Martial Arts 2017

I might as well call this Martial Arts Spring, as the good news is that Samurai Jack has been renewed for a fifth season beginning in March. Until then all of the episodes of the previous seasons are being shown back to back on Adult Swim.

Also, we have a live action version of Blade of the Immortal coming in April. I read this Manga a few years ago, and I’m always up for some ridiculously over the top Samurai action movies:

 

Also being released this year are:

Brotherhood of the Blades II

Kill Zone II

and the Kingsman sequel, which impressed me as a very dark and ugly movie. I didn’t enjoy watching it at all, and Samuel L Jackson just got on my nerves, which is something that he’s increasingly done in the last couple of years..

Call of Heroes by Benny Chan, which stars Sammo Hung and my future husband, Andy Lau.

And if you havent seen them yet check out

Rise of the Legend (2016) and The Final Master from 2015.

Martial Arts March

The season five debut of Samurai Jack will air in March as well. March 11th to be exact.

I’m so looking forward to next month’s TV shows.

Samurai Jack Season 5 Trailer

“It’s been 50 years since we saw Samurai Jack and time has not been kind to him. Aku has destroyed every time portal and Jack has stopped aging, a side effect of time travel. It seems he is cursed to just roam the land for all eternity.

Into the Badlands Season 2: Video Roundup

Yaaayyy!!! Season two of Into the Badlands will be airing on March 19th, on AMC. And I’m really excited about this, if only because the trailers look super exciting, going in directions I didn’t expect and this season stars one of my favorite actors:

That hefty fella back there is Nick Frost. You may remember him from Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block, and one my few favorite cop movies, Hot Fuzz. So, I’m totally geeking out about it!

There’s also a new trailer and a featurette focusing on the women of the Badlands. The first season turned out to be surprisingly feminist in aspect ,with lots of smart, deadly women, who have agency, affect the plot, and are integral to the development of this world, but that’s par for the course in the Chinese Action films on which this show is heavily based. The Chinese cinema has a long history of prominently showcasing women in the plots.

 

I hope this season we get to see more of the worldbuilding, as I had a lot of questions about this particular ‘verse. We will get to see some new sets and locations, which is cool. The show appears to have a slightly larger budget than last year, too. I hope to see more Woc, but my end all and be all, would be seeing at least one black woman kicking some ass in this show. We almost never get that in these kinds of movies or shows (but I wont be disappointed if I don’t get it.) Iron Fist has a lot to live up to as that’s going to be released at the same time.  I’m gonna be watching a lot of Kung Fu that weekend.

 

Into the Badlands Season 2 finds Sunny (Daniel Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight) separated and scattered to the wind, each imprisoned in unlikely places.  While M.K. struggles to control his powers, Sunny is determined to fight his way back into the Badlands to find his family or die trying.  On their journey, Clipper and Colt are assisted by mysterious, new allies whose motivations may be anything but pure.Meanwhile, The Widow (Emily Beecham) continues to consolidate power against the other Barons, while a dark and mysterious threat prepares to exact revenge on them all.Alliances are struck, friendships betrayed, and by season’s end, Sunny and M.K.’s lives will be forever altered with devastating consequences.

 

 

 

 

Geeking Out About : Gaming

I’m so totally a gamergirl!

Well, okay, I do play games, but mostly it’s the phone type games and it’s not like it’s an identity or something. I would probably call myself a “petty dabbler”. In the interests of full disclosure, I am a 46 year old black woman, who has been playing digital games since I first picked up a Merlin. Then I went on to Arcade and Atari  games like Pong, PacMan, Space Invaders (my personal favorite) and Centipede. It was a point of pride for me to avoid playing Donkey Kong and Ms. PacMan. I still don’t know why.

I didn’t get into fighting games until my brothers introduced me to Tekken and Streetfighter, as an adult. After that I couldn’t get enough of them and moved into playing Batman fighting games on occasion. Yes, I still like Tekken. I don’t play as  much now because I haven’t the time.

I will not play scary games though. I simply cannot play games involving things that come out of the dark to eat my characters. A few years ago my brother introduced me to something called DinoCrisis and my opinion of that game is that it needs to die and burn in Hell. I have never been more terrified in my life, and I have it on good authority that that’s a pretty mild game. So, horror movies I can handle, but apparently horror games is an issue. Go figure!

I won’t  play first person shooters, or quest games, which to me seem to mostly consist of a lot of running around, while trying not to get shot in the first case, and getting lost, in the second. I get bored playing those, except in the moments where something is trying to kill me, then I lose my shit.

I play games mostly to relax, in the same way others might watch mindless TV shows. I’ll play meditative games, or games where you break stuff, which is why Angry Birds first appealed to me. I love to break things. Speaking of breaking things, one of my current favorites is a game where you do nothing but break glass objects at a faster and faster pace, called Smash Hit. One of my favorite meditative games is Polyfauna, which is hard to describe, as it involves forming shapes with sounds.

I like strategy games too, like Plague Inc. I’ve only won that game twice on the easiest settings. It’s the only way I get to regularly destroy the world with a hideous plague. You can’t just casually play this one. It involves a lot of calculation. I play this when Im in need of some  lite intellectual stimulation.

For pure fun, I like to play Candistry, which is basically a fast matching game that is shaped like a Rubik’s cube, and  Pudding Monsters, because it gets progressively harder as you play, and it’s deeply funny to me, for some reason. My niece loves a game called Office Jerk, where she gets to throw various objects at some obnoxious guy, whose trying to work. She also likes another game that, as far as I can tell, seems to involve popping sheep into the sky, and another one that seems to be about dynamiting fish in a lake. She’s also learning to be a young entrepreneur, by playing some kind of cupcake bakery game, that feels like FarmVille, and puts me right to sleep.

Yes, I know about Steam, but I’m not registered on there or anything. I don’t have that kind of time, really. Please don’t ask me if I know…whatever. I probably don’t. Like the vast majority of people, playing games is just something I do in the spare moments that I have. Right now, I have enough time to play Neko Atsume’s Kitty Collector, which I’m enjoying far too damn much, and any iteration of Angry Birds.

Games I bought but haven’t played are Robocop, Badland, Infinity Blade 3, Batman Arkham City Lockdown, Dead Trigger, and Injustice Gods Among Us. So, I have plenty of future games to look forward to learning, during some long vacation.

Do you play games? What kinds of games are you playing now? If you have a suggestion for a good “breaking shit”  or meditation game, let me know by hitting me up in the comments.

Critique : Daredevil Season 2

I think Arthur Chu is very eloquent at expressing my misgivings about how Marvel treats Asians (and all WoC) in the MCU.

Arthur Chu

ARTHUR CHU

MORE THAN A STEREOTYPE

04.01.16 1:08 AM ET

Not Your Asian Ninja: How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Failing Asian-Americans

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/01/not-your-asian-ninja-how-the-marvel-cinematic-universe-keeps-failing-asian-americans.html?via=newsletter&source=Culturebeast

 

 

 

Daredevil Season Two : Episodes 5-8

 

Kinbaku:

This episode is very  Elektra heavy, as it chronicles how the two of them met, and why she left him the first time. I tried really, really hard to like this character and finally concluded that she’s not meant to be likable. Let me be blunt here: Elektra is an asshole. She’s everything I hate in a female character and she even displayed a couple of new qualities I detested.

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Anyway Matt, who evinces about as much personality as a hedgehog, in the flashback scenes, is totally smitten with her because she’s a risk taker, who loves danger. I don’t mean jaywalking, or sticking a fork in the toaster  type danger.  I’m talking about stealing cars and beating each other up as foreplay danger. The two of them have less chemistry than Matt and Karen though, no matter how much heavy breathing she and Matt  engage in. (And Elektra does that  breathless talking thing, a lot!) Don’t get me wrong, Elodi Young, as Elektra, is abso-tively gorgeous and her martial arts moves are adequate, but I hate the character. I’m not sure if its the acting, or the horrible dialogue, though. Elodi acts like she’s in a series that’s waaay sexier than the one in which she’s currently starring.

Anyway most of the episode is spent in flashback, as we see Elektra and Matt meet, fight, steal cars, make love, and then the deal-breaker for Matt, breaking into the house of the mobster, (now in hiding), who ordered the death of his father, so Matt can torture and kill him. Matt’s perfectly willing to vandalize the man’s house and beat him up, but killing is going too far, and he declines her invitation to commit murder. Elektra promptly walks out on him. No, really! She acts extremely gleeful about him killing a man, looks completely unhinged while encouraging him to do it, and when he says no to her, she just walks out of the scene.

Ah yeah, incidentally, I’m not impressed by love scenes where the characters grope each other like rabid hamsters. I think that type of acting is meant to convey how they just cant keep their hands off each other, and are in some kind of “people heat”, but I mostly find that kind of shit deeply annoying. (A better love scene would be Richonne’s first, from The Walking Dead.)

I thought, surely, there was a way they could have made Elektra look less batshit, but the writers decided not to go that route, I guess, in favor of making her seem like a version of “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”!

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(Otoh: The fight scene where Elektra and Matt meet-cute is still  a thousand times better than the movie version, between Affleck and Garner.)

Back in the present day, there’s some shady business dealings she wants to hire Matt to help her with that involve the Roxxon Oil Corporation and the Yakuza. Once again, Matt has to tell her “no”, but he is willing to spy on her to find out her true reason for coming to NY. There’s some computer hacking involved, and when her business partners discover her involvement, they hire thugs to visit her apartment, where she and Matt are waiting to kick their ass. Matt is there because Elektra has been spying on him too and knowing about his nigh-time activities as Daredevil, stole his suit.

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Oh, yeah. Karen and Matt go out on one of the most awkward dates ever. Awkward and gaudy. This scene hurt my eyeballs.

 

Regrets Only:

This episode is mostly about some courtroom type stuff involving Frank Castle, and Matt and Elektra breaking into a building owned by the Yakuza to steal a book. Every step of the way Matt could make different choices but doesn’t. He is seemingly unable to stay away from Elektra and her exciting world of physical danger, even though he keeps saying he wants nothing to do with her.

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Karen develops a rapport wit Frank Castle as his trial begins. Reyes, the DA, wants the death penalty but Murdock and Assoc. decide they will represent Frank in court, and perhaps they can unearth exactly what’s wrong with Frank, why his family was killed and what Reyes has to do with any of it. Karen visits Frank’s home. He hasn’t visited his home since his family died.

Matt interrupts his court case to run off with Elektra and  attend a party, break into a vault and steal a book. So not only is he keeping his Daredevil life a secret from Karen, he’s keeping Elektra a secret too. This is not going to end well. Foggy is mortified at having to take on Reyes, by himself, and for the second time they fight about Matt’s extracurricular activities. This appears to be a theme this season. Apparently, Foggy has had enough of this shit.

 

Semper Fidelis:

Things come to a head when Matt reveals his night-time activities with Elektra is what’s distracting him from his court case. Foggy and Karen let him have it about his irresponsible behavior, and their relationships  become strained. As  Matt neglects his duties in The Punisher court case,  Foggy ends up having to do all the work, including the opening statements, which he hadn’t planned.

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Matt and Elektra are still running around getting into fights with the Yakuza. These fight scenes were a lot of fun and definitely reminded me of scenes from the books, where Matt fights against dozens of  ninja assailants. But for some reason I couldn’t enjoy them too much because these scenes are interspersed with scenes of Foggy, hard at work, trying to save Frank Castle from life imprisonment.  I kept thinking about all the work Matt was neglecting because he prefers  beating  people up at night. Ah yeah, Elektra is in there somewhere, and she gets wounded.

Incidentally, a lot of the fight scenes are filmed in so much darkness that I have no clue about  Elektra’s fighting style.  I’m used to watching Matt fight and Charlie Cox is always spectacular, but couldn’t get a clear picture of what Elodi Young was doing and hence don’t really remember how she fights. Sadly, the most memorable thing about her is her looks.

I have no idea exactly what Elektra and Matt are trying to accomplish in their endless fighting with the Yakuza, either, as its somewhat murky. Its hard for me to really care about the fight scenes because I’m not entirely sure what all the fighting is about beyond simply fighting. What do the two of them stand for?

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I also don’t like Elektra because she  is a distraction from his day to day life, and Foggy rightfully calls him on it. I also suspect she has ulterior motives beyond the reasons she states for showing up in NY and enlisting Matt’s aid. She doesn’t need Matt’s help to do any of the things they’ve been doing, and why now?

If you pay close attention, you can see that Daredevil is a distinct personality, that is mostly separate from Matt Murdock, the lawyer, but you can also see elements of Daredevil’s personality bleeding into Matt’s everyday life. Wonderful acting on Charlie Cox’s part here.

 

Guilty as Sin:

So all is revealed as Matt and Elektra are attacked by ninjas, Elektra is wounded by a poisoned sword, and then saved by Stick, Matt’s teacher and mentor. It turns out that Elektra does have ulterior motives for getting Matt into all these endless fight scenes. She works for Stick and has been assessing Matt’s preparedness to join in Stick’s ongoing war against The Hand.

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Matt emphatically states that she and Stick are insane and he’s not joining their little war. He  and Stick argue, and Matt kicks Stick out of his home, but not before Karen has a chance to stop by and catch Elektra recuperating in Matt’s bed. Welp! I saw that coming!

Matt does agree to take Elektra back if she leaves Stick alone. Elektra goes to Stick and tells him she’s leaving him for Matt. Before they can go through with any of their plans, they’re attacked by an assassin, who is little more than a child. Matt stops just short of killing him, but Elektra, impulsively slits the boy’s  throat, while a horrified Matt watches.  The first time they had a falling out it was because Matt wouldn’t kill. Til now, he’s been in control of their relationship, and encouraging her not to kill in their many fights. This time their falling out will be because Matt won’t accept her killing people.

He really is a stickler about that sort of thing, even though it strikes me as a bit hypocritical. Beating the crap out of people, breaking their bodies, terrorizing and torturing  them for information, is all okay, but he has to draw the line at killing, because life is precious, or something.

Yeah, okay Matt. But it would be nice if he could draw the line at committing violence. This isn’t  arguing about self defense. Going out and violently inserting himself into situations is something he chooses to do, outside the law, every night. And he thinks it’s okay to do these things  because nobody’s dead by his hand.

Yet.

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Murdock and Associates lose their court case when Frank takes the stand and purposely blows his own defense. Frank continues to be a puzzle to me. Every time Foggy and Karen try to mount a defense for him, he either deliberately blows it, or refuses to abide by it. Its like he wants to go to prison. I suppose I could see that. After all, he won’t have to look so hard to find the  bad guys and he can beat up as many as he wants.

Foggy blames Matt for their courtroom loss, and Karen ain’t too happy with him, either. Frank goes to jail, where he is led to a meeting with The Kingpin. (Its nice to see D’onofrio again being his usual excellent self.)

So, we’re a little over halfway through the season and things are moving apace. There are some parts of the narrative I really just don’t find very interesting. Or rather, they’re not as interesting as I thought they’d be. One of those plot lines is the one about The Hand. I liked the fight scenes well enough. They’re very exciting but I didn’t care very much about them because they just seem like fight scenes added to have action and with no particular meaning.

But maybe that is the point, to show Matt engaging in pointless action for action’s sake. Nothing gets resolved, no one’s  life is saved, he and Elektra aren’t fighting FOR any philosophy. His fight scenes with her are essentially meaningless, so maybe that means his  relationship with her is essentially meaningless, too. The fighting didn’t become interesting until Stick showed up (or maybe I was just excited to see Scott Glenn).

I’m bored with the Frank Castle/ DA Reyes intrigue, probably because much of it consists of Karen reading, and rustling  papers, or sitting and writing notes, although I like the dynamic that was created between her and Frank. She doesn’t let him bully her and stands her ground with him when he tries to push her away, and I like that. She’s determined to help him. She’s also dealing with the emotional aftermath of killing Wilson Fisk’s Majordomo last season, after he had her kidnapped, and I’m glad the show hasn’t forgotten what happened the previous season.

I’ve developed an amazing respect for Foggy, and Eldon Henson, the actor who plays him. Foggy is a much better lawyer than he thinks he is. I also  like that he’s pushing  Matt to make a decision about what he wants do with his life. Does Matt want to abide by the law, or be a vigilante, like Frank? Foggy’s argument is that Matt cannot serve two masters, or rather, serve one master, badly.

We’ll see how this all plays out in the last five episodes.

 

 

Daredevil Season Two: Episodes 1-4

This recap is for episodes 1-4 of season two of Daredevil, titled, in order: Bang; Dogs to a Gunfight; New York’s Finest; and Penny and Dime.

Season Two of Daredevil is probably one of the hottest tickets in town right now. You can find reviews of it everywhere. I don’t normally review things that everyone else is reviewing. I do on occasion, because I watch these shows too, but I like to find those shows that no one is paying a whole lot of attention to, or shows that people might not have access too, like the ones on PlayStation, Netflix, or certain movie channels.

So, yes, I have been watching the new season of Daredevil. I don’t want to do a play by play recap but I will list some highlights of the first four episodes.

Mostly of the first episodes are devoted to the The Punisher storyline. I know some of the ladies who read my blog don’t necessarily read comic books, and have no idea who The Punisher is, so some background may be in order. The Punisher is a guy named Frank Castle, who has decided to kill as many criminal organizations and people as physically possible, and that’s a hell of a lot.

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Its the cliche movie plot about a guy who loses his wife and daughter and  decides to take revenge on the men he thinks are responsible. As a general rule, he avoids killing innocents, but he is not above a certain amount of carelessness in killing them too. It’s your typical “fridging” of women in order  to spur one man to kill more men.

Frank, is excellently played by Jon Bernthal. I fell in love with him as Shane in The Walking Dead. Yeah, Shane was an asshole, but I loved the actor anyway. Here, he’s playing another asshole, but he’s an understandable one, kind of. The benefit of a story that takes five hours is that you can spend an entire episode just getting to know one character, as they get a chance to espouse their philosophy.

The creators of Daredevil are extremely good at fleshing out their villains. They did it with Kingpin last season, Killgrave in Jessica Jones, and they do the same thing for humanizing Frank in this show. You still don’t like the villains overmuch, but at least their motives can be understood. They’re not one-dimensional, mustache twirling, laughers, impressed by their evilness.

There’s an amount of professional lawyerly intrigue going on between Foggy, Karen and a corrupt DA named Reyes, which I didn’t follow nearly as closely as I followed the fight scenes. Foggy gets some of the best lines in the series, when he goes toe to toe with Reyes, who tries to sweat him about keeping one of their clients, who is the only man to survive one of The Punisher’s assaults.

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Daredevil spends most of the first half of the season investigating who is massacreing all the local gangs, including the Irish mafia, and a local biker gang, from whom they just got their latest client, who wishes to go straight now. Daredevil has also been attacking gangs in the city but he doesn’t kill them, and he and Frank are in competition. Matt objects to the killings because, like a good Catholic boy, he believes everyone deserves a chance for redemption, including his new client.

The first couple of times he and Frank meet, it’s a draw, but Matt gets shot, which results in a brief bout of deafness later in his apartment. The show is giving us some idea of just how incredibly important Matt’s sense of hearing is for connecting him to the world. He is completely unable to do anything but sit in one spot, and hope his hearing comes back, which it eventually does. This was fascinating to watch actually. Our senses connect us to the world. If they’re lost, or become unreliable, how do we even know anything at all? He’s certainly not going to be able to fight crime while deaf and blind.

We have seen a tougher, more ruthless, Matt Murdock in these opening episodes. Again, Charlie Cox, while very pleasant as Matt, saves most of his energy for being Daredevil. He and Foggy argue about vigilantism at the top of the show,as Foggy urges him to stop. Karen still doesn’t know what’s going on, but she’s not stupid, and can see that something is happening. Matt may be blind but there’s only so many times blind people can fall down stairs, or bump into things, is her reasoning.

The survivor of Frank’s attack on the bikers is in the hospital but Frank won’t let it go. He hunts him down and tries to kill him, putting Karen’s life and the lives of the nurses, doctors and patients in jeopardy, as he shoots up the hospital. Karen manages to speed away with her client in tow. We get some brief Night Nurse action between Foggy and Claire, as he questions her about Matt’s whereabouts, after his kidnapping by Frank.  We don’t get to see nearly enough of her, but maybe there’s more in the next few episodes.

When DA Reyes crafts a plan to draw Frank into a trap, (using the survivor from his attack on the bikers),  to capture him in an effort to further her career, Foggy objects. Daredevil catches up with Frank during the trap. They both get shot by snipers during a fight on a rooftop. I loved this fight,but then I’m a sucker for rainy fight scenes. I don’t know why. I liked all the fight scenes, though. They’re not as good as the fight scenes from first season but only because some of the novelty is gone. The fights themselves are as wild and messy as they always were, especially one of the first scenes Matt has with the biker gang, in some constricting hallways, which seems to last forever.

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The Punisher spirits Matt away to another rooftop and ties him up. They have a long philosophical conversation about killing people. Matt, as a lawyer, insists that criminals should be brought to justice, unaware that some people could see what he’s doing as being self serving,  because who are these criminals going to call on to help them in court. Thats right! Pro bono lawyers, like himself. Of course, since Matt has redeemed more than a few lost souls this way, he firmly believes in it. He’s had experiences with criminals that Frank hasn’t had and that’s what informs his opinion of them as just people.

Frank’s philosophy is that there is no redemption for such creatures, they are evil, and should all die. After all, killing them will absolutely insure they will never commit another crime. This is sort of the same argument that is had in the DC Graphic Novel Kingdom Come storyline. (If you haven’t read it, you should check it out for the artwork alone, as it’s gorgeous.) This is also part of the argument from Jessica Jones series when the characters discuss killing Killgrave. Maybe this will be a theme throughout Netflix’s Marvel Universe.

At one point Frank tries to get Matt to kill his one client. He gives him a loaded gun and tells Matt that if Matt doesn’t shoot him, he will. This doesn’t work for me for two reasons. Frank had to have known, after their discussion, that Matt wouldn’t shoot anyone, including him, otherwise why give him a loaded weapon. Matt shoots himself free and attacks but Frank gets away.

Frank gets captured in the park by the family members of the Irish mafia he attacked at the top of the show. He also stole their money, which is primarily what they seem to be interested in, rather than familial revenge. But stealing their money was just a ruse to draw them to him. It’s booby trapped to blow them up.

They kidnap him and take him to their, I don’t want to say lair, but that is what it looks like. He tells them where their money is, after some amount of torture, including threatening a dog he’d rescued from them earlier. There’s people dying all over this show but I’m deeply concerned about the dog. I don’t like to watch animals get killed, but people are fine, I guess.

Matt swoops in to rescue Frank after learning his whereabouts and the two of them team up to take out Frank’s kidnappers, which was a lot of fun to watch. I don’t like it when my favorite superheroes beat each other up in the comic books. (That won’t stop me from watching the new Captain America movie, though.) I much prefer it when they team up on the bad guys. Although this doesn’t change Frank’s philosophy, their team up is, for me, an indication that Frank, at least, respects Matt’s position. (Remember what I wrote before, about fights between competing philosophies, and whoever wins is the person whose philosophy is most correct.)

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Matt, and a severely injured Frank, retire to a cemetery. Frank talks about his dead daughter, a lot. We feel for the guy even though he is a murderer several times over. It’s okay, Matt has enough compassion for both of them as Frank gets taken away by the police. I loved their little team up during the last scene and hope to see more of it later. Jon Bernthal  tore it up as Frank Castle. I’m not calling him Punisher yet, because he’s still kind of new at this and hasn’t become that yet.

There’s some romantic shenanigans as Karen puts the movies on Matt, letting him know she’s interested. I know their eventual storyline from the books, so I’m not worried that Elektra, who shows up in the last second of episode four, is going to be a problem for their relationship in the future.

I think the next four episode are going to be exciting for me as The Hand story line is introduced. Not that I don’t like Elektra, or didn’t enjoy these first episodes,  but I’m less interested in her and The Punisher, than The Hand.

Full disclosure, I was mostly interested in the fight scenes. I didn’t pay close attention to most of the lawyerly intrigue between Karen, Foggy and Reyes. I like to read mysteries but am uninterested in watching  detective work on TV shows, for some reason. I expect to be even more distracted by the fighting, as the series continues, and Stick, Matt’s mentor from season one, makes his entrance.

 

State of the Union & Daredevil Two

I love giving these little updates about what I’m doing or things I’m excited about watching. I’m very busy doing things this week, not necessarily telling you about what I’m doing, though, but here’s some stuff.

I’m currently reading a bunch of books right now:

1.) The Brotherhood of the Wheel by RS Belcher. I’m only about 30 pages into it but what I’ve read is very compelling. Since I don’t know much about the plot, and  haven’t read any reviews, there have been a few surprises and I like when a book does that.

2.) Hell’s Bounty by Joe Lansdale. It’s not a very long book. I’m maybe 50 pages in and expect to finish this weekend. Its a fun fast read. Its not an especially deep book, but I am enjoying it, and it is pretty funny, especially Lansdale’s  descriptions of Hell.

3.) I just picked up Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched at the library yesterday. I haven’t had time to read more than a sample of it, so I can’t say what it’s about, but I’m intrigued so far.

4.) Son of the Morning by Mark Alder. I said I was looking forward to this. I picked it up at the library a week ago and I’m about 100 pages in. This one is going to take a minute, as its a Stephen King sized doorstopper. Its about one of the many French/English wars, but with each side trying to call in Angels as their nuclear option. The Angels, although they show up, refuse to take sides, so the powers that be call on some of Hell’s Angels, if you know what I mean, to help them out instead.

I have to catch up on my episodes of Vikings and Sleepy Hollow. I couldn’t  be a fan of two more different shows. Now, I’m trying to think of two of the strangest shows I could watch back to back.

 

Alright everybody!

This March 18th, the new season of Daredevil is coming to Netflix. I’m very excited by this. Yes,  I will be binge-watching it this weekend and I probably will review  my favorite stand-out episodes, as I won’t really have the time to review all of them.

I am a huge fan of The Hand story-lines, and of Elektra Assassin, and there is all kinds of awesome Ninja shit goin’ on here. I won’t be able to binge-watch the way I wanted because I have to work the next day, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

Here’s the new trailer for Daredevil:

 

Yeah, for those of you still wondering, I have watched Crouching Tiger: Sword of Destiny and I will have a review of that soon.

Also, I’ve been neglecting my reviews of Supernatural, so next week there will be new episodes and new reviews will be uploaded to “A Blog Devoted to Supernatural” by BellaUk.

Geeking Out About: Kung Fu Hustle

I like to tell people that I’m not a comedy fan, but I’ve come to the realization that  I prefer a huge dose of humor with  horror,  drama, and even  Kung Fu movies and shows I enjoy. I  find myself mining the things I watch for whatever comedic value might be present.

I don’t have to work too hard to find the humor in Kung Fu Hustle. Its as if Stephen Chow wrote this movie especially with me in mind. If a live action film could be considered a mashup of Jackie Chan movies and Loony Tunes, this is the movie, and its a much more successful attempt than Chow’s first sports movie/Kung Fu mashup, Shaolin Soccer, which I also enjoyed waaay more than I should have.

From its surreal opening dance number, to the music, stunts and acting, the movie hits every comedic beat perfectly. The villains, The Axe Gang,  are firmly established as dangerous right at the beginning of the film, when we watch them chop down, literally, a local political official in the street, and also his lovely and completely innocent evening partner, just because she witnessed his demise. Next there’s a strange disco dance number with the Axe Gang at their semi-public hideout, as if to celebrate their villainy:

From there we go to Pig Sty Alley, with a colorful range of characters, all just living their noisy, messy lives. Imagine a kind of trailer park version of Chinatown. The denizens are definitely at their working class best. There’s the lecherous, put upon Landlord, married to the chain smoking Landlady, who never removes her hair curlers. The two of them are never seen in anything other than their pajamas and bathrobes for the first half of the movie.

Then there’s Sing, played by Stephen Chow, Sing is a wannabee thug, who reveres the Axe Gang and wants to let them know he’d be a valuable asset to their criminal activities. He does this by bullying or attempting to bully various citizens in Pig Sty, but he’s such an inept bully that he gets his ass regularly handed to him by: four-eyed, corporate accountants on the bus, the Landlady, various local ne’er-do-wells, and even his own partner,Bone, an ambition-less  gentle soul, whose only mistake is  being Sing’s loyal friend. Sing started down this wrongful path after being humiliated by a neighborhood bully as a child, when the Kung Fu move that he had been practicing (The Buddhist Palm Method) failed to protect him and a young, blind, ice cream seller.

When Sing finally gets the attention of the Axe Gang, things go spectacularly wrong. Defeated by the Landlady, Sing and Bone end up in the Axe Gang’s dungeon. The Axe Gang, in an effort to reassert their authority, attack Pig Sty  Alley and are defeated by three, unknown martial arts masters, Tailor (a  gay stereotype, who nevertheless manages to seriously kick ass using Iron Wire kung fu ), Coolie, (a  Chinese stereotype who specializes in the 12 Kicks style of fighting), and Donut (a baker specializing in the Bo Staff).

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The Landlady rebukes the Tailor, Coolie and Baker for angering the Gang and kicks them out of the alley, but not before she gets sidetracked by Sing’s antics, as he tries to get rid of her by using knives and snakes. This tactic backfires on Sing, although the next day, he has miraculously recovered. A straight up Loony Tunes moment is when the Landlady chases Sing out of the alley, done in the style of the Wile E Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons. That sneer you see on her face, she wears that expression through the entirety of the first half of the movie.

Humiliated, the Axe Gang call in a couple of  musical assassins, whose instruments produce deadly phantoms that can kill and maim.Coolie is killed,  and Donut and Tailor are fatally injured, but the assassins are driven away by the Landlady and Landlord, who also turn out to be martial arts masters. The Landlord specializes in Tai Chi Chuan, and can flow like water and band his body like rubber, and the Landlady has a spectacular talent called The Lion’s Roar.

 

After yet another humiliation, the Axe Gang become desperate enough to ask Sing for help. Having proven himself capable of escaping their dungeon, they send him to aid in the escape of an even greater villain, The Beast, who certainly lives up to his name, as he is a singularly uncouth and unattractive fella’. We are meant not to like him.

The Landlord and Landlady show up at the Axe Gang’s lair to exact revenge for the killings at Pig Sty and encounter The Beast. The fight is spectacular, and spectacularly funny. For the first time we see the two of them wearing something other than bedclothes. In fact they’re both dressed as if they simply stopped buying regular clothing sometime after 1975, which sadly, is probably true, as that’s probably around the time their son died. They’re even kind of infamous as The Tragic Couple.

Sing, in a moment of severe pressure, turns on the leader of the Axe Gang and The Beast and gets his head bashed in, but is rescued by The Tragic Couple who, impressed by Sing’s bravery, (and injured by The Beast’s deception), grab Sing and beat a hasty retreat.

The couple nurse Sing back to health at Pig Sty. Wrapped in a cocoon of bandages, Sing experiences a miraculous rebirth, as he reaches his full chi potential. He is a wholly different man now. He’s calm, balanced and deadly as he, once again, fights the Axe Gang, this time led by The Beast.

After defeating all of the Axe Gang by doing such whimsical things as, stepping on their feet, and tossing them into the air like fall leaves, Sing finally takes on The Beast. In an emotional turn of events, The Beast is not defeated through greater violence, but through Sing’s greater mastery of chi, and compassion, when Sing agrees to teach him how to be a martial arts master, too.

I remember seeing this movie for the first time, and not liking any of the characters, initially, because none of the characters are likable at the beginning of the movie. The Landlord sexually harasses the women of Pig Sty. The Landlady chastises everyone in her orbit (she says some pretty nasty stuff to Tailor, for example, and I almost stopped watching the movie because of that) and beats her husband and random others. Sing is a vicious, though ineffectual, bully and Bone his mindless follower. But over the course of the movie, the characters are fleshed out, and you start to practice the message of the movie, most  especially for the Tragic Couple.

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The movie ends with Sing having found his equilibrium in the good graces of the beautiful ice cream seller that he tried to bully earlier in the movie. The overall message, and one that is practiced by the characters in the movie, is forgiveness and the giving of second chances. As the young ice cream seller, she remembers the young boy who stood up for her, when another bully attacked her. She behaves towards Sing, even after he robs her, with understanding and compassion. The Landlady and Landlord do the same for Sing later, when they rescue him from The Beast, even though Sing tried to kill her earlier with poisonous snakes, and Sing goes on to learn from this and treat The Beast the same way, and that is how he defeats him and saves everyone at Pig Sty.

I’d also like to make special mention of the music,which is awesome. The music is very energetic and fun. It really sells the action and is perfect in every scene. It’s so good that I made a special effort to buy the soundtrack, which wasn’t readily available in the US, at the time the movie was released.

The movie is suitable for all ages as it’s largely gore-free. If your children can watch action cartoons, then this is okay for them to watch. There’s some language, and those who have issue with ethnic slurs, and homophobia, take heed.  You won’t like those specific moments, but the movie is worth sitting through, because the purpose of those moments is to show just how disgusting some of the denizens  of Pig Sty can be, (contrasted with their later nobility), and it’s an opportunity for the viewer to practice the movie’s message too, by forgiving their ignorance and giving them a second chance to show the viewer their best side.

 

Into the Badlands : Snake Creeps Down/ Hand of Five Poisons

Snake Creeps Down

This is going to be a combination of the last two episodes of the season, so have a seat and buckle up. This is going to be a long read.

I found  that Snake Creeps Down is a Tai Chi move. I’ve seen variations of this move in a few action films and I’m always blown away by the grace and elegance. Tai Chi isn’t often showcased in action movies because, although there is a hard version, (that Jet Li practiced in in the movie The One), its gentler style is not of much use in action films.

 

I didn’t actually see this move in the episode though, so the title must be metaphorical.

Last week, Sunny, who has become more decisive in his efforts to get out of Dodge, made a deal with the River King to bring him the head of the person who killed all the Cogs in his cargo, and Sunny agreed. Sunny is very worried about MK and what he’s capable of, and has nightmares about being killed by SuperMK.

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The watch fob we saw in his possession is shown to neatly fit into the book that MK stole from the Widow’s house, and which Veil has been attempting to translate. MK’s assertion that it might be a map through the badlands may have some merit.

The Widow, having bought off Quinn’s Cogs,  is now using them as an army in her revolution. She is methodically testing the young men for MKs superpower.

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With the Cogs gone, there is no one to pick the Poppy harvest, so Jade steps up to teach what Colts are left, how to harvest the juice from the flowers, after Quinn has a tumor attack in plain view of everyone. Jade is interesting in that she seems to have some very revolutionary ideas about how things should be run in the Badlands. Ideas that are as wild and crazy as the Widow’s, like teaching the Cogs to read and treating them with respect. I had initially written her off as just another sexual schemer, trying to secure her future in the Fort, but it appears she has some goal in mind that isn’t about her own self aggrandizement. She steps up and is willing to get her hands dirty harvesting the crop and  influences Lydia to do the same.  Earlier, Lydia showed disdain for the work of the Cogs but I guess Jade’s attitude shamed her. The two of them spend the day harvesting the Poppy field, together.

Ryder goes to seek advice from Waldo, who tells him that if he wants answers to his questions about Azra, and the pendant he took from MK, he needs to go see Lydia’s father. Waldo shows barely veiled contempt for Ryder. Most of the characters on the show seem to have that reaction to him.

Veil and Quinn talk while she gives him his treatment, which she earlier confessed to Sunny, was pointless anyway. Quinn lies to her, telling her that Sunny killed her parents. I hope she doesn’t buy that but I guess the point is for Quinn to sow discord between her and Sunny. Quinn is just an asshole, and assholes are gonna asshole. Its what they do.

Ryder goes to see his grandfather, played by Lance Henriksen, and I’m totally squeeing in my bunny slippers, right now because its fecking LANCE HENRIKSEN! Penrith is the leader of some fundamentalist  religious cult. He tells Ryder that Azra is a myth but after Ryder leaves, he mentions something about a “Dark One” that needs to be destroyed. I guess he means MK.

Religion is approached in an interesting way in this series. Quinn is obviously an evil atheist, which I do not appreciate. Penrith is a fundamentalist who may not be much better, though. This show is saying something about religion, I’m just not certain what that is.

Wow! Mk is really getting popular. Everybody’s after his Unlucky Charms.

Bale, MK, and Sunny have been patrolling the woods all day, looking for signs of the Widow, when MK runs into Tilda. He’s trying to convince her to run away with him, but that’s not in their future because Sunny interrupts and takes her prisoner, but not before she bites off Bale’s ear, which he deserved for acting like a total shit and calling her a bitch.

Sunny takes her to the Fort, where Quinn tells him to torture her for information about the Widow, and incidentally, Sunny needs to stop seeing Veil. He gives some bullshit reason for this request, but we know its just more of his maneuvering. Sunny appears to agree, but we know he’s lying just to make Quinn shut up.

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Sunny’s torture session with the Tilda is interrupted by…the Widow. She and Sunny start reenacting the fight scene between Shu Lien and Jen from Crouching Tiger, even using some of the same weaponry, like  flails and those hook things Shu Lien was so good at wielding. While this is happening, Bale, who has lost his damn mind, decides to torture Tilda himself. He locks MK in a cell while he beats Tilda’s ass.  MK, desperate to save her, cuts himself and Jedis Bale, impaling him on some thorny wall art. (No, seriously!  Dungeon art  is ugly.) Quinn and the Widow both witness this, and the Widow, gravely injured, is helped to escape by Tilda.

 

Hand of Five Poisons

There are a lot of rearrangements of people’s lives happening in the finale.

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Per his agreement with the River King, Sunny takes the severed head of the boy who killed RK’s cargo, for his inspection. It’s actually Bale’s head and Sunny hopes the River King buys this deception, so he can secure his escape from the Badlands. I was pretty certain he wasn’t going to kill MK, as MK is one of the stars of the show and I think Sunny might have actual feelings for him. Sunny often seems impassive but underneath there’s a deep well of emotion. One day we hope to see Daniel Wu do the “single man tear”, because all bad-asses get to do that at least once.

In the Badlands, three amber-robed monks take an interest in MK. I wonder who these guys are and how/if they’re related to Lydia’s father, Penrith,, played by “LANCE HENRIKSEN!”

Quinn goes to Lydia and accuses her of poisoning Jade. I’m not buying that because that’s just much, much too obvious and convenient.Lydia insists that Jade poisoned herself, while I’m inclined to believe that Ryder did it. Quinn kicks Lydia out of the Fort. I think its a mistake for Quinn to leave her alive, though. What if she goes over to the Widow’s cause?

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Lydia walks out with her head held high and goes to join her father’s congregation. For some reason I was really touched by this moment. Earlier, Pen had told Ryder that his daughter was dead to him, but she begs him to accept her and he relents.Its interesting to watch Lydia being so nakedly emotional.  I think it  says something about me that I don’t completely trust her and think she’s got something else up her sleeve. (She gets re-baptized into her dad’s cult, while some  of the more uncoordinated members do the Cabbage Patch in the background, which I find unintentionally hilarious.)

Veil, is kidnapped by Tilda and the two of them have some long and frank discussions about the Widow not caring about Tilda. I’m going to have to disagree with Veil’s police-work on that issue. I think the Widow genuinely believes in her cause and  sees Tilda as more than cannon fodder, but Tilda is in that space where she’s  tired of killing, so Veil’s message  strikes a chord with her.

Veil nurses the Widow, but to ensure her release leaves three vials behind. Two of them are poisons and the last is a tincture to cure the Widow’s wounds. The irony of suggesting that Tilda kill her mother with one of the poisons, after she lectured Tilda about killing, seems to entirely  escape Veil. The Widow, tells Veil what she’s trying to accomplish and offers Veil sanctuary in return for nursing her back to health.

I’m becoming increasingly exasperated by Veil. Earlier in the episode she confronted Sunny about watching her parents die and doing nothing to stop it. She made it seem like she was changing her mind about leaving the badlands and that just irked me, but I’m not sure why, as she has a right to be mad about that. And later, you would think,  especially after the deaths of her parents, that she would be on-board the Widow’s ideas about the how the Badlands should be run. She’s so stuck on the idea of the Widow being violent, that she can’t see beyond the violence to the motivation behind it. And then later, has the nerve to suggest matricide to a person she just lectured about violence.

Tilda confronts her mother about MK, and the Widow explains that she knows what MK is because she used to be like him, which is quite a revelation,  and raises a whole host of questions about who she is, where she came from and what happened to her powers.

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Quinn imprisons Sunny, believing him to be the traitor that he’s been searching for.  Quinn is going even more insane or trying to tie up any loose ends before his death. He takes MK under his wing and promises him Tilda, Sunny’s life, and the moon and stars, if he’ll be loyal to him. I  don’t think MK is buying any of it as Quinn’s behavior seems more than a little desperate and creepy.

Quinn takes him to his meeting with Jacobee and cuts him. MK goes full Hulk on Jacobee, Zephyr, Ryder and all their henchmen and kicks ass. Its lot of fun to watch but I kept begging that Jacobee wouldn’t be killed because he’s a great villain, although I think Zephyr, the Widow’s henchwoman, is dead.

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It turns out that Waldo is the traitor. What better traitor could there be then the one person everyone disrespects and disregards. This is the one of the lessons that the show has been intermittently teaching, that underestimating one’s opponent leaves one open to defeat. In that sense Waldo has successfully destroyed Quinn’s house. Ryder is out of the picture, Lydia is in exile, Jade is poisoned and possibly dying.

Waldo releases Sunny from the prison. Sunny goes after Quinn, of course, as Quinn deliberately threatened to hurt Veil. He kills Quinn, who was hiding in an alley watching the MK-Hell he’d just unleashed on his foes. Its a quick and undramatic death, and I’m a little surprised Sunny did it. This is the most decisive thing I’ve  seen him do.

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Afterwards, he attempts to subdue MK but is interrupted by the three monks, who easily take both him and MK down, while revealing they have the same powers Mk does. We come full circle as Sunny gets kidnapped by the River King, who plans to sell him to the highest bidder, having seen through Sunny’s deception involving the head.

 

Overview:

I like Daniel Wu’s portrayal of Sunny. He’s, strong, and stoic, but compassionate and kind. I’m glad his personal angst is kept to a minimum and only alluded to by other characters, though. The only problem I had was his earlier passivity. Now though, he seems to have become much more active, actually making some real and tough decisions.

My  favorite, MK, is  the embodiment of every annoying teenager on TV. He’s headstrong, doesn’t listen, is egotistical, and snarky,  but this is offset by his compassion and the openness of his character, which this show kind of needs, as it can get a bit heavy. He’s also a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a taco. If he could  get out of his own way, he’d make a formidable Clipper and he has more than enough angst for both him and Sunny.When we last see him he is once again, kidnapped, locked in a trunk,  and being transported somewhere. Since Mk spends a lot of time escaping from being locked up somewhere, I don’t expect this  to last.

The Widow is awesome. I have a difficult time thinking of her as a villain. I  understand and identify with what she’s trying to accomplish, which has turned her role in this show into almost a feminist narrative, as she isn’t doing this just for her own power, although that’s a part of it. She wants to reform the Badlands into civilization, where people can choose their futures and not be at the mercy of the men who rule now, a system that keeps everyone in bondage except the Barons. She’s playing the part of  Ying Zheng, the man who united ancient China into the Qin Empire. Violence is pretty much her only option to accomplish her goals. I hope she survives into the next season, if there is one.

I’m actually starting to like Veil, even if she does get on my nerves. She was first introduced in that scene where she was teaching Sunny to read and  the writers have taken great care not to damsel her much. She’s smart, educated, brave, with just enough fire in her personality to keep her from being bland. She doesn’t seem to have any martial skills, but there are other ways women can be strong, and she’s an example of that.

I should mention, that Veil’s and Sunny’s relationship is remarkable because its the only interracial relationship, between two PoC, one being an Asian man, that I’ve noticed outside of The Walking Dead.

I’m also starting to like Jade, who started out as fairly uninteresting, but is probably a closet reformer, not unlike The Widow. It would be very interesting if the two of them were to compare notes.

I like Lydia ,too.  The last two episodes made her a much more interesting character, as she seems to be changing her mind about some long held beliefs. She’s another strong woman of a different type than Veil. All the women in this show would be formidable opponents to the Barons if they decided to team up.

I’m not disappointed in the first season of this show. I like the worldbuilding, the cliffhangers, the costumes the characters and, of course, all the fight scenes, which have been gorgeous. It will be interesting to see what direction the show takes if there’s a second season. (I’ll let everyone know if there is.)

Into the Badlands : Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

 

I’ve read that this series  is based on a Chinese story called” Journey to the West”, which was written in the 16th century, during the Ming Dynasty, about a Buddhist monk who has mystical adventures, while traveling to India to pick up some sacred scrolls. No, I haven’t read it or seen the movie, (although it seems to be in my Netflix queue), but my Google-Fu was strong last week, which is where I picked up this little tidbit.

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You’re welcome! Go forth and tell your friends!

This episode, despite the awesome title, was not as strong as some  previous episodes because of the introduction of some personal intrigues about the denizens of Quinn’s house (and I could always not care about that.) It is notable for two other things that do not bode well for MK and Ryder and one thing that I’d sort of been waiting for, the introduction of more PoC into this  ‘verse.

A close watching of the last four episodes reveals some interesting word-building. Having studied some Japanese history, I keep seeing  how much the social arrangements and costumes mirror feudal Japan, and not China, (although I admit I haven’t studied as much Chinese history). I’m going to take a wild guess and say this is a deliberate choice.

I do wonder about things in the Badlands and I suppose we’ll get to some of that information as the journeys of the main characters continue, I hope, next year. Like: Where does everyone’s clothing come from? For example, all the gorgeous, matching outfits the Clippers wear. Who is feeding all those baby Clippers, that we never see doing any other work, beyond learning to beat each other up?

I guess Quinn makes enough money or whatever to pay for all this but here’s another set of things I casually wonder about at 3AM:Does Sunny get paid for what he does”And if so, how much? Does the Baron pay for everything, including the fuel for his motorcycle? Do the cogs get paid?I know that money in the form of gold coins exist in this world but who mints them and where do they go and come from? Is there some far away, centralized government, that has some kind of non-interference policy for  the Badlands?

Where do they procure gas for the handful of vehicles we’ve seen? We’ve seen that there is a kind of frontier like town because there are brothels and saloons, where the Nomads hang out, and Veil has to be doctoring on someone. We’ve seen Quinn riding horses everywhere but at some point we forget that Sunny rides a motorcycle, and The Widow owns at least a couple of vehicles. There must be somewhere that dispenses gas and  and fixes old vehicles. (I’m guessing Cogs are too poor to do anything but walk, although I still don’t understand why there are no bicycles, though.)

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In a previous episode we saw that Ryder wears a prosthesis for his missing toes and I wonder what disease he has, that his toes are gone. Was it an accident? Leprosy? Diabetes?  And who made the prosthesis? Is this the reason Quinn disregards him as his successor.? Because he’s imperfect? In one of the earlier episodes MK mentioned Tobacco farmers, so there are other things being grown in this world bsides poppies. At one point, Quinn mentions his father was killed for stealing an ear of corn.

We get a slightly larger glimpse of the world outside  Quinn’s Fort when we meet  Jacobee himself, and The River King, both black men (although we have yet to see any Asian or Hispanic people.) We do get a brief look at the housing situation  of the Cogs who toil on the Baron’s grounds and learn they can be easily bribed with gold.

The Widow begins the second part of her trap to bring down Quinn, but Quinn is on to her contrivance to come between his and Jacobee’s alliance, by stealing one of Jacobee’s gold shipments and framing Quinn for it. He only needs to prove this to Jacobee ,before Jacobee becomes irate about it.

Sunny is training Mk when he is interrupted by Quinn to give him a War Pep Talk. The widow does the same thing when she catches her young ladies dancing in the foyer of the old mansion she’s moved  them into. This scene is actually pretty funny because the girls find an old record player and figure out how to work it. I don’t know the record they’re playing but it sounds like some funky seventies disco, which is completely incongruous with the setting of this show.  Well anyway, the Widow must hate that song because she storms in a breaks the record, after which Tilda has something she needs to get off her chest.

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We learn why the Widow is a widow and why she seeks to “overturn the patriarchy” of the Badlands, and I bet you can guess that sexual assault played a part in these decisions, as she reminds Tilda why her father is dead now. The Widow runs things very differently in her house compared to Quinn. In  episode two,  in the scene where she interrogates MK about his past, she mentions having a son and MK says he didn’t see any boys in the house. There are men in the Widow’s employ, though. We saw them during the fight scenes in the house, but maybe the men aren’t welcome indoors. It would explain the Widow’s reaction to watching her daughter kissing MK in a previous episode.

Lydia and Jade are still planning Jade’s wedding to Quinn. She better hurry up because she won’t have long before she’s a destitute widow. Lydia tells  Jade she knows about her affair with Ryder.

Veil proposes a form of chemotherapy to Quinn, saying it will make him sick before it kills the tumor and its not a guarantee. Had he not killed the  original doctor, who knew how to solve this problem, he would not now be at her doorstep, making demands.

Later that night Sunny watches as MK decides whether or not to cut himself while training, just to see what happens. We all wait with breathless anticipation for MK to Hulk but he’s just teasing us and doesn’t do it. Actually,  he’s too terrified to try it on his own, so Sunny decides to test him the next day. He takes MK out to a secluded area, talks to him about focus and control, cuts him and… promptly gets knocked on his ass. Mk passes out,too. I don’t know why but I think its hilarious that they’re both just laying on the ground, unconscious, in the middle of nowhere. Sunny really should have planned this better.

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Quinn manipulates Ryder into going out to parley with Jacobee alone. He’s really good at getting people to do what he wants. The only people this superpower doesn’t seem to work on is Lydia and Sunny. He also tells Ryder he knows about him and Jade.

Later, MK goes to visit Veil to see if she has translated any of the book. He thinks it’s a map through the badlands, though. When Sunny finds out that MK stole the book from his room, and that he does not know how to get to Azra, like he told him, he’s pretty pissed. MK is really trying his patience with all the sneaking about. (I think MK’s ninja skills  are  incredibly funny, but I can afford to laugh cuz he ain’t been sneakin’ in my house.) Veil informs Sunny that they need to leave quickly because Quinn’s tumor is making him insane.Yeah, Sunny needs to quit waffling about this.

Ryder meets with Zephyr, Jacobee’s Regent, for the time and  location of the parley.

Sunny asks Waldo for advice on leaving the Badlands. Waldo says he needs: Passage up the river, a map of the Badlands, and nothing to lose. Well he’s getting close to having nothing to lose, he may have a map of the Badlands according to MK, and now he needs safe passage. To get that, he needs to  have an audience with the River King. Waldo gives him a small totem, a plastic soldier,  that should gain him access, as the River KIng owes him a favor.

Ryder returns with the information, the parley will take place on neutral ground, in one of the local cemeteries.

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Quinn  and Sunny make preparations for the parley, choosing which men will go. Sunny deliberately skips over MK, once again giving him the cut direct. This pisses off MK who, naturally, decides to disobey Sunny and go anyway, because disobeying Sunny is one of his superpowers.

At the cemetery we finally get to meet Jacobee who turns out to be a beautifully dressed dandy. No, seriously! I loved his outfit, which had a distinct, 18th century, New Orleans flavor in blue plaid, echoed by his Clippers and Regent, Zephyr. It’s heartening to see this, because I was wondering if this was one of those depressing futures  where black people were all slaves, or had left the planet, or something, like in The Hunger Games and Divergent movies.

The Widow attempts to stir a war between Quinn and Jacobee by having Tilda anonymously attack Quinn and the fight is on. MK sees Tilda and tries to stop her, so he can make some accusations. She accidentally cuts him and he Hulks out and nearly kills her.

The key word is “nearly”.

He stops himself at the sound of her voice, as she pleads with him, (the way he did in his first fight with her,) not to hurt her. I guess he found his “focus”, but his control is still pretty shaky and he still passes out afterward. Taking Tilda’s butterfly, Sunny proves to Jacobee that the Widow started the whole mess. Jacobee agrees to a truce, but Quinn has to bring the Widow to heel before he’ll agree to be his ally.

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During the parley, the Widow attacks the Fort and kills the Colts and Clippers. She offers gold to the Cogs, who all run away. I like her, just fine. She’s a good strategist. She just tries every plan until something sticks. It really is like a chess game between her and Quinn and she seems way ahead of him. Quinn is just not as smart as he thinks he is.

Sunny goes to see the  River King, who is willing to give him safe passage, if he finds and kills the person who slaughtered a cargo full of Cogs, he was transporting upriver. Conveniently he has a picture and gives Sunny a drawing of MK.

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In the epilogue we learn that Ryder has been kidnapped by Zephyr and the Widow. Zephyr is working to overthrow her own Baron and the widow has a proposal to make to Ryder.

So, we have only two episodes left in the season and I’m pretty sure the writers are going to piss us off with a horrible cliffhanger , so we’ll come back next year.

Into he Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings

You know how you love a character, root for them, but  still feel  as if they could use a very short, sharp pinch. This is how I feel about MK. Not often, mind you. Just whenever he shows agency or has an opinion.

But luckily I didn’t have to root too hard for harm to come to MK, as Stephen Lang’s character, Waldo, puts him neatly in his place during this episode, and that was satisfying enough.

This week the show focuses a lot of its time on the women of the series. It would seem that  women are in weakened positions because of how this world is designed but that’s not  completely true. And here is where the similarity to feudal Japan really strikes me. (That and the costumes.) It may have seemed that the women of that time period were helpless too, but many of them were involved in their own intrigues and yes, there were women Samurai, although they didn’t practice it in the same manner the men did.

In this world there are female Samurai ,too (and even a kind of Ninja, who were the undercover operatives of feudal Japan.) Most of these women. reside in the Widow’s clan and when Quinn declares war on her, we get to see them step up and hold their own against the Baron’s Clippers and even send quite a few of them home.

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Naturally, MK ,having been told to wait in one spot, does not follow orders and ninjas his way into the  Widow’s house during the battle, while Quinn and the Widow finally meet face to face and have it out.This is a great fight. and apparently a long time coming.

Quinn gets the advantage but is struck by a massive  tumor-ache. Before the Widow can finish the job the tumor  started, she is interrupted by Sunny. She and  most of  her women (The Butterflies) manage to escape the house through a secret passage.

Sunny confronts MK and MK shows him a book that he stole from the house. A book with a cover  image of the city of Azra. Another word-building point, which is why you have to pay close attention to the little things people say, is that MK is illiterate. So are most of the people of this world. Cogs can’t read, and neither can the Clippers.

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Lydia and Jade are sitting bedside to Ryder who is still in a coma. The two of them snipe at each other for a moment or two. Lydia makes it clear she knows that Jade is sleeping with both Quinn and Ryder and that that is a really bad idea. Jade goes to Veil, who was a childhood friend of hers, to beg her to save Ryder’s life. Veil is reluctant, at first, but Jade talks her into it.

Lydia, who seemingly hates everybody, doesn’t like the idea of a Cog (which I guess is what they call peasants in this world) doing surgery on her son, but relents when Veil explains to her that her son will die in a few hours if she doesn’t. She practices the age-old remedy of trepanning, drilling a hole in the skull, to relieve the intracranial pressure.

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Later,  Quinn approaches her and promises to find whoever killed her parents, not knowing that Veil is already  aware that he killed them. He also lets her know that yeah, he’s aware of her relationship with his chief Clipper.

After the battle Sunny goes to Veil to get patched up and the two of them try to be discreet about their relationship but MK , like most teenagers, cannot be fooled by people pretending not to like each other. It doesn’t help that Veil and Sunny are no good at lying. How the two of them are going to keep their escape from the Badlands a secret, when they can’t successfully lie to a teenage boy,  is a mystery.

MK also keeps making snarky comments to Sunny who has the perfect remedy for that. He takes MK to meet his mentor Waldo. I hadn’t noticed before but Waldo is disabled, (I wonder if we will get his backstory), which doesn’t stop him from beating MK’s ass, when Sunny needs to teach him a lesson about underestimating his opponents. This scene was a lot of fun and well choreographed. This underestimating one’s opponent, and then  getting your ass handed to you, seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

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Its also the third show I’ve watched just this year, which has a person with a disability, kicking ass and not even caring about names. I don’t know if TV was always like this or my brain is just noticing this now. contrast this with the original Ironside, its failed race-bending remake, and In Living Color’s HandiMan skits, which were done for laughs.

Ryder wakes up after his successful trepanning, and Quinn asks him who set him up. He says a woman in the red light district named Angelica, who proves more than a match for Sunny when Quinn sends him  and MK to retrieve her. She won’t allow herself to be taken alive and jumps from a balcony rather than let Sunny capture her. While this is happening Tilda, (who has been sent to retrieve Angelica too), sees MK and the two of them fight about which of the  Baron’s is a worse person, Quinn or the Widow. Angelica,  splatting in front of them, ends that.

Sunny has taken the book and hidden it, but MK ninjas his way into yet another house and manages somehow to steal it back. Even if he never makes it as a Clipper he can always become a thief. This is the main reason why he needs a sharp pinch. Once he gets it into his head to do something, the danger of it never occurs to him as he has mastered the ability to make poor choices.

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Like: taking the book to Veil to read it for him, after noticing she has a lot of books, so she can probably read. But she can’t read his book, either. its written in a language she’s never seen before.( It looks  vaguely Arabic, but not exactly.) Quinn shows up at her door, ostensibly to thank her. She hides the book with MK, who hides behind a curtain.

Quinn sends Sunny to get aid from a Baron named Jacobee. he must meet with Jacobee’s Regent, named Zephyr, who I like already. This is a woman well acquainted with what she wants and what she wants is Sunny.(Who wouldn’t? Sunny is foine!) She tells him he has a great opportunity. Kill Quinn and set himself up as baron, instead. Oooh, the plot thickens!

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Quinn goes to visit Veil and be creepy to her for a while. I guess being shitty and threatening to his wives isn’t enough to reach his creep quotient for the month, he’s got to let Veil in on the fun, too. What he really wants is for her to cure him the way she cured Ryder, giving her a prime opportunity to botch the operation and (oh, hell, why not?) make herself Baron. I’m all for this because even if she succeeds, his response will probably be to kill her or  take her for a wife, thereby  jeopardizing her baby’s life.

One must note that if Quinn hadn’t killed Veil’s parents to protect his increasingly not so secret-secret, this would never have become a problem, but in his defense, the tumor may have impacted Quinn’s long term planning capabilities.

Well now both  Veil and MK know the Baron’s secret.

The actress who plays Veil is phenomenal,  managing to portray strength and vulnerability, often at the same time. She’s great to watch and her character proves that there’s more than one kind of strength in this world besides the masculine associated ability to kick ass. There’s also the strength to endure and even thrive in this environment without martial skills, which is what the Cogs have to do.

I like the shows ability to portray men and women equitably, highlighting not just the strengths of the women but the weaknesses of the men. In that sense this show is turning out to be much more feminist than I expected, given the type of feudal dystopia that’s presented.

We’re down to the last two episodes of the season and I’m really mad at AMC for having only ordered six episodes,  hyping the Hell out of this series, making me fall in love with it, and then pulling the plug until Gob only  knows.

Next week: Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

Into the Badlands: Fist Like A Bullet

Okay, everybody! Into the Badlands has put in its application, after only our second date, to be my new boyfriend, and I have accepted this proposal. It doesn’t hurt that I’m probably in love with it.

I love a lot about this show. Not that it’s perfect. No show is perfect. There’s still some issues for me to overcome, some problems we need to work out as a couple, but I don’t see any deal breakers yet, and hey! it’s really, really pretty. The costumes look good, creating some nice silhouettes for the lead characters, the lead actors are handsome, the color schemes are rich.

The music, while not especially memorable, is at least not intrusive, and the fight scenes are awesome! They are well choreographed, the actors look like they’ve put some effort into them, and the actors move well and look good, especially Daniel Wu as Sunny. I knew already that I was going to like The Widow. She doesn’t have that balletic moves of her daughter Matilda (who fights a lot like Black Widow) but she moves in a clear, defined manner, sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with more jumping.

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Of course, since this is futuristic scifi, we must have the obligatory brothel, or nite-club scene, where some henchmen are waiting to get their asses handed to them by The Widow, although that’s not why she’s there. She is attempting to drum up support for her big move against Quinn, but her ally is assassinated by some gruff looking men, hired by Ryder, to kill her. This fight was a lot of fun. We didn’t get to see The Widow lay her shit down during the pilot but it was great to see it in this episode. Lets just say, “She got skillz”.

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MK is having a really hard time of it trying to get his ass out of Dodge. He’s just been imprisoned, crawled through a sewer, has barely escaped the Nomads, Baron Quinn’s fort, and may have to escape from the woman who tried to capture him, in the first place, The Widow. Wandering through the forest, he comes across a young girl killing squirrels with throwing stars shaped like butterflies, which is hilarious to me, for some reason I can’t explain. This is Matilda, one of The Widow’s daughters. She takes MK to her mother’s fort.

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Quinn has sussed that there is a traitor in his house after hearing about The Widow’s near assassination and MK’s escape from jail. He takes Sunny with him to see a doctor because his headaches are getting worse.

It turns out that the headaches are a brain tumor and that Quinn only has several months to live (how soapy can we get? His wife hates him, his son is a schemer, and his most trusted man betraying him). He can’t let anyone else know about this, so he orders Sunny to execute the elderly couple, who just happen to be Sunny’s girlfriend Veil’s, parents.

Sunny defies his Baron, possibly for the very first time in his life, but instead of killing him, the Baron elects to murder the couple himself, while Sunny looks on in amazed disgust. The Baron is not a very good Clipper, as he’s extremely messy about it.

The Widow is convinced that MK is the special boy she’s looking for and that he is lying when he tells her otherwise. This conversation is notable to me for his use of the words “free farmers”.  Apparently, there are such things as nomad farmers, who move from plantation to plantation.

There are also other, smaller plantations, that grow other things besides Poppies, as we learn when The Widow asks MK about tobacco farming, and when she offers Baron positions to some smaller landowners she’s trying to ally with to take down Quinn.

You have to listen closely to the dialogue for all the tiny details of what this world is like. So its not all plantations and slaves. I guess, according to Stephen Lang’s character, there’s a setup where people choose to become sharecroppers, or indentured servants, on the various properties, for safety reasons. Some people choose not to do this, becoming, Nomads, free farmers, or maybe some other type of professional, (like doctors), but since there are no laws or police, you are at the mercy of people who are more ruthless. At any rate there is a kind of economy that exists that cater to the needs and desires of the clippers, Nomads and various free persons wandering the Badlands.

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If this is the Badlands, are there by definition, some Good Lands called Ezra, maybe? And what are all these Poppies being used for?

Underestimating  The Widow and Matilda, the smaller plantation owners have to agree to back her play, after one of them loses in a fight with Matilda, who very easily wins against her bigger ,stronger opponent. There was never any doubt in my mind that  Matilda would win because her mother is The Widow, and she’s got mad skillz, and  for the Widow to demonstrate that things are not always as they seem, after one of the fools dissed her for being a woman.

 

Not to be outdone in the bad guy category, Ryder makes plans to have The Widow killed, when he makes plans to capture her skimming their profits, not knowing that this is a trap for him, and his father’s top enforcer, by The Widow.

 

We get a Stephen Lang cameo when Sunny visits his friend Waldo for some life advice. I’ve been loving this man’s career since the eighties. He almost  always plays bad guys, it seems. After what he witnessed that morning, Sunny informs Veil that the Baron killed her parents and the two make plans to escape the Badlands.

The Widow tells Tilda to test MK for his powers in a training session but MK convinces her not to hurt him. Matilda nicks herself, then lies to her mother about MK, saying he’s not “The Cho Zen Won”. Boy! There’s  supposedly trustworthy  people just lying through their teeth, all over the place in this episode. Ryder, Sunny, Matilda. I believe I’m sensing a theme here.

Later that evening Mk exhorts Matilda to help him escape. She takes pity on him but when they are caught by The Widow, who thinks they are merely lovers and not traitors, she kicks him out.

One of The Widow’s  swarthy looking new allies decides to take MK to his territory. But since there’s a bounty on MK, from Quinn, it looks like he’s headed right back where he came from, once again, locked in a trunk. (This actor is exceptionally pretty, and  probably not underage, but he seems to spend a lot of time in these episodes, shirtless, which is mildly disturbing.)

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Arriving at the abandoned factory to catch  The Widow, Ryder and Sunny are set upon by her allies and we get to have the joy of watching Sunny go to work. While Ryder dangles uselessly, having been taken out of the fight before it even started, Sunny takes on a couple dozen men with swords. This definitely cements Daniel Wu as a member of the Kingdom of Badass-ery, along with Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

He does get ambushed trying to save Ryder’s life, and that’s when MK, having cut himself free, kills his first man, to save Sunny. He asks Sunny to help him escape the badlands, but Sunny has another plan. He will mentor MK as his replacement (aka: Colt). He tells him that he needs to control what he is and he can only do that with training. Sunny’s right. So far, MK’s primary tactic has been to run away from what he is instead of mastering it and that’s not working. He is powerful enough to be at no one’s mercy if he tames his wolf, instead of being scared and running from it.

When MK becomes a Clipper, his job will be to safeguard Sunny’s wife and child to Ezra, which sounds beautifully tragic.

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Sunny takes MK back to the Baron’s fort where he declares that MK will be his new student. the Baron grudgingly agrees and then declares war on he Widow for nearly killing Ryder.

 

Part Four : In Praise of the The White Haired Villain

One of the best tropes of the Chinese Action  movie was The White Haired Villain. My brothers and I loved this character.  When we were kids, fake  hand chopping each other in the back bedroom, I often got cast as the White haired Villain, whose Kung Fu was so much better than theirs, that my brothers had to team up to defeat me. (It’s okay. I was never harmed during these fake beat downs,  as we made a point of only aiming at air. Just like the movies we emulated, we strived for authenticity.)

I tried really, really hard to find information on why there were so many White Haired villains in Chinese Martial Arts movies, and came up with zip.

Although I did come across this:

Apparently, no one has bothered to do any deep analysis on why this became a trope in the genre, although I have found plenty of lists of the White Haired Fox Villain, as he’s sometimes called.

I think the ascendency  of this villain has been laid at the feet of a Shaw Brothers film directed  by legendary Lau Kar Leung called Executioners of Shaolin, from 1977. The movie actually featured the character from Kill Bill, named Pai Mei and even had Pai Mei’s signature move, where he trapped Beatrix Kiddo’s weapon between his legs.

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I do remember watching a Hell of a lot of these villains as a child, and I know all those movies were not about Pai Mei. So, I thought perhaps there was some cultural significance to having all those white haired villains. I looked up the  meanings for the color white, Chinese culture and white hair, etc, etc. but I’ve since reached the conclusion that villains with white hair are just one of those things people have in movies. One of those cliches like “the fallacy of the talking killer”.

Its a way to make your villain look different without thinking too deeply about it, I guess. And Western movies are not immune, either. We have plenty of White Haired Villains of our own, from The Little Mermaid, Hellboy II,  Batman Returns, Thranduil from The Hobbit, Immortan Joe from Mad Max, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, Silva from Skyfall…Bladerunner, the remake of The Time Machine, Batman Begins and Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Spike..the list goes on and on.

Although the most famous Chinese Action movie White haired Villain in America is from the film The Bride with White Hair (1993)  starring Brigette Lin and the late Leslie Cheung. You’ve got to check it out if you haven’t seen it and then be sure to back it up by watching The Heroic Trio.

 

Other than White being the symbolic color for death in some Asian Cultures, that was the only connection I could make between the color white and villainy. Which does nothing to explain the Western fondness for this trope.

Yep! Chinese movie-makers are not the only ones who  have a love affair with white haired villains.

This trope is not to be confused with the Evil Albino. Some of these characters are not albinos. I know some people who have albinism object to this trope and that’s completely understandable. Nobody likes to be cast as evil, in every movie, all the time, which is seemingly the only time albinos get any screen time.

So, out of deference to those who object to the Evil Albino trope here’s a list of White haired Heroes, but only from comic books and anime. (I simply could not find good guys with white hair (apart from Storm) in any movies. So if you have any to add to this list, please feel free. Very light haired blondes are also acceptable.

 

 

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