#REVIEW: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

ant_man_wasp_posterI wasn’t super excited to see the first Ant-Man movie when it came out back in 2015 and generally found it to be a pretty pleasant surprise.  Three years later, I was actually quite a bit more excited to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, but somehow it managed to be one of the very few Marvel films that I didn’t see on opening weekend.  Life basically intervened last weekend and I didn’t have time.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve always loved the Wasp as a character, much much more than Hank Pym, and although I’d have preferred to have the classic Janet van Dyne version of the character I can’t really get upset about using Hope instead.  Scott Lang as a character has really never even registered.  But the Ghost?  The Ghost has always been an Iron Man villain– and a dude, to boot– but he’s one of my favorite Iron Man villains, so if you tell me the Ghost is gonna be the bad guy in a movie I’m gonna be there to see it.

tl;dr: Go see it.  It’s got some flaws but in general I think I liked it more than the first one and it’s a pleasant palate-cleanser for the unrelenting misery and horror that was Avengers Infinity Wars.  Mostly, anyway.

That’s long enough for the Facebook people, right?  Okay.  Spoilers ho!

And bullet points.  This is gonna be a random stream-of-consciousness bullet-point style review.

  • Let’s start with the Ghost, actually.  She’s awesome, and a fascinating character, even if this version has little to do with the canonical Ghost other than look (which is amazing) and powers.  That said, she’s ultimately kind of unnecessary to the movie as a whole and her part actually could probably have been cut and still left us with a decent movie.  But that’s the script’s fault, not the character’s or the actress’ fault.  I’ve never seen Hannah John-Kamen in anything before and I want more of her.
  • Actually, let’s just get all of the griping out of the way first: every problem with this movie is a problem with the script.  In particular, the movie could really have used a couple of science advisors.  Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne and Bill Foster are supposed to be geniuses; this movie is stuffed with them, and at one point they actually let Scott say “Are you guys just putting the word quantum in front of everything?” and unfortunately it’s supposed to be a joke but the answer is yes.  The science is Star Trek-level bad; at one point they literally reverse the polarity of something and Janet van Dyne takes over Scott’s brain for a moment to “rewrite an algorithm.”  Don’t ask, just understand that lazy-ass writers use “algorithm” to mean “sciencey thing that we don’t understand and don’t want to explain.”  It’s terrible.
  • On to the good stuff!  The actors across the board are great, even the ones with clearly bit parts, like the thug with no name who was always chewing on his rosary, or Truth Serum Guy.  Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun and they all made the movie really fun to watch.
  • The de-aging special effects, this time used on Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer, continues to be fucking amazing.  It’s going to be a big part of Captain Marvel since like half the cast will need to look 30 years younger than they are, and they’re getting creepily good at it.
  • When Fishburne’s Bill Foster turned out to be a sorta-bad-guy, I really wanted him to somehow end up being Lex Luthor, but it didn’t happen.
  • This is my favorite Evangeline Lilly role ever.  I liked her in the last movie but this one actually made me a fan of hers.  She can have her own movie anytime.
  • The fight sequences across the board, but especially anytime the Wasp or the Ghost were on-screen, were spectacular.  Very, very nicely choreographed action.
  • The repeated theme of dads and daughters throughout this movie, especially Foster and the Ghost’s pseudo-parental relationship, was really neat.  Much like the last one, this is a movie with much lower stakes than the rest of the Marvel films, and focusing on all the familial relationships everywhere was great.  The first few minutes, where a clearly out-of-his-mind Lang has constructed an apartment-sized amusement park for his daughter because he has nothing else to do, was great.
  • There were hints that I was going to get much more of my favorite version of Hank Pym (the gadget-obsessed, white-lab-coat wearing whacko of the West Coast Avengers) in this movie than in the last one and it absolutely came through for me.  The fact that the Macguffin for half of the movie was a literal multi-story office building shrunk down to the size of a piece of carry-on luggage was fantastic.
  • It also led to one of my favorite visual moments of the movie, where they shrink down the office building to reveal an army of FBI guys sneaking up on them behind it.
  • There were only one or two moments where the CGI was wonky, mostly in the scene where they’re infiltrating the elementary school (don’t ask) and Scott gets stuck at about three and a half feet tall.  They were using a lot of practical effects for that bit and it actually didn’t work very well.
  • And then, after all that good shit throughout the movie, that ending.  You bastards.

So.  Yeah.  Go see it!  We’re one movie closer to Captain Marvel!

#REVIEW: TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, by Rebecca Roanhorse

trail-of-lightning-9781534413498_hrHere’s a one-sentence review of Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse, that ought to tell you basically everything you need to know:  I started it Saturday night at 10:30 PM, reading before going to sleep as I always do, and I had finished it by dinnertime the following day, and I worked from 11-5 on the day I finished it.

I woke up at 8:30 on a Sunday morning and rather than roll over and go back to sleep I grabbed a cup of coffee and took this book out onto my back porch to read outside for an hour or two before it got too hot.  I realized after I’d been out there for an hour that I’d left my phone sitting next to my bed.  Do you have any goddamn idea how rare it is for me to be more than ten feet from my phone for an hour?

(Okay, yeah, you probably do, but still.)

If that’s not enough, and if that gorgeous cover isn’t enough, how about the genre?  Trail of Lightning is Navajo post-apocalyptic urban fantasy.  And hard core Navajo, to the point where I feel kind of bad saying “Navajo” and not “Diné”.  There are words in this book that contain letters that I don’t know the names of, guys.(*)  A pronunciation guide would not have gone unappreciated.

Right, the story.

It is The Future.  Global warming and sea level rise has gone way way worse than anyone imagined (it is hinted, but not explicitly stated, that something supernatural may have happened to make it worse) and as a result huge swaths of what used to be the United States– like the entire midwest– have drowned and Dinétah, the Navajo nation, is an independent nation-state on its own again.  Maggie Hoskie is a social outcast who hunts monsters.

There are monsters, by the way.

I’m no hero.  I’m more of a last resort, a scorched-earth policy.  I’m the person you hire when the heroes have already come home in body bags.

That paragraph is from page 2.  It was at that precise moment that I knew I was in and this book was going to be something special.  Maggie is a bit of an asshole, so if you’re not the type to like abrasive first-person protagonists this may not quite be your cup of tea, but watching her hunt monsters and argue with trickster gods and do magic stuff and navigate the fascinating world that Rebecca Roanhorse has created was absolutely one of the biggest pleasures of the year so far with me.  Trail of Lightning joins two other debut novels by women of color– Jade City and The Poppy War— that are guaranteed to be on my top 10 list at the end of the year.  Roanhorse’s prose is clear and accessible and the book absolutely flies; this is the kind of novel that I want to write as much as I want to read it.

I’m just not going to try and read it out loud.  🙂

(*) hataałii, for example– I have no idea what to do with that L–, or yá’át’ééh, which has accents and apostrophes.  No italics for the Navajo words, either, which is great, unless you’re scanning for words you don’t know and don’t have that to help you.  (**)

(**) Audio on the web is inconsistent, but the ł may be pronounced like a W.

#REVIEW: EVERYTHING IS LOVE, by Beyoncé and her husband

1529188714_5c1de0914dc0d389b19ae56fe7cc046cIt must be so weird to be Jay-Z, guys.  He is, by any standard, one of the most successful and well-known rappers of all time and an insanely talented businessman to boot, and he still managed to somehow marry up, to a woman who is better than him at damn near every single thing the two of them do.  Don’t get me wrong; I married up myself, and my wife is also better than me at goddamn near everything.  It ain’t a bad thing.  But to be as successful as this guy has been, and still be #2 in your house?  Crazy.

So here’s the thing: although I don’t talk about her all that much I am a big fan of Beyoncé.  I’ve phrased that very deliberately.  I am a fan of Beyoncé, not so much of her music.  As an entertainer, she’s amazing, but I’m not necessarily going to reach for Dangerously in Love when I’m looking for something to listen to.  She’s had a couple of songs on each of her albums that I like; sometimes a couple that I really like, but Lemonade was the first of her entire records that really clicked for me and even then if I’m playing it it’s to listen to Daddy Lessons or Formation and not to listen the whole way through.

And despite all the good stuff I just said about Jay, I’ve always thought he was kind of overrated as a musician.  Him and Nas both fit into the same headspace for me, guys who have been around forever and been obscenely successful in hiphop (although Jay is a level beyond Nas, I think) but who I just don’t think are as good as everyone thinks they are.  Don’t @ me.  I bought 4:44 just like everybody else.  The dude’s still huge.  I don’t get to decide that, and he doesn’t have to give a shit what I think.  But still.

So it’s kind of fascinating to me that Everything is Love is my favorite Beyoncé album and my favorite Jay-Z album, and by a substantial margin.  I have always and always will preferred hiphop to all other forms of music, and it turns out that when you take Bey’s talents and turn the dial a few notches toward rap you get something that I really fucking like.  Here’s how much I like this album: I’ve not only had it on damn near constant rotation in my car since I downloaded it, but when I’m not listening to it I’ve been revisiting everything else I have by both of them.

I dunno if I even really have anything else coherent to say about it.  I’m terrible at reviewing music; I always have been, and it’s not like this album needs my help, right?  If you were gonna cop this one you had it two hours after you found out it existed and nobody is going to try it based on Oh, Luther liked it!  But still.  Do it anyway.  This is something special, and these two need to make music together more often.


The general theory seems to be that me doing an advice column would be entertaining, but I need some people with problems!  Drop me a line and let me know how your life is Wrong and I will fix it.

#REVIEW: THE LIVES OF TAO, by Wesley Chu

51zuwjF8-lL._SX301_BO1,204,203,200_The Lives of Tao is the second of Wesley Chu’s books that I have read.  It is, I’m pretty certain, his debut novel, and has two sequels, The Deaths of Tao and The Rebirths of Tao.  I like Chu’s work quite a bit from what I’ve read of it, but this one has a few problems that didn’t show up in Time Salvager, which was the first Chu book I read.  He has some major strengths as an author, chief among which is writing fast-paced books that are difficult to put down and writing solid action.  The book has some weak parts, too, but we’ll get to those later.

The premise is thus: millions of years ago (think during the dinosaur age) a rather large group of aliens crashed on Earth.  The aliens found Earth’s atmosphere uninhabitable for them and quickly discovered that the only way they would be able to survive on our planet was to effectively act as symbiotic organisms and inhabit the bodies of creatures that were already surviving on Earth.  They were isolated from each other for millions of years (the aliens, the Quasing, aren’t precisely immortal– they can be killed– but they don’t die of old age) but eventually Earth managed to evolve intelligent life and ever since then the Quasing have been guiding our evolution as a species and trying to get humanity to a point where they can go back to space– which is apparently way more complicated than it sounds.   The book picks up when Tao, a Quasing whose host has just been killed is forced to inhabit the body of an overweight, unambitious computer programmer named Roen Tan, and basically has to change him from a video-game-obsessed chubby schlub into an international man of mystery and combat operative in a not-especially long period of time.  Oh and there are two different factions of the Quasing now and they don’t like each other all that much.

If that premise interests you, you should read this book; you’ll like it.  If you’re already scratching your head and going “Well, wait, what about…” then you might want to skip it, as not quite fully thinking the premise through is why this is a perfect four-star book (out of five) for me.  Over the course of the book you find out that most of the Quasing characters you encounter have inhabited major historical figures over the course of their, remember, theoretically infinite, millions-of-years-old lives.  Tao himself was, among others, Genghis Khan and Zhang Sanfeng, who you may not have heard of but was the inventor of tai chi.  At various points in the book Shakespeare, Galileo, the apostle Peter and any number of other important historical figures are all revealed to have been hosts for Quasing.

The problem is, “humans have never controlled their own destinies and have been inhabited by aliens manipulating them in a shadow war for literally all of history” isn’t the premise for an action-adventure with some comedy elements like this book.  It’s the premise of a horror story.  And the Quasing are not remotely alien enough to be actual aliens, much less aliens that are all millions of years old.  It’s not quite clear how they’ve not managed to return themselves to space yet either; they’ve retained all of their scientific knowledge, but Chu’s need to keep to the actual human span of history means that there need to be ridiculous bits like Galileo having been told by a Quasing that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe.  Did this just … never come up before?   I mean, once humans had opposable thumbs and enough of an intellect to use their tools, what was keeping the Quasing from just jumpstarting us to at least something close to the level of technology they had?  There are nods here and there to one of the factions not really wanting to alter human history that much, but there are apparently hundreds if not thousands of these things and they’ve been here for, again, the literal entirety of human history.  There’s no human history to alter.  There’s only Quasing history.

But again: I read this book in about three days in big gulps.  If you can ignore the previous paragraph, if that sort of thing isn’t going to get under your skin and gnaw at you, you’re probably going to like this book, and even though I am one of those people I’m going to end up picking up the sequels.  Don’t get me wrong: four stars, I enjoyed reading this.  But the premise needed some work before this went to print.  We’ll see if there are any corrections applied in the later books.  For now?  I’m still in.

#REVIEW: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (non-spoiler) and DEADPOOL 2 (spoiler)

My reviews of the last couple of Star Wars movies have been a million words long, but I don’t think Solo is going to need that treatment.  I’ve done spoiler reviews and non-spoiler reviews for them, and I think this is probably the only review Solo is going to get. Since it’s going to be shortish, I’m gonna go ahead and review Deadpool 2 here as well, but I can’t review that one without spoiling something big.  So we’ll do Solo first.  solo-a-star-wars-story-tall-A.png

And the tl;dr review is this:  it’s good enough.

It was going to be hard under any circumstances for Solo to blow me away.  I never really felt the film was necessary, and unlike Rogue One, which I also didn’t think was necessary, the trailers and such never really grabbed me and forced me to be excited about it.  It is better than any of the prequels and it is better than The Force Awakens, a movie that I was jazzed about initially and has done nothing but sink in my estimation since then.  Is that damning with faint praise?  Possibly.

The million-dollar question about this movie was always this:  is Alden Ehrenreich good enough to fill Harrison Ford’s shoes?  Can he convincingly play this character?  And the answer, to me, is an unqualified yes.  I had no problems with Ehrenreich’s performance at all– in fact, I think his portrayal of Han in this movie was leaps and bounds ahead of Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Han in Force Awakens.  

In general, the acting in this film is quite solid across the board, and if anything (okay, minor spoiler incoming) the only gripe I have about the film is that I wanted to know more about just about every character who they decided to kill off.  I thought basically every character that had more than a couple of lines was really interesting, but some of them unfortunately we aren’t going to see again.  There’s one major surprise and one “subverting expectations” sort of surprise toward the end of the film, and in a movie where you basically know everything that’s going to happen going in, actual surprises have more impact than they might otherwise.

Yes, Donald Glover is spectacular as Lando Calrissian.  Scary good, honestly– his first few lines are delivered with him offscreen, and I seriously thought they’d brought in Billy Dee Williams to overdub him.  He’s doing a voice thing, and it’s perfect.  I didn’t think he ran away with the movie the way a lot of people seem to, but he does a very very good job.

Obligatory Turk/Scrubs video break:

 

So.  Yeah.  Not an essential addition to the canon, but a solid effort, especially given what a trainwreck the movie was expected to be before it came out.  I will allow them to do a second one if they must.  Especially if it delays the newly-rumored Boba Fett movie.  Please, please don’t make a Boba Fett movie.

I’m so tired of Boba Fett.

cable-dom-deadpool-2-1526934768566_1280w.jpg

And now, on to Deadpool 2.  This one will spoil a major event that none of the pre-movie stuff even hinted at, and although it happens damn near immediately once the movie starts, you probably don’t want to know about it.  Last chance to bow out!

I’ll start off with the good stuff, actually: you are probably going to have more or less exactly the same reaction to Deadpool 2 that you had to Deadpool, and if you haven’t seen Deadpool you may as well go see that instead because it’s a better movie.  It is, in most ways, exactly the same film, only with a slightly expanded cast and budget and much more entertaining cameos and the one thing that really pissed me off that I’ll get to in a minute.  Josh Brolin is pretty good as Cable, a character I’ve never really had much interest in, and the Juggernaut is my favorite X-Men villain so it was great to see him, especially after the godawful portrayal Vinnie Jones did in X-Men 3.

I want Domino to get her own movie.  Now, please.  And if we could get a movie with Negasonic and her girlfriend, maybe with Colossus around, that’d be just peachy.  Because I love all of them.

That said, killing off Vanessa right away pissed me off, and even though they undo it at the end of the movie I can’t unwatch the two hours I spent being pissed off that they killed her for no fucking reason at all.  Think about it: imagine the movie without Vanessa dying right away.  Damn near nothing changes.  You lose a few scenes of Deadpool kvetching about it and maybe they have to do a little bit of a rewrite of his motivations for wanting to save the kid?  But that’s it.  Her death is pointless, and undoing it at the end doesn’t help.  I’m tired of movies and books and whatevers that motivate the main character by killing off their girlfriends and/or wives right away, and it threw a pall over the entire rest of the movie for me.

So, yeah: it’s a Deadpool movie, and that’s a good thing, and the cast and the couple of new characters they added are fun and interesting, but fuck you for killing off the female lead ten minutes into the movie.  I can’t forgive that, as it turns out.


I’m up to four patrons!  Which is better than I thought I’d do, honestly!  But more would be super awesome.  Join the club of the coolest people in the world.  You’ll get a new Jayashree story right off the bat, and I’ll be adding at least one more microfiction by the end of the weekend!  Plus all of my Patrons get thanked by name in any forthcoming books.  You want your name in books, right?