Black Mirror: San Junipero hit all of my (and Finn’s) sweet spots!
I think part of the positive reactions might be due to the fact that Black Mirror is pretty consistently bleak, but reality right now is practically a Black Mirror episode, so an episode that was (possibly) hopeful was such a nice gift.
And yes, the concept’s been well covered, so I understand why some may feel that viewer’s reactions to that concept are overblown, but many viewers may not be deeply read in scifi, so their “mind blown” reactions are understandable and a perfectly good thing.
I am fine if people discover, say, robots through Star Trek or Westworld without going back to read Asimov first (or at all) if Asimov doesn’t appeal to them (and no I’m not saying San Junipero is about robots).
We each have limited time to read and consume media, I don’t think it makes someone less of a genre fan or their love of or reaction to something less valid if they only have experience with recently produced media and not the foundational classics or the past century of fiction.
Yes, knowing the whole history of robot fiction might enrich one’s experience of a new robot story — or at least allow one say clever literary things like “this story was in dialogue with the works of Obscure Author, exploring the metaphor of so and so.”
But it also might not. And in the end, I love the possible conversations a story like this might spark among a group of friends around a table (in between Instagramming whatever artisanal fare they are eating, of course).
I have run fast enough from the theater in the future to break the time barrier and return here to give you my review of the movie.
There was a lot about the JLA movie that was sheer awesome! A lot of cool, snapshot poses, a lot of awesome uses of superpowers.
But by the end I felt disappointed, and even a bit bored.
The first problem was the character intros.
As expected, we spend a good chunk of the movie meeting the new heroes, and getting bits of their backstory. Flash. Aquaman. Cyborg. This was the first big challenge of the movie, to make us care about these characters, so that later when they are fighting and in danger, we actually care whether or not they win, whether or not they are hurt. Care whether or not they achieve some kind of happiness, or peace, as a result of the choices and changes they make through the course of the movie.
But we simply did not get enough time with each character to feel connected to them, to care. I rooted for the Flash just because he was funny and likeable. But what Pixar did in five minutes at the beginning of Up, JLA did not manage to do in the roughly ten minutes of character establishment per character.
Even Batman did not move me much, because we haven’t really spent much time with Affleck’s Batman except in his ragey conflict with Superman, so all his pain and the tragic experiences of his past that would make forming a team and being responsible for others a fear to overcome for him (e.g. the loss of a Robin to the Joker) has not really been established here.
Wonder Woman, at least, we understand a little after her LONG overdue solo movie. Which is probably one reason she was the most relatable hero beside Flash.
Heroes aside, though, I think the biggest problem was the enemy.
Steppenwolf and his MacGuffincubes
Basically, our heroes did not have an interesting villain with goals and motivations that we could relate to on some level. I never felt the villain had personal stakes that I cared about yet knew would be bad for our world and our heroes. Instead, we had a CGI Alien Armor Big Bad who wants some evil boxes, and a bunch of CGI aliens and robots to help him get them, and that would be bad. Because it is bad.
Yes, the battle scenes were epic and full of superpowered awesome. But I never felt that Steppenwolf forced a hero to confront their deepest fear or flaw and overcome it. I never felt that Steppenwolf presented a personal challenge to any of the heroes, that he was the worst possible enemy the hero could have had to face at this time because of what they had been through, or what they were struggling with.
Steppenwolf is a master strategist, yet I never really felt there was a clever cat and mouse game going on between him and Batman that made Batman question his own brilliance or ability or willingness to lead others into danger and death. Steppenwolf never really made me feel he had pushed Batman to the edge and the Bats might lose it if anyone died on his watch. They just were racing each other to get the boxes, a simple set of escalating challenges.
Steppenwolf is a badass, but I never felt that in his conflict with Wonder Woman or Aquaman that any of them were forced to question their own strength, the responsibility or consequences of strength, or who they were without it.
Part of the reason the Avengers worked well by comparison is that they faced off against Loki, a villain we had come to know already, a person filled with pain and anger and tragic, twisted need that drove him, a guy who really just wanted to be loved above all others (is that so wrong?). And because Loki played on each hero’s insecurities and flaws and fears, and turned friend against friend. Likewise, in Civil War, the enemy plays the heroes own flaws and pain against each other, turning friend against friend. And in Avengers 2, Scarlet Witch does something similar.
Steppenwolf did not really achieve that. He was not an enemy of the Justice League, of the heroes individually or as a team. He was just big badass enemy, a threat.
And as demonstrated by the Phantom Menace, simply destroying an army of enemy robots in an epic battle can in fact be extremely boring.
Finally, I understood why of course they had to keep Superman out of it for most of the movie, for much the same reason that Hulk wasn’t in Civil War (he would have just smashed anyone on the opposing team, etc). But his moping/angst over the events in Batman vs Superman was a bit of a lame reason for the delay.
In summary, I of course went and saw this movie, and overall it was a fun popcorn flick. How could I not go to see the JLA on the big screen? Not to mention Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot kicking ass and looking hot doing it. But if you are going to have all the grimdark and Pew Pew, you need to balance it with a tad more humor, and a lot more heart, than JLA delivered.
Ghostbusters was great fun. Reading reviews, I see it really being reviewed as four different things, and depending on which, the reviews vary widely:
1) Remake of a beloved classic
2) A comedy
3) A movie, period
3) A work of female representation and empowerment
1) Remake: It was that perfect blend of nods to the original yet different enough to be fresh. Much better than many of the other remakes in recent years.
2) Comedy: It was funny, I laughed out loud a number of times. But it lacked a character with the same level of comedic snark as Murray’s character in the original. This was not the fault of the actors, but of the writers.
3) Film: It was okay, but the plot was rather straightforward, there weren’t really any surprises. In the first, you had the mystery of Zuul and the keymaster/gatekeeper etc, with the (albeit light) romance subplot, which felt like multiple threads that came together in the end (like particle streams). This one didn’t feel quite as well developed plot-wise, the revelations along the way not really surprising. And the opening had a huge issue for me when I expected at first the character who seemed to have died in the basement to turn out to be possessed or a demon or something but no, he just inexplicably escaped?
4) Female Representation and Empowerment: Awesome. And well done. The jokes about internet comments were perfect. Lots of meta stuff to enjoy. And I got a bit teared up at the end, when they are all on the balcony. I can’t remember the exact words, but I felt when I saw it that they were talking as much about their accomplishment in making the film and doing it well as in defeating the giant Trump robot.
Well, okay, it wasn’t a Trump robot, but maybe in the sequel?
Santa Claus has starred in a lot of movies. I can only assume he uses the money from his acting gigs to upgrade his workshop, what with technology always advancing. Hard to build iPods with chisels, ya know?
But, sadly, not all of his movies are good.
Here are some examples of the not-so-great ones. Some I made up. Some are real movies. And some I made up, and then found out they were real movies. How sad.
See if you can guess which are real, and which are bogus (answers are at the end). And just so the existence of hyperlinks does not give away which are the real ones, the false movies are linked to random Christmas-related material as well. If you are reading this at work, be aware that the YouTube videos will auto-start.
1. SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)
Let’s just get this one right out of the way. A highly underrated classic that is often (unfairly) cited as the worst Christmas movie ever. But like all of the best science fiction, it was prophetic, with the Martian society reflecting our own future society. Children are treated as adults in small bodies, and medicated with sleep spray when they get too precocious. The concerns of the anti-hero, Voldar, predicted modern issues around the impacts that mass production of frivolous goods have had on our society. If the deep philosophical themes of this film had been taken to heart, it may well have helped us to avoid our current financial crises as caused by credit consumerism.
Indeed, I believe that history will mark this as one of the most important films of the 20th century.
Okay, sure, they have a robot made of a cardboard box and duct tubing. But come on, who’s to say someday we won’t build disposable robots exactly like that, huh? Again, just further proof that this move was revolutionary in its visionizing.
Speaking of Santa battling aliens …
2. SVP (SANTA VS. PREDATOR) (2004)
Santa’s elves, while searching for frozen cookie dough in the tundra of the North Pole, discover a space ship buried in the ice. They are soon plunged into Jingle Hell as a newly awakened Predator begins stalking Santa’s workshop and killing off its inhabitants one by one. But the Predator may have met its match, because Santa is no ordinary prey. If you liked the toy battle scenes from “Toys” or “Small Soldiers,” the body count of every Rambo movie combined, and the taste of Play-Doh, you’ll love this film. For those who are considering watching this with their children, be warned: the final scene, in which the Predator is lured into a giant Hungry Hungry Hippo pit and ripped apart by massive lunging Hippo heads, is particularly terrifying and bloody. Starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as Santa Claus.
I love the Christmas season. But there are only so many good holiday movies. And then you start to get into the less good holiday movies. If you don’t ration properly, you may be watching Earnest Saves Christmas before you know it.
I also am a sucker for romance. Anyone whose read my stories probably picked up on that.
Which brings us to that special class of movie: the Hallmark/ ABC Made for TV Holiday Romance. These have, I’ll admit, become my guilty pleasure over the holidays. And here’s my breakdown of the ones most commonly available.
HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS
Despite the lack of BDSM play, it still had a better story than 50 Shades.
WHAT? I looked at the critic reviews for San Andreas on Fandango and was surprised to see this as the first review:
“The film is so unusually moving and penetrating because it refuses to cloud its emotions in distancing irony, anger, or nihilism.”
WHAT? Is this movie completely more interesting and deeper than I assumed? ::Scrolls through more reviews:: Oh. Nope. Fandango is showing reviews for Sisterhood of Night on the San Andreas page by accident. What a DISASTER! And totally Fandango’s FAULT for misleading me! (HA! Get it? Disaster? Fault? Oh man, I slay myself). But seriously, I’m sure this will be an incredible emotional journey exploring the human condition and explosions and shite. So I was inspired to create an updated movie poster.
Only the Rock could truly explore the depths of the San Andreas.
First, let me just say I wish I had the time and skill to video mash-up Doctor Horrible talking about The Hammer with scenes from Thor. But I made you this picture instead.
Thor was simple action movie fun.
I had hoped for more substance, with Kenneth Branagh directing and the gravitas and richness of the Norse mythology (never mind what Marvel did with it), but since I wasn’t counting on it I wasn’t terribly disappointed.
The one thing I did not like about the movie however was the “love” story. The real emotional drama was between Thor, Loki, and Odin (and could have been more so with Sif), and with Thor’s emotional growth and transformation. The tacked-on love story was unnecessary, and not believable. I hate when characters in a movie supposedly fall completely and truly in love with each other after a couple of brief conversations that are about as deep and meaningful as interactions with an ATM machine.
I am not against the concept of love at first sight, and certainly Branagh has worked with such concepts before given how often it happens in Shakespeare, but short of an excuse to make Thor’s decision near the end of the film have some kind of supposed emotional weight, it was not really required for the plot to work, and weakened the story as far as I was concerned. And it made the ending just sort of fizzle out on a lame note. Not saying it couldn’t have worked, and made the ending more powerful, but I get the feeling they cut out some of the development of that relationship to make room for more sweeping special effects.
Which, by the way, were way cool. I’ve been to Asgard, and they did a remarkably decent job of rendering it.
I know Robert E. Howard wrote both Kull and Conan, and the Kull movie took a lot from a Conan story, but does the new Conan movie really have to look like Kull the Conqueror II? The first Arnie Conan was awesome and launched a wave of fantasy films (including, admittedly, a cheesy Conan sequel). But I have a sinking feeling this time they are skipping the awesome and going right to the cheese faster than a mouse who just quit modeling. And worse, it also reminded me of Uwe Boll’s “In the Name of the King.”
In this sequel to Randy Henderson's acclaimed debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, Randy Henderson spins another tale full of adventure, magic, and laughs, exploring in more depth the magical world and characters introduced in the first book. More info →
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