I’m Watching TV (Well, Duh!)

Well yeah, it’s one of my skillz, so y’all betta re-con-ize!

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That’s Right!!!

 

Actually, there’s no need to “reconize”,  as I haven’t had as much time to practice this particular set of skills, because…life! I’m just one of me Mum’s primary caregivers, so between her many dialysis adjacent appointments, taking her shopping,  and a full time job, I’m usually catching up on my sleep. I’ve begun a new tradition now, of writing these things when I can, and then queuing them for later, which kind of leaves spontaneous TV  reviews by the wayside. I don’t get to actually watch the shows in a timely manner, and dammit, these networks keep making fascinating new shit, that I don’t have time to look at.

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UGH!

 

Well, here’s what I have been looking at, so far. Some of these don’t get a full review because nothing greatly, bigly, hyuuuugely, is happening on them, and some I’ve yet to watch. Some I’ve made plans to watch later, if I remember that I told you that.

Doctor Who Season Ten

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big Whovian, as Dr. Who fans are called.  I know enough to find my way around a few favorite episodes and have some favorite Doctors. For example, I love the Weeping Angels, and will watch any episode they’re in, but I think the Daleks are kinda ridiculous, and I usually won’t watch those episodes. I can’t stand Matt Smith, not because he’s not a good Doctor but because the man has a head shaped like a lightbulb, and that shit is distracting. I love David Tennant, (who always looks like he just sniffed a lemon),  and Peter Capaldi, (who kinda looks like that uncle, who has had enough of your shit), and of course, Martha is my favorite companion. (Not that the other companions are less worthy. I like Clara  too.)

I’m also really liking Bill Potts as Peter Capaldi’s new companion, and it’s not just because she’s Black, and gay, (although that is a factor). Its because she’s really good with Capaldi. She sets him off well, and Pearl Mackie is, quite simply, adorkably cute. She also has real acting abilities, and that’s always to the good. I like that the show doesn’t tease us with the idea of her being gay. Its made very clear that she is, and there’s no guessing about it.

This episode’s plot centered around Bill falling in love with a young lady, named Heather, who promises never to leave her. The girl is subsequently consumed by an alien puddle of water, and starts to pursue Bill, because it has absorbed Heather’s feelings for her. Capaldi’s doctor gets involved when Bill goes to him for help, after she realizes he knows weird things. I really loved this episode, and Pearl acquitted herself very well. It was a  beautiful and heartbreaking story, as well. The scene where Bill discovers the Tardis is wonderfully shot, evoking all of the wonder you would expect to feel, if you were in that situation. It was just a really well-done episode, even bringing tears to my eyes at the end.

I also have to point out that Capaldi is one of the more sympathetic doctors. I like his acting style, and the gravity he brings to his position. He also manages to capture a great deal of the sadness that comes with being an immortal being.

I’m all set to continue watching the rest of the season.

Class

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I don’t actually know a whole lot about this show. I know it’s an offshoot of season nine’s Dr. Who, and is set at the school where the Doctor’s former companion, Rose or Clara (I’m not sure on that one), used to teach. From the trailers and snippets, it looks pretty diverse, with plenty of PoC, and various sexualities represented. I haven’t had a chance to determine how good the acting is, but I will be recording the episodes in the hopes of actually looking at the episodes, at some point in the future, and I’ll let you know what I think. It looks interesting, although since it involves a lot of teenagers, I’m not greatly enthusiastic.

 

The Vet Life

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I do like Animal Planet, but I wasn’t happy about the introduction of various reality shows to the lineup, and I’d stopped watching that channel for a while. There’s only so many shows a person can watch about different types of veterinarians.

Well leave it to the Animal Planet to actually make a show about Black veterinarians, and actually  get me to look at it. I really like this show, not because of the plots or drama, but because representation in all areas, matters. It’s not enough to show Black people being heroes in movies, playing sports, or singing. We need to be shown doing just regular shit, like doctoring, teaching, and lawyering. So I’m all for these kinds of shows that just have us being regular, silly, happy, grumpy, or whatever. Not all of us live our lives around protesting, BLM, or activism. We do all the same shit all people do, everyday, and its time television reflected that too. Yeah, we need heroes, but things like ghostbusting, healing sick animals, and cookouts also help cement the idea that PoC are just regular folks, with jobs we love, kids getting on our nerves, parents gloating about that, and plenty of bills.

All that said, I actually like the show. The show is set in Texas, and the guys Diarra, Aubrey ,and Michael, are laid back and funny. It’s really about all I can mentally handle at the end of a long day, really. There’s not too much drama, we get to meet the vet’s families, who are really cute, and supportive, and I get to watch various  animals visit the vet.

 

Captain Fantastic

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Since I have a subscription to Amazon Prime, I got to watch this movie for free. I was intrigued because Viggo Mortensen is in this, and I thought the premise sounded interesting. After his wife commits suicide, a man and his brood of five or six kids, have a clash with the parents she left behind, to go live a survivalist lifestyle with him, in the California woods.

It was interesting. Not great, or compelling. I did watch all of it because I found their lifestyle fascinating, and the movie had its funny moments. The kids turned in some great performances and it has a semi-happy ending.

What impacted me was how he raised his kids, and how that clashed with the lifestyles of regular folks, really pointing out how modern kids are kind of coddled, and not very self sufficient. The kids know how to hunt, fish, make their own clothes, everything really. Not only that, but I was supportive of the idea of him being informatively blunt with his kids. This is a man who simply doesn’t believe in lying to his kids, or pulling his punches, regarding the truth.

He’s also turned them into political radicals who are critical thinkers about politics, even at the age of six, which I thought was pretty impressive. And they don’t just parrot what he wants them to think. They have grown up, reading , debating and arguing their ideas with him, so they know what they’re talking about when they voice an opinion, which is a refreshing change from most people, who know nothing at all about a subject,  thinking that the way they FEEL about it is sufficient. I guess you can tell I’m a fan of of the critical thought process.

When their mother dies , he flat out tells them she committed suicide, without sugar coating it. He’s not mean or angry about it. Its just information, and he lets them react however they want to react, without chastising them. For example, his youngest son gets angry, and approaches him threateningly with a knife. He doesn’t react to this. He just lets the boy work it out for himself. He’s right  there if he needs him.

The oldest son is college aged and decides that he needs to know more about how people relate to each other, after he meets a young woman who catches his fancy. He has no experience of socializing, dating, or pop culture, which becomes apparent when she tries to get him to talk about things he likes, for which he has no answers. Later, caught up in his feelings for her, he proposes marriage to her, in front of her mother, and is puzzled when the two of them think its hilarious.

But most of the movie is taken up with the relationship with the dead mom’s parents, who feel that he isn’t a good parent, and fight with him over how their daughter should be interred. She didn’t want a church service ,and requested to be cremated. Her parents get their way, but later, he and the kids dig up their mother’s body, cremate it ,and scatter her ashes over the nearest body of water, like she asked.

During this adventuring, one of his daughters breaks her arm while playing lookout on a rooftop, and he realizes that the grandparents are right,  he is leading them in a dangerous lifestyle. He tries to leave them with their grandparents but the kids stowaway on their family bus with him. I have to confess, although I agreed with how he raised his kids, I could see both sides of the issue. The viewer is pretty much left to make up their own mind on who is right, and which side you choose, says more about your values, than what the movie is saying.

The movie is pretty funny at times though. The above gif is when the entire family, who have been barred from the funeral of their mother unless they behave themselves, crash the funeral anyway, dressed in all their 1970s finery, and causing a scene. There’s also a gif of the entire cast raising a fist at the SAG Awards, and chanting “Down with The Man!”, which is hilarious.

I liked the movie. Its not a great film, so I don’t get all the hype about it. For me, it was a well acted, middle-of-the-road, comedy- drama. I’d recommend it for some quiet Saturday evening viewing, and a few chuckles.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

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I just finished Aaronovitch’s latest novella, starring Detective Inspector Peter Grant, and I’m very very satisfied. It’s certainly enough to tide me over until Ben’s next full length Peter Grant book, which I can’t wait to see in hardcover, one day.

I can’t recommend this series enough. I’m thoroughly addicted, but I can’t explain exactly why this series is so compelling to me. Is it the low key use of magic? Is it Peter Grant’s mordant snarkiness? Or the fact that he’s of African descent?  Is it the side characters, like Toby the Ghostfinding dog, or Peter’s magically inclined niece, who talks  to the foxes of London, or just the common, everyday,  police procedural stuff? Probably all of the above.

I especially liked this book which I finished it record time, for me anyway, although I do wish it had a bit more Beverly Brook in it. Beverly is one of the physical incarnations of one of the rivers of London. She and her sisters are some of my favorite recurring characters.  Her sisters are the incarnations of the rivers Fleet, Tyburn, and Lea, while their mother is the female incarnation of the Thames. This just tickles the Hell out of me, btw. All of them look African, which I think is an odd/but not odd thing, considering it’s London. I like Beverly, because she has a snarky sense of humor too, and she’s dating Peter.

How do I describe the mood of these books. Well, it’s very low key as I said. There’s magic in it but it’s so subtle as to appear almost mundane. Also Peter, the narrator, is so used to magic, that he describes the most extraordinary events as if they were commonplace. The books are more like police procedurals, with an overlay of magical events, rather than the deep magic world of the Jim Butcher books, which I also love. The series isn’t much like those, if that’s what you’re imagining. First of all, they’re set in London, and the author fully recognizes the diversity, with a large cast of different races of people, most of whom are cops. So Peters magical activities are fully sanctioned by the authorities, and explained away, with no one actually acknowledging their magical origins. There’s magic in this world, and quite a few people encounter it, and believe in it, but it’s so quietly done, that most regular people don’t recognize, or want to realize, that’s what they’ve just experienced.

Peter Grant comes from a musical family, and some of the books go deep into magical theory, and music, which is interesting. His father is a somewhat famous Jazz musician,who is suffering from some, not quite clear, mental illness. I love that Peter is not some lone, token black guy, as he comes from a fairly large family, on his mom’s side, which he mentions visiting from time to time. But for most of his time, he’s at work for The Folly.

The Folly is run by one Thomas Nightingale, whose age is indeterminate, but he’s old enough to be considered a Master Magician, and did some magic, for the Crown, during WW2. Peter is his new apprentice, after having run into a magical serial killer in the first novel. In the current  novella, Peter is doing most of the heavy lifting, as he and a colleague track down a missing woman, who disappeared on the Metro. Her disappearance has incited some very public ghostly activity, which is momentarily frightening to the passengers, although they don’t often remember the scare long enough to tell him the details. Since ghosts are involved, and the Folly is the Special Crimes Investigation Unit, Peter gets the call.

I love the side characters in this series.  From Walidd, the physician who specializes in autopsying magical deaths, to Molly, who is some type of supernatural creature, working as a domestic at The Folly, to Peter’s arch nemesis, The Faceless Man, and his new apprentice, Leslie May, who used to be Peter’s girlfriend.

It’s also been fun watching Peter’s rather innovative, and unorthodox, approaches to magic, to the headshaking chagrin of Nightingale, and Peter’s growing abilities over the course of seven books. He is also starting to get a reputation, among his fellow officers, for blowing things up. There’s at least one major explosion of something in each book, that Peter is at least partially responsible for, although sometimes Nightngale gets in on the action.

The bottom line is, I love this series. I think it’s one of the best British Urban Fantasy series out there. Heck, I love British Urban Fantasy in general.  There are no love triangles, nothing so mundane as vampires or werewolves, and no lone White heroine, worrying about her supernatural boyfriend, or which shoes to match with her weapons. There’s little melodrama, clever writing, and likable, quirky, and diverse, characters. A lot of the magic is based on British History, much of it unique to London, and it’s wealth of magical locations, and objects.  The plots are somewhat involved, but no more so than your typical police novel. With occasional magic.

It’s not too late to get in on this series, which is fun Summer reading material. Each book builds on the next, but it’s not required that you  read them in order, as they are also standalone books.

The Rivers of London or Midnight Riot is the first book,

followed by:

Moon Over Soho

Whispers Underground

Broken Homes

Foxglove Summer

The Hanging Tree

And now The Furthest Station.

*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free. If  you have a platform, and you’d like to review books for Netgalley, it costs nothing to sign up.

The Walking Dead: Season 7 Review

I was waiting for the season finale to write a review for this season, as I wasn’t here for every episode. There were a few I  liked but I didn’t want to give my opinions about them until I saw how things would play out. I normally enjoy writing episode reviews but TWD, is just really not the kind of show I want to relive twice, once when I view it, and again when I write the review.  And sometimes it can take a few days to digest what was seen.

A lot has happened since the beginning of the season. I think I was still depressed and reeling after Glenn’s death because my enthusiasm for the show took a real turndown. I just wasn’t feeling it and started skipping episodes. But the interesting thing was how those earlier episodes got to play out in the finale.

From the tail end of the season, you can see how the writers maneuvered people and events, to get them into their proper places, for the finale. While this seemed pretty slow for us (we’re used to a much faster place, as regards the plots on this show), you can see how each episode set the stage for decisions that people make later in the season.

For example, although I skipped it, it turned out that we needed to visit the Saviors Sanctuary, not just to get more of Negan, but to help us understand how he  maintains control, and how that later backfires on him. It helps  us understand the drawbacks of maintaining one’s leadership skills through pain, and intimidation. These episodes help us to understand the fundamental (and subtle) differences between Rick and Negan.

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For example, having Eugene be taken into the Saviors, puts him in the  position of being able to help Sasha in a manner that only he can, in a way that having Daryl there, wouldn’t. Its only at the end of the season that we can see how these individual pieces fit together. I sort of knew this is what the writers were doing but just didn’t have the heart to watch certain episodes because I was in no mood to listen to Negan’s self aggrandizing bullshit for entire episodes.

My favorite episode for the entire season is The Cell, because we get to be introduced to King Ezekiel, Jerry, and  Shiva. The King is a ridiculously over the top character, but he did bring some much needed levity to the season. Tara visiting Oceanside, Rick’s supply run, and his meeting with  the Scavengers, Carol’s relationship with King Ezekiel, and Dwight’s punishment, all figured in the finale, as far as plot and character motivations. Not everything fits, though. There were some plot points that have yet to play out and haven’t gone anywhere yet, like Gregory’s departure.

Now that I look back on it, I have to say this season was well done, despite my upset and  misgivings during the first half, in the wake of Glenn’s death, but I understand if Glenn fans want nothing else to do with this show ever again. I was  dissatisfied with how that was handled, and then we spent the first half of the season watching Rick be bullied by Negan, and that shit was just demoralizing. On the other hand, that makes Rick’s partial victory over the Saviors, during the finale, feel that much sweeter. (Yes, I’m still upset about Glenn and wish he could’ve been there to see it. I think I’m always gonna be pissed about Glenn and Abraham.)

Rick

For the first half of the season we watched Rick lose, and lose again, and be completely beaten down by Negan’s reign of terror. He simply couldn’t catch a break. So it was especially nice when we came back after the hiatus,  to see Rick getting his mojo back. It was actually enjoyable to watch Rick swaggering into other people’s territories and negotiating with such confidence. I thought the episode with the Scavengers was especially fun, and the one where he and Michonne have a kind of honeymoon, was really sweet.

Its about time we saw Rick (and crew) get a win. For a brief moment during the finale, Negan had him down, but the moment got saved by an unexpected source. The look on Rick’s face as Negan rides up to Alexandria, with Eugene on the bullhorn, is priceless.

Another hilarious moment, is the look on Rick’s face when the Scavenger leader  asks Michonne if she minds if she sleeps with Rick when its all over. You can tell that sleeping with her never crossed Rick’s mind, and he had no idea how to think about that.

I also enjoyed the moment when, even under threat of the deaths of his entire family, he refuses to kowtow to Negan’s authority.  Good for him!

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Michonne

I think this was Michonne’s season, as she was really the heart, and soul, of the show. I credit her with being, at least, partially responsible for most of Rick’s turnaround, in the second half of the  season. At least part of that was because they kept their relationship so low key, that she was able to escape Negan’s notice.

The Scavenger leader, asking Michonne if she minded if she slept with Rick was apparently a deal she made with Negan, as a  ruse to confirm exactly what the nature of Michonne’s relationship to Rick was, as Negan wasn’t sure, and then, once confirmed, to kill her.

I feel certain that if Negan had noticed Michonne earlier, he would have killed her (which would have been the end of Rick), or taken her from him to the Sanctuary. She was able to hold onto the fire, after everyone else’s had been extinguished because, at no point, did Negan focus his attention on her.

I fully support their relationship. They’re so much better together than they are separate. They hold each other up, and anchor each other in a good way.  She lifts him up, and he anchors her in place, and I like that. Rick is the first man she has opened her heart to, after her profound depression when  the group first met her, and its been fascinating watching their relationship develop. (Rick is just about the only person she gives that smile to). I didn’t actually think it would happen, really. I thought the writers would just keep teasing us  about a relationship that would never happen, because television is notoriously chickenshit about showing interracial relationships.

Morgan

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I know a lot of the fans were disappointed in Morgan when he was re-introduced. Once again, we get yet another Black man who has decided to be peaceful and make boneheaded decisions about not killing. First there was Tyrese, who decided he couldn’t kill, then Bob, who everyone thought was a coward, and  Father Gabriel, another coward, that no one respected, and now we get Morgan, who also doesn’t want to fight.

I wasn’t happy with Morgan’s new philosophy either, although I understood why. I still found myself yelling at my TV a lot, but what made Morgan different, is that he is actually very lethal, and he will fuck a person up. He just won’t kill them.

We saw Morgan adopt and mentor another young man while he was at the Kingdom, and then lose him to the Savior’s whimsy, and I think that just broke Morgan. I feel like maybe his philosophy of not killing was him trying to hold on to the last shreds of his sanity. Remember where he was last season before he hooked back up with Rick. He was killing anyone and everything that crossed his path, and he was pretty far gone, until he was given this philosophy to cling to, in the episode Here’s Not Here, in season six.

After the last couple of episodes, Morgan is, emotionally, right back where he was after the loss of his son, and on another killing spree. Only this time its  aimed at the Saviors. For the second time, since he rejoined Rick’s group, we watch him pick up a gun and kill. The Saviors have a knack for bringing that out in people.

Carol

Carol, like Morgan,  was also going through a crisis of conscience, after she met the Saviors. She’d removed herself from any human contact, but the Saviors bullying (the killing of Abraham and Glenn) brought her back into the fray. I think, on some level, she felt responsible for the death of Glenn. Not only did she kill a lot of the Saviors, she probably felt like she could have saved the two men, if she’d been there, rather than in hiding.

We have the coming out episode of SlayerCarol. After Daryl’s and Morgan’s visit with her, the wily and lethal version of Carol is definitely born again. I can appreciate her wanting to get away from killing people for a while, considering what it was doing to her. But, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, killing is her main superpower, and she mostly uses it for the good of others. Unfortunately, this is the kind of world where someone like Carol finds a purpose or gets dead.

One of my favorite things this season, is watching the slow burn, between her and King Ezekiel. She told him she didn’t want any contact, with him or his people, but he kept cleverly finding ways around this rule, without being intrusive, or breaking her boundaries. He is very obviously smitten with her, but I like that he respects her right to make up her mind, about whether or not she wants a relationship with him, and seems prepared to wait as long as it takes, while occasionally reminding her  that he hasn’t lost interest. Carol has been closed off since Tobin. She and Daryl are too damaged to give each other what they need.

So, Ezekiel would be good for her.

Negan

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Negan began this season all confidence and smiles, and ended the season surprised and humbled. In this episode, he swaggered up to Alexandria, secure in the knowledge that he had the upper hand because of his deal with the Scavengers. He had Eugene’s loyalty, and thought he ‘d gotten Sasha’s too. After Sasha’s surprise, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Things went so wrong that even he had to  express some surprise. Michonne wasn’t killed, there was a fucking tiger eating his men, Morgan and Carol were set loose, and the Scavengers turned tail. What seemed like a sure win,  bringing  Rick to heel, turned into a  total route. Negan got his ass handed to him, probably for the first time in a very long while.

I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but I still think Negan talks entirely too damn much. I’m cautiously enthusiastic about his return next season.

 

Sasha:

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What can I say about Sasha? Well, she has completed the long character arc that brought her from being so closed off, when we first met her, to sacrificing herself for her family.

I’m not surprised at her death, and I’m not angry about her death, the way I was at Glenn’s. I kind of figured  she might be killed off the show because she is starring as the lead  in another show, which I consider much more important than TWD, and that’s Star Trek Discovery. I also strongly suspected she was going to die, after she explicitly told Negan that only one person needed to die, after he tried to get her to agree to killing three. I’m okay because I knew she wouldn’t be able to do both shows, her death wasn’t pointless, or even especially brutal, and actually turned the tide in Rick’s fight against Negan.

We get to see her have some lovely memories (and imaginings) of what she could have had with Abraham, as Michael Cudlitz makes a cameo. It was nice seeing him again. I consider this whole scene to be about Sasha coming to terms with her death, and mourning what could have been, vs how things turned out.

After breaking into the Sanctuary, Sasha is held prisoner. When one of the Saviors threatens to rape her, Negan kills him, and leaves his body in her cell to turn, but also leaves a weapon for her to defend herself. When Negan returns, she has dispatched the zombie, something Negan admires the Hell out of and tries to make a deal with her. Its clear he’s very taken with her, and some of my favorite moments are their scenes together. Soniqua brings her A game, and it was a delight watching her square off against him, plus she looks gorgeous in those scenes, with those large, expressive, eyes.

Knowing that he’s going to use her to harm her family, she persuades Eugene to bring her something to kill herself with. Eugene is against this, but uses his considerable skills to make a  homemade cyanide capsule for her. Negan, suspecting that Rick is up to no good, takes Sasha to Alexandria in a coffin, to tease Rick about her death. But Sasha takes her suicide pill before they reach Alexandria, and when Negan opens the casket, Sasha’s zombie attacks him at a crucial moment.

I don’t care how outraged the kids on Tumbr are, (they’re always very angry about a lot of TV shows, it seems), as far as I’m concerned, Sasha went out like a boss! I absolutely refuse to be upset about it.

 

Eugene

I know everybody was mad at Eugene for switching sides, but I’m not. I can get where he’s coming from, although he hasn’t articulated his motivations very well. I’m not even sure why people were surprised. He lied to Abraham,  Rick, and the others, when he first met them, because he desired safety. That’s always been Eugene’s primary concern from day one. I guess he figured he couldn’t be any  safer from the devil, than in the devil’s arms.

At the end of the episode, Negan has some deep suspicions about what happened to Sasha, and Eugene’s part in that. So now I’m worried for him again. Maybe being so close to the devil isn’t as safe as it seems, huh Eugene?

 

King Ezekiel and Jeffrey:

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These are two of my favorite characters. I’m surprise at how easy it was to get attached to Jerry, and really, considering the death rate on this show, I shouldn’t do that. Jerry is just a lovely, light note, in such a grim show, and and I kept muttering to myself during the entire firefight, “Please don’t kill Jerry! Please don’t kill Jerry!”

Also, I like King Ezekiel because  he’s so overdone! Who talks like that, naturally? And everyone just sort of takes it in stride when he talks like that. And c’mon! The man owns a fucking tiger! These are two of the most fun characters in the show. I would totally watch a spin-off of him, Shiva ,and Jerry, and their adventures before the founding of The Kingdom.

 

Shiva

Yeah, my girl gets in on the action during the firefight with Negan, literally jumping in, during a crucial moment. Even Negan had to stop, and marvel, for a quick second, that there’s a tiger! I know a lot of people loved that moment. Go to the 10:30 mark:

 

Well, this is my idea of a review of season seven. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

 

Kong: Skull Island

First of all this review contains lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen  the movie, you know the drill.

 I had no plans to go see this movie. Not to say I wasn’t intrigued. I love giant monsters as much as the next person,  but I had a choice between Get Out, Logan, and Kong, and I had chose Logan. I’ve since seen both of those movies, thanks to friends with more money than me, who enjoy my company. I still hadn’t planned to see Kong. 

Well, Mom had other plans. She saw the trailer, and because it hit all the check marks for her entertainment, we were gonna be seeing it. 

Big guns! Check.

 Monsters! Check. 

Samuel L Jackson! Check.

I had read some  reviews, which seemed neither bad nor good, and I had the impression it would be sort of like Apocalypse Now with monsters. I was, and was not wrong.  It was very entertaining, mostly as a war movie with monsters, than a straight up monster movie. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and it’s got more than a few parallels with that movie.

Me, Mom, and two of the little tikes; my niece, The Potato and her baby sister, who we like to call Lil’ Momma, had a girls day out. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time between amusing Lil Momma with treats, hugging her when she got scared, and being scared shitless myself. There’s a reason I don’t see too many scary movies in a theatre. I can’t turn them off, and walk out.

But it was still a helluva lot of fun too, and not exactly what I thought it would be. Most of the tropes of King Kong movies were neatly, and deliberately, subverted.There was a lot more talking but that was okay because most of it was setup for the action scenes. It’s not a very deep film. Well, it didn’t have a deep message in it,  but I think y’all should know that King Kong movies (and those Planet of the Ape films) have always had a deep meaning for Black Americans. We always found subtext in them. This movie manages to neatly set aside that subtext, which in itself ends up creating subtext. 

The year is 1974 and the US had just made the decision to pull out of Vietnam. Jacksons character is depressed and enraged by this, which informs his motivation for the rest of the movie. Hiddlestons character is set adrift and looking for adventure. Goodman’s character is considered something of a crackpot conspiracy theorist with his Hollow Earth, and Lost World beliefs. Him and his partner, played by Corey Hawkins, have been petitioning the government to fund an expedition to search for one of these lost worlds. They’re finally granted permission and have to assemble their crew. Tom Hiddleston is a bland, but brave hero, who didn’t really stand out to me, very much. Samuel Jackson plays the Colonel, for whom Kong becomes his white whale, after Kong nearly kills his entire team. Brie Larson is a photographer along for the ride. I barely know who she is, as there ain’t any white actresses, under 45, whose careers I pay any attention to. She wasn’t bad though, and the movie didn’t do with her what I was afraid it would do, which was fetishize the awesome purity of her blonde whiteness to Kong. There’s another woman in the movie. She’s Asian. She and Brie’s character don’t say so much as a hello to each other. It’s almost like they’re in separate movies. 

Kong does form an attachment to Brie’s character, but not because of her looks ,which is how the director sidesteps the subtext black people see in these movies. Kong likes her because of something she does, and he approves of. At no point do the Natives try to sacrifice her to him, and the rest of the crew don’t spend all their time rescuing her. Tom Hiddleston’s character does so, but only because he likes her, and she’s very brave. At one point he asks her to do a very dangerous thing, to save their lives, and she successfully carries it off. He’s not protecting her because he thinks of her as a delicate woman, and the only person who mentions her femininity at all, is Reilly’s character, and he sounds ridiculous, when he does. 

The writers neatly sidestep the native issues by having there be no Natives. The people on the island are the leftover crew members from a Japanese ship that crashed on the island and became trapped there. They’re fierce but not mindlessly hostile, and appear to have developed their own peaceful culture. Storms have caused a lot of crashes there, so there are a lot of shipwrecks lying about.  There’s a giant wall on the island, but it’s not there to keep Kong out, just the hostile wildlife at bay, and  it turns out his job is protecting the people.  Since the rest of Kong’s family were killed by the island wildlife, he’s seemingly adopted these trapped humans as his clan. Make no mistake, Kong is the star of this movie. He is the lead character, and the protagonist, and survives to the end.

 John C. Reilly’s character is the most fun and memorable character in the movie, and I loved him right away. I’ve found that I enjoy movies a lot more if I can attach myself to a particular character and just follow that character through the plot. His character gives a lot of exposition, but it doesn’t feel like speechifying, when he does it, which is a testament to how good Mr. Reilly is, as an actor. We see his plane crash on the island at the beginning of the movie. His Japanese opponent also crashes his plane, and the two immediately commence to fighting, but are interrupted by Kong. After that they stop and become friends. Kong just has that effect on people. Later, Reilly’s character gets a sweet and happy ending when he’s reunited with his family. He’d been trapped on the island since 1944, and acts exactly the way a person would, after having been separated from a life they missed, for nearly thirty years.

Kong’s motivations are also explained in the movie. He’s a guy who likes everything peaceful and quiet, because when the military expedition starts dropping bombs on the landscape, to track the islands depth, he becomes enraged, and makes short work of all of the helicopters. They were disturbing the peace. So what’s funny is that all of the usual Kong tropes are in this movie but under completely different contexts, with Kong fighting helicopters, or wrapped in chains, or rescuing the blonde damsel. You can tell the writers gave it some thought, playing with our expectations, and knowledge of other Kong movies. The end result of all this is you end up rooting for Kong, as the hero of this movie, rather than the human characters.

Kong is set up as the protector of the island (and possibly the world) from some dinosaur-like creatures, that come out of the Hollow Earth, having been awakened by the bombings. There’s some little ones, and one giant one, with skull-like heads, full of teeth, slithering around on two legs. They’re fast, powerful, and will eat anything, even Kong. He spends a not inconsiderable amount of time fighting these nasty fuckers all over the landscape. He spends a lot of the movie fighting something. At one point he fights a giant octopus, and then eats it. 

There are other monstrous creatures on the island. Some pterosaur like creatures, that like to gang up on a person and carry them off, like in the Riddick movie called Pitch Black. There’s a giant spider naturally, and also what we hilariously figured out was a giant walking stick, and just about as bright. The Potato and I guessed this because it looked like a cross between Groot, and a small Ent, from Lord of the Rings. It scared the shit outta my Mom, when she saw it, even though it’s harmless.  My favorites were the house sized Water Buffalo, because I thought they were dumb but  cute, and more importantly, non- hostile. 

Brie’s  character wins Kongs fondness, when he finds her trying to save one of the big dumb brutes, who is  trapped under a helicopter wing, and he helps her out. He likes her because she was trying to save one of the creatures he has decided to protect, and even allows her to get close enough to touch his face. It’s  telling that his closeness to her never directly endangers him. On the other hand, her proximity to Kong, puts her in danger from the skull dinosaurs. Later, she saves his life, by standing between him and a bullet from the colonel’s gun, after Kong has been hobbled, by being set on fire with napalm. The military is the bad guys in this movie, and Kong kills them indiscriminately. So if you feel some kind of way about the military, you might want to  skip this movie. They’re not totally evil, but they’re not the heroes.
During a significant portion of the movie, everyone has to ride upriver in a hastily thrown together plane/boat combo, and that, and the helicopter intro when they arrive at the island, is what lends it that Apocalypse Now feeling. But I liked the movie a lot and didn’t mind the parallels. I was expecting at some point to be insulted or offended by something in the movie, but the writers were careful to sidestep all the major issues that my Mom and I usually have with Kong movies. Unfortunately, that also took away any depth. That’s okay. The movie makes  up for this lack with a great deal of spectacle. 

Now, I have since seen Godzilla Resurgence, and I heard rumors that both of these movies were being setup for a future sequel,  where Kong and Godzilla would be fighting each other. If that’s true you could watch the setup in this movie, where Kong is being put forth as a good guy protector to the Japanese people, or whatever group of people survive to the sequel. The Kong in this movie is said to be an adolescent who hasn’t reached his full height, and like Godzilla, he’s already as tall as an office building. So the reason Kong looks bigger than ever is because of this future plan for a franchise, of some kind. In Godzilla Resurgence, Godzilla is definitely a bad monster who, sort of randomly, destroys parts of Japan, for no fucking reason. I’ll be reviewing that movie later this Summer. But keep in mind, if these two characters meet, there will be blood.

After a certain age, I stopped watching Godzilla movies, but I did enjoy the remakes, and I liked this movie okay. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy a sequel where these two characters fight, although after watching  the fight scenes in Kong, I anticipate that Kong will win.

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.

Stuff I’m Watching

Okay, I though I posted this already, but apparently not, since I can’t find it in my published file. So here we go again, maybe!

The Ghost Brothers (TV)

 

Its a TV show about three guys who all had paranormal experiences as children, and decided as adults that they would like to investigate the existence of ghosts. The second season of this show airs April 15th. In the meantime the first season is available for streaming on TLC. I’m already addicted.

Its  a pretty good show. One of the reasons I’ve always hated ghost hunting shows is I get  exasperated with  White guys running around in the dark, shaking their cameras, and yelling at the ghosts. There’s none of that here. The feel of this show is very different. One of my biggest issues was the attitudes of the ghost hunters in these shows, challenging the ghosts, making demands, and the general disrespect. That’s not here, either. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the inexplicable, and this show has that too, which occasionally makes it actually scary. But it’s not just that. It’s the humor and camaraderie between these three friends, that I enjoyed the most. They genuinely like each other,  and are not above ranking on each other, but don’t do it in a mean spirited way. You can tell they’re really old friends, and this is one of the most authentic depictions of black male friendship, you’ll ever see in a TV show.

The guys make a point of visiting sites that are known spots of racial trauma, so they’re not in the business of retraumatizing any presences that might be there. After all, these are their ancestors. They try to approach their job from a place of respect, with minimal equipment. They ask questions and  try to reach out and emotionally connect with a presence. In one episode, they visit a hotel where a sex worker was killed maybe a hundred years ago. They visit her rooms and attempt to find out if she’s still present. They ask her about her life, implore her to answer, and when they leave, they respectfully leave payment for her time, which I found both sad and hilarious.

In another episode, they visit a place where some children were known to have died. To get the children  to respond, they bring toys and dolls, ask the children if they would like to play, and assure them that it’s safe to come out and do that. All very respectful. Nothing happens of course, but there’s a great deal of tension as you suspect something might.They bring the absolute minimum in equipment, they don’t have scanners, and meters and various devices. They really just have their smartphones and a camera.

Also, these guys are surprisingly brave, in situations that would frankly give me the screaming heebie jeebies, sitting alone in a dark room waiting for some presence to reveal itself. Yes they do get scared, and are willing to acknowledge that, but there’s no exaggerated terror, with a lot of running and screaming. This isn’t a comedy, although the guys are occasionally funny. They take their self appointed task pretty seriously.

One of the reasons I like for white people to watch shows like Atlanta, Luke Cage, and Ghost Borthers is if they’re interested in more authentic depictions of what black people are actually like when white people arent around, and contrast these images with depictions crafted and written by white men, who can only guess at how we relate to each other, or just make shit up. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about media depictions of marginalized people by white male writers, is often the relationships are depicted as contentious ones. The white men, who write almost all of the media we see, have no idea what women talk about when men aren’t present, what gay people do when straight people aren’t around beyond having sex, or what black people do when white people arent present. Shows written, by marginalized people themselves, tend to have fewer token characters,  and more genuine conversations, and activities. We actually do get along with each other when white people arent around. We laugh, joke, and tease each other. We have deep conversations that aren’t about race, and trivial conversations that are. And just like with the Bechdel Test, almost none of our conversations center white  straight men.

Ghost Brothers joins those lists of shows that depicts black people’s authentic reactions to the world around us.

ETA:  I added a much more detailed description for this show, and the second season has already started. I’m currently watching episode two, where the Brothers visit the Winchester Ghost Trap House.
Ghostbusters (2016)

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I told myself I wasn’t going to watch this, but it aired on Starz, earlier this month, and that’s why I pay for cable. So yeah, I’m one of five people on Earth who actually love this movie. It was entertaining and I found a lot of positive  things outside of the one negative thing that made me want not watch it.

The one negative thing was me being mad about Patty, played by Leslie Jones, not being a scientist. I still don’t like that, but I also don’t feel she was ill treated by the creators of the movie. Although Leslie’s personal humor doesn’t match mine, I still really liked her character. She was one of the funniest people in the movie and gets some of the best lines. This one negative thing was outweighed by all the positive things I enjoyed.

One of my biggest takeaways was the depiction of friendship between women, which is almost never authentically shown in genre films, in favor of having a lonely badass. These characters are friendly and supportive of each other. To use Erin and Abby, for example, the subplot of how they met is Abby believing Erin when she claimed she saw a ghost when she was a child, and no one else believed her.That no one else believed her is something  that affects her for the rest of her life, prompting her to abandon Abby, and never have anything else to do with the paranormal. Later, she and Abby reaffirm their bonds of friendship when Erin risks her life to save Abby at the end of the movie. When Erin has a very obvious crush on their dimbulb male secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth, the other women never make fun of her, or make her feel ashamed of it. They just accept that she likes him, while gently cautioning her to be careful of sexually harassing him.

I liked Patty, and felt she was given ample screen time. The other characters make no big deal about her not being a scientist. She’s an expert in other things. She talks her way onto the team by offering them something they don’t have. Historical context and knowledge of the city, allows Patty to provide a lot of the movie’s exposition. This is not exactly her being “street -smart” (I suppose technically she is “street-smart,  but only because she is her own kind of nerd, who reads History books for fun. So yeah, all the ladies are in fact, nerds! Patty just is not a Science nerd.)

The other women never act as if they know better than her, or try to lord it over her that they have credentials, and even defer to her expertise on matters they know she has studied. They accept her, like Holtzman,  as one of the contributing members of the team. Yes, she gets them a car, but that’s not why she was allowed to join them. It’s something she offers, along with their ghostbusting suits. She also gets some of the funniest lines in the movie, most of which are quiet personal asides  that if you blink, you’ll miss them.

I especially enjoyed the beginning of a friendship between her and Holtzman. Abby and Erin were already friends, and Holtzman must have occasionally felt like a third wheel, but she and Patty seem to hit it off pretty well, hanging out together whenever they’re not working. Patty  saves Holtzman’s life at one point, and nicknames her Holtzy.

Speaking of Holtzman, she is my favorite character in the entire movie. She’s just plain nuts and really, really,  loves her job. The trailers don’t really do this character justice, just like they didn’t make Patty very likable. She’s impossible to describe. She just has to be seen. She loves destruction, dances around with blowtorches, and is utterly fearless when it comes to her various science toys.

ETA:

So, my niece finally watched this movie, and she had a great time. She couldn’t wait for me to get home from work, and she watched it without me, for which she was mildly chastised. And guess who her favorite character is! Guess! Patty, of course, who she thought was hilarious. I don’t know that my niece wants to grow up to be a Ghostbuster, but she really enjoyed herself, and the movie, and that’s enough for me.

 

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

Image result for suicide squad

Once again, I’m in the minority when it comes to liking a movie. I actually had a good time watching this. I really liked the visuals, and performances, even if the story was full of massive holes, and largely incoherent . I really enjoyed the characters though. I watched this with my niece and she seemed to have a good time, too. I think she wants to be Harley Quinn when she grows up, but I told her no, because that’s not a good look for a Black woman, unless she’s gettin’ paid a lot of money, like Margot Robbie. It would also require she be tortured by Jared Leto, after which I’d have to beat Leto’s ass. (He should probably have his ass kicked just on general principles, anyway, because my niece has decided she has a crush on his version of the Joker. What? She’s like ten years old!)

I’m one of five people on Earth who think that Suicide Squad winning an Oscar for Best Makeup is both hilarious and outrageous. Really!? Over Star Trek? Yeah, right!

It really shouldn’t be that shocking that I liked this. It stars Will Smith and I’ll basically watch anything he ‘s in. Margot Robbie wasn’t too bad in this. I thought her version of Harley was pretty entertaining and not too unlike the comic book version of the character. And then there’s  Queen Viola. I just love the idea of Viola Davis and Will Smith starring in a superhero movie together. Although, the next time we see them together, I hope its something a little more serious.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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Unfortunately I did not get to see this in the theater.  I did rent this for me and my Mom to watch for a couple of days. She is a die-hard Denzel fan, and she had expressed an interest in going to the movies to see this. Now this is pretty remarkable for two reasons. She’s not a huge Western movie fan, (even though she was the one who introduced me to Bonanza), and its really hard to get her to go to the movies with me, as she’s  picky. In the past few years, I managed to get her to see Jurassic World, World War Z, and that Halloween Madea movie.

We watched this movie over a weekend and she really enjoyed it. She was deeply happy that Denzel survived to the end of the movie. I enjoyed all the characters but I was kind of bummed out because the one Asian guy got killed. It doesn’t really compare overmuch to the original. It has a very different feel, although the plot is exactly the same. The action sequences were very exciting, and I enjoyed the banter between the various characters. It suffers from lone woman syndrome, and a bad guy who is evil just because he’s evil. (Not that every villain needs a backstory. Its just something I noticed.)

It has a Benetton ad cast, and although the one Mexican guy, Vasquez, is annoying, the stereotypes are mostly kept to a minimum. The men of color in the cast all get to have their action moments. Despite the presence of Vincent D’onofrio as Jack Horne, my favorite character was  Billy Rocks, the group’s blades-man. The most intriguing relationship was between Billy Rocks, and  Ethan Hawke’s character, Goodnight Robichaux. I kept wondering about the nature of their friendship, and afterwards I wrote my own headcanon, where Billy saved Goodnight from suicide, and Goodnight felt indebted to him. It was very clear that one of Billy’s purposes was helping  Goodnight hold his shit together.

My Mom liked the Jack Horne character a lot. He was  melancholy and  gruff, with a penchant for making profound philosophical statements, that mostly puzzled the other characters. Denzel, as Chisholm, was his usual mildly snarky, pragmatic self. He wasn’t really stretching it in this role, but Denzel sparkles on even his worst days, so its all cool.

No, this movie isn’t as good or influential as the original, but its worth watching some cold Saturday night, with a bowl of popcorn, and some good friends.

Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Let’s just state, for the record, that I’m a little bit older than some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr. As a result, I grew up with the idea of Tarzan, and am well used to the tired trope of Tarzan the White Savior. I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and watching some of the movies with my Mom, whose favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller. Yes, we did see the problematic aspects of having some White guy being a better African, than actual African people, in Africa, but since almost all of TV, and movies, consisted of this trope, it was easy to overlook it, yet impossible not to see it.

That said, I did watch this movie when it came on cable, which only proves that I will watch any damn thing when it comes on TV, where Alexander Skarsgard takes his shirt off, and growls like a lion. It does not mean I’m not “woke” or “aware”. It just means I occasionally have low standards for what I find entertaining, especially if I can knit to it.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this movie for the sheer silliness that it is. Yes, the premise is just as stupid as the original films, and one still wonders what the hell White people,  (and lets face it, there were no PoC clamoring for this movie to be made) were thinking when this movie got made. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s okay, as your life will not have been upheaved.

For what its worth, the creators did keep the White Savior stuff to a minimum by adding Samuel L. Jackson, who does the saving of various Black people, and some of the actual Congolese people get lines and screen time. Skarsgard is ridiculous in this role,  and spends most of his time trying to look dramatically serious, while trying to save his girlfriend, Margot Robbie, from Waltz’ slimy Englishman. I still don’t know why Waltz kidnaps her but its got something to do with diamonds. It doesn’t matter anyway because the plot is really not that important. What’s important is that Skarsgard is bare chested for most of the movie’s running time.

There is indeed some tree swinging, and some gorilla punching, and for some strange reason, Djimon Honsou is in this movie as an antagonist. He only gets about five minutes of screen time, and maybe six lines. Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie too, and pretty much just acts like Samuel L Jackson, despite the fact that everyone else is acting like they are in a period movie, which is very jarring. I wanted to turn off the sound, so I didn’t have to listen to him speak, but then I wouldn’t have been able to hear Alexander Skarsgard talking to various animals, and yodeling. Yes, there is a classic Tarzan yodel. When I was a kid, this didn’t particularly bother me, but every time I heard it in this movie, I laughed my ass off.

But really, I think the biggest question you have to ask yourself, if you ever watch this movie: Why is Samuel L. Jackson in this movie, when they have Djimon Honsou?

Miscellanea LinkSpam

*I know I said I wasnt going to say anything more about Iron Fist but hey! I’m not saying all of  this! Someone else is saying it so…

Basically Iron Fist was always a problem, and always gonna be a problem, even in the comic books. I love the character that was created in the comics but that doesn’t preclude me from acknowledging that its still the Mighty Whitey Trope. So are a host of other characters I love, from Dr. Strange, to Tarzan, to The Last Samurai. But just because I really like these characters doesn’t make them right, or that we should keep doing it. There are other stories to be told that don’t feature White men in the middle of them. And if you do use the Mighty Whitey trope, you need to at least acknowledge it or say something new about it.

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/03/145908/iron-fist-netflix-danny-white-male-privilege

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/27/iron-fist-netflix-show-finn-jones-marvel-danny-rand

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/iron-fist-gets-better-once-it-admits-danny-rand-wo-252719

https://theringer.com/iron-fist-marvel-netflix-review-485aaabd959c#.p4ymg0c0p

https://www.wired.com/2017/03/iron-fist-canon-versus-culture/

*And from Tumbr:

sanssouciavecmoi

Ir0n F*st: Eh, what? (with background Asian count)

Spoilers follow:

Episode 1: Enter the White Dude

Hi, I am Singaporean Chinese. Yes, Netflix is available here and yes, they are trying to sell this to us.

Secondly: I do read comics, but the whole “he was white in the comics” thing does not fly–see article for context. This is 2017, not 1974. 

Thirdly: the creators of Iron Fist were fetishising the heck out of kung-fu movies when they wrote the comic back in 1974. And they are crusty old relics that use the word “Orientals” even though it’s 2017 and they know it’s not the right word (but use it anyway in interviews).

Fourthly: Iron Fist is not one person–it’s a power that is passed onto people that subsequently bear the title. Only two of them have been white. However this is is not important, because they changed almost everything about Danny Rand (and 90% of his backstory and even what the Iron Fist is for) except the bit about him being white. So the less deliberately obtuse understand that this was the most important thing to the writers, directors and producers. Lewis Tan also auditioned for the same role, so most people know that they did not pick the best actor for the job–unless you think white actor = default best lead actor.

Fifth point: this show had awful writing. And that’s even without the Orientalism and pseudo Buddhism. However, this dissection will be focused on this point.

Warning(s): Death, drug overdose, needles, guns, violence (kinda slow violence but still), Orientalism, lazy writing, car crashes, mangling of Mandarin, drugging someone against their will, forced institutionalisation, ableism, plane crashes.

Opening is … eh, kung fu in slow-mo. On a mountain top. With stuff like black ink. Like Chinese calligraphy. Only without any calligraphy. Just the vague aesthetics of calligraphy. *sighs* This is going to be painful.

In the first bit, Danny Rand returns to New York and tries to get into his parents’ company’s building. It goes as well as expected. His ex-childhood buddies treat him like shit. (He doesn’t get shot for assaulting security officers–this article explains why.) He also does not know that people think he’s dead–after 15 years, who would have thought, eh? Action scene was kinda slow. His ex-childhood buddies are also greedy cynical capitalists, so they have no reason to believe him.

I have to stop to ask: Can someone please tell me why this guy is barefoot? Other than bad writing (bad characterisation and bad worldbuilding)? Shoes were invented a long time ago and while a lot of Asians take shoes off when they enter a dwelling, we understand the need to wear shoes outdoors. Someone will no doubt write a fic where Danny gives his shoes up to some other homeless person. But there is no reason why he should be barefoot in that scene.

(How did this guy get to New York anyway?)

Back to Danny Rand, trying to get back into his old place. Ah, his other skill is animal communications or something??? His ex-childhood buddy Ward was a douche way back when. Still is. It gets creepy because Joy lives in this house now, so DR looks like a stalker.

Homeless in the park with DR. Time for him to use his iPod and read a book written in … I can’t make out what language that is but I know what they want me to think it is. (Stereotyping: your mind fills in the blanks with pre-existing scripts. Lazy writing.) Unless someone can tell me that this book is significant in some way later on, I’m going to call it unnecessary window dressing for that “Asian flavour”.

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Translation: the original comic creators were crusty old relics that wanked over the aesthetics of 70s kung fu movies and the producers and writers of this show are not much better. I kid–it could be line of poop emojis and we would never know.

In a scene that would have been much nicer without the extra window dressing, DR makes a friend. Big Al shows him Google search on an iPhone so that DR knows that people think he’s dead. His uncle is also apparently dead. The only person to be nice to him the whole day is another homeless person. Maybe we can focus on the plight of the–nope, not going that way.

The next morning, DR is very persistent. Joy feels (rightfully) harassed and calls people. That car-jumping scene was … um. Really extra. Let me try to articulate this, okay? This is 2017, people have access to decades of martial arts movies. (The Matrix was 18 years ago.) The action sequences in this show will compare very badly to those movies. So even people watching this for fight scenes will not be entertained.

First meeting with Colleen Wing, she gives him money and he mangles Mandarin without subtitles (for subtitles please look at gif set exhibit A under the link: white man polices biracial woman’s identity) and she says she hasn’t spoken it since she was a kid (rather than punching him for that). Man, if you wanted a job, you could have said so in English. Why do you suppose Colleen would know how to speak Mandarin?

image

This is so uncomfortable on so many levels. If magical K’un Lun is not of this world, then why would they speak Mandarin? If it was truly isolated in another dimension, then K’un Lun would have its own distinct dialect, like most regions in China and most countries. So DR speaking (mangling) Mandarin is also BS. (Not even talking about the yoga-like poses in the park.) This would mean so much more if it was Chinese American DR, who was never very good in Mandarin class, and Colleen Wing, who might be able to relate.

Back to the more douchy sibling and DR. Apparently DNA tests cannot be done because Danny has no living relatives. (That’s BS too, btw.) Way to be ableist, Ward. (The only thing I like is that major douches in MCU are named Ward.) However, Danny is not as peaceful as his initial appearance suggests. We get it, he’s traumatised by the deaths of his parents–why does it get expressed as him being rather violent in a car? Apparently he’s not out of touch enough to not know how guns work (or maybe all kids know how to use guns in the US or K’un Lun–I dunno).

More job-hunting in vain. It’s not like it isn’t obvious that a) she practices a totally different school of martial arts in her dojo and b) she doesn’t have the money to pay another instructor. Yes, kick him out, Colleen. That’s what he gets for trying to police a biracial woman’s identity–is he trying to flirt with her? Ew. (Colleen Wing obviously cannot afford to pay DR–her dojo is sharing space with AA meetings. But she gives him shoes. It’s almost as if everyone who is nice to DR in this show are not very well off and–yeah, it’s very unsubtle.)

Then DR gets attacked and chased into Chinatown (while Colleen Wing watches from above). Where a parade is happening. With lion dancers, dragon dancers and fire crackers and everything. But why? Is it Chinese New Year? What is the context for this? Can someone tell me why this is necessary? Or is this a way to claim that this show is diverse because there were something like 100 Asian extras in that scene? Way to endanger the lives of all the people in the parade, DR. Fight scenes are a yawn. Even though the mask DR is wearing in no way hides his curly mop of blond hair in this parade of Asian people–who do not notice the fighting at all.

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(I feel that this scene is a metaphor for the whole show.)

On one hand, I hope the extras were paid a reasonable rate and had a good experience. On the other hand, I have a feeling that when it comes to telling the kids about how Mum/Dad/Second Aunt/your Cousin were extras on this show, it would come with the caveat that they shouldn’t try to be actors–because they’ll probably wind up as extras in a show (with not very good fight scenes) that needed a parade of Asian faces for reasons unknown. Representation matters.

(Story time: there were Chinese actors from my tiny state that tried to make it to Hollywood. Shanghai Knights was back in 2003 and Fann Wong is still mostly known as a local actress. Lau in The Dark Knight might still be Ng Chin Han’s biggest role to date in a major movie right after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Currently, he’s got a part in Gh0st in the *hell–not sure if he gets more or less lines than in Captain America. Most parents here still don’t encourage kids to become actors because there’s so little room for them.)

Back to Ward, the more evil sibling who sends people to assassinate homeless dudes–he has reasons for being a terrible person. Reason number one being his dad (supposedly dead but still alive???)–who is probably why Ward is the nice cuddly guy he is. Wow, every baddie has a backstory. Probably affects plot in future. But is anyone interested? (I loved the art deco style building this scene supposedly took place in. Anyone know where it is?)

Remember DR’s one friend? His one friend is now dead of a drug overdose. Why? Maybe Big Al was around for for one Google search, some food and to allow DR to mouth some platitudes over his body? Or to highlight the plight of the homeless by ki–that’s really … really not good storytelling.

Security at Rand Enterprises is dreadful–DR has no problem sneaking in again. (Or maybe it’s that other thing.) Cut to Joy, the nicer sibling. Who is very calm for a woman that’s just found a strange guy in her office (again). Maybe it’s because she might believe him. Or is being swayed by his rhetoric. (”It’s a Zen saying” … gag me with a spoon.) His backstory is taking way too long … So Joy drugs him. I take everything back, she’s just as bad.

DR wakes to … a very troubling scene of forced institutionalisation at the end. As if everything else had not been bad enough.

Plot: It’s all over the place … Not sure if the writers know what DR is supposed to be. He has trauma, tries to be a pacifist but is really angry inside? What is the message here? Wall Street is evil? Problematic portrayals all over the place? The plight of the homeless and people with mental health issues? Not enough women with lines? Colleen Wing needs her own show with Misty Knight!

Orientalism: Check, aesthetics over substance, mangling of Mandarin despite the fact that DR has no reason to be speaking Mandarin, Zen sayings, yoga poses, a huge Chinese New Year-style parade in the background for reasons unknown (oooooooor they just wanted a certain type of backdrop for a not very good fight scene). One East Asian character with lines.

Asians in the background: around 100 of them perhaps, no lines, much firecrackers. Not sure if they were Chinese-American, Korean-American, Japanese American, Hmong-American … because they have no lines.

spoilers iron fist for the sensitive it has the potential to be very triggering i actually watched thisit was dreadful worse than anything the reviews prepared me for i struggled through one episodenearly yelled at the screen for colleen to just fucking punch this guy already orientalism

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*The conservative Christian boycott of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is Hypocritical

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/07/the-conservative-christian-boycott-of-disneys-beauty-and-the-beast-is-the-height-of-hypocrisy/

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*Tomato Lacochran just got fired from The Blaze. I had written about this no-nothing twenty something, who had the gall to wag her finger at Black people, about  subjects on which she hadn’t done her homework.

Naw! I’m still not calling her empty headed ass by her actual name.

 I also kind of thought of her as tofu. She’s the kind of person who has no real thoughts of her own, like an intellectual mimic, she just takes on the flavor of the strongest brain, in her orbit.

http://www.papermag.com/tomi-lahren-just-got-banned-from-the-blaze-and-the-internet-is-living–2331280605.html

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*On  representation in fandom:

http://uncannymagazine.com/finding-yourself-in-fandom/

*I am loving this analysis of The Hobbits from Lord of the Rings:

6) Tolkien’s hero was average, and needed help, and failed.

This is the place where most fantasy authors, who love to simultaneously call themselves Tolkien’s heirs and blame him for a lot of what’s wrong with modern fantasy, err the worst. It’s hard to look at Frodo and see him as someone extra-special. The hints in the books that a higher power did choose him are so quiet as to be unnoticeable. And he wouldn’t have made it as far as he did without his companions. And he doesn’t keep from falling into temptation.

A lot of modern fantasy heroes are completely opposite from this. They start out extraordinary, and they stay that way. Other characters are there to train them, or be shallow antagonists and love interests and worshippers, not actually help them. And they don’t fail. (Damn it, I want to see more corrupted fantasy heroes.) It’s not fair to blame Tolkien for the disease that fantasy writers have inflicted on themselves. […]

Fantasy could use more ordinary people who are afraid and don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but volunteer for the Quest anyway.

It’s misinterpretation of Tolkien that’s the problem, not Tolkien himself.

“Tolkien Cliches,” Limyaael

(via mithtransdir)

The whole point of The Lord Of The Rings… like, the WHOLE POINT… is that it is ultimately the hobbits who save the world. The small, vulnerable, ordinary people who aren’t great warriors or heroes.

Specifically, Sam. Sam saves the world. All of it. The ultimate success of the great quest is 100% due to a fat little gardener who likes to cook and never wanted to go on an adventure but who did it because he wasn’t going to let his beloved Frodo go off alone. Frodo is the only one truly able to handle the ring long enough to get it into Mordor – and it nearly kills him and permanently emotionally damages him – but Sam is the one who takes care of Frodo that whole time. Who makes him eat. Who finds him water. Who watches over him while he sleeps.

Sam is the one who fights off Shelob.

Sam is the one who takes the Ring when he thinks Frodo is dead.

Sam is the one who strolls into Orc Central and saves Frodo by sheer determination and killing any orc who crosses him. (SAM THE GARDENER GOES AND KILLS AN ACTUAL ORC TO GET FRODO SOME CLOTHES LET’S JUST THINK ABOUT THAT). And then Sam just takes off the Ring and gives it back which is supposed to be freaking impossible and he barely even hesitates.

Sam literally carries Frodo on the last leg of the journey. On his back. He’s half-starved, dying slowly of dehydration, but he carries Frodo up the goddamn mountain and Gollum may get credit for accidentally destroying the ring but Sam was the one who got them all there.

Sam saved the world.

And let’s not forget Pippin and Merry, who get damselled out of the story (the orcs have carried them off! We must make a Heroic Run To Save Them!) and then rescue themselves, recruit the Terrifying Ancient Powers through being genuinely nice and sincere, and overthrow Saruman before the ‘real’ heroes even get there.

Let’s not forget Pippin single-handedly saving what’s left of Gondor – and Faramir – by understanding that there is a time for obeying orders and a time for realizing that the boss is bugfuck nuts and we need to get help right now.

Let’s not forget Merry sticking his sword into the terrifying, profoundly evil horror that has chased him all over his world because his friend is fighting it and he’s gonna help, dammit and that’s how the most powerful Ringwraith goes down to a suicidally depressed woman and a scared little hobbit.

Everything the others do, the kings and princes and great heroes and all? They buy time.  They distract the bad guys. They keep the armies occupied. That is what kings and great leaders are for – they do the big picture stuff.

But it is ultimately the hobbits who bring down every villain. Every one. And I believe that that is 100% on purpose. Tolkien was a soldier in WWI. His son fought in WWII. (And a lot of The Lord Of The Rings was written in letters to him while he did it.)

And hey, look, The Lord Of The Rings is about ordinary people – farmers, scholars, and so on – who get pulled into a war not of their making but who have to fight not only because their own home is in danger but so is everyone’s. And they’re small and scared but they do the best they can for as long as they can and that is what actually saves the world. Not great heroes and pre-destined kings. Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things because they want the world to be safe for ordinary people, the ones they know and the ones they don’t.

Ordinary people matter. They can save the world without being great heroes or kings or whatever. And that is really important and I get so upset when people miss that because Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli and Gandalf and all the others are great characters and all but they are ultimately a hobbit delivery system.

It is ordinary people doing their best who really change the world, and continue doing so after the war is over because they have to go home and rebuild and they do.

If nothing else, I have to reblog this for the phrase “hobbit delivery system.” So accurate it hurts.

(via elenilote)

What I love too is how even the foretold king and the assorted great heroes themselves all come to recognize that their main (and by the end, only) role is to distract Sauron. To the point that by the end they’re all gathered up before the black gates of Mordor in order to keep his attention focused on them, with only the hope – not the certainty – that they can buy Frodo whatever remaining time he needs, if he’s even still alive.

One thing the movies left out but has always been such a key part of the books for me was how when the hobbits returned home, they found that home had been changed too. The war touched everywhere. Even with all they did in far-off lands to protect the Shire, the Shire had still been damaged, both property and lives destroyed, and it wasn’t an easy or simplistically happy homecoming. They had to fight yet another battle (granted a much smaller one) to save their neighbours, and then spent years in rebuilding.

(via garrusscars)

In many ways, the entire POINT is that homecoming.

A quest, an adventure, is defined by the return home, and the realization that not only have YOU changed, so has your home.

(via mymyriadmusings)

“My friends, you bow to no one.”

(via sorrelchestnut)

Even more relevant today.

notanecromancer)

lotr

 

*And on a lighter note:

We have a twitter here too: https://twitter.com/IntrovertUnite. See some of you there?

We have a twitter here too: https://twitter.com/IntrovertUnite. See some of you there?

Next up : Some amusing stories from Tumblr

The Mist Vs. Nightworld: Writing the Supernatural Apocalypse II

I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as  struck by the similarities,  as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.

Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) ,  was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)

In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by  monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are  allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.

In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different  monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.

First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists,  tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.

Second, you are going to  need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off,  or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.

You’re going to need, not just one big monster, but a variety of different  sized monsters, from the small to the gargantuan.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.

You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic  critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t  quite terrifying enough,I guess.

Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.

At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.

At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.

Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean,  or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.

Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting  from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.

Intrepid – fearless, unafraid, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, bold, daring, gallant, audacious, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable;

I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things,  like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and  even some indomitable behavior.

Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.

In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although,  I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.

In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty  blond  White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.

And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though,  they never seem to make it to the being intrepid  part of the story.

There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not  required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who  just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world  is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.

Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.

Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the  literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino.  You can break the rules and have there be at least one  woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added,  preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.

Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will  lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.

And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and  that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.

The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.

Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared  people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.

Nightworld  fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from  previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.

And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.

Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.

Gruesomely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Image result for samurai jack season 5

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.

 

About Those Iron Fist Reviews

I’m still on the fence about this one. I’m just really dubious about watching this. It’s not that I hate the idea. It’s the awful reviews this show has gotten, along with the distinctly lackluster trailers I’ve been seeing.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be watching Iron Fist, as I don’t have to work this weekend, so I’m  free, but when I think about watching it, I  cringe. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to what critics feel about something. I like to make up my own mind and critics have hated plenty of things I absolutely adored, like Suicide Squad, and the current movies of M. Night Shyamalan, but then again, they sometimes get things right. I was bored out of my head with Batman vs Superman, for example.

I think I may skip over some episodes though, and start with the third or fourth one. I don’t think I want to  binge the show straight through. Nevertheless, I do promise to try really hard not to hate-watch this show, and lay out its good and bad points. I do not however promise not to be snarky. It’s one of my skillz. I’m also going to try really hard not to compare it to my favorite Martial Arts show, Into the Badlands, which is airing this weekend, right after The Walking Dead. I’m not promising anything. I’m just gonna try.

<It does not help matters that Finn Jones is just as much of a clueless dick as his character is rumored to be.>

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/iron-fist-review-marvel-netlfix-dud-luke-cage-daredevil-jessica-jones-a7634361.html

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2017/03/iron-fist-marketing-issues

http://www.gq.com/story/netflix-iron-fist-review

 

*And IGN is reviewing each episode as they watch. There are plenty of spoilers and the reviews are pretty evenhanded.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/17/marvels-iron-fist-season-1-review

 

*And in the spirit of hte occasion,  here’s a hilarious  video  of Tony Jaa kicking and punching everyday objects!

http://video.gq.com/watch/tony-jaa-kicks-and-punches-everyday-objects

Supernatural Season 12: The Raid

This seems to be the season for movie related episodes. This episode seems like an homage to one of the greatest Action movies to come out of Korea in the past ten years: The Raid: Redemption. Yeah, what you see in the trailer is pretty much the entire plot of the movie. In this episode, […]

via Supernatural Season 12: The Raid — A Blog devoted to “SUPERNATURAL”

I’m Watchin’ Thangs

Hi there!

Have some mini reviews:



The Expanse:

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This is an extremely mini review, as I’ve not actually sat down to watch an entire episode, even as they keep accumulating on my DVR. As I said before, I don’t usually watch Space Operas, not because I consider them uninteresting, but because I usually don’t have time, and just end up missing the entire series. The same thing happened here, with The Expanse. I also haven’t read any of the books in the series by James Corey, so I don’t know how close a resemblance the show has to those. I have to confess I’ve only watched the trailers and a few snippets. I certainly like what I see and the show is blowing it up on the diversity front. The show has not neglected to round out the cast with Latinxs, Black people, and different Asians. So if that’s  important for you, then check it out.

The character in the photo above is the six foot tall, New Zealander, Frankie Adams who plays the bad ass Bobbie Draper, and already she’s my favorite character, even though I’ve seen nothing more than snippets of her scenes. If you liked Vasquez from the movie Aliens, you will love Bobbie, who is continuing that grand tradition of having bad ass, WoC warriors in space.

The show appears to have improved quite a bit since that first season. At some point I going to need to sit down and binge the Hell out of this show, and give a more in depth review.

The Magicians:

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This is the first episode of the second season and I remain mostly unimpressed. It’s not that it’s a bad show, because there’s plenty in it for the discerning viewer, it’s just that it has several competing tones, which can be kind of jarring if that’s not something you’re used to. On the one hand the show wants to have a lighthearted, jokey, bantering feel, most especially in the scenes where Elliot, Margot, Penny, Quentin and Alice are in Fillory, a fairytale world mentioned prominently in season one, and the real world travails of Quentin’s friend Julia, who got kicked out of Brakebills last season, and had been fumbling to get back into the magical community, ever since.

Julia’s storyline is dark, depressing ,and unnerving, as she seems to spend the majority of her time being sexually, and emotionally abused, and belittled by various characters. Last season, she was emotionally manipulated by a Hedge witch named Marina, and raped by a creature she thought was a god, after she joined a cult. This season, the person trying to both sexually, and emotionally abuse her, is named The Beast. With a name like that you would have to be a complete jackass to trust him, nevertheless, I wish we got to see a lot less of him. (As with all TV villains, he thinks he’s pretty charming, and talks too damned much.)

There’s also a third thread where we keep flipping back and forth, from Fillory to Brakebills, as Quentin, Margot, and Alice, investigate what’s happening in Fillory with Dean Fogg, and that’s confusing and  doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the episode.

You cannot have this rather casual and jokey attitude sitting side by side with the constant degradation of this other character. It just makes the whole show feel bad.  Julia seems like she’s in another show entirely. I’m not sure where they’re going with her storyline, but I wish it wasn’t. Its distracting from what is otherwise a mildly entertaining show about magic.

In the first season, we spent our time establishing various characters, and setting up for season two. This second season is going to be more like the second book in the series, called The Magician’s Land, where the four major characters become the Kings and Queens of Fillory,  except for Penny who doesn’t get a crown. I was mildly peeved by this. Even though Penny is still an asshole, I feel he deserves a crown too, and why was the lone character of color left out of it.

The show gets LGBT representation right in Elliot, but gets a  black hashmark for killing off all the other gay characters (including the lone Black woman, this show has ever had, in season one). It also gets a demerit for making the one  PoC a complete arsehole (Penny), and the other PoC is the Dean of the school. Putting the lone Black person in charge of giving orders, is a trope a show adds when it wants to have diversity, but has no clue how to write characters of color.

There were some things I enjoyed, though. I liked some of the humor. The idea that they could only win their crowns by passing some elaborate tests, only for the tests to turn about to be 90’s pop culture trivia questions, was pretty funny. And of course, I love Elliot, who is always saying the absolutely correct things, at the correct times. He’s the best written character on the show. Snarky and intelligent, but vulnerable, when he needs to be.  Quentin has improved since last season, becoming more sure of himself, but I credit the actor for that, not the writers.

Like I said, its not a bad show, and there’s something in it worth watching for the casual viewer, but the tone of the show is wildly uneven, as it swings between humor, and sexual violence, and I don’t like that.

Legion:

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Well, I watched two episodes of this show and I think I understand whats going on, or at least what the creators are trying to do, while also trying to have a plot. The first episode may appear to be plot free, but it does have one. The title character has been institutionalized for attempting to commit suicide. While there, he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia. I don’t know how accurate the depiction of 1960’s  mental institutions is, but I didn’t have a problem with the depiction, outside of the usual tropes of “crazy patients”, in the background.

While David is  there, he meets a pretty blond girl, that he falls in love with, while he’s being hunted by some type of clandestine Federal organization that wants to study him, because they believe he’s a powerful mutant. This entire plot takes two episodes to resolve because we keep taking detours into David’s mind, as he hallucinates, imagines scenarios, or just remembers things. We spend a lot of time in David’s mind and I think the purpose is to make the audience feel as disoriented about the things happening to him, as David feels. It certainly is a different approach to a Marvel character.

Now, in the comic books, David is the son of Charles Xavier and Moira McTaggert(?) and is the most powerful telepathic being on Earth, more powerful than his father, which is why he spent the early part of his life in a vegetative state, unable to cope with his abilities. In all fairness, I haven’t read about this character in a very long time, so I’m sure he’s gone through a bunch of reiterations since the 9os.

I was reluctant to approach this show. I generally avoid shows that involve blatant displays of mental illness, especially after my own bout with mental illness in my twenties (which has since been in a kind of remission), but the fear that that state of mind could reoccur, is always present, especially when watching shows where mental illness is heavily featured. I went through some very, very rough times , and don’t like to be reminded of one of the worse periods of my life.

The closer the TV depiction of mental illness is to reality, the more I dislike it, and I was expecting to dislike this show, but it turned out to be not that bad. At least not for me, but if you’re a person currently going through some mental shit, you might want to use caution, when watching this. A lot of the show’s visuals are very disorienting. I don’t know that I’ll make  regular viewing of it, but I don’t dislike the show. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s visually spectacular.

 

Humans: 

Image result for humans season 2

Actually this is a very interesting show, in its second season. Yes, it’s about sentient robots, but that’s where the  comparison, between it and Westworld, end. This  British show takes place in the real world, and recounts how humans and robots interact, as robots begin to displace human beings from working life, and how that interaction is unsettled, when some of the robots start to become self aware.

In the first season, we followed a group of self aware robots (Niska, Mia, Leo, and Max) who’d been split up and were trying to find each other. They’d all been created by the same man, now long dead. This season, one of the robots (Niska) uploads their self-awareness code into a system that all of the robots (called Synths) have to occasionally link to, and more of them become aware. Now they have to deal with not just this new awareness, but what kind of relationships do they want to have with humans.

The show also deals with the fallout for the Hawkins family’s interaction with Leo and his family, last season. How does this affect them? What do the children think? How does their interaction with self aware robots affect their future, and will the government find out they were involved? Added to that, the Hawkins parents are still in therapy, dealing with the husband’s brief infidelity with Mia, something I found to be deeply interesting. Did he or did he not cheat on his wife, and how does she process what he did, when he says it didn’t mean anything.?

There are several threads we follow through the episode.  We follow Niska, who is investigating human love, as she picks up a girl at a nightclub, and goes on trial for killing a man. I still don’t see how she can get away with appearing human  because she doesn’t talk or move like one. Why the humans don’t see it, is one of the show’s bigger mysteries.

There’s a secondary story involving a Dr. Morrow played by Carrie-Ann Moss (from Daredevil). She’s investigating how and why the Synths have become aware, and what they want. At some point during the season she will meet up with the more militant Niska.

There’s a third storyline involving Detective Karen Voss, who is also a Synth married to, and masquerading as a human. Its interesting because her husband knows what she is and still loves her anyway. She in turn appears to be very much in love with him, too. There’s also Hester, a newly sentient Synth, who is still discovering who and what she is.

This show is a lot less action packed than Westworld, and asks different types of questions on the nature of sentience. Its more thoughtful, and philosophical, and states its ideas much more blatantly. There are certainly fewer shootouts. There are also more PoC, but the narrative doesn’t explore that particular angle, in depth. Its mostly left for the viewer to suss out how race relations work in a society where robot servants look like any race of people. Do the robots of color get abused, or exploited more, I wonder?  I’m still trying to figure out whose idea was it to make them so human-looking, and why. The Synths don’t behave like humans, though. They speak and behave smoothly, stiffly, and slowly, so its fairly easy to tell they’re not human.

Taboo:

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I don’t even know how to describe this show anymore, as it has gone completely off the deep end, with wild things happening in every episode. But this week’s episode was actually refreshing in that James Delaney’s enemies have finally caught up with him and brought him low. From the jump, James has been three steps ahead of everyone but this episode proves he’s at least not invulnerable or omniscient.

There’s also the added factor that he seems deeply fascinating to many of the women in the narrative. From the little mulatto girl who thinks he’s going to take her to America, to the actress that lives with him and pines for his attention, to his own half-sister Zilpha who, in a fit of cold rage, just killed her boozy, abusive husband.

Zilpha arrives at James house, in the middle of the night, and says she did just as he asked her to do. Since we’ve never heard James express any such sentiment, its no wonder he begins to question her sanity, and if so, is it his fault, although this doesn’t stop the two of them from getting their freak on, after her husband’s funeral. Its not meant to last however, as James, hallucinating that his mother is drowning him, tries to choke Zilpha.

There’s a new player in town, an African man named Chichester, and he’s asking questions about the ship that sank with all hands,  but from  which James conveniently escaped. This is a character who pulls no punches, as he blatantly  taunts the Company men, reminding them at every opportunity that he was once a slave. His investigations into the East India Company’s illegal slave trade prompts them to attack James by burning his newly bought boat. There’s also the matter of some stolen gunpowder that James is attempting to sell to the Americans. So now James has plenty of goods to sell but no way to reach America to sell it.

Brace, James’ houseman, tries to tell him that James’ mother was no saint, but James ain’t hearing none of that, although he does keep having flashbacks to images of his mother trying to drown him. As the tension between all these characters ratchets up, James is starting to lose it, too. He becomes even darker and more violent, biting out a man’s tongue for betraying him, which is saying something, when you consider that, in an earlier episode, he ate part of a guy and cut off another man’s finger. He’s having more hallucinations, too. Is he succumbing to the madness that claimed his father, and that he thinks is claiming his sister?

Later, after recovering from a drunken stupor, he discovers the drowned body of Winter. Did he do this? Is it a setup? We’ll find out. We’ve got two more episodes left and I’ll have a full rundown on the finale when it airs.

 

On a more personal note:

I’m still very fatigued, although a lot less fatigued than I was at the start of the year. Its become my habit to go to bed as early as possible now, which means that a lot of these shows sit on my DVR until the weekend, and that’s what happened with The Expanse and Ash Vs. The Evil Dead. Also, there have been so many new shows, and season premieres, that its just hard to keep up with all of them. I’ve limited myself to reviewing the pilots and premieres only, except for those shows I’ve already been reviewing, like Supernatural, and The Walking Dead.

In March I’ll be reviewing the return of Samurai Jack, in its fifth season; Iron Fist, which I’m not especially enthused about, but hey!, I managed to sit thorough half of Jessica Jones, so how bad could it be; and the return of Into the Badlands, which I will review in the entirety of its second season.

So, TTFN!

Geeking Out About: Brooklyn 99

Brooklyn 99

Today I am  singing the praises of one of my favorite sit-coms, Brooklyn 99. I don’t often watch comedies, because most of them  aren’t particularly funny to me, try too hard, or I just don’t have time for them, and I was not going to watch this one, because I have trouble watching cop shows, (Apparently I can watch cop comedies, I guess.  I loved Reno 911, and thought this might be similar to it. It both is and isn’t.)

Brooklyn 99 is just as ridiculously over the top as Reno 911, but the characters are much more likable, and competent. They’re certainly less raunchy, as this is a Primetime show. The 99’s characters are the kind of people you want to meet and make friends with. The characters from Reno 911 are  much more like  your annoying co-workers, that you’d  like to punch in the  neck. The 99 characters are the kind of people you laugh with and cheer for. The Reno characters are the kind you laugh at, while hoping they don’t  blow anything up. What’s refreshing about Brooklyn 99 is, you start the series with what you think are just a bunch of standard tropes, and gradually, these characters become fleshed out, and more complicated, but not in the usual ways.

This show is also an example of getting diversity right. (Except for the lack of Asians, which it really needs at least one. ) I love the attitudes of the characters. They really do act as if they are a family.

There’s none of the passive-aggressive hostility that passes for humor in other ensemble shows. The characters acknowledge that they are very different from one another, there’s occasional teasing about that, but no one is ever made to feel ashamed of, or less than, for who they are. The only time characters are ever made to feel ashamed, is when they behave badly, and their friends call them on their shit. There’s a general acceptance by the other characters when someone is just a certain way, even if that way is mildly annoying, like Charles Boyle, or in Rosa’s case , occasionally terrifying. The closest you get to meanness in the show is Rosa, but she makes up for it by only kicking the asses of people who mess with her friends, (or inanimate objects that ain’t actin’ right.)

One of the things  I really like about this show is when characters make mistakes, they’re willing to acknowledge they made the mistake, and either apologise, or atone for it. They’re willing to not only  admit when they’ve been foolish, but when they’ve been doubling down on their foolishness too, which is a refreshing change from the real life model of people who actively work at being their worst possible selves. Brooklyn 99 makes me like people, and is a perfect example of how to Grownup.

Here, in some kind of order, are:

Det. Rosa Diaz  (Stephanie Beatriz)

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Rosa is the kind of girl you want to have your back in a fight. If I was arranging a team of people to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, Rosa would be Michonne. She has an appetite for destruction that is awesome. In fact, one of the best birthday presents Gina ever gave her, was a hammer, and some time alone in a soon to be demolished house. According to Rosa it was: The Best Birthday Ever!

Strangers see me like  Rosa, or Captain Holt, depending on their personal anxiety levels. Rosa began the series as a typical anger management case, which is funny when you contrast that with how model pretty she is, and this is part of the show’s charm.The humor comes from the character traits and how various teammates respond to the events in the show. They’re usually involved in some situation that requires them to react, and because their personalities are all so different, you get some spectacularly funny moments. Occasionally the show likes to give us a real treat and put certain personalities together to solve some issue. Hilarity often ensues.

Over the years we find out many surprising things about Rosa, like she’s occasionally intimidated by people too, she used to be a ballet dancer, and  that she was raised by nuns, but when we first meet Rosa she’s beating up a copy machine, with a battering ram, and at first you think she’s just a stereotypical “Spicy Latina”. Thankfully, anger isn’t all there is to her. She’s also honest, forthright, insightful, supportive, loyal, and encouraging to her teammates. Rosa is the shows truth-teller. She specializes in stating uncomfortable truths, and doesn’t shirk from that, even when those truths are about herself.

 

 

Gina Linetti  (Chelsea Perretti)

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If I had to choose someone to be friends with, it would be Gina. She’s that best girlfriend, who always knows where the latest get-togethers are, and how to finagle her way into them. She’s carefree and deeply self involved, but not in a neurotic way, because this is a woman who has realized her fabulousness and is very comfortable with her greatness. The funny thing is, she is pretty fabulous, mostly because she acts like it, and truly believes it. She has a deep and abiding love affair with her phone, through which she receives copious amounts of gossip. She’s also totally  unwilling to let others forget how wonderful she is. Gina is also one of the laziest assistants to ever be in an office. She’s so fabulous however that not only does she not make any secret of this, she is hilariously quite proud of that, (and her interpretive dance skills).

One of the most surprising things,on the show,  is her relationship with Jake, which I truly enjoy. They’ve know each other since they were little children, having grown up in the same neighborhood, and they have one of the best platonic friendships I’ve ever seen on TV. One of my favorite moments is when Jake gives Gina the forehead kiss, as if she were his little sister, and she lets him do it, although she really isn’t affectionate, like that,with anyone else on the show, and I think she’s older than him.

 

Det. Jake Peralta  (Adam Samberg)

Jake Peralta is everybody’s cool best friend (and Charles Boyle would be more than happy to tell you this).

Jake begins the show as an irresponsible, sloppy, childlike character, but you can see his growth over the course of three seasons, as he learns to be honest with himself and others, and even manages to win Amy’s affections, after being so annoying to her at the beginning of the show. Heck he was annoying to me, and definitely to Captain Holt, but I’ve actually grown to like, and even admire  him.He has matured throughout the seasons but not so much that he doesn’t still think that frosting his hair blonde looks really cool.

When I first started watching this show, I was watching it for Andre Braugher, and I initially dismissed Jake as someone I would have to simply tolerate. I thought he’d be the typical White male protagonist who is the center of all the stories, and  everything he did and said, would be treated as gold. But that’s not what happened. Adam Samberg is willing to step aside from time to time, and let the other characters shine, and  teach his character how to grow up. Samberg understands he doesn’t need to be the center of every episode. He’s no William Shatner and that’s refreshing.

Jake always had trouble showing affection, not because he didn’t want people to think he was gay, but because he had father issues, and is still immature enough not to know how to handle affection from others. But he has grown, over the course of the show.

Witness his gradual change of character, as he attempts to become the kind of man who deserves to have someone like Amy, in his life. Jake is still immature, but he genuinely loves Amy, and tries to be the kind of man who can make her happy. Amy’s  love encourages him to want to be a better man. The distinction is subtle but there.  Amy is  the polar opposite of him, and he acknowledges that keeping her with him might require him to act more mature. Jake is also willing to acknowledge his mistakes,  apologize for them, and attempts to do better, not just for Amy, but for all those he considers his friends.

 

 

 

Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher)

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Captain Holt is the father figure of The 99. He’s the no-nonsense, emotionally restrained, backbone to the department. Or at least that’s  how it starts. I love the way this character has grown since the beginning of the series. He started out as real hard-case, coming down  hard on Jake, to get him to be more responsible and adult. He has since come to  understand Jake a lot more, understanding that Jake is at his best when he’s allowed to just be himself, realizing his influence over Jake, and he’s even begun to loosen up  just a bit, under Jake’s influence.

Throughout the seasons, we’ve witnessed Holt loosen up a more, finally becoming comfortable with his detectives, and allowing them to see just a little of his silly side, although he would probably be insulted at that description, not having ever believed in, or condoned, silliness or frivolousness, of any kind. At first, I just saw Holt as The Inscrutable Negro, mysterious, and unflappable. Now I really enjoy this character and I’m always eager to see how he’ll surprise me, during an episode by, for example, having an impromptu dance-off with some street thugs.

Over time, Holt has come to admire Jake, and think of him as a son, which is a total turnaround from when they first met. After all, Jake possessed every quality that Holt disdained, and he didn’t believe Jake took his job seriously, but now he’s very proud of Jake and encourages him to do his best. Jake, who spent the earliest part of his life trying to please his absentee father, and never measuring up, has found the perfect father-figure in Holt.

Holt’s team  admires him, and  strive to make him proud of them.  Captain Holt is an out, gay, Black man. His job might care about him being gay, but his team doesn’t, and they are always respectful of his relationship with his husband Kevin, treating the two just  like every other couple on the show.  For example, when Holt wanted to visit Kevin, who was on Sabbatical in France, Amy, Charles, and Jake, volunteer to dogsit the couple’s Corgi,  Cheddar. The humor doesn’t come from “Oh, these gay men have a cute dog.” No, the humor comes from the usual wackiness that ensues because Amy, Charles, and Jake are such different personalities which clash over babysitting Cheddar.

The show doesn’t browbeat you over the head with After School Special moments, though. How Holt handles his sexuality, in an environment where it is much more likely to meet with resistance, is done with grace and dignity. His gayness isn’t the joke. In fact, no one’s race is ever a joke, and no one’s gender is ever used as a joke.

I admire the hell out of this character. Hilariously he’s the character that most people who don’t know me well, see me as. My close friends find that hilarious, btw.

 

Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews)

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Terry is like everybody’s fit  uncle. He looks intimidating, but after a while, you find out that Terry is merely extremely health conscious and an actual Teddy Bear. Terry is such a gentle soul, that he has to be carefully talked into using his tremendous strength ,and has deep anxieties about firing a weapon. I love how the show bucks stereotypes of Black men, by having two very intense looking black men, who  are nothing like they first seem.

Terry is a devoted family man who truly, madly, deeply, loves his two twin baby daughters, even though he thinks they are possibly trying to kill him. Known for speaking of himself in the first person, Terry  also loves yogurt, exercise, and his job, which mostly involves wrangling all these different personality types, to focus them on one thing together.Terry is the Peacekeeper. His job is to make sure everybody is getting along and ready to work. He’s strong, encouraging, and always speaks up,and goes to bat, for his people. Captain Holt depends on Terry to run the day to day operations, and considering the types of personalities he has to work with, Terry is doing an excellent job.

 

Det. Amy Santiago

Amy is the girl I was in High School, except I was a lot more snooty. Amy is that best friend , that you hated just a tiny bit, because not only is she smart, organized, and ready, she’s a classic goody-two-shoes, (with just a tiny competitive streak). In fact, I think when that description was created, Amy was who they had in mind.

Amy is an extremely moral and ethical person, who believes in strictly following the rules, and lots and lots of planning. She dislikes how Jake likes to cut corners, or sometimes just wing it. Amy doesn’t wing anything if she can help it. She loves to please people she admires, and will go out of her way to get Captain Holt’s approval, going so far as to cook him a large and tasteless Thanksgiving dinner, or agreeing to babysit his Corgi, Cheddar.  I love Amy because she really is a girl after my own heart. Like me, she is a stickler for prudent planning,  and  loves a nice sized binder of information.

But Amy’s life is so rigidly defined that she needs a little chaos, and that’s where jake comes in. Initially, I think she hated him because Jake is everything she isn’t, but as Jake began to prove his love for her, presenting her with options of when and where to be with him, and then waiting for her to decide, she began to see Jake’s true colors. As I said,

 

Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio)

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Charles is everybody’s favorite grandma and/or best friend. Hes loving , admiring, supportive, encouraging, and Jake’s right hand man, even though Jake didn’t choose him for it. He’s the kind of guy who always has a bowl of candy on his desk to offer to co-workers who are feeling a bit down.

I love Charles because, well…he’s just lovable. Joe Lo Truglio, formerly from Reno 911, is the complete opposite of his character, on that show. On 911 he was a venal, angry drug user, but  Charles is a warm, gracious, polite, foodie, and that you believe this, is a testament to Joe Lo Truglio’s acting skills. Charles is always upbeat and optimistic. He always looks on the bright side of a situation, no matter how horrible that situation may seem to others, like when his best friend, Jake accidentally shot him in the butt, or when his dog died. Charles was the only one capable of seeing the silver lining. He has a tendency to be a floor mat because he always puts others needs before his own. Now that he has a young son, whom he adopted, he has someone at which to throw all his tremendous caring.

He’s very devoted to Jake and I love the show has this depiction of a close m/m friendship without screaming no homo, everytime he and Jake show affection.

 

Det. Adrien Pimento

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Adrien is the newest recurring character at Brooklyn 99. Having suffered an emotional breakdown, after going undercover with some mobsters, Adrien is in a very  fragile emotional state, when he returns to his job as a detective. He’s paranoid and full of anxiety, and definitely suffering from some form of PTSD, but his mental state is never made the butt of the joke, and is not actually connected to his zany behavior. He acts wild, not because of his emotional fragility, but because he is thoroughly lacking in any boundaries, like breaking into Jake’s apartment to do Tai Chi, in his underwear. The humor comes from the reactions of his co-workers, who never have any idea what Adrien might  do next, not from making fun of his emotional state. The show skirts a fine line between acknowledging his emotional disability, and  understanding that it doesn’t necessarily inform  his behavior.

Adrien is definitely what’s known as  Chaotic Good.

Adrien is a good man, which is why the rest of the team accepts him. Also,  he and Rosa develop an intense, frantic, (and inexplicable) attraction to each other, although Adrien  explains, at first, that he’s not capable of having a relationship with her, they do eventually decide to get married.  Rosa seems   okay with Adrien’s unpredictability, and takes most of his decisions  in stride. She never tries to change Adrien, or make him behave, (although when she first met him she called him a freak, that she will only fall in love with). After a while, she just accepts him for the wild card that he is.

Actually, once everyone has gotten used to Adrien, they  just try to work  with him, or around him, for example, Gina is one of the few people Adrien will actually obey, when she tells him to do something, and Charles pretty much loves everyone, when he’s not terrified of them. Over time, the team’s acceptance  and trust starts to heal Adrien’s emotional wounds, and he starts to feel confident enough to form healthier relationships with others.
I’m geeking out about Brooklyn 99 because it’s an example of a show thats getting its humor and diversity right, with smart, funny, well rounded characters. It resumes its fourth season on April 11th, on the Fox network. Go figure!

Taboo : Episode One: Well Yeah, Its Racist! Ableist! And Sexist!

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I have a lot to say about this show, so let’s get started.

This show has been hyped to within an inch of its life, so naturally, I was really excited to see it. It stars Tom Hardy, and a host of other British people I didn’t bother to learn the names of because…ITS FUCKING TOM HARDY!!! And Tom Hardy is one of the few actors that I will  watch read a listicle, naked, while he sits in an empty room.

Now, let me get  this out of the way before I get started reviewing. There was a nasty rumor started about this show before it aired. It basically accused Hardy of racism because, as this one person (and once I researched it, I realized it’s really only been that one person, under a pseudonym, on a gossip website), says that he cast himself in the role of a bi-racial character, and that  the show is full of racist slurs against that character (which is true), and Africans in general.

Now, once this rumor hit Tumblr, it grew legs, and some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr immediately went on about how Hardy should be cancelled, how the posters will hate him forever and ever, and how much they hate the show.  My attitude was they should first research where the rumor came from (because at this point, two days before the show aired, that’s all it was, and a little too convenient for my tastes), wait until the show actually aired to formulate an opinion, and well, the show is set in 1800s England, so yeah there’s gonna be some Africa hatred occurring on the show.

Now, if you’re offended at hearing racial slurs, no matter the time period, I understand, and you should, by all means, not watch shows that will upset you. But just so you know, having racial slurs in a period piece is really just historical verisimilitude, and is no different than watching 12 Years a Slave, or Django Unchained. That is exactly the sort of thing White, English, citizens did very casually in 1814.  If you refuse to watch any period film because you’re sick of hearing racial slurs in movies, then I understand that.

I did watch the episode and here’s what I came away with. None of the racist slurs are aimed at Hardy’s character, but they are said ABOUT him, usually behind his back, and as far as I know, he isn’t a Black bi-racial. His mother’s race is not mentioned, although it is mentioned that his father bought his wife. (Buying a wife was not uncommon in that time period. All women, and not just Black ones, were considered commodities then, and white women were routinely swapped around, for all manner of reasons, like securing business ventures, or gaining someone’s inheritance.

At no point in the narrative is he ever shown as a victim of racism, or as any kind of victim at all, other than of his past and own conscience. This is a character with a lot of power over the people he meets because he’s unpredictable, and no one has any idea what his agenda is. This is also a character who realizes this during the course of the episode.

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The people around him are upset because they thought he was dead, having been killed in Africa. When he returns, he is a very different sort of person, who speaks several Native languages, and talks in obscure metaphors. Also, his father suffered a bout of insanity just before his return, and people think he inherited that, not knowing that the insanity was caused by arsenic poisoning. There are more than a few sexist, and ableist slurs in the dialogue, but that one outraged person, who started the racism rumors, didn’t seem to catch any of those, which are also entirely in keeping with the time period. That was  how people talked and treated those with mental illness at that time. So, I’m gonna warn you, if you don’t want to hear that kind of stuff either, you need to skip this particular show.

I noticed that instead of condemning the show, they condemned the actor for writing  it. There has been  a long argument on Tumblr about how much culpability White actors should bear for  starring in vehicles with racist  narratives, or taking roles that could have gone to PoC. I try to take that on a case by case basis. This is not a defense of Tom Hardy, though. This is a defense of the show. If it turns out to actually be problematic in ways I can’t bear, then I’ll will stop watching it.

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So far, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of it, and   will be watching it, on the regular. It’s a gorgeous, dark, gritty show, but not as bad as Game of Thrones, although there is what I thought of as a gratuitous sex worker scene. I was expecting to really get into the characters, but was surprised to find the political intrigue very compelling.

Hardy plays a man named James Delaney, who returns after a long sojourn in Africa and being thought dead.  In the meantime, his sister and her husband, have  inherited everything, including a parcel of land their father owned in America. It’s a huge surprise when James shows up at his father’s funeral. In competition for the parcel of land is one of the most evil corporations to ever exist out of England: The East India Company.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders

One of the former members of The East India Company, now haggling for his plot of land,  used to be in charge of a military regiment in which James was also a cadet, before he began acting strangely. Like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, he had an exemplary career. He was the perfect soldier, until he had an attack of conscience, after finding out exactly  what he was working for. He spent the next two years whoring, drinking, attacking his own officers, and generally corrupting his brother cadets, until getting lost in Africa. I had the impression he was more haunted by his past actions, as a soldier for the East India Company, than anything that happened to him in Africa.

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The first episode is mostly spent in establishing exactly what James’ relationship is to various people. His sister is really his half sister, and they used to have an intimate relationship. It’s strongly suspected that she had a son by him, that neither of them  can acknowledge. James’ father went insane just before his return and embarrassed the family. James has his father’s body exhumed, by a Resurrectionist, and discovers his father was poisoned with arsenic. His sister’s husband hates him and is plotting his death because he stands in the way of the land inheritance, that he and his wife desperately need for the money. The English government desperately wants that plot of land as the British/ French/American war comes to a close, the land is strategically viable, and James refuses to sell it.

James appears to have superpowers, of some kind, as he keeps knowing stuff he’s not supposed to know, like his father dying. When one character says his father kept calling for him before he died, James says he knows because he heard him, which is creepy, no matter what he means by that phrase. Does he employ spies or is he psychic?  Everybody in the cast has secrets. Even their secrets have secrets and there’s just enough information parceled out to keep the viewer strung along.

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The cinematography is gorgeous. The skies are cloudy all the time, everything is dark and gloomy and covered in dirt, including the people, which is exactly how I like my stereotypes of Historical England. James wears a giant Beaver Hat for the entirety of the episode. Its almost like another character on the show. I wonder if the hat will get some lines of dialogue. he talks in a dark gravelly voice, sort of like a Victorian Batman, and everything is just dark, and grim, and darkgrim. Even that Mad Max movie had sunshine and people occasionally laughed at something. Nobody looks as if they’re enjoying themselves, but all this does is remind me that the past was waaay more horrible then the modern world, which actually makes me feel a little bit better.

So far, I’m in!

Oh, and here’s the review that sparked the rumor on Tumblr! (Out of all the possible reviews about this show!) I dont agree with a lot of it, and parts of the review were hilarious, but you can decide for yourself. Is the show racist? Is Tom Hardy?

TV Review: Tom Hardy’s ‘Taboo’ on FX

Samir Chopra

Refusing to Stick to the Subject

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The People-Watcher and Noticer of Things

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musings of a colored introvert with a thing for green juice and french vanilla

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A former cop taking on tough subjects

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Black+Nerdy=Blerdy!!! Black Nerds Unite

Dave Chrisp Comedy

Same Shit, different Dave

The Peanut Gallery

or, a supposedly clever thing I really wish I'd thought of earlier

AfroSapiophile

Intelligent Black Thought.

spokenblackgirl.wordpress.com/

Mental Health & Black Womanhood

UNRAVELING THE KNOT

ALLAN G. JOHNSON'S BLOG

Welcome to HORRORLAND

Horror News, Reviews, Interviews, Art, Trailers, Fashion, Collectibles

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Behind the scenes of the greatest Movie Monsters

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