Archive for January, 2020

Media Update 1/30/20

January 30, 2020


Gemini Man

I was unwary of watching another movie directed by Ang Lee since most of his stuff disinterests me (after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger). The first trailer for this movie made the movie look laughably bad but the second trailer looked a lot better. Will Smith’s career crashed a while back but he was able to pull it back together and his performance has evolved a lot since his early career. (For the record, I love younger Will Smith). This movie is more of an action thriller where a government assassin tries to retire but must face off against a clone of himself instead. Will Smith plays both roles, obviously. Older Smith is his usual charismatic self with a more tired and weathered nature. Younger Smith was a little distracting at first but the effect was actually really well down. Young Smith acts with an emotionless veneer over a raw and angry young energy. I thought the two really played off of each other well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead really stood out as an intelligence officer and a badass in her own right. Benedict Wong plays a loveable goofball. Clive Owen plays the emotionally manipulative villain, a real classic villain. I ended up really liking the movie for the great action and some good dialogue. I recommend it.


Bad Boys for Life

I get a little confused because this is actually Bad Boys III so they missed out on calling the next one Bad Boys 4 Life. (The studio apparently thought this one was going to be the last one). What I have liked about the franchise is obviously the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. A classic odd couple formula, Martin Lawrence’s comic energy mixes well with Will Smith’s too cool for school relaxed personality. The love between the two characters really shows and it just gets better with each movie in the franchise. Paola Núñez stole a lot of scenes as the smart and tough tactical forces leader who convinces the Bad Boys to finally be better. She is backed up by a great crew of characters played by Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, and Vanessa Hudgens (!). As a side note, I hope this opens the door for Hudgens to do some action roles and allows her to show off her talents. The cast is rounded out by the usual cast of character actors who add both comedy and intrigue. I was also interested in this movie because it is the first of the franchise not directed by Michael Bay. I felt like the movie had more steak than sizzle and I hope that the fourth (once again helmed by Bay) settles into this groove with this more ensemble formula. (Similar to the Fast and Furious franchise). I recommend this movie.

The Karate Kid (2010)

From the jump, I felt like this movie lacked a lot of the charm of the original but at least it has a better setup. A young boy must uproot from Detroit and move with his mom to Beijing. New school, new city, new country, new language. On the first day, he runs afoul of a bully who knows kung fu. Oops. Jaden Smith is actually pretty good here, believably playing a very young kid who is in emotional and physical pain. Taraji P. Henson is great as Smith’s mother, a loving figure who just wants to make the best of their new situation. She gets a little too stereotypical sometimes but she is easy to love. Of course, I have always loved Jackie Chan even though he is a little flat and subdued at first in the role of the reluctant mentor. WenWen Han was cute but did not add a lot to the movie as the smart and talented love interest. Zhenwei Wang is a great villain, an imposing twelve-year-old psychopath. It was definitely a movie that took a long time to get into. The characters who we are supposed to back kind of act like assholes for the first act of the movie. Things pick up and Chan’s charisma wins the day, of course. I also have to call out the bullshit use of fire cupping as a healing method in the movie, something widely disproven. I actually do not really recommend this movie. It was kind of too bland, had too much toxic masculinity, and followed the original too much.

Music of the Week:
Megan Thee Stallion – B.I.T.C.H.

DJ Jazzy Jeff – Scars

BROODS – Falling Apart

A. Charles – Woes of an Elderly Millennial

Rise Against – The Violence

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Will Smith”
– I started watching Ducktales Season 2
– I started watching Fate/Zero
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I watched more She-Ra Season 3
– I watched The Death of Superman
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1

Blue Bloods Must End

January 27, 2020

It is pretty clear that most cop shows often show an idealized world where the police are always right and the criminals are always wrong. The only cops who are villains are the police who go rogue and they are treated as an anomaly. They are detested and immediately caught or killed by their fellow cops. However, since I was born in Baltimore City and I keep my eyes open, I know that this is a fantasy. Law enforcement has not and never will deserve blanket respect or trust. There will always be “bad apples” on the force and administrations and the brass will always cover up for them. There will be no reform because the system works for the government. They can blame the problem on the people of color instead of fixing economic and racial disparity in order to repair society.

Anyway, there is one cop show that I keep watching that is actually fairly accurate to the reality of law enforcement in our world. That show is Blue Bloods. The show follows a family that has dedicated their lives to law enforcement. Fittingly, the family’s name is Reagan because most of them do not care about citizen’s rights or about being good people. They constantly espouse an “us versus them” mentality. This mentality does not just encompass the police department’s relationship with the criminals but also with the public at large. Every single cop automatically assumes the guilt of people they are dealing with and act like complete assholes most of the time.

The most obvious offender is the character that even fans of the show love to hate. Detective Danny Reagan is played by Donnie Wahlberg. He is a stereotypical rogue cop with anger issues who often bends or breaks the rules in order to “get his guy”. He even has an inexplicable Brooklyn accent even though the rest of his family does not. This is how “blue-collar” he is supposed to be. However, he is consistently a dirty cop and is constantly under investigation but is constantly cleared. He has real psychological problems and in the latest season, I feel like he might be a sociopath. For example, in one episode he rolls up on a hostage situation that has nothing to do with him. He waits until everybody has their backs turned and he walks in and shoots the unstable criminal. He never shows any remorse that he shot a human being who may or may not have had psychological issues. This is pretty indicative of his behavior on the show.

The actual worse offender is patriarch Frank Reagan, the New York City commissioner played by Tom Selleck. Frank is an old school cop who basically hates anybody who is not in law enforcement. To him, a cop is a shining example in the world and is to be given every chance to make up for horrendous behavior. In one episode, a bunch of cops are verbally harassed outside of a housing project so his response is to send in three precincts, SWAT, and everything else he can throw at the project. He directs cops to round up every single person who lives there and question them and detain them in search of criminals. No probable cause, no logical reasoning. He felt police had been insulted so he sends in the troopers to shock and awe civilians. He is rightfully blasted in the press for it until the search randomly produces a serial killer they did not know about and he is exonerated. He is a hero because he stumbled into a win.

More recently, he revisited something good he actually did and ruined it. In an earlier season, he fired a young cop because she stopped somebody for being brown and media backlash forced him to let her go. He later stumbles on her working a waitressing job. He feels guilty and reverses his decision. He hires back a known racist because he thinks that waitressing (a noble profession) is beneath her and he thinks that she should be a cop. Not only that but he gives her a get out of jail card by telling her that he personally has her back. So when she once again commits some racist act, he will get her out of it instead of firing her this time. Awesome.

There are some exceptions. Erin Reagan is an Assistant District Attorney played by Bridget Moynihan. She actually has compassion despite basically being a cop herself. She often fights against her brothers and father to get leniency for people actually damaged by the system. Her daughter, Nicky, played by Sami Gayle, is even more compassionate and is often the one voice futilely fighting against her family. Vanessa Ray plays Officer Eddie Janko and, as somebody who has experienced both upper class and lower class life, she displays a little more perspective but not much. Her fiance, Jamie Regan (played by Will Estes) often toes the line too much but is at least a little nicer than his family. Garrett Moore (played by Gregory Jbara) is Frank’s PR commissioner. He absolutely views things as the rest of us would and often preaches restraint and understanding if only to make the police look good. His voice is often lost and lately, he is often straight-up ridiculed for his views.

While the show always held this kind of darkness, it feels like it has gotten worse and worse over the seasons. I would not even mind the show as much if the Reagans were not treated as the show’s heroes instead of rightfully being depicted as the villains. They often make situations worse than they found them and rarely feel too bad about them. So, why do I keep watching the show? Honestly, I do not know. The acting is really good and I love a handful of really good characters. Still, every so often I will hit an episode that will make me furious and I will stop watching for a while. I may be hoping for the show to get canceled soon so some of those good actors can be on a project with more merit.

Time Goes By Pt. 3

January 25, 2020

After a few reluctant mouthfuls of breakfast, Mariel looked back up at the twins. Just in their happy, supportive presence, she was starting to feel more like herself. Her confidence and sanity were slowly regenerating and she found herself even smiling a bit.

“I truly am sorry that to interrupt your vacations,” Mariel said. “Where did the two of you go? Back home?”

“I went back to my order,” Dimitri said. “It was good to see some old friends and Mistress Callen.”

Mariel looked confused. “You didn’t go together?” she asked. The twins had been inseparable for much of their lives so any separation was curious. Perhaps both of them had gained more faith in Dina’s ability to control her curse.

“We didn’t,” Dina said, tearing a sausage in half with her teeth. “Fern and I went camping in Thorncatch forest.”

Mariel smiled. “You and Fern?” she asked. “Really?”

“Yes,” Dina said with a smile. “We finally decided to give it a shot.”

“It’s about time,” Mariel said. “It feels like the two of you first kissed ages ago. Did you enjoy yourselves?” Mariel was suddenly overjoyed. The young druid and werewolf had been making eyes at each other since they had met and Mariel had hoped something would spark. She had remained neutral but she had hoped desperately. She was also impressed that Dimitri had not stood in their way.

Dina nodded. “You know that Fern is hard to read but I think we both had a really good time,” she said. “It’s really nice to just get lost for a while, you know?”

Mariel blushed slightly and nodded. “I think I catch your meaning,” she said. “Would you two mind if I went back upstairs to clean myself up before everybody else arrives?”

Dimitri nodded. “I think we can hold down the fort until you feel that you’re ready,” he said.

“I never put much stock in being clean,” Dina said. “But do what makes you happy.”

Mariel almost laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be right back down.” She stood up and put a few silver on the table before the twins could try to pay for her. She still had her dignity. She hurried up the steps. She had not expected her friends to arrive so soon but she was so grateful for the support. The six of them had been through a lot together and it felt good to have them at her back again. Especially at a time where she had completely lost her footing.

She came back downstairs later after bathing and reapplying her makeup. She had her bag full of magical tools and weapons at the ready, attached to her waist with a sash belt. Just making the change made her feel ready for action again. There was still a tension running through her but she felt less wobbly. She would confront this head-on with her friends like they had confronted so many monsters and villains. She had turned a demon to stone, she could do this. She could hold it together.

When she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the twins were nowhere in sight but her eyes were drawn to the source of whoever was playing a hurdy gurdy near the fire. It was Asher Woodhome, of course. Asher was a world-famous traveling bard who had somehow stumbled into fame by accident. He was more focused on making and understanding music and its power. He was also the only other member of their party who was as fashion-forward and put together as Mariel. Most who met him thought he was self-centered but he was actually just distracted and overly thoughtful.

Sitting on the floor and meditating near Asher was Luther Stonestill. The old dwarf had left home at a young age and, according to him, had led a brutal and self-centered period in his life. He had joined a monastery to atone and had become a centered yet passionate monk whose whole body was a weapon. And yet, he just as often used his words to diffuse tense situations. He was slow to violence but quick to end violence when it began. He had become the de facto leader of their group and it was he who had called everyone together once again. She was glad to see him.

Mariel sat in a chair across from Asher and next to Luther. Asher stopped playing with a smile and a nod. Luther spoke without opening his eyes.

“Are you ready to investigate?” Luther asked, absolutely calm.

“I am,” Mariel said. “Shall we?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Asher said, slinging his instrument over his back.

“The children are all outside,” Luther said.

“Let’s go gather them then,” Mariel said. “One way or another, we are figuring this out.”

Media Update 1/23/20

January 23, 2020


Rizzoli and Isles

I am not sure what I was expecting but it was probably something softer and cheesier. I was struck immediately about how dynamic and charming this show is. I also appreciated that the show did not bother with an origin story but drops the viewer right into the action. The show follows the partnership between homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles. Rizzoli comes from a blue-collar family while Isles is uber-rich and stylish. Yet, I am fascinated by their close relationship that has been forged by fire. Angie Harmon is great as hard-nosed cop Rizzoli. She does not come off as a tomboy stereotype most of the time and is actually a good, flawed character. I empathize more with Sasha Alexander as the introverted science geek who is happy with the simple things but is still trying to connect to the world. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, doing their job in moving the action along so that we can get more scenes between the main characters. I recommend this show.


Justified

Booked as a modern cowboy show, this show follows Timothy Olyphant as a US Marshal transferred back to his home state of Kentucky. I had heard about this show for a long time but I had set it aside. However, thanks to Santa Clarita Diet, I have become a big fan of Timothy Olyphantastic (nickname credit: Kevin Smith). He is such a charming guy with a good sense of comic timing. Here, he plays things cool and subdued as a steely-eyed cowboy. He definitely carries the show. Nick Searcy plays Olyphant’s mentor figure and boss. Erica Tazel is delightful as a no-nonsense marshal who helps keep the white guys in check. Jacob Pitts is the young marshal who used to be an Army sniper partnered with Olyphant. Joelle Carter plays a fairly brassy young woman who used to be friends with Olyphant. Walton Goggins plays a dumb yet manipulative white supremacist criminal, Olyphant’s nemesis who used to be his friend. I recommend the show even though the pacing is slow.


The Glades

This show follows a Chicago homicide cop who is unfairly fired and takes a settlement and a transfer to Florida. He is played very glibly by Matt Passmore. After the first episode, I was ready to hate him and close the door on the show. However, the character started to grow on me in a similar manner to Shawn from Psych did. However, the writing just is not as fun and interesting as Psych. Kiele Sanchez plays a snarky nurse who ends up being a major character. Carlos Gomez plays a grumpy coroner. Michelle Hurd plays a no-nonsense boss. Uriah Shelton plays a young boy (and the nurse’s son) who the main character becomes close to. The show is quirky and interesting but not as good as I thought it could be. I don’t really recommend it but if you are looking for pleasant background noise, it can fit that.

Music of the Week:
The Babes – Rock ‘N’ Roll Gang

Lil Uzi Vert – Futsal Shuffle 2020

Bishop Briggs – CHAMPION

JINJER – On The Top

Ningen Isu – Heartless Scat

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “TV Cop Shows”
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1 (Oops it wasn’t over)
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I started Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I have been watching VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I started watching Wait in the Wings and Jarvis Johnson on YouTube

Peace in Video Games

January 20, 2020

I originally had something else planned for today but Joe Biden once again put his foot in his mouth and showed how out of touch he is with modern times. For those who are able to avoid the news, he said that game developers are “little creeps” and were making games that “teach you how to kill”. I wish I was surprised that he would say something like this as politicians have been ignorant about game development for ages. It just goes to show how out of touch politicians are when they do no research and spout things that would only get equally out of touch Boomers and soccer moms on their side.

Gaming has been my hobby since I was old enough to pick up a controller. I first played the Atari but quickly moved on to the NES and just kept going from there. I have either owned or touched most console systems and lately I have been getting back into PC gaming. I also watch let’s plays on the BarryIsStreaming Twitch channel and I have recently gotten into the Games Done Quick charity. I like to think I know a thing or two about video games because I have the experience and the passion to back me. I currently play Stardew Valley almost daily and I am slowly working through The Witcher game series and WatchDogs. Playing helps me relax and it also inspires me creatively.

The thing is, there are violent video games but it is an outmoded Tipper Gore-like mindset that believes that is all there is to a massive medium. There are so many diverse companies that make inspiring titles. Sure, there are some pretty grim games out there that involve killing but one does not have to be taught to kill. We know how to do that almost instinctually from birth. Instead, even the most violent games these days have a story to tell and they bind communities together. Besides, a lot of it is fictional violence that feels cathartic. Watching Steve Rogers punch the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger is violent but we understand the difference between real life and the screen. Those who don’t were going to commit acts of violence no matter what was in front of them.

Anyway, I wanted to make this into a more positive post by detailing some recent games that were not violent and had a lot of meaning to me.


Wandersong

This game is about a bard who travels the world in order to find pieces of a song that will save the Universe from destruction. As a bard, he never lifts a single violent finger and instead talks to people and uses his singing voice to affect the people and world around him. He is constantly positive and upbeat and just wants to make everybody safer and happier. The only real villain of the game is an ultraviolent traditional adventurer who is obviously framed as being in the wrong. The game also delves into issues such as imposter syndrome and depression. There are a lot of complex, grownup themes that take the player on an emotional roller coaster. I laughed, I cried, I cheered.


Songbird Symphony

This game is one of the cutest I have seen. You play as a tiny, young bird who does not know his past. Adopted by peacocks, he feels like an outsider no matter where he goes because there are no birds like him. Under the guidance of an owl, you explore the world in order to reconstruct an ancient song based on the songs of all the bird tribes. You dance and sing your way through all sorts of unique worlds, meeting all sorts of bird breeds with their own cultures and personalities. You use perseverance and positivity to mend old pain and unite these now disparate groups all while exploring your own origins. This is such a cute game but it definitely explores deeper situations like not knowing where you belong and trying to figure out who you are.


Baba is You

Honestly, this game blew my mind. It is a seemingly simple puzzle game that you are constantly reinventing through changing its foundational ideas through language. You are constantly redefining yourself, the environment, and even the goal to win. Again, there is no violence because there are no enemies. The only enemies are your preconceived notions of what a video game should be. The game basically puts you in the seat of a game developer and lets you mess with the reality within the game to figure out what winning even means. The game is like a hardcore exercise for one’s logic muscles and it made me giddy sometimes when I broke through a barrier and figured something out in it.


Untitled Goose Game

A viral sensation, this game has a relatively simple premise. You play as a goose who lives in a pond near a small town. Your goal is to make your way through the town by harassing its denizens mostly by stealing or moving items from them. It is a delightfully clever game that is such a joy to play. The human beings around you react with consternation, anger, and confusion as you cause mayhem through simple pranks. However, there is no actual violence in the game. In fact, you are far more successful in the game when you learn how to be more stealthy and time people’s reactions to distract rather than confront. Even the people you piss off don’t actually want to confront your goose with violence but simply want you gone. It ends up being a really cute game about being a complete asshole in a loveable way.

Time Goes By Pt. 2

January 18, 2020

Mariel spent the following night in a fitful half-sleep, tossing and turning and getting up to pace and drink now and again. She knew it was not healthy but she was also not really in her right mind and wanted to be unconscious. She eventually did pass out in those achingly quiet hours before the dawn. Her mind had still been racing with possibilities but it had just shut down as she blacked out. Her dreams were full of faded scraps of memories of her parents. She woke back up in the late morning and everything was too loud and too bright even though the curtains were drawn.

She stumbled out of bed and nearly fell down, her legs wobbling and her head spinning. She had no idea if she was still drunk or it was sleep deprivation. It may have been both. She managed to keep standing and moved to her dresser where she drank directly from a pitcher of water. She rummaged in the dresser for something to wear. She got dressed in the streaks of morning light streaking from the edges of the closed curtains. She ran fingers through those crimson red locks and then slipped on the pair of flats that she usually only reserved for dungeons and battlefields. She was too unsteady for heels.

She stepped out into the hallway and headed for the stairs. She knew she had to at least attempt to eat something. As she descended the stairs, she heard the familiar chatter of the taproom, something she had gotten used to the world over. She put on a brave face, trying to make her expression pleasant but unreadable. She concentrated on changing her gait into more of a glide to cover up her nerves. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw that two of the raucous voices she was hearing belonged to her friends.

Sitting at a table with sizable breakfasts were the twins Dina and Dimitri Briarhaven. They were collectively known as The Beast and The Blade. The two had been separated at a very young age. The more reserved Dimitri had gone on to take vows as a paladin of Lathander. Dina had been inadvertently saved from kidnappers by a pack of werewolves. In the attack, she had become a werewolf herself and barely escaped into the wilderness. It was many years later when the twins had been reunited. Dimitri used the powers he gained from his faith to help control his sister’s inner beast and she, in turn, had helped him loosen up. They became a great team together.

The two suddenly turned almost in unison to look at Mariel. She saw a brief hesitation in their eyes that showed concern before they smiled again. She realized at that moment that she had not only forgotten to put on her makeup that morning, she had also forgotten to take it off the night before. It was obviously no great sin but it was not like Mariel at all. Even in the midst of battle, she was put together.

“Quite a posh place you’ve found, Mariel,” Dina said with a wicked smile.

“She’s always held that particular skill,” Dimitri said. “Can we interest you in some breakfast?”

“I suppose I should,” Mariel said. “It’s honestly been a rough morning so far.”

Dina stood to give her a hug and Dimitri stood to take her hand and help her into a chair.

“We have fruit, cheese, and bread for you,” Dimitri said. “We can take things slowly.”

Mariel nodded and started to use a fork to put food in her mouth. She chewed mechanically and swallowed without really tasting anything. The twins tried not to stare at her.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your vacation,” Mariel said. “I didn’t mean to.”

Dina waved her hand as if she was blowing the words out of the air like smoke. “I was getting bored anyway,” she said.

Dimitri shrugged. “When Luther contacted us, he gave us a choice,” he said. “We chose to come. This is important and beside that, it seems like this is an interesting turn of events.”

Mariel nodded. “To say the least,” she said. “Everybody didn’t come did they?”

“Luther and Asher haven’t arrived yet,” Dina said. “Fern is outside.”

“Outside?” Mariel asked and looked concerned. “What is she doing outside?”

“Hanging out?” Dina said with a shrug, shoving a sausage into her mouth.

“She has too many ‘passengers’ and she’s filthier than usual,” Dimitri said.

“Oh,” Mariel said and went back to eating. Fern was a druid the team had found in a cave and she was much more used to the outdoors. She often had rats, insects, and snakes crawling in and out of her robes and often had enough dirt caked on her skin to actually grow plants out of. She was both touched and guilty that her friends were all arriving. She had not meant to ruin their good time but she was grateful to have the support. This mystery could mean nothing but could it could be the most important thing to ever happen.

Media Update 1/16/20

January 16, 2020


The Witcher

I just started to play The Witcher games but I wanted to jump into the show because I heard it described as if Xena had a baby with Game of Thrones. I would say that it is a fairly good description. The show is able to draw from a rich fantasy world from the games and plenty of ready-made characters to play with. Henry Cavill is so good as Geralt, a snarky and grumpy and a total badass. I really like the female representation on the show. There are so many badass ladies. Freya Allen plays a princess out of her depth but wanting to move forward. Anya Chalotra plays a young woman who wants to be a sorcerer but more importantly wants to find her place in the world. Jodhi May plays a warrior queen. Emma Appleton plays a twisted version of Snow White. I also really love the bard character of Jaskier played by Joey Batey who walks the line between funny and annoying (kind of like Ted Raimi did on Xena). There are so many other great supporting characters and plenty I am sure I have yet to meet. The show feels a bit like a fantasy version of the wandering samurai tales or the old westerns. An outcast for hire wanders the countryside and continuously stumbles into situations where he has to decide what to do based on coin and his own moral code. I really recommend this show.


Dracula (2020)

I have been in love with the story of Dracula since I first read Bram Stoker’s book so I will always be interested when a new adaptation comes out. When I heard that this one would be helmed by Stephen Moffat of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame, I was even more intrigued. From the beginning, the show feels familiar, touching a lot of the same beats as the book and previous film adaptations. However, it quickly became clear that the show was also going to shake things up a bit. I love the changes because they will keep me guessing as the miniseries continues. Claes Bang is a super charismatic and sadistic Dracula who has a touch of humor while making it easy to hate him. Dolly Wells plays a badass nun who may hold the key to Dracula’s defeat. Morfydd Clark plays the legendary role of Mina who is less of a prop in this version and more of a heroine herself. There are plenty of other great characters both new and familiar who fill the story with life. I definitely recommend it.


NOS4A2

I am not really familiar with Joe Hill other than him being Stephen King’s son. I can say based on what I have seen so far of this adaptation of his work that the apple does not fall far from the tree. The series feels a bit like King’s Dark Tower world. However, unlike his father, it feels like he gets more to the point and strays off the path less. As a child of a new time, he also seems to be more sensitive to racial and social issues. The show has a dreamlike quality that reminds me of one of my favorite shows Happy! but with far less humor. That is alright because this is a different, more horror-based story. The show follows a story involving what are called “strong creatives”, minds so keen that they are to basically cut through reality. The villain is played by Zachary Quinto who plays a man oblivious to his own villainous nature who is nevertheless insidious. Ashleigh Cummings plays a teenage girl who is just discovering the magic out of sight from normal people. Jahkara Smith plays a local librarian who is trying to solve the mystery. I definitely want to see what the world unveils next. I recommend this show too.

Music of the Week:
The Interrupters – She’s Kerosene

The Glorious Sons – Panic Attack

LSD – No New Friends

Raphael Saadiq – So Ready

ANCIENT BARDS – Impious Dystopia

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Monsters Among Men”
– I finished Scream Season 1
– I finished Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I watched Batman: Hush
– I started watching Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time

Method Acting

January 13, 2020

With the latest Oscar full-court press, a lot of studios are trying to put as much behind the scenes stuff out there in order to make their movies more impressive. I am a fan of it. As a former theater geek, I love hearing how things were done after I have seen the movie. For example, through director’s commentary, I have learned so many movie magic secrets that have made me love those movies even more. However, recent news has irked me. I was not interested in seeing The Joker and the more I hear, the less I want to see it. People are welcome to see and like the movie but I have a problem with the star Joaquin Phoenix. It has come out lately that he injured himself on set putting his knee into a trash can. This was not an accident, it was stupidity.

Phoenix is a method actor. Method acting is a school of acting formalized by Stanislavsky and his students, Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. The point of it is that actors try to establish a complete emotional link with a character, trying to actually embody that character for a while. Method actors try to live their character’s lives in order to deliver a more “authentic” performance. For example, in a scene where he was supposed to freak out, Phoenix actually freaked out and ended up injuring himself. He also starved himself and did his best to live in mental illness in order to basically become the Joker on and off set. It is a horribly dangerous mindset and if he wins an award from it, it will send the wrong signal to impressionable young actors.

Of course, the role of Joker is no stranger to method actors. Famously, Heath Ledger fell into the role of the Joker leading up to the filming of The Dark Knight. He spent days alone in a motel room trying out makeup styles and coming up with his take on the character. He let the role affect his mindset and it is hard not to speculate on how the experience may have contributed to his decline and death. He put forward an absolutely brilliant take on the role but at what cost? Unfortunately, this seems to have cursed the role of the Joker because next came Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. Stories came from the set of Leto delivering disgusting “presents” to his castmates and never breaking character. While it was an interesting new take on the character, it just made him look like an asshole.

They all should have taken a cue from the majority of actors who have played the Joker and have remained sane throughout. Caesar Romero, the first major on-screen Joker, had a lot of fun with the role but it was just a job to him. He famously even refused to shave his mustache and instead painted over it. Jack Nicholson had a famous on set freak out as Joker but he was otherwise extremely professional. That’s not to even mention the legendary voice actors who have played the character over time like Mark Hammill, Zack Galifianakis, and Troy Baker (just to name a few). They all survived the role because they were able to turn it off and on at will. They could leave it at work and go out and live their lives.

They could do this because of the opposite school to Method Acting which was created by Sanford Meisner and it is the school from which I was taught at Rutgers. Meisner taught that you could “live truthfully under imagined circumstances.” You could flip the switch and be that character but then flip the switch again and be you as soon as you were out of the stage lights. It is a much more impressive style of acting because it requires more skill and actual acting. A lot of the work is done through mental and emotional gymnastics but it is psychologically safer than method acting, at least from my point of view. The actors who engaged in method acting were never fun to be around while those who studied something closer to Meisner were a lot of fun and easy to work with. If anyone should win an award, it is the makeup, costume, and continuity departments that apparently had a hellish time attending to Phoenix.

Time Goes By

January 11, 2020

Mariel was walking down the streets of Carrena, every few steps she spun her parasol on her shoulder. It was a sunny day and she had a new dress and she was on vacation from adventuring. The rest of the team had scattered to the winds so Mariel was on her own. A lot of them had gone back to visit their families and touch base with their lives outside of fighting monsters and gathering treasure. Mariel had no family anymore. She was the tragic backstory type of adventurer. Her parents were magical researchers but had meddled with something wrong and they had detonated the tower they had lived in. Mariel had been flung across town and it was a miracle that she had survived at such a young age. One of her pointy ears had been singed off permanently which led to a lifetime of artfully arranged long hair.

Fifty years had passed quickly since they were just a blink of an eye for a young elf. Still, she could barely remember her parents’ faces and it had been a long time since she had been anywhere remotely near her home in the Bremid Empire. She had chosen instead to visit Carrena. She had grown up far from cities in her small town and she had gotten a taste for city life and especially city fashion while on adventures with her new family. They had been in Carrena the previous year battling a death cult down in the sewers. Not the best memories but when they had emerged from the blood and fouled water, the colors in the city had been so bright. They had hit several pubs in the city and had caroused for two straight nights on the King’s coin.

She had bought a new dress the morning they had left and she promised herself that she would return. Now she had paid for a week at the Deer’s Head and she was just having fun shopping and exploring the city. There were no dangers to confront and she was enjoying having some time to herself. She had spent her day reading a romance story by the famous Fountains of Umberlee’s Daughters. It had been so relaxing but now she was starting to get hungry again and there were no more snacks in her bag of colding. She also thought she could do with a glass or two of black wine. She was looking forward to the warmth of a good fire and a luxurious silk sleeping gown.

That’s when she saw it. It was a teddy bear lying in the gutter, leaned up against the curb like he had just been taking a little rest. He had certainly seen better days. He was tattered and burned as if the bear had been set on fire, flung against a wall, and then fallen into a bucket of water and stayed there for a while. The thing was, Mariel knew the poor gentleman’s name and she found herself whispering it.

“Mullo,” she muttered and a shiver ran up her spine.

She took her parasol off of her shoulder and held in front of her. She whispered a few words and she felt magic surge into the parasol. She looked through the thin silk which was her version of the Detect Magic spell. Through the veil of her parasol, the bear was lit up like a bonfire. The thing was radiating vast amounts of magic. The magic looked different from anything she had ever seen before. Every so often it would distort and then flicker as if it was not fully there. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of gloves and picked the bear up. Without a doubt it was Mullo. How had he gotten clear across the world? Was it the magic from that night?

She had not remembered when she had started walking again. She had not remembered when she had started crying. She had put the parasol away in her bag but she was still clutching Mullo. She walked through the taproom of The Wolf Moon and up to her room. She set Mullo down on the dresser and reached into the top drawer for her sending stone.
She didn’t think, she just poured her will into it and called out two countries over and deep under the earth.

“Luther,” she called out in her mind. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“Mariel?” Luther’s voice sounded in her head. “It’s no bother. You sound distressed.”

“I found Mullo,” she said, trying to slow her breathing.

“Who’s Mullo?” Luther asked. The dwarf sounded understandably confused.

“My childhood teddy bear,” Mariel said. “Magic brought him here. Maybe…”

“Maybe you could find them?” Luther asked. The question was patronizing or mocking but filled with the cautious hope that Mariel had not yet allowed herself.

“Maybe,” Mariel said. “What do I do?”

“Stay put,” Luther said. “Find out what you can while I assemble the team. We’ll be there soon.”

“I don’t want to interrupt their vacation,” Mariel said.

“This is important to you,” Luther said. “We’re a family. It’s important to us too. You’ll see.”

“Thank you, Luther,” Mariel said softly.

“No problem,” he said. “See you soon.”

Media Update 1/9/20

January 9, 2020


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I have been a Star Wars fan since I first saw the original movie as a kid. Our family had a whole bunch of the Kenner action figures at some point. I’ve seen every movie and played a whole bunch of the video games. I have even read some books. Still, I’m not one *those* fans who feel such ownership for the series (often also combined with hate for it). I enjoyed the movie. Did I have problems with it? Absolutely. Most of it was disappointments about what they decided to focus on versus what they had set up. I was a fan of The Last Jedi and the wild choices it made which I thought would set up an interesting new direction. However, they decided to play it safe and that worked out as well. Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Anthony Daniels did a great job as usual. Everybody else from previous movies had some fun cameos but had very little to do. That’s fine except for Kelly Marie Tran and Lupita Nyong’o who they should have given actual screen time to. Still, I got caught up in the nostalgic rush and Rian Johnson will be just fine. The action scenes are awesome and there are a lot of feel-good moments to close out what ended up being a decades-long story. There was more to like than to dislike and it was fine. I recommend it. Just go ahead and watch it if you’re on the fence.


Dark Phoenix

I have been a fan of the Fox X-Men franchise since X-Men (2000) first came out. Technically, Fox has been killing it with the X-Men franchise since the early nineties. Now that Disney has bought Fox, that chapter is now over. As far as I know, only one film remains and then it’s done. Anyway, X-Men First Class breathed new life into the franchise and allowed for a little more freedom. This is the final movie in that part of the franchise as well. Once again James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender return to deliver strong performances. Nicholas Hoult gets to step up and so does Tye Sheridan. However, Sophie Turner went from a few minutes in the previous movie to really carry this whole movie on her shoulders. She did a really good job with what she had to work with. Jessica Chastain ended up being a pretty neat villain, kind of balancing out all of the very male energy. It was a bit of a mess but, like Star Wars, it was a fun mess. The only real complaint I have is that part of the reason I watch X-Men movies is to see new mutants interpreted by the franchise and there was not much here. I recommend this as well but only for people who want to watch the other parts of the franchise.


Candyman: Day of the Dead

What? Halloween is 365 days a year in my world. Besides, Jordan Peele is working on a remake so I need to finish the original trilogy. The first Candyman is a classic and the second one was a strong continuation of the original concept. The first film covered the Cabrini-Green legends. The second film covered Mardi Gras. It seems fitting that the final installment would take place during Mexico’s Dias de la Muerta celebration. The franchise tries really hard to create a legend based around black culture (and touches on other people of color). The franchise also features a series of white women being terrorized by a black man and somehow the black man is not really the villain. The movies are about karma, the hate that springs from prejudice, and the hate crimes that go unpunished. The movies are all fairly trippy and moody and just so fun visually. Part of that is because such good (and surreal) art is usually involved in the making of each movie. Like previous entries, it also has a crapton of bees in it. That said, this is definitely the weakest entry in the series. Still, it stars the wonderful charismatic Tony Todd who plays a truly iconic horror villain.

 

Music of the Week:
Pale Waves – Television Romance

Otoboke Beaver – Don’t Light My Fire

The HU – Wolf Totem

Todrick – DRIPEESHA

Beabadoobee – I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Closing Out the Arc”
– I finished Runaways Season 1
– I finished Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 8
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more The Crown Season 3
– I started watching Sailor Moon Crystal Season 1
– I started watching Community Season 6
– Why, yes I have had the flu lately


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