Saturday, December 19, 2015

A "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Review That Doesn't Spoil Shit

Straight off the top:  Star Wars does not feel right without the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the top.  I wish Disney could buy them just for the purpose of making Star Wars feel whole again.

Back in 2007, I tore apart Superman Returns, partially for holding the balls of Richard Donner's Superman movies as if it's trying to keep them warm and shielded, like Superman does for Metropolis.  Because of that, and because Bryan Singer didn't think Superman should fight anything, it never really comes together as an original work.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a lot like that.  It doesn't hold the original Star Wars' balls quite as tightly, but there's definitely some light ball-tickling going on.

In other words, I hope you like Star Wars, because JJ Abrams is about to show you how much he likes Star Wars.  Yes, I call it "Star Wars."  "A New Hope" is stupid.

Anyway, JJ Abrams is way into that movie.  So much, in fact, that he takes great care to recreate some of the scenes from Star Wars in his movie, but he JJ's them up so you don't notice what he's doing.  It isn't a knock on The Force Awakens, because his story is its own thing.  He just has a clear love for Star Wars that he can't help but let us see.  JJ loves Star Wars so much that I bet he still calls it "Star Wars."

As a result, two-thirds of the movie is really good.  He's really good about allowing us to find out what happened to the characters we really love while letting us get to know these new characters.  In true Star Wars tradition, you don't find out anything about the new characters so much as you get to hang out with them for a while, before realizing later that you don't know much about them at all.  They're just so funny and likable that you never notice.

Like, Finn, for instance.  Finn is what would happen if you took a regular person from here and dropped them into Star Wars.  Unlike every other character in Star Wars lore who grew up in a place where slugs become crime lords and people can be choked from across the street, Finn ain't about this life.  And it shows.  Everybody in the world who dreams about living in the Star Wars universe, thinks that if they went there, they'd suddenly learn the force or enjoy living in space, but Finn is your reality.  Finn is what you'd actually be like.  He's not a coward, but he's terribly confused about what life is like out here, and really doesn't get why we all need to be out here fighting when we can all get ships that go to the Outer Rim.  In a way, he's a twist on Han Solo, who didn't think it was worth sacrificing his life in the service of the Rebellion.

Then, there's Rey, a scavenger girl surviving on a desert planet.  She lives a difficult life, getting ripped off by the local scrap yard guy who pays her in food, and sleeping in the wreckage of an old AT-AT Walker.  When she isn't scavenging or fixing stuff, she sits and watches the ships fly off this barren desert planet.  And even though she lives this hard knock life, she still manages to have a heart for sad sacks that come stumbling across her front door.  She's almost the inverse of Luke Skywalker, because she doesn't dream of leaving this world at all, even though she should probably want to.

Kylo Ren isn't likable, though.  Not at all.  The previous villains were cool or charismatic in different ways, or carried themselves with a presence.  Darth Vader was awe-inspiring and ruthless.  Darth Maul was designed to be cool.  Christopher Lee's voice alone made Count Dooku memorable.  Even General Grievous was completely original, with some old school built in.  But Kylo Ren isn't like that.  He comes off like he's trying to be someone else, and acts very much like a spoiled child at times.  For all I know, that was the point.

As for what happens in the movie, there's a lot of action, it looks really good, and it is imaginative, because after all, this is a JJ Abrams movie.  If nothing else, he's going to take your breath way with his action scenes.  There was never a worry about that, because if he could make the Starship Enterprise exciting, imagine what he could do with the Millennium Falcon.

But then, there's that last third of the movie.  I remember reading a review about Revenge of the Sith when it came out that said that George Lucas was basically forcing the plot to go where he needed it to go, logic be damned (and that review was right).  There was an end point that had already been predetermined, and he needed to get these loose ends tied up before the credits roll, which is why Yoda just up and decided that he needed to go into exile.  There are moments like that, where it felt like they had decided where these characters needed to end up and they were gonna get there, logic be damned.  The last third of this movie kinda felt like JJ remembered that he needed to hit a couple more beats before he wrapped this thing up.

In my mind, it's like he delivers the script, and its brilliant, but someone at the studio was like, "There are no clips from the third act that we can put into the trailer.  Give us some trailer moments."  And he gets mad and hate-writes a new third act for them.  I mean, it's just kinda there, aside from discovering that Princess Leia had an army of Jedi babies without Han or Chewbacca deciding that he's had enough of Han's shit and they finally scrap it out.  The last third of the movie left me with questions, and not the kind where you're like, "I wonder where this is gonna go next?"  No, it's the kind of questions like, "Lemme rewind this and watch it again, because I must have missed something."

But it's a good movie.  Just one that's going to take some time for me to really appreciate.  JJ did a good job of working in the original trilogy's universe organically, and there are so many moments where I was pointing at the screen in excitement, because I suddenly saw something I recognized.  He also wrote this thing as if the prequels never happened, which is good, because I doubt anyone's gonna go into this like, "This thing better address the final fate of Watto, or I want my money back."  No, The Force Awakens dovetails out of Return of the Jedi, but in a way that is both familiar and new at the same time.  It's kind of comforting to spend another couple of hours in a that galaxy again.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Will Smith, Independence Day, and boring-ass off-screen deaths

I don't think there's a person out there that likes off-screen deaths in movies.

Not the kind where they're killed off-screen, but then, you learn later on in the movie what happened.  I mean the kind where you spend two or three hours (or more) investing emotionally in these characters, then when the new one comes out, you find out that they died, and no one cares.  That shit sucks.

Some movies handle it better than others, because the Rocky movies killed off Adrian and Paulie that way.  But the Rocky movies dealt with it by making it part of the story.  Adrian's death was part of the reason why Rocky and his son had a wedge between them in Rocky Balboa, and (SPOILERS), it was the reason why Rocky gave up on his own failing health in Creed.

Then, you got those assholes over at Fox who gave you two and a half hours of Ripley trying to save this little girl from acid-bleeding aliens, in the middle of space, only to find out that Newt died anyway in between Aliens and Alien 3.  Alien 3 is almost twenty years old and people still list that as one of the reasons why they never liked that movie.  They just brushed all that joy and goodwill aside so they could tell their story, instead of giving the payoff that the fans wanted.  It's just one in a long list of reasons why Sylvester Stallone is a better filmmaker than you.

No one likes that second method, why is why Roland Emmerich did exactly that with Independence Day: Resurgence.  

Now, let's be clear:  I seriously doubt that anyone was emotionally invested in any of the characters in Independence Day.  I know I'm going out on a limb here, and please correct me if I'm wrong.  Tell me that you felt the emotional depth of the angry teenage boy who just wants to love his family, or the war hero President of the United States.  However, the way they got rid of Will Smith's character in Resurgence is kinda lame.

You didn't know Will Smith wasn't coming back for Resurgence?  My bad. Spoilers.

Because they didn't offer Will Smith enough money he's too big a star for this foolishness now Suicide Squad has a better shot at keeping his name hot they didn't offer Jaden a role as his stepson that looks just like him Will Smith declined to come back to the movie that started July 4th as "Will Smith Weekend," they had to kill off his character.  It only makes sense, because he can't be alive anywhere in the world while this is going on and not come back.  It had to be this, because only the Avengers can get away with not having to explain why Iron Man couldn't come help Captain America take down three flying aircraft carriers, or Thor had to fend off another alien invasion by himself.

And you know what, I'm fine with Will Smith's character being dead.  I get it.  It wasn't that kind of movie, where people get attached to the characters.  Really, we just like Will Smith.  But if you gotta kill him off, you gotta do better than this:

"While test piloting the ESD’s first alien hybrid fighter, an unknown malfunction causes the untimely death of Col. Hiller. Hiller’s valor in the War of ‘96 made him a beloved global icon whose selfless assault against the alien mothership lead directly to the enemy’s defeat. He is survived by his wife Jasmine and son Dylan."
You don't have to show any of this shit on screen, so there isn't a single reason why it has to be that boring.  Maybe the producers feel like they needed to show respect to Will Smith's character, but that's really dumb, because he doesn't work there anymore.  Besides, they already disrespected him by killing him off-screen.  We're already past the point of disrespect, so you might as well go all the way.  Because if I was writing the movie, Will Smith's Capt. Steven Hiller would have gone through some shit before he died.

Why the hell not?  It's not like you're limited by your special effects budget.  So why couldn't we find out that Capt. Hiller, despite all his confidence and bravado, had a really hard time dealing with the knowledge that the fate of humanity rested on his shoulders?  Maybe that led to some drinking, some depression, some PTSD.  Maybe he broke down completely, and believed that the aliens were still out there and were trying to control minfd.  No one really knew how to help him, and he believed he was alone in this.  So he tries to fight back against his perceived enemies in the government that he believes have already been compromised.  And his story ends with him driving his car off of a bridge, because he believes that the aliens have finally broken his mind as well.

Now, Vivica A. Fox is back in this movie, and evidently, her son (Hiller's stepson) is supposed to be one of heroes of this movie, because of course he is.  And I'm sure their characters will be sufficiently boring.  But it would be so much better if they came into the movie with something like this over their heads.  Of course they're gonna fight the aliens, but now, it's personal.

And maybe Will Smith sees that synopsis, and it looks interesting to him.  He could work with that material.  And he calls up Roland Emmerich, and asks to make that movie, because that's what Will Smith does now.  He just goes around making movies that seem interesting to him, and it's good to know that someone thought After Earth was interesting.  A movie about the complete mental breakdown of the hero from Independence Day is way more interesting than that same guy fighting the aliens again.  And Fox is dying to make a franchise out of this.  $50-70 million would be in their hands before Will Smith could come to his senses.

That sort of thing should be the template for off-screen deaths.  I'm not naive.  I know that those times can't be avoided sometimes.  But if you're already going to have to do it, you might as well make it count for something, and change the story going forward.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Police Need to Sack Up

I'm confused by these police out here.

On the one hand, the police are supposed to be brave souls, the thin blue line that stands between decent society and chaos, the protectors of the vulnerable.  When everyone is running away from danger, they run towards it.  On the other hand, police are actually delicate flowers that need our love and support to adequately do their jobs.  That's what all these police union heads and chiefs and sheriffs are out here saying, and it's making their guys look kinda soft.

Yeah, the police aren't looking so good in the realm of public relations here lately, what with all these protests against them, just because their weapons keep accidentally discharging into people.  And the police aren't gonna stand for it.  They want you to know that they put their lives on the line to protect you every day and that you should appreciate what they do.  And in a perfect world, we probably would.  Except, we don't live in that perfect world.  We live in a world where they shoot unarmed black people of all ages, for no reason at all.  We live in a world where police are attacking school children for standing too close.  We live in world where people actually don't want to call the police, because less people will get shot if the police don't get involved in the business of protecting people.

People are actually starting to say, "I just got robbed, but it's safer if you don't come. I got my future to think about."  You're not supposed to say that to the police, that's something you say to your crazy uncle that keeps a straight razor in his boot.

But this is where we are, and the police are really in their feelings about it.  Despite all of the unwarranted shootings and assaults that they don't get charged for, they still feel like they're heroes.  They don't think anything is wrong with the idea that a segment of society fears them.  They still want everyone to tell them how much they're appreciated.  To them, it's unfair that people should say the harsh things that they say about the police these days.

Well, it's unfair to us that we can get assaulted or killed by them and no charged are ever filed.  Looks like we both have grievances.

And what's worse, they think that mean words and unequal violence are on the same plane.  Like, in their minds, I said to them, "Hey, you shot and killed me," and they're like, "Well, you hurt my feelings.  I guess we're even."  So, to recap, the police think a sassy teenager and an armory filled with machine guns are the same thing.

They would also have us believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is inciting violence against police, and there are two things wrong with that.  One, police killings have been trending downward for a while now, and two, anyone that wants to kill a cop was already in the business of killing cops before Black Lives Matter became a hashtag.  Like that dude rode the bus from Baltimore to New York to shoot some cops didn't have that in mind long before these protests started.  If killing cops wasn't already part of his daily thoughts (and it was), then a six hour bus ride would have been more than enough time for him to come to his senses.

So cops getting shot was already a hazard of the job, and has been since the day guns were invented.  Probably because your entire job is to stand in the way of someone's illegal hustle.  You're essentially a professional hater.  So when some dude got around to inventing the gun, the first thing he probably tried to do was use it on the government empowered peacekeeper that kept messing up his bootleg textiles operation.

So, no one sprung this on you, cops.  This is the job that you signed up for.  We didn't ask you to become cops, especially if you're gonna be out here shooting 12 year old kids.  I guess you thought this job was gonna be all shooting black people and violating our civil rights, but it turns out there's more to it than just the fun stuff.  Sometimes, the bullets come back.  Sometimes, people aren't going to like you.  Sometimes, it's going to be your fault and people will want you held accountable.  And if you can't deal with that, then maybe you shouldn't be a cop.

Because it seems like cops doing their job better is completely off the table, based on the statements that these police are making.

And it's not like they need the support of the people they police, anyway.  They haven't had the support of black people probably ever, and it hasn't stopped the police from getting pretty much whatever they want from Americans.  The police of Doraville, GA have a tank, and the population of Doraville is like, 10,000 people, and barely has crime.  They probably don't have tasers in Doraville, but they have a tank.  And the only time that tank is getting used is when they have to make YouTube videos about it like this one.  But they have it, because police get what they want, no questions asked.  The troops don't even have it that good, and the wars they fight aren't rhetorical.

So, let's not act like public support is necessary for operations.  You just want someone to pat you on the back and tell you that you done good.  And to act like your feelings are important at a time when you're shooting people like you're on XBox Live is fucking disgusting.

Friday, July 24, 2015

WWE sacrificed Hulk Hogan to save themselves

Hulk Hogan is one of the most well known people in the world. He's also, apparently, a racist, and WWE has disassociated itself from him. They have to do it, because they don't want anyone looking their way for more racism. And we all know if people start looking there, THEY WILL FIND IT.
Hulk Hogan worked for WWE for more than 20 years, and has been closely tied to the company at the highest levels for all of that time. He used to hang out at the Vince McMahon's house and help write the shows. He used to tour with Vince for more than 300 days a year. He helped Vince get into movies. And he helped make Vince a billionaire. So they're close.
Hulk Hogan was exposed as a racist last night. I'm sure this news was no shock to Vince McMahon. Because he's probably told the same racist jokes and stories as Hogan himself.
Now, I don't have any proof of that, but I do know that WWE has a history of racist stereotypes. They've only had one black WWF Champion in their history, and they won't even refer to him as black. Vince McMahon got real close to saying some racist stuff about Booker T on live TV years ago, and said the word "niggardly" on Smackdown once, I guess, because he feels like he should be able to say "nigger" as openly as he does in his own house.   Then, called John Cena a "nigga" in front of Booker T because he thought it was funny.  D-Generation X did a skit mocking the Nation of Domination with four white guys wearing blackface.  More than once, the WWF has tried to run a "race war" angle in their programming, which was an excuse for white people to say bad stuff about black people in promos.  They had a Mexican tag team drive riding lawnmowers to the ring.  A couple of years ago, they fired Alberto del Rio for defending himself against racism. And they've employed Michael P.S. Hayes since the dark ages.
Continuing to employ Michael P.S. Hayes when people know him as a racist before they know him as a wrestler speaks volumes about WWE. Because you know he isn't the only one. I kinda wish Mark Henry wasn't under contract, so he could tell us every racist he's confronted backstage.  WWE has gotta be infested with them, because one thing I know about racists is that they like to hang out with other racists.
And if Hogan is a racist, and Vince is most likely a racist (a Republican from North Carolina who employs racists for 20 year stints, and hangs out with racist Republican candidate Donald Trump), then who else in WWE is a racist?  Racists always prefer to create environments where they're free to be racist, so you know there's gotta be a lot of them. 
And that's why they shut the door on Hulk Hogan, because they don't want anyone asking that question.  They had to get Hulk up out the paint before folks start connecting dots on this.  Sure, they don't want their company "associated with such virulent hatred and yadda yadda yadda, we totally nailed that press release."  Yes, they want people of all races at their shows because black and Latino dollars spend, too. They're just covered in chicken grease and dried beans. But the real reason is because they don't want anyone coming for them.
And that's not to make Hogan the victim. Hulk Hogan should be out on his ass. It's kind of hard to say that knowing how much I bought in to Hulkamania as a child, teenager, and young adult, but facts are facts. He doesn't like me or anybody who looks like me. So for that, fuck him. I'd be a fool if I wasted time trying to figure out the context for why this guy hates black people.  The answer, evidently, is that everyone famous in the 1980s was a piece of shit.  Sylvester Stallone is next, and having a small Italian beat up black men in five out of six Rocky movies is gonna be the proof against him.
So no, Hogan isn't a victim and WWE isn't mistreating him. They're just throwing him under the bus to save themselves. But it's too late. The racist train has already left the station.  Just like Donald Sterling, though, they aren't cutting ties with Hogan because he's racist, otherwise, they would have done it 20 years ago.  They're cutting ties with Hogan because you know he's a racist. 
This is a huge story already, and it will only grow from here. When we hear this racist tape, the question will inevitably become, "Did WWE know that Hulk Hogan was so repulsive?" And that's when all your favorite minority wrestlers will come out with stories to tell. Alberto del Rio is READY for your airtime, television media. And this might be the come-up that Virgil has been looking for. Koko's gotta make sure that the curl is juicy. And we might finally get an explanation about what the hell Akeem was supposed to be.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bioshock: Infinite - A racial look at a racial game

Heads up: Here be spoilers.

Bioshock: Infinite has a storyline filled some some of the most disgusting racists of all time.  It's a world where a bunch of racist elites leave mainland America to start their own floating colony called Columbia.  In the early 1900s.  It really is the kind of shit we all expect the rich to do, anyway, except in 2015, they'll call it "Elysium."  They're going to leave us all behind and create a world where they can do what they want, without us begging for "their fairly obligated tax dollars," or "a living wage."  
Columbia is just a more racist version of that, because they plaster that they hate black people on their walls, in posters, and in statues, all over the city.  Problem is, they have black people living up there, because everyone knows that racist elites can't be expected to do for themselves.  They need an oppressed underclass to serve them, otherwise, we might not know that they're rich.  

So these rich white folks brought black people to their new enclave and insulted and demeaned them at every turn.  And that's the undercurrent of this story where you're a white guy that's coming to rescue a white girl being chased by a giant bird.

All of which is fine with me, because I expect this racist society to be brought down by a black uprising.  You can't put that much racism into a game without the racists getting what's coming to them.  You just can't.  Otherwise, I'd wonder exactly how racist the staff at Irrational Games actually was. 

And that's exactly what happens.  In between Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth running and shooting and jumping between alternate universes, the black folks get guns and airships and start killing white folks.  As you do when you're an oppressed underclass fighting for your dignity.  Booker DeWitt gets caught up in their story, even though he doesn't give a shit about their rebellion, and in one of the universes, becomes a hero to these rebelling Negroes.  

This is where my problem with the game starts.  

Because up until this point, there was a very clear racial divide and in the story, there was expectation that the black folks were going to rebel and the white elites were going to get what was coming to them, and it was going to be amazing.  Honestly, it was the main reason why I kept playing the game.  But when we got to the rebellion, and the black folks started killing these crackers, the writers of the game decided that, morally, these murdering black folks were just as bad as the people who sought to oppress them. 

And that's fucking insanity.  

It's a very "color-blind" way of looking at things, and not at all based in reality when it comes to fighting for freedom.  It's the kind of thinking that has removed Martin Luther King from the list of black revolutionaries and added him to the list of people who want us all to hold hands and love each other.  Which he did, but he wasn't a fool.  And he was way more radical than he gets credit for.  But after 60 years of people only listening to the part of his message that makes them feel good, we're left with "I Have A Dream," and no understanding that freedom has to be fought for and people might have to die to accomplish that.  

The people of Columbia were never going to give up what they had in order to allow these people that they viewed as "inferior" and "subhuman" to sit alongside them.  They weren't.  And they would have killed them all and replaced them with some other black people before they let that happen.  The black people in Columbia were not viewed as human by the white people.  So I don't know how Booker DeWitt expected the black folks to gain their freedom without an armed rebellion, and yes, killing a bunch of white folks.  For him to judge them as being "no different" than the people in Columbia really turned me off to the game.  

To put it simply, you can't oppress people, and then expect them to talk to you when they've had enough.  You weren't willing to talk when you were oppressing them, so when folks have had enough, the time for talking is done.  

Because, to put it in it's proper context, this was 1912.  The Civil War ended 47 years ago.  There were people in Columbia who had fought in that war.  We were knee deep in Jim Crow at this time, and Columbia is an ultra right-wing community, filled with people who thought less of black people than the people who actually fought in the war.  The Klan was practicing open terrorism at this time.  Black people were still not allowed to do much of anything, aside from working for white people for low pay, then walking back to their segregated neighborhoods across town.  Which were not nearly as nice, because there was no money coming into them.  And this was considered "freedom."  

Yeah, the rebels were "no different."  Get outta here with that.  

Normally, the politics of the game makers doesn't really bother me, because being black, you learn to tune these things out.  But this game made black people and our history part of the story.  We weren't playable characters (still pushing that rock up that mountain), but we were a major part of what was happening.  And suddenly, these people were making judgments on things that still happen in the real world today.  It really took me out of what was a pretty fun game.  I haven't played it since.  Maybe one day, I'll get around to finishing.  In the meantime, I'll play something that doesn't make sweeping judgments about racial issues.  

Batman v. Superman: The stupidest argument of all time

Apparently, you have to have qualifications before you can criticize movie trailers now.  You can't just chalk it up to taste anymore.  You have to prove your impartiality before you can speak on movies now.  I don't know where this shit started, but it really needs to stop.  The Batman v. Superman trailer was leaked over the weekend, and naturally, some folks didn't like it, but folks got mad when they dared express that online.  Like, more than usual.

We're talking about a movie trailer about a fictitious alien that wants to be friends fighting a fictitious rich guy with an inability to let go of the past.  It sounds like the plot to a Pixar movie, but people were acting like they were investigating a murder, trying to figure out the motives of people who didn't like it.  This isn't exactly serious scholarship here.  Taking on critics of this movie trailer isn't going to get you a job at The Atlantic.

It just blows my hair back when people get this serious over fictional characters, as if it's going to make a bit of difference either way.  Instead of people just enjoying the fact that we're all nerds, people are out here acting like people who didn't like it are going to block off the theaters in an act of censorship.  People are actually drawing conclusions about the characters of real, living people based on what they thought about a movie trailer.  Because, as we know, movie trailers are the modern iteration of Rorschach tests.

And the thing is, I don't think people defending the trailer really understand where the problem is coming from.  People aren't loving the way this movie is turning out (and the one before it) because it continues the Batman-ization of the DC Universe, and it was something that a lot of people could see coming after The Dark Knight came out.

See, Batman is grim and gritty.  He's tormented.  He wreaks vengeance on those who wronged him so that others don't have to suffer like he did.  Basically, this dude is broken inside and uses that to punch criminals until they're broken like him.  That formula for a superhero made Warner Bros. a billion dollars.  And because movie executives are generally unimaginative, they said, "Hey, Superman is having trouble.  Why not make him like Batman?"  You know, completely ignoring the context surrounding Superman's movies.

I mean, the problem with Superman Returns wasn't that Superman isn't tormented, it's that it was two and a half hours of washing Richard Donner's balls.  But who has time for a true examination of the issues?

And that's why Man of Steel is the way it is.  That's why Superman is morose, everything is dimly lit, and there's no sense of joy or fun in a single frame of the movie.  That's why Superman doesn't save anyone.  Superman lives in Batman's world now, and in Batman's world, you need to learn that life is shit.  

Except that's not the world Superman lives in.  Superman is supposed to represent all of those good things.  He tries to save people before he punches people.  He's supposed to inspire people to be good and do better.  He always tries to de-escalate the situation, even though he's powerful enough to turn the person in front of him into a fine, red mist.  That's what makes him Superman.  Of course he can kill everyone on Earth, but he doesn't want to.  He wants to show us a better way.  Even if he's existing in Batman's dark, depressing, basement of a world, at the very least, he needs to be that.  He wasn't, and right there is the difference in opinion on Man of Steel.

Superman fans didn't need for Superman to change.  Batman fans needed for Superman to change.  And Batman fans loved that movie.

That's why some people weren't excited to see the Batman v. Superman trailer, because they're worried that it's gonna be more of the same: A Superman that Superman fans don't recognize. And there's a huge possibility of that if the movie is based on "The Dark Knight Returns," a story that paints Superman as a government-owned bitch.  The only people who want to see that are Batman fans.  It has nothing to do with a secret love for Marvel or an inability to let go of the Donner Superman movies or any other of the silly shit I've seen thrown out there this weekend.  Maybe it just doesn't look that good to some people.  We're talking about art, not an arms treaty.

We won't know for sure until the movie gets released, but in the meantime, dial back the hostility.  We're all allowed to have opinions, and none of us need to justify them to you.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Real Issue With the X-Men: Apocalypse Casting

Last week, Bryan Singer announced the recasting of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm for X-Men: Apocalypse, and nobody really seemed to care, because who the fuck are these people?  They're like the cast of the new Fantastic Four flick, except for Michael B. Jordan. In fact, they're so anonymous that they might be the same people.  

The Storm casting did get some buzz from Storm fans, because she is once again being played by some girl who doesn't fit the Storm mold.  I get it, because everyone wants to see their favorites represented properly on screen.  It's the reason why I have decided that the Transformers movies are nothing more than a series of night terrors filled with slow-motion action shots and blurry metal shards that I can't wake up from.  Storm fans (myself included) want to see their girl shown as the powerful African leader that she is, instead of the sidekick to Jean with a white wig that she's become.  

But the really important issue with this recasting hasn't even been addressed:  We no longer have to watch Wolverine's love affair with Jean Grey that never made a lick of sense.  I assume it won't be there, because it would be really, really creepy.

See, I'm a masochist, evidently, because I've watched all of the X-Men movies.  And I watched them closely enough to realize that Wolverine knew Jean Grey for maybe a week, in total movie time.  So watching him tearfully kill Jean in the third one, and dream about her years after the fact, always made me sick.  I should have been crying, because I was the one who sat through X-Men: The Last Stand. 

That plot thread is something that is well known to folks who read the comics.  For a couple of decades, the comics teased the idea that Jean and Wolverine had a long smoldering attraction for each other, and in another world, they might have been together.  But Scott had that on lock (for reasons that continue to mystify us), so Jean would never act on it, even though Wolverine would sometimes press the issue.  

In the flicks, Wolverine met Jean, spent almost no time with her in the couple of days he tooled around the mansion, then left the X-Men for an undetermined amount of time.  He showed up back out there just in time for them to get invaded, and never saw Jean again until a few minutes before she died.  She was an evil zombie throughout the next movie, so it's not like she was in a position to further explore their relationship.  Wolverine worked hard on his chest to impress her, so her rejection forced him to kill her.  Some of this might have been made up, because that third movie was so awful, and I really don't want to watch it again.

But saying that Wolverine knew Jean for a week is being generous.  

It's kinda like in Man of Steel, where Superman and Lois have no reason throughout the movie to get together, but they still have to kiss at the end, because that's the expectation.  Wolverine is a dude who trusts no one and hasn't for decades, but he meets this girl who's already booed up, spends no time with her, but when she dies, he's suddenly so close to her that he's on the brink of tears?  And in the next movie, he struggles to kill her, even though he hasn't had a problem killing complete strangers since this trilogy started?  Even though these movies were supposed to walk their own path, Wolverine and Jean had to eye-bathe each other, because those were the times.  Even if it doesn't make sense.  

That's the kind of foolishness that this recasting gets us from up under.  Sure, Storm is still underwhelming (and probably wasn't going to be a big part of the movie, so they're just filling a roster spot), but we're just that much closer to a movie that makes sense.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#CancelWWENetwork is a thing, and I don't blame you

Please don't misunderstand, WWE.  People aren't canceling their WWE subscriptions because Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble.  They're not canceling because Daniel Bryan lost, either.  That would be pretty stupid.  People are canceling their subscriptions because they're tired of your shit.

Your show is trash, WWE.  Raw is trash.  Smackdown is trash.  NXT is cool.  Your pay-per-views are trash.  And have been for quite sometime.

I quit watching WWE in 2007 or so, because your shows started crapping out.  They were not worth my time.  They were not entertaining.  And WWE was not missed.  The Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania came to Atlanta during that time, but I didn't care.  I wasn't watching, and I didn't, until 2011, because I heard about CM Punk and the "pipebomb" promo.  And once I saw that things hadn't changed at all, I quit watching again.  But I wanted to watch wrestling, so I watched TNA instead.  At the time, TNA still qualified as "wrestling."

I'd check in from time to time with WWE after that, right up until the present day, and it was never getting any better.  Boring angles, uninteresting wrestlers, the endless three-hour death march known as "Monday Night Raw."  Like, they named a guy "Bad News Barrett," in the tradition of "Bad News Allen/Brown," who was named such because, if you got into it with him, it was bad news for you.  The updated version of this gimmick?  He literally came out and gave people bad news.

We went from a tough guy to a guy whose gimmick was to say, "I've got some bad news. Your city sucks," or whatever he said that week.  This is the level of creativity we're dealing with here.

And all the while, ticket prices are rising and pay-per-views are getting astronomical in price.  Wrestlemania had reached $60.  The average price was $45, and there was at least one every month.  And you're getting Bad News Barrett for your money?

So then, WWE introduces the WWE Network in 2014, and for $10 a month, you can watch all of their pay-per-views, WCW's pay-per-views, ECW's pay-per-views, and all kinds of old shows and content.  Not only that, you can watch the new pay-per-views live each month, for no extra money.  It's a great deal, and eventually, I signed up for that.  Not to watch the new shit, mind you, because it's dogshit.  I signed up to watch the old shit.  But if you're gonna throw in that month's show for free, I'll check it out.  And that's what I started doing back in November.

And the three pay-per-views I've watched haven't been worth the ten bucks.  Just some of the shittiest damn wrestling shows I've ever seen.

Now, I know how disappointed I was, and I had just started watching again.  I can only imagine how folks feel when they've been watching the entire time.  Before the network, when you had to pay full price for these shows.  When you were paying all this money in ticket prices.  When you were watching their shows every week.  And the shows are just awful, but the people running the show don't care.  You're still coming, you're still watching, so why change?

But WWE has invested a lot in this network, and they want it to take off.  It's been struggling to get subscribers, even at that low price.  They can't afford to lose the subscribers they have.  That's their weak spot.  They could ignore you when they were just on TV or on pay-per-view, because there are other entities involved that are providing money to the company.  Ratings had been dropping since 2002.  They didn't care.  They had advertisers and such to keep giving them money.  But this network is all on them.  And these numbers come to them in real time.  So frustrated viewers can make their voices heard.  By canceling.

Enough was enough, and when you can't do any better for one of your big four shows than what we got last night (and Survivor Series before it), well, I don't blame folks for canceling.  I don't know where this idea comes from that people can't dislike the shows that they watch, and they can't complain when something that was good isn't good anymore.  Some people enjoyed the Royal Rumble, but a lot people didn't.  And that's not because Roman Reigns won and Daniel Bryan didn't.  It's because it was a shit show, and along the way, they seemed to take special care to keep people from enjoying the guys they like.  If you gave Daniel Bryan fans (or Dolph Ziggler or Cesaro or Dean Ambrose) a good showing before he lost, people might not have reacted the way they did.

It wasn't worth $45 for PPV, or whatever people paid for tickets, or even the three hours it took to watch it.  Here's hoping that WWE finally starts to understand that.