It Trailer #2 Thoughts

 

The summer movie season is winding down, and after seeing Dunkirk, there are still a few films I am excited to see. I still need to see Baby Driver and War of the Planet of the Apes. I have some reservations about Justice League but the fanboy in me is still very excited. However, the film I am most excited about at this point is IT. 

The book is one of the first Stephen King ones that I can remember reading, and I definitely plan to re-read it before this film comes out. The book involves a group of eleven year olds known as the Losers Club: Bill, Ben, Bee, Richie, Eddie, Mike and Stan.  Together, they try to combat IT, a supernatural entity in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. IT has the ability to transform into any child’s worst fears, but often takes the form of Pennywise the Clown. The book also follows the Losers Club thirty years later, returning to Derry to combat IT again. From what I understand, a second movie will focus on the Losers Club as adults.

Cary Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective, was originally slated to direct during the film’s long stay in development hell. Andres Muschietti (Mama) was finally brought on board in 2015 to give us the film we’ll see in September.

The marketing campaign has been amazing so far, preceded by promotional images and the two trailers (technically one teaser and one trailer) that preceded. Everything from the music, to the more restrained use of dialogue and images of The Losers club and Pennywise has kept the film mysterious but also interesting.

I usually avoid watching too many trailers so that I don’t spoil the film. Fortunately, this third trailer doesn’t appear to give away the film’s best moments.

We do hear Pennywise speak for the first time, “Here…take it.” His voice was one of the things that book fans speculated about most, and these few words leave me happy that Bill Skarsgard will be able to embody the role.

 

There are more shots of Pennywise this time, and some shots leaves me slightly worried about an overuse of jump scares. Most of the memorable images in the trailer come from its use of unsettling music or imagery and I believe those are always the most effective scares in horror films. Looking back on all the moments that scared me as a child, they were never jump scares. However, I don’t want to rant about jump scares too much since the editing of the trailer itself can make them appear more plentiful than they will be in the actual film.

Bill’s dialogue at the beginning of the trailer, about losing the feeling of being protected as you grow older hits close to home and is a microcosm of the book’s themes about the loss of innocence. I am sure the film will cut out the orgy (yes, really) that happens in the book so it will be great to see this theme portrayed in other ways.

Along with the scenes in the previous trailers, Bill’s lines make me less worried about the child actors’ abilities. I wasn’t worried about Finn Wolfhard specifically since I already saw him as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things. There are exceptions, but there are numerous times when child actors are either a weak link among stronger actors, or are absolutely dreadful. The Jungle Book (2016) comes to mind.

Let’s move back to the film’s most divisive element, Pennywise himself. YouTube and Instagram are littered with comments by people pining for Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise from the 1990 miniseries. This happens with pretty much every adaptation or remake. Some people didn’t want to see Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man before Amazing Spider-Man came out, some people thought no one would ever top Jack Nicholson as The Joker etc. People get attached to the adaptations they see first. Some people might grow up with Tom Holland as their first Spider-Man, and maybe they won’t want to see anyone else in the role if a new series is made twenty years from now. Likewise, this may be the first Pennywise for many people and if another IT adapdation is made in thirty years, they’ll refuse to accept another version.

I don’t like the attachment mindset, but I can understand it. What bothers me more is one of the biggest complaints brought up by Bill Skarsgard detractors. Tim Curry’s version wasn’t as faithful to the books, in terms of his look or his behaviour. He behaved like we expect a clown to. He was energetic and jovial. Lots of fans of the miniseries miss this sense of humour Curry brought to the adaptation and interpret this one as too grim or trying too hard to be scary. However, 2017’s IT (from what we see so far) is what we got in the book. There was no dancing or whimsy. Adaptations typically try to emulate their source material, not just other adaptations. The people who criticize this Pennywise for being too serious make it clear they never read the book. Also, we get little dialogue from Pennywise in the marketing so we can’t judge his level of whimsy just yet.

 

Moving on from misinformed people, I have to say that the music in the trailers continues to stand out. We get more of the creepy chimes from the first trailer, but also get the chants of “You’ll Float Too” throughout the latter half. The chants get louder as the trailer progresses, and your heart beats faster to match it. The music might not scare you per se, but it gets you excited. It’s the horror version of pump up music.

Hopefully, this trailer will be the last. At the very least it will be the last one I watch, I don’t want anything else revealed before I see IT, hopefully on opening weekend.

Dunkirk Review

I saw Dunkirk in IMAX on saturday, and after collecting my thoughts, I’m ready to share them with whoever actually reads my ramblings. I earlier stated that I hoped that this film would be a return to form for Christopher Nolan, since I didn’t like Intersetellar that much. I definitely can’t say Interstellar is a bad film, I just didn’t like it as much as his previous works. After seeing Dunkirk, Inception remains my favourite Christopher Nolan film. The Prestige and The Dark Knight might also edge out Dunkirk but it is nevertheless an engaging and brilliantly executed film.

Dunkirk is Nolan’s dramatization of the Dunkirk evacuation, where Allied Forces were trapped in northern France. Military and civilian boats were then enlisted or requisitioned to evacuate the Allied Forces to England. Dunkirk focuses on three different narratives: land, sea and air. Fionn Whitehead stars as Tommy, an army private. Tom Hardy stars as Farrier, a British pilot and Mark Rylance stars as Mr. Dawson, a civilian heading to Dunkirk. The movie cuts between the three different stories, and the stories intersect more as the film progresses. None of the characters are directly based on historical figures, but some are meant to be composites.

I hate to focus on a film’s visuals, but it must be said that Dunkirk is a beautiful film. I saw the film in IMAX on 70mm, so that probably gave an enhanced experience. Aside from the film’s clarity, it must also be praised for its cinematography and minimal use of CGI. Everything from the planes, ships, explosions etc. are all practical, or at least look like they are all practical effects. There is nothing wrong with CGI in itself, but a film like this benefits from minimal use since you want to be immersed in the history that is being depicted. Nolan succeeds in building and maintaining tension, making you as anxious as the characters as they try to survive one attack after another. Perhaps IMAX made me notice more as well, but I also have to add that the sound effects and sound mixing were masterfully done, recreating everything from the infamous sirens of the German stuka planes to the explosions that are replete throughout the film.

One criticism that has popped up when discussing the film online or with friends, is that the characters were not well-developed. Mark Rylance’s character probably gets the most back story and dialogue, but Whitehead and Hardy both have relatively sparse offerings. However, I didn’t realize this until other people pointed it out. Dunkirk was able to make me invested in characters that were not that fleshed out. The story was enough to keep me interested, and I saw each character as representative of millions of other soldiers’s fear and hopes during Dunkirk. Dunkirk is Whitehead’s debut role, and he does well with his limited time. I was pleasantly surprised by Harry Styles, who arguably steals the spotlight from Whitehead during some scenes. Christopher Nolan says he wasn’t aware of Styles’s fame before casting him and I am willing to say that all of my worries about Styles’s involvement proved to be unwarranted. Fortunately, I also didn’t have to deal with any screaming One Direction fans in the theatre. Kenneth Branagh is somewhat infamous for chewing scenery at times, but he is a stand out here in a more understated performance as Navy Commander Bolton. Cillian Murphy also deserves honourable mention as a shellshocked soldier eager to get back home. There are several other characters introduced throughout and they all form a necessary part of the film’s fabric.

A less capable director could have made Dunkirk dull and repetitive. When you really think about it, the film just depicts one attack after another, with relatively little dialogue between. However, Nolan is able to craft a story of survival that is visceral, entertaining and memorable.

Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Black Mirror Season 1. This piece will not include full plot summaries of episodes. It is intended for those who have already seen them.

I completed watching Black Mirror two nights ago and can safely add it to the my list of favourite shows. The series is an anthology with twelve episodes, each focusing on the consequences of technology on society. With each story, the main character is challenged by a development borne from technology that is either common in their world, or is experimental. In most cases, the challenge does not truly come from the technology itself. The challenge comes from people’s misuse or exploitation of it.

Although I enjoyed most of the episodes, with “The Waldo Moment” being an outlier, I didn’t want to write about every one. The episodes that I found most interesting were the ones set in worlds the most similar to our own, e.g unlike “Fifteen Million Merits”.

With that said, I wished to discuss “The Entire History of You” first. The episode follows lawyer Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell), who suspects that his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) is having an affair. Liam investigates his wife using the commonplace “grain”, an implanted chip that records everything its users see and hear, and makes it available for replay and display.

Many devices we have now allow us to do this, but of course they are not embedded in our bodies. The grain is used to screen passengers at airports, and it also appears that 9/11 operators rely on it to authenticate calls, as evidenced when an operator hangs up on one of the characters because she doesn’t have a grain.

The aspect of the grain that I found most interesting was how people use it while they perform certain tasks. In particular, we see Liam and Ffion having sex, while using their grains to replay memories of steamier times.

While their bodies move in a half-hearted attempt at intercourse, they both use their grains to replay sex that was probably from the honeymoon phase of the marriage. There may be many people who feel sexually unsatisfied with a partner, and the grain allows them to disconnect and relive those memories, even while they are with their partner. Like our present time, technology removes the intimacy from our encounters. I personally know people who confess that they need visual stimulation, like pornography, to get aroused for sex with a partner. Ffion’s ex-boyfriend, Jonas, openly admits to using the grain to replay or “redo” past sexual experiences so that he can masturbate to them. In a sense, past sexual experiences become the new pornography.

Don’t we all know people who spend half the time at a concert recording it instead of actually experiencing it? Or someone who can’t put their phone down for a few minutes for a conversation?I am not a luddite, but I can’t help but notice that, for some people, the visual proof of an experience becomes more important than the experience itself. We increasingly lose the ability to simply enjoy a moment.With the grain, your Instagram obsessed friend can now interrupt a conversation and use any tv screen in the room to broadcast their latest workout.

The grain also leads to more obsession with the past. Liam’s initial obsession is an appraisal at work, where he redos the moment repeatedly, analyzing the appraisers’ facial expressions and the movements of their hands to judge what they are writing down. His obsession then moves to his wife’s behaviour around her ex-boyfriend, Jonas. Liam scrutinizes and redos the way she looks at Jonas in contrast to him, the way she laughs at Jonas’s terrible jokes etc. When Ffion admits she dated Jonas only for a few months, Liam is able to search his memory archives and find Ffion saying she only dated him for a week.

We find out Liam’s suspicions were warranted. It is implied he has been suspicious for some time, and his suspicions could have led him to analyze his wife’s behaviour more, instead of suspicions arising simply due to the abilities the grain provides. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if someone could be led to paranoia if they were to overanalyze and replay certain parts of a conversation or encounter. People are already quick to judge their partner as a cheater or potential cheater if they go a certain length of time without responding to texts, if they seem distant one day etc. What happens if an insecure person is able to study every encounter with their partner, the same way Liam can?

“The Entire History of You” is both a story we have seen before, and one we haven’t. Infidelity plots are dime a dozen in entertainment, but Jesse Armstrong’s writing weaves in a science-fiction element to create something that is captivating, heartbreaking and maybe even relatable.

When I was looking up the episode to verify the writer’s name, I came across this review that said this episode is one of the weaker ones because the technology “wasn’t so crucial to the trajectory of the story”. I can enjoy the more technologically focused episodes like “Be Right Back” or  “Men Against Fire”, but I can still appreciate this episode. Sometimes, the best science-fiction stories are ones that only use technology as a backdrop to analyze our tendencies and behaviour. I can enjoy a story about a killer robot being sent back in time but it is also a treat to watch a story that simply asks “How would this development change how people interact with one another?”

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.

I Don’t Like Black Guys Part II

In yesterday’s post I discussed one of the experiences that cemented my understanding of the persisting disdain for interracial couplings. I was initially tempted to combine this piece into yesterday’s, but I was apprehensive due to the length of the article. I didn’t want to have to condense these thoughts, since the experiences I’ll lay out in this article are a microcosm of  frequent and subtle instances of racism in dating.

I am not saying people have an obligation to date someone of a different race. If two people like each other, and happen to be of the same race, there is nothing racist about that. If one person goes through life, rejecting people due to their skin colour, there is something wrong with that. I have already discussed all the excuses that abound for sticking to one’s race when it comes to dating or sex, including the argument for a “natural preference”, so read those first if your head is already teaming with rebuttals. The supposed hardwiring we have for what we view as physically attractive, can all be traced to accumulated external stimuli, whether it is the advice of our parents or the images of beauty we consume in the media.

There are also cases of people who don’t date their own kind at all, or only date people of a certain shade within their own group. Some people may try to argue that this undermines the point I am making about dating and racism. After all, how can someone be racist to themselves? Someone with a rudimentary understanding of racism would pat themselves on the back for bringing this point up, thinking they’ve thrown a conundrum my way. People can develop feelings of inferiority, or even self-hate due to their own race. This can lead them to take measures to ‘evelate themselves’ by having lighter-skinned children or bleaching their skin.

As I also mentioned in yesterday’s post there are examples of interracial couples and we probably all know some. However, I am sure facts will support my assertion that they comprise a small minority of the world’s population, and the population of any given city. Since most of my friends are white, and most of their friends are white, I have only been with white girls so far. You might think I have no reason to be skeptical of racial progress but these experiences are tainted by a wider net of racism. All names used below are pseudonyms.

I met a girl named Sarah  in Ottawa, and she later wanted to get into a relationship with me. Sometime after we met I found out that she doesn’t normally like black guys. Sarah was actually more interested in someone else at the house party we went to, but since he turned her down she just settled for me. Yes, a girl can also end up settling for some other guy of the same race too. However, if the girl has specifically stated that she doesn’t like black guys then there is obviously a racial component at play here. In this case, I was second fiddle, but I was also a “credit to my kind.” It’s not the first time I’ve had someone express that I am good looking “for a black guy” or that they normally think black people are unattractive, but find me good looking. Should I take this as a compliment? No, because that would ignore the negative part of that statement: “You people are normally ugly.”

In the years since this incident I have tried online dating, but the online realm brings up a crucial disadvantage. In the previous incident, Sarah pushed aside some of her ingrained prejudice because she was forced to get to know me. We were in a small social circle where mutual friends introduced us and we bonded through the same activities. If I was just another face on tinder, she probably would have swiped left quickly, regardless of how good my pictures, bio etc. were. Maybe my outlying good looks would have made her swipe right, but then I’d be competing with twenty other guys messaging her that day. Odds are one of the other guys would be a white guy who she considered better looking. I would have the same disadvantage if I was one amongst ten other guys in her college class. An attempt to talk to her there would probably be met with a luke warm reception.

The contrast between what happened at the house party, and what could have happened if Sarah and I came across each other in another setting emphasized how big a role race plays in someone’s selection. In another setting, Sarah wouldn’t have had as much impetus to get to know me. She would see my colour regardless of the setting, which isn’t racist in itself. However, Sarah would only pay attention to my skin colour online. At the house party she also paid attention to my other traits. If racial preferences truly are something hardwired into our systems, like some people claim, then one night of talking shouldn’t have been able to make Sarah willing to hook up with me and even try to pursue a relationship.

Another fallacy, one which I used to fall victim to as well, is the belief that dating someone of a different race means that you are open to dating someone of any race. As an example, my Indian friend Nathan once dated a white girl who lived on the same floor of his building. She was very attractive and I was happy for him, and couldn’t help but wish that I lived in that building too. It turns out that a serendipitious meeting wouldn’t have changed anything for me. Nathan revealed that Emma doesn’t like black guys. However, I was fortunate enough to be considered a credit to my kind again. Like Sarah, I think Emma’s perception of me was  influenced by the time she spent hanging out with me. I wasn’t just another face on a dating profile or yet another guy hitting on her in class or at the bar. Emma’s perception of me also brings up the question of why she was open to dating an Indian guy, but not a black one. Maybe she wasn’t really open to Indian guys either, but her proximity to Nathan led her to get to know him better? Or maybe there’s another explanation.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists actually explores this phenomenon in more depth. Emma appears to suffer from the “model minority” mindset. Middle Eastern and South Asian minorities have positive stereotypes associated with them e.g intelligent, hard-working. Meanwhile black people have enduring stereotypes of violence, laziness and stupidity. The stereotype of physical prowess isn’t enough to undo the more corrosive, threatening stereotypes. Of course, racial ignorance can also lead to negative stereotypes about South Asians and Middle Eastern people. Bonilla-Silva also retorts that these negative stereotypes may be easier to overcome for these groups due to their positive ones. The Japanese were once held in internment camps, but they are comfortably among the model minority caste now. Likewise, ignorant stereotypes concerning terrorism or docility may dissipate or be overpowered by the positive stereotypes. Some people may also be more attracted to the model minorities since they are also stereotypically envisioned as being lighter-skinned.

Throughout my life, my skin colour has been enough to make people decide I’m unattractive, hold their purses tighter, call security on me and many more. In some ways dating security is the least of my worries. In other ways it is one of my most pressing. Many people may read about some of the racism I’ve experienced, and express disapproval with the treatment. Then those same people would still wish to stick to their own race for dating. Dating discrimination warrants mentioning because it is one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination. It is also one of the forms that is defended most vehemently, even by people who are otherwise tolerant and open-minded.

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.

 

 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle and James Bond

Note: Spoilers for Kingsman

I wasn’t sure how to feel when a Kingsman sequel was announced a while ago. While the first film was a pleasant surprise I was worried that a sequel wouldn’t be able to recapture the same level of magic. This is the main reason I refuse to see Bad Santa 2, even though the first is one of my favourite comedies. I was also more hesitant about the Kingsman sequel when I heard that Colin Firth’s character will return. While Firth was amazing in the role I was also worried that his resurrection would introduce some nonsensical plot point that tarnishes the impact of his death in the first film.

So, with those reservations in mind, I was still intrigued. Taron Egerton was amazing as Eggsy, and his performance in Legend also demonstrated that he is a versatile figure and one to look out for. Aside from Egerton, the sequel sports some other amazing cast members, including Pedro Pascal (best known as Oberyn in Game of Thrones). As much as I hate Channing Tatum overall, he was enjoyable to watch in the Jump Street series so I am hoping this role is geared towards his comedic strength. I checked out the first trailer and was immediately sold.

However, I detected a common sentiment as I made my way through the YouTube comments, which can be summarized as: “The Kingsman series embraces the fun of the old James Bond films. This will be so much better than those dreary Daniel Craig movies.”

Now, Kingsman has made it no secret that it set out to emulate the older, more fantastical bond films. Firth and Samuel L Jackson’s characters even express this explicitly in the first film.

I don’t have a problem with people wanting to embrace something fun. My issue is when anything that isn’t “fun” gets criticized purely for its tone. Maybe Harry is guilty of doing it here, but it is interesting to see that fans react the same way to the Daniel Craig Bond films. I have talked about this numerous times on this blog or in my YouTube videos, but normally it is in reference to comic book films. However, it is interesting to see this mindset also filter into other genres.

I am perfectly willing to embrace the outlandish fun of Kingsman, but that desire to embrace fun, doesn’t lead me to criticize other good films. “Fun” is not synonymous with good, and “serious, dark, gritty, dreary” etc. are not synonymous with bad. A film can be serious or dark, but also be good.

Quantum of Solace and Spectre were both disappointing, I will give you that. Personally, I loved Skyfall and Casino Royale. Yes, they aren’t “fun” Bond films. No over the top henchman or gadgets. However, that doesn’t stop me from liking them. That doesn’t make them bad Bond movies. I can like Kingsman, while also liking these supposedly depressing Bond films.

Casino Royale came along after Pierce Brosnan drove an invisible car around an ice fortress. It seems like people were all funned out and ready to have a more serious Bond. Now that Kingsman has whet their appetite for fun, Casino Royale becomes a terrible film.

Since when is something considered bad only because it doesn’t make us laugh and smile? Obviously this criteria doesn’t apply to “Oscar-bait” films, yet. Maybe in twenty years only “fun” films will be present at the Oscars. No more depressing exploration of issues or characters, just more one-liners and over the top action.

 

Extremity

Note: For anyone that didn’t know, I have become an avid comic book reader over the past two years. This adds to my list of traits that make me ridiculously desirable to women. This short piece on Extremity was intended for comicommand, since the site is not being updated for the moment (but will return) I am posting it here.

Image Comic’s first new comic of the year proves to be another promising addition to Image’s stable and comic book offerings as a whole. Writer and artist Daniel Warren Johnson (Space Mullet) brings a fictional world replete with warring clans. The main character, Thea, is a human female whose mother was killed by a clan known as the Paznina. In addition to killing her mother, they also cut off Thea’s right hand. Along with her hand, Thea loses her skills as an artist and a cornerstone of her identity. Johnson intended Thea’s dilemma to mirror his own fears of losing the extremity that makes him who he is.

The first issue introduces us to Thea, as well has her brother, Rollo and her father Jerome, the leader of their clan. While Jerome expects his son to be his successor, the first issue makes it clear that Thea is more likely to do so. In relatable fashion, Rollo is hesitant to engage in the violence that is needed to survive in their world. While he struggles to kill one man, his father wears a mask embedded with the teeth of fallen foes. Thea shows signs of struggling with violence as well, but is a much more capable warrior than her brother. Since her father acknowledges her skill, but is still insistent on Rollo becoming the next clan leader, it is likely that sexism plays a role in their clan’s hierarchy.

The final issue ends with Thea getting revenge on the man who cut off her hand, one of the first acts in an all out-war with the Paznina. Johnson made it clear he wants to explore how a family will develop under such circumstances, and it is clear that the members involved can’t get through one violent act after another without changing fundamentally. In this sense, the comic reminds me slightly of The Walking Dead, which consistently focuses on how people adapt to a new and harsher world. Of course, this isn’t unique to The Walking Dead. This question is central to most post-apocalyptic tales and/or tales of revenge. However, it is interesting to see it focus on a female character.

The artwork is aided greatly by the shading and colouring bestowed by Mike Spicer. The artwork itself is the weakest part of the comic in my opinion, but like any series, I want to read more issues before I pass a more definitive judgment on it. The dialogue can also be clichéd at times, and overly expository at others. The characters didn’t need to call each other “brother” or “sister” for us to know they’re related, more subtle cues were present in the comic’s pages. However, there were only a few lines that I had gripes with and they didn’t dissuade me from reading the next issue when it is available.

The OA Ending Thoughts

Note: Obviously there will be spoilers for the entire series below. 
Between catching up on Suits, and following several ongoing series I was reluctant to add another show to my list. However, a friend recommended The OA numerous times since they knew that I write science-fiction (The OA straddles sci-fi and fantasy).

I didn’t look up any reviews before I eventually decided to start watching. I was relieved to see the show only had one season, meaning the time investment wouldn’t be as detrimental as some other series that I’ve been recommended (I’m looking at you Community).

The OA did have some moments of relatively slow pacing but I didn’t notice the slower pace since the show began on an interesting note. Knowing that the main protagonist came back from a seven year disappearance with the ability to see drew me in, and made me patient for the buildup. This is in contrast to shows like True Detective (season one) where the actors and rave reviews made me willing to wait for the payoff.

Since The OA had a relatively slow build, and left a lot of questions unanswered going into the finale I hoped that the ending would give us a strong sendoff. I don’t mind ambiguous endings, with Inception being one of my favourites, but this is one ending that definitely leaves some questions. A second season is confirmed so I am sure more answers will be forthcoming, but I still wanted to share my thoughts on the ending of season 1.

Throughout the season, there is no real proof that the story Prairie is sharing is entirely true. Of course, we see the events, but we could only be seeing Khatun, the captives and the NDE’s through Prairie’s own warped perspective. Similar to how we see most of Fight Club through on character’s warped perspective. The audience and the five are likely to believe Prairie due to the miraculous nature of Prairie’s reappearance and the restoration of her eyesight. One miracle makes us willing to accept others.

Leading up the final scene, it appears Prairie fabricated most of the events she shared about her disappearance. The movements, the other captives, all appear to be figments of her imagination. Her greatest companion, Homer, appears to have been dreamed up from a copy of Homer’s Iliad. Prairie also has books on angels and near death experiences, forming the backbone of the story.

The last scene involving the school shooting was all foreshadowed with one line from the Sheriff’s wife, which Prairie and Homer helped to heal of her ALS. After giving them the fifth movement, the wife remarks it “will save their lives”. Prairie then passes this onto the five, and they all understand what must be done when the shooter traps them in the cafeteria.

Up until this point, the movements were somewhat odd to say the least. The movements themselves reminded me of a haka but the added vocalizations, such as the hissing and spitting, added an extra air of “What am I watching”? However, all of that vanishes in this scene. The tension built up to that point, and the music all make the final performance of the movements an epic moment.

Of course, the movements themselves don’t do anything. They provide a distraction and still fulfill the promise indirectly. This moment made me wonder if there was some truth to Prairie’s story, specifically her kidnapping by Hap and the existence of Homer and the other captives. This appears to be the reason why the five, Steve especially, gain new belief in The OA when she is being carted off on the ambulance. It looks like Prairie’s life may not be saved, but the lives of her new friends, the other angels were saved. Additionally, Prairie’s collision with the one stray bullet strikes me as exceptionally bad luck, or a fortuitous NDE that will allow her to leave Earth and be reunited with Homer and the others in another dimension. Hence Steve’s plea of “Take me with you”.

Prairie addresses Homer in the very last scene of the season, but yet again if her mind is warped then she will see whatever she wants to see.

The books may have been ones she collected after her incident as a means of gathering information on her new reality and a sense of kinship with her missing friends. However, given what happened before, it looks like season 2 will shed more light on the fact that Prairie is not insane and that her story truly did happen, either in part or in whole.

The ending left me staring at the screen hoping another episode would begin soon, but I don’t think that has to be a bad thing. It can be a sign of something rushed or sloppy, but in this case I think it is a sign of something intriguing that is yet to be finished.

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race

Note: The below article is one that I intended to upload to comicommand back in March. Since comicommand is not being updated for the moment (but will be soon), I have decided to post this article on my site instead.

I heard mixed things about The Dark Knight: Master Race but my love of Batman eventually persuaded me to check out Frank Miller’s latest foray into the character’s mythos. This series is also co-written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and follows three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

In this continuity, Ray Palmer (The Atom) is successfully able to free the inhabitants of the miniaturized, bottled Kryptonian city Kandor. Not only does he free them, but he also returns them to full size. Once free, these new inhabitants set out to create a society where the strongest, their own people, rule.

Although I also have mixed thoughts about this series, which shifts from amazing to mediocre within one issue, its exploration of Superman and his people is enough to keep me reading.

One of my biggest issues with the new 52, at least as portrayed in animated films like Justice League: War, was the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. When together, they are like the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. Lois Lane wasn’t just a love interest to me. She was one of the key figures, along with Superman’s adoptive parents, that literally and figuratively kept Superman grounded. While Superman was more physically separated from his parents, Lois was a constant thread that enabled him to value human life. Growing up among humans also developed Superman’s respect for them.

In contrast, the daughter that he had with Wonder Woman grew up among Amazons and sees humans as “ants”. When the inhabitants of Kandor make their intentions clear, Lara is eager to follow them and shun her father, who she sees as a traitor to his people. She has grown up with the power granted by two of the world’s greatest heroes, along with the isolationist mindset of the Amazons.

The Kandorian leader, Quar, is a twisted version of what Superman could have been. While enemies like Zod desired the annihilation of humans, Quar expresses a paternalistic mindset that undermines human agency. In his own view, humans need to be ruled. They are the savage slaves that he wishes to civilize. Superman recognizes his power, and the advantages it gives him over the people of Earth, but he also recognizes the strength and free will of its people. Although he is better than Quar in many ways, he is not far removed from him.