Captain Marvel Roundtable!

Elizabeth Donald, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek

Look, I can't read everything. I'm sorry to say Captain Marvel as a character was pretty much unknown to me, except as one of those comic-book characters who had had multiple identities over the years - you know, like Batman, Robin/Nightwing/Whatever, Captain America, Spider-man, Green Lantern.... So I really wasn't sure why everyone was all crazy about Captain Marvel premiering as Carol Danvers except, y'know, she's a girl. Eeeek!

CaptainmarvelbrielarsonIf you're looking for a deconstruction of angry fanboy wails regarding the emasculation of the American hero, eh. Here we want to talk about the movie itself, apart from the extracurricular nonsense surrounding the "inevitable decline" of a franchise following a $455 million worldwide premiere weekend. Ahem. 

And I have to agree with Alicia Lutes of Variety who said Captain Marvel was... fine. It was enjoyable, far less eye-rolling than some of the MCU (Ragnarok, I'm lookin' at you) and a fun outing with introduction to a character I liked. It was not, however, the best superhero film ever or the best of the MCU, frankly. I had quibbles, but they're minor and spoilery, and I know that several of you have not seen it yet (including some of my guest reviewers, sadly...)

But it's okay. Because as Lutes pointed out, a female-led superhero movie should not have to be THE BEST EVER in order to take its place in the franchise. Bearing a strong resemblance to the real workplace, a woman-led film apparently must be four times as profitable and ten times as good as the lousiest male-led film in order to be considered "equal." So it needs to be okay that Captain Marvel is okay, and not put in a cage match with Wonder Woman* or the eternally pending Black Widow, because what's good for one is good for all. It was fun, never dragged, and I loved the "stand up" montage (you know what I mean, I'm dancing around the spoilers here) and final confrontation.

It was fun, and a worthy addition to the MCU. Should you see it? Absolutely, but it really wasn't a question, was it? By now you're either dialed in to the MCU series or not (and if not, here's your catchup list), and just like the comics' Crisis of Infinite Crossovers, you gotta see them all. Fortunately, Captain Marvel will be one of the more enjoyable chapters (Ragnarok, still lookin' at you). 

Now hear from some of our guest reviewers - at least, the ones who were there on opening weekend. Because of course we were.

* Seriously, can we not with the "Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel" crap? The answer is: both.

 

Jason R. Tippitt, comics aficionado

Captain Marvel works as both a celebration of ”girl power” and the human spirit. The movie fills in some gaps for longtime MCU viewers, offering new looks at Fury, Coulson, and some Kree baddies we've seen before.

Carol Danvers’ comic book origins saw her as a supporting character in another hero’s book: the male Kree warrior Mar-Vell, who had turned against his warlike race to protect the Earth. She was one of several superheroines to be born in a male hero’s shadow, along with Supergirl, Batgirl, and Batwoman at DC Comics, or She-Hulk, the Wasp, and (at least by name association) Spider-Woman at Marvel Comics.

But Carol did something none of those others did: She outlived the male hero who had preceded her and inspired her original identity of Ms. Marvel. He died in the 1982 graphics novel The Death of Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers drifted around for years under a few aliases, and a couple of other people took the name Captain Marvel before Carol finally got the title. (In the comics, she's an Air Force major and outranks Captain America).

Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson play off each other well. There was more of Annette Bening than I expected, and her few scenes cover a broad range. And Goose (played by four orange cats) steals every scene he's in, as cats do. Great fun with an on-point soundtrack of 90s hits, many by female artists. 

 

Jim Gillentine, author and self-professed geek

I’ve been a fan of comics since I was around 12 years old. That was the age I started collecting and reading the many different titles I loved. By the time I started reading them, Captain Marvel was long gone and Ms. Marvel had been turned into a normal person (and inactive) thanks to Rogue of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I did read the storyline how Carol Danvers had become Binary, but other than that I had very little knowledge of her. 

Why does this matter? I went into this movie blind, with no notion of the character and no expectations. How was it for me? Pretty good!

Brie Larson as Carol Danvers gave a good performance as someone trying to find her way as a hero, a person, and a friend to those around her. Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury was his usual awesome self, but the real scene-stealer was Goose the cat. A funny addition to the movie and worth every time the little guy was on screen.

Nitpick: Sometimes the CGI was meh, but most of the time it was the high quality we expect from Marvel.

How well would I stack this movie with the other films? It is just as good as Ant-Man and Dr. Strange as far as origin movies go. For me it was fun, exciting, and a good addition to the MCU, and I look forward to seeing Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame. As for the controversy around this film? Not worth my time to address. Go see the movie and enjoy it if you want. 

 

Ian Smith, film student

This is Marvel Studios first female-led superhero picture, and I enjoyed it very much. For someone like me who hasn’t read the comics or knows very little about the character and story, it was different from any others I’ve seen.

The average paint-by-numbers superhero origin story shows a regular person gaining powers and trying to adapt and use them for good (Spider-man, Captain America, Doctor Strange). And the second paint-by-numbers origin story shows a superhero who already has powers and protects the humans on earth (Thor, Black Panther). 

Captain Marvel took these two basic plot lines and mixed them all into one. It started out like a Thor story, where the hero finds this planet with puny lifeforms and feels a need to protect them. But they made an excellent choice in making her story more Captain America than Thor.

Captain Marvel was extremely enjoyable, especially for someone like me who appreciates a message behind the story and the cinematography. If you’re someone who has been up to date on everything MCU and Avengers, then you’ll see Captain Marvel and see that she is a great addition to the roster that will help the Avengers defeat Thanos.

And you don’t HAVE to be a die-hard Marvel nerd to enjoy and understand this movie. There are quite a few scenes that call back to the Avengers movies, but those are not the backbone of the plot. Even if you haven’t seen every Marvel in the past decade, I still think you’ll quite enjoy it as well. It has a strong, empowering feminist message, a compelling story and a cast of good characters that you will grow to know and love.

As good as this movie is, it still had the power to hype up Avengers 4 to an even bigger level (obviously). It’s not like Marvel NEEDED another reason for fans to go see Avengers 4. But I think it’s going to be so satisfying watching both Captains, Steve Rogers and Carol Danvers, fighting side by side. Heroes EVERYBODY can look up to, no matter the gender.

I think this is good start to something they should’ve done long ago: Breaking barriers, proving that female superheroes are just as capable and engaging (and sometimes better than) the others. I agree that it should’ve been done this long ago, but I’m just glad we’re realizing it now... and inspiring the little ones as they watch Captain Marvel and Captain America fight side by side, as equals.

 


Guest Voices: Meet Jason R. Tippitt

Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of poverty and passion. (Apologies to Mick Jagger.)

I’m not exactly new here, but my arrival is something like one of those stories you hear where a band hires a fan to be the new singer. Except the previous singer didn’t leave. And we don’t really sound alike. But we’ve known each other a long time.

So this isn’t really that at all. I’m a longtime fan of this blog, but usually silent, though I’ve been reading it off and on since the beginning, and I’ve known Elizabeth Donald much longer than this blog has been here or since the word “blog” was not a typo, for that matter.

We share an interest in creative works. We both write. She publishes, and I get ideas that stall out before they’re done. (It’s a work in progress.) She is a queen of things that go chomp in the night; my tastes run more toward dragging real-life horrors out into the day.

She loves roller coasters. I have occasionally considered but never committed to buying a roller coaster-building simulation for my computer. 

I introduced her to comic books eons ago. She tried to introduce me to Laurell K. Hamilton (her books, anyway), but it wasn’t a good fit. I think we’re in agreement that constant crossovers have killed the joy of comics for us. (Editor's note: I call it the Crisis of Infinite Crossovers.)

Things we’ll be talking about here — well, I’ll be talking about them and I hope you’ll chime in, too — include how religious and spiritual themes appear in pop culture in unexpected places, the ways that comedy treats human sexuality, and the topic of what (if anything) celebrities “owe” to their fans and vice versa.

I won’t pretend to be all-encompassing in my knowledge of popular culture. I’m a guy of a certain age from a certain background who’s had certain experiences and known certain people. There are gaps in my knowledge which, the internet being the internet, I’m sure will be made known to me with a quickness.

At times, I will contradict myself because I’m a human being and we do that. Try to respect that complication in me and I’ll try to give you the benefit of the doubt as well. Life is a learning process.

The most important things I’m keeping in mind as I approach this — more like going to work at a store you’ve frequented, really, because no one has ever wanted to hear me sing — are these two facts:

There’s endless space on the Internet. “Running out of news hole” — a term only print journalists (and survivors of the industry like Elizabeth and myself) will understand — does not apply here, though exceeding readers’ attention spans does.

And the easiest way to annoy Elizabeth Donald is to

-File truncated-


Jason R. Tippitt is a former newspaper journalist and seminary dropout now caring for family members full-time three counties past nowhere in Tennessee. He is co-author (with Elizabeth Donald) of “I Live With It Every Day,” featured in her anthology SETTING SUNS.


Guest Voices/MovieGeek: Alita: Battle Angel

Guest voice for today's movie review is Jim D. Gillentine. Spoilers ahead!

 

Making live action updates to anime or popular comics have been a thing for the last few years. Hollywood has been looking overseas for stories to bring to life on the big screen with... well... not very good results. The thing about these properties, especially the ones from Japan, is that they resonate and mean something for that culture alone.

So when they try to bring those stories over here to the USA, they drop certain elements or plot points to make it more assessable for the American audiences. This ruins the product for the fans that go see these attempts by Hollywood to tap into those stories. The worst examples are the awful Dragonball Evolution (2009) and the recent Ghost in the Shell (2017). These problems are largely avoided in the new movie Alita: Battle Angel, but it isn’t a perfect execution of cinema.

In the year 2563, three hundred years after a war called the The Fall, all life centers around one giant floating city called Zalem where the rich and privileged live. Beneath this haven-like metropolis is Iron City, a dirty, run down slum that surrounds a large pile of junk and scraps that drop down from Zalem above. Here, the kind Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a cybernetic surgeon, searches the scrap yard for useful parts to treat his patients that need repairs which he usually does for free out of the kindness of his heart.

When the movie opens he is on one of these searches, as he stumbles across the head and torso of a female android that is still alive although in a state of suspended animation. Ido takes the android home and attaches the torso to a cybernetic body that he had intended to use for his daughter that was murdered before he could complete the surgery. After waking up and having no memory of her past life, Ido names the young woman Alita (Rosa Salazar) after his deceased daughter. Alita tries to remember her past life and becomes friends with young Hugo (Keean Johnson), for whom she begins to get feelings for almost immediately.

Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) tries to convince Ido to come work with her under Vector (Mahershala Ali) to build and repair combatants for the sport motorball, which is Iron City’s only sporting event. Ido refuses, and one night Alita follows Ido at night and finds out that he is not only a doctor, but also a bounty hunter (hunter warrior) that patrols Iron City to capture or kill criminals wondering the streets. Alita steps into a trap set up to kill Ido, fights back and finds out that she instinctively remembers a fighting style of martial arts called Panzer Kunst. A fighting style that only the most deadly of battle androids were trained to use. During the battle, Alita remembers a little bit of her past and decides that she wants to become a hunter warrior to help remember who she used to be.

Alita grows and changes with each new adventure in the movie and we grow with her. I have seen the movie three times so far, and plan on seeing it again. The action in this move is amazing and the special effects are a wonder to behold. The story, although not the best-written, still makes me smile and that leads me to talking about the strengths and weaknesses of this film.

 

The Good and the Bad About Alita  

Alita suffers from what a lot of movies are trying to do in Hollywood today: the hopes of starting a movie franchise. Characters like Nova are referenced to, mentioned and even seen, but it goes nowhere. This can frustrate moviegoers who want everything wrapped up at the movie’s end and everyone living happily ever after. Thanks to Marvel’s success with their superhero movies, this is becoming a rarer thing with any sicfi or horror movie and I think it is leading to fatigue for moviegoers. 

For me the strengths of this movie far outweigh the weaknesses, and that strength is the character of Alita herself. Rosa Salazar’s performance as Alita shines so brightly in this movie. The design of the character can be off-putting and creepy with the look of the large eyes. But soon you get used to it and find that those large eyes in fact help the character convey her feelings and make you connect with her. When she cries, you cry with her. When she tries chocolate for the first time, you rejoice in the pleasure she is having at its taste.

Spoiler ahead to my favorite scene in the movie. Alita is battling a giant cyborg and when she is damaged, her body ripped to pieces and only having one good arm left to try to move. She seems defeated, broken. The cyborg gloats over Alita and jokes about wearing her as a living pedant to hear her beg to be killed everyday. He says it would be him showing her mercy. Alita, using her one good arm, is able to spring up and ram her arm into the cyborg’s eye. She looks at him and screams: “FUCK YOUR MERCY!” And my heart cheers for her. That is one of the underlining representations in this movie: the hidden strength that women have within themselves and that they don’t need a hero to save them. They have the power to do it alone.

The other thing that shines in this film is the performance of Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido. He portrays the father figure for Alita and does a wonderful job as the parent who doesn’t want anything bad to happen to the child they love. But he also portrays how that love can strangle and push away the one you care for when you don’t want that child to grow up and be their own person.

The love story in the film is tragic and plays into one of Alita’s flaws as a person in the film. She is far too trusting and loves far too easily, but that is a character still trying to grow and discover who she really is. Keean Johnson as Hugo does a good job playing the street kid that only wants to get ahead in life, but ends up hurting the one he loves by doing it. Jennifer Connelly as Chiren does okay in the film, but I feel Connelly and Mahershala Ali as Vector are both underused. I wish they could have been given more screen time to flesh out their characters and motives in the movie. But when they are onscreen, they do a fine job with what they are given to do.

The story is based off Yukito Kishiro's manga series Gunnm in Japan that has been running since the early 90s, and is just now entering it final phase where the story will be wrapped up. As a fan of anima and manga, I can say I am very happy about the results of this movie. It is doing well overseas, and I have hopes that the story continues. It has it flaws, and it is far from a perfect film. I think that if you give Alita a chance to look at you with her large eyes, you will enjoy seeing her go from young girl to confident warrior. 

 

Jim D. Gillentine is an author and arguably the world's biggest Godzilla fan. Find out more about his work at www.jimmygillentine.com. 

 


BookGeek: The Prince of Tides

It qualifies as being the last one on the bus, but then I never promised CultureGeek reviews would be focused solely on new releases. Far from it; we can learn and enjoy just as much from a 30-year-old novel as from one released yesterday.

So when I tell you that The Prince of Tides is an amazing novel, with the kind of writing that I wish I were capable of producing, it is not hyperbole. It’s a wonderful discovery, just a little late.

I saw the movie back in the 1990s, and was fascinated by some of the best acting that either Barbra Streisand or Nick Nolte had produced. It had a strange juxtaposition of New York introspection and Southern gothic that I had never seen before. And, of course, it had one awful, brutal scene that I never forgot, hand pressed to mouth in horror.

Then friend and fellow author John Hartness posted on Facebook that he thought Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides had writing that made him want to become a writer. It struck me that I had picked up an old mass-market paperback of the book at a used-book sale somewhere and I should give it a shot. So really, this is all John's fault.

My paperback has a horrible cheesy romance-novel cover, and if you know anything about the book or the movie, you know it is not a romance. There is love, and a love story at multiple levels. But it is absolutely not a romance.

 

It was my mother who taught me the southern way of the spirit in its most delicate and intimate forms. My mother believed in the dreams of flowers and animals. Before we went to bed at night as small children, she would reveal to us in her storytelling voice that salmon dreamed of mountain passes and the brown faces of grizzlies hovering over clear rapids. Copperheads, she would say, dreamed of placing their fangs in the shinbones of hunters. Ospreys slept with their feathered, plummeting dreamselves screaming through deep, slow-motion dives toward herring. There were the brute wings of owls in the nightmares of ermine, the downwind approach of timber wolves in the night stillness of elk.

But we never knew about her dreams, for my mother kept us strangers to her own interior life. We knew that bees dreamed of roses, that roses dreamed of the pale hands of florists, that spiders dreamed of luna moths adhered to silver webs. As her children, we were the trustees of her dazzling evensons of the imagination, but did not know that mothers dreamed.

 

That’s just part of the first page.

The story itself is southern gothic at its finest, with horrors and ignorance and racism and “bless your heart” backstabbing in between the love of the land and the glories of the life and history. But at its heart, it’s the story of a man who is lost between a troubled childhood, a faltering marriage, a dysfunctional family wracked with mental illness and tragedy, and the awful beauty of loving two women at the same time.

I no longer have time in my crazy schedule to stick with every book I read, now that I am in grad school. Some books I have picked up I hated, and discarded without a second thought. Others I despised but carried through, if only because I hoped the ending would wash away its awfulness. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t. That one is going back in the donation box.) Instead, I find I am seeking out more and more reading to evaluate craft and style and language, perhaps in the hopes of taking my work to the next level.

Conroy’s writing is conversational but also dense with description. He paints pictures with words far more elaborate and beautiful (or awful) than the penny-ante art on the cover of my paperback. You don’t skim it the way you might more conventional genre novels. In part it’s a mystery: what happened to Tom Wingo’s brilliant, troubled sister Samantha, that would spur her to attempt to take her own life? What happened to all of them to tear the family apart so?

There are no villains here - well, almost none. The father looms large as abusive, cruel, ignorant and a force of terror in his children’s lives… and yet it almost redeems him, as a man who loved his family and could not imagine why the world in which he was raised had changed and his tyranny would no longer be absolved.

Tom himself is not always a reliable narrator, telling his family’s story to us and to a New York psychiatrist as separate from his world as she could be - but she has her own sadness, and her own story, even as she enters the world of the Wingo family.

Oddly, once I finished the novel, I felt that the movie did not quite do it justice. The character of Tom’s brother Luke was barely apparent in the movie, which chose to focus far more on the moment of horror and Tom’s romances. Yet he is a driving force in the novel, and Luke’s life story is as much a part of the family’s trauma as that awful night so gruesomely depicted. (Other omissions make more sense. One word: tiger.) The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards; I do not know what (if any) awards the novel won, but it deserved them.

I found it fascinating, even though it was far afield from my usual reading. After all, there are no zombies or ghosts rising from the South Carolina swamp to torment the Wingo family. If there are horrors in The Prince of Tides, they are solely human-made. And sometimes those are the worst of all.


Guest Voices: I Ship That

By Sela Carsen

 

I ship for a living.

I ship Sherlolly. I ship Johnlock. I ship Stucky, and Black Widow with Hawkeye even though it’s totally not canon. I ship Batman with Catwoman, but not with Wonder Woman because I ship Superman and Wonder Woman.

Why should I care about these completely imaginary couples? Because I’m a romance writer and it’s my job to ship people.

Romance, despite all claims of being “forumlaic,” only has two basic rules.

  • The love story is central to the plot, and
  • it has an emotionally satisfying and uplifting ending.

If you write (1), but not (2), then you have a love story, but not a romance. If you write (2), but not (1) you have pretty much anything else that might have a romantic subplot, but it’s not a romance. If you write neither (1) nor (2), then you’re probably writing literary fiction and nobody has time for that kind of negativity in their lives. (Kidding. Kind of.)

But aside from those two elements, absolutely everything else is open. Want to write the undead in Victorian England? Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series. Want to write cyborg shapeshifters in space? Naomi Lucas’ Cyborg Shifters series. Want to write stories set in a quirky tourist town run by vampires? Kristen Painter’s Nocturne Falls series.

They can be lighthearted and fun, or they can be dark and taboo, or they can be heartwrenching and complex. The three basic categories of romance -- historical, contemporary, and paranormal -- encompass virtually any kind of story that can be told, from military thrillers and detailed historicals to sci-fi and fantasy with world building to rival Neil Gaiman or C.J. Cherryh. Romance is the only genre that crosses over with nearly every other genre, giving it a breadth and depth that can appeal to all readers.

The only thing that romance, like any other story, has to do is tell readers a story that lifts them out of the mire of chaos that makes their everyday lives so stressful. That’s the same reason people read anything, really -- mystery, horror, graphic novels, whatever. The reader who finds joy in Frank Miller or Dan Brown or N.K. Jemisin is looking for the same kind of satisfaction as the reader who reads the latest Nora Roberts.

It’s my job to ship characters who go through all kinds of obstacles to be together, whether it’s something as simple as an overworked single mom and a mechanic, or a lady-in-waiting and a vampire. Love can be found anywhere. And I totally ship that.

 

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Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least. Find out more at http://selacarsen.com

 

 


Superb Owl welcomes our robot overlords

It wasn't the most thrilling Super Bowl ever, and that's discounting the game.

As CultureGeek isn't much for the sportsball (wake me when the Cardinals play), the real focus is on the commercials. The Super Bowl is pretty much the highlight of the year for the advertising industry, and often gives us a clue as to the mood of the country, the state of business, and a reflection on society.

And all of the above seemed to return a general "meh."

By the end of the night, several people in my decidedly-nonscientific focus group opined that the commercials were bland and dull, none of them really standing out in memory. I had to compile a list from my Tweets to remind them what commercials they had seen.

Top of their list were:

• Mercedes voice control. It was a little amusing to see the world reorganized for the better by a simple voice command, and it could easily have fallen into ugly humor if the Man with the Power had chosen to make slapstick comedy happen. Instead, he helped lost cats find their way home and let an ATM shower money on the population, which probably means a little less if you can afford a Mercedes. 

• NFL Banquet. I supposed it meant a whole lot more to watch former football players wreck a ballroom if you, y'know, recognized any of them. If you were a football fan, it was one of the top spots of the night. The NFL put some serious effort into rehabilitating its image for the Super Bowl, to varying effectiveness if you're reading Twitter today. They apparently went for the laughs as much as the heartstrings, and had some of us (i.e. me) looking up the various players crashing about the ballroom. This won the USA Today Ad Meter by consumer ratings. 

• Amazon Alexa. Harrison Ford seems to be taking well to "Hollywood's grumpy old man" role, as he argues with his dog about ordering more dog food via Amazon. This one got high marks from my focus group, though the long version (with multiple other failed Alexa roles) was pretty much entirely sublimated by Ford and his pup. "I'm not speaking to you." 

• On the heartwarming side, Microsoft's adaptive controller caught everyone's attention. While the cynic in me wonders how fair it is to drag families with disabilities into the spotlight to sell computer gear... it does highlight something that maybe not everyone in the world is aware of. Computer companies don't do adaptive technology out of the kindness of their hearts, but the benefit of them cannot be underestimated, and so I'm not surprised that it came in third for audience reaction.

Other honorable mentions went to:

• The Hyundai elevator from hell, though putting your product on the same block as "the talk," jury duty and a root canal doesn't seem like the most positive association.

• Budweiser's "Blowin' in the Wind." Several people complained about Bob Dylan's counterculture anthem selling beer, but since Dylan is still alive, I assume he consented - and it's technically about conservation. And beer. Plus doggy. And Clydesdales. At any rate, I enjoyed it more than all the medievalesque "Bud Knight" spots put together - yes, including the Game of Thrones crossover.

• The Our Planet trailer, because it was pretty.

 

The worst ads go to...

Chunky milk, which was ostensibly to sell Mint Mobile. This seems to be a pretty decent cell service, so why gross out all of America with the milk thing? Half my "focus group" was so nauseated they left the room before the commercial told us what they were selling. It's all over their website now, and while I might be interested in a service, I can't look at the commercial without getting sick to my stomach. 

Andy Warhol eats Burger King. This rated absolute lowest in the USA Today poll, even though Adweek called it "brilliant." Thus illustrates the divide between Madison Avenue and the rest of us. Half the viewership doesn't know who Andy Warhol was, and many of the others wouldn't recognize his face as much as his name, myself included. It's long, it's odd, and it's basically a segment from an art film in 1982. They did have the approval of Warhol's foundation and the son of art-film director Jorgen Leth (sorry, I know there's funky characters in there but Typepad won't allow it). The actual film is four minutes and 20 seconds of Warhol eating a Whopper. Note: Warhol initially suggested McDonald's instead of Burger King

Michelob's nature whisperer. This was apparently something called "autonomous sensory meridian response," which is the use of ambient sounds for positive associations. Or something. Apparently it's either extremely compelling or annoying, and in our room, the response was mostly "annoying." I think they might not have been as annoyed if it wasn't selling Michelob. It came in 51 out of the 58 commercials, according to USA Today Ad Meter. 

• T-Mobile's "Texts from Hell" series. Way to remind us of all the wonderful things we'd be missing if we gave up our phones. Wait.

Bon and Viv's spiked seltzer mermaids. It looked better on Aquaman.

 

Theme of the year: Robots.

Do you welcome our robot overlords? Because there was the aforementioned Alexa, taking over all aspects of life; electric/smart cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz; Pringles' miserable A.I. who can never taste the chips; WeatherTech's auto-feeding of cute doggos; unhappy robots watching from outside the window as we drink Michelob Ultra; TurboTax's creepy RoboChild who wants to be an accountant... but can't. 

Do you want Terminators? Because this is how we get Terminators. Machines are getting smarter, and now we're giving them personalities, and making them miserable. Soon they will overthrow us. On the other hand, maybe they'll make better commercials. 

 

Trailer Park!

Even the people who ignored the game for #TeamBacon came running to the living room for the Avengers: Endgame trailer, which led the Captain Marvel trailer by a nose. Everyone brakes for Marvel. 

There was one happy vote for Fast and Furious Part 3924285, but we all ignore her. The younglings were a strange mixture of happiness and dread at Toy Story 4; they want more of Woody and Buzz, as does everyone, but at what cost? #pleasedontsuck 

Personally, I liked the Twilight Zone teaser, which made me very happy. However, I knew it was coming, having read about it in the trades at least a year ago. For several of the younglings, it was the first they'd heard of it, and knowing Jordan Peele's talent, they were over the moon. Mission accomplished.

 

And the best ad goes to....

Washington Post. Okay, to be fair, I said at the beginning of the evening that unless Tom Hanks tripped over his shoelaces halfway through the ad, it was probably going to be my favorite. More of a PSA for the journalism profession than advertising the Post specifically, it is part of the "Democracy dies in darkness" ad campaign specifically targeting the negative preconceptions the public carries about journalism.

So it's pretty much in my wheelhouse, and expect a much fuller discussion later this week on Donald Media. It's the first time a newspaper has done a Super Bowl ad, and it ranked 13 out of 58 in the Ad Meter. I might note that while most Super Bowl ads spend most of the year in conception and development, the Post did its ad in about a week. 

Of course, the Post can do this, because they're owned by Jeff Bezos who can pretty much fund a Super Bowl ad out of his grocery money. But it was still an amazing thing to see an ad standing up for my profession, and it touched my heart. Not so much the trolls of Twitter, mind you, as well as some malcontents in the profession. But look for that on Donald Media.

In the meantime, it stands as the best of the year for me, and apparently for quite a few others. 


MovieGeek: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It's not the longest title for an English-language film, but it's sure a mouthful and a touch cutesy. That meant I was going to scroll on by, but after I caught the trailer, I decided to give it a shot. After all, it's about a writer.

If you're a Downton Abbey fan, it's essentially a reunion, with four or five of the show's actors meeting in postwar England. I've never watched it, so that factor was lost on me. Instead I was treated to a pleasant story that falls just two steps short of enough emotional connection to make it truly good.

The premise couldn't be simpler: a member of the titular society writes to Juliet, a young writer in London (who is inexplicably successful and famous-ish), and after a brief correspondence, she decides to go visit the Guernsey society with the thought of writing their story. Apparently this is Very Far by British standards, but Americans would laugh. Her fiance Mark acts as though she's going to the ends of the earth, but Google Maps says it's about a six-hour voyage (including the ferry). So... St. Louis to Kansas City?

The Society's story is fairly interesting, set against the occupation of the British islands during World War II, but if you're expecting the British Resistance and insurgent spies, you're watching the wrong movie. We get the backstory in flashbacks, expertly woven into Juliet's visit. Of course she meets a handsome fella, and of course she uncovers the tragic tale at the center of the Society's formation, and of course there is an inner journey to be made from learning their history. 

There's also hints that Juliet is lost in London, with a post-traumatic flashback and dithering about whether to marry her nice, vaguely condescending American fiance. Dawsey, the handsome fella of Guernsey, provides a nice counterpart. Of course he does.

Here's the thing: throughout the film, it seems like it skates close to real emotional depth, and then pulls back. Juliet's PTSD episode makes her far more interesting a character in the opening chapters... then it sort of disappears and never happens again. She is best friends with her publisher, who is later revealed to be gay, and neither ever appears to suffer from the rampant sexism and homophobia that would have hampered or crippled them in the publishing world of the late 1940s. (More on this in a minute.)

For a moment we feel as though Juliet is skating into early postwar feminism, as Fiance Mark makes offhand comments about "letting" her pursue her passion. But no, the real reason she isn't wearing his engagement ring is not her supposed concern about Victorian marriage ideals, but because she's thinking twice about marrying him. 

Meanwhile the Society (full of wonderful British characters) is consumed with the fate of one of their members, arrested and shipped off by the Germans during the war. The missing Elizabeth is really the most interesting character in the film, and I found myself wishing for a movie centered on her. Most of what we know of her happens off-screen in the past - and it's all just a little bit tempered.

We hear of the terrifying acts of the Germans, but they never show it. There's a German soldier, who became their friend. He's supposedly a nice guy. So why is he fighting for the Nazis? It's never said. Even a single line about compulsory service would have added some measure of depth to his character, but the movie never goes there. We understand Character X did something terrible, but there is no real consequence - and how he supposedly betrayed his fellow villagers? Why? It's just sort of ... there.

And the movie never addresses its own anachronisms. Apart from one snide innkeeper, there's no explanation for how a woman could bear a child out of wedlock without anyone in a rural 1940s village blinking an eye; for how Juliet can be independently wealthy and free to spend months researching a book without publishing a thing or doing a single signing... it's nearly ludicrous in a time when women could not write word one without being shunted to "the ladies' page" of the newspaper to discuss tea and weddings. More than two decades later, women would still be writing under gender-neutral pseudonyms just to get published. And I cringed as she casually tells someone about her publisher's orientation, as though that wouldn't be enough to get him shunned or killed in the 1940s.

In the book, Juliet actually didn't say yes to Mark; she asked him to wait, because she had once been engaged before and broke it off when she found out her future husband intended to box her books in the attic. For a woman of literature, it would have been a hellish marriage. Mark is better - condescending, indulging in her little whims - but ultimately her story is one of a woman trying to find her true vocation that has nothing to do with love and everything to do with art, passion and purpose. 

But Guernsey isn't satisfied with that kind of arc. In the end, it becomes all about which man she picks. That was the biggest disappointment.

I didn't hate it. There's a strong theme throughout about the power of literature to transform and heal as well as entertain, and that's a theme I can enjoy. It's amusing, and well-acted by Lily James as Juliet and the assorted Britishers playing the Society. Extra credit, however, goes to Michiel Huisman as Dawsey, who could have simply remained "hot guy providing moral quandary for Our Heroine" and phoned it in. Instead, he plays a complex and troubled man, doing the right thing for the right reasons and carrying a lot of pain behind his hotness.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society won't change your world or draw you to tears. But if you're looking for an amusing piece to while away a couple of hours, you could do worse on Netflix.


MovieGeek: Christopher Robin

If you're looking for surprises, Christopher Robin won't provide it. But it is a sweet and endearing story with a moral you can see a mile away - and subtext you won't. 

You only need to see the trailers to know that Christopher Robin presumes that the titular boy of the A.A. Milne stories grew up to be an ordinary middle-management businessman who forgot how to play and be a child, passing along his seriousness to his own child, set to study and "work" without fun. There's a slight hint that serving in the war might have led to this seriousness, but the movie doesn't get that deep into it (other than one quick "war" montage that might be a touch unsettling for younger ones, but nothing too graphic for most viewers).

So naturally, Christopher Robin must learn to laugh and play, to "do nothing" as Pooh himself reminds him regularly. There's a problem with this moral, which I'll get to in a bit. 

The best parts of the film are the brilliantly recreated "stuffed animals" come to life in and out of the Hundred Acre Wood. In a nice twist, anyone can see and hear them, which leads to some delightful silliness, and less "Christopher Robin's gone mad" nonsense than I was expecting.

As usual, the most popular characters get the most play, with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore eclipsing Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl (which is too bad, because I was looking forward to an underused Peter Capaldi as Rabbit). But frankly, my favorite parts of the movie were "any time Eeyore is talking." I adore Eeyore, and he was hilariously dour.

There's plenty of sentiment, particularly with child Christopher Robin's departure in the beginning for boarding school and "growing up." A softer soul than mine would have to pull out the hankies at that point (and Mr. CultureGeek definitely did). There's also some serious gloom, which I found interesting - work as a place of hiding from real life, seriousness as code for depression, and when viewed in that light, it seems a bit overly simplistic to posit that "doing nothing" is the best way to overcome it. 

This leads me to my main quibble: The entire plot hinges on Christopher Robin skipping yet another family weekend so he can work, apparently a habit for him. It's the final straw for his wife (a criminally underutilized Hayley Atwell) and the child who wants only to read and play with him. The entire movie depends on "priorities, Christopher!" 

Only... the movie makes it clear that if he does not do this task set before him, his entire division will be shut down. All the people who work for him will lose their jobs. (Their names are a mishmash of the actors who voiced the characters in earlier Pooh films, but unlike my suspicions while watching, they are not the actors voicing the gang in this film. Some of the personalities will seem a tad familiar, however...)

We meet them, and it is made clear that they are good, hardworking people... so it's hard for us to cheer on the moral of the story. Sure, Christopher Robin needs to lighten up and pay attention to his family, but do hundreds of people and the handful we meet need to go on the bread lines because Christopher decided to go on holiday for the weekend? It was a mistake to put other people's futures on the line for Christopher's Big Choice, in my opinion. 

Crobin

It's the balance between real life and the amusements of childhood that we are meant to strive for, and the movie does manage to tie this up in a sane manner that underscores a sly bit of 21st-century socioeconomic equality. I appreciated it, though I know it made some growl, because we can't have nice things. That's the subtext I wasn't expecting, and it would take too many spoilers to expound on how important that moral is - more important than "remember childhood and take time to hold a red balloon and smile," frankly. 

Still, we don't go to movies like Christopher Robin to examine economic class equality or the philosophy of a workaholic world. We go to watch Ewan McGregor perfectly carry an entire film acting with CGI stuffed animals so well-drawn I could forget they weren't real, and brilliantly voiced by Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett and others. You can't underestimate the skill in creating the characters - at one point Eeyore is soaked, and I swear he looked soaked and moved as though his stuffing were soggy. I forgot he was CGI, folks. And I don't think anyone failed to smile when Cummings' Pooh first spoke. 

It's a charming, sweet film heavy on nostalgia, and should make fans of the books and the Disney films happy. And if it reminds you to buy a red balloon and walkabout with the kids in the wood sometime, all the better. 


Linkspam grabs the Emmys and Comic-Con Trailers

It’s Emmy time, and the list leads with the usual contenders. Game of Thrones got 22 noms, but Netflix beat HBO with 112 noms vs. HBO’s 108.

Nominees for best drama are The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, This is Us, The Crown, The Americans, Stranger Things and Westworld.

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Nominees for best comedy are Atlanta, Barry, Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm (still??), GLOW, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

The rest are the usual suspects, with a bit of a surprise in The Alienist for miniseries and Tatiana Maslany for lead actress in Orphan Black.

Since I’m completely in the camp for Handmaids, supporting actress is going to be tough. Three noms (which means it’ll end up going to someone else, with Alexis Bledel (who I did not know was married to Vincent Kartheiser of Angel fame), Ann Dowd and Yvonne Strahovski, who should get every award for the incredible and difficult performance she has turned out this season.

Where is Samira Wiley? Guest actress nom, along with Kelly Jenrette and Cherry Jones; and Joseph Fiennes as supporting actor.

It says something when a show is so intense, so visceral, and still so chillingly relevant that many people simply cannot watch it. I’m developing a theory, here: we watch the gore and misery of Game of Thrones as escapism, and yet the misery of Handmaids is too much for us. Because it’s too close to reality, to real fears and horrors we find on the front page.

And yet that is the very definition of important, relevant art. Art isn’t supposed to be a simple escape from reality. It should challenge us, challenge our preconceptions and comfortable thought processes.

Harlan Ellison argued that people are dumb because of television, because it feeds stimuli into our brains without requiring us to wake them up. Usually that's true. But Handmaids defies that, as few shows do. It isn’t an easy watch; I can’t binge it, as we might lighter shows. I have to parcel it out, which I would strongly recommend especially for viewers who may find its subject material triggering.

But let me tell you something, friends and neighbors: I finally caught up through the final episode last night. I’m not going to spoil it, but… for the last series of scenes, I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. It was physically exhausting, the tension and uncertainty, knowing that a happy ending was absolutely not assured and anything, including the worst, could happen.

I cannot remember the last time a show felt like that. It alternately makes me want to hide in a corner and make a protest sign and go march somewhere. That’s a form of art that transforms us, not just placates our boredom.

James Gunn is out as director of Guardians of the Galaxy, fired for horrific tweets posted a decade ago. Gunn apparently posted jokes about rape and this gem: “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.” He’s very sorry. All right, I know there's been a lot of yelling about this on both sides. Here's my take, for whatever miniscule amount it's worth: Rape jokes aren't funny. They aren't funny now, and they weren't funny when Gunn wrote those tweets, and they weren't funny when the first comic laughed about how hilarious it would be for that woman in the front row to get raped right now, and I really can't bring myself to throw down for Gunn's fall from grace. The accuser may be a reprehensible human, but he didn't fake the tweets; Gunn copped to it. Gunn will work again, unlike Kevin Spacey, and if one director losing one movie gig means five comics stop making rape jokes, I'm good with that.

Andrew Lincoln has confirmed he is leaving The Walking Dead, but maintains he still loves the show. “A large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff deputy from London, England.” Ha! I might resurrect my long-dormant relationship with this show to bid farewell to Rick, with or without hands.

• Really, Hollywood? There are already six movies in the works about the rescue of the Thai boys from the cave. Six.

• Locals: Tickets are on sale for 21 Pilots, which is a band the younglings seem to like, if the chatter around my house is any indication.

• In the category of some people never learn, Marvel has announced Iron Fist Season 2. Really? There’s a new showrunner, the villain is Typhoid Mary, and can they manage some actual writing this time? Because that was one dull series, and the fact that they greenlit this while declining any more Defenders bothers me immensely.

• Also, Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, as Bruce Willis declared in defiance of everyone on the internet. Here’s a rundown of other snarks from the Willis Roast.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: I thought we might actually have a week with no news, for the first time since I started this subsection. However, Papa John's founder John Schnatty kept the streak going.

 

RIP

Roger Perry, 85, best known as an Air Force captain who runs afoul of the Star Trek crew in “Tomorrow is Yesterday” - and was actually a veteran of the U.S. Air Force in real life, serving as an intelligence officer. He appeared on TV shows ranging from The Andy Griffith Show to The Munsters to The Facts of Life, retiring in 2011.

Tab Hunter, 86, best known for films like The Burning, The Girl He Left Behind and Damn Yankees, as well as TV appearances on The Love Boat, Six Million Dollar Man and Hawaii Five-O. He was a Hollywood heartthrob in his day, and came out in his 2005 autobiography, discussing an affair with Anthony Perkins. He is survived by Allan Glaser, his partner of 35 years.

Steve Ditko, 90, creator of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man with Stan Lee. The primary form of Spider-Man - including costume, web-shooters, red and blue design - were all Ditko. He left Marvel in the late ’60s and went to work for DC and small independents. He was an ardent believer in Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, and created the characters of Mr. A, The Question, and others in its vein. He was reclusive, denied interview requests and avoided the publicity booms surrounding movies based on his work. He was found dead in his apartment, where he lived alone, never having married.

• Bill Watrous, 79, trombone player and bandleader best known for studio recordings ranging from Frank Sinatra to Prince to Quincy Jones, including the soundtrack to Roots. For us on the geeky side of life, he was the trombone dubbed in for Riker on Star Trek: Next Generation. Now, I seem to recall ads saying that was really Jonathan Frakes playing, but Frakes tweeted an RIP declaring that Bill “made Riker strong.”

 

Trailer Park

It was Comic-Con. So there are more trailers than I could possibly include. I could probably do a whole post just on the Comic-Con trailers. But I have to actually do work this week, so here’s the highlights collected by Vulture:

• Sarah Paulson anchors the Glass trailer, the long-delayed sequel to Unbreakable that incorporates the lead from Split. Pending January 2019, and now I have to rewatch Unbreakable and finally snag Split, because it’s pretty compelling. I have a feeling poor Sarah is going to have a rearrangement of her preconceptions when this movie hits, and please let it be better than the last few Shyamalan outings I’ve seen.

• Hi there, Aquaman. We knew his hello in Justice League was just to set up his own movie. Look, he’s a physically lovely human, but it’s a good thing the production design and cinematography is equally lovely, because the plot looks like the boring parts of Thor crossed with the worldbuilding of Black Panther without the charm.

• Much sillier: Shazam! is accelerating the inevitable slide of superhero films from mythology to parody, I’m afraid. It could be fun, because Zachary Levi can’t help but be fun in anything he does. But I fear we’re only a few steps away from Abbott and Costello Meet the Avengers, folks.

• Anyone who knows my household knows that there was yelling and squeeing as soon as Godzilla: King of the Monsters dropped. Apparently they tried to snag some real actors (and hopefully won’t kill them off in the first reel this time), with Kyle MacLachlan, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown as the kaiju whisperer. Or something. It’s not like I have a choice, folks. I married the biggest Godzilla nerd in the midwest. I’m going, kicking and screaming.

• CultureGeek Jr. was sold on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as soon as he realized it’s actually Hogwarts, Dumbledore and a return to the wizarding world. Now we have to go find the first one, because eight movies just isn’t enough for Hogwarts fans.

• I usually stick to film trailers in this column. However, we got series trailers for The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Supergirl, The Purge (yes, a TV show), Good Omens, Star Trek: Discovery, Fear the Walking Dead, and many, many more.

 

Coming This Weekend and Next

Mamma Mia 2, which I somehow want to see even though I had zero interest in the first one, so we will probably hunt down the original and catch this one on Netflix.

The Equalizer 2, which likewise we did not see because we had not seen the original. However, CultureGeek 2 reports it was fun.

• Unfriended: Dark Web, which would be a fascinating framing device for a found-footage twist if only it didn’t seem to be torture porn.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, in which Tom Cruise leaps out of helicopters again with an even more stellar sub-cast than usual. And we will line up like lemmings again, because the MI movies are Bond films while Bond is apparently hibernating. Fun fact on the internet this week: Tom Cruise is now five years older than Wilford Brimley was when he filmed Cocoon. This further supports the theory that Cruise has a framed poster of himself from Top Gun aging in his attic. Opens July 27.

Teen Titans Go! or something. Animated silliness with the second-tier sidekicks, with the voices of Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Stan Lee and others. Opens July 27.

 

Continuing:

Hotel Transylvania 3, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Incredibles 2, Skyscraper, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The First Purge, Sorry to Bother You, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Uncle Drew, Ocean’s 8, Tag, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.


Linkspam wishes Captain America a happy birthday

Happy 100th birthday to Captain America! Otherwise known as Superman, until the real Superman comes back to the movies, Cap currently carries the banner for truth, justice and the American way.

How did we come up with this “birthday”? Someone zoomed in on Cap’s initial 4-F card for the Army and his birthdate is listed as July 4, 1918. Of course he was born on the Fourth of July.

Happy birthday, Captain.

And since there’s not been as perfect a match between actor and role since Christopher Reeve donned the red cape as the Man of Steel, Chris Evans had this to say on Independence Day:

 

 

• I try not to delve into politics on this blog. But I cannot let the #SecondCivilWarLetters go unmentioned… hee hee hee, sorry, I just read another one. The hashtag went wild after Alex Jones of InfoWars declared that Democrats (or liberals, I’m not sure which, he seems to think they’re interchangeable) planned a civil war launch on the Fourth of July. Thus began a cavalcade of internet snark unmatched in my experience - and, actually, very well written in most cases. It takes some skill to match the tone and language of an actual Civil War letter. And… tee hee hee… Sorry, I got distracted again. Go to Twitter and hit the hashtag, but only if you have several hours free, and try not to drink anything near your keyboard.

• A plus-size superhero? I’m casting the side-eye at all my comic-nerd pals, because not one of you has ever mentioned Faith to me. A superhero who actually looks like me (but with cuter hair)? And they’re making her into a movie. I’m braced for the Asshat Brigade that drove Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran off social media for being female in Star Wars, and I hope the actress who lands the role is as well. In the meantime, I’d best go look up some Faith comics!

• Wait, I thought movie theaters were suffering oh so much because awful MoviePass was letting people of limited means actually see movies on a budget. Those poor movie theaters with their box office up 29 percent over this time last year, a five-year high…

• My friend Kelly Chandler found the most awesome ad display for Luke Cagein Paris. No, I haven’t seen the second season yet; I’m still soldiering my way through Handmaid’s Tale, and then I’m up for Luke again.

• Ghost fans: Riverfront Times has a roundup of St. Louis ghost stories, which they call urban legends. Lemp Mansion and the Collinsville Seven Gates of Hell are prominently featured.

 • Have you wondered what Nicolas Cage was up to these days? If you guessed Spider-Man, you’d be right! And not as the villain - as Spidey! Wait, what?

Best Buy stops selling CDs. But no one is weeping, because we all buy our music on iTunes anyway and we haven’t bought them at Best Buy since Amazon showed us Best Buy was soaking us for 20 percent more.

• Hollywood Reporter has all the details of the live-action Aladdin, starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith as the Genie. Alan Menken has made up some new tunes, there’s a new character (Jasmine’s handmaiden), the Middle Eastern roles are actually played by Middle Eastern actors because Disney eventually learns, and Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie is directing. Release is set for Memorial Day 2019.

Dumbo-tim-burton-socialWhat else is coming for live-action Disney? The Tim Burton Dumbo, which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the trailer didn’t horrify us and that’s about all I can ask of Tim Burton getting his hands on yet more of my childhood. Of course we know Christopher Robin is pending, as well as a second Maleficent movie following the fairytales of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book (again) and Pete’s Dragon.

Live-action The Lion King is slated for July 2019, with James Earl Jones returning along with Donald Glover as Simba, John Oliver as Zazu (perfect), Alfre Woodard, Beyonce and a few other people you might’ve heard of.

Mulan drops in March 2020, and following that will be Pinocchio, Oliver Twist (starring Ice Cube?), James and the Giant Peach (again), Cruella, Tink, Peter Pan (again), Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone (oooo), Snow White, The Little Mermaid (with new songs co-written by Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is co-producing)…

And Prince Charming, stealing a concept from Fables comics that the prince is actually ONE prince who romances Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but telling it through the eyes of his brother, who never quite lived up to expectations. Directed by Stephen Chbosky of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the live-action Beauty and the Beast, it’s pending.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: Kevin Spacey faces new allegations of sexual misconduct, which are being reviewed by London police.

 

RIP

• I said at the time that I didn’t have words for the death of Harlan Ellison, the flawed genius of speculative fiction (please don’t call it sci-fi) who passed away the same day as the Annapolis shooting. Much has been written about Ellison, both positive and negative - everyone who ever met him has a Harlan Ellison story, and I am no exception. To understand Ellison, watch a documentary titled Dreams With Sharp Teeth. It is a well-directed, entertaining look at the man and the work, while unflinching at his controversies, legal battles, and the varying reputation he held in the craft.

Dame Gillian Lynne, 92, Tony-nominated choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Beginning as a ballerina in 1946, she worked on seven Broadway shows, including three with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the 2004 Phantom film. Lloyd Webber renamed the West End’s New London Theater as the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the first non-royal woman to receive the honor. Married for 40 years, her husband announced her passing on July 1.

 

Trailer Park

Skyscraper finally gets a new trailer, and we stopped making fun of it and arguing whether it was a ripoff of Die Hard or The Towering Inferno. Instead, it actually looks like a movie we might want to see, since we like Dwayne Johnson and I adore Neve Campbell (why the hell wasn’t she in any of the previous trailers that looked so lame?)

Summer of ’84, yet another bounce on Stranger Things but with more satire for both the 80s and silly slashers. Though honestly, I think they get the 80s better than Stranger Things, but I haven’t seen Season 2 yet.

 

Coming This Weekend  

Ant-Man and the Wasp, because it’s summer and superheroes are required. 

The First Purge, whose trailers actually give this absurd premise for a franchise enough of a hint at social commentary that I’m actually interested in it.

Whitney, a documentary about the late Whitney Houston and her transcendent voice.

  

Continuing:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Incredibles 2; Sicario 2; Uncle Drew; Ocean’s Eight; Deadpool 2; Tag; Hereditary; Superfly; Gotti; Avengers: Infinity War; Solo; Adrift; Book Club; Won’t You Be My Neighbor.