Sense8 Cancelled

I gave my thoughts on season 1 of Netlix’s “Sense8” a while ago and was happy to see that some of the gripes I had about the first season were addressed: “Whispers” received more development and so did the Biological Preservation Organization (BPO), the organization that is hunting the sensates. In addition to that, we also got more development for the sensates and got to continue the stories we loved from the first season. Sense8 continued with its emotional gravity and action, while also offering more of the unmatched feel good moments that fans fell in love with in the first season.

Even better, the second season also managed to tackle its themes of discrimination and acceptance without being as preachy as the first season, or even the Christmas special were at times. The action scenes were better, not just bigger and the season left us with a cliffhanger that raised questions and excitement for season 3. I finished the series about two weeks ago, feeling like Sense8 had potential to become something truly iconic. Then a co-worker told me it was cancelled.

I have been meaning to share my thoughts on this development for a while and I figure later is better than never. The main reason cited by Netflix executives and even actor Brian J. Smith (Will) is the issue of return on investment (ROI). Unlike many shows and films, Sense8 shot all of its scenes on location. Production involved filming in eight different countries, which lent more authenticity to the show but also drives up the production costs. Along with The Get Down, Sense8 becomes one of the first notable Netflix original cancellations (at least in a while). The streaming service doesn’t release viewership data, so cancellation is sadly one of the few indicators audiences get of a show’s viewership. This is not to say that Sense8 necessarily resulted in a loss for Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings said the streaming service had too many hits competing with one another. Perhaps Sense8 didn’t make a profit with its last season. Or perhaps it made profit but not enough to justify its budget, in the eyes of Netflix executives. In such a situation, profitable and well-loved shows can end up getting pushed aside for ones that are even more profitable. We are living in a golden-age of television, with a diverse and critically lauded slate of tv shows that is arguably more enticing than what Hollywood offers. Even Hollywood A-listers understand the power of the “small screen”, from Kevin Spacey, to Dwayne Johnson to Matthew McConaughey. Competition is fierce on cable and especially on Netflix due to its smaller stable of original programming. A passionate fan base isn’t enough to bring it back with its cries or petitions, and it appears Sense8 is simply a casualty of entertainment economics.

A part of me holds on the hope that the show will return at some point, similar to how Young Justice is now slated for a third season, three years after its cancellation. When asked why Young Justice was returning, the president of Warner Bros. Animation said that “The affection that fans have had for Young Justice, and their rallying cry for more episodes, has always resonated with us”. I want to believe Netflix could have a similar change of heart but I don’t want to indulge false hope.

Sense8‘s cancellation is all the more upsetting because of season two’s improvement, and the epic season that it was building up to. Now, fans can only imagine what would come next. Maybe that will have to enough.

Geostorm Trailer- The Sombre Song Trend?

I saw the trailer for Geostorm in front of Wonder Woman last week and although the film seemed generic, with the apocalyptic scenario and the subpar CGI, the cover of “What A Wonderful World” stuck with me. The new rendition added a great deal of irony and the song itself was hauntingly beautiful. In true nerd fashion I went online to see if anyone else shared my opinion, and came across this article. This well written (no sarcasm) rants details the “trend” of trailers using sombre covers of famous and well-regarded songs, which apparently started with The Social Network using a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.

This first article mainly lists examples, mainly from movies that I haven’t seen, such as The Great Gatsby and  Fifty Shades of Grey (which I will only see if someone gives me The Clockwork Orange treatment).

I have to point out that this list still only includes a small minority of the trailers released over the past few years, trying to make it seem like every other film trailer follows the trend nowadays. There are enough examples for us to say a trend is at work, but why are we acting like these examples warrant a call for a moratorium?

I digress. This blog post comes as a reaction to a linked article. This article also breaks down the history of the trend and uses Suicide Squad as a case study, comparing the teaser that used a cover of Bee Gee’s “I Started a Joke” to the second trailer that used Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The reason I feel the need to discuss this: The thesis of the article is that the second trailer is better because it is more “fun”. I have previously discussed my disdain for the belief that fun always equals good, while serious or “dark” equals bad. However, I have mostly discussed this in relation to comic book films, with my article on Kingsman being an exception.

There has been a drastic shift in the reception of dark comic book films since The Dark Knight era. That is not to say that there isn’t a single dark comic book film that gets good reception these days e.g. Logan, but as a whole people value their “fun” now more than ever. People love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for its insistent levity and humour, and despise the DCEU (partly) due to its “dark” tone. Note that a lot of the positive reviews for Wonder Woman attribute its rating to its “hope” and “fun”.  I am not a miserable person, I don’t mind levity and “fun”. I just don’t mind darkness or anything that is serious either. It seems like people desire simple escapism now more than ever, where everything should be “fun”, regardless of the subject matter.

I must agree with the author on one of his points. In some cases, especially Avengers: Age of Ultron, the song choice adds gravitas that the film does not deserve. The Age of Ultron teaser built Ultron up as a frightening threat, who was ultimately neutered and played for laughs. However, I have to say that this issue of misdirection is not isolated specifically to sombre covers of well-known songs. Any dramatic score or serious song can have the same effect on a movie’s marketing. Many people hated the Matrix sequels and the music used for that marketing would likely be deemed just as “self-serious” to this author. It honestly seems like the covers of the well-known songs aren’t the author’s real issue. He just hates the serious or “grim” tone that it bestows on the trailers.

In this case the author calls the Geostorm trailer and its accompanying music, “self-serious”  and “grim”. As I’ve noted before, the focus on tone ends up overriding any other issues of artistic merit, since “fun” becomes synonymous with good and serious of “dark” becomes synonymous with bad. Let’s look at the author’s comments on Suicide Squad as an example. He argues that the second trailer, with Bohemian Rhapsody is more fun and markets the film better. Obviously the second trailer will market the film better. The second trailer isn’t a teaser, therefore it is meant to show us more of the characters backgrounds and their interactions. Yet as expected, this author thinks the trailer is better ONLY because it’s tone is improved.

Many people, who do not know comic book characters as well as they think they do, insist that these films should all remain colourful and fun, no matter the storyline or characters being portrayed. Although I disagree, I can understand how a simplistic notion of a certain character or fictional world can lead people to think that one size fits all in terms of tone. However, Geostorm is not an adapation, yet alone an adaptation of “lighter” source material. Why does it have an obligation to be “fun”? It is a film about a global catastrophe, a dark tone suits it. Of course, some apocalyptic films can also have a lighter tone e.g. Independence Day, but that doesn’t mean that they all have to follow Independence Day’s example.

Pictured above: A perfect opportunity to use some “fun” music

Why can’t any film be allowed to look serious for a few minutes at a time without people labelling it pretentious or depressing? Even if a film is depressing, it doesn’t mean it is bad. Unless the film is explicitly meant to be a comedy, a film’s rating should not suffer because it didn’t make you laugh or smile enough. Since when did we become so sensitive that we need films to cushion us from the ugly realities of life? Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. People argue that is why films should offer us fun, but I argue that is the best reason that they should offer us whatever the director or editor feels. Films often reflect reality, why have we forgotten that? There is nothing wrong with films having different tones. We can choose to watch different films based on our moods. There is variety. I would hate to scroll through Netflix or Kodi and come across a library of films that are all the same tone. Likewise, I would hate to go to the theater and have one preview after another with the same tone, whether it is dark or light.

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is an origin story of sorts for Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazon who leaves her home island of Themyscira to venture to aid the Allies in World War II. She is accompanied on her journey by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who crash landed in Themyscira after escaping from the Germans with information on their new super weapons.

I originally planned to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday, and after some delays I finally got around to it last night. The film made headlines for being the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film to get good reviews, currently sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not one to blindly follow reviews, but I know a lot of other people do. Relatively poor reviews for Man of Steel and horrendous ones for BatmanvSuperman led Warner Bros to force changes onto Suicide Squad that ultimately made that film worse e.g. cut out the abusive Joker and Harley Relationship, overload the film with songs to lighten the tone.

With that said, I realized that Wonder Woman was carrying the DCEU on its shoulders. This film needed to rekindle hope for the studio executives and the general audience. Did the film live up to the hype? I will say that it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.

Firstly, any regular readers will know that I despise the obsession with “fun” that is rampant these days, especially when it comes to comic book films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a whole is committed to keeping the films light, with Kevin Feige saying the films will never be dark. There is no better example of this than Thor: Ragnarok (the Asgardian term for Doomsday) being rewritten just to lighten the tone. I have no problem with levity and fun, but it is always better when it actually fits the situation and the characters. It gets tiresome when every serious moment or line is undercut by a one-liner.

Wonder Woman definitely has more levity and “fun” than MOS and BvS, but is darker than Suicide Squad. Yet it is still better than Suicide Squad. Point being,  “fun” is not a guarantee of good, “dark” is not a guarantee of bad, and I hope studio executives don’t see Wonder Woman’s success as the sole result of its lighter tone.

The humour does work well in the film, mainly playing off Diana as a fish out of water in “Man’s World”. Gal Gadot truly shines when portraying Diana’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she learns more about Man’s World. Her performance is weaker when the script asks more of her. Fortunately, she is assisted by Chris Pine. After seeing Pine as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films I knew he would be great in this role and he didn’t disappoint. The character of Steve Trevor has often been used as comic relief and Pine nails that, while also deftly handling the more serious moments. Pine and Gadot are also assisted by their own rag-tag group, amongst which Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is the stand out.

One issue that the DCEU, like the MCU has had, are its villains. The MCU has Loki as its standout, and the DCEU is still trying to find its own. On repeat viewings, The Joker is underwhelming (not just due to his screen time), Doomsday’s weak CGI and tacked on introduction didn’t help his case, and Lex Luthor…they should have cast someone else. General Zod is one of the DCEU’s better contenders, a competent villain but not a very memorable one.

Wonder Woman fights against the Nazis here, with the main focus on General Erich Ludendorff (Daniel Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Although Ludendorff has more screen time, Doctor Poison was more memorable. Her mask probably helped to add to her screen presence, and I’d much rather see a slew of Doctor Poison costumes for Halloween this year than the Harley Quinn epidemic of last year. Not to take anything away from Huston either, his German accent is a bit hokey at times but overall he was enjoyable, with he and Doctor Poison forming a Joker/Harley dynamic.

Diana also has a more personal villain in the film. Many people may already know the villain I’m referring to, but I won’t delve into him too much to avoid giving too much away. Overall, the final villain’s reveal and the final fight scene could have been handled better.

A consistent issue with the DCEU has been its third act. Man of Steel still offers the best third act fight scene in my opinion, with Wonder Woman coming in second. Let’s not talk about Suicide Squad. Like BatmanvSuperman and MOS, WW’s last fight scene is somewhat hampered by some cartoonish effects. The effects in this sequence were more jarring since the visuals and action were pretty impressive up to this point. We don’t truly see Diana fight as Wonder Woman for at least fourty minutes into the film, but the fight is well worth it. I also didn’t feel like the film dragged up until this point or any other in the film.  Aside from some poor effects, my only issue with the fight scenes is that slow-motion is overused at times. Otherwise, the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed. Let’s not forget the score, with the Wonder Woman theme being reminiscent of the Donner Superman one in terms of the excitement it generates.

Wonder Woman offers action, levity and some great performances. Wonder Woman also doesn’t shoehorn in any links to other DC characters. The only reference to another member of the Justice League is an organic one that helps to tie the story together and give an ending that has all the “hope” so many people say the DCEU is lacking. I walked out of the theater more excited about Justice League and the other DCEU films, while also hoping that the stories don’t end up being hampered by the “fun” mentality. WW’s tone was a great mix of dark and light, not afraid to show the dark side of human nature while also countering with a level of optimism that befits the character. Superman helped to counter the darkness in Batman, and Wonder Woman helps to counter the darkness in both.

Wonder Woman- Saving The DCEU

Reviews have started pouring in and Wonder Woman looks like it is the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU’s) first critical darling.

I have never been one to follow critics blindly, but this is still news that I am happy to hear. In my opinion, Man of Steel was a decent (7/10) film hampered by some weak acting and some pacing issues. Batman v Superman came across as a rushed buildup to the Justice League, with a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a weak third act. Suicide Squad… let’s just move on.

Box office success is always imprtant to fans since a film is more likely to spawn a franchise if it is financially successful. If a film is not intended to be a franchise, financial success can still be good for fans since it is validation that other people watched something they enjoy. This is easy to understand but people often seem confused about why fans care abor critics. While the reviews may not impact my own enjoyment of a single film, they can have implications for a franchise. Batman v Superman nearly grossed one billion dollars but was still considered a box office disappointment rellative to expectations. Suicide Squad was a success financially but was critically panned. A string of films like this can cause studios to lose faith in directors or an entire film universe e.g. all the fanboys crying for the X-Men rights to back to Marvel after X:Men Apocalypse.

Wonder Woman is a chance to prove that a female led superhero film can be a critical and financial success, and that the DCEU ship can right itself. People who may have lost interest in the DCEU before, will be more likely to see Wonder Woman. If they like Wonder Woman, they’ll be more likely to see The Justice League, and so on. The DCEU can’t really be considered a failure prior to Wonder Woman, but it didn’t appear to be headed in the right direction.

One of my worries is that the good reviews are attributed SOLELY to the lighter tone. Wonder Woman‘s “fish out of water elements lend itselt to comedy; and Steve Trevor has always been depicted as comic relief as well. I have no problem with humour, but hate when it becomes part of a formula that ultimately waters down an entire world. The mentality that the DCEU films just need more “fun” is rampant online. Even The Rock expressed this mentality when discussing bringing Black Adam to the big screen. “Fun” does not fit Black Adam at all, so now we’ll likely get a bastardized version of the character. MOS and BvS are always criticized for their “depressing” tone but let’s not forget that the lighter Suicide Squad was an even worse film (according to RT).  “Fun” is not the only ingredient for good, and also does not have to be an ingredient for good. The Justice League trailers feature some humour that comes across as a cheesy response to all the MOS and BvS criticisms: “We added jokes. People will love it now.” Let’s hope the desire to add “fun” doesn’t overshadow other issues the previous DCEU films had.  There is a tendency now to tie unrelated elements of the writing back to “fun”. “Fun” becomes the root that all quality springs from in some people’s minds.

With that said, I am eager to see if Wonder Woman lives up to its hype.

Alien: Covenant Review

2012’s Prometheus attempted to tell the story of the origin of the xenomorph that Alien fans have come to know and love. The film was met with mixed reviews to say the least, but I am among the people that didn’t love it, but also didn’t hate it with the same passion that is all too common online.

The film’s performances were its best asset. The visual effects were amazing, and there were some memorable creepy scenes. Prometheus asked a lot of interesting questions, but since it was setting itself up for a sequel, many of those questions remained unanswered.

The sequel has now arrived, taking place 10 years after the events of Prometheus. Colony ship Covenant is bound for Origae-6, with 15 crew members, 2000 colonists  and 1000 embryos in tow. After receiving a signal from a nearby planet, which scans show to be hospitable to human life, the crew decides to investigate the planet as a potential site for colonization. Of course, mayhem ensues as some crew members become infected and give birth to xenomorphs, or early prototypes of the xenomorph.

One Prometheus criticism that was rife on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) message boards (RIP), is that the scientists all made a lot of stupid decisions. I didn’t jump on that bandwagon as vehemently as some people did, but I could not deny that Covenant is definitely worthy of such criticism. In Prometheus, the scientists remove their helmets on an alien ship after realizing they can breathe the air. People thought that this was perhaps stupid since there could be other dangers. If you’ve seen the trailer for Covenant you already know one crew member gets infected when spores travel into his ear canal. Even before this scene comes along, I couldn’t help but wonder why there would be no precautions to wear helmets on a foreign planet at least until a variety of tests are conducted.

Maybe I could have excused the lack of helmets since the scientists already know the atmosphere is liveable. What I could not excuse was a scene where a scientist sniffs alien mushrooms and then touches them. He has gloves on, but doesn’t feel the need to back away when the mushrooms visibly release spores. He inhales them, and still doesn’t think to back away. In another scene, an alien bursts forth from a crew member, in full view of multiple armed crew members. While the alien takes some time to get its bearings, no one thinks to shoot it until it starts attacking. This kind of writing isn’t a “plot hole” as people love to say. It appears that “plot hole”, like “irony”, is a word that is often used incorrectly nowadays. Maybe there isn’t a specific term for what we see in Covenant, you could just call it sloppy writing that ruins enjoyment of the movie since a part of you feels like some of the characters bring it on themselves. At times, watching Covenant was like watching a slasher flick where the copulating co-eds decide to go investigate a strange noise. These moments are less prominent in the second half of the film, but they remain fresh in my mind.

I will also add that Covenant doesn’t answer all of the questions it asked in Prometheus, which was disappointing since it leaves some of the most interesting points of Prometheus moot for the moment. Perhaps another sequel will try to shed more light but suspense fizzles if it isn’t used just right. Additionally, Covenant also adds more backstory to the alien lore, which the more die-hard fans will either love or hate. I can cope with the new info, but it also adds more questions that remain unanswered.

On a more positive note, the performances give me something I am happy to remember.  Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus helped to cement him as one of my favourite actors, after his performance in X:Men First Class. Fassbender has since followed up Prometheus with 12 Years A Slave and Shame, further showcasing his versatility and talent. Here, Fassbender plays a marooned David, as well as Walter, a newer generation synthetic assigned to the Covenant. Walter is played with a southern accent, which slips at times and hampers the performance somewhat, although not nearly enough to ruin it. Fassbender is truly memorizing when playing David, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. Fassbender is also supported ably by Katherine Waterston, who plays second in command Daniels Branson. Billy Crudup plays his role well as the newly appointed Covenant captain, Christopher Oram, but his character’s story arc is also a victim of the aforementioned sloppy writing. Aside from Branson and Oram, many of the crewmembers have little to no development or real charisma on screen. Danny McBride is decent in a more serious role, but is still pretty forgettable.The other crew members have few lines and the actors don’t manage to do much with their lines either. While the main cast are strong, the supporting crew offer some stifled dialogue that makes you lose interest when the action cuts to them.

I have never been one to criticize CGI as a whole. However, I do criticize CGI if poorly rendered CGI is used in place of models, animatronics, motion capture etc. Alien (1979) had more convincing looking creatures. Even more recent films that used CGI aliens, such as Alien vs Predator (terrible film, I know) had more realistic looking creatures than the ones we see here. Other effects, such as some of the sequences involving the ship also look surprisingly cartoonish. Fortunately, the action sequences are actually entertaining, with Fassbender offering another highlight in this arena. Covenant may not be a real horror film for Alien fans, but the franchise has always had its fair share of violence and disturbing imagery. There are few jump scares throughout Covenant, and we do get some genuinely creepy ones that linger once the film is done. Yet again, I feel like these moments could have been improved if the characters were getting attacked by something that looked like it was made of flesh and blood.

Overall, Covenant was an entertaining film that surpassed its predecessor. Fassbender alone is worth the price of admission and although I wouldn’t say the film is a return to form for the Alien franchise, it is close to being there.

Death Note: Whitewashing and Blackwashing Double Standard

Netflix’s Death Note is scheduled for a August 25th release, and online discussion of the film has increased with the release date drawing closer. When I voiced my thoughts on the casting of Nat Wolff as Light Turner (Yagami in the anime) on YouTube, one user asked for my thoughts on the casting of Keith Stanfield as L. At the time I did not realize L was being played by a black actor, and assumed L was another case of more whitewashing.

I have previously discussed the double standard in people’s reactions to whitewashing vs “blackwashing”. When a character of colour is played by a white person people are quick to argue that we shouldn’t focus on race etc. “Best actor for the part, it’s more marketable, it’s just a movie etc.” This is regardless of whether the film is based on a true story, like 21 or is simply a work of 100% fiction. Now, if a white character is changed to a person of colour people suddenly aren’t colour-blind. “Why does Hollywood keep changing the race of characters we love? Why are they pandering to minorities? This is so politically correct!”

I have previously discussed this double standard by using examples of whitewashing and blackwashing in different movies. Death Note offers the perfect case study of the double standard since we have a case of whitewashing and blackwashing in the same film.

1) Whitewashing is being defended for the most part, while the blackwashing is being criticized.

2) Race wasn’t a key part of either character’s identity in the story (e.g. not as important as Chiron’s race is in Moonlight)

3) Both characters are main characters

Firstly, Hollywood “panders” to white people when they whitewash. One of the most common defences of whitewashing by film executives and audiences is that white people are generally more marketable than people of colour. By using this excuse, audiences and film executives admit that they are guilty of their own “pandering”, yet no one has a problem with pandering as long as it benefits white people. This is despite the fact that white people are disproportionately represented in mainstream Hollywood films. Although minorities make up nearly 40% of America’s population, they only account for 1 in 10 lead roles according to a 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report.

The underrepresentation isn’t simply due to a lack of minorities who want to get into acting, or some sort of talent deficiency among minorities. Productions like The Get Down and Straight Outta Compton demonstrate that there is plenty of minority talent that can shine if it is given the opportunity. This is what makes it even more frustrating when a role is given to a white person only because their skin is viewed as more desirable. Now I imagine that whitewashing defenders are quick to jump back to the marketability argument, which offers the perfect segway to discussing Death Note.

Anyone who has seen Keith Stanfield in anything will know that he is undeniably talented. Stanfield is also arguably more marketable than Nat Wolff. Nat Wolff’s fanbase is limited to YA content such as Paper Towns, while Stanfield has already amassed a diverse repertoire ranging from Straight Outta Compton, Get Out and his role as fan favourite Darius of Atlanta. The success of these aforementioned projects also shows that the presence of blackness is not guaranteed to lead to box office damnation. In 2015, people of colour purchased 45% of all movie tickets. Diversity won’t scare this segment of the population away. There are those who think Stanfield’s casting is indicative of a cashgrab for minority money, or political correctness. Let’s analyze the double standard though. If changing the race of L, like changing the race of Light, is just good business, why do people have a problem with it? Don’t people always defend whitewashing as a perfectly ethical business move?

The Departed is often used as an example of another American adaptation, that changed the race of characters from Asian to white (adapted from Hong Kong’s Internal Affairs). Like The Departed, people argue that Death Note has no obligation to keep the characters Asian since it is an Americanized story. Of course, I don’t mind the American location. American does not have to equal white though. People use the American argument to defend the whitewashing of Light, but for some reason that argument doesn’t apply for Stanfield as L. Maybe people want to know where Stanfield is really from? Light and L are both meant to be Asian, so if one race change bothers you, another should as well. Maybe you’ll argue Light and L don’t look Asian.

If you draw a stick person in a country such as America or England, people will generally assume the stick person represents a white person unless you add racial markers e.g. brown skin. When you read a book where the character’s race is not implied or stated, what race do you assume? White is often the default for people in many countries. In Asia, they would assume the stick person represents an Asian person if you draw one and if they are reading a locally produced book they would assume the character is Asian. When they create their animation, they don’t feel the need to indicate a character is Asian by adding stereotypical markers like slanted eyes and yellow skin.  The confusion arises when anime gets exported to countries that are not used to seeing Asians drawn a certain way. Despite the country of origin and names in some cases e.g Light Yagami, people still assume the characters must be white due to their skin tone and the lack of slanted eyes. Point being, those people are wrong. There were people who also assumed that Rue of The Hunger Games was meant to be white, even though she was described as having dark brown skin in the books. Assumptions do not always equal reality. Light is meant to be Asian, so Wolff is not the intended race, the same way Stanfield isn’t the intended race. If people can accept this fact, support Wolff and criticize Stanfield, then it is clear they just have an issue with Stanfield’s skin tone.

One particular argument used for Stanfield is that L is meant to be pale, since he doesn’t go out much. Basically, people are arguing that Stanfield won’t look like the character in the source material. What about the fact that Light is white and not Asian (or Asian-American)? Aren’t double standards fun?

Get Out

Note: Spoilers Ahead

After much delay, I finally got around to seeing a film I’ve heard nothing but good things about. I must say, the film lives up to the hype for the most part. Since the film was released a while ago I didn’t really feel like doing a review of it, which is why I want to sum up my thoughts on the film itself and move on to the interesting questions/issues it raised.

Firstly, the performances are all amazing. The only other film I have seen Daniel Kaluuya in in Sicario, and he was alright in that. The role was smaller and didn’t allow him to demonstrate the range we see in Get Out. It looks like things are looking up for Kaluuya since he also has a role in 2018’s Black Panther.

The Armitages, the family that Chris is expecting to join, are all outstanding. Caleb Landry Jones was particularly interesting as Jeremy, Chris’s prospective brother-in law. Keith Stanfield, probably best known as Darius on Atlanta, isn’t in the film that much but stole the spotlight when he was present.

Get Out works well as a comedy when it is intended to be comedic, as expected from Jordan Peele. However, it is also masterful as a horror film. The horror isn’t the type you would expect from a franchise like The Conjuring. There are no jump scares to be found. Instead, Peele forces an air of unease upon us that permeates most of the film. I was reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone, where its strength lies in its ability to unsettle you and get your mind and heart racing. More importantly, it also gets you thinking.

Peele has described Get Out as a “very personal” story“. A friend at work pointed out that Peele has a white wife, and it is very easy to see Get Out as a satirical, cathartic reenactment of encounters with his wife’s own family. I forget the exact wording, but I remember a tweet that said Get Out isn’t about ‘hang that nigger’ racism, it’s about ‘I’m not racist because I have black friends and voted for Obama’ racism. I think that tweet is a perfect distillation of what Get Out offers.

The Armitages’ are a rich, white family who are openly welcoming to Chris when they meet him. The dad is quick to mention he voted for Obama and that Obama was the best president in his time. With this statement, the film starts to delve more into the issue of the fetishization of the black body. Jeremy is the one to bring up the idea that black people’s genetics make them superior athletes, expressing his own quiet disdain and envy at this fact. This stereotype is also brought up by the extended family, and the comments all bring back memories of comments I’ve head all through my life as well. I was recently involved in a Twitter conversation where @adamant919 had the audacity to call our supposed natural gifts “black privilege”. Funny enough, it looks like the user has since deleted his account.

This fetishization reduces the black body to something that is either a threat, a conquest or a toy. Get Out is one of the first films in a while that generally surprised me with a third act reveal. Initially I thought that Chris would simply be brainwashed into submission, becoming another Andre Hayworth via Missy Armitage’s hypnosis. It was genuinely chilling to hear the breakdown of the surgery that would be performed to turn the black body into a vehicle for someone else, reducing Chris to a passenger within his own body. The Armitages’s could easily do the same process with white bodies, but it is clear that they are appealing to a desire specifically for black ones. In Chris’s case, Jim Hudson only wants his eyes so that he can capture the kinds of pictures he envies Chris for. However, the groundskeeper (Walter), is being controlled by Rose’s grandfather. Walter’s role on the estate becomes more chilling when we realize it is an old white man reveling in what his new body can do. The infamous Walter sprint, which grandpa calls his “exercise”, becomes a man testing out stereotypes for himself.

Peele is currently being considered to direct The DC Extended Universe’s Flash film and I was hesitant when I heard this, since the role seems far removed from his skillset. After seeing Get Out and how it manages to combine satire, horror and comedy, I am sure Peele can find a way to handle any project that comes his way.

The Dark Tower Trailer

I heard about The Dark Tower series nearly a decade ago but only got around to reading the first in the series, The Gunslinger, earlier this year.  I was an avid reader of King’s other works and decided that with the movie coming out, the time was right.

After watching the first trailer it became obvious that the movie is not following the first book closely. A quick search online also confirms the film is taking parts from the first book, but also from books 3 and 4.5. In essence, this adaptation is its own amalgam of the series’ events. In short, I think the trailer makes the film look amazingly generic, but Idris Elba still motivates me to see it in theaters. If you haven’t watched Luther, I highly recommend it.

Before I get into the trailer itself, or the general plot of the series, I have to bring up something this film illustrates. As I have discussed before, there is a huge double standard when it comes to race-changing in adaptations for television and film. If you change the race of a minority (e.g. black, Asian, Indian, Native etc.) character, and make him white, people are quick to argue “best actor for the part, it’s not about race”, “it’s more marketable/relatable” or that they are “colour-blind”.  These criticisms come flying out whether the character’s race is central to the story or not.

Now, when a white character is changed to a minority, people suddenly aren’t colour-blind. They don’t like the “political correctness”.

Or maybe people avoid bringing right-wing buzzwords into the argument. They don’t like the fact that the character is not portrayed as described in the book. They’re not racist for saying the characters should be portrayed as intended. Funny thing is, these same arguments are thrown out to protest white-washing, but they always fall on deaf ears. The Hunger Games (2008) incident proved that people might even block out information that reveals a character isn’t white, since many “fans” took to twitter to complain about Rue being black (even though she is described as having dark-brown skin in the books). I have no doubt that some of the people criticizing this casting choice also supported the casting in The Last Airbender (TLA) and Ghost in the Shell.

Idris Elba is no stranger to this controversy since he also received criticism for his casting as Heimdall in the Thor series. Of course, Asgard is a fictional world but people say that Heimdall should be white since he is from Norse mythology. However, the fictional world argument was used to defend the whitewashing of Sokka and Katara in TLA, a world that the creators said was inspired by Asian and Inuit cultures.

Katara and Sokka were Inuit characters that were even drawn with brown skin in the show. Some people argue they must be white if they have blue eyes, but white people don’t have a monopoly on blue eyes. I have met a black man as dark-skinned as I am with blue eyes. Would you say he must be white due to his eye colour? Additionally, the blue eyes are a symbolize their water tribe affiliation. The same way the Earth Nation inhabitants have green eyes, and air nomads have grey eyes. In the film, we get two white leads (with a white grandma) mysteriously surrounded by Native American villagers.

Despite all these arguments people still defended TLA since “it’s just a movie”. Then The Hobbit added black EXTRAS (non-speaking actors) and people complained that black people didn’t belong in a world inspired by Ancient Europe. Point being, this double standard is nothing but a result of racism that people refuse to admit or to address. What they should really say is: “I don’t mind race-changing as long as it leads to more white people.” I am not saying that race-changing is right in either case, white-washing or vice-versa. I am just unsympathetic to cries of “blackwashing” since the concern for character integrity clearly doesn’t go both ways.

Moving on. The Gunslinger, focused on Roland’s perspective as he travelled through Mid-World, a world similar to the Old West, in pursuit of the Randall Flagg. Flagg is often referred to as The Man in Black and is also a villain in King’s novel, The StandThe Gunslinger does imply that this Old World is actually an alternate timeline or dimension. The film’s trailer seems to confirm this. Since the film doesn’t follow the first book alone, it will likely also contain spoilers for those who haven’t read up to book 4.5. Since I have only read book one, I also can’t judge how closely the film follows the plots of the other books.

With that said, some of the dialogue makes this film sound like hundreds that have come before. The line about protecting the tower so that both worlds don’t fall just screamed cliché. There is nothing wrong with the concept itself, it’s the delivery of it that can make it somewhat fresh, or downright stale.

Aside from Elba, I am excited to see Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg. I have yet to see Dallas Buyers Club but McConaughey was spellbinding as Rustin Cohle in True Detective. The biggest question mark is Tom Taylor, who’s character will apparently be the film’s true lead.

I find that slow-motion is sometimes overused in promotional shots, but I actually like its use in this trailer. Roland’s gun-slinging is a visual treat, but I am hoping it isn’t all that the film has to offer. I also hope that the film doesn’t go into 300 territory and give us battles where we see slow-motion more often than not. I am more excited about The Defenders than this film, but King and the cast will still motivate me to see it in theaters when it comes out in August.

 

 

The Defenders Trailer Review

Potential spoilers ahead for all Marvel Neflix shows: Daredevil (1 and 2), Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist

The Avengers of netflix are arriving later this year, and Marvel recently released the first trailer for the team up series.

Firstly, I have to say that my excitement for the series was somewhat dimmed after watching Iron Fist. Although the show wasn’t as bad as critics made it out to be, it still fell short of the other series’ in my opinion. The acting ranged from great to hammy, with some actors struggling with some scenes more than others. Since Iron Fist is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the Marvel universe, the fight scenes were also a huge disappointment, with the best one trumped by almost any fight from Daredevil. The writing could also have been greatly improved to provide better villains and better plotting. Next to Mike Colter, Finn Jones is definitely the weakest actor out of the defenders. At least with The Defenders, Jones and Colter won’t be carrying the show. They’ll be supported by Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter.

When the series was scheduled to arrive before another season of Luke Cage I assumed that Cage would be broken out of prison. From this trailer it appears like that isn’t the case. We see Cage in public, riding a bus and still being referred to as Harlem’s hero. Perhaps he received some legal assistance from Matt too.

The first scene in the trailer remains my favourite. It isn’t action packed, but it is the perfect introduction for Matt Murdock’s character. It is also the first shot we get of two defenders together. Like the after-credits scene in Iron Man, where we first see Nick Fury, this shot of Matt and Jessica could be the start of an era.

The other character meetings appear to happen by chance, such as Rand and Cage. Since the characters all live in the same city, this bothers me less than it normally would but hopefully they’re not just bumping into each other on the street. One thing (among many) that bothered me about Iron Fist, was that Claire just happened to train at the dojo where Colleen worked, leading to her meeting Rand. Yes, same city, but Manhattan is a pretty big place and the characters don’t all live in the same area of Manhattan. It would make more sense for them to meet as they pursue leads on a new threat, such as Sigourney Weaver’s character, Alexandra.

Not much has been revealed about Alexandra yet, but she is likely involved with The Hand. Elektra died at the end of Daredevil’s second season, but her body was retrieved by The Hand afterwards. Now we know that Elektra will return, serving as The Black Sky, The Hand’s weapon. Unless the show will have two different villains, it looks like The Hand will be the main one for The Defenders.

We don’t see too much of the fight scenes so far, which is fine by me. Hopefully the fights are better than the ones we got in Iron Fist. While Jessica Jones and Luke Cage aren’t great martial artists, DD and IF are supposed to be some of the world’s best. I want to see that portrayed convincingly. If the actors get more than fifteen minutes to practice choreography, we should be good to go.

I was happy to see the interaction between Cage and Rand, since they have their own Heroes for Hires series in the comics. The moment Rand punches Cage is also a throwback to Cage’s own series, where a thug punches him and breaks his hand. It looks like Rand’s punch affects him a lot more than the thug’s did.

Many cast members from previous shows are confirmed to return for this series as well. We know Misty Knight is back, but Colleen Wing, Karen Page, Jerri Hogarth, Foggy Nelson, Trish Walker and of course, Stick are all returning. Even if their roles are relatively small, it does bring up the question of pacing. The previous Netflix shows were all thirteen episodes, but could have been shortened. Luke Cage in particular felt like it was dragged out via legal wrangling. We already know the main characters, so maybe The Defenders doesn’t need to be as long. However, we still have to deal with introducing the characters to one another and setting up their villain. I am hoping that the show doesn’t feel rushed or bloated between the team introductions, the conflict itself, plus appearances from other characters.

With all that said, I am excited for the show. I am hoping that it represents all the best things about the Marvel netflix shows. The great acting and action from DD and JJ. The great villains, with the exception of Diamondback any villain introduced in Iron Fist. The great supporting characters and the writing that isn’t afraid to eschew mindless “fun” in order to tell a good story.