Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
September 16, 2019
Brief comments on Dark Phoenix

So I watched Dark Phoenix, and... yeah, it's bad. But the thing that gets me: it's bad in the way that pretty much all the X-Men live-action movies (save First Class) have been bad, only the direction (and the dialogue, and the music?) is marginally less competent -- which means the movie was less capable of manipulating audiences into gushing over it despite the lackluster content. I feel like the main problem with the X-Men movies is that they forget that, generally speaking, the most compelling part of any superhero story is the "hero" part, and in most of the X-films the mutants are more interested in protecting themselves -- and fighting each other in big noisy CGI set pieces -- than they are about protecting the public or standing up for nobler ideals. Here (again) the heroes were all flawed in decidedly non-heroic ways: two of the major players, driven by a decidedly ignoble desire for revenge, outright wanted to murder someone they once cared for deeply. Even in the "uplifting" final bit where Jean finally consciously decides to use the Phoenix force for "good," she walks around disintegrating her foes (and, sure, they were evil aliens), and I couldn't help thinking that a being that powerful should subdue enemies without blasting them to atoms. But superhero movies across the board aren't particularly sympathetic to the Supervillain Lives Matter movement.

-posted by Wes | 6:39 am | Comments (0)
August 29, 2019
Not-so Scary Stories

Earlier this week I saw Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Admittedly I did not actually expect it to be scary (and it wasn't), but I also did not expect it to be as lame as it was. Irritating characters, dialogue that was 90% needless exposition, and "scares" detached from any context that might have made them more compelling does not make for good viewing.

I'm also highly disappointed in some of the choices that were made for this film -- namely the decision not to make it an anthology. I might be a little biased here -- I love horror anthology flicks -- but part of that bias probably owes to the ease of making a relatively effective horror anthology. (Of the 4-5 stories in any anthology film, only one of them needs to be memorable for the movie to be worth watching, and all but the crappiest flicks can usually pull that off.) Here, however, we had a film expressly based on a collection of scary stories, and for some reason they made it about a group of annoying teens and a ghost that kills by writing stories in its Death Note. It was kinda like a weak horror remake of "Ghostwriter", only nowhere near as enjoyable as actual Ghostwriter (to say nothing of a proper horror remake of Ghostwriter, which now I think I need to see). (more...)

-posted by Wes | 12:08 pm | Comments (0)
July 30, 2019
Grammatical Justice

So admittedly I find grammatical errors in television speech irksome, but only slightly so -- after all, it's not as if we never err in our speech, and generally speaking we don't pause to revise and correct ourselves unless others are having trouble understanding us. (Heck, unless the error made is a particularly egregious or careless one, I'm not even that annoyed when I encounter those mistakes in writing.) But what does bother me quite a bit is when pedantic characters on TV go out of their way to correct the speech of others and are *wrong* when they do so. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock did this on several occasions; it never failed to make me cringe.

from Young Justice S03E19: "Elder Wisdom"

The latest example: Eduardo Dorado Sr. on Young Justice. In "Elder Wisdom" (S03E19; also that episode title compounds my irritation), after commenting on the difficulties that families of meta-humans endure, Eduardo Dorado Jr. remarks, "Someone needs to show them families can survive and stay together. If not you and me, then who?" His father, after a moment of reflection, responds, "Whom." It's meant to be a warm moment that signals his father's acceptance -- and indeed it likely was for most viewers. Alas, for me, the erroneous correction undermined it.

To be fair, there is a grammatical error in Jr.'s speech, but it's not "who" -- it's "me." He says, "Someone needs to show them families can survive and stay together." Inferred: We -- You and I -- need to show them. If we -- you and I -- don't show them, then who will? And while I can understand a teen (or adult) getting "me" wrong there, a pedant should really be on point when correcting others' pronouns. A writer writing a pedant correcting others' pronouns should be especially on point.

For shame, Eduardo Dorado Sr.

-posted by Wes | 5:34 am | Comments (0)
June 12, 2019
Turning off Bill Maher

So, not a novel gripe, but I continue to be annoyed with people who decry the rise of "identity politics" when they really mean that they're frustrated at being made to consider issues involving people who are not them.

Another not-novel sentiment: I'm really sick of Bill Maher. I admit that I used to kinda like the dude, and in any case I found his show worthwhile -- I mostly could've done without the "comedy" bits (some did land), but his New Rules weren't entirely lacking in insight and the panel discussions were generally informative exchanges. What I especially liked about Maher there, though, is that he often seemed aware that he was the least informed participant in those conversations and therefore served less as an active interlocutor than a moderator whose goal was to prevent the content from getting too esoteric. He'd say something like, "Whoa, this is a comedy show! A little context for the viewers at home," and then the panel members would explain what they were talking about so that the conversation was more accessible to someone who wasn't a policy wonk or a political insider. Since I was really watching the show for those exchanges -- and since during those moments I sometimes found myself confused (and I generally try to keep abreast of political news) -- I appreciated Maher's input there all the more. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 4:32 pm | Comments (0)
June 11, 2019
Black Mirror S5 Review

Just my thoughts on the three episodes in Black Mirror Series 5.

E1, "Striking Vipers"

Easily the best episode of the season, and layered enough that continuing to ponder the episode continues to yield further insights. That might in part be that I found the episode particularly relatable in that, when I was an adolescent, my primary activity with my friends was playing video games -- and almost exclusively fighting games, as depicted in this episode. And... that was mostly it. We didn't much talk about anything else and weren't particularly close in terms of our real lives (so in a way it's not terribly surprising that my friends abandoned me so easily when our lives grew to include components besides school and video games), but we'd sit shoulder-to-shoulder going head-to-head in Super Street Fighter II or TMNT Tournament Fighters or Mortal Kombat II or One Must Fall 2097 or Battle Arena Toshinden for hours on end. And it was good. Really good. Like, once you get into a groove with an opponent whose skill effectively mirrors your own -- and whom you've fought enough times to "read" in particular ways, and vice versa -- it's a kind of mutually gratifying contest where every feint and thrust and moan heightens the intensity and brings you closer and to win is to win and to lose is also to win. And while admittedly I haven't had tons of experience with sex -- and at that time I was hardly interested -- I don't think it's an inappropriate metaphor for a really great match between two players who've thoroughly experienced the ins and outs of each other's technique. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 6:46 pm | Comments (0)
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