Things I’ve Been Watching

The Mist (TV Pilot)

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I’ve only seen the first episode of this, but I’m unimpressed. I think my expectations were a bit high for this show, as it’s nothing like the movie. For one thing, the characters are either bland or unlikable. The characters who come closest to being liked is a young person of indeterminate gender designation, and the tough Mom, of the series.

There’s a mother, dad, and daughter grouping in the movie. The dad is the permissive, easy-going sort, while Mom is a woman of strong opinions and convictions. She gets fired from her job at school for sticking to her principles, and NOT teaching abstinence to her students. I can respect that, even if the local parent’s group can’t. She also forbids her 17-year-old daughter from going to the local  teen party. Dad gives his daughter permission to sneak out to the party, where she gets roofied/raped by the local football star she has a crush on. I saw that coming a mile away, as he just looked untrustworthy to me. He claims he didn’t do it, but her father reports him to the police, and the family gets harassed by the townspeople. The situation is complicated because there is also the possibility that he didn’t.

 

There’s the story line of a young military man, who wakes up in the forest, with no memory of how he got there, just as the mist rolls into town. He heads into town to warn the populace about the mist, only to be arrested by the police. I can definitely say I absolutely DID NOT appreciate watching this Black man get roughed up by the police, just for not answering their questions.  And no, it’s not okay just because that same cop gets eaten by bugs soon afterwards. Just before the dysfunctional nuclear family is about to leave town, the mist shows up, cutting off all escape.

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There are several stories mixed up in this. Various people get trapped in at least three different locations during the mist’s siege of the town. Mom and daughter are trapped at the local mall; Dad, the sheriff, the military guy, and the non-gender designated young person, get trapped in the jail. There’s also a thoroughly unlikable woman who threatens, and insult the non-gendered teen. This woman, who has no connection to anyone else in the plot, was seemingly added just to make me furious with her, and hope she’d quickly be eaten by something. She is so reprehensible, that I seriously considered turning this shit off, and just going to bed, but I put up with crap like that in order to bring you, my loyal readers, the quality snark I feel you deserve.

Oh yeah, there’s also some  people trapped in a church with Frances Conroy, who you can tell is gonna go batshit, in about two episodes, or less.

So basically, this first episode is all set up for the tensions that will reach a boil during the mist’s invasion of the town, which is not unlike the movie I guess. Mom and daughter are trapped in the mall with the parents who got her fired, and who believe her daughter is lying about being raped. The football hero perpetrator is also trapped there. The a-gendered teen is trapped at the police station with a father who refuses to speak to him because he won’t act like a son, and an abusive inmate. And Frances Conroy’s husband gets killed by something in the mist.

The main difference between the show and the movie is that there aren’t really giant monsters in the mist. I had the impression that people are being killed by either a singular malevolent entity, or their own fears and weaknesses, or possibly both. While that’s an interesting idea that’s much easier to sustain for  an entire season, I was still hoping to see giant monsters. Maybe those show up later.

 

Blood Drive:

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If you like this type of over the top excessiveness, then go for it. I ain’t judging. The plot of this seems to involve people being forced to race each other, by some type of post apocalyptic tyrant, who has nevertheless found a way to wear too much Maybelline. The contestants lives are forfeit if they stop for any reason, up to, and including, running out of gas, which prompts some of them to cannibalize their  opponents, (and partners) and use them for fuel.

I am not a fan of excessive pulp. I was cautiously excited about this show from the trailers, and was willing to give it a try, but some things are just too far over the top even for my tastes, which even some others would consider excessive. I think it’s because so much of this particular genre is spectacle, solely for the sake of spectacle, without rhyme, or reason, to any of it. If it’s a crazy image, the creators will throw it in, no matter if it breaks, or creates  characters, or subverts an already established plot, and Blood Drive appears to be no different.

Somewhere, someone is having a grand old-time watching this show. That person is not me. I don’t think I’m the correct audience for this. At every level of creation, the show looks tasteless, cheap, and ugly. The characters, world-building, costumes, and even the plot, is just ugly. I couldn’t sit through more than half of it. By the time we reached the point where the two main protagonists appear to be having sex in a moving vehicle, I had had enough, and turned it off. I would rather hate-watch The Strain.

Blood Drive gets a resounding NOPE!

 

Dr. Strange: 

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Yeah, I know I talked shit about this movie but I didn’t spend money to specifically see this movie, and it was on Netflix, so I thought I’d give it a try. It wasn’t a bad film, and I also don’t feel too bad about the whitewashing angle, for reasons having to do with the plot. Let’s just say, I was pissed off that the Ancient One was not Asian, but I would have been equally pissed off if an Asian woman had been cast. So, spoilers ahead.

The movie is the basic origin story type stuff, except now starring an actual asshole, as an asshole who doesn’t actually get to be a better person by the end of the movie, which is rather different. Strange is a first class shit at the beginning of the movie, and although the story, and the actor try really hard to make him a sympathetic character, I didn’t buy it. I liked every character but him. He’s just a full-time douche. I still didn’t like him even after he cleverly saved the world, but I do admit that may have more to do with the actor than the character.

Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One, pretty much the way she plays all of her more soft-spoken characters. I generally dismiss her because, like most white actresses in Hollywood, she is thoroughly clueless on issues race and/or whitewashing. I’m also less than secretly  glad that they didn’t choose an Asian Woman to portray this character because 1.) She dies at the end; 2.)she dies to further another character’s manpain; 3.) she turned out to be a huge hypocrite.

So, there’s this alternate world called The Dark Dimension, which naturally means its evil, but basically, she’s been warning her students against having anything to do with this dimension for centuries. Hannibal…I mean, Kaecilius (which sounds like a nasty bacterial infection) is in contact with the being who rules that dimension and he gets drummed out of the corp. This Dark  Being wants to “try to take over the world” and is just lying in wait for someone to invite him to the cookout, which is what Kaecilius does.

Dr. Strange loses the use of his fine surgical dexterity after a horrible car accident. Do not watch this scene if you have car accident terror, because it’s unnecessarily graphic. He decides to travel the world searching for a cure to his neurological problem, and winds up in Kamar -Taj, where he meets the Ancient One, who teaches him how to be a sorcerer, and her eldest assistant, Baron Mordo. (I do not remember this guy from the comic books, and I should, because he is in them. I’m hoping Baron is his actual name, in the  way that some Black people name their sons Prince, or King.)

For the record, The Ancient One doesn’t actually choose Strange as her successor. See, what happened was…all the other sorcerers of the great houses of the Landsraad…I mean the other sorcery nexi, get murdered by Kaecilius. Strange, Wong, and Mordo are the only ones left alive. So he gets to be a master of Sorcery through a combination of. hubris and default.

Those two, and Strange, spend the bulk of the  movie fighting Kaecilius and his minions. Baron Karl Mordo is played by Chewitel Ejiofor, and Wong is played by a man who is, conveniently, named Benedict Wong.

I liked Wong a lot, although there were some unnecessary scenes of Wong being played for a fool by Strange, that I did not care for. The Ancient One turns out to be, while not exactly a bad guy, her betrayal of the Baron’s trust does lead to him being a villain. So really, the movie isn’t  nice to any of the PoC that star in it.

The break-out character is  Strange’s Cloak of Levitation, a semi-sentient magical object that adopts Strange as a Master. This isn’t like in the books where its the Eye of Agamotto that’s sentient. Why they switched it in the movie is anyone’s guess.

So overall, not a bad movie. It’s got some great eye candy, the magic looks really cool and worldbendy, and except for some serious eyeball rolling moments, I didn’t hate it. If you can get pass watching two hours of Benegeserrit Cucumbersnatch, then the movie isn’t a complete waste. On the other hand, if you had no intention of ever watching this movie, you ain’t missed nothing!

 

The Accountant:

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I had no intention of seeing this movie. It was on HBO last weekend and I  was not doing anything in particular that needed my eyeballs, so I ended up watching this movie. I’m not a Ben Affleck fan, but I liked him in this movie, and it was surprisingly good.

Here he plays an assassin who has autism. His father began teaching him how to kill people, as a child, in an attempt to make him more independent, and he became exceedingly good at it. He comes across some corruption at a tech company and feels like he has to protect the young woman he was working with on that case, when she’s targeted by another assassin. The other assassin turns out to be his estranged brother, and I found that particular drama  intriguing.

I initially though the movie was a ripoff of the Bourne Trilogy, but it turned out to be nothing like that, with more heart, and more depth than any of the Bourne sequels. I liked the relationship that developed between Affleck and his co-star, which she thinks is supposed to develop into romance, but he is not particularly interested in her interest. It’s a romance that never develops, even though he likes her, and I thought that was a refreshing change.

The movie kept upending my expectations, and Affleck comes across as a smoothly competent killer. The movie also doesn’t end in car chases, explosions, or dramatic surprises, but in a quiet conversation between two brothers, who have some shit to hash out between them, before they could move on, and I  liked that. I would recommend watching this on some quiet Sunday evening.

 

Alien Covenant: 

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Oh, my gob! This movie was bleak, bleak, and even more importantly, it was bleak. It was even bleaker than the very first Alien movie, if you can believe that. I mean, basically, everybody dies. Well, rather say, that any humans that  were walking around at any point during this film, ain’t walking around by the end of it. If you liked the first Alien movie, then you will like this one, as it is effective at scaring the shit out of you, even when you sort of know what’s going to happen. I mean, Ive watched the first Alien movie multiple times, and I still get scared.

Oh, did I forget to mention that this movie also stars Michael Fassbender, and get this…another Michael Fassbender. So it’s like getting two Fassbenders, for the admission price of only one of them, (even though I spent no money to watch this movie.) Did I mention that I love Michael Fassbender. I feel like I may have mentioned that in some earlier post, or something. If not, then let me reiterate..I love Michael Fassbender who, I am absolutely certain, is a total dick in real life. (If he is, don’t tell me. )

I would talk about the plot, but really that’s all there is to it. Somebody’s gon’ die! and people do stupid shit, to help facilitate their deaths, just like in the first movie, Prometheus. Things like, taking their helmets off just because they can breathe the atmosphere, running towards danger, or wandering off alone, or trusting strange androids.

Not to go off on a tangent, but why do people on strange new worlds always take off their helmets as soon as they learn the atmosphere is breathable? Have they never heard of airborne pathogens? Which is exactly what happens in the case of one of the characters, when he steps on a plant, that releases spores, that go into his ears. His demise is suitably horrible.

Later, the two Fassbenders, David, from the first movie, and some new guy named Walter,  get into a fight, as Walter tries to protect the remaining humans. I would have preferred some loincloth mud-wrestling, but that probably would not have been in keeping with the mood of the film, which is, well…kinda bleak.

 

Suicide Squad:

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Apparently, I’m one of five people on Earth who enjoyed this movie. Its been airing on HBO recently and I’ve watched it multiple times. I think the main reason I enjoy it is because I’m a Will Smith fan and will watch movies with him that I normally wouldn’t pay attention to. Not that the movie isn’t flawed, annoying, and occasionally stupid,  it’s just those moments were not enough to detract from what I was enjoying about it, which is namely Will Smith, and Viola Davis, in an anti-superhero movie together.

I could go through and list everything wrong with this movie, because it’s got a lot of problems, but IT’S WILL SMITH!!!! I love Will Smith!!! Will Smith makes every movie worth looking at, just by being in it. Plus, he’s with Viola Davis, and they actually get to exchange words in the movie, rather than pretending the other doesn’t exist.

Okay, I did like the other characters, too. In fact, my only reasons for liking the movie, was some of the characters, and the action scenes. I enjoyed seeing Killer Croc, onscreen for the first time, and Diablo turned out to be a huge favorite of mine, but then, I’m a fan of seeing Incan Fire Gods in movies, so yeah, his scenes were both hot, and cool.  Outside of Deadshot, I got really attached to Harley Quinn, who I enjoy in the comic books, and the nascent friendship I saw developing between the two of them. I’m here for a Deadshot/Harley Quinn team-up movie, as long as Amanda Waller can be in it. Viola Davis perfectly captured the idea of the Amanda (The Wall) Waller that I had in my head, as the only human on Earth, who can get away with dressing down the Batman.

The plot was deeply, (and I do mean deeply), fucking stupid though, and I have no idea what the villain’s motivation was, or how she actually hoped to accomplish her goals. Yeah, some of the characters were totally undeveloped, like Katana, or just straight up hateable,  like Captain Boomerang, and The Joker. But the movie was pleasant eye candy for its two-hour running time. It’s not a good movie, but I found it mostly inoffensive, unlike some people who found the movie deeply offensive to their intelligence. I can say that part of the reason I’m okay with the movie is because I went into it expecting nothing more than to be distracted for a while, and the movie accomplished that goal. The trailer looked like fun, and that’s what the movie delivered.

Its okay if you haven’t seen this movie, you can rectify the problem of not having enough Will Smith in your life, by watching…Concussion!

 

Note:

I’m still watching stuff because new shows keep being released. Next week I should have a review of the new season of Cleverman, now airing on the Sundance Channel, and the second season of Preacher, on AMC, which looks like a lot of fun, so far.

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 4 (2001-2010)

Here we go with part four of the most influential movies of my life, according to the year they were released. I thought about adding more of a prologue here but I’ll save it for the last and final chapter of this essay, covering 2011 through 2016.

2001: Spirited Away

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For this year there was simply no contest. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away wins this one hands down. This is not just The Potato’s favorite movie, but her Mom’s and her Aunt’s, when they were her age. I have shown this movie to two generations of little girls and there’s just something about this movie that just resonates with them. This movie was voted the 4th best movie of the 20th century, and that is just too accurate.

This is the coming of age story of a bored little girl named Chihiro, whose parent’s gluttony traps her in the spirit world, where she has to navigate this liminal space in a  bathhouse for spirits, dragons, soot sprites, hungry ghosts without faces, and a witch named Yubaba. It’s an Alice in Wonderland story nestled firmly in Japanese traditions. A story about a little girl re-engaging with the world, becoming self-sufficient, gaining confidence, saving her parents, mending relationships and making new friends; most specifically with  a little boy named Haku, who has a  special secret of his own, a tiny bird, and a little guinea pig, that used to be a giant baby.

Every little girl I’ve shared this movie with became completely obsessed with it and wanted to watch it again and again. And no, I was not immune to it either,as I’ve watched this a countless number of times with them.

This year also saw the release of the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which gets an honorable mention and was one the most entertaining movies of the year.

 

2002: Blade 2

The movies 28 Days Later, Dog Soldiers, and Eight Legged Freaks were  all released this year, and I initially chose Dog Soldiers as my favorite, but on second thought, I think I prefer Blade 2, because I love Guillermo Del Toro’s vampires, and it’s one of the  first films in what would later become the MCU juggernaut. The next time I think on this topic, my favorite could be Dog Soldiers, though.

Del Toro also introduced a different iteration of the vampire here, which became the foundation of the vampires used in the TV series, the Strain, although I think the book versions were more disgusting. Blade 2 isn’t a meaningful film. It’s just a helluva lot of fun, with Ron Perlman, a giant Jewish guy, playing a  Nazi vampire, and some great Martial Arts, choreographed by Donnie Yen and Wesley Snipes. This is one of the most diverse group of vampire villains I’ve ever seen in a  movie. And you have to watch the DVD, because  Gillermo always gives hilarious commentary. He is quite possibly the most cheerful, profanity spewing, director in Hollywood.

I enjoyed 28 Days Later for showcasing Naomie Harris, in one of her first starring roles as an absolute badass, who gets to kiss pretty boy, Ciilian Murphy. Eight Legged Freaks is one of the funniest movies I saw for this year, and I did a reviews of both it and Dog Soldiers.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/eight-legged-freaks-2002/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/geeking-out-about-dog-soldiers-2002/

 

2003: Kill Bill Pt. 1

I love Kung Fu movies, and so does Quentin Tarantino, and in the making of this movie, he managed to introduce me to a few I’d not heard of.  This movie is one long beautiful love letter to the Kung Fu movies from his youth. From his casting of Gordon Liu as the leader of the Crazy 88s, Johnny Mo, to Daryl Hannah as an assassin named California Whitesnake, from Viveca Fox as Vernita Green (codename Copperhead), to that final big boss fight, that takes up nearly the last full hour, this movie is totally awesome-sauce.

My favorite scene has to be the final fight between Beatrix and O-ren Ishii. It’s a masterclass in how to craft a minimalist fight sequence. The lighting, and sound effects, (which is something I almost never pay close attention to in a movie), the stop and start of the action, the minimal dialogue, and the costumes (O-ren is dressed as the character Lady Snowblood from the movie of the same name), all of it is simply gorgeous. And its such an emotional scene. We’ve been building to the moment these two characters finally crossed swords, since the beginning of the film, when we noticed that O-ren’s name had already been crossed off of Beatrix’s list. Why this film wasn’t lauded by White women as the second coming of Feminism is anybody’s guess., and it’s another reason I find WW unimpressive.  Because I’ve seen better.

There wasn’t anything else of note released this year, in my opinion.

 

2004: Shaun of the Dead/Man on Fire

I’m going with Shawn of the Dead as my favorite this year, even though the Dawn of the Dead remake was also released. I liked Dawn but I always prefer funny over angsty, so Shaun gets my vote, and Dawn of the Dead was mostly pretty grim. Likable but grim. I’m going to review both of these in October. (Yeah, I’m already making a list of horror movies I want to review for Halloween month!)

This year was a really tough call, because Denzel Washington’s remake of Man on Fire, from the book of the same name, was also released this year. I will always stan for Denzel, no matter what movies he makes, but this is one of my top favorites from him, and Tony Scott, who passed on in 2012. It also stars Chrisotpher Walken. Just about anything with a Walken speech in it is going to get my attention.

The Incredibles is the only cartoon about superheroes that I love, love, love, and watch, every time it airs on TV. It was a serious contender for the title of best film of this year for me,  (and I feel kinda guilty for not choosing it, so let’s call it a Runner-Up), but I’m going stick  with Shaun of the Dead because I wouldn’t mind living in Shaun’s world for a few days.

 

2005: A History of Violence 

David Cronenberg has always been a filmmaker of depth and intelligence, qualities which are well showcased in this movie, based on the comic book of the same name. I do have in my post queue, an outline for a review of this movie, and its companion film, Eastern Promises, because I have a lot to say about both these movies. They have so much in common, even though they look almost nothing alike. The movie has the added benefit of starring two of my personal favorites, Ed Harris, and William Hurt, who I’ve had crushes on since I was a teenager.

In hindsight, I would like to have chosen the Joss Whedon Joint, Serenity, as a fave, but one can only watch this movie so many times. I love it, but Whedon is just not in Cronenberg’s league, and this is one of the few SciFi movies that had my angry-crying at a crucial moment.

Cronenberg  is just on a “ho ‘notha level!” It’s just gotten to the point where everything he creates is a gem.

 

2006: The Host/Slither

I did a review of Slither here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/geeking-out-about-slither/

 The Host appears in my list of ten favorite monsters here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/my-ten-favorite-monsters/

Now three other worthy films were released this year, but I couldn’t pick Apocalypto because I have an intense dislike of Mel Gibson. I love his films,  (his version of Hamlet is totally the shit), and Apocalypto is simply one of the most gorgeous films he’s ever made. The man is a phenomenal director, and actor, but also a really shitty human being, so no. I couldnt pick this one.

Paprika is an anime movie from  Satoshi Kon, the director most famous for Tokyo Godfathers, and Millenium Actress, and this is one of the most beautiful animes ever made, but unfortunately, it’s confusing as hell. I know that’s on purpose, but still, I’ve watched this movie at least half a dozen times and I’m still confused, which makes this movie little more than a pretty distraction for me. It’s a great movie that has remained opaque to my sensibilities. I’m just going to accept that Satoshi Kon is just waaay smarter than me.

300 is yet another pretty distraction, because I already knew about the Battle of Thermopylae from paying attention in school. There’s nothing particularly deep about this movie, and the plot is fairly simple, but I actually do like Zack Snyder, and this is a gorgeous movie. It doesn’t hurt that it has lots of pretty, half-naked men, running around with spears and shields. I make ‘nan apology for enjoying the sight of Michael Fassbender, jumping around like a giant spider, in a red loincloth.  I mean c’mon! Its Michael Fassbender!!!…Naked!!! I will watch Michael Fassbender do just about anything, really. I have watched movies that I have zero interest in, just because they starred Fassbender, and I make ‘nan apology for that!

 

2007: Hot Fuzz

I had to pick Hot Fuzz, even though I chose Shaun of the Dead, earlier. This movie is just one of the funniest cop movies I’ve ever seen. Okay, I don’t actually watch cop movies all that much, which make Hot Fuzz pretty remarkable Every scene in this movie is a gem, from the opening scenes establishing Nicholas Angel’s total badassery, to establishing Constable Butterman’s total incompetence. Even their names are perfect reflections of their characters, as Nick can do nothing wrong, and Butterman is one of the laziest cops I’ve ever seen in a movie, which is also kinda refreshing.

I loved seeing Billie Whitelaw again, this time being hilarious with a machine gun, and this is the funniest  I’ve ever seen  Timothy Dalton. I didn’t know he was even capable of that level of smarm. The plot, characters, and every tiny detail, is hilarious, from the police interpreter who needs an interpreter, to Constable  Doris Thatcher’s off-color double entendres, to the fact that the village’s security watch group is named after the rap group N.W.A., to the final, ridiculously over the top shootout, which is a requirement in every cop movie. If you have not seen, this check it out. It was last available on Netflix.

I suppose I could have easily chosen Frank Darabont’s The Mist. It’s a good movie, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, exactly. That’s a strong word. The end is waaay too depressing for that. I normally shy away from reviewing horror movies that are too famous, preferring to review indies, or little known films, but this is on my list for October, and is mentioned in my top ten monsters list.

There were a lot of really, really excellent movies to choose from this year:  No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood,  The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Sunshine, The Bourne Ultimatum, and finally, Eastern Promises, another Cronenberg Joint, that I’ll be doing a review for, later this Summer.

Wow! This was a great year! But I could only choose one, so Hot Fuzz is it.

 

2008: The Dark Knight

C’mon! Was there really going to be any other choice.?

The Dark Knight absolutely ruled this entire year, both the anticipation, and the aftermath. I have no more to say about this movie, than the few hundred other people who wrote about it, so I’ll just leave it alone, and let these guys speak:

A Scene-By-Scene Analysis of THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, dir. Christopher Nolan)

http://www.slashfilm.com/assessing-the-themes-of-the-dark-knight/

 

2009:  Star Trek

I chose Star Trek because I’m one of the few lovers of the OG series who actually likes this movie. I don’t think people hated it exactly, but people had a lot of complaints about it. I didn’t have very many outside of plot and pacing. It wasnt a deep movie, but I had a lot of feels and sometimes that’s good enough to make something a favorite. I mean these actors did a great job of capturing the spirit of the original actors without mimicry, and I just found that all kinds of ticklish!

I was going to choose Watchmen for this year, but that movie is a lot more depressing that my usual fare, and contains a nuclear holocaust, which makes it even less fun, and I think The Watchmen is a superhero movie for people who hate superheroes, because it’s a cynic’s wet dream. But I like the ideas being presented, and I liked the visuals so it makes my top five of the year, along with Sherlock Holmes.

Like Zack Snyder, Guy Ritchie is one of those directors people seem to have no middle ground for. You love them or hate them. I really enjoyed this remake of Sherlock. I enjoy all of the Sherlock’s really, and never seem to get tired of new versions of this character. Plus,  I will watch Robert Downey Jr. do absolutely anything in a movie.

 

2010: Inception

Christopher Nolan just makes movies after my own heart. He is not the kind of director that ever speaks down to his audience. If you are watching a Nolan film you are expected to pay attention, and be on your toes. And he doesn’t stint on the action scenes either. Like Hitchcock, he makes Thrillers for thinkers, and I appreciate that. He just crafts some wonderfully satisfying movies.

http://narrativefirst.com/articles/meaningful-storytelling-an-analysis-of-inception

Movie Review: “Inception”

Let Me In is complicated. I enjoyed the book the original movie was based on, but didn’t care too much for the  original movie. I think it was the acting that threw me off. I think the creators of the American version did a really good job adapting it for American sensibilities while keeping the spirit and theme of the  original film intact, but I couldnt choose it as a favorite, as it has too many scenes of the primary actor being tortured by bullies, for it to be enjoyable, and its kind of depressing.

Black Panther Trailer: Class 101

Hi! Welcome to the 101 class about the Black Panther movie. I’m here to speak  on this topic because I managed to graduate to the 201 class. I am by no means an expert on Black Panther, Wakanda, or even the current version of the comic books. I have mastered basic information about who is who, what is what, and what I personally enjoy.

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So the Black Panther trailer dropped Friday, and those of you who refuse to read comic books, or don’t pay that close attention to Marvel Superhero movies, are probably wondering what all the excitement is about. Why are black people so giddy? Who the hell is Black Panther? Is he related to Malcolm X?

Okay. I see we have our work cut out for us. Alright, c’mon over here and sit down, so we can work this whole thing out. I’m gonna do this by giving some background on the character, and  breaking down some  shit in the trailer.

The Black Panther first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1966, which slightly predates the Black Panther Political Party, so there’s no relation. This is notable because he’s the first black superhero to show up in the comics, predating both Luke Cage (Wooo!) and The Falcon. Black Panther’s real name is T’Challa and he’s a prince of the country of Wakanda, located in Africa. His father, T’Chaka, was played by John Kani in Captain America Civil War. After his father’s assassination T’Challa inherited the Kingdom.

This movie is remarkable for several reasons. It has a huge  all-star cast of primarily black actors and actresses.  Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, are all Oscar nominated/winning actors. It has a large “dark skinned” female cast. There are more women in this cast than are featured in almost all the MCU films together.  In the comic books, these are characters with names and backstories. Where this movie will truly past the Fabulosity test is if  any of the women speak to one another about anything other than T’Challa, although even without that, this is still great representation for Black women who rarely, if ever get to play primary, action oriented roles in such films.

Its also remarkable for the introduction of the term Afro-Futurism into everyday discourse. Yep! This is a phrase you’re going to be seeing a lot more often in conjunction with discussions about this movie.

*Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science, and philosophy of history that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of black people, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past.

——Wikipedia

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/black-alt-enter-afrofuturism-999#axzz4k5esHWHx

http://afrofuturism.net/

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Not only is this an almost entirely Black cast, so are many of  behind-the-scenes talent. The director is Ryan Coogler, the award winning director of Creed and Fruitvale Station. Hannah Beachler is the Production Designer. She was also the Designer for Moonlight, and Beyonce’s Lemonade. Ruth Carter is the Costume Designer, and has worked on Selma, Serenity, and the remake of Oldboy.

 

*There are people out here asking why we’re so hyped for Black Panther.

Like…in case you haven’t noticed…there’s literally a million and five big budget franchise movies centered around white super heroes.

Black Panther shows a black super hero who is the king of an extremely prominent and technologically advanced African country with his badass royal guard that consist of badass black women in all their natural glory and it portrays black people as something other than poor, enslaved, or savage.

Regardless if you understand or not…that is huge for black people.  

 

Black Panther: Chadwick Boseman

After the death of his father in Captain America, T’Challa becomes King, and  inherits the mantle of The Black Panther, which is a  generational position as Guardian of  the country of Wakanda. The Black Panthers inherit their superpowers by eating a mystical herb, which grants them the strength and speed of the Panther God, worshiped in Wakanda. He is one of the wealthiest men in the world, and something of a technological genius, responsible for some of the tech and hardware you’ll see in the movie.

Plot Synopsis:

“After the events of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.”

For a closer look at this character, and his abilities, see Captain America Civil War, now available on Netflix, and read  Ta-Nehisi Coates current run of the comics, (although there are other versions).

 

Everett Ross: Martin Freeman

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This is one of only two white faces you’re going to see in the rest of this trailer, and probably the movie. Everett Ross only gets a  still picture because he does nothing gifworthy  beyond being annoying to the other characters in Civil War. If you see any critiques about how this character is the hero of Black Panther… RUN!!SAVE YOURSELF!! You have wandered into a cluster of White Man’s Nonsense.

 

Ulysses Klaue: Andy Serkis

You may remember this character from Avengers Ultron, where he lost his arm, and got the privilege of locking ScarJo in a cage, I think. No, this movie isn’t about him either, but he gets the gif treatment because I like Andy Serkis. If you see reviews focused on either Ross, or Klaue’s important roles in the film, I urge you  to escape that review, STAT!!!, and immediately Google a review from a Black critic, as you have probably wandered into a field of White Gibberish. Save your brain cells!! That person is not logicking correctly and that shit is contagious.

 

Wakanda:

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Wakanda is a fictional nation, hidden, isolated, and futuristic, located in the central part of Africa. Its meant to represent what an African country would be like if it had been allowed to develop without colonization or exploitation by the West. Wakanda is one the wealthiest nations on the continent because of its large Vibranium reserves.

In the comic books, the central city of Wakanda is surrounded by 18 other city-states, that are constantly vying for power. You can catch glimpses of these various tribal kingdoms in the trailer.

 

The Dora Milaje (Dora Meh-lah-shay):

The Dora Milaje are the King’s Elite (Special Forces) Bodyguards. In English, their name means, The Adored Ones.  In the comic books they were also considered potential wives for the King, specially trained warriors, who were selected from the surrounding tribes by the King, in an effort to keep the peace between the various rival tribes. These young girls are groomed from a very early age to be warriors.

The Dora Milaje are the best warriors of Wakanda.  They have defeated Namor, and fought even Storm and Black Widow to a standstill, although it is rumored, that over the years, many Black Widows never made it out of Wakanda alive, thanks to them.

It’s the custom for them to have shaved heads. No, they are not the King’s special booty call, as Adored One is a ceremonial title. They are not his harem.

Okoye: Danae Gurira

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Danae is most famous for her role as Michonne on the Walking Dead. She’s the King’s first , speaking only to him and only in a rare language. This was so the King and his wives could speak in private while out in public. Think of her as something like the head of a federal organization that only answers to the president.

 

Ayo:Florence Kusumba

Ayo is the Dora Milaje we got to see for the first time in Captain America Civil War. She said six words and stole half the movie. They better not let her say too much in this movie or none of us will remember why the hell we were sittin’ in the theater.

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Nakia: Lupita Nyong’o

This is Nakia, played by the Oscar Award winning Lupita Nyong’o. In the the comic books Nakia is a mutant of some kind, with enhanced speed, agility, and strength. She later becomes a villain named Malice.

 

Erik Killmonger: Michael B. Jordan

Killmonger is played by Michael “Bae” Jordan from Coogler’s last film, Creed, and unfortunately from The Fantastic Four, but the first time I saw him was in the movie Chronicle. He is one of T’Challa’s rivals for the throne of Wakanda, and plays a pivotal role in the movie. In the books, Erik harbors a grudge against T’Challa for exiling him to America, after the death of his father, who had been branded a traitor. When Erik returned he plunged himself into Wakandan history and traditions, and this radicalized him. So now he preaches against outside Western influences, and wants to rule so that he can make the country more isolationist.

 

Ramonda: Angela Bassett

C’mon! Ya’ll know who Angela Bassett is. Ramonda is T’Challa’s mother. Note the white hair. Disney doesn’t possess the rights to Storm from the X-Men, who is T’Challa’s in canon ex-wife, but they can troll the film company that does, by casting the woman who was born to play that role, and making her up to look like her in this movie.

 

Shuri: Letitia Wright

This Princess of Wakanda is T’Challa’s little sister from a different mother. She is the Wakandan genius behind most of the tech you’ll see in the movie, including those nifty little cat gloves she’s wearing in the trailer. I don’t know what they do but I want them. Shuri is the very definition of Afro – Futurism, combining her country’s cultural traditions with technological concepts beyond even Tony Stark’s skills.

In the books, Shuri is a warrior who was trained by her brother to take over his mantle should the need arise, and who, on occasion,  has had to step in and become The Black Panther, in her own right, after  one of her brother’s extended absences. Here she’s been re-written as a tech genius.

 

Daniel Kaluuya: W’Kabi

I got nothing about this guy. I’ve never paid much attention to him beyond that he grew up with  and is T’Challa’s  second in command and advisor. You know him as the actor from the movie Get Out.

 

Forest Whitaker: Zuri

Zuri is played by Forest Whitaker, is a veteran warrior, and one of T’Challa’s senior advisers.

 

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*On a more serious note we have to talk about this issue here:

Since the release of the trailer onto the national stage, I know some of you guys who are the most excited about this movie, have experienced an influx of racist gibberish into all of your inboxes. There’s something about this movie that has truly galvanized racist geeks into a paroxysm of harassment. (Well I simply can’t imagine what that might be.)

I’ve been warning my friends on Tumblr, and other social media to have their Block finger ready because it’s going to  get a lot of exercise. And it’s not just the white racist dudebros out there either. You have a lineup of various hoteps, and native Africans making static too. Everybody whose  got a beef with black people have their fingers tapping, and mouths flapping, to destroy this movie, which is an utterly pointless pursuit.

You’ve got people writing racist meta about how unrealistic Wakanda is, because  Africa is such an undeveloped country,  how Black people are acting too uppity, and culturally appropriating African cultures, the poster for the movie is militant, there are going to be riots and shootings at the theaters on the day of the movie’s release, and a complete basket full of  nonsense. Basically people out there projecting every one of their racial and social insecurities onto this movie, and it hasn’t  even been released yet. And its only going to get worse as the movie nears its release date.

And all because  black people are giddy about a movie trailer.

*Black Panther is a FICTIONAL movie about a FICTIONAL country in Africa so people need to stop projecting all of their issues on to it and let ALL black people enjoy something for once.  Seriously.  CAN WE STOP WITH THOSE STUPID DIASPORA BATTLES THAT HAPPEN EVERY TIME BLACK AMERICANS GET *ANYTHING* POSITIVE?! 

—–karnythia from angelsscream

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This isn’t my essay, but it says want I want to say much more eloquently. This is from an AfroFuturist tumblr site, and is very deep and entertaining. Please give them a visit.

*Double Standard

I’m sure everyone has seen the trailer for the Marvel Black Panther movie that is set to be released next year. And if we are to be honest, we are over the roof excited about it. Have you seen the memes!? The ones showing how we’re going to go dressed for the premier? Have you seen the amount of views the trailer has on YouTube!?  2018 can not come any sooner!! So, tell me why, in between all the excitement and anticipation for the movie, we still see people hating on it?

So, one person called it “unrealistic” and “poorly put together in order to give Blacks a place in the entertainment industry”. And I’m like, “the name is science FICTION, afrofuturist to be exact, and the sole purpose of such work is to not just envision Blacks in the future but as the agents and subjects of the future.”

And then, I saw this post asking how can Wakanda be so technologically advanced and yet it had no imperialistic goals and its innovations did not spread to anywhere else. Y’all remember Avatar? The one with the blue people with tails that were primitive and highly developed at the same time? They loved that movie right? So why the lack of love for Black Panther then?

Could it be because it is BLACK PANTHER? Could it be because it shows Blacks not just as props and prawns but in the center as kings and leaders and scientists and warriors? But anyway, I hope this is one of many afrofuturist works to be produced because it’s about time we have a place in the future, in science fiction.

 

@

*But here’s the thing, this movie is going to be released. Its a done deal. Its going to do as well as any of the other MCU films to date. No amount of online harassment, from people who can’t stand to see Black people being happy about something, is going to stop us from going to the theater,  and seeing it multiple times. 

Now I’m done with this particular topic!

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From pathlesspagan:

Me and squad at the Black Panther premiere.

 

Black Panther (The Reaction)

*From Dark Matters Blog, a collection of video reactions to the Black panther trailer. you gotta watch these. They will make you smile:

via The Diaspora Reacts to the Black Panther Teaser Trailer on Youtube! — Dark Matters

 

*Yeah, I don’t think people are realizing what a groundbreaking moment this is for us. Just like Wonder Woman brought so many women to tears, this seems to be having the same effect on those of the diaspora. Here on this blog, I’ve often jokingly referred to the release date of this movie as, The Ascension.

I don’t think people fully and completely realize just how much visual media matters. How much it has not just reflected the world, but shaped it, and made the world what it is. Those of us who know this realize the impact that movies like Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman and Black Panther can have.

I want Asian-American men and women, LGBTQ, Latinx, Native Americans, everybody to have this same amount of representation in movies, and get it all the time, so that movies like Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, and Black Panther are not outliers.

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Here are some more reactions from Tumblr:

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unclesteeb

Idk what the appropriate level of emotion is when you’re in a fandom already but y’all I keep bursting into tears seeing all these beautiful edits and gifsets of black panther

This movie is so important. It might be the most important superhero movie of all time. Think of all the black children who are treated like shit from the world around them walking into a movie theater.

This is the movie we need.

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*From behind the scenes:

 

 

 

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*Wonder Women is accessible to ALL women, but it’s not FOR WoC in the same way that it’s for White women. I want White women to have that moment when you’re sitting in a movie theater in tears because you’re so happy. I also want everybody else to have that moment. That said,  I also want for people to just  let us enjoy this time, and to come out in support of this movie the way we came out for WW.

geeky-galpal

Dear white women feminists who loved Wonder Woman–

Listen, I also loved Wonder Woman. But I also think that Diana would be the first to note that we are not free until we are all free. So if you posted a thousand times about how important WW was for little girls to see, then I hope you are also prepared to post a thousand times about how important the new Black Panther movie is for black kids- girls and boys- to see.

I saw Wonder Woman, and I teared up the first time she stormed the battlefield in her full regalia. But, as a black woman, I couldn’t not notice that the women who looked like me played supporting, and largely non-speaking, background parts. Black Panther is the chance for women who look like me to see ourselves as the heroes in our own story. To see ourselves as warriors, as epic royalty, as fully actualized superheroes. In a major studio blockbuster, no less. Never- not ever- has that happened before.

We are looking forward to your support.

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disastergeek

I am all about Wonder Woman and I am definitely all about Black Panther.

But mostly what I really want is a WOC superhero movie. Every woman and every girls should feel what I felt watching that movie and while the gender is the same, race does matter. REPRESENTATION FUCKING MATTERS.

I want black and brown girls to see someone just like them playing the hero. I want them to look at that screen and say, “She’s me!” Because it matters.

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kamala-khan

so as it turns out, there is no such thing as superhero movie fatigue. we all just tired of watching the same white dude in the lead.

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 *Whatcha wearing to The Ascension?

pwussywillow

y’all gon see me walking into theater in full dora milaje gear on opening night for black panther

the-thotyssey

im making my auntie tie my head wrap so i can sit in front of white people and block the screen

pwussywillow

when they ask you to take down your head wrap, turn them, smile and just say “reparations” and go back to watching the movie

moonisneveralone

It’s gonna be cold as fuck here but I’m gonna be in full kente and a headwrap.

 

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From John Boyega, whose movie, Pacific Rim II, drops in March of 2018.

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tittytenda

me presenting my 56 slide , 2 hour long presentation on why everyone is gonna watch black panther and im not gonna hear any complaints from ANYONE  bc we all know that its gonna save the MCU:

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*And from the trailer:

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And in the “This Is Ridiculous” Column:

I just want all of y’all to be prepared for a full eight months of White noise, gibberish, and tears, as racist cockroaches come out of the woodwork to crawl all over Black people’s happiness.

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There’s a certain type of White bigot who sees Black people (any race of people that’s not them, really) being happy about something that’s important to them, who  will then go out of their way to throw water on them.

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Y’all knew this was coming tho’. As soon as all of America got to see the trailer during the NBA finals, that was the cue for the White whiner to go into danger mode like:

 movies marvel comics iron man robert downey jr GIF

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But I’m not letting these people take away my joy, and neither is anybody else. We just gonna, in the immortal words of Taylor Shifty, “Shake it Off”:

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Okay, I’m still a bit giddy, as you can tell. Later, I’ll have  something a little more substantial to add to this conversation, as I give those of you who do not read comic books, but  are still excited about this movie, the Black Panther 411.

Superheroes at a Theater Near You

Hi there!

Here’s a list of most, if not all, the top Superhero movies being released in the next two years. But first, some background, because for some reason, people love these mini slice-of -life snippets, that I keep adding to my posts.

I think I’ve said before, that I’m a huge comic book fan, and most of what I read  were superhero comics. I wasn’t a big DC reader as a child. For some reason DC Comic books weren’t as child accessible as Marvel. On the other hand, DC had a lot more shows on television, when I was little, like Shazaam, Wonder Woman, and Batman. I started by reading Peanuts and Archie comics when I was about seven or six, then graduated to Conan and Red Sonja around age eight, Horror comics like EC, and Eerie by the time I was ten, and then, by the time I was twelve, to books like Swamp Thing, and most of the Marvel superhero books.

Somewhere in one of those comics, I saw ads for Doctor Strange and the X-Men. I distinctly remember staring at those ads, wondering who these characters were, and why hadn’t I ever heard of them, because they looked fascinating. I didn’t start reading Justice League, Justice Society, Batman, and Superman comics until I was an adult in college, because my friends were into those books.

So once again, unlike most kids, I did not follow the traditional path to liking superheroes, by starting with Batman and Superman, although I watched all the DC shows and movies, followed by the apparently required reading of The Watchmen. I didn’t read that until I was an adult, and by that time, I was unimpressed by it. (But that’s probably the reason I was one of the five people who loved the movie becasue that’s how that works.)

And I’m still being contrary today. I do not enjoy being contrary. That’s just how everything works out. Since I’m a visual artist, (someday I’ll get up enough nerve to show y’all some of my old drawings) I have had training, but the past few years I’ve taken a hiatus from drawing, in favor of other artistic pursuits. I usually latch onto an artist and just follow them around from book to book,  and series to series. Some of my favorites are Barry Windsor-Smith from the early Conan books, Bill Sienkiewicz for his short stint on The New Mutants, Alan Grant for his work on Excalibur, Geof Darrow for anything, Adam Hughes, Arthur Adams, and of course Alex Ross. (Naturally, I don’t draw like any of them, no matter how much I’d love to.)

I’ve since gotten away from reading superhero comics, except for the occasional Batman, Wolverine, or Midnighter collection. I don’t buy them like I used to , and most of my comic book action happens digitally these days, and are independent projects, like Shaolin Cowboy, Hellboy, and  Cimarronin, and the various movies and TV shows. The last comic I bought online was Enormous.

So here is a  list of the comic book movies, I’m most interested in,  (although that doesn’t mean I’m going to see them in the theater) for the next couple of years:

2017 

Justice League  (11/17)

I’m cautiously excited about this. I didn’t care for BtVS, I don’t like Batfleck, and I’m not a fan of Amber Heard. On the other hand,  I love Jason Momoa, who looks as if he’s having the time of his life, in the trailer; and this movie’s version of The Flash, just because he’s really cute.

 

Thor Ragnarok (10/27)

I’m a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson,  Thor’s new haircut, and the Avengers version of the Hulk. Will I see it. I don’t know.

 

Spiderman Homecoming (7/7)

I’m actually looking forward to seeing this. Its got a diverse cast, and that little Tom Holland is just as cute as the dickens.

 

2018

Black Panther (2/9)

The Ascension is Nigh!

 

Avengers Infinity War Pt. 1 (4/27)

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?????? I got nothing!

 

Ant Man and the Wasp (6/29)

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Nope!

 

Aquaman (12/21)

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Yep!

 

New Mutants (4/13)

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More of these ???????

 

Deadpool 2 (6/1)

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Yeah, I’m in!

 

The Incredibles 2

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I loved the first movie. If the story is any good, I’ll have my butt in the seat when its released.

 

Venom (10/5)

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I like this character, but I still feel this should be a horror movie, and that Tom Holland should be in it.

 

Dark Pheonix (11/2)

Nope. I have never cared about the Phoenix, and I ain’t about to start now!

 

After 2018 Honorable Mentions:

Captain Marvel

Meh!

 

Shazaam

I’ll go see this if the story is any good, becasue I love the character.

 

Cyborg

Hmmmm!

 

Mouse Guard

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I love these books, and I’d get a kick out of seeing them on the big screen, even in animated form.

 

Superheroes on TV

So, just as Superheroes have taken over the movie theaters for the next few years, they’re also coming to a television near you. Here’s a partial list of most, if not all, of the superhero, and  superhero adjacent, shows coming to TV this Summer and Fall.

I’ve read most of the comic books associated with these titles, so those I’m looking forward to. I will probably watch the pilots for at least half of these, but as to whether or not I’ll make them a regular viewing habit, I can’t say.

Shows In Development 

The Inhumans (9/1)

I was never a fan of the books, but many of these characters have been featured in other works, so I know about Black Bolt and Medusa. I like Black Bolt but I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about this show because it looks seriously cheap, and the show runner is the same lack-skill that worked on Iron Fist, Scott Buck. I have a special level of contempt for him, so you must forgive me if I decide to skip this.

 

The Gifted (Fall)

I was under the impression that this is based on The New Mutants comic books. I’ve always been a  huge fan of that comic, but I’m thoroughly incurious about this show. I’m not interested in watching earnest looking teens with superpowers.

 

Bright

This is the new Will Smith D&D movie airing on Netflix. I’ll watch Will in pretty much anything.

 

Black Lightning (2017)

Yeah, I’m gonna actually try to watch this. I’ve only read a single one of the comic books, so I’m walking into this one with no preconceptions, and no knowledge outside of: he’s got some daughters, and they got superpowers.

 

The Punisher (November – Netflix)

I’ve never been a Punisher fan. I’ve always thought of him as boring, and unimaginative, but I know a lot about him because he kept starring in every other character’s book. Marvel loves crossovers. I was pretty impressed with Jon Bernthal’s portrayal in Daredevil though, so I’m looking forward to the show.

 

The Tick

I’m not a Tick fan. I know something about this character because I have a friend who loves him, and insists on telling me about him, but I’m not feeling any particular way about it. I hope its as funny as my friend says it will be.

 

Krypton (Fall)

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I’m not particularly interested in this but I’ll give it a look-see. I don’t find life on Krypton to be especially interesting, and I was not clamoring for this, but I’m curious as to what the show will be like, so I’ll take a look.

 

Cloak and Dagger (2018)

I read the comic books like a religious duty, so I’m a huge fan of the characters, but the show doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the books. I hope that’s a good thing because the books did have some issues. I will take a look at the pilot and  hope its some good.

 

Jessica Jones 2

I was disappointed in the first season of this show because of its lack of intersectional feminism, and its shabby treatment of PoC, so I’m not on board for the remake. I hope it’s better than season one because I can get PoC abuse and erasure in a much better show than this.

 

Iron Fist 2

*Sigh* I’ll watch this if it has a different show runner attached. Scott Bucked really fucked this up, and I have no confidence in him, so if he’s still attached to the second season, then I’m out.

 

In 2018:

Runaways 

Titans

New Warriors

 

To Be Announced:

Scarlet

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I actually like this character. She always reminded me of Xena Warrior Princess though, for some reason. Anyway, if this gets made, I’ll take a look at it. So far, I’ve only heard that its in development.

 

Hellfire Club

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I had mo interest in the comic book version, and have no interest in this, so it will probably turn out to be an awesome show that will be canceled because I was the only person watching it.

 

Umbrella Academy

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I enjoyed the book version, but I think its a series that’s hard to film and get the flavor of it right. I’m really curious about who will star in it, and what  it will be like, though. So far, its just in development.

 

Concrete

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I’ve never read the books, but I have friends who love this. For their sake, I hope it gets made, and that its as good as they say the books are.

 

Static Shock

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All I know about this character, I learned from the cartoon. This is only in development though. There are no names attached and I don’t even know if it will be live action. If you know more, let me know.

 

Rasl

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I liked this book, but I didn’t continue to read beyond the first collection. The book was kind of confusing but I loved the artwork.

 

 

Y: The last Man

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Didn’t care for the book. Hope the show is some good.

 

Enormous

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I just bought this on Comixology, and enjoyed it. Its mostly about strange giant creatures taking over the Earth, and wiping out humanity, which sounds awesome. With a good budget, and some care, this could be like a Kaiju version of The Walking Dead.

 

I’m familiar with these three comics but I haven’t actually read them.

Happy

Scalped

Locke and Key

Into the Badlands Season Two: Character Review (Pt. 1)

I like how short the seasons are for this show because it means that the plot can move quickly with a minimum of filler episodes. Despite that, the show still manages to throw some surprises in our direction. One of those surprises was the re-introduction of Baron Quinn. Another pleasant surprise, was the addition to the cast, of Nick Frost as Bajie. We got some major worldbuilding going this season, as the story fleshed out the where and the when of this show. I’m going to do this in three parts because otherwise its going to get too long. I’ll start with the the top four characters, around which most of the plot revolves.

Sunny: 

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The vast majority of the plot this season concerns Sunny’s search and return to Veil who, by this time, has given birth to a boy she names Henry. Veil is currently being imprisoned by Sunny’s nemesis, and former employer, Baron Quinn. Everything  is leading to the showdown between these two pivotal characters.

This  is all about Sunny coming to grips with his demons,  and laying the spiritual foundation for him to be a father for Henry. He feels he can’t do that until he puts his past as a killer for hire behind him. From episode one (Tiger Pushes Mountain), and his theme song, I’m Only Human by Rag ‘N Bone Man, to episode seven (Black Heart White Mountain), we see Sunny dealing with all the killing he dealt out in his past, and what kind of man that makes him. Last season we were given the idea that Sunny was sort of superhuman. At the beginning of this season we see him very much humbled. We watched him fall, and now we get to watch him rise up.  In order for him to do that he needs to acknowledge certain things about himself.

He also needs to choose a side. One of the most frustrating things about Sunny’s character last season was his passivity. He simply refused to make hard decisions, and would allow things to happen  to the people around him. Not only  would he not do anything, but he often refused to pass judgment. Adopting MK was the first pro-active decision we saw him make. after that it became easier to choose things for himself and his own happiness.

But the primary catalyst for his self reflection this season, like it is for a lot of men, is the birth of his first child, and his encounter with a legendary Clipper named Silver Moon, in the episode Red Sun Silver Moon. Pay attention to the titles here, because many of them refer to Sunny, or the people he encounters, like Silver. Silver has been waiting for a worthy opponent so he can die in style, so you can guess what the Red Sun means in the title. Sunny bests him but in keeping with his new vow, doesn’t kill him.

Sunny, like Silver, had made a vow not to kill anymore, for unnecessary reasons. He’s going to fail at this, as circumstances will require he keep at it. After escaping the mines, with a new companion named Bajie, he sets out to find his wife and son.  Whereas last season he pretty much lived according to Quinn’s whim, we see him fully committing to something unabashedly selfish. His own future happiness. He has a number of adventures along the way that require him to engage in violence to defend himself, as no one in the Badlands can be trusted. His journey into the Badlands is also a journey into his past and his self.

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Sunny has always been a kind of true neutral. Last season, he often held himself aloof from moral decisions, like when he stood by and watched Quinn kill Veil’s parents. There was a kind of curious moral paralysis, which Veil called him on towards the end of the season. This new moral version of Sunny is best illustrated in  episode five, Monkey Leaps Through Mist. He makes the decision to save a young girl from being sold into prostitution. This is major moral act for Sunny, who has always tried to shy away from being a savior. I think part of Sunny realizes that “not killing” isn’t enough. He is going to have to engage with the world to make it a better place, and  can’t just stand by and do nothing, if he hopes to become the kind of man he wants to be, that his son can be proud of.

Sunny also has to learn to work with, and trust others. Last season Sunny was very much a loner. This season he meets Bajie and the two of them have to work together to get back into the Badlands, defeat the Monks who want MK returned, and find and save Sunny’s  wife and son. This is made incredibly difficult because Bajie has ulterior motives of his own, and appears utterly untrustworthy.

In Black Heart White Mountain, Sunny literally confronts the many dead he’s responsible for, after being put in a coma like state by one of the Monks. He dreams of what his life could be, but he realizes on some level that he cannot have that life until he deals with his violent past. Reunited with MK, in  Leopard Stalks In Snow, he is then prepared to acknowledge that he can’t do what he needs to do alone,  that MK is his family, and he has a responsibility to him.

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In Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, Sunny makes and breaks alliances with Baron Chau (the only other prominent Asian woman we’ve seen), and The Widow. Taken prisoner by Chau who is in hiding from the Widow, he convinces her that they have one thing in common, they both want Quinn and The Widow dead. Upon contact with the Widow, she convinces Snuny to spare her life, because she knows where Veil is, so he allies with her. That alliance is broken when he discovers she betrayed Veil to form an alliance with Quinn.

Unable to trust the Widow, and having lost MK again, he prepares to go it alone, after entrusting Bajie to find and care for his protege. He’s come a long way since the first episode when he could barely bring himself to look at, or even speak, to Bajie.

Sunny finally makes it to Veil’s side and we get the reunion we’ve all been waiting for, with  lots of kissing, soaring music, twirling cameras, and some tears. But its not to last, and we should’ve known that happiness, normality, and a white picket fence on a farm was never going to be in Sunny’s future.

 

Veil:

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Veil has been one of the most frustrating characters but I was starting   to understand her and why Sunny fell in love with her. Its not just her pleasant nature. We saw in season one, that she was willing to challenge others when she was in a position to do so. She was never a floormat when she could help it. The key to understanding Veil is that she was a relatively powerless individual. She had no martial skills, she had no political power, and no kind of social clout, but what power she did have she wielded carefully.

How she operated in the Badlands was by showing a level of integrity, and honesty, that many of the other character’s entirely lacked. Jade, Lydia, Quinn, all the people that Sunny knows, are people willing to manipulate and deceive to gain their own ends in the Badlands. Veil was unwilling to do any of those things, was unwilling to compromise her principles to get ahead. Her moral compass remained strong.  Sunny gravitated to her because he could trust her. She was the one steady component in his life. She was honest with him in ways no one else was and so he trusted her like no one else.

Its not that Veil didn’t engage in immoral behavior. She did occasionally try to lie. But only  as a form of self defense, or to protect Henry, and usually  her attempts at deception weren’t successful.  She occasionally relied on her helplessness to win mercy from others which we saw in Palm of the Iron Fox, where she lies to, poisons, and eventually kills a Clipper named Edgar, when the poison doesn’t work. Later, she tries to claim she killed him because he  attempted to rape her, only to be told that was unlikely because Edgar was gay. So she does engage in immoral behavior sometimes, but it never proves profitable for her, and she is never rewarded for it.

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Her moral certitude is illustrated best in  Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, when Quinn forces her to marry him so that he can claim her son as his own. All pretense she made of caring about Quinn in her efforts to protect Baby Henry earlier, fall to the side. She makes no secret of her fear and contempt of Quinn, and shows little patience for the foolishness he keeps spouting to her and Henry. Eventually he has to lock her away to control her.

I have to admit, I was getting very frustrated with her inability to simply go along to get along, in the hopes of getting Henry away. That she would just chill and pretend she liked Quinn like before, but I get now why she didn’t do that. That kind of manipulative behavior simply does not come naturally to her, and she has no talent for it really. Her deceptions are always uncovered. In episode three, Red Sun Silver Moon, we find that she’s been lying to Quinn about his x-rays, substituting healthy x-rays for his, and that deception gets discovered in the next episode. I understand she’s been doing that because if Quinn doesn’t think she’s curing him he might kill her and Henry.

By the end of the season, Veil has formed an alliance with Lydia, against Quinn, and I have to applaud the show for writing it this way. Lydia is well used to manipulating and deceiving Quinn, and Veil needs someone like her, and I like that the writers show these women as allies against  their oppressor, rather than as competition for his attention. There’s a reason for Lydia’s behavior which I’ll get to in a moment.

I also liked that Veil got to be a love interest at all. The show definitely had that Django Unchained/Ring of the Nibelung vibe, where Sunny has to walk through ten kinds of Hell, the Widow’s  Butterflies, and Quinn’s wingnut Clippers, to win back his beloved, and I’m all kinds of here for that when its a Black woman, because we rarely get treated like that in genre narratives. That’s something that’s been the sole province of White women, and I have it on good authority that they find that shit kinda chafing. Its very interesting that neither Jade, nor Lydia, got that kind of treatment in the story.

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Unfortunately this is all we’re ever  getting about Veil, since she dies in the season finale, protecting Henry. I feel some kind of way about this and not just because I’m so tired of women of color being ‘fridged and watching  the show runners  sit back and make up bullshit excuses for why that happened.

But to be fair though, I wasn’t watching the show for her. I didn’t even know who Madeline Mantock was before watching it,  but I faithfully reported on her activities, gave her the benefit of the doubt, and followed what little of an arc she had. My faith in the showrunners was entirely misguided though, believing they might want, at some point, to do something with this character besides kill her off, but Gough and Millar seem unable to see much purpose in having PoC in their narratives except as cannon fodder.

Of the three Black people in the show this season, who had any lines,  they’ve all been killed. Edgar had a handful of lines, attacked Veil, and was killed. There was a Black Butterfly in The Widow’s camp, and she was unnecessarily singled out, and unceremoniously killed, by one of Quinn’s Clippers. I know a lot of women had feelings about that scene. And then there’s Veil. She’s been locked away, betrayed, assaulted multiple times, nearly raped, and then she sacrificed herself to kill Quinn. I think I saw the writing on the wall as soon as she walked into that room with Sunny, who was about to fight Quinn.

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This will not stop me from watching the show next season. I wasn’t watching the show to see Veil, but I was happy about her presence. Unlike some people I never had the luxury of just picking and choosing  which shows I was going to boycott. I grew up in a time of genre scarcity, where EVERYTHING I watched had problems, and nothing and no one was enlightened. I’m not going to boycott a series for one or two problematic elements. (It would have to be a really bad problem like what happened with Sleepy Hollow, or whitewashing, like with Ghost in the Shell.) I’ll watch the series and just keep complaining as loud as possible about the one problem. My attitude towards this type of thing is to reward the good behavior, and beat Hollywood with a rolled up newspaper, when they act a fool.

 

The Widow:

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We spent the bulk of our time this season shuttling back and forth between the Widow, Sunny and Quinn, the three major players in the narrative. We watched as the Widow connived, lied, and killed to consolidate her power, falling  even further into the dark side.

I must admit I was dismayed to see what became of Minerva this season. Its not that I ever thought she was a good person, but I was championing her cause. I believed in it. But it turns out that she really isn’t any better than the Barons she hopes to succeed. It turns out that power corrupts because the Widow had the most disappointing character arc of the season and has mostly just gone darkside at this point.

With Waldo (Sunny’s former Clipper teacher) as her adviser, she was willing to try diplomacy. When Ryder calls a Conclave of all the Barons in Palm of the Iron Fox, to assess what rules the Widow has broken in her rise to the top, she tries to play the game the way Waldo asks, but she is betrayed by the other Barons, who either attack her, or flee. She is saved by Tilda, who disobeyed a direct order to stay behind.  The event seemed to  crystallize something in Minerva, and she rejects Waldo’s advice, and starts following her own decisions from that point forward.

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Unfortunately, the Widow  doesn’t have a very good moral compass to follow. She makes all the wrong decisions. Decisions that both Waldo, and Tilda, two people with much stronger morality than her, attempt to talk her out of. She forms an alliance with Quinn which was galling enough to Waldo, but to do that, she returned Veil back to his custody, which Tilda found untenable. I never thought of her as a good person, as she always had an “ends justifies the means” attitude, but she lost me as a fan when she displayed complete hypocrisy in returning Veil  and Henry to  Quinn, in Leopard Stalks in Snow.

This is a woman who has championed the rights of Cogs and Women all of last season. I suppose I should have seen the writing on the wall after she kidnapped Veil in season one, as that was a bit extra. She cannot talk about protecting the women of the Badlands and be willing to send another woman into bondage for power. Not only that but it has also become clear that she has been using her emotional link to Tilda to get her to serve her cause. Its not that she doesn’t care about Tilda, but just as Veil said, she is willing to send little girls to fight and die for her cause. this makes her little different from Quinn.

In Nightingale Sings No More we get some backstory on the Widow (Minerva). How she used to be like MK, was kidnapped by the same Monks who took MK, and they drained her powers from her. Part of the reason she wants so desperately to decipher the book in her possession is she believes it can give her her powers back. That book that everyone has been passing about, that no one could read, is actually something that belongs to her. She owned it as a child, when she first encountered Bajie, a Monk who named her Flea.

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Baron Chau

We also get the mother /daughter fight that’s been long in the making. This has been coming since season one. Tilda always had the privilege of speaking freely with her, and the Widow trusted her like no other. We started seeing the cracks in their union in the first season when Tilda questioned her mother’s warmongering.

This time, Tilda, because she has a much clearer sense of morality than her mother, rightfully calls her out for betraying Veil, and challenges her mother to a duel, which she loses. Minerva can’t bring herself to kill her though, even though Tilda challenges her to do it. She locks her up instead. Tilda is rescued by a young woman named Odessa.

After she beat up Tilda,  Waldo turns his back on her too, believing her to be as corrupt as the other Barons. I guess next season we’ll have a brand new Big Bad as the Widow consolidates her  power.

 

Quinn:

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He’s the one person everyone seems to be hunting at some point. Yes, he’s still dying, and still insane.  He spent the first part of the season quietly terrorizing Veil and Henry,  losing it completely after he kills Ryder at a Conclave of the Barons, that Ryder arranged in Palm of the Iron Fox. After that, he must have been haunted by what he’d done  because Ryder’s hallucination taunts him for the entirety of the next episode, Monkey Leaps through Mist. Why his tumor hadn’t killed him yet is anybody’s guess. Why is Quinn still alive? That tumor was the size of a golf ball.

Lydia’s attempted capture of Quinn sets off explosives that he booby trapped throughout the compound, (an old transit station) and in the confusion, Veil escapes and goes to the Widow. Quinn forms an alliance with the The Widow, to take down the other Barons in exchange for Veil’s return, in Leopard Stalks in Snow, but the alliance doesn’t last  long. Neither of them can remotely trust the other, and  turn against one another at the first opportunity.

 

I’ve always been somewhat in awe of Quinn’s ability to talk complete bullshit and have it be believed, and  we get to see it in full force, up close and personal, all season. We saw him doing this last season but the only people he managed to hold in thrall were all Clippers. Lydia, Jade and Sunny all appeared to be immune to this superpower. I think this says a lot about the Clipper mentality, really.

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Quinn gets a lot of speech time, hissing, whispering, and conniving to anyone within earshot, to get what he wants. We get to watch him Jedi a young man named Gabriel, his entire Clipper force, and even tries his wiles on Veil, although I think she might have some immunity. His alliance with the Widow comes to an abrupt halt after he talks Gabriel into a terrorist attack in the Widow’s courtyard. He spends the rest of the next two episodes, Nightingale Sings No More, and Wolf’s Breath Dragon Fire, wiring the entire compound with explosives, waiting for Sunny to arrive.

It takes Sunny four tries to kill Quinn! At one point I was simply screaming at my TV because, for some reason, Sunny simply would not take this asshole’s head. Every time he thought the Baron was down, he would wander off and drop his weapon, and Quinn would just get back up, and cause more mischief. This complete inability to finish him off, was the reason  Quinn was alive at all. I was also pretty salty at the writers because it was all rather clumsily done. I really don’t want to have to look at Quinn all of next season again. I was getting pretty tired of all his speechifying. Not that I don’t like Martin Csokas. He played the Hell out of this character. Its just that a little bit of Quinn goes a long way and in this season was a bit too much.

In Part 2: Bajie, Tilda and MK get character reviews along with Lydia, one the few other people from season one, who survives to see a third season.

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 3 (1991-2000)

Oh wow! From here on out its getting increasing difficult to choose one movie. When you’ve watched as many movies as I have, at my age you have a helluva lot of favorites, so this is like picking those desert island movies, (the movies that you would most like to have if you were stranded on a desert island.)

I did have to cheat a few times and choose two:

1991: Terminator 2/Addams Family

Beauty and the Beast was also released this year, so I had a really hard time choosing just one movie. Why is this so hard? I love movies. I find at least one thing to like about even the worse movies, so this is just making it extra difficult, when the movies have fewer flaws to latch onto.

I chose Terminator 2 though, because it was the movie that had the most emotional effect on me. America had just come out of the “Cold War” with Russia, in the 80s, when I had to (real quick) deal with my own existential angst, coupled with the idea of nuclear annihilation. I had a lot of sleepless nights as a teen. That was a very rough period, and watching that movie reawakened all my worst anxieties, especially the scenes of nuclear devastation. I was near tears just at the opening credits, and my anxiety issues almost caused me to walk out.

I have since calmed down about this movie, and can appreciate it for what it is. I still can’t watch the bomb blast scenes, but that hasn’t stopped  the movie from being most excellent, in all other regards, and I’m gonna have to review it someday because the plot and themes still resonate. Also, I have tremendous respect for James Cameron, who managed to tear it up, with some of the best sequels, (to already great movies), ever made.

I chose the Addam’s Family solely for nostalgic reasons. I just love this movie, and never get tired of its humor. I watched the TV show as a child and it was alright. I liked it okay, but the movie built on it in ways that just shone. The acting and actors are, quite simply, perfect. Raul Julia as Gomez simply can’t be topped. And I’ve been in love with Angelica Huston ever since. When I first saw this movie I didn’t even know who she was. Now, whenever I think of her, I think of Morticia. And of course  Wednesday Addams was my personal avatar. If I can be said to have a life philosophy, then Wednesday gave voice to a lot of it. She was smart, practical, snarky, and tolerated no nonsense, often saying the type of  things I actually manged to get away with saying to people, when I was a child,  without getting my ass thoroughly kicked. Incidentally, check out the video series Adult Wednesday Addams. It perfectly captures what she’d be like as a grown woman, and is absolutely hilarious!

The animated version of Beauty and the Beast gets a special mention. Yes, I am also a Disney fan, especially the  years before CGI, and if I had to pick just one Disney film, it would have to be Beauty and the Beast. Its just gorgeous, Howard Ashman’s music was at its best, and I loved all the songs. I know every word of Be Our Guest, and still get chills listening to it today. Why that song resonates with me I can’t even guess! But in every Disney film there’s at least one.

 

1992: Bram Stoker’s Dracula/Reservoir Dogs

I was in Art school when I went to see this movie with some friends. Dracula is another of Cuppola’s  masterpieces. It’s another one of those movies where, when you walk out of the theater, you have to take a moment to readjust to reality. Despite the dodgy acting of its younger stars which has not held up well, the movie itself is one long,  lush, beautiful dream sequence, that doesn’t even need dialogue. This is one of those movies I appreciate, not for reasons of nostalgia, but for solely artistic reasons, and this was one of the first movies I really appreciated as such. I saw it twice in the theater and have watched it multiple times since. Everything, the details, the colors, even the camerawork, has meaning, and I never get tired of watching it.

Reservoir Dogs I saw a couple of years after its release and it was the first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen. It’s one of those movies where you have to ask yourself who that is, and then follow them for the rest of your life, or their career. Despite Tarantino’s many controversies, I have never been disappointed by one of his movies. Even when I didn’t particularly care for a movie, it was still worth looking at. Another reason I like him is because he has managed to singlehandely revive the careers of actors that Hollywood had long forgotten. I would love him just for giving us back Pam Grier, who I grew up listening to my mother rave about. In fact my mother loves Grier so much that she is a total stan for Jackie Brown. I can’t get her to even look at any other of Tarantino’s movies, but Jackie Brown is always on replay. I love Tarantino because he made my Mom redsicover her love for Pam Grier.

 

1993: The Piano

Okay, now I’m reacting to the artistry of the movie. The Piano is one of my all time favorite films, looking incongruous next to movies like The Addams Family, but really it fits right in. Since I’ve been trained as a visual artist; the camerawork, costumes, colors, details, are what attract me to certain movies.  With The Piano though, I really started to pay  close attention to the music in a film.

Music has always been a huge part of my life, (I have moments, milestones, everything), but this was the first time I’d been as engrossed in the sound of a movie, as I was its visuals.  I was haunted by this movie. I thought about it for days afterward. I was moody, examining it, my feelings about it, and puzzling over its meaning. The mood of it simply wouldn’t leave me, and in a lot of ways it still hasn’t left. It’s not a movie I watch often, but when I do, I have to be prepared for several days of thoughtful melancholy afterwards.

Jurassic Park gets a shoutout because I am a total dinosaur fan, and you have not lived until you’ve seen a full grown woman act like  a damn fool in a movie theater, at the sight of one of the most realistic looking T-Rex’s every created for the silverscreen. Does it make me a bi-sexual, if I’ve fallen in live with a female dinosaur?

True Romance: Quentin Tarantino didn’t direct his movie but he wrote much of its dialogue, and it shows, most especially in the scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. In the Sicilian scene, Walken stars as an old school Mob boss trying to torture information out of Hopper on his son’s whereabouts. This scene is right up there with that classic meeting between DeNiro and Pacino in Heat, and is very possibly  one of Hopper’s finest scenes.

 

1994: The Crow

I know I should probably pick something the critics loved like Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption which were also released this year, but nope. This year belongs to The Crow.

I had just left college around this time, I was working, and had a little bit of disposable income. So you know what I did with that extra money? That’s right! Go to lots of movies. I don’t even remember seeing the other two films in the theater, but I went to see The Crow 3 times, dragging all my friends along each time. I’ve seen this movie lots of times since, then, and read the book a few times, too. Yes, I still miss Brandon. I still feel hurt over the career this beautiful man could have had.

 

1995: Seven

The alternative to this movie was Toy Story. I enjoyed TS a lot but I wasn’t really into it like that, until Jessie’s song, When She Loved Me. Til then, I just thought it was cute.When I started crying in the second movie,  I knew that shit was serious. But I’m not picking that one. I’m picking Seven because:

This was the first time I’d ever heard of David Fincher. I wasn’t expecting too much from this movie when I first saw it. I was ready to dismiss it as one of those dark detective type movies, only with extra Morgan Freeman, whose movie career I’d been following, since he played Fast Black in Street Smart. But Seven turned out to be excellent, and upended any expectations I had about the plot. Oddly, my favorite scene isnt the ending, but the scene where Morgan Freeman’s character (Detective William Somerset) goes to do some research at the libray, and banters with the guards. The music playing during that scene is Bach’s Air on the G String. I’ve watched this dozens of times since its initial release, but the best way to watch it is with Fincher’s commentary on the DVD.

This year also saw the release of one of the most intelligent vampire movies I’ve ever seen,  Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, starring Christopher Walken and Lily Taylor, about a college student who has an existential crisis after she gets bitten by a vampire on the streets of NY. I watched this movie three or four times just trying to follow the conversations in this movie, because gobdammit, this movie is not smarter than me! Except maybe it is. Or maybe its just a bunch of pretentious drivel.

This is one of those movies where you have to pay attention when you’re watching it. No eating popcorn, or chatting with your friends. As a result, this movie was much more successful on video then it was in the theater. And  since this is a Ferrara movie, it doesn’t skimp on the gore, either. There’s a fairly graphic scene, towards the end of the movie, where an entire college faculty  room gets massacred by vampires. These aren’t the most vicious vampires on screen, as they’re too emotionally detached, but that’s what makes the scene so  terrifying.

Christopher Walken also starred in The Prophecy this year, a movie about a new Angel war in Heaven and on Earth. This is also one of my favorites movies. I know people like to write off Walken as a silly actor but he’s starred in a number of very intelligent horror movies.

 

1996: Fargo

I just finished a two part analysis of this movie, and its comparison to Raising Arizona:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/fargo-speaking-of-crime/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/speaking-of-crime-raising-arizona-1987/

 

1997: Princess Mononoke

I had a hard time getting my niece to watch this, instead of her billionth viewing of Spirited Away, but I finally did, and it was worth it, as I used this movie as a way to hone her critical thinking skills. But rather than focus on the environmental issues in the plot she seemed to focus more on the moral issues. We had a good discussion about the morality of Lady Eboshi, the primary antagonist in this movie.

Lady Eboshi lives in a camp in the forest. She is a weapons maker, and to do this, she tears down and corrupts the forest and its creatures. The corruption is spreading to other parts of the forest not associated with what she’s doing, the forest creatures are angry and want to destroy her, including Princess Mononoke, a young woman who has been raised by wolves. Lady Eboshi also takes in “fallen women”, ex-whores looking to escape their old lives and live free of the brothels, and lepers, whom she tenderly cares for and makes sure their final days are comfortable.

My niece and I discussed the moral grayness of someone like Eboshi. What she’s doing to the forest is very obviously wrong, and she doesn’t care about that, but at the same time, she cares very much for the unfortunate people around her, so its not easy to condemn her as a villain. I think I summed it up for my niece like this: That sometimes, good people do very bad things. And sometimes, bad people do nice things. I don’t know how much of this conversation stuck with her because she was about ten at the time. She also seemed quite taken with the little white forest spirits in the movie. I had a much harder time explaining Japanese religious beliefs too her, tho’.

Most other people would probably choose Men in Black or Disney’s Hercules as this years favorite, but apparently, I like to be contrary.

1998: Dark City

Despite the release of both The Truman Show and Pleasantville, this year, for me, belongs to Dark City. Directed by David Goyer who made The Crow, and starring  Rufus Sewell, who a lot of people inexplicably hate, this is one of the smarter SciFi action movies of the nineties. Its not the characters though, its the plot. From its opening scene of a man waking up in a bathtub, to its apocalyptic ending ,the audience is taken on a compelling mystery, just like it s primary character, John Murdock. There are spiral symbols, aliens, mysterious men in black, a captivating beauty played by Jennifer Connelly, a nosy detective played by William Hurt, and a city that moves around at night. Are you intrigued now? Good!

I remember when I first saw the trailer for this movie. I was immediately captured by it. It suits my aesthetic. This movie wasn’t well received by critics, probably because you have to be patient with it. You don’t know anymore about what’s going on than John, and you find out what’s happening only when he finds out. This is one of the movies on which Roger Ebert and I fully agreed. He enjoyed this movie so much he did three separate commentaries for its DVDs.

 

1999: The Matrix

For a lot of people, this year was all about the Sixth Sense, and its twist ending, but for me, and a lot of other geeks, it was all about The Matrix. This is one of those tent-pole movies, that is not only a summation of all the hottest SciFi  film-making techniques of the twentieth century, but also one of those movies to which every  SciFi movie afterwards would be compared.  Bladerunner did it in the eighties, but the Matrix belongs in The Crow/Dark City family of films. Lots of rain! Check. Black trenchcoats! Check. Mysterious agents in black! Check.

This year also saw the release of Fight Club,  and the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Ravenous. As much as I love David Fincher and cannibal movies, I’m not picking those because this is the movie that captured my imagination. The world I would most like to live in, despite the charms of Hobbit-town.As a OG Star Trek fan, I also enjoyed Galaxy Quest immensely.

 

2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

I did a review of this movie from a storytelling point of view.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/fight-philosophy-101-crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon/

I’ve said before that I grew up watching Kung Fu and Wuxia movies,  so I’m well used to the tropes used in this movie. I used to work with a rather pretentious white guy who fancied himself something of a cinemaphile. He had seriously lofty taste in movies, and occasionally tried to recommend movies to me. I don’t recall liking anything he suggested but that’s not my point. When this movie was released, he heard great things about it, and checked it out. He came back to work crowing about the wonderfulness of this movie.

I had every intention of seeing the movie anyway but I simply wasn’t as impressed as he was. For him, the movie was the greatest creation since Wonder bread. For me, the movie was a very well made version of movies I’d been watching my whole life. I heard later that Chinese audiences had very much the same reaction. It was a beautiful film but really not a whole lot different than a thousand other Wuxia movies released in the 90s. It was only a new genre to him.

The year 2000 also saw the release of Pitch Black which starred Vin Diesel, who I had never heard of before ,and one of my all time favorite comedies Best in Show, by Christopher Guest. Unbreakable was also released this year and its  one of the most awesome low-key superhero movies ever created, and I’ll have more on it later.

Ooh! Stay tuned for my 2000s movie list, later this month? Next month? And with the success of American Gods, I’d better get started on  my Hannibal Season Three re-watch this Summer, and I have a really nice post on my favorite Supernatural episodes per season. I know I keep promising I’m gonna do special stuff, and these things are sitting in my queue, they just take a bit more time to write then some of my other stuff.

Slainte!

 

Coming Soon To A TV Near You

May 5th

Sense8 -Netflix

The second season of Sense8 has already begun. The showrunners are still the Wachowski Sisters. Well one of the sisters, anyway. The show has run into some criticism for its depiction of its characters of color, but is lauded for having some of the best depictions of LGBTQ characters in the genre. There’s also Freema Agyeman in the cast, which is always a plus.  I’m planning to binge it this weekend, if I can, because I enjoyed the first season. I may or may not give a review, depending on how I manage my time.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/9/15550466/netflix-sense8-jamie-clayton-freema-agyeman-interview

May 19th

12 Monkeys – Syfy

I know nothing about this show other than the title, how much I’ve been meaning to watch it, and that it’s been getting some very good reviews. One of these days…

May 21st

Twin Peaks – Showtime

The return of Twin Peaks is being eagerly anticipated. I was never a huge fan of the original show, but I heard a metric ton about how wonderful it was. Every critic talked about this show. I know bits and pieces about some of the characters, and that’s it. I’m including this here because I know some of you still love the show. It still stars many of the original characters, and my understanding is that, like The X-Files, it’s a limited continuation of the series. I won’t be watching this because I don’t subscribe to this network, but I will be monitoring it through reviews and trailers, just in case things get out of hand, and I need to jump into action.

May 29th 

Still Star Crossed – ABC

People have been eagerly anticipating a date for this, and it’s almost here. I’ve liked the various adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, I’m a fan of Shakespeare, and since this is a little racebent, I thought I might enjoy it. Apparently, it takes place after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, and involves the coping and machinations of their two families. This is a Shondaland Joint, and while I don’t normally watch any of her shows, I have tremendous respect for her, and this looks like something I could get into. It’s on regular network TV though, and I feel some kind of way about them canceling the show the moment I start to like it, because that’s how they roll.

 

June 4th

Fear the Walking Dead – FX

I think the original The Walking Dead is enough zombies for me in one year. I don’t dislike this show. It looks pretty good, and it gets good reviews, but The Walking Dead is such a heavy show, I can’t subject myself to another show that’s just as heavy, and about zombies, so soon after the finale of the original. (I’m just so taaahd!) Seriously though, The Walking Dead needs a cool-down period, an after-party, or something.

June 6th

Shadowhunters – Freeform

I wasn’t as impressed with this show as the fans on Tumblr. I thought I’d try it out because it keeps scrolling across my dashboard, and all the actors are really cute. The show strikes me as a combination of Buffy/Riverdale Lite. Although I wasn’t impressed, even though I  like the character, Magnus, and the show has some good LGBT representation in his relationship with Alec, I’m no longer watching it . There’s too much schmacting in it for my taste, but I respect that some people really  love it.

June 9th

Dark Matter – Syfy

I  just started watching Dark Matter last season. The plot was compelling enough to hold my attention, and the characters were likable. I do remember not liking any of the characters when it first aired, but the plot and characters have shown tremendous improvement, and the show has some good representation of women and MoC. I’m looking forward to the new season, but I won’t be reviewing the series.

Wynonna Earp – Syfy

I checked out of this series about halfway through the first season because I didn’t have time to watch it. I’ve heard good things about it though, and it too, has some adequate LGBT representation.I remember I sorta liked the first episode but I didn’t keep up with it much after that. I’ll be watching the new season, and we’ll see if I can pick up where I left off, without getting too lost.

June 14th

Blood Drive – Syfy

Okay, this show sounds utterly batshit. It’s a kind of Mad Max hybrid, where people have run out of oil, and vehicles now run on human blood. I don’t normally watch this kind of grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez, type stuff, but I’m going to give it a try. I know the show looks, and  sounds gross, but c’mon…it has cannibal  in it, and cars that eat people!

June 22nd

The Mist – Spike

It doesn’t look as scary as the movie, but I’m going to check it out, and give you guys a report. It looks like it’s got all new monsters than the movie, and that may be due to budgetary constraints. It also looks like it’s taking place over more than one location, so that’s on the plus side. I also hope we get to see the pharmacy event. In the story, we only encountered the aftermath. A large part of the actual story is taken up with the sounds of the mist, so I hope the show pays attention to the audio factor,  as that will go a long way towards capturing the dread.

June 25th

Preacher – AMC

I totally loved the first season of this, and I’m really hoping it will blow up the same way Into the Badlands did, after airing on Netflix.  I love shows with crazy plots and characters, so this is just right for me. (Yes, I have been watching Fargo, just in case anyone was asking.)

June 30th

Killjoys – Syfy

I got away from watching this because  of time limitations. The Syfy Network has really turned itself around, but  now it  has so many good shows, that I don’t have time to watch any of them. I also like Z Nation, The Expanse, and several others.  I’ve heard great things about the racial representation of these shows, and want to support them. Please do not tell me to record anything else, though. I already have a bunch of shows, on my DVR, that I’m not looking at.  Killjoys will probably become one of those shows.

 

July 12th

Midnight Texas – NBC

I’m really looking forward to this. I’m still dithering on whether or not I should read the books, or watch the show and just go with the crazy. I only hope it’s as good as True Blood’s first two seasons.

July 16th

Game of Thrones – HBO

Every season I say I’m going to watch this show, and then I dither around and skip the first five, or six episodes. Then, along comes that one episode per season, that everybody talks about, and I end up finishing out the rest of the season. I do not consider myself a fan of this show though. I watch just enough of it to know who everyone is, and I don’t like most of the characters anyway, so I guess I’m gonna follow my usual pattern of indifferent viewership.

 

August 18th

The Defenders – Netflix

I am cautiously excited about this, despite the presence of Danny Rand. Probably because, even though I hated the series Jessica Jones, and Daredevil grew increasingly annoying, these characters are quite enough to offset my dislike of Danny Rand. Also, Finn Jones acting (and fighting) looks a little bit better than when he was in his own series. (Finn Jones is still a total douche, but that ain’t none of my bidness.) I’m  also probably just excited to see the interaction even between characters I partially dislike. Sometimes a character, by themself, can be extremely annoying, but if you pair that person with the right foil, they become great.

 

Honorable Mention:

Teen Wolf – MTV:  will be ending its six season run  sometime this Summer, but I don’t have a solid date for it, yet.

Bonus Round: 

The new trailer for Bladerunner came out this week. I’m sort of on the fence about seeing this. I hate to sound like this,  but I am just exceptionally tired of these all- White futures. Where in the fucking Hell are all the PoC? And Hollywood keeps doing this shit! You mean to tell me  they can imagine snakes made out of water, flying cars, elves, living statues, and zombies, but can’t imagine PoC living in the year 2049? This also prompts the disturbing question of where the Hell we all went? Was there some sort of mass exodus to our own planet? Were we all killed off by the plague, White people, rabid bunnies? Wtf?

Anyway here’s the new trailer. See if you can spot any PoC:

Okay, is it just me, or does Ryan Gosling always look like he’s about to start crying, but never actually does. He always has this weird, half-smiling, facial expression. I don’t know anything about Mr. Gosling, having never watched even one of his movies, but I know he’s a huge deal to some people, and this would be my first time watching him in anything. (That is not a bid for recommendations, becuz I just know y’all gonna come in here to try to give me some!)

 

Bonus Bonus Round:

Yaaay!!! I just finished reading American Gods. I do confess that I mostly listened to the audiobook, but it was still pretty cool. It has a veeeery interesting plot, and I’m kinda mad I had not read this book sooner. I just kept putting it off.

So there! I am officially ready to provide any and all spoilers for the American Gods TV show. Tag me! I’m Spoiler Adjacent!

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 2 (1981 – 1990)

The eighties is when I did the bulk of my movie watching, so its going to get harder,  as I go,  to just choose one movie, and in some cases, some  movies are going to have to share the spotlight with others.

The eighties also saw the invention of the VCR, for wide spread home use, and my family got our first one  in 1983 or 1984. Yes, I saw more than a few of these movies with my Mom, but there’s less of a nostalgia factor involved, and more of an appreciation for good filmmaking in my choices.  This is sometimes less about which movies influenced me, and more about which ones I could appreciate as a noobie film-wonk.

At about the mid-eighties, I started babysitting my nieces and nephews, and some of my Aunts had cable. So I watched a lot of these movies on HBO, (along with lots of MTV). I watched a helluva lot of Horror movies, in the eighties too, so this list is going to contain quite a few of those. I think my Mom and I tried to see every Horror movie made between 1980 and 1988, at which time I headed off to college, and  wilder film adventures.

 

1981 – American Werewolf in London/The Howling

 

I couldn’t choose between the two hallmark werewolf movies of the 80s. At the time American Werewolf was released, it was considered the total shit, but I didn’t care because I was stuck on The Howling, and as far as I was concerned, nothing surpassed it. Until I realized what everyone was talking about. An American Werewolf in London is, indeed, a most excellent movie.

I love both movies for different reasons, though. By any measure, American Werewolf is the deeper film, with its themes of survivor’s guilt, and cultural displacement. That, along with the special effects, make it worth the hype.  The Howling is pure, grade B horror film-making, with its cheap melodrama, and mordant sense of humor, and something in my fourteen year old soul (my age when I saw it) just loved it.

1982 – Bladerunner/ The Thing

When I first saw the trailer for Bladerunner at age 12, I knew that was my movie, and we were destined to be together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it until several years after its release, and only on TV. I’ve been  a Ridley Scott fan ever since. I am obviously going to have to do a review of this movie, and share my love, even if there’s nothing new to be said about it.

I distinctly remember watching this trailer on TV, and thinking I wanted to see this movie.

I could not choose between Bladerunner and what is quite possibly one of the most perfect horror movies ever made, The Thing. This is how you do a remake. I’d argue that the eighties was the decade of the great  remake. Starting in the late 70s with Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the 80s saw the remakes of The Fly,  Scarface, The Blob, The Thing, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Cat People.

Most people looking back on this particular year, often choose E.T.  because it was the most popular. Well, I’m not an E.T. fan. I don’t care about it, have no warm feelings for it, and almost never think of it, and at twelve years old, I’d be the perfect age to love it. I didn’t.

The Thing is another movie I didn’t see at  its release. In fact, this didn’t register on my radar until several years after, when people began praising it in various magazines. I have no memory of watching the trailers for it, although I must have seen them. I really didn’t know anything about it until a few years after its release.

There was also a movie released this year called Xtro, which was one of the grossest scifi/horror mashups I’d ever seen, and  was surpassed only by another horror movie, released in 1987, called Street Trash.

1983 -The Right Stuff

I have been a total NASA stan, ever since I fell in love with Star Trek as a child, so for me this movie felt like a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite organizations. This was the first time I’d ever watched Ed Harris in anything and I totally fell in love with him, and Scott Glenn, but I was also  in love with everybody when I was fifteen, apparently.

Yeah, okay, I’m still in love with Ed Harris, solely on the basis of him starring in this movie.

1984 – The Terminator

I didn’t see this movie until 1986. I remember this so well, because at the time it was released I had longed to see it, but didn’t have any money to go to the theater. I saw it in 1986, on tape, at my neighbor’s house. I remember because our neighbors, two brothers who lived across the street from us, had just bought a new VCR, and invited our family over for movies and popcorn.

I remember their house was a total mess and I was more than a little dubious about staying, but after a while I was so engrossed in the movie, I completely forgot my surroundings. It was the first time I’d ever seen a James Cameron movie, and my introduction to Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. This is another of those movies where I just wandered off, home, while slowly trying to readjust to reality.

1985 – Fright Night

See my review:

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=fright+night

Return of the Living Dead gets an honorable mention:

https://wordpress.com/post/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/3756

1986 – 3 Films

I could not pick just one movie for this year. Three of my top favorite films were released this year: Aliens, The Fly, and Children of a Lesser God. Each of these movies is the perfect example of its genre for this year. But, if I absolutely had to pick one of them, to watch on a desert island, or something, I’d pick Aliens, since I never get tired of watching it.

1987 – 4 Films

This is another year where too many of my favorite films were released, so I can’t pick just one of them.

I saw both Evil Dead 2, and Robocop on a double bill at the local theater. To this day, I can count this as the best spent three hours of my entire  life. Just me, some popcorn, and a quiet movie theater, all to myself.

Lost Boys is on this list because I distinctly remember gushing about this movie to one of my classmates about how the guys in the movie were so cute. So, this makes the list more out of nostalgia, than that its a great movie, although, its still pretty good, by today’s standards.

I didn’t see Near Dark until many years after its release, but I do hereby acknowledge it as one of the best, most underrated,  vampire movies of the 80s.

My review:

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=near+dark

1988 – Akira

Dangerous Liaisons, Beetlejuice, and Young Guns, were all released this  year, but really there was no other choice for me to make. This year belongs to Akira, although I didn’t watch it until 1992, while I was in college.

Not only is it the best movie made that year, its one of my all-time favorite Anime. Its also the very first time, I’d ever seen Anime on the big screen. When I walked into that theater, I had no idea what I was in for, since my roommate refused to tell me anything about it. She just kept saying I would like it. There are a handful of movies, that have such an effect on you, that you have to seriously readjust to being back in the world, when you walk out of the theater, and end up contemplating them for months after you see them. Akira is one of these films.

Incidentally, I had a bad falling out with the roommate who introduced me to this movie, a few years later, and while I have mixed feelings about her, I have never faulted her taste in movies. Whenever she said I would like something, she was NEVER wrong. Raising Arizona, Tremors, Near Dark, Seven Samurai, and Akira are movies I probably would never have watched without her influence.

1989 – The Little Mermaid

Batman, The Abyss, and Casualties of War, were also released in 1989, but I have to pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite. Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, is the meanest, snarkiest shit I ‘d ever heard in a Disney film, and I absolutely love that character. Of course now I know, she was modeled after the Drag Queen, Divine.

This was one of the first Disney films that ever made me cry, and I’ve been crying at these movies ever since.

1990 – Goodfellas

Tremors and Dances with Wolves was released in 1990, and I saw all three of these movies in the theater, where they probably should first be seen. I wasn’t unaffected  by those movies, but Goodfellas is a movie made by a director, Scorcese,  who was at the top of his game at the time, and he has never made a better movie since, in my opinion.

This one of my favorite scenes in a wealth of favorite scenes. Personally, though I don’t find the “Do you think I’m funny?” scene, to be especially funny. Yeah, its iconic, but its not my favorite.

The 1990s, though,  was when I really started, not just to develop my own tastes, but began to pin down just what attracted me to certain films. I began to really think critically about what I was watching, and Why I was watching it. I began reading the opinions of others about the films I liked, and this taught me how to approach film criticism. I started to trust certain critics over others, began reading books on film theory, and audience theory, and reading the filmmakers ideas about what they were trying to accomplish.

So, as the 90s progress, you’ll start to see a change in the kinds of films I enjoy, although SciFi and Fantasy will still make up the bulk of my viewing habits.

 

 

New Movie Trailers 

Well, we’ve got a new batch of trailers, for movies some of us have already decided we will, or won’t see. As per usual, the  more trailers I watch, for some movie I was highly enthusiastic about six months ago, the less I want to see it. I think trailers are specifically designed to make you hate a movie before you see it, and you should probably just keep your trailer watching to a minimum. Well, probably I should.

Except, from time to time, there is that rare trailer that makes you more excited to see the movie.

 
The Mummy:

I’m still not sure how I feel about this movie, except to say Tom is starting to look a bit worn. Apparently, this isn’t just a remake but, like the Ghostbusters, a re-imagining. Well, the special effects indeed look special, and there’s Russell Exposition, to give us the lowdown.

 
War for the Planet of the Apes:

I had no intention of seeing this movie, after all, I haven’t seen any of the previous ones. I have a friend who is really enthusiastic about this series, but I was put off by the animal abuse, in the first film. I get the point of these movies (slavery allegories don’t excite me) but I couldn’t get past the animal abuse. It bothered me for several days afterward, and I decided I wouldn’t watch any of the movies, not having finished the first one.

 
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Well, it’s still really really pretty. I love movies, but it’s both a blessing, and a curse. Sometimes, I just get tired of looking at white ppl have incredible adventures in movies.  (At such moments you gotta break out the Japanese anime, or Chinese action movies.)

 
Alien: Covenant

The more I see of this movie, the less I want the to see it. I love the Alien movies, but I have no intention of  seeing this.

 
Spiderman Homecoming

Well, this is the rare movie, that I still want to see, after having watched several trailers. I still love little Tom Holland, no matter how mad the children on Tumblr might be about him.



Deadpool 2

I may or may not see this movie. I’m a little dubious about  the humor in this scene, but the first movie had some nice, funny, surprises, so I’m still game.

The Akira Project

There been a lot of speculation in the news recently about Jordan Peele directing a live action version of the famous Manga, Akira. I absolutely love this movie and watched it many times over the years. It wasn’t the first anime I was introduced to but it was the first that really affected me. 

A few years ago Osric Chau, from the Supernatural series, was lobbying to be cast as Kaneda, in a live action version. He, and some people he hooked up with, made a test trailer. This is what a live action  Akira could look like:

I’ve always thought of Chau as more of a fit for Tetsuo, but I think he just likes Kaneda as the hero.

Kong: Skull Island

First of all this review contains lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen  the movie, you know the drill.

 I had no plans to go see this movie. Not to say I wasn’t intrigued. I love giant monsters as much as the next person,  but I had a choice between Get Out, Logan, and Kong, and I had chose Logan. I’ve since seen both of those movies, thanks to friends with more money than me, who enjoy my company. I still hadn’t planned to see Kong. 

Well, Mom had other plans. She saw the trailer, and because it hit all the check marks for her entertainment, we were gonna be seeing it. 

Big guns! Check.

 Monsters! Check. 

Samuel L Jackson! Check.

I had read some  reviews, which seemed neither bad nor good, and I had the impression it would be sort of like Apocalypse Now with monsters. I was, and was not wrong.  It was very entertaining, mostly as a war movie with monsters, than a straight up monster movie. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and it’s got more than a few parallels with that movie.

Me, Mom, and two of the little tikes; my niece, The Potato and her baby sister, who we like to call Lil’ Momma, had a girls day out. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time between amusing Lil Momma with treats, hugging her when she got scared, and being scared shitless myself. There’s a reason I don’t see too many scary movies in a theatre. I can’t turn them off, and walk out.

But it was still a helluva lot of fun too, and not exactly what I thought it would be. Most of the tropes of King Kong movies were neatly, and deliberately, subverted.There was a lot more talking but that was okay because most of it was setup for the action scenes. It’s not a very deep film. Well, it didn’t have a deep message in it,  but I think y’all should know that King Kong movies (and those Planet of the Ape films) have always had a deep meaning for Black Americans. We always found subtext in them. This movie manages to neatly set aside that subtext, which in itself ends up creating subtext. 

The year is 1974 and the US had just made the decision to pull out of Vietnam. Jacksons character is depressed and enraged by this, which informs his motivation for the rest of the movie. Hiddlestons character is set adrift and looking for adventure. Goodman’s character is considered something of a crackpot conspiracy theorist with his Hollow Earth, and Lost World beliefs. Him and his partner, played by Corey Hawkins, have been petitioning the government to fund an expedition to search for one of these lost worlds. They’re finally granted permission and have to assemble their crew. Tom Hiddleston is a bland, but brave hero, who didn’t really stand out to me, very much. Samuel Jackson plays the Colonel, for whom Kong becomes his white whale, after Kong nearly kills his entire team. Brie Larson is a photographer along for the ride. I barely know who she is, as there ain’t any white actresses, under 45, whose careers I pay any attention to. She wasn’t bad though, and the movie didn’t do with her what I was afraid it would do, which was fetishize the awesome purity of her blonde whiteness to Kong. There’s another woman in the movie. She’s Asian. She and Brie’s character don’t say so much as a hello to each other. It’s almost like they’re in separate movies. 

Kong does form an attachment to Brie’s character, but not because of her looks ,which is how the director sidesteps the subtext black people see in these movies. Kong likes her because of something she does, and he approves of. At no point do the Natives try to sacrifice her to him, and the rest of the crew don’t spend all their time rescuing her. Tom Hiddleston’s character does so, but only because he likes her, and she’s very brave. At one point he asks her to do a very dangerous thing, to save their lives, and she successfully carries it off. He’s not protecting her because he thinks of her as a delicate woman, and the only person who mentions her femininity at all, is Reilly’s character, and he sounds ridiculous, when he does. 

The writers neatly sidestep the native issues by having there be no Natives. The people on the island are the leftover crew members from a Japanese ship that crashed on the island and became trapped there. They’re fierce but not mindlessly hostile, and appear to have developed their own peaceful culture. Storms have caused a lot of crashes there, so there are a lot of shipwrecks lying about.  There’s a giant wall on the island, but it’s not there to keep Kong out, just the hostile wildlife at bay, and  it turns out his job is protecting the people.  Since the rest of Kong’s family were killed by the island wildlife, he’s seemingly adopted these trapped humans as his clan. Make no mistake, Kong is the star of this movie. He is the lead character, and the protagonist, and survives to the end.

 John C. Reilly’s character is the most fun and memorable character in the movie, and I loved him right away. I’ve found that I enjoy movies a lot more if I can attach myself to a particular character and just follow that character through the plot. His character gives a lot of exposition, but it doesn’t feel like speechifying, when he does it, which is a testament to how good Mr. Reilly is, as an actor. We see his plane crash on the island at the beginning of the movie. His Japanese opponent also crashes his plane, and the two immediately commence to fighting, but are interrupted by Kong. After that they stop and become friends. Kong just has that effect on people. Later, Reilly’s character gets a sweet and happy ending when he’s reunited with his family. He’d been trapped on the island since 1944, and acts exactly the way a person would, after having been separated from a life they missed, for nearly thirty years.

Kong’s motivations are also explained in the movie. He’s a guy who likes everything peaceful and quiet, because when the military expedition starts dropping bombs on the landscape, to track the islands depth, he becomes enraged, and makes short work of all of the helicopters. They were disturbing the peace. So what’s funny is that all of the usual Kong tropes are in this movie but under completely different contexts, with Kong fighting helicopters, or wrapped in chains, or rescuing the blonde damsel. You can tell the writers gave it some thought, playing with our expectations, and knowledge of other Kong movies. The end result of all this is you end up rooting for Kong, as the hero of this movie, rather than the human characters.

Kong is set up as the protector of the island (and possibly the world) from some dinosaur-like creatures, that come out of the Hollow Earth, having been awakened by the bombings. There’s some little ones, and one giant one, with skull-like heads, full of teeth, slithering around on two legs. They’re fast, powerful, and will eat anything, even Kong. He spends a not inconsiderable amount of time fighting these nasty fuckers all over the landscape. He spends a lot of the movie fighting something. At one point he fights a giant octopus, and then eats it. 

There are other monstrous creatures on the island. Some pterosaur like creatures, that like to gang up on a person and carry them off, like in the Riddick movie called Pitch Black. There’s a giant spider naturally, and also what we hilariously figured out was a giant walking stick, and just about as bright. The Potato and I guessed this because it looked like a cross between Groot, and a small Ent, from Lord of the Rings. It scared the shit outta my Mom, when she saw it, even though it’s harmless.  My favorites were the house sized Water Buffalo, because I thought they were dumb but  cute, and more importantly, non- hostile. 

Brie’s  character wins Kongs fondness, when he finds her trying to save one of the big dumb brutes, who is  trapped under a helicopter wing, and he helps her out. He likes her because she was trying to save one of the creatures he has decided to protect, and even allows her to get close enough to touch his face. It’s  telling that his closeness to her never directly endangers him. On the other hand, her proximity to Kong, puts her in danger from the skull dinosaurs. Later, she saves his life, by standing between him and a bullet from the colonel’s gun, after Kong has been hobbled, by being set on fire with napalm. The military is the bad guys in this movie, and Kong kills them indiscriminately. So if you feel some kind of way about the military, you might want to  skip this movie. They’re not totally evil, but they’re not the heroes.
During a significant portion of the movie, everyone has to ride upriver in a hastily thrown together plane/boat combo, and that, and the helicopter intro when they arrive at the island, is what lends it that Apocalypse Now feeling. But I liked the movie a lot and didn’t mind the parallels. I was expecting at some point to be insulted or offended by something in the movie, but the writers were careful to sidestep all the major issues that my Mom and I usually have with Kong movies. Unfortunately, that also took away any depth. That’s okay. The movie makes  up for this lack with a great deal of spectacle. 

Now, I have since seen Godzilla Resurgence, and I heard rumors that both of these movies were being setup for a future sequel,  where Kong and Godzilla would be fighting each other. If that’s true you could watch the setup in this movie, where Kong is being put forth as a good guy protector to the Japanese people, or whatever group of people survive to the sequel. The Kong in this movie is said to be an adolescent who hasn’t reached his full height, and like Godzilla, he’s already as tall as an office building. So the reason Kong looks bigger than ever is because of this future plan for a franchise, of some kind. In Godzilla Resurgence, Godzilla is definitely a bad monster who, sort of randomly, destroys parts of Japan, for no fucking reason. I’ll be reviewing that movie later this Summer. But keep in mind, if these two characters meet, there will be blood.

After a certain age, I stopped watching Godzilla movies, but I did enjoy the remakes, and I liked this movie okay. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy a sequel where these two characters fight, although after watching  the fight scenes in Kong, I anticipate that Kong will win.

Into the Badlands Season Two: Tiger Pushes Mountain/Force of Eagle’s Claw

Okay, this is a long one, so let’s settle in.

We are now in the second season of Into the Badlands and the situation has changed greatly for most of the major characters. In the first episode of the season, we find out what happened to the major players of last season, get introduced to some new characters,  and are introduced to  a couple of surprise guests.

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Sunny/Bajie:

Sunny tried to dupe the River King, when he substituted the head of one of his Baron’s Cogs for MK’s, after the River king asked him to kill the person responsible for murdering a hold full of cargo/people. Seriously pissed off, the River King has sold Sunny to a mining consortium. When the show opens, we get the full on dystopia treatment, and a nice fight scene with Sunny’s first day at his involuntary job. The theme song for this was:

I’m liking the musical choices for this season. They’re much more appropriate to the mood of the show, rather than just some generic background notes. I also hope to see more of the River King this season. He and Baron Jacobi were two of the more interesting characters introduced in the middle of last season.

So far this seems to be one of those alternate worlds where race and skin color doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. none of the characters mention different races or cultures, which is just as interesting as if they did, but for opposite reasons. I like that this is a multicultural world, as I’m always suspicious of alternate worlds where there are no PoC, and I automatically give the side-eye to anyone arguing that those worlds shouldn’t be.

At the top of the episode we get some great fight scenes, some greater world-building, and an introduction to a new character named Bajie, played by Nick Frost. You may remember him from Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead, and he’s a welcome touch of humor for the series, which is pretty grim and gloomy. It also gives Danny Wu the opportunity to be show his sense of humor by playing straight man to Nick’s cutting up. I’m always fascinated by funny Asians on TV,  as the media has a tendency to depict Asian people as grim and moody, or a punchline to someone else’s jokes. I know Indians can be deeply funny, but I love to see Asian people of any culture, get snarky.

If you remember my earlier reviews,  I talked about how Into the Badlands was based on a Ming Dynasty era novel titled Journey to the West. Well, Bajie is based on one of the  characters from that story, named Zhu Bajie.  Zhu means pig. He’s often called an idiot in the original novel, which I haven’t read, but I take it he’s the comedy relief.  The Bajie part of his name is based on the eight precepts of Buddhism, which are much stricter versions of the five precepts. Well, its appropriate because the character, Bajie, breaks every single one of them.

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The Eight Precepts:

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon).
7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

Human  is definitely Sunny’s song. That and the title of the episode are both references to Sunny. The Chinese languages are full of these little pithy sayings, which are like the American equivalents of ,”You can lead a horse to water…”. I couldn’t find a direct translation of the phrase Tiger Pushing Mountains, (its one of the forms of Tai Chi) but once you see the episode, you will understand the references to Sunny.

In episode two, after Bajie betrays Sunny, who has impressed the warden by beating the shit out of his men, while in restraints no less,  Sunny gets drafted to do some pitfighting. In every TV show about prison there must be a pitfight. I believe it’s some kind of law.  Naturally Sunny wins and uses the fight as an opportunity to escape, while attached to Bajie with chains.

The show is a lot more gory than it was last season. There’s a lot more blood flow as one guy gets thrown into a giant spinning fan, and another guy gets his throat cut onscreen.  I also love the banter between Bajie and Sunny. Sunny never had much of a sense of humor last season (the only person he ever smiled at was Veil) and his responses to Bajie’s foolishness gives Daniel Wu a chance to show his acting range, as we get to see him express more than  one emotion.

MK/The Master:

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MK as been secreted away at some type of monastery, where he can learn to use his superpowers correctly. The show gives Marvel a big  middle finger by having The Master of the monastery be portrayed by an Asian- Black woman, Chipo Chung, who has starred in the movies Sunshine, and the show Camelot. This is how you cast an Ancient martial arts master when you don’t want to adhere to Asian stereotypes.

It turns out,  due to the trauma of having killed people with his powers, he has formed some kind of alternate self, that the master says he must defeat, if he’s ever going to leave the monastery. MK is desperate to leave because he thinks Tilda, Sunny and the others needs him. His alternate personality is the master of his powers, and is far stronger than him, so we get a lot of scenes of MK beating the crap out of himself, and the disturbing implication that he may have killed his mother, and doesn’t remember that either.

The Master tells him that he’s the most powerful Jedi…uhm, student, she has ever had, after she rebuffs his demon self and breaks her arm. We know because we get to see her magically heal the jutting bones of her forearm afterward. Ugh! I’m loving this character though because she’s like a more stern version of Yoda. She has little patience for MK’s snark. I think its hilarious how he seems to have that effect on all his mentors.

For his part, MK is his usual snarky, whiny self. Yes, he’s annoying, but I still like him because he’s annoying in an authentically teenagery way, that I just find funny. He’ s snarky, impatient, wants to know everything at one time, and seemingly fearless towards people he knows are more powerful than him. And played by Aramis Knight, he’s also distractingly pretty, and you can see, in his face, the grown man that he’ll later become.

Veil/Quinn:

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Veil has given birth to a baby boy she names Henry, after her father. The midwife turns out to be none other than Baron Quinn, who we thought was killed by Sunny last season. He’s still as weird as  ever, and although he claims he isn’t, he’s actually holding Veil prisoner, while making creepy implications that he’d love to be closer to her. He also makes it clear that he has plans for Sunny’s, and Veil’s, child.

Quinn is a snake oil salesman of the first order. He’s always got honey-coated speeches, ready to deploy, against the naive and the gullible. You could see that in the first season. His speeches to his clippers about how wonderful a leader he is, to Sunny about the Badlands, to Veil about Sunny, to MK about Sunny, are all designed to get people to do what he wants, and believe what he  wants, even if he seems to be talking about what they want.

Veil is as lovely as ever, but we have yet to see any backbone from her. She hasn’t made any real effort to escape. Despite Quinn having some kind of  weird, Cult of Clippers Ceremonial Bloodening of the baby, she probably just hasn’t gotten desperate enough. She also has remained unharmed, although the Baron’s men have been leering at her, when he’s not paying attention. We await her further entrance into the plot, probably by trying to escape the Baron’s craziness, and if his brain tumor has been progressing, then he is definitely a noodle short of a bowl of soup.

To be  clear, a show like Into the Badlands is somewhat unprecedented, so I have no idea what to predict for these characters, or where the plot will take any of them. For all I know, Veil might end up having a baby like MK, and ending up at the monastery with him.

Jade and Ryder:

These two are finally as together as they longed to be, and Ryder is as trifling as he always was. He is still trying to live up to his father’s legacy, while being propped up by Jade. I’m sorry, but Ryder doesn’t strike me as the brightest penny in the wrapper. It’s no wonder no one had any respect for him. He tried to take over some of the Widow’s territory but isn’t strong enough to hold it,and loses it back to her because, while he is wildly ambitious, he has no idea how to plan ahead.

Just as I suspected, Jade isn’t half as light and innocent, as she had Quinn believing. She’s got a brand new wardrobe, and new attitude, as the wifey master of Quinn’s territory. In her defense,  she does appear to truly be in love with Ryder, although that’s not really saying much, because she truly appeared to be in love with Quinn, too. I wonder what will happen if she encounters the Baron again, as she turned out to be a lot more duplicitous than I thought she would be.

The Widow/Tilda/ Waldo:

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The Widow gets some of the best action in the entire first episode, despite Sunny’s antics, and she is always going to be one of my favorite characters.  Unlike most people, I’m not at all put out by the idea of women wearing heels, in a fight. I do get kind of exasperated when they’re wearing skimpy little outfits with heels, but I have the greatest admiration for the Widow, who always dresses to the nines, for all her fights. The Widow, with Tilda as her new Regent), mows down a whole crop of Ryder’s Clippers, just to deliver the message to Jade that she was taking back possession of her oil fields.

Tilda is still feeling conflicted over her Mother’s activities and plans for the Badlands. When her mother decides to release a group of Ryder’s Clippers, giving them free passage back to their home, Tilda goes against her mother’s express word, and with a posse of her own butterflies, has the Clippers secretly killed. Tilda’s become more independent of her mother and I see some future betrayal. I wonder if she and MK will meet again, and how they’ll react to the changes in each other’s lives and personalities.

Waldo (Quinn’s former Regent)has joined the Widow, as her adviser, and is fully on board with her plans to reform the Badlands. He has training sessions with Tilda, who he seems to have taken under his wing, and although he can’t walk, he still doesn’t go easy on her, or is very nice to her, either.

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Lydia/Ryder

Lydia was doing well with her father, but after they’re attacked by Nomads, and she kills the two men, her father condemns her again. She killed the men to save her father’s life. We finally get to see Lydia kick some ass. Contrast her fight scene, with Jade’s complete inability to do any kind of fighting, and you get some idea of the formidable opponent she was for Quinn. She’s pretty ferocious, but unlike the Widow, she is completely untrained, too. So everyone in the show has different fighting styles, which is important. I like how the show treats the women. They’re at least as dangerous as any of the men, and although rape is sometihng that is implied, it escapes the Game of Thrones problem of showing it to us, or using it as a plot point, all the time. Its interesting to me that a lot of shows have decided to do away with rape, as the entire plot, point all together, and only imply that it might happen, or that it used to happen.

As a side note, we’ll use The Walking Dead, as an example, where occasionally one of the Saviors might act  interested in raping someone, but it’s never shown. Its explained in the narrative that Negan has forbidden rape, and any man who rapes a woman, he kills. In a show like The Walking Dead, where consequences for one’s actions are not necessarily an issue, I expected it to be one of those go-tos, just like on GoT, and I keep being surprised when they don’t do it.

It was really frustrating watching Lydia’s father  condemn her for killing, saying that killing is only the province of the gods, and what right did she have to step into that space, while entirely neglecting that the nomads kill all the time, and are hardly godlike creatures. In her father’s mind, its perfectly okay to not defend his own life, or even the lives of his people. The irony is that Quinn’s bloodshed is what kept his people safe, and allowed them the space to form such extreme views, or his little cult would’ve gone extinct long ago, having been killed off by others, who are also willing to kill. So Lydia’s father is willing to accept bloodshed, in his name, as long as he doesn’t have to see it, I guess. The moment she killed the men I knew she would be banished though. Her father wouldn’t allow her to have a place there with blood on her hands, so I was not surprised to see her visiting Ryder later.

It turns out, Quinn protected her father’s little cult from the depredations of the Nomads, and she’d like Ryder to continue doing that. But her advice triggers Ryder’s daddy issues and he rejects her request, and her. My advice to her: Go  to the Widow. If Lydia truly wants to keep her father safe, she’ll make whatever deal with her that she can. I’d love to see what kind of mischief the Widow could get up to, with both Lydia’s, and Waldo’s, advice.

As it stands now, most of the characters are paired up, and unaware of what’s happened to the other characters. No one has mentioned Waldo, so I don’t think they know he’s working with the Widow. No one knows Quinn  is alive. Tilda knows nothing about MK’s fate. Veil believes Sunny is alive despite Quinn (with his ain’t shit ass) trying to convince her that Sunny abandoned her.

The World-building:

I also want to commend the world-building, in these episodes, as we get to see a lot more of not just the Badlands but the world outside of them. There’s an entire economy in the Badlands, which is something I had questions about the first season. We also find out, in episode two, that there’s a massive wall separating the Badlands from the supposedly civilized parts of the country.

The Fights:

The fight scenes have been stepped up a notch. They’re even more wild and outrageous than last seasons fights, being more fun and completely over the top Wuxia style fights. Everybody’s fighting styles is different. Bajie doesnt fight like Sunny. His fighting style is more of the Iron Man/Brawler style. He fights like the large man he is. Sunny and the Widow are the two most balletic fighters and eve nstill, the Widow fights like a woman. She’s not dainty, or anything like that, but her fighting style fits her personality. Tilda doesn’t fight like her mother. She is much more pragmatic and efficient, sort of like Quinn.

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Waldo is the most interesting, because the writers have taken the time to come up with a style for a man confined to a wheechair, that’s a believable style. We’ve seen him kick both MK’s and Tilda’s asses from that chair, and part of his ability to do that, is people keep underestimating what he can do from that chair. They think, because the legs aren’t working, that the rest of him is limited too, and one of the low-key messages of last season was people underestimating other people’s fighting abilities, because they were handicapped, or because they’re  women, or because they’re children, and then getting their asses burned. I see this is a theme set to continue this season, as we watch Sunny beat up an entire team of free-roaming nobodies, basically with his hands tied behnd his back both times. The first time, while in stocks, and the second time hobbled, by being chained to Bajie.

This is the first time we’ve seen Sunny as less than godlike. In the first season he was mostly kind of invincible, and I like how they keep showing him get occasionally defeated by someone like the monks, or the guards in the prison.

Well, I’m going to continue these reviews, hopefuly in a more timely manner than this. I’m as enthused and happy about this show as I was disappointed by Iron Fist.

Stuff I’m Watching

Okay, I though I posted this already, but apparently not, since I can’t find it in my published file. So here we go again, maybe!

The Ghost Brothers (TV)

 

Its a TV show about three guys who all had paranormal experiences as children, and decided as adults that they would like to investigate the existence of ghosts. The second season of this show airs April 15th. In the meantime the first season is available for streaming on TLC. I’m already addicted.

Its  a pretty good show. One of the reasons I’ve always hated ghost hunting shows is I get  exasperated with  White guys running around in the dark, shaking their cameras, and yelling at the ghosts. There’s none of that here. The feel of this show is very different. One of my biggest issues was the attitudes of the ghost hunters in these shows, challenging the ghosts, making demands, and the general disrespect. That’s not here, either. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the inexplicable, and this show has that too, which occasionally makes it actually scary. But it’s not just that. It’s the humor and camaraderie between these three friends, that I enjoyed the most. They genuinely like each other,  and are not above ranking on each other, but don’t do it in a mean spirited way. You can tell they’re really old friends, and this is one of the most authentic depictions of black male friendship, you’ll ever see in a TV show.

The guys make a point of visiting sites that are known spots of racial trauma, so they’re not in the business of retraumatizing any presences that might be there. After all, these are their ancestors. They try to approach their job from a place of respect, with minimal equipment. They ask questions and  try to reach out and emotionally connect with a presence. In one episode, they visit a hotel where a sex worker was killed maybe a hundred years ago. They visit her rooms and attempt to find out if she’s still present. They ask her about her life, implore her to answer, and when they leave, they respectfully leave payment for her time, which I found both sad and hilarious.

In another episode, they visit a place where some children were known to have died. To get the children  to respond, they bring toys and dolls, ask the children if they would like to play, and assure them that it’s safe to come out and do that. All very respectful. Nothing happens of course, but there’s a great deal of tension as you suspect something might.They bring the absolute minimum in equipment, they don’t have scanners, and meters and various devices. They really just have their smartphones and a camera.

Also, these guys are surprisingly brave, in situations that would frankly give me the screaming heebie jeebies, sitting alone in a dark room waiting for some presence to reveal itself. Yes they do get scared, and are willing to acknowledge that, but there’s no exaggerated terror, with a lot of running and screaming. This isn’t a comedy, although the guys are occasionally funny. They take their self appointed task pretty seriously.

One of the reasons I like for white people to watch shows like Atlanta, Luke Cage, and Ghost Borthers is if they’re interested in more authentic depictions of what black people are actually like when white people arent around, and contrast these images with depictions crafted and written by white men, who can only guess at how we relate to each other, or just make shit up. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about media depictions of marginalized people by white male writers, is often the relationships are depicted as contentious ones. The white men, who write almost all of the media we see, have no idea what women talk about when men aren’t present, what gay people do when straight people aren’t around beyond having sex, or what black people do when white people arent present. Shows written, by marginalized people themselves, tend to have fewer token characters,  and more genuine conversations, and activities. We actually do get along with each other when white people arent around. We laugh, joke, and tease each other. We have deep conversations that aren’t about race, and trivial conversations that are. And just like with the Bechdel Test, almost none of our conversations center white  straight men.

Ghost Brothers joins those lists of shows that depicts black people’s authentic reactions to the world around us.

ETA:  I added a much more detailed description for this show, and the second season has already started. I’m currently watching episode two, where the Brothers visit the Winchester Ghost Trap House.
Ghostbusters (2016)

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I told myself I wasn’t going to watch this, but it aired on Starz, earlier this month, and that’s why I pay for cable. So yeah, I’m one of five people on Earth who actually love this movie. It was entertaining and I found a lot of positive  things outside of the one negative thing that made me want not watch it.

The one negative thing was me being mad about Patty, played by Leslie Jones, not being a scientist. I still don’t like that, but I also don’t feel she was ill treated by the creators of the movie. Although Leslie’s personal humor doesn’t match mine, I still really liked her character. She was one of the funniest people in the movie and gets some of the best lines. This one negative thing was outweighed by all the positive things I enjoyed.

One of my biggest takeaways was the depiction of friendship between women, which is almost never authentically shown in genre films, in favor of having a lonely badass. These characters are friendly and supportive of each other. To use Erin and Abby, for example, the subplot of how they met is Abby believing Erin when she claimed she saw a ghost when she was a child, and no one else believed her.That no one else believed her is something  that affects her for the rest of her life, prompting her to abandon Abby, and never have anything else to do with the paranormal. Later, she and Abby reaffirm their bonds of friendship when Erin risks her life to save Abby at the end of the movie. When Erin has a very obvious crush on their dimbulb male secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth, the other women never make fun of her, or make her feel ashamed of it. They just accept that she likes him, while gently cautioning her to be careful of sexually harassing him.

I liked Patty, and felt she was given ample screen time. The other characters make no big deal about her not being a scientist. She’s an expert in other things. She talks her way onto the team by offering them something they don’t have. Historical context and knowledge of the city, allows Patty to provide a lot of the movie’s exposition. This is not exactly her being “street -smart” (I suppose technically she is “street-smart,  but only because she is her own kind of nerd, who reads History books for fun. So yeah, all the ladies are in fact, nerds! Patty just is not a Science nerd.)

The other women never act as if they know better than her, or try to lord it over her that they have credentials, and even defer to her expertise on matters they know she has studied. They accept her, like Holtzman,  as one of the contributing members of the team. Yes, she gets them a car, but that’s not why she was allowed to join them. It’s something she offers, along with their ghostbusting suits. She also gets some of the funniest lines in the movie, most of which are quiet personal asides  that if you blink, you’ll miss them.

I especially enjoyed the beginning of a friendship between her and Holtzman. Abby and Erin were already friends, and Holtzman must have occasionally felt like a third wheel, but she and Patty seem to hit it off pretty well, hanging out together whenever they’re not working. Patty  saves Holtzman’s life at one point, and nicknames her Holtzy.

Speaking of Holtzman, she is my favorite character in the entire movie. She’s just plain nuts and really, really,  loves her job. The trailers don’t really do this character justice, just like they didn’t make Patty very likable. She’s impossible to describe. She just has to be seen. She loves destruction, dances around with blowtorches, and is utterly fearless when it comes to her various science toys.

ETA:

So, my niece finally watched this movie, and she had a great time. She couldn’t wait for me to get home from work, and she watched it without me, for which she was mildly chastised. And guess who her favorite character is! Guess! Patty, of course, who she thought was hilarious. I don’t know that my niece wants to grow up to be a Ghostbuster, but she really enjoyed herself, and the movie, and that’s enough for me.

 

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

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Once again, I’m in the minority when it comes to liking a movie. I actually had a good time watching this. I really liked the visuals, and performances, even if the story was full of massive holes, and largely incoherent . I really enjoyed the characters though. I watched this with my niece and she seemed to have a good time, too. I think she wants to be Harley Quinn when she grows up, but I told her no, because that’s not a good look for a Black woman, unless she’s gettin’ paid a lot of money, like Margot Robbie. It would also require she be tortured by Jared Leto, after which I’d have to beat Leto’s ass. (He should probably have his ass kicked just on general principles, anyway, because my niece has decided she has a crush on his version of the Joker. What? She’s like ten years old!)

I’m one of five people on Earth who think that Suicide Squad winning an Oscar for Best Makeup is both hilarious and outrageous. Really!? Over Star Trek? Yeah, right!

It really shouldn’t be that shocking that I liked this. It stars Will Smith and I’ll basically watch anything he ‘s in. Margot Robbie wasn’t too bad in this. I thought her version of Harley was pretty entertaining and not too unlike the comic book version of the character. And then there’s  Queen Viola. I just love the idea of Viola Davis and Will Smith starring in a superhero movie together. Although, the next time we see them together, I hope its something a little more serious.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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Unfortunately I did not get to see this in the theater.  I did rent this for me and my Mom to watch for a couple of days. She is a die-hard Denzel fan, and she had expressed an interest in going to the movies to see this. Now this is pretty remarkable for two reasons. She’s not a huge Western movie fan, (even though she was the one who introduced me to Bonanza), and its really hard to get her to go to the movies with me, as she’s  picky. In the past few years, I managed to get her to see Jurassic World, World War Z, and that Halloween Madea movie.

We watched this movie over a weekend and she really enjoyed it. She was deeply happy that Denzel survived to the end of the movie. I enjoyed all the characters but I was kind of bummed out because the one Asian guy got killed. It doesn’t really compare overmuch to the original. It has a very different feel, although the plot is exactly the same. The action sequences were very exciting, and I enjoyed the banter between the various characters. It suffers from lone woman syndrome, and a bad guy who is evil just because he’s evil. (Not that every villain needs a backstory. Its just something I noticed.)

It has a Benetton ad cast, and although the one Mexican guy, Vasquez, is annoying, the stereotypes are mostly kept to a minimum. The men of color in the cast all get to have their action moments. Despite the presence of Vincent D’onofrio as Jack Horne, my favorite character was  Billy Rocks, the group’s blades-man. The most intriguing relationship was between Billy Rocks, and  Ethan Hawke’s character, Goodnight Robichaux. I kept wondering about the nature of their friendship, and afterwards I wrote my own headcanon, where Billy saved Goodnight from suicide, and Goodnight felt indebted to him. It was very clear that one of Billy’s purposes was helping  Goodnight hold his shit together.

My Mom liked the Jack Horne character a lot. He was  melancholy and  gruff, with a penchant for making profound philosophical statements, that mostly puzzled the other characters. Denzel, as Chisholm, was his usual mildly snarky, pragmatic self. He wasn’t really stretching it in this role, but Denzel sparkles on even his worst days, so its all cool.

No, this movie isn’t as good or influential as the original, but its worth watching some cold Saturday night, with a bowl of popcorn, and some good friends.

Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Let’s just state, for the record, that I’m a little bit older than some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr. As a result, I grew up with the idea of Tarzan, and am well used to the tired trope of Tarzan the White Savior. I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and watching some of the movies with my Mom, whose favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller. Yes, we did see the problematic aspects of having some White guy being a better African, than actual African people, in Africa, but since almost all of TV, and movies, consisted of this trope, it was easy to overlook it, yet impossible not to see it.

That said, I did watch this movie when it came on cable, which only proves that I will watch any damn thing when it comes on TV, where Alexander Skarsgard takes his shirt off, and growls like a lion. It does not mean I’m not “woke” or “aware”. It just means I occasionally have low standards for what I find entertaining, especially if I can knit to it.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this movie for the sheer silliness that it is. Yes, the premise is just as stupid as the original films, and one still wonders what the hell White people,  (and lets face it, there were no PoC clamoring for this movie to be made) were thinking when this movie got made. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s okay, as your life will not have been upheaved.

For what its worth, the creators did keep the White Savior stuff to a minimum by adding Samuel L. Jackson, who does the saving of various Black people, and some of the actual Congolese people get lines and screen time. Skarsgard is ridiculous in this role,  and spends most of his time trying to look dramatically serious, while trying to save his girlfriend, Margot Robbie, from Waltz’ slimy Englishman. I still don’t know why Waltz kidnaps her but its got something to do with diamonds. It doesn’t matter anyway because the plot is really not that important. What’s important is that Skarsgard is bare chested for most of the movie’s running time.

There is indeed some tree swinging, and some gorilla punching, and for some strange reason, Djimon Honsou is in this movie as an antagonist. He only gets about five minutes of screen time, and maybe six lines. Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie too, and pretty much just acts like Samuel L Jackson, despite the fact that everyone else is acting like they are in a period movie, which is very jarring. I wanted to turn off the sound, so I didn’t have to listen to him speak, but then I wouldn’t have been able to hear Alexander Skarsgard talking to various animals, and yodeling. Yes, there is a classic Tarzan yodel. When I was a kid, this didn’t particularly bother me, but every time I heard it in this movie, I laughed my ass off.

But really, I think the biggest question you have to ask yourself, if you ever watch this movie: Why is Samuel L. Jackson in this movie, when they have Djimon Honsou?