I’m Looking Forward To Watching…TV

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

Now:

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

March:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

April:

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

May:

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

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

SAVED!!!!

 

June

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

 

(22) Luke Cage Season 2:

Write your own, highly  enthusiastic, response here!

TBD:

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

 

Things We’re talking About This Week

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Image result for fuck off meme

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

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

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

 

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

  pic.twitter.com/Ju6fbwV1JH

 

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

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

Never forget Iron Fist….

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

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

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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

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

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

@@

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 @@

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

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

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

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

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

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

kinghardy nicetrytopredictme

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

 

scallywagsandseamonsters iamnotsebastianstan

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

3fluffies raina16

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

azrieldoestheater

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

blunderpuff

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

@@

 

 

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

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

 

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

Hephaestus can chill too TBH.

@@

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for defenders

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

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

Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


The plot this season was much more intricate, with multiple characters, arcs, intentions, and designs. There was a lot to fit into eight episodes, and that the show managed to keep so many plot lines coherent, while tying up several from last season, is a testament to the skills of the writers. As outlined in the character reviews, everyone got to have a plot. The overriding theme seemed to be everyone seeking power, in the vacuum left behind by Baron Quinn’s rumored death.

The overriding character arcs were the Widow’s corrupt rise to power, Sunny’s search for his wife, MK’s escape, and Baron Quinn’s last hurrah. The writers juggled these four plots with a number of subs, managing to keep most of them untangled, and comprehensible, while still throwing  in a number of unpredictable twists and turns, which I enjoyed. The betrayals were flying fast and furious at one point, and if you blinked you’d miss who was aligning with who.

My biggest complaint is the treatment of the black characters, Edgar, Silver Moon, Veil, an unnamed black teenager at the monastery, and an unnamed butterfly, who were all brutally killed. Of them, only Silver, and Veil, had backstories. The show can do better than that.  I don’t think the show wants to get embroiled in a discussion of anti-blackness, but it will, if it keeps killing off  all its black characters like that.

Plus, it gives us one of the worst types of  character trope, in the show’s finale, with the fridging of Sunny’s love interest, a black woman who sacrifices herself, to save her man. It seems no matter how progressive white male writers believe themselves to be, they simply cannot seem to avoid the trope of the Sacrificial Negro.

Image result for badlands/silver moon

That said, my favorite character this season was Silver Moon. I loved this character but I don’t know why. Probably because he reminds me of the character from the RZA’s Martial Arts movie, The Man with the Iron Fists. I also think it’s very interesting that Sunny, even after he had his own sword returned to him, kept using the one he took from Silver, giving his old sword to Lydia. This character had lines and a backstory. They tried really hard to flesh him out, and that’s to be applauded.

Complaints aside, I am glad that the show remembers there are Black people in the future, and in a fantasy setting, just walking around in the background scenes. The show does need to add more Asian characters though, and Baron Chau is a good start. I loved watching her kick some ass, and liked that she lives to see the next season. She’s played by actress Eleanor Matsuuras, who is from Hertfordshire by way of Tokyo, and has mostly starred in British productions.

 

Worldbuilding:



We didn’t get to see much architecture and landscapes in the last season, and what there was, seemed more of an afterthought, but with the show’s bigger budget this season, we got some very ambitious, sometimes epic, background scenery. From the shot of the huge walls that cut off the badlands from the rest of the world, to the  intricate and lush gardens surrounding the Widow’s home, we got treated to some tremendous worldbuilding. And the details of this world are simply incredible, as seen in the Widow’s study, and the map of the Badlands above, that’s only glimpsed in a brief moment in a single episode, which outlines where this takes place in the US, and marks the different baronies.

I remember that first season, I had some major questions about food and textile production, and we get a partial answer, in learning that not everyone grows poppies. There are oil fields, and if that is the case, then there are also textile mills somewhere as well. These things aren’t knowledge that would be lost, since creating fabrics is one of the most basic human skills. Certainly the working and tooling of leather hasn’t been lost, or car repair either, it seems. We got such a small glimpse of the world in the first season, that we were left with a ton of questions, but the show has really built on that in a way that makes sense for the Badlands. This world is set to become even bigger in the third season after Bajie’s Morse code message is received.

We’re also given some startling glimpses into what type of world we’ve joined. Apparently this world is set about a hundred or so years from now, (how far into the future is unclear, so I could be wrong), but it’s long after some sort of soft apocalypse, that left lots of infrastructure, and fewer people. In one of the episodes, MK and Ava visit a long abandoned mall/dept store, that still has Christmas lights and decorations. It can’t be too far into the future because the lights still work. There’s electricity in some places. There’s little literacy, but some knowledge of medicines and machines ( like X-rays) is still available in the Badlands. And then there’s this unseen city (Astra) that everyone keeps talking about.

And it’s not just the landscapes, but all the tiny details inside the homes of various characters, like Baron Chau’s all white interiors, and grand wall paintings, the dark, old-world, furnishings of the Widows home, the dark majesty of Quinn’s home in exile, in an abandoned metro station. We may have started the show traveling through the classic Mad Max dystopia of the mines, but not all of the Badlands looks that way, and it was very exciting to get these glimpses into a broken past.

Image result for into the badlands season two

 

 

Costumes:

The series had some stunning costume work this season, with rich colors, and beautiful, very sexy, outlines. This is very probably one of the sexiest martial arts shows I’ve ever watched, as usually the costumes for this type of genre can be somewhat pragmatic.You can see there’s real intent  to create a feeling of lost majesty/ bygone luster.

And every  character (even the most minor of them) gets the luxury treatment. From Silver Moon’s  old and tattered Clipper outfit, to Tilda’s pragmatic, newly minted Regent uniform,  from Baron Chau’s sumptuous furs and glittery dresses, to Quinn’s scuffed and grubby finery. These details really bring home the kind of lifestyles of the Baron’s, as the Cogs are dressed in the simplest colors and practical, easily cared for, fabrics.

Everything, and everyone, is given gorgeous detail, from hair, to  shoes, to makeup, furniture, and housing. From Baron Chau’s pearl jewelry and on-point makeup, to the Widow’s more action oriented look, with everyone receiving more elaborate hairstyles, including MK. Even Waldo gets some scrumptious blue velvet to wear.

Each Barony has its own color scheme. Quinn’s was dried blood red, but now that it’s been taken over by Jade and Ryder, it’s a fresher, magenta red color. Baron Chau’s color scheme is white. Another Baron’s color is green. The Widow’s colors are a deep royal blue. The monks and MK are wearing various shades of purples, and oranges. After he escapes the monastery, MK is seeing wearing a gorgeous green surplus, that I wanted for myself, along with some more gentle earthtones.

 

Even the lowest, most minor characters, got the full costume treatment. Look at the detail on this Junkyard King, in his darkened purple, and mother of pearl buttons. Contrast that with the  fresher and more vibrant purple of MKs monk’s robes. I love the matching color schemes in these two photos.

The duplicitous and conniving Jade. Her hair and makeup also reflect her character. Contrast that with her more innocent look in the first season.

Veil is often associated with soft natural colors, and earth tones, in keeping with her honest, down to earth, nature.

The details this season are incredible. Check out Waldo’s pince nez glasses, the little crossed cufflinks, and the chair handle ornaments! I also liked MK’s more elaborate hairstyle, with its tiny twists. Most of these things you’re never going to notice during the series, except for a quick second, but the set designers and prop masters went the full one hundred, anyway. This is the first time I really noticed Waldo’s knuckle tattoos, from his time as a Clipper.


I have since learned that the painting in Baron Chau’s home is called “Leonidas at Thermopylae”, and is a reference to Sunny making a commitment to a fight he knows he won’t survive. It’s by a Neo-Classical French painter of the 19th century, named Jacques Louis-David. Sunny’s and Chau’s postures imitate the formal poses in the painting. This was a hallmark of the Classical style in which grand Mythological and Historical themes were painted in a clean, formal manner.

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Contrast Chau’s white minimalist environment, and  the marble columns, with Minerva’s home which is  very Old- World traditional, with lots of greenery, velvet, and hard-wood.  Chau’s home, and costumes are also a reflection of her character, which is just as cool and calculating, as Minerva’s is cool,yet determined.
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I love the details here as one of the girls wears a matching blue ballerina skirt under her coat.Just a touch of whimsy for a little girl Clipper. I also like the natural hairstyles on the black girls. I’m glad this show remembered black women exist, even if they’re not treated especially well.
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Baron Quinn is like the Badlands version of Darth Vader. Everyone is afraid of this grim creature, come back from the dead, to destroy all their lives. Check out the tiny details like the little glimpses of red in his new outfit, a callback to when he used to be a Baron, and the tiny rivets on his  belts. The rough, nubby, texture of his coat is in keeping with his new rugged lifestyle, and gives the viewer some idea of his rough character, and disturbed mindset. Except for his voice, he’s just rough all over.

Contrast Quinn’s look with Jade’s smoothly streamlined look,  since moving into a more comfortable position of power with Ryder, below. There’s more than a touch of the Antebellum South in Ryder’s suit coat, which is a deliberate choice on the part of the costume dept.
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Ryder Welcomes His Guests - Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 3

 

Cinematography: 

Everything this season was given an upgrade, including the lighting and  cinematography. No detail has been spared. There’s a rich three dimensional feel to the environment, which allows the viewer to see every detail of a character, or event, and totally immerse themselves in the show. It’s equal parts dream and nightmare.

There’s some gorgeous lighting happening here, in the final scene of the series, as Sunny walks off into this frosty looking sunset with Baby Henry.

The monastery is full of candle light, giving its inhabitants a deceptively soft appearance. The irony is that these are some of the most lethal beings in the Badlands.



Sunny is fighting the monks in an old, worn, Nativity scene, at an abandoned dept. store. No one knows the meaning of any of the decorations, but check out the penguin with the Christmas wreath around his neck! The old religion has been supplanted by an even older one, that involves dark Chi, and superpowers.

 

I think it’s  really cute that they chose a baby that looks Black and Asian.

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Whenever possible, the creators tried to use natural lighting on all the sets, so we get some wonderfully lit scenes, like Veil with Henry, above, and Sunny’s fight with Silver Moon, below. Veil is often given the Madonna treatment with her  lighting.


Action:

The show has also upped the ante on the fight choreography this season, with much more elaborate stuntwork, and ambitious fight scenes involving multiple highly trained characters. The show also added some explosives work, which is something most shows don’t have a good sized budget for, but the larger budget shows how much confidence the network has in the success of this series. Whereas last season I struggled to get the word out about this show, its popularity has really soared this season because of its move to Netflix, and basic word of mouth. There are also more than a few websites dedicated to the show, on Tumblr.



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Bottom line: 

All of this adds up to one of the most visually stunning action series on television, and I’m so happy to be alive during its airing. I cannot wait for whatever new visual treats we’ll get next season.

 

 

 

Ghost in the Shell Reviews Are In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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”

Ghost in the Shell/Iron Fist Backfire

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

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

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

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

View image on Twitter

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bigskydreaming:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Martial Arts 2017

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

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

 

Also being released this year are:

Brotherhood of the Blades II

Kill Zone II

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

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

And if you havent seen them yet check out

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

Martial Arts March

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

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

Samurai Jack Season 5 Trailer

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

Into the Badlands Season 2: Video Roundup

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Daredevil Season Two : Episodes 5-8

 

Kinbaku:

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

daredevil-kinbaku-flashback

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

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

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

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

daredevil-season-2-5-kinbaku-matt-murdock-elektra-natchios-roscoe-sweeney-elodie-yung-charlie-cox-review-episode-guide-list

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

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

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

 

Regrets Only:

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

Regrets-Only-850x560

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

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

 

Semper Fidelis:

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

daredevil-regrets-foggy

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

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

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

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

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

 

Guilty as Sin:

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

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

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

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

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

Yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Geeking Out About: Kung Fu Hustle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Into the Badlands : Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key word is “nearly”.

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

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

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

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

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

Into the Badlands: Fist Like A Bullet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part 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.

Geeking Out About : Into the Badlands

Yes, I ve been ignoring all my other reviews and recaps in favor of watching Hannibal reruns and Martial Arts movies. Those of you who are not fans of either, I have two statements:

A.) What’s wrong witchew?

And B.) I apologize, but I’m going to be ranting on these two topics for some time, while I completely ignore your interest in The Walking Dead. (Once I have calmed down, I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming on this blog. Maybe.)

The moment I saw the first trailer for this show I got really excited. I’m a long time a martial arts movie  fan. I grew up watching just about any tv show or movie with people fake kicking  each other. So, yeah, I’m  very excited about tonight’s show. I’ve already started picking out characters I like  from the trailers (The Widow and M.K.) and I sincerely hope AMC doesn’t screw this up or I will be disappoint!

This is one of those post-apoc, dystopian futures, with people in power offering protection from danger. They banished guns and trained up some sword fighters called Clippers. The top clipper, Sunny,  works for one of the barons named Quinn. Sonny is tracking a  lost transport owned by his boss.

There’s a reason why I hate dystopian fiction, but this system is not unlike feudal Japan, with Lords of various territories and the people who work under them. The Clippers are not unlike Samurai,  with everyone else working for the barons without wages. Just safety, from the unaffiliated Nomads, who live in the badlands, I guess. Kind of a cross between 16th century Japan and the antebellum south.

Sunny spots an open air abattoir of what? Slaves? Peasants? He tracks the attackers to ther campsite and they challenge him to  a fight. And we see why Nomads shouldn’t fight Clippers, as bones are broken, necks are snapped, and attackers are flipped. Clippers are actually trained.

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In a  stolen cargo trunk is a young man named MK. Sunny knocks him out, and takes him back to the transport site, where they bury the bodies. MK says The Widow paid the Nomads to capture him.

Sunny takes MK back to the Quinn’s fort. The Baron gives speeches about the badlands and talks up his protection and love. Whatever. I’ve heard these cult of personality speeches before and since I’m not a fourteen year old boy, desperate not to be someone’s slave, I’m tired of it already. He shows them Sunny’s tattooed body, with the hashes of the hundred or so men he’s killed. Who will be the next Sonny?

MK gets sent to the pit to see what he’s made of. The Baron tells his favored son Ryder, that he’s  not to move on the Widow, who hired Nomads to attack his caravan. MK is immediately attacked by a young man named Ajax, who steals his necklace, in an effort to show out for the Clippers, but Sunny interrupts the fight and takes the necklace for himself. Afterwards, a young boy named Bale, offers to watch MKs back.

The baron also has a tenuous relationship with one of his top wives, possibly the mother of his favored son. There’s intrigues as the mother and son discuss the barons weaknesses. I’m a lot less interested in intrigue. It’s the reason I pay only peripheral attention to Game of Thrones.

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Sunny goes to see a woman named Veil.  I’m not sure exactly where this is. Is it inside or outside the walls? I don’t know.  Sunny has an arrangement with Veil, who informs him that she’s pregnant. He tells her she can’t keep it and we learn the punishment is death. For who is unclear. For Sunny? For Veil? For the child? Sunny is not allowed to have a family, although nobody seems to care who he boinks. Since he’s a valuable asset and Veil isn’t, I’m guessing that Veil will be the one killed.

Veil suggests they go into the  badlands and you can see Sunny giving it some thought. I suspect, at some point, he may not get a choice about it. We also learn that the baron hunts down people who try to leave. That’s the way such cults work. Take away any hope of escape, talk up how great you are for them, kill them if they try to leave. After all those poppy fields aren’t going to pick themselves.

It will be interesting to find out what’s beyond the badlands. There’s no long range communications systems, and it will be nice to know what all this poppy picking and oil making, on the various plantations, has to do with the “shining city on the hill”, that’s pictured on MK’s necklace.

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Later, Ajax attacks MK, who totally “Rivers” out with  DarksideWillow eyes, and all. It’s creepy as hell because just like that, MK is gone. In his place is something very alien. I guess Ajax will never get to be a Clipper, as he certainly can’t do the job with one freaking eye. I had wondered what that scene was about and who the boy was in the trailer. It does make me wonder if MK’s superpowers have anything to do with  Quinn’s headaches.

Sunny questions MK about the fight. He says what Sunny saw only happens when he bleeds. He blacks out and can’t remember who he hurts. Creepy. He tells Sunny about Azra, a town out in the badlands. Later, when Sunny goes to see Veil, he’s attacked by the Widow’s henchmen. But she’s  just testing him out and proposing a job. She wants him to bring MK to her. That’s a lot of death, just to offer Sunny some work to do.

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Yes, it’s a great fight scene, even in the rain. I don’t know why I  love rainy fight scenes. It’s more balletic than realistic, with a clean, easy to follow style. It doesn’t go on any longer than it has to, by having the fighters do stupid things to prolong it. Yeah, you’re certain Sunny will win,  but then it turns out not to be a real stakes type of fight, anyway.

Yeah, I like the Widow, a redhead who still dresses in black, after allegedly killing her husband. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see her kick some ass, like we did in the trailers.  I’m intrigued by MK, for the same reason I liked River Tam, from Firefly. The first time we saw her, she was on a box, too.

MK decides to be stupid, though, and breaks into the main house to get his necklace back, and is promptly captured by Ryder and his mother. They find the necklace on him and the mother looks like she knows something about it. Ryder says he will execute MK in the morning and locks him in prison, where Sunny comes to visit and breaks him out. The baron’s wife witnesses the escape. Did she send Sunny to him or did he decide this on his own?

Quinn calls for Sunny, who thinks he’s been caught out but Quinn only tells him to move closer to the house.  I think he fears Sunny will leave because he tells him there’s nothing in the badlands and that he’s Sunny’s only choice. It’s interesting seeing the relationship between the two. The baron is rather needy and mostly clueless about what goes on in anybody’s mind but his own, but then that’s one of the problems that comes with power and paranoia.

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This episode was mostly character and plot intros. The fight scenes were fun and there’s a couple of interesting mysteries like: what is MK, Quinn’s headaches, how/what does The Widow know about MK, and is there anywhere else besides the badlands. The show is called Into the Badlands, so at some point, we’re gonna get out there right? Because I find the political intrigue,  on the plantation, less compelling than the writers do.

We’ll see what next week’s episode brings to the table.