Jet Li Unleashed (2005): Surviving Abuse

 

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One of the more unusual martial arts films I’ve  seen, is one which stars Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), and Jet Li. Yeah, I said it. Morgan Freeman starred in a martial arts film. Okay he didn’t do any martial arts, which I definitely would have watched. He was a piano tuner, but that’s okay, because Jet Li engaged in enough rock’em, sock’em for everyone in the movie. This is an unusual movie, not just because of its dissimilar cast, but because it is as much of a drama, as it is an action movie.

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The movie’s first title was Danny the Dog, when it was released overseas in 2004. When it was released in the US, in 2005, it was renamed Unleashed, and received moderate reviews, probably because most people didn’t get to see it, and the ones who did see it didn’t quite know what to make of it. Its not a bad film, but it is a tonally odd movie, that somehow manages to work, and that is entirely due to the acting, and what mindset you bring to it.

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Morgan Freeman, as Sam, is his usual excellent self, and so is Bob Hoskins as an abusive gangster named Bart. Jet Li is Danny the Dog, and  does surprisingly well, as an emotionally stunted and abused young man, They are joined by Kerry Condon, as Danny’s bubbly love interest, Victoria. I actually enjoyed this movie, but then I walked in not really knowing what to expect, even though I had heard of the movie with its previous title.

Bart has been raising Danny, the son of a young woman he exploited and killed, as a beast who wears a metal collar, which, when it’s removed, is Danny’s cue to kill whoever  Bart has pointed his finger, first as one of Bart’s enforcers, and then in  underground fight clubs. Bart styles himself as a kindly uncle, who is just taking care of the helpless Danny, but he is horrifically abusive, treating Danny like an animal, putting him on a leash, making him eat out of dog dishes, and live in a  cage in the basement. He is a cartoonish example of abusive parenting, and clothes himself in virtue, by calling it love.

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One day Danny accidentally stumbles across Sam, fixing a piano in an antique shop, and the blind Sam, is kind and friendly to him, something Danny has never experienced. He becomes fascinated by the piano, and later, asks for one from Bart, but a rival gangster takes Bart out of the equation, via car crash. Danny is injured in the attack, but manages to find his way back to the antique shop where Sam works. Sam takes Danny in, and patches him up.

So thirty minutes into the movie, it turns into a found family story, that’s rather endearing, carried mostly on the strength of the acting. Danny is from a highly abusive, even life threatening, relationship with the man who raised him, while Victoria and Sam have an open, loving, and healthy relationship, with more than enough room to welcome Danny. A significant portion of the film is taken up with montages, and scenes, of Danny discovering the joys of ice cream, kissing, and both familial and romantic love, learning to cook with Sam, and  play the piano with Vic, and just be happy. He starts to regain memories of his mother and begins investigating his origins.

Victoria is also an adopted child, but she had the good luck to be raised by Sam instead of  someone like Bart. Victoria’s biological father died when she was small, and her mother married Sam. After her mother died, Sam became her father, and moved them both to France, so that she could go to music school. Sam’s love for his child, is as it should be, sacrificial, and supportive. They are a  family that prays before each meal, and fully embody the Christian principles of charity and kindness, and become a model for Danny for how a healthy family behaves.

Sam and Victoria are the stellar opposite  of  Bart, and the various flunkies who surround, and obey him, who all witness Danny being treated abusively, and say and do nothing. Bart is a man with many pretensions. He is a user who pretends  at kindness, a gangster with pretensions to class and upbringing, and a bully, who pretends to be a father figure. Thanks to Bart, Danny is emotionally underdeveloped, withdrawn, anxious, and extremely focused on any given task.

The first time Danny wakes up in Sam’s and Victoria’s home, he is frightened and nervous, and hides under the bed. At dinner, he doesn’t know to use a spoon for his soup, and he is still wearing his metal collar. But Sam and Victoria adapt to him as he adapts to them, and are as loving and supportive to him, as they are to each other. They suspect that he comes from a violent situation, and are sensitive about how they treat him, by not asking questions they think would cause traumatic memories ,and they teach him how to live a normal life, as Danny has never been taught to do anything but kill and is completely inured to violence.

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At one point, a fight breaks out in a local store that Sam and Danny frequent, which Danny entirely ignores, saying he was unconcerned because the fight didn’t involve him. This is how well trained Danny is with his collar on. Later, when Victoria reaches to take the collar off, saying its the last vestige of his old life he needs to get rid of, he is terrified that when she does so,  he will attack her, because the only times it was ever removed, he would kill. You can see his adrenaline spike just thinking about it, but he allows her to remove it, and when nothing happens you can see the relief on his face. He trusts himself now, in a way that would not have been possible, earlier in their relationship. As it turns out, he is not the natural born killer Bart trained him to be.

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https://www.loyola.edu/department/counseling-center/students/concerns/abuse

When children are exposed to abuse, they learn to protect themselves through denial, withdrawal, approval-seeking, turning off their feelings, acting out, and self-blame. Using these coping mechanisms during childhood has long-term consequences, which can include lack of trust, a fear of change and resultant difficulty in adjusting, difficulty knowing or showing one’s own feelings, being easily stressed and acting on that by abusing substances, food, and one’s own body, and feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.

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Sam and Victoria model for Danny how a loving relationship between a stepparent and child is supposed to work.When Sam and Victoria have a disagreement, they argue, come to a truce, and then make up. They disagreed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still love each other. Contrast that with Danny’s relationship to his evil stepfather  Bart, who gives the orders, and, according to Bart, “the dog obeys!” There can be no disagreement with Bart. When Danny insists that he wants a piano, Bart is angry, manipulative, and cajoling. He screams and/or lies, to Danny, to get what HE wants.

Later, Danny refuses to fight, deciding he doesn’t want to kill people anymore, and Bart becomes increasingly angry and more violent, but is unable to force Danny to do what he wants him to do. Danny sees this powerlessness, and finally connects his mother’s death (which he witnessed as a child) to Bart. He rebels completely and leaves him. This move may or may not be especially cathartic to abuse survivors, but its was certainly good to watch Danny reject Bart. After experiencing so much happiness with Sam and Victoria, he can’t possibly make himself go back to that life.

Bart follows him to his home, with Sam and Victoria, and attempts to kill them, because threatening Danny’s new family is the only leverage he has to make him obey. Danny nearly kills Bart, but is stopped by Sam and Victoria who tell him that he cannot begin his commitment to peace by killing Bart. Bart’s life isn’t saved because Sam and Victoria care about him. Its saved because they love Danny and believe, as he does,  that he should stop killing.

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https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/survivors-child-abuse-remind/

#3. You Are Still Loved, Even When It’s Uncomfortable to Accept Love from Others

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At the end of the movie, Victoria tells Danny  his life was saved by music, and this may be true, but really Danny saves himself, by the choices he makes. Like a lot of abuse survivors, he is presented with the option of staying, as the abuser tries to sweet talk him into coming back, and how everything will better, and the abuser will be a nicer person, who really loves them. Classic abuser speak, basically.

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Danny realizes he actually has choices. He chooses to stop killing and commits to it,  he chooses to leave Bart, and sets the terms of it, and finally chooses not to kill Bart, not because he cares about Bart’s  life, but because he cares about his own. But one of the biggest choices Danny makes is the choice to accept  love and support, which is healing for him. With Sam and Victoria, Danny starts to do things he never contemplated when he was with Bart. He makes plans for his future, sets goals, and claims what he desires.

This is not a completely accurate depiction of surviving child abuse, because this is, after all, an action film, but it makes some interesting points about  it. I’m pretty sure  most of the people who walked into the theater to see this, had no idea this would turn into a movie about surviving domestic abuse, but I found it uplifting and fun to watch. True, not all martial arts movies have this level of  depth, but like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they sometimes have messages, and deal with  serious issues.

 

 

  • Next up on martial arts movies: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and  Colonialism

 

 

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting In The Twilight Zone

 

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

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

Warrior

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

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

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

 

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Check the stance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Further Reading:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by [Lee, Bruce]

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

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

The Twilight Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Old Man Filled With Regret: Men, Masculinity, and Atonement

Saito: Do you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone!  

-Inception

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In the movie Inception, this is a mantra shared between two  of the primary characters, Saito and Cobb. At the beginning of the film Saito asks Cobb if he wants to take a leap of faith, or die an old man filled with regret, and that question is enough to move Cobb to accept his offer. He is asking for Cobb’s trust because the two of them need each other. This is paralleled at the end of the movie, when Cobb repeats these words back to Saito.

Dying old, alone, and filed with regrets is the nightmare scenario  of the Action and Western film genres, as ex- killers, full of the guilt and shame of what they’ve done, seek redemption through killing for a good cause. This can take the form of revenge for a life lost, or the saving of a life that has meaning to them. Some of  its most famous incarnations are William Munny from Clint Eastwood’s 1992  movie, The Unforgiven, Robert McCall from the 2018 Equalizer franchise, Walt Kowalski from the 2008  Gran Turino, the 2017 Logan, Liam Neeson’s Taken trilogy,  John Creasy, from the 2004 version of  Man On Fire, and the 1953 Shane, starring Alan Ladd.

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Movie history is full of old men,  filled with the regrets, waiting to die alone, until something, or someone, moves them enough to risk coming out of retirement, often to attempt atonement for their past misdeeds. These are men beset with trauma. They are damaged killers who have committed questionable behavior.. Because of that, they are emotionally disconnected from other people, and sometimes  from themselves, until fate provides one last opportunity for personal connection, that gets taken from them. Often the person they’re trying to save is a stand in for their more innocent self, which is why this is often a child. The child is a stand-in for their lost innocence ,so in saving that person, the killer can symbolically save their former self.

Taking a leap of faith to form that emotional connection is the key. Often the former killers have locked themselves away from personal connections, feeling that they do not deserve to have love, or trust, or any human attachment, because they are bad men, who have done horrible things. They believe they are separate from the rest of humanity, and that they are unworthy of being a part of it, until someone (often a child) makes them realize there may be hope for them after all, and that they are not irredeemable.The child’s love and trust is a sign that they are salvageable. That they are “good  “men.  An innocent’s hand is offered to them, and they can take that leap of faith, one of the bravest acts a person can perform, or they can continue to dwell in their emotional abyss, and die alone, and unloved.

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Sometimes it is the innocent’s belief that the main character is a good person who will save them, that is enough to spur them into action. This is the basic plot of the 1953 movie, Shane, which is heavily paralleled, and referenced, in the 2017 movie, Logan, although the outcomes of these movies are very different. In Shane, Joey is a little boy who is drawn to Shane and idolizes his lifestyle as a gunslinger. In Logan, Laura is Logan’s genetic daughter, who idolizes his life as a comic book hero.

At the end of some of these movies, the ex-killer must go into exile, because they feel they cannot live with “normal “people. Alan Ladd plays a gunslinger who wants to retire from killing, to  become a farmer, but is called back into battle, when the woman and child he comes to care for, are endangered by an unscrupulous land baron. The townsfolk know he is a killer, but they look up to him, and think of him as heroic, but at the end of the movie, Shane cannot live in the valley with the farmers. He leaves because he feels he does not deserve to live a life of peace among normal people. He is a killer and is not the type of man who can live with people who have never lived that lifestyle, because he is too corrupt. Sacrificing the life he hoped to have is his punishment for having taken up the violence he’d previously rejected.

In the movie Serenity, the Assassin sent by the Council to collect River Tam, says that he kills to make a better world, but he knows he will never be allowed to live in that better world, because such a world has no place in it for the corruption he represents, and this is Shane’s predicament.

More often, at the end of these stories, the killers must die, because that is the price for having  picked up the sword again, although they are often happy to die, because they killed (and died) for a good reason, rather than whatever reasons they  feel regretful for. Many of them were ruthless killers in the  past, killing people for money, sport, or war. Some of these characters share more than a passing resemblance to the men they are trying to kill, because these bad men represent their past selves, and in killing them, they destroy their own evil past,  and can die at peace, knowing they did at least one “good” thing before they died.

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In Logan, the Wolverine has “retired” from a life of killing. He isn’t The Wolverine any more, and no longer “saves” people, but he is forced back onto the killing  field, to protect the “daughter”, to whom he has become emotionally attached. He dies in Laura’s arms, having redeemed himself for, as he once said, “…being the best there is at what I do.” Throughout his long life Logan had been the personification of death, relentless, inevitable, and unstoppable, as we see in the scene in the hotel, when Logan kills an entire room of armed men to save Charles Xavier. Logan also encounters a  younger, stronger, and more ruthless version of himself, that was made from his DNA. Logan must  literally kill his evil, past self, only then can he die at peace.

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In Man on Fire, Denzel Washington plays John Creasy, a former government assassin, who is so haunted by his past deeds that he has become suicidal. He has killed a lot of people in service to his country, feeling shame,  guilt, remorse, believing himself a monster, but  his soul is saved when  he falls in love with a little girl he was hired to protect. When Lupita’s life is endangered, he comes out of retirement, and uses his former killing skills to take revenge on the people who took away his one chance at happiness. Lupita entered his life as a reward for giving up his old one, showing  him that it was okay for him to live and love again

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For Creasy, Lupita’s love is a sign that he is worth saving, and that he is a good man. Her unconditional love and trust redeems him. When she is taken from him, he has the option of letting it go, and walking away, but  without Lupita there can be no redemption, and if he is going to die, then he wishes to do so in a blaze of glory, punishing the men who took his life, both literally and figuratively. In the end, rescuing Lupita from her captors will be his atonement for a life of sin, but his death is the price  he must pay for killing again, no matter how deserving his victims, or righteous his cause.

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During the movie Creasy has several conversations with his friend Rayburn, and with one of Lupita’s teachers, on the nature of sin ,and atonement. He asks Rayburn if he thinks God will forgive them for the things they’ve done, and he tells Lupita’s teacher that he was the sheep that got lost, when she asks if he sees the hand of God in what he does, quoting  the scripture: ‘Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with goodness.’ In Creasy’s final killing spree, he  is righteousness personified. He has become the hand of God, a Christlike figure, (even to the point of having a stigmata like wound in his side), who once saw nothing good in his ability to ruthlessly  take lives.The man who, early in the film, wanted to take his own life, willingly sacrifices that life to save his chosen daughter.

In the movie The Unforgiven William Munny, a famous gunslinger, has retired to a country life, but he is goaded back onto the stage when a young man who idolizes him, puts his life in danger by trying to emulate him. In The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, the famous Gunslinger of Eld, has given up hunting The Man in Black, until he is pulled from “retirement” by a young boy he befriends, whose life is endangered by the MIB. In the movie John Wick, however, the spur out of retirement is the death of his dog, (the last remembrance of his late wife), caused by a local mobster’s son who came to rob his house. The dog is his last link to his old peaceful life, and with it gone, there is no point to trying to live peacefully. Like John Creasy, he aims to go out in a blaze of glory to avenge his wife’s memory.

If these men are lucky, they get to ride off into the sunset, but that is no relief either, as they may yet die in their beds, as old men filled with regret, but more often than not, there is a price to be paid for picking up weapons and taking lives again. They must sacrifice their life for taking up a lifestyle they’d rejected, and this is seen by these men as better than dying alone, and unloved, regretting all the evil they’d done.

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.” 
― Harvey MacKay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom (Korean Zombie Series)

 

I cannot speak highly enough about this show, and I want to watch it again before the 15th (before I’ll be binging Umbrella Academy). If you’re a fan of historical fiction, zombies, and political intrigue, then this is your show. The fact that all the political intrigue takes place in Korea’s past is completely irrelevant, because you will enjoy the ride. You will especially enjoy it if you watched the movies, Train to Busan, or Seoul Station, because this is from the same creators, although it is unknown if the movies are part of a trilogy, with the show.

Now, I can’t say for certain, but it is possible that Kingdom is a prequel to Seoul Station, which takes place in present day  Korea, and involves a zombie contagion spreading among the homeless. Train to Busan is about a zombie contagion that takes place among a crowd of middle class commuters, in the present day, in another area of Korea, simultaneous to Seoul Station.

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Kingdom takes place in Korea’s ancient past and is about a zombie contagion that spreads among the populace, after the King becomes infected. While the peasants fight for their lives, the Crown Prince attempts to do his best to help save them while the rest of the nobility fight among themselves for access to the throne.There’s some neat character arcs in the series. When we first meet the Prince, he is attempting to see his father, who has been incognito. What he doesn’t know is The King had been turned into a zombie by  the medicinal use of a small purple flower, that grows in the mountains.

The current Prince is next in line to the throne, and he is indolent and kind of lazy. He’s spent most of his time enjoying himself rather than learning statecraft. There is a rival clan that wishes to put one of their own on the throne because a daughter of that clan is the King’s pregnant wife. Most of the time at court, is spent driving away the Prince, and pretending the King is still alive, but in seclusion, until that woman’s child is born, as that child will have precedence to the throne over the current Prince.

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As the crisis with the zombies deepens, we watch as  the Prince steps up to care for his people in their time of need, which parallels the journey made by the lead character in Train to Busan, who goes from a selfish man, who nearly gets one of the other passengers killed, to sacrificing his life to protect them. Several times the Prince risks his life to save peasants, including several children. He steps up to be as courageous, and smart, as the peasants believe him to be. The other officials, whose job it is to take care of the villagers, turn out to be a lot less so.

Each iteration of these stories addresses the  issues of classism and poverty from three differing points of view, so I can’t talk about Kingdom without talking about the previous two films, because even if the films are not part of a trilogy, they are connected by their themes. In Seoul Station, the entire contagion begins among the homeless , when one of the men in that community, dies  and resurrects. His brother tried get help for him, but kept getting rebuffed  by people who had nothing but contempt for him. If he had been able to get medical help for his brother, the situation would not have evolved the way it did.

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In Kingdom, the villagers in the outlying areas are starving to death because the local officials are neglectful in their duties, being more concerned with their pleasant lives, than if people are dying. When one of the bodies the King has fed on, is shipped home to one of the villages, someone chops up the body, and puts it in a stew, which the starving peasants eat. For the record, most of the bodies the king has fed on, don’t resurrect because they have been immersed in a pond on the castle grounds.

One of the interesting things about these zombies is they only resurrect during the day. It isn’t until later that we find out why that is, but until then, since no one believes in their existence until its too late, no one takes the opportunity to get rid of the bodies before nightfall.  As soon as the sun rises, the zombies fall down, and appear to be dead. The bodies that have been dumped into  the palace’s pond have also not resurrected, for some reason.

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The homeless man, in Seoul Station, spends nearly the entire  movie running for his life, after having met, and saved, the life of the young woman at the center of the film. She too is a member of the underclass,  a sex worker with no real home of her own, after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Neither of them have anywhere to go, so must stay out in the streets, trying to avoid the zombies. At one point, she and the old man have simultaneous emotional breakdowns about wanting to go home, and not having one to go to.

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Every opportunity people have to help them, they don’t,  including the police. The two of them get attacked or turned away. Some of the characters declare that the old man smells bad. The young lady makes a less than favorable impression, as she spends most of the movie in her bare feet, after she loses her impractical shoes. No one will help either of them because they are considered smelly, or  dirty, or  worthless. The movie isn’t just an indictment against the existence of homelessness, but an indictment against the classist snobbery that does nothing to help them.

In Train to Busan, you have another class of people, the middle class, riding a train, when a contagion occurs. You have businessmen, grandmothers, high school students. In other words, respectable people. The kind who were looking down on the primary characters of Seoul Station. Trapped in an environment no one can escape, they are shown as being selfish, full of contempt for those they think are less than, having no loyalty to one another, yet  acquiescent to any form of authority.

The man with the most power and respect is openly malicious  towards the other characters, at one point, expressing a rage filled rant towards a teenage  girl he regards as stupid. At several points in the story, he gets people killed because he wants what he wants, and in his mind that takes priority over whatever those “lesser” people want. So once again we have the themes of classicism and selfishness and snobbery. All the other characters learn to be selfless too late to save themselves, as they really get  the chance to band together. The lowest person on the class scale is the wrestler and his wife, both of whom start the story as giving and altruistic people. There is also a homeless man in this movie as well. He dies too, but he does so giving his life to save others, just as the wrestler does. This same level of personal growth is shown in The Kingdom, when  the Prince rises to the occasion, to become a true leader who makes smart, brave  decisions for the welfare of the villagers, and  always from a place of empathy.

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In Train to Busan, two old women, sisters, are watching news footage of the zombie attacks on TV and, mistaking the attackers for rioters, they both express disdain for “those people”. After one sister gets infected, the other gets everyone in her train car killed, after she opens a door to let her sister inside. Her selfishness, (because she certainly isn’t thinking of the welfare of the others in the car), is what gets everyone killed, which is an interesting turnabout, as it was the people of that train car who selfishly kicked  some of the other survivors out of that car, at the commandments of the selfish businessman.

In Kingdom, the ruling officials in the area, at every opportunity to save the villagers, elect to save themselves. During an uprising of zombies, a fleet of boats is burned, leaving only one boat left. The officials and members of the local nobility, decide to take the one boat for themselves, after promising to evacuate the villagers. Unknown to them, one of  the infected has made its way onto the boat. They are all killed, and their boat destroyed, when the contagion breaks out.

While the movie is full of Game of Thrones style intrigue, its still fairly easy to follow, although you will probably not remember any of the character’s names. Even though its a series, rather than a film, it’s every bit as intense as the first two films, with the quiet moments only serving to build up the tension before the next attack, which everyone knows is coming, so a lot of daytime events have time limits on them. It is a very intense show, with lots of running, fighting, and bare escapes. Yes, children are endangered in this movie, some of them are killed (offscreen) and there are child zombies.There are also some really good plot surprises, as well, so if you’re watching this  because you find the plot intriguing, you will be satisfied. The movie is both subbed and dubbed, so those of you who hate reading subtitles can listen in English, and vice versa.

I cannot recommend this movie hard enough to anyone who is a fan of zombie movies and shows.

Kingdom is a six part TV series available on Netflix.

I Saw It On Youtube

Here’s a selection of unusual videos I found on Youtube. Unlike a lot of people, I try not to get too bogged down in whatever algorithms Youtube thinks I’m interested in. I like to just hop around from topic to topic, landing on whatever catches my eye. This is probably very confusing to Youtube, because it has no idea what the hell to offer to me, but that’s how I like it. And because I’m  a  contrary asshole, I pretty much throw most anything that is suggested to me out the window. I don’t want people, (or Youtube, for that matter), getting too comfortable with the idea that they know my specific tastes.

You Dont Know Me Youtube GIF

I stumbled across this group while searching the topic of whether or not Asian people dance. I have heard Korean and Japanese Rap and wondered if they  also breakdanced, (and how the hell would they possibly learn any of it except from Youtube). There’s this Asian kid, named Sean, in the Wildabeast tutorials, that I absolutely love to watch. Okay, Strawhatz isn’t much like those videos, but I thought the fusion of Japanese Koto music and Hip Hop was very  interesting, and the video was mildly funny.

 

I thought this next video was interesting because I love Chinese Martial Arts movies, and I love music. What if the two were combined into a Chinese Martial Hip Hop type thing. Apparently, it’s possible to confound Youtube by making it look for stuff its never heard of, and then it will just spit out something, hoping you asked for that.

 

On occasion, I do accept Youtube recommendations, like this one, because its just fecking weird. This is some of the most painful looking dancing I’ve ever watched. I’ve been raised to think of dancing as a joyful activity, but I suppose this kind of dancing is in keeping with my idea that the Japanese are, in general, somewhat melancholy, and they would invent something like Butoh. There are a bunch of documentaries about this form of dance on Youtube, as if the Japanese were hard-pressed to try to explain this peculiar form of dance to Westerners, knowing we wouldn’t understand what we were seeing.

 

The Hu is a Mongolian Hunnu Rock band, which is all the definition I got. I liked the idea of Rock music combined with Mongolian throat singing.  If there was ever any form of Eastern music that was a good  fit with Rock, it would be throat singing.

 

 

After Childish Gambino’s This Is America was released, there was a slew of parody videos. This one, based on the movie Black Panther, about Wakanda, was one of the better ones.

 

 

Jet Li’s  Martial short film came out some time ago and I missed it. I read about it in a magazine and luckily it was available on the Tube. Li looks so different from his movie image that I almost didn’t recognize him, and there were all kinds of rumors that he was ill, (he isn’t, he just shaved his head) but then I remember that he is in his 50s, and perhaps he simply wants to look more mature, which is something that is not a moment for crisis in Chinese culture.

 

 

Uhmm, Janet got a new album coming out…have a song!

 

 

I will never get tired of laughing at these balloon animal videos. I will laugh at them when I’m a hundred.

 

I am not a fan of spiders, to put it mildly, but I discovered these Lucas the Spider series, and apparently I am only afraid of actual spiders. Cartoon spiders don’t bother me. And omg! he is actually the cutest little cinnamon roll. He reminds me of the little jumping spiders that we saw on the outside of our house when I was a kid. I’m not the only one who thinks those little guys are cute, and Lucas just wants to be friends with everybody.

https://menunkatuck.org/conservation/bio-bits/tiny-jumping-spiders-are-endearing-predators/

Fall Watch List 2018

There’s not really a lot of network TV that I’m looking forward to this Fall. There are some interesting shows on cable and streaming, though, and there’s some mid season releases I’m looking toward.

Sept. 4th

I have not watched the show that this one is a spinoff for, but I don’t care. I remember saying I couldn’t get into shows about Bikers because I know too much about actual Bikers, and the ones on TV are really just too damned pretty to be believable as a Biker Gang. The same is true here, but I’m gonna watch this anyway, even though I generally avoid watching shows that are about PoC committing crime.

The Mayans (FX)

 

Sept. 7th

I’m gon try this one mo’ agin! The trailer doesn’t look promising. In fact I’m expecting a certain level of racist wtf*ery anyway, but I’m gonna try to like it, if only because Colleen and Misty play such prominent roles. I’m probably never gonna like Danny Rand or the actor that plays him, but I can tolerate him, because I am a strong black woman!

Iron Fist (Netflix)

 

Sept. 12th

I skipped last season of this show because it was hitting too close to home, but I’ll try to watch this season, even though I skipped the very first season of AHS, too, which this is based on. It looks good though.

I’m moving away from in-depth episode reviews, unless it’s a show I’m super enthusiastic about, (like anything by Bryan Fuller). Some shows that are classed as being mildly interesting just won’t get that sort of treatment, but I will review as many season  premieres as I can.

American Horror Story (FX)

Sept. 21st 

I have no idea what this is about, and I am not a fan of either Emma Stone or Jonah Hill, considering them to be the blandest, most colorless actors that anyone could have chosen for these roles, but the premise looks mysterious, and mildly intriguing, in a science-fictiony kinda way, so I’m gonna watch it.

Maniac (Netflix)

Sept. 28th

This stars Jeffrey Wright traipsing through the wilderness, and some wolves, and that’s really all that’s needed to grab my attention, but the creators decided to add Alexander Skarsgard, who I’ve been in love with since True Blood, and now I’m committed. (It is possible after watching this I’ll  be committed, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Hold the Dark

 

 

 

Oct. 5th

I couldn’t find a trailer for this, but I know it’s out there. Somewhere. The synopsis sounded as interesting as the title, so…

Into the Dark (HULU)

 

 

Oct. 7

I’m kinda off zombie shows, but this may be the last season to see Michonne get her kill on, and watch her and Rick canoodling. I plan to skip any and every episode that features Negan. I’ve  had about quite enough of him. I’m not super enthused about this season considering how the last episode ended. I’m not a particularly enthusiastic Maggie fan. She’s okay, but I suspect she’s going to be the next person I get really tired of seeing.

Oh, and I also have to keep watching to determine if Jesus is, in fact, as gay as I suspect he may be!

(Sorry for all the unnecessary bolding  above, but I’m too tired, and lazy, to undo it on this iPad. You’ll just have to turn down the volume on your computer.)

The Walking Dead (FX)

Oct. 9th

I don’t know why people are waiting so long to give us a trailer for this new season. I haven’t seen one yet, but when I find it, I will post it, forthwith!

Black Lightning (CW)

 

 

Oct. 11th

Well yeah….

Supernatural (CW)

 

 

Oct. 14th

I don’t know what to think or feel about this show yet.  I hated the original, but this one doesn’t inspire a great deal of enthusiasm either. I will watch it because I want it to have the support, especially after the fans of the original showed their racist asses about this casting, and hey, Mermaids turned out to be okay, so why not give this a try. Hopefully the magic represented on the show will have some elements of the ethnic backgrounds of the characters, instead of the usual European, colored lights styles, seen all over most of TV.

Charmed (CW)

 

Oct. 22

I’m watching this new season because the trailer is ridiculous, and I think Constantine is still visiting the gang. I do have this vague fear that this trailer I put up may be for last season, though, as my punishment for skimming those episodes.

Legends of Tomorrow (CW)

Oct. 26th

Heres a quick 9 minute rundown of what to expect in Season 2 of  Charlaine Harris’ second show. I thought the first season was completely uneven as far as the plot, but I did manage to get into the characters. This show does not have HBOs budget, or acting chops, but I think the show needs to embrace its cheesiness a bit more, like True Blood.  After all, this takes place in the same universe as that show.

Midnight Texas (NBC)

Nov. 28th

I think this is the last season for this show. I’ve been watching since the beginning, and haven’t always liked it, but it has been interesting.

Vikings (History)

 

Mid-Season Series – TBD

Brooklyn 99

This show,  which had run for a good five years, had been canceled by FOX, but has been picked up by it’s original creators at NBC, and will air for 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22, in January.

 

The Orville

I still don’t know how to feel about this show. It tries really hard, but it’s uneven, and sometimes the characters are hard to like. I watched quite a lot of last season, and it does look promising. If it can figure out what it wants to be it might be a great show one day.

 

 

The Passage

I really loved the books this show is based on, and the trailer looks intriguing with a father/daughter relationship between a rogue FBI agent and the little Black girl who trusts him. I’ve already posted the trailer , so here are some interviews with the actors about what to expect on the show.

 

Roswell New Mexico

Yeah, I’m  not watching this because I’m allergic to schmacting, but you know what, somebody, somewhere, is gonna love the hell out of this show. It’s like a teenage soap opera about pretty aliens.

 

Titans (DC SubScription)

I’m not subscribing to this.

 

Star Trek Discovery/ Season II (CBS All Access – Subscription)

I might subscribe. I’m still thinking about that, or just getting a jailbroken Firestick instead.

 

*I won’t be watching any of the 80s reboot shows that are all the rage this season. I’m not interested. I lived through the 80s already, I don’t wanna relive it through a bunch of shows I wasn’t all that hot about when they first aired. I’ll  try to find a better listing of new Fall shows for cable and streaming networks.

Into The Badlands Season Two: So Far

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

 

Sunny

Sunny

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

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

 

Bajie

Bajie

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

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

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon

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

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

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

The Widow

The Widow

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

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

 

Lydia

Lydia

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

 

M.K.

M.K.

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

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

 

Tilda

Tilda

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

 

Baron Chau

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

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

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

 

 

Gaius Chau

Gaius Chau

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

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

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

 

Pilgrim/Cressida

PilgrimCressida

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

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

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

 

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

 

Westworld and Into The Badlands – Season Two Premieres

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

 

Into the Badlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Westworld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things We’re talking About This Week

Oh, hello there! Hi! Have some movie trailers and other assorted goodness. This first one is an awesome mashup of all the best fight scenes from the MCU, titled Battle Royale, and I just geeked out when I saw it. It’s almost as good as the Black Panther trailer:

 

*And here are some new martial arts movies to look forward to. I don’t usually rec such movies, I just like what I like, but I’m going to start, because I get really excited to hear about them, and the point of this blog is to share that kind of excitement with you.

I am really excited about this movie because I used to read the manga. I never entirely understood it, because the character relationships were often convoluted (at least to me) but I loved the premise, and the lead character, who was a total badass, and this movie seems to have captured at least a little of that here. Also, I’m a huge Takashi Miike fan. He’s very gory, but I will pretty much watch anything he makes:

 

Jackie Chan has a new movie coming out that looks like a mashup of  Mission Impossible and what Ghost in the Shell should have been. I really want to see this one because it makes Jackie look totally badass. I don’t think this movie is meant to be funny, and not just because it has the word Steel in the title:

 

I love Wushu fantasy movies and this one looks like fun. (If you like this one then you also need to check out the Detective Dee movies on Netflix, and Amazon. I used to read the Detective Dee books when I was a teen, and I like the movies.)  This movie reminds me of the Chinese action movies of the 80s, like Ghost Story:

 

 

*So, this thing happened, where an anonymous casting director made a comment about the reason Asians don’t get cast in movies. Apparently, they’re not expressive enough!

After Someone Said Asians Weren’t Expressive, People Created The Hashtag #ExpressiveAsians To Prove Them Wrong

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/09/bias-does-not-come-out-with-the-whitewash.html

*I don’t know. Asian people do appear to have faces. I’ve seen them. I’ve been looking at them in  real life and in movies for a few decades now, and I’ve always been able to discern what emotions were being expressed, just by looking at them, but apparently this person has a problem doing that, to which I can only say:

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Now I’ve been saying that Hollywood’s antipathy against hiring Asian Americans, to actually play Asian characters, was becoming creepily apparent to even the most oblivious people, and here’s my receipt. Naturally, Asian Americans had something to say about this level of wtf*ery:

Hollywood Won’t Adapt Bestselling Novel Because They Refuse to Cast an Asian Lead

https://nextshark.com/michael-lewis-flash-boys-hollywood-refises-to-cast-asian-lead/

 

the issue isn’t Asians looking inscrutable and mysterious. it’s the laziness of white people.

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https://www.buzzfeed.com/krishrach/someone-said-asians-werent-expressive-so-people-showed-of?utm_term=.naX3QlDW0#.hpnxd6zAJ

*C’mon!You knew somebody was gonna throw some Iron Fist shade:

Never forget Iron Fist….

‘Asians are not very expressive, lol let’s make Steven Seagal an martial arts action hero.’ 

Some used the opportunity to highlight actors who may have been overlooked by Western audiences.

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Tony Leung can express more complex emotions with just his eyes than many Western actors can with their whole bodies. 

 *And Scarlett Johansson got some shade thrown her way, too:

*Okay, is it petty for me to be enjoying all this sass, from Asian Americans on social media, who have been emboldened to speak out on their oppression and erasure? I suspect Black Twitter has been a bad influence on a lot of people.

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*I like how this person brings it full circle, on how racist stereotypes play out in fandoms, not just towards Black characters but towards all characters of color. It’s important to be aware of the existence of various tropes and stereotypes, so that you can recognize when they’re being employed against various characters. Its been said, over, and over again, that fandom does not exist in a vacuum. When you consume entertainment media of any kind, you’re also consuming racial narratives as well, which are going to play out in whatever you produce in how you think of the characters of color and whatever you produce about them.

How “Malec” (the canon couple of Alec, a White character, and Magnus, an Asian character, from the show Shadowhunters) is being portrayed in the fandom, bears a number of racist markers that people have been consuming for decades. One of these is the Madame Butterfly trope.

I think one of  the most obvious recent examples of the Madame Butterfly trope,  is a scene from the movie Watchmen, where the Comedian is confronted by a pregnant Vietnamese woman, who charges him to take care of his child. He murders her instead, because she refused to be quietly submissive, and languish for his attention.

So, there are some hardcore anti-Malec people out there that keep clogging the tags with their “deep activist” meta where they basically invent fake!SJ reasons why Malec is “problematic” and why their white ship with Alec (for example J@lec) is a lot more “wholesome”, a lot more “passionate” and “believable” ship.

The funniest thing about them is that while they smugly juggle with the SJ arguments [pretending to fight racism and homophobia] they use the grossest Anti-Asian stereotypes against Magnus while trying to prove their point.

On one hand, there those, who villainize Magnus at every turn, and claim that Alec is “suffering” in a “problematic” relationship because Magnus is a “manipulative predator”, a “bad Bi rep”, who basically “preys” on Alec’s whiteinnocence and “abuses” Alec at every turn. And, yeah, these people don’t see Magnus, when they watch the show, they see a Fu Manchu, “the Yellow Peril incarnate”.

On the other hand there are anti-Malec people, who want to “free” Magnus from his “toxic” relationship. It’s a fascinating sight, really, because there are tons of meta, headcanons and fics where people  envision Alec as being constantly cruel and selfish; this version of Alec is a cynical emotional sadist, who tortures Magnus by being with him, by using him, but never truly reciprocating Magnus’ feelings in return. These people see Alec as being “cold” and “uncaring” even in his most intimate scenes with Magnus. They don’t believe Alec’s own words when he constantly confesses his love to Magnus.

There’s a series of meta posts and gifsets “proving” how “detached” Alec is with Magnus, claiming that Alec is in a relationship with Magnus only because Jace is unavailable, but Alec would’ve thrown Magnus under the bus the first minute Jace showed any romantic interest in him. These J@lec / anti-Malec people see Magnus as nothing more than a “prop” to Alec – an endlessly suffering victim with zero agency. The poor soul that deserves pity… but never love.

That is not canon Alec of course. And neither that is Magnus portrayed by Harry. If one sees Magnus as nothing more than a “prop” to Alec, then they’ve clearly been zoning off on all of Magnus’ scenes in s2. The thing is that this fanon vision of “toxic”, “one-sided” Malec is basically a summary for the Madama Butterfly opera.

This perception of Magnus being the “silent infantile victim” stems from a very popular anti-Asian stereotype – “China Doll”. Along with the “Dragon Lady” (a female version of “Fu Manchu”) this is a racist stereotype of East and Southeast Asian women that had been perpetuated by Western media and fiction for ages, for years this trope had been exploited in Hollywood movies. And considering that emasculation and feminization of Asian men is still a big thing in Western society and media, it’s not surprising that the fandom is also constantly emasculating and feminizing Magnus.

You infantilize a woman, and she becomes eroticized. You infantilize a man, and he becomes emasculated. You infantilize a baby – and it’s possible, it appears that you can infantilize a baby even more. The [Asian] babies need to be cuter than white babies. And it’s just a weird thing that I felt like said something about mainstream America’s relationship to Asians in general.
–             
John Cho (c)

Madama Butterfly” is one of the versions of China Doll stereotype. It’s an opera in three acts (first premiere in 1904) by Giacomo Puccini. It is the story of a Japanese maiden (Cio-Cio San), who falls in love with and marries a white American navy lieutenant named Pinkerton. Pinkerton is marrying for convenience, since he intends to leave Cio-Cio San once he finds a proper American wife. After the officer leaves her to continue his naval service away from Japan, Cio-Cio San gives birth to their child. Cio-Cio San blissfully awaits Pinkerton’s return, unaware that he had not considered himself bound by his Japanese marriage to a Japanese woman. When Pinkerton arrives back in Japan with an American wife in tow and discovered that he has a child by Cio-Cio San, he proposes to take the child to be raised in America by himself and his American wife. The heartbroken Japanese girl bids farewell to her callous lover, then kills herself.

It is the most-performed opera in the United States, and it’s been hugely popular all over the world. It has numerous incarnations in Western media, pop culture, literature. The one of the modern versions of the opera is the musical “Miss Saigon”. This popularity of the trope only helps to perpetuate the notion of the dominant white male over the subjugated East Asian [female] who can be cast aside and treated as easily dispensable. (x)

So, yes, when hardcore anti-Malec people are interpreting Malec as loveless / passionless relationship, with Magnus being an endlessly suffering victim and Alec as a cold and heartless abuser, just waiting for a chance to discard Magnus aside [for a white guy Jace], they are seeing a Madama Butterfly scenario. A dated racist anti-Asian stereotype.

Madama Butterfly was first staged in 1904. It was a story showing that races can’t mix. A story saying that interracial relationships are “dirty”, and are always doomed because a white person (man) cannot really love a person of color (in this case an Asian person/ woman) because a white person (man) is superior and needs to find an “equal” (i.e. another white person). It’s a story telling that a white hero will always choose his own kind, and that a non-white person is only good for “fun” but doesn’t deserve to be loved in return. The love of a white hero is only reserved for another white person.

If that’s how people see and interpret Malec it speaks volumes. And not about the canon narrative, but about these people and their worldview.

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With all that said, Daniel Dae Kim (my future ex-husband) has been cast in the role of Ben Daimio in the new Hellboy movie, in the role vacated by the actor Ed Skrein, in protest of whitewashing. This is a movie I have no intention of seeing, (despite that fact that my bae is in it), because Guillermo Del Toro’s version of Hellboy was absolute perfection, and you simply cannot improve on perfection.

But this casting of Daniel is still not without some controversy.  It’s definitely better than casting a White guy, and people like Kim, but the argument now is that Asian Americans are not interchangeable. The term Asian encompasses many different cultures. Daniel Dae Kim is Korean, and the character he’ll be playing is Japanese. If the character calls for Japanese, then a Japanese (American) person should have been cast, but I guess we’ll settle for this because when it comes to Hollywood, “baby steps”.

Daniel Dae Kim to Replace Ed Skrein in ‘Hellboy’ Reboot

Daniel Dae Kim Hellboy
Daniel Dae Kim is in talks to replace Ed Skrein in Lionsgate’s “Hellboy” reboot starring David Harbour.

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Various observances from Tumblr that I feel deserve closer attention, like this very important Chris vs. Tom discussion:

think it’s about time we stop making jokes about the amount of famous white boys named Chris, and about time we started focusing on Tom. Am I talking about Cruise? Hiddleston? Hardy? Holland? Hanks? Felton? Fletcher? Selleck? Welling? Ford? Hooper? Brady? It’s impossible to tell because apparently half the male population are called Tom.

kinghardy nicetrytopredictme

This post implies any Tom besides Tom Hardy matters and that is simply untrue.

 

scallywagsandseamonsters iamnotsebastianstan

Can I add Tom Burke, Tom Hollander, Tom Ellis? And what about Dave?! Dave Grohl, David Beckham, David Boreanaz, David Schwimmer, David Duchovny.

3fluffies raina16

Marvel does seem to be gathering all Toms to them, maybe because they’ve hit critical mass of Chrises.

azrieldoestheater

the toms simply haven’t amassed the same kind of raw power as the chrises. it’s just not the same

blunderpuff

you can tell any two Toms apart tho– put 2 Chrises next to each other, and it’s like… is that the same guy in two different outfits?????

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*And this discussion about environmental conditions in the US right now:

what the fuck is going on between poseidon and zeus right now

 

“Eyes the half of the continent that’s on fire”

Hephaestus can chill too TBH.

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Oh, and this newest edition of the Target Chronicles. Now, if only someone would start one for Walmart because I just know that’s gonna be crazy. I’ve only ever been in a Target store maybe three times in my life, because its just not my go-to store, but I imagine the stories from there can’t be any worse than stories from any other department store.
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Day One Hundred And Forty-Two

-Tonight, I was asked to work guest services. Upon reaching the desk, I was handed a large tub containing boxes of “Farewell Dandelion” crayons to hand out to the children. My powers grow stronger still.

-I overheard a woman remark, “As a nurse, it is my opinion that being in a car crash would be both scary and somewhat painful.” As a human who experiences emotions somewhat normally, I concur.

-A mysterious woman with a mysterious purpose entered the store. She told me that she wished to give my manager of letter, content and reason unknown. She insisted upon delivering it herself to avoid the attention of unwanted eyes. I can only hope to one day be a part of such ominous goings-on as have gone on before me tonight.

-Halloween merchandise has arrived, and with it, the canned screams of skeletons and witches echoing down the aisles. I could not be more elated.

-A young boy, perhaps six or seven years of age, excitedly ran through the dollar section, digging around and eventually adorning himself with a pointed black witch’s cap and a tutu as pink and frilly as could be. He was delighted by his outfit, but his delight was nothing compared to his mother’s delight, and his mother’s delight was nothing compared to mine.

-A woman approached the service desk to tell me in a hushed voice that there was a dog outside. She then raised her eyebrows, gave me a knowing look, and walked away. This is precisely the kind of informant I need in my life.

-I processed a return for an elderly woman who was distressed that her new digital thermometer would only display the same numbers with no change. Unsure of how to tell her that she had yet to remove the sticker on the screen, I gladly gave her a refund and sent her on her way.

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*Here are a couple of articles from Black Nerd Problems addressing the idea of the CW show Arrow, making plans to do a BLM oriented episode, (NOPE!) when they don’t have a great track record of dealing with serious subjects, and about how the show The Defenders just wasn’t all that.

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http://blacknerdproblems.com/arrow-black-lives-matter-episode-can-keep/

http://blacknerdproblems.com/3-reasons-the-defenders-isnt-must-binge-tv/

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

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

Sunny: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Veil:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Widow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Baron Chau

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

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

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

 

Quinn:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ghost in the Shell Reviews Are In

*So far, the consensus seems to be that Ghost in the Shell is  a merely okay film. I haven’t seen it and had no plans to do so, not because of the Whitewashing, although that’s a big issue, but because I’m more than a little tired of looking at Scarlett Johansson.

There’s quite a lot of spectacle but yeah, there’s the little issue of Whitewashing, not just of the film itself, but actually referenced in the plot, where the identity of an Asian character, Motoko, is erased and placed in the body of a White woman. 

According to the critics, it is possible to watch this movie and not care about any of the social issues involved, but this movie is never gonna be a classic, and doesn’t have the depth of the original anime. It’s never going to be Bladerunner, or The Matrix either, no matter how much it apes those movies aesthetics. According to the critics, it’s a gorgeous film that lacks warmth. It’s at about 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The reception of the movie, even by audiences,  has been rather lukewarm.

There are a handful of reviews giving it a rousing endorsement, like Variety, Entertainment Weekly, The Telegraph and The Chicago Tribune (Roger Eberts old employer). But the critics who panned it, come from more Geek oriented online sites, that skew much younger than the ones mentioned above, with a millennial audience who grew up watching the original movies and series, and I guess they’re unimpressed by the story.

http://www.salon.com/2017/03/29/scarlett-johansson-and-the-perils-of-white-feminism/

http://www.avclub.com/review/beguiling-ghost-shell-more-replicant-remake-252941

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/29/15114902/ghost-in-the-shell-review-scarlett-johansson

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/ghost-shell-review-remake-2017-johansson/?tu=gav

http://www.gq.com/story/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/30/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/30/15121524/review-ghost-in-the-shell

http://www.businessinsider.com/ghost-in-the-shell-review-2017-3

 

*And because apparently I’m just not finished bashing Iron Fist for what we could have had vs. what we got:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/heres-the-important-stuff-that-happens-in-iron-fist-so-1793445273

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/21/14980216/iron-fist-problems-marvel-netflix-writing-villains-optics

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/17/14958828/finn-jones-and-iron-fist-have-one-thing-in-common

*Bottom line: if your character’s backstory features him punching a gobdamn dragon, to obtain his superpowers of being able to punch shit, and you don’t show that shit on screen, you need your entire ass thoroughly kicked. So far, we’re stuck with Finn Jones as Danny Rand but this can be fixed. He’s never going to look good as a martial artist until he gets some serious training. Put him in some intense stunt training, so that he can at least look as competent as the actors from The Matrix. Get a brand new showrunner. And this time find someone who gives a shit about Danny’s Rand being Iron Fist,  cares about his martial abilities, and is willing to do the research to make it look good.

 

*Just to cheer us all up, here are some Logan reviews. I loved this ugly, bittersweet movie, so much.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/6/14829768/logan-movie-wolverine-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewart-discussion-highs-lows

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/why-we-needed-logan-to-kill-the-modern-superhero-movie-w470501

https://theringer.com/logan-and-conquering-pessimism-through-fatherhood-86d377ae85b9

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

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

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

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Sunny/Bajie:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Eight Precepts:

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

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

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

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

MK/The Master:

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

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

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

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

Veil/Quinn:

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

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

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

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

Jade and Ryder:

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

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

The Widow/Tilda/ Waldo:

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

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

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

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Lydia/Ryder

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

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

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

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

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

The World-building:

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

The Fights:

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

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

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

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

Iron Fist Season One

I’m a long time martial arts movie fan. I have clocked a lot of hours watching people fake punching and kicking each other. If you’re that level of fan of martial arts, it’s okay. You can skip this show. There is waaaay too damn much talking in this show.

On the other hand, it’s not an awful show. It’s not half as awful as the critics would have everybody believe. It certainly could be a better show, and it doesn’t live up to any of the expectations of the trailers, as bad as they were. Let’s just say all the action you saw in the trailers, is most of the action in the show. My guess is they knew they couldn’t hook us in by showing the many, many hours of people snarking at each other in offices,and  wearing nice clothes, so decided to go with inelegant fight scenes. Think the show Suits, but with worst dialogue, and sometimes somebody gets punched.

The plot is as stated. Danny Rand flees a mystical Asian land called Kun Lun, where he is the legendary Iron Fist.He comes to NY and gets involved with Colleen, Claire Temple, and the Hand. We spend most of the show running around with this trio, from place to place, jostling with Ms. Gao, and the Hand, macking on Colleen like a creepy stalker, and trying  to avenge his parents deaths, which involves the corporation his father used to run, his father’s old partner, and that man’s children, the Meachums.

My special advice is to watch the show on your tablet or phone ,and every time you see people talking in an office, fast forward through that. I fast forwarded through almost all of that part and was still able to keep up with most of the details of the plot. I would also advise you not to listen too hard to the dialogue because you will go to sleep. Unless Claire’s on screen. She’s awesome. As always.

I was going to give some type of in depth review, but I’m not interested enough to invest that much work into the characters and plots and shit. So here. Have some links and articles that carefully explain what went wrong with this show.

Iron Fist was inspired by 1970s kung fu movies, but no one seriously expected Finn Jones to become the next Bruce Lee. The show focuses on plot over action, so it makes more sense to compare it to Daredevil. And that comparison makes Iron Fist look like total garbage.

Daredevil‘s hallway fight was praised for its stylish choreography and camera work. There’s a real weight and brutality to Daredevil’s blows, and the scene uses a long tracking shot so you can see all the necessary action.

Iron Fist paid tribute with its own hallway fight scene, utilizing a very different style of filmmaking.

 

In Iron Fist, the camera constantly cuts away before the blows connect. The editor chopped Danny’s choreography into two or three shots per move, so you don’t catch the full impact of his actions. It’s like trying to follow a ballet performance through a dozen tiny windows around the stage.

Once the fight reaches the elevator, we get a completely unnecessary split-screen view of Danny disarming an opponent. At 1:35 in the above video, the split screen actually makes it harder to see what he’s doing.

[READ MORE]

*I’m going to go one step further here. This weekend was the second season premiere of Into the Badlands. This show is everything that Iron Fist should have been. Into the Badlands is full of action and every one of its fight scenes is given the love and dedication that it should receive for an action show. Contrast this fight scene with the one from Iron Fist:

 

Oh, and here is the fight scene between Zhou Cheng and Iron Fist. Zhou Cheng is being played by Lewis Tan, an actor and model  who is half White, and was one of the most prominent contenders for AA Iron Fist.Btw, this is one of the best fights in the entire series.

 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/20/14988036/lewis-tan-iron-fist-casting-marvel-netflix-asian-representation

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*This critique lays out the five major criticisms of the show:

 Monday, March 20, 2017

Five Comments on Iron Fist

Marvel and Netflix’s latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership’s (if not the MCU’s) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist‘s reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make exactly the same criticisms–a dull and unsympathetic lead performance, an increasing emphasis on an unappealing villain, storylines that focus too much on boardroom shenanigans, lousy fight scenes–you’ve probably got a turkey on your hands.  Having watched the entire first season of Iron Fist, my only quibble with the reviewers is that most of the flaws they ascribe to the show were also present in the second season of Daredevil, which received generally favorable notices.  In fact, it’s not so much that Iron Fist is worse than Daredevil‘s second season, as that it is more boring (it lacks, for example, a magnetic central performance in the vein of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher), and this makes it easier to notice flaws that have been present in all of the Defenders shows, albeit taken to far greater extremes here.  The boring part means that the show doesn’t really deserve a full review, but there are a few points about it that I thought were worth discussing.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2017/03/five-comments-on-iron-fist.html

Continue reading “Iron Fist Season One”

Samurai Jack: Season Five Premiere

 

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Samurai Jack is quite possibly one of the most uniquely gorgeous cartoons on television. Now in its final season, it’s pulling out all of the stops for some truly groundbreaking and beautiful art. The plots of each episode  aren’t complicated but the overall arc of the season is complex enough to make watching it a worthwhile endeavor.

*Fifty years have passed, but I do not age. Time has lost its effect on me, yet the suffering continues. Aku’s grasp chokes the past, present and future. All hope is lost. Got to get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack.

— Jack, in the opening sequence

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Voiced once again by Phil Lamarr from Pulp Pulp Fiction, and MadTV, it’s  some fifty years in the future, and Aku has finally succeeded in taking over the world. But he’s become bored and jaded. He’s no longer interested in hunting Jack, or trying to kill him. He let’s his robot drones and cultlike followers do his dirty work for him. A new group is hunting Jack called The Daughters of Aku.

Jack lost his legendary sword long ago and wanders Aku’s corrupt landscape, with no purpose. He failed to stop Aku from taking over the world but he can’t or won’t die. One of the side effects of having gone through the time portal to kill Aku is that he no longer ages. He longs to die, but out of long habit, fights Akus servants, over and over.

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It’s a gorgeous looking show with lots of action, and is rather mordantly funny, with the humor found in unexpected places. In one of the earlier sequences we watch as Aku goes about his day, receiving  penitents, eating breakfast, and doing some stretching and deep knee bends, because the Evil Ruler of the World has to remain nimble.

In fact, Samurai  Jack and Aku have a lot in common, as they navigate a world radically different from what they thought things would be. They’re old, jaded, weary, and tired of fighting, but just can’t seem to stop. Jack is  facing new foes, old friends, and trying to live in a world he failed to save. Aku realizes that ruling the world isn’t as wonderful as he thought it would be, but he can’t stop either. So,  the show contains a surprising amount of depth and pathos, where you have two former foes, who are tired of being foes, but have invested too much in it to stop doing it.

The art takes a bit of getting used to, because its wholly unlike any other cartons on TV, and is very minimalist and deco.

Its an excellent cartoon ,worth watching on  Adult Swim, Saturdays at 11 PM.

 

Ghost in the Shell/Iron Fist Backfire

Fed-up fans turn ‘Ghost in the Shell’ meme generator against itself

The Major may be a cutting-edge cyborg capable of taking down even the most dangerous criminals, but even she’s no match for the withering disdain of the internet.

Ever since Paramount shared the first image of Scarlett Johansson as the Major in Ghost in the Shell, the film’s been under fire for its decision to whitewash the lead role, who is Japanese in the source material. So when the studio launched a viral campaign encouraging people to upload their own images and captions into a meme generator, some fed-up fans seized the opportunity to make their displeasure known.

And not only did Ghost in the Shell get a thorough roast, a few people made sure that Hollywood didn’t forget about Emma Stone and Iron Fist.

View image on Twitter

And then there’s the recent media implosion over Iron Fist, which got totally trashed by critics who were allowed to watch the first six episodes of the series.The actor Finn Jones, who plays Danny Rand, put his foot in his mouth both before and after the show’s debut and has now left Twitter after being dragged by the public.

‘Iron Fist’s Finn Jones Says He Left Twitter After Diversity Dust-Up To “Stay Focused” On Filming ‘The Defenders’

 

The Implosion of “Marvel’s Iron Fist” and Finn Jones Continues

Marvel’s Iron Fist Cultural Appropriation Casting Crisis Drives Finn Jones Off Twitter — What’s Going On?

Iron Fist actor leaves Twitter after confronting racial issues in series (update)

Yeah, I think someone needs to close their Twitter account and shut the Hell up before they dig a deeper hole.

Here’s the thing, if the public can’t get Hollywood casting agents, or moviemakers, to understand that we want more and better diversity and inclusion, then I guess the public is just going to shame the actors who contribute to the problem. Especially when those clueless actors go on social media to make excuses for what they just did.

Both Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansen have both made remarks about supporting diversity, and both of them were subsequently  roasted on Twitter, and Facebook. The bottom line is that actors are no longer getting a pass about their ignorance of these issues.

In the past, Hollywood actors have managed to get by by just speaking on some issue, without actually doing any of the real work, or being informed, and sometimes actually contributing to the perpetuation of said issue. Well, not anymore. From now on if an actor is going to talk about a social issue, they had better know what they’re talking about, and have put in the work on that issue. Its  simply not enough now to simply appear progressive and get points.

Unfortunately, the irony is that Hollywood is a conservative industry, and actors who speak out too much, or are too bold with their actions regarding social issues, can sometimes find themselves with the reputation for being troublemakers, and damaging their careers. I’m not saying they can’t have opinions, but they’re caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of the film industry and public opinion, and if they’re not A listers, they can’t serve both. They work in an industry that will allow them to be bold enough to speak out on things, if they have some amount of cache, but they can’t be too bold in their actions, or their careers will suffer.

This is the hole that people like ScarJo , and Finn Jones have fallen into. They’ve done something that genre fans do not approve of and have let them know it. At the same time, the actors can’t be too bold in their support of the issue by doing things like, trashing their own productions, or turning down roles.

As for Finn Jones, I don’t know what’s going to happen here. People are strongly objecting to his presence in this role, yet he is what we have. He’s what we’re going to be looking at in The Defenders, too, as don’t think he is going to be replaced.

As for one of the major arguments against casting an AA as Danny Rand:

Marvel did not seem to have any problem finding plenty of Asian Martial Artists to play villains in its productions. Casting Asians as Martial Artists because it might be stereotypical isn’t the problem. The problem is Marvel not wanting any of those Asian Martial Artists to be  heroic.

bigskydreaming:

LOL please skip that ‘Marvel just didn’t want to do the stereotypical Asian martial artist’ argument in regards to casting Danny Rand as white.

Like, if that were true….why would the rest of the cast be full of characters who are….Asian….martial artists???

Also, member that time Daredevil was filled with evil Asian ninjas?? Cuz I member.

And you’ll notice nobody was remotely concerned about casting a Cambodian actress to play Elektra, who has always been Greek in the comics. If not stereotyping Asians was such a concern for Marvel, why’d they go out of their way to make one of their only non-Asian ninja characters Asian? LOL.

And Elodie was AMAZING as Elektra, and there was nothing remotely stereotypical about her character at all, because shocking – that’s what happens when you don’t reduce or limit a character to one specific character trait. THAT’S the danger of stereotyping, and you don’t address that by denying characters access to something that’s actually legitimately a part of their cultural heritage and something they’d have every reason to pursue should they so desire. You just make sure they’re nuanced, three dimensional characters who have a lot more elements to them besides just the one stereotypical element. And Elektra was so much more than just her martial arts skills in Daredevil.

Like, Daredevil the show is heavily racist in a lot of ways, and a lot of that is tied up in their use of the Hand, Madame Gao and Nobu…..and that’s not because they’re mystical Asian ninjas. It’s because that’s ALL they are in Daredevil, that everything we know about those characters revolves around stereotypical characteristics with not much else besides that. And before people go ‘oh well they’re the villains, what do you expect’…..lmao pleeeeeeeeeeeeease. Compare what Marvel did with the Kingpin’s character in Season One to how they used Nobu in Season Two, not to mention Killgrave over in Jessica Jones. Marvel LOVES their nuanced, complicated villains, and yet for some reason, Nobu and Madame Gao remain just secretive Asian martial artists with vaguely defined mystical connections and whose motivations seem confined to uttering cryptic pronouncements but also drugs and taking over the world, we guess.

With Elektra, they actually bothered to breathe some life into her character and flesh her out beyond a two dimensional secretive ninja, and voila….suddenly, shockingly….she’s a full fledged character instead of a stereotype. Imagine that!

Asian American Danny Rand would only have been a stereotype if his characterization began and ended with ‘zen martial artist who barely talks because did we mention how zen he is’.

Of course, its not like this particular bullshit argument is new for Marvel. Remember how when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One instead of a Tibetan man, Marvel and the director both claimed it was because they were trying to stay away from Asian stereotypes?

And yet, in every still I ever saw from the movie, Tilda Swinton’s character (despite supposedly being Celtic, I heard?) has her head shaved and is wearing brightly colored garments traditionally associated with Tibetan monks in Western perceptions.

Like….umm….again….if you’re worried enough about stereotypes that you cast a white woman instead of the elder Tibetan monk seen in the comics….THEN WHY DID YOU GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO EVOKE EVERY SINGLE STEREOTYPE ABOUT ASIAN MONKS WITH THE VISUALS YOU CHOSE FOR HER?