Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Edit: The trailer is now out, and I will be doing  a video and blog post with my thoughts on it later today.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando is now underway, featuring panels with the stars and filmmakers of the Star Wars franchise. Director Rian Johnson is present, and it is expected that the trailer for The Last Jedi will premiere online tomorrow. With that said I thought I would share some of my hopes for the next film.

1) No death star.

We have had three death stars over seven films, and even the original trilogy didn’t have two death stars back to back.  I didn’t mind seeing the original death star again in Rogue One, since it was a prequel. With that said, death stars should simply be retired for the saga as a whole.

2) More development for Finn as a capable warrior.

John Boyega has hinted (via Instagram) that Finn will have a more physical role in The Last Jedi. He has also hinted that the character would be boring if he started off as a  skilled warrior, instead of realistically developing to that point. Since Rey is often accused of being a Mary Sue to her skills as a pilot, mechanic, and her skill with the force and the lightsaber, maybe Boyega has a point. I have previously discussed the Mary Sue argument, although I believe detractors may have a point I simply have to question if a male character with the same skills would be criticized as much. After all, Luke had the same skill set in A New Hope.

Finn was marketed as the franchise’s next Jedi, and his fate in the film came across as a cruel bait and switch. First, one of the few black main characters in the franchise is reduced to comic relief for the most part. Second, he’s unconscious at the end of the film while Rey goes to train with Luke. Boyega is a great actor, if his performances in Attack The Block and Imperial Dreams are any indication and I hope he gets more room to shine.

3) More new locations and people.

Rogue One and the announcement of various spin-offs that deviated from the “Episode” series initially seemed like a cash grab. However, Rogue One ended up being a breath of fresh air. Star Wars is the story of a galaxy,  and it was great to be separated from one family and one set of characters for a few hours. We got memorable new characters and places that still relate to the “Episode” series while also showcasing how vast the universe really is.

If the trailer is released tomorrow, I’ll be fanboying like everyone else, with these hopes in the back of my mind.

Thor: Ragnarok Thoughts

I have previously discussed my refusal to see Thor: Ragnarok due to Marvel’s insistence on bringing a comedy writer onboard to rework the film only because they worried the film was too dark.

Of course, I wouldn’t want a film to be dark if the tone doesn’t fit the characters or story. This argument can be a can of worms since many characters have stories that are uncharacteristically dark or light (e.g. The Flash with Flashpoint Paradox). The Barry Allen version of The Flash isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but Flashpoint Paradox still took the darkness to a whole other level.

But I digress.

The previous Thor films had plenty of comic relief, or attempts at it. These included one painful line after another from the likes of Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman. One of the few good things to come out of the Thor series has been Loki. Ragnarok refers to Asgardian doomsday, so a dark tone seemed appropriate. Even if the film wasn’t going to adapt the mythical Ragnarok events, a title referencing doomsday still implies some level of darkness. Darkness would fit the story, and it could therefore fit the character. If a film is overhauled only to lighten the tone, regardless of whether the tone fits the character or story, that is a travesty. People complain about film’s being “dark” for no reason, but very few people have a problem with more “fun”.

What bothers me the most about the decision to change the film is that this demonstrates how the need for “fun” overrides other artistic considerations. The previous Thor films have other issues, such as a love story lacking chemistry,  and some weak villains (looking at you dark elves). All those issues were overlooked previously, but bring on some darkness, and it’s all hands on deck to make another film.

I still refuse to see the film in theatres but I must say that this first trailer has some great moments. More Loki is always a good thing, and I love the new look, which is partially inspired by his look in the Young Avengers.

Hela looks like she might give us another good villain. Her helmet has drawn a lot of comparisons to Aku, but since the helmet originates from the older comics, seems like Aku was inspired by Hela.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hulk doesn’t look as convincing (CGI wise) as he did in The Avengers film but the film still has more post-production to go. I actually didn’t mind the “he’s a friend from work” line since it actually seems in character for Thor. However, it still sucks that just about every epic moment is likely to be undercut by a one-liner that the fun-addled masses will eat up.

I’ve been told my writing is quite depressing, so perhaps I hate the Marvel “fun mania” since it clashes with my own creative proclivities. As Jeremy Jahns said sometimes I would prefer an epic moment, to a funny one. Likewise, sometimes I would prefer an epic movie to a “fun” one.

Archer: Dreamland Season Premiere Review

When it was announced that Archer’s eighth season would move transplant all of the beloved characters into a different time, fan theories were rife with the belief that the eighth season would be Sterling’s coma-induced dreams. Of course, the season’s title, “Dreamland” also made it a very compelling theory.

The creators didn’t waste anytime confirming what many people thought, offering a brief fakeout as we see the gang at a funeral for Woodhouse. Woodhouse’s voice actor passed away in 2015 and the character was understandably absent from the show afterwards. This episode finally resolves the issue of Woodhouse’s disappearance in a way that pays respect to George Coe. In this case, I am glad the character gets to pass along with his voice actor.

Once the funeral is wrapped up, we see Archer, and his five o’clock shadow resting in a hospital dead. Three months after getting shot by Veronica Deane. I was originally upset that Archer’s life could potentially end at the hands of a starlet, especially after all the other threats he’s faced. However, I realized that such a fate would actually fit Archer’s personality and history. Archer has always let his guard down, thinking with the head below his waist instead of in his brain, whenever a beautiful woman comes along.

While I loved seasons 1-3 as a whole, 4- 7 have been weaker entries in the series. There have been some good episodes throughout the show’s run, but seasons 1-3 offer the most consistently entertaining episodes. Season 7 was an improvement over 5 and 6 in my opinion, and season 8 looks like it is also getting closer to the standard of the first few seasons.

The noir setting offers a fresh take that is stunningly appropriate for Archer, and has also been used to offer brilliant alterations of the supporting cast. All of the main characters have been re-introduced in one way or another, while also maintaining parallels to their original selves. Cyril is still a dick to Archer and vice-versa, Lana is still a love interest who knows how to Archer in his place, Krieger still deals in illegal goods, Pam is still badass, Mallory is still a domineering boss, Cheryl is still crazy, Barry is still an arch-nemesis etc.

In terms of humour, this episode holds promises for a season that could potentially usurp number four as my fourth favourite, and maybe even go higher.

Bates Motel: The Scene We’ve Been Waiting For

Warning: Spoilers will ensue for Bates Motel up until this point, which is episode 6 of season 5.

I remember watching Psycho (1960) years ago, mainly to see the film that birthed the most iconic shower scene in cinema history.

The music, the scream, the knife-wielding silhouette…it’s perfect. Maybe it comes across as cheesy now but I think the context has to be considered here. At this time, Psycho was breaking new ground in the horror genre, inspiring numerous other aspiring writers and directors, while also making people scared to take a shower.

Bates Motel could have turned out to be a terrible attempt to try to rehash, or cash in on a classic, but it has been able to truly become its own beast. It has carved out its own mythos, while also respecting and paying tribute to its source material: the 1960 film and the book that preceded it.

These past two seasons of Bates Motel have improved greatly by removing strenuous subplots and focusing on the Bates family. More specifically, the show became a lot more interesting as it focused on Norman’s descent into madness.

This season brought up a significant character from the old movie, Marion Crane, the victim of the famous shower scene. I was worried that Rihanna would ruin this season with her presence, but she was surprisingly competent in the role. I’m not going to say she was great, but she wasn’t atrocious and didn’t ruin the show. Maybe I was setting the bar low for her.

I was sure the show would have their own version of the shower scene, but I wasn’t sure how they would approach it. Would they try to do a carbon copy of the scene? Probably not a good idea since the original is so iconic. Instead, we get a genius twist on the scene, with the show’s biggest douchebag getting carved up instead.

The choice of music was perfect, with the lyrics and the tone matching the footage of Norman embracing his other half. The music was also vastly different from the original, creating a scene that is a homage to Pyscho but can still stand by itself. I like the fact that his alternate persona is portrayed as being self-aware of its own existence, acknowledging that it is a coping mechanism, but arguing it is still a necessary piece of Norman’s mind.The show was even brazen enough to tease us with the possibility of Marion’s death earlier in the episode.Marion lives another day, but Riri will likely not return to the show (which is okay with me).

Freddie Highmore has been a true powerhouse over these past few seasons, and Vera Farigma continues to kill it as Norma (or pretend Norma). This dynamic duo has the rest of this season to bring Bates Motel home and I am looking forward to seeing how this series ends.

 

IT Trailer Thoughts

IT is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I remember watching the original television miniseries (1990) with Tim Curry. Although Curry was undoubtedly creepy I didn’t find the film that scary overall, not only due to some dated effects but also due to the general failure of creating a terrifying atmosphere.

This trailer legitimately gave me chills, teasing glimpses of Pennywise and the kids he terrifies in the story.

Child actors always worry me, especially when they are carrying a movie. From what we see here, it looks like the acting might not be disastrous. Finn Wolfhard, from Stranger Things, did a pretty good job in that show so I am hoping he and his peers bring the same level of talent to this film.

On a side note, Georgie hitting his head on the road block might come across as an unintentionally funny moment for some, but I was just focusing on the fact that we see “Derry” painted across it.

Firstly, I love the fact that this trailer didn’t rely on jump scares. There is one when we get our first glimpse of Pennywise, but this more expected scare is followed up with a truly chilling moment.The projector scene actually got my heart racing and so did the final “you’ll float too” scene.

However, I do wish the trailer would have ended after we see Pennywise’s eyes emerge from beneath the water. I feel like the last shot of him bursting forth should have been saved for the movie, or perhaps another trailer.

It has also been confirmed that the film is Rated R so it looks like the director and writers aren’t scared to fully embrace the mayhem from King’s pages. Since the entire bible of IT is being adapted into one film, it does bring up issues of how much of the story will need to be cut in order to accommodate the film’s length.

Edit: It appears this film will only focus on the Losers Club. The part of the story focused on the adults will come in the second film.

Director Andres Muschietti is coming off a relatively strong film in Mama, in my opinion. Mama also created good scares, mostly relying on atmosphere and chilling moments, instead of jump scares. However, the third act was by far the weakest. Mama was partially done with prosthetics, but some details, such as her face were clearly computer generated for some scenes.  Mama was exposed for the camera, revealing poorly rendered special effects and the third act didn’t provide the same level of scares the first two did.

It’s third act is often criticized as generic, or somewhat of a letdown in comparison to the first two as well. I am hoping that the writers find a way to end the film strong, because it looks like we might have a truly terrifying film coming our way.

Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer Thoughts

I initially avoided watching this trailer because I was worried it would give too much away. Overall, my wariness appears to be justified.

Tom Holland was a highlight of Captain America: Civil War, even though the character was clearly rushed into the film after Marvel obtained the rights (or technically leased them from Sony). Although I have previously ranted about the MCU obsession with light-heartedness and fun, I wasn’t as worried about that obsession ruining a Spider-Man film. Peter Parker’s wisecracking is a key part of the character and Holland mastered that element, as well as capturing a more serious moment when he referenced Uncle Ben’s death with Tony Stark.

Although plenty of people saw The Amazing Spider-Man series as being too dark, the tone wasn’t an issue for me. With that said, the second film was bogged down with too many villains and some pretty hammy performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti and Dane Dehaan.

Since Spider-Man is one of my favourite comic book characters, probably just behind Batman, Wolverine and The Punisher, I was excited for Homecoming.

Now…this trailer. The YouTube comments make it clear a lot of people disagree, but I think I have Tony Stark fatigue.  However, there is a silver lining. It looks like Stark steps back from supporting Peter after the incident on the ship, leaving the film to hopefully focus on our favourite wall crawler.

I am just worried the film might reach this point halfway through, which is too late in my opinion. The character of Peter Parker got anchored to Stark due to his rushed introduction in Civil War, and now the writers are doing their best to keep that thread alive and also find a coherent reason to cut it. Meanwhile, marketers are also pimping Tony Stark out to the audience.

The high school setting for Spider-Man worked surprisingly well in The Spectacular Spider-Man, since the show avoided becoming 90210 featuring Spider-Man. I am hoping this film has a good balance as well. Zendaya’s one line in this trailer already leaves me worried about her acting skills. She says “my friends are up there” with the same enthusiasm she would say “I broke a nail”.

On a positive note, the trailer doesn’t spoil too much of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. So far, he seems the best kept secret and also seems like he may be a highlight of the film. The new costume is awesome and I have renewed faith in Keaton after watching Birdman and Spotlight.

Additionally, a lot of the humour in this trailer was actually good. My favourite parts were the interactions between Peter and his friend. My least favourite ones, you guessed it, anything with Tony Stark.

What are your thoughts on the new Spider-Man Homecoming trailer?

Justice League Trailer Thoughts

Geoff Johns was kind enough to share the new Justice League trailer with twitter this morning.

So let’s get this out of the way. I am not a Marvel v DC person. Obviously I realize there is competition between the two brand and their related movie studios. However,  I do not condone the childish mindset that I can only like the movies from one group. My favourite comic book films include DC and Marvel properties, ranging from The Dark Knight, X:Men DOFP to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

With that said, I am cautiously optimistic about Justice League. I love the characters, especially Batman, but BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad have left a bad taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, both films had great pieces and great moments. Overall. they felt short. Both had weak villians and weak third acts, along with some other issues.

As I watched this trailer I forgot about that for a moment. There is still no sign of Superman but I’m sure we’ll see him in the film. I am glad this film didn’t reveal too much about the plot or reveal the villain yet. We know it will be Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf, and we get some glimpses of parademons (presumably) in this trailer.

From what I understand, Cyborg’s armour is derived from alien technology in the newer comics. It looks like his armour comes from a motherbox, a teleportation device Darkseid’s forces use. This motherbox appears to be the gateway that allows the parademons to reach earth. If this is the case, Cyborg could have a central role in the film and I am hoping the script and the actor can deliver.

To start, there is a lot of CGI in this trailer. Obviously that has to be the case for the visuals this story needs. The Flash looks amazing so far and his scenes are some of my favourites from the trailer. However, this trailer reminds me of 300 with the amount of computer generated backgrounds and surroundings. The scene with Batman fighting a parademon sticks out in my mind as one of the worst offenders. Maybe I wouldn’t notice as much if some of the effects looked better. Hopefully the effects are cleaned up by the time the film begins. Cyborg looks better than he did in the comic-con footage so I am hoping there is still time to improve the visuals.

With that being said, the visuals weren’t my greatest concern going into the film. Steppenwolf will hopefully provide a better villain than Doomsday, Luthor or Enchantress. This should help to strengthen the third act but won’t necessarily be enough. If the third act is just a fight filled with poor special effects, that can also cause the audience to lose interest, like I did with the last fight in BvS.

I am also hoping the desire to add more “fun” doesn’t ruin the script entirely. Obviously some characters are more light-hearted than others. However, Barry Allen has pretty much been turned into Wally West in terms of their personalities. Meanwhile it looks like they are trying to turn Bruce Wayne into Tony Stark. Obviously Bruce Wayne has the carefree, obnoxious playboy persona but the real Bruce Wayne has a drier sense of humour than the one we’ve seen so far.

Okay, time to be more positive.

Aquaman is one of my favourite superheroes, and is severely underrated by the general audience and even some comic book readers. Jason Momoa, as well as the writers, look like they’ll remedy that. I am sure that Aquaman or Flash will end up being the breakout stars of this film and possibly even the franchise. My only worry is Momoa’s acting skill, which isn’t that great from what I have seen so far. That doesn’t detract from my man crush, but it does bring up a possible issue with the film. We’ll see how he does.

In general, the action looks pretty awesome. Looking past the issue of the CGI, it looks like we’ll see some creative and memorable action sequences. It was great to see our first glimpse of J.K Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, and hear a reference to Robin since Batman is “playing well with others” again.

I can’t deny my excitement at seeing my favourite superheroes on screen together and I hope Zack Snyder delivers a film that lives up to the hype.

 

Iron Fist Thoughts

Hello everyone,

I know I haven’t been too active on the blog over this past week but I’m back to it now, and plan to keep uploading new content at least three times a week.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

I finished watching Iron Fist earlier in the week and while it isn’t as bad as some of the critics make out, it is definitely one of the weaker Marvel Netflix shows. Overall, the acting is some of the weakest we’ve seen. Luke Cage was also hampered by Mike Colter’s abilities, but fortunately he was the only real weak link in terms of the acting. Shades was a cheesy character but I believe Theo Rossi did the best he could with the role. With Iron Fist, we get some weak or inconsistent performances from the main character, and supporting cast such as David Wenham and Sacha Dhawan.

There is one issue that is the elephant in the room, so I guess I’ll get into that issue too. When the first promotional material aired many people complained about Danny Rand being white, even though he is also white in the comics. Rand was seen as another example of cultural appropriation or the white savour dynamic that we see in The Great Wall and earlier works like The Forbidden Kingdom (2008). I was quick to defend Rand’s race since the show was being true to the comics but I’ve also tried to be open-minded and see where detractors are coming from.

Some may view it as a stereotype if we get another martial artist who is Asian or Asian-American, but some people have pointed out that Rand could be different. He could have been a three-dimensional, wealthy, main character with martial art prowess. Instead we get another story where the white lead takes on scores of foreign Asian enemies. Of course we have Colleen as well, but she can basically be the one “Asian friend” that detracts from all the other problematic issues in the show. I am not saying you all have to buy this narrative, but it is something to think about. Of course, you can also feel free to just throw out right-wing buzzwords like “social justice warrior’ instead, talking about how you’re colour-blind and then support the whitewashing of movies like Ghost in the Shell.

Speaking of martial arts, the fight scenes in this show were underwhelming to say the least. I started watching Into The Badlands and I immediately saw what Iron Fist should have given us.

After Daredevil I was hoping to see amazing choreography and fluid action. Especially since Iron Fist, like Daredevil, is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the Marvel universe. Instead we get actors awkwardly working their way through their choreographed steps, giving no impression of real experience and training (for the most part). The Into The Badlands stars underwent three months of training prior to filming. In comparison, Finn Jones underwent three weeks. Then he only got to practice the choreography for specific fight scenes 15 minutes before they were filmed. Since the show’s writing is weaker, I was at least hoping to see some of the best action to date.

The “White Saviour” argument did pop back in my head after seeing Zhou Cheng (Lewis Tan) fight Danny. Tan, a martial artist in his own right, is also able to give us an interesting character with his few minutes of screen time. I can’t fault people for saying he should have received the role of Iron Fist instead.

Another issue with the show is that the most interesting parts of Danny’s backstory are only shown in very brief flashbacks, or are recited to us. I suspect that the show’s budget is the main culprit for this. Instead of a few more minutes of Danny’s training in K’un-Lun, we get more corporate espionage.

I thought the show was strongest mid-season, building up the mystique of the Hand and Madame Goa, demonstrating their hold over Harold Meachum. Speaking of Harold Meachum, Wenham’s performance went from great to hammy scene by scene. Don’t even get me started on his return from the dead (after Ward murders him), where he’s apparently brain-damaged and stumbles around New York like a crackhead. I blame that one on the writers though.

There is another issue I blame on the writers as well. It seems like a small one but almost ends up causing a plot hole. We see Gao use some sort of power on Danny when he confronts her after completing his challenges in the warehouse. Then she never uses this power again. It is never explained why she can’t use it again either. 

I love Claire Temple but I felt like this show could have used less of her. Obviously she is the bridge between all four Defenders characters, but did she really have to go to China with Danny and Colleen? Actually, I can understand her going to China. Did she have to specifically go to Gao’s hideout? She is the weakest fighter and if the writing was consistent, probably would have been killed. Finn Jones filmed Iron Fist back to back with The Defenders so that answers the question of why Jones got less time to prepare for his fights and why Claire was in most of the episodes. 

Aside from Claire, references to other characters were handled more smoothly. Claire is still reading Luke Cage’s letters from prison. Hogarth’s involvement makes more sense and her introduction into the show doesn’t rely on coincidence (like Claire training at Colleen’s dojo). Joy Meachum references hiring Jessica Jones as a private investigator; at least that is who I assume she referred to when talking about PI who’s good “when they’re sober”. As always, there are also references to “the incident”, which is the name used to refer to Loki’s attack on Manhattan and the Avengers subsequent defence of the city.

Jones and Colter are definitely the weaker actors from the Defenders troupe, with Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter providing strong performances as Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I am excited to see the characters together and am hoping that their collective strength can make up for the deficiencies that each actor and show had.

Ex-Machina and Race

I remember watching Ex Machina back in 2015 and falling in love with the film within the first half hour. The film follows a programmer, Caleb Smith, who is invited to test an AI being developed by his  CEO, Nathan Bateman.

By the time it was done, Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of all time. Aside from the great performances, especially by Oscar Isaac, the film asked a lot of interesting questions. There was one question, and one specific line, that still sticks with me. It comes to the forefront of my mind every time the topic of interracial dating ever comes up, with the most recent occurrence being Get Out.

“Accumulated external stimuli” (AES).

Whether it is in person, online or in entertainment, there are a plethora of reasons offered for dating exclusively in one’s race.

“It’s not natural”

Neither are cars and retirement homes. In the good old days humans used horses to travel and the old and sick would perish to make way for the fittest. Some scholars even argue monogamy is unnatural. How many of these things do proponents of this argument which to cut out of society? Of course, these people probably don’t realize how faulty their reasoning is. After all, I am sure many of the people who use the argument have no attraction to other races, and therefore assume that it is natural for them to feel that way.

This also brings up the question of why they view it as unnatural. I grew up with interracial couples in my family, among my cousins, aunts etc. By the time I was ten I viewed interracial coupling as natural. However, I realize my experience is not an objective truth. People who grow up with racially or ethnically homogenous families will be more likely to see an interracial coupling as unnatural if they have rarely experienced it themselves. Especially if their family also actively discourages or criticizes such relationships.

“It’s not racist. It’s just a natural preference.”

AES is the only reason for racial preferences that I agree with. Firstly, it doesn’t view attraction to a specific skin colour or ethnicity as being an ingrained development, where we are born programmed only to date white people, or Chinese people etc.  People who grow up genuinely believing their preferences were pre-programmed (so to speak) often disregard the impact of years of subtle coaching from family and/or friends to stick to their own or “preserve the culture”.  If your parents are guiding you to seek out your own kind once you have your first crush at age seven, it is easy for you to reach thirty and think that the choice was a natural one.

Of course, people don’t always have a preference for their own. Some people will reject their own kind and only seek out others. I know plenty of black people who don’t want to date other black people, or at least not dark-skinned black people. I know people who are neither white or black, but still have a preference for white mates, or lighter-skinned mates that can produce lighter-skinned children. It is a mark of beauty and progress. They see their family moving on up in the world as the generations become lighter. Is this sort of self-hate natural? Or is it a result of what they were taught to value by their own family? Or maybe a result of the dominant images of beauty available in the media they consume? As Nathan says, these stimuli form a sphere of influence that “you probably didn’t even register, as they registered with you.”