A Quiet Place Review

Mom managed to talk me into going to see this movie, which I had no plans to see, at the theater. I didn’t want to see it, not because I thought it was going to be bad, (I was really intrigued by it), but because sometimes my anxiety likes to ramp itself up, and I can’t leave the theater. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, or pause a disc, but its a lot harder to call time out in public. I told her this, but she really wanted to see it, and it really did look good, so we agreed that I could hold her hand if I got too scared.

I loved it, actually. I love scary movies, but usually only only watch them when I can control my reaction to them. I didn’t get too scared, though. There were a couple of moments where I was white knuckling it a bit, because I really did like the characters, and empathized with them. One of the ways of controlling my anxiety is telling myself is that its okay, I’m not actually in any danger, and this is what I’m supposed to be feeling during such scenes. This is a process that may, or may not, work for you in public, but I have many, many years of practice at managing such this.

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Also, one of the reasons I didn’t get too worked up is because the movie isn’t exactly what I expected. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, I don’t give a fly what a movie’s rating is on that site, but in this case, I understand why it’s rated so high, and I see why people are crazy about it. It really is very good, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting more bombast, more jump scares, lots of monsters, but the writers did more interesting things.

If you’re going to see this for the monster, or for gore, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s not much of either, beyond the occasional blink and you’ll miss it shot. You do get a good look at the monster eventually, but  the monsters are not the focus of the movie. Like the movie Alien, the focus is the relationships between the characters, and how they’re dealing with a horrific situation.

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The Earth has experienced some kind of alien invasion, most of humanity has been killed, and the ones left alive mostly live underground, and can’t make any noise, or the aliens, which operate solely on sound waves, (they don’t have eyes) will attack them. The aliens are extremely fast and brutal, with long legs, and giant claws. They don’t eat their victims it seems. They just kill them. I think they just dislike noise. I had the impression that they view loud noises as some sort of attack, rather than as a source of food.

The movie follows a family with a deaf daughter, and a hearing son, who are navigating this world with its new set of rules. They go barefoot, along sand trails that have been set down by the father, to the places they most often frequent. They use American Sign Language to communicate. They wear headphones to listen to anything. They live above ground during the day because the father has been working to perfect a radio system to communicate with any other people.

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Most of this information you can get from paying close attention to what’s happening on the screen. There’s no sound for most of the movies running time, so there’s plenty of time to concentrate, and if you don’t like to read movies…too bad.. you’re to see this movie anyway, and like it!

The terror comes from the logistics of living in a world in which the slightest sound you make could get you killed. When you think about it, human beings are made up of nothing but noise. It seems to be our primary superpower, and kids and babies are noise personified. Getting above a certain decibel level attracts the monsters, and just because you hunker down and get quiet doesn’t mean necessarily mean they go away. There are work-arounds to be had, though. For example, natural sounds like running water, wind, storms, etc.do not attract them, and if you’re near something that’s a natural sound, that’s louder than whatever noise you’re making, you’re mostly safe. I enjoyed watching some of the father’s clever ideas of living within the rules.

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The movie is mostly about this family, their relationships, how they feel about what’s happening and how they navigate this world. The parents are genuinely in love, they love their kids deeply, and most of the film’s tension arises from their need to keep their children safe, and past guilts. At the beginning of the movie something horrible happens that the daughter spends the rest of the movie blaming herself for, and believing her father blames her and hates her for, too. Meanwhile, the mother also blames herself for it, and the son is just terrified of living in this world, in general.

I loved Emily Blunt here. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and she really carries the emotionalism in this movie. The rest of the cast is good too, especially the little actress who plays the daughter. I really enjoyed her performance, although I could’ve done without the “kids wander off on their own” plot points. A lot of the plot points are predictable too, but the acting is so well done, you’re not particularly bothered by that. And the movie is just beautiful to look at. The country landscape is lush and green and…quiet.

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There were a few things I noticed that I had questions about, and a lot of things you can infer from the information onscreen. I understand why cities would have been abandoned. And we witness that any animal that makes noise will be attacked, not just human beings, which implies that most of Earth’s ground animals were probably killed. We can still see that there are some birds left, and that would make some sense.

My biggest problem was the ending, which was only disappointing in the sense that I wanted more of it. I wanted to see a big boss battle at the end. I wanted a little bit more closure. But I get why the movie ended the way it did. You get to tell your own ending and the one I made up was a happy one, that fits the last image we see.

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Do You Remember Werewolf the Series?

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So I started watching this on Youtube and I was mostly struck by how bad the clothing is. This series was released n 1987, and I’m not sure why I don’t remember people dressing that bad, but they must have, and I just blocked it out or something:

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The series opens with a monologue, which is a really bad sign. I’m calling bullshit on it because its so full of  80’s macho crap, and I mostly just rolled my eyes. After that, there’s a scene at a night club, and you can tell its one of those 80’s movie nightclub scenes because the music sucks, its full of old white people who can’t dance, and I find it really, really hard to believe that women used to dress like that in da club. You could put someone’s eyes out with those shoulder pads.

So the young blonde victim and her date are walking to the car and they are talking about his job as a company manager or some bullshit, and I’m like, really? This is the shit you’re talking about? Were Yuppies actually this fucking boring that they went to the club, and flirted with each other about monetary futures, or network assets and shit? At this point I was rooting for the werewolf, that I knew was about to attack them,

in that completely empty, fog shrouded, parking lot, outside the club!!!

Anyhoo..

This show is like a cross between The Incredible Hulk, and Teen Wolf, where the lead character named Eric Cord, is bitten by his roommate, after he was bitten by a guy named Skorzeny, played by, of all people, Chuck Connors. Now my Mom watched this because… werewolves, and Chuck Connor, but you know I probably watched it because Eric, like most of the men on TV in the 80s, had a luxurious head of hair. See!

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This was most likely my impetus for watching a lot of shows in the 80s. At least that’s my excuse.

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Well, glossing over the plot really quick, after being bitten, Eric and his useless girlfriend, played by one of the hottest, flavor of the moment, TV chicks of the eighties, Michelle Johnson, go on a road trip to find the werewolf that bit his roommate, because only by killing the original werewolf can someone escape the curse. In the meantime, Eric is being hunted by a sheriff/bounty hunter, because he skipped out on his bail, after shooting his roommate, without explanation.

This show also heavily reminded me of the show Manimal, because each episode involved at least one scene where Eric turned into werewolf, even though the episodes were only thirty minutes long. That sounds really weird to those of us today, who are used to hour long dramas. Eric traveled around the country getting embroiled in other people’s stories ala Mad Max. Like Manimal, Eric had to occasionally solve a mystery, but unlike that series, Eric had no sidekicks. The 80s were a curious blend of shows with a combination serial, stand-alone format. There were individual events that happened from episode to epsode but they were all tied together by a common theme. Herer the common theme was Eric hunting, running into  werewolves, and various other creatures.

The highlight of the show was the werewolf transformation scenes, naturally,  that were heavily ripped off …erm, based on, the werewolf movie craze of the early eighties, An American Werewolf in London, which won an Oscar for its special effects, and its cousin, The Howling, which didn’t.

This show managed to last an entire season and  I most definitely watched it. I remember the pilot, and the transformation scenes, and even Chuck Connors growling his way through the script. So I definitely LOOKED at the show.

But I don’t remember nan’ detail of a single episode of this show beyond the pilot. But that’s okay becasue there a quite a number of the episodes available on Youtube, so they can now be forgotten by, yet another, entire generation of teenagers.

The Mist (2007)

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Normally this would be a comparison between The Mist film, and the TV show, but I didn’t watch the TV show beyond the first couple of episodes. I got bored. The TV show ain’t got nothing on the movie, probably because Frank Darabont had nothing to do with it, and the two people who were involved with it had a very different vision of what The Mist was about.

The series was a hot mess, that was slow and mostly incoherent, and was finally canceled.  I was hopeful that it would be good, (I’m always hopeful that a show will be good), but I was a bit dubious when I heard there wouldn’t be any monsters in the show, and I think part of the reason for its failure, is  fans of the movie had one idea of how it should be, and the creators had a completely different, and incompatible, idea

And of course, it’s really hard to top the original movie that it was based on. Frank Darabont has proven to be something of a genius when it comes to adapting Stephen King’s stories, having directed not just The Mist, but The Shawshank Redemption (which I loved), and The Green Mile, (which I hated for  different reasons.)

Except for the controversial ending, The Mist is faithful to the novella after which it’s named, and that’s part of its success, because  the story is a very effective study of human nature under extreme conditions, and you can’t get more extreme than being trapped in an enclosed space, while being menaced by giant hungry monsters.

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The Grey Widower

I wrote an essay on how to write the apocalypse novel, and I used The Mist as the type of  framework that many writers could try to hang such a story on, but really I have to credit Agatha Christie with making the premise famous, (although its much, much older than her) of a small group of people, trapped in a  space they can’t leave, who start mysteriously dying. It’s an idea that seems to work especially well with horror movies, in everything from Alien (outer space), to Friday the 13th (the woods), to Night of the Living Dead (the home). The only thing that you can truly change about such stories is the size, and nature, of the space, (jungles, warehouses, summer camps, spaceships) the type of people dying (usually White, with a token PoC thrown in for variety), and why (probably monsters). Along the way, the survivors have to navigate the human monsters of greed, stupidity, callousness, cowardice, insanity…

In The Mist, David Drayton, his son Billy, and neighbor, Brent Norton get trapped inside a local grocery when a mysterious mist descends, a mist that contains some very hungry creatures. Also trapped with them is a small contingent of local people, along with Mrs. Carmody, a woman with the reputation of being a kind of hedge witch, who is also a  religious fanatic.The two standout performances are from Andre Braugher as Norton , and Marcia Gay Harden, as  Mrs. Carmody, with Melissa Mcbride (aka Carol from The Walking Dead) in her big film debut, making this a grand trifecta of awesome. Bringing up the rear, but never slouching, is Toby Jones, William Sadler, Sam Witwer, and Laurie Holden as Amanda Dunfrey, a woman David has an attraction to.

The Stephen King Multiverse

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The Leviathan

Near the small town of Bridgton Maine is a military facility that’s believed to be responsible for the descent of the Mist, after a huge thunderstorm knocks out  the power in the town. The book suggests it was some experimental physics event created by something called The Arrowhead Project, that triggered the Mist, and Stephen King (and many fans ) have made this story part of the Stephen King Universe by suggesting that the Project opened what’s known in other King books, as a “thinny”, a portal between the worlds.

My personal theory was that the portal opened into what King calls “todash” space, the dark void between the different worlds, which is inhabited by different types of monsters, like Tak , from The Regulators, and the creatures in this story. Todash Space is also something heavily referenced in The Dark Tower books, and at the opening of the movie, we can see David Drayton painting a picture of Roland Deschain, from The Dark Tower.

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David Drayton

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Thomas Jane, as David Drayton, just manages to just hold his own in this movie, which is impressive, as I never credited him as a particularly fine actor, although he has had a long career in film. Here, he’s supposed to be our everyman character, with whom the audience is meant to identify, and through which we’re meant to get into the story. His most direct nemesis’ is not the mist, but Edward Norton, a representative of disbelief, and later, Mrs. Carmody, who represents too much belief.

David tries to navigate these two approaches to their extreme circumstances, without falling into either the camp of delusion and denial, called The Flat Earth Society, in the book, or hysterical religious ideation, like Mrs. Carmody. In the novel, David has an affair with Amanda Dunfrey, as a form of solace over the loss of his wife, but in the film, Darabont stated that the two of them having an affair would make David’s character less sympathetic, so that was removed from the script. It would also have had the unintended side effect of the audience supposing that David was being punished for his adultery with her, especially if that was coupled with Darabont’s ending.

The ending sparked a great deal of controversy, at the time,, because it’s completely different from what happens in the book, and some viewers claim that it defeats the purpose of everything David Drayton survived beforehand. The novella itself is open-ended, David and the others never find their way out of the mist, although it ends on a hopeful note. In the movie, David and his friends elect to kill themselves, rather than be eaten by the monsters,when their car runs out of gas. This made some people angry because they felt David went through so much to survive Mrs. Carmody, only to give up at the end.

But I felt this was an entirely reasonable response, if looked at along a continuum  of the kinds of  behavior we’d seen from everyone caught in the mist. In the book, some of the characters retreat from their circumstances by getting drunk, and a number of people who David says “went over”, simply go insane. People commit suicide, and retreat into religious hysteria, and denial. But the bottom line is that most of these people (except for a handful) do not want to face their situation head on. In the movie, David does, but even he and his friends are eventually defeated by the mist, and take their own lives.

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Eventually, the only survivor is David, and he realizes the futility of what they’ve done after he steps out of his vehicle, intending to just give up and be eaten by whatever monster finds him first, only to encounter the retreat of the mist, and the American military destroying any monsters left over. That was something that infuriated a lot of people. David and the others having given up too soon. Had they waited just another hour or two, they would have all survived. But my theory was that this is all an illustration of how hopelessness works. It’s immediate and intense, and must be taken care of right away. Hopelessness is a liar that has no patience, and believes there is no time.

At any rate, staying in the store wouldn’t have saved them. They would have had to leave because of Mrs. Carmody, as the military would never have arrived before she started killing more people.

 

Edward Norton

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Andre Braugher is absolutely incredible as Edward Norton. He perfectly  captures Norton’s officious resentment, from the book, and even manages to add an uncomfortable racial component, to his discussion with David in the market. Watch that scene again, where he insinuates that people are racist, without actually saying people are racist towards him.. In the book, he becomes the leader of the Flat Earth Society, a faction of people within the store who simply refuse to believe that the mist is  dangerous, or that there are monsters.

It’s never made exactly clear what Norton does for a living, but I suspect he’s a lawyer. He approaches the entire event from an argumentative stance, as if his clinging to a rational approach to their circumstances should be enough to survive it. He and his crew represent just one approach to what has happened, and they (and the bagboy, who also didn’t believe the mist was dangerous.) are the first of the store’s customers to die. After those people are dead, we are left with the  those who believe their circumstances are real, and that the monsters exist.

In the book, David states that there are so many different ways that the mind can approach what’s happened, but really there aren’t that many. People can only respond in about three ways to extreme fear: flight (whether it’s  physical (suicide), mental (insanity) from their circumstances, or flight : confronting the situation head on, in an attempt to get around it, which is what David does, and negotiation, which is what Mrs. Carmody does. Edward Norton, and Norm the bagboy, tried disbelief and confrontation, and that promptly got them killed. In the novel, several people choose flight. They just mentally check out, (they go insane), still others use alcohol, or suicide to escape. This is somewhat less evident in the movie than in the story. We don’t see any of the characters getting drunk as a way of coping with the situation, for example, and only one of the many suicides is seen.

And then  there’s Mrs. Carmody. I think, in the movie, she’s meant to represent insanity, but I don’t believe she is insane, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Mrs. Carmody

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In the book, Mrs. Carmody is  a caricature of religious insanity, screaming about the abominations in the mist, in a bright yellow pantsuit. She starts off the story as a joke, a figure of mockery. Over the years, King has become better at writing radically religious people, but Mrs. Carmody is one of the weakest characters in the novel, as she is very one-note, and over the top. When we first meet her in the novel, she only has one setting and that is “crazy”, and she remains that way for the rest of the story. There’s no background or depth given to her. She’s little better than the monsters in the mist.

This is where Darabont’s talent for adapting King’s films comes into play. Under his creative control, Mrs. Carmody is considerably  deepened as a character. We don’t  learn anything new about her backstory, but we do learn that she is not as sure of herself as she would like everyone to believe. In the movie, she begins as a simple curmudgeon,  complaining about the smallest things. Like Norton, she sees her response to what’s happening as entirely reasonable, calmly and quietly explaining to the imprisoned crowd what will happen to everyone, if they don’t do as she says,  which is one of the best changes from the book. As the movie progresses, you  get a much better grasp of her character, especially in a scene with Amanda.

Amanda Dunfrey comes across Carmody in the lady’s restroom, and finds her in tears, as she prays to God to give her the strength to commit to His will. Amanda offers her comfort, but Mrs. Carmody’s response lets you know that she is  aware of what contempt she is held in the town, and she rejects her. She speaks from  the perspective of someone who sees herself as an underdog, a figure of mockery and disdain. She doesn’t accept Amanda’s overture of friendship because she knows Amanda doesn’t care about her, and that none of the people in the market are worthy. She honestly believes that her mission is to bring them to the glory, and submission, to the will of God.

Her scene with Amanda gives new perspective to her actions in the market. She is not as certain of her strength as she seems, not as sure she’s doing the right thing but she forges ahead anyway, and since you get the subtle impression she has just as much contempt for the townsfolk ( they are all horrible sinners) as they do for her (as the town crazy), we have to question her motivations for calling for more and more extreme ends to deal with the  mist. Her way of dealing with the mist is to try to appease the deity, from whom she believes the mist comes, but she goes about it the wrong way, as she becomes increasingly desperate to bring these folks to heel, and submit them to God’s will.

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Carmody’s belief, that she is doing God’s will, is abetted by surviving an attack by one of the mist creatures. A large dragonfly creature, with a venomous stinger lands on her, while she prays that it won’t kill her. When it doesn’t harm her, I think she sees that as a sign of God’s approval, that she is indeed doing the right thing, (after which she starts to show a certain degree of pride, and hubris, in knowing what God wants). She also shows pride in believing that she can save these people from damnation. I don’t believe she is insane, as that’s too easy. (I think her motivations are a lot darker than insanity, and some of it may be revenge against the townspeople, she feels hate her, although that’s something that’s not immediately clear, and is just my supposition.) I don’t think her motivations are  pure.

If Norton, and David, represent forms of confrontation, then Mrs. Carmody represents negotiation, which also doesn’t work in their circumstances either. Norton tries confrontation and dies, Carmody’s approach is appeasement and negotiation, and she dies, and this is why Darabont’s ending doesn’t upset me overmuch, as its entirely in keeping with the theme of the movie.

There’s only one response that saved anyone from the mist.

Surrender.

For example, Melissa McBride’s character, a nameless store customer, is one of the few people who actually survives walking out onto the mist, and I suspect it’s because she doesn’t  negotiate with it, or try to run from it, or fight it. She surrenders to it with faith, and humility, that she will be safe to save her children. She believes the mist is dangerous, but leaves the market anyway, to save her kids, and hers is one of the few motivations which is pure, and not entirely self serving. At the end of the movie, we see her riding with the soldiers, both her children with her. It is interesting that David survives only after he does what she did, which is knowingly surrender himself to the  the mist, and simply walk out into it.

 

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Ollie Weeks

Ollie Weeks is one of the truest characters from the novel to the movie. He is written as a soft and unimpressive looking store clerk, a little overweight, with hidden skills, which is exactly how Toby Jones portrays him. Ollie is a calm, stable, but melancholy presence, with the skills of a marksman, and David Drayton makes a point of stating how useful he is several times in the narrative. At no point does Ollie give in to hysteria or fear, remaining levelheaded and brave thoughout the entire movie. He seems resigned to the awfulness of the situation in the book, neither fighting ,nor retreating from reality. In the movie he turns out to be an enormous asset for the survival of the group, until he is killed in the parking lot during the groups escape from the store.

It’s interesting to note that Ollie Weeks dies just after he kills Mrs Carmody. He is not a prideful character, and seemed to genuinely regret killing her, and even though he had a very good reason for doing so, it is still murder.

 

Amanda Dunfries

Amanda isn’t that different from the novel version of her character. The movie version is a bit more naive and trusting but its an acceptable difference. In the story the characters spend a not inconsiderable amount of time arguing about the Carmody situation, and whether or not she will resort to human sacrifice. Amanda is one of the few people, along with Ollie Weeks, who elects that she will, but in the movie, Amanda argues against it, insisting that human beings aren’t that crazy.

I remember watching this [particular scene and feeling frustrated because Amanda is speaking from a deep well of white, middle class,  feminine  privilege, believing in the best outcome of the situation. Amanda is a conventionally attractive woman, who has probably known mostly kindness throughout her life, and that  is probably what forms the basis for her opinion. In neither the book or them ovie does she have a great role to play. She mostly follows David and Ollie’s decisions.

The Monsters

But the standout is the movie’s special effects and its realizations of the monsters from the books. The movie actually improves on the ones from the book making them a lot scarier, and the half seen quality of the mist makes then especially frightening.. The scene where Norm the bagboy is eaten by tentacles is an exact duplicate from the book. And the tentacles are filmed exactly as they’re described.

The creatures that were greatly improved upon from the book are the spiders. In the movie they are called Grey Widowers. (The book gives no name for them.) There is the giant lobster clawed creature that has taken up residence in the store’,s parking lot, and kills several people, including Ollie Weeks and one of the soldiers. But the most impressive creature is the realization of The Behemoth, a multistory creature that David and the others encounter after leaving the store, and is one of the highlights of the book.

As good as the book is, Frank Darabont has crafted a gorgeous retelling of it for the movie. And it is well worth the watch, AFTER, you read the story however.

 

This was first published on November 27th. I’ve since re-written it to be a bit more focused.

Why I Watched The Movie “Annihilation”…

This review contains spoilers!!!

Apparently, the one thing that can get me to watch something I really had no hard plans for viewing is…CURIOSITY. 

I guess I’m just a big nosy-ass, because when the opportunity came for me to stream this, I simply could not resist, even though it was 2AM, and I knew I had to get my ass up out the bed at 7:30. (Extreme curiosity is pretty much my go-to motivation for watching a lot of stuff.)

So,  I watched this, and I have to admit, despite my trepidation, I actually kinda liked it. For my definition, it is more of a horror movie, than a Scifi movie, not because horrible things happen in it, (they do), but because the haunting feeling of melancholy, and dread, from the book, was perfectly captured, so I can’t actually call the movie enjoyable, in that sense. Its a mood that sticks with you long after the movie is over.The best horror movies present as many questions as answers and that ‘s what the director, Alex Garland, does here.

In my last post, I remember asking if this movie was un-filmable, and yeah, it  is, because this movie is not the book, in the sense of the events happening as they do there. The movie, because of its nature, has to present a sequence of events that lead to other events, in a linear fashion. Garland does make a good effort at this by flipping back and forth in time. Unlike the book, we’re not privy to the narrator’s disturbed, and disturbing thoughts, and the director had to substitute with mood, instead.

On the other hand, the mood of the movie  is perfect. Jeff Vandermeer is one of the primary authors in the New Weird literary genre, along with China Mieville, and M. john Harrison,and it’s especially difficult to film and market such a genre, because so many of the stories are simply unfilmable. The purpose of New Weird is to upend stereotypes, and overturn tropes, and movies are kind of built on that type of shorthand. And even if you could film one of these weird novels, you’d have to change so much of it for the audience to understand it, that it would no longer be the book. I mean how do you film, for a mainstream audience, something like Perdido Street Station by Mieville, which involves love scenes with insect headed women? But Alex Garland seems to have captured the spirit and intent of the book, if not the exact details, because the ending is completely different, and if you’ve read the book, the events that happen at the Lighthouse are interpreted very differently. This movie is not for everyone. If you like understandable ,concrete endings, this is not for you.

The movie begins with Natalie Portman’s character, Lena, being interviewed about her escape from what the  characters call The Shimmer, and what the book calls Area X. In the books, the characters don’t have names. They’re known by their roles within the expedition team. Lena is The Biologist. Tessa Thompson as Josie, and Gina Rodriguez, as Anya, are the anthropologist, and paramedic. Ventress is the team leader and a psychologist. And there’s another scientist named Shepard.

The book’s subplot, of having the psychologist control the others with hypnotic suggestions, has been jettisoned, and Lena’s memories of her husband, who previously ventured into the Shimmer, are told in flashback. In the film, all the women have existential reasons for volunteering to go into The Shimmer, all of them are self destructive, and this motivation plays a large part in the theme of the movie. Lena is self destructive over her marriage, Ventress is suicidal because she has terminal cancer, Anya self harms, Shepard lost her daughter and is depressed, and Josie suffers from depression, as well. They are the kind of people who want to opt out of life, and The Shimmer preys on that to some extent.

No reason is given for what The Shimmer is really, or why it’s there, at least not in concrete, nailed down terms, in the first book, which is more concerned with thoughtful exploration. In the movie, it’s an alien life form, not-conscious, not intelligent, whose purpose is to simply change other life forms, merging, reflecting, and refracting them. The team encounter hybridized creatures, like a mutated bear which screams in the voice of the colleague it killed, (Shepherd), and an alligator with a mouth full of shark’s teeth.They also come across the bodies of hybridized and refracted humans, whose bodies have  merged with nearby buildings, or have become plant like statuary. The imagery is fascinating and terrifying.

The first hour of the movie is mostly spent exploring Area X and establishing Lena’s reasons for volunteering.  Thanks to the trailer, I was worried that the movie would be dumbed down, and be another vehicle to have women be chased and attacked by a monster, but that turned out not to be the case. The movie is smarter, and more emotional than that.

You’ll be happy to know these women are also pro-active, and kick some ass. There are no fainting damsels here. Lena has military experience and all the women are well armed. They end up in vulnerable situations because they have walked into the unknown, and have no idea what to expect, not because they’re waiting around to be attacked. The bear sequence takes up only a small part, in the middle of the film, and then its done. That’s not the movie’s focus. I do wish the director had been a woman though, because the relationships between these characters feel somewhat antiseptic. There’s deep emotion on an individual level, but not as they relate to each other. These are professionals doing a job, and I wanted just a little more emotion between them. (Not drama, which lazy writers often substitute, but emotional connection.)

In the book there’s a creature called The Crawler, which writes strange poetry on the walls of the lighthouse, and  kills one of the team members. I didn’t think it was possible but the end of this movie is stranger than the book, and that’s why I feel that the intent of the book was captured so well. We get a lot of answers during the film, and the conclusion appears satisfying, at first, but we’re also left with a big mystery at the end, too.

There are about fifty different words that mean “weird”, and the movie draws on all of them.The most disturbing part of the  movie wasn’t the mutated bear, although yes, that was terrifying. It was the scene where Anya, in a fit of extreme paranoia, takes the rest of the team hostage, and threatens to kill them, after she finds out Lena’s husband was on the previous expedition. She has very obviously gone insane, and  the  helplessness of the other characters is enough to have you sitting on the edge of your seat. I feel like this scene takes the place of the unreliable narrator scenes from the book.

I think the saddest, most unexpected, scene was Thompson’s anthropologist, who just wanders off to become part of the scenery. Literally! She just gives in to the whole thing, and seems entirely at peace with it. I identified more strongly with Lena, than I did with her, but I found that scene especially horrifying. If that were me, I don’t know that I could just give up like that, which is ironic, considering I suffered from my own bout of suicidal depression in my early twenties, where I would’ve been happy to give up. My reaction to that scene is probably informed by my recollections of that time. I think I identify more with Lena, especially now, because she never stops fighting what’s happening to her, all the way to the end.

A large clue to understanding one of the themes of the movie, and what The Shimmer is, is in Lena’s biology speech at the beginning of the movie, and her basic message is that all life came from one source, one cell, and what would happen if we devolved back to that one source. Early in the movie, one of the books she’s caught reading is The immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about a black woman whose immortalized cancer cells are the foundation of cancer research in America. Lena also has conversations, with her husband, about how humans could never achieve immortality because we have a strong self destructive streak.

The return of Lena’s husband is told in flashback. It’s been nearly a year, when he simply walks into the house, and into her bedroom. He has no memories of how he got home, or where he’s been. He has a seizure and falls into a coma, and that’s when Lena discovers he’s not supposed to be back at all. The current expedition comes across videos left by the previous team, and that’s how they begin not only to understand that something is happening to them, but what happened to the last team, including Lena’s husband.

When the last of the team, Ventress and Lena, reach the lighthouse, Ventress gives herself over entirely to the alien Shimmer, and Lena discovers the body of her husband, and video footage of how he actually died. (He committed suicide.) Ventress’ death has the unintended side effect of releasing a kind of genetic doppelgänger of Lena, that tries to become her, and duplicates her every move. Realizing that the double is a version of her, with her genetic code, Lena tricks it into holding a phosphorus grenade, and escapes before it burns up, taking the lighthouse, and alien Shimmer, along with it. There are a lot of theories out there about what this scene means, with people speculating that she passed her suicidal, self destruction to the alien, and that this possibly makes her immortal, now. I don’t know about that, but at least she’s no longer suicidal, at the end.

She somehow manages to find her way back to the Southern Reach, and her husband, although she realizes it isn’t her husband at all, and he can’t seem to answer that question. For Lena, it ultimately doesn’t matter, because she was infected by the alien Shimmer before it destroyed itself, and she may not be as human as everyone thinks she is either. This is indicated by her and her “husband’s” shimmering eyes before the final credits. Is the alien dead? Are they still human, but changed? Not human at all? Is Lena immortal? And what does this mean for her, her “husband”, and the rest of humanity?

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself if this movie is for you, if you trust my description of it. It’s definitely an acquired taste,and not for everyone. If you suffer from bouts of depression, this may actually trigger it, as one of the movie’s primary themes is depression and suicide, and it’s a cross between The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s much more thoughtful, and introspective in mood, because the answers aren’t simply handed to you, or over-explained. You have to pay close attention to what’s being said. The feeling of dread is vague, undefined, and quiet, and sneaks up on you as you begin to realize what it all means, punctuated by moments of terror.

Yeah, it’s definitely weird.

I don’t regret having watched it though.

I’m Looking Forward To Watching…(Movies)

I think its very interesting that we all have so much choice out there today, as regards popular media, that some of us PoC are making the bold choice of only supporting films and TV shows which prominently feature other PoC. So there is progress being made as far as diversity and inclusion. Its slow, and hasn’t reached any level of normalcy, to the point where we can just disregard these films, but hopefully we can reach that point.

For myself, I’m just reaching a point where I dont give a flying hot damn what any White fanboy thinks of most movies. I am completely and thoroughly disregarding all of their opinions on movies, (I long ago stopped listening to them as regards music) and most of television. They’ve had their say long enough. It’s time for other people to be heard now.

March

(9) A Wrinkle in Time

This movie is being released this weekend, and I’m  to take my 12 year old niece to see this. I read this book  as a child, so I’m almost as excited about this movie as she is, even if she has not yet read it. She just likes seeing little girls having adventures in movies, and I am more than happy to provide her with a steady diet of that. And yeah, watch out for the bad reviews until you’ve seen the movie yourself. They’re already getting started panning this movie, (probably because they can’t hate on Black Panther without looking like a fool.)

 

 

(23) Pacific Rim Uprising

I’m sort of in love with John Boyega. I plan to take my niece to see this one too, because she isn’t just sort of in love with him, she is crushin’ bad. We both liked the first film, I’m a huge fan of  kaiju movies,  and this looks really exciting. Plus, its  got that whole Power Rangers thing going for it, too.

 

 

 

April

(20) Rampage

My Mom loves giant killer somethings in movies -dogs, crocodiles, dinosaurs. It makes no difference to her as long as ts based on a real animal, is large, and eats people. The film does receive one demerit from her because she is not a Dwayne Johnson fan. On the other hand, I am a Dwayne Johnson fan, and it also stars Naomie Harris, which gives this movie the distinction of not having any of the Chris-es in charge of this action thriller.

 

 

 

May

(4) Avengers Infinity War

I got plans!

 

 

(18) Deapool 2

I love the trailers for this movie, but I don’t know if I’ll be inviting my niece  to see this one, and the thought of seeing this with my Mom is kinda terrifying. I think it’s just a tad too mature for my niece, so I may have to go this one alone, or not at all. I do like the movie’s version of Domino. She’s so Pam Grier! And of course, my girl-fave, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, (What an awesome name!!!) will be present, so I have to support her.

 

 

(25) Solo

This looks like fun, although I do wish the movie was about Lando, rather than Han, and the lead actor has luxurious, cheesy 70’s hair, which is annoying, since I am over that phase of my life..

 

June

(8) Oceans 8

The only reason I want to see this film is to see Rihanna. I probably won’t see this anyway. I’ll be all out of money because I have plans to also see…

 

 

(15) The  Incredibles 2

Yep! Elastigirl is worth 2 Rihannas, and Edna Mode is worth about a couple hundred of whoever else is starring in Oceans 8.

 

 

(22) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Oh c’mon! You know! Giant animals? Check! Eating people? Check! Jeff Goldblum? Check! Running and screaming? Check!

Okay then.

 

 

July

(6) Ant Man and The Wasp

I had no plans to go see this movie, just as I had no plans to see the first film. Then this trailer dropped, and it looks like hella fun, so I’m thinking about it. Just remember, nobody was asking for the first movie. Marvel just decided, for whatever reason, to give us an Ant Man movie, despite our asking for a Black Widow movie. On the other hand, I fully support Janet Van Dyne, (I love her in the comic books) and wish the first movie had been all about her.

 

 

(27) Mission Impossible: Fallout

I have never gone to see any of the Mission Impossible movies at the theater, but I’m considering seeing this. The trailer is totally batshit, and Angela Bassett is in it, so…

 

 

August 

There are no trailers for these two movies yet.

(3) The Equalizer 2

I only kind of enjoyed the first movie, but I’m interested in this one because the little boy from Moonlight is in this one, I think. I don’t know why people are resting on Antoine Fuqua’s movies, almost all of them starring Denzel Washington, though. He’s no Ryan Coogler, but he’s a Black director who has been quietly going about the business of putting his thing down, and we should probably show some respect for that.

 

(10) Crazy Rich Asians

http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/crazy-rich-asians-full-cast.html

I’m almost as excited about this movie as a lot of Asian people. It will be the first movie starring an entirely Asian cast, along with an Asian director, based on a book by an Asian author. Its a romantic comedy , and while I’m not fond of such movies, as a general rule, this movie stars some of my favorite people, like Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Harry Shum,  and Michelle Yeoh. This is their Black Panther moment and I hope people come out in support for it, especially if you want to see more Asian actors in American films.

In their own words:

 

September

(14) The Predator

I haven’t seen any trailers for this yet, but I’m kind of excited about it becasue Keegan Michael Key is in this movie, and I’ve never seen him be a badass with a gun, outside of a comedic purposes. It also stars Edward James Olmos, Sterling K. Brown, and Olivia Munn. I really like the Predator franchise, which has a good history of showcasing PoC in prominent roles,  like Carl Weathers from the first film, Danny Glover from Predator II, and Sanaa Lathan in AvP.

https://consequenceofsound.net/2017/02/shane-black-shares-first-cast-photo-of-the-predator-as-filming-begins/

 

October

(5) Venom

I don’t know what to think about this  movie yet, because the trailer doesn’t actually show anytihng, or tell anything. On the other hand, it does star Tom Hardy, and I have to support his crazy ass. I’m a fan of some of  the comic book versions of Venom, so I’m cautiously excited about this. I also heard that this movie isn’t related to any of the MCU films, so I don’t think we can expect a cameo from Tom holland.

 

November

I have not found any official trailers for these movies.

(2) Mulan

I am cautiously excited about this movie. I will be even more excited if there are no White people in the cast. We watched the cartoon version and that  didn’t feature any White people, so I don’t feel we need any in the live action version either. Why would you add White people to this anyway?

Hollywood needs to learn that you do not need White actors to tell a story, or draw the audience in. If the story is good, it can stand for itself. On the other hand, overseas audiences see White people as exotic, and that might be a reason a White character would be added to this movie.

 

(16) Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I’m less than happy that Johnny Depp is in this, and I’m still in my feelings about the lack of PoC in the last movie, even though I enjoyed all the characters, and the plot made no sense. This one, I think, is set in France ,and I’m looking forward to seeing all the characters from the first film, although I probably won’t be seeing this in the theater.

 

Also: Creed 2; Mary Queen of Scots;Aquaman

I got nothing on these films. They just sound mildly interesting.

 

 

I’m Looking Forward To Watching…TV

Ooh! There’s some great stuff coming to television this spring. Also, some not so great stuff, but we won’t know that until we look at it, soo…

Now:

Altered Carbon (Netflix): I have not yet watched this. I will get around to it and let you know what I think at some point.

 

 

Ash Vs The Evil Dead Season 3 (Starz): I’ve watched a couple of episodes of this season. Lucy Lawless has returned, and Ash finds out he has a daughter. I don’t think I’ll watch the entire season, but as far as I can tell, the show is even gorier, and zanier, than that first season. Next to Happy, and Legion, its one of the most batshit shows on TV.

 

 

Mute (Netflix): I started watching this but checkedout because I got bored. Since then I’ve read a number of great reviews comparing it to Balderunner and Altered Carbon. I also happen to like the lead actor who  played Eric from the show True Blood. There’s lot so secretive conversations, half naked dancing, and neon, so my tolerance may be a bit low, but I’ll try to watch it again.

March:

(1) Atlanta:Robbin Season (FX): I missed a lot of episodes of the first season, so I had to go back and catch up. I’ve watched the first episode of this new season, and really enjoyed it. You have to see it to believe it. The special guest star for this episode is Katt Williams, playing a man who owns an alligator, and has kidnapped his girlfriend until she pays him back the money she stole.

 

(2) Ravenous (Netflix): I think this show is Swedish, or Danish, or French or something. Its not in English anyway. It’s about a small town beset by zombies, and looks intriguing. I’m taking some vacation next week, so I’ll check it out then, and let you know if the subtitles are worth it.

 

(7) Hard Sun (Hulu): I have no idea what this is aobut, but the description sounded kinda like a British version of The X-Files. I like the X-Files, and I like British shows, but I don’t know that I’ll like this. It just sounds interesting.

 

(7) Hap and Leonard Season 2 (Sundance): I’ve read a couple of the books, and the show looks like fun. The books are definitely an acquired taste, and have a kind Pulp Fiction meets Justified feel to them. I’m interested to see if the show captures the same flavor. I’m not going to bingewatch it though, just check out a couple of episodes. The trailers look like fun, but I don’t know that I’d enjoy a steady diet of this.

 

(8) Jessica Jones Season 2 (Netflix): I couldn’t make it through the first season of the show for…reasons. Maybe I’ll have better luck this weekend. I want to like Jessica, but she is such a downer type person, that its hard to watch her series. She was cool in The Defenders, and the trailers look a bit more appetizing though, so I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll see more WoC in this season, yeah?

 

(9) The Outsider (Netflix): Despite my judgmental nature, I’m not actually  willing to completely condemn a show before I watch it. I’m also one of five people who does not simply hate Jared Leto, although I probably should. I’m not a fan, but I’m not averse to watching (or liking) any vehicle he happens to be in.I also happen to like movies about The Yakuza and will pretty much watch anything with them in it, probably because I get a kick out of watching Japanese men behaving badly.

 

(9) A.I.C.O. Incarnation (Netflix): I rarely watch anime series, but this looks interesting and scary, so I’m going to try it.

 

(11) Timeless Season 2 (NBC): I have never watched this, but I’m sure some of you may be interested in it. Its my understanding that the show did some interesting things with the Black character last season, and have not neglected to take into account that he is a Black man, who travels into time periods that are probably not too good for his health.

 

 

(21) Krypton (Syfy): I would not normally have included this, because I have no interest in watching a show that doesn’t actually feature Superman, and the trailers look a little too soap opera-adjacent for my tastes. But hey! I’m sure someone, somewhere is very excited about this, and it might turn out to be a good show.

 

(26) The Terror (AMC): You already heard me gushing about this one. Still gushing!

 

(29) Siren (Freeform): This is like a horror movie version of The Little Mermaid. The acting looks really dodgy, but I’m going to try it, because i’m always here for evil sea-creatures, pretending to be beautiful, but talent-less actresses.

 

(30) The Titan (Netflix): I’m not a huge fan of the lead actor here, but I like the idea of hideous transformations and planetary travel.

 

(30) A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2 (Netflix): I missed the entire first season, but hey! it’s still on Netflix, so theoretically I can catch up anytime, right? Well, maybe someone besides me can catch up. I liked the movie okay, but I got bored in the first episode. Not that its a bad, or even a boring show. I’m just much more likely to fall asleep while lying in bed with the Netflix on.

 

 

April:

(2) The Crossing (ABC): I like the premise of this show which reminds me of The 4400, which was canceled right when I was starting to get into it. Hopefully this has shown up at a good time, and will do well. Sometimes half the success of a show is the timing of its release.

 

(3) Legion (FX): I think the first season hurt my brain.This is unlike any other superhero show on television. If you like wild situations, that may or may not be tangentially related to the plot, or even real, occasionally linear dialogue, and zany imagery, then go for it.  I think this show broke my head, but I’m gonna watch it again anyway.

 

 

(8) Killing Eve (BBC): People are always clamoring for female lead shows that are dark and thrilling. Well here you go! I hate the lead character, just from the trailer alone, but I know there’s an audience out there for a female psychopath. I do happen to like and respect Sandra Oh, and she looks wonderful in this.

 

 

(13) Lost in Space (netflix): I don’t know why they’re making a remake of this, but I’ll watch it, since I watched and sorta liked the original. Of course I was a kid when I saw the original so that may have been a factor in my enjoyment, and also I wanted a Robbie the Robot just like in the show.

 

(13) The Expanse Season 3 (Syfy): One of these days I’m going to watch one of the seasons The Expanse, all the way through to the end, after which there shall  commence a day of celebration. There shall be much rejoicing, (and possibly some wailing and gnashing of teeth, too.)

 

(22) Westworld (HBO): AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Allow me to repeat that, in case you didn’t get that…uh’hem! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

 

(22) Into the Badlands Season 3 (AMC):  Well naturally, to punish me for my enthusiasm, my two favorite shows will air on the same night. Fortunately HBO likes to show multiple repeats all week long, so I can watch this, and record the other. And of course you know, this means reviews, reviews, and more reviews.

 

 

 

May:

Apparently, there’s nothing coming on TV in May. All the stations will just be blank, which will be the signal for the Apocalypse to begin, because What the Fuck!!!

Oh yeah right!  Bear Grylls is gonna be doing some shit, on the last day of the month, if you’re into that sort of thing!

SAVED!!!!

 

June

(7) Cloak and Dagger (Freeform): I read this comic book as a teen, but I don’t think this show is gonna be a whole lot like the comic, which is a really good thing, because that book was hella racist. I mean half the stuff they did with those two characters, would not fly on TV today, without a major backlash. Cloak’s superpower is that he absorbs light, and Dagger’s power is that she emits it.

 

(22) Luke Cage Season 2:

Write your own, highly  enthusiastic, response here!

TBD:

Castle Rock (Hulu): We still have received no date for this show. All I know is that its coming to Hulu this year, but I can wait. It looks interesting.

 

Why I’m Not Watching The Movie Annihilation

 

I’m a big Jeff Vandermeer fan. I’ve read most of his books, all of which are pretty trippy. (The man has a serious fascination with mushrooms.) So I was  excited to hear they’d be filming his three part Southern Reach series, and while I had no particular objection to Alex Garland as the filmmaker, I had to stop and and ask myself, Is the book unfilmable?

If you haven’t read the book, the best description of it is that it’s an intellectual exercise in horror. Events happen in the book, but the book is not linear, in the sense that the actions you’re reading about have immediate consequences, or lead to other events. This is not helped by the unreliable narrator. Events occur, are occurring, but you have no idea what they mean, or if they did, in fact, actually occur.

In the first book of the Area X trilogy, called Annihilation, an all female team of researchers go on an expedition into what’s called Area X, an area of weird life forms, and bizarre transformations of the natural world, that may or may not be hostile, which grows larger every year. In the movie, this place is called The Shimmer, and it’s probably worth looking at just to see the alien life forms.

These women are the 12th such expedition into the area. Most of the other expeditions didn’t come back, and the individuals who have made it out, either die soon afterwards, or are less than helpful as to what happened.. The narrator is a woman who lost her husband in the previous expedition. He came back but lapsed into a coma.The first book chronicles her journey  into Area X, while still in mourning for her husband. Just to complicate issues, some of the members of the expedition have been tasked with observing the others, and some of them have been given hypnotic code words, to make them do, and say  things.

Image result for annihilation

I read the first book, and skipped the second and third, because those seemed less about Area X, than about the government organization that studies it, called The Southern Reach. A lot of the second book consists of the backbiting and infighting between the members of this organization.

I don’t know how well this movie is going to do at the box office. I don’t think its going to do exceptionally well, but I could be wrong. Like Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman has never been a huge draw for filmgoers, although she’s a perfectly acceptable actress. There’s also the matter of this movie coming out on the tail end of the release of Black Panther. But then, I think any movie released in the wake of Black Panther is taking a rather bold stance. The creators of this movie must have realized this because they will be releasing the movie to Netflix UK sometime in March, from what I understand.

What I know of the plot of the movie doesn’t sound a whole lot like the book either. There’s a bunch of mutated animals, including a mutated bear, hunting the members of the expedition. This bear isn’t in the book, although a host of other odd creatures are, the most frightening of which is The Crawler.

Image result for movie annihilation the crawler

And then there is the matter of the whitewashing. Natalie Portman’s character is described as being Asian in the book, and a lot of people feel some type of way about that, to the point where Garland has had to makes some excuses for why he chose her. He claims he had not read the book before she was cast. What Portman’s excuse is, I have no idea. It was someone’s responsibility to let people know that the lead character was Asian. He also cast Jenifer Jason Leigh in another role supposedly meant for  a half Indian woman. As usual Hollywood continues to fuck up, when it comes to Asian representation.

Myriad reasons have been cited as to how this happened: The characters’ ethnicities are not explicitly stated until the second book; Garland began working on the adaptation before he was officially attached to the project and therefore before the second book was published. Etcetera. The bottom line seems to be ignorance, as Garland, Portman, and Leigh have all stated that they simply didn’t know. It’s not difficult to believe there was no malicious intent in the casting. But the statements still read like apologies that somehow lack the word “sorry,” and shuck responsibility for what happened onto a nonexistent second part

https://www.thedailybeast.com/annihilation-and-hollywoods-erasure-of-asians

Image result for annihilation whitewashing

In the meantime, Non-Asian American fans are getting really, really, tired of only seeing the same 25 white actresses in everything. I have nothing against ScarJo, she’s an adequate actress, and she’s very pretty, (JLaw, on the other hand, can go kick rocks) but I really don’t want to see her ass in one more damn movie. I’m just  “tahd” of looking at her, and I’m about to feel the same way about Portman. I understand why Hollywood keeps casting the same people over and over, but still. Enough is enough.

In the book everyone dies, and this is an issue for me, because all the other women in the expedition are women of color. I love that they hired Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez for these roles, but I just don’t feel like sitting in the movie theater watching the only WoC in the entire movie get brutally mauled by a giant demon-bear. I feel tired just thinking about it. Apparently Hollywood’s idea of diversity now is to put WoC in a movie, and then brutally kill them (yeah, we’re looking at you Atomic Blonde!) I’d tell Hollywood to just cast some White women next time, but I’m pretty sure that they are also pretty tired of seeing themselves be brutally fridged,

 

I feel like making the movie about the women being hunted by a mutated animal is kind of dumbing it down, although a lot of critics claim its a very smart film. I just expected more than that because its not just the plot of the book that’s strange. The mood, the dialogue, all of feels uncanny. The book is full of long, quiet, contemplative moments, where the reader is basically sitting with the protagonists and hearing her thoughts. There’s also the added weirdness that she might very well be going insane, and doesn’t know it. It’s because of that, that her descriptions of what the other characters are doing, is suspect. (Perhaps if Terence Malick had been chosen as the director, I’d be more impressed. He seems to specialize in thoughtful voice-over  films.)

Despite my misgivings, I’m still intrigued though, but not intrigued enough to go to the movies and spend money on it. I think I’ll wait for this to come to cable.

 

Do You Remember The Sentinel TV Series

This series aired form 1996 through 1999. I remember watching the hell outta this show. It was through this show that I rediscovered slash fan fiction, having gotten away from it, from when I’d discovered Kirk/Spock.

This was very possibly one of the slashiest shows on TV next to Star Trek. Ao3 didn’t exist back then, (although yes, the internet existed) and there was so much fanfiction written about the two male leads of this show, that there were several whole archives devoted to it. (Like 852 Prospect). You can probably still find them. I feel that in some ways this show contributed to  many of the tropes of slash fan fiction, that we find so annoying today.

Image result for sentinel tv show

The show featured a Ranger named James Ellison, played by Richard Burgi, who lost his Special Ops team in the Amazon jungle. The sole survivor, he discovered he was a member of a mystic warrior race with heightened senses, called Sentinels, whose job it was to watch over their specific tribes. After his rescue, he goes back to Cascade Washington (really just someplace in Canada), becomes a cop, and years later, has forgotten all about his time in the Amazon, until his senses get accidentally re-awakened, when solving one of his cases. At this point he gets discovered by an anthropology researcher named Blair.To help control his superpowers, Jim adopts Blair as a  spiritual focus, whose job is to bring Jim back to reality, when he gets too caught up in whatever he’s sensing.

Now, is that, or is that not, the kinda stuff slash fiction is made of. You’ve got superpowers, spiritual bonds, mystic shenanigans, cops, a handsome and gruff older man, and a cute  and excitable younger partner. It’s like the plot of every yaoi anime ever, and I was totally here for it. This show took me to church!

The popularity of this show was not at all harmed by shirtless images of Richard Burgi in his prime, and that the show’s actors were well aware they were being ‘shipped, and were all for it. Possibly they were even playing it up, since, because of censorship, the show’s creators would have been largely prevented from showing an openly gay relationship, between the two male leads. The study of slash fanfiction was also in its infancy then, and most people wouldn’t have known anything about it, as that was very much under  everyone’s radar. To give you some idea of the timelines involved, Buffy began the year this show ended, and ran until 2003. The show Supernatural began in 2005.

Image result for sentinel tv show

Richard Burgi was the new hawtness at the time, and Garrett Maggart, who played Blair, wasn’t too shabby looking either, and a lot of the show was really suggestive. The two of them lived together as roommates, they also worked together, because Blair said he wanted  to monitor Ellison’s superpowers, they were very touchy-feely and dramatic, everyone in their lives knew they were living together, including Jim’s ex-wife (Jim simply referred to Blair as his partner, with no other explanation to the rest of the staff of the police dept.) and the two hung out together ALL the time, and everyone seemed perfectly okay with it. This show set the grand standard for queerbaiting .

But I don’t think of this show as queer baiting because that wasn’t really much of a thing back then,  and because of the time period of the show, an open homosexual relationship couldn’t be shown. (Well, rather say that it is, in fact, queer baiting, but its the same kind of queer baiting that exists in old movies, where nothing could be explicitly stated.) Neither character had any long term love interests that the viewer knew they’d eventually end up with, and both of them spent entirely too much time standing uncomfortably close to one another, and looking into each other’s eyes. Queer baiting wasn’t a term that was used yet, but people did spend a lot of time discussing whether or not the characters were gay.

I really think this was a way for the show’s creators to get around  gay relationships not being  shown (or allowed to be shown) on prime time TV. In other words, they had to be sneaky. If you were gay, or gay adjacent, you would see it, and if you weren’t, then you didn’t, (because plausible excuses had been given for why they were not), which is entirely in keeping with the way homosexuality had always been dealt with in popular culture, with innuendo, hints, and allegations, and the show made absolutely no effort to go the “no homo” route by playing up the character’s  relationship with each other, while putting them in  endgame heterosexual relationships.

https://www.amazon.com/Celluloid-Closet-Armistead-Maupin/dp/B001NI5C6U/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1519758939&sr=1-1&keywords=celluloid+closet

It helps that there  was nothing about this show that was even remotely realistic, although if you’re not gonna quibble about the mystical aspects of the show, you shouldn’t have too many problems with other stuff on the show, such as the relationships, or how the “detectiving” was done.

Has anyone else noticed how the detectives on these shows don’t seem to specialize in any one type of detection, even though you can see that wherever they work is fully staffed? Ellison shouldn’t be working a murder case, a drug deal,  and a counterfeit jewelry op, all while trying to catch a terrorist bomber, at the same time.  Most 80’s cop shows just call for the detectives to work on whatever crime pops up that day, instead of specializing in a particular type of crime like homicide, or drugs, or something, which is not how that actually works, in big cities.

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At least several times a season Jim’s senses would go haywire, and Blair would have to talk him out of it, all while trying to keep this a secret from his commanding officer, Captain Simon Banks, played by Bruce Young, because, according to Ellison, if people found out he had superpowers, all his old cases would come up for review, and all the criminals he captured would have to be released. After all, superpowers are not sanctioned by the court system. I think this was a thinly veiled metaphor for being closeted. Jim and Blair often lived in fear that the people around them would find out about Jim’s superpowers, but neither of them cared that they looked like they were in a romantic relationship.

Simon wasn’t clueless the whole time. He eventually finds out, and keeps Jim’s secret, although I do like to wonder what he was thinking about this supposed academic following Jim around, and living with him. And Jim wasn’t actually wrong either. At the end of the series, there’s a riff between him and Blair, when Blair’s dissertation on Jim is accidentally leaked to the public, Jim is outed as a superbeing, and all hell breaks loose. Jim gets suspended. His cases all come up for review. He blames Blair for the potential  loss of his career, and civilians (and the media) are harassing him in the streets. But it all gets resolved, and the series ends on a positive note.

Since there was a mystical component to Jim’s superpowers as a Sentinel, there was a lot of references to his time in the Amazon, and a black jaguar, which appeared to be Jim’s totem animal. My biggest issue was that Jim had regular sightings of this jaguar, and I feel some type of of way about a cop who regularly hallucinates about his spirit animal. That just really bothered me. I’m dubious about the motivations of most cops when they’re completely sober, so a cop who has  visions, yeah…no! But I admit,  I really enjoyed that one episode that involved Jim’s Amazonian shaman visiting Cascade. That was kinda cool.

Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg in "The Sentinel"

 

The Powers

Jim’s hyperacute senses allow him to perceive things undetectable by normal humans. He can see perfectly in low light situations and with superb acuity at long distances, hear sounds at extremely low volume or beyond the normal range of human hearing, and sense what others cannot via taste, touch and smell; he declares himself “a walking forensic lab”. Jim’s powers have a drawback: if he concentrates too strongly on one sense, he may become oblivious to his immediate surroundings. Part of Blair’s job is preventing this, and protecting Jim when he is focusing. As a Sentinel Jim has several powers:

  • All 5 senses are strongly enhanced
  • Able to communicate with ghosts
  • Has a spirit animal, a black jaguar
  • Receives visions that guide him in the choices he makes and sometimes predict the future (Jim had a vision that showed Blair’s death before Alex killed him)
  • Used the power of his animal spirit to bring Blair back from the dead

—  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sentinel_(TV_series)#Powers

Despite my misgivings though, I genuinely loved the show, and not just because I thought Richard Burgi was the second coming of hawt and bothered, which…yeah!.  I  actually liked the premise of the show. It was inspired,  and I think it would be great for a remake.

 

Note:

Some of the best fanfiction I ever read came out of this ‘ship, and I’m sad that I never let those writers know just how appreciative I was of their skills, at that time. Most especially, Saraid, and Brenda Antrim who now goes by the name Glacis,  and has her own Wikipedia page. (She is so good that she’s won awards just for being a fan.)   Saraid’s  Panther Tales series can be found on Ao3.

 

Oh yeah, here is one of the funniest reviews I ever read about this show:

http://www.somethingawful.com/news/sentinel-show-senses/

 

The Sentinel is not currently available for streaming . All four seasons can  only be found on DVD.

 

 

A Fistful of Mini- Reviews

Happy

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This show just finished up its first season, and I really enjoyed it. What’s even more surprising, is that my Mom started watching this show, with no prompting from me, and seemed to really enjoy it as well.

Nick is a loser, a drunkard, and a once great police detective, who becomes peripherally involved with the mob. Nevertheless, he gets called upon to rescue Hailey, who is kidnapped by a man possessed by some kind of ghost or demon, and dressed like Santa Claus. He gets recruited to find Hailey by her imaginary friend, Happy, a tiny, blue, flying unicorn, who is desperate to save her, and is voiced by Patton Oswalt.

The show is every bit as zany as it sounds, and even manages to have moments of pathos, as you find out that Nick is actually Hailey’s dad.  There’s lots of action, and crazy fight scenes, as the camera zooms and zips around, to give us a Happy’s eye view of the proceedings. And Happy is a real character in his own right. When he and Nick become separated, Happy has his own adventures, one of which involves an imaginary serial killer of imaginary creatures like himself. Christopher Meloni continues to be a thoroughly underrated actor. He’s great in this show. I didn’t expect to get attached to, or even like Nick, but Meloni manages to make him sympathetic.

It still isn’t explained why Nick is the only adult who can see and hear Happy, but maybe we’ll get an explanation for that next season, which has already been promised. I promise to be there.

Counterpart

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This is another one of those shows that flew below most people’s radar. For some reason Starz simply doesn’t have the cache of HBO and Cinemax. Even though its been pumping out some pretty solid shows, like Outlander, Power, and American Gods, no one has been showing this network as much love as it should get.

Counterpart has an intriguing premise.About thirty years ago an alternate world was discovered, that looks exactly like Earth. Most of the people of Earth have a counterpart in the other one. For some reason these two Earths have become rivals that are trying to keep themselves a secret from the general population.

It stars J.K Simmons, as a mild mannered nobody, named Howard Silk, a depressed, unremarkable, man whose wife is in a coma, whose family dislikes him for keeping her alive, and who works for a mysterious company. The company is a portal to the other world, but he doesn’t know that. When some type of company froo-fra from that other world spills over into this one, Howard has to team up with his identical counterpart, who is a spy and assassin, to stop the killings.

On the surface, it seems like a science fiction show, but it’s really a pretty intense spy drama, with a lot of killing, with most of the drama occurring between Howard and his counterpart, and their frequent conversations about the nature of  their identity, and why the two of them are so different.

The series really isn’t as compelling as Starz is making it out to be, though. The dialogue is a bit dodgy, but Simmons acting is, as always, on point, and he’s worth watching. If you can get past the grim intensity of the acting, the dreary setting in Berlin, and the  dialogue, then you’ll find a good nugget of a show in here.

 

Godzilla : Monster Planet

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There was not enough Godzilla in this episode. Maybe in the next few episodes there will be more of him. The show mostly consists of humans ,who had left the planet because Godzilla was making life difficult for everyone, returning to Earth, and attempting to eradicate the giant monster. I wasn’t interested enough in any of the characters to learn their names.

Seeing Japanese interpretations of Christianity in these movies, is always interesting though, as one of the characters keeps spouting what you think is scripture, in that it sounds vaguely biblical, but I don’t think any of the verses they’re quoting are actually in the Bible. For one thing, the Bible doesn’t have a whole lot in it about Kaiju. Then again, this is sometime far, far in the future, so there’s no telling what they’re actually quoting. (Probably something that came about as a direct result of Godzilla’s destruction.)

There are lots of action scenes, and explosions, which ultimately don’t do anything but piss Godzilla off, and I got bored, as most of the dialogue consists of people yelling tech-speak, when they’re not arguing among themselves, or quoting fake scripture. I may watch the next episode. Its meant to be a series. I was really looking forward to it because I like Godzilla movies, although I dislike the American versions, which never have enough Godzilla, and too many annoying characters in them. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was made by Americans, but the annoyingly upbeat music, that is a requirement in all Japanese anime, kinda gives it away.

 

 

The  Cloverfield Paradox

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I am one of five people that actually enjoyed this movie, and its probably because I didn’t have the soaring expectations that everyone else seemed to have. Its been universally panned as the worst movie in the Cloverfield franchise, but I’m giving these reviews the side eye, for a couple of reasons. Because it really is a straight up Scifi horror movie that you actually have to pay close attention to, and actually  have to think about. I’m going to bet that most of the people panning it just didn’t understand the movie. Also most of the reviewerswho panned it, are White men, and this is another movie with a very diverse cast, without a White man in the center of it.

I’m starting to increasingly distrust White reviewers when it comes to diverse films. In the back of my mind is the thought that maybe the movie isn’t that bad. Does this person have a racist agenda? Although on occasion, the movie actually does happen to be bad, but there have been a number of movies, starring PoC, that I thoroughly enjoyed, but which got horrible reviews. (Oh, c’mon! I’m certainly not going to question my own taste in movies, which is impeccable, naturally! I’ll have a post on that later.)

The other two movies in the franchise, at least in my estimation, have a pretty standard, straight forward horror movie style plot. They also have White actors as the leads. But not his one, which involves alternate dimensions,  time travel, and a cast that’s about 75% of color. None of the plot is spelled out for the viewer. Most of it is shown,  and some of the events are  talked about by the characters. You have to pay attention and figure it out on your own. I went in thinking it would be the standard monster movie, and maybe that’s what affected a lot of other people’s reading of this movie, because there are no monsters, but I still thought it was a pretty effective horror movie, and enjoyed the twists and turns.

This movie  stars David Oyowelo, and Gugu MBatha- Raw. The very first review I read about this movie, and most of the reviews since then, have been written by White people, all of whom uniformly panned this movie, and didn’t mention its diversity.

This movie may have been bad. “Badness” is subjective after all. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as these people have made it out to be, and I’ve seen far worse movies than this one. Compared to other horror movies I’ve watched, this movie is a gem, so I’m not sure what criteria any of these reviewers are using. I used to be able to trust film reviewers, but I’m beginning to doubt I can do that now, as I question their motives for panning films with diverse casts. I don’t rule out the possibility that the film sucks, but I’ve been seeing far too much of this sort of “piling on” to what are usually not bad films, merely mediocre films, that star PoC as the lead characters, and are being judged much more harshly than mediocre films with a White cast.

In one of the first reviews I read about this movie, the reviewer said that the actors were instantly forgettable. These actors are only forgettable if you don’t know, or care, who any of the actors of color are. Gugu  graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, has won numerous awards, and is most famous for her role in the movie Belle, which also won film and critics awards. She is on her acting game in this movie and really sold the emotional arc of it for me. David Oyowelo is most famous for his role in the movie Selma, which won a host of critical awards. He doesn’t have much to do here beyond giving people orders and looking horrified, but he’s not awful at that. Zhang Ziyi also has an impressive film career and has won many awards.

Like most movies of this kind, there’s not a whole lot of character development for peripheral characters. They’re just there to die. But how is that different from any other horror movie in existence? And why was this one judged so incredibly harshly? What was the great sin here? All of the reviews I’ve read have panned this movie, but none of them have been very specific about what it was that actually made the movie so bad. Any one of their complaints could be said about any other horror film released in the past year, and I couldn’t see anything in the complaints about this movie that set it apart for special consideration as being awful.

Everyone who panned this seemed to have extremely high expectations for this movie, that doesn’t match the other two films in the franchise, and I wonder where these high expectations came from, as the first two movies didn’t impress me as grand cinematic endeavors. At least not enough to warrant this level of vitriol for this one. The major difference I see  between the first two films, and this one, is there are no White actors in the center of this story, and there are no giant monsters. So you know what? I’m calling bullshit on those reviews.

I didn’t find the story confusing. I understood it just fine. The horror elements were as horrific as they were meant to be, and I thought it was a moving and emotional drama, told through a science fiction lens. But perhaps my view is not colored by things that didn’t happen onscreen, or were merely talked about behind the scenes, or in the writer’s room.

This excerpt is from one of the few positive reviews I could find about this movie:

While this is happening. the emotional core of the movie is anchored by Ava. She is someone who we empathize with…because the reason she is on the ship is heartbreaking. But, because we are in this new universe, she must struggle with the fact that the impossible is possible. What she is missing in her universe is in this new universe. What would you do if you were in her shoes? The logical side of you is screaming No! at the TV. The emotional side of you is in teary-mode for Ava (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

In Defense of Cloverfield Paradox – The Disconnect Between the Moviegoer and the Critic

This is very definitely Ava’s story, and I won’t give any plot details, but it is more of a very, very dark, science fiction drama, which I thought was different enough to be impressed by it. If you liked the atmosphere of Alien Covenant, and found the secondary plotline of Aliens, between Newt and Ripley intriguing, then you’ll may like this movie.

 

Blue Planet II

 

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I love a good documentary, and I really enjoyed the first Blue Planet series. If you like watching shows about marine life, this is one of the best showcases for that. Its got some absolutely stunning  camerawork. Now I’m waiting for the Making of…episode.

The Alienist

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I still don’t know what to make of this series after watching 3 episodes. Its so tentative, in whatever points its trying to make about its characters, that  I don’t know what to feel or think about any of them yet. It looks gorgeous, and so far, that’s whats been keeping me watching. That and the fact that I’m a sucker for Jack the Ripper type stories, which this is.

I think the problem is that the story itself is very lurid, but the writers seem to be playing it safe and respectable, except for the sex scenes.which seems incongruous. As with most Victorian fiction, there’s a sexual component, and lots of repressed emotions. A lot of of the characters stare blankly into the camera and speak in hushed monotones, to impart how serious all of this is. If you’re expecting something like Penny Dreadful, you’re going to be disappointed. This show doesn’t cross any lines.

The show is based on a book of the same name by Caleb Carr, and its about an Alienist, (a Victorian word for psychiatrist), named Lazlo Kreizler, who is trying to solve the serial killings of young boys in New York city, at the turn of the century. He is assisted by Dakota Fanning’s character, one of the first women on the police force, who works a a secretary for the police commissioner. It also stars Luke Evans as an interested socialite. Some of the topics addressed in the series are the sex trafficking of young boys, sexism on the police force, and poverty. As usual there’s only one Black guy in all of New York, and we don’t know what he does for a living, beyond giving people messages.

There’s not a whole lot of action, chase scenes, or really even that many scares. It feels really inhibited, and a little claustrophobic, and I think that’s meant to be some sort of commentary on that era. Its not a bad show, by any means, but if you’re expecting more exciting TV watching, this is not it, although the conversations some of the character’s have are intriguing. This is definitely a slow burn type of show, that you have to pay close attention to, because knowledge of the  the characters is all in their conversations.

This is the Victorian era, so the only people allowed to show character are the poor, and this show ain’t about them, although they make plenty of cameos. Sometimes Dakota Fanning forgets what show she’s in and shows some genuine emotion, (usually towards any men who are trying to talk down to her), and I’m starting to like her character. I hope to like some of the other characters by the end of the season.

The Superbowl: Movie Trailers

Here are some of the top movie and series  trailers that were shown throughout the Superbowl. Now, I didn’t watch the Superbowl, (I never do), but I did get on the internet to check for any ads I may have missed. I had it on good authority that there would be a lot of movie and TV show ads shown during.  I know that not all of you watched the Superbowl, but you are interested in movies, so I collected as many as I could.

I was out of it all last week with a nasty cold and couldn’t get any posts done beyond the ones I’d already scheduled, so I’m a little behind in my reviews. (Let’s face it, I’m waaay behind.)But I’m doing fine now, and will catch you guys up on things I’ve been looking at while I was sick, like the new Cloverfield movie that was just released on Netflix, along with Altered Carbon,  Star Trek Discovery, and a handful of food shows.

 

Cloverfield Paradox

I was as surprised as anyone to discover this was being released right after the Superbowl. It’s been said that Netflix had some kind of rule that they wouldn’t release movies or shows that would compete with the Superbowl for attention, but apparently that is no longer true. I have it on good authority that the viewership for the Superbowl was the lowest its ever been, and maybe Netflix wanted to take advantage of that. I don’t know.

Anyway, I was on top of this the moment I found out.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it was pretty damn scary, especially in the first hour when you didn’t quite know what was going on. I thought it was a very effective Scifi horror movie that wasn’t a  total riff off of Alien. The synopsis is that this is some kind of prequel that explains  the how and the why of the first movie in the franchise. I’m satisfied with the explanation and thought this movie was an elegant solution to the questions posited by Cloverfield, and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

The movie is lead by a Black woman, Gugu Mbatha -Raw, and also stars David Oyowelo, and Zhang Ziyi. I’ll review this later this month, if I can.

 

 

Avengers Infinity War Trailer #2

I’m almost as excited about this movie as I am about Black Panther.

Almost!

All my favorite people, all in one movie…How does anybody hate this? This trailer is kickin’!

I cannot explain, though, why I’m inordinately excited to see Dr. Strange interacting with both Tony Stark, and Spiderman. All of the best Avengers books are deeply funny, because of the interactions between wildly different characters, and their reactions to each other. That was one of the best parts of Civil War, so I hope this movie will be funny.

 

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Okay, that last movie was alright. Not great, but okay and a mostly fun B movie. This trailer is a lot more interesting because, as I’ve said before, I’m a total sucker for “dinosaurs in the city” movies. Cuz yeah, my first question was: Wtf is this dinosaur doing in this child’s bedroom? Yep, something has gone horribly fucking wrong here, and I wanna know what happened!

I’m gonna see if I can talk my Mom into going to see this, and Rampage because as far as I’m concerned ,you can never watch too many movies about giant monsters, rampaging through a city.

 

 

Westworld Season II

Okay, I actually am as excited for this as I am for Black Panther, the movie to which all other movies will be measured this year, apparently, as far as excitement levels. Fortunately for all of you, you can’t see me jitterbugging around in my seat right now, over this trailer.

But in conclusion, I would like to say:

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Mission Impossible: Fallout

I’m a big fan of this franchise, but what’s ironic about that is that I wasn’t planning to be. The movies just kept getting better, and Tom actually looks like he’s having a lot of fun in them. I like Tom Cruise okay, but I wasn’t a fan of the original series, or Tom Cruise, really.When his career first began, in the 80s, I couldn’t stand him, but he kept happening to  be in movies I liked, and I think that’s what happened here,and now I guess I’m a fan, since I’ve watched all his movies.   It didn’t hurt that he kept starring in these movies with some of my other favorite actors, like Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, and Laurence Fishburne. This new movie just looks entirely batshit, and stars Angela Bassett and Simon Pegg.

 

 

Solo

Okay, this is a good trailer, and makes me interested in seeing this movie, now. I was completely indifferent to the idea of a Han Solo movie, wondering why we needed this, and who was asking for it, but this really looks like fun, even if the lead actor looks cheesy. I still don’t know that I’ll go see this in the theater, but  I’m a little less worried about this movie sucking.

 

 

Castle Rock

I’m looking forward to this show, after the success of the movie IT. (Yes, I’ve seen that.) On the other hand, I’m dubious about this show, because The Mist sucked. Well, all I can do is give it a try and let you know what I think. It seems like it’s going to be okay, but then those Mist trailers were misleading, too. (I am glad to see that movies and television shows are remembering that Black people exist on this planet. That’s kinda cool.)

 

 

A Quiet Place

This looks intriguing…

 

 

Black Dynamite II

And now for something completely ridiculous…

I didn’t’ see the first movie until years after it was released, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I did feel an urge to laugh at it, but not quite. Well, I smiled at it, a lot. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. Maybe I’ll know how the heck I feel about after watching this sequel.

 

The Terror TV Series

I’ve been fascinated by Arctic environments since I first watched the 1956 verson of The Thing (with james Arness) when I was a kid. And it wasn’t just The Thing, There was another movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms that combined Arctic environments with dinosaurs rampaging through a city concept, that I got a real kick out of, too.

A few years, I’d never read any of Dan Simmons books, although he was on my radar becasue he is one of the top horror writers in the industry. I hadn’t read them, not because he’s a bad writer. He’s a most excellent writer. I just never had the time, and he writes some real doorstoppers. But I couldn’t resist the plot of The Teror, about an old school Arctic expedition that goes horribly wrong. It features a mysterious monster, some serious levels of  hardship, starvation, and  possibly some cannibalism.

I love the book.  It’s one of my top favorites of the past 20 years, so imagine my joy when I found out they were making a TV show about it, and it’s on AMC, which means the creators can remain faithful  to the plot of the book, which also involves an element of the supernatural, and some graphic deaths. It definitely classifies as horror. I hope it blows up as much as The Walking Dead did, too.

This week, the first trailer was released. The show airs right at the end of TWD’s season in March, which will be here in no time, so I’m very excited. I just want to hype this up a bit, in case you guys hadn’t heard of it yet.

 

 

It also looks very faithful to the plot of the book, and seems to have captured that feeling of dread, that seems to be a requirement of ny movie set in a cold climate.It’s based on a true story in the sense that it has many events from that have actually happened in such expeditions.

For those of you worried about problematic issues, I can’t recall any from the book There is a young Indigenous woman, but in the book she comes to no harm, and if the creators keep that truthfulness to the book, she won’t on the show.

I’ll review the pilot episode when it airs.

Black Mirror and Critical Diversity

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I want to talk, yet again, about the need for  diversity in film and television criticism. We need this  badly, especially with the increase in PoC in genre films and TV shows. We don’t just need diversity but we need people who can put the images we’re seeing into some historical context. We need critics who can detail WHY some of the media we’ve consumed is racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic, for example.

This was brought back to my attention after I scoured the internet for reviews of Black Mirror, a Netflix Scifi anthology show, which featured an episode about racial retribution, titled Black Museum, and starring Letitia Wright, from Black Panther. The vast majority of those critiques panned that particular episode. Many of those critiques were written by White men and women.

It is certainly within the realm of possibility that the episode sucked, but then I came across an article on The Root, written by a Black critic, that says everything I wanted to say about that episode, and which deeply affected me. Black Mirror critiques our addiction to, and fetishization of, modern technology, and as a result, a lot of it deals with the virtual monitoring of mental and emotional spaces. Of the six episodes in this 4th season of Black Mirror, Black Museum is the most difficult to watch. And it has also  been the most panned, and lowest ranked episode,  by White critics at The Verge, Vulture, and Collider specifically, and one has to wonder why that is. I want to give a comparison between two critiques:

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 Ashley Nkadi gives a devastating critique of America’s consumption of Black pain for entertainment, within the narrative of Black Museum. (This review contains spoilers.)

https://www.theroot.com/black-mirror-black-museum-reckons-with-america-s-histo-1821814356

Notice how she links the narrative to a Socio-Historical context in which Black people’s pain has always been commodified, monetized, and available for White consumption, outlining why some White people are in no hurry to dismantle White supremacy, the source of so much of that pain. Her points are direct and her review is uncompromising.

One of my mantras  has always been “everything is connected to everything”, and Nkadi touches on  those connections in her article, how various social movements collapse through commodification, for example, and how White fans consume media that includes marginalized people, and their reactions to it. Black critics of fandom have been saying, over and over, that White people’s consumption of media does not occur in a vacuum, no matter how much some of them want to separate, and disconnect, these issues from each other, insist they are unrelated, or that they have no bearing on actual lived experiences. Part of my job on this blog is to delineate just how connected everything is, and draw parallels between popular media, and the real world.

Here’s another article written by a White critic at The Nerdist:

https://nerdist.com/black-mirror-black-museum-recap/

And by Sophie Gilbert (a White woman) at The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/12/black-mirror-black-museum-is-a-throwback-to-episodes-past/549389/

Notice how Nkadi is very blunt about the issue of race in that particular episode, and how the writer from The Nerdist, glides right up to the subject of race,  and then slips past it without much mention. He has nothing to say about that. He has no interest in it.

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Another comparison review from The Black Youth Project:

https://blackyouthproject.com/black-mirrors-black-museum-slave-revolt-fantasy-hollywood-never-intended-make/

 —- I do not trust my enjoyment of this, but I trust that what white people see when they watch a story isn’t supposed to be what I see. And maybe for them this was simply a cautionary tale for what might happen when they do business with “supremacists.” Maybe that’s why they placed themselves in the “main character” Haynes’ shoes. But if you are Nish, not Haynes, you would know it is too late for cautions now. And if all of us Black folks are Nish, maybe burning down one man, one prison, one museum each is enough.

Now to be fair, The Root is a website for Black writers, about Black media, so it would seem especially precious for them to avoid the subject of race. The Nerdist is mostly White male writers writing about genre media. Their priority is to appeal to everyone, so approaching the topic of race in media is not going to be important to them, because they may not want to make their White readers uncomfortable, and that’s if they can see the racial implications in the media they critique, at all. Or, the retribution against the White male character, in the story,  made the writers uncomfortable, in a way they did not wish to examine too closely.

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And it seems I’m not the only person to notice or feel this way:

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/59w53k/im-a-black-critic-who-dismissed-the-black-museum-episode

—– ‘But listen, I’m not trying to say that “Black Museum” was peak Black Mirror. I’m not even saying that all its concepts are put together well. What I’m saying is that we need more people like myself and more women of colour in general that can see these messages and interpret them for the masses—free of filter. Because diversity on the big screen without diversity among critics is like planting fruits without tending to the damn weeds. The message is liable to get lost.’

After I started writing this post, I came across this on The Mary Sue!

https://www.themarysue.com/black-museum-black-reviewers/

— ‘ Let’s not forget, as well, Clayton is accused of killing a white woman. None of this is accidental and yet, none of this is mentioned in any of the reviews I’ve seen. Maybe a word or two about the racism, but nothing digging deeper to show why this episode reflects a narrative about the black catharsis that we might need in 2018.’

This review, from Ira Madison III at The Daily Beast,  I posted last week:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/black-mirrors-season-4-finale-black-museum-is-a-horrifying-critique-of-american-racism?ref=wrap

—– ‘The problem with most science fiction that uses race as an allegory is how it reduces racism to hatred based on emotion and circumstance. Human beings hate aliens, orcs, vampires or whatever else because they’re different than them. It ignores the sinister ways that racism has entrenched our legal and political system. “Black Museum” tackles that and much more, using the American curiosity framework—a roadside museum—to tell its story.’

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I’m not arguing that these White writers are bigots. That’s not my point. What I’m arguing is that a White writer’s need, to make their audience comfortable, will hamstring their review, and that White writers have a huge blind spot when it comes to critiquing race in the media we consume, and especially media that’s of importance to PoC.

Although it could be said that some white writers probably just wish to stay in their lane, and not comment on racial topics, the problem with that approach, is that their silence allows their audience to be lazy, to simply go on not thinking about the deeper implications behind their entertainment. In any comment section there are always calls for the writer to ignore racial issues, “Why does it have to be about race?” And”Why can’t you just find it entertaining?” There are parts of fandom that simply don’t want to think very deeply about anything they consume, claiming entertainment as a safe space for themselves, but not affording the same to marginalized people.

And I don’t know what to think of those writers who claim to want to challenge their readers, and don’t, or write the same bigoted drivel that marginalized people are regularly subjected to, in an attempt to seem “edgy”, (but I know I feel about it, though.)

I’m not avoiding critiques from White writers because I dislike White people, or think they’re being racist. (FTR: Black Mirror is a British show created by a White writer named Charlie Brooker,) I mostly avoid these critiques because many of the writers don’t, won’t, or can’t see the details, and nuances, behind media created with PoC as the audience. Most of them are  unable to put the images they’ve seen into any Socio-Historical context, as Nkadi did, to devastating effect, in the above review.

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White writers will not see the broader ramifications in movies like Black Panther, and Get Out, or the meaning behind Luke Cage’s wearing of a bullet riddled hoodie, and Black Mariah’s respectability politics. Many of them are not educated enough on the subjects to be able to speak on them. It took Black reviewers to see and state these things. It took Asian American reviewers to outline the racist implications of whitewashing Ghost in the Shell, and to explain why Danny Rand needed to be Asian. Left to White reviewers these kinds of things are not mentioned.

Because all the media we consume is still primarily written by straight, white, cis-gender men who are only really capable, through a combination of ignorance, malice, and laziness, of writing from their own perspective, we learn what it is they care about, what subjects they think are important, and who they believe matter.

Not that White writers aren’t capable of thinking and writing beyond such boundaries (I’ve discovered a few who can, but most of them can’t write cis- gender, straight, White women very well , and these are, presumably, the people they most often come in contact with). How much less accurate are they going they be when writing about lifestyles even more divorced from their own, like a transgender woman of color,  or an Asian immigrant. Why is Hollywood still so reliant on White men to tell stories they can’t possibly know anything about, except through copious research, and most of them are too lazy to do that, relying instead on the same  old established shorthand of such groups written long ago by other white men, who not only didn’t do any research either, but didn’t care, because those people didn’t matter.

Most white critics are not familiar enough with the various topics of race, within any sociocultural and/or historical context, and then there are those who don’t think it matters at all. But it matters to PoC and other marginalized groups, not just that they are represented in popular culture, but how they are represented, what kind of story is being told.

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Earlier in this country’s history, marginalized groups focused on entering the field of politics, and that was helpful in addressing some of our grievances, and furthering cultural progress. But our realization now is that we need to change the culture. And we can see that the way that a culture can be changed, is through  popular media. Until we control ,write, direct, and disseminate our own stories, in film, television, and books, we cannot change a culture that had long ago decided, with the aid of that same media, that we were less than.

Only we can  (will) declare our own worth. And there is always going to be a certain amount of push-back from those who don’t like it, because it benefits them, on a near spiritual level, to see “The Other” be emotionally downtrodden.

Not only do we need to be able to control our own image, but we need to be in a position to critique those images, because apparently, the reason why those images exist, will only be ignored by members of the dominant culture. The critiques of stories about us need to be done through a diverse lens, otherwise it will only result in reviews that say nothing, of any meaning, about our images.

White writers cannot talk about racial issues in media, and make their audience comfortable, at the same time. It’s not possible to do that and write about the Soci-Cultural issues being addressed in a show like Luke Cage, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the movie Get Out, or the upcoming Black Lightning, and Black Panther, as that might come across to their White audiences as a indictment, and an attack, on Whiteness. And some of them won’t take  the step  of approaching their own discomfort.

PoC, who critique the media that is about us, don’t have that problem, because we’re not necessarily interested in being liked by our readers. (I mean, it’s important. But it’s not out top priority. ) We’re interested in delineating the hard truths, and hope people are willing to come on that journey with us.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Vs. … All The Rest

There have been three other iterations of the original 1956 movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Hollywood keeps rebooting this movie (in fact, there is yet another remake of this movie in the works), despite diminishing returns on its efforts. I blame this on a lack of understanding, by the last two directors, of the core themes.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

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The first film is based on Jack Finney’s novel of the same name, which was written in 1955. I haven’t read the book since I was a very young child, (like 9 or ten),  so I can’t speak to the authenticity of the plot vs. the book, but Hollywood has been fascinated with it for over six decades now, remaking it every twenty or so years, to less audience enjoyment.

The 1956 version was directed by Don Siegel, and starred Kevin McCarthy, and Dana Wynter. This version is very much a product of its time, so to understand its themes, you need to understand something about the era during which it was made.

A simplified version: Just after WW2, America and Russia were not on good terms with each other. The Russians were still reeling from the devastating 1941 German invasion, and America had just used its first nuclear weapons on Japan. So both countries were paranoid from the war, and shit talking each other in the media.

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During this time, the Red Scare, as it was called, was  ramped up to hysterical heights in the American media, by Senator Joseph MCCarthy. Called McCarthyism, there was increased paranoia that America was full of Russian spies, that they were everywhere,  and their goal was to destroy American democracy, and make America a communist nation.

American society was inundated by the media  ‘…with stories and themes of the infiltration, subversion, invasion, and destruction of American society by un–American thought and inhuman beings.’

… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Scare#Second_Red_Scare_(1947%E2%80%9357)

There were numerous congressional hearings, the federal government targeted Hollywood as the bastion of communist thought, popular actors were accused and blacklisted, careers were destroyed by even the smallest whispers of private disloyalty, people were encouraged to tell if any of their acquaintances were disloyal, and many of the movies from that time period reflected, not just the paranoia of the American government, but the fear that Hollywood actors  lived with, that at any time, they could be accused, and have to defend themselves against accusations of UnAmerican Activities. Just associating with the  accused, could put a person in the spotlight.

‘Some reviewers saw in the story a commentary on the dangers facing America for turning a blind eye to McCarthyism, “Leonard Maltin speaks of a McCarthy-era subtext.”[17] or of bland conformity in postwar Eisenhower-era America. Others viewed it as an allegory for the loss of personal autonomy in the Soviet Union or communist systems in general.[18]’The general consensus over the decades, is that the movie’s primary theme was anti-communism, even if the creators say there was no particular political allegory involved.

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In the movie, Dr,Miles Bennell is approached by patients who all claim their family members aren’t really them. Ironically, this is an actual mental illness known as Capgras Delusion, a psychiatric disorder in which a person believes that the people closest to them have been replaced by imposters. While investigating these delusions, he and his companions keep stumbling across pods, and duplicate bodies, and come to the terrifying realization that the delusion is all real, that humanity is being slowly duplicated and replaced by aliens spawned from seed pods.

The original story takes place in a small town in California called Santa Mira, and ends with the lead character, on his own, trying to warn the rest of the populace of the threat.The lead, Kevin MCcarthy, and the director, Don Siegel, both went on to make cameos in the 1978 remake.

The 1978 version manages not only to perfectly replicate the paranoia of the original, but build on it, by setting it in a large city, and  touching on themes of existential dread, mental illness, and urban isolation. It is, like the remake of The Thing, an exceptional example of a film remake.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers is regarded as one of the greatest film remakes ever made.[11] The New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael was a particular fan of the film, writing that it “may be the best film of its kind ever made”.[12] Variety wrote that it “validates the entire concept of remakes. This new version of Don Siegel’s 1956 cult classic not only matches the original in horrific tone and effect, but exceeds it in both conception and execution.”[13] The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin wrote “The creepiness [Kaufman] generates is so crazily ubiquitous it becomes funny.”[14]Related image

This version has an all-star cast of Veronica Cartwright, who had yet to star in the movie Alien, but had been the young star of Hitchcock’s The Birds, playing Nancy Bellicec. A very young, and handsome, Jeff Goldblum, as her husband Jack, whose career was just picking up speed.  Leonard Nimoy, who was still working against being typecast as Mr. Spock, plays Dr. David Kibner, Donald Sutherland is Matthew Bennell, a city health inspector, and Brooke Adams as his co-worker and best friend, Elizabeth Driscoll.

Yes, this is a remake, although McCarthy’s cameo, as a panicked pedestrian screaming about the alien invasion, in the same manner that the first film ended, has prompted some viewers to speculate that this is a sequel to the original film. (No.) All of the primary plot points of the original are replicated in this film, only writ large. Part of the success of this film is the skill, and charm, of the actors who are at the top of their game here, especially the relationship between Matthew and Elizabeth.

One of the more charming things in the movie is the genuine friendship between Matthew and Elizabeth, with more than a little unrequited love on Matthew’s part, although that’s never specifically stated. Elizabeth is already in a committed relationship with one of the first of the pod people, her dentist boyfriend. In any other movie, a romantic relationship between her and Matthew would be inevitable, but that’s not the focus of the film. It has other messages to convey.

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This version improves and embellishes on the original in ways that feel entirely natural, while keeping all of  the basic elements of the plotpoints of the original. When humans fall asleep, duplicate versions of them are birthed from pods, and the original body is destroyed. (So, yes, even though the duplicate has all the memories and thoughts of the original person, it is not them because  all of their the emotions are lacking, and the original body is dead.) The movie  manages to keep the mood and messages of the first film intact, while tweaking and embellishing the relationships and characters.

From  the opening moments, there is the theme of urban isolation, which is the opposite of the original’s theme, which focused on the closeness of a small-town environment, where everyone seemingly knows everyone, an environment which makes it all the more horrifying to find that people have changed, and that what was once known, is no longer. In the remake people are already unknown to one another, no one is really close in the city. This urban isolation is juxtaposed against the intimacy of Matthew and Elizabeth’s friendship, and their relationships to their friends The Bellicecs.

In the remake, the aliens are able to finish what they couldn’t accomplish in the first film. No one knows anyone in the city, and everyone lives in such small personal bubbles, that’s it easy for the pods to make significant inroads into the population. By the time Bennell finds out about the invasion, it’s already far too late to do anything to stop it, and it’s a just a matter of time until he, or one of his companions, falls asleep, and are changed.

I’ll have to do a more detailed review of this movie at a later date, because “I got some thoughts.”

Body Snatchers (1993)

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This version is set up as if it were a sequel to the second film, although none of the characters from the previous remake appear. Apparently, its a parallel story of the invasion, happening on some other front, and according to this movie, humanity is gonna lose, no matter how many pods get blown up at the ends of these films.

The 1993 version loses a lot of the atmosphere, and messages of the first two films, although it does make a game effort.  All of the basic rules of the first two movies, are kept in place. People fall asleep, duplicate versions of them come out of pods, and the original person is killed. This one takes place on a military base,  and there is a vague theme that the aliens are successful because of military conformity, or because people are unhappy, or something, but this isn’t clearly articulated.

Just as in the second film, the aliens get to speak for themselves, stating that pod-ification of humanity will solve all of its troubles, and the screaming and pointing stuff, from the previous remake is kept intact. The way a person is duplicated is every bit as disgusting, involving what appears to be large worms, but unlike in the first remake, it’s not entirely clear how the worms are draining a person’s life essence.

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You have to pay very close attention to infer the themes of this movie, and you are, more or less, left to guess what was the point. Unfortunately, paying close attention to the dialogue (which is actually not bad) brings the actors lack of skills to the forefront. Billy Wirth and Gabrielle Anwar are just bad, and many of the other characters already act like pod people before they get duplicated, so its hard to tell whether or not they’ve been replaced. These particular actors just  are  not in the same talent realm as those of the  previous remake. Theyre too young, for one thing, and simply don’t have the talent, or gravity, to carry this movie, although Christine Elise does turn in an engaging performance as the best friend of the lead character, Marti, played by Anwar.

The core plot is centered around the Malone family dysfunction, as Marti and her family, which consists of her, her father, her stepmother and her baby half-brother, have moved to a new military base. I think we’re meant to sympathize with Marti’s displacement and isolation, from her family, and her surroundings, where she has no connections or friends, and is angry for having to start all over again. I see the parallels the director was trying to make, but I  don’t think it was very successful, because Anwar’s performance is so bad, and she has an annoying, and unnecessary, voiceover, as well.

There’s some surprisingly sedate, and creepy, acting from R. Lee Ermey, from Full Metal Jacket fame, Meg Tilley, and even a cameo from Forest Whitaker, who gives one of the more compelling performances, as an officer who is terrified of being duplicated. Both Whitaker, and Ermey do a great job in their scene together, making you wish the movie had been entirely about them, and leaving out Marti’s family melodrama altogether. These three actors (Ermey, Whitaker, and Tilley) are the highlights in what is otherwise a mediocre film. It doesn’t begin to reach the heights of the previous one.

I get that the pod people are not meant to have strong personalities, but Tilley manages to imbue her pod-Mom with just enough personality to be really creepy, while the rest of the pod people don’t. There’s just all kinds of different acting across this movie, so the pod people don’t seem like so much as a unified group, as much as they seem like a bunch of people who have all been lobotomized.

This movie mostly stars a cut-rate cast, that is very obviously sub par to the 1978 version. Most of these actors, who were unknown at the time, continue to be unknown today, with the exception of the colonel played by Forest Whitaker, and Terry Kinney. who went on to star in the series “Oz”, for HBO, and Gabrielle Anwar later starred in Burn Notice, and Once Upon a Time. Billy Wirth (from The Lost Boys) stars as Tim, a young helicopter pilot, who becomes an unconvincing love interest for Marti. It seems that every body snatchers movie must include a, not-quite-romantic subplot.

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This movie differentiates itself from the first two by depicting the alien invasion from Marti’s point of view. She, and her friend Jenn, are the only two people on the entire base whose personalities seem to be intact.

While the film has some occasionally creepy moments, (as when Marti’s little brother first attends school, and we realize his entire classroom has been duplicated), it is rather lackluster, and  kinda disappointing. The duplication special effects don’t evoke the same fear and sadness that the process did in the 1978 version, the soundtrack isn’t as memorable as the city/heartbeat sounds of the previous movie, and the sonic screaming of the aliens in distress, is mostly all that’s left from the ’78 version. This was directed by Abel Ferrara, who went on to make more violent indie movies in the 90s, like Bad Lieutenant, and The Addiction.

The Invasion (2007)

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In 2007, the film was remade, yet again, this time directed by James McTeigue, and starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The atmosphere of this one is cool and emotionally detached, almost as if the viewer had been duplicated, rather than the actors. The messages and themes of this movies are even more vague and unstated, but a close reading suggests that the messages of urban isolation, and peace through conformity are still intact.

This time Dr. Bennell is a woman (Kidman) and there are some brief feminist themes mentioned because of this change. This time the film is from her point of view, but also viewed through the lens of a parental love, as she seeks to protect her son, who is immune to the effect of duplication.

Everything about the 1978 film is jettisoned from this movie except the occasional name, so this is a clear reboot. Even the aliens themselves get an upgrade. There are no pods in this movie, but rather a kind of sentient virus, brought to Earth from some space debris, like in the movie The Blob. Anyone who is infected with the virus gets possessed by a kind of alien collective, after they fall asleep, but their primary body is left intact.

Dr. Carol Bennell is a psychiatrist whose patients start to report that the people they love are not who they seem. Daniel Craig stars as her counterpart Dr. Ben Driscoll, and they too have a not-quite- romance type of friendship, which is about the only thing kept intact from the original films. Carol has a young son named Oliver who, because of a previous illness, is immune to the virus. The plot becomes a race against time for Carol to save Oliver from one of the pod people, her ex-husband, Tucker, who wishes to kill the handful of humans who are immune.

This is a better movie than the 1993 version, mostly because it has better actors, although I have never liked Nicole Kidman, considering her to be an actress who lacks enough warmth to be engaging. She is too formal and icy for me to care about her plight, or buy her relationship with Oliver, although she does give it some effort. She’s not a bad actress. She’s just too emotionally remote. This is something that worked well when she starred in The Others, but not here.

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In an effort to approach some of the mood of the 1978 version, McTiegue only makes the viewer feel detached , although there are some deeply creepy moments, like various pod people trying  to get people to drink various infected fluids, and a scene where one of the pod people vomits in Carol’s face to infect her,  along with a couple of exciting chase scenes.

One of my favorite moments in this film is when Carol, pretending to be one of the pod people, is invited to dinner by the possessed child of one her friends. While they’re eating you can hear snippets of news shows, in the background, as someone talks about the Middle East Peace Treaties that were recently signed. I feel like that type of political idea should have played a larger part in the plot. Most certainly the political situations of the entire world would change after humanity is possessed by an alien species, and I found that intriguing.

Another scene I found intriguing, was a scene on a bus, with Carol and several other passengers pretending to be possessed, because they don’t know who is or isn’t possessed. I thought it was a very effective scene. This scene also contains some of the few Black people with speaking lines, in any of these movies, (there is Jeffrey Wright, and a Black cop who gives Carol advice in an earlier scene) and I was intrigued at the possibilities of some highly imaginative future director making a movie about how  an alien invasion would affect PoC, and their communities. Would they notice, and would they care if they did? I would love to see a movie where an ethnic community’s reaction to such an invasion is unexpected, positive, or even ignored. There are 7 billion people on this planet and not all of the reactions we would get to  such an invasion would be “fight it out” with guns, and explosions.

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It’s unlikely I will ever see a film about people who have already experienced colonization by a foreign entity, experiencing a second colonization by another. Alien invasion movies are almost always from a  Middle class, White,  Western perspective, are almost always about White people’ s reactions to being colonized, it is always  coded as a negative, and it always involve fighting and explosions. One of the most intriguing lines from the 1978 version is Veronica Cartwright’s character asking why people always expect metal ships. What makes IotB unique is that it is one of the few alien invasions caused by space travelling spores.

Once again, there’s a cameo of an actor from a previous film, Veronica Cartwright, who probably should’ve been allowed to play Dr. Bennell in this one, because she’s the most emotionally accessible character in the movie. Daniel Craig is completely unmemorable in this movie, as a love interest, who is so removed, he barely affects the plot. He barely affects Dr. Bennell. Jeffrey Wright is  a scientist who comes up with a way to stop the aliens. He is never in any danger and is mostly wasted, as he’s only there to give exposition. (I suppose we should be grateful that he survives the movie.)

The themes of this movie are even murkier than the last remake, although I get the focus is on familial bonds. But again, the emphasis on rugged individualism, and its protection at all costs, is something very common in White Western filmmaking.

There is a new version of this movie in development, or so the rumor goes, and I’d like to see some of the above themes addressed in it, but I’m not holding my breath. Chances are, it will be written by, and from the perspective of a White middle-class urban professional, and just reiterate the same themes of paranoia, and the protection of individual identity that were addressed so well in the first two films.  These movies have become less effective over time, and one way of grabbing a new audience is by infusing it with different thinking. What I would like to see is this film, done by a PoC, and what messages they might have to convey.

Ep. 2 Hannibal Season Three: Primavera

In the last episode, we got caught up with Hannibal’s activities since the night of the Red Dinner. In this episode, we find out what Will Graham has been doing, as one of the survivors of that night.

All throughout season two, we’ve been getting strong “hints and allegations” that Hannibal and Will have an intense (and dangerous) attraction to each other. This season the subtext has definitely become text, as it’s flat-out stated by both of them, what feelings they have for each other, and exactly how far into the abyss Will Graham fell, in his efforts to bring Hannibal to justice. At the beginning of this season, Will sets out to find and re-engage with Hannibal again, seemingly not having learned his lesson from that night.

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We open almost immediately after the Red Dinner, with Will in the hospital recovering from his wounds, reliving the events of that night, and  imagining that Abigail has survived. Actually this imagining of her isn’t any different from his previous thoughts about Abigail. Will has an idealized view of Abigail, as the perfect daughter and companion, an image that Hannibal well knew, and used against him. In the real world,  he and Abigail weren’t  that close, and she certainly didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her, although since this Abigail argues with, and castigates him for his actions last season, this is probably a much truer version of her than we’ve seen from Will before.

This is something a lot of fans of the show forget. That Will and Abigail didn’t interact that much in the real world, beyond season one, and on those occasions when they were together, she was just as unforthcoming, duplicitous, and manipulative with Will, as she was with everyone else, so I was immediately suspect of this image of her. And the show  plays coy with the idea that she survived that night, until near the end of the episode.

One of the  clues, that maybe she didn’t survive, is that Abigail asks Will questions about things she couldn’t possibly know about, unless Hannibal discussed these things with her, and  I don’t believe he did. Also notice that Abigail wears the same hunting jacket that Will has imagined her wearing before, but in a dried blood color,  we’ve never seen. Her body language, and attitude, are the same as when he imagined talking with her, when he was in prison last season.

So keep in mind that Abigail did not survive that night, and Will’s discussions with her, are just Will castigating himself for being stupid.

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Will also has an image of the stag, for the last time, as it dies on Hannibal’s kitchen floor.  The Stag doesn’t represent Hannibal, (as he knows Hannibal isn’t dead), and when Will is hunting for Hannibal in Europe, the Stag  is reborn. There has been a lot of discussion about what the Stag means, but my theory is that this is an avatar of  Will. This isn’t the RavenStag, which is an avatar of Hannibal the Killer. This is just The Stag that Will imagines whenever the darker side of his nature begins to assert itself.

Will  has an image of himself, and Abigail, drowning in a lake of blood. I’ve written before, that images of drowning represent  someone’s belief that they have gotten in over the heads, or into a situation that has overwhelmed them, or that they can’t control. Bedelia has such dreams in the last episode. These dreams of drowning are Will’s though, and are tied to the knowledge that he totally underestimated Hannibal’s will to survive, and his spiteful nature.

Will’s hallucinations and images are jumbled with Hannibal’s images of the breaking teacup, that reverses itself, and becomes un-shattered. I think  this represents Will, and the reversal of its breakage represents the turning back of time, and the resurrection of their previous relationship, which is something Hannibal deeply misses, even in his anger at Will’s betrayal. It’s something that Will longs for too, as he deeply regrets the decisions he made leading up to the night Abigail died. So both men are in the same place emotionally, saddened. missing each other, and regretting what they did to each other.

Will sets out in his boat to look for Hannibal in Europe, based on conversations had during Will’s therapy sessions. On arrival, eight months later, still accompanied by the ghost of Abigail, he goes to the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy that Hannibal mentioned, and finds a murder investigation in progress.

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The Norman Chapel  is an actual place, which is also part of Hannibal’s Memory Palace. It’s  real, although, the skeleton on the floor isn’t actually there. That was placed in post-production by Fuller, and i think it indicates indicates Hannibal’s placation to Will. It is an image of Hannibal’s forgiveness, or perhaps, he is praying to Will for forgiveness..



One of the images of Hannibal’s forgiveness is the Vetruvian Man origami from the first episode, and the mutilation sculpture of Dimmond’s body by Hannibal. He folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, pierced it with upside down swords, and placed it in the Chapel’s foyer. Will doesn’t actually get to see the body, though. He is met at the Chapel by a Rinaldo Pazzi, a detective in the city, who has been reading of Will’s attempts to capture The Chesapeake Ripper. Pazzi shows WIll a photograph of the crime scene, and believes it is linked to Will’s arrival in the city.

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Pazzi believes that Dimmond was killed by a serial killer that he calls Il Mostro, who managed to escape capture many years ago, by framing another man for his murders. He believes Il mostro, and The Chesapeake Ripper, are one and  the same, and that Il Mostro left Dimmond’s body as a message for Will, which it is. After learning from Bedelia that Will is still alive, and has traveled to Italy to find him, Will is much on his mind. Even if Hannibal may not recognize his feelings as a form of love, Bedelia does. (I mentioned in season one, that every show needs a truth-teller, a person who sees things more clearly than the main character/s around whom the story revolves. Bedelia’s role is to say what the outsider (us, the viewer) has observed.)

https://www.keen.com/articles/tarot/3-of-swords-tarot-card

Pazzi recalls the case that set him against Il Mostro. He found the bodies of two people designed to emulate the 1482 painting, La Primavera by Boticelli, which hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Primavera or Allegory of Spring by Sandro Botticelli

http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/

Hannibal was obsessed with the painting. Sitting for hours, and drawing the painting over and over, and his last murder in Italy was a reenactment of Zephyrus chasing Flora (to the right in the painting). Pazzi recognizes Hannibal’s style in the killings of the Chesapeake Ripper and believes Hannibal has returned to Italy. He thinks Will may have some insight into Il Mostro’s nature.

https://hannibalfannibals.com/2015/06/17/hannibal-the-history-of-il-mostro-fact-vs-fiction/

But Will is not helpful, as he grapples with his darker self. Will is torn between wanting to join Hannibal, and wanting to capture him. Whenever he feels he is getting too emotionally involved, too close to Hannibal, he becomes afraid that he will lose himself, (hence his dreams about drowning), and feeling a need to reassert his better self (as an agent of the law), he  tries to capture him instead. He seems to go through this cycle of longing and destruction at least twice a season.

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Observe that while contemplating Hannibal’s crime scene, Will doesn’t use his pendulum system to ease into the killer’s mindset. He knows Hannibal so well that he doesn’t need it, and he seamlessly moves back and forth between his own mind, and Hannibal’s. He hallucinates (or dreams) of the Dimmond heart, and in one of this series most grotesque scenes, it comes to life, unfolds itself into the shape of the Stag, and stalks him across the chapel floor. My theory is that this is the rebirth of Will’s murderous avatar. Just being in a place Hannibal has been, has awakened the darker parts of his nature, a part of himself he thought was destroyed that night in Hannibal’s kitchen, when Abigail died.

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Will and Pazzi descend into the catacombs underneath the Chapel. Will is searching for Hannibal, believing he can feel him nearby. Will warns Pazzi to not be so trusting, because he may harm him. Will knows that his distress will attract Hannibal and killing Pazzi might bring draw him for sure. And Hannibal is there, so he hears Will’s quiet assertion that he is forgiven. But what is Will forgiving him for? Running away and leaving him? Trying to kill him? Killing Abigail? All three? Does it matter?

 

Of Note:

Will’s mention of the church ceiling falling in is something mentioned by Hannibal, in the movie Silence of the Lambs, where he says he likes to collect church collapses.

Abigail stares at one of the priests in the chapel, and he stares back as if he can see her, as if he can see this dark spectre following Will around.

 

Posts & Articles

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/the-moral-universe-of-hannibal

http://www.vulture.com/2013/06/seitz-on-hannibal-its-a-dream-and-it-hurts.html

http://www.vulture.com/2015/08/hannibal-redefined-how-we-tell-stories-on-tv.html

Superstition & Stuff I’m Not Doing

Well apparently, I’m not reviewing any TV shows, which I probably should be doing. Actually, all it is is that I’ve been busy and tired to review the shows, and movies, I’ve been watching, and I’ve been watching a lot of stuff.

What have I been watching?  I have been watching The Walking Dead. So far I’m really liking this season. It’s very action packed, and full of feels, and I like that. All of my favorite characters are doing some next level shit as  the war between The Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, The  Kingdom, and The Saviors  heats up. I haven’t been feeling any urges to write about any of these episodes though, although I find  Morgan’s storyline the most compelling. I just learned that my precious tigress is dead. Shiva got taken out by a pack of zombies, while defending the life of her king. (RIP Shiva! You badass!)

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I’m so tired!

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Part of the reason I’m not reviewing so much is that I’m tired, but part of it is that I don’t actually know what to say about it yet.. There’s not a lot to be said about the plot, other than to recap it, and if you’re watching the show, you already know what happened. Morgan and Jesus came to “fisticuffs’ over the treatment of prisoners of war, and Carol got her kill on for a while, and Gregory kept it real by being an asshole. I do have thoughts about the characters, and major themes, but I think I’ll wait until after the first part of the season is done to comment on those. We’ve got three episodes left, so I think I’ll just do a summation of my thoughts at the end.

I always get fatigued in November and December, and not because I’m celebrating the  holidays. I’m not celebrating, or hosting or anything. It’s a combination of insomnia, sleep apnea, and finding human beings exhausting, even when they’re not jitterbugging with overexcitement  about the  holidays. (Also, some of it is just a change in the weather and age. Feeling cold all the time is just tiring. Y’all yunguns just don’t know!)

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And I don’t get any respite from the weather while at work. The PTB keep it freezing here, so all the women are wearing sweaters, and carrying around tiny electric heaters, while many of the  men walk around in shirtsleeves, and poke fun at us for being cold all the time. I can’t stand them!

 

Supernatural

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Where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve been watching episodes of Supernatural, but not reviewing those either. I have liked the episodes I’ve seen, but that one particular standout episode, that occurs every season, hasn’t happened yet. I’m waiting for that one. There’s only so many times I can say this episode deserves a B-. So far the show appears to be in a kind of holding pattern except for the return of Castiel from The Empty, but it’s still early in the season, so we have plenty of time to establish where the plot is going, but our theme is, as always, is family.

 

Ghost Wars

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I’ve been watching Ghost Wars, which is still chugging along on the Syfy channel. I’m liking this show, with one of my favorite characters being played by Meatloaf. He is doing an exemplary job on this show. I hadn’t paid too much attention to his acting before, but I love him in this show. He is tearing it up! The show is actually proving to be kinda scary. I’m not normally into ghosts. I don’t usually find them particularly scary, but the show is pretty good at establishing mood, and I find most of the characters likable. There’s a token Black woman,  a scientist from the local research center. No, I would not be surprised to find that some physics experiments were behind the influx and hostility of the ghosts.

 

The Exorcist

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The Exorcist has kicked it into high gear. The first few episodes were spent establishing the information about where, and who, the characters are going to be, and then trying to figure out who is possessed. So we’ve figured out  its John Cho’s character, who is possessed by a demon that’s masquerading as his late-wife, and this is really groundbreaking for American television because Asians don’t often get to be possessed by demons, and the show is actually proving to be compelling. There also an added gay subplot, as one of the priests is engaged in some flirtation with a local silver-fox, who looks like Anderson Cooper, (if he was a fisherman). There’s also a secondary plot about some type of holy order of assassins hunting down a cabal of demons, which is only of mild interest to me. I’ll have more to say about the treatment of the show’s traumatized children, and their disabilities, later.

I am working on some long form essays. I can still knock those out, it seems. And I have a bunch of ideas, that I’m not gonna tell you about, because I wanna surprise you. I’m going to  concentrate on those for a while, along with a few long form movie reviews, and eventually I’ll have something to say about The Walking Dead, and Supernatural.

 

Superstition

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What I have been enjoying is the show Superstition. I mentioned it before, and said I wasn’t greatly impressed with the acting,in the pilot,  and I thought the drama was a bit much, considering I didn’t know any of the characters, but I’ve kept up watching it, and it’s maturing into a compelling show.

Superstition has an all Black cast, about a family, The Hastings, who have a history of fighting monsters. It’s their calling, and their base of operations is a small-town funeral home in Georgia. It stars Mario Van Peebles, and while I was a bit dubious about the quality at first, I’m  glad  the show is here. Even if it doesn’t become a breakout hit, it’s still a good foot in the door, paving the way for other genre vehicles starring PoC casts, (so is The Exorcist).

That said, this show has greatly improved since the pilot. The acting has gotten much better, too. I’ve got a good bead on people’s relationships to each other, and the show can, and does sometimes surprise me, by overturning certain tropes, or not going in an expected direction, and it keeps me asking questions, on the basis of those relationships, which is proving to be the show’s strong point.

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Isaac Hastings & May, Chief of Police

The show stars Mario Van Peebles as Isaac Hastings, who taught his son Calvin the ins and outs of monster killing, and his wife Bea, who runs the day to day operations of the funeral home and, I think, is one of the keepers of the family lore, along with a woman of mixed parentage named Tilley. I’m not certain if Tilly is a member of the family or not, but she’s very smart and nerdy, and I like her. The local police chief is May (above), and she has a daughter by Calvin, named Garvey. Garvey is the least likable character on the show but only because, as is  typically written, she’s an obnoxious teenager. There’s nothing wrong with her acting. The character is just annoying.

The show has a lot of Black women, and all of them have complicated, and occasionally mysterious, relationships with each other, which Calvin has to try to navigate, along with getting to know the daughter he never knew he had, reacquainting himself with her mother, and his childhood sweetheart, May, who is now the Chief of Police. He has already been through a bout of people fighting, as he has returned from the Iraq war, after having left town many years ago, and not had any contact with his family, after a falling out with his father.

The show is notable for its depiction of a stable Black family, depictions of Black love and loyalty and Black women actually holding conversations with each other, instead of screaming at each other. Its also important for PoC to be shown being heroes, saving themselves and each other, and being total badasses, in general. Calvin is obviously meant to be the everyman hero of the show. I like how the writers allow him to be human, complex, tragic, and also have a sense of humor. I love the female friendships (and mild enmities) on the show. I like what I see between Garvey and her Mom, Bea and May, and them and Tilly, who seems to be some kind of archivist or researcher. She’s the one who most often explains whats going on to everyone else.

What’s interesting  for me is Calvin’s flirtation with his old girlfriend, May. He was taken aback at the idea of having a daughter he didn’t know about but he’s taken it in stride and wants to get to know her better (though Garvey is having none of it. She’s used to not having a Dad.) I like that May and Calvin are trying to get back together, and making some effort at getting to know each other again. The show could’ve taken the easy way out, and had the two of them hating on each other, and I’m glad it didn’t go in that direction.

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I made the mistake of reading the reviews on IMDb, which truly indeed was a mistake, because some of the reviews seriously pissed me off. The show is being roundly hated on , while being compared to Supernatural. Superstition is everything that Supernatural isn’t, and it really isn’t fair to compare the two. For one thing, Superstition has a cast of WoC, who are well written and treated better by the script. None of the Black characters are there to make White characters lives better or happy, or sacrifice themselves for them. (And I am unlikely to be subjected to the image of an innocent Black woman being held at gunpoint, by a deranged stalker, because the Black writers  have at least some sensitivity to their audience.)

Other than a family fighting monsters, I don’t see  much resemblance. Half the shows on TV have the same premise as Supernatural, so I don’t understand exactly why that’s the comparison being made, unless of course the reviewers are Supernatural stans who just hate any shows about the supernatural, or are too young to remember that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a thing. There’s also a third reason, but I don’t wanna get my blood pressure up by talking about the Klandom today.

 

The Hastings aren’t travelling the country, evading demons, fighting angels, and developing superpowers. Their base of operations is a funeral parlour,  which they’ve been at for a long time, and everybody in the family knows what it is they do, and appear to be on board with it, including Garvey. They also have a society or person (I’m not sure which) which rivals them, called The Drudge. There are other mythologies and belief systems being represented besides European ones. For example, one of my favorite actors, Jasmine Guy, is doing a great cameo as a representative of  Anansi, named, of course, Aunt Nancy, and I love her already, and all she had to do was show up, and be intriguing.

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Isaac and Calvin Hastings

 

For the Hastings this is all just a job. The show tries to make what they do seem as normal as possible, as just a family profession. This show doesn’t talk down to its audience, or browbeat a point, because that’s not Peebles style.  Superstition doesn’t give you a whole lot of setup, which I had a moment getting used to. It throws you right in the deep end with Calvin. You learn what he learns as he learns it. You get one explanation and then it’s  on you to keep up. If you don’t pay attention to the dialogue and you miss something, you betta rewind, because it probably won’t be mentioned again, but still may be an important plot point later.

The atmosphere is one of normalcy, with routine answers to supernatural  puzzles, like trying to retrieve May when she gets trapped in a “mirror world” by an evil witch. There’s no oohing and ahhing about the paranormal in this show. It’s the bizarreness of the situations people  are put in, and the relationships between the characters, that is the source of most of the drama. Supernatural started as a show for teenagers, and still has much of that flavor. This is a show about grownups for grownups. The audience is expected to pay attention and keep up. I reminded more of the show Leverage, crossed with the X-Files, more than anything else.

Not that the there aren’t legitimate criticisms of the show. The pacing needs some smoothing, some of the acting is  still a little dodgy, but not enough to make me stop watching. It could use some memorable music. I don’t care so much about the special effects, as I don’t think that’s what makes a good show, and some of the acting could be tightened up a bit, but its far from being the worst show on TV, and shows real promise of future greatness, and I’m here for it.

 

So, I’m off for the next couple of days, and will get back to you, for some weekend reading, later this week.

TTFN