I see movies

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You like movies, right?  Everybody likes movies.  You may have noticed that they made another movie about that Spider-Man dude recently.

Quick!  Guess if I saw it.

Of course I did.  And I’m pleased to report that I liked it quite a damn lot; I continue to be amazed that Marvel has cranked out something like ten thousand of these movies and I haven’t seen one I disliked yet.  It’s not the best superhero movie of the year– that title belongs to Wonder Woman still, but it’s a solid effort, especially when you consider that there have been like seventeen movies just about Spider-Man in the last fifteen years or so.

Highlights: Tom Holland, Tom Holland, Tom Holland, and Tom Holland.  Also Michael Keaton.  Actually, hell, let’s be honest here: I like the entire damn cast.  There’s just enough Robert Downey Jr– I didn’t want this to have as much Iron Man in it as, say, Civil War did– and he’s got enough screen time that it’s more than a cameo but not a lot more than a cameo, if you know what I mean.  Putting Peter Parker back in high school was the right move, and Tom Holland plays young more than well enough.  Michael Keaton as the Vulture (who, note, is never actually referred to by that name) is the best villain Marvel’s put on-screen since Loki, and I actually really like how low-stakes the film is for most of its runtime; it fits Spider-Man’s role as a street-level hero.  This movie gets the character’s soul completely right, and that’s really important.

One minor gripe: this guy?

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The character’s name is supposedly Ned?  And maybe he’s supposed to be Ned Leeds, although they don’t ever use his last name, and shouldn’t Ned Leeds be a lot older than Peter anyway?  And: nah.  Fuck that.  This isn’t Ned.  This is Ganke, dammit, and I want Miles Morales in a Marvel movie.  Donald Glover plays his uncle Aaron!  He’s out there, dammit!  Quit giving me his friends under weird pseudonyms and his relatives and give me Miles Morales!  

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I also saw this, finally.  You may remember my review of the book of The Girl With All the Gifts: I loved the hell out of it, and it ended up being my second favorite book of 2016.  I actually first heard of the book when I saw the trailer for the movie and it blew me away, and then I waited a year and a goddamn half and the damn movie either never came out in the States at all (I’ve been unable to get a solid answer on this, and believe me, I’ve looked) or got such a limited release that I was never anywhere near a theater that showed it.

Well, good news: Apple to the rescue!  I was able to rent the movie for 24 hours for just 99 cents, and if anything it’s even a bit creepier than the book was– and, remember, I loved the book.  You won’t be able to find this in theaters anywhere, but it’s absolutely worth hunting down if you have any way to stream it.  Read the book, too, while you’re at it.

#Review: WONDER WOMAN

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I meant to get this written a bit earlier, but this ended up being a much busier (or at least much more tiring) week than I’d originally anticipated.  Keep something in mind, though; this is my review after almost a week.  So this is after I’ve had time to think about the movie for a while and let it roll around in my head for a bit.

I’ll be direct: I’ve hated almost every DC movie released since 1989.  Nineteen eighty fucking nine.  The only reason for the “almost”?  I never saw Catwoman— because why the hell would you?– and I did not hate Suicide Squad, mostly because I didn’t care enough about any of the characters in the film to properly hate it and Harley Quinn was fun to watch.  I got home from Batman Returns way back in 1992 and ranted about it at such length and such volume to my parents that my neighbor actually came over and asked me to cut it out.  My parents live in a house.  The last several DC films have been so bad that I refuse to even admit that the characters they are supposedly about are even in the movies.  Man of Steel wasn’t about Superman.  Batman Begins was about some sort of sword-fighting ninja dude who isn’t a detective and doesn’t give a wet shit about human life, and by the time Alien Jesus v. Wing-Rat Psycho came around, he was literally branding criminals so they’d get killed in jail.  Fuck that.

That fuckin’ movie actually had the word Justice in the title.  Was there at any point any concern with justice anywhere in that movie?  Ever?  Nah, of course not.

Wonder Woman is probably the best superhero movie since Superman and Superman 2.

Why “probably”?  Because I’m not capable of watching Iron Man or Avengers with any sort of objectivity.  I need to watch Civil War again; when that came out, I called it the best Marvel movie; I’m not sure it’s held up to me as well as they have.  Wonder Woman is so much better than the rest of DC’s film product in the last thirty years that we shouldn’t even refer to it in the same category any longer.  It’s like saying that out of this giant pile of shit the carefully plastic-wrapped apple on top is the tastiest.  Of course it is; it’s the only fucking apple.

Proposal: that, from now on, the remainder of the DC murderverse films (and those not formally part of the murderverse as well, such as the execrable Superman Returns, which revealed him to be a deadbeat dat) be referred to as murples.  Only Wonder Woman gets to be a movie.

Damn near 500 words in, so I probably ought to get to the “why” part.  It actually isn’t all that complicated, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it:  Wonder Woman is actually a hero in this movie, who does heroic things and whose primary motivation is to save people.  The first time we see Diana in full Wonder Woman getup, she’s charging– against the advice of everyone around her— across No Man’s Land straight into rifles, mortars and machine guns to save a French village full of strangers who she has never met.  It’s an outstanding moment; the best in the film and one of the best superhero reveals I’ve ever seen.

Why is she doing that?  Because they’re there and they need help.

This, you see, is what superheroes do.  And what Wonder Woman gets right that literally no DC movies and not enough of the Marvel films have gotten right is that it remembers that its main character is supposed to be a superhero and so she acts like one.

There’s more, of course, but that’s the core of my love for this film and everything else is really window dressing.  Gal Gadot is phenomenal; I really wasn’t into the idea of her playing this character (I’m still on Team Gina Torres) but turns out I was at least as wrong about that as I was about Tom Holland playing Spider-Man.  The other standout from the movie is Robin Wright as Antiope and, while most of Lucy Davis’ lines were in the trailer, she steals every second that her Etta Candy is on the screen.  Chris Pine is exactly what he needs to be and no more.  And Elena Anaya as Dr. Maru is creepy as fuck in another role that doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time.  The opening bits on Themyscira are fantastic; I want to see more of all of that, Antiope in particular.  I mean, c’mon:

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(I have, in case it’s not clear, no serious complaints about the film.  About the closest I can get is that the CGI could be a bit better in parts.  But whatever.  Graphics barely even register to me anymore.)

A word about setting the film during World War I instead of World War II:  I think it was a brilliant idea.  Why?  Because Wonder Woman fights against the idea of war itself.  Her role is to be as an ambassador for peace before any other moral good.  And, much unlike WWII, World War I is a perfect examplar of the utter pointlessness of war.  It strikes me every time I read a history book about it: World War I was a war fought for nothing.  Literally nothing.  Not one person who died during that war died for anything.  And yet millions of people died horrible deaths and millions more were wounded.  It actually dilutes Wonder Woman’s anti-war message to put her into World War II, because fighting to stop fascism is actually a cause.  So as much as I’d like to see Wonder Woman punching some Nazis, I think it was a solid change to make to the story.

The big question, of course, is whether this means I’m going to have to see Justice League when it comes to theaters.  I’m still leaning toward no, as nothing I’ve seen from the film makes me think that the word justice is going to belong in the team’s name and there’s going to be more Alien Christ in it.  But the fact that Wonder Woman even got me to consider seeing Justice League?

If that’s not a solid reason to see the movie, I don’t know what possibly could be.

In which I waste a whole bunch of my time: a #review of IRON FIST

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I have said this before, both on this blog and elsewhere: if you are ever compelled, as a writer in any medium, to create a scenario where your characters are complaining about how dumb your plot is, it is probably time to stop and think very carefully about what you are doing.  If you are writing a show called Iron Fist, about a man whose job it is to be the Iron Fist, and the very first line a character says upon meeting him is “You are the worst Iron Fist ever,” you may be doing something wrong.  It is possible to write a good story about a hero who is terrible at being a hero.  But if you do that, then that’s what your story needs to be about.  You can’t have a hero who is terrible at being a hero and have your story be about something else.  The fact that he or she is terrible is going to take center stage and ruin everything else.

Enter Iron Fist, whose writers clearly do not read my blog.  This post is unnecessary in a whole lot of ways; it took me a while to get through all thirteen episodes– mostly because, again, the show’s awful– and everyone who binged it right away has already weighed in on how bad it is.  They’re all right.  But maybe there’s someone out there who isn’t attuned to the geek press all that much, but reads me for some reason.  Someone who might be saved.

Please don’t watch this show.

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And this doofy shit is the main reason why.  Now, let’s be clear about a few things:  there was a lot of fooferal when the show hadn’t quite come out yet about the fact that Marvel cast a white guy as Iron Fist instead of racebending the character and casting an Asian person instead.  I am sympathetic to those concerns, to say the least.  But even if you’re going to cast a white guy as Iron Fist, because the comic book character is white, Finn Jones is just about the worst possible choice to play the role.  He is awful; awful in every way, he is written to be awful, and the man himself does nothing to corral or channel(*) his character’s intrinsic awfulness.  There is nothing Finn Jones does in this show at any point that is convincing.  He cannot do kung fu, he cannot emote beyond an infantile shaking rage, he absolutely cannot spout anything even vaguely resembling Buddhist philosophy (and I choose the word “resembling” quite deliberately) without sounding like a hipster doofus, and he never once comes off as heroic.  Iron Fist is a sulky hipster doofus with PTSD and all the emotional stability of a ten-year-old.  He is awful.

So is every other white man on the show, by the way.  The show can’t have anyone keep a personality or a set of motivations straight for more than an episode at a time, and there are never ever ever any consequences for anyone’s actions, to the point where there are giant holes blown in one character’s dojo’s ceiling at one point so that machine-gun ninjas can drop through (don’t ask) and those giant holes and broken windows and such are never mentioned again.  Characters display magical powers in one episode and then forget they have them.  Characters are killed, thrown into fish tanks in someone’s home, then never mentioned again.

You could cut every white male character completely out of the show and nothing of any significance would change, at all.  They are, all of them, awful.

Let’s talk about these three:
tmg-article_default_mobileMadame_Gao.jpgI’m having a hell of a time getting the HTML to cooperate, so forgive me, but these three are the only thing that makes the show even vaguely watchable.  Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, should have been playing Dani Rand.  Or, alternatively, you could grab this drunken-master badass here– his name is Lewis Tan and he actually auditioned for the park– and have him play Danny Rand.  Between the two of them they are responsible for 100% of the interesting fight scenes in the show.  Every single one.  They are also both maxresdefault.jpgbetter actors than Finn Jones. Wai Ching Ho also returns as Madame Gao, and she’s amazing for every second she’s on screen even if her character’s motivations (and abilities) are more than a little bit of a mess.  The fact that the show had these three people in it and more or less ignored them so that Jones could whine about how tough it is to be white and immensely wealthy and oh also one of the best martial artists in the world but MY PARENTS ARE DEAAADD!!!!
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It’s terrible.  But I think I said that.  I think the only thing that could redeem it is if I watched it again, liveblogged every episode, and then turned it into a chapbook to sell on Amazon and made a million dollars.

(*) So, Iron Fist’s powers come from channeling the power of his “chi” into his fist, making it Like Unto a Thing of Iron, as the comic books used to say all the time and the TV show never does.  TV Danny can’t do that.  I have quite a few Iron Fist comic books, and even more where Iron Fist isn’t the main character but shows up, and I swear to you that Finn Jones does more wanking about his chi in this thirteen hours of show than Iron Fist has done in his entire forty-year history as a comic book character previous to the show coming up.  Comic book Danny Rand’s powers just work, basically whenever he wants them to.  TV Danny Rand’s chi must be balanced, charged, recharged, harnessed, centered, purified, unblocked, hell, every verb in the English language gets applied to Danny’s chi at some point or another; I’m surprised he never has to Smurf the fucking thing.  And hearing him talk about it never stops being ridiculous.  Mostly his powers just don’t work, and mostly his powers don’t work because, in one way or another, he’s an embarrassment to his order and to his job.  He’s the worst Iron Fist ever.  Really.

I hated this damn show.