On mostly unreviewable movies: I saw SPLIT

split_ver2.jpgSo, I’d call myself an M. Night Shyamalan fan, right?  I’ve seen most of his movies, or at least his adult thrillers (I haven’t seen The Happening or The Visit, and from what I’ve seen that’s at least 50% good news) and I’ve liked damn near all of what I’ve seen.  I will defend Signs to the death, for example, and I remember really liking Lady in the Water although if I’m being honest I can’t tell you a damn thing about it now.

(There’s gonna be some minor spoilers about a paragraph down.  Don’t panic, no big deal.  But just FYI.)

Here’s the thing about Split.  You should see this movie if you’ve ever liked anything by Shyamalan.  All of the things that he’s good at are on full display in this film, along with an incredible performance– set of performances, maybe?– by James McAvoy.

There is– brace yourself for this– not a twist ending on this one.  Sort of.  I guess.  But what’s getting frustrating about Shyamalan is that he’s done the twist ending so many times at this point that his movies have this weird metatextual thing going on that rather than watching the movie you’re trying to figure out the twist.  There is a thing at the end of this movie, and the more of a Shyamalan fan you are, the more likely you are to walk out of the theater with a huge smile on your face.  If you are not a Shyamalan fan than the ending of the film– which is more of a Marvel-style stinger than anything else– will likely leave you more than a little bit confused.  But there’s not a twist, so don’t go looking for it.  Bask in the good performances and the creepiness and enjoy the film.  Because the performances are great and the film’s excellently creepy and Shyamalan’s directing skills are used to their fullest effect.

All that said:

I feel like I ought to warn you that this film is going to be triggery as fuck for a lot of people, and there are about to be a couple more spoilers.  It’s about three high-school aged girls getting kidnapped by a maniac with MPD, right?  Which is a problem on a couple of levels: one, you spend the whole movie playing the “when are they gonna get raped?” game, which is always horrible.  The answer: there is one scene of implied molestation in this film and it will come at you sideways and not the way you expect it to be.   There is a lot of implied child abuse.  There is not actually any sexual violence between the kidnapper and his victims.  There are also a lot of angry disability advocates out there who are upset that once again dissociative identity disorder is being used as a crutch for a villain.  I’m… a little more sympathetic toward the folks who will be triggered by the film than the disability advocates, if only because McAvoy’s character’s therapist is also part of the film and she has some very interesting comic-booky theories about DID that… well, probably won’t make anything better for those bothered by the disorder being featured in the film but it certainly makes it more interesting for the rest of us.  That’s probably not entirely fair of me but it’s how I’ve reacted.

#Review: DREADNOUGHT, by April Daniels

51CxH4-aSoL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI don’t remember buying this book.  I don’t remember where I first encountered it, either, but it must have impressed me, as I must have pre-ordered it immediately.  I got a notification from Amazon that it had been shipped and actually had to look it up to figure out what it was.  And then I read the blurb and I was like, oh, right, this is definitely something I want to read.

I can’t call this the first great book I’ve read in 2017– it’s the third, actually– but one of those three was a kids’ book and the other was the third book in a trilogy.  So is it okay if I call this the first new hotness of the year?  It’s my blog, so yeah, it is.

This is one of those books where the premise will let you know right away whether you should buy the book or not: Daniel Tozer is a fifteen-year-old boy who happens to be the closest person when the world’s greatest superhero is killed, and he inherits the powers of that superhero, Dreadnought, when he dies.

And the first thing Dreadnought’s new powers do is remake Daniel’s body into the perfect body Daniel has always wanted.  Which means that Daniel becomes Danielle, and wakes up with unimaginable power and a woman’s body.

So that’s the first three pages, and there we go from there.  The broader beats of the story are sorta predictable, and you can probably imagine several of the complications that work their way into the story– friends, parents, a superteam that may not be what Danny thinks they are, and another high school friend who turns out to be a hero too.  The worldbuilding is solid (this is the first book of a series, so there’s room for not everything to be explained) and the action is solidly written– as fascinating as the premise is, you absolutely have to be able to nail action sequences to properly write a superhero novel, and Daniels excels at it.

So, whoever it was that turned me on to this book (Charlie Jane Anders blurbs it, so maybe it was her?), thank you.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and you should go read Dreadnought right the hell now.

#REVIEW: Ada Twist, Scientist

61pu8UIQ+kL._SX406_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSomething a little different tonight, if you don’t mind (and it’s my blog, so I’m doing it anyway whether you mind or not): I need to make sure you’re aware of a certain children’s book I just read to my son.  I was considering making this part of my Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews series, but decided not to.

So here’s the deal: if you have kids under, say, 12 or so, or if you teach science to any kids of any age, or really if you teach at all, you need to acquire a copy of Ada Twist, Scientist and make reading it out loud to said children a part of your mission in life for the near future.  Educators will already be aware of this: it’s occasionally a great idea to read out loud to kids, regardless of their age, and it’s also occasionally a good idea to read what are ostensibly children’s books to kids who are on paper too old to be reading those books.  You should all find your kids and then find this book (in that order, preferably) and then read it to them.

Here’s why: Ada Twist, Scientist does a great idea of breaking down how science works and how the scientific process works and how scientists think in 32 pages of simple, rhyming prose.  The fact that the titular scientist is a young black woman is just icing on the cake.  Representation is important, and young women of any race need to see themselves as scientists.  So do black children of either gender.  And my white male son needs to see scientists who don’t look like him.  Plus, again: it taught my five-year-old the word hypothesis.  Which he’ll be using in sentences by the end of the week.

Go check it out.

On holding back

wicther_3_oh_my_glob.jpgIf you’ve been paying attention to my posts lately, or to my Twitter feed, you can probably guess why I didn’t post yesterday, and I suspect you’d be right.  I’ve been trying to write about it and I’m not quite there yet, for a variety of reasons.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please forgive the vaguebooking; all will be made clear soon enough.

Instead, let’s talk about something how I’m either too old, too liberal, or both to play video games any more. Despite shit-talking it when it came outThe Witcher 3 went on a steep-ass discount a few weeks ago– I got the game and both expansion packs for $20, if I remember right– and I was in a period of mourning the lack of video games in my life at the time and so I went ahead and picked it up.  I mean, fuck it, right?  This thing got Game of the Year awards from basically everybody, and I’ve been wrong before, right?

Nah.

The Witcher 3 is exactly the game I thought it was before picking it up; it is not only bad in all the ways I thought it would be bad, it manages to be worse than I thought it was going to be in several critical areas.  I have been gaming for a very long time, so it is likely that I have played a more misogynistic game than this one at some point or another, but I can’t recall what that game might have been.  This is a game that very, very badly wants to be taken seriously, but the overgrown adolescents who coded it think that “serious” means that you get called a cunt everywhere you go, and mistake adult content— there are lots of tits, oh so many tits, and oh so many whores, and so many of the swear words– for adult complexity.

I would probably have really loved this when I was sixteen.  That’s who it’s aimed at, and regardless of the actual chronological ages of the designers, it’s who it was made by.  There are bits of the gameplay I do enjoy, but I commented to my wife this morning that the game’s greatest feat is managing to remain perfectly balanced on the razor’s edge where I’m enjoying it just enough that I’m still playing, but it’s not actually good enough to make me forget the parts that make me want to quit– so I’m still playing, but I hate the game for maybe half the time I’m playing it.

I don’t mind the stabbing.  I don’t even mind the crafting and alchemy, which is normally a part I do my best to ignore in most games.  It’s whenever I’m not in control of the character– ie, cutscenes– that I want to throw my PS4 out the window and cultivate a new hobby.

Blech.

Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One

Okay.  You may remember my review of The Force Awakens, which basically went through the entire movie point-by-point and dissected the entire thing.  I liked TFA, but it hasn’t held up for me as well as I wanted it to.  In fact, as you can tell from the review, it started falling apart almost as soon as I got home.

My short, spoiler-free review of Rogue One is that it is a much better movie than The Force Awakens was, but– alarmingly– the places where it is bad, it is bad in exactly the same way as TFA.  Which is not a good sign for future films.

I am going to spoil the shit out of this movie.  I’m giving you a picture and then an actual jump screen so that you don’t get caught up accidentally.  But you will Know All the Things when you’re done.  Okay?  No whining.  SPOILERS!

rogueone_logo-0-0 Continue reading “Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One”