Crisis At Warner Brothers

For the last two nights the CW Arrowverse  shows have engaged in a cathartic game of “Bash the Fash” in a four-part crossover event that sees characters from Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow teamed up to stop an invasion of Nazis from another dimension that includes Nazi doppelgängers of some of the primary cast.

The episode clearly has a political message, albeit one that should have stopped being controversial in the late 1930s, as the cast utters the words “I hate Nazis” no less than three times and character who usually take measures to not kill lose the kid-gloves while characters who usually care about those things watch like it’s not a big deal.

It really is a sight to behold and I would suggest that even if you don’t watch the shows is might be the kind of thing that an outsider can get into. It’s not that hard to tell what’s happening and what people can do. I mean, who doesn’t know who the Flash or Supergirl is at this point?

But the timing of this miniseries is of particular interest to me given that just a few weeks ago Warner Brothers proper, who owns the CW Network, released the follow up to their 2016 team up movie Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice in the form of Justice League. The Justice League movie had several problems going in and it turned out to be a movie made from a mix of audience responses to the last several films and executive meddling–two things that don’t work out so well.

And that brings us back to the reason why the timing of this crossover versus those movies is such a big deal. The DC Extended Universe has been suffering from a failure to launch for years now and it’s biggest credit at this point is the movie in the bunch no one believed in: a female superhero movie with a female director lead by an actress whose previous biggest credit includes a couple of Fast and the Furious movies.

Honestly, those all sound like positives about Jenkins and Gadot, but they’re one of the few bright spots in this whole mess and the CW Network with it’s lower budget version of a DC universe is making all the bad parts look worse. How come when Kara (Supergirl) is flying around over Central city it doesn’t look fake as fuck? How come the villains on the TV show seem awesome and not run of the mill at all? How come these shows can manage to do comedy and drama intertwined without making things feel jarring (this is actually the case across the three shows out of the four I watch–I can’t remember a joke being out of place in any of them)? How come I saw shit cooler in the first forty minutes of a TV show (and done by Kid Flash no less) than in the entire two hour run time of your major blockbuster movie featuring three of the biggest heroes ever? How come I care about most of these characters, not because of meta-knowledge and their iconic status, but because I’ve been made to care?

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Warner Brothers needs to take a hint. Stop trying to live in the darkness of the Nolan era while throwing together a rushed extended universe and look to these shows for examples of how to do it. Do you know the same mistake that we keep seeing with these attempts to copy Marvel’s MCU? People seem to have forgotten that the MCU was very slow to start and built up to everything. Sure that’s not the only way to do things, but the way not to do it is to throw every plan for your next six movies into you second outing like it’s a three hour long trailer.

Until then I guess we have a DC Universe to be proud of: the one that’s on the television every week. Hey Warner Brothers, maybe you could just give Gadot a TV show and spread that three hundred million around between the group of Arrowverse shows and her. It’d be better spent.

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The Vicious Cycle of Minority Representation

This might not be my longest, most drawn out entry, but I came to a realization today when I was out talking with a woman. The whole crux of what I’m saying rests on an understanding of what the movie “Get Out” means to me, but not necessarily the specific plot points of the movie.

What made the movie such a huge deal for me was the way that it seemed so different from other movies, namely in that it chronicled experiences that I felt were things that only I had felt. It got into a personal space for me and put those things up on the screen for audiences of millions of people who might not have the same life experience.

And people loved it.

That’s the problem with Hollywood character representation. We have your “Get Outs” and your “Atlantas” and these things show a side of minority life that we don’t often see. A lot of film execs say things to the affect of “white audiences just don’t like to see minority characters” and that puts unfair blame on white audiences at large.

The real issue is that a lot of minority characters are stock types and they don’t seem genuine. Sure, there are going to be some bigots who don’t accept characters like them, but the writers are writing them and using other media they’ve been exposed to as a template and since there’s always been poor minority representation in movies it comes off as a parody of a parody of a parody. The real person there gets distilled down to a set of tropes that people are tired of seeing. White audiences are tired of it and so are audiences of color.

But the problem isn’t the white audiences don’t know how to accept those unlike them, the problem is that writers aren’t writing characters that should be accepted.

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A Review of Passengers and the need for a Hollywood Introspective

What the fuck is it that Hollywood wants? For the last several years it seems like at every beat of the year there’s some dark and gritty take on X. We got to see the gray, grim-dark, take on a Batman and Superman who are only outmatched in their hatred of each other in their hatred for themselves. We see scripts pushed darker by studio interference so often that no one ever talks about the alternative.

Rogue One is an example of a movie that was actually changed after a director got the go ahead to make it darker and that is actually an okay thing on some level, but we see the opposite with Passengers.

Passengers was a blacklist script darling that was supposedly one of the best movies that wasn’t being produced. It stayed in development Hell and was eventually supposed to star Emily Blunt and Keanu Reeves. The original script that the movie was going to have had a different ending that drew on the themes differently. While the troubling issues that the movie brought up were still present, they were explored in a more nuanced way and, to quote one friend, wasn’t “Hollywooded the fuck up”.

Spoilers past here for both the Passengers movie and the script that was never produced.

Here’s a quick rundown of the plot. A ship is carrying people to a far off world to colonize it. Everyone is placed in stasis pods and one pod malfunctions. Chris Pratt plays the man who wakes up. He goes for a year and three weeks alone before waking up a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) that he has spent time admiring and being in love with, but he lies and says she woke up by chance. He courts her, they fall in love, and the robotic bar tender in the ship let’s it slip that Pratt woke her up. It’s discovered later that the entire ship is malfunctioning due to the complication that woke Pratt up originally and he and Lawrence work together to fix the issue.

In the original ending they succeed in fixing the issue and manage to reboot the whole ship’s system saving the ship and themselves. But the reboot causes the ship to launch all of the other passengers into space. Five thousand people die. Lawrence questions whether she can come to grips with Pratt’s choice in waking her. On one hand he’s doomed her to never reach the new planet they’re traveling to, but on the other they’re alive because her pod wasn’t fired into space. When the ship reaches the new planet their descendants disembark.

The theatrical ending of the movie, the only one that was actually produced, ends with everything going down much the same, they have to reboot the ship and also open a door to vent plasma into space so that the core doesn’t rupture, but Chris Pratt has to go outside of the ship and actually manually open the door and is almost lost in space in the process. His suit ruptured and the tether broken, Pratt floats to what would be his death, but Jennifer Lawrence dons a suit and rushes out to save him, the two make up after he is revived and the problem of what he has done is essentially ignored. He does give her the option to sleep in the Sick Bay pod that they discover, but she declines and stays awake with him.

The real issue here is the issue that the movie seems to try and make a love story out of the idea that a man forced a woman to be alone with him in the hopes that she would fall in love. One of the deleted scenes on the blu-ray actually has her questioning him (after the big reveal) asking if he ever thought that if they’d just met back on Earth would he think she were capable of even noticing him. It might sound harsh, but it comes from a drunk woman who has been robbed of her life where any number of things could have turned out differently.

The movie gets a lot wrong along the way too. There’s a bit of dubious science that keeps this from looking like something like Interstellar or The Martian. There’s the whole Laurence Fishburn character that doesn’t actually have enough screen time or back story to make an impact and kind of just serves as a device to explain the problem of the third act.

With the almost everybody dies ending you’re getting at least one thing that kind of makes us realize just how fucked up the fact that he did this to her was, but she also rationalizes it with the idea that she could have very well died along with everyone else on the ship so she has whatever time is left as they travel. It’s still shitty what he did and he still robbed her of real choice, but he inadvertently saved her life and it would make her cooling to him make more sense.

In the theatrical script it seems like his risking his life to vent the plasma is more of an apology and that he is kind of assuming the blame for dragging her into this, but at the same time there’s some hope for him that he’s saving his own skin in the process. She makes the choice to go out and save him and to forgive him, but the choice of him saving her is more deliberate here. It’s not out of some predatory sense that he has to be with her that he saves her at the end. It kind of loses the theme of the movie for what was supposed to be a happier ending, but it also kind of tries to gloss over the big reveal just a few minutes earlier.

This could have been a much darker, better movie, but Hollywood didn’t want that. We can have plots about forced romances that get glossed over, but don’t let the ending be sad!

And real quick a note on casting. I love Chris Pratt. I think he’s super talented and charismatic, but the studio had a chance to cast someone potentially less attractive or at least less expected in the lead male role. I think that had we seen a black actor (less expected) that audience reactions and willingness to forgive the character would be less likely. Let’s consider for a moment that Donald Glover had been the Pratt character (just because I fucking love Donald Glover) and that he had done things the same way.

How do you think that would have changed the movie? How would that have changed people’s desire to see the Glover and Lawrence characters together?

How about if we picked someone less conventionally attractive. John C. Reilly steps into the Pratt role and he’s the same blue collar guy courting an attractive, younger, richer woman by dooming her to die in space? Is that a love story?

For a guy who likes brevity, I’m running long. But this was a conundrum of a movie that had a lot of strange angles that it was coming from. It touches on being an enjoyable watch until you think of the deeper issues with the science in the movie (if you were stuck in a large free floating ball of water in zero G you’d be able to swim out because water is still, well, fucking water) and the morality of what’s happened.

What’s happening is the movie is just disappointing. It could have been a much more interesting picture with some changes and I don’t want original scripts to stop being shot because of the shortcomings of this one. I want more science-fiction to come out of Hollywood. But I want them to be truly thought provoking and, if they’re going to go after the hard questions not to fuck it all up.

“Logan” is the best X-Men film yet, but that isn’t saying much.

“Logan” having an ‘R’ rating seems more a reaction to the success of “Deadpool” now than anything and that kind of highlights my issue with the movie. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch and it’s probably the clearest vision that anything super hero related and made by Fox has had besides “Deadpool”.

Them not really doing anything with the ‘R’ rating besides blood and gore and cursing is kind of what I expected. I honestly thought the cursing crossed over into silliness at times. There was no need for some silly sex scene in these movies and I’m glad they never went that route. There’s some nice hints about the future world “Logan” occupies. 2029 isn’t too far fetched, but it’s also just different enough. Things feel more lawless.

In the past I’ve said that it might be a strength that the mutants of Marvel have been kept away from the rest of the universe. There’s such a diverse and large number of characters from the X-Men books that they can support their entire own reality filled with super heroes in a world where genetic mutation gives someone control over the weather or portals in their eyes leading to a dimension filled with beams of concussive force.

For the first time that separation from actual Marvel hurt this movie. The world felt smaller when just mutants had been in it than the one in the Old Man Logan book. A lot of the references to Spider-Man or the parts with an older more grizzled Hawkeye would have been awesome to see, but Fox doesn’t have those properties and really it’s no one’s fault but their own. Fox is the one keeping themselves from a Sony like deal with Marvel and Disney and a chance to basically print money.

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And these things might not seem like they affect the movie, but they really do. The movie is technically good and there’s a real emotional center to all of it, but it feels weaker because they had to lean on the X-23 storyline and only on the X-Men storyline in general. When I heard they were doing an Old Man Logan style story I got really excited, but then got really sad that we couldn’t see a lot of the wonderful things.

This is one of those case where a movie really didn’t suck by any stretch and was a good watch, but it feels like it wasn’t as good as everyone has been saying it is. Honestly the X-Men series has been so wishy washy that anything this tightly plotted and competently written looks like the fucking “Magnificent Ambersons”.

Don’t think that I’m telling you to stay home or this isn’t worth it, I’m just saying not to get your hopes up too high. It’s a good movie, but it’s not surprising. X-Men had the potential to be at this level for a long time and we have Fox to thank for it not being that way.

“Get Out” Reviewed

This is spoilers light if there’s any at all. I’m mostly going to discuss my feelings about the film, the movie going experience, and the subject matter as it relates to me.

Let me pain the picture: I am running late getting my ticket because it’s raining and the only reliably fun thing to do in this city when it rains is watch a movie. San Antonio is a city built for the outdoors. The Riverwalk, outdoor malls, the downtown market area, Mexican restaurants with patio seating…

It’s our bread and butter. Even then I thought that the crowds would be seeing Logan on it’s opening weekend, but no my theater was almost sold out. I bought one of the last four seats.

Given the obvious racial overtones of the movie I expected it to be mostly black and Hispanic, but the movie was mostly a white audience. I set next to a guy who was about as good ol country boy as they come and his black girlfriend. It was a strange feeling and with the anxiety creeping back in lately I didn’t want to be in a theater full of people to begin with.

I stuck it out and the first thing I will say about this movie directly is that it’s a strange feeling to have your experiences translated to the screen in such a relatable manner. Black people and white people may work in the same buildings and share the same streets and businesses or even neighborhoods, but there’s a certain level of segregation that goes on even today. This creates situations where people don’t know how to act around other races in casual settings. It’s not always the case, but it happens.

And if you’re the only black person at a party or function you can feel like you’re on display. If you’re dating a white woman (or really any woman of another race) it’s a conversation that might come up before you meet their family or friends: “Do they know I’m black?”

Sure, the most organic way to bring this up would be a picture of the two of you. But when you open the door and let it be known you’re dating outside your race you open the door to strange shit. People warning you of things to look out for and offering up all kinds of advice that you honestly didn’t ask for.

Another strange thing that happens sometimes when you’re black around a group of white people who aren’t used to it is they’ll bend over backwards to try and prove how not racist they are. They’d vote for Obama for a third term if they could. They’re jealous of how powerful and beautiful Serena Williams is. Then they’re name dropping black artists or actors or telling you how  articulate you are.

These things aren’t malicious, at least not in the sense of intention, but they still make you feel bad and uncomfortable. They still make you feel like you don’t belong.

“Get Out” frames all of this in that sense. You feel Chris’s status as an outsider from the moment that he arrives. You have to sit through the award dinner conversation about the athleticism of the black body or hear someone wax on about how their father did so much to help blacks in the past.

And that’s the thing, in the later stages “Get Out” makes a great little bit of horror, but the early part of the film sets up the feeling of alienation and it’s shocking how well it’s done and how you could feel the dread in the entire audience.

Movies like this are important. I told a friend over the phone that I had seen movies about racism from a black perspective before  and I had seen black genre movies before, but the two are usually separate. Anything about racism is set in a historical context of slavery or some overwhelming sense of self-determination to overcome adversity. They’re never just set in just suburbia and the few that might be out there weren’t this well polished.

Media plays an important part in normalizing behavior and what people expect. There’s a lot of important stories out there that need to be told. Last year when Donald Glover’s new show “Atlanta” was set to premier he said that he had hired all black writers for the show because there was more to the black experience in America than most people had ever seen on television and that it might surprise people. I don’t know if you have to separate out the writers, but you have to be willing to listen to the experience of others and take them as valid.

And I’d say with the clapping at the end of this movie people did just that.

Belonging 

I went out to see Doctor Strange on Thursday night. It was supposed to be the highlight of my day. I’ve been counting down the days over the last month. There’s a tiny theater connected to my neighborhood. It also happens to be in the same building as my favorite comic book store. I’m in the place about once a week and people know me and I know the area. 

The movie had been moved to a new auditorium and was starting late, but by the time I stopped bullshitting with the guys in the comic book store I was coming into the theater after most people had taken their seats. A woman pointed to the area where my seat was and I walked down the front part of he aisle (our theater has wide aisles in front of the seats for waiters to pass along without disturbing the viewers). The seat numbering seemed off and the seats in the area where the employee had pointed me to were filled. I was in seat 13 of the row I was on and I saw a seat marked 513 and assumed it was that one. 

Suddenly a bearded man around my age or a little younger stands up from a seat a little to my right and asks “Are you sure you’re in the right theater?” He doesn’t come toward me or really move except to point. “They’re playing the Madea movie in another one.”

Oh, I get it now. That’s very clever. Black people, as we know, would only come to the theater to see the latest Madea movie or tales of triumph set during slave times. I wasn’t sure if he was going to tell me how brace I was next. It was raining, after all, and we know the blacks can’t swim. 

He laughed after that and sat back down. I figured out my error a few seconds after ignoring him. There was a second set of white painted numbers on the bottom of the upturned seats. I found my chair near the middle of the row buffeted by a man playing on his phone and a man who would continually talk to himself and push down on the empty seat between us hitting me in the leg. 

The movie was really good and I was thrilled to see it. Did the small interaction at the start ruin it for me? No. I’ve had worse said about me, although I really hate Tyler Perry movies, so this is an insult on two levels. There’s not a moral to this story unless it’s this: these kinds of things happen. I went into public to enjoy a movie and a stranger made a racist joke. I’m minding my own business and it doesn’t matter. People feel the need  to comment on my race. I’m sure if asked this guy would be one of the ones who “has black friends” and “doesn’t see race”. 

Yeah, sure. 

Firefly Season Two

Joss Whedon had already made a name for himself by 2002; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had been on the air several seasons. A growing community of fans were picking up comics, tie-in-novels as well as watching the shows. When the announcement for Firefly came down I wasn’t really interested. I had dropped Buffy by that time, but still watched Angel religiously (and I will go down fighting that Angel was one of the best things Whedon did on TV).

12717659_1060323854011501_7933737666942233070_nFirefly’s advertising didn’t exactly appeal to my sensibilities. I don’t like the Western genre, or at least, back then I thought I didn’t like what the Western genre was supposed to be. I didn’t know any of the actors in the show well enough to be drawn in by that and the Fox network didn’t exactly make the show easy to watch.

When it was canceled I don’t think a lot of people were even paying attention. The internet had matured into the state it has today where websites track shows that are on the tracking block and organize huge campaigns to save them. Hell, if there had been enough people to organize it might not have gotten canceled.

It wasn’t until about two years later in college when I saw the Serenity movie because a girl at I liked at the time wouldn’t stop talking about it. We don’t even talk anymore, but if it weren’t for Allison, I can safely say I would have never checked this show out. I haven’t watched a Joss Whedon show since then and only his movies have really drawn me in.

Firefly is a good show. I don’t deny that despite not being the biggest fan of its creator. My reason for this post comes next: it’s fucking 2016. In a few months this show will have aired fourteen years ago. Fox cancelled it, no one wanted to pick it up after the movie, DROP IT. 

I don’t know what made Firefly into some kind of nerd Alamo. It’s the thing you’re expected to agree with: when you’re around geeks and nerds and someone starts to bitch about what Fox did to Firefly you’re supposed to rally around this as fact like it’s some inherent evil act perpetrated by the people at Fox; like it’s the Tuskegee Experiment or Japanese Internment camps.

People are still going on about it today, even while many of the actors have found life elsewhere, one is on a show that’s lasted almost a decade, and another has become a sexist sock puppet. I don’t get why this is the hill people choose to die on. Why is this show so vital? It had potential, but there are missteps in it and we can’t assume it would have gotten better. Especially since at an anniversary special a troubling rape plot line was revealed:

“She had this magic syringe, she would take this drug and if she were, for instance, raped, the rapist would die a horrible death. The story was, she gets kidnapped by Reavers. and when Mal finally got to the ship to save her from the Reavers, he gets on the Reaver ship and all the Reavers are dead. Which would suggest a kind of really bad assault. At the end of the episode, he comes in after she’s been horribly brutalized, he comes in, he gets down on his knee and he takes her hand and he treats her like a lady.”

Just let it be. It’s a good show that people have made into some kind of rally point only because it got canceled before it made any of the colossal fuck-ups that all shows seem to stumble through on a long enough time-line. Stop acting like you were done some grave injustice because a network canceled a show that wasn’t making them enough money, that you probably weren’t watching.

Daredevil

The last month has been busy and I’m trying to think of something to write here that would seem worthwhile. And here it is.

Daredevil is the best super hero show ever.

It might top out most of the Marvel movies and other hero movies as the best super hero movie ever. To put it lightly the show hits all the right beats and has all of the feeling that was missing from the old Daredevil movie. It’s the perfect combination of action and drama with a little comedy sprinkled in there.

If you’re not already watching it, get to it.

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Can We Finally Go Ahead and Admit That the Oscars Are the Award Show Equivalent of a Circle Jerk

Thesis statement in title.

With this year’s list of nominations it seems like everyone is talking about the snubs. I don’t mean Selma, by all accounts the movie was mediocre at best and only got what it did because of the subject matter. What I’m talking about is Gone Girl  and the Lego Movie. When the latter came out it was all I heard about and all I heard was praise. People even liked the people who they hadn’t wanted to see in the movie.

In the case of Gone Girl the face that it doesn’t even appear on the list for best adaptation should tell us something. I think the main problem with the Oscars is the things they like and the things they seem to think are important. It shouldn’t matter if you like Clint Eastwood. It shouldn’t matter if someone said something off color in the press. It shouldn’t matter if some other, unrelated element of the movie was unlikable if the category its being judged for is on point.

There’s a lot of politics in award shows and this seems to be the mother-load of them all when it comes to letting that get in the way of wins. I’ve never been big on Oscars, but I’m not going to watch this shit now.

Guardians of the Galaxy was…fun?

Okay, so that title might be one of those things that looks sarcastic. Bear with me here, because this concept might be a little foreign to movie-goers. This movie was just pure fun. Sure there was some drama here and there, but the set pieces, the characters, the plot—it all worked really well to create a fun atmosphere and I think that I heard more laughter in this auditorium than I have in any movie I’ve been to in a long while.

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That includes comedies.

If there’s one thing that I can say about Marvel in the positive it’s that they’re bold. So bold. They put out a comic book movie about a title that isn’t considered mainstream the way your Spiderman or Iron Man types are and they made it look like something watchable. They got star power behind it and sold it. They didn’t shy away from the fact that there’s very little human or familiar in these worlds. They didn’t try to water down the story.

The start of this movie is a little jarring and for the first few scenes it skips around and it’s hard to get a good footing, but once you catch up to where the movies going (maybe about twenty minutes in) it’s just pure fun. I’ve read the comic this book is based on and the characters are pretty much spot on. The snark and the witty banter is well-written and effective. It’s not the Whedon-esque humor that seems to pepper the other Marvel movies and the characters all seem to speak through themselves and be funny on their own merit. No one sounds exactly like anyone else and even in the two hours or so with them you get a definite sense of voice.

I want to keep this short, but go see this movie. Go see it right now if you can. If I had to rank this as opposed to other Marvel films. Like I said, it takes itself a lot less seriously even though the thread is far greater. There’s no political commentary or anything of that sort, but not serious doesn’t mean bad. Captain America 2 was my favorite of the Marvel movies up until this point, but I think this one might be even with it.

Again, go see this movie.