Eli Roth and Inglorious Basterds

I watched Inglorious Basterds again last night. It was probably my third time seeing the film, while it was my friend’s first, and their first time seeing a Tarantino film. I figured I would get them started with the film that is still my favourite Tarantino epic.

Like the first viewing, Brad Pitt’s accent is almost campy but I am still able to tolerate it.

What I couldn’t tolerate was Eli Roth’s performance as Donny Donowitz a.k.a. “The Bear Jew”. Roth’s performance is just a object lesson on overacting. He doesn’t have that many lines but manages to make you cringe with most of them. There are literally two lines out of twelve that are actually delivered well. Roth doesn’t have the excuse of being hampered by an accent or any other affectation that makes his job harder.

Roth’s performance is even more of a conundrum since Tarantino has a reputation for getting good performances out of actors. Some of the few Samuel L. Jackson performances I have generally loved in a long time, came from Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. The Hateful Eight even made Channing Tatum a good actor for a minutes at a time. Why didn’t Tarantino rein in Roth? I have to think it has something to do with their creative partnership.

Tarantino was the executive producer of Roth’s Hostel (2005) and called Roth “the future of horror.” It seems like nepotism not only played a part in Roth’s casting, but also the direction he received from one of the greatest directors in Hollywood.

Westworld Season 2 Trailer Thoughts

Note: Obvious spoilers for season one. I don’t underestimate people’s stupidity.

Jonathan Nolan might be another sibling who lives in the shadow of their older brother. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own impressive wealth of talent and achievements. Prior to adapting Westworld (based on the 1973 film). Jonathan created the short story that led to Memento. He also co-wrote most of Christopher Nolan’s films, including The Prestige, The Dark Knight trilogy and Interstellar. Alongside his wife, Lisa Joy, Jonathan also brought us one of the best series of 2016. The second season is set to premiere in less than a month and this trailer will make that month pass by slowly.

Side note, I always found it interesting that the author of Jurassic World, Michael Chrichton previously created another work about a theme park where the guests end up threatened by the attractions. Both Westworld and Jurassic Park analyze the hubris of humans and the consequences of meddling with technology beyond our understanding.

The music from Westworld’s first season was actually one of my highlights. The opening credits are one of the few ones I always watch. While the visuals are arresting, the music is what I remember better. Ramin Djawadi helps to bring the show to life, just like he did with his score for Game of Thrones. The music in this trailer ended up being the highlight for me as well, with Djawadi’s orchestral version of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”.

Last season ended on what many people might call a cliffhanger, with the hosts apparently primed for war. This second trailer shows us that wasn’t a bait and switch. Most of the footage we see are the hosts fighting against military forces trying to threaten their sanctuary. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) appears to have a key role in the revolution, along with Teddy (James Marsden). Meanwhile, Maeve (Thandie Newton) is still deadset on finding her daughter. Am I the only one that thought she should have just stayed on the train last season? Anyway, last season ended with her getting a map to other worlds hidden within the park, including Shogun world. It will be interesting to get some deviation from the Western-themed park that dominated the first season. Maeve’s story also brings back Hector, who was one of my favourite characters from the first season.

In this trailer, and some promotional pictures, we actually see a host-in-progress attacking someone. By host-in-progress I mean the hosts who have not yet had skin dye grafted on. They are just the white shells that all the extra features are molded over.

I am interested most in seeing where William a.k.a The Man in Black goes from this point on. He says he wants to burn the whole place down and I am curious to see exactly what he does to reach that point. There are promotional stills and shots in the trailer where we see the older version of William (Ed Harris) speaking with Dorothy. It looks like they may be allies for some point in the story, at least until they draw closer to their respective goals.

It looks like there is more world-building to be done, but the second season still looks like it will offer a more explosive season than the last. However, I am sure there will also be plenty to digest in terms of character development and the philosophical questions that always accompany shows that revolve around the idea of consciousness.

Deadpool 2 Trailer Reaction

 

I know I’m tardy to the party on this one. Recently, I have been trying to watch fewer trailers so that I spoil less of the movie for myself, and also avoid the inevitable YouTube black hole of trailer reaction videos. With that said, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is one of the best castings in comic book film history and I couldn’t resist seeing some more of this film. If the first film is any indication, the trailers don’t actually spoil all of the funniest moments.

The first “trailer” we got for Deadpool was the “Wet on Wet” teaser, a glorious Bob Ross tribute that revealed very little about the plot, like a good teaser. I avoided looking up plot details but this trailer makes it clear Cable (Josh Brolin) serves a role as a villain in this film (or at least part of it), trying to capture a mutant child (Julian Dennison) who Wade wants to protect. Cable is likely trying to capture the mutant because of something he will do in the future, thus offering a moral conundrum for this film. The mutant’s character name doesn’t appear to have been revealed yet, although a shot in this trailer and a brief glimpse in the teaser makes it look like he has some sort of pyrokinetic power.

Cable’s face is less metallic than I am used to seeing from animated adaptations and the comics. However, I believe his arm is the result of a disease so it might progress during the film or over the four-film contract that Brolin signed. Brolin really only has two lines here and I guess I’m hoping the “I’m Cable” part sounds less hokey in context when watching the film. He is a great actor, judging by other performances, so I won’t worry too much. Unless he takes the Paul Giamatti mentality that he can “be as over-the-top hammy as possible” because he’s in a comic book movie. Let’s not have a repeat of the rhino in Amazing Spider Man 2. 

I have to say this trailer takes breaking the fourth wall to another level, with its irrelevant “From the Studio That Brought You 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada” title. I always hated this trend in marketing films and it looks like Deadpool 2 was the right film to finally poke some fun at it. I also love the slow-motion shot, followed by Wade asking if they got that in slo-mo. Obviously this is probably just a result of editing, but it is clear that at some point Wade references slo-mo. That scene also looks like we might possibly see Deadpool’s black X-Force suit.

The shot in the trailer doesn’t make it clear if Wade actually has a black or grey suit, or if something might just be covering his regular one. Either way, we now know X-Force will officially be referenced in the film, with Wade bringing his own team together. Since Wolverine was a part of this team in the comics at one point, I wonder if we’ll see Wade poking more fun at his Aussie friend again. We can only hope.

Speaking of X-Men, looks like the studio might be able to afford more characters this time. Negasonic and Colossus are back but we also see Wade swivelling in Professor X’s chair, not to mention the return of the X-Jet. Maybe we get to see some other mutants this time.

With a co-director of John Wick in the chair for this film, I’m sure the action won’t disappoint. The bigger worry for me has been the plot, the humour and the characters. They weren’t poor the first time around, but a sequel always brings the worry that it won’t live up to the first.

Deadpool 2 gives us a lot of new talent in the X-Men universe, including Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz as Domino. Before the first pic of Domino was debuted people were already complaining about a black actress in the role, which is just more proof that people only use the “best actor regardless of race” argument when roles get whitewashed. Anyway, if her performance in Atlanta is any indication, she should be good here. We only get two short lines here and not much footage so we’ll likely just have to see the movie to judge most of the new cast members.

However, there is plenty to love with Reynolds getting the biggest share of screen time and lines and I can’t wait to see his derivative team on screen.

Aziz Ansari, Consent and Rape Culture

In a sense it all began with Harvey Weinstein. He wasn’t the first man or high-powered Hollywood executive to sexually assault multiple women, but he was a part of one of the biggest scandals in the past few years, and once his actions were exposed, many more women gained the courage to report their own incidents of sexual assault. Fear of reprisals or career damage no longer shackled all the women who experienced sexual assault, in Hollywood or elsewhere.

The #Metoo movement was birthed and a slew of other film and television figures entered the headlines over the past few months, including actors such as Kevin Spacey. A particular disappointing one for me was the story of Aziz Ansari. Since the story first broke, the Ansari story appears to be one of the more divisive stories. Not only because the actor denies the allegations, but because many people don’t truly believe that the account of the alleged victim (Grace), really constitutes sexual assault.

While scrolling through Medium, I came across this article that studies the issue of consent for this case. One of the biggest issues that Grace detractors have is that there were moments when she did not clearly says she didn’t want sex. In their eyes, women should be comfortable simply saying no instead of relying on non-verbal cues, such as their body language.

I can agree that women should feel confident to simply say no. In this case, Grace is not Ansari’s employee. While Ansari is a man of some influence, it is not as if she was at a direct risk of losing her job if she simply said “I don’t want to have sex with you. I’m leaving.” However, if we read Grace’s account, we see that Ansari’s response to her saying “I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this” is to get them to put their clothes back on and “chill”. Fair enough, but then he kept trying to kiss her, stick his fingers down her throat and take her pants off. That seems to nullify the whole point of putting the clothes back on.

It finally clicks for Ansari that Grace isn’t interested when she pulls away from a kiss: that is when he agrees to call a ride for her. Just prior to that, she moves away from him and says she is calling a ride. She is then greeted with a hug and another kiss she doesn’t want. If anything, it was a non-verbal cue that finally let the message sink in. People who argue that Grace should have just said no, probably didn’t read her full account.  They read the accounts of her discomfort with Ansari’s advances and quickly rushed to the comment section.

I believe this animosity or apathy towards Grace has two main reasons.

  1. For men, it reflects a fear that they could make advances on a woman that they think are consensual (because she doesn’t explicitly say no), only to be the target of sexual assault allegations afterwards.
  2. For women, they can avoid having to empathize with Grace or put themselves in her shoes since they can think “Well I would have given him a firm no so that wouldn’t have happened to me”.

The “she should have said no” excuse has some merit. However, it also removes any responsibility for men to pick up on non-verbal cues. Anyone who is not autistic should be able to pick up on body language, such as moving away, averted eye contact etc. as signs that this woman does not seem interested. The answer is not to keep trying or offer more liquor like Ansari did. Someone like Ansari is likely used to fawning fangirls and I always wondered if this led to a form of blindness overtime. You get used to people fawning over your status so much that reluctance becomes harder to see. This is not an excuse for Ansari’s behaviour, I simply wonder if it is a factor.

Some of the Ansari defence uses slut-shaming and rape culture as their crutch, such as this comment on the Medium article.

“The best way to avoid a situation like hers was to not engage in one-night-stands. This goes for men and women. Have enough self-respect and self-control to get to know a person before you commit the most intimate act two people can.”

Basically, she was “asking for it”. Like I told this guy, this isn’t the 1950s. This antiquated idea that sex must always come from commitment or lead to it is a holdover from a time when sexuality was supposed to be the domain of a housewife and her husband. I liked to think that in 2018, a woman who is in the mood for sex, isn’t blamed for someone else’s aggressive advances. Wanting sex does not mean that you want sex from anyone, or that you are open to a potential sexual partner doing anything. As an example, if you agree to have sex with someone and then they want to do specific sexual acts that make you uncomfortable, then you have every right to say no. You were not asking for it if things get out of hand or if your partner’s true colours were not what you expected.

The excuses that rely on slut-shaming and rape culture don’t even require the detractor to read the article, and I’m pretty sure that the guy who wrote this did not read Grace’s account or the Medium article I linked to. He just saw an opportunity to judge someone else for their sexual behaviour, which didn’t fit his idea of what a proper woman should be like. “Tye Fox” says this excuse applies to men and women but I still have to wonder if he would jump to this defence to defend a woman sexually assaulting a man.

All this to say that I agree that there were blurred lines about consent in the Ansari story, not clear consensual sex as Ansari argued. Yes, I believe Grace could have been firmer with her rejection, but I also think some responsibility for what happened falls on Ansari. I believe that Grace did enough to signal she was uninterested, and that Ansari ignored clear signs. I have to wonder what dates look like for the hordes of men who are taking Ansari’s side on this issue (if they actually read the full Grace account). Do they also ignore a women when she says she doesn’t think she wants to hook up? Do they just try to feed her more liquor and keep trying to stick their fingers down her throat?

Kristen Wiig as Cheetah

Kristen Wiig was rumoured to be in talks to play Wonder Woman villain, Cheetah, for a few days before it became official yesterday.

As expected, this led to a lot of discussion online and it appears that most of the supporters of this decision were either rabid Wiig fans or people who appealed to the “Heath Ledger” argument. When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker many people, myself included, were very skeptical of the decision. Ledger then went on to blow most people away and deliver my favourite portrayal of The Joker.

What people need to realize is that Ledger was the exception to the rule. He is one of the very few questionable casting decisions that turned out to be a wise choice. For every Ledger Joker, we also get Jared Leto Joker (which has not aged well in my opinion).

Sorry Leto.

Another issue is that some actors or actresses are not suited for certain roles. Colin Firth is a great actor but I don’t think he’d make a good choice for Wolverine, or Jack Reacher. Wiig may have the acting chops for a serious role but that still does not mean that this is a good role for her.

I will hold out some hope for this casting since I thought Gal Gadot would fail to carry a movie as the lead. However, I am not going to jump on the bandwagon and put blind faith in this casting decision working out perfectly.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

T’Challa a.k.a Black Panther was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War, originally serving a role similar to the one Spider-Man played in the comics (the figure who joins Iron Man’s side but then changes his mind). Once Marvel were able to secure the rights for Spider-Man again, Tom Holland’s version of the character was hurriedly fit into the film. Spider-Man was brought in, but Black Panther remained and I think many people would agree that he shined in his debut.

The writing, the suit, the fighting and Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal all introduced the new King of Wakanda, and Black Panther picks up shortly after, where T’Challa is returning to Wakanda to be crowned king.

Firstly, there has bee a lot of excitement about this film because it is one of the first mainstream Hollywood films with a black director and a mostly black cast. Additionally, it is also one of the first movies in a while focusing on a black superhero. Inevitably, people’s excitement at these developments is also being met with the “colour-blind” or outright racist resentment.

  1. You don’t see me cheering for a new movie with a white cast.

It wouldn’t make sense for you to. There is an endless parade of films with white main characters and supporting characters. Your characters have a wide range of traits and professions. They are not often portrayed as thugs, or streetwise comic relief. The numerical representation of white people on screen far outstrips their representation in America, with over 70% of speaking roles in Hollywood films going to white actors (Sept. 2014- to August 2015). You are so used to this now that you have become blind to it.

Whiteness is the most desired commodity in Hollywood. It is why many stories focusing on black heroes are not viewed as “marketable”, despite successes like Straight Outta Compton and Hidden Figures. Studio heads are more willing to bank on white actors. This is why they favour adaptations of properties with white characters. This is why a character can be whitewashed when Hollywood adapts a story, because they view it as marketable. Then audiences start to internalize the same excuse, and get to the point where they genuinely support the idea that a movie loses interest for them if the protagonist isn’t white.

Consider this, even with the Marvel brand and Black Panther’s introduction in Civil War, it was still considered a “risk” to give $200 million to a black director whose previous work was critically lauded and profitable. There is a long-standing belief that black doesn’t sell as well as white, especially overseas, and Black Panther is challenging the dogma with its empathic opening weekend.

Don’t accuse black people or minorities as a whole of being racist here. Black people and Hispanics generally see more movies than white people do, meaning that a lot of them shell out money to watch (or even repeatedly watch) movies with characters that may not look like them. If minorities can do it, why can’t white people? We can appreciate a good story regardless of race, but we can also be appreciative when we get a great story and great film with actors that represent our population.

In short, if you go into this movie and carry your resentment with you, it is likely to influence your rating of the film.

Moving on…

Firstly, I have to say that this film did an amazing job of bringing Wakanda to life. Everything from the costumes, customs and music transports you to the fictional country that was never colonized. Its technology and clothing blend traditional and futuristic, borrowing inspiration from existing African countries to create something that is truly afrofuturistic.

Second, Black Panther actually gives us a good villain. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger gives us a villain with a tragic backstory and a mission that is more unique than a lot of others you will see. Essentially, he wants to take over the world, but the nuances and motive behind his aspirations are what makes him and the film special. Jordan can be charismatic, intelligent, empathetic, but also threatening. Other villains have also been physically threatening, such as Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, but without good writing they end up as generic placeholders. In terms of the entire MCU, Kilgrave from Jessica Jones may still have Killmonger beat. However, I have to place Killmonger above Loki as the MCU films’ #1 villain. Black Panther doesn’t shy away from exploring issues of racial identity and racism, and that was a pleasant surprise coming from the same company that turned a doomsday story into a buddy comedy (Thor: Ragnarok). Killmonger’s last line in particular, is one that left me speechless.

Speaking of comedy, it’s generally handled well in this film. I have previously ranted on YouTube and this blog about Marvel’s insistence on humour in their films. The Thor films as a whole are the worst offenders, giving us sloppy writing that regularly fails to build tension because we always know a joke is soon to follow, usually from the most annoying characters (looking at you Kat Dennings). Black Panther has one or two moments where I felt like a joke could have been cut, but overall I believe it is one of the MCU films that has the most balanced humour. There is nothing wrong with humour in itself, but it must fit the characters and the storyline.

In terms of jokes that could have been cut, one of the most notable comes from Andy Serkis as Ulysees Klaue a.k.a Klaw. Reprising his role from Avenvers: Age of Ultron, Klaw serves as an ally to Killmonger. If you have seen the trailers you know there is a scene where Killmonger frees Klaw from captivity, so what I am about to say won’t be too much of a spoiler. During Klaw’s interrogation, he is randomly singing What is Love. I guess the “don’t hurt me, no more” part is meant to be funny because Klaw wants to avoid torture, but the scene also comes across as really random and very Marvel-esque in terms of sloppy humour.

Most of the humour comes from Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Letitia Wright previously portrayed Nish in season 4 of Black Mirror and she is also able to shine here with the lighter material and the more intense moments. Shuri’s rapport with her brother is one of the highlights of the film and is a perfect example of a more organic approach to comedy, where it flows from a character naturally and doesn’t feel like it was forced in to keep things “fun”.

Alongside Boseman, Wright and Jordan we also have a host of other talented actors and actresses. Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead, makes Michonne look like Elsa in this movie. Daniel Kaluuya also plays an important role but he does get outshined by Winston Duke’s M’Baku. Martin Freeman also returns from Civil War as agent Everett Ross, and is yet another talented cast member and Lupita N’yongo rounds it out. For those who have seen the movie, you know her character is the real MVP.

The action in the film is at its best when the hand-to-hand choreography is on display. Some of the larger scenes do feature some shoddy CGI but thankfully these scenes aren’t prevalent enough to ruin the film. The Black Panther shines in his action scenes but Boseman also brings a great presence and power to the character, building off what we saw in Civil War. He is someone who is torn between tradition and change, past and future.

I know that the hype or the outright anti-black animosity will affect some people’s views of this film. Some might say it is overhyped. I was pleasantly surprised not to feel that way. It is my new favourite MCU film, beating out The Winter Soldier.

Go see the film for yourself, and hopefully you can enjoy the film simply as a film, while also appreciating everything else that comes with it.

Maze Runner: Death Cure

As someone who hates bad acting and love stories, I generally hate young adult (YA) books, tv shows and films. The Maze Runner (2014) still piqued my interest despite the horde of teen girls in the YouTube comments and I eventually checked it out. The performances were a welcome surprise, with Dylan O’Brien being a pleasant surprise. Aside from O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie- Sangster, Will Poulter and others also helped to carry the film’s concept and story.

The Maze Runner‘s ending revealed that a solar flare has devastated most of the world, and has also lead to a virus known as the flare virus. The maze was one of a series of experiments being used to test the bodies of people immune to the flare virus, in hopes of finding a cure.

The Scorch Trails continued with the character’s escape from the maze, introducing us to a desolate world filled with “cranks”, those infected by the flare virus. WCKD continues their pursuit of the group, after the group escapes from their facility in search of a resistance group called The Right Arm. The setting of the second film wasn’t as unique as the first, since we have seen post-apocalyptic worlds and zombies before. However, maybe I am a sucker for those elements. I didn’t hate The Scorch Trials as much as most people did. I still found it to be an enjoyable movie, although it was somewhat forgettable.

The Death Cure mainly follows the group’s attempts to find Minho and the rest of those taken captive by WCKD, hatching a plan to break into WCKD’s home base, nestled in the Last City. The performances continue to shine here, especially O’Brien and Sangster. I found Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) somewhat forgettable in The Maze Runner but feel like she had a much better role in this film. The action sequences were a highlight of the second and that continues here, although the scenes do have those small moments of nonsensical actions that tend to ruin suspension of disbelief. For example, there is a scene where soldiers are approaching the heroes and instead of shooting from afar (but still within range) they wait until they are less than fifty feet away before pulling their triggers. Once the soldiers start shooting it is clear they are not planning to take the heroes alive, but that goes back to the issue, why not shoot when they were a little further away and had clear shots?

The action and the writing only allows a few characters to truly shine, with Thomas, Teresa and Newt getting the brunt of that. Honourable mention also goes to a short but powerful performance from Walton Goggins (as always) and a character who returned from the first film. Others, such as Brenda and Jorge get their action scenes, but get much less character development. They exist mainly to provide firepower for the main group.

In terms of the villains, Aiden Gillen is competent as Janson but is not that memorable (same as the second film). Patricia Clarkson’s “Ava Paige” is more of a standout as WCKD’s leader, but her character also fails to be a standout. She is a villain facing the utilitarian struggle of sacrificing some for many, but we don’t get too much time to explore her moral conflict.

Like The Scorch Trials the cranks were surprisingly creepy in the Death Cure, and the film actually has two jump scares that are better than some of the attempted ones in horror movies. I will say that some of the scenes, action or otherwise, feature cliches that detracted from my enjoyment of the film e.g. we hear a gunshot and think a main character got shot, but someone else did OR we think everyone’s doomed, but a last minute rescue comes into play. At one point, it seemed like there was a loop of these cliches but thankfully they faded somewhat as the movie went on. The most effective villain in this film is simply the idea of WCKD, the entity that wants to imprison the heroes.

The Death Cure also adds a resistance group that resides just outside the walls of the Last City, eager for their chance to break through and seek revenge on the company that has kept them out. I thought this subplot was interesting but we don’t actually get to explore the community much, although they make their presence felt in the third act.

The performances and the action are the best parts of this film, and arguably the series. The characters birthed in the first film are the ones who remain the strongest throughout, giving us the film’s heart and most of our reason for caring about the fate of the heroes. I will commend the series for being one that makes you root for all of the heroes, even if they are not well developed. Unlike some of the terrible slasher flicks or terrible sci-fi films I have seen (looking at you AVP: Requiem) I never crossed the line of truly not caring about certain characters. In contrast, caring about the character is what makes you want to know them better. The characters aren’t stereotypes, or simplified archetypes e.g. the jock, the smart one. There is more to them but we don’t really get to see that. We root for Thomas, Newt etc. and then root for everyone else by extension.

Although the film had its faults I still loved seeing it on the big screen and would be happy to see it again. I believe The Death Cure was a strong end to the series. The film was long but I honestly didn’t feel like it dragged. Maybe I’m just a YA fanboy but that’s my honest opinion. Do yourself a favour if you’ve seen the other two and don’t let critics sway you too much. See the film if you want to, and let yourself be the judge.

Solo

Sunday brought a much-anticipated Patriots defeat at the hands of the Eagles. For the movie geeks like myself we were also excited to see new movie footage and trailers debut during the big game. There was more Infinity Wars footage but I was not too excited about it, maybe because I’m afflicted with a bit of Marvel fatigue.

For the moment, I don’t have any Star Wars fatigue. When I originally heard about the plans for the anthology films, and extended universe of films separate from the “Episode” series, I viewed it as a cheap cash in. However, Rogue One became my favourite Star Wars film. The film excelled on its own merit but I also found it refreshing to see a Star Wars tale that was not tied to the Skywalkers. There is an entire galaxy with interesting worlds and people, and these films allow the filmmakers to diverge from the battle against the Sith and show us other layers of the universe.

The Super Bowl gave us a tv spot for Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was pretty much an announcement trailer. The full trailer arrived today. I’ll be discussing both, but let’s start with the tv spot.

Obviously it features less dialogue than the full trailer. The few bits of dialogue we get don’t give away too much in terms of the plot (and they shouldn’t), but give us just enough to understand what the movie is about as we lead up to the title shot. The visuals look amazing, very photorealistic and devoid of the cartoonish CGI we see in some films. That is also a relief since this film doesn’t have that much post-production left to go, with a May release date.  This marketing footage was released pretty late- some movies have teasers come out nearly a year before release- likely due to all the production issues Solo had. Former directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired weeks before principal production was set to finish. Ron Howard then came in and oversaw five weeks of reshoots.

Reshoots don’t have to be a bad thing, since well-loved films like Back to the Future and Rocky also had reshoots. Not to mention The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Reshoots aren’t always about removing or changing a storyline, they can simply be some behind the scenes special effects work, like the reshoots for Force Awakens. However, the fact that two directors got fired into production makes it obvious that the Solo reshoots could likely have altered the story of the film. The Lord and Miller take was a more comedic venture, described as a “screwball comedy“. While Han was used for comic relief at points in the original trilogy, that doesn’t mean the film itself has to be a comedy to work. The reshoots could work out well or the film could end up being some Frankenstein monster of subplots, characters and storylines that don’t mesh.

Moving on the actual footage, Donald Glover looks like an OG in the tv spot and the trailer. We don’t get any lines from Lando but we do see him piloting the Millennium Falcon at one point. In the original trilogy, we find out Han won the plane from Lando in a game of sabacc. We’ll likely see the ship change hands in the film. I actually came across an article that argues a Lando film is more deserved than Solo, especially since Han’s character is relatively fleshed out in the original trilogy and already has a conclusive end in The Force Awakens. The author argues that some mystery about Han’s early years fit the character, meanwhile the level of mystery Lando still has makes him a better candidate for a film. Of course, the comments have one guy complaining about a “poc obsession”. I doubt he complains about the much longer phase of the white people obsession. Anyways…

I generally avoid watching or reading anyone’s thoughts on trailers before I give my own, since my opinion could end up swayed. If someone is negative I could go in with a negative mindset, or settle for something mediocre simply because it wasn’t as bad as one critic or YouTube reviewer made it out to be. I came across a tweet yesterday that I can’t help but agree with.

Like I said, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed or been as bothered if I didn’t read this tweet first.

“I got kicked out…for having a mind of my own.”

“A pilot…the best in the galaxy.” Almost reminded me of the Pokemon theme song.

“Hey kid, I’m putting a crew together. You in?”

That being said, at least the delivery isn’t too bad. I am sure Woody Harrelson will give a great performance, like he usually does. Emilia Clarke can be hit or miss, I’ve even noticed this from her performance on Game of Thrones. Some actors and actresses also seem to flounder outside of a certain role, and I am hoping that isn’t the case here.

The biggest question mark so far is Alden Ehreneich as Han. Apparently his performance initially failed to impress Lucasfilm and necessitated an on-set acting coach. Now, the article says the acting coach isn’t necessarily a bad sign. The worrying part is how late into production the coach was brought on, which is implied to be some point late into principal production.

This film hinges on Ehreneich’s performance. Many fans are likely skeptical of seeing someone else portray Han at this point, even if it is a role that would make no sense for Harrison Ford to play. People will likely nitpick Ehreneich’s voice and looks, and if he gives a poor performance on top of that, the film’s anchor will be ruined.

I was actually more excited for this film after the tv spot, than I was after the full trailer. With that said, I am still curious to see how the film turns out and I am still looking forward to seeing Donald Glover as Lando.

Metalhead: Black Mirror

Note: Just some quick thoughts motivated by a podcast I was listening to. The @decipherscif podcast was going through the second half of season 4 of Black Mirror, breaking down the science in episodes like Black Museum. Interestingly, when the conversation moved to “Metalhead” the podcasters pretty much skipped the episode, criticizing its plot.

For anyone who’s been reading the blog, you’ll know Black Mirror is one of my favourite tv shows. I recommend it to people anytime the topic of tv pops up. When I heard about a fourth season on Netflix I completely forgot about wrapping up season 5 of Samurai Jack and moved on to Black Mirror. The season has birthed some new favourites for myself and other fans, such as “Black Museum” and “USS Callister”. It has birthed some episodes that might land in the middle, such as “Crocodile” or “Arkangel”. Season 4 has also birthed an episode that I personally believes gets an unfair helping of hate, “Metalhead”.

Now, it is easy for me to see why the hate exists, but I don’t think the hate exists simply because the episode is poorly done television. For many, “Metalhead” was likely just an unwelcome deviation from what they expected in a Black Mirror episode. The philosophical underpinnings weren’t as salient, and the episode doesn’t offer any of the twists or turns fans came to expect. Instead, “Metalhead” offered a simple chase sequence that has drawn comparisons to Mad Max and Terminator. Compared to the episodes that came before, “Metalhead” was a drastic shift.

Personally, I still put “The Waldo Moment” at the bottom of my list, and people may consider my reasoning shallow, but I could not stand the voice the actor used for the cartoon character. The messages were good and turned out to be quite relevant (cough, Trump) but it is an episode I refuse to revisit.

I have always loved post-apocalyptic stories, and although the Skynet-esque trope of technology hunting down humankind has been done, I still found the episode very engaging. It is not the type of scenario that can ask the same type of questions about topics like consciousness or reality, but “Metalhead” did leave me speculating what led to the world we see in the episode. We can guess the dogs were a military weapon that either went rogue, or may be hunting a certain segment of the population. I liked the fact that we were left to speculate about the details surrounding the character’s predicament. I also thought it was amusing to see a more literal representation of technology leading to death. While some may criticize the subtlety of this episode, I also think there is a segment of fans who like to feel smart because they watch the show, just like the denizens of Rick and Morty fans who claim you have to be pretty smart to “get it”.  An episode like “Metalhead” breaks the illusion of philosophical theater.

Maybe “Metalhead” was a bad Black Mirror episode but it certainly wasn’t bad tv.

More Right-Wing Straw Mans

For those of you who do not know, a straw man argument is an argument that does not address the argument an opponent made. Typically, the straw man is created by either exaggerating or simplifying an opponent’s argument

For example

Person 1: Racism still impacts minorities

Person 2 (Straw Man): You’re saying minorities shouldn’t work hard since racism holds them back anyway!

This may seem like an exaggeration on my part but the online realm is rife with straw man arguments. This post is actually motivated by an argument some racist (sorry, alt-righter) presented on twitter. According to them, acknowledging that racism still impacts minorities just gives minorities a license to become lazy. Sadly, this thread was met with a wave of support and criticism of liberals who would try to create a utopia where no one has to work hard.

This particular straw man argument is a very popular one and shows the strength of denial and straw man arguments. A lot of people on the right wing, and those sympathetic to them, love to complain about liberals being the ones that never listen to the other side or heed facts that contradict their world view. This straw man argument is one example of an argument that is borne out of willful ignorance.

No reputable figure who studies racism or even acknowledges its impact tries to argue that minorities shouldn’t bother to work hard or improve themselves, since racism will stop their progress anyway. This is not an argument that liberals make. There is plenty of evidence to show that racism still impacts minorities, such as the study that people with racially ambiguous names get more responses to their resumes, even though the resumes are identical. So people who don’t want to face the facts can simply ignore the actual details of the study, see the headline that says “racism” and jump to a stupid argument.

My mother never told me I shouldn’t bother to work hard because of racism. I was taught that I would have to work twice as hard to get the same respect. She was right. If I fail, it’s because I’m a lazy black guy. If I succeed, people assume I am unqualified because they don’t understand how affirmative action works.

We are stuck in a cycle where people say we can work hard and succeed, and are then treated with suspicion if we do succeed. Racist assumptions abound as people wonder if we AA’d our way in or if we are selling drugs to support our lifestyle. This is the beautiful colour-blind world we live in.