Kingsman, Justice League and The Last Jedi

Now that I have seen It, these films are my most anticipated blockbusters for the rest of the year.  I thought I would take this post to discuss some of my hopes (and worries) for each film. The films are listed in the order of their release dates, not by anticipation. The Last Jedi is my most anticipated, with Kingsman second and Justice League third.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service

I thought the first Kingsman looked somewhat generic when I saw the first trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a witty, well-paced, action-packed deconstruction and parody of the Bond films and spy films as a whole. Taron Egerton gave us an amazing performance as “Eggsy” and Colin Firth had a believable turn as an action hero with plenty of gravitas. Whenever I watch Liam Neeson’s jilted choreography in Taken 2 my mind comes back to this film as an example of how to execute an action scene with an older actor.

Between the action, the performances, the attacks on spy cliches etc., Kingsman was a film that felt like a rare treasure. That is why I was not excited to hear about a sequel. I was worried that the sequel would not be able to capture the magic of the first. The trailers have given me some hope but I can’t completely ignore the voice in my head that tells me this film might feel like a cheap cash grab.

It will be good to see Colin Firth on screen again but I can’t help but feel like his character’s reappearance cheapens his death in the first film. I am excited to see Pedro Pascal, who is probably best known as Prince Oberyn on Game of Thrones. While I don’t usually like Channing Tatum, I find that he does well in comedic or semi-comedic roles like the one he will likely have here as Agent Tequila. To his credit, Tatum also had a surprisingly good serious turn in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

The action we’ve seen so far looks like it is doing its best to top the first, but I hope that the action isn’t the only thing that is better.

2. Justice League

Now, to say that the DCEU has had mixed reviews would be an understatement. Man of Steel got so much hate that even the editor of Rotten Tomatoes wondered why its rating was so low.  BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad both followed that up with even worse reviews, and then Wonder Woman mercifully gave the DCEU its first fresh film. I don’t judge a film purely by what others think but it is a fact that bad word of mouth can negatively affect a film’s earnings.  A slate of films deemed weak by the general public would definitely hamper Justice League.

One thing that has bothered me since I saw the Comic-Con teaser for this film was the seemingly drastic shift in tone. One-liners abound from every character, including a Barry Allen whose personality seems transplanted from Wally West (his nephew-in-law who also becomes The Flash). I don’t agree that Man of Steel or BvS were “dark and gritty” like a lot of people say. Like I’ve previously discussed the films are dark in comparison to the stable of light fair Marvel has pumped out since 2008 (with the exception of their Netflix shows). A comic book film that doesn’t have one-liners every five minutes becomes “depressing”, it lacks “fun”. This is regardless of whether fun fits the character or storyline. People might say this Marvel v DC is a conspiracy but answer me why the darker Marvel Netflix shows don’t get swarmed by the same comments complaining about their lack of “fun”. The Defenders is the lightest one so far and even that is still miles darker than anything the MCU has put on the silver screen.

All of this to say that I was worried the Justice League was being made with a conscious effort to throw in as many one-liners as possible and make it fun. Let’s not forget, Suicide Squad is more “fun” than BatmanvSuperman and it has a slightly lower RT score at the moment (25% to Bvs’s 27%).  Throwing in more music in post-production and writing plenty of jokes didn’t help it overcome its other issues. “Fun” isn’t enough to make a film good and a “dark” tone isn’t enough to make it bad.

Moving on.

I have no problem with special effects themselves but there are a lot of weak looking shots in the marketing so far. There are scenes where it is far too obvious that everything but the actors are computer generated. The floor, the backgrounds, the sky all look fake. Cyborg in particular looks terrible when he is directly beside any of the other members of the league. I don’t mean that they are just stylized a la 300, I mean they are just poorly rendered. I am hoping that the film looks better by the time it’s in theatres.

My hopes were high hearing about the Justice League finally making it to the big screen. I have rewatched the animated series numerous times and have unashamedly daydreamed of finally seeing this film. I can’t help but think that it would have been better to see some more solo films prior to this team-up, but I have to admit that this approach could have some benefits. Characters that were either not well known or respected before, such as Aquaman can shine in a team setting first, which will help to boost sales of their solo film. However, Marvel has to get credit for being able to build a great brand on the backs of characters that were relatively unpopular. Some people probably never though Iron Man or Captain America would be on Spider-Man’s level in terms of box office receipts but Marvel pulled that off.

Additionally, while I have a man crush on Jason Momoa I am worried that his acting will be a painful weak link in this film. If some of his other performances are any indication, we could be in for a painful two hours, especially if his character gets a lot of lines.

3. The Last Jedi

Last, but not least.

The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, but it did bring some new things to the table. Namely a continuation of our beloved characters from the original trilogy, along with Rey and Finn.

One of the things that bothered me most about TFA was the almost cruel bait and switch for Finn’s progression. He was marketed as another Jedi, and then ends up being comic relief that is incapacitated by the end of the film. John Boyega has said that Finn’s character will shine more in the sequel and I hope that’s true.

In true nerd fashion, Daisy Ridley quickly became my biggest celebrity crush. Fanboying aside, her performance was great and I was also able to ignore most of the Mary Sue complaints since her character progression almost mirrored Luke’s. However, her progression did draw more attention to the paltry one Finn received.

Rogue One actually helped to increase my anticipation for this film, giving us an exciting and different Star Wars story that could have become a cheap cash-in or a rehash.

With a different director on board for this film, and the successful box office run of TFA, I hope The Last Jedi will give us something new as well.

Luke Skywalker is back and although I found Mark Hamill’s acting somewhat weak in the original trilogy, he has developed greatly as a voice actor and film actor since his last outing in the Star Wars universe. Coincidentally, his most recent performance I can recall is in Kingsman.

It will be bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on screen for the last time, presumably with Princess Leia being killed off out of respect for the actor. I remember that one of my aunts passed away around the same time, and that I couldn’t help but think that it was a powerful testament to how death links us all. Let’s allow entertainment to link us as well.

It (2017) Review

Next to “The Shining”, “IT” is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I was probably one of the few people that was actually excited with the initial announcement of a remake. The book follows a group of eleven year olds, “The Losers Club”, battling the shape-shifting entity “IT’ in Derry, Maine. IT has the ability to transform into their greatest fears but it’s most popular form is that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. In the book, the Losers Club battle It in 1958, and then again 27 years later as adults. This film places the kids in 1989, and part II will follow them 27 years later.

The 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry as the titular IT is a childhood memento for many people, who refused (and still refuse) to see anyone else in the role. I watched the miniseries when I was about twenty, and although some scenes were definitely creepy I found the overall film somewhat campy.

Devoid of childhood attachment, I was able to accept that a new actor would be portraying Pennywise. Since I didn’t hold the miniseries near and dear to my heart I was also curious to see what another director could do with the source material. “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga was originally slated to direct, and although his departure was unfortunate I had faith that Andres Muschietti (Mama) could also deliver. Mama had its flaws but was a great horror film for the most part.

Due to all the comparisons to Tim Curry and the persisting attachment to the mini-series, I can’t do a proper review without comparing the two interpretations. Firstly, 2017’s “IT” actually looks more like the version described in the book, in terms of his clothing. King never described Pennywise’s facial details in detail, but he described the silver suit, the orange pom-poms, the white hair and reddish-orangish hair. Due to people’s poor reasoning skills or inability to read the “From Stephen King” banners that accompany every trailer, many people forget that this film is not just a remake of the miniseries. It is a different adaptation of older source material.

There were plenty of people who immediately rejected the new Pennywise, saying it was trying to hard to look creepy, too different etc. This brings up one point I have to make. To this day, you can find people who think Jack Nicholson was a better joker than Heath Ledger, simply because they saw him first and got attached. If you are attached to Tim Curry, there is pretty much nothing that can make you accept a new take. The same people who complained about the new Pennywise looking too serious and not as jovial as Curry’s, are probably the same people saying the 2017 Pennywise was too goofy after they saw the movie (if they bothered seeing the movie at all). There is no point trying to convince these people that the new adaptation also does the character justice.

Skarsgard had big shoes to fill, and he shines while doing it. The mannerisms, the voice all make you forget about the actor underneath. Skarsgard truly inhabits the character and the writing gives us something inhuman and creepy. Pennywise has his own sense of humour, and for the most part, I think the humour doesn’t bring the character into the campy realm. There are some jokes added in that weren’t in the book, some work better than others but overall Pennywise strikes a great balance between utter terror and black humour.

What ultimately diminishes Pennywise, and the movie the most, is the use of weak CGI. Practical effects are used for some shots, but there is also considerable CGI for Pennywise’s face and the various forms he takes. When Muscietti was attached to the project, I expressed worries that the biggest weakness in Mama, the poor rendering of the title monster, would carry over to this film and  bring IT down. It looks like I was right. Even some of the practical effects look poorly done, with make-up that seems cheap and dulled the tension of key scenes since I couldn’t help but critique some of the effects when I was supposed to be scared of them.

Every horror film attracts hordes of people who brag about how funny the movie was and how little they were scared. I definitely don’t claim to be one of those people but I have to say that some of the scares would have been more effective with better visual effects. The infamous (if you’ve read the book) opening scene springs to mind as one that was tense and frightening, but also hampered due to the CGI. Then again, the budget was $35 million so I guess Muschietti once again made due with what he had.

Some of the trailers left me worried the film would rely too heavily on jump scares. Jump scares are my least favourite since their impact dies once you have seen the film once. There may have been one or two many, but there is also one jump scare that stands out as one of the film’s best scenes. Fortunately, It doesn’t rely on jump scares and my mind keeps going back to scenes where my heart rate quickened because of the atmosphere and imagery that the director subjected me to.

Thankfully the performances are solid for the most part. Finn Wolfhard, of “Stranger Things”, is a stand out as Richie Tozier but It boasts a stable of talented young actors. Jaden Lieberher is also amazing as Bill Denborough, along with Sophia Lills as Beverly Marsh and Jack Grazer as Eddie Kasprak. I mention these actorss first because they were amazing, but also because their characters get the most development. Balancing seven character intros and backstories was a tall feat for a book, which is why the book was over 1000 pages. Trying to condense all that history into a two hour film is a tough task, and it resulted in casualties. Mike Hanlon probably suffers the most in relation to his book counterpart, and then Ben Hanscom. I felt like Stanley Uris was the least developed in the book but Mike has that status here, while Stan has the weakest actor in my opinion.

Some characters get less backstory, which also means some of their fears get glossed over in the film. In the book, we understand what the characters fear before they are exposed to it. Ben, who is a central member of The Losers Club is confronted by Pennywise before we see what he is afraid of. This also serves to dull the impact of the scene since one of the most interesting things about Pennywise is how he feeds of their childhood fears. An extra fifteen minutes could have helped to spread the love in terms of backstory and development for Mike and Ben.

There are some scenes that I am very glad the director cut, such as the scene where a young Beverly Marsh has sex with all of the members of the Losers Club, one by one. Yes, really. I was reading that scene on the bus while the girl beside me peered over. That was a very awkward bus ride.

One thing I did love about the film was that it did not shy away from the themes and violence in the book. IT is ultimately about friendship and the loss of innocence, while Beverly’s story offers the clearest indication of this message, we don’t need a child orgy to get that message. The main character, Bill loses his little brother to IT and that loss becomes the domino that unites the club. The characters face their fears and face challenges that adults are unable to help them with. They become independent in a sense and learn to find their own place in a world that is often hostile to them. Although the Losers Club has some members that weren’t developed as well, I loved the chemistry between the actors and the bond that they were able to portray on screen. This bond is the glue of the film and the book, and I think it is what allows me to say I liked the film, despite my seemingly numerous critiques.

As I have also said in my previous post, this film does not borrow anything from Stranger Things, except one actor. All of the accusations that It is inspired byStranger Things” reek of idiocy. The time period has been changed to the 1980s, but that is only to modernize the next film, which will take place in the present day. King wrote It in 1986, so he set the kids earlier in 1957/58 and set the adults in the 1980s. Either way, one of these films will take place in the 1980s.

Also, It started filming prior to “Stranger Things” being released on Netflix. Why would filmmakers decide to copy a Netflix show that hasn’t been released yet. What else reminds you of “Stranger Things”? Kids fighting a monster? That goes back to the 1986 book. A group of kids who are considered losers fighting a monster? That goes back to the 1986 book.

I digress, IT is a new adaptation of King’s work that breathes life into the terror from the book, while also offering a story of friendship that makes the film greater than the sum of its parts.

IT and Stranger Things

For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you will know that IT is one of my most anticipated films of 2017. The book is one of my favourite Stephen King novels, I am currently debating between “IT” and “The Shining”, and I was excited to see another adaptation that would hopefully be closer to the book. Any long-time readers (the few) will also know that I do not hesitate to write about the level of stupidity that can be found online, whether it is the rising scourge of the “I’m not racist but” brand of bigotry or simple issues of reading comprehension.

IT brings up another realm of stupidity. When the first trailer was released, people began comparing the film to Stranger Things. I didn’t mind this comparison originally since I thought most people were still capable of reading the “From Stephen King’s Terrifying Novel” banner that accompanied the trailers, but apparently I was wrong. There are YouTube reactions and plenty of online comments that make it clear people don’t understand the film is based on an older book (1986) or that IT is another adaptation of the book, like the 1990 miniseries.

I have already discussed the people who are comparing this version of Pennywise (or what we have seen so far) to the 1990 version, and criticize the 2017 version because it is too different. These people make it clear they never read the book, and so do the hordes who keep comparing 2017’s IT to Stranger Things. Let me rephrase. What bothers me most are the people who insist that IT takes visual cues and inspiration, in terms of filmmaking, from Stranger Things. 

It (1986) inspired works that came after it. That is how time works. I saw influences from IT” and “Firestarter” in Stranger Things. People may say the filmmaking techniques or the visuals for 2017’s IT could be drawn from Stranger Things. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at the most common similarities people point out:

A group of kids fighting a monster. That can be traced to “IT”.

The older time period, especially the 1980s.  That can be traced to “IT”, which cuts between 1957/1958 (when the main characters are kids) and 1985 (when they are adults) . The film is updated to cut between 1989 and the present day. I can easily argue that the decision to put the kids in the 1980s is a decision meant to modernize the second film, where the kids will be adults. Either way, the characters were going to live in the 1980s for some part of their lives.  How can the 2017 adaptation of IT, then be inspired or influenced by Stranger Things?

Yes, the productions share an actor, Finn Wolfhard. Does that invalidate all the other influences that I just pointed out? One common actor invalidates the flow of time? If you think so, comprehension is your issue, not mine.

Unless you have actually seen the film already via an advanced screening or a country where it was released earlier, you can only go off the trailers that I have seen too. I have avoided watching any clips or tv spots, so if there are some other similarities I am missing feel free to point them out.

Ozark and Charlotte Byrde

After finishing The Defenders I planned to set my sights on wrapping up Game of Thrones and finally finishing season 5 of Bates Motel. However, I was confronted by the same issues that led to me preferring to view shows readily available on Netflix. Friends I have spoken to have assured me that I am not alone in having trouble with Kodi. Either streams don’t load at all or they buffer like it’s going out of style. Sometimes I feel like I might as well be watching a slide show instead of a tv show.

Netflix however, loads just fine. A friend recommended Ozark and I am glad I took her suggestion. The series follows Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) as a financial planner who is forced to move his family to the Ozarks in Missouri after his partner attempts to launder money from a Mexican drug lord. Bryde must now launder or “clean” $8 million for the drug lord by the end of summer or face death.  I am only halfway through the series at the moment and it looks like I made a good decision. I saw the ads for the show pop up whenever I opened Netflix, and was intrigued to see Bateman in a serious role. I know he’s done serious roles before but until now, I’ve only seen him play the serious character or “straight man” in comedies.  Bateman’s performance is the best thing about the series so far. I could almost say that the writing and acting as a whole is great, but then we have Charlotte.

I will discuss my distaste for this character more in the review next week, but I have to vent about this brat. I can’t blame the actress since she is pretty good at portraying what the script asks of her. My issue is with the character itself. Charlotte is just the typical attitude-laden teen we see far too often in family comedies or dramas. She constantly insults her brother, her parents and even started calling them by their first names at one point because she was upset with them. In a show that offers inventive storytelling in so many other areas, it stands out more when we pretty much get a stock character taking up a decent chunk of screen time.

I’ll reserve more judgment until I finish the series, but I hope I’m not alone with how I feel here.

Joker Origin Movie

Art by Bosslogic

Yesterday it was announced that Martin Scorsese will produce a Joker origin film.  Todd Phillips (The Hangover) will direct and co-write with Scott Silver (8 Mile, The Fighter).  The role of the Joker will be recast, with a different and likely younger actor portraying The Clown Prince of Crime.

Firstly, I have to say that Jared Leto’s portrayal of The Joker in Suicide Squad has not held up with repeat viewings. In terms of his mannerism and speech, his Joker comes across as a more muted version of Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura. The laugh was pretty good and the look grew on me, but aside from that I no longer look on his portrayal as favourably as I once did. This assessment isn’t in relation to Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson or any other portrayal. It is just my subjective assessment of one actor’s performance.

Due to my critique of Leto’s performance I am more than happy to see someone else portray the character. Scorsese’s name is being used to hype this project, but I don’t want to get too excited about that since he is only a producer. Let’s not forget that Steven Spielberg produced Transformers. However, I am hoping that the film does take more cues from Scorsese since the filmmakers are apparently aiming to capture the gritty, hard-boiled feel of 80’s Scorsese classics like Taxi Driver. Let’s hope Scorsese actually has a more hands on role as producer if the film is actually inspired by his work.

I can already hear people complaining about the tone the film is aiming for, especially since a Deadline reporter has labelled it as “dark and gritty”. The “make it fun” mentality affect all characters, even ones where darkness is appropriate.  The Joker isn’t meant to be Tony Stark funny. Let’s ignore those people. I remember people saying Ben Affleck’s Batman looked too depressed when the first picture was released.

Now let’s move on Phillips, who seems like an odd choice. Aside from The Hangover trilogy, his most recent work is War Dogs (2016). I have not seen the film yet but I understand that it does delve into a more serious arena,  unlike some of his other work, such as Starsky and Hutch (2004) and Old School (2003). Now, I don’t want to judge a director just by his previous work but if War Dogs is Phillips’ most serious film to date, it makes me wonder why he was selected. Hopefully he is a fan of the material or is excited about who he gets to work with, which could give him the motivation to make something special. Some of Peter Jackson’s work prior to Lord of the Rings would probably have lead most people to think the (original) trilogy would be awful but Jackson created modern classics. I am hoping we can get some of the same magic here. Silver’s writing should also help the transition if The Fighter is any indication.

I have already seen some terrible fan castings for this film, including Taylor Lautner as the Joker. Everyone assumes that since Heath Ledger surprised us with his performance, ANY actor will do the same. Ledger was the exception to the rule. Don’t throw out awful choices and keep appealing to the same logic. One fan casting that I actually agree with is Jake Gyllenhaal. If you have not seen Nightcrawler, do yourself a favour and watch it right now. Gyllenhaal’s character isn’t as psychotic as The Joker is but the ingredients are definitely there. Aside from that, the film also demonstrates Gyllenhaal’s range as an actor. If the film is using The Killing Joke as its source material, or inspiration, then Gyllenhaal’s range can also bring Jack Napier to life. Alan Moore’s graphic novel gave us the most popular Joker origin story, showing us how Jack Napier, a failing comedian with a pregnant wife, had one bad day changed his life. The Killing Joke, aside from being popular source material, can work well with the hard-boiled crime film the filmmakers are aiming for.

What are your thoughts on this project?

Who would you love to see as The Joker?

The Defenders

Spoilers for the preceding Marvel Netflix Series: Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones

Entertainment Value: 9/10

Critical Value: 7/10

Iron Fist wasn’t the complete atrocity that many people made it out to be, but it was a disappointing experience after the two seasons of Daredevil, and the season of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage that preceded it. Daredevil season 1 is still my favourite Marvel Netflix series, that was consistently well plotted and engaging. DD season 2 was nearly my favourite due to the Punisher, but the season was brought down by the love story between Matt and Karen and a villain that proved to be less engaging than the antihero offered by Frank Castle. Jessica Jones had the slowest start of all of the series’ but the pay off was well worth it. Unlike Iron Fist, the cast’s performances were strong all around and the show gave us Kilgrave, the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Luke Cage made its character a fighter for the common man, exploring themes of racism and police brutality that are relevant to America (despite what many people argue). The show faltered once Cottonmouth was killed off, and Mike Colter definitely isn’t as strong a lead as Charlie Cox or Krysten Ritter.

Then Iron Fist just had the issue of poor, or inconsistent performances all around. There was also some poor characterization and weak fight scenes, which stood out more since Danny Rand is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the MCU. Finn Jones only got fifteen minutes to review the choreography for each fight scene, and it showed.

With all that said, I had some mixed thoughts going into Defenders. Firstly, I was worried that some of the issues from the solo series e.g. dragging plots, could be exacerbated with a team up. However, it was revealed that Defenders was shorter. So one concern went away, and then I was worried that the plot would come across as rushed. However, I was still excited about the show and all the things the show could get right.

Let’s start with how the heroes come together. This forms the crux of any team up movie and I believe that this is the part of the series that is handled best. Firstly, all of the heroes live in the same city, so there proximity creates a higher chance of them crossing paths to combat villains. Danny is returning to New York to continue his hunt for The Hand. Luke Cage is out of prison and comes across a low-level kid from Harlem who gets caught up with The Hand. Jessica Jones is investigating a man’s disappearance on behalf of her client. Foggy now works for Jeri Hogarth, and Hogarth wants to ensure that Jones’s investigation into a highly sought after man doesn’t result in any negative press through her connection to Jessica. Since Matt is now pro-bono, Foggy offers Matt the job. Let’s not forget the link that Claire Temple offers.

This chain of events makes it easier to accept when the heroes finally come together in the same location. Of course, there is still some suspension of disbelief required but as Rand says, “This can’t be coincidence”.

Yes, you may be lost watching this show without watching all of the solo series’. Iron Fist’s mythos in particular plays a central role in the season.

Danny Rand is a more engaging character in this show, although the character is still plagued by the weak link of Finn Jones. Rand’s mystical knowledge and background is contrasted with humourous effect, to that of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, who both have a hard time adjusting to another level of eccentricity in their lives. Rand, and the team as a whole, work great as an ensemble. The scenes where they are getting to know one another better still stand out as some of my favourites.

While the MCU films have struggled with giving us memorable villains, the netflix shows have done a better job. So far we have had Kingpin, Cottonmouth and the unmatched Kilgrave. The issue with Kilgrave’s presence is that any villain will have a hard time topping him in season 2 of Jessica Jones (but it looks like he’s returning).

We also have the issue of topping Kilgrave in Defenders. We got our first taste of The Hand in Daredevil, since Nobu was later revealed to be a member. DD season 2 went deeper into the mystical element of the universe and Iron Fist focused entirely on it.

Although watching Iron Fist is important for understanding the plot leading into Defenders, this series does offer more background on the organization. This helps to flesh out Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) and her allies more. Aided by the other four fingers of the Hand, Alexandra seeks to use the Black Sky to unlock an ancient vault that will give them immortality. The Black Sky is none other than a resurrected Elektra (not a spoiler, the trailers revealed this). Elektra gets a bigger role as the series progresses and is ultimately a dull villain, and her storyline was also one of my least favourite parts of season 2.

Weaver is great in her performance but ultimately wasn’t that memorable a villain, and I can say the same for most of them. The one that actually stands out most is Yutaka Takeuchi’s “Marikami”, one of the five fingers of the Hand. At the end of the series, I only wished that he had more screen time.  Great heroes need great villains and I don’t believe Defenders delivered.

The action is an improvement from Iron Fist, which isn’t saying much, but the choreography is still weaker than Daredevil season 1. Obviously Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are not martial artists, but there are still ways to make an entertaining fight scene with such characters. Even characters like Daredevil and Iron Fist are still hampered by some subpar editing and choreography.

The end of the series hints at numerous famous developments and storylines from the comics, and makes me especially excited for Daredevil season 3.

The series is entertaining throughout, but I can’t truly say that it’s great or fully lived up to the hype.

Current ranking for the Marvel Netflix Shows

  1. Daredevil Season 1
  2. Jessica Jones
  3. Daredevil Season 2
  4. Defenders
  5. Luke Cage
  6. Iron Fist

Alive: Part II Progress

For any newer readers, you may not know that I have written three books, which I am still trying to get published. This blog was created as part of my effort to build an online platform and further hone writing skills through my blog posts. My most recent book is Alive, a werewolf story. I have always loved fantasy tales and it was exciting to craft my own. With Alive complete I began working on the second and final part of the series.

I completed a few thousand words of Part II but regret to say that I haven’t touched it in almost a month now. Work, where I have done most of my writing over the past year, has become much busier and my life outside of work has become much busier as well as I take on more responsibilities, such as looking for a new place. Along with some part-time work, the gym, guitar etc. it has been tough to find time or energy to write. However, I don’t want to keep embracing excuses. I’ll get back to writing by this end of the week, with my goal of 5oo words a day. Originally I wanted the book to be completed by September but now I will have to settle for completing it by end of the year.

Then the work of editing and continuing to seek publication for my other work will continue. I contacted ten agents about part I but have received no responses so it looks like I am back to square one in my journey to getting published. It can be disheartening, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse to quit either. I have now accepted it won’t come quickly. I used to think I’d be published by the time I was twenty-five but now I can accept it might not happen until I’m fourty. It’s a long climb, but I’m looking forward to it.

Charlottesville and Donald Trump

Racists used to wear hoods to hide their identity. They don’t need to wear hoods anymore, they own the White House.

These are the words I remember reading from a random twitter user this morning as I perused the newsfeed to catch up on the weekend’s events. I heard about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville Virginia, the counter-protest, and the violence that erupted. One of the most interesting events to emerge out of this incident was President Trump’s response to the violence. This is a man who denounced the cast of Hamilton for peacefully challenging Mike Pence’s record of upholding equality. This is a man who had this to say about a black protestor at his rally: “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing”. Surely Trump would bring “fire and fury” to his denunciation of the violence. Instead, Trump tread lightly, and denounced the violence on “many sides.”

So let’s try to see where Trump is coming from. The “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally was a protest against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Lee was a great general, on the Confederate side. The side that supported the continuation of slavery, so like the Confederate flag, a public display is somewhat contentious. Nonetheless, the right made sure their voices were heard. They exercised their freedom of speech by gathering with white supremacist symbols and hurling racial or anti-semitic slurs at non-white passerby. They were met by a group of counter-protesters, also exercising their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Then things escalated. Verbal insults thrown from both sides turned into violence, culminating in a white supremacist crashing his car into the another vehicle and mowing through the crowd, which resulted in one death and several injuries.

So Trump is right in one sense, there was violence on both sides. The facts don’t end there though. In a case like this, we must look at who initiated the violence and how events escalated. This “Unite the Right” protest was planned far in advance by leaders of the alt-right and white supremacist movements, groups that have been tied to an increasingly high number of hate crimes and domestic terrorist attacks in the US and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the anti-racism protestors are guilty of “political correctness”, which nowadays just means the opposition of bigotry. The anti-racism protestors are “triggered” by Confederate flags and statues to Confederate generals, while the Right gets triggered by affirmative action and black student unions. Both sides contributed to a scuffle, but a man from one side decided that he wanted to drive his car through a crowd.

Let’s look at this another way. White supremacy as a whole is not rooted in fact. All of the racist assumptions or beliefs people use to justify the current state of the world can be broken down by decades of research e.g. research showing that the property value of an area drops when more people of colour move in. So even though white supremacy is not rooted in fact, we still let white supremacists assemble. Giving voice to the alt-right and white supremacists is no different than giving voice to Flat Earthers.

The most disturbing thing about Trump refusing to disavow white supremacy, until today, is that it reflects a trend that we can trace back to his campaign. Trump previously refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK. His defence was that he didn’t know who David Duke was, but we can see an interviewer explain that for him multiple times in the below video. Yet Trump still refuses to disavow the support of David Duke. Why? He knew he needed the votes.

There are people out there (even in the comment section of this video) that try to compare groups like Black Lives Matter to the KKK. Firstly, there have been violent incidents at BLM demonstrations, but those incidents havre actually not been traced to members of BLM. Saying “Black Lives Matter” does not make you a member of the actual organization.

Meanwhile, the KKK has a long and continuing history of violence against minorities. Other white supremacist factions have also become emboldened by Trump’s election and view him as their saving grace in an American landscape that is changing too much for their liking.

AJ+ released this video documenting the online vigilantism that has resulted in some of the alt-right protesters being identified and facing consequences such as losing their jobs. As expected, the comments reveal some overt or implicit supporters are more concerned about what happens to the white supremacists than the people they wish to marginalize.

You have to wonder if the right got as worked up about Mike Brown being shot multiple times and depicted as a thug by their peers. Of course not. In their eyes, Brown, Martin, Castille etc. just faced the consequences of their actions. The same thing is happening here. Freedom of speech does not mean that everyone must agree with what you say. Employers, friends, family etc. can reject you for much less than overtly racist demonstrations.

Also, it is funny that the right always criticizes the left for “identity politics” e.g groups allied around race, religion etc. What is this rally? Isn’t it about protecting white European culture? So basically, identity politics is only a bad thing if minorities do it. I am not being biased, a “libtard”, a “social justice warrior” or “politically correct” for pointing out these fallacies. These are the facts, that get ignored or twisted time and time again by racists who refuse to acknowledge facts no matter the consequences. This refusal to acknowledge facts is what allowed Trump to become president, citing inaccurate stats about black crime and embracing racist rhetoric with the mantra of “telling it like it is.”

America isn’t the same place I visited two years ago. It is something uglier, corrosive. Decaying from the inside while the poisoners remain blind to the damage they’re doing.

“Telling me that I’m obsessed with talking about racism in America is like telling me I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning.” Hari Kondabolu

Zazie Beetz – Deadpool and “Blackwashing”

I posted this video a few weeks ago discussing the reaction people have to Zazie Beetz’s casting as Domino in Deadpool 2. Like many other videos, I emphasized the double standard present in people’s reactions to whitewashing versus “blackwashing” e.g. when a character is whitewashed, people argue that talent or marketability should trump race. If a character is blackwashed, people complain it is wrong to change the race of beloved characters and that the actor was selected only due to their race. If a white actor plays a character of colour it is because they were the most talented person to try out for the role. Vice versa, and the actor of colour was picked only due to their race. Whitewashing becomes a common sense business move, while blackwashing is just “pandering” to minorities. People tend to ignore how whitewashing also “panders” to white people, since one of the most common arguments used to defend whitewashing is that more whiteness in a film makes it more appealing to white people. Some people will even go so far as to say the film will be an economic failure if the film wasn’t whitewashed. Of course, the success of films like Straight Outta Compton disprove this theory.

I presented numerous different examples and clearly laid out how this double standard serves to reinforce the idea that white is inherently better, and the video was met with a wave of dislikes and comments where people repeatedly go back to the same double standards that I laid out in my video. One comment after another said it was wrong to change the race of characters, that the actress doesn’t look like the character etc. The video was sitting at less than two hundred views for a while but got a new influx of new viewers over the past week, leading me to believe it might have been shared on a website, or possibly got more traffic after the first picture of Beetz as Domino was released.

Keep in mind, my video came out before we got our first pic of Beetz as Domino. While some people complain about how she looks in terms of her hairstyle, clothing etc., my video was made for people criticizing the fact that a black actress got the part. This detail, along with just about all relevant details, were ignored by the people who swarmed to my video. Some even admitted they didn’t even watch the full video before commenting.

I previously discussed how the right-wing often uses the word “triggered” to criticize anyone who doesn’t endorse bigotry. Here we see triggered people who likely saw the title of my video or watched a minute of it before rushing to the comments. I have often disagreed with the views expressed in other videos, but I have never commented on a video that I didn’t bother to finish watching. If I disagreed I did not ignore every point made. I made sure I fully understood what the uploader was trying to say, because I wanted to respond with counter-arguments that actually disprove their points. My video was only five minutes long so I don’t think the issue is that my video is too long either. People simply came across something they didn’t want to hear and refused to engage with the facts I laid out, hence the repeated defferal to all of the same arguments and double standards that my video criticizes.

I pointed out the tendency for people to criticize hypothetical examples of whitewashing that they said they would criticize e.g. White Luke Cage, to take attention away from all of the real examples of whitewashing they supported.

“Ok I guess we’ll have white Blade….right? or Chinese wolverine… right?….hindu superman?….right…….. yeah… Fuck out of here!! Stick to the true origin !! fucking social justice warriors jerk offs!!”

I pointed out the tendency for people to appeal to the “colour-blind” mantra or the simplistic notion that a character should look the way they are supposed to (which also ignores all the times whitewashing was supported)

“I don’t have a single problem seeing minorities on the screen.I just wanted Domino, the character I love to be portrayed as the character I love. Very, very simple.”

I avoided appealing to emotion, and thought that a clearly laid out set of arguments and counter-arguments could break through to some people on the other side of the aisle. The only positive comments I received are ones from people who likely already shared my views.

There were some people who probably fancied themselves as enlightened and expressed less vitriol, while also displaying a stunning level of ignorance.

“And for the record, when is the last time you’ve seen anyone in this modern era “Defend whitewashing”?”

This poster could have found examples of whitewashing being defended on THE SAME VIDEO they commented on. Yet again, there is an unwillingness to engage with facts that conflict with their world view. Yes, you can find numerous articles and videos online from major publications that criticize whitewashing. The whole point of the video is that audiences react differently, e.g. the people who swarm the comment sections of those articles with comments like “political correctness”, “reverse racism” and “social justice warriors” to criticize the people who are bothered by whitewashing. This is in contrast to the comments they give in support of whitewasing such as “It’s just a movie”, “Best actor for the part, race doesn’t matter”. Now if “blackwashing” happens the comments will be swarmed with comments saying it is wrong to change the race of characters.

My mom once said you can’t have a debate with people if the ground isn’t fertile for it. This ground isn’t just infertile, it’s scorched.

Norwegian news site NKR is currently using their beta site to test a tool that makes readers take a 15 second quiz before commenting, to ensure that they actually understand the point of the article. Readers don’t have to agree, but the developers hope the quiz will give people time to calm down and ensure that they are less likely to resort to the slew of straw man arguments I see on my video. Ironically, people commenting on the NRK article also added comments that made it clear they misunderstood the purpose of the tool:

“Here we go..thought crime..three questions to make sure you agree with our angle on the story.”

Maybe it’s time to let the terrorists win.

 

Elliot Rodger

Today I was reading an article by Mark Manson, one of my favourite bloggers. The central point of the article is that the common factor in all these shootings is the lack of empathy displayed by people who should have seen it coming.

Before the vitriol pours in to my site or Mark’s, he is not saying victims are at fault. His article looks at different people who were close to the shooters, who ignored obvious signs that the shooters were mentally disturbed and seriously planned to commit violence. In the case of the Columbine shooters, some of their “friends” found the bombs they built, but thought nothing of it. Mark argues that this can ultimately be traced to a lack of empathy or outright apathy for what is going on in someone else’s life. Of course, what I am offering is a very simple thesis of the article. Do yourself a favour and read the whole thing.

Manson breaks down the different arguments brought forward after mass shootings, either as a whole or by referencing arguments used for certain killers. He does not say none of the arguments matter. In fact, he says they are part of a bigger whole. I would be missing the entire point of his article if I said that my grievances made the article invalid. However, I have to mention these arguments because they bring up common misconceptions about some mass shootings.

His first point is that the gun control argument is somewhat flawed since killers like Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodger got their guns legally. A gun control advocate wouldn’t end the argument there. A key part of gun control is arguing for the regulation of the types of funs and types of ammunition that can be sold legally,; as well as arguing for more thorough background checks. They would ask why people were able to obtain such guns so easily. Especially in Rodger’s case since he had a well documented history of mental illness.

The next point is truly the crux of my article.

Manson also argues that the attempts to label Rodger’s killings as a result of misogyny are flawed since Rodger killed mostly men. Now, Manson does later say Rodger “became a misogynist because he was a killer.” Clearly he is not rejecting the misogynist label completely. However, a quick Google search will show you many people who reject the claim of misogyny using the same logic Manson laid out originally. These thoughts are directed to those people.

You might ask why I am bothering to write about a deranged killer from 2014. I tried to understand why I felt compelled to write this too, and I think a part of it comes down to the fact that I actually read Rodger’s “manifesto”. As Manson points out, I only gave into Rodger’s delusions by doing this. I fed his ego and desire for immortality. Unfortunately, curiosity got the best of me.

It is that reading of Rodger’s “My Twisted World” that makes it clear he was a misogynist. Above all else, Rodger was sexually frustrated. At age 22, he was still a virgin and blamed his lack of success mainly on women. According to him, their brains were less developed than men’s. Hence their poor decision making abilities. If that is not misogynist, I don’t know what is.

Yes, Rodger killed men. Let’s not forget his motive though. He was angry at men as well, for having more luck with women than he did. Each man mowed down represented another man in Rodger’s life who was more successful with girls than he was.

After that, I will start luring people into my apartment, knock them out with a hammer, and slit their throats. I will torture some of the good looking people before I kill them, assuming that the good looking ones had the best sex lives. All of that pleasure they had in life, I will punish by bringing them pain and suffering. I have lived a life of pain and suffering, and it was time to bring that pain to people who actually deserve it.”

Let’s not forget that one of Rodger’s first targets was a sorority house, an embodiment of the beautiful women he resented. Due to the gated entry, he could only kill two women outside of it. He then had to find other victims.

With that point out of the way, let’s move on to the idea that Rodger was not racist since he was half-Asian, and some of his victims were Asian.

Shoes won’t help you get white girls. White girls are disgusted by you, silly little Asian.”

Rodger also says:

“Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You’re just butthurt that you were born as an asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You’ll never be half-white and you’ll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge.”

Rodger, half-Asian, posted those comments in a forum on PuaHate.com. Rodger wanted white girls only, and specifically indicates a preference for blondes numerous times in “My Twisted World”.

If you are bothered, you can find plenty of research on mixed people who express racism towards one half of their identity.

Rodger also saves some hate for black guys and Indian guys in his “My Twisted World”, expressing disgust that they can get white girls when he can’t. If you don’t want to read that, just read more forum excerpts from this article.

“Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were extremely rage-inducing.

I passed by this restaurant and I saw this black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls. He didn’t even look good.

Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with 2 above average White Girls!!!

What rage-inducing sights did you guys see today? Don’t you just hate seeing these things when you go out? It just makes you want to quit life.”

Racist? I think so.

My larger point. Bigotry isn’t always simple or logical and we need to stop using elementary levels of logic to shut down discussions. Manson only used the example of Elliot Rodger as a springboard for his larger argument, but his intentionally hyperbolic statements represent the mindset of millions of people: The millions of people who think they have the world, and all of the ugliness in it, figured out.