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Confession: I hate Heathers. Its popularity baffles me.

Even pre-Columbine, I couldn’t find any humor in a psychotic teenager who kills his classmates and fakes suicides. Or the hilarity of heartbroken, grieving parents, using sexuality as blackmail, bullying and fatshaming, suicide contagion and other delightfully raucous fun. With bonus terrorism and mass murder!

Now we have a remake-as-series, which flips it so the vicious bitchery ruling the school belongs to people whom the 80s Heathers would have considered the freaks: plus-size, genderqeer, black, gay. But it’s the white slim heterosexuals to the rescue! Wait, what? OnstageBlog called it “The Alt-Right’s Glee.”

(Of course, OnstageBlog also called the original film “a driving force in the birth of third-wave feminism,” as well as praising its look at body positivity and sexuality, so I can only assume they were watching a different movie than I was.)

So… we’re going to get a TV series where the conventional cisgender kids systematically kill, harass, torment and frame the LGBTQ and minority kids? And this is… funny?

OnstageBlog made a good point, that while the showrunner insists these marginalized groups may be the popular kids today - and the horrifying rate of LGBT teen suicide and homicide belies that - they might have chosen to make a show about THAT and not one where the “normal” kids mix up a Drano cocktail for them.

Because that’s… funny?

Oscars were announced, and Wonder Woman was snubbed. Visually impactful, well-acted, socially relevant themes, groundbreaking in many ways… but not as Oscar-worthy as yet another World War II drama starring white men. (Which one do I mean? Take your pick; two of them are nominated and several slots left open.)

The Mary Sue nailed it: “At this point, we all know what an Oscar-bait film looks like: a historical drama helmed by a white man, filmed with self-conscious gravitas.”  Let’s discuss diversity for Latinx while we’re at it.

If not best picture, how about best director? Patty Jenkins overturned every expectation on Wonder Woman, a movie even the studio thought would flop and instead changed the entire subgenre. There’s been a lot of discussion on this, with mostly men saying, “Yeah, it was good and all, but Oscar?”

And a lot of women shouting, “Do you understand what that movie MEANS to us?” We are half the human population, and the movies speaking to us are damn few.

Mary Sue pointed out that Wonder Woman was a profoundly female film with a heroine who fights because she believes in the essential goodness of humanity, while Logan is a “hyper-violent film about a disillusioned man in a Western-inspired dystopia.” Guess which one got a nomination.

Meanwhile, progress is made, however slow. Greta Gerwig is nominated for Lady Bird, and Jordan Peele for Get Out. They are the fifth woman and fifth African-American to be nominated for best director in 90 years. Also breaking barriers: Rachel Morrison is the first woman EVER nominated for cinematography (Mudbound). Daniel Kaluuya nominated for best actor for Get Out, and if you want to see his face at the announcement, click the meme roundup from Time.

(Seriously, check out the memes. Love it. As I also love this ad for the Oscars where poor Jimmy Kimmel is haunted by last year’s best-picture error.)

Meanwhile, The Shape of Water is leading the nominations. I will reserve judgment until I finally see it, but frankly, the promos didn’t interest me until everyone I know started singing its praises. Logan is nominated for adapted screenplay, the first comic book movie to gain that recognition. The Post got best picture and of course Meryl Streep, but no best director for Steven Spielberg and nothing for Tom Hanks.

Also snubbed: We saw only a few tech noms for Beauty and the Beast. I wasn’t about to put it up for best picture, but the cinematography was amazing and I frankly expected a best song nom, if only because the pickings were slim this year and Alan Menken knows what he’s doing. Still, “Evermore” just isn’t in the same category as “If I Can’t Love Her.” Which couldn’t have been nominated. Dammit.

Mudbound got a few noms for acting, screenplay and song, but fell short of best picture. Scuttlebut is that the Academy thinks it belongs in the Emmys because it’s produced by Netflix, even though it was released in theaters. Did we need further evidence that the Academy is stuffy and slow to adapt to the changing world? Nah.

Also… The Boss Baby? Really?

• It may be exceedingly local, but I think it’s nifty that poet Tiana Clark is joining the SIUE MFA program for creative writing. Clark is a Gwendolyn Brooks Award winner, among other awards and honors, and a graduate of Tennessee State and Vanderbilt. The new MFA program at the university is growing by leaps and bounds.

Early reviews of The Alienist are mixed. I fought my way through the novel, which was very interesting but a bit draggy in the middle of its 600 pages. It’s basically Criminal Minds: Victorian-Era New York, if I recall correctly, and a number of somewhat-interesting secondary characters involved in an intriguing mystery. Of course, I thought it should be a movie, but apparently all movies are now TV shows or miniseries and I’m old.

• The Producers Guild of America has a code of anti-harassment rules. Somehow, nobody has ever actually used them on the set of a major motion picture. Until now: Wonder Woman 2 will be adopting the anti-harassment code, after the departure of Brett Ratner as producer following allegations of sexual harassment including involuntary outing of Ellen Page during production of X-Men: The Last Stand. WW star Gal Godot apparently stated she would not return unless Ratner was out.

• Speaking of harassment, MPR News completed a long-running investigation into Garrison Keillor that ought to put rest to the ongoing belief that he lost his job just for accidentally touching a woman’s bare back.

Neil Diamond is retiring from touring after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. At age 76, Diamond was in the middle of his 50th anniversary tour when diagnosed. Dozens of gold and platinum records, 56 singles on the top 100 Billboard, nominated for 13 Grammys (only winning once, not including this year’s upcoming lifetime achievement award).

• I’m sure we’re all saddened that Holmes & Watson is being delayed from summer to December for release. Wait, you never heard of it? Me neither, and after seeing that it is written and directed by Etan Cohen and stars Will Farrell as Holmes and John C. Reilly as Watson, I think I’m out. Guys, there was a good bit of humor to RDJ’s take on Sherlock, but that doesn’t mean Holmes is slapstick-stupid. I don’t mind parody and love well-written satire - see Clue or Galaxy Quest for examples - but dumbing Holmes down to Farrell-Reilly level is not in my wheelhouse.

Speaking of bad ideas: among the movies now slated for 2018 releases is Slender Man, attempting to exploit a real-life horrifying attempted murder of a teenage girl by two mentally ill classmates for cheap slasher thrills. I’m not even linking to the film.

 

RIP

Ursula K. LeGuin, 88, whose works “plucked truth from fantasy,” so sayeth NPR. More than 20 novels and piles of short stories, delving into class divisions and feminist theory through science fiction and fantasy. Here, read her National Book Award speech about the importance of books - of art - as more than a financial commodity.

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom - poets, visionaries - realists of a larger reality.”

Jack Ketchum, 71, dark horror writer mentored by Robert Bloch. His work was not for the faint of heart - try Off Season and see if you can make it through - but the man born as Dallas Mayr was one of the best at scaring the bejesus out of you. As one commenter put it, “Off Season makes the clown from It cry for its mommy.” Or as author Jeff Strand put it, “RIP to one of the very best, Jack Ketchum. Now at peace, which is more than you can say for any of his characters.”

Jeremy Inkel, 34, musician with Front Line Assembly since 2005. Complications of asthma, according to his father. Previously played for Left Spine Down.

• Jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, 78, activist against apartheid and the “father of south African jazz.” His “Soweto Blues” became synonymous with the anti-apartheid movement.

Naomi Parker Fraley, 96, but you know her as Rosie the Riveter from the famous poster. Read the link for a long history of this image, which became much more than a war promotion. Fraley worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda in the machine shop. After the war, she was a waitress, later married and had a family, and her identity as the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter was unknown for decades due to a mis-captioned photo until 2011.

Connie Sawyer, 105, the oldest working actress in Hollywood. Her credits range from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Murder She Wrote to Seinfeld to NCIS: Los Angeles. She was one of the documentary-couple women in When Harry Met Sally, among her 144 credits, where she often played the snarky old lady in show after show after show.

 

Trailer Park

Deep sigh. The next trailer has dropped for Pacific Rim Uprising, which does nothing to tell me I won’t have exactly the same issues with the sequel as I did with the original. Yet, since I am married to the biggest kaiju fan in the western hemisphere, I shall be dragged to it, kicking and screaming.

• Netflix dropped the trailer for its new crime anthology Seven Seconds, which apparently looks for human stories behind the headlines of modern-day crime. It appears to be a single case per season, I think? And it’s starting off with a doozy.

 

Opening this weekend:

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure - 43 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

• Hostiles - 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes


Monday-ish Linkspam

No, I’m not getting into The Last Jedi. Nope, not at all.

Why should I, when everyone else has done so already? And better than I could.

So I’m not going to talk about it. Yet.

Joeheller1
Cartoon by Joe Heller

• It’s Golden Globes time! The 75th Golden Globe Awards have an interesting lineup, including movies that haven’t come out yet. Drama nominees include Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The musical/comedy nominees include The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman, Lady Bird and I, Tonya.

Yeah, notice that? Get Out is a comedy now. Um, did they watch it? Horror, maybe. Biting social commentary disguised as a thriller? Definitely. Comedy? They were not watching the same movie as I. At least Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for his performance, although he’s up against Steve Carell, James Franco and Hugh Jackman, who are all better known and in actual comedies/musicals. I’ve rarely seen such a genre/film mismatch, and it’s well-known that director Jordan Peele (who was NOT nominated) has made his opinion clear.

Ridley Scott is nominated for All the Money in The World, which hasn’t come out yet and is controversial since Kevin Spacey was replaced at the last minute by Christopher Plummer due to accusations of sexual assault. House of Cards is notably absent from the nomination list for television.

Guillermo del Toro is nominated for The Shape of Water, which just came out. Martin McDonaugh is nominated for Three Billboards, which just came out. Steven Spielberg is nominated for The Post, which we won’t see here until Jan. 12. Christopher Nolan is nominated for Dunkirk, which is the sole not-December movie on the list.

On the TV side: no surprises. Dramas include The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, This is Us, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. Comedies include black-ish, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, SMILF and Will & Grace.

If you’re keeping count, The Shape of Water has the most nominations with seven, while The Post and Three Billboards have six. Read the full list here.

• Stephen Sondheim will receive the 2017 St. Louis Literary Award, the first musical lyricist to be named since the award’s inception in 1967. The West Side Story lyricist and composer won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. He is currently working on a new play titled Bunuel.

• Nominations for the Dragon Award are now open! Deadline is July 20, 2018; publication date is July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. (Sadly, that knocks out my Moonlight Sonata, because nobody loves me… SNIFF.) Go nominate the best book you’ve read this year. Awards make authors happy and tell readers to buy our shit. These are good things.

• Proving once again that Chris Evans actually IS Captain America, the actor invited the Tennessee boy whose tearful anti-bullying vid has gone viral to attend the Avengers premiere with his mom. If you haven’t seen it, the kid from Knoxville has milk poured on his head and called ugly because he has head scars - from a tumor operation. Among the heroes - which apparently does not include the school staff ignoring such vicious cruelty - is Mark Hammill, who reached out to the boy along with Mark Ruffalo, Millie Bobby Brown, Greg Grunberg and others. Everyone from Donna Murphy to Ed Asner to Idina Menzel.

(And then it went wide that the kid’s mom is a screaming racist based on her Instagram account, only THEN it turned out that Instagram was a fake account operated by a teenager who thought it would be hilarious to paint the kid’s mom as a horrible racist and people who ran with that are now having to retract it except it’s too late and this is why we can’t have nice things.)

• You thought it was just internet trolling when you heard about the Disney World gondolas, didn’t you? Nope! It’s true. The Disney Skyliner will connect theme parks and hotels through the skies of Orlando, with Caribbean Beach Resort as the hub. There will be stations at Pop Century, Art of Animation and Hollywood Studios, as well as the much-preferred International Gateway at Epcot. Launch date is as yet unknown. I personally can’t wait, although the height-phobic may have concerns…

 

Trailer Park

• Certainly the new trailer for Ready Player One has people in a tizzy. I will confess some reservations about this film: while The Matrix showed us that a fantasy life taken to extremes leads to the degradation of human intellect and evolution, Ready Player One’s first trailer seemed to posit that when real life sucks, just escape into videogames and everything will be cool because it has a lot of nifty 80s nostalgia. This trailer shows a bit more Hunger Games-style rebellion - bread and circuses is as old as the Roman Empire, after all, with the Oasis standing in for the part of the circuses, of course. Is this movie about people tired of being mistreated and living in squalor, pacified only by a fantasy life? Or is it about a nifty videogame that is their only escape and their efforts to save it? Um.

• Natalie Portman stars in the SF action film Annihilation, which seems to create a Del Toro-like world inside our world and she must science it to save her husband. I think. Looks nifty, with bonus points for multiple women characters who actually speak to each other. When a movie passes Bechdel in the freaking trailer, I pay attention. 

Jessica Jones is back! Look, I was a fan from Alias days, and even suffered through The Pulse until it died a merciful death. Now the queen of snark is back, with apparently a new fella, all new bad habits, and smashing people into glass. As one does.

• Hoo boy. The 15:17 to Paris is a Clint Eastwood film about the three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack on a French train in 2015. Starring those actual three guys. Um. Look, heroes and soldiers don’t necessarily make good actors. Take it from one who went through years of theatrical training to discover that not everyone has the gift. Also: Eastwood is not exactly the lightest touch with controversial topics, so I’m not expecting a nuanced vision here.


You can see 'Justice League' with a clear conscience

Like many of you, I was leery of Justice League. After the dull, morose betrayal of Superman in Man of Steel and its nonsensical and annoying continuance in Batman v. Superman, I was not at all eager to watch Zack Synder take a third shot at my favorite superhero, even if he was dead.

This was compounded by terrible reviews, the horrifying picture of Amazons in leather bikinis, reports of annoying upskirt shots of Wonder Woman and the development hell involving changing directors in midstream (albeit to one whose work I generally enjoy much more.) 

I am happy to report that Justice League is much better than its reviews, and most of those reports appear to be unfounded. While far from flawless, you can see it with a clear conscience and the exploitation is, at least, evenhanded.

First, let's deal with the sexism angle. I read about upskirt shots and was actually watching for it, and yet saw almost nothing like that - in fact, both my husband and I wondered if we were watching the same film about which we had read so much. There is one annoying shot of Diana in leather pants from the rear, and the costume designer put her in a stupidly low-cut shirt for her meeting with Cyborg that made me wonder if she was planning to go clubbing later.

But her fighting style, displayed in Batman v. Superman and honed in Wonder Woman, was thankfully in its best form here. She is clearly the best and most useful fighter of the group, truly the heart of the team, and she is shot (and for the most part treated) as the equal of any of the men. Far from disappearing into background eye candy, she's the equal of Batman and treated as such by the others - perhaps with more respect than Bats.

As for the leather bikinis, they're there. And they're annoying. But they're also background. Why they chose to advertise those idiot outfits in publicity shots I can't imagine, because the warrior Amazons do their fighting powerfully and in their battle armor - the same costumes they wore in Wonder Woman. Hippolyta is fully dressed, folks. This was the argument I had when the complaints arose about the Leather Goddesses of Phobos - I mean Themiscyra: While male heroes are also objectified, they get to wear clothes (and usually armor) when fighting, and so should the Amazons. Fortunately, they do. 

And speaking of objectification... we have multiple shirtless shots of Aquaman, Batman, and Superman. If anything, I think the balance of objectification tilted heavily to the male (though they had the numerical advantage in that there's only one woman on the team). That's not to say objectification is good, but let's not pretend that superheroes have ever been realistic depictions of the human form. There is a beauty to the human body, and God knows there's plenty of that in these films. The key is whether the character is being forced to do unnatural things or wear unnatural/uncharacteristic/impractical clothing solely to attract a sexual gaze, and that is generally not the case.

(Except Diana really shouldn't wear heels. But we will never convince Hollywood that a back spin kick is really hard in heels.)

Justiceleague

Here's the problem: the villain was dull as dishwater, and the overall plot was standard comic-book-dumb. Stop me if you've heard this one before: an otherworldly super-strong (usually horned) villain wants to destroy the world with a magic MacGuffin! Or at least take it over and remake it in a bad way. He has a bunch of nameless scary-looking henchcritters who have no mind or personality (so it's okay to kill them) and he has absolutely no personality whatsoever, speaking in dull cliches. Pick your comic book movie, and I've probably described it. Whatshisname from Justice League brings absolutely nothing of interest to the movie, and his scenes were the big drag.

Fortunately, the Justice Leaguers more than made up for him. Their interaction was fun, origin stories were dispensed with in a handy yet satisfying fashion, and you can see Joss Whedon's hand in the dialogue. This may be a minus for some who don't appreciate Whedon, but I find the snark a vast improvement over the dull, meandering and occasionally infuriating Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman. 

Someone asked me if I would have enjoyed it as much if three delightfully fit gentlemen had not wandered through the story occasionally half-clad. Honestly, I really would. A hot guy is still boring without a personality, no matter what he looks like without a shirt. I'm a fan of dialogue, and I appreciate snark and personality in characterization. Each character was well-played - I've enjoyed Affleck as the Bat, especially since he's not playing a brand-new Batman, but one with a few scars and losses merely hinted over the years. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman hardly needs lauding beyond the applause she's already received.

But the rest of the cast also stepped up. Jason Momoa created a new vision of Aquaman that I really enjoyed, with or without shirt (though I hear his best scene was when I had stepped out for the restroom, dammit). I wasn't a fan of Ray Fisher's mopey Cyborg at first, but he grew on me as he grew out of his initial characterization. And Ezra Miller as the Flash fulfilled comic relief with a twist of serious pain very well; he could easily have been a one-note laugh track as he's the excited young kid (read: Spider-Man) in a group of battle-worn grownups, but his backstory gave us a real history he handled well in his scenes with his father. 

(Note: there are multiple moments or lines from the trailers that are not present in the film. That's what we get for $25 million worth of reshoots.)

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Sadly, the supporting cast has little to do: Hippolyta has her big sequence and disappears, and Lois Lane and Martha Kent are there mostly to look sad after the events of Batman vs. Superman. I debated whether to include my gripes about the Big Plot Twist that is basically the worst-kept secret of the year: of course Superman comes back, and there's some issues surrounding that, but DUH we all read the comics.

And that's one of my biggest gripes with the previous movie: they pulled the pin on Doomsday way too soon, before we really had much time to get attached to Superman (or much reason to, the way Snyder was writing and directing him). The Death of Superman had real impact at the time, but now, every hero who "dies" comes back again, and we knew right up to the end of BvS that he would be back. This movie seems to imply that the world sucks and all hope has gone out of the world because Superman was dead, and it would return with his return - playing further in the Messianic allegory drawn from the comics and the original Gore Vidal script in 1978.

But Snyder's treatment of Superman in the past two movies never really let us buy into him as a beacon of hope, so it's hard to see his return as the catharsis the movie wants it to be. Unfortunately, it also underlines that Lois continues to be solely a vessel for Superman, reduced only to her grief and defined entirely by him. Amy Adams is a fine actress and deserves better, as does Diane Lane, who is continually underused as Martha Kent. 

Fortunately, Henry Cavill finally got the chance to play the real Superman, not the morose shadow he's been forced to play for two movies now. A friend of mine wrote that Christopher Reeve's Superman was the Clark Kent who was raised by New Deal Democrats, and Cavill's Superman was the Clark Kent raised by Ayn Rand red-state Republicans. I leave the politics for others to debate, but given Snyder's publicly-avowed fondness for Randian philosophy and his previous superhero work, I think there's definite truth to this analysis. 

Here, however, Superman is the Superman I knew from the Reeve films, and my father knew from the TV series. There's no conflict about whether to hide or be a hero, no muddled questioning whether to let people die when he could save them - I mean, seriously? There's more than a hint of Reeve in Cavill's performance here, but also his own gravitas. Congrats, Henry, we always knew you could do it. (And no, you can't tell that they had to CGI his mustache out because the other movie he was filming wouldn't agree to let him shave it and really, fans can argue about anything.)

END SPOILERS

One of my biggest complaints about superhero films is the pervasiveness of artificial conflict. I find it lazy writing for a superhero film to set the heroes against each other for no reason other than "it would be cool." Conflict is necessary in all stories, but it should come organically, from real issues and problems, not just to set up a nifty fight scene.

I was annoyed for much of Avengers because so much of it was constructed to put the heroes at odds with each other for no actual reason. There was zip-all reason for Thor and Captain America to fight except that fanboys would think it was cool to see the hammer hit the shield. That's it. So they tortured the plotline into a pretzel to make that happen. Again and again we have heroes thrown together and fight, only to make up for no reason, just so that we can see a cool fight.

This was worst in Batman vs. Superman, of course, where the entire premise depended on a conflict between these two heroes and no one, including the writers, could come up with a plausible reason why this would happen - or why they would make up at the end. (That was just stupid.) 

This is where Justice League really made me happy. There's some interpersonal friction because superheroes = extreme personalities, and because Bruce sucks with people. Fortunately, Bruce knows that he sucks at peopling, and more importantly, the script knows this, and it shows. But the heroes realize that the real threat is our Boring-Ass Villain, and they work together. You know, like heroes. At the end, it seems clear they're hoping for more stories, and I'd definitely sign up for those.

In short (too late), if you like superhero movies, or comics, or Superman, or Batman, or fun dialogue, or popcorn, you can see Justice League with a clear conscience and without worrying about annoying, problematic gender roles. Really. 

 

 

Monday Linkspam

• A Marvel editor was harassed online because she dared to post a selfie of herself and several coworkers grabbing milkshakes. This led to verbal abuse, being blamed for all of Marvel’s financial woes, complaints about “fake geek girls” (hey dicks, they WORK FOR MARVEL unlike you) and, of course, the requisite sexual innuendos and rape threats. This is why we can’t have nice things.

• Speaking of Marvel, here’s why Agent Carter was cancelled. And it was a stupid reason. However, the linked story reminds us that in comics, nobody dies forever. As I said elsewhere, I don’t care if we have to use the Nullifier balanced on the Silver Surfer’s board powered by Iron Man’s arc reactor to bring her back, I want more Peggy.

• Nicholas Meyer is apparently working on a miniseries about Khan Noonien Singh. Few details seem to be available, except that it’s a prequel limited series on Ceti Alpha V between “Space Seed” and the events of Wrath of Khan. There have been a few books about this time, of course, but the movies and TV shows seem to ignore the rich complexity of the tie-in novels. I’ve always thought Imzadi by Peter David would make a hell of a movie, as would Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno or Final Frontier and Best Destiny by Diane Carey. I can tell you that Julia Ecklar’s The Kobayashi Maru does a far better job with that backstory than AbramsTrek ever could.

• Congratulations to the finalists for the World Fantasy Awards, which will be presented in November.

• Confession: In junior high, I read Sweet Valley High books. I thought that was what high school might be like. Now there’s going to be a movie. This could be quite awful, or it could be awesome: writer Kirsten Smith wrote 10 Things I Hate About You, a charming adaptation of Taming of the Shrew for ‘90s teens, and I loved it in spite of myself. We shall file this under Please Don’t Suck.

The latest from the set of Star Trek Discovery is that they inexplicably have outlawed the word “God.” Gene Roddenberry’s atheism was apparent in his worldbuilding and as a constant theme in the early episodes, but as this piece points out, colloquial language is not the same as magically resurrecting Christianity in the 22nd century. As for “No one says God in space,” that would be a shock to Dr. McCoy, whose second-most-common phrase was, “For God’s sake, man!” (Usually directed at Spock.) P.S. I agree with The Mary Sue: the best Trek - by a nose - is Deep Space Nine, which dealt directly with religion as a recurring theme, both for good and for ill. There are good stories and important allegories to be found in this subject.

• Apparently there was a major death on Game of Thrones this week. Don’t click on the link unless you’re ready to be spoiled. (I don’t watch, so it didn’t bother me.)

Marlee Matlin joins Quantico in its third season as a former FBI agent deafened by a bomb. Quantico has a new showrunner as well, which intrigues me into considering returning. I loved the first season, but only made it a few episodes into season two before I was bored senseless.

RIP Jeanne Moreau, described by AP as the “femme fatale of the French New Wave” or more succinctly, “the French Bette Davis.” Moreau’s career began in the 1960s and extended into her sunset years, with more than 100 films and an honorary Oscar in 1998.

RIP Granny - I mean, June Foray, voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Witch Hazel, Cindy Lou Who and, of course, Granny. Foray was “the first lady of voice acting” and helped create the Annie Awards and the animated-feature Oscar.

• Dammit dammit dammit, RIP Sam Shepard, one of the true greats of both stage and screen. Shepard was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who was also a talented and nuanced actor. He brought solid gravitas to roles in serious films like Blackhawk Down, The Pelican Brief and The Right Stuff (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), fun films like Steel Magnolias, and even tripe like The Notebook, which was greatly improved by his presence. Read Variety’s obituary for an in-depth appreciation of the two sides of Shepard’s career. I’m truly heartsick by his loss, since even at 73, he could still produce art. We are all the lesser for his death.

I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster. … The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning. That’s genius.” — Sam Shepard

 

Trailer Park:

• A longer trailer for IT is up, with more hints at changes from the original story, heightened creepiness and some jump scares. One more for the category of Please Don't Suck...

Anna Paquin stars in the new series Bellevue, a town with secrets - and problems. Paquin plays a detective struggling to solve a missing-child case with ties to the past. Check out the teaser here.

• Overpopulation means a one-child policy worldwide, like China’s. Only a family with seven identical daughters decides to hide, and they take turns being their one identity in public. Until someone catches on…. Noomi Rapace plays all seven in this Netflix series, What Happened to Monday.

• You knew they were remaking Flatliners, right? That movie is one of my all-time guilty pleasures, and I’m not too sure about recapturing that lightning in a bottle with fancier effects. However, the director was responsible for the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so let’s see…

• American Horror Story is going to tackle politics in its next weird-ass season, titled Cult. I gave up on AHS a few seasons ago, and hadn’t heard much buzz about last season’s Roanoke. I haven’t decided if I will give it another go… Teaser and details (kinda) are here.

• Final trailer for Detroit is even more intense than the last two, which takes some doing. I know everyone’s about Dunkirk these days, but this is the history that I’m waiting to see on the big screen.

 


Comic-Con Edition!

Note: This post did not run last Monday due to technical snafus. Those responsible have been sacked. 

 

There was a little shindig in San Diego last weekend, and you might’ve heard a few things from it.

Okay, you heard a lot from it. Here’s a rundown of what I heard, and it won’t include everything, because nobody could possibly contain the hugeness of SDCC in one column without boring the crap out of you. So consider this the highlights reel.

• Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, an interesting choice as long as I don’t think about that being 27 years ago. It’s set before Iron Man, she’ll face the Skrulls, and Nick Fury will have two eyes. Note: First Marvel movie with a female lead. Seriously, it’s just embarrassing that it took this long. (Black Widow anyone??)

• We didn’t get a new Black Panther trailer (unless I missed it), but we did get a nifty poster and they showed exclusive footage I don’t have. io9 gives us a shot-by-shot recap, however. Can we get this movie already?

• Speaking of things we didn’t get, Infinity War footage was shown at D23 and at Comic-Con and they must be strip-searching the attendees, because it’s not online yet.

• Also from Marvel: Ant-Man and the Wasp is the sequel, so apparently they’ll let women do something except stomp their feet and pout this time. Michelle Pfeiffer will play Janet Van Dyne, which makes me happy, and Laurence Fishburne is Bill Foster.

• Speaking of sequels, Wonder Woman is getting one, surprising absolutely no one since it’s on track to be the highest-grossing movie of the summer and is already the third-biggest Warner Bros. movie of all time.* She’ll face off against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and somehow Chris Pine is involved, which is quite a trick if you watched the first one. They didn’t sign director Patty Jenkins to more than one film, but they’re reportedly working with her, and if they know what’s good for them, they’ll back up a Brinks truck to keep her. Give Wonder Woman to Zack Snyder and we will riot.

Note: Wonder Woman is also the second-highest gross of the year, after Beauty and the Beast - also a female protagonist. As ridiculous as it seems, we still need to wave these flags around to convince Hollywood that yes, women-centered movies and even *gasp* women-directed movies make money. DUH.

The Verge details why making the upcoming Flash movie as “Flashpoint” is probably a terrible idea.

• Speaking of bad ideas, we’re getting not one but two sequels to Suicide Squad, even though no one liked it. We get one direct sequel, and one focusing on manic-pixie Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker, because that sounds like fun. That’s not including Gotham City Sirens.

• And they’re going to let Todd McFarlane make another Spawn movie. For reasons.

• Was Decker a replicant in Blade Runner? Harrison Ford answers the question! Tee hee. Also: Have a brief history of everything that happened between the two movies. Or you could just go watch the new one and hope Ridley Scott has figured out how to make it right the first time… oooh, am I in trouble now? Sorry, I chalk Blade Runner up as overrated and problematic on many levels, though I will maintain an open mind as I approach the new one. *ducks rotten tomatoes*

• Reality collides with fantasy as U.S. Sen. John Lewis led a march through Comic-Con following his panel about his Eisner-winning autobiographical graphic novels, titled March. According to news reports, he encouraged young people (including the students in the front row) to remain optimistic and fight for change.

• DC is giving Batgirl to Joss Whedon, though no word yet on whether she’ll be Barbara or Betty or someone else. Meanwhile, that weird pre-Superman Krypton series gets more details.

• Buried in all the movie hoopla, there was actually some stuff about comics. Such as the Eisner Awards, with top honors to Black Hammer, The Vision and Saga. Here’s the full list.

Here, have the cosplay.

 

Trailer Park:

Thor: Ragnarok shows us a bit more than Thor facing down our pal the Hulk in a fighting ring for some reason, and proves that every major enemy of Thor’s will wear silly headgear. Hulk talks, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum chew the scenery, fun will be had.

• Another Justice League trailer heavily features Wonder Woman, because DC isn’t entirely populated with idiots. It’s interesting and action-y with little snippets from each of the team members besides Bats and Diana, though the barely-seen villain is boring as hell. “This world will fall” - oh, again? I kind of miss the days when Lex Luthor was planning a nuclear land scam - at least it was creative. When it says “Superman was a beacon to the world… he made [people] see the best parts of themselves,” I had to yell, “Not the way you idiots wrote him!” Yes, I’m still bitter. Here, have a poster.

Stranger Things season 2 trailer is geektastic and nicely creepy, though I can’t really judge how it compares since I still haven’t seen the first season. Yeah, yeah, I know. CultureGeek Jr. is really on me about it…

• Sigourney Weaver gets to be the bad guy in Defenders, which reminds me that I have a second season of Daredevil to catch up (though I understand I can skip Iron Fist, and P.S. he’s getting a new showrunner plus Misty Knight, who is never not awesome.) With bonus Scott Glenn! P.S. I love Jessica Jones, and love that they don’t seem to be blunting her at all the way they did in the comics.

• I have been instructed that I am required to watch Westworld, which is a problem since it is an HBO show and I am just a poor working blogger who can’t afford to fork over $40 a season. However, big fans of the show should enjoy this funky-awesome creepy-cheerful trailer for Season 2.

• Star Trek! Star Trek! Star Trek! Since Star Trek Discovery is in the Prime universe, I can actually dare to hope this one is for real even if this new trailer seems a little grimdark for the Trek world. They’re certainly not skimping on the production values, and so far I’m not hating anyone. I still can’t figure out who’s the captain and who’s the main character, since those are apparently no longer the same person, and Burnham is actually Spock’s adoptive sister? (That guy has a lot of relatives…) I’m sincerely hoping more of an ensemble feel develops, since I think Trek works best when it doesn’t lock itself into the same three characters’ arcs. I subscribed to CBS Go for this damn thing (kicking and screaming), so it had better not suck. Panel writeup here.

• Steven Spielberg paints an unusually grim future of an overcrowded Earth where everyone escapes from reality into VR videogames as an ode to the ‘80s in Ready Player One. Or something. I think. It’s a nifty premise, if a little disturbing - shades of Talos IV, if you are nerdy enough to get my reference.

• The trailer for Supergirl Season 3 looks a touch darker, with Supergirl apparently thinking of giving up her secret identity (and have we finally spied Lex, albeit with hair?) We only get 10 seconds of Alex, but she is so awesome in it, I can’t complain.

• Someone said that the new Walking Dead trailer shows war is coming to the apocalypse. Have they been watching for the past seven seasons? I admit I gave up on it last season, but I suppose I will watch the premiere and see if story returns to my favorite zombie future, or whether it’s still mired in torture porn as horror. I would like to be scared or fascinated again - I’ll take either over “pissed off.” Please? Meanwhile, Robert Kirkman will eventually end the comic book, but hasn’t set a date yet, so get a grip, everybody. io9’s report on the Walking Dead panel is amusing, however:  for example, Andrew Lincoln doesn’t get why everyone makes fun of the way he says “Carl.” Frankly, me either, Andrew - you’re doing pretty damn well for a Brit playing a southern-fried deputy.

• Maybe it’s Bryan Singer nostalgia, but I am unreasonably interested in The Gifted. It looks like it might have returned the X-Men to their initial foundations as allegory for civil rights, with some characters I actually wouldn’t mind following. Can it be sustained through a series as opposed to a film? We shall see…

• I admit, I was not entirely sold on the idea of Bright, a weird pastiche of Alien Nation with the premise of damn near every urban fantasy of the last ten years. I am also a little put off by the opening of this new trailer, in which Will Smith dispatches a fairy with a broom and someone uses the word “nuke-u-lar.” However, it looks like high production values, a touch of grit and Netflix’s now-trademark intensity. I am intrigued enough to give it a try.

Less interesting to me, but you may want to hear from them:

Marvel’s Inhumans

Kingsman: Golden Circle

The Orville (please no)

Pacific Rim: Uprising (teaser, with bonus plot holes this time!)

 

* I always have to put an asterisk after these records, because movie ticket prices rise at an exponential rate and it’s disingenuous at best to compare Wonder Woman with Harry Potter or Dark Knight since tickets cost more now. But whatever - movie execs pay attention to these things, and it means we get more Wonder Woman.


Thursday-ish Linkspam

We’re back! It was a long vacation, but I thought of all of you quite often as I basked in the Florida sunshine… no, I didn’t. I’m totally lying.

I would like to give you the highlights in CultureGeek news while I was away, but I hear the voice of Inigo in my head: “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” So here’s the Inigo version:

 

Happy 62nd Birthday Disneyland! I was in the Florida version when this happened, but it’s still nifty. Disney Avenue has images from Disneyland’s opening day; if I remember childhood stories correctly, my father was there.

• I now get to name-drop my friend and fellow author Bryan Smith, whose star is on the rise as the grindhouse-pulp film 68 Kill based on his novel gains traction. Check out the trailer here on IFC Midnight, as it hits select theaters and On Demand Aug. 4.

RIP to Martin Landau, best known to me from his amazing, Oscar-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood; and, of course, to George Romero, father of the zombie subgenre, whom I had the good fortune to meet briefly in my own book tours.

And of course RIP to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who apparently committed suicide this week.

Brian Keene’s The Rising is probably the most influential zombie novel of the modern era, kickstarting reinvestment in the subgenre from its publication in 2003. What, you’ve read it? No, you haven’t. Because the author’s preferred edition includes about 30,000 words of additional scenes cut out of the original, now restored and can be yours for 99c. Limited time only. No, I’m not paid for the plug; I don’t even get a cut if you click through since I haven’t figured out how to make that work yet. It’s just that good. Be prepared to need a quick purchase of the sequel approximately 0.5 seconds after you finish the first one.

• Speaking of zombies, Robert Kirkman has decided to work toward the final chapter for the Grimes Gang - at least for the Walking Dead comic, if not the series. No one knows how Rick’s gonna die - I mean, how it’s all going to end.

The Emmy noms were announced, with big traction for The Handmaid’s Tale: I Keep Meaning To Watch That. Other noms went to The Crown, Stranger Things, House of Cards, This is Us, Westworld, Black-ish, Atlanta, and of course Saturday Night Live. I have been instructed that I am required to watch Westworld posthaste, but alas, it is on HBO and I’m just a poor working blogger.

• After decades playing Kermit the Frog, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire was fired by Muppets Studio. Plenty of folks immediately leaped on “principled artist crushed by evil Disney megacorp,” and at first both sides were being cagey about the reasons. Finally, Whitmire wrote on his personal blog that he was “the last samurai” keeping the Henson legacy afloat. According to others, he apparently has been demanding pay increases, first-class flights to and from home in Atlanta, a salary for his wife, etc. Brian Henson himself said he is in favor of handing the green felt over to new Muppeteer Matt Vogel. Read this bit from io9; it has some rough info about Whitmire blackballing young puppeteers and some harsh criticism from the Henson family. At the same time, fans feel like Disney both saved the Muppets by buying them, but without turning out quality entertainment - mostly repackaging and merchandising classic Muppets. (We shall not speak of the TV show that died under the weight of its own absurd premise.)

D23 was last weekend, and while this might once have been a convention just for devout wearers of mouse ears, now it foretells everything from the MCU to Star Wars, so people pay attention. Slashfilm has a good rundown of what’s coming from the Mouse, including Pixar films Coco, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4; Disney animated films Wreck-it Ralph 2 and Frozen 2/Olaf’s Frozen Adventure; live-action films like Lion King, Aladdin, Mary Poppins Returns, A Wrinkle in Time, Dumbo, Nutcracker and the Four Realms; and yeah, a little sci-fi sequel called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With bonus Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther… yeah. They’re busy.

Meanwhile, the theme parks will see some major changes. I could write a whole column about what’s good and bad in the upcoming alterations for Disney World and Disneyland, and since I was just there, I may as well write it. Tune in later. Extra notice for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (yay!) and the demise of the Great Movie Ride (boo!)

• Oh yeah, and they named the next Doctor. You might have heard something about it.

Doc

 

Trailer Park:

• New trailer for Blade Runner 2049, now with even more weird visuals and even less plot. Just like the original! Don’t hate, I plan to watch it again before th new one and see if somehow I missed what makes everyone love it in my first three viewings.

• New trailer for Wind River, the thriller with Elizabeth Olsen as a rookie FBI agent teaming up with rugged Jeremy Renner to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation.

• New, more action-y trailer for The Dark Tower. Confession: I read the first DT book when I was younger, and found it deadly dull. But everyone loves the series so much that I keep meaning to go back and try again. The trailers for this movie are definitely pushing me in that direction.

 

Didn’t more stuff happen? Yes. It was a long vacation. And SDCC is rolling in California, so be prepared for lots of nonsense on Monday. Stay cool!


Monday Linkspam

Polygon.com has the best analysis so far of why Wonder Woman is the best and most popular of the DCEU films, and it isn’t because Gal Gadot looks awesome in the leather swimsuit. Or even because she’s a kickass woman in a central role. (Side note: let’s quit with the damn memes arguing “Well, she wasn’t the FIRST…” Duh. We all know that. In the modern comic-film renaissance, there’s been a striking lack of female leads and you all know it, so stop undercutting it with pictures of 1990s Buffy and her lollipop.)

Instead, Polygon makes the point I’ve tried to make about the dour and ultimately head-scratching DCEU films so far: “Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad all espouse a fundamentally selfish worldview - where heroism is a test of self, not a service performed for other people.” It also details that this is the Zack Snyder viewpoint, he whose next project is rumored to be Atlas Shrugged: it is the Watchmen-like vision that distrusts selflessness, that argues coercion is more reliable than altruism.

When Christopher Reeve’s Superman is faced with General Zod hurting innocent bystanders and causing destruction on the streets of Metropolis, he fled to the Fortress of Solitude to draw Zod away from collateral damage - allowing people to think him a coward rather than risk innocents being hurt. When Snyder’s Superman faces the same situation, he doesn’t even seem to care, and the general public is seen as either hating the superheroes (out of jealousy, apparently) or worshipping him because he’s so superior to us.

That’s direct opposition to Diana, who presumes from the beginning that people are naturally good and compassionate, if only permitted the freedom to be so. Her heroism leads by example; she inspires ordinary humans to heroic acts. It’s worth noting that the best of the preceding DC films was The Dark Knight, which had the same damn premise. The Joker places his faith on human selfishness and depravity… and loses. Because in the end, humans were fundamentally decent, and his Randian nihilism fails. (Then the last Christopher Nolan movie threw that whole concept out the window, which is why I declare it doesn’t exist.)

I really don’t need to write a separate review of Wonder Woman at this point, though it will be part of my summer movie roundup. These pieces I’ve linked the past few weeks, and especially Polygon’s, say everything I wanted to say.

Star Trek Discovery sets its release date for Sept. 24! Wait, you mean I’ve subscribed to CBS Go all this time for nothing? (Not really, it still saves me buying whole seasons on iTunes for Criminal Minds and Madam Secretary. Ah, the trials of a streamer.) As announced previously, it will premiere on CBS broadcast that Sunday night, with the second episode immediately available on CBS All Access and weekly on Sundays thereafter. The 15-episode season will be separated into two chapters: the first eight episodes in the fall, seven more in the spring. Netflix will carry it, but only to countries outside U.S. and Canada. In the meantime, check out some early art and trailers. Repeat after me: Please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck…

In other Trek news, last week was Captain Picard Day, a holiday I might have celebrated with its own special post if the Real World Job had not been kicking our butts all over the internet last week. Good lord, I miss having a captain who can help us think about the human experience with his perfect delivery (and good writing). “Starfleet was founded to seek out new life, well, there it sits!” SyFyLys comes up with the more bizarre heroics of everyone’s favorite captain, while I prefer the entirety of “Measure of a Man,” folks. Go on, go watch it.

“Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to hear these wonderful speeches of yours.”

• Jezebel amuses the hell out of me by detailing the many ways shark movies get nature and basic physics wrong. Go Bruce! We were thinking of seeing 47 Meters Down, just for giggles, but plans changed. Anyone seen it and want to report? (And no, it won’t be as good as Jaws, because nothing ever is…)

• io9 puts together a decent list of science fiction and fantasy novels that changed speculative fiction forever. Of course it’s missing plenty of important books, including 1984, The Mists of Avalon, freaking Frankenstein…. I’d definitely argue that Ms. Shelley’s masterpiece should be included in place of Dhalgren for sheer influence. There are nearly 1200 comments at press time, so I’m guessing others had a few suggestions. #geekfight

• Happy (belated) Father’s Day to the geeky dads out there! Here’s a collection of writer-dads and their offspring from the Los Angeles Times, including Stephen King and Joe Hill reading each others’ books. Hee. Hail to the Kings!

Kings

• This weekend’s movie outings were The Mummy and Cars 3. Shorthand: One is much more entertaining and charming than the other, and you can guess.

Look, Mummy is not nearly as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would suggest. I have suffered through much worse. I went into it expecting it to be awful, and already saddened about it because I was very excited about the Dark Universe franchise. It’s not awful, but it’s not great, either. Tom Cruise is in a role that needs to be charming to make up for the (script-required) amorality, and since he made his bones playing charming rakes, it’s odd that he utterly lacks charm here.

Other critics complained that it spent too much time setting up the Dark Universe; to me, that was the most fun. Russell Crowe as Jekyll/Hyde is pretty fun to watch, and it’s almost a disappointment when the mummy sidekicks show up, because they owe a lot more to The Walking Dead than Boris Karloff. There’s a cute shout-out to the Fraser/Weisz Mummy movies - blink and you miss it - and we had a big laugh and fistbump over it. But even that was almost a mistake, because it was simply a quick reminder that those movies were so much more fun than these.

The Mummy was a movie that could not decide whether it was a horror movie with action scenes, or an action movie with creepiness. Unfortunately, in trying to straddle the line between them, it failed at both. And yet I’d still rather watch it three times over before watching The Mummy 3, which does not exist.

On the other side, we have Cars 3, to which I was dragged kicking and screaming because CultureGeek Jr. is a huge Cars fan and was on furlough for the day. I don’t care for car racing in general, the first Cars movie was rather annoying to me, and I never saw the second for that reason.

Fortunately Cars 3 ignores the generally-disliked second installment altogether - even CultureGeek Jr. admits it was awful - and delivers a charming, entertaining film that actually had me laughing in several places. Nathan Fillion joins the cast as the new CEO of whoever owns Lightning (Owen Wilson) McQueen’s career, and there’s a good bit of nostalgia and sadness over the loss of the late Paul Newman in mourning for “Doc” Hudson.

Better yet, for the generally male-inclined Pixar films, a secondary female character takes center stage, and it’s a good bit of awesome. The “old” jokes might feel a bit weird when aimed at Wilson’s McQueen, since cars don’t exactly age and Wilson is all of 48. The ending is a nice twist, and while I saw it coming, it will be appreciated by the younger folk. Here’s a spoilery interview with Wilson; full of background but very spoilerrific, so be sure to read only after you go see it.

Which you should. Even if (like me) you are only a tepid Cars or Pixar watcher, if nothing else Cars 3 shows the massive gains made in Pixar’s animation. The visuals are striking - not just the races, but countryside scenes, backgrounds, scenic vistas… when none of the cars’ cartoon faces are talking, it’s easy to forget that this is an animated film. There's a level of detail unimagined when Pixar first started making movies, and that was my primary reservation about Pixar vs. Disney's own animated features; Pixar's visuals just weren't as interesting to me, up until Brave. Cars 3 takes it another step, folks. It's that good.

Alas, it looks like they may do a Cars 4. Unfortunately Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to quit when they’re ahead.

Meanwhile, the previews included Pixar’s Coco, which also had a full-length trailer for a holiday Frozen short. We usually don’t get trailers for the pre-movie shorts, and yes, Frozen writes its own rules, but it hints at a bit of Pixar hedging its bets - underscores heavily that the Frozen short will only be offered at Coco screenings. This was the first Coco trailer that really made me interested in seeing it, so I hope they are wrong about its potential.

RIP to Stephen Furst, best known for Animal House, Babylon 5 and St. Elsewhere; and to John G. Avildsen, director of Rocky, Lean on Me and the original Karate Kid movies. Sadly, we finally have some answers on Carrie Fisher’s death, and it seems her sobriety had faltered, but it may not have contributed to her death from sleep apnea-induced heart attack, if I’m understanding it correctly. Rest in peace, dear; you’re still our princess.

On the local scene...

• I'm happy to report that A Winter's Tale is a terrific outing for the always-stellar Shakespeare St. Louis, despite being one of the Bard's lesser efforts. It falls victim to the two great sins of Shakespeare as viewed through modern audiences: the "Shakespearean filler," in which we get long scenes of a side character being silly to pad out the run time while the other actors are getting ready backstage; and of minor characters excitedly discussing something important that happened offstage. I'm not going to criticize the writing of William Shakespeare 500 years later, but both of those stumbling blocks occur in A Winter's Tale. And yet it doesn't drag down the show; which is not the easiest to comprehend or the most popular of Shakespeare's plays.

Best of all, however, are the performances turned in by Rachel Christopher as Paulina and Cherie Corinne Rice as Queen Hermione. Both simply burn down the stage with their intensity in what is a very off-kilter play - neither full tragedy nor full comedy, but aspects of each. Christopher in particular is amazing as she faces down a king who has gone mad with jealousy and destroyed his family, and without fear she tells him the truth while all the men are cringing and cajoling. Rice portrays the queen with dignity and grace, while standing firm against injustice. But as I look back on it, it's Christopher who shines. She's had a few minor roles in motion pictures; here's hoping we see more of her beyond Shakespeare Glen. 

A Winter's Tale is performed nightly in Forest Park through June 25, except Tuesdays. 


Thursday Linkspam

• This year’s WWDC conference had a bunch of gifts for Apple fans. Business Insider has an interesting analysis: instead of flashy new projects (though there are a few of those), Apple is laying out a strategy for the next 10 years. Personally I don’t care about the iWatch or augmented reality. The HomePod interests me much more, as a lifelong Apple user with a full-house Apple system. MacOS and iOS updates, App Store update, lots of other toys (and an iMac Pro that makes me long for the budget to acquire a $5,000 desktop). Wired hits the highlights so you don’t have to watch all two hours of the presentation. I cannot confirm or deny that I may have done precisely that, while fast-forwarding through the iWatch and the deep-dive programmer stuff. 

Wonder Woman is the gift that keeps on giving. Did you know Gal Gadot did reshoots while five months pregnant? Enjoy some hilarious Tweets. Bustle explains why women are crying during the fight scenes - I didn’t, but it’s been explained that I’m heartless. More love for General Buttercup - er, Antiope. EW lists some suggested comics, but doesn’t include Trinity, so I can’t take it too seriously. io9 wisely wonders why Patty Jenkins isn’t contracted to a sequel yet when David Ayer was signed for one after making the disastrous Suicide Squad. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are confirmed for Justice League. Mashable takes a look at the Diana-Steve romance and how well it works. And enjoy these nifty posters.

• Lest we forget that badass women have been in movies/TV before without getting their credit, the Mary Sue takes a new look at Evie of the Mummy movies - at least, the ones who count. I have a whole rant on the O’Connells as a model for romantic partnership… and compiling those Wikipedia links now makes me want to watch all those movies again. I already knew the new Mummy movie couldn’t hold a candle to those, but its prospects look even worse than that. I almost feel sorry for Tom Cruise… But not all the reviews are bad.

• Speaking of sequels, Mary Poppins Returns is on its way, with Emily Blunt taking the not-inconsiderable task of following in Julie Andrew’s practically-perfect-in-every-way bootsteps. Lin-Manuel Miranda takes up the lamplighter’s role (and if there is no cameo by Dick Van Dyke, I will personally march on Main Street, I swear by my magic umbrella). I’m actually hopeful about this one; from the looks of it, the only person who wouldn’t like it would be P.L. Travers.

• Romance is alive! Well, in a dark and twisted kind of way. Batman proposed to Catwoman (again) in the latest Batman issue as part of the DC Rebirth. Somehow I doubt they will live happily ever after, since this is comics and ol’ Bruce has… issues. (See what I did there?) Mazel tov, Bruce and Selina. For now.

• I have quite enjoyed watching Luke Cage the past week and a half, binging it in several sessions while the characters troll each other on Twitter. CBR has a rundown on what did and didn’t work, and halfway I agree, but with several quibbles. I disagree that the series was too long and dialed back “because it’s still a Disney property”; uh, guys? Did you actually watch Jessica Jones with the running theme of mental (and physical) rape? Dialed back my ass.

Maxresdefault

I also strongly disagree that Mike Colter’s acting was a problem, though they’re dead-on about the inconsistency of Luke’s romances. He refuses a phone number from a nice, attractive woman he knows, then has a one-night stand with a total stranger, which then dissipates into thin air so he can romance Claire the Omnipresent Nurse, and did we all forget future wife Jessica Jones? Luke as a ladies’ man or Luke as grieving widower eschewing close relationships or Luke as serial monogamist - oh, make up your minds.

The music was actually hit or miss with me, but I fully recognize that my eclectic taste in music is not that of the wider world. Also: The only episode that didn’t work for me was the finale. The beatdown in the street with cops holding back the crowd was a tad too Lethal Weapon-dumb for me.

I’d really like to skip Iron Fist, though. Can I have two Jessica Jones and wait for the next season?

• Rest in peace, theater designer Mark Wilson. Wilson’s designs were seen at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Shakespeare in the Streets, Opera Theater of St. Louis and many others. If you saw a theatrical performance in St. Louis in recent years, odds are good you saw a Wilson design. He died last week in a tractor accident, and this year’s Shakespeare Festival run is dedicated to his memory.

• For locals here in the sunny metro-east, it looks to be a big weekend! There’s the Glen Carbon Homecoming and the Route 66 Festival. If I may be permitted a moment of self-indulgence, I will be signing at Afterwords Books in Edwardsville on Saturday along with eight other authors as part of the Blue Corridor Route 66 celebration. No, my work has nothing to do with Route 66, but I live here, so shut it.

In addition, U2 is coming to town. Troy is playing Rogue One with plenty of Star Wars fun (including lightsaber giveaways and demonstrations, free hot dogs, and more) in Tri-Township Park. Thunderbirds are go at Scott Air Force Base. And the Shakespeare Festival’s Winter’s Tale is rolling.

• Finally, look at some lovely images of Central Park shot by a New Jersey photographer with terrible insomnia. It’s like something from another time.


Monday Linkspam

Welcome to a mega-edition of CultureGeek Linkspam, since we took Memorial Day-Week off. What? There were brats to grill.

• Apple Computer held its WWDC keynote today, announcing a number of fun stuff. Among them: Amazon Prime finally comes to Apple TV; the older iMac model gets a boost and they premiered a new iMac Pro; the HomePod; software updates…. oh, just read it.

• A review of Wonder Woman is pending after a rewatch. In the meantime, it’s a clear hit, with more than $100 million domestic and another $125+ million foreign in the first weekend alone. Critics like it too. It’s the biggest opening for a female director ever, and I take some special notice that the record it obliterated belonged to Fifty Shades of Grey. Heh. Actual athletes were recruited to play the Amazons, including Crossfit champions, cyclists, equestriennes and professional fighters. Tor.com’s Keith DeCandido looks back at Lynda Carter as role model. Indian Country Today celebrates an actual Native American actor speaking actual Blackfoot to Wonder Woman in the film. And of course there is a sequel already planned: in America. I’d ask y’all to name her potential villain(s), but maybe we shouldn’t go there… Texts From Superheroes says hello to WW, and Thor admits Wonder Woman would kick his ass. (P.S. Check out this vision of Mr. Rogers wielding Thor’s hammer. No, seriously.)

• Since everything old is new again, Steven Spielberg’s production company is reviving the Animaniacs. This is good news if you were a fan; I was not, but I did not have the outright dislike of the show as I did, say, Rugrats. The article does point out that shows as old as Full House were quite popular in resurrection, and now we are seeing Will & Grace and Roseanne return, among others. Yes, Hollywood has run out of ideas, but zombie series of good work is still better than *shudder* reality TV.

• Speaking of the return of the ‘90s, Zima is back. For a limited time only. Yikes.

• In commemoration of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which CultureGeek Jr. gave enormous applause and the critics… disagree), check out the pictures and radio commercial of the 1967 launch of the Disneyland ride. Yo ho yo ho…. Yes, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek has seen it and a review is pending. Y’all, it’s summer. Things be busy.

• Cancel your plans for the weekend, because Orange is the New Black launches its next season after the trauma-inducing finale of last season. ScreenRant’s awesome Lauren Wethers details 15 OITNB characters you (and the writers) completely forgot.

• The story of the demise of Booksellers at Laurelwood, one of those marvelous anchor bookstores in Memphis, and how the phoenix is rising from the ashes. On the flip side, the New Yorker believes that Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookstores “are not built for people who actually read.” Apparently they’re like the world’s biggest airport bookstores: the same titles you’ll see in every bookstore. Only 200 titles in fiction, 3,000 in the whole store. The charity sale my church runs on a quarterly basis has a wider selection than the most comprehensive bookseller in the nation.

• Speaking of books, learn the true stories behind The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Raise your hand if you loved that book, dreamed of running away to live in a museum and embarked on a lifelong fascination with the works of Michelangelo. Just me? I was also quite fond of Elain Konigsburg’s debut novel, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

• Ever wonder what they put in the recording in Voyager I? Other than, “Hello Borg: Please Come Assimilate Us”? Find out here, as Carl Sagan’s team unpacked the whole of human history and culture.

• Locals: LouFest has added Snoop Dogg among others to its lineup. As I scan the list, I recognize Huey Lewis & The News and that’s it, because I am desperately uncool and old. However, they are celebrating Chuck Berry, which is awesome.

• Nerds of Color’s Denny Upkins reviews why Cassandra Cain is really Batman 2.0. Check out the many heroes of Gotham City…

• And in case you missed them, Annie Leibovitz did amazing portraits of the characters of The Last Jedi for a spread in Vanity Fair. I’m not sure how she does what she does, but I may spend a lifetime trying to learn it. Kathleen Kennedy says of Carrie Fisher: “Harrison (Ford) was front and center on VII, and Mark (Hamill) is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.” Sniffle.


Thursday Linkspam

Everyone has already posted their condolences on the death of Roger Moore, so I won’t try. Cancer sucks.

As usual, the debate of “who was the best Bond” arises as it does any time the Bond franchise is in the news, with the aura of a religious fervor and none shall be swayed. I won’t say Moore was my favorite Bond, but he was the first I saw, back when they re-ran Bond flicks in marathons every summer and I was watching them with my dad.

The Film Professor was partial to Sean Connery, of course, since he was the first and Film Professor saw them in the theater from the start. But Connery was a little too fond of smacking women around (and raping them). The linked analysis delves more extensively into it - and yes, 1960s movies based on post-WWII books, but let’s not pretend that we didn’t know what rape and lesbianism was in 1964. I barely understood either concept when I first watched Goldfinger, and yet I knew enough to know that scene was wrong in every way.

Still, Moore was my entry drug, and his suave enjoyment of his character gave me a fondness for the tropes of the series that lasts to this day. I count myself a solid Bond fan, with all the warts and glitches of the series acknowledged. I started catching them in the theater with Timothy Dalton (who doesn’t get enough credit for holding the franchise together through its hardest years) and every film since. Even Tomorrow Never Dies, which is the only one I refuse to ever watch again.

The surviving Bond actors (and Bond girls) gave their reactions in many ways, from Jane Seymour to Pierce Brosnan to Connery himself. But I thought it was Daniel Craig who gave the best eulogy. “Nobody does it better.”

Bonds
If you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit.

 

In other news…

• In case you’ve been asleep all day and didn’t see the interwebs until now, it’s the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars. I cannot share a story of seeing it in the theater, because I was two years old and my parents sensibly left me with a babysitter. But I’d be nuts not to acknowledge the impact it has had on science fiction, on filmmaking, on American popular culture, on the economy… You can Google the retrospectives as well as I can. But as much as George Lucas has taken it on the chin over the years, no one can deny he created something that spoke to nearly everyone, beyond the boundaries of genre, something ultimately bigger than himself. What more can we ask as artists?

Racist mouthbreathers are protesting the new Star Trek Discovery because *gasp* the captain is an Asian woman and the first officer is a black woman. Granted, any time someone tries to tie “fan reaction” to the comments on YouTube and Twitter, I am suspect. But worse is that the writers keep calling these idiots “Trekkies.” I challenge them to ask any of these genetically disadvantaged asshats calling Discovery “white genocide in space” (seriously??) whether they have ever actually seen an episode of Star Trek. The answer is no, because Trek pretty much pioneered diversity in mainstream science fiction before these morons were born. Therefore the word they are searching for is “troll,” not “Trekkie.”

RIP Lisa Spoonauer, best known as Caitlin in Kevin Smith’s raunchy low-budget surprise hit Clerks. In one respect Clerks is vile toilet humor, the sort of film you watch when the kids are in bed and you’re sure no one’s coming over. And yet it spoke to those of us slogging away behind mind-numbing cash registers in the 1990s, a slice of our own lives there in grainy black-and-white film. No one has yet said what caused Spoonauer’s death at the age of 44, but her Clerks castmates have given their condolences and remembered her as a skilled professional who helped shape the film that launched Smith’s career.

• Book nerds who are wondering what the latest Amazon-vs.-publisher kerfuffle is about: Jason Sizemore of Apex Book Co. writes a clear and concise analysis of what it means for publishers, for authors, and for readers.

• An interesting reflection on the Cannes Film Festival’s haute cinema decision and how the blame for the film industry’s problems lies in Hollywood’s obsession with franchises, not streaming services hitting the production arena.

• Here, launch a fight! IndieWire attempts to rank the 25 best science fiction movies of the 21st century (so far). Spoiler alert: Children of Men is first. Um, not even close, boys. Let the battle begin!

• Speaking of movies, this weekend is Memorial Day, which used to be the launching point for the summer blockbusters. It keep creeping earlier every year. The big release this weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which I truly hoped would not suck. Alas, the critics disagree; it’s at 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s still getting higher marks than Baywatch, also coming out this weekend, but let’s not damn it with faint praise. I really did not care for the fourth Pirates film, but I loved the first three, so I was hoping for a return to swashbuckling fun this time…

• In the category of (possible) bombs, literally no one has said That Dirty Dancing remake was awesome!” It was three hours long, it was on broadcast TV, and everyone has said Baby should have stayed in the corner. Rolling Stone watched it so you don’t have to. Me? I had better things to do, like trim my toenails and wish Patrick Swayze was still around. (Note: There IS a Dirty Dancing Broadway musical, which I understand is pretty awesome and came nowhere near this mess.)

• And finally… Supergirl gives its nod to the upcoming Wonder Woman film. Tee hee hee. “Nice boots.” Go ahead and click, you could use the laugh.

It’s a big weekend here at stately CultureGeek Manor with a birthday, a graduation, a party and probably a great deal of rum coming, so I can’t swear there will be much in Monday’s Linkspam. Have a great holiday weekend, and stay nerdy!