearing black. Um….
– Part 6: The Duke of Monmouth loses the war while Wilding is getting a shower and a nap. (Captain Blood is meanwhile gearing up for his adventures, I take it.)
Nick arrives to fetch Wilding so they can commence getting the hell out of Dodge. Wilding has a better idea! Involving…his boots?
– Part 7 : What the hell is Rowland still doing at the Westmacott house? He straight-up assault-kidnapped Ruth!? A dramatic entrance! Horay!
“Sir, had I a man at hand to make you regret that insult!”
“Madam, that man is here.”
So Wilding’s cunning plan was to take the secret letter in his boot to the King’s agent and thus become the King’s very own best friend. And to think that until now he’s been the only character to not betray or turn aside from his actual loyalty to the Duke. He and Ruth are reconciled and prepare to go home, but the matter of Rowland and his (repeated) insult to Ruth…
is conducted off-screen, by his sidekick.
Not only is there no battle, no duels, and no fights, there isn’t even a climactic fight to end the book?

All in all, this is one of Sabatini’s much lesser efforts. There is no (nil) on-screen action, tedious interludes, and the weakest (Ruth) or least likeable (Richard, Monmouth) characters are much in the fore. This isn’t to say that they’re all bad: I liked Diana, who at least knows what she wants and how to get it, and I liked Nick, who just keeps being thwarted in his efforts to do the smart thing and eliminate his buddy’s troubles at the source. But Wilding himself, while in some ways an exemplar of swashbuckler/pulp heroes in the charisma and charm department, lacks the brawn to back up his reputed brains; he’s too undisciplined in any area that involves Ruth, and frankly tends to slither in and out of situations without any real effort.

Ruth herself isn’t perhaps so much spineless as unable to act without outside prodding, usually from Diana, and just seems to have no real influence on anyone (other than Wilding) when she does. And, to cut her just a little more slack, this might not be a problem if she, say, tried and once, but when she’s dragged/pushed/rushes into a court of law for the third freaking time for pretty muchly the exact same reason as the first, it’s clearly a problem of the author and not the character.

Rated: Two heaving bosoms out of five. A decent romance, but a poor swashbuckler.

The Prince Commands – Andre Norton (Repost)

“Did you know Andre Norton wrote historical and alternate history, too?”
“Yeah, she wrote a couple of Civil War novels, and this one I got at the giant booksale last year. It’s really nice. It’s like a boy’s adventure story. It’s awesome!”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about a secret heir to the throne, and bandits, and cavalry charges, and secret passwords–and horses–y’know, more books ought to have horses. That’s the reason fantasy literature has declined, it’s ’cause they don’t have enough cool horses in them. Or dogs. There should be more dog books. And, oh, there’s winning your spurs, and, oh, oh, oh, fighting Communists! And it’s really nice. It’s a good book.”
“It has Communists?”
“Yeah, they came in from Russia and set up shop and tried to overthrow the old King, but everybody is actually really lotal to the monarchy and just laughed at them until they assassinated him, but that actually backfired on them and they had to go underground then.”
“They came from Russia? This isn’t science fiction?”
“No, it’s set in Prisoner of Zenda-land. You know, somewhere in eastern Europe, still got a King and an Archbishop and a cathedral, people still ride horses, there’s only one airplane in the whole country–”
“Andre Norton wrote this?”
“Yep! And it’s a really good book! The hero is like, just a boy and then he shows his worth and wins his spurs and becomes Prince–”
“That’s a ripoff. He should become King. That’s the Zelazny way. Cheating your hero out of their comeuppance so you can use them in more books. Andre Norton was trying to set up a sequel.”
“No! He wasn’t the first heir! They had him concealed in America and he was kept ignorant of his heritage, but then the Council tried to assassinate the real heir, and then they needed a puppet in a hurry so they called him in and bandits attack the train and he escapes. And then he has adventures. And they’re fun and exciting and…see, the foreward to the book is her talking about how she wrote it for a kid she knew. And it shows, because she wrote this book to be a good book for that kid to read. So it’s completely exciting and completely interesting and completely wholesome and worthwhile. It’s a really good book! I like it a lot.
“A sequel would have been nice, though.”

Why no, I do not have enough books

Shane – Jack Schaeffer
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Space Opera – Jack Vance
The Weapon Shops of Isher – A. E. Van Vogt
Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset
Drowned Ammet – Diana Wynne Jones
Shogun – James Clavell
Isle of the Dead – Roger Zelazny
Cheaper by the Dozen – Frank Gilbreth & Earnestine Gilbreth Carey
Earth’s Last Citadel – C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner
Byron’s Poetical Works
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope
The Gripping Hand – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Retief At Large – Keith Laumer
Scaramouche – Rafael Sabatini
Mattimeo – Brian Jacques
Pasture Management for Horses and Ponies – Gillian McCarthy
Life in Ancient Egypt – Adolf Erman
Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

Not bad for $19!

The Song of Glory – Episode 4 Recap

SoGe4 So we start off in the throne room at a meeting, and they’ve just gotten to the “Any Other Business? No, good, because I need a drink, anyone else up?” part when someone actually does come up with some other business. To whit: the stuff with the military stuff last episode. So the army ordered three boats’ worth of arrowheads, but somehow five boats turned up.

Lord Lu eyeing the guy who said it, heh.

It’s a ruse. They’re pinning the blame on the guy in charge of the armory–the one who immediately spilled the beans on Lord Lu!–and trying to take the heat off LL so he’ll relax, or something. Right? Well, that’s Prince Peng Chang’s plan, it seems like but–Oh, no, HAH–Hat Guy says that Lord Lu is involved also!

Lord Lu steps up and proclaims his innocence and implies that Hat Guy probably tortured a confession out of him.

Pai Ruhai (framed guy) is dragged in. He appears to have been tortured.


The Young Prince steps in to say that they should interrogate PR later, and punish Lord Lu now.

Lord Lu very reasonably says: exactly how just is is it to convict and fire a man based on zero testimony or evidence?

Sooooooooooo instead of firing Lord Lu, PR’s family is going to be executed to three generations. JUSTICE HAS BEEN DONE. (It hasn’t. It really hasn’t.) Hat Guy and, I dunno, Other Hat Guy, look dissatisfied. Lord Lu looks smug.

Prince Peng Chang is facing off with him, but then some military guy comes in–

OK. So, Pointy Chin Guy’s father was an army general, right? Well, he’s just won a great victory and is coming home in triumph.

Prince Peng Chang says: Nice. Also, in order that Lord Lu doesn’t slip up again with so much on his mind, we’ll give Pointy Father the Ministry of Defense job. Peace out (cough, cough.)

Outside, everybody is kind of hyped that Lord Lu has been taken down a peg, including Young Prince. But then Lord Lu ambles over to him and asks what he thinks of the theater performance they just witnessed. He’s happy, he says! Lord Lu says: brothers kill brothers who are too forward and ambitious. The Young Prince says: neener neener. Lord Lu says: I’m trying to play nice here.

So, back in the House of Pointy, I am never going to think of this woman as a heartwarming motherly figure, and why is LiGe hanging on to her arm like she’s an octegenarian who can’t walk? She’s not, she can just fine. The woman is mentally unstable to react the way she has and it’s creepy. You know nothing of this girl , you don’t even really know she’s your daughter, and you’re throwing away the kids–the daughter–that you actually have raised and that you do know. She makes Not Sister Girl give LiGe her makeup. Sheeeeeeeesh. Like, I get the rest of the family being welcoming because they’re also slightly reserved and suspicious, too. I get Not Sister being jealous–because HER MOTHER is pushing her down HARD in favor of a girl who just showed up who is sullen and unfriendly and unresponsive–but still trying to be kind and friendly. I do not get the mother’s reaction to this, I don’t get why no one else finds anything wrong with it, and she creeps me out.

OK, back to the people I do like. Lord Lu Senior is upset they lost the Defense Minister position, because that meant money. Lord Lu Junior says: it’s not a big deal.

Green Sidekick comes in to report that Pointy Father has, however, been cleaning house. All of their people have been removed.

Lu Senior says: it’s kind of weird that Prince Peng Chang is starting to throw his weight around now, isn’t it?

Lu Junior Says: Let’s go check on our prisoner.
…He has one of the assassin girls there!–he switched her with a dead body and brought her there. She hasn’t said a word yet, though….except to swear that she’s going to kill him. He shows her LiGe’s mask and crossbow and asks about that person….fade to black. That was unsatisfying.

I would prefer a nice villain monologue, or if he was able to Break Them By Talking. That would be badass.

Outside, LiGe is shopping and blah blah, a (fake) injustice happens in front of her. And, OH. Prince Peng Chang (with his fake moustache) wanders up. He recognizes LiGe as the assassin girl. LiGe is calmly dealing with the situation, but Peng Chang nee Boat Guy comes over to enact a wholly unneeded “rescue.” LiGe ignores him. so he has to take desperaste measures (grabbing her wrist and dragging her away, which as we all know is a sure sign of true love and romance.) Needless to say, gah, ugh, I DO NOT ACTUALLY LIKE THIS ROMANCE OR THIS GUY. I LIKE LORD LU.

Heh, she tells him to stop stalking her or she’ll beat him up. I DON”T CAAAAAARE. Also there has been a complete lack of stylish kung fu and our heroine killing people lately. I AM HIGHLY DISAPPOINTED.

Ok, so meanwhile. The Young Prince is out at a pavillion somewhere. And there’s a GIRL there! playing a dulcimer. Young Prince quotes poetry at her and she beams. And then they bow at each other. And they chat about how they both seem to be in a good mood today. And then they have a drink together. BOOOOOOORING.

OK, meanwhile. Back in the palace, Prince Peng Chang is drinking tea with his mother (mother? he calls her Mother Consort and says she’s saved him and his mother?)–she brought him medicine, and the servants look very shifty. But she’s also wondering about what’s up with Lord Lu. Is it because of that whole assassination thing?

So Lord Lu is her nephew on the maternal side. Prince Peng Chang says: of course I haven’t got anything against him, it’s just I was making sure he paid for an actual mistake. How could I do anything to my own relative? Mother Consort smiles and goes “Huh.”

Meanwhile, Pointy General Father is riding into town in triumph. Not-Mom is hovering over LiGe, who is getting her hair done. Not-Sister has arranged matters: LiGe is going to sing/dance/whatever (a song, we point out, that Not-Sister wrote), for Pointy Father at the banquet. Not-Sister is being entirely too cheerful and kind….I have suspicions.

So Pointy Father arrives at home, only to be attacked at the door by Little Brother. Without much success. Dad disarms and then compliments him. But overall, he’s also very anxious to meet his new/returned daughter.

Not-Sister leads LiGe out, all dressed up, and is promptly ignored by Dad as well. You know, I’m not even going to blame this girl when she betrays them all.


Fortunately, The Young Prince arrives. He’s got a nice big sign that says “Pointy General Is An Important Person!” (Not literal translation.) More importantly, he recognizes LiGe.

So, with an oddly not-smooth transition, the next cut is Young Prince walking somewhere else, alone, and a piece of paper falls down in front of him. LiGe dropped it, because she’s walking by with a dulcimer. She gets directly to the point: why did you help me?
He says: I ain’t like Lord Lu. I’m a prince! I’m a good guy!
She says: It has nothing to do with the family. I only joined the family recently. My grudge against Lord Lu is personal.
The Young Prince says: I’ll keep that in mind. BTW, are you ever going to assassinate anyone other than Lord Lu?


One thing I have to say: the actress really is gorgeous, and the lighting/costumes/sets/her are really, really filmed to perfection.

So anyway, Not Sister is being faced with another round of My Family Is Ignoring Me In Favor Of Some Girl Who Just Showed Up (and is playing a song I WROTE for MY dad).

But, heh, LiGe breaks the dulcimer string on the first note. HAH. And then she walks over and slaps Not Sister. Eh? She is claiming that Not Sister taught her the wrong song?–instead of “Crane Song”, it was “Ghost Song,” something which would surely hurt Hysterical Idiot Mom (BWAH, AT LEAST SOMEONE RECOGNIZED IT), and thence get her, LiGe, in trouble. Oh, BTW, The Young Prince was the one who warned me about it!

The Young Prince backs her up, because of course he does.

Not Sister defends herself: after EVERYTHING that she’s put up with for the sake of her new sister and all the things that the family has been doing to her, has she yet done anything to LiGe? And indeed, it looks like she hasn’t, because the music score was “Crane Song” after all.

Not Sister says: Daaaaaaad something is going on here and it’s weird and wrong.

Pointy Chin agrees.

But The Young Prince says: Hey, uh, she was with me. She was, uh, saving some bullied children!

LiGe pulls out one of the maidservants and accuses her of switching the music score. And threatens her with a scorpion….

OK, I’m done. These people are stupid, boring, unrealistic, morons, and the plot I liked–KILL PRINCE PENG CHANG! BROTHERHOOD! LOYALTY! ASSASSINS!–has ground to a halt. I’d be happy if the hysterical moronic mother died. I’d be happy if it really was Not Sister who was trying to murder people. I’d be estatic if the heroine did murder someone, because she’s A TOUGH ASSASSIN BABE HELLO THIS IS HER JOB.

I may check a few more of the later episodes, but this is officially a pass for me, now. What can I say? I don’t like the hero, because he has done nothing that gains my interest or sympathy. I do like the villain, because he has done nothing that hasn’t gained my interest or sympathy, and he was also really badass in the first episode. I did like the heroine when she was a tough assassin babe running around DOING THINGS. I liked the plot when it seemingly had a direction and there were people like Eyepatch Guy who had duplicitious motives and hidden agendas. And I do not like the Pointy Family because they creep me out.


The Song of Glory – Ep 3 – CDrama Recap


I’ve got to say, I’m losing interest fast, here. We start off with almost ten bloody minutes of Li Ge the Heroine having her Mom Lady hovering over her, Not-Sister Girl being slightly jealous but hanging on to her smile gamely, and Heroine feeling weird and guilty about it all. So…I skipped ahead.

OK, so: Pointy Chin Guy (LiGe’s possibly-not? older brother) has been given the order to go somewhere and do something. SIR YES SIR! Something’s gonna happen, and that’s exciting enough for me!

Back at the house, Miss Not Sister is trying not to let it get to her. She’s been made to fetch snacks for her not-Big Sister, but LiGe is somehow gone. How mysterious.

Somewhere else, Assassin Big and Little Bros are running a pharmacy/medicine shop thingy and also passing messages to people? I wish the subbers would translate the written messages, too, y’know, ’cause that note looked important. She’s gone to check out the situation, but isn’t happy to hear that they should be leaving soon–without accomplishing a) the mission, or b) vengeance.

Meh, you guys are pretty useless, you should just go and do something somewhere else.

Assassin Big Brother isn’t interested in helping with b), since they have more important things to do (assassinate Prince Peng Chang.) LiGe demands information on Lu Yuan, and stomps out when he doesn’t. Turns out, he was supposed to be helping her infiltrate the family (you know, that family), but for some reason he doesn’t tell her that this is the official plan.

Assassin Little Brother makes sure that his Assassin Big Sis doesn’t leave without her medicines (and the wrapping paper…with a nice note on it).

Back at the house, Miss Not Sister actually sees LiGe come sneaking back into the house (for a given value of “sneak,” AKA SHE FLIES IN OVER THE BLOODY ROOF IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.) Anyhow, they also get to watch Pointy Chin Guy showing up with a treat for his possibly-lil-Sis. He also offers to spar with her sometime. I don’t really get why the family all fired hung up on this girl, and for her part, LiGe is incredibly low-key and nonresponsive towards them. It’s just…weird. I mean…I mean, establishing a relationship with her, fine. Moving her into your house, making your other daughter move out of her rooms, and being alllllllll over her as much as they are? Creepy and overbearing. Seriously.

Anyhow, that night at the place where Some People Are About To Do Something….there’s a guy on a barge peeking out through a window, an imperial prince standing off to the side, and then Pointy Chin Guy and his men march by and arrest someone. Huh?

OK, so this prince is one of the ones who thinks that Something Must Be Done! About Lord Lu! While his older brother, Prince Peng Chang, just keeps coughing and reassuring him, lol. Prince Do Something is disappointed.

OK, so, at the docks, Lord Lu’s Green Sidekick has shown up and is waiting for their buyer.


On the barge. LiGe bumps into the guy who was peering out the window and ends up putting a knife to his throat. He seems to be investigating Lord Lu, too. Meanwhile, some boats are poling their way up river (it’s a traaaaaaaaap….)

Boat Guy is somewhat snarky. Is…is that Peng Chang with a fake moustache?

Meanwhile, Lord Lu is somewhere else by himself, being smug. But he stops being quite so smug when he hears that their contact got arrested and Green Sidekick is being detained at the docks by the Minister of Justice, or at least by some guy who stole his hat.

Lord Lu strolls up before Green Sidekick attacks Hat Guy. LiGe ducks down (basically into Boat Guy’s lap and definitely on Boat Guy’s foot. And yes, it is Peng Chang.) Lord Lu threatens Justice Hat Guy and stroooooolls off.

LiGe triggers her trap! She dumps all the cargo into the water! And then launches herself at Lord Lu! FIGHT SCENE! YAYYYYYY
noo just fight shut up and fight.

Lord Lu is just about as good as she is, though, so they just end up kicking each other into walls, and then his men start shooting. But then she kicks him through an awning and Sidekick pins her arm to the wall with an arrow and then the rest of them start shooting in earnest so she has to make an escape, stage left, pursued.

Boat Guy is watching from his hold. And, yes, it was Prince Peng Chang. DUH, GAH.

Meanwhile, the other prince guy is heading home in a coach and LiGe collapses on the road, black hat with assassin veil and all. For some reason, his guards let him trot over and go “Miss?” at her. AAAAAND FOR SOME REASON HE PICKS HER UP AND TAKES HER INTO HIS COACH?

So, when a very pissed-off Lord Lu and his men arrive two seconds later, there is no trace of the assassiness. The Prince Guy is also suddenly extreeeeeemely drunk, but Lord Lu doesn’t really buy it. Prince Guy also lets Lord Lu search the carriage….it’s empty…and Lord Lu continues having the same smug/annoyed face the entire time, so I’m not sure what the point of all this was.

Turns out they stashed her in a random box off to the side of the road, heh.

But LiGe wakes up in the coach and LOL THE PRINCE JUST ASKS HER IF SHE’S THERE TO ASSASSINATE LU YUAN. PWAH. She promises to repay and skins out, almost collapsing but making it anyway.

Prince Guy is inspired by her example! (nice.)

Back at Assassin Medicine Hall, Little Assassin Bro is kneeling in punishment and Big Bro doesn’t really have much to say anyway. He says that instead of focusing on the low-level hoodlums, she should be looking at the big fish ((WHOM SHE CAN’T POSSIBLY KILL ALL ON HER OWN.)) Totally inaccurate, BTW. This scene was kind of weak.

OH GOSH. OK, I’m officially in love with the villain. He’s just so much more interesting than the others! I DON’T KNOW WHY?! He’s barely even a villain! He hasn’t done anything! He’s an underdog! If you gave this plot a slight tweak he could easily end up as the romantic lead! Really! (He’s also getting his wounds tended.) I think it’s just because his actor is just that much better/more charismatic than the heroes?

Anyhow, Green Sidekick comes in to report his total and utter failure, because sidekick. Lord Lu then inquires about their weapons dealer guy. Green Sidekick thinks they’re going to be OK, but Lord Lu recognizes that they are in a bad spot, because a) their weapons dealer is in jail, b), who exactly gave the justice minister the guts to go up against the Lu Family?

Cut to: Weapons Dealer Guy getting interrogated by the Prince Peng Chang.

AAAAaaaaaand he spills it immediately. Pwah. And also that was weirdly easy.

So LiGe is running over the rooftops and stumbles across Peng Chang leaving wherever it was that he was leaving (it’s the family house, OK, OHHHHH, he’s using their house as a secure base?) And she gets inside, only to be immediately attacked by Little Family Bro. Little Not-Sis also shows up immediately. Everyone wants to know where she’s been….

…because Mom Lady got worried she’d run off, and fainted. Wow, manipulative much?

Pointy Chin Big Brother shows up, and is, of course, not happy to hear that his new sister’s disappearance triggered this state of affairs. Also, LiGe has a scratch on her hand. Also, Little Bro testifies about her martial arts skills. Pointy Chin Big Brother has Questions.

Fortunately, Mom Lady wakes up (but isn’t happy that Not Little Sis is the one at her bedside.) She shoves her away and runs over to LiGe. What the hell, people? No, seriously, what the f*ck? No one is acting like a normal person in any of this situation?! This family is kind of seriously creeping me out.

Mom Lady gives a tearful speech to Pointy Chin Big Brother about not trusting his sister (oh if only you knew), because she’s his sister damnit (oh if oooooonly you knew) and they should stand with her! (Gah.) And reasssures LiGe that Mom will be on her side.
Not Little Sister watches with dissatisfaction.

The Song of Glory recap – episode 2

I have to work, and I have to prep for an interview, and I have to buy food, and I have to work out. So here’s Episode 2 of a Chinese drama instead of the actual review of Peace Talks.

Lil’Sis immediately bumps into Lord Lu and a bunch of other mooks. Heroine attempts to run to the rescue, but Big Brother accupuncture-stuns her. A’Nu refuses to speak to Lord Lu, so he stabs her in the neck. SLOWLY. DAMN.
OH MY GOD SHE LOOKS OVER AND SEES HER FRIENDS AND SMILES AT THEM, then grabs the blade and slashes her throat the rest of the way. OK, with barely any screentime, this character manages to make a genuine impression. Nice.
So. The Dowager is hovering over the stabbed guy. Our hero is still MIA, hopefully burned to death in a locked library. No, I’m not rooting for the villain already, what? Why would I do that just because he’s handsome and good at martial arts? The Prince guy’s friend (look, do I know his name? No. Does he have any identifying marks? No. So, you know, that guy) immediately tries to have Lord Lu, who wanders in, arrested and tortured. Lord Lu’s friend protests that that’s complete slander, but then the Prince does show up, completely unburned. Darn it.
(PWAH, he rigged up a frigging battering ram with a rope and a ladder?!) And then he gives the order to arrest Lord Lu. Once again, Lord Lu’s friend jumps to his defence. Lord Lu, for all we know completely honestly (and with a complete calm that is kind of impressive given that he’s talking to royals who would prefer him to be kowtowing look I like this guy, OK? and I don’t have any particular reason to not like him, and I don’t have any reason to like the Prince. SO SUE ME), points out that he had absolutely no idea they were going to do this, and that he’s had plenty of opportunities to assassinate the Prince already.
Some guy in a funky hat pops up to state that although he! tried to stop it! Lord Lu and his men killed all the assassins they got a hold of! The Prince gloats a bit that, boy, that kinda makes it look bad for you, don’t it, Lord Lu. Lord Lu, for his part, says, “Yeah, man, those soldiers I brought with me sure are good at killing, aren’t they? Loyal little buggers. Brutal.” [glare.] [glare]
The Dowager defuses the situation, and the Prince volunteers to do the interrogating himself, when the culprits are found. Then he brushes off the Princess Consort (is that his wife? Sister?) and leaves, with a final glare.
Elsewhere, Lord Lu is talking to his sidekick: he genuinely didn’t know the dancers were also assassins. And while they’re both after the Prince, he’s the one feeling the heat unless they get caught. So: keep one alive.
Elsewhere: the Prince is talking to his two sidekicks: Funky Hat and Pointy Chin guy. Pointy knows that there is still one dancer in the troupe alive. Prince says: just follow Lord Lu’s people, he’s the one who’s going to be really worried about finding her. (Note: it looks like this drama is going to lean hard on “People in authority can’t be blamed for troubles! They just don’t know about it! The real culprits are the lower down people in authority! If Comrade Stalin knew about our sufferings he definitely would do something about it!” Ah well, if you are producing entertainment media in an oppressive government regime, you’ve got to toe the party line, I guess. Anyhow, I’m rooting for the villain anyway.)–the Prince is innocent of harm; his brother the Emperor is possibly innocent…the real villain is that dastardly Lord Lu! Who…has in two episodes not done anything except be badass and slightly smug.
But I digress.
Elsewhere, Heroine (clutching A’Nu’s bracelet) and Brother Assassin have taken shelter. Heroine, when she wakes up, is pissed that it was apparently already part of the official plan for everyone else–including A’Nu– to die and her to escape. She tries to storm off, but Brother dissuades her! He’s also sad about it! But! They have to obey orders. Because. Now they have to avenge them! You can’t let our brothers and sisters down! ((Not letting them die would have been a good start.))
(Heroine’s name is Li Ge?)
So after blubbering a while, LiGe is outside brooding and flashbacking. The old lady of the house is asking pointed questions about her bracelet, but just right then Brother Assassin shows up, just ahead of the search party. Granny and the kids hide them….INEPTLY…I MEAN SERIOUSLY, THEIR ENTIRE FACES ARE STICKING OUT…
And with their normal mook competence, the searchers find nothing. So the next morning, LiGe is in a war outfit and marching off with a sword to complete the mission. Assassin Brother and some kid with a freaking crossbow also volunteer to go along? Heroine dramatically puts on a big hat with a flowy veil.
Elsewhere! Lord Lu is presiding over what looks like a pile of bodies? And then Heroine fires a flaming arrow into the pile? She and Brother Assassin shoot at Lord Lu and then run off.
This action scene is not nearly as good as in the first episode, let me tell you. Sheeeeeeeesh. The trick was the ACTION, NOT THE FLOWY VEILS, SHEESH GUYS.
(the bodies were their friends, and Brother Assassin pours one out for their homies. That’s nice, but..)wait, was that IT? YEGADS, did you guys utterly and totally blow through the budget that fast?
So back at the house where they’re staying, Nice Old Lady has brought someone to see LiGe. That is the Dowager? No? Huh? She immediately freaks out and starts calling her Jia’er. (Lady, she took that bracelet off someone else. Unless someone else also took it from her first?) Aaaand then faints.
So, in the house/palace, Mom and Other Little Sister (actually her cousin?) are staring at her and trying to get her to drink/eat, whatever. One of the other siblings shows up (his name is Feng) and OH. OK.
SO: this is the family of Pointy Chin Army Guy (who stopped Lord Lu from killing her when he had her on the ropes in episode 1). OKAY, now I see what’s going to happen here. The Prince is going to marry her in order to strengthen the ties between their familes because he needs military support. Little knowing that, dun dun dun, she is actually an assassin. Gah, I really still want Lord Lu to win.
Pointy shows up and is dubious.
Anyhow, not-actually-Mom “proves” it’s her by smashing the bracelet. There’s actually another bracelet inside the bracelet…and everybody is overjoyed that their sister is home at last. Never mind that this person has been extremely quiet and sullen.
Also, Miss Cousin gets manhandled by Actually Mom for asking questions…but bounces back. Possibly.
OK, so back at the palace, the Dowager is hovering over the stabbed guy and begging him to come back to her. She is also refusing to see Lord Lu–because she’s already done everything she humanly can for him. (hm?)
Elsewhere! Lord Lu gets a report from Green Sidekick. The Prince has been clearing house, so they’ve only got one guy on the inside, now. Sidekick says that the situation is urgent! Lord Lu says: just be patient; there are lots of people who want to kill the Prince. Lord Lu still wants that assassin, especially after the whole burning the bodies right under his nose thing.
So back with our heroine (who is in her underwear). Now, she and Assassin Brother both know it’s unlikely that A’Nu was the general’s kidnapped daughter, but there is the bracelet, and there’s “mother’s intuition” (yeah right). Assassin Bro says that splitting up (he and the kid can hide in a pharmacy), she going with the family, is a good idea. Hiding in plain sight and being close to the center of power is a good idea.
But anyhow. Miss Cousin is trying to be super friendly, but keeps bouncing off. (is Miss Cousin played by Tiffany Tang?)
So meanwhile, the stabbed prince wakes up, and he is also convinced that it is Lord Lu who is behind this all. (The Dowager has an interesting reaction to this), and lol, every time he says Lord Lu’s name, Prince-Hero has to fake a coughing fit. OK, wait, so I missed the details, but: Lord Lu is somehow related (closely) to the Dowager and therefore to the imperial family/throne.
Well that explains why he thinks he can take it.

So: the momentum is slowing down already, there’s no action, I still have no idea why we’re supposed to root for the hero as opposed to the villain, but the cinematography/blah whatever, colors are still pretty OK and the characters haven’t automatically necessarily stopped being badass yet.