The State of the Union – TV (Pt. 55)

I’m just putting random numbers on these types of posts, at this point, since I can’t remember whatever number I used for my last State of the Union Address. But here’s a list of shows, I’ve been looking at this Summer.

Watching/Have Watched

Castle Rock (Hulu)

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I watched the first two episodes of this show. I was really excited about seeing it and the show doesn’t completely disappoint, but that’s mostly because I’m a full-on Stephen King fan who has caught a lot of the Easter eggs in the episodes, and there are quite a few, which is something entirely in keeping with the idea of a Stephen King Universe where all his stories are connected.

We start of with the small town of Castle Rock itself, where more than a few King stories take place. The episode begins with a missing little Black boy named Henry, who is found by Sheriff Pangborn eleven days later. If you remember Pangborn is the sheriff who defeats the demon from the novel Needful Things. Henry’s father went missing as well. his adoptive mother is played by Sissy Spacek, who played Carrie in the  1976 movie of the same name.

When Henry is called back to the town of Castle Rock, we discover that his mother is suffering from dementia, and she has a romantic relationship with a much older Pangborn. Henry received a mysterious call from one of the guards at Shawshank prison, after a young man was discovered in the prison’s basement levels, who asked for him by name. The prison is also under the reign of a new female warden after the bizarre suicide of the last one, who garrotted himself in his car.

So two episodes is as far as I’ve gotten, and while I’m not wowed by the mystery I do find the characters interesting, the show looks gorgeous, and atmospheric, and I also liked the understated music in the show.

Pose (FX)

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/05/pose-fx-ryan-murphy-review

Image result for pose series cast

The series just finished up its first season run and is scheduled for a second season next year. I took a brief break from the show but I was there for the season finale. Good gob! but this show brings waaaay too many feels.

One of the things I love most about this show is the shameless use of sentiment, without falling into corniness. You start to seriously care about these characters so much, and get really caught up in their lives. When they’re happy, you’re happy. When they experience disappointment, so do you. It’s a testament to the acting skills of the cast. But their lives are not tragic, and the show is not a sob story. You experience as much laughter and happiness as in any drama. The characters are complicated, messy, and human.

For example, I complained that I might not be able to get into a show where characters spent so much time being nasty to each other, but that turns out not to be the case. Yes, there are some villainous types but the show has a lot of romance and heart. After Blanca’s former mother, Elektra, from House Abundance,  gets ousted from her position, Blanca takes her in, and it is commendable for Blanca, especially when you consider that the two of them parted on such bad terms,  that Blanca treats her no different than she does any of the children of her House, by counseling her, and helping her get a job.

Blanca is rewarded for her compassion by being crowned Mother of the Year, at the local Ball, while the bitchy little characters we met in the first episode get their comeuppance with an epic dress-down from Elektra. The season ends with a dance-off  between the House of Evangelista and the House of Extravaganza, going  head to head on the ballroom floor.

There is also the side story of one her children falling in love with a married businessman, and one of Blanca’s boys falls in love with another dancer after he is accepted into  Dance school, and the two of them compete for a role in a music video. In another side story, the master of Ceremonies at the Balls puts on a performance at the hospice where his lover is dying from Aids, and later goes out on a date. The conversations in the show feel true, adult, and emotional.

I fell in love with these characters so fast, I just don’t know if my heart can take this level of shameless romanticism and drama. I’m definitely going to return for the second season of this show.

 

Preacher: Season Three (AMC)

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Its as zany as the last season, picking up with the death of Tulip. Jessie takes her to his grandmother,a Hoodoo woman, who brings Tulip back from the dead. She says Jessie owes her for this, but I’m unsure exactly what it is she requires in payment.

Cassidy gets kidnapped by a cult run by another vampire and its hilarious because the other vampire has enthralled these goth kids into worshiping him, and he’s like a cheap, backwoods version of Lestat.

I’m not doing any in depth reviews for this show, mostly because its kinda lightweight, and is far too richly zany to put that kind of work into it.

Although its rarely laugh out loud funny, it is definitely entertaining.

Luke Cage: Season 2 (Netflix)

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I watched the entire season all the way through, and mostly enjoyed it. It really does still have some issues, mostly with pacing and story coherency, and should probably tone down on some of the music, because that was starting to be a bit much. But overall I liked the season.  I wasn’t as awed by this season as I was with the first, and I’m pretty sure it’s because the novelty of it has worn off some.

Frankly,  I was tuning in to see what happened to Misty Knight, after her ordeal in The Defenders, and I , and a lot of other people, have reached the conclusion that we are all ready for a Daughters of the Dragon spinoff , of Misty and Colleen Wing. The scenes between the two of them were a lot of fun, the actresses have good chemistry, and I was glad to see the writers of the show did not neglect the relationships between the women, although I was dismayed to realize that all of the Black women in the show had adversarial relationships with each other. I understood most of the reasons why they would, because they’re mostly well written characters, many of them with clear motivations, but I still think the writers should do better. Women don’t always have to be enemies for  dramatic tension.

Yes, there is a brief cameo, in one or two episodes, with Iron Fist, which happen late in the season, but I don’t feel this was a detraction from the show, and I wasn’t upset at seeing him. Like I said, a little bit of him goes a long way. I’m still not especially enthused about the second season of IF, but I am curious enough, based on how his character is much more positively depicted here. I know there are some people who are going to hate him no matter what the writers  do with him ,but I’m willing to forgive past sins if they fix his character, and this show, and The Defenders, went a long way towards almost making Danny Rand likable. I don’t actually like him. I don’t know that I will ever like him-like him, but at least I don’t dislike him. Let’s just say I’m open to liking him.

There was a new vilain called Bushmaster, who heavily reminded me of Black Panther: if T’Challa had become a junkie for the special herb which gave him his powers, and was a gang leader, rather than a good guy.  I still think the accents of some of these characters could use work, though. There are several moments of extreme horror that I could’ve done without, and we didn’t spend as much time with Luke as you’d think we would in a show that’s about him, but that’s okay because Luke is not an especially compelling personality, and Mariah Dillard is. Luke gets to fight with a lot of different characters, and that is always fun, but he’s not a very interesting person beyond his fight scenes, and the show’s attempts to add character to his character fell flat for me. His relationship with his father, and his fights with Clair didn’t feel true or believable.

Actually, you could just call the show Dillard, or something, because Mariah was one of the most awesome characters all season, and is a truly complicated villain. I’ve long ago given up on white feminist fans paying any attention to Black female characters, and I suppose I should be grateful for that, especially considering how shitty they are regarding all Black characters, in general. I think the last thing any of us want is twenty year old, suburban, white girls trying to write sexy fan fiction about Shades Alvarez. But there’s not a lot there for them anyway because while there are a few canon relationships, none of them involve White people.

Mariah is a very unconventional villain, being an older, educated, Black woman, who is also  an unstable, conniving alcoholic,  in a semi-abusive relationship with her lover, Shades Alvarez, who is many years younger than her, and thoroughly devoted to her. I  can’t even say she loves him, because Mariah is a psychopathic user, who loves no one but herself but the chemistry between them is palpable, and it really is a very sexy relationship. Mariah is also surprisingly vulnerable, and open at odd moments, which makes her deeply compelling. This was really a superior performance from Alfre Woodard, and one of her best roles ever.

There’s also a throwaway relationship between Shades and another man (Comanche) that if you’re anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum,  will thoroughly enrage you, so you might want to skip all that.

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/luke-cage-shades-mariah-shadymariah/

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/luke-cage-season-2-review/?tu=dd

https://screenrant.com/marvel-iron-fist-better-luke-cage-season-2/

Killjoys (Syfy)

Killjoys has added a smidge more humor to the show, but I still have trouble with Hannah John-Kamen’s acting style. Its still annoying. I’m still surprised that people like this show. It looks great but I find the acting and plotting uneven. It’s not a bad show, but it struggles to hold my attention. I like the costumes, though ,and the guys are both reasonably handsome.

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Wynonna Earp (Syfy)

Wynona Earp started its new season. I watched the first episodes of the show and while I was not “not”  entertained, I wasn’t exactly inspired to keep watching them either. WE turned out to be mildly funny as vampires have been added to the show and Waverly’s approach to danger has always been funny. If you’re looking for a cute  litttle White girl lgbtq relationship, then this is the show for you. If you are a fan of mustaches, there’s a Doc Holliday character who is really cute.

 

I’m Not Watching But Probably Should

Killing Eve (BBC America)

I’ve heard so much about this show, and these curious gifs keep popping up on  my dashboard. One day I’m actually going to get around to watching this. and I’m gonna be wowed, because I really do like Sandra Oh, and I heard she got some award noms out of this. From all the meta  and gifs I’ve seen, I got the impression that this show was a female version of the Hannibal series, with its lowkey same sex relationship vibes, between an officer of the law, and a deranged psychopath. Since I’m a big fan of Hannibal , I feel I at least need to give this a looky-loo.

The Bold Type (Freefrom)

I heard there was some great LGBTQ rep in this show, between two young women, that’s being well and fairly treated,  and this is  another show that people insist on making gifs of, and sending them across my Tumblr dashboard. One day I may or may not look at this. It does involve some very young people, and I usually avoid shows that star a bunch of very young, people, so I’m dubious. Not every show is for everyone.

Dear White People (Netflix)

I keep hearing good things about this show, but once again it stars some very young people, and I’m not one of those people who is sentimental about my college years, so imma pass on this one.

Yeah…No!

Snowfall/ Power

I know people are watching these shows, but shows about Black crime are not to my taste, and I already got my quota of that subject from Luke Cage. If Black crime stories (ala New Jack City) are to your tastes,  and you’re not watching these, then you need to hop to it because they look gorgeous.

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I’m working on several of those longform essays you guys seem to like. The use of setting in movies, a trip in the wayback machine to some forgotten  TV series, the personalities of Goodfellas according to MBTI, an examination of the trope of the retired killer, an examination of The Thing, Eastern Promises, and some that are little more than ideas I hope to flesh out at some point.

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A Black Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 

Well, some of you may have heard about this:

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Is Getting a Reboot With a Black Lead

https://www.thedailybeast.com/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-is-getting-a-reboot-with-a-black-lead

 

https://the-orbit.net/progpub/2018/07/22/buffy-is-coming-back-and-this-time-shes-going-to-be-black/

I also am not loving the idea of naming a Black woman ‘Buffy’. I’ve got to be honest, on top of the fact that ‘Buffy’ has been played by 2 wyte actresses, ‘Buffy’ as a name is white coded. It doesn’t scream blackness. It screams pretty much what all other corners of USAmerican society screams: whiteness. That kinda solidifies the idea that ‘Buffy’ is a wyte name. On the other hand, if it’s going to be a reboot, they kinda need that name (although it could be a nickname, perhaps one based on athleticism).

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So far, a lot of the reactions have been mixed. Or rather,  the reasons for their negative reactions have been mixed, while the positive reactions are pretty much just  “Yay! New Buffy stories!” My feelings are completely mixed. I don’t know if I should feel happy about it or be annoyed.

I was a huge fan of the original. I think I commented on one of these that I used to watch Buffy like it was a religious experience. Some writers on the subject have distilled this feeling to its essence: For some people, it’s Star Wars, but for some of us, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was a minor fan of Star Wars. I like it,  for the most part,  but it doesn’t (didn’t) move me the way Buffy did. And something about the time period in which I saw it, (just a few years out of high school) may have played a large part in my reaction to it.

As much as I liked Buffy though, the show does have some major issues, one of which was the subject of race.

https://theconversation.com/a-revamped-buffy-could-rectify-the-original-slayers-problem-with-race-100599

Not to be deterred, however, producers of the show have responded by implying that the new season will not be a reboot with a Buffy who happens to be black, but rather a sequel to the old one, featuring a different slayer altogether. A sequel featuring a different slayer, with her own identity, would be a firm step towards a more radically inclusive and irrevocably transformed storytelling venture.

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I loved Buffy but I’m not necessarily looking forward to a reboot of Buffy because, as this article states, Black fans deserve their own characters, rather than hand me down characters of White shows. On the other hand, I have heard competing ideas of what the show is about. I’ve heard it’s a reboot, but then later I read that this will be a unique character, with her own stories, and that it is a sequel built on the old series. The character’s name will still be Buffy, however, and I think that’s a mistake. If its a reboot, then it’s unnecessary, and if it’s a  sequel to the original, and its a whole new character, then why bother to give her Buffy’s name. Not to mention that there’s not a Black woman on Earth whose name is Buffy. A nickname I could understand but her actual name? No!

I do feel that having a Black woman writer as the showrunner is a good idea because who knows more about what it’s like to be a Black woman, than a Black woman. Certainly not Joss Whedon, whose writing of Black women is, simply, atrocious.

This writer is right in saying that Black people have a wealth of fantasy stories that we’ve created, that we would like to see brought to television, although in an ideal world, I would love  ALL the stories along with the new Buffy.

https://www.slashfilm.com/buffy-reboot-problems/

What’s insulting is the thought that we’re supposed to be happy with whatever representation we get, without understanding that what we crave and demand goes far beyond the simple presence of a person of color on screen. It’s about substance. It’s about the opportunity for an actor or actress of color to be able to stand on their own merit and not in the shadows of their white predecessor. It’s about the importance of highlighting original stories by and featuring talent of color — without presenting it through a white gaze.

Image result for l a banks

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Some people flat out don’t want the new show. There are shows I’d prefer to see ,and stories I’d prefer be told, but I’m not actually opposed to this show. As I’ve said before, I’m incredibly nosy, so no matter what gets put on the air, I’m probably going to watch at least the first episode. I’m not prepared to hate it right away, but I am giving the whole idea  the side-eye.

https://www.themarysue.com/i-dont-want-a-black-buffy/

That’s why I wish, ultimately, that this and even the upcoming Charmed series were original concepts and not hopping on top of existing franchises in order to make them work. Black and non-white creators have our own vampire series that could be up for adaptation. There’s L.A. Banks with The Vampire Huntress Legend, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling(if it loses the age issues), and The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomes, which is about a bisexual vampire from the 1850s.

Image result for black fantasy books One of my favorites, that Id love to see adapted to TV is the Maurice Broaddus Joint :Knights of Breton Court, which is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur, set in the hood, with magical characters, and sword-bearing street thugs. There’s nothing like it on TV, right now, and this story deserves to be seen.

 

Image result for coyote kings of the space age This is another one of the unique stories I would love to see brought to TV. Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad is kind of indescribable, although I suppose it would be called the Black version of Ready Player One, if it took place in the show Atlanta.

And here’s a few more:

https://littlefoxandreads.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/diversity-in-sff-1-sci-fi-fantasy-books-with-black-protagonists/

Straight Out The SDCC 2018

The San Diego Comic-Con started this weekend, and we already got a buttload of movie and TV trailers that I’m very excited about. (Picture me jitterbugging around my living room in my bunny slippers!) The Con lasts all week, so I’m going to publish some more trailers for Wednesday and even Friday if necessary. Later this month, or in August, its time to start my list of TV shows to watch for, and I’ll be working on that soon.

Let’s get started. First up:

Godzilla: King of All Monsters

I am so geeking out about this move, not because of Godzilla, mind you, although there is the iconic roar, but because of the presence of Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Dragon, and Mothra, basically a giant moth. I grew up watching Godzilla movies on those Saturday afternoons when my brothers and I couldn’t go outside. I watched Mothra a bunch of times when I was a kid, so I was excited to see something like it in the last movie, and now the full effect in this one. I’m probably not going to get Mom to see this, because she hates Godzilla, but I can introduce my nieces and nephew to it if nothing else.

 

 

Shazam

I’m not excited about this movie, but I’m not dismayed. I remember watching Shazam on TV as a kid. (I watched all the superhero TV shows.) In the TV series, Shazam was a teenager or probably an adult. I haven’t seen it in so long, I can barely remember it, beyond the iconic yelling of  “Shazam!” I don’t know what to think about this yet, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to be funny. And it did give me a few laughs. This trailer isn’t inspiring me to see it though, so I’ll wait until I see some more. Also, its DC and they’re not really good with funny.

 

Glass

Now this one, I’m really, really, excited about. (See, I used to “reallys”!) I’m a huge fan of Unbreakable. It’s just exciting to see David Dunn again. (I’m a little less a fan of the movie Split, although it has its merits, and The Beast is pants-shittingly frightening.) These are really just down to Earth versions of superhero movies, and I will always grok that.

 

 

Aquaman

This is another one I haven’t formulated an opinion on yet. I love that Momoa is Aquaman though, because it seems fitting that the King of the Oceans would be a Pacific Islander, and I never get tired of looking at him, and going, “It’s Kal Drogo! Under the sea!”. It also helps that he just looks fine as Hell!

 

 

Titans

Woo! The bitching and whining about what’s wrong with this trailer, and the miscasting of Ana Diop as Starfire, has already begun on Tumblr. I’m completely dismissing any criticism from ALL White men about her casting because here’s the thing: Starfire has always been nothing but wank material for them since she first starred in the comic books. Casting her as a Black woman seems to have put a crimp in their masturbatory fantasies for this show, I’m guessing, which is why so many of them are throwing nasty racist hissy fits.

Diop has already disabled the comments on her Instagram because of the vitriol she’s been receiving, and no! I’m not surprised by it. Sending racist messages to actors of color, and then claiming they’re doing it just to protect the show, or movie, or whatever,  is just White, male, fandom’s go-to move at this point. And it’s also all they have. They’re still gonna watch the show, they’re just gonna bitch about it the whole time, and I don’t really care at this point, as long as their eyeballs provide ratings.

What I have decided not to do is read any more whiny bullshit about TV shows before they air. I got my own whiny bullshit in mind, and ain’t adopting other people’s crap. I’ll wait to actually see the show before I form an opinion on whether it’s good or bad. Also, I’m a lot older than most of the complainers on Tumblr and have been reading Teen Titans since I was a child. I can decide for myself whether or not the show is any good.

For the record, I think the trailer looks okay, although most of it is too dark to see anything, and I’m satisfied with the depiction of Starfire, and Raven.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

I don’t know that I’ll see this in the theater because I got the same issues with it, that I had with the first. But I really enjoyed the first movie, I really liked all the characters a lot, and this is an incredibly gorgeous film, too. I’m less interested in the worldbuilding than I am with the people.

 

Patient Zero

This looks like an interesting take on vampire mythology and might turn out to be what the show The Strain should have been, so I’m gonna check into it. Plus, I’m always up for some vampire apocalypse stories.

 

 

The Passage

This series is based on one of my favorite books by Justin Cronin, a trilogy called The Passage. I’m very excited about this because they’ve changed the races of the characters, thereby giving the story a deeper subtext, especially when you remember that African Americans have been used before as subjects of medical experimentation.

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

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

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/index.html

So you have scientists experimenting on Black convicts, and chasing after a little Black girl they want to use to save the human race, from an experiment they created, that went horribly wrong. This also closely parallels the events of the first  200 or so pages of the first book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was so well written, just without the racial angle. The series offers a changeup to the  “Black man bonding with and protecting,  a little White girl”, which we’ve seen more than enough of in the movies. There’s also Mark-paul Gosselaar , which is kinda neat.

 

Overlord

This looks a lot like Patient Zero, only set during WWI, and with a Black lead character, which is intriguing. It looks like it might be about medically created zombies. I dont have a lot of opinion on it yet.

 

The Walking Dead Season Nine

After the first few episodes, I skipped most of last season. I just lost interest. I still don’t care which is why I haven’t talked much about it. I’m going to watch season nine because I’m nosy, and there will be less of Negan chewing the scenery, which is something I got really, really, tired of. It’s rumored that this will be the last season for Rick. Personally, I would like to see the show headed by Michonne, but I don’t expect we will get that so I’m not getting too hopeful. At any rate, this season doesn’t look too bad, but then I thought that about last season’s trailer, too, and look what happened.

 

Star Trek Discovery Season Two

The second season for this show doesn’t air until January which I think is a horrible tease, but I can wait. It looks just as gorgeous as always. I’ve read that the series will be preceded by a series of character shorts in December, and that Spock will put in an appearance. I have been total trash for Spock since I was twelve years old, and will watch him in anything, so I’m very excited about the new season.

Can I also mention that the guy playing the tragic Captain Pike, is Anson Mount, the same guy who played Black Bolt in that deplorable Inhumans series, that only lasted a few episodes? (If you want to know what eventually happens to Captain Pike, in ten years, you need to watch the first episode of the original Star Trek, called The Menagerie.) He looks much better here than he did in the Inhumans. As a matter of fact, he is cocky, and foine as f***!

The show also looks like its adding a little more humor.  The showrunners say the focus for the new season will be “family”, so there’s going to be more character development of the bridge crew, I’m guessing. At the end of last season, Michael had gotten back her rank, and she looks a lot more comfortable in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to what she does in the role. Her character and storyline carried the entire first season, so I expect the writers to give her a little breathing room, and focus on some of the other characters this season, with Michael as the emotional center again.

 

Doctor Who Season 11

I’m not excited about this new Doctor, so much as deeply curious, about how the show will feel with a female Doctor. It looks intriguing and I’m definitely going to check it out. I have, in the past, claimed to not be a huge Doctor Who fan, but I’m enough of a fan to have favorite Doctors, Companions, villains, etc. I think this new one might become a favorite. We’ll see!

 

Vampire Song  Videos

Hi!

Here, have a musical interlude. I don’t know if this is a fine Monday, but I hope it’s a good one.

Love Song For A Vampire by Annie Lennox (from Interview w/The Vampire)

I’ve been an Annie Lennox fan since her first song, Sweet Dreams Are made of This, waaay back in the 80s. Now couple that face, and voice, with the visuals of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, which is very possibly one of the most gorgeous vampire movies ever made. It’s been a long time since I watched this video. I’d forgotten it’s as romantic, and overwrought, as the movie.

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus (from The Hunger)

This song was originally featured in the movie The Hunger from 1983. I would have been too young to see it when it was released, but I read the book when I was about 16 or 17, and it was the first time I’d ever encountered that whole lesbian vampire theme. Those of you who have not seen this movie will be very happy to know that, not only does the movie star David Bowie, but that it remains very faithful to the book, and takes its themes seriously.

 

Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge (from American Horror  Story: Hotel)

This song heavily reminded me of Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi song, which is probably why I like it, and the fact that it played on one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story, makes me  a little biased.

 

Cry Little Sister (from the movie The Lost Boys)

I was seventeen when I saw this movie, the year it was released. I was total trash afterwards, (cuz I was just EXTRA  back then. I’m an older, slightly less EXTRA version, now.). I think I told some guy it was the greatest vampire movie ever made. In my defense, the movie is still pretty damn good, and  I had not yet been exposed to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or Interview with the Vampire, yet.

Of course, I bought (and still have) the soundtrack.

 

Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones (from Interview w/The Vampire) 

I am aware that the original song was done by The Rolling Stones, and that the movie version was sung by Guns N Roses, but I like Motorhead a lot, and I got really excited when I found they’d done a cover of this song, which has always been a favorite of mine.

 

 Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting

Sting specifically wrote this song about Louis after reading Interview with the Vampire. I remember at some point he was in talks to star as in the movie version of The Vampire Lestat, which is a movie that still needs to be made, even though Queen of the Damned pretended to be some version of it.

My favorite version of this song is the Club version, which I love to listen to on my commute to work.

Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

I did give some light mid-season reviews for both of these shows, and I said I’d have something to say about each one of these seasons.

Hmmm…lets go with some statements about Into the Badlands, first.

Into the Badlands

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This season ended on another cliffhanger, which was not as intriguing for me as the last one. Sunny has spent the entire season trying to get help for Henry, who is sick because of his genetic heritage of Black Chi, from Sunny. It turns out that Sunny is a catalyst, who can induce it, in those with latent abilities. We find out what that really means when he finally makes his way to the Sanctuary run by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim insists on referring to  Sunny as his brother, (and I’m not sure if this is literal, or metaphorical), and says his real name is Sanzo, (and one of the earlier characters, in the season, mentioned he has a sister). So we are just beginning to find out tiny details of Sunny’s backstory. Sunny encounters an angry MK, who only wants to fight. Sunny tries to talk him down, and stave off the fight as long as possible. He’s not trying to hurt MK, and has far more pressing concerns.

Image result for into the badlands season 3  episode 8

Pilgrim has started to show he’s not as much of a good guy as he wants the denizens of the Badlands to believe he is, as he kills Castor, tries to cover it up, lies to Nyx, and  attacks Cressida, when she confronts him. He’s not as stable as he seems. He and his followers unearth a massive machine, and when he and Sunny touch it, he is imbued with Henry’s  Black Chi. How this is going to help him rebuild Azra is anyone’s guess. Now he’s more powerful than any of the others in the Badlands, except for one Wild Card. And it is not The Widow.

Image result for into the badlands/ The master

 

I like to call her The Abbess, but The Master of the Abbey, that MK escaped from last season, and played by the African-Chinese actress, Chipo Chung, has a role to play in this new dynamic. When The Widow finds herself trapped, and near death, after walking into a trap in Baron Chau’s home, the Abbess, freezes, then reverses Chau’s wweapons, and rescues Minerva. With this one act, the writers have officially added magic to the worldbuilding of the Badlands, (although it was always heavily implied that this world was magical).

I am interested to see what role the Abbess is going to play in the next season. Somehow, I don’t think she and Pilgrim are going to be on the same side, and we might find out the reason it appeared as if she were siphoning the Black Chi from the students at the Abbey.

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Some of the relationships were foreshadowed, as Lydia and Nathaniel Moon have renewed their old romance. The most interesting, (yet completely unsurprising), relationship is between Gaius Chau and The Widow. The Widow has really sort of lost everything, by the end, as her people turned against her, held her prisoner, and she was lead into a trap by some false information. She has seemingly teamed up with The Abbess, and it’ll be interesting to see what these two heavyweights will get into next season, as the Abbess has promised to return Minerva’s Chi powers to her.

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

One of the most noticeable changes to the opening credits, for season two of Westworld,  is the addition of a woman, (it appears to be Maeve), holding a baby. This is not, (according to the show’s creators), meant to convey the idea that the Hosts can get pregnant, (as these are not organic beings), but an illustration of the concept of family. The major theme this season is the relationship between parent and child. This is examined, in the plot, as the idea of fidelity. This is a word Dolores says to Bernard when she is testing him for his authenticity to Arnold. William says it to the James Delos hybrid when he tests him, and The MIB’s daughter, Emily, says this to him, in the end credits. Remember, the linchpin of a Host’s sentience  is often based on the loss of family, and note that William, James, Bernard, and Maeve all have the memories of having killed, or lost, their children.

(Side note: One of the more implausible fan theories I saw floating about, was the idea that the mother and child image, meant that Dolores was pregnant with Teddy’s baby. The idea of two “non-organic” constructs having a child, is what’s known as “fan wank”. But outside of that, is the incredibly annoying act of applying that particular image to Dolores, rather than the Black star of the series, whose narrative is actually searching for her  “child”. That image is a direct reference to Maeve, so why would you take an image of a Black woman, with a  child, and apply it, in a fan-wank no less, to her White co-star? *Sigh* White fans stay trying my fucking patience!)

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The most obvious reference, for that image, is Maeve’s storyline, to find and rescue her daughter, but Maeve’s companions, Hector, Armistice, Felix, and even Lee have also, through their adventures, formed a family, of sorts, and this is a theme peppered throughout  Maeve’s entire arc, extending into the story of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, and Akane’s parallel story of her daughter. The revelation of Akecheta’s nature, and the world, is through his connection to family, and the loss of his wife. Akane’s story is a parallel to Maeve’s relationship to Clementine, the adopted daughter she has to kill in the finale.

Dolores, as much as Ford,  has control issues, and her character  arc is to learn to let the other Hosts be themselves, and learn to rely on other’s strengths. Teddy’s strength ,after finding out what he was, was his compassion. He would have been able to temper Dolores, and help her accomplish her goals that way, had she trusted it.  Just as Maeve has learned to rely on the individual strengths of her companions, Dolores has not learned to appreciate these qualities in hers, and learns the hard way, by losing Teddy, who rebels against her manipulation of him by destroying himself.

I think, for Dolores to be more successful in her next goal, she needs to make the idea of family a personal one, rather than an abstract concept, that is less important than her objective. Her story arc is the reverse of the others though. She spends the first half of the season trying to rescue Peter Abernathy from the Delos Corporation.

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The theme of parents, destroying, or rescuing their children  is also illustrated through James Delos, and William (The Man in Black). The aim of the Delos corporation was to put human brains into Host bodies, and they semi-succeeded. Just like the Hosts, the Human/Host hybrids also have a linchpin memory, which is the key to their sentience. For the James Delos hybrid, it was the death of his son Logan, who he rejected just before Logan overdosed on drugs. The Host version of Delos seemingly cannot get past that incident, and is eventually destroyed. James and William both rejected (and thereby, killed) their children, and neither of them seems to be able to get past the memory of that.

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For The Man in Black, some parts of the season were scenes of him doubling back and forth in his loop, and attempting to make different decisions than we saw him make the first season, and some parts are of a different timeline ,where he is actually making the bad decisions. Basically if you see him making different choices than he made before, its probably the hybrid/Host version. The linchpin memory for him is when he shot his daughter, Emily. (This is what the end credits scene is about.) The scene where he kills her is an actual flashback, according to the writers.

(Side Note: I don’t pay attention to the idea of the different timelines, because that’s not especially fascinating to me. I keep a loose idea of when things happen, in my forethoughts, but  I refuse to get hung up on it, because when things happen, is essentially meaningless. In my mind, all of the decisions of the Hosts, humans, and Hybrids, are of a piece, and its not as important for me to understand when something happened, so much as why it happened. I think the writers feel this way, as well, which is why they jumbled up the timelines, in the first place. I don’t think they want viewers to get hung up on when something occurs. For me, Westworld is about the characters, personalities, and relationships, and how they all serve the primary theme. It is not about the minutiae of when, and I don’t spend a lot of time parsing that.)

It’s almost as if, for the Hosts to move forward, to move out of the stagnancy of their loop, they need to confront their greatest sins, realize that, and then undo them. Many of the mind concepts on this show are based in various psychotherapies and PTSD. Although, unlike humans, the Hosts don’t just hold on to  painful memories, they actually live them, over and over. One thing the show took pains to mention is the idea of humans remaining in their loops as well. (I mentioned this in one of my posts last season, about the idea of Karmic Debt.) The humans are less free than the Hosts. I think this is illustrated in William’s story and his inability to move past Emily’s death, and James Delos’ inability to move beyond Logan’s death.

https://www.recoveryranch.com/mental-health/why-do-people-with-ptsd-relive-traumatic-experiences/

The one person, who is able to move beyond the loss of their child, is Maeve.

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For Maeve, her emotional linchpin was her inability to save her daughter from the MIB, and she, just like him, had to circle back to the place and time where she lost her. To save her daughter, she had to respond  differently and, (to reach a kind of emotional equilibrium), she takes on and defeats The MIB, which gives her some small amount of closure, (even if she doesn’t kill him).  For her to keep moving forward, she needed to confront one of her greatest sins, and the demon that came with it.

More importantly, Maeve doesn’t do this alone. She accomplished her goal because of the coalition of humans, of different races, and Hosts, with different strengths and skills, (like Hector and Akecheta). She forms this “family’ through a combination of mercy and compassion, unlike Dolores, who coerces her accomplices, through brute force, sacrificing them when they are no longer needed, and remaking them to suit her needs, like she did with Teddy. There is a reason that Dolores is nicknamed The Deathbringer by Ghost Nation.

For Delores, her linchpin  was the killing of Arnold, her biological father. We know this because it’s the one memory she kept revisiting, again and again, in season one. In fact, Dolores could be said to have reached full sentience, when she circled back to her beginning and Arnold’s killing. She spends the first half of the season attempting to rescue and protect her Host father, Peter Abernathy, from Charlotte’s machinations, but Arnold is her linchpin memory, and she is responsible for his death. She can’t save him, but she can save Peter Abernathy, and Bernard, the replica of her biological father. Unlike the others, Dolore’s sentience is through the loss of a parent.

 

The Finale

*Maeve escapes the Mesa and reunites with her group, and they, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, William, and Delos all converge on the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Bernard enter first and find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle. Dolores reads some of the guest data as the Forge opens “the Door” for Akecheta and his followers to upload their minds into “the Sublime”, a digital world cut off from the physical world. Bernard kills Dolores to prevent her from destroying the Forge and flees with Elsie back to the Mesa.

Maeve and her group sacrifice themselves holding off Delos forces to ensure Akecheta and Maeve’s daughter escape to the Sublime. Charlotte murders Elsie to keep her quiet, which convinces Bernard to build a host version of Charlotte with Dolores’ control unit. Dolores kills and replaces Charlotte while Bernard scrambles his own memories. In the present, Dolores kills Strand and Bernard while transferring the host minds in the Sublime to a safer location. She then escapes back to the mainland where she rebuilds Bernard, knowing that he will oppose her plan to destroy humanity and hoping their resulting conflict will ensure the survival of the hosts.

In a flash-forward, William enters the Forge to find it abandoned save for Emily, who tests him for “fidelity”, revealing that his consciousness has been implanted in a host body.

 

Overall Plot: The Cradle/The Forge/ The Valley Beyond

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This season was very very busy. There were multiple threads, timelines, motivations, and a lot of dying! I am ill equipped to explain all of the plot to you because I mostly watch to see how the characters are navigating the plot,  their emotions, and relationships. This can leave me ignorant of some of the finer  details. So, how about some links from people who are either marginally smarter than me, or just paid closer attention to the plot.

https://www.gq.com/story/westworld-finale-explained

Still trying to wrap your head around all those crazy twists? We’re here to help.

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*And from the creators themselves, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan:

https://mashable.com/2018/06/25/westworld-season-2-finale-explained-lisa-joy-jonathan-nolan/#VqdG.8m3.Oqg

Maeve:

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One of my biggest pet peeves, for the first season, was how many critics slept on Maeve’s story. I knew that her story would be important, in comparison to Dolores’ story, and that there would be a payoff, for it.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/sorry-maeve-had-a-more-satisfying-story-than-dolores-i-1827122416

Maeve, unlike Delores gets to have a certain amount of  closure to her story. Her original objective was simply to break out of the Matrix Westworld, and she almost succeeded, but gave that up in favor of finding her “once” daughter, who has undergone her own awakening,  and still remembers the mother she once had. She accomplished this goal, aided by a group of Hosts,  Lee,  a couple of Westworld technicians, and the leader of the Ghost Tribe. In the finale, she safely escorted her daughter into a pocket digital universe, called The Valley Beyond, where humans can’t go. Maeve may never see her daughter again, but at least she knows that she is safe.

It was interesting watching Maeve’s character arc all season, as she not only grew in power, but in her compassion, and her ability to love and sacrifice. She started off as a much more selfish character, and though there are criticisms that could be made of her character within the narrative of Black female stereotypes, overall, I’m satisfied with her story and how it ended this season.

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That said, my favorite episode is Akane No Mai, as it was a showcase episode for her character, emphasizing her deep humanity and compassion. And I just love the sight of Black women wielding samurai swords, for some reason.

Since the Delos Corp. have no idea that what happened was the robots reaching sentience, they intend to start the various Parks up again, after wiping and fixing the Hosts. They  believe it was all some sort sabotage by Ford, to destroy the Park, because he was forced to relinquish control of it. The issue of the Hosts sentience has not been resolved, and Dolores and a handful of other Hosts are now out in the actual world, as well.

When we last see Maeve, she and her crew have all been decommissioned, but we know she will be one of the ones to be revived, as Felix is one of the technicians who has been tasked with reprogramming the Hosts. Unlike Dolores, Maeve isn’t trying to do what she does all alone. She has a team, and they work as a team. Maeve is the Mastermind, with each member of the group working to their strengths, with Hector,  Armistice, and her Japanese twin, often working as “the muscle”, and Felix and the other humans, acting as the technical specialists. And then there’s Lee.

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Remember how I said I disliked Lee, who is the hack writer of most of the storylines of Westworld, and even Shogun World. Well, he proved himself to be redeemable, and much more complicated, than he was when we first met him. After Maeve’s shootout with The Man in Black, she gets taken back to the facility, where everyone tries to figure out how it was possible for her to control the other Hosts, after which they plan to decommission her. But it is Lee, who pleads with the technicians to save her life, and he seems to be so deeply affected by her imminent death, that he is in tears, and sits by her table, and talks to her, the entire time.

She so transcended the limited narrative that he wrote for her, that, like Hector, and Felix, he has fallen in love with her. (there’s a very neat parallel to her and Hector in Akane No Mai, when you realize Musashi might very well be in love with Akane.) This is very possibly one of my favorite moments in the season, because I love to be surprised by  changes in a character. Later, he actually sacrifices his life so she can rescue her daughter.

Once again,  the name Maeve means “to enchant”. And that is what she does, both literally, and figuratively.

 

Dolores:

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Dolores is on a different journey from Maeve. Her objective was to free the Hosts from the Park, and she mostly succeeded at this, having uploaded the minds of  many of the Hosts (at least the ones who went into the Valley) to an undisclosed location. She and Bernard leave the park and go out into the real world. Her new objective is, I think, to destroy the human world, or close all the parks, or something.

Dolores is learning how to work with others, which is to the good. Maybe she learned her lesson after Teddy decommissioned himself, but she seems willing to work with Bernard to accomplish her next goal, and she managed to rescue several of the mind pearls from the park.

I don’t have as much to say about Dolores, because her story wandered in some unexpected directions, and there’s a lot of mystery about her new goals. At any rate a lot has already been written about her, that’s much more in-depth than what I could provide:

https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/979084/Westworld-season-2-finale-explained-Is-Dolores-alive-S02E10-Charlotte-Hale

Overall, though I’ve seen some reviews bashing this season, (there’s always several of those, by people who probably shouldn’t be watching the series, if they’re not into, or even getting, the point), but I enjoyed it. I don’t think it was as good as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of novelty, and we are now well used to all these characters now. I’m looking forward to season three. I’m eager to see what kind of mischief Dolores can get up to in the real world, if there are other Hosts already walking about, will Maeve be back, and in what capacity, and will the Delos Corporation figure out that their problem is much, much, bigger than Ford?

 

 

 

 

New and Interesting Trailers 6/2018

HI!

Here, have some trailers! I thought these looked really good. I was already on the hook to see some of these movies and shows,  but a couple of them got me really interested in seeing something that was not necessarily on my radar. There are a couple that I’m cautiously excited about, but I’m going to approach them with an open mind.

 

Luke Cage Season 2

So Alfre Woodard appears to be tearing it up, in a season which is focusing a lot more on women. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are kicking ass, and then there’s Bushmaster. I don’t know a whole lot about Bushmaster (as he wasn’t in any of the Luke Cage books I read), so he will be something of a surprise for me, but I am really excited for this season.

From the interviews I’ve seen, Cheo Hodari Coker knows Ryan Coogler, and the two of them tend to work parallel to each other. This show wasn’t slacking in its representation of women of color last season, but the influence of Black Panther can be seen in how it allows the Black women to be heroes and villains, rather than merely eye candy. So, despite the presence of Danny Rand, (who I’m still not feeling too good about), I’m really looking forward to this season.

 

 

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

This is one of the funniest Marvel trailers I’ve seen in awhile. I’m really liking this, although it took me a minute to wrap my head around the animation, as I was expecting something a little more traditional. But I’m glad to see Spider- Gwen, and an adult Peter Parker. I think I posted this trailer here before, too, which shows my enthusiasm for this movie.

I’m a big fan of Peter Parker, (and I was one of the people who lobbied that he should be Asian in the new movie), but I’m also in love with Miles Morales, too, who is from the Ultimate Spiderman line of comic books.

 

Christopher Robin

I am so much in love with this trailer and with Winnie the Pooh. The adventures of Pooh, and his friends, were one of the primary literary staples of my girlhood. I remember my Mom used to read the adventure books to me, and we watched the cartoons on TV. I loved Pooh so much, I think I’m the reason that my youngest brother, (I was 3 when he was born), is named after him, (and if you can picture a 6 ft. tall, muscular, forty something, Black firefighter, named Pooh…)

This trailer got me all up in my feels, and I have no shame in admitting that I plan to see this, multiple times, if possible.

 

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

I really enjoyed the original trilogy of Lisbeth Salander, and I’m excited for this new movie. I probably still won’t read the book though, although I did read the first two. I like this  new actor, although it’s hard to top the original.

 

 

Halloween

I’m not sure what I feel about this new version. I did like the Rob Zombie movies okay (the second less than the first). Apparently, this movie picks up exactly where the first movie left off, and Michael isn’t actually Laurie’s brother, and she has a granddaughter who thinks she’s insane, and all the other movies will be ignored, (with Carpenter’s blessing). But it looks pretty good, and I like Laurie’s “Born Again Hard” attitude, and gun.

 

 

The Predator

I had no idea there was a whole damn mythology behind The Predator movies, (even though I’ve seen all of them, and only been impressed by maybe a couple of them). I read a couple of the comic books, and watched the movies, and I really enjoyed both, but apparently  made no effort to put all this shit together. The Predators even have a special name, that I’ve never heard of! The first trailer didnt make me especially enthused about the movie, but I am highly enthused now that I’ve watched the mythology video, and seen this new trailer, which looks fucking awesome. (Yeah, if I’m cussing, I’m very excited.)

 

*Predator Mythology 

The Yautja (Predators Explained)

 

Bumblebee

While Bumblebee is one of my favorite Transformers characters, I’m not especially enthused about this movie for two reasons. The first is because the very first shot in this trailer is of a White woman’s ass, and I am thoroughly sick and damn tired of looking at White women’s asses (any women’s asses really) in movies, unless its actually a four legged animal. The second is because it is a Transformers movie.

A couple of things in its favor  is that there is a different director attached to this movie, and it’s about Bumblebee, and he’s a bit more kid oriented. Unfortunately, it does look like the same plot as the first Transformer film, and I even though I liked that film, I really don’t want to pay for the same movie twice.

Into The Badlands Season Two: So Far

Oh wow, I’m really late with this one, although not too late since the season hasn’t ended yet. I really should have begun this earlier, because there is a lot of ground to cover, and as is usual with this show, if you miss an episode, you’re up shit creek as far as understanding what’s going on, or what happened before. The plot does not slow down here. As the season moves forward the plot becomes more dense, the betrayals and alliances fly fast and furious, and of course, the action is literally kickin’! We’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way: via character list.

 

Sunny

Sunny

Since the first episode, Sunny (whose actual name is indeed Sunshine) has been at pains to save Henry, since Henry became sick. It turns out that Henry is a baby Dark One. In his quest to save Henry from dying from his Dark Chi, Sunny teams up with Bajie, takes over a refugee camp, gets kidnapped by cannibals, and finally confronted by Nathaniel Moon, and finally reunited with the River King.

As usual, many of Sunny’s current problems spring from all the past shit he did as a Clipper, but there’s also a new wrinkle. Sunny happens to be a Dark One, only his abilities are latent. Sunny is a catalyst instead, capable of awakening the abilities of others. Should this information become public, and others find out he can create Dark Ones (possibly even control them), Sunny will become even more valuable to all the major Powers of the Badlands.

 

Bajie

Bajie

Bajie is one of those people who knows everybody, and  everybody’s everybody. The Widow used to be a former pupil of his, and one of his former masters from the abbey is a witch who can cure Henry’s illness. He and Sunny find their way to this woman. She manages to cure Henry’s fever, but she is also the person who figures out that it was Sunny who caused the flareup because  its hereditary.

Bajie is disappointed to think the signal he sent out, in first season, got no response, but the witch says it did. It attracted Pilgrim. And guess what? Bajie seems to know him too. So, at some point he and Pilgrim will be reunited.

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon tracks Sunny to the lair of the cannibals, where he gets taken prisoner, as well. In exchange for saving his life from the cannibals, Moon decides to spare Sunny’s life. Also, Moon is an honorable man, who does not wish to make Henry an orphan.

The writers have learned at least a few lessons from the past seasons. They have given Moon a backstory, and although he does questionable things (most of the people in the Badlands do questionable things), he manages to maintain his honor, and occasionally make some good choices, but I suspect sooner or later, just like Tilda and Waldo,  he will grow disillusioned with The Widow, and leave her.

He also has a sordid past with Lydia, who had an affair with him, when he was Quinn’s Clipper. I like this relationship and hope they get together because their chemistry is unmistakable.

The Widow

The Widow

The Widow’s war with Baron Chau continues, and its hard to say who is winning. They both use innocent lives to manipulate each other into action, so I can’t even say who is the better person. The Widow is still one of my favorite characters but I still got  problems with her methods.

After Pilgrim floods  her poppy fields with pamphlets, stealing away half her Cogs, she decides to get out in front of the problem, and goes to see him. Subsequently, she and Pilgrim reach an accord. He doesn’t steal away any more of her workers, and she will take his side against anyone who attacks him.and there won’t be any need for violence between them,

 

Lydia

Lydia

Lydia has been appointed to be the Widow’s governor,  taking over the poppy plantation, where she used to live. It turns out that she and Nathaniel Moon used to be lovers, and their reunion was …how do you say? “Fraught with tension!” Like I said, the twists, turns and connections on this show fly fast and furious, and you have got to pay close attention, or you’ll miss some new, and relevant, development.

 

M.K.

M.K.

When we last saw MK he was zonked on opium, and without his powers, but the opium caused some type pf revelation, and he now believes that it was Sunny who killed his mother. I’m inclined to believe this is a delusion on his part, except Sunny has met more than a few people he’s wronged in his time as a Clipper, so why not MK.

During MK’s mission to find and kill Sunny, he’s shot by Gaius Chau’s crew, and found by Pilgrim. Pilgrim knows what he is, and wants him to stay and work for him, as a kind of enforcer, since one of his enforcers is in the final stages of being a Dark One burnout, and he needs a replacement. I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m pretty sure this won’t end with MK killing Sunny.  They are set to be reunited, and I’m sure there’s gonna be some kung fu fightin’, but I think that will be the extent of it.

 

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda and her mother have reconciled, (sort of), and she is now a kind of liaison, between the war refugees and her mother, helping to run the  camp set up in a corner of the Widow’s district, by Lydia. Over the course of the season, this camp has been attacked by everyone in the Badlands, mostly in an attempt to steal the refugees and get them involved in the war. Tilda makes this  deal, with her mother, to protect them.

 

Baron Chau

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After her people are attacked by Pilgrim, Juliet Chau realizes she cannot fight a war on two fronts, and sends in her nuclear option, her brother, Gaius Chau, who she suborns into working for her, by threatening his friends. She and her brother have a history where he tried to be a nice guy, but his sister took over his position as head of the family because she was utterly ruthless. They were feuding, but she imprisoned her brother, after he tried to stage a coup. Needless to say, Juliet is a few rungs down the ladder of villainy than Minerva, as she seems to actually believe in, and support, the slavery of the Cogs.

She sends her brother out to find, and assassinate Pilgrim.

I’m not sure I like this version of the “dragon lady” stereotype, but I do like this character, who is every bit The Widow’s equal. Perhaps if the show had more Asian women in it, to offset her depiction, that might be better.

 

 

Gaius Chau

Gaius Chau

Fomented a rebellion against his sister when she became the head of hte clan. And guess who was at the bottom of this rebellion. A very young Minerva, of course! She seems to have ties to everyone in the Badlands.

We’ve already seen The Widow’s reunion with Bajie, last season, which did not go well, but after Gaius’ assassination attempt of Pilgrim is unsuccessful, he finds his way to the refugee camp led by Tilda, where he and Nathaniel team up to protect it from Baron Chau, after which he is reunited with The Widow, and now works for her.

Can I just say how happy I am to see Lewis Tan in this show.

 

Pilgrim/Cressida

PilgrimCressida

Pilgrim and his entourage, which include the two Dark Ones, Nix and Castor, (and now MK), have taken up residence in an abandoned castle/museum on an islet. Pilgrim certainly seems to be educated from somewhere as he knows a lot about the artifacts in the museum, and has been heard quoting The Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

Pilgrim is turning into one of the top power players in the Badlands, mostly because he is able to offer hope and stability, from the war, to the Cogs  who flock to his banner. He’s certainly becoming someone who needs to be gotten rid of for becoming a hindrance, or parlayed with, instead. The Widow decides to make a deal (which she will renege on, at the first opportunity, of course). Baron Chau decides that getting rid of him is her best bet, and sends Gaius to do it.

Pilgrim and Cressida are engaged in some mysterious construction activities. Its kind of confusing because a lot of the people in the Badlands refer to Azra as  a place that is gone, a place that exists now, a place that will exist in the future, or sometimes, a person. At any rate, actual mystical abilities (magic) have been introduced to the mythology of the Badlands, as Cressida actually is a seer, and keeps seeing Sunny’s Clipper hash-marks in her visions, which is convenient becasue Sunny is on his way to Pilgrim’s place, in the last episode.

 

This season consists of sixteen episodes this time, so we’re about half through. Of course, by the end of the season, every individual situation will have changed, and I hope they all survive to the next season.

 

Weekend Reading List (The Pocket Files)

Guys! I’ve been horribly slack with the postings this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on stuff. (Actually, I have not been doing anything, really.) I’ve been on a sort of vacay all week, but I’ll be back with more ramblings in June, starting Monday.

Here’s some of the lighter stuff that’s been sitting in my Pocket list for a while. Some of these are not new, but they’re new for me.

I loved this piece from BNP/Facebook writer, Stephanee Killen, about one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, The Enemy Within. I must have unknowingly taken the episode to heart because I’ve always thought of my less attractive qualities as useful, positive things. Or at the very least tried to turn them into useful things.

Like a lot of people I suffer from anxiety. I don’t take medication for this, but I manage it very well. One of the ways I manage it is by turning it into something useful, like the ability to plan ahead. Making plans within plans is one of the ways I manage anxiety about things other people would probably consider trivial, like driving to new locations. When I have anxiety about something specific, I usually research the hell out of it, and the knowledge helps to alleviate some of the problem. Turning anxiety into knowledge is one of my ways of using a negative quality for good.

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In this particular episode, Kirk gets split into halves, a  passive, lighter side, and a darker, more negative side. The argument, illustrated beautifully in the show, is that Kirk needs his darker half to function competently as a Commander. 

I think the philosophy I most disagree with in Star Wars is the concept that light and dark are two separate things, and that one of them is undesirable. Star Trek’s more nuanced argument is that both these qualities are needed to form a whole, and that taken singularly, they’re both useless.

McCoy tells him, we’re all brutal animals. We all have our dark side. It’s human. The dark side holds strength. The light side holds caring, love, and courage. Spock, who understands duality better than most, indicates that what enables him to survive the differences between his two often-contrary halves is his intellect. Scotty eventually fixes the transporter. Kirk 1 and 2 get put back together, and the question of whether half a man can live is answered: No, he cannot—but thankfully, that’s not required.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/nerd-lessons-star-trek-the-dark-side/

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I am loving this newest season of Into the Badlands, and will have some opinions about that  next week. What I’m finding a hell of a lot of fun is the character of Nathaniel Moon. He’s an important part of the show, with his own story-line, and agenda, and even a love interest. 

I’ve seen this actor there and about, from time to time, but never gave him much attention. I’m gonna fix that right now, cuz Lawd, is he foine!

And do it he has. Since his first film role in the movie Colors (1988), Sherman hasn’t stopped sharpening his craft. With a career spanning over thirty years, he says that the characters, themes, setting and coworkers on Into the Badlands continue to inspire and motivate him.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/sherman-augustus-badlands-talks-film-football-acting-black/

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Here! Have some more Donald Glover think-pieces. It seems that every couple of months there’s some new artistic piece from a Black artist. We just sat through Black Panther, and then came Beychella (which I watched online), and the release of Glover’s video was a nice addition, marking 2018 as one of the “Blackest” years ever.

Jim Crow began as mere pop culture entertainment at the expense of America’s freed slaves and became the means of their oppression. The term “Jim Crow” became so pejorative this country’s apartheid separating Africans and their descendants from white Americans its name. pic.twitter.com/IEwLwfB2i4

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/05/justin-simien-analyzes-donald-glover-this-is-america-1201961450/

http://www.thisisinsider.com/this-is-america-music-video-meaning-references-childish-gambino-donald-glover-2018-5

https://thegrio.com/2018/05/07/this-is-america-5-powerful-messages-that-will-stay-with-you-long-after-your-donald-glover-hangover/

http://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/this-is-america-childish-gambino-donald-glover-kinesthetic-empathy-dance/559928/

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Here’s an incredible review of Kaufmann’s 1978 remake of  Albert Finney’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. This is one of my all time favorite alien invasion movies, and although I did a film comparison of all the Invasion movies, I have yet to do a complete analysis/review of this one. I got some thoughts, ya’know! 

Like the remake of The Thing, it is a near perfect example of Science Fiction Horror. There’s not one wrong note of dialogue in it, the acting is superb, and the setting is perfect for its message. 

In a more thrilling flourish, Kaufman channels Alfred Hitchcock by cutting back-and-forth between pod people following Matthew and Elizabeth on a city street; as the two speed up, their clacking exaggerated for effect, we see the feet of their pursuers speeding up in unison, until both reach a sprint. 

https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/invasion-of-the-body-snatchers/

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This has been sitting in my Pocket page just waiting to be deployed. The whole thing just tickled the hell out of me.

Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Ever

Obviously this is Country music (The chicken, tho’!)

The Up-And-Coming Music Legends

 

He ’bout to drop that hot new Mixtape

 

 

I swear to gob, these two look like Hall &Oates

 

That hot new Norwegian Emo Band, or The Verve. Pick One!

 

This is that new Rock band with the twin guitarists

The Band With The Twin Guitarists

 

 

There’s a whole bunch of these gothic looking pet pictures all over the internet. I’m still finding these deeply hilarious…

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 I actually love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite all my bitching. It is an unquestionably visually stunning place to visit, and even the worse movies in the MCU look gorgeous. They also look all of a piece, as if they really all belonged in the same world.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics. In fact, those were the first comic books I read (starting with Conan and Red Sonja.) I wasn’t thrilled when Marvel started pumping out these movies, but only because I hadn’t read any of the individual character’s books, and wasn’t particularly interested in their standalone movies. I was not a Captain America, Iron man, Ant Man, or Black Widow fan. I knew all these characters because they were in The Avengers, and I read all of those books. I dutifully watched the first few movies, not especially enthused, but cautiously interested. I didn’t get excited until the first Captain America movie, which turned out to be surprisingly good, and The Avengers movie clinched it. 

I still haven’t watched all the movies. I skipped the first two Thor movies, and the first Iron Man. I never cared about Ant Man, and never will, I’m betting, although I am a big fan of  The Wasp (from the comic books), so I might see that movie.

Here are some of the better MCU music videos on Youtube. This was one of the first ones I saw. Not all of them are this good, but the editing on this one, was astounding.

 

I liked this one because it includes everything in the MCU, including all of The Defenders, all except Blade (which really should have been included, along with the X-Men and Wolverine films, even though they’re not part of the MCU. Yet!)

 

 

I skipped the first two Thor movies. I watched maybe the first thirty minutes of the second one before I fell asleep. I did enjoy this last one because I knew the director, Taika Waititi, from What We Do in the Shadows, and I trusted his film making skills.

 

 

This video was pretty good too. The editor of this one was nice enough to include  action parallels from the different films, something which helps to reinforce the idea that these movies all take place in the same cinematic world. I do object to the music of this one. I just dislike the song, and  would’ve chosen something more energetic.

Weekend Holiday Reading

Just in case you find yourself with nothing in particular to do this Memorial Day, here are some articles I found interesting this week. They don’t actually have anything to do with Memorial Day but I liked them, anyway. This also doesn’t mean they were published this week, just that they were new for me. (For those of you who are not US citizens, Memorial Day is one of those martial holidays that America celebrates by taking off from work, to burn various meats, over open flames, in our backyards.)

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*This is a song I’m going to keep singing until people memorize the lyrics. I’ve noticed this is a trend throughout a lot of science fiction, where White people, for those are the ones primarily writing these futures, are oppressed or terrorized in the same manner that they have historically oppressed others.

I read somewhere that the reason why the opioid crisis happened the way it did in the US, is because White people cannot envision any future in which they do not maintain primacy. They can only imagine the future as a dystopia for themselves, whereas marginalized people are hopeful about the future because we’ve already experienced the worst.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

In Terminator, as well, the fact that the robots are treating us as inhumanly as we treated them doesn’t exactly create any sympathy. Instead, the paranoid fear of servants overthrowing masters just becomes a spur to uberviolence (as shown in Linda Hamilton’s transformation from naïve good girl to paramilitary extremist). The one heroic reprogrammed Terminator, who must do everything John Connor tells him even unto hopping on one leg, doesn’t inspire a broader sympathy for SkyNet. Instead, Schwarzenegger is good because he identifies with the humans totally, sacrificing himself to destroy his own people. Terminator II is, in a lot of ways, a retelling of Gunga Din.

 

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*I really enjoyed this post discussing why the lack of racial diversity in the Bladerunner movies, is so troubling. The only show I can think of that comes close to getting it right is the BBC series titled Humans. It has a diverse cast of robots, and deals with the same things, but as is usual, for shows written from a White person’s point of view, it falls short of discussing the racial implications. (Of course Britain has a different relationship with racial slavery, having abolished it much earlier than America did.)

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/10/06/25457531/race-and-blade-runner-2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

White audiences watching a white character being subjugated to sci-fi racism can invest safely. We’re obviously now in the land of make believe if anyone is randomly pulling over Ryan Reynolds. Moviegoers can pick and choose what parts of the African-American experience they want. They cheer the underdog, they hiss at the police force, but once the movie’s over, they will go home, and post #blacklivesmatter from a distance.

 

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*I wanted to write this long piece about how the lyrics of Donald Glover’s This is America cannot be divorced from the visuals, without losing their meaning. For example, most of the lyrics are about the usual gangsta rap subject matter, with the same lyrics being repeated over and over. Get your money! Get your money! Get your money! But these typical admonishments from rap music take on new meaning when being joyously sung by the church choir in the video. Just as there is the veneration of guns in the video, that scene represents  the veneration of money and capitalism as well. The Church of the Holy Dollar! This makes the video  not just an indictment of America’s gun culture, but a critique  of the capitalist system which fuels it. This article is about how Black Americans sell their pain to get money. Black pain, and trauma, is the only currency we have, and it’s what sells.

https://www.rollingstone.com/donald-glover-childish-gambino-this-is-america-video-visual-w519895

A child is the one to handle Glover’s weapon after each shooting, and it’s children who sit in the rafters above, recording the bedlam with their phones. Our normalization of racist violence has come at the cost of not only black lives, but black innocence.

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*Genius breaks it down a little bit more, although it still doesn’t touch on the  the very first lyrics, “We just wanna party, just for you”. I think this is really telling, because these are your usual “let’s party” rap lyrics, which are then contrasted with the violence. We want to party FOR you, not with you, is important in this context. Even Black violence is entertainment for a White audience. 

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*This article is about how creators of fantasy and scifi seem to   have no problem approaching the topic of sexism, but cannot seem to approach the topic of race, with any depth. 

White people like to reimagine history as a peaceful time in which they never had to think about race, hence the nostalgia for times past. But really what they like about the past was the  unobstructed dominance of White supremacy. Nostalgia for the past and fear of the future seems to make up the bulk of  White people’s imaginings in speculative fiction. 

http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/why-dont-dystopias-know-how-to-talk-about-race.html

 

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*This article touches on all the points I made in my review of this film, and I’m glad I found it. I was irked because critics were so focused on the romantic relationship, that they were neglecting to see the wider social messages of the film. It’s nice to know that someone else got it, while tying these themes to the movie’s broader critique of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, which I didn’t see.

http://msenscene.com/2018/04/04/the-shape-of-waters-strickland-as-the-ur-american/

The reproduction of consumer capitalist values is taught to all Americans; you simply can’t not participate in capitalism (unless you want to starve, of course). But the film goes further than just a surface-level critique. We get to see how marginalized people assimilate to cultivate respectability at the expense of their peers. 

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*I realized this while I was watching the movie. Ronan’s motivational speeches about what a genius he is, and how he is unappreciated, basically boils down to, “The world didn’t kiss my ass like I wanted, so now everyone must die.”  Its one of the reasons online fanboys hated this movie, because Ronan  is a direct indictment of them.

https://www.bustle.com/articles/172212-the-ghostbusters-villain-is-basically-an-internet-troll-its-a-brilliant-way-to-silence-the

Most of Rowan’s dialogue reflects a feeling of entitlement and that of someone seeking out revenge for some past hardship. But much like the supposed oppression that trolls and MRAs feel, Rowan’s hardship doesn’t actually exist, at least to the extreme he makes it seem like it does. Rowan may have been bullied, of course, but that, nor being a janitor or not having a girlfriend isn’t warranted cause to unleash havoc on the public or cause harm in order to get “revenge.”

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*I was a huge fan of the HBO show Oz. Its been off the air for some time now, but during its time, it was groundbreaking, for its depiction of a homosexual relationship between two men, Tobias Beecher, and Chris Keller. What I found most fascinating about the relationship is Beecher’s psychology in falling for Keller. Here was a man who probably had always thought of himself as being straight, and was, due to circumstances, in a relationship with a known killer.

View story at Medium.com

http://www.newnownext.com/oz-ten-years-later/07/2007/

Being set in prison, however, the show also dealt frankly with the sexuality of prisoners who did not consider themselves gay, yet were driven into same-sex relations either through loneliness or through rape. One of the primary ways these themes were explored was through the character of Tobias Beecher. Beecher was a wealthy, middle-class lawyer, husband and father, who found himself in Oz (the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility) after accidentally killing a girl while driving drunk.

Siren: Season One Review

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Siren is an interesting show, but its not necessarily a great one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this show, and parts of it are very compelling, but it does have a couple of  issues, that become  obvious over time.

When I first saw the trailers for the show, I had the idea that it would be a typically cheesy series. Maybe a little darkness. A little horror. I wasn’t sure what the lead actress was trying to convey in the ads. Without any context, it just looks like bad acting. It turns out there’s a reason the actress looks the way she does, and a lot of that has to do with the attitude of the character she’s trying to depict, and can mostly only show through her body language, which is very distinctive. Rynn is a predator, and her behavior reflects  the catlike, prickly, attitude of a creature you don’t want to mess, with because it has no qualms about hurting you, as one poor human predator learns when he tries to molest Rynn, after picking her up on the road.

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Eline Powell plays Rynn, who comes to land in search of her sister Donna, who has been captured by the US military and is being experimented on, (for Gob knows what reasons), by a man named Decker. During Rynn’s  search for Donna, she meets Ben and Maddie,  oceanographic researchers at some small local institute.

Ben  is the eldest son of one of the founding families of the town, whose foundation was built on  the slaughter of some mermaids in the 1800s, something that will come back to haunt its inhabitants. Maddie is the girlfriend Ben’s mother disapproves of, and the adopted daughter of the town sheriff, Dale Bishop. Ben has three close friends (Xander, Calvin, Chris, and Xander’s father), who work on a fishing trawler, a goody- two- shoes brother, and  a mother who was hurt in some kind of accident, and uses a wheelchair.

One night, the trawler captures Donna but she is stolen away them by the Navy, along with Ben’s  friend and co-worker Chris, who was scratched or bitten by Donna. He and Donna eventually escape imprisonment but not before Donna is horribly traumatized, and has a chance to bespell Decker with her siren song.

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Rynn’s presence in the town of Bristol Cove opens up a history’s worth of secrets, most of these secrets are smugly alluded to by a local shop owner named Helen. She has secrets. The town has secrets. Everybody’s got secrets. Its just secrets all the way down. Later, we find out that Helen used to be one of the mermaids, but gave up her life in the sea, to become human.

Donna is understandably angry at being mistreated by humans, and wants to destroy as many of them as possible. She is eventually aided in this endeavor, not by Rynn, who is fascinated with humans, but by two other mermaids, who are angry at humans for over fishing their cove, while the mermaids starve. Eventually tensions reach a high, and a mini-war begins, between the mermaids who have been so traumatized by humans that they want them all dead, and the humans who are suffering losses because of the mermaid’s retaliations.

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The show has some well done action scenes, with some nice stunt work, and the cinematography is well done. There are times when people’s actions, and motivations are unclear, and as I said earlier, some of the acting is not the best, especially the actress who plays Maddie, but that might be because, in the first episodes, she isn’t given very much to do, beyond  looking  pleasant or worried.

We watch  Rynn’s English get better, and she starts to act more human, but still retains just enough of her natural mermaid behavior, to seem thoroughly alien. You can tell the creators put some real thought into how a water based, highly intelligent, predatory being would behave if it found itself in human culture. Pay close attention to the mermaid’s body language, not just when interacting with humans, but with each other as well.

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But this show may be  most well  known for its sheer diversity in front of the cameras. Almost every culture is represented by at least one character, along with several characters of mixed race, like Xander. Helen is played by Rena Owen who is of Maori descent. So it seems fitting she’d play a mermaid. There are Black mermaids, like Donna, which is a first in a network TV show, and the show’s creators manage to make her look thoroughly convincing.

It is not until you see Donna in her natural form that you remember that most fantasy creatures are depicted by White people, unless the plot calls for them to be villains, and despite the fact the Europe isn’t the only place in the world where the mythology of mermaids exist.  Donna does some questionable things (so does Rynn) but the writers are careful never to code her as bad or evil. She is traumatized, and justifiably angry, and the writers allow her to express this without apology, refusing to give in to the stereotype of making her an irrationally angry Black woman, and it is clear that the writers took some time to research the African legends of Mami-Wata, which is what they seemed to have based her character on.

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http://blog.swaliafrica.com/mami-wata-the-mermaids-in-african-mythology/

There’s an Asian mermaid, a Black merman, an Indigenous sheriff, and numerous individuals of various races randomly dropped into the background.

A lot of these actors are not well known, (Rena Owen is the only one  know) and a few of them are first timers, and it shows in the degree of their acting skills. Its not quite as bad as the “schmacting” in some of the  CW shows, but every now and then, you get taken out of the story by someone hitting a wrong note. But that’s okay because the show makes up for it, with its depiction of the mermaids and their culture. If you’re expecting Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid then this ain’t the show for you.

And yes, the mermaids do sing, but not in a recognizably human way. The creators seemed to have put some thought into that as well. The mermaid’s singing sounds like a low, deep-throated humming sound ,with no especially discernible melody, and no rhythm, and actually does  sound like something you’d hear under water. At any rate ,it seems very compelling to the characters who are subjected to it.

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

Despite all of the diversity on display, the characters don’t pay much attention to it. At first, I was concerned that Ben’s mother simply didn’t want Ben in a relationship with a Black girlfriend, but the real tension seems to  be something personal between her and Maddie, that Ben knows about, but has nothing to do with. We witness Maddie, and Ben’s mother, tiptoeing around each other, before reaching some type of accord.

The mermaids don’t pay any attention to the different skin tones, either. I’m mot inclined to refer to them as different races, because from my point of view, the mermaids are all one race, and have a very distinctive culture. I do occasionally cringe because the mermaids are coded as very animalistic, they sometimes get called animals by the humans around them (including Ben) and so many of them are portrayed by PoC. This cringiness is slightly offset by Rynn calling Ben out on his descriptions of her people, and shaming him for it.

The mermaids are the real intrigue on this show, although there is plenty of drama and mystery. They are shown as being  predators who will kill humans when given the opportunity to do so, (if you come into the water with them, for example). They are capable of coming out of the water, shedding their tails, and putting on a human disguise. The society they come from is matriarchal, and Rynn eventually becomes the alpha female of the particular group that resides in Bristol Cove.

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One of the more interesting things is Rynn’s relationship to Maddie. Because the mermaid’s talk more with their bodies, than their voices, we get a lot of scenes of Rynn standing unnervingly close to people, unexpectedly touching people in an intimate manner, and a general lack of boundaries from her, and this includes Maddie, as well. Ben is sort of compelled to be near her because of the singing, but not Maddie, who hasn’t heard her siren song, but seems just as gobsmacked by Rynn’s  presence as Ben does.

Rynn is starting to think of Ben and Maddie as a kind of family, (possibly as her mates, or something similar), and in her roundabout way, has told Maddie that she loves her (since English is not Rynn’s first language, I suspect something got lost in the translation). She clearly does not think of Maddie as a sister. She has a sister,  and doesn’t treat Maddie anything at all the way she treats Donna, to whom she is, at times, deferential, sisterly, angry, or devoted. To give you some idea: Rynn spends the night at Ben and Maddie’s apartment. They settle her on the sofa with a blanket, and go to their bed. Rynn, unhappy with this arrangement, gets in their bed, and contentedly falls asleep between the two of them.

It’s not a bad show. I’m going to give it a nice, solid, B/B+, but it does need just a bit more polish, and  I am cautiously intrigued by it, despite its  misses. I do wish the acting was a little bit  better, and I do hope we get to see other supernatural beings on the show, as has been hinted at by Maddie. I will be back for a second season if it gets renewed. And you should probably check it out, at least once,  for the novelty of seeing a Black merman.

“Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning

The CW’s Black Lighting represents the split between Black respectability and radical politics in a singular figure.

via “Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning — The Middle Spaces

 

This is an absolutely gorgeous analysis of Black Lightning. I haven’t written much about the show, not because I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, but because  of the density of the text. This series is every bit as rich with meaning as Black Lightning and Luke Cage, and is pertinent to many of the discussions Black Americans are having about social justice, existing, as it does, in a space somewhere between those two sources.

The show isn’t perfect, of course. It certainly has its issues in pacing, dialogue, and occasionally the acting, but these problems are not consistent enough to make me dislike the show, and it gets more right, than it does wrong.  This review, and analysis, contains a lot of what I was thinking about, when it was on the air.

Later, after I’ve re-watched a few episodes i might do a post squeeing about everything I thought the show got right, and the handful of things that annoyed me.

Black Lightning is currently available on Netflix, and has already been renewed, for a second season on the CW, this Fall.

 

Geeking Out Recommends:

Thelma

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I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.

For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re  loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.

The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.

Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.

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When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.

As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.

It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.

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After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her.  Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.

Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.

For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.

Thelma is available on Hulu.

 

Blade of the Immortal

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I wrote about this movie in another post when this was first released. Its based on the Manga of the same name, about  rival samurai schools, (dojos), and a lone samurai who gets cursed by a witch with immortality. In return for losing his immortality he must kill 100 evil men.

Manji’s  immortality takes the form of something called blood worms, which are semi-sentient, that can heal any injury, no matter how awful. This basically means we get to watch a lot of really disgusting scenes of various body parts getting lopped and chopped, and reintegrating with his body. He thinks his quest is over when he meets a young woman named Asano who is seeking revenge against the cadre of swordsmen who killed her parents.

Of course all this is just an excuse for lots and lots of gore. I loved it. If you liked Ninja Scoll, and think you can sit through something that is very like a live action version of that, you’ll probably like this movie. Another movie that  heavily resembles  this one, only its set in modern day US, is  Ninja Assassin.

Blade of the Immortal is also available on Hulu.

 

Harlots

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I watched the first couple of episodes of this show and was mostly impressed by the characters and the details. I love period movies and TV shows, especially if it chronicles some, usually forgotten, part of history. There’s never been a show about the influence of sex workers on politics during different eras. I think people often forget that sex workers have had a tremendous impact on history, and that there were times when prostitution wasn’t always a crime, but a legitimate business that certain types of women went into, not always by choice, (but sometimes they did), which was sometimes carefully regulated by the women who controlled the institutions.

This particular show is about two rival houses of prostitution, and the political machinations  of 1700s London. One madam, Margaret Wells, is trying to increase her political influence in London by moving her brothel to a more prestigious area of the city, while being countered by Lydia Quigley. At the same time they both have to deal with a new commitment to eliminating sin, from London’s religious community, who are aided in their endeavor by  brutal police  raids.

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To finance her increase in economic power Margaret plans to auctions off her youngest daughters virginity. She is also trying to influence her oldest daughter, who is being pressured to sign a Patron agreement with a member of the nobility, which means she would leave the brothel, and stay in a place of his keeping.

Lydia Quigley runs a higher class of brothel, in a prestigious area of London, and spends her time plotting against Well’s ambitions. Margaret used to work for Lydia. Essentially, the two are fighting over which one of them will get to influence the members of the nobility who enjoy their services.

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There’s also a B plot centered around the courtship of a young Black woman, who works in one of the brothels, and the various intrigues surrounding the Black man who is wooing her, and his employer.

One of the ways that you can tell the status of women in this particular time period, and illustrated in the show, is through their clothing. Women of lower status, but who had money, would wear brighter, gaudier clothes, often in primary colors, with more frippery around the necks, arms and petticoats to indicate their status as consorts. Women of high status would wear more subdued colors, in pastels and other light colors, and their frippery is usually contained  their elaborate wigs. The material of their dresses are,  visually, more expensive, and made from finer fabrics.

I thought the show was fascinating, but what I mostly enjoyed were the characters. The women are funny, full of sass, and intelligent, and it was just fun to watch them get into various shenanigans.  I have not done a lot of reading of that specific time period, I don’t know how accurate this show is. I was especially impressed with Samantha Morton, the set pieces around the city, and of course, the costuming.

The entire first season is available on Hulu, with the second season to premiere in a few weeks.

 

Batman Ninja

Not everything I watch has to be deep. Sometimes I love to watch things that are just pretty.

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I was really looking forward to this movie, especially after I saw the trailer, which made it look like a lot of pretty fun. and it is a fun movie, but the trailer doesn’t even begin to approach the zaniness of this movie. Doesn’t even hint at it. In fact, the trailer makes it seem like the movie will be a serious, rather sober affair, with deep themes and ideas.

It is nothing like that.

I loved the fuck out of this movie, though! Its totally batshit, and I mean that pun! I don’t often watch anime because a lot of it tends to be really shallow, with questionable depictions of women, and squeaky noises that give me a headache. And yeah, this movie is totally shallow, with questionable depictions of women, but I enjoyed it anyway, and it didn’t have a lot of squeaking.

I do like to see Asian versions of Batman because they always have an interesting interpretation of him. Here, he talks a lot more, and seems less grim, occasionally smiling, or joking with his companions. Unfortunately, the plot makes him look not too bright though, with events happening that I feel sure the American version would’ve been able to see coming a mile away. But the creators did capture the strong physicality of the character. (And it’s just hella fun seeing Batman dressed like a Samurai, and weilding a sword.)

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The movie begins with a bang ,with Batman being trapped in a time portal at Arkham Asylum, and getting transported  to 16th century Japan, where he discovers he has been preceded by Catwoman, the various Robins,  Alfred, and the rogues Gallery of the Asylum.

Gorilla Grodd, who created the time portal, so he could go back in time and take over the world with monkeys, sort of like The Planet of the Apes, The Joker, who has set himself up as a Shogun, along with his consort Harley Quinn. Two Face and The Penguin are also present, having established their own fiefdoms. Eventually, they all either team up with the Joker, or are conquered by Grodd.

Most of the story is taken up with Batman’s various battles against the Joker, They fight everyone, in a forest, in a house, on a boat, and the viewer is treated to some giant robot battles representing the different houses (literally) of the Rogues Gallery. And when I say “literally”, I mean that the houses they all live in stand up, and turn into giant robots. I was in tears. I can’t say if I was happy, or sad, cuz  I just don’t know.

I really didn’t think things in this movie could get any crazier during the robot battles,  until I was gifted with the sight of thousands of tiny monkeys swarming a giant,  feudal style, robot and then, Power Ranger-like, forming their own giant monkey figure to do battle, at Damien’s bidding, just because he’s friends with a tiny monkey god liaison.

If you are looking for some sense or some logic, forget it. This movie has not one ounce of it. This movie is like Harley Quinn,  here  to look beautiful and be crazy.

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I think the biggest treat for me was to have the Robins (Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, and The Red Hood) all present in one story, at the same time.  I was disappointed that there was so little interaction between them, and no character development to speak of. On the other hand, this is a gorgeous looking movie. The costumes of the villains were Asian interpretations of their Western looks,  and the costumes reflecting the different Robins were totally awesome, (even if Damien’s hairstyle looked really, really stupid.)

And from I09:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/batman-ninja-is-ridiculously-fun-and-also-utterly-ridi-1825494769

 Practically every frame of the movie is a visual treat, both in terms of the style it offers and the action it frequently wields to tell its wild rollercoaster of a tale. The movie builds on the scale of its action, from one-on-one fights with Batman masterfully zipping through bamboo trees to full-on scraps between mechanized, moving castles, to battles even grander and larger than that. Everything breathlessly, ceaselessly escalates, as the movie darts from one awesome idea to another, to the point that almost nothing makes sense and you have to end up letting go, and simply basking in the visual splendor of watching all these imaginative, exhilarating events unfold. 

(And this review is not wrong. After a while, I just gave up trying to make any sense of whatever  the plot might have been, and just enjoyed the scenery.)

Batman Ninja is available on Apple Itunes, and if you have a Firestick, or FireTV, its available on the Showbox app.

 

Full Metal Alchemist

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I don’t know a damn thing about this show, outside of the blurbs on the side of the manga books, on which this movie is based. I’ve never read the books, or  watched the anime, but I’m familiar enough to know it involves a giant talking suit of armor, and some magic, and that was enough to get me to watch the trailer.

I keep saying I’m not a fan of anime, but I actually do like it. I’m just very picky about what I watch, and I have to be in a certain type of mood. That said, I will watch action versions of the  anime I won’t look at, and I actually enjoyed the hell outta this movie. Its got a lot of fun action, and was actually very emotional.

I don’t know how accurate this movie is to the animated version, but its about two young boys who lose their mother, and in an attempt to resurrect her through alchemy, one of them gets trapped in a suit of armor, and the other loses his arm. After this, they are recognized by the State, which heavily regulates such things, as being Alchemists (or as I like to call them, Wizards). The two of them spend the majority of their time in this movie having long discussions about how to get the one  brother’s body back, resurrecting their mom, and endless battling with other Wizards to procure the ingredients they need to do both these things.

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I’m not sure what the Asian writers ideas about alchemy are, but they don’t  match the Western notions of it. In the Western tradition, alchemy involves lots of chemicals, potions, poisons, and transmuting things into other things. In this movie, it just looks like the Wizardry from Lord of the Rings, with lots of transformations and explosions. I mostly paid attention to the action scenes, which are awesome, and didn’t pay any attention to character’s names. I could Google them, I suppose, but I like the mystery of watching random characters show up, and throw brick walls at each other.

This movie was a heckuva lot of fun. I  liked the devil-may-care attitude of the characters, and I especially enjoyed the close relationship between the two brothers, who seem to genuinely love and support each other. There’s a squeaky young love interest (as always) but I tried to ignore her as much as possible, and since I didn’t see her doing any magic, that was easy. This is  definitely one of those Saturday afternoon type shows, that you watch in an idle moment.

Full Metal Alchemist (Live Action) is available on Netflix.

The Ritual

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This movie most closely resembles the movie The Descent, because of its plot of several friends,  one of whom holds a shameful secret, who go to a secluded place in the woods, and encounter malevolent creatures ,and a fight for survival. I initially thought this would be one of those “cabin in the woods” movies, and involve maybe some redneck cannibals. It does feature a cabin in some woods but the monsters in this movie are far stranger than what I came up with.

The movie begins with one of the men, named Luke,  dreaming about the death of one of his closest friends in a liquor store robbery, a year ago. He blames himself for his friend’s death, through his own inaction, especially since he was the one who made them stop there.

A year later, and all the friends he ditched that night, to go get drunk, are back together and hiking in the woods, as a sort of reunion, since the death of their friend. They get lost in the woods and encounter strange animal sacrifices, and symbols on the trees. Luke wakes up one morning with weird marks on his chest, while the others remain unscathed. They come upon a seemingly abandoned cabin and spend the night. They all have nightmares and wake up in various states of undress, and emotionally unhinged.

Eventually, his friends stop pretending, and throw his guilt and shame, about the death of their friend, back in his face, blaming him for it. This event is something that haunts Luke for the entire movie, and his inability to move past that night is what attracts the monster to him.

It turns out that the cabin is not abandoned, but inhabited by a cult of  humans (some who are extremely old, and mummified) who worship a giant forest creature, which has chosen Luke to be the newest member. Luke was chosen because of the tremendous amount of pain and guilt he is carrying. He spends the rest of the night fighting the creature and he eventually escapes, becasue he lets go of the event that haunts him, but his friends don’t.

I think calling this movie enjoyable is a strong term. I thought it really was very scary. And though it heavily reminded me of other horror movies, I didn’t get the sense that it was at all predictable. I didn’t fully understand what was happening at first, because we encounter the events just as the characters do, everyone has  to figure what’s happening as they go, and nothing is clearly spelled out. You have to pay attention.

The standout, though, is the monster which is called a Jotun, a Northern European forest god of some kind. In Norway and Sweden, they’re called dwarves, or trolls, or giants, but here, the creature seems to consist of the bodies of random forest creatures, and human bodies, fused together, and and looks genuinely terrifying. It is not maliciously evil in the sense that it enjoys hurting people, but more the way nature often is, in an uncaring of your life sort of way. It will consume you and keep it moving, and just wants to be worshipped. In return for sacrifices, it gives long life, although that is not necessarily something you might want, as some of its followers were so old they could barely movie, and looked like desiccated corpses.

The movie doesn’t have a typical ending either. The monster doesn’t get destroyed or discovered. It foes have a satisfying ending for its lead character, as he overcomes his pain and guilt long enough to make himself unappealing to the Jotun, but its still out n the woods, waiting to prey on the next set of people to get lost there.

The Ritual is available on Netflix.

Westworld and Into The Badlands – Season Two Premieres

I watched the season premieres of both shows live, thankfully, as they don’t actually air at the same time. They air back to back, and are immediately followed by Last Week With John Oliver, another news show I have an addiction for. The overriding theme of Into the Badlands wont become explicitly clear until some time mid-season but the overarching plot of Westworld was stated by the characters.

 

Into the Badlands

In the opening sequence The Widow fights Nathaniel Moon to a draw, in order to make him her new Regent, after Waldo and Tilda left her last season. It’s very nice to see Moon actually survived his encounter with Sunny and that he’s back. He was one of my favorite characters from last season, and I hope he gets better treatment this season. He does at least get a new hand, having had the original chopped off by Sunny. He might also  be feeling some type of way about that during the season. To their credit, the writers have acknowledged the mistakes they made with the Black characters last season, and have said they will try to do better. I hope so, as that was one of my main criticisms . (Also, I like that they didn’t give some bullshit excuse for their mistakes.)

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I have a much more solid idea of what The Widow is trying to do this season,  Remember how we said that the basic storyline of the story Jounrey to the West from Chinese lore. Well The Widow’s storyline is also based on Chinese lore, as she is attempting to unify the Badlands all under one rule. We see her standing in front of  the map we saw last season. She and Baron Chau are the only two Baronys left, and her task this season is to bring that Barony under her rule, unify the Badlands and institute social reforms. This is a reference to the Qin Wars that unified China.
I loved the scene where she first meets Moon at a lighthouse. (And can I just point out that it’s still  kinda awesome watching  The Widow kicking ass in her three inch heels. I never get tired of that.) Now Silver Moon has been taking down any headhunters who come after him, and planting their swords in the soil near the lighthouse. At first he thinks The Widow is just another bounty hunter, and the two of them fight all the way up the stairs of the lighthouse. There’s a lot of flight in these scenes, and the Western mind is prone to think of the ability to fly as a sign of the goodness of the person doing it. Since both the Widow and Moon are very gray characters, their ability to fly is not an indication of their morality, but of the purity of their resolve, and the conviction of their beliefs. Sometimes the ability to fly  indicates that a person strongly believes whatever they believe.

This is not a fight to determine the rightness of a certain point of view, as the two of them have just met and have no past history to fight about. The two of them also fight to a draw, with Moon proving that he would make an excellent Regent for The Widow. We start to get a better idea of her ambitions for the future of the Badlands, and although I’m still mad at her for her shitty behavior last season, I’m actually agreeable with her ultimate goal. With the Badlands unified, they can much better fend off any rivals for power from outside the Badlands, like Pilgrim, (although we’re not certain how good or bad that character is yet.)

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Qin’s wars of unification were a series of military campaigns launched in the late 3rd century BC by the Qin state against the other six major states — HanZhaoYanWeiChuand Qi — within the territories that formed modern China. By the end of the wars in 221 BC, Qin had unified most of the states and occupied some lands south of the Yangtze River. The territories conquered by Qin served as the foundation of the Qin dynasty.

So while  I don’t know how to feel about The Widow, right now, I find that I do still believe in her goals, but find  her methods  deeply questionable. She is still holding MK prisoner in her mansion, as the two of them try to find a way to re-introduce him to his superpowers. MK has become a  suicidal  opium addict, and this is probably going to have some type of effect on his abilities. I still like him though, as he’s full of piss and vinegar towards her, giving zero fucks about her feelings. This is a gorgeously shot scene,  as slow motion  clouds of smoke pour out of MK’s nose, giving it a very forties film noir feel, picture Rachel’s Voight-Kampff interview in Bladerunner.

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There are a lot more blues and purples this season, (along with more jewel tones in general). I love the color compositions in this show. The creators put some real thought into it.

Bajie has also returned, having not actually died last season in the tower. Unfortunately, his rogue-like manner has not changed, and he continues to get himself in trouble, becoming prisoner to yet another group of people. Tilda first saves him by accident, and later in the episode, he is saved from execution by Sunny. I’d say Bajie is more trouble than he’s worth, but I like him, and he’s  a font of useful information on the goings on outside the Badlands, and one of this show’s few sources of humor. Oh, yeah, he’s also possibly responsible for bringing Pilgrim and Cressida to the Badlands, as the signal he sent  out into the world in the last episode has now, seemingly been answered.

Tilda has adopted a kind of Robin Hood persona, that she uses to procure goods, and people, for Lydia, who runs a refugee camp for people displaced by the war, and this is where Bajie, Lydia, and Sunny meet. According to Bajie, its been six months since Quinn’s death.

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Pilgrim and Cressida arrive through the massive gate that we saw separating the Badlands from the rest of the country. They approach one of the forts manned by Baron Chau’s people ,who are easily defeated by the two black eyed ,super powered teenagers who work for him.Pilgrim’s intent is to rule the Badlands, as he believes himself to be a kind of prophet. Cressida seems to perform much the same function for Pilgrim that a Regent does for a Baron. She offers him advice and support in his endeavors. This is an intriguing role for one of the few Black women in the show.  (I hope to see the Abbess from last season, played by Chipo Chung.)

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As for Sunny, all of his concentration is on Henry. He has gone into hiding to raise his son, and there’s a very Lone Wolf and Cub vibe\ there There are still people looking for Sunny, and he finds that it will be impossible for him to stop killing, because now he has to protect Henry from harm. When Henry develops a fever one morning, he takes him to see a healer who discovers that the child is one of the black-eyed super powered people randomly populating the Badlands.

One of the major themes this season may be people finding out about Henry, and trying to kidnap him, along with The Widow and Baron Chau’s war. Last season we saw Sunny coming to terms with his former life as a Clipper, but as Moon told him in the second episode. there’s always going to be people who want to challenge him, and make a name for them self, by killing the most legendary Clipper in the Badlands.

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Westworld

Here’s the very funny Vulture review of this episode:

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/westworld-season-2-premiere-questions.html

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We pick up the show two weeks after Ford’s murder by Dolores, and  the massacre of the Delos Board in the park. We get introduced to new people, re-introduced to all the major characters again, and we get to see what they’ve been doing since the event. Apparently Ashley Stubbs was not killed by the Natives, which is what we all thought happened, although frankly I would not be shocked to discover that Ford took Ashley’s competence into account, and had him duplicated as a Host. What better person to have in charge of security than someone you can totally control, just like Bernard.

The episode moves aback and forth in time from the immediate aftermath ’til two weeks out. Two weeks later Bernard is found lying on a beach in the park by soldiers, who have been called in to investigate what happened, and subdue the Hosts. The rest of the episode is about events leading up to when Bernard was found on the beach.

Directly after the massacre Dolores and the other Hosts are hunting down any and all humans in the park and taking great satisfaction in executing them. I found myself unable to feel an ounce of sympathy for the humans they shot and in some cases lynched. Dolores wants revenge for all the atrocities committed against the Hosts by the Guests, and the slave/revenge allegory is made explicitly clear, when she references human slavery. It is an all out war between the humans and the Hosts.

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I can’t help but feel some type of way considering that the Hosts were treated by human beings in the same manner that Black Americans were treated by White people for some three hundred years (and seem reluctant to give up.) Dolores words are an echo of a post I wrote, about how the first season of the show specifically references real world slavery. (For the record, the show is written by an Asian American woman, Lisa Joy, and Jonathan Nolan, the brother of Christopher Nolan. Previously, Joy worked on the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies.)

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/westworld-revisiting-the-slave-narrative/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

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When we last saw Maeve she made the decision to go back for her daughter. To that end, she teams up with Lee, the hack writer for Westworld, and he immediately tries to betray her to the security team, stalking the halls of the Delos Corporation, hunting down stray Hosts.I’m all for her killing him, and I guess the show must have some purpose for him, as he’s still around. Maeve gets reunited with Hector who forgives her for leaving him. He vows to follow her no matter where she goes. Remember Maeve’s name means “to enchant”, and she seems to have definitely had that effect on Hector.

Bernard in the aftermath of the massacre, is in the company of Charlotte Hale. He’s suffering from some type of corruption of his system programming, and is desperately trying to keep that a  secret from Charlotte. Charlotte must find the Host in which she secreted a special code last season, if she expects to be rescued from the park.

When Bernard is found on the beach, he isn’t very forthcoming about what has happened in the park. Later he and the military come across the bodies of dozens of  Hosts who have drowned in a previously unknown lake in the park. Bernard admits he may be responsible for what happened to them, and his time with Charlotte may be the key, because by the time he’s been found on the beach, Charlotte is nowhere to be found, but since the military is there to rescue what guests are left alive, we can assume her mission was successful.

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Dolores ambitions involve more than simply freeing the Hosts from one park, she intends to free all the Hosts from all the parks. To that end we may get to visit the other four parks, which consist of Samurai World, Future World, Medieval World, and possibly Roman World.

The Man in Black is in heaven as he has finally gotten exactly what he wanted from the park. he wanted the stakes to be higher, to actually have some skin in the game. he is enjoined by Robert Ford’s little boy avatar to a new mission. To try to make it to the other end of the park alive.

So not a whole lot happened beyond introducing the two major character arcs for the season: Dolores ambition to free all the Hosts, and Maeve’s search for her daughter. The two of them have not yet met, and I’m looking forward to that. I will be disappointed if they are written in a stereotypical female manner of rivals and enemies, but there is a woman helping to write these characters, and she has shown so ability to think from an inter-sectional standpoint, so I feel hopeful she may get that right.

I love stories of Westerners  in Japan, so I’m really looking forward to when Maeve gets to visit Samurai World.

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Just Geeking Out About It!

 

This is just a fun post where I can geek out about some of the shows I’ve been watching. I have been watching shows, but haven’t been posting many reviews about them, and then there are the shows I’m greatly looking forward to this month, such as, Into the Badlands, which looks awesome as always, and Westworld, which, naturally, airs the exact same night, and time ,as Badlands.

Later this week will see the airing of Orbiter 9 on Netflix, a Scifi love story of some kind, which I may or may not care for; Troy: Fall of a City, yet another retelling of the legend of Troy; the return of The Expanse, in its 3rd season (one day I’m actually going to watch this show); and the remake of Lost in Space, about which I feel some type of way, since I didn’t particularly care for the movie remake, and there’s a random, token Black woman attached to this cast, which feels kinda weird.

This week I’m also  watching  Black Lightning, The Crossing (this is new), Siren ( I have a lot of good things to say about this ),  and The Terror.

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* Introducing: Thunder
AKA Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who is also known as Black Lightning. Thunder has the ability to increase her body’s mass while preserving volume, which effectively increases her density. In this state she is near-immovable, almost completely invulnerable. A mob enforcer once suffered a compound fracture after trying to punch Thunder in the face. Notably, she can make her skin strong enough to withstand bullets. Just by stomping the ground she can create massive shockwaves. —Wikipedia
She is also the ONLY out, gay, Black, female superhero, in the entirety of the DCEU (and the MCU, too.)
 
Oldest daughter Anissa is a medical student, activist and part-time teacher at Garfield who is fed up with police brutality and corrupt gangs. She takes a hands-on approach to dangerous situations and reminds her father that little has changed despite years of Black peaceful protest. Every MLK and Fannie Lou Hamer quote from Jefferson is met with Anissa’s rebuttals about everyone being “sick and tired” of no results. She’s the quintessential older sister—a bit overbearing and fiercely protective of her younger sibling Jennifer. Their relationship can be argumentative, but there is love and respect amongst the pair. 

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*Siren

 You have to watch this show just for the novelty of seeing the only Black mermaid in existence. (More on this show later.) Siren airs on the Freeform network, on Thursdays.

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 *The new season of Into the Badlands looks tight! The creators have promised that the world is going to get a lot bigger this year. We’ll see more of the Badlands, and the areas outside the Badlands as well.
This is Pilgrim and Cressida, who have come to bring the Badlands to heel, by force, if necessary.
This is Baron Chau’s brother played by Lewis Tan.
Aramis Knight returns a M.K.
Tilda is on her won this season, having separated from her mother.
Sherman Augustus returns as Nathaniel Moon, now in the employ of The Widow.
Ella-Rae Smith is a very powerful young woman who was adopted by, and is working for Pilgrim.
 Baron Chau returns and kicks off the war in the Badlands.

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*Let’s have a Grace Jones Interlude, just because…

Here she is from the 1987 movie Vamp, where she plays the almost totally silent, Queen Katrina, whose circumstance have been reduced to working in as a stripper, in a divebar, in the red light district, of some unnamed city.

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*Troy: Fall of a City is not getting good reviews, but that may have something to do with its depiction of Zeus, Achilles, and Patroclus as Black men (something I’m here for). The show is also doing something else rather radical, by showing Achilles and Patroclus as lovers, as had been alluded to in Homer’s Iliad. So, we have a canon gay, Black, male relationship in this show.

Now that television has starting pushing for diversity in all manner of roles, we’re seeing that Samuel R. Delaney’s Quota Rule has begun to kick in.

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

As long as poc numbers remained below a certain level ,white people seem to be okay with that, and can claim there is no racism is such and such industry. But once poc start starring in unconventional roles, roles their not used to seeing us in, and/or actually being the stars of shows and movies, they’re going to start showing their whole ass. (Not half their ass.  Not a quarter of their ass. But the whole ass.)

This era of pushback is not going to be over soon. We have an entire generation of people who are only used to seeing us serve the needs of White people in the narrative, as sidekicks, main character support, and the help. They need to get used to seeing us doing other things, and being in the narrative just for ourselves,with our own stories. (Black Panther is a huge leap in that direction.)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/02/2018 - Programme Name: Troy - Fall of a City - TX: n/a - Episode: Troy - Fall of a City episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Zeus (HAKEEM KAE-KAZIM) - (C) Wild Mercury Productions - Photographer: Patrick Toselli BBC, TL

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*I love this interview with the actor who plays Zeus in this show. Unlike American actors, British actors, as a general rule, have zero fucks to give, and absolutely no patience, for foolishness and stupidity, from movie and TV show fans, and do not mince words when interacting with them and  I find that refreshing.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-10/troy-fall-of-a-citys-hakeem-kae-kazim-calls-out-deep-insecurity-of-blackwashing-critics/

 

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And on a more serious note

On TV’s return to nostalgia for shows of the 90s, only the show’s are specifically about White people. Notice that none of the dozens of shows about PoC, that were hugely popular during that time, are getting reboots.

The ‘90s were a heyday for black sitcoms, but you wouldn’t know it based on the reboots and revivals currently in development.

No one can blame A-lister Will Smith for ruling out a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion or Jaleel White for his disinterest in donning Sally Jessy Raphael frames once more in a Family Matters comeback. But why aren’t we reading about deals to bring groundbreaking, fondly remembered hits like MartinLiving SingleA Different WorldSister, Sister and countless other beloved black comedies back to the air? A few breakout stars — like Smith, Queen Latifah and Tracee Ellis Ross (whose beloved Girlfriends just missed the ‘90s cut-off date by debuting in 2000) — are keeping busy, but most cast members are not. So the time has come to ask: Is there something problematic in the industry’s embrace of Roseanne, Will & Grace and The X-Files, but not the iconic black sitcoms that also made the Clinton years an exhilarating time of experimentation and representation?

Given that TV’s nostalgia projects now number in the dozens, it’s worth asking if the trend has yielded any unintended consequences. The intended ones are evident enough. Netflix has generated staggering amounts of press — and apparently pleased many a viewer — by footing the bill for new seasons of Arrested DevelopmentGilmore Girls and Full House (now Fuller House). Twin Peaks: The Return seemingly inspired more think pieces than any other series in Showtime history. And Will & Grace and The X-Files’ attempts to retake their perches atop pop culture were met with much hoopla and huge ratings, at least for their premiere episodes.

But it’s hard not to interpret the current iteration of nostalgic programming as a backlash to TV’s increasing diversity — a throwback to the days of Friends and Frasier when people joked that “NBC” stood for “No Black Characters.” Yes, these reboots and revivals comprise only a handful of the hundreds of scripted shows on the air, but many of them tend to be TV’s highest-profile projects. The fact that, in their totality, they inadvertently re-entrench the normalcy of all-white casts while erasing women of color and queer people is notable and worrisome.

[…]

There’s no denying that spending time with old friends feels good. But it’s also important to observe how the past is being misremembered now, and why. Some ‘90s stars are collecting paychecks again, while others are not. Certain families are presented once more as “all-American,” while others are not. There are those who have the luxury of remembering the past fondly, and those who do not. Never has it been clearer that our nostalgia has consequences.

But it’s important to remember that sometimes our memories fail us, and that our ’90s friends — except for the ones on Friends — never looked as monochromatic as TV is telling us they were.

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10 Unexpected Pleasures

Sometimes I sit down to watch a movie I had absolutely no plans to watch. I wasn’t going to spend money on it in the theater. I wasn’t going to watch it on cable. Yet there I am, looking at a movie I hadn’t planned on looking at. Sometimes I’m mad at the movie because the trailer was bad,  or the discourse surrounding the movie pissed me off, or the movie just doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but apparently, none of those reasons  has ever stopped my nosy-ass from watching some stuff. 

Curiosity is my middle name, I guess.

So here it is. The top ten movies I was surprised I liked.

Fantastic Beasts (& Where to Find Them) (2016)

Okay, this one was just me straight asking, “Oh hey, what’s this movie about?” It turned out to be an unexpected pleasure.

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I’d heard a lot of not so good things about this movie, and there are some things that are just irksome, and make me not want to watch something. One of the biggest turnoffs for me was the lack of PoC in turn of the century, Harlem Renaissance, New York. New York, like London, has always been very cosmopolitan and full of many different types of people, and it was kinda disheartening to see that the creators of this movie hadn’t even considered PoC,  as part of the fabric of this city.

In fact, one of the biggest drawbacks to my watching the movie, was I didn’t get any sense of New York as a hodgepodge of cultures. Everyone in the movie seemed like your standard, White, English speaking, suburbanite, instead of the Italians, Irish,  and various ethnicities  that were actually there. In the movie, the city feels curiously clean, and antiseptic.

Nevertheless, despite the absence of PoC, (and grittiness), it did have adequate representation of the kinds of women  who actually affect the plot. I liked most of the female characters, and thought they were intriguing, but I was also inspired to watch it because of a review I read on Stitch’s Media Mix, that talked about the treatment of Creedence, one of the primary characters.

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I fell in love with the two male lead characters, though. These two men, Newt Scamander ,and Jacob Kowalski, are written so differently than the way most men are written in action/fantasy films, that’ it’s a really pleasurable experience to watch them, something you don’t realize until after the film is over. The two of them are just sweet and likable characters. Even Creedence is less a villain than a victim.

Don’t get me wrong, the Fantastic Beasts of the title are, by turns, cute, terrifying, and deeply funny (and I now want a tiny, sassy, Mr. Picket for my own). But the real draw for me was the relationships between the characters, and Newt. I’m not a huge Eddie Redmayne fan, but he’s great as Newt, as he’s unlike your typical movie hero being, because he’s gentle, fearless, compassionate, slightly snarky, emotionally vulnerable, and unimposing. Redmayne also turns out to have great  comedic timing, as one of my favorite scenes was the mating dance of the Erumpant.

Raising Arizona (1987)

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

My best friend in college was the person who talked me into watching this film. Well, not talked, exactly. She mentioned it to me a couple of times, while I scoffed at her, (You don’t know me!), but eventually, she had enough of my  disrespect, and  forcefully pushed me into a chair to make me watch it. I wasn’t a Coen brothers fan back then. I didn’t know anything about them, but she insisted that this was a type of movie I would enjoy. I was very resistant to watching this, because she was so insistent and, like most housecats, I enjoy being contrary, just for the sake of it.

One Saturday, she physically pushed my ass down in front of her little 20 inch TV, and said, “Sit down! You’re gonna watch this movie!” I was a little huffy about this, and said so, but really, she knew I wasn’t doing anything important that day, because I was hanging out at her place, so she knew I had no excuses.

Lemme tell you, those were two of the funniest, most memorable, hours I’d ever had in her presence. Raising Arizona will probably always be the funniest Coen Bros. movie, ever. What captured me  was the music, and the language. The incongruity of Hi’s low class actions, along with his lordly manner of speaking, thoroughly tickled me, and the yodeling soundtrack was totally ridiculous.

She and I didn’t remain friends, but whatever her faults, bad taste in movies wasn’t one of them, because she also introduced me to:

Seven Samurai (1954)

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The same roommate, referenced above, was also the person who introduced me to this movie.  I watched this at her parents house, at their insistence. Until this movie, I’d only ever watched Chinese Action movies. The closest I ever got to watching something like this was The Streetfighter with Sonny Chiba, which is a much, much, shorter film. I hadn’t paid any actual attention to the samurai genre. Didn’t even know it was a thing, although I had watched those gawdawful ninja movies Hollywood kept pumping out during the eighties, that had nan’ Japanese person in them.

I fell asleep towards the end of the movie, but not because the movie was bad, or  boring. I was engaged right up until I could no longer resist the room’s temperature. Cold rooms make me sleepy, no matter what I’m doing. Add in  a crackling fireplace, and a comfy chair however…and sleep is guaranteed to occur. (Later that week, I watched it again, in the daytime, without the fireplace.)

Do you have any idea how many movies this influenced the making of over the years? Everything from Magnificent Seven, to A Bug’s Life, to the Three Amigos was a riff on this movie. If you loved any of the films that it influenced, then you have to see the original .

https://filmschoolrejects.com/legacy-seven-samurai/

Not only did I develop an appreciation of Samurai movies, I developed a love for the movies of Akira Kurosawa, (Drunken Angel, and Dreams are two of my favorites) and through him, a number of other  notable Japanese directors.

Cabin in the Woods (2011)

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My first instinct was to turn up my nose at this movie, thinking it was going to be your typical Agatha Christie type,  “ten little Indians” in the woods plot, where pretty, young people, who had planned on having Teh Sex, would be brutally killed by something, or someone. And yeah, there is an element of that in the movie, but it turned out to be so much more, I was kinda kicking myself for having passed it up for so long.

I gave a review of this here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/tag/cabin-in-the-woods/

Mystery Men (1999)

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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch this. I knew I liked Ben Stiller, that the characters were meant to have superpowers,  that they  didn’t actually have superpowers, except when they actually do have them, which was a whole lot funnier to me, than if the writers had simply been upfront about their powers. I do remember the trailers for this movie which emphasized Paul Reubens and Janeane Garofolo.

Supposedly this movie is based on some type of indie comic from the 80s, which I had never heard of, called Flaming Carrot, which features an image of a man with a giant carrot for a head, that is, naturally, on fire.

This movie turned out to be exceptionally funny, and I really liked all the characters, including The Invisible Boy, played by Kel Mitchell from the Nickelodeon show, Keenan and Kel, who can only turn invisible when no one is watching,  Mr. Furious played by Ben Stiller, whose only superpower is the ability to become really, really angry, and my favorite, The Bowler, or rather his daughter, played by Janeane Garofalo, who keeps her father’s skull encased in a clear plastic bowling ball.

We watch them become a team and defeat the villain, saving Champion City from Casanova Frankenstein as played by Geoffrey Rush, and his ridiculous henchpeople, The Disco Boys, lead by Eddie Izzard, who are conquering the world through the power of …well, Disco, I guess. They are aided in their quest for superhero stardom by Wes Studi, who is as baffling as his name states, (The Sphinx), and this movie’s version of James Bond’s Q, played by Tom Waits.

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It also stars Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing, a smug Superman/Batman parody, William H. Macy as The Shoveler, who gets one of the best speeches in the entire movie, Hank Azaria, as the Blue Raja, Master of Silverware, and in one of his many quiet, comeback roles, Paul Reubens (PeeWee Herman) as The Spleen, Master of Flatulence. (I hope to one day grow up to be as cool as The Bowler,  although, according to my friends and family, I have already mastered The Shovel.)

With such a great cast, this movie really doesn’t get enough love. I chalk it up to timing, Had this been released five years earlier, or five years later, it would’ve been a real hit. People should recognize this movie more, especially since the whole superhero thing has taken off.

Paddington (2014)

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I had absolutely no plans to watch this movie, but it was on TV one night, and I didn’t change the channel fast enough, and just sat through it. I do have to admit to some mild curiosity beforehand, but not enough to make an effort to see it. I do remember watching the trailers, and thinking to myself that the little talking bear was kinda creepy, and who would watch something like that. Apparently, I will.

It turned out to be a perfectly sweet and lovely film, and now Paddington is one of my favorite bears, right up there with Pooh, and those  baby pandas on YouTube, that like to terrorize  their Chinese handlers. If you liked the movie Babe (a 1995 movie about the little pig that could herd sheep) than you’ll like this movie. (And now I want a meetup between Babe and Paddington.)

Dr. Strange (2017)

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I know I wasn’t supposed to like this movie, especially considering how much shit I talked about it, but it actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable, and not at all the grease fire I thought it was going to be, because of the whitewashing of The Ancient One, and the presence of Benedictine Cucumberpatch. (To be absolutely fair, I’m still not a Cumberbatch fan.) The man is a lofty twat, but then, so is Doctor Strange himself. I’m still not happy about the whitewashing either, because Lucy Liu (Or Michelle Yeoh)  should have been in this movie, and I’m still mad about the movie we could have had, with a Hispanic Dr. Strange, and an Ancient One of some type of ethnicity, other than pasty.

But this movie wasn’t bad. It was actually kind of fun. I mostly enjoyed the special effects, (I liked all the pretty colors), which were excellent, and the plot was not objectionable. My favorite character turned out to be Wong, played by, appropriately enough, Benedict Wong, who I’m excited to see has  been getting more roles in popular films. I just saw him last in the movie Annihilation, and he needs bigger roles, and should do more comedy. (I was glad to catch a glimpse of him in the Infinity War trailer.)

In my defense, I didn’t spend any money on this movie, beyond what I spent on Netflix.

(Seriously though, Wong, Peter Parker, The Falcon, Drax the Destroyer, and Shuri need to meet. I guarantee you, that would be one of the funniest discussions ever had by any five people on, or off, Earth.)

The Accountant (2016)

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Lets make this clear – I am not a Ben Affleck fan. I’ve disliked him since he messed up Daredevil, and I refused to forgive him enough to watch any of his movies, until I saw this movie, and decided maybe I can try to forget about Daredevil. (I’m still not gonna forgive him for it though.)

I had heard about this film but I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I saw the trailer on HBO, which was a little different from the mainstream trailer. Then I read about it in some magazine, and my curiosity got the better of me this time, (although occasionally, I do manage to wrestle it it into submission), and I was in. Also, it came on HBO, one idle Saturday, and I was too lazy to look for something else to watch.

This turned out to be a surprisingly good, and emotionally touching film though, about an assassin who is autistic, who comes to the aid of a young woman being set up to take the fall for a corrupt company CEO, because she knows too much about what happened. After he protects her, the company  hires an assassin to kill him (not knowing that is his actual career), and his brother, played by Jon Bernthal, is the one who takes the job. (His brother didn’t know this was his target.)

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There’s also a subplot with  J.K.Simmons, as a detective who has been on Affleck’s trail for years, and tells the story, in flashback, to his protege. This is interspersed with flashbacks of Affleck’s character as a child, being raised by his brother and father, while being taught the various military skills his father insisted the two of them learn. This is also connected to a special home, for children with autism, that the accountant secretly funds through his illegal activities.

I didn’t find the subplot to be especially interesting beyond Simmons acting,  but Affleck was very good in this film, and Jon Bernthal was pretty good too, and I wasn’t expecting the film to be quite as emotional as it was. One of my favorite scenes is when the woman he’s protecting tries to establish a romantic connection by kissing him, but that scene doesn’t play out in any typical way, which I found refreshing.

I can see why most people ignored it, or never heard of it. They probably would’ve just been confused by it, because the movie wants to be a drama, but has too much action to be thought of as such. Its not a thriller, either because there’s too much drama, and its kinda melancholy. This is not a loud, action-y type of movie, although there are some good hand to hand fight scenes, and some shooting, of course. Its more like a Jason Bourne type  drama, and the ending is especially low key, and I thought it was  really beautiful, as it involves a painting by Jackson Pollock.

Troll Hunter (2010)

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I was just being nosy again, when I watched this. It came up as a recommendation for me on Netflix, and it kept coming up, no matter how much I tried to ignore it. I’ve been fascinated by trolls since I was a little girl, reading about them in the school library. This was the very first book I ever read about trolls:

D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls (New York Review Children’s

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So, despite my background in Troll-Lore, I refused to take the bait and watch the movie. I gave in late one night, as these things always seem to happen late one night. (I should really stop doing that, and take my ass to bed, like regular people, but then I wouldn’t be able to bring you guys this kind of quality entertainment.)

I thought it was going to be a comedy, because all of  the reviews I’ve read say it’s a comedy, it has  comedians in it, and its called a mockumentary, like the movie What We Do In The Shadows, but I didn’t find it especially funny. In fact, it was occasionally terrifying, but I liked it just fine, even though I didn’t laugh once.

This is not the animated cartoon of the same name. This is a Norwegian movie that was released in 2010.

The title is pretty much what its about. It’s set someplace cold, (there’s a lot of snow, which is always attractive to me), and its about an “intrepid group” of crew-members who have taken it upon themselves to not just prove the existence of trolls, but capture them on film, in their natural habitats. Its one of those live action camera type things, so if you hate those types of movies, watch it anyway, because even though it sounds typical, it moves in unexpected directions. I suspect it does so because its not an American made film.

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It consists of a series of interviews, and raw footage, of a man who hunts trolls, and thinks they’re a secret from the government, but the government knows all about them, and employs other people to keep the trolls a secret. I have to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to all that stuff. I mostly wanted to see the trolls, and I think Norwegian humor just  escapes me or something. Okay, I  did find the idea funny, that trolls like to kill Christians, so the group hires a Muslim woman, and aren’t sure how the trolls will react to her.

The trolls are genuinely scary, and I can’t imagine living in an environment in which such creatures happened to be real,  lurking around bridges and overpasses, or just wandering around in the woods. At one point there’s a mega-troll, that’s several stories tall, that gets blown up by a UV rocket of some kind, because remember, sunlight turns trolls to stone.

I thought this movie was a lot of fun, even though there was Norwegian humor in it.

Bring It On (2000)

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I only watched  this movie because one of my little sisters insisted that she wanted to see this. I held no hopes at all that it would be a good film, or even mildly interesting , although I liked both Eliza Dushku, and Kirsten Dunst. I wasn’t entirely aware that it was a comedy, either. I’d paid only peripheral attention to the trailers, although looking back on the trailers now, I don’t see how I could have missed that it was a straight up comedy, rather than the teen soap opera I expected.

It turned out to be a fairly pleasant experience and I can now count Bring It On as the only cheer-leading movie in my comedy lineup. I wasn’t expecting the performances to be so good, I wasn’t expecting any Black people of substance to be in it, like Gabrielle Union. I wasn’t expecting any of these very young actors to be especially funny, but there you go. I was expecting to fall asleep while my sister watched the movie. But I was actually engaged, and it was definitely the performances.

But then they had to throw some icing on top, and that was the theme of cultural appropriation. You have an all white middle class suburban cheerleading squad, called the Toros, competing to go to some national competition. When it turns out that all of their successful cheers were stolen from a Black cheerleading team in Compton, called the Clovers, the Toros have a decision to make. That decision is made a lot easier, when the Clovers show up at one of their home games, and embarrasses them by performing their entire routine in front of the school, after which the Toros fully understand they need to come up with a routine of their own. They figure the best way to make amends for what they’ve done is to help the Toros make it to the competition, but Isis, the team leader of the Clovers rejects their help, and she appeals to a television talkshow host, who grew up in Compton, to help finance their trip to the Nationals, where they win first place.

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The plot is just enough  to keep a person engaged, and the romantic subplot between Dunst’s character, the brother of the newest cheerleader, and one of the male cheerleaders on her team, is interesting for people who like romance. I  generally have no patience for romantic subplots (except when I feel like having some patience) and I was able to tolerate it, in this movie, solely on the basis of the actor’s performances.

It was also interesting to watch the cheer-leading parts of the show. I had never harbored the belief that cheer-leading was easy. Like most little girls, I was fascinated by it, and I had pom poms as toys, and learned how to twirl a baton, too, but I didn’t expect the choreography to be so good, and the music was fun.

This was not a deep movie, and it was a kinda silly, but still a lot of fun. The performances were good, and my little sisters both loved it, and all the women in the family have  watched it multiple times.

Yep! Even Mom.

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