Tag Archives: spoiler alert saturday

Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on The Fate of the Furious

16 Apr

All y’all know Furious 7 was my first watched of the franchise, and this eighth installment was drift partner’s first. But when we saw a trailer that included Charlize Theron dramatically intoning “There’s thousands of cars in this city and now they’re all mine” we knew we had to go. Opening weekend. To a theater where we could purchase alcohol to consume while we were watching.

And boy howdy, were we not disappointed. This movie, like its predecessor(s?), is incredibly stupid but in the most delicious way. I was trying to give drift partner what little background I could beforehand and the best I could do was a couple of anecdotes and character facts followed by “they’re like the Suicide Squad but of cars.” And, obviously, much better than the actual cinematic Suicide Squad.

I, drift partner, had sort of idly been intending to see these movies based on recommendations from friends, but this trailer dangled the idea of crazy Charlize AND ridiculous car chases in front of me and I am powerless when presented with crazy Charlize. I will watch crazy Charlize Theron do basically anything. I knew I was in for a treat when the first scene of this movie involved Vin Diesel stripping off the doors and trunk of a VW Bug in order to soup up the engine for a race, in such a way that it made it literally LIGHT ON FIRE at one point. I am not a car person, I have no idea what he did, but it was glorious. And then when he won the race, his opponent tried to give Vin Diesel his car, as per their agreement, and said Vin had his respect. Vin Diesel said, “Keep your car. Your respect is good enough for me.” It was so ridiculous and batshit and I loved it. I don’t think I stopped smiling for longer than about two minutes.

Here’s the thing that we’ve come to realize, that has doubtless been realized by many before us. In effect, these movies are the goofy action stupidity with a heart of gold. As they said probably no less than one hundred times, they’re about family. (The trailer alone says this word enough that if you were doing strong enough shots every time they said it – which we intend to do sometime with all of the movies, although with sips rather than shots – you could be blitzed by its conclusion.) It’s this big, ridiculous found family full of characters capable of kicking anyone’s ass any day who all work together out of their continued love for each other. Never mind that most of them have criminal pasts while Hobbs (The Rock) is FBI and Brian (Paul Walker), who obviously isn’t in this film although they didn’t kill him off they just said “we can’t bring Brian into this we promised we wouldn’t” and left it at that, has been an undercover agent as well. Never mind their different backgrounds, or the fact that Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) isn’t even a car person but a hacker, or anything. They’re family. That’s all there is to it.

Naturally this means that the conflict of the film is a question of that. Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a hacker thought to be, even by Ramsey, a conglomerate, blackmails Vin Diesel’s Dom to work for her. Why? Well, this is kind of revealed, sort of, eventually, in a casual recontextualizing of past movie plot points. He upsets his family by doing this, which Hobbs describes very gravely as him having “gone rogue,” and they spend the rest of the movie working against Cipher’s evil plan while also sort of trying to get Dom back to the side of good.

There are a lot of perfectly golden moments in this movie, but some just have to be seen to be believed. Some we feel comfortable alluding to are:

  • Somebody is shielded from an enormous explosion by a protective circle of cars.
  • At one point, a car is drawn and quartered.
  • As if in answer to the cars coming out of the moving airplane in the last film, a car goes into a moving airplane.
  • Helen Mirren is Jason Statham’s mother.
  • Ramsey spends virtually all of her non-hacking/non-plot-forwarding time rolling her eyes at machismo bullshit and/or flirtatious comeons. Also, she wears a vest.
  • Jason Statham plays the Chipmunks Christmas album for a baby to drown out the noise of him fighting bad guys.
  • Hobbs’ daughter’s soccer team, which he coaches, performs the haka before their game.
  • Someone drives a tank. Literally a tank.
  • Someone uses a car door as a shield and a sled, at different points.
  • Someone jumps over a submarine in a car. Yes, a submarine.
  • The Rock weightlifts a concrete bench and uses a concrete wall as a punching bag.
  • Much like he removed a cast on his arm by flexing his muscles in the last movie, he removes handcuffs the same way in this movie.
  • Charlize Theron speaks entirely in cliches, and makes lines that are not naturally menacing sound vaguely menacing.
  • As seen in the trailer, Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty literally shouts at Dom “are you gonna turn your back on family?” and… then he literally turns his back on his family and exits.

Drift partner just classified this franchise as “chaotic good.” Yes, exactly.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Get Out

2 Apr

Disclaimer: neither of us are black, though one of us is white-passing biracial (Chinese/white), so whatever we have to say about the film will be filtered through a non-black lens, and should not be taken with the same gravity as what black reviewers and audiences have said.

So, I (drift partner) am biracial, much like director/writer Jordan Peele, though since I’m extremely light-skinned and white-passing my experiences with racism and whiteness have been completely difference than Peele’s. While people frequently erase Peele’s experiences having grown up with a white mother, I have had people say to my face that I can’t be Chinese. I’ve had people express disbelief that my Chinese father is related to me, my identity has been used as an excuse to tell racist jokes, and been tasked to explain why the slur “Ch*naman” is racist. I look white, but I’m not. And I’m sure I haven’t experienced half of the racism and microaggressions that Peele has as a black man in the US.

Get Out is a horror/comedy, but most of the comedy is probably going to be lost on white audiences, because the jokes are Peele’s nods to the experiences he and other black people face when (sometimes) well-meaning white people try to engage with them. “You know, I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term.” “I know Tiger Woods. Let’s see your golf stance!” “If you worked out, you’d be a beast!” I lost count of the microaggressions in this film, the little things the white characters said or did that communicated to Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that they definitely saw him as Other. The audience in our screening didn’t seem to be laughing that much, but I was, because I recognized most of these jokes. They’re not really for the white audience members at all – they’re for the black viewers, who have probably had similar experiences and will laugh and nod knowingly and whisper “white people.”

That being said, this movie also doesn’t pull its punches – it’s got a lot of tension that builds from the very first scene, and really knows how to use simple things like a plush lion or a spoon rubbing on the inside of a teacup to unsettle you. I was spoiled for most of the movie going in, but even I didn’t quite guess the final twist, and it’s over-the-top and horrifying in the best way. From the beginning you know something weird is going on, but you’re not sure how deep it goes, and you’ll want to keep watching to find out. I’m sort of a wuss when it comes to horror movies, but I like them like this: creepy and unsettling with lots of moments that give you chills, but not unnecessarily gory, and with explanations for why everything is happening. Every actor is giving perfect performances that are unsettling without tipping over into parody levels – Bradley Whitford has never been scarier to me, and Allison Williams finally seems to have found a job that lets her truly (unnervingly) shine. Daniel Kaluuya is also brilliant and likable and I was rooting for him every step of the way; he’s supposed to be in Black Panther, which thrills me. It’s a real pity that horror movies tend to get passed over by the major awards, because if any genre film ever had performances that merited consideration, it’s this one.

As of today, Get Out has passed The Blair Witch Project as the highest-grossing original screenplay in history. I can’t think of a film that’s more deserving, and I’m so glad it’s managed to get the audience it has. Please do yourself a favor and watch it (just be aware, if you’re white, that it’s laughing at you, not with you).

–your fangirl heroines.

wildeyed

Spoiler Alert Sunday :: her thoughts on Personal Shopper

27 Mar

(We both saw this one. Her feelings are just more coherent.)

I (drift partner) can’t objectively review this movie because Kristen Stewart is near and dear to my heart and I love her and I will watch her in literally anything, except that Woody Allen movie because fuck that guy. I have gotten into fights with good friends because they said Kristen’s acting sucks (don’t worry, we’re still friends). I have a shortlist of movies to shove at people who claim she never emotes in movies (Clouds of Sils Maria, The Runaways and American Ultra). I went to a midnight screening of Snow White and the Huntsman. I adore her and I have for years.

The thing is, she’s made a lot of movies with people who just don’t get her. She’s not a bad actress, but she is subtle, and that’s not always something that directors know how to work with. Snow White is actually a really good example here – that movie’s not great, and people have complained that she’s too stoic in it. I don’t think she is at all, but I do think that she’s excellent at microexpressions and that her performances are atypical for most Hollywood actresses. Olivier Assayas gets her. He directed her in Clouds of Sils Maria in 2014, a drama for which she won the César Award for Best Supporting Actress. And then they teamed up again for Personal Shopper, which is a psychological horror/drama. Personally, I think she should just keep making movies with this guy, sort of like Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell (except Russell and Lawrence aren’t as good a team as people seem to think they are, in my opinion). I’ll go see every single one of them.

Personal Shopper is not as coherent or as good as Clouds, but you can tell that it was made by the same person. Parts of it have a very similar almost dreamlike feel to them, and there are similar themes (death and what to do after a loved one dies, dissatisfaction with one’s life, risk-taking and fear of change). The film centers around Maureen (Kristen Stewart), who is reeling from the recent sudden death of her twin brother Lewis. She takes a job in Paris, where he lived, working as a personal shopper for a model and attempting to contact his spirit. He was a medium, and she is too, albeit slightly less naturally gifted than him. They swore that whichever of them died would send the other a sign from the afterlife, so she’s spent several months waiting for that sign.

I think the main problem with this movie is that the tone switches are pretty jarring. The quiet dramatic scenes where she talks with others about her brother and her life are intimate and well-acted, if sometimes a bit redundant. The scenes where she texts back and forth with a mysterious unknown number are the most unnerving parts of the movie, while the single scene with an onscreen ghost is more goofy than actually frightening. (The CGI ghost is really iffy, but I imagine the relatively small budget made it impossible to get it any better and I have seen worse.) I think the movie works a lot better when it’s not actively admitting to the existence of ghosts or spirits, and I would’ve preferred a more concrete answer about whether or not ghosts actually exist. About two-thirds of the way through there’s a grisly murder scene that’s potentially implied to have been caused by Maureen’s mysterious texting stalker, and though we are given an explanation for that murder, we aren’t quite told whether the murderer and the stalker are one and the same. There are two or three confusing scenes that have Maureen (and no one else) observing paranormal activity, but then out of left field comes a shot of nobody coming out of a hotel elevator, nobody opening the automatic lobby door, and nobody leaving the hotel and going outside. Immediately after those shots are identical shots with the murderer. I still have no idea if the film was meant to be implying that the ghosts were all in Maureen’s head, or if they were real and the ghost called the police to arrest the murderer, or what. It is the first time that we, the audience, see paranormal activity not linked to Maureen’s presence. I’m not sure what to make of that.

But also, as I said, it’s impossible for me to be objective about this movie because I love Kristen Stewart and French directing apparently really agrees with her acting skills. She’s incredible in this film: her microexpressions are on full display, and when she does need to show emotion she brings a rawness to it that I think surpasses any of the other performances of hers I’ve seen. The camera also loves her – there are long, lingering shots of her face and body, but which never feel exploitative. Actually, considering there are multiple topless shots and one scene where she masturbates, this movie is surprisingly free of the male gaze or of exploitation. These scenes, which in another movie could have felt egregious, are matter-of-fact and, in the case of the masturbation scene, defiant.

It’s a strange little movie, and I see why it’s not going over well with a lot of audiences. But the parts I liked outweigh the parts I have issues with, and I’m really glad I got the chance to see it in a theater.

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: her thoughts on Power Rangers

25 Mar

I didn’t grow up with Power Rangers at all. My mom thought it was too violent for my brother to watch (I know), and I didn’t really care. But one of my best friends did, and she’s had me watch enough of both the original Mighty Morphin’ series and the various other incarnations that I get the idea. (The best/most hilarious is Jungle Fury.) I mostly came into this movie with the same ironic glee that I watched the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or GI Joe: Retaliation; I hoped it might be at least hilarious even it it was a bad movie and shat on somebody’s childhood. (Both of those movies are actually fine, though I watched them while drinking so it’s possible my judgment cannot be trusted.)

If you go in expecting a goofy teenage superhero flick, you’ll probably have a good time. My friend says they threw in a ton of references to the original series, though they have changed some things here and there (I’ll mention that in the spoiler section). My friend who grew up with the series was delighted with the references and didn’t mind the changes too much. I’m sure some of the hardcore fans will be displeased with them, but I think there’s enough there specifically for the fans to avoid Transformers syndrome. I think if you’re at all intrigued, it’s a fun popcorn flick. You should know, though, that the first car chase (after the cow scene) is shot in the weirdest way possible: there’s a few 360 camera rotation shots that made me and my friend dizzy and gave us mild motion sickness. This only lasts a minute or two, so if you don’t look at the screen it should be fine, but I imagine it’d be worse for someone who’s prone to motion sickness in the theater.

Also, they really pushed Trini/Yellow (Becky G) being a lesbian in the press, but the scene where they talk about it is weirdly vague? Like, I’ve worked with less but I wish that instead of dancing around it (one of them asks her “boyfriend troubles? …girlfriend troubles?” and she says something about not wanting to tell her parents “who I really am”) they would’ve just come out and said “lesbian.” Alas for studio pussyfooting, I guess. On a brighter note, Billy/Blue (RJ Cyler) is explicitly autistic, and they do work it into his character, and not in an overly stereotypical way. His special interest seems to be tinkering with and building things, as well as mapping and exploring the local mountain and quarries. He sets his colored pencils down in a particular order and corrects them if they are moved. He has trouble with sarcasm and is careful not to swear (except in one weird slip-up where he says “that was a weird-ass hologram”). He dislikes being touched and will politely ask people to stop if they touch him. He infodumps, but will stop and apologize if someone tells him to. I’m not 100% sure how to feel about a weird point where someone says he’s “pure of heart” but I do like that his autistic traits aren’t just brought up once and forgotten, but made part of his character. He’s also black, which I feel is an important detail to note because the overwhelming majority of autistic characters in the media are white boys and men. Autism is diagnosed most frequently in white boys, but autistic people can be any gender or race, and I really appreciated this movie’s choice to include a black autistic character. There could have been some other traits (I would’ve loved to have seen him stimming, for example), but this is still a really wonderful milestone.

Oh, and there’s an after-credits scene, though it won’t mean much to anybody who isn’t familiar with the original series. My friend lost her shit, though, she was so happy.

SPOILERS:

  • My friend got spoiled the night before, and she semi-spoiled me this morning before we went, but I’m actually glad that happened so I was prepared. What she heard was “one of the Rangers dies,” and I wasn’t actively thinking about it during the movie, but it hung around in the back of my mind. So what actually happens is that Rita (Elizabeth Banks) visits Trini about three-quarters through to try to convince her to tell her where the McGuffin is, and when Trini refuses, Rita tells her to tell the others to meet her at the docks the next day for a showdown. They do, and she pretty much immediately wipes them out because none of them have been able to morph into their suits yet. She ties them up and threatens the others if Billy doesn’t tell him where the McGuffin is hidden, and Billy panics and tells her so she won’t hurt his friends. Then she’s like “lol I better just kill one of you anyway” and throws him into the water, then electrocutes the wires binding him, because I guess this movie needed some horrifying implications on top of everything else. I sat there horrified for ten minutes until an earlier plot thread came back and magically resurrected Billy (look, honestly, if you’ve gotten this far into the movie and this is what bothers you, you probably shouldn’t be here, sorry). But, like, I was so afraid for about ten minutes that I was seriously going to have to hate this movie forever, because I would have if it had killed the black autistic character. But nope, he’s fine. False alarm!
  • I think probably this movie had about eight drafts where some of the plot threads were better resolved, and I kind of want to read those earlier drafts. Kimberly/Pink (Naomi Scott) has a weird ~secret~ that keeps being brought up and is the reason her old friends ostracized her, and I was so scared it was going to be sexual assault-y, but no, it wasn’t quite that, it was a weird revenge porn subplot that in my opinion served zero purpose and was pretty dumb. Zordon (Bryan Cranston) had a weird motivation: his consciousness had been uploaded into the ship’s matrix when he and his original Ranger team died millions of years before, and he wanted to be able to return to his body. He would only be able to do that when the morphing grid opened and all five Rangers had morphed. I thought this was going to lead into questions about whether Zordon was actually an antagonist, or at least have him lean into the self-centered mentor working for his own motivations thing – but that doesn’t really go anywhere and he ends up not using the morphing grid to bring himself back, instead revitalizing Billy. I feel like that emotional note was a little flat, all things considered. Jason/Red (Dacre Montgomery) sort of had an emotional arc about returning to his former glory and making his dad proud after fucking up royally at a football game, but they kept dropping that plot thread and then picking it up again and there wasn’t a ton of consistency to it. Anyway, I liked all the leads except Jason, who was boring, but I wish there had been a little more so some of their arcs.
  • I’ve been making fun of the new suits and how they have boob cups on them, and in the movie they’re actually kind of part of their bodies. They’re sort of like an exoskeleton and they just kind of grow over their skin when they morph. So, okay, fine. It’s stupid, but I’ll allow it.
  • Zack (Ludi Lin) is shown in multiple scenes to speak Mandarin with his ill mother, which I thought was very sweet. He also clearly loves her and is the only person around to take care of her, and I liked that that added some depth to his character, who is mostly just the goofy daredevil type.
  • I think Red/Pink is a foregone conclusion because Jason and Kimberly is such an iconic pairing in the original series, but I really really really think they should go Pink/Yellow. There’s a scene that’s thrown in there where Kim and Trini are at breakfast or something and they start play-fighting over a pastry, and it’s pretty adorable. Kim is also the one who always goes after Trini when she runs off, and they often ended up paired together in fight scenes. There’s as many significant Looks between them as Kim shares with Jason. Again, I’ve done more with less. Put your money where your mouth is and let them kiss in the next movie, Saban.
  • This movie did something I think was kinda cool where it made the legacy of the Rangers more explicit, by opening the movie with Zordon’s team dying alongside Rita millions of years before. Zordon was the original Red Ranger here, and Rita was once the Green Ranger, but was “corrupted” (how? Eh, they don’t say, but I kinda wanna watch that movie). This is sort of a cute little nod to the original show where Rita created the Green Ranger because, uh, reasons (this was explained to me but I don’t go here).
  • That reminds me, I couldn’t tell if it was just my lesbian goggles on but I think they wanted to imply that Rita was an Evil Lesbian? Like, I feel like maybe in another movie they would have had the lady villain trying to seduce one of the boys but directly after the scene where Trini mentions she’s a lesbian, Rita shows up in her bedroom at night and there’s a weirdly sexually charged scene where she threatens her over the McGuffin? I dunno. Elizabeth Banks is sure having a damn fine time though.
  • There’s a scene where she kills a homeless man (in silhouette but still) because of his gold fillings. Yes.
  • The McGuffin is located under a Krispy Kreme, which is honestly one of the best uses of product placement I’ve seen in awhile. IMO, if you’re gonna do it, just go whole hog and lose all subtlety. We also got a hilarious scene of Rita just chilling on a table in there, eating a donut while her monsters wreak havoc outside.
  • Also during one of the training montages they played “Hand Clap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, which is a nonsensical song anyway, and trying to make it make sense for this scene didn’t work at all and was very distracting.
  • Along with the aforementioned 360 shots, the director or cinematographer apparently thought they were making a fucking Oscar contender because every now and then there were weird experimental shots or ways that they set up the shot that left me either scratching my head or laughing. Like, man, don’t get too ambitious. You’re making fucking Power Rangers.
  • There were a random couple of masturbation jokes? Which I laughed at because I am 12. FOR KIDS!
  • OH ALSO THEY PLAY THE ORIGINAL THEME WHILE THEY’RE GOING TO MEET RITA IN THEIR ZORDS AND PEOPLE IN MY THEATER CLAPPED AND CHEERED IT WAS SO GREAT

I hope everybody who is into this movie gets to see it with an audience with happy fans in it like I did because they were just having the best time and cheering at all the goofy fanservice bits. My theater wasn’t super full, but it loved this movie.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: her thoughts on Logan

12 Mar

(We went to see this together, but honestly, my entire enjoyment and opinion of this film hinged on hers. She’s passionate about Laura in a way that most people aren’t passionate about anything. So I’m just letting her take this one.)

I’ve been an X-Men fan for almost ten years. I’ve read hundreds of the comics, watched all three cartoons, and have seen all but two of the movies. (I skipped The Wolverine because the first one was so bad, and Apocalypse because all it was going to do was make me rage.) At this point, I probably have a better working knowledge of the X-Men mythos than 80% of the population, and I haven’t even read any direct X-Men comics in a couple years. So it’s been personally painful to watch the movies devolve into what they’ve become, after X-Men was a decent setup movie and X2 was a solid if flawed adaptation of the spirit of the comics. I swore off the movies forever, after hearing about all the ridiculous issues with Apocalypse. But then they released the teaser poster for Logan.

I’d been dreading this movie for over a year. The tiny hand holding Logan’s either meant one of two things: Daken, his biological son via his Japanese wife Itsu, and a character which I have deep-seated contempt for, or X-23/Laura Kinney.

X-23 is similar to Harley Quinn in that she was first introduced in an animated series (X-Men: Evolution and Batman: The Animated Series respectively), but both proved so popular with fans that they crossed over into comics canon and have had multiple ongoing series featuring them. X-23 was first introduced in a miniseries called NYX, then later had two miniseries entitled Innocence Lost and Target X. The most basic explanation for her creation in the comics is that she is the result of the attempt to repeat the success of Weapon X, the program that enhanced Wolverine. A group of scientists attempted to create a clone of Wolverine, but after 22 attempts and non-viable embryos they ran out of Y chromosome. (I know, I know, just roll with it, comics are stupid.) Finally, on the 23rd attempt, they create an embryo with two X chromosomes and have one of the scientists, Sarah Kinney, carry and deliver it. X-23 was born with two bone claws on her hands and one claw on both her feet, and they coat her bones with adamantium just like Wolverine’s and begin to train her to be a living weapon. Sarah Kinney works closely with her, secretly names her Laura, and helps her to connect with her humanity. Eventually Laura breaks out and destroys the facility as she escapes, but accidentally kills Sarah in the process. Target X is about her attempts to connect with her biological family, first Sarah’s sister and niece and then Logan himself.

I read Innocence Lost when I was 16 and it was a transformative experience. Most people have one or two favorite X-Men; Laura is mine. So I was anxious about how they would adapt her character to the big screen, especially since the X-Men movies have a shaky track record with my other favorites (Rogue, hilariously incorrect; Gambit, physically spot-on but missing the accent and the charm; Nightcrawler, serviceable but missing key aspects of his personality; Shadowcat, best forgotten as an embarrassment). I don’t usually look up the plots of movies before I go to them, but this one I did, because as long as I knew what happened, I couldn’t be blindsided by any stupid plot developments.

Logan is a damn good movie. I wish I could say it was a great movie, but there’s a really glaring issue with it that spoils my enjoyment a bit. But it’s a good movie, and more importantly it’s a good X-Men movie. I feel like this was Fox’s apology to us all for the various shitty X-Men movies they’ve given us over the last decade or so. This was the X-Men movie we’ve all been waiting for, even if we’re sick to death of Wolverine (and I really am). This is gritty and violent and Logan swears up a storm and it has humor and heart and it really captured the spirit of the character. It’s set decade in the future (2029), where there are few mutants left and no mutant children have been born in decades. A dying Logan (Hugh Jackman) acts as guardian and painkiller supplier for an also-dying Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Both their lives are interrupted when Logan meets a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), and the three of them set out on a journey that may be a fool’s errand. I looked up the plot, but I would recommend that unless you too will start screaming in rage about deviations from the comics, you just go see this for yourself.

Things I loved, with as few spoilers as I can manage:

  • Laura was perfect. Dafne Keen’s performance was outstanding – she nailed Laura’s eerie, non-blinking stare and the way that, especially early on, she didn’t speak often and when she did it was using as few words as possible. She also nailed her hair-trigger temper, and the way that she (especially as a younger child) flew into a rage when provoked. They also chose to make her bilingual but primarily Spanish-speaking, which is interesting. She does know multiple languages in the comics (one joke in Target X is that she and her cousin go to school, only to be thrown out of French class because Laura listed off multiple gruesome facts about killing people) so this is fine. One thing I do wish they’d managed to incorporate was the trigger scent, which they trained her to automatically respond to (and which was how they forced her to kill her mother). Also I’m mildly confused because she mentions that she’s killed people before, and they were “bad people,” but I was under the impression that they didn’t get very far using the mutant children as attack dogs for hire before they scrapped that program. I think maybe a bit more fleshing out of that idea would have been good. But Keen is amazing, certainly the most subtle child actor I’ve seen since Quvenzhané Wallis, and I hope she’ll go on to do great things with this character.
  • I am sick to death of Wolverine as a character, but Jackman is playing a weathered, beat-down old man who is the last of a dying breed and who can’t find peace with himself. This is the Wolverine movie they’ve been trying to make for twenty years, and Jackman is giving his all. He probably won’t get any serious award nominations for this, but it’s a real pity, because he deserves them. I’m glad this is the one he chose to go out on.
  • Patrick Stewart is also phenomenal, of course. He’s an old man in pain and sometimes barely conscious, and letting out some of his salt while he’s at it. He and Jackman play off each other beautifully. The film teases out some of the history of what happened to the rest of the X-Men and why Xavier is mostly alone at this point, and it’s fascinating. I almost want to know more about that history, but I think that the film gave us just enough and didn’t beat us over the head with what happened.
  • Any movie that has Wolverine in it and isn’t rated R is just asking for trouble. This one goes barreling straight into the violence, with Logan and Laura slashing and decapitating people left and right. But it doesn’t really feel gratuitous; it feels like the movie we’ve been building to all this time. If you’ve read a Wolverine comic, then you know that this is the kind of violence we should’ve been getting all along. It’s been a hell of a wait, but it’s immensely satisfying to get it now.
  • SMALL SPOILER: The mutant kids were neat, though I wish we’d spent a little more time with them. We barely know anyone’s names, except for the de facto leader, Rictor. Rictor has earth-moving powers, and has been in the comics since the 80s. He’s a good character, and I’m hoping they’ll do more with him in future movies. (He has been a member of X-Force, and I keep hearing rumors that Fox is trying to make that movie. Fingers crossed.)

I have a few complaints, though. Some of them are nitpicky and some of them are not. SPOILERS for major plot points.

  • The single most frustrating thing about the movie is that about two-thirds of the way through it, a Wolverine clone shows up. No, not Laura – Laura has been there for an hour by this point. We already love tiny murder machine Laura. This clone is a full-size Hugh Jackman Wolverine clone with a flat-top haircut who basically runs on rage for…some reason? This is deeply stupid. This doesn’t make any sense, even if you divorce it from the comics. There was no reason to have a Wolverine clone in this movie. No reason. It cheapened the movie for me, and even though most of the scenes with the clone were good, there was really no damn reason for it to be there. True, part of the reason I’m annoyed is because of the comics canon – it has been established that they can’t make a male clone of Wolverine, and their attempts to copy the success of Laura were first destroyed in Innocence Lost and then recently again in the new Wolverine comic starring Laura. (She currently has one biological “sister,” Gabby, but all the other “sisters” have died.) There has never been a male clone of Wolverine in the comics, because that defeats the entire purpose of Wolverine – he is the best at what he does. The clone in the movie is called X-24 (I’ll get to why that bothers me in a second), and its only purpose is to act as living hubris for the scientists who created not only Laura and the other mutant children (again, getting there). Oh, and to beat Logan to a pulp of course. The fight scenes with it are pretty good, but it was just so unnecessary. Anyway, the reason why it shouldn’t be X-24 is that X-23’s name in the comics comes from the fact that she is the 23rd attempt at the Weapon X cloning program. There is a direct line in the comics about “X-24 through X-50,” the other viable embryos that were created after Laura – which Laura destroys along with the rest of the facility. There should be no “X-24.” If there were no cloning attempts before Laura, then why make Laura female? And if they could make a male clone all along, then why didn’t they before? It was ridiculous and pissed me off every time the clone popped up.
  • I am also deeply annoyed about their choice to call Laura and the other mutant children they created in the lab “the X-23s.” Why bother calling them that? Without the Weapon X context, the name X-23 is completely arbitrary. It’s fanservice but it’s fanservice that’s doesn’t actually make any sense and will probably piss off more fans like me, who actually care about the reasons behind the codenames. (Laura’s code is “X-23-23,” which is so stupid I can’t handle it.)
  • I hear that Caliban (Stephen Merchant) was in Apocalypse. For some reason he was in this movie too. I’m familiar with this character from the comics and, while I understand the logistical reasons for him being there (his power is to find other mutants, so they needed him to track Logan and Laura), I’m still upset at how incorrect he was. In the comics, Caliban lives underground with a group called the Morlocks, the “undesirable” mutants that can’t live amongst regular people because of their hideous or abnormal appearances. He is an empathetic, shy person in the comics, who helps Shadowcat after she becomes ill and falls in love with her, but allows her to return to the surface when he realizes she does not love him in return. He also speaks in the third person, which isn’t a huge deal but is just annoying to change because it’s a distinctive part of his character. And his skin doesn’t get burned by the sun. I get why they made these changes but as a low-key fan of the character I’m just annoyed. I would’ve preferred they just make up a random mutant-tracking character and given him the same role.
  • I understand for plot purposes why they had the biological mothers-slash-carriers of the mutant children be Mexican women, and it’s actually a really interesting bit of meta-commentary, but considering how important Laura’s mom was to her in the comics, I’m not very happy that they’ve just erased her like this. I’m guessing maybe they will call her Laura Howlett in the movies now, which. Whatever.
  • At one point Logan and co. help a family, the Munsons, and end up staying with them. They are, of course, slaughtered by the X-24 clone. They happened to cast a black family, and while there are a handful of other black and brown characters in the movie (mostly unnamed children), they are the only named characters of color besides Laura’s nurse Gabriela and her friend Rictor. I wish they hadn’t been black; there are unfortunate implications there.
  • The head of the program is called Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). Zander is actually from the Innocence Lost series, but he’s different, aside from being the son of a man who worked on the original Weapon X program. He’s been aged up, and his role in Laura’s development has actually been replaced by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). In the comics, Zander treated Laura as subhuman, openly sneering at her and assuming he could control her; Pierce takes on this role in the movie. It’s not a huge issue but for someone who knows the original miniseries as well as I do it was jarring.
  • This is a stupid personal hangup, but Laura calls Logan “daddy” as he’s dying and I have an in-joke about that word so it kind of spoiled the emotional effect they were going for. Oh well.

END SPOILERS.

There’s a good amount for me to bitch about, but the fact is that I enjoyed myself in this movie immensely, and it is the best X-Men movie since X2. Maybe it’s the best X-Men movie period? Anyway, I recommend it.

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on The Lego Batman Movie

25 Feb

In no particular order, but.

  1. Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn, Riki Lindholme as Poison Ivy, and Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman? Talk about the greatest Gotham City Sirens lineup. I hope they make a million more movies in this universe and should all of them be about these three? Maybe yes.
  2. Another big delight of Jenny Slate’s Harley was how aggressively not in keeping with current DC cinematic properties she was. The outfit was silly but not that insulting kinkshameable nonsense, she was funny in a way that felt appropriate to the character, she never said “puddin’,” and damned if she didn’t make cute little silent :O faces when Batman and Joker discussed healthy relationships sometimes.
  3. This is probably the best non-comics Barbara Gordon I’ve seen since the 90s cartoon. It’s a really good distillation of her character. It was also cool that she was subtly brown. And Rosario Dawson seemed to be having a great time.
  4. I liked that there were women just hanging out doing stuff, in the background or the police force or in crowd scenes. Somebody was careful about that.
  5. This movie understands that Batman is only good if he’s got people with him because by himself he’s fucking ridiculous.
  6. I love Dick Grayson, and if they don’t make a good Nightwing movie I’m going to go to Warner Brothers and pee on everything they love. They got a really good sense of the younger version of him, like in the 60s show when he’s a sidekick kid. And Michael Cera did a really good job.
  7. Will Arnett is the best Batman. He’s perfect. Nobody else should be Batman, except for Kevin Conroy who’s not being Batman anymore anyway so it’s fine.
  8. The writers clearly just looked up everything a child would know and then put it all in a movie. They included a bunch of older suits, including Nightwing’s original suit, and the Batman Beyond suit. There’s a montage of shitty Silver Age villains and it’s beautiful. There are probably jokes we missed, but if you are familiar with more than one Batman piece of media you’re probably gonna catch something.
  9. There are also a fair amount of non-Batman/DC jokes shoved in here, and some of them are definitely more for the grown-ups in the audience (my personal favorite was when Batman was suggesting potential team-ups and listed “Fox Force Five”).
  10. And then let’s talk about the Phantom Zone. In the original Lego Movie style, the Phantom Zone pulled in Legoified versions of every villainous character you could imagine. They’re mostly from the Lego Dimensions game, but you don’t need to know that to enjoy their gloriously nonsensical presence.
  11. In 1988 there was an infamous Batman graphic novel called The Killing Joke that goes into a version of the Joker’s backstory and is also the comic in which Barbara is shot in the spine and paralyzed. It’s very divisive, and they made it worse because in the 2016 animated movie version some dumbass decided to add a weird sexual component to Bruce and Barbara’s relationship that is not in the comic. The internet promptly lost its entire shit and I swear someone at WB was like OH FUCK and rewrote the ending of The Lego Batman Movie to erase the romantic relationship that had been building up. Batman at one point says Barbara is “my platonic coworker who I see as a friend” or something like that. The first shot of her is shot Gaussian Girl style from Bruce’s POV and “(I Just) Died in Your arms” is playing. I was horrified and then very relieved when it didn’t go anywhere. So thanks, WB, for not fucking that up.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Hidden Figures

8 Jan
  1. We are not black people.
  2. That means there are more important voices out there talking about this that do belong to black people, black women specifically, that we will tell you to go find.
  3. But all that being said, seriously this is a wonderful film.
  4. You need to go see this movie.
  5. You will not be taught about this in history class or anything (unless you have a really awesome history class, and guys, my US history in high school was rad but we didn’t even get to the 1950s let alone the 1960s, and it wouldn’t have been in the textbook anyway) so you need to go learn about this. These women were/are amazing.
  6. Someone give Mahershala Ali an award. (Maybe not for this movie but for something.)
  7. The three main ladies – Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae – all should have awards for this movie, though.
  8. Also gosh their outfits and the little things they said about the characters were fun.
  9. Boy it was nice to have an inspirational historical movie where none of the known characters died.
  10. Jim Parsons is in this movie as a terrible person and watching him accordingly get his ass kicked (metaphorically) every ten minutes was great.

–your fangirl heroines.

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