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)

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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?

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Part Two : Favorite Martial Arts Fight Scenes

I have watched one hell of a lot of action movies in my 40 plus years, so you know I have a lot of favorite scenes. Too many to list, maybe. These are scenes I love to watch over and over, again, because they’re beautiful, or exciting, tragic  or sometimes uplifting.

I know a lot of people don’t watch such movies because to them it’s all just violence. And this may seem paradoxical, but I actually am a pacifist who hates confrontations. I’m also a realist,though and I acknowledge that there’s a part of me that’s violent and believes in a little ass-kickin’.. For me, watching fake movie violence is different from engaging in the real stuff, and the kind of distinction I make can probably only be understood by people who have experienced real life violence.

It’s the difference between fantasy and reality. Just because a person likes Lord of The Rings doesn’t mean they believe in elves and just because a person reads about true life crime, doesn’t mean they’re planning their own. Yes,  I have on occasion wished I could choke a bitch but I know that’s never going to happen and fake violence in movies is wonderfully cathartic for those urges. I can experience the pleasure of beating up a (no doubt about it) bad guy, without ever actually hurting anyone, (and technically, they aren’t getting hurt either).

As for what makes a great fight scene, it’s not just the fighting and the fighters.  Its the narrative of the fight, the camera angles, the clarity of  movement. You have to be able to clearly see and follow what the fighters are doing, in sequence. It’s not enough just to throw a fight scene into a movie, plenty of movies do that, but a great fight scene means something. There must be some kind of emotional payoff or furtherance of the plot. At the end of the fight there has to be a feeling of relief, that order has been restored, that the villain, if not defeated, can at least be redeemed, and that the fine, upstanding hero can get on with the rest of his/ her life.

So, here are my favorite movie scenes of bad guys getting their asses handed to them by fine, upstanding heroes, in no particular order:

Seven Samurai: One of the Best Samurai Sword Fights Ever!

 

The Enforcer: This is one of Jet Li’s most fun fight scenes. There’s some awesome synchronized Leg-Fu. I think the actor he’s fighting ,with all the leg and wrist  action, is named Rongguang.

Kung Fu Hustle: I love Jackie Chan but it is this movie that has some of the funniest fight scenes ever shown.. Directed by Stephen Chow, who also directed Shaolin Soccer, I love to watch this one with my niece. She totally gets the Looney Toons nature of this movie.I love the final fight,, in which the evil bad guy gets redeemed by the hero’s compassionate nature..

Fist of Legend:

I just watched this with the niece. We didn’t discuss the historical stuff because she’s kind of young for that but we did have an interesting talk about good and bad guys. Jet Li always has great fight scenes so its hard to pick just one. I like this one because Jet’s character shows compassion for his opponent, (his wife’s father, who has come to protect her honor), the fight ends mostly in a draw, and his opponent leaves with no hard feelings and even manages to impart a bit of wisdom that gets used later in the film, against another opponent.

Chinese Connection: This is actually the first Bruce Lee movie I ever saw and the messages of it and its fight scenes have had a great impression on me ever since. Oddly, the most important lesson I took from it, was about showing respect for  one’s teacher, since the entire plot revolves around two different schools of fighting, and the Japanese show their utter disdain for Chinese culture, by killing the other school’s teacher.

Once Upon a Time in China II: This is the first time I ever saw Donnie Yen in anything and he was fighting my favorite actor, jet Li,  and seriously holding his own. The only other time the two of them have ever fought, is at the beginning of  the movie, Hero.I love the artistry of this scene.

The Protector:This is the first Tony Jaa movie I ever watched, on the recommendation of a friend, who told me he was a lot like Jackie Chan. I do like to watch an actor do all their own stunts, so this definitely appealed to me. I like this scene because it was completely uncut. Its just one long take of Jaa, fighting his way up some stairs.

Daredevil: This is another uncut fight scene from the TV show Daredevil on Netflix. I liked how the creators gave real thought to it, approaching it with a level of authenticity that television doesn’t usually engage in.  Its hilarious  because his opponents just refuse to stay unconscious long enough for him to accomplish his goal, and he just becomes more and more exhausted, as this fight wears on, and they keep getting back up, but I also love the happy ending to this scene.

Captain America :The Winter Soldier: I think I’ve watched this scene about a thousand times. It’s fascinating, not just because its a great fight scene, but because of the emotional repercussions.. This is the first time Steve and Bucky have ever fought each other and Steve has no idea he’s trying to kill his best friend. The shock on his face, when he finds out, is priceless and unforgettable.This entire movie just brings the feels.

The Transporter: I’m not a huge Jason Statham fan  but I had to admit, that this fight scene, was a helluva lot of fun. Its stupid, it’s totally over the top, and goes on much too long, but Jason, though not graceful, moves very well and looks good doing it.

Blade II: I’m also not a huge fan of Wesley Snipes but I like the work he did in the Blade films. His moves are clear, clean and precise. I have no idea what technique he’s using, but he looks good, and its filmed about as well as American directors usually cut  this type of stuff. I do have it on good authority that it was Donnie Yen who directed a lot of the fight scenes in Blade II.

Kill Bill V.2: I know people love the fight scenes from the first movie. I do too but I was not expecting to love this one between Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah. I hadn’t seen Daryl  fight since Bladerunner, so it was especially fun to see her put her shit down, after so long, and at her age. This fight scene also has all the feels, as it has the weight of  history behind it. These are  two women who would’ve been rivals, no matter what, as Daryl’s character, Elle, was never more than The Bride’s replacement, and she always knew that. There’s even a bit of teacher vengeance thrown in, too.

Honorable Mentions:

 The Grandmaster – Any scene with Zhang Ziyi.

The Raid: Basically the whole movie

Kill Bill V1. : The entire last hour of this movie is basically an awesome montage of every great fight scene from just about every Martial Arts movie ever made.

Iron Monkey: The Cleanup Scene, shot in slow motion, in which the proprietors of a local  diner, clean up the night’s detritus using Kung Fu.  See! Kung Fu movies aren’t always about violence. Sometimes people do perfectly ordinary things with their skills besides kicking each other.

I cold go on and on, listing all the beautiful, tragic violent or brutal fight scenes that have stuck in my imagination but I’ll stop here because this post is getting much longer than I wanted.

In Part Three, lets talk about The Legend of Drunken Master or Drunken Master II.

Part One: Favorite Movie Martial Artists

In anticipation of Into the Badlands, coming to AMC this Sunday, lets talk:

I’ve been watching Martial arts movies since I was a kid. Sitting with my brothers on  Saturday afternoons,  watching Chinese people fake kick each other, with bad English dubbing. Yeah, I watched all of them: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The Five Deadly Venoms. The Flying Guillotine, Drunken Master, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and of course, anything with Bruce Lee in it.

The plots were often ridiculous, but occasionally profound, and surprisingly, one could learn a lot about Chinese culture and history. For example, at twelve years old, I knew nothing about the enmity between China and Japan. In The Chinese Connection, there’s a scene when Bruce Lee’s character tears down a sign outside of a Martial Arts school that reads “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed”. My mother had discussed segregation with me, so on that level, I knew that the sign was wrong, I just didn’t know why, but I wondered why the Japanese and the Chinese hated each other in Lee’s movies. (I wouldn’t find out why until I researched the topic myself. For certain, it was never mentioned in any of my high school history classes.) Watching Chinese action movies was also the first time it occurred to me that racism and bigotry was a global phenomenon. That the situation between Whites and Blacks in America was not an  entirely unique phenomenon and that other cultures we’re dealing with similar issues.

But most of the time, the movies were just fun and funny. Afterwards, my brothers and I would decide who got to play the iconic White Haired Villain, (as the oldest, this role often fell to me), then pretend to beat each other up with fake punches, in an attempt to prove whose Kung Fu was better, or try to reproduce those dubbed voices, as we  protected our teacher’s honor or avenged our murdered fathers. Since we were  forbidden to actually hit each other, all our fights were always fake, anyway.

During the eighties, we discovered Japanese Ninja movies and dutifully set about procuring  throwing stars, and tearing up our mother’s walls by  throwing them all over the place. (We, of course, were never allowed to throw them at each other because they were actually sharp. Its all but impossible for kids to get these things now and I wonder whose bright idea it was, to sell them to kids at the local Chinese shop, for a dollar each. Incidentally, I got really good at throwing them. Holla  atcha Blackgirl Ninja, who is not actually allowed to hit you.)

Watching a good Martial Arts movie is like watching a ballet or a ballroom Mambo. The levels of speed, power and grace are found nowhere else in Action cinema. For every Baryshnikov or Gregory Hines, there’s an Action movie equivalent, who is a joy to watch.

These are my favorites, in no particular order:

Chow Yun Fat:

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The “Fatboy” first came to my attention in the movie The Killer, more than two decades ago and followed by other “gun fu” movies like Hardboiled. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, and I’d kind of forgotten about Chow Yun Fat, as a martial artist, after he started making American films. But he came back on my radar after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I loved the character of Li Mu Bai, and I particularly liked his graceful and intelligent fighting style. There’s no wasted movement and despite how lethal the character seems, the style is surprisingly meditative to watch.

Bruce Lee:

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Who doesn’t know about Bruce Lee, and what affect he had on the American public, back in the day? A surprising number of Black Americans were influenced by and admired his drive, wit and philosophy, even now. For many Black people, Lee’s philosophy was our first introduction to thinking critically about race on a global scale, about movies, Hollywood, and how all of it related to the martial arts. Bruce  was also an incredible presence on screen, as well. His speed and fierceness, often informed by his righteous indignation against the bad guys, was simply awesome to watch. Watching a Bruce Lee film is just a highly emotional experience for many of us.

Tony Jaa:

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I’d read about Tony in some martial arts magazine, long before I saw his first movie, The Protector. He reminds me of a much grimmer version of Jacke Chan. Like Jacke, everything you see him do onscreen, is actually him, not a stunt person and not CG, which makes his movies all the more fun, but not especially funny.

Donnie Yen: 

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The first time I saw Yen was in Once Upon a Time in China, fighting Jet li with bamboo poles. I just had to know who that guy was and I’ve been following his career ever since. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but I’m working on it. My favorite movies with Donnie are Ip Man and Iron Monkey. Donnie takes his roles very seriously. He looks sharp, fast and totally committed to kicking his opponents ass.

Gordon Liu:

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Liu was one of the actors I grew up watching, having seen most of his films, with no idea that I was watching a legend. The first time I saw him was in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which I saw many times as a child and, at least in my house, we spoofed pretty often. It was the first time I had any idea that Shaolin was even real. Up to that time, Kung Fu was just something people did in movies, and The Shaolin Temple was not a real place. For me, Gordon Liu was my Shaolin rep.

Jackie Chan:

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One of my all time favorite martial artists, I’ve seen nearly every movie he’s ever starred in and even I few I shouldn’t ever have watched, as not all of them are good movies. Every now and then Jackie likes to do a serious and grim character, but I prefer his affable, goofy characters. If you’ve never seen a martial arts movie before, I would suggest starting with Jackie Chan’s Legend of Drunken Master (to be reviewed in part three of my little series).

Toshiro Mifune:

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I wasn’t introduced to Mifune until I was an adult. In fact I hadn’t watched very many Samurai films at all, beyond Shogun, which he also starred in. What do you want to guess was the first film I saw him in? That’s right. Seven Samurai! I was really surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did because I was prepared to be bored. Mifune shines in this movie. He is surprisingly funny, possibly insane, but very likable, talented and loyal to his friends. Since then, I’ve  seen him in many roles but I always come back to Seven Samurai as my favorite.

Sonny Chiba:

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Our mother would not allow me to watch The Streetfighter the first time it played on TV. She said I was too young, after she watched it first. I wasn’t allowed to see it until I was about 14 or 15, and I get why. She had no problem with us watching Bruce Lee movies, but Sonny Chiba ain’t Bruce Lee.  He doesn’t try to be handsome, charming, witty, funny, none of that. This man is seriously grim and his attacks brutal. He doesn’t try to be pretty or graceful. He’s sort of like a human pit bull. I never get tired of watching Chiba’s movies but I do have to be in the right mood. These are not happy, lighthearted  films and I love that.

Michelle Yeoh:

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As much as I love Summer Glau, my heart belongs to Michelle first. Michelle, who is sometimes called Kwan in Thailand, also has a dancer’s past. The first time I saw her was in Wing Chun, which is still one of my favorite movies with a female lead. Chinese action movies didn’t seem to have the same kinds of issues with having female action stars that Hollywood did. Michelle is very quick and graceful on screen, she doesn’t try to overpower her male co-stars, she prefers to outwit them, and  can hold her own with any of them. If you want a good idea of just how far she’s willing to go, then watch her first movie with Jacke Chan titled Police Story.

Jet Li: 

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I’m not sure there are enough words to express how much I love watching Jet Li’s movies. The movies may occasionally be awful, but he never makes a bad move in them. It’s my understanding that he is an actual martial artist,  having won several Wu Shu tournaments in China, and that he got his name, Jet, from being so fast. He has a brave, bold, fighting style, occasionally funny, witty,  fast, graceful and always fully committed. I’m always up to watch a Jet Li movie. From Once Upon a Time in China, to Fist of Legend, to Forbidden Kingdom, Jet always  brings his “A” game.

Honorable Mentions:

Zhang Ziyi

Cheng Pei Pei

Anita Mui

Note:

I am not a martial artist or a purist of  action cinema. I listed these artists by the names which I first encountered them, and the movies by the titles, under which, I first watched them. I’m merely an enthusiastic observer of martial arts movies. I know a lot of the tropes and can recognize differnet styles when I see them,  (Japanese vs. Chinese,  or Tiger vs Crane or Monkey, for example) but only from movies and documentaries. I’ve never been to a tournament, I don’t know anyone in that life, and I’d like to keep it that way. There’s movies and  there’s real life, and I’m not trying to conflate the two, or act like I’m an expert.

If you’re a purist who has a beef with any of the things I’ve said, you’re gonna have to take it to your own blog, because you won’t get a platform here. If you have a correction, on some point of order, however, then it’s okay to inform me in the comments.

And feel free to encourage me to post more on this because you’re gonna get it anyway.😃

Talking About : Minority Report and Blindspot

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Minority Report – Mr. Nice Guy

In this  second episode,  the mystery deepens as to whether or not the Pre-cogs will be recaptured as Agatha has nightmares about Vega betraying them. Is this an actual premonition or just her fears made manifest? And what exactly is the dynamic between Vega and Blake, her actual detective partner, or boss, or something? Is he trying to hook up with her, mentor her, or what? Questions about Vega’s  last case arise, the FBI is getting involved and its getting harder to keep Dash a secret.

I’m still loving the sheer numbers of PoC in the background and foreground of the show, even inter-racial, LGBTQ couples are shown. There’s a nightclub which is both silly and intriguing because, while the music is still pretty shitty, the tech is very convenient. You just rub your bracelets on people and find out whether you’re compatible or not, which kind of defeats the purpose of going to the club, but okay. The clubbies still dress very badly but are at least wrapped very tightly in spandex, so that dynamic hasn’t changed. And I think I spotted someone with those giant, plastic shoulder epaulets? Why?

Dash is horrible at following directions and talking to women but that’s to be expected, since he lived in a bathtub for the first part of his life, and then on a farm. Although, he has no trouble talking to a purple haired chess player, at  the park.

The case is, while not trivial, is still inconsequential to the rest of the drama in the show. Even fifty years from now, there are still stalkers who  kill women who aren’t giving their boners the attention they feel they deserve. I thought we’d have made at least a little bit  progress in the fight against “toxic masculinity” by then, but I guess not.

I’m still reluctant to get on board and give the show the love it wants to have because there’s something not quite right about it. I think it may be the acting. I’m still loving the tech,though. and hating Akeela”s rave style makeup and clothes. She’s the least professional looking professional on the show and for some reason I’m having trouble getting past that, although I’m okay with most of the other social progresses made on the show. And Akeela’s makeup is just hella annoying.

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Arthur,in an effort to set himself apart from his brother’s personality is basically an asshole. Agatha is a non-entity as hollow as her hologram balloon. Okay, maybe not completely hollow. She’s full of dire predictions. I like Vega but she seems to be trying too hard to channel Abby from Sleepy Hollow and I hope she grows up and  develops a personality of her own one day.

In an effort to appeal to young people ,the show has cast a lot of very young looking actors which unfortunately gives us the impression that the future is entirely run by teenagers in club gear.That would be much easier to take if the show didnt take itself so seriously and added more banter and humor. It doesn’t need to be more cheesy.

This episode is subtly improved over the pilot, and hopefully, will improve some more to the point where I actually care about the people in it. Right now it feels like I’m just going through the motions of watching it.

I ain’t in love, yet and at this rate, I don’t look to be, soon.

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Blindspot – A Stray Howl

The mystery of who  Jane is  deepens as Kert comes to believe she’s someone he knew, as a child, which is why his name is on her back. Jane visits a psychologist and has more visions that cause a lot of shame and guilt. There’s explosions and car chases as required and  we get to see Jane kick some more  ass, as required.

The blond techie, who provides so many of tonight’s exposition, is that same young lady I kept wondering why I was looking at, at the end  of  first The Avengers movie, and while I like her, I’m getting tired of seeing her. I think this episode is better than the first because the writers are not stinting  on the clues, although they could also all be red herrings. The other characters, and there are far too many for me to remember, although I like Ramirez, played by Rob Brown, are slowly starting to come into focus but most of the action takes place between Kert, Jane and his boss, Marianne Jean Baptiste, who I really like.She reminds me of a former boss, I once had, only with a British accent.

The show’s cast is very slowly starting to gather some chemistry. I like the way the actors react and talk to each other. There’s even a little bit of snark from some of them, mostly Ramirez,  and doesn’t feel entirely out of place. Kert needs to stop telling Jane to wait somewhere, as this is like  the third or fourth time he’s done that, walked away,  and then she’s gotten into a fistfight.

Now I remember where I’ve seen Jaime Alexander. She was on Agents of Shield as Lady Sif and in the movie Thor. I’ve seen her kicking ass and taking names, so her action-girl bonafides are authentic. She really sells the emotions of the role and I really like her but Kert Weller, played by Sullivan Stapleton, ( from the 300 sequel and the show Strikeback, which I enjoyed,) needs to stop trying to emote. He’s not good at it and he looks much more believable  when he’s being cool and stoic and shooting something.

Photo from the episode "A Stray Howl"
Photo from the episode “A Stray Howl”

I paid almost no attention to the mystery in the episode and didn’t really care. I know it involved a drone program, and some soldiers, so I paid enough attention to understand if the plot crops up in later episodes.

Incidentally, I had the captions on when I watching this and they are hilarious. It’s really weird what the typists think they need to describe to the hearing impaired. Words like “soft ominous music” and itty bitty musical notes clutter the bottom of the screen, in an effort to seem helpful. I’m not hearing impaired but I don’t think it’s helpful to such people to type “cheerful music plays”. One day I’m going to turn off the sound and make up my own music, which is probably what hearing impaired people actually do.

I’m still not in a committed relationship with this show but I can see us getting married at some point in the future.

Geeking Out About: Heroes Reborn (Or Maybe Not So Much)

I’m one of the few people willing to admit that I actually enjoyed the original Heroes for far longer than I apparently should have, so when I tell you I was not horribly impressed with the re-mix, you get a full understanding of what I mean.The show is promising,  infuriating and paradoxically boring. I’m going to keep watching it but I’m definitely giving it a very strong side-eye.

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Well, for one thing, I did not care for the powers depicted in this episode, the characters were annoying (some of them should just DIE!), and the plot was a little less than engaging. It didn’t even reach the minimum levels of engagement that I had with Minority Report, or I was just sleepy.

Okay, it was nice to see Noah Bennett again. His reappearance and plotline was one of the shows highlights. Not very high, but when compared to the rather lackluster plots of the other characters, it was awesome. The least engaging plot line of the entire episode was the video game vixen, named Katana Girl. I do not like to watch video games. I will play just about any game but I am not a spectator. I like to get in the game and fiddle around in there, but that’s’ what her entire plot seemed to consist of – watching someone else play a game that you don’t care about and have never played yourself. And how this is a useful power is anybody’s guess. Also, this is an example of fight scenes that are thrown into a show because someone noted in the script, “action scene needed in this space”. I just was not feeling this character at all. She appears to be thrown in so that we can get lots of shots of her shiny, leather covered ass, (I get truly tired of looking at women’s asses on TV.)

Kiki Sukezane plays Miko in Heroes Reborn.
Kiki Sukezane plays Miko in Heroes Reborn.

Katana Girl is also the least interesting character. It means something when I cant tell if she was supposed to be a real person who just  looked like Katana Girl or if she was a live-action version of a video game character, brought to life. Her fight scenes were stiff and slow and meant nothing  to me and I’ll be glad when Hiro shows up to show her how that shit is done.

The two most annoying characters in the entire show were the husband and wife team who were spirited away to the lab by Teleporter Tommy. Luke and Joanne are easily the two most hate-able people on television right now and they were only on screen for maybe thirty minutes.My biggest problem with them, is the one I have with all Crusader types. So ,their plan is to eliminate all Evos from the earth by shooting them one at a time? Really? All of them? That’s a Hell of a lot of killing to be doing, especially for just two people.Is there a network of them? Are they two members of some sort of sleeper cell? Hell if I know.Not saying they haven’t been successful and somewhat lucky in their endeavors til now but c’mon guys! One at a time?

Judith Shekoni joins the Heroes Reborn cast as Joanne.
Judith Shekoni joins the Heroes Reborn cast as Joanne.

We don’t learn what their particular beef is with the Evos. They don’t bother to ask a single question at the lab. They just walk in on some people engaged in mysterious computer activity and without any warning, not even a “FREEZE” or “PUT YOUR HANDS UP”, they start firing. They didn’t even bother to ask why the lab is there, where it is or what it’s for. That and the two of them are just sloppy. Its a wonder they have manged to survive as long as they have. What happens when they run up against an Evo that can’t be taken down by a bullet? Although there appears to be no chance of that happening because, so far, none of the heroes I’ve seen have been all that awe-inspiring.

Zachary Levi plays Luke in Heroes Reborn.
Zachary Levi plays Luke in Heroes Reborn.

One of the more interesting characters is the mysterious man whose been following and helping Tommy, and El Vengador. I don’t know. Maybe I just like Mexican Wrestlers. I liked Carlos too and I also liked the idea of a kind of Evo Underground, shepherding the secret heroes into Canada. And how cool is it to be able to turn metal objects into  24K gold? It’s the only superpower in the show, that I wanted.

Incidentally, I was wondering if people in that world had the internet? Why would you go to some unknown place, to see a bunch of unknown people if the Evos are as persecuted as they say they are? At least an online community would give them some idea of their numbers or something. Either the Evos are too rare, have too little power or are just highly disorganized. My theory is that most of the Evos are middle-class, middle-of-the-road Americans, who have never know the persecution of a minority class, so most of them (at least the ones who are White) have no structures or communities in place to protect them, and for some reason, it does not occur to them to form any. It would seem, like Tommy and his mom, that they’d rather go it alone.It is interesting that being a member of a numerical majority seems to be working against the White heroes and they would probably start isolating themselves, as it would  harder to hide in a marginalized community or know who just to trust among other White people.

It’s telling that the Evo Underground is located in and through a Hispanic neighborhood, by a people who have known at least some form of persecution. The structures already exist, in such places, to engage in secretive activity. I imagine such undergrounds probably exist in many of the more marginalized communities, run by people who know what its like to live in a state of constant fear from the state and its agents. These are also the  kind of communities that would be the most  resistant to the propaganda used against the Evos as they would already have an attitude of resistance against state policies that had been used against them, in the past, for example.

Robbie Kay joins the Heroes Reborn cast as Tommy.
Robbie Kay joins the Heroes Reborn cast as Tommy.

Another thing that bothered me, the heroes introduced at the  top of the episode, only to have these people get killed off right away by Luke and Joanne. Yet another reason to hate the two of them. I found those characters interesting and they were knocked off without ceremony, only to be replaced by crap like Katana Girl. She better get waaay more interesting in future episodes.

Its not that I hate it. I’m just feeling a bit underwhelmed.

I was very excited for the first ten minutes or so, then as my enthusiasm slowly started to flag, I  wondered why I wasn’t enjoying it more than I was. Mostly all this episode did was make me miss all the old characters, like Claire and her extended dysfunctional family. There’s no sense of awe or  joy or wonder, there’s more than a bit of confusion, and a lot of these people are distinctly lacking in personality.

I can’t  quite hate the show yet, because it just started,. and there’s still  room for improvement. Good Gob, but  is there room!

And So It Begins

I’m going to start off my Fall viewing season by trying to cover as many shows as I can. I’ve already given a rundown in a previous post about which shows I was most interested in, which shows are just “meh” and which ones I was flat-out not looking at. Nevertheless,  I’ve probably forgotten by now  which ones ones I said I would cover, anyway.

This one is a little late but we’ll start with:

Bastard Executioner:

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I like this show. It looks good and it’s got some great actors in it. I didn’t pay much attention to the plot and I don’t know how much cultural accuracy is involved in its particular version of the Middle Ages. But here’s what I was thinking as I watched the premiere: Boy! are these people dirty. There’s dirt everywhere and on everyone, even the people you would think wouldn’t be dirty, the members of the nobility. At the very least, these people are engaging in living with some powerful odors.

The show opens with people fighting and fucking and at no point do we see people bathe, even  though they were just engaged in some sweaty and dirty activities. Bathing is discussed fairly often, so theoretically, it does exist in this world, but no one seems to want to take the time to do it, and I found this very distracting. Hell, people didn’t even wipe themselves with warm cloths, or do that thing where they splash their faces with water, out of those water bowls people always seem to have in historical dramas.

This show is by the same creators of Sons of Anarchy, so I expect lots and lots of intrigue. I paid just enough attention to the plot to recognize Bill the Vampire as a schemer of the first order, so I hope he lasts a good long while, and that Brattle needs a personality donation. I do understand that his wife and family got fridged on his behalf but, really dude! It’s okay to change facial expressions. I think I saw Katie Segal, but she wasn’t wearing any makeup, so it was really hard to tell it was her. She plays a witch on the show and I kept staring at the actress’ face, trying to see Katie in it, and getting frustrating glimpses.

I think I glimpsed some Black people in the background of one scene, which I found heartening. I like that the writers remember that Black people had been invented by the Middle Ages and had been engaged in  something besides slavery. You know, sometimes, we just hung out with people and farmed or something.

I’m going to keep watching this one, despite the distraction of “dirt”. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it though, and if nothing else, this show really makes me appreciate indoor plumbing.

Let’s move on to:

Gotham

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I wasn’t greatly interested in watching the second season of this, as I was not impressed with the first. Also I had some difficulties watching it, which I will get into in a short moment.

I’m a Black woman, who lives in the U.S. Gotham was released last year, right during the height of media reporting of police brutality incidents, against African Americans. Every report left me an emotional wreck. This was true of a lot of people I know.

I, sort of, liked the show. Well, at least I didn’t hate it.  I enjoyed watching Fish Mooney tearing up the scenery and I liked how batshit some of the plots and characters were, but I had to stop watching the show, not just just because the series kept getting worse but because I could no longer watch police misconduct on television, without having severe anxiety attacks and comparing it to real life. It’s called escapist TV for a reason and this wasn’t escapist for me. I couldn’t watch the corrupt Gotham PD beat up suspects, railroad people into prison, accept graft, lying and engage in bribery and consider it entertainment.

I still can’t.

So, I was more than a little reluctant to watch this season of the show, but wanted to try again. As a general rule, I avoid cop shows anyway, mostly because they’re all alike, but I had an especially difficult time watching any of them since last year. Every time a police officer shot someone, I had severe anxiety and had to stop watching. Whenever an officer refused to shoot someone, I had severe anxiety and had to turn the channel. It was best to just stay the Hell away from such shows altogether , as I could no longer approach these shows as entertainment, and could only think of them as an indictment against real police officers, no matter how fantastical the show.

The first few minutes of this season’s premiere had me wanting to turn the channel, again. The only reason I got past Gordon being unwilling to shoot some crazy in the street, is because he had already been established as largely uncorruptable, during season one. But it did get increasingly difficult to watch as Gordon kept getting further enmeshed in the villains schemes. He ultimately chose not to, so I still have faith that he will try to remain a good guy, despite the temptations around him.

That said, I am still not impressed with this episode. I’m still not greatly interested in any of the characters. I hate Selina Kyle. I just hate that actress.  Bruce Wayne is less than lackluster as a character, although, I like Alfred. The women are all paradoxically annoying and characterless, which is an amazing feat of engineering, especially Barbara Keene. I don’t think the writers have a single damn clue what to do with her. This is a character flailing around in search of a plot. I’m still into watching the villains scheme and I may keep watching the show because it says it’s specifically about them this season,  but my question is, considering how awful the GPD is, what makes that different from last season?

Oh,  and the guy who plays the Joker, is just fucking annoying. He’s trying too damn hard to be Joker-ish and it seriously got on my nerves. Like he’s trying to channel both Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger and it’s just not working. I think it’s because he’s just not the great an actor. He simply doesn’t have enough depth to accurately portray the complexity of the Joker, who is technically, not insane, but is insane. But t’s just the premiere. Maybe he’ll develop depth later on, I hope.

I won’t be reviewing this show again unless I see something extraordinary or have something especially poignant to say.

Next we will tackle:

Minority Report

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I  was very looking forward to watching the pilot, even though I wasn’t especially interested in the trailer. I’m one of the few people on earth willing to openly admit to being a Tom Cruise fan, so yeah, I actually enjoyed the movie a lot, and I was interested in seeing how the show would handle the movie’s basic plot line.

The show doesn’t start on a good note. The narrator chronicles the history of the pre-cogs, and the children portraying them are awful. I know the scene is supposed to be all tragic and shit but I just thought it was funny. Thankfully, it gets a little better after that.

This world is very clean and modern and run by machines and I enjoyed looking at it. It’s not utopian, although I don’t like the idea of ads that detect when you’re feeling stressed, so you can be offered drugs to calm down. None of the police dress like service professionals. They all dress like they came off some avant garde runway and they talk like teenagers, so it’s hard to take them seriously.

I do like that the creators have a Black woman in the lead. They  are probably trying to capture some of that Sleepy Hollow magic, although this show mostly reminds me of Almost a Human, a show I really enjoyed and wish this one was, instead. And although the actress isn’t bad, she’s less than compelling in this episode but she tries, though. Maybe she’ll develop more personality later. And yes, I was horribly distracted by those tiny gloves she wears. Really, people! Ya’ll couldn’t find some gloves that fit?  I was also distracted by the makeup on that one Asian woman. It’s stupid and I kept laughing at it. She doesn’t look like a professional anything. She looks like she’s going to a rave. Vega is really cute and we get to see her in a lot of really tight clothes, but I keep unfavorably comparing her to the lead from Sleepy Hollow. I know that’s not fair but I couldn’t help it.

The year is 2065, and there are PoC all over this show, so the writers have been paying attention, not just to things like the future of technology but to future social and population trends, as well, and I liked that.  I liked seeing Hispanics in the future. It’s nice to know they’re still around, unlike the TV shows of the past where PoC had all disappeared to their own planet or alternate dimension or something. The movie was really good at trying to predict technology and neglected the social and people angles of the future. I liked that the show didn’t turn the presence of PoC into Hallmark moments. They’re just regular people, working jobs and shit.

I liked that even though Vega (yes, its a dumb name) believes Dash is a precog and is willing to accept his crime predictions, she keeps refusing to believe any of his other, smaller  predictions, like where she should stand or what she’ll be having for dinner. It’s also nice to see she has a family, although that felt kind of tacked on. Her Mom is, like 65, and she has a tiny brother, who I already don’t like. I also didn’t like the cheesy music that was orchestrated to make the viewer feel excitement, but maybe that gets better later.

Dash is the pre-cog who allies himself with her as a way to prevent the murders he sees but doesn’t have the resources to stop. I have a little trouble accepting the premise of crimes you can stop before they happen, as traditionally, that’s not actually what the police do. I mean, they do sort of, but not really. Mostly they engage in the cleanup of crimes that have already been committed, and capturing the perpetrator of those, is what stops future crimes by that person, I guess.

At one point Dash has a seizure in a restaurant and says that phrase from the movie and I know it’s suppposed to be a serious moment, but I laughed at it. Does that make me a bad person? At another moment, they question an old guy who runs away, and Vega chases him, (because there has to be an obligatory chase scene,) and I couldn’t help thinking that this looks like an investigation run by amateurs, or the writers really don’t know about police investigations, and are just making shit up as they go. Anyone who has ever watched the show 48 Hours, knows that detectives don’t operate like this. This is pure TV show detectiving.

I did feel  a little better when the actor from the movie, the one who took care of the precogs, showed up with some tech that allowed Vega to see what Dash sees, while trying to prevent the murder of a businessman’s wife by some diseased birds. I automatically suspected the husband as the perpetrator, so I wasn’t really invested in that part of the plot, which is kind of silly.

Dash’s sister, Agatha, does put in an appearance and she asks Dash some very pertinent questions, which he is very vague about, and she has a few dire predictions,too. His brother shows up to and is a dick. I had those same questions Agatha did, though, and they were not answered to my satisfaction.

I’m probably going to keep watching it, despite that it’s not a compelling show, because Wilmer Valderama is in it and that man is Hawtness Incarnate. I could watch him all day, and I have…in From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series, where he plays a really hawt Mexican vampire. I don’t love this show yet because it could be improved by having Valderama bite somebody.

Lastly, we’ll discuss:

Blindspot

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I had no intention of watching this but it was on and I was reviewing, so it wasn’t out of my way or anything. I’m not really into espionage shows and this one looked like a cross between The Bourne Identity and Memento, and I enjoyed both those movies.

Let me be frank in stating that I have no idea who the Hell Jaime Alexander is. She looks vaguely familiar, so she must have starred adjacent to a show I liked, but not actually in one of them. I really like her, though and I’m going to keep watching this.

Jane Doe is a really interesting character. There’s an intriguing mystery and Jaime really sells the despair, confusion and bewilderment, which was giving me all kinds of feels and the episode really seemed very like The Bourne Identity, only this particular episode had a clearer purpose, in which she and Agent Weller  try to stop a Chinese terrorist attack on New York City.

I didn’t buy the FBI’s excuse for letting her tag along with them on a case, though. Those guys are some fairly dense and stubborn MFs, and once they get an idea in their heads, there’s no talking them out of it, I don’t care how angry or determined you act. The real FBI cannot be swayed by temper tantrums or appeals to civility or logic. But it’s a TV show, so I do realize, if she doesn’t tag along on their cases, there will be no show. Agent Weller does seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to persuade  her to stay in the car, while he investigates, until she throws some logic at him, about why he’s wrong, and then  he relents.

I did enjoy the scenes where she  kicks some ass. That was kind of fun although I do have to say, watching White people beat up people of color also so makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. Apparently, I like my violence to be intraracial. I don’t know why.

I liked some of the other characters in the show. There are several women and PoC, both men and women, but, once again, we get a lack of Hispanic representation, even though it’s set in NY,  and you’ve got a bad Asian guy. Actually there are several bad Asian guys. I get that this was in Chinatown and that’s where bad Asian guys would probably be found but I still didn’t like it. It didn’t  seem like an international thing, though. Just a disgruntled guy, in a desperate situation. But the whole Yellow Peril thing, in action shows, is getting tired, which is why I’m hoping the series Rush Hour will do better, on that front.

I like that the other characters on the show have a little personality of their own, are quietly snarky to Weller, have some  skills of their own, and some of them get a little mystery attached to them, although we spend most of our time with Weller and Doe.

Weller, whose name is prominently tattooed on Jane’s back, doesn’t have a whole lot of personality himself, beyond squinting and determination, but Jane has attached herself to him as her anchor, nevertheless. She keeps hugging him, and you can see the discomfort on his face as she clings to him, as the only semi-known factor in her life.  I only hope that they remain just friends and the series doesn’t do the whole “will they or won’t they” bullshit, because that’s a very tired trope, and  I’m heartily sick of seeing it.

I really liked the show, though. I didn’t  think I would. I will tune in next week, for it.  I like to plan my viewing habits but sometimes that planning gets broadsided by a really intriguing show and the shows I thought I would love, turn out to be a bust.  I hope this one sticks around and becomes as good as Person of Interest, which I also fell into by accident.