In Defense of The Village

 

 

For the me, there’s more than a movie just being good or bad, whatever that means, because,  as a Black woman, I am not the audience for a lot of movies that get made, so I have to find different ways of connecting to a movie. In doing so, I  sometimes  find gems where others don’t, or end up liking  movies others are set on hating (and yeah, sometimes a movie just stinks.) On this blog, I’m not necessarily here to tell you what to like. That’s a reviewers job, and I’m not actually a reviewer, although I do reviews. I consider my job to provide a fresh perspective on a movie, a way you may not have thought of before, so that the next time you come across it on TV or Netflix, you’ll remember ,and give the movie a try, maybe see it with fresh eyes.

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I’m going to talk about two films that were hated by its critics, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and (in the next post) Shyamalan’s After Earth. I see value in these films that other critics don’t because they are not looking at these films through the same lens that I’m using. (Caveat: Some of them don’t have the luxury. They are film reviewers and must go see movies I can happily reject. I can pick what I want to see, so I can remain positive about a lot of movies, in a way they may not be able to.

These movies resonated with me on an emotional level, and because of that, I am reluctant to say that they are “objectively” bad or good, which is a favorite word for armchair movie reviewers on Youtube. I’m not saying movies can’t be considered bad or good, but often that those words are sometimes wrongly used to describe movies that just did or didn’t emotionally resonate with the viewer, or did or didn’t do whatever the viewer wanted the movies to do. This doesn’t always mean the movie was bad. Sometimes it just means the viewer wasn’t the audience for that movie, or just didn’t get what they wanted out of it because of the critical lens through which they watched it. I have sometimes found that a movie isn’t actually  bad, but that the reviewer had very different criteria for liking it, or viewed it through a very different lens than I did.

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For that reason, I generally avoid hate- watching movies and shows. I want to like what I see, and if I dislike something, I try to have a concrete reason behind why I didn’t. But sometimes I don’t have a reason. Sometimes, I simply wasn’t in the mood to watch it at that time, and when I come back wearing a different emotional, or critical lenses, I may enjoy it, as was the case with  the movies Ravenous,  The Descent, and My Cousin Vinny.

Sometimes, I will develop an undying hatred of a movie, such that no amount of lens polishing will allow me to enjoy it, like the movie Prometheus. This doesn’t mean that Prometheus was a bad film. It just means it was exasperating for me to watch it, and someone else might get enjoyment out of it. If you like it that’s great. If you can clearly explain to me why you do, I’ll watch it again, with your lenses on, and try to see what you saw in it. On the other hand, and as I’ve said before, just because critics hate something doesn’t mean I’m not going to like it, such was the case with Suicide Squad, and just about any movie by Zack Snyder.

I have also seen  situations where public opinion on a movie changes over a length of time. Movies that were panned when released were, in time, lauded as being the best whatever of their genre, and I have found that I’m usually correct in having loved the film at that time. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty confident about my taste in movies, (and dismissive of critics ideas about movies I happened to enjoy), because I usually get proven right, at some later date. This happened with a number of eighties films, (The Thing, and  Bladerunner, for example), that were disliked at the time, only to be considered Classics of the genre, twenty and thirty years later. (No, I didn’t hate E. T. I was indifferent to it, at the time, and still mostly am.)

 

The Village

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I love stories and characters, and movies are just another way to tell stories. I  get into a movie through its characters. I have to like them. I’m also attracted to certain types of stories, but it’s not the minutiae of the story, like pacing and technical aspects, so much as what type of story, and if it’s an appealing story to me. I tend to love GRAND ROMANTIC stories. Not stories with romance in them , but stories with huge, grand, idealized philosophies, and if I see that in the story, chances are I will probably love the movie.

And this was the case with The Village. Yes, it does have a romance in it, but it also contained wider, broader themes about the human condition, that just appealed to me personally, (because ultimately, any movie experience is deeply personal). When this movie was released, it was panned by everyone, with some people jumping on that bandwagon because they hated the director, who started his career as a media darling, but public opinion  turned on him, after a series of failed films.

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When I’m watching a movie, I’m mostly concentrating on how the movie made me FEEL. When I’m reviewing a movie, I ask myself different questions that help me evaluate what the movie means to me, what did I like in the movie, what was it about the movie that resonated with me, and why did I feel that way. From the micro, to the macro.

What is the point of the story? What is the theme of the movie?

Things can get complicated, just at this one point. According to the trailers for The Village, most of the people walking into the film expected it to be a horror movie, and they focused on the idea of monsters because that’s what the trailer told them to focus on. But the movie was not about scary monsters, and a lot of the audience walked away disappointed. Rather than accepting what was given to them, they focused on what they were not given: monsters. I wanted monsters too, because that’s what I was told would be in the movie, but finding out there was no monster was a pleasant surprise for me.

The Village is not a horror movie, in the strictest sense of the word, and apparently,  I was one of the few people who were okay with that at the time. I didn’t leave the theater upset because  I didn’t get to see monsters. Would I have liked the monsters in the movie to be real? Sure. But The Village turned out to be deeper than I expected. It had a grand, overarching, theme that resonated with me. It’s a meditation on unrequited love, grief, and loss, and I was pleased that I got that instead. If one disregards the trailer, than the movie accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish.

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I  try to walk into a movie viewing experience with only loose expectations, like, “What type of story is it?” and “Will this be entertaining?” Based on what I think the movie may be about, I try to go in open to anything that may happen in it, without trying to place my agenda (what I want the story to do for me) onto the movie. But I do want to feel something, while I try to keep in the forefront of my mind, what is the creator trying to tell me, what do they want me to know, and what purpose might that serve.

What I  expect, on the most basic level, is to be emotionally moved by the characters, and entertained by the plot. I’m going to go wherever the movie wants to take me, and accept whatever scenery I’m given. I don’t worry about plot holes, or pacing, or musical cues, and stuff, (although, if I notice them and like them, that’s a huge plus, like with the movie Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse). Was the movie entertaining? Did I stay engaged the entire time? Was there a point to the story? Later, I can ask myself deeper questions like why was it entertaining for me, or what was it about the movie that made it fun for me, or scary, or funny.

What you should always ask yourself is: What did the story do for you?

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The story in a movie is like being on a driving tour. That tour has a theme,  sometimes several. The driver is the storyteller, and he/she directs the action, decides where we’re going to go, and what we’ll be seeing on the tour. The characters onscreen are the other passengers on the tour, or just some people on the scene.  I like the other passengers, and  I enjoy watching them do things I didn’t expect, and see things I wouldn’t have found on my own. Sometimes the other passengers are terrifying, but it’s okay because they can’t actually hurt me.

If I think it’s a Horror movie, (if the driver has told me I’m going to be scared on my trip), I expect the journey to scare me. If I wasn’t scared, then the driver lied to me, but if I was given more than  just a scare, I consider that a bonus. That was the case with The Village. I was told (although I was not told that by M. Night Shyamalan/The Driver, himself, but a third uninvolved party, the people who made the trailer and marketed the movie), that I would be scared, and I was a little bit, but at the same time, the journey was worthwhile because of the movie’s other elements. I got something deeper, and much more unexpected, than just a scare. As I said before, I like Horror movies to have something extra, whether its romance, or comedy, or intellectual depth.

If I have been lead to believe it’s an Action movie, then I expect to see thrills, and spills. If a movie delivers on its basic foundation, but adds something extra, I can and will overlook all manner of faults, like plot points, pacing,  bad characters,  timing, or even whether or not it delivered on what I expected.This was the case with Suicide Squad, a movie critics absolutely hated, but I (and a bunch of other people) really enjoyed. Why? Because I genuinely liked the characters, who did exciting and interesting things on screen. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and I liked a lot of the action scenes, which were just plain fun. There are a lot of perfectly legitimate criticisms of this movie, but the reason I love it is because it was a really fun trip, and other people’s problems with the movie were not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

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What is the theme of the film? What is its message?

Understanding the message of a film often requires multiple viewings. There’s the initial impression, and based on whether or not I liked my initial impression, there will be multiple viewings, which will allow for greater insight. My mind is just really, really, good at recognizing patterns. That’s all it is, and anybody can develop that skill. I do it through lots of repetition.You cannot gain greater insight into a movie with only one viewing, because the insights  are often in the details you didn’t notice that first time. If there is something  I didn’t care for in my initial impression (like all the characters being unlikable), there are unlikely to be repeat viewings.

This also ties into how my mind works as a visual artist/illustrator.  When I first watch a movie, its from a kind of  overhead viewpoint. I get into the emotions of the movie, the characters, and the overall plot. Subsequent viewings allow me to focus on the finer details. Later, I will fit those tiny details into larger and larger patterns. It’s really like putting together a puzzle. You see the finished picture on the box,  and you like it. You sort the pieces and then  put them together to create that final picture, (sometimes that final picture may be part of an even larger picture, as well.)

The messages I got from The Village were about love, sacrifice, and grief. It’s  a story about LOVE, with parallel tracks chronicling different types of love, such as romantic,unrequited, sacrificial, and possessive.. There’s the romantic type of love between Lucius and Ivy, the tragic love between their parents, Walker and Alice, and the possessive love that Noah feels for Ivy.  Ivy and Walker are examples of sacrificial love, as they are both willing to sacrifice their peace to save Lucius’ life. Ivy endangers her life for Lucius, and Walker is willing to allow Ivy to leave (and possibly lose her) because he loves Alice, Lucius’ mother.

At the beginning of the movie, Ivy’s sister declares her love for Lucius, but is rebuffed because Lucius prefers Ivy. There is a contrast in how Ivy’s sister reacts to unrequited love, which is sacrifice and moving on vs. Noah’s reaction, which is possessive violence. And then there is the unspoken love between Ivy’s father, and Alice. This is unrealized love. The two are in love, and according to the rules of the society they created, can never  be together.

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There is familial love between Ivy and Walker, and  Lucius and Alice. This type of love is emphasized through the character’s reactions to loss and grief. There are also  all the missing family members that the other characters mention, the loss of family that spurred them to run away from the world, to form a “utopian” society where they believed grief could not touch them. The movie opens with a funeral, and the death of a child. Grief can still access their lives. The pain is still going to happen, for example, witness how many times we see  shots of empty chairs throughout the movie.

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An empty chair in a movie scene is often meant to represent a space where someone should be. In this movie, the empty chairs, usually situated on porches, (or at dinner tables), which are, traditionally the site of familial gatherings, are meant to represent  the absence of loved ones. The entire movie carries a mood of unspoken grief and melancholy, which is only alleviated by its hopeful ending. The Elders of the community fled to The Village because each one of them has experienced the tragic loss of a family member, and  the point of the movie is that they cannot run away from loss or pain. The scattered, empty chairs are a constant reminder of their loss.

Critics and audiences completely turned against Shyamalan and started denigrating all of his films for not being as good as his first film, The Sixth Sense. They went into his next movies expecting all of them to have  surprise twists, and they do have surprise twists, just not the kinds of twists that were expected. (To be absolutely fair, Shyamalan definitely made some questionable film choices, though.) In the case of The Village, audiences were expecting a Horror movie, but since the monsters turned out to be false, some people decided that the movie was no good, because the trailer fooled them into thinking the monsters should’ve been real.

Many of these people failed to realize that the surface levels of Shyamalan’s movies are often not the point of the film, anyway. What appears to be the primary plot is often simply a backdrop for the telling of a different story altogether. The point of this movie isn’t the monsters. The  basic plot is just a backdrop for the examination of love and grief, just as the point of the movie Signs, isn’t the alien invasion. The alien invasion is simply a backdrop against which is being told the story of Reverend Graham regaining his faith in God. The story of Unbreakable isn’t about superheroes, but  about the disbelief in the modern mythology of superheroes, and one man overcoming that disbelief to take a leap of faith, and believe in himself.

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Now, I also must discuss here, the disturbing racial angle of some people’s criticism. Shyamalan is one of the few men of color directing big budget Hollywood movies. True, they are not always successful movies,  but audiences and critics did not seem willing to give his movies any chances after The Sixth Sense. They kept wanting him to repeat that first film, and some of them seemed to look no deeper into the motivations behind his stories beyond “the twist”. The Twist seemed to be all they wanted from him, and when he stepped away from that, to make other types of films, they vilified him for it.

I bring this up because I see the same thing happening in real time to Jordan Peele, especially after his comments in which he voiced the idea, that being a filmmaker gave him a platform, by which he could showcase actors of color, as leads. Its as if having been successful twice, there are people waiting in the wings for him to make a mistake, any mistake, which they can use to vilify his character, and bring him down. When men and women of color are highly successful, there is a contingent of White people who wait for them to make even the most minor of miscues, so that they can attempt to humble them. I witnessed this with Barack Obama, Beyonce, and I’m seeing it now with Ocasio – Cortez, and Jordan Peele. And I believe this is what happened with Shyamalan.

White film directors are given numerous opportunities to make bad films, some of them, have entire careers that consist of little more than mediocre flops, and yet the filmmakers have never received the sheer levels of vitriol that was leveled at Shyamalan by film critics. Some of them still manage to have great careers, or be considered critical darlings. Yes, he still manages to have a career, (so somebody is going to see Shyamalan’s movies), but critics insist on tearing apart all of his films, on the most minor details, no matter their quality, while sometimes excusing  just as shoddy work from some White filmmakers. And as I said before, some people use the failures and mistakes of PoC as an excuse to openly express the racism they’ve been taught not to express against an entire group of people.

 

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‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting In The Twilight Zone

 

Sadly, this is the final season for Into the Badlands. It was not renewed for a fourth season on AMC, and surprisingly, I’m okay with that. Into the Badlands was groundbreaking in so many different ways, and I really did love the show, despite how it treated its one Black female character in season two, (and I explained in a previous post why that didn’t stop me from watching the show), but most especially in its representation. It had an Asian male lead, adequate representation of women and Black people, in an alternate future timeline, and the show has the distinction of having the only Black/Chinese- American woman, Chipo Chung,  kicking ass on this show.

I’m okay/ not okay with the cancellation, because it will be followed by a first class runner up: Warrior, which is airing on Cinemax. I gotta get my Martial Arts fix! Warrior is an homage to Bruce Lee, featuring a concept he came up with early in his career (and eventually became the show Kung Fu),  but was not allowed to implement, because Hollywood had no fucking idea what to do with Asian men back then, except mock them or erase them.  I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I’m here for it. The representation is beautiful and accurate for the time period, and its just nice to see more Asian people in TV shows, (although now we probably need to see fewer of them doing something besides Martial Arts and Comedies. Hi, Sandra!)

Warrior

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Warrior is a complicated show, with a lot of depth and detail. Its based on an early idea Bruce Lee had for a story about a man from China, wandering  the  American old West. This was basically the premise of the show Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine, about a Shaolin Monk named Caine. Actually that idea was stolen from Lee,  it generally lacked Asians, and when they were present, it was only in supporting roles, in a show that was supposedly about Chinese immigrants. David Carradine is not Asian, btw.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)

This show is produced and directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious and Star Trek fame, so I expect the most out of this, since I like Lin, and think he’s a good director, and he mostly does not disappoint, The show is very dense with meaning and action scenes. You don’t need to know anything about the history of San Francisco, Chinatown, or what was going on in China, to watch the show, but it helps if you have a little bit of grounding, and pay close attention to what the people say on the show, because they talk about things, even though all the ass kicking is distracting. It also helps if you’ve religiously watched any of Bruce Lee’s movies, because there are  more than a few very nice Easter Eggs. That outfit, for example, that Ah Sahm wears below is a callback to the outfit Lee wore in The Big Boss, (although in all his movies, Lee’s shirt gets artfully torn off. Later, Ah Sahm’s shirt gets artfully torn off, too.) I don’t know if that actor is deliberately channeling Lee’s  acting/ fighting stances, but he looks great doing it, and it made me smile.

 

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Check the stance!

The series is based on the real life events of the late 1880s, in Chinatown, when there were a series of Tong wars, mostly over the Opium Trade. At the time, in China there was the aftermath of the Opium Wars, and the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion (against the Qin dynasty). Into this stew of rivalries, steps Ah Sahm, a Martial Arts champion of some kind, who is in America looking for his sister. He finds her in the first episode, so that mystery is out of the way, but she wants nothing to do with him. She has a traumatic past,  and current secrets, like being married to the leader of a rival Tong than Ah Sahm works for, secretly working behind her husband’s back with an American, who wants to keep Chinatown destabilized, and going out at night as a vigilante to kill White men who harm Chinatown citizens. (At least I think this is her, or perhaps a character we haven’t met yet.) Her dance card is pretty full, and the last thing she needs is an appearance from her wayward brother, trying to save her. Plus, she hates him.

In fact, a lot of the women in this show live in complicated circumstances. The pretty blond wife of the town Mayor, (I think her name is Buckley), hates her husband, has compassion for the Chinese,  and is having a very open relationship with his secretary, or brother, or somebody , who lives in their house with them. It is unclear if he approves of their relationship, although he most certainly knows about it. Oh yeah, there are a lot of bare  titties in this show, so be aware of that, if you’re letting your kids watch this, although I suppose if you’re letting them watch all the hyper-violence and cussing, you should not have a problem with female presenting nipples. (There’s equity, too, as plenty of male presenting nipples are also on display. Okay, it’s mostly Ah Sahm.)

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The show starts off with everyone speaking Cantonese, and gradually, during one long take, they start speaking English. That was done so smoothly, that I  missed it the first time. The residents of Chinatown have their own English language terms, their own slang, and it can be hard to know what some things mean. You pretty much get thrown into the deep end on this show, and if you’re not of Chinese descent, it can be a little overwhelming. Even though I know a little  something something about Chinese history, I was still having trouble keeping up, having to watch the  episode multiple times.

https://www.geek.com/television/the-story-of-warrior-bruce-lees-long-delayed-tv-series-1781391/

The title of the epis. is called The Itchy Onion, and I’m not sure what Onion means, except it’s a slur that some Chinese people were calling one another in the show. I know a slur when I hear one, and that’s exactly what it is. An “itchy” one is the equivalent of the Black people version of the word “froggy”.  As in , “Do you feel froggy? Then you just jump!”. Its a call out to a fight. And conveniently, Ah Sahm kept getting called out by everyone he meets. Some challenges he backed down from, but others he just jumped right in with gusto. Most especially, the first fight of the show, when he first gets off the boat, as he totally thrashes a trio of bullying White bigots. I stood and I applauded, because that is such a Bruce Lee thing to do, he could have written that scene himself. If you’ve watched any of his movies, then you know he hated bullies, and always stood up for the underdog.

And what glorious fight scenes we get! I’m telling you, I was tired after watching this show. Ah Sahm has several fights, all of them well done, and very cinematic, rivaling any scene in Into the Badlands. He also kinda has a big mouth and is well aware of his skills.

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Where the show falls flat is in the depiction of its female characters ,and some of the White characters are less than compelling. One of the most interesting of that group is a White police officer, who emigrated from Georgia after the Civil War, named Richard Lee, and played with a very  genuine sounding Georgian accent, by the very British Tom Weston-Jones. What is is with English men and Southern American accents? Anyway, he volunteers to be amember of a Chinatown Detective Squad after several of the residents are murdered by angry Irishmen, who are concerned about losing their jobs to foreigners. He is the only cop on the force with integrity apparently, and he does have some ass kicking skills himself. I’m looking forward to watching him team up with or face off against Ah Sahm, cuz you know it’s coming. They will probably team up though, because while Bruce was angry about a lot of things people did, he also believed that cooperation and unity between the races was a good thing, and he championed that in several of his movies, (most notably, Enter the Dragon.)

There’s a wealth of information out there about Bruce Lee, and an 8 part video series about the making of  the show. Each video is only about five to ten minutes long, but if you want to know more about Bruce Lee’s ideas about life and the show, there are several documentaries floating about Youtube, so check those out:

 

Further Reading:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living (Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon: An Anthology of Bruce Lee's Correspondence with Family, Friends, and Fans 1958-1973 (The Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

The Twilight Zone

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I mostly skipped the first episode of this season, which seemed to have a The Shining vibe to it, as a man, Kumail Nanjiani, sells his soul and life in a comedy club. Its creepy and haunting, but didn’t really hit me much, even though Tracy Morgan gives a great performance, 0009199119299

and I’m not particularly interested in shows about comedians. I did watch the second episode, and I really enjoyed it, although I think it went on a wee  bit longer than it needed to.

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/04/with-the-comedian-the-twilight-zone-addresses-some.html

The second episode of the Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, is an homage to one of the every first episodes of the original series, and Jordan manages to pull this off very well, without me being able to predict what’s going to actually happen until a few minutes from the end, even though you’re told what’s going to happen at the end. The original story,  Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet was written by Richard Matheson and starred William Shatner, and I thought this episode would be a retread of that story. In the original story, one of the passengers sees a gremlin tearing apart the wing of the plane. He  has a panic attack, while trying to convince everyone on board that there is a monster on the  wing. This episode also managed to make its way into the Twilight Zone (one of my favorite) movie and starred John Lithgow.

In this remake, they change the story up a bit. Just as in the original, you  sort of travel around the cabin meeting various odd characters, as the lead character slowly loses his shit,  as he becomes aware that something is wrong with the plane.

Justin Sanderson tries to avoid Fate when he finds a listening device on the plane that is cued up to a podcast that discusses the loss/crash of the flight. He spends the rest of the episode trying to convince people that the flight is doomed, or trying to stop it, which, when you think about it, isn’t really his responsibility. This was more than a little frustrating to me, because I know the rules. In trying his best to stop it, he ends up causing the problem, and I could have told him that’s how Fate works.

Before this,  we get treated to some nice foreshadowing on the number 015, and he argues with his wife about the PTSD he’s been experiencing, after witnessing some shit go down in Tel Aviv. This gets the audience to question his sanity. So we learn a lot about him through dialogue, and he’s not an unlikable character, but there were times I wanted him to just sit his ass down, and stop trying to help, because I just knew HE was going to be the reason the plane crashed, and I also knew it would have something to do with that “extra” character on the plane, with speaking lines, who appears to have no actual purpose. But none of this weakened my enjoyment of the episode becasue it was just fun.

The character that does end up crashing the plane, a drunken ex-pilot named Bob, was someone who felt really off to me the moment I saw him. I was immediately suspicious of his presence on the plane, especially since he was so friendly with Justin, for no reason, and most especially after he said he was a pilot.

There’s a funny little moment when Justin confronts a couple of Sikhs, and tries to get them to stop speaking their language out loud,  or people would get suspicious. They just  roll their eyes at him and tell him they’re not Muslim, and to go away somewhere, which I thought was funny/but not funny. Jordan always makes sure to mention some social issue we’re currently dealing with in all his horror stories, and Muslims on airplanes is something (White) people are  still freaking out about in the US.

Jordan is very successful at upping the tension, especially in such a confined space, so in that sense, its as good as the original episodes, and well worth giving it a watch. And if you know little factoids about the original episode there’s some nice Easter Eggs in it.

10 Non-Spoiler Things We've Learned From Jordan Peele's 'Get Out'

But what stood out for me is Jordan’s summation at the end of these  episodes, in which he seems to be channeling the full spirit of Rod Serling. Standing there in a suit, holding either a glass of wine or champagne, with Serling’s vocal mannerisms intact,  this is more than a little creepy, and kind of funny. I’m so used to him being a comedian that I just expect him to burst into laughter at any second, as if he was just putting me on. I couldn’t help a nervous giggle.

For some reason people are so surprised at Peele’s turn towards Horror, and how he is so successful at it, but these must be people who didn’t watch Key and Peele. Peele has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Horror movies, and he was forever referencing them on the show.

In fact, a lot of the comedy on the show was clearly  horrific, with a punch line tacked onto them , like the episode, Das Negros,  where two Black men in whiteface pretend to be Nazis in order to hide from a Nazi officer looking for victims of the Reich. It’s a terrifying idea by itself, and it’s full of tension, but made hilarious by the idea that the officer is dumb enough to fall for their bad makeup jobs, and his silly stereotypes of Black people. Peele seemed to fully understand the idea that fear and laughter both spring from the same fountain, and can be turned towards one or the other by  the addition of the ridiculous. In the Twilight Zone remake, the tension and horror are still there, but the ridiculous has been removed, leaving a distinct unease.

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https://www.okayplayer.com/culture/jordan-peele-series-of-horror-films-get-out.html

I have four other social thrillers that I want to unveil in the next decade…The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together,” Peele said. “I’ve been working on these premises about these different social demons, these innately human monsters that are woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact, and each one of my movies is going to be about a different one of these social demons.”

I’m so looking forward to Peele’s next work and the rest of his career. I’m also looking to the far future when he starts making those Dramas, that, like with  Cronenberg, I know live somewhere in his mind.

New Trailers In April

Joker

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

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

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Dead Don’t Die

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

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

 

Dora the Explorer

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

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

Avengers :Endgame

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

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

John Wick 3

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

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

 

Hellboy

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

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

Godzilla

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

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

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows! 

American Gods Season Two: House on the Rock

American Gods began its second season last week.

Let’s talk about it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to explain Anderson’s absence from the show:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

American Gods Season One

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

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

 

The Bone Orchard

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

 

The Secret of the Spoons

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

Head Full of Snow

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

 

Git Gone

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

Lemon Scented You

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

A Murder of Gods

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

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

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

Come to Jesus

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

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

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

Favorite Characters of 2018

These are not indicative of my favorite movies of 2018, although I did enjoy all these films. I’ve seen a lot of “best of” movie lists, and people might expect me to make a movie or TV show list, but I’m not going that route. Instead I’ve decided to list my top ten favorite characters of the year. Characters who were so good, that they made flawed movies good, or good movies, better.

 

Domino – Deapool 2

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My number one spot is reserved for the most fun character I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Deadpool 2 is not a great movie. The action is occasionally incoherent, and the humor, just like in the first film, is sometimes hit or miss, but the movie is fun as Hell, and excelled in its depiction of Domino. I know a lot of people had  reservations about her character. They didn’t know the actress, Zayzie Beetz, the character was a White woman in the comic books, and no one understood exactly what her superpowers were.

But she turned out to be the BEST character in the entire movie. I loved her so much! She’s just the coolest, baddest, bitch in a superhero movie since we first saw Black Widow. She literally has no worries, striding effortlessly through every action scene, in the serene knowledge that whatever happens, it will work out in her favor, and she’ll come out on top.

There’s also the added element of her being so supportive of Wade without feeling like she’s a sidekick. She and Deadpool are partners, who carry the action together. Actually, she could probably do the whole movie without Wade, because she’s far more competent than him. She knows how to handle things on her own, and often does, but one of the running jokes is her verbal support of Deadpool. She is always telling him he’s doing great, or doing a good job, or he’s got this, at odd moments during the action scenes, which I found both hilarious, and kinda sweet.

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Domino  serves the same purpose for Black women that the appearance of Luke Cage did for Black men. She’s essentially  “bulletproof”. For too many of us, our introduction to “strong” Black women, in movies and  TV, is through witnessing their endurance of pain. So I liked watching this calm and collected, carefree, and bulletproof Black woman,  knowing for an absolute certainty that she will never come to harm.

I am here for it, and I want more of it. So a solo movie looks like a good idea.

 

Killmonger – Black Panther

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So much has been  written, analyzed, and dissected about this character, that its ridiculous. Killmonger so struck a cord among Black filmgoers,  that there was an entire industry dedicated to arguing his talking points and philosophy, with people being for and against him. (And then there were those people who just wanted him.) He is, hands down,  the most compelling villain in the entirety of the MCU. This is T’Chaka’s , and N’Jobu’s story as told through their children, who have to work through the sins of their fathers.

I absolutely hated this character, but I also loved to hate him, he’s just so good and relatable. His talking points are spot on, he’s as cool as the Black Panther, and he has a sympathetic backstory that is personally tied to T’Challa’s, which is how you create a great villain.  This is the first movie I ever watched where it was the villain who had me in tears, such as when he meets his father in the afterlife, and when he references the Igbo Landing just before his death.

https://blackpast.org/aah/igbo-landing-mass-suicide-1803

But, one of the primary reasons I ultimately couldn’t  support this character was because of his disregard for Black women, where he is perfectly willing to use them for his own ends, and  bullying and/or killing them when it was expedient. (Plus, he threatened my baby-girl, Shuri.)

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Laurie Strode – Halloween (2018)

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I’m a big fan of the original film, and I was dismayed over the years to see the legacy of that film sullied by directors and actors who simply didn’t understand it, although I have been willing to sit through all the ones that starred Laurie Strode. As one of Michael Myers original victims, she was the one that got away, and that alone is a good enough reason to make a sequel.

Jettisoning all of the movies in-between, this new version of Halloween picks up the aftermath of Laurie’s life, in the wake of Michael’s attack. The movie isn’t just about Laurie being a bad-ass, or a pistol packing mama, although that was pretty cool. Its about the failed relationships, the loss of her child, the paranoia, anxiety, and hyper vigilance she displays throughout the film. This movie is about surviving trauma, and it argues that Laurie never actually escaped, and that Michael has been a part of her life ever since. I thought the movie was effective, not just in making Michael scary again, but in its examination of the effect of  trauma on the life of his primary victim.

https://www.voa.org/understanding-ptsd?gclid=CjwKCAiAyMHhBRBIEiwAkGN6fEGjHJs8HUQAlI0gmMUJdnm7PwPmlLG4RvLDs_ASDtEGDRLkD86JHxoC3nUQAvD_BwE

 

 

 

Miles Morales – Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

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This character being on the list was a surprise because I’ve only read a few of the Miles Morales comic books, and I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did.  I can’t speak to how close a depiction this guy is to the comic book version, but I liked him a lot. His Afro-Latino heritage isn’t slept, and while there are some misunderstandings between him and his father, he has a loving and supportive relationship with his parents.

Miles is just a very wholesome character, and its that  wholesomeness that allows the other characters to step outside the restrictions they’ve placed on their lives, because of previous traumas. One of the most interesting moments in the movie was hearing how all of the Spider-People have the death of some loved one, in their origin story, that has caused them to shut themselves off from people. Through their mentorship and friendship with Miles, they are able to open themselves up to do what they encourage Miles to do throughout the movie, which is “take a leap of faith”. 

Once again, this is how you write a character, who is central to the story, without being ALL of the story. There is just enough about the other characters for us to get to know and like them, while keeping Miles at the center of the narrative, as the character around which their emotional arcs revolve. The results not just in character growth for Miles, through their actions, but character growth for them too.

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Spiderman – Peter Parker – Avengers: Infinity War

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Remember when I said I wasn’t watching not one more damn Spiderman movie. Well, I hadn’t reckoned with Tom Holland when I said that. OMG!!! He is so adorkable! I  had to admit to myself that I like him more than I liked Tobey Maguire, although I don’t think Spiderman Homecoming is better than Maguire’s Spiderman 2. I’m not that far gone yet, but I might be, after the sequel.

 

Jack Jack – The Incredibles 2

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In the first Incredibles movie, we learned that Jack Jack, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible’s infant son, has shapeshifting superpowers. In fact, he may be one of the most powerful Supers (as superheroes are called in that universe) alive. In Incredibles 2, Jack Jack gets to take center stage, next to Mrs. Incredible, and it’s absolutely hilarious. I loved watching him interact and bond with Edna and his dad, and beating the shit out a local raccoon, but most hilariously, throughout all of this, he still retains a bubbly demeanor. he’s such a good baby! (Except when he wants a cookie.)

 

Venom – (Venom)

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Okay, Venom is, by all accounts, not a great movie, except none of the audience for this movie cares not one damn bit about any of that. I know I didn’t. People don’t always  go to the theater to see Lawrence of Arabia, or Taxi Driver. They don’t always want depth. Sometimes  people choose a movie because they just know they’re gonna have a helluva lot of fun. Its about the interaction between Tom Hardy as, pretty much, himself, and Tom Hardy as Venom. Its also one of the funniest superhero movies , next to Deadpool, because Venom, the character, is hilarious and gets some of the movie’s best lines.

 

Lando Calrissian – Solo – 

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I watched this movie on Netflix, and don’t remember one damn thing about it, other than the scenes that directly involve Lando. When the original Star Wars came out, my Mom immediately fell in love with Lando Calrissian, who was played by Billy Dee Williams, and because she loved him, I liked him more than a little bit too. It doesn’t hurt that he was one of the smoothest, coolest, characters in Empire Strikes Back, and Donald Glover seems to have completely captured that same vibe. Outside of Chewbacca and Lando, Solo isn’t really worth watching, though. Now, if Lando can only get his own movie, I would beg the studio to take my money!

 

 

Grey – Upgrade – Logan Marshall Green

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Its not so much that I liked this character, so much as I liked this movie. I expected to like the movie, because I was intrigued by the trailer, and I got what I expected. The movie is too stark to call it fun, but it was definitely worth watching, with an unexpectedly bittersweet ending. I think part of the reason I was so excited about this movie is because I was excited about the movie Venom, and Logan Marshall-Green is a dead ringer for Tom Hardy.

I was impatient to see Venom, and some of that feeling transferred itself to this movie, which shares much of the same themes as Venom. These men’s bodies have been invaded by an outside entity, and the two halves have to come to an accord about sharing the same body. Green totally sells the action scenes too, although I don’t know if he’s as method as Hardy, his body language is superb and kind of awesome to watch.

Titans (DCEU) Season One

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White

Let’s keep this short and salty: did y’all know that there are people – thankfully a minority in their respective fandoms – that will claim a white male character or actor isn’t white for some reason or another. Well, if you didn’t know before reading that sentence, I’m willing to be that you’ve figured out […]

via What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White — Stitch’s Media Mix

Stitch is considered something of an expert on the subject of fandom racism dynamics, since this is something she has intensely studied. I never argue with her findings, but I am constantly surprised by the ways in which fandom seeks to revert to a certain status quo. What I’d  like to do  is build on this by  tying fandom racism back to how its been learned from the source material,  and fan’s understanding of how racism works, through the material they’ve been consuming, because their performance of  these forms of racism  don’t exist in a vacuum. White people (all races really) have been unconsciously inundated with decades of racist messaging in American films, books, and TV,   and  fandom often becomes nothing more than  the act of regurgitating what was consumed, especially if these things have never been critically examined.

I don’t think we can fight against how fandom racism is performed without acknowledgment, or understanding, of how its performance is tied to the decades old, racist narratives in Popular media.

There’s also a new angle to this as well. Since the source material being consumed has become more diverse and inclusive than ever, what I’ve been witnessing, is  fans trying to  bend these narratives to fit their world view – worldviews that have been informed by years of racist narratives. This is just as much an attempt to keep things the way they’ve always been, and they are no less different, from  the harassment campaigns against PoC actors, in an attempt to center Whiteness in Geek media, and reassert the status quo of PoC, and other marginalized groups, on the fringe of narratives that center White characters. This is what such fans are used to, and this is what they twist these stories to reflect. This particular form of fandom racism is often engaged in (but not necessarily exclusive to) White women in fandom, while the more public and aggressive forms of racism are usually engaged in by White men.

I’m going to reiterate that the reason fandom acts this way is that fandom isn’t the slightest bit progressive or woke. In fact, its fairly conservative, and quite a lot of them are thoroughly unimaginative, as well, as the participants do nothing but reproduce the same narratives they’ve seen over, and over, and over, from the  source material (and sometimes other parts of fandom, which accounts for the sheer numbers of coffee shop AUs in fanfiction), – narratives that have been overwhelmingly written, and helmed, by straight white men, who themselves have only the most rudimentary idea of what its like to be a member of a marginalized group.

That’s another reason I’m against racial allegories in fiction, especially the ones referenced above by Stitch. Such narratives do nothing to further dialogue, or deepen understanding of racial issues, because the writers of these narratives do not live, or understand, race in any personal capacity.  All fans get out of these stories is a foundational understanding that “racism is bad”. The Handmaid’s Tale, Zootopia, The Gifted, Teen Wolf, and Bright, are bad racial allegories because they get the depiction of racism wrong, have suspect intentions, borrow the oppression of Poc, while not including them, or  take little to no account of the systemic and institutionalized nature of racism, often showing it as a problem of individuals simply not liking some people.

Contrast those stories to Jordan Peel’s discussion of racism in the movie Get Out, or the music video, This Is America, by Childish Gambino, or the discussions surrounding the movie Black Panther. The understanding of racism is  different when written by those who have  actual knowledge of the subject, something which most fans of the media listed above,  do not have, so all they can do is reproduce the media they’ve been given, and can only  approach these subjects in their meta and fictions with  the performative wokeness  that they are engaging in now.

Forthcoming TV 2018/2019

December

21) Diablero (Netflix)

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

 

23) Watership Down

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

 

28) Black Mirror (Netflix)

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

 

30) Orville (Fox)

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

 

 

 

January

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

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

 

 

 

10) Brooklyn 99 (NBC)

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

 

13) True Detective  (HBO)

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

 

 

14) The Passage (FOX)

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

 

 

16) Deadly Class (SYFY)

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

 

 

17) Star Trek Discovery Season 2 (CBS Access)

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

 

 

 

24) Siren

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

 

February

15) Umbrella Academy Netflix)

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

 

 

March

10) American Gods (Starz)

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

 

 

On my agenda for the holidays:

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

13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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

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

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

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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

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

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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

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

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

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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

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

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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

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

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

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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

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

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

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

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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

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

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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

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

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

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

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

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

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

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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

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

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

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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

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

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

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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

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

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

Things Are Gonna be Fun!!!

 

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

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

 

January

What Men Want (11)

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

 

*Glass (18)

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

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

 

February

Lego Movie 2 (2)

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

 

Alita: Battle Angel (14)

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

 

 

March

Captain Marvel (8)

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

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

 

 

Us (15)

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

 

 

April

Shazam (5)

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

 

 

*Hellboy (12)

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

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

 

May

*Avengers: Endgame (3)

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

 

 

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (10)

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

 

 

Ugly Dolls (10)

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

 

*John Wick 3 (17)

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

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

 

*Godzilla: King of the Monsters (31)

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

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

 

 

June

*Men in Black International  (14)

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

 

Shaft (14)

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

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*Toy Story 4 (21)

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

 

 

July

*Spiderman: Far From Home (5)

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

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

 

Lion King (19)

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

 

August

Hobbs and Shaw (2)

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

I’m in!

 

Artemis Fowl (9)

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

Also the trailer is mysterious and lovely.

 

 

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

September

It: Chapter 2 (6)

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

 

Downton Abbey (20)

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

 

October

*Gemini Man (4)

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

 

Joker (4)

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

So far, I’m good.

 

Addams Family Animated (11)

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

 

November

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

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

*Charlie’s Angels (1)

*Terminator Movie (1)

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December

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

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Masters of the Universe (18)

*Star Wars #9 (20)

My Favorite Smart Films

Inspired by my recent viewing of Annihilation, I wanted to take a look  at some films I really, really, liked. The kind that most inspired thoughtful reflection, confounded the hell out of me, or just made me smile with joy at the sheer talent involved in the making of it. Here are just eight of some of the smartest movies of the past thirty years, divided into four categories, movies for The Mind, The Body, The Spirit, and finally, Just For Fun.

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The Mind

Some movies are satisfying on an intellectual level. The plot, the  characters, or the design, and look of the film is mentally stimulating. The movie makes you ask questions, provokes thoughtful consideration of its themes , and leaves you puzzling over its message.

 

Dark City (1998)

One day I’m going to have a do a full review of this movie, because it really doesn’t get enough love. Released in 1998, and written by Alex Proyas, who also wrote The Crow, this movie so inspired  Roger Ebert, that he did three different commentaries for the DVDs. Proyas has credited the  look of the film as based off of the film noir of the 40s, most specifically, The Maltese Falcon. The film stars Rufus Sewell as an accused murderer, William Hurt as the detective who hunts him down, Jennifer Connolly as his wife, and Keifer Sutherland, as the mysterious Dr.Schreiber.

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Most of the film takes place at night and has a mysterious and ominous feel to it. The story is winding and circular, referenced by the Fibonacci spirals we see in the opening credits sequence, and again, when one of the characters paints the walls of his bedroom with repeated versions of the symbol. As a viewer, you enter into the outer rim of the  story, just like in the symbol above, knowing no more than its protagonist, John Murdock, who wakes up naked, with amnesia, in a bathtub, in room 314. (Look up Job 3:14 in the KJ version of the bible for the significance.) He is  forced on his journey, through the darkness of this cityscape, by a mysterious phone call, and the arrival of a group of malevolent Men in Black (a classic Scifi trope). As he follows the clues to his identity, so do we, slowly spiraling inward to the heart of the mystery of who John Murdock really is, and the existence of the nameless city in which he lives.

What I love about this movie is that viewers know exactly as much about what’s happening as Murdock. We don’t know his name until he does. We don’t know where he is until he finds out. We are definitely on a journey of discovery with him, and what he finds shakes the foundations of his world. Literally!

 

Inception (2010)

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This movie wasn’t difficult for me to understand, although a lot of other people seemed confounded by it. It’s definitely one of those movies where you are given all the facts and the rules of its universe, and are then left to your own thoughts, to make of it what you will. If that is something you’re not used to doing, then the movie will only be confusing for you.

It is very well possible that almost the entire movie is no more than a dream, within a dream, within  dreams, and I’m inclined to think that way about it, if for no other reason than it explains much about Cobb and his crew, and some of the odd phrases and coincidences that occur in the film. My personal theory is that Cobb falls asleep on the airplane ride home to  see his children. I think the entire movie is  Cobb having a weird dream about dreaming, at least partially brought about by grief at his wife’s passing, and guilt at having spent so much time away from his children on a business trip. He has just heard the news of the death of Michael Fischer’s father, and has probably met him on the plane, and so his dream is bound up in all these elements. Here’s why I think this:

Ariadne: A mythical figure that is associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations 

Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, is tasked with creating the mazes that the crew will be dreaming through during the inception of Fischer’s mind.

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When I heard her name, I knew I might not be watching what I  thought I might be watching, and there are a number of odd moments, (his wife’s suicide while perched on the ledge of the building opposite him, his unwillingness to look at his children’s faces, and the fact that the children do not age, and no timeline is ever given for when certain things happen). There are bits of information, and other clues, that have lead to all manner of theories about this film. The overarching  feeling of all of these theories is that the entire movie is Cobb’s dream. Some people speculate that there is no purpose to his dream, some say it’s to alleviate his anxiety and guilt for going on a business trip and leaving his kids alone, after his wife’s suicide, and others say that the purpose of Cobb’s dream is to extract the truth of his wife’s death, and that it’s Ariadne’s purpose (like any good therapist) to help him do that. I do believe his story that he planted the idea of the world not being real in his wife’s mind.

When I first saw the movie, and Cobb claimed to have killed his wife, I  didn’t believe him. My very first thought was that it was just an expression of his guilt, and grief that he couldn’t stop her from killing herself, that he was the one who planted the thought in her mind that made her suicidal, and now he has left his children all alone to deal with their confusion. It is also not out of bounds to believe that the information of his wife’s death is being extracted from him for therapeutic purposes, in the real world, by Ariadne, and I like that idea, because it parallels the  emotional inception that he’s engaged in with Fischer, who is  dealing with guilt and grief over the death of his father. Fisher’s inception involves reconciling with with his father’s death, and Cobb’s dream involves reconciling with his wife’s.

One could argue that the thought incepted to Cobb is that his wife’s death is not his fault, so that he can free her projection from his dreams. Ariadne specifically states that his wife is trapped in his subconscious, and until he lets go of  his guilt and grief, his wife can’t leave. To that end, he and Ariadne have to make their way through the maze of Cobb’s mind, to the vault at his center, and release her.

Honorable Mention: Paprika by Satoshi Kon

 

The Body

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These movies cannot, technically, be called body horror movies in the same way as movies directed by David Cronenberg, (who seems to have a lock on that subject), but they do involve thinking  about the body, and how we move through the world, of how we intellectualize our physical self, and what purpose we have, in the bodies we possess. These movies are opposites in a sense. In The Addiction, the lead character’s body betrays her attempts to control it, and she fights as hard as she can to reach some kind of equilibrium with what her body wants. In the second film, the lead character must learn to embrace his physical self. If he wants to be complete, to feel whole, he can’t simply ignore what he is,  but must accept all of it,  and to that end, he leans into himself, and learns to trust and control his body, much as his nemesis, Mr. Glass, had no choice to do, at a very early age.

 

The Addiction (1995)

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I am still confounded by this movie. I have some vague idea what the purpose of it was, but I think that, unless you’re a student of philosophy, you probably won’t have any idea what the Hell the point of this movie was either.

The Addiction is a 1995 vampire movie directed by Abel Ferrara. In it, a college student, named Kathleen,  played by one of my favorite actresses, Lili Taylor, gets attacked by a vampire played by Annabella Sciorra, who blames her for her attack. Kathleen then has to try to understand what’s happened to her, and how to deal with her new addiction to blood, without letting it destroy her life. She meets Christopher Walken’s character ,who tries to wean her off blood, claiming that he has conquered his addiction, but he is unsuccessful, and Kathleen goes on to infect several  people in her neighborhood. Looked at closely, it can seem like the movie is an an allegory about sexual assault, and how the survivors are permanently changed by what happened to them. But it can also be seen through the lens of infectious disease.

The most intriguing aspect, for me, is that Kathleen lives in a mixed neighborhood, and  infects one of the homeboys who live down the street from her. I would watch an entire movie about a Black guy from the ‘hood, who gets infected with vampirism, and how that might play out, especially if it were done in the same style as this. What’s interesting is the soundtrack reflects the environment too, featuring Cypress Hill, Rick Rubin, and Onyx.

At a party to celebrate  Kathleen’s dissertation, she and the other vampires stage a bloody attack on her faculty, and friends. Kathleen longs for death, and we find out at the end of the film, that she died over a year ago, when she visits her grave at a nearby cemetery.

It’s an uncomfortable movie, filmed entirely in black and white.  It’s unlike a lot of horror movies. There are no jump scares here, and the  mood of the film is melancholy. It feels harrowing, even though there’s not that much action, or gore, because the images are so stark. There are long interludes of dialogue, as characters attempt to come to terms with what’s happening to them, as Kathleen blames them for her addiction, and several scenes of Kathleen unsuccessfully fighting against her compulsion to feed. Much of the movie involves scenes of Katherine fighting against her need for blood, giving in to it, or trying to reason,  or come to terms with it somehow.

The film has been considered an allegory about drug addiction, as well as an allegory of the theological concept of sin.[1] It contains philosophical, theological and other intellectual content, including references to HusserlNietzscheFeuerbach, and Descartes. The film also features a vampire quoting theologian R. C. Sproul, who is a critic of Roman Catholicism.

 

 

Unbreakable (2000)

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There is something viscerally satisfying about watching this movie, and discovering, as we go along, that we are watching a superhero origin story. The story is told in such a lowkey manner that, for at least the first half of the movie, you believe that characters are simply delusional. This is a more philosophical approach to a genre that’s usually more physically oriented, but it does follow the classic superhero origin story tropes. The protagonist discovers he  has abilities, he practices learning how to use them, and then an enemy presents to challenge him. Where this movie differs is that it is the antagonist who helps the hero discover his abilities, and the final confrontation between them doesn’t result in a fistfight, but is sad and horrifying because they have become friends.

Superhero movies are essentially about people dealing with physical power, in that almost all of them are about someone discovering they have such power. They have to relearn how to use their body, how it works, and then use that knowledge to find their purpose. This movie explores the same themes but in a much quieter way. The lead character is discovering his power, but he is a grown man who supposedly leads a full life, that he feels is empty, having given up the use of that power, for his future wife, when he was a teenager.

His nemesis is a man with almost no physical power, suffering from the disease, osteogenesis imperfecta. Unable to overcome his disease, he has spent his life concentrating his power into his intellect, and the only way he can experience a sense of worth is by having a foe, the kind of foe outlined in the comic books he’s read all his life, the physically perfect, unbreakable man, versus the fragile, but mentally superior enemy, something that is illuminated in the film’s dialogue. He doesn’t just have the task of discovering his enemy, but  has to make him realize his purpose. What they are to each other. Mr. Glass came to grips with his physical limitations when he was a very young child. He was admonished by his mother to not choose fear, or being afraid would become his go-to choice for  the rest of his life, and Mr. Glass is indeed fearless.

David must go through the same process as an adult, because earlier in his life,  he chose fear. Afraid he would lose his then girlfriend, he chose to ignore and suppress his abilities, and fear became such a habit for him that he was living an unfulfilling life where he could  find no joy in his family. That choice, to be afraid, ironically, almost results in the loss of his wife anyway, and an emotionally distant relationship with a son who is trying, desperately, to connect with his father.

Honorable Mention: Mad Max Fury Road and Akira

 

The Spirit

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Some movies are satisfying on a spiritual level. It just feels good to watch them, as if you had eaten a very good steak dinner for the soul. This is the spiritual version of comfort food. The movie Tree of Life can be viewed from so many different angles, from the religious to the secular, that it could just as easily fit into the The Mind category, but for me the message of the movie is spiritual, mostly because of the music.

Tree of Life (2011)

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I am not a religious person, in the sense that I’m not a believer in any particular belief system, but I do think about religion, and religious messages, a lot, and I’m not immune to media with a well thought out emotional, and spiritual message. This movie also subscribes to no particular version of Christianity, but its spiritual message seems evident.

You have to be prepared that most of the movie contains voiceover, and there is not much dialogue. Tree of Life is about a man looking back on his childhood, with his overbearing father, and his angelic mother, after receiving news of the death of his younger brother. That’s the basic plot. All else is gravy.

Tree of Life is a gorgeous looking movie, a perfect marriage of theme, visuals, and sound, and very possibly Malick’s best film to date. I have never been able to watch this movie without tears, or a sense of awe. Even if you’re not an especially religious person, the movie is worth seeing because its transcendent, evocative, and philosophical.  I would have put this movie under The Mind but the music propels it to a level beyond thought to one of deep feeling. One day I’m going to have to review this movie, because I have my own ideas about what  it means, but for now:

Here’s Bishop Fr. Robert Barron explaining the religious message behind Terence Malick’s Tree of Life:

 

The music of Tree of Life is a treat for the senses. Ethereal, epic, awesome. If you have not seen this movie, and you love larger than life drama, with cosmic set-pieces, and if you like movies by Bertolucci, Herzog , or  Kubrick, you will enjoy this movie.

 

 

Spirited Away (2001)

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This movie is spiritually satisfying on multiple levels and a little hard to describe. On the surface this about a frightened, lonely and uncontent little girl, dealing with moving to a new village. Chihiro is whiny, frightened, and clingy in the beginning of the movie, but by the end of the film, she has discovered her power, her confidence, her self assurance.

There is something about this movie that so  deftly speaks to the spirit of little girls, that they all want to return to this world over, and over, again. This movie was released in 2001, when my youngest sister was ten years old. She immediately fell in love with it, and watched it at every opportunity, and so did her sister, who is a year older. Neither of them ever seemed to get tired of it.

Five years later, her daughter, hereinafter referred to as The Potato, was born, and I introduced her to this movie, when she was about five or six. She still watches this movie today. She has a sister, (nicknamed, Lil’ Mama) , who is six years her junior, who is also thoroughly enamored of this movie. At this point the movie has become a family tradition, (along with My Neighbor Totoro), and I expect to be around to introduce this movie to their daughters.

I’m uncertain what essence of  little girl in me is attracted to this movie, but I’ve never seen anime more wholesome than a Studio Ghibli film. Most of the primary characters in this movie are women, of all ages, body types, and  emotional demeanors.

 

 

Just Plain Fun

 

Some movies are just really, really fun, and therefor good for all three aspects of the self. They feel good, they sound good, and they look good. You never get tired of watching them because there’s always some tiny details to discover.

 

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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There’s a lot to love about this movie, beyond its nontraditional structure, which is what first captured me about this movie. I loved the intellectual exercise of piecing together the linear plot of the movie after it was over, and I loved the dialogue, the side stories, and all the little details and sights that you miss if you’re not paying proper attention, and are a nice reward on subsequent viewings.

Ostensibly its about some odd adventures during the course 48 hours in the life of Jules and Vincent, who are hitmen for a local gangster named Marcellus Wallace, but there are several stories and sideplots, some of which are only tangentially related to Jules and Vincent’s day. The movie starts off in a perfectly normal gangster/hitman,  comedy type manner, with some banter and some killings between the two men, but as it moves forward, the feel of the plot starts to shift, to become more  discordant, until the end, when you’re left with a deep disquiet, as the  movie turns out not to be as  light weight, or “feel good” as you first thought. As the plot moves forward, things start to go horribly wrong, to go off key, and ultimately ends in tragedy.

In the meantime though, the subplots are very interesting, like the opening one, where Vincent accidentally kills an informant (wrong note number one), and he and Jules need to call in a Cleaner, called The Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel. Then there’s Vincent’s dance off that evening, with Mia Wallace, the wife of the gangster he works for. The dialogue is also a lot of fun too, showcasing Tarantino as a force to be reckoned with in that department. There’s the now famous conversation between Jules and Vincent about the names of burgers in Amsterdam, and a  conversation with Jules teasing Vincent about the significance of the foot massage, after he finds out about Vincent’s date with Mia. But the standout scene  is Christopher Walken’s character, a former military man, who tells a story about a pocket watch.

Yes, there are parts of the movie that are, to put it mildly, cringeworthy, but those parts don’t outweigh the sections of the movie that are the most fun, or nerve wracking.

 

Goodfellas (1990)

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This, too, is one of my all-time favorite movies, (and  completely different animal from Pulp Fiction), that I never get tired of watching, but not for the reasons a lot of people like it. I see it as chronicling  the decades long relationship, the rise and fall, of people who are supposed to be friends, Tommy, Jimmy, and Henry. For me, this movie is a fascinating dive into  these three very different personalities, and how all of them eventually come to a sad, and in one case horrible, ending because of the kinds of decisions they made in life.

Henry made the decision early in life to always be a follower. We follow Henry from his childhood fascination with the mobster life, through his initiation, his introduction to Tommy, his marriage, and his several falls from grace due to paranoia and drugs. Along for the ride is his wife, Karen, loyal to the end, his boss Paulie, a father figure who abandons him in his time of need, to protect himself, and Tommy, a psychotic rageaholic, who is as likely to kill a man as look at him.

The performances are superb, with Joe Pesci’s Tommy being, very probably, the most pants-shittingly scary gangster I’ve ever watched. Every moment he’s on screen is filled with tension because he is entirely unpredictable. Even Henry treads lightly around him, and Jimmy, who is also known as Gentlemen Jim, uses Tommy as his nuclear option whenever he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. At one point, Tommy accidentally kills a boy not much older than Henry was when he decided to be a gangster, without even a hint of remorse, and then there’s that classic scene between Henry and Tommy, ta scene that’s been spoofed in dozens of movies and standup routines  since then, when Henry, rightly, thinks Tommy might actually be capable of killing him, for thinking he’s a funny guy.

The camera work is extraordinary, the long traveling shots of Henry moving in and out of covert spaces at the beginning of the movie, and the busy shifts in  camerawork, and rapid  shifts in music, towards the end of the film, that parallel Henry’s paranoid, coke induced, freefall which  presages his capture by the police.

While we’re doing that, we get to listen to some of the greatest music of the twentieth century, showcasing scenes which have since become iconic feats of filmmaking, from Henry and Karen’s first date, serenaded by The Crystal’s Then He Kissed Me, to  the Lufthansa scenes, shot to the tune of Eric Clapton’s Piano Exit from Layla, followed by the death of Tommy:

The music in this movie could almost be considered another character. This is Scorcese’s masterpiece, and he has never topped it, (although Casino came pretty close  by reiterating the tropes created in this one). It’s Scorcese’s musical choices that make this one of the most incredible films of his career. This was a director at the top of his game. Its not a surprise that this movie won for Best Picture that year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Horrors Written By Women

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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The first time I read this story I was about 14. it knocked me for a loop. Needless to say, I should not have read the story at that age. It horrified me then and does so now, but it took adulthood to connect the parallels between that story, and my life in the US as a Black woman. I suspect that was why the story resonated with me so much.

 

The Shining Girls  by Lauren Beukes

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I had never heard of Lauren Beukes before this book, but checked it out based on a single review in Publisher’s Weekly. I was not disappointed. I think the real horror, at least for me, comes from the idea of snuffed potential. In Shining Girls, a serial killer travels through time, using an old dilapidated house, with a special key. His task is killing young girls who have some kind of special future. One of the girls discovers his secret, and begins hunting him instead, which helps to turn the Final Girl idea on its head.

 

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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The precursor to this novel is the novella, Rolling in the Deep, about an attack on a sailing vessel by cannibalistic in-humanoid underwater dwellers, otherwise known as mermaids. The sequel is about a young woman investigating the death of her sister who was a passenger on that boat. I like mermaids, and I’m fond of stories about people being eaten by mysterious creatures they didn’t know existed, and while  there are plenty of books out there with demonic merpeople in them, this is the first time I’ve ever read such an engagingly gory book about them.

 

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

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The very first warning I must make about this book is that it is very difficult to read, as it does involve a child vampire having consensual sex with adults, right in the first couple of chapters.

If that is something triggering or enraging for you then probably skip this book. On the other hand, this is Octavia Butler we’re talking about, and there’s always a purpose behind what she writes. The events stem from the nature of who she is, and the culture she’s unknowingly a part of. I wasn’t warned. The primary character is named Shori, a genetic hybrid of a little Black girl  and a vampire, who is much older than she looks. She has to fight against the racism of the vampire race, The Ina, she wishes to become a part of.

 

Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest

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Dreadful Skin is a novella by the incredible horror writer Cherie Priest, about a nun hunting a werewolf across the American South. Priest has written a lot of Southern Gothic horror, but I chose this one  because I love werewolf novels, and pistol packing nuns.

 

Sonja Blue Series by Nancy A. Collins

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I read this series waaay back in the nineties. Every now and then, I like to revisit some of the stories, and I’m still wowed by them. Nancy Collins has an incredible voice for her character, Sonja Blue, who is probably  her most famous. Sonja was transformed into vampire hybrid during a sexual assault, and spends the next several decades hunting the vampire who turned her.

There are several books and short stories involving Sonja, including a crossover book with The Crow, and a crossover  with The Kindred rpg novels. Sonja inhabits a horrific urban environment full of monsters and ghosts, but she is the top predator, as she is a total badass. The only vampire who can touch silver, and walk in daylight, she keeps her hunger for blood strictly controlled, but every now and then “The Other” (as she refers to her vampire half) breaks free, and serious carnage ensues.

 

The Hexslinger Series by Gemma Files

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Gemma Files has written the only Weird Western trilogy I’ve ever encountered that prominently featured, as its main character, an Irish, openly gay, gunslinging, warlock, named Chess Pargeter. It also features a Chinese witchgirl, a spellcasting, undead priest, Indigenous ghost talkers, spiders the size of horses that you can ride on, flyaway cities , and a trek through the Aztec underworld. It’s a journey.

The first book in the trilogy, A Book of Tongues, chronicles Pinkerton Agent James Morrow’s attempts to capture Chess’ outlaw gang of spellcasters, which includes Chess lover, Rook, who intends to release an Aztec hell on Earth, through a goddess named  Ixchel, with whom he made a devil’s bargain. If any of this appeals to you, then this is the series for you, along with a bunch of related novellas, but good luck finding those. The only place I’ve ever seen them is on Hoopla.

 

 

Feeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough

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Sarah Pinborough has never completely gotten away from her Horror roots, for which I’m glad, because she is an extremely effective writer of horrible events. Feeding Ground is the sequel to Breeding Ground, where a race of spider-like creatures, having bred in the bodies of women, have caused the destruction of human civilization. There’s  spiderpocalypse, intrepid survivors, and plenty of  “ewww!” If those subjects interest you…

 

The Quick by Lauren Owen

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One of the best Victorian vampire novels I’ve read in a good long while. When Charlotte’s brother, James, leaves their ancestral home and goes missing in  London, she heads out to rescue him, and discovers he has become involved in a blood-cult that might or might not be actual vampires. Lauren Owen has a beautiful writing style which makes an otherwise pedestrian story very engaging. I liked Charlotte, and I liked her brother James, and I was rooting for the two of them  during  their adventures.

 

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

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There are a lot of books and movies about The Donner Party, but Katsu’s books is one of the more effectively creepy interpretations of what happened to a group of settlers who, having become trapped in the Colorado mountains in winter, resorted to cannibalism to survive. I haven’t finished this book yet, I’m about half finished, but I am definitely feeling a chill.

Supernatural S14/E02 Review: Gods and Monsters

In “Gods and Monsters,” Supernatural begins a slow reveal of the mayhem Michael (Jensen Ackles) intends to introduce with his experimental creations. While Michael attempts to bring his ghastly vision into being, Nick (Mark Pellegrino) and Jack (Alexander Calvert) explore unacknowledged aspects of who they are. Writers Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming construct the form […]

via Supernatural S14E02 Review: Gods and Monsters — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

I didn’t get to review this episode in time for tonight’s, so I’m just going to put this here, as it makes a lot of my own points. The Sisters are holding it down on the SPN front, really well.

I do want to add: Is anyone else excited about Sam’s new badassedness. I mean he was always like that but it was kinda lowkey most of the time. I mean I love Dean but whenever he steps out of the picture Sam always seems to level up in his demeanor.

And is anyone else worried about Sam’s proclamation about there being no more Kings of Hell. That sounds like a challenge, or the kind of declaration that’s going to put him in the interesting spot of actually ruling Hell himself, which I admit, I’d love to see, and it would be an interesting bookend to Dean’s possession by Michael at the beginning of this season.

Essentially both Hell and Heaven are completely leaderless, with whatever angels and demons that are left, just out in the world doing their own thing. The Brothers Winchester have created  two power vacuums that  makes me wonder who or what is going to take up that slack. Michaels already trying, but no one has stepped up to try for Hell yet (unless you count the possibility of Nick or Sam).

But I’m getting waay ahead of myself here, even though y’all know that sometimes what the guys say and do, at the beginning of a season, may come back to bite them later.

I’ve told you guys I’m not a huge fan of Buckner and Leoming, but they’re actually pretty good when someone keeps a tight rein on them, and that’s the case here, becasue I didn’t see too many problems with the episode, and overall I enjoyed it.

So, for the first time really, I’m going to give these two writers high marks for starting off the season with some nice action with Sam and the demons, an interesting mystery with Michael’s actions, just a touch of pathos with Jack’s, and Nick’s stories, and some intrigue by damseling Castiel this time.

Let’s hope the rest of the season hits the same high marks.