In Defense of After Earth (2013)

Only straight, White men have the luxury of being lazy about watching a movie. The rest of us always seem to have to be on guard, just in case whatever White guy who wrote the movie, fucks up and traumatizes us with surprise images he didn’t give any thought to showing. Sometimes, when watching films, we have to constantly be wary of either being freshly traumatized by something on the screen,  or desperately clinging to whatever tiny nuggets are in the film, that we can apply to our lived experiences, in order for us to like it.

Not that White male reviewers are all particularly lazy, but there’s a very shallow sort of film critique that a lot of them engage in, that’s only about whether the movie is objectively good or bad, or the technical details. (And ranking movies seems to be really popular with such people, too.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with those kinds of reviews, but often people from marginalized groups require reviews that are a little more in-depth.

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White men don’t get a lot of  practice of thinking about movies through different lenses, the way marginalized people often have to do. Many of them only have one lens, because most movies are made with them in mind as the audience, so they don’t NEED to look further into a movie, in order to like or dislike it. I’m not particularly interested in  a shallow review, or in ranking things from best to worst. If the word “suck” is mentioned anywhere in their critique, I  automatically dismiss anything else they might have to say about the movie. I want more from a critique than “It sucked!”

Yes. This is yet another essay on how White male film geeks review movies which star people of color!

After Earth (2013)

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I have a real issue with how badly this movie was treated by everyone. The critics made it very clear that this was an awful film. It was not. And when this movie was released, Black people were not in the social position we’re in right now, where we could see how groundbreaking this was, (it was released just before BLM), and we were not in a position to provide pushback to the narrative that this was the worst film ever made.

No!

What it was, was a  film that was attacked with the agenda of demonizing  M. Night Shyamalan and Scientology. Will  and Jaden Smith were simply caught in the crossfire. This movie, while not a masterpiece, was vilified entirely out of proportion to its effect on the landscape. At any other time, especially any time after 2014, it would have been recognized as a middle-of-the-road, Summer blockbuster.

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After Earth can be seen through both a thematic and racial lens, as  an example of Afrofuturism. Seeing this movie through a racial lens means that I need to put on my Black filmgoers glasses, and view the movie through the historical depictions of Black people in film, and whether or not the film has any messages in it that are about racial stereotyping, or agency, for example. This movie contains these things, not because it contains overt messages about race, but because it stars Black characters, and  our mere presence in the source material is enough to make whatever we say and do a political issue.

 

In After Earth, which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden, a father and son reconcile their feelings about each other, as the son comes of age, while set against the backdrop of planetary survival. A thousand years after Earth has been abandoned, their ship crashes, and  an alien predator the ship was carrying, called the Ursa, is set loose. Will and Jaden Smith are both Black men. The movie has no White characters in it. There are spaceships, alien/human cityscapes, and futuristic weaponry. This is as much Afrofuturism as Black Panther, and there is definitely some sort of dialogue occuring between the two films, though they were released several years apart, because they both involve sons dealing with the emotional legacies of  powerful fathers.

https://drmillerjr.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/after-earth-is-afrofuturism/

Traditionally, Black people have been erased from futuristic narratives, and Afrofuturism is an attempt to center us, and our cultures, and priorities, in those narratives. Will Smith, in particular, has a long history of starring in Science fiction films like Men in Black, Enemy of the State, and I Am Legend, movies that tackle the subjects of alien immigration, dystopian state surveillance, and the apocalypse, all features of what is, traditionally, White futurism.

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After Earth has much to say about the relationships between fathers and sons, how sons want to live up (or down) their father’s legacies, and how father’s must reach out and connect with their children. Cypher Raige is a man who is cut off from his emotions because that is what has helped him to survive. In our world, it would be said that he suffers from a toxic form of masculinity, but Cypher’s ability to cut himself off from his feelings has made him one of Earth’s greatest soldiers against an alien race  that uses human fear to hunt and kill human beings. Cypher has gotten rid of fear, but in the process he’s also gotten rid of some of the  more positive emotions. He is a controlling, authoritative, and grim father figure, without much humor or warmth.

This lack of fear has made him a great Ranger, but it has made him an indifferent father to his son, Kitai, (a name which means “Hope” or “Prince of the Air”). Kitai wants not just to be like his father, follow in his footsteps, and become a great soldier, but to emotionally connect with his father. He wants desperately to know his father loves and supports him, especially after he fails his last exam to become a Ranger. He believes his father thinks he’s a failure because its what he himself believes. He is also suffering from the trauma of the death of his sister, who sacrificed her life to protect him from one of the Ursas, his guilt at being unable to save her, and his father for not being there when it happened. These are the motivations behind many of the decisions Kitai makes after he and his father crash on a long abandoned Earth, and Cypher is too injured to walk.

This set up puts the two of them in a position where they are required to rely on each other, not just physically, but emotionally. Kitai’s character arc involves learning that he is as capable a soldier as his father, and does not need to carry all these emotional burdens,  and Cypher’s character arc means having to open up to his son emotionally, and expressing how he really feels, and that that will be the only way his son can save both their lives. And all of this is an allegory about the emotional connections between Black men,  living in a White supremacist society, that is intrinsically dangerous to them, and requires that they be  hypermasculine, and emotionally cut off in order to survive it.

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Cypher Raige Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans. Do you know where we are?

Kitai Raige No, sir.

Cypher Raige This is Earth.

Viewing a movie through a racial lens requires that I provide some historical context to my opinions. I could discuss how the American version of the performance of toxic masculinity is based on a White supremacist dominance hierarchy, that requires violent domination and oppression of non-Whites, and that to survive this oppression, Black men have have felt the need to “out man” their oppressors. To essentially be more dominant, and more manly, than the White men who established this hierarchy to keep them in their place, and that their emotional disconnect with each other is not only what is ultimately desired by this dynamic, but leads to worse oppression, because attempting to compete with White men, to be more manly, dehumanizes them, and doesn’t allow them to unite against a system created just for that purpose.

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https://oliviaacole.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/black-children-and-after-earth/

This movie had messages, moments, and dialogue,  that greatly resonated with me. The scene in which Cypher believes he has lost his son, in the same manner in which he lost his daughter, (both of them trying to win their emotionally distant, father’s approval),  was deep for me, as I suspect it was for many of  the Black men who watched it, and  who considered  their relationships with their own fathers, or their sons.

I watched After Earth several times, and it’s one of my favorite movies, which is why I was interested in why so many critics hated this movie,

 

(https://news.usc.edu/144379/usc-study-finds-film-critics-like-filmmakers-are-largely-white-and-male/)

and while there are a few legitimate criticisms that can be made about this movie, most of the criticism I saw wasn’t any different than the criticism I could lob at films with White stars. There is nothing wrong with the acting in this movie that is wrong in any of the other movies Will Smith has made, nor is there anything wrong with Will Smith making a movie with his son as the star, as he did in The Pursuit of Happyness, nor is this movie Scientology propaganda, any more than the other movies in which Smith was the star. (Will and Jada Smith have clearly, and emphatically, stated that they are not Scientologists, only sympathizers.)

I believe a lot of non-professional critics didn’t approach criticism of this movie in good faith, and I believe more than a few of them used the flaws in this movie as an excuse to express their racial resentment about the fact that there were no White men centered in this movie. There are also plenty of White people who felt some type of discomfort at not being centered, or even depicted, in the movie at all, and unwilling to attribute their discomfort to their narcissism, attributed their discomfort to the film being bad. The message of the movie, the relationship between young men and their fathers, is a universal one, (and I’m certain that many White men understood and enjoyed it, but then they’re not film critics), and it is well documented that  White audiences have always had trouble identifying with Black characters on screen.

https://www.salon.com/2016/10/05/luke-cage-and-the-racial-empathy-gap-why-do-they-talk-about-being-black-all-the-time/

https://www.indiewire.com/2014/01/why-white-people-dont-like-black-movies-162548/

https://mic.com/articles/74291/why-white-people-won-t-see-black-movies#.J55x1mpgF

 

Will Smith is an especially beloved actor, so many critics would not attack him directly, but they can get away with tossing insults at Shyamalan, and questioning his motivations for making the movie. One of the major criticisms I encountered were White critics who said the movie was a thinly veiled attempt to recruit viewers to Scientology. Why? Because Will Smith and Shyamalan are Scientologists. This is suspicious to me since none of these critics have ever given one thought to Smith being a follower of Scientology in any of his other Scifi movies.

And sometimes people will express racial resentment towards individual people that they don’t feel they can express against an entire group of people. So rather than saying “All ____ are ______.” , what they will do is vehemently call out the mistakes of individuals from those groups, in order to disguise their loathing for the entire group. The individual becomes a stand-in for racial sentiments they are reluctant, for whatever reasons, to express out loud. (And since they only ever attack individuals of that group, they never have to admit whatever phobia or -ism there is, to themselves.)

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For example, witness some of the more  interesting criticism that White male film critics have said about Captain Marvel being military propaganda, when the same could be said of nearly every other movie in the MCU, at which none of them lobbed this complaint. And one can witnesses the same dynamic play out in the Jussie Smollett case, where people tried to hide their homophobia by expressing deeply vehement criticism of him, and his circumstances.

This type of criticism is dishonest, and disingenuous, and serves to protect the critic from backlash if they state their actual reasons for not liking some film, which is really ,  “I didn’t like this movie because there were no White men in it for me to identify with.” (This is not a hard and fast rule, all the time,  because plenty of White people liked Get Out, Black Panther, and other Afro-centered movies, but it is far too common, and there are too many, who  think they’re not being racist because they liked two or three highly popular movies that starred Black actors. It’s  basically, the critical equivalent of, “I have Black friends!”

I’m not the only person to notice this type of bullshittery either:

https://heraldiccriticism.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/when-criticism-becomes-agenda-setting-in-defense-of-after-earth/

 …but when you’re trashing a film based on its star’s belief system, you’ve ceased to criticize. You’re now spearheading an agenda.

Fred Harris touched on some of my suspicions, here:

Did a perception that this is somehow a “Black film” have anything to do with its poor opening? I know that this is a question that Hollywood producers (black and white) must be asking as they prepare for a summer of Black films.

https://newsone.com/2530136/after-earth-movie-review-racism/

And if you are wondering why I haven’t brought up “The Pursuit of Happyness” just yet, which was given 4 out of 5 stars by IMDB, it’s because Jaden was cute and fuzzy back then — and it was his debut. But the moment it seems that the Smiths are actually on to something, meaning leaving a life-long legacy for their children, now all bets are off.

Now we will call Jaden’s acting with his blockbuster dad an exercise in “vanity,” now we are disgusted with the apparent nepotism that this type of pairing suggests.

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This movie was nominated for a Razzie, and was panned by almost every White male critic with a pen and an ax to grind. All of them questioned whether or not Will Smith had lost his Star power, and what that would mean for his future films. Even Bright, a film I intensely hated, wasn’t panned as badly as this movie.

Outside of my usual critical ranting, I also want to shine a light on why my opinions on a lot of movies can sometimes diverge from that of critics, what criteria I  use, what lenses  through which I can,and will, see a movie,  and how I approach watching and critiquing movies and TV shows, vs how White film critics might view movies I happen to love, and how these two ways of seeing a movie are sometimes not compatible.

This is a mindset I have had no choice but to develop though, because, as a Black woman,  I am generally not the audience  that a lot of these movies of are made for. I have had to look beyond surface issues, like whether or not it was better than some other film in a franchise, to find reasons to like movies that White people love, and sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes, I also get tired of making the effort to care, and skip the movie altogether, as I did with Ready Player One, and Back to the Future.

White men have never had to look deeper than the technical aspects of cinematography, plot, pacing, or whether or not the hero of the movie looked like them, and what that might mean if he did. For them, the movies they love don’t even need to have any meaning. When you hear them complaining about entertainment being political this is what mean. For such men, movies and TV really are not political, because they don’t need to have any deeper meaning to enjoy a movie. They can just be flatly judgmental about whether or not a movie is just “good” or “bad”, because traditionally, the movies, which are aimed at them as the audience, are supposedly universal, and  appealing  to everyone. Too many critics never go beyond the mindset of ,”I liked this movie, so naturally, everyone else must like it, and here’s why it’s so great.” I can  critique a movie from that angle but its shallow, and  “unsatisfying” for me.

It has always been my rule since I was a teenager, really, to only rely on myself to determine whether or not a movie is any good, but after examining this for some time,  I have come to the conclusion that I most definitely cannot rely on  the opinions of White men to determine if a movie is bad or good for me, or indeed, anyone, other than themselves.

I have always tried to be honest about why I did or didn’t like something. Even if I don’t know why  I feel the way I do, I’m willing to say that too, and state that, where I found nothing in the movie to intrigue me, the movie may be of interest to someone else. I will flat out state, I’m not interested in a movie because it lacks racial nuance, or because its not feminist enough, the way I did for Wonder Woman.

This is not a mindset I’ve seen, from some critics, that a movie simply might not be made for them. One of the key warning signs that you are with a bad critic, is their insistence that a movie is objectively bad or good, and that if you disagree with them, then something is wrong with you. I’ve seen far too many critics assert that, because they liked a movie, it was good, and that a movie was bad, because they didn’t like it, and then, on top of that, say that that they gave an objective review. I have hated plenty of movies that are, in fact, very good and cohesive films. But I’ve also loved plenty of movies that just aren’t great movies. Just like After Earth.

No! There’s nothing wrong with you. You are simply looking at the film through a different lens, and using different criteria than them. and you must be confident that YOU know what you like in a film.

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Side note: I do not believe in “guilty pleasures”. I am never ashamed of loving or liking  a movie, or television show. I have my reasons for why I like something, I have actually thought it through, and I’m secure enough in my tastes that I know what my reasons are, even if the only reason is that it makes me feel happy, or that it looks pretty! I may occasionally be ashamed that I didn’t catch something seriously wrong with a movie, in my zeal to praise it, but I  am generally not ashamed when I like something, or to admit that I do, nor will I feel guilty about it.

And you shouldn’t either.

As a corollary to that general rule, I refuse to shame people for their own tastes, even if I find those tastes “puzzling”… If you can explain to me in a coherent manner why you love something (even if your only explanation is it makes you happy, or its just pretty), I can get with that. Your feelings about a movie are entirely valid, and you will never hear me describe anything on this blog as a “guilty” pleasure, and I would prefer that you don’t either.

Own your feelings!

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https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/after-earth-2013

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/in-defense-of-after-earth-the-m-night-shyamalan-movie-we-misunderstood

*Coming Soon: Why We Loved Suicide Squad and Venom, and Why They Didnt’

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‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/netflix-love-death-robots-review/

Short films can find it hard to attract a wider audience, so it’s cool to see Netflix promote a big, splashy showcase of animated sci-fi shorts. Sadly, Love, Death & Robots feels much less cool and boundary-pushing when you take a closer look. Curated by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (Fight Club), this anthology is full of gratuitous onscreen sexism—and blatant gender discrimination behind the camera.

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I did watch this on Netflix,  and I actually enjoyed a few of the shorts featured as they were written by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi. John Scalzi is not known as an especially “edgy” type of writer. In fact, he’s very progressive, so those shorts seem incongruous next to some of the other, more violent, shorts in the anthology. But this article is correct in stating that in every short that featured violence, female sexuality and nudity was associated with it, and in every instance of female nudity or sexuality, there was an extreme amount of violence involved in that story. In some of the stories the two occur simultaneously.

In all fairness though, not all of the short films feature either topic, and some of them are actually worth watching. Most notable were:

The Day the Yogurt Took Over was written by Scalzi from his anthology titled Miniatures. It’s hilarious.

Ice Age was very interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Fish Night is a story I remember reading, in another anthology, a couple of decades ago, and the story just stuck with me.

Lucky 13 was one of the better Scifi stories, and has a Black woman as the lead character.

Three Robots was really cute and it has cats, so some of you will definitely like it, and Suits was frantic and suspenseful.

But the story that affected me the most was Zima Blue, which I consider one of the best stories in the entire anthology. It was emotional and though provoking.

 

The Wired is a lot more damning of the show than I am though:

Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots is sexist sci-fi at its most tedious

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/love-death-and-robots-review-netflix

It’s not just a male gaze that ruins Love, Death & Robots, it’s an adolescent male gaze. The sex scenes are so bad they’re funny. At times, the dialogue is borderline farcical. All too often the series leans precariously on visual tricks – and while the worlds created here are vast and vivid, the plots are often non-existent.

New Trailers In April

Joker

Contrary to the many fanboys who are always bitchin’ and whining about the different depictions of the Joker, I didn’t have  a problem with Jared leto’s version of the Joker. I’ve seen several different versions already, and I grew up with the Cesar Romero  and Jack Nicholson versions, so for me, Jared Leto was just one more. And I don’t have problem with this one either. I think he’s intriguing because I’m heavily reminded of the Brian Azzarello, and Lee Bermejo versions from the comic books.

There are almost as many versions of the Joker as there are Batman,and Shakespeare’s plays, so I don’t actually understand what the problem is, since each actor for the character brings something different to the role. Some you like, and some you don’t, and I like this one okay. I probably won’t see it in the theater though because it looks tragic and I have a quota.

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Dead Don’t Die

I got no opinion on this movie other than it heavily reminds me of the movie Slice, which I never finished watching. I won’t see this in the theater because I’m not a Bill Murray fan. Sacrilege! I know. But the man has never really appealed to me outside of some very specific roles.

On the other hand, I’ve always liked Jim Jarmusch’s silly humor, and this does look pretty funny! It also has some of my favorite actors in it. You know we’ve reached the zenith of monsterdom when they start making parody movies, so: Go Zombies! 

 

Dora the Explorer

I grew up watching this with my two little sisters, so my knowledge about Dora comes from a genuine place of “Oh, God, I’m so tired of watching this show!!!”

On the other hand, the movie looks really cute, has an all Hispanic, Latinx cast, and seems kinda action-y. She’s like a tiny Latina Tomb Raider.

Avengers :Endgame

This is the last trailer before the release of the movie, and I just know there’s gonna be feels. One drawback I can see coming a mile away is there are three women in this movie, and I bet none of them say a word to each other.

I did see something on Tumblr about how someone was going to lose their shit watching their favorite characters die, and I’m like, “Dammit, I already watched all my favorite characters die. In this one I get to watch them come back. I don’t give a flying fuck how many of the original Avengers have to die to get them back either! Tony, Steve, and Natasha been around long enuff!”

John Wick 3

I will probably go see this one in the theater and I would love to drag my Mom along, since she’s making me  go see Pet Sematary, and messing up my Summer movie scheduling, with her unreasonable demands to see Horror movies I did not make plans for, especially when I planned to see Action films. So for every Horror or Comedy she makes me take her to, I’m picking an Action movie. (We already have Shaw and Hobbes on our radar after this one.)

This also has all of my favorite actors in it. No,really! All of them!

 

Hellboy

There was supposed to be a new Hellboy trailer in this spot, but I skipped over  it, as a sign of protest, because  I’m not going to see it in the theater, because the movie “Little” gets released at the same time, and because my niece and Mom have made it very clear that’s what we’ll be seeing next week, or I haven’t got long to live! So imagine the new Hellboy trailer in this spot (to the remixed version of Smoke on the Water.)

I don’t object to seeing Little, because it looks pretty funny, but I prefer monster movies to comedies, which is why I’m going to treat myself to:

Godzilla

No, it’s not sad that I can name all the monsters in this movie. I grew up watching all the Godzilla related movies, so I come by this knowledge organically. My Mom hates all the Godzilla movies, except for the 1990s version which, naturally, I would hate, because I enjoy being contrary.

I cannot wait to see all my favorite monsters (Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah) on the big screen, because this looks fucking awesome! Slow motion monsters always get to me…

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows! 

American Gods Season Two: House on the Rock

American Gods began its second season last week.

Let’s talk about it!

But first we need to have some behind the scenes discussion, just like in the show itself. Bryan Fuller is no longer the show runner for this season. He was let go after writing a couple of this season’s episodes.

American Gods is taking new steps forward today, though; Jesse Alexander, who worked with Fuller on Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, has been officially named as its new showrunner. Meanwhile, the six scripts Green and Fuller had already written for the show’s second season are allegedly set to be tossed out, with Alexander and Gaiman returning to square one as they fight to get the series back up and running for its anticipated January 2019 return.

  ——  https://www.avclub.com/the-bryan-fuller-american-gods-breakup-was-apparently-e-1822682450

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The new show runners are the author of the book, Neil Gaiman, and Jessie Alexander (who is also now out). I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve never watched a show run by Gaiman before, but I am familiar with Fuller’s output. Those of you who watched last season are going to notice some differences in how the story gets told, and I am not confident that Gaiman will keep that same in your face attitude that was such a great part of the first season. Its possible the show may end up being little more than a lovely spectacle, but I’m not going to give up on the series just because Fuller isn’t on it. I’m really curious about what’s going to happen this season, and the show has already been renewed for a third, so even though I have some doubts that it won’t be as good as Fuller’s version, there might be other compensations. I’m sticking with it.

That Fuller is an openly gay man had a lot of influence on what was depicted on screen, most especially in the episode Head Full of Snow, where we met Salim and the Djinn. Fuller was also responsible for the many subtle layers throughout the season, as he is a master of subtext. There have already been some dramatic changes, because Kristen Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson left the show on Fuller’s heels, and the writers have had to accommodate that. So  we do not pick up where we left off at the end of season one, and Ostara’s actions at the end of that season seems to have had little effect on the world.

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Aside from a brief background news piece, this action has no clear impact on the world, and Easter has apparently turned her back on Wednesday because he ran over some of her bunnies.

And to explain Anderson’s absence from the show:

Meanwhile, the New God Media, who Anderson played with an overabundance of confidence as she threatened and cajoled heroes and villains alike, was apparently so shaken by Wednesday’s display of power that she’s gone into hiding to reinvent herself. 

——-   https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/10/18258816/american-gods-review-season-2-ian-macshane-gillian-anderson-kristin-chenoweth-starz

The story opens with Mr World bruised and battered, being ferried to a secret location by Technical Boy. Media has disappeared, after her run in with Easter, and TB is  tasked with finding her by Mr. World. Mr. World is in this secret location to visit Argus, a secret surveillance site (and an old god of some kind, which is the reason Technical Boy is not allowed to meet him. Mr. World can spy  on the old gods, thanks to the presence of Bilquis, and her tracking device.

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In the meantime, all the gods we saw from the first season make their way to the House on the Rock, along with a couple of hangers on. Sweeney, Laura, Wednesday, and Shadow all travel in the same car and their proximity to each other is not easy. Sweeney hates everyone, and Shadow and Laura are not comfortable with each other.There’s a lot more of the book dialogue in the episode, as Nancy ,and Wednesday talk about the history of the House on the Rock. Neil Gaiman wanted more of the book to be on the screen and he has somewhat got his wish.

We are  introduced to Kali, also known as Mama Ji who is one of my favorite characters from the book, even though she doesn’t get a lot to do beyond some ass kicking, and her speech in this episode.  I hope we get to see more of her this season. As a human, she works in a local hotel, in the humble position of a housemaid. She argues that she doesn’t need a war because her position as an Indian deity is pretty strong, due to the influx of Indian immigrants to America. As am extremely powerful True God, in her own right, she argues that she is in no danger of being forgotten. Whiskey Jack and John Henry also get name checked.

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Bilquis was sent by Mr. World to spy on the meeting of the old gods, and according to Mr. World, make her complicit in his act of betrayal later in the movie, which we’ll get to in a moment. Bilquis was chosen for this because she owes Technical Boy a favor for creating the dating app that has given her new worshipers, and she is definitely feeling her own power, (as we saw last season when she tried to seduce TB), and she is reluctant to do anything for the new gods. They need a way to keep her in line, and one their side, otherwise she is too powerful to control. So ironically, Bilquis ends up in exactly the situation that was talked about in the first season when she was exiled from her homeland, her sexuality now under the control of a men, to be unleashed when they only with their permission.

At the House, the Djinn, who is working security, is confronted by Salim, who tells him that he is following his heart and wants to stay with him. The Djinn wants him to go away because its too dangerous for him to get involved in this war. The Djinn issues everyone coins to a mechanical oracle as a kind of reverse entry fee to the meeting. Bilquis prophecy has something to do with Shadow because when she receives hers, she glances sharply in his direction. Notice the very warm greeting between her and Mr. Nancy vs. the one between her and Wednesday which is decidedly cooler, as she chastises  him that she is older than him, and he neglected to invite her.

Sweeney, Salim, and Laura are not invited to the meeting, and must wait outside, but Shadow gets a ticket and his prophecy is interesting:

Every ending is a new beginning
Your lucky number is none
Your lucky color is dead
Motto: Like father, like son”

If you’ve read the book, then YOU know what that prophecy means but Shadow is mystified.

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The gods all meet up just before the meeting which involves riding the Carousel. Bilquis expresses some interest in who Shadow is. Everyone is always curious about Shadow and what he’s doing hanging out with Wednesday. Bilquis and Nancy admire Shadow’s physique although of course Nancy takes every opportunity to belittle him. Nancy’s son gets a shout out, too. If you haven’t read Anansi Boys, then check it out. Its not directly related to American Gods,  but is related thematically for its theme of  relationships between fathers and sons.

Laura, even though she’s not invited, demands a coin for a prophecy too ,and the Djinn tries to refuse her but is warned away from making Laura angry by Salim and Sweeney. Her prophecy is blank, because she’s already dead. She has no future. Wednesday meets with the eldest Zoraya, The Evening Star, who looks lovely and is played by the magnificent Cloris Leachman, and her brother Czernobog, who is his usual profane self.

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The old gods all meet to ride the Carousel and invite Shadow to ride as well. As I mentioned last season, there are a lot of things the gods do that is related to their worship, like smoking, and prophecy. The act of or the idea of spinning is a theme across several religions, with the most famous being Sufi Whirling, or Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. Whirling in circles is a form of active meditation used  to touch the divine. Even some of the fundamentalist Christian regions mention spinning in circles as a way to connect with God, or a sign that one has connected with God.

This is the purpose of the carousel, as Shadow is connected to the gods by the whirl of the machine, he wakes up in a mental state in which he can see the gods true forms.  The old gods are reluctant to join Wednesday in his war against the new gods, but Shadow gives a rallying speech ,which Wednesday believes will sway some of them.

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After the meeting the old gods meet at a local diner where Shadow get gaslighted by the gods, who pretend the carousel event didn’t occur, and will not answer his question about whether or not they are all gods. Technically, some of the them are just Personages, not gods. I would call them Powers, like Mad Sweeney, and the Djinn. Shadow also  tries to ignore Laura exists, but she is somewhat compensated by Bilquis’ attention to her.

I have no idea if Bilquis has the ability to turn her seduction powers on and off, or if they are simply innate to her, or if they work, or don’t work, on some people. Certainly many of the gods, both old and new, seem able to resists her charms, but ordinary humans cannot. It’s hard to tell if her powers are working on them. First she tries to guess if Laura is some sort of god, because she recognizes that Laura is different from an ordinary human, and seems attracted to her, until she finds out that Laura is married to Shadow, and then kisses her. Beyond looking bashful Laura doesn’t really respond.

 

Bilquis leaves but has signaled the location to Mr. World , who has sent an assassin to take out as many of the old gods as possible. The primary casualty is Zoraya, The Evening Star, who dies in Wednesday arms. Her brother goes on a long rant about what he pans to do to the killer, and its an interesting speech. You  will recognize the prophetic content of it if you’ve read the book.

I really do hope we get to see the Zoraya sister again. Cloris Leachman is a favorite of mine, and her character was hilarious, and played to perfection.

Shadow runs outside to beat up the assassin, but gets abducted by what appears to be a UFO. This is the introduction of another character I do not remember from the book, Mr. Town. He works for the new gods and wants to get to the bottom of who Shadow is, and why he is with Wednesday.

So in the second episode we get to find out a lot about Shadow along with some new questions as well.

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*I am very late with these reviews, but life has a way of delaying one’s well laid out plans and that’s what happened this week.  So for the next couple of weeks, it’s just going to be reviews of shows I’ve been watching, rather than my usual essays. Next week is the premiere of the last episodes of the last season of Into the Badlands, and I’ll be focusing on those, and I have  reviews of Doom Patrol, Upgrade vs. Venom, and  Siren, coming soon.

The Passage: Season One Finale

 

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So The Passage finally finished up it’s ten episode run with a two hour finale, and there is a lot to talk about. I was going to start with a recap of the season, but I’m going to do something a little different by discussing the key characters in the show. I know a lot of you may have more access to the books, than the show, which airs on American network TV, and may or may not be available on an app somewhere.

We’re going to start with the second episode of the finale because the first hour felt like more filler. The vampires do finally escape, but we knew that would happen, and its somewhat anticlimactic. All season long we’ve been seemingly sitting still, with everyone running back and forth inside the facility, without anyone actually leaving.  It’s all moot anyway because by the time of the final 15 minutes of the last episode, all of that is rendered pointless, and in the second season, we’ll get to the meat of the book, as all of this first season is basically set up for what we’ll be dealing with from the middle section of the book onwards.

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All season we have focused very heavily on the relationship between Amy Bellafonte and Agent  Brad Wolgast because that is the key relationship to who Amy is, and what she becomes. It is her relationship with Brad that sets her future in motion, determines how she reacts to that future, and even that she has a future.This is why we spent so much time with the two of them in the first three episodes. Our investment in their relationship is important to understanding Amy’s motivations. We have watched as Brad adopts her as his own daughter, after the loss of his biological child, and we have watched as the two of them bonded, loved ,and supported each other.

In the first episodes, we watch the two bond as they attempt to escape the government agents who want to use Amy for medical experimentation. They eventually get caught, and Amy is  infected with the vampire virus, and unwillingly forms a relationship with the lead vampire, Fanning, who attempts, repeatedly, to undermine her relationship with Brad, so that he can replace him. Amy resists all his attempts because she received a slightly different, (less virulent), strain of vampirism, and because Brad has supported her unconditionally, no matter how much she changed. She is able to withstand Fanning’s control in a way the other 11 vampires cannot. She is also able to walk about during the day, unlike Fanning and his kind. In other words, like Blade from the Marvel comics movie, she has all the strengths of the vampires, and none of their weaknesses.

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Of all the vampires, though, it is Babcock who is the most sympathetic, and the most charming. Fanning has a very compelling manner, in that he is able to talk people into doing things they are initially resistant to, but Babcock has the ability to be very likable, and open with everyone. This works especially well, since most of the time we see these characters from inside the mental landscapes they’ve created to communicate with the  human beings in their orbit, and with each other. Their actual physical bodies dont speak or even acknowledge human beings except as food.

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Amy and Brad spend most of the finale escaping from the facility, and  living in an abandoned cabin in the woods, while the US is quickly overtaken by the vampires, who also, finally, escape the facility, after having planned to do so since their creation. We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of this season waiting for the vampires to break free, and even I was going tired of just watching all the players run around in the facility for three to four episodes, but really, what we were doing was setting up Brad and Amy’s relationship, and the reason for the enmity between Fanning and Amy. Fanning refused to escape from the facility without Amy because he was waiting for her to turn into a full vampire, and give him her allegiance, which she refused to do. We get several moments of foreshadowing that Fanning is not infallible, when a woman he wanted for himself, rejects him to die in the arms of her husband, and when Amy rejects Babcock’s overtures of friendship. Fanning isn’t always in control, and Amy  has a strong will of her own.

Make no mistake, Amy is a full vampire, but unlike the other vampires, she refused to give into the dual choices that were given to her by Fanning. Whenever any of the other vampires turned, they had been given the option of dying, or becoming full vampires under Fanning’s control. Amy created a third option. She chose to live and become a vampire on her own terms, and it is Brad’s love and support that aided her in that choice.

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Amy vowed repeatedly to Brad, Fanning, and herself that she would not kill, or make other vampires, but Fanning uses her connection to Brad as her weakness, and in the tragic finale, he successfully forces her hand by infecting Brad. She only kills to protect Brad from being shot by  his two friends who happen to be present. Having killed to protect Brad, she  infects him with a different version of the vampirism virus, so that he will be more like her, and not the mindless minions created by the other vampires under Fanning, since he’s going to turn regardless. She leaves, after saying goodbye to him, to try to make it on her own, having been taught various survival skills, like archery, and hunting, by Brad during their interlude in the cabin.

During their time at the cabin, the cities are slowly being overrun by vampires that are all offshoots of the initial vampires created by the experiment. The initial vampires (which include Amy) are known as The Twelve. In the books, they are not all sympatico, or even all in league with each other. Some of them are allies, a couple are rivals, and a couple are loners, like Anthony. In the TV series, the end of the world is brought about when the other countries, witnessing what is happening in the US, decide to nuke all the cities where they have taken up residence.

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The reason the first season is narrated by Amy is because we’ve been watching a flashback from some 100 years in the future. Humanity is almost extinct, and the land is populated by mostly starving vampires, that can’t die. We see Amy, still a child 97 years later, her hair in long braids, bow and arrow in hand, shooting down the lesser vampires, as she searches the US for Brad, whom she feels is still alive. In the final scene she is seen approaching The Colony. In the second season we’ll hopefully be meeting those characters, who are all the human beings left after the nuclear (and vampire) apocalypse. The other books, The Twelve and City of Mirrors are also being jumbled in as well, since some of the first season comes from the second book.

I have to admit, I was mostly distracted by the question of who braided Amy’s hair, because she is wearing these long box braids. This is a something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask if I hadn’t earlier seen Brad braiding Amy’s hair in that Black momma ritual that had resonance for a lot of Black women watching the show. Nearly all of us have some memory of sitting at our mother’s feet, getting our hair braided, while discussing the day’s important issues. In Amy’s case, she confesses to Brad that she can see the future. She foresees Brad’s death, and the death of most of humanity.

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Another admission I have to make is that I did not find the middle section of the book, The Passage,  especially interesting, as most of it takes place inside The Colony, and involves a lot of personal politicking among characters I didn’t care about. The characters were not interesting, and nothing of real import occured in that section. I had to push really hard through that section of the book, because I kept being told it was worth it to get to the end, and that’s true, the last 100 or so pages were much better.

So, I’m hoping we get a second season, and it does look promising to get one. Unlike some people, who refused to engage with the show because it airs on network television, and were afraid of having it be canceled once they fell in love with it, I considered this show to be well worth getting burned. This show is everything that The Strain, a show I had high hopes for,  should have been.

American Gods Season One

The second season of American Gods airs this Sunday, and Starz has been showing season one non-stop since January. The show is available for streaming on Amazon Prime, Youtube, and Vudu, or the Starz app.

So here, for those of you who missed the first season, are all my reviews and recaps in one spot.

 

The Bone Orchard

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/american-%EF%BB%BFgods-season-one-the-bone-orchard%EF%BB%BF/

 

The Secret of the Spoons

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/american-gods-season-one-the-secret-of-spoons%EF%BB%BF/

Head Full of Snow

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/american-gods-season-one-head-full-of-snow/

 

Git Gone

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/american-gods-season-one-git-gone/

Lemon Scented You

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/american-gods-season-one-lemon-scented-you/

A Murder of Gods

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/american-gods-season-one-a-murder-of-gods/

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/a-prayer-for-mad-sweeney/

Come to Jesus

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/american-gods-season-one-come-to-jesus-part-one/

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon (Come To Jesus – Pt. 2)

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/american-gods-of-gods-and-shadow-moon/

Weekend Reading/ Feb. 22nd, 2019

The Matrix

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This isn’t a new theme, but I liked this little essay about how to enjoy movies with so much gunfire in them, in this age of daily mass shootings. How can we enjoy such scenes, and what makes these scenes different from the kinds of scenes we’ve see on our TV screens, on  a regular basis? And what type of role does such a scene have on the prevalence of mass shootings? Not in causing them, but in inspiring how they’re committed.

https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/reckoning-with-the-matrixs-gun-problem.html

 

 

Romantic Tropes

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There is however a real link between how Hollywood depicts romance, and men’s ideas of how romance is meant to be performed, and what’s considered romantic rather than abusive.

To be fair,women also receive toxic messages about romance, outside of what’s discussed in this essay, like the idea that women  can fix broken men, an idea so normalized in Hollywood, that it even shows up in romantic fiction written by women.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/when-pop-culture-sells-dangerous-myths-about-romance/549749/

http://www.collegehumor.com/post/7038172/hey-movies-this-isnt-romantic

 

 

 

Racist Vigilantism

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As to the event that happened with Liam Neeson a couple of weeks ago, in which he confessed to an event of racial vigilantism in his youth,  I think Roland Martin, from TVOne News, says it best. But the point also needs to be made that Liam Neeson was only doing what countless numbers of Hollywood films have encouraged White men to do in the protection of White women’s bodies, which is go out and harm men of color, beginning with Birth of a Nation.  Endless Action movies and Westerns are  predicated on the basic plot of : White man goes out and shoots people he thinks  are bad.

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Liam himself has starred in countless numbers of films in which he avenges the sacrilege, or deaths, of female characters. I’m disappointed, but not angry, at Liam, for doing exactly what he’s been told to do, since the invention of film media. White woman been hurt? Go out and terrorize some Black people!

https://www.thedailybeast.com/black-america-knows-white-avengers-like-liam-neeson-all-too-well?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

 

 

Film Criticism Diversity

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Yeah, we’ve been talking about this for a minute.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/22/17466246/criticism-film-movie-diversity-annenberg-study-larson-blanchett-bullock-kaling

 

 

The Apocalypse

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The basic idea of this article is that common depictions of the apocalypse are just wrong. We already have examples of how people react in the event of massive life-changing events in places that have experienced natural disasters. So why don’t we ever see any of that in Apoclaypse style movies? In fact the people in those movies, especially Western films, all react the same, running trough the streets, burning, killing and pillaging. Along with the lack of bicycles after the apocalypse, showing people acting a fool, during the end of the world, just makes for more dramatic screen images, I guess.

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https://www.tor.com/2018/11/14/what-really-happens-after-the-apocalypse/

 

 

 

Misogyny

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This one discusses how the disparaging of romance novels, and Chic-Lit, is really just another form of devaluing women’s interests and hobbies, and I agree. I think there’s something to this. Anytime women show an interest in some thing, or engage in an activity, there’s a contingent of gatekeepers, and intelligentsia, who crawl out from under the world’s baseboards, to take a shit on everything from romance novels and coloring books, to scrapbooking and fanfiction, to TV shows and Ugg boots.

In fact, this very much pertains to all Pop culture media, for which women are the audience. Pay close attention to criticism of the kinds of hobbies and interests women engage in, vs, the kinds of interests engaged in by men, and see that you don’t find that much of it is negative.

 

https://thetempest.co/2018/03/09/entertainment/chick-lit-romance-bias/

 

 

 

White Nationalism’s Nightmare

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If you haven’t seen the movie The Girl with All the Gifts, then you need to check it out. This is an interesting analysis of what this movie means to those arguing that White Genocide is a thing. I gave a review of it on this blog.

https://racebaitr.com/2017/07/25/girl-gifts-nightmare-white-supremacy/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2016/

Titans (DCEU) Season One

 

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I actually liked this series, although I was more than a little dubious about it from looking at the trailer. The trailer for this show should just be ignored. The show has a few problems, but those problems can be overcome.

The show starts with Raven, and her superpowers, being pursued by some unknown agents. She ends up in jail where she meets Dick Grayson. She knows who he is and pleads with him to help her. There are several suspenseful escapes from the people pursuing her. Along the way, she meets Garth (Beast Boy) and his family, the Doom Patrol, in episode four, and eventually, she encounters a superteam duo, called Hawk and Dove, who were also in the comic books, but I don’t remember them, which shows you how little of an impression they made on me. I don’t know if they’re going to have a  spin off show of their own.

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It turns out the people pursuing her are the members of a cult that worship her demon father, Trigun, and are trying to procure her to work for them, so they can summon him to Earth. They are unsuccessful for the most part but then, of course, her mother (who she thought was dead), reappears, claiming to want to take care of her, or something. Naturally, since she was the one who slept with Trigun she’s on his side, which is a plot point you can see coming a mile away, but Rachel doesn’t even think about asking her mother why she slept with a demon. So yeah, her mother tricks her into summoning her father, even though Rachel knows she’s probably  not supposed to do that.

And let’s just say the comic book version of Trigun made a huge impression on me as a kid. Yeah, this show version was  deeply underwhelming. I was not whelmed at all.

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I think one of the main problems, with this show, is the focus on Raven as a character. The actress makes this character  less than compelling because she simply isn’t a very good actress. I mean she is an adequate actress, who is not good enough to pull off this role,  and I found myself more interested in Beast Boy’s story because Ryan Potter is just better. At every opportunity, the other actors outshine her, and are much more interesting as characters. Yes, even Dick.

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There’s also the small sideplot point of Beast Boy having  trouble controlling himself  (along with some PTSD) after he kills (and eats) a man in the form of a tiger, which seems to be his go-to animal. I found Garth’s questions about the nature of his abilities to be much more interesting than anything Raven was getting up to. On the other hand, watching  the two of them  bonding as friends, was really sweet, and Beast Boy is very quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. He was mostly just annoying in the comic books but Ryan Potter’s incredibly expressive face perfectly captures both the sunniness, and the menace, of this character. Most of the time Garth is a friendly and open person, but when he goes to his animal form, he can be pretty terrifying, which is not necessarily something that can be conveyed in illustrations.

Seeing certain characters brought to life, seeing their powers manifest for real, rather than on a page,  has a different effect on how you think of them sometimes. I thought the idea of all his animals being green would be kind of silly, but the way its shown isn’t silly, at all. Potter’s body language really sells it, and you get some idea of how much power this  guy has (especially if you just ignored him in the books.)

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I am reasonably  familiar with the Teen Titans comic books, (even though I’m not a DC fan, in general), and the Teen Titans Go TV show. In the comic books, my favorite character was Raven.  I found her backstory, as the daughter of the world destroying demon, Trigun, very fascinating. If you’re a fan of the cartoon, that Raven isn’t all that different from the comic book version, except for being funnier and snarkier. Oddly, the Starfire from the cartoon isn’t all that different either, at least in temperament, from the comic book version either, except in the comic book, she’s a lot sexier, which brings us to Ana Diop as Starfire.

My least favorite character from the comic books  is Starfire, although my niece, The Potato, loves her. I mostly found the character uninteresting, and occasionally, annoying.  I  thought of her as “chirpy”, but then I was a lot younger when I read those. In the show, as portrayed by Ana Diop, she’s a much more interesting character, who, at first, isn’t much like her comic book version at all. She’s kind of broody and dark, but there’s a reason for that.  Its only towards the end of the season that she starts to get more snarky, but she still lacks the sunny, happy go lucky, problem free attitude, of the woman from the comic books ,although she has an incredible smile, that when she bothers to use it, just makes you smile too.

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She’s one of my favorite characters on the show. I especially love that everytime we see her, just like in the comic books, she’s wearing purple, and unlike the comic books, her scenes  are always accompanied by disco music, which I thought was hilarious. Of all the characters, she’s the most knowing and mature, while paradoxically, knowing the least.

The Starfire from the comic books is an exceptionally powerful character. which is something people tend to forget. She is a very visually distracting character, because  she barely wears any clothes, (she really does love the color purple, though). She does things in the comic books that I didn’t think about seeing on the screen because I got caught up in how she looks too. I didn’t like her hair. I didn’t like her outfits. Her attitude is different. When she uses those massive force blasts in the show, literally incinerating a roomful of men into a pile of charcoal briquets, that shit is… let’s just say, I was a bit taken aback. This was not what I’d thought about when I thought about her. Like I said, it’s different when you see it brought to life, in this manner.

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When we first meet Starfire, or Kory , as the show refers to her, she has lost all her memory, which accounts for the change in attitude, at least. She encounters Rachel and adopts her as a little sister, and   vows to protect her. It isn’t until near the end of the season that she gets her memory back, and her relationship with Rachel suffers for it, which is really tragic because you could see that the four of them, Beast Boy,  Robin, Kory and Rachel were beginning to form a family. I was not impressed by the comic book version of the character but the onscreen version is truly impressive and Ana Diop is doing a wonderful job with it. I can see why she was chosen for this role. (We’re not about to address the racist wtf*ery from the fandom, and  which has surrounded the  character, from the moment the actress was announced. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

This is not a great show, but I’m interested in the family dynamics at play, and the relationships between the characters, as they develop. Kory and Dick develop a relationship which is canon to some of the comic books, and I liked seeing that. Brendan Thwaites, I have no idea who he is, is an adequate Robin, and it was a lot of fun watching him interact with Jason Todd, the Robin who replaced him.

Dick has some anger issues, and a chip on his shoulder with Batman, which is also kind of true to the comic books, despite that silliness  in the trailer. I have to admit I mostly think of Batman’s various kids as a huge, squabbling bunch of emos, and I would love to see some of the other Batkids in the show. I find it amusing to watch them fight amongst themselves, but they will  still kick the asses of anyone who messes with  their siblings. (Batman has, like, a dozen kids! I have never found that NOT funny.)

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I wish the show had been a little more focused and not sort of all over the place, though. Its not that the plot points are not resolved, its that characters (Hawk, Dove, The Nuclear Family,  Doom Patrol, Jason Todd, Donna Troy) are introduced, and disappeared, so fast we barely get to know them, and the characters keep moving from place to place. The show appears to be both moving too fast and meandering slowly towards its conclusion. The pacing needs to be better. It just felt like the writers were trying to squeeze in as many cameos from the comic books as possible.

Marvel and DC seem to have carved out their respective territories with Marvel tearing it up on the big screen, while  the Prime Time TV market  is seems well settled by DC, with 7 to 8 shows airing now, and some 8 more on the way, most of which will be on the DCEU app. (Marvel and DC both  have a f**kton of animated works too.)

Titans is available on the DC app. Ignore the awful trailer and give it try if you can.

Some Exciting Trailers!

Doom Patrol

I’m actually enjoying Titans, which is something I’ll talk about later, but one of my favorite episodes was number four, which featured the superhero group, called Doom Patrol. Yes, they are comic book characters. No, I never read any of the books. I sort of knew about Doom Patrol in passing, but never actually picked up any of the books. Occasionally, I’d stumble across that Robot guy, but I’ve never heard of the team beyond Cyborg.

In the Titans episode clip below, Beast Boy takes Raven to meet his family. I have this thing about depictions of family dynamics, so I was on board right from the beginning. The team, as it will in the show, consists of Negative Man (the guy with the bandages), Elastic Woman (who can shift her looks), Robot Man (who used to be a race car driver before he lost his body in an accident), Cyborg,(we met him in Justice League), and Jane (who has 60 different personalities, all of whom have a different superpower).

I’m looking forward to watching this soon.

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Fast Color

One of the things I like about the new year are all the interesting new trailers for films no one has mentioned, or I’ve never heard of. This is Fast Color, about a Black woman who has superpowers, who goes home to discover her daughter has abilities too. I really like Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ll watch anything in which she stars, so if this is playing in my area, maybe I can talk Mom into going to see it with me.

 

 

Avengers Endgame

This is the latest trailer for the new Avengers movie, airing during the Superbowl. I’m very excited to see this movie mostly because I’m deeply curious about the interactions between characters who have never met before.

It seems that we’ve been reduced to the first five, or so, original Avengers, in the direct aftermath of the loss of so much life, so there’s a distinctly melancholy feel to the movie. I don’t mind, as long as I get to see most of my favorites return.

 

 

The Twilight Zone

I’m a huge fan of the original TW, and the various reboots weren’t too bad either. I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele, who has already shown us his horror bonifides with his first movie, Get Out, and his newest release this Spring, titled US. I think he’s just a Producer on this, which is cool. I already have the CBS All Access App for watching Star trek Discovery, so I might as well take advantage.

 

 

Hanna

I can’t say I’m a fan of the movie, which turned out not to be the full on action fest I thought it would, but turned out to be quieter, and more contemplative, than I thought. I did not dislike the movie this came from, but I didn’t love it either, probably because my expectations, and the payoff were so wildly different.

The movie is a bout a young girl raised by her adoptive father to be lethal, her escape from his pursuers, and her attempts to live as a normal teenager, when she meets another young woman looking to be friends. If the show follows the movie, then be prepared for some really good action scenes, alongside a great deal of  coming of age drama. I’m curious about this. one of the  standout things , from the movie, was Hanna’s relationships with the normal teens, and their reactions to who and what she is.

So, I’m going to check it out and let you know what’s going on here. Hanna airs on Amazon Prime. Tbh, I haven’t watched a single one of Amazon Prime’s many original series, so maybe I’ll break that record with this one.

 

 

Toy Story 4

I’m probably not going to the theater to see this, but then I’ve said that about other movies, so don’t take me at my word on it. After all, I have several nieces and nephews who all love Toy Story, I’ve seen all the other ones in theaters, and I could be easily persuaded to take them to see it. My family has discovered that I am notoriously easy to be talked into seeing movies I had no plans to watch, (and I’m pretty sure my Mom is just taking shameless advantage of me.)

So, we’ll see.

 

 

Game of Thrones

Season eight is coming.

 

 

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

I remember scaring myself to death with these books as a kid, so I’m mildly excited about a movie based on them. For me the scariest parts of the books are the illustrations, but some of the stories are pretty effective today, too. Apparently this movie is produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who rarely goes wrong when it comes to Horror, so I’m looking forward to checking this out.

 

 

 

Hobbs and Shaw

I’m not really a Fast and Furious fan. I’ve maybe watched half of the movies, but the inclusion of Idris Elba, as a total badass, has my complete attention, Since my Mom is a huge Idris fan, and will actually go see movies featuring The Rock, and for some  reason that is unbeknownst to the rest of her family, has become enamored of Jason Statham’s Transporter movies, I’m pretty sure I can talk her into going to see this movie with me.

It looks like a helluva lot of fun, too.

 

 

The Secret Life Of Pets 2

I though the original film was just sooo cute! My favorite character is Gidget because  her name reminds me of those Gidget Beach movies I watched as a kid. This new trailer is really funny, so I’m sure I can be talked into going to see it by my sister’s kids.

 

The Passage – Season Premiere

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I have a lot to say about the first episode of The Passage. First of all, I really enjoyed this. I found myself really liking the characters and their relationships, and I was really feeling the whole thing. I’m definitely going to be watching this for the entirety of the season. I even got Mom to watch the Pilot, and I’ll ask what her opinion is later. *(She is really enjoying it, and will be tuning in every week, because she is totally in love with Amy. I suspect Amy reminds her of her Granddaughter, The Potato, because they are both around the same age, and they sort of look alike, and The Potato is her favorite Grandbaby.)

The show is based on a trilogy by Justin Cronin, and is about a vampire plague that destroys most of humanity, killing some, turning others, and forcing the humans who are left to fight for survival. Amy , the little girl in the show, is both a part of, separate from, and above all of this. Technically she’s a vampire too, but a special kind, with all of the vampire’s powers, and none of their weaknesses (like a tiny female Blade, with no Kung Fu skills). The vampires who break out of the lab are called The Twelve, and the leader is the military man we saw get infected in the first episode by a real vampire. At some point, this is all going to come down to a face off between him and Amy, both of them at opposite ends of the vampire spectrum.

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In the pilot, we meet Amy Bellafonte, who is the daughter of a drug addict, who dies in the first few moments of the show, and she is now on her own, with no family, except Brad, the government agent tasked with procuring Amy for human experiments. He is told by his superiors that they need a child, an orphan who isn’t yet in the system, and so won’t be missed, and Amy just happens to fit that description right away.

Amy is  White in the books, so it is very interesting that they cast Amy as a Black girl for the show. Along with Amy are a number of other people who have been experimented on. One of them is a Black man, and the other is a female ex-con. All of them are death row inmates except for  the initial patient. In other words, these are people who won’t be missed, and who the government discounts as being  important. Amy herself was specifically chosen  because she is someone no one will miss, just like the hundreds of little girls of color, who go missing on reservations, and in Black neighborhoods yearly, that the authorities don’t bother to make an effort to look for.

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This is Anthony, He also begins to form a relationship with Amy after she is taken to the institution and injected with Fanning’s more refined DNA. Amy and Anthony are the furthest on the spectrum  from Fanning, who is called Patient Zero.

There are some strong parallels in the storyline to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments of 1932, where the government experimented on a group of Black men, charting the course of the disease by not treating them. There is also another parallel in the gynecological experiments on Black slaves by Dr. J. Marion Sims, who is credited as the father of modern gynecology.

https://www.history.com/news/the-infamous-40-year-tuskegee-study

https://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves

But there is also a parallel to the story of Henrietta Lacks:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Lacks

These parallels also give us some idea of Amy’s level of importance to this story, because  like Henrietta Lacks, it’s Amy’s destiny to save the human race. Its interesting to note that just by race bending a single character, you can bring a great deal of historical depth to a story that would have only been “just okay” with a White actress.

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Brad Wolgast is the agent who is chosen  to bring Amy in, but he has an attack of conscience, partly because he is trying to be a good person, and also because he’s still suffering from the loss of his own little girl, which has estranged him from his wife. He decides to take Amy and run, and the first episode is spent watching the two of them bond with each other, and learn to trust each other. For some people, this is all a bit slow, but I didn’t have a problem with it because Amy’s relationship with Brad is important to the kind of person she will become, and I appreciated the writers taking the time to establish their relationship. In fact, their relationship is one of the highlights of the show, and around which much  of the opening episodes will be centered.

One of the most touching moments for me is when Brad pep talks Amy, giving her the kind of affirmation she so desperately needs. He champions her when no one else does. He kills for her, and would (probably will) die for her. There’s another scene where he helps give her closure for the loss of her mother, by  encouraging her to eulogize her, and I appreciated that the show took time out from the car chases to show the two of them bonding like any father and daughter. At first, Brad is treating her the way he would have treated his daughter, had she lived, and there’s an element of guilt and atonement in his actions, but after a while he starts to see her as an individual, and not just a replacement for his lost child. He starts to love her for her. She is the daughter of his heart, and its overwhelmingly touching to watch their devotion to each other. That chemistry is there.

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In the second episode, the two of them make a pact (well Amy makes it) where they vow to never leave each other. She enacts promises from Brad, but she also abides by what she asks of him, which is key to how the government finally catches up to the two of them. She sacrifices her freedom to save his life, which is why it was so important to show  scenes of the two of them bonding. You would not have been able to buy her sacrifice if the writer’s had not already established their relationship.

It’s clear that Amy is very much the star of the show, and the creators take great effort in humanizing and empathizing with her, and her emotions.  We are meant to identify closely with this little girl, through closeups of her face in different situations, and her voiceover, which recounts what we’re seeing in flashback (which is an important thing, as this is being told to us from far in the future).

When Amy is happy, we’re meant to be happy. When she is sad, so are we. But more importantly, we are meant to feel her terror when she is frightened, and not just look at, in a form of titillation. In a lot of scenes with her, we see the situations from her point of view. During one scene, Brad is engaged in a shootout with other agents, and we don’t just dwell on the action.In fact, there are moments where we don’t see what Brad is doing, (gunning down fellow agents on her behalf), but are meant to feel Amy’s terror during those scenes, as we focus on her facial expressions, to the sounds of guns in the background. The way the scene is shot, we are not focused on her just for spectacle. We are meant to empathize with her feelings.

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The show has other PoC in it besides Amy. The doctor who wants to experiment on her is a Black woman, who is very obviously conflicted about what she is doing, but we are meant to sympathize with her wanting to save the world from an epidemic of Bird Flu, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. I kind of feel for her ,as she is in a very desperate position, but I still don’t sympathize completely, and she should feel bad about what she’s doing, because it’s just wrong to experiment on children.

When (Fanning) is infected, he is experimented on to find cures for various diseases, and different strains of vampirism are the result, with the last patient, Anthony being the one least like him and more likely to break away from the other vampires. The doctors find that above a certain age, the victims they experimented on just become true vampires. They theorize that by using a child, they can bypass all the strange stuff, and reach a cure faster. In the second episode we get a sympathetic view of Babcock,  her backstory, and how she ended up on death row. (She killed her rapey stepfather, and her knowingly unhelpful mother.) Its interesting how these characters have been fleshed out with          both good and bad traits. Fanning was an honorable man when he was alive, and Babcock was a thief, who had been sexually victimized.

This show is turning out to be what The  Strain should have been, with better acting, better written characters, and a more well thought out plot, but that could be because the source material was better written, and the writers are being more faithful to it, although I don’t want to cast aspersions on Guillermo Del Toro’s written trilogy, which was pretty good. On the other hand, it is taking place on Fox which is notorious for fucking over fans of shows it refuses to renew, or fucking over the actors on the show, so that they leave. So far, the actress playing Amy (Saniyya Sidney) has been allowed to be front and center in the promotional material, and allowed to talk about her character, and what she means, in her own words.

I’ll come back and talk some more about this show later. I think its really good though, and deserves to be given some amount of respect by Fox. I’ve been burned by Fox several times, so I’m always wary when they have a good show on their hands.

As with Star Trek Discovery, I’m just making up my own mind about how I feel about this show, and not reading any reviews, unless they’re written by women or PoC. In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten exceptionally weary of White men’s opinions on (a lot of things) TV shows which prominently star PoC, (and its not like I need their affirmation to like or dislike anything). *(Don’t let me get started on a rant here!)*

‘Til Next Time!

New Trailers! YIPPEEEE!!!!!!

Here are a few of the new trailers I was waiting to get a look at when I did my watchlist last year. I waited so I could collect all of them in one post. I’m very excited about a couple of these (and a couple of surprises) and just wanted share my love:

 

John Wick 3

Why yes, I am a John Wick fan. I consider these to be some of Keanu’s best action films ever. This franchise just fits him so well. I actually got my Mom to watch the first movie, which she seemed to enjoy, even though she said it was a crazy movie, and was upset about the dog. And this next movie in the trilogy looks hella fun. In the last movie John broke some rules which had him being hunted by the assassin’s guild of which he was once a member. I’m here just to watch Keanu Reeves riding horseback though.

 

 

Umbrella Academy

OH!!!, this looks like so much fun! I like the characters already, and I was always a fan of Ellen Page.  I did read the comic books, (although it was a long time ago) but  I’ve been a Gerard Way fan ever since. (He also wrote Spidergeddon, and Doom Patrol for a while.). And yes, that is indeed a monkey in the second part of the trailer. I sort of remember that from the books. This is airing on Netflix on February 15th.

 

 

Little

This movie is so cute. Normally, I’m not a fan of movies where adults exchange places with children, because they are usually done so badly, but I did like the Tom Hanks movie, which is the opposite of this one, called BIG. I just love the little actress here, and I’m a fan of Issa Rae, and I think the trailer is pretty funny.  I have plans to take my 13 year old niece to see this, becasue the young lady in the movie helped produce it, and hired a female director, and writers, to work on the  film.. She has the distinction of being the youngest producer in Hollywood.  I don’t normally go see comedies, but I’ll take this over the next Madea movie my family forces me to go see.

 

 

Spiderman: Far From Home 

I was already excited about this movie because I actually am a Spiderman fan, and the addition of Mysterio just clinched it. Now, to find out that the movie does indeed take place far from home, and that Aunt May is also on board the Spiderman train, (and she and Happy appear to be making some kind of love connection, which is not anything like in the comic books), well I am here for it.

And yeah, I think MJ (Michelle) has always known that Peter is Spiderman. Go back and watch the first movie. Whenever Peter and Ned are discussing Spiderman in public, she always seems to be nearby, (also Peter and Ned lack the ability to whisper), and I’m pretty sure she recognized Peter as Spiderman when the class visited Washington. But that’s a topic for another post, so here we go:

 

 

 

Polar

I don’t know, this looks like a total ripoff of John Wick, but I don’t care because its on Netflix, and it stars Mads Mikkelson as a total badass, which is always fun. I’m always up for watching movies about assassins, for some reason. This is airing today on Netflix.

Forthcoming TV 2018/2019

December

21) Diablero (Netflix)

I have never heard of this show, movie, or whatever this is, and  don’t know anything about it beyond the trailer, but it sounds interesting, and looks like fun. so I’m going to check it out next week. All I know is that its kinda like Buffy but edgier, with demon hunters and priests in the city. I’ll get back to you guys and let you know what I think.

 

23) Watership Down

I had no intention of watching this because I saw the original and it was pretty depressing. I have no need to subject myself to this anew adaptation, but I know there’s someone out there who loves the original animation, and will probably like this version, too.

 

28) Black Mirror (Netflix)

We’re supposed to get a surprise Xmas special at the end of the month. I’ve really enjoyed Black Mirror, and I’m looking forward to this, if the rumor is true. Of course there’s no trailer for something that’s supposed to be a surprise.

 

30) Orville (Fox)

This show was wildly uneven, as it couldn’t seem to balance out the comedy and drama at the same time, but I could see the potential, and I could see what MacFarlane was trying to accomplish, and sometimes it takes a show a season or two to get on its feet, and hit that groove. The show needs to make up its mind if it wants situational humor or character humor. Buffy, for example, didn’t really capture a lot of viewers until well into its third season. Well, we’ve been given a second season so I’m going to try it again because I want to like this show.

 

 

 

January

1)A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 5 (Netflix)

I find it hard to believe this is season five of this. I enjoyed the movie this was based on but I’ve been pretty much ignoring this. Well, maybe one day, I’ll get around to watching it because it does look like fun.

 

 

 

10) Brooklyn 99 (NBC)

I’m really looking forward to this. The show was threatened with cancellation earlier this year but was rescued by NBC.

 

13) True Detective  (HBO)

I don’t normally watch cop shows but sometimes they’re just too good to pass up, like Brooklyn 99, and True Detective. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t dislike the last season, but it was unremarkable. I’m watching this because I’m a huge fan of Mahershala Ali, and eager to see what he can do in this role.

 

 

14) The Passage (FOX)

I talked about this show earlier, mentioning my enthusiasm for it, based on my liking of the trilogy by Justin Cronin. Check them out if you’re interested in the show.

 

 

16) Deadly Class (SYFY)

I like the visuals of this show, and the fact that Benedict Wong, from Doctor Strange, is in this. It sorta looks like fun, but I hope it doesnt turn into a copy of The Magicians. Normally, I don’t watch teenagers on TV doing anything, but Sometimes I make an exception.

 

 

17) Star Trek Discovery Season 2 (CBS Access)

I’m very eagerly looking forward to this, since I really enjoyed the first season.

 

 

 

24) Siren

This show got quite a few things wrong, but for every wrong thing, it got something right, and I still like the idea of predatory mermaids. Now the rumor is that other supernatural beings are running around in the town, and we will be seeing some new cast members.

 

February

15) Umbrella Academy Netflix)

This is another show that I think is based  on a comic book, although its possible that it isn’t, because I read the comic book and this doesn’t seem very much like what I read. So now I’ve got to watch it and see how much alike or different it is.

 

 

March

10) American Gods (Starz)

Yeah, I’m definitely here for this, despite the change in showrunners. I can only hope the new showrunner doesnt fuck it up, and treats the characters of color, and the gay and lesbian characters, with a certain amount of dignity.

 

 

On my agenda for the holidays:

The live -action Bleach on Netflix, and Bird Box.

Hannibal Season Three: Contorno (5)

Yes, I’m still writing these. I’m not finished. We are  coming up on the initial episodes of the third season, that I wrote reviews for, which were part of the Red Dragon arc. I’m going to rewrite those reviews in light of my new viewpoints.

When the season first aired, I wasn’t particularly interested in the first half. Like a lot of people, I stopped watching after the second season, and didn’t pick up the show again until the middle of season three, when the Red Dragon arc began. I missed all the stuff about Chiyoh, how Hannibal left Bedelia, and how Lecter was captured by Mason Verger, which in hindsight, was probably the most dramatic part of the season, as it reunites him with two of the people he most wronged last season, Alana and Mason Verger. That may have been the reason why some of the last part of the season was baffling to me. But I’m about to go through the process of re-reading those reviews, and see if my current thoughts line up with what I said back then.

 

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This episode begins with three separate threads, and ends with all those threads converging on Hannibal’s location. This starts out as one of those quiet episodes that you don’t think will have much relevance and is merely setup for the next, after all Contorno means side dish. But side dishes can be very filling too, and this was a satisfying episode.

Will Graham has left Lithuania with Chiyo in tow, both of them headed to Florence by train, where Hannibal is holed up with Bedelia. Chiyo and Will discuss what they will do when they finally reach Florence. Will says something that alarms Chiyo, and she pushes him off the train. She has  appointed herself to be Hannibal’s protector, since she no longer guards his prisoner, and doesn’t seem to bear him any ill will for having put her in such a position. I do remember being initially confused as to why Will kept trying to kill Hannibal, even after he supposedly forgave him for killing Abigail. Chiyoh’s understanding of Will is very direct. She states that Will is afraid he will become like Hannibal, which means, of course, that Chiyoh knows exactly what Hannibal is, and seemingly doesn’t mind.

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Chiyoh seems utterly devoted to Lecter, which is something I have a problem with because you have this submissive Asian woman, this stereotype, following around, and protecting, a White male serial killer. Certainly she is deadly, but she is so passive in her interactions that she almost seems like she’s asleep. The most active thing she does is killing, so maybe she’s as much like Hannibal as Will , and that’s the reason she understands Will so well. I do wish the series had played that up more than it did, and established her as someone who, like Will, is trying hard to resist becoming like Hannibal, because this is not something made explicitly clear, and its also something which is at odds with how we are first introduced to her. When we first met her ,she had managed to resist killing Hannibal’s prisoner for years, but once Will sets her free by killing the prisoner himself, she is shooting people left and right, on Hannibal’s behalf.

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Jack Crawford makes his way to Florence as well, where he releases his wife’s ashes into the river, and  relinquishes his wedding ring. Its as if, in the hunt for Hannibal, he is divesting himself of everything that makes him Jack Crawford. Jack is a straigt up “manhunter” now, with no distractions, and he is on the path of vengeance, something that wouldn’t be condoned in polite society, (or by his late wife), and he doesn’t want any vestiges of his old life, or the man he used to be, to interfere in that mission. He meets Reinaldo Pazzi, who tries to talk him into arresting Hannibal with him, but Jack demurs. He doesn’t want Hannibal arrested. He wants him dead.

Hannibal, heeding Bedelia’s warning that he is being hunted, is waiting for all these people to arrive, so he can get all this killing done. He knows Pazzi, Jack, and Will, are closing in on him.  Of the three men, Will is the one of which he is least certain, but then Will has always been a wild card for Hannibal, and difficult for him to predict his actions. Will could just as easily come into the situation and help him, as try to kill him.

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Alana Bloom proves to the audience why she is who she is, as she figures out where Hannibal is, using “psychology”. She knows Hannibal  better than most, and uses her intimate knowledge of his tastes and habits to determine that he is in Florence, tracking him through Bedelia’s purchases of fine goods. In the meantime, it appears that Bedelia is trying to get caught, or get help ,or something. She makes a purchase, and then, wearing a very distinctive outfit, goes to the train station, so she can be caught on the station’s cameras. She wants someone, somewhere, to notice her. She is either asking for help, or concocting an alibi.

Mason Verger, having discovered where Hannibal lays his hat, puts out a bounty on him, which Pazzi accepts. Its illegal for a  member of law enforcement to take money in exchange for an arrest, (even in Italy), so Pazzi doesn’t inform any of his colleagues that he has found the Beast of Florence. Mason gives Pazzi instructions on how to collect the bounty. He must provide a fingerprint as proof that its Hannibal, and Pazzi meets with Hannibal to trick him into giving one. Hannibal kills Pazzi by gutting him and stringing him up outside a window, the way one of Pazzi’s ancestors was killed during the Medici era.

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This particular scene is from the sequel to Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, in which Clarice Starling has tracked Hannibal to Italy attempting to capture him. In fact, some of the dialogue between Chiyoh and Will Graham,  is taken directly from that book. There are also several parallels, in the next two episodes, of scenes from the book, only with Will Graham and Jack in place of  Starling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazzi_conspiracy

Most of the conspirators were soon caught and summarily executed; five, including Francesco de’ Pazzi and Salviati, were hanged from the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria.[2]:140 Jacopo de’ Pazzi, head of the family, escaped from Florence but was caught and brought back. He was tortured, then hanged from the Palazzo della Signoria next to the decomposing corpse of Salviati. 

Pazzi is the descendant of one of the most notorious Italian families of the Renaissance. His ancestor, Francesco de’ Pazzi, was hanged during something called The Pazzi Conspiracy, in which a plot was contrived by several individuals, to assassinate Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici. There are parallels to this story of people converging  to assassinate Hannibal, and there will be parallels to this history later in the series, as Jack, Will, Alana, and Frederick Chilton come together to take out both  Hannibal Lecter and The Red Dragon.

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Hannibal’s killing of Pazzi is interrupted by Jack Crawford, who followed Pazzi to their meeting, and there is a continuation of that fight that Jack lost in season two. Only this time, Hannibal gets his ass kicked, because Jack came prepared to fight dirty, and gives Hannibal no quarter. This is the first time we’ve really seen Hannibal  fighting for his life and on the defensive like this.. All the other times when we had seen him in danger, it was usually because of a stealth attack. Hannibal barely survives by using the disemboweled body of Pazzi to break his fall out of a window. Thoroughly chastened, Hannibal limps off to lick his wounds. He knows its just a matter of time before he gets caught, and that all he’s doing is postponing the inevitable, but he is determined to go down fighting.

13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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I first read this book when I was about nine. It would forever influence how I read about vampires. I know there were vampire novels before this, and I even read a handful of them, but  none of them made the impression on me that this book did because it was the first time I’d read about what would happen if vampires entered the modern world of American technology and culture. These were not the Hammer/ Dracula vampires that I’d been watching on TV, and that struck a chord with me. You’ll notice a trend in the type of vampires I prefer, either the mindless hungry monster, or the thoughtful, erudite, wise old man.

Ben Mears is a writer that grew up in Salem’s Lot and has a traumatic history with the Marsten House, which looms over the surrounding town, and has itself, a sordid and tragic backstory. Arriving simultaneously is vampire Kurt Barlow, and his human servant. Its up to Ben to convince his friends and family that vampires are taking over the town before the town is destroyed.

I’m going to have to do a review of the TV mini series, as it contains some interesting messaging about xenophobia and  one of King’s favorite topics, which was heavily tackled in It, the secrets of small-town life. The book also touches on the limits of belief and faith in the fight against evil. I’m going to have to do a lot more reading on those topics before I can tackle that though.

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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This book just knocked me out! I will always stan for this book, which is a great descendant of Salem’s Lot. It contains both the mindless hungry monsters I adore, and the thoughtful , but evil, old man vampire, who sets the entire plot in motion while he’s on holiday in America. The characters are wonderful, the vampire action is great. This is what happens when a human being, Rudy, who is already a major asshole, gets bitten by a vampire, and turned loose in New York City. This book was part of the Splatterpunk era of the 80s, and the  writers do not stint on the gore.

The major drawback to this book is the rampant homophobia, which I found very jarring, when I listened to the audiobook recently. It does have a heroic gay character in it (who doesn’t get killed), but the road up to that moment is pretty rocky, and I think the writers thought they were being  progressive at the time. If that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you, then by all means you should skip it. (Its just that I had forgotten about it, since I read this as a teenager.)

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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This is one of those types of vampire that I found incredibly intriguing as a teenager. The vampire from this book is a ruthless, heartless, intellectual, who is without sentiment about his condition. No lush prose here. The vampire in this book is direct, pragmatic and without excuses for what he is. As far as he is concerned, he is a predator, born and evolved to feed on human beings, and everything he does  is nothing more than a masquerade  to that purpose. He doesn’t have long romantic stories of his previous lives, as he doesn’t remember any of them, because, as he says, he doesn’t need to, to fulfill his only purpose, which is feigning humanity to get human blood. This is the more scientific, biological strain of vampire, but one who is intelligent and self reflective, when called to be so. He also has no idea of his age, since he sleeps for several decades at a time, after a few years of wakefulness and feeding.

The story plays out in three acts. In the first, he is captured, and kept in a cell by a ruthless man wishing to make money from him. He escapes by emotionally manipulating the man’s teenage nephew. The most intriguing part of the book is the second act where, as a college teacher, he has a psychiatric session with a woman who figures out what he is, and he attempts to divest her of her romantic notions of vampirism.  In the third act, he believes its time for him to go back to The Big Sleep, after witnessing a stage play that arouses sentimentality in him,  something he considers a liability to his survival.

The book isn’t especially  scary, but it was a great introduction to the idea of an intellectual/scientific vampire.

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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I read this when I was maybe 18, and  I loved it. I’d never read anything like it. I followed Rice’s vampire series for several years, but since the over saturation of the market with vampires that are all ripoffs of Anne Rice, I’ve pretty much stopped reading them. That doesn’t make her original trilogy any less effective though. I can still pick up these books and become completely immersed n the lush world of 1800s Louisiana, now aided and abetted by images of Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise, as Louis and Lestat. This book is one of the first times I encountered a child vampire, and while I was never into Claudia, as a character, all that much, she is very effectively written. To my memory no one had written about child vampires much before Rice.

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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I’m not sure how to describe this book. The vampires are definitely vampires, but unlike any of the vampires mentioned above, although the closest resemblance is to the style of Rice’s vampires. But only the style. The book takes place in the modern day, and chronicles the coming of age of a half vampire named Nobody, who meets a trio of vampires, who have been killing their way across the Midwest, and one  of whom turns out to be his father, something he discovers only after having slept with him, because that is the kind of book we’re dealing with.

Dark, Gothic, and lush is really the only way to describe the writing style, and the vampires, here. The author, Poppy Z. Brite, was something of a Goth icon at the time this book was written, and this book was all the rage in those circles. I did not run in those circles, and quite frankly, I was mostly exasperated by the pretentiousness of that particular crowd, but that has no bearing on the book, which feels like a velvety nightmare. It can be a little hard to get into, at first, because the style is very dense, and the characters are  dark and kind of emotionally remote, but once you do, its a very satisfying read.

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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I wrote about this book earlier. I was not new to Butler’s books when I read it, but some of the events in this book are very jarring, and I feel I have to give a heads up on what happens. The book addresses the topic of race from the viewpoint of a new type of vampire, who can walk around in daylight. She looks like a little girl, about twelve years old, although she is much, much, older, and yes, she is Black. Right off the bat, within the first couple of chapters, she has a sex scene with the grown man (White) who rescued her. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, even though all of Butler’s books are kind of disturbing, and I should probably have expected it.

There are several scenes of her sleeping with adults, and I had a hard time getting past this, but I was younger and more hearty or something, because I managed to soldier through it, to an actually satisfying conclusion. I have not read this book since, and wouldn’t, because I can’t get past those scenes, although I found the rest of the book intriguing, and engaging.

Because the vampire’s bites cause humans to become addicted to them, the vampires acquire a “stable” of people around them, and so does she. Up to this point, the idea of child vampires has mostly not been addressed in vampire fiction, and really I suppose it should. Anne Rice got around the issue by making Claudia asexual, but Butler tackles the topic full on, and takes it as far as she possibly can. If this is something too disturbing for you, then you can skip this one, because this is a very challenging book.

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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The Anno Dracula books are like a vampire’s greatest hits series, where all the most famous vampires in historical fiction get a shoutout, in the chronicle of the life of  one Genevieve Dieudonne, a teenage vampire who was created in the 16th century, whose observances, and adventures with a secret society known as The Diogenes Club, make up the bulk of the novel. This is all intertwined with a Ripper type serial killer who is preying on vampires in Whitechapel, called Silver Knife.

This one of the most unique series about vampires being written. The rest of the Anno Dracula series is about what would happen if vampires were a part of the everyday history and  life of regular human beings, and how their presence would have affected historical events, politics, and pop culture.

In the first book, Dracula actually succeeds in taking over London and turning the Queen into a vampire. Vampires have all come out of the grave. They have culture and fashions and music of their own. Most humans seek to become vampires, if only to avoid being rounded up as food, and this has an effect on the poor of Whitechapel, and the question of how vampires can survive if they don’t curb their numbers. Victorian London is every bit as Dickensian as ever, but with the addition of vampires and vampirism causing even further misery.

This is a great book, if you can get past the writing style which is a bit wry. The rest of the series isn’t as good as the first book, but if you have an interest in the history of Pop culture you might want to check out Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which takes place in 1950s Hollywood.

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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This particular series was branched out into a lovely universe with the lead vampire of this series at the head of it. I like the mythology of the series, which just manages to skirt the edges of being a romance. Henry Fitzroy is  a great character, and a good foil for the lead female character, Vicki Nelson, but it was Vicki that first captured me. She had a voice I liked. She wasn’t over-romantic,or maudlin, and never talked about her clothes and shoes. She’s a tough as nails, female, private detective, done correctly. She’s tough without trying too hard, disabled without dwelling on it overmuch, stubborn, prickly, pragmatic, and when confronted with the supernatural, in the form of Henry Fitzroy: Vampire, she takes that, and all subsequent introductions with supernatural creatures, completely in stride. She eventually becomes a vampire herself, and while Henry keeps telling her that all vampires are loners, who can’t live together in the same territory, Vicky is stubborn enough to make it work.

I wasn’t too fond of the short-lived, Canadian television series, Blood Ties, but I think the dynamic between Vicki and Henry was pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the book, mostly because Kyle Schmid is very pretty, but no Henry Fitzroy, while Christina Cox perfectly captures Vicki’s personality. If you don’t want to read the books, then the series is close enough in style to the books to give you a good sample.

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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This was the second vampire invasion book I read, after Salem’s Lot, and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t think it was a particularly deep book, but it was a lot of fun, and most of that fun is in the reactions of people who begin to understand what’s happening.  McCammon does get one major thing right, just as I have always espoused, is that people for whom superstition and faith are a major part of their life, are usually the ones to catch on the fastest, and survive what’s happening. People who believe the evidence of their senses, and stop trying to apply rationality to what they clearly see is happening, are usually the ones who survive.

It wasn’t my first brush with the writing of Robert R McCammon, but it is a fondly remembered book, although the book is a little more dated, as it takes place during the height of late 70’s/80s Pop culture, so some of the characterization needs work. A lot of horror novels in the 80s, were written by straight, White men ,so many of them had some serious  issues with writing PoC, and gay, lesbian and transgender characters, in the sense that most of these depictions were abysmal, as White writers had  less sensitivity  about such groups than they do now, and you have to take that into account if you’re going to tackle some of these 80s books.

I said before, I believe McCammon was building on Salem’s Lot by taking the basic premise of that book to its logical extreme, and asking : What if Dracula came to the big city, rather than a small town? How might that story play out?In They Thirst, vampires take over the city of Los Angeles, and it mostly plays out very much as you think it does. There’s less emphasis on xenophobia, but there’s subsequently  more emphasis on city life, gangs, and how disbelief in the supernatural, and  the cynicism of city dwellers, aids and abets the vampire invasion. Its not as good as Salem’s Lot, because its simply not as deep, but its a game effort, and worth the read.

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

What I would like to know is why no one had ever thought of this idea before, given the icy horror of the Arctic, and the loneliness and isolation? Some of the best, and scariest, movies and TV shows have been set in this environment, so why not vampires?

The way vampires are written today, most of them aren’t very scary at all which is why I love to hype up this series. This book actually had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I’m always going to be fond of the idea, if not the various execution of the idea, over the course of the series.

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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This is one of my favorite series because it has one of the baddest female vampires to ever be written, and tackles the subjects of sexual assault and trauma in the creation of a new vampire. Sonja Blue’s creation as a vampire was so traumatic that her personality essentially split, with one half being an amnesiac vampire, that carries a silver knife and can walk in daylight, who  kills other vampires, and a monstrous version of her vampire self that she calls The Other. She’s a bit like a female version of Blade, although I do not believe she was based on that character.

The first book is about her coming to terms with what happened to her, and how that ties in with a typical 80s, Evangelical TV couple, who want to use her for their own ends. Over the next three books in the series, she hunts the vampire who made her, while getting into adventures with various men, children, and other supernatural creatures. Most of these books end explosively, and Nancy Collins has a knack for slowly building the suspense, coiling the plot tighter and tighter, until things have to pop off. She does not stint on the gore, but she isn’t trying to write like a guy, in the Splatterpunk tradition. You can definitely tell this novel was written by a woman. This is another 80s vampire, but her writing is less problematic about PoC and gay and lesbian characters.

Later in the 90s, at the height of the Vampire RPG games fascination, Collins wrote a crossover with Sonja, and the Vampire: The Embraced series, which I thought was very effective, considering that she is a very different type of vampire than the ones from White Wolf. (The title is A Dozen Black Roses, and the first four books are available as a set on Amazon.) She even wrote a crossover with The Crow series, in the anthology “Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”. The later books are not as deep as that first but worth reading, and there are a number of standalone short stories, to get a taste of Collins writing style and introduce yourself to Sonja Blue.

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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This book was  a favorite for the sheer inventiveness of the vampires in the story. In The Necroscope series, vampirism is a virulent disease that will attempt to survive at any and every cost, and even the most seemingly innocent interaction with the infected, who are cunning, vicious, and highly intelligent, can result in a person becoming infected. The genesis of vampirism is from a planet where it grows as spores (which look like tiny white eggs) in the planet’s swamp lands, and any creature can be infected and pass it on, often resulting in hideous hybrid creatures of man and animal. The infection transforms a person into a conniving, hungry, cruel and manipulative predator, which, even more frighteningly, is still fully capable of human emotions, like love and loyalty.

In the world of the vampires themselves, they were at war with one another until only a handful of long lived lords and ladies are left, living at the top of what few mountains are left behind, called Aeries, and they totally control the human population of the planet, using them for fuel, and food, and transforming them into monstrous, but useful creatures, like plumbing systems, and transport beasts. If you’re familiar with the work of Wayne Barlowe’s Hell series, this world is a close parallel, only slimier. Pretty much everything about Lumley’s vampires is maximally disgusting.

The Necroscope is a man named Harry, who  communicates with the dead, who love him. He and the dead are often the first line of defense against the encroachment of vampirism, as they often warn him in advance of infestations, and sometimes even leave their graves to help Harry, and his special government team of vampire fighters and psychics,  to fight them. If you can get past what I thought were unnecessary descriptions of the women, (Lumley has no idea how to write about women) and some inventive sex scenes, these are very enjoyable books, although the writer’s  florid, but stilted writing style may be hard for some people to get past, too. I know I had a minute getting past the writing style, but if your’e a big horror fan this series is worth it just for the imagery.

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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This series is often referred to as horror, but there isn’t much horror in them, beyond the horrible activities that the vampire, St. Germain, has had to endure in his 30,000 year plus life. These are historical novels written from a vampire’s point of view which makes them different enough  to be of interest to me. St. Germain is a vampire who was definitely invented by a woman, think Frank Langella’s smooth, urbane, sophisticated version of in the 1979  Dracula. Since these books were mostly written in the 80s, I suspect that’s who Yarbro had in mind while creating this character, and that’s mostly who I picture when reading the books. Since she wrote this there has been a glut of historical vampire novels with characters not dissimilar to this.

In each book of the series, St. Germain travels to some new part of the world, falls in love, and has an adventure. The books were published in no particular order, and can be read in any order, as well. My personal favorite is Path of the Eclipse, a chronicle of his travels throughout Asia, from China, to Japan, to India and Tibet. Each chapter is often prefaced with an introduction to the life/lives of whatever new characters he will be interacting with, and  where he is, in the form of letters and/or documents. Yarbro manages to perfectly capture the world weariness of an incredibly long lived creature, that tries to hold itself aloof from human affairs, but keeps getting embroiled in various human dramas, often because of St. Germain’s deep well of compassion for the mayfly lives he interacts with.

If you love a well researched historical novel, with vampire, then pick up any book in the series, in any order.

Things Are Gonna be Fun!!!

 

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I’m only really excited about a few of these, but I can at least respect that other people are very excited about some of the other, LESSER, films!

I kid, but actually I am at least mildly excited for a lot of these movies, although I probably won’t get to see most of them due to budget restrictions,  (cuz I got bills bills, bills, y’all!). I’m reasonably sure I can get Mom to see at least three or four of these movies, though. Some of the ones I’m looking forward to, do not yet have trailers, and some of them have just released new trailers.

 

January

What Men Want (11)

This is one of those movies I’m not especially excited about, but I know other people are going to love. Hopefully, my Mom and sisters won’t rope me into seeing it with them because I’m totally disinterested, probably because I didn’t like the original movie this is based on which starred Mel Gibson. It wasn’t an especially funny idea when he did it, and I still don’t think the idea is funny now, although I appreciate the racebending, gender swapping angle.

 

*Glass (18)

I think I already mentioned that I was going to see this movie. Unbreakable is one of my favorite superhero movies, and I finally got around to watching Split. I was initially dismissive of Split because I thought it was the typical, “lets terrorize some teenage girls” type movie, but it turned out to be something very different, and it was very suspenseful and effective. I love the idea of a superhero movie that’s not presented as a superhero movie, and here we get the supervillain team up done as a Thriller.

What’s more intriguing is how did David Dunn end up in the same facility as Mr. Glass? I thought his life was going well, and he was mending his relationships with his wife and son, but here we find him, locked in with the monsters.

 

February

Lego Movie 2 (2)

I didn’t watch the first Lego movie, but my nephew is crazy about both superheroes and Legos, so of course, he loved it. I’m gonna go way out on a limb here, and assume that he’s going to like this sequel.

 

Alita: Battle Angel (14)

I know there are people excited about this movie. I read the series about fifteen years ago, so I know a little sum-sum about it, but I’m having a really, really, hard time getting past those giant eyeballs, which are seriously creeping me the fuck out. I don’t know if I want to sit with two hours of that shit, even though the trailer kicks ass, and I love the idea of Hispanic robots. Unfortunately it also stars Christolph Waltz, who insists on starring in everything. He’s starting to get like whatshername from The Avengers, (except he seems to know how to stay in his lane).

 

 

March

Captain Marvel (8)

I have tried to be excited about this movie. I want to be excited about this movie. But I feel the same way about this that I felt about Wonder Woman. I’m glad other people are happy about it, and that’s it! The movie doesn’t look bad, but I think what’s hindering me is that I never cared about Carol Danvers in any of the comic books I read. I knew about her, and I liked her in  the comics where she showed up, and she certainly looks especially bad ass in these trailers, but the joyfulness just ain’t there.

There’s so much crossover in comic books that you can’t help but learn the backstories of characters you don’t read the books for. Also, I grew up reading the Monica Rambeau books, so I don’t know who the hell Carol Danvers is. But then, this attitude  isn’t really any different than how I behaved with most comic books. I’m excited at seeing her meet The Avengers in Endgame, but her individual movie is kinda “meh” to me. I felt the same way about most of The Avengers, truthfully. I read the team books, and skipped the individual books, for example, I know everything about Captain America from reading superhero encyclopedias (Nerd Alert!!!), and The Avengers books. I’ve never read a single Captain America book.

 

 

Us (15)

I got nothing. No trailer. No synopsis. All I got is Lupita Nyongo  and M’Baku  Winston Duke are both starring in this movie by Jordan Peele, and its a thriller of some kind. I want to see it because of Lupita: The Black Pearl, and  Winston Duke, who is thiccer than a bowl of oatmeal.

 

 

April

Shazam (5)

I grew up reading the Shazam books, but I don’t know that I want to watch a movie. I liked the books, and I think the trailer is hilarious, but I’m going to sort of vicariously enjoy this movie, I think. Unlike some people, I don’t get tired of certain types of movies being released, because I carefully pick and choose what I’m going to go see, and  just pretend anything else simply does not exist. One of my greatest superpowers is ignoring stuff I really don’t want to pay any attention to, and this movie might fall into that crevasse.

 

 

*Hellboy (12)

Now, this I’m very excited about. I’m a long time Hellboy fan, and I heard that this version is a little more like the comic books, in that its very dark, and kind of gritty. There’s more blood and horror than the Del Toro movies, which I also loved, but the previous movies were more Urban Fantasy with horror elements, although there is a little of the mood of the comics, in that some of Hellboy’s stories were cute and funny. This new movie carries an R rating though. And while I loved the first two movies, I’m still eager to see what the showrunners will do with the characters and story in the remix.

In the past several years, the stories have been very dark though, as Hellboy quit the BPRD, went on a pilgrimage to Hell, and is still discovering things about his heritage that are rather unsavory. Remember, according to the prophecy, he’s meant to bring about the end of the world. There’s no trailer for this yet, but David Harbour (the guy from Stranger Things on Netflix) is killing it.

 

May

*Avengers: Endgame (3)

Yeah, I am jittering around in my bunny slippers for this one. How did you know?

 

 

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (10)

Outside of knowing several character names, (Bulbasaur, and JigglyPuff), a general idea of the plot of the show, and that Pikachu is hella cute, I don’t know anything about Pokemon. I learned most of what I know from helping raise my two Pokemon addicted  little sisters. I don’t know what to think about this, really. Its really cute but is it aimed at adults or kids? I can’t tell. Its so different from the show that I’m having some trouble wrapping my head around it.

 

 

Ugly Dolls (10)

I know nothing about this movie beyond the trailer being cute as the dickens, and maybe my little niece would like to see it. The plot involves a town full of ugly toys that meet pretty toys on the other side of an immense island. Wackiness ensues!

 

*John Wick 3 (17)

I’m not excited about this, but I’m also not unexcited, if you catch my meaning. I liked the first two films, which I thought were a lot of fun, and its also a joy seeing Keanu back in his element again, as an action hero. At the end of the last movie, Wick was on the outs with the Assassins Guild he used to be a member of, and was being hunted by his former assassin-mates. Also there was some Fishburne involvement, and its just nice to see the old band, from The Matrix, back together again.

I may or may not see this movie, as I may be too emotionally drained from having seen The Avengers.

 

*Godzilla: King of the Monsters (31)

I’m definitely going to see this. I grew up watching all  the Gojira movies, so I’m really jacked about this one which features Gamera, (my favorite, becuz TURTLE!), Mothra, (who was kind of a good guy back then, but looks villainous here), and Ghidrah, which scared the shit outta me as a child. C’mon people! how can you not be excited at the prospect of a THREE HEADED DRAGON!!!!

I finally had a chance to watch Shin Godzilla ,which I thought was as scary as the original 1954 film. It had that same feeling of tragedy and horror. I have been pretending that the American versions of Godzilla do not exist, even though I think this new one is some sort of sequel, maybe. Lets pretend it’s a completely original film, and I won’t have to talk about the possibility of  other American versions existing.

 

 

June

*Men in Black International  (14)

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All I know about this one is that it stars Tessa Thompson teaming up again with Chris Hemsworth, and Liam Neeson. Hopefully, this will be as funny as Thor Ragnarok, even though its hard to top that Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones comedy combo.

 

Shaft (14)

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Hmmm? Didn’t we already see this movie come out earlier this year, but without Samuel L Jackson, so it flopped? Well, this one sounds intriguing, as it features three generations of the titular character. I’m gonna make a wild guess and say they’re all named Shaft.

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*Toy Story 4 (21)

I’m pretty sure I will end up crying at some point during this movie. I better take some tissues.

 

 

July

*Spiderman: Far From Home (5)

I really enjoyed the first movie, so I’m looking forward to this one. I know, after the last series of Spiderman movies, I said I was giving up on the character, but Tom Holland was so cute and refreshing as Spiderman, that I couldn’t help but like him, so I’m back in. Not only was he a lot of fun, but I really enjoyed his interactions with the other characters, (Ned, MJ), and even Tony Stark didn’t come off looking too much like an asshole.

I’m taking the baby niece and nephew to see the new Spiderman movie this weekend, and although I’m a little late to the Miles Morales fan club, (I was an adult when he was created, and I grew up reading the Parker version), I’m intrigued by the trailer. The past few months, I’ve been catching up on Mile’s adventures with Peter Parker.

 

Lion King (19)

I don’t know whose going to see these Disney live action reboots, but I’m sure someone is happy about this movie. I’m not fond of the animated version, so I’m not going to see a live action version. It looks gorgeous, and that little cub is hella cute, but still,  its basically Hamlet, with lions. But those of you who are excited about this let me know how you liked it.

 

August

Hobbs and Shaw (2)

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Those two guys from the Fast and Furious movies, played by Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, have an adventure where they drive real fast, while  griping at each other for two hours.

I’m in!

 

Artemis Fowl (9)

People were very very excited to see this trailer on Tumblr. I know nothing at all about Artemis Fowl. I was never a fan, and not particularly interested in becoming one, but I’m gonna take another wild guess, and say that my niece, The Potato, probably knows all about this.

Also the trailer is mysterious and lovely.

 

 

Okay, these movies are too far away to have trailers yet, so I considered not including them, but I am excited about some of them. That doesn’t mean I’ll get to see them, however.

September

It: Chapter 2 (6)

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I did not care much for the first part of this, and I wasn’t a fan of the TV version, or the book. But somebody out there likes this, and will pay good money to go see this. I can probably be talked into seeing this by a family member, but I wont take any initiative myself. If you’re gonna see it, drop me a line, and let me know how what you thought.

 

Downton Abbey (20)

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I’m much more likely to go see this since I did watch the entire series. I don’t know that I will see this movie, but if I do, I will be sure to sneak some tea and biscuits into the theater, so I can put my thing down.

 

October

*Gemini Man (4)

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I like the premise of this movie where Will Smith plays an aging assassin who has to fight a younger clone of himself. I loved Will, as Deadshot, in Suicide Squad, but since I’m not going to get a Deadshot movie anytime soon, this will have to do.

 

Joker (4)

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Unlike a lot of people, I’m not put off at the idea of yet another Joker movie, even though I’ve heard there are at least a couple in the works. I’m trying not to be one of those people who constantly bitches and moans about superhero movies being so popular, and so far its working, in the sense that I’m not tired of them yet. I stopped reading the superhero comic books because I got bored, but that doesn’t mean I stopped reading comics all together, because there are other types of comic books. When I get tired, I’ll stop watching these movies.

So far, I’m good.

 

Addams Family Animated (11)

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This will be an animated version of the Charles Addams comic series, voiced by Oscar Isaac, and Charlize Theron. I’m not excited about it, but I did read the cartoons as a kid, so I’m intrigued.

 

November

November is so far away (although the way the world is going now,  it will probably be here in a few hours), but I can’t say whether or not I’ll get a chance to see these. I know for sure that I want to see the new Terminator movie, which ignores everything that came after movie number two, and although I grew up watching Charlie’s Angels, I’m not actually what I would call a fan. It was just something I watched on TV. I’m mildly interested in this reboot.

Linda Hamilton will reprise her role as Sarah Connor for this new Terminator, and the rumor is that the new Terminator will be played by Gabriel Luna. Since I’m probably never going to see his version of a Ghost Rider movie, I will have to settle for watching him here.

*Charlie’s Angels (1)

*Terminator Movie (1)

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December

I don’t know what to think of the Masters of the Universe movie. I remember watching the show, because that’s what you did on Saturdays as a kid, but I wouldn’t say I was a fan. Even as a little girl, I do remember thinking the show was ridiculous. Of course, I’ll go see the final Star Wars movie, as I believe I am by law, required.

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Masters of the Universe (18)

*Star Wars #9 (20)