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June 2017

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

• A bunch of Disney flicks got their release dates, including a pushback for Indiana Jones 5: The Apology. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a December release this year, just as Force Awakens was, but the as-yet untitled Episode IX will be a May 2019 release, rather than sticking with the Christmas plan. That’s probably because Frozen 2 comes out that Christmas, and Disney doesn’t like to fight itself. (Please, Disney. We’re gonna go see both anyway. You have us.)

James Cameron’s Avatar 2 will come out in December 2020, with three more movies slated for 2021, 2024 and 2025. Somewhere in there he hopefully hired a screenwriter. In the meantime, Indiana 5 is moved from July 2019 to July 2020, just in time for poor Harrison Ford to turn 80. Also in 2019: the Lion King remake, Toy Story 4 and Avengers: Infinity War Part II, so just sign your soul over to Disney now. (They’ve had mine for years… crunchy.)

• Tor.com is offering a neat incentive to sign up for their eBook of the Month Club: A free ebook of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. The club is free, and you get a free book every month. So far I see no downside!

• Tracy K. Smith is the new poet laureate of the United States, the highest honor held by poets in the nation. Smith has 30 years of poetry publications and a Pulitzer Prize. She plans to be a “literary evangelist,’ taking poetry to places “where literary festivals don’t always go.” She is also director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.

The Dining Room was one of my favorite plays back when I was a struggling actress in Memphis. The playwright, A.R. Gurney, was a finalist for the Pulitzer for that one and two others - I always wanted to see Love Letters become a movie. Yes, he wrote about upper-class WASPs, because he wrote what he knew - but he told it with truth. Sadly, Gurney passed away this week. The stage lights are a little dimmer for his loss.

• RIP to one of the more famous bookstores in the country. Berkeley science fiction bookstore Dark Carnival will close its doors soon, and has launched its going-out-of-business sale.

• Variety has some theories about The Mummy’s troubles, and they start with two words: Tom Cruise. Not that he’s a bad actor (he’s not) or that the film was a bad idea (more debatable), but that he had a personal control over nearly everything from script to marketing. “There were differences of opinions about whether Cruise’s directions were improving a picture that had been troubled from its inception or whether they were turning a horror film into a Cruise informercial.” It has not yet been viewed here at CultureGeek Towers, so I’ll let you know…

The-mummy
Wait... sorry. This is the fun one. My mistake.

• In the Cool Stuff category, a photographer picked up a 1938 camera at Goodwill that still had a roll of undeveloped film inside. She had them developed, and found images of the 1980 explosion of Mt. St. Helens.

• Trailer Park: Goodbye Christopher Robin is a biopic of A.A. Milne and his young son who inspired the books of Winnie the Pooh. Flatliners gets a remake, which will have a long way to go before it matches the creepy-dark fun of the original. A documentary titled Nobody Speak examines the attacks on the press over the last few years, and hits Netflix in a week.

• For a little silliness, check out the trash-talking Twitter battle between Sue the T.rex at the Chicago Field Museum and the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I can’t make this stuff up.

 

On the local scene…

• Dunaway Books on Grand Boulevard will host “An Evening of Wine and Poetry” featuring local writers like Grace McGinnis, Hart L’Ecuyer and RC Patterson for a series of readings beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

• The Glen Carbon Public Library will host “Writing Your Breakout Book” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 19, presented by Rod Deutschmann of Outreach SIUE. Click the link to register.

• Insight Theater Company has opened its season with Next to Normal, a powerful and intense rock musical I was lucky enough to see several years ago at the Fox. Warning: This is very intense, dealing with mental illness and its impact on the family.

• River Styx Literary Magazine will host “Books & Brews* at Urban Chestnut on Manchester at 6 p.m. July 10. Readings from the authors, first glimpse at issue 98, and the first beer is free - sorta. Admission is $15.

• The St. Louis Women’s Artisan Pop Up Shop will take place Saturday, July 29 at Lemon Gem Kitchen Goods on Manchester. It will host women-owned small businesses with dozens of nifty vendors.

• Enjoying The Handmaid’s Tale? Meet author Margaret Atwood when she accepts the 2017 St. Louis Literary Award, to be presented by the St. Louis University Library Associates at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Sheldon Concert Hall on Washington Boulevard.

Have a good weekend!


Monday Linkspam

The Tonys were held Sunday night, and I am pleased to announce that Edwardsville native Laurie Metcalf won best actress for A Doll’s House Part 2 - a production I did not know existed, but intrigues me. Trivia note: the Metcalf Theater on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is named after her father, James Metcalf. Laurie Metcalf is a founding member of Steppenwolf Theater, along with John Malkovich, Gary Sinise and others. Metcalf’s win “surprised no one,” according to the New York Times.

It’s no huge surprise that Bette Midler won best lead actress in a musical, since she’s been knocking down the walls in the revival of Hello, Dolly. Best line of the night was from her (apparently quite long) acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank all the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated.” — Bette Midler

 

Tony
Puttin' on the Ritz

 

Dear Evan Hansen won best new musical, an “unflinching” look at grief and loneliness about a high school student who insinuates himself into the family of a classmate who has killed himself. It also picked up best lead actor for Ben Platt.

Best play went to Oslo, set behind the scenes of the 1993 Middle East peace accords. It defeated A Doll’s House Part 2, which follows Nora’s return to face the consequences of her decision at the end of the classic Ibsen play. Two others up for best play - Sweat by Lynn Nottage and Indecent by Paula Vogel - were penned by Pulitzer winners, so competition was fierce. Cynthia Nixon won best featured actress for The Little Foxes; look for her in an intriguing biopic of Emily Dickinson titled A Quiet Passion, which was allegedly released in April, but I have yet to see it in local theaters.

Oh, and Kevin Kline picked up another Tony for a Noel Coward piece, speaking of surprising no one. But best revival went to Jitney by August Wilson. Full details at the New York Times.

 

• Congratulations to author Michael Knost for receiving the JUG Award (Just Uncommonly Good) from the West Virginia Writers organization this weekend.

RIP Adam West, who died on Friday of cancer. There was much mourning on social media, with remembrances of him as a good and decent fellow who came to terms with his typecasting as the tongue-in-cheek cheesy TV Batman.

 

Batman
Go on, sniffle. I'll wait.

 

 

• Steven Moffat reminds us all why we’re glad to see him go, as he tells io9 he never cast a woman as the Doctor because it never popped into his head, and of course the first idea that pops into your head is always the best one, right? Or as author Nicholas Kaufmann said, “The lesson here, apparently, is that if it takes even a smidgen of thought or effort, it isn’t worth doing.” My favorite is when Moffat insists he’s not misogynist because he’s “to the left of a lot of my detractors,” as though a liberal can’t be sexist. 

Moffat can insist all the time that he’s not sexist, but I threw the remote across the room and stopped watching the show after River Song declared in mid-regeneration, “Shhh, I’m concentrating on a dress size.” I’ve since caught up to the beginning of Capaldi, and I suppose I shall have to watch the rest in preparation for the next era. But good lord, am I tired of this trope that making a woman or a person of color a central character of any franchise is “a forced political choice” or “political correctness run amok.” I've read far too many comments insisting that they should never make the Doctor a woman "just because." Perhaps instead these showrunners (and the fans) could consider that women are 50 percent of the human population, and there are a very large number of human beings of any gender who are not white? That’s not political correctness, that’s math.

• And RIP Glenne Headly, best known to me as Tess Trueheart in the 1980s Dick Tracy. She was only 62 years old, and had built a strong career on TV shows like Monk, ER and films like Mr. Holland’s Opus as well as Dick Tracy. Maybe it’s just because I was a kid then, but she’ll always be Tess to me.

 

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Tess Trueheart

The Black Panther trailer has dropped. You know, I’m just gonna let you go see it. It speaks for itself pretty well. And because it is a day ending in Y, some people are upset about it. How many remains to be seen, but since the general reaction has been, “Oh, there aren’t THAT many racists in America, Marvel is just trying to stir controversy,” and Disney wouldn’t support anything dark, controversial or violent,” my facepalm is reaching epic proportions. (Note: Disney /= animated fairytales only. I can’t believe I have to keep saying this.) FYI, if you want to know if there are really racists upset about this, look no further than the comments section on pretty much any article about it. Better yet, check out Denny Upkins’ look at Shuri…. and, sadly, see that Marvel has canceled World of Wakanda less than 48 hours after the trailer blew up the internet. Seriously??

• Here on the local scene, Dance St. Louis has announced its 2017-18 season with new artistic consultant Terence Marling. This year’s season includes Chicago at the Fox, The Nutcracker at Touhill Performing Arts Center, TAP Dynamics at the Grandel and more. Find out more at Dance St. Louis’ website.

East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond and his daughter, poet and educator Treasure Shields Redmond, will deliver readings and performances in “Black Joy in the Mourning” at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation on Thursday, June 22 at 7 p.m. They will include a discussion of many influences on their work, including Miles Davis, the 1917 East St. Louis riots, migration, and the south.

And the BND is running the annual Readers’ Choice Awards, so click here to fill out your ballot! (It’s early on, so you may have to nominate some of your favorites.)


GodzillaGeek: King Kong vs. Godzilla

This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek

 

In the third installment in the Godzilla series, Toho decided to bring in another well-known monster to be Godzilla’s opponent; the mighty King Kong!

It was originally an idea by Willis O'Brien to film a movie to be called King Kong vs. Frankenstein, in which Kong fights a giant version of the Frankenstein monster. It was turned down by several American studios because of the cost of stop-motion animation to produce the movie. O'Brien then shopped the script overseas, where it was picked up by Toho Studios. Toho altered the script to include Godzilla as the monster Kong fights, and thus this classic was born.

This is where Toho Studios, much to Ishirô Honda's regret, turned the monsters toward humorous moments and showing emotions. There is even a scene where Godzilla laughs at Kong after burning his chest with his atomic breath. Toho’s reason for moving to a more lighthearted tone with Godzilla was to appeal to younger audiences. It seemed that children loved Godzilla despite him being shown to be the bad guy, so Toho wanted to make them happy.

The plot for the movie is very simple. On an island near Japan, a berry has been found that has several medicinal uses. The pharmaceutical company studying the berries learns from the scientist that discovered them that the island natives worship a god they say is a giant monster. The head of the company, desiring a new ad campaign for the company, sends two of his employees to find this monster and capture it.

In the meantime, an atomic submarine has found an iceberg that is giving off a strange glow. When they get too close to it, the iceberg begins to break apart, sinking the sub. When a rescue chopper is sent to the location, the pilots see Godzilla breaking free from the ice. As Godzilla begins doing what he does, stepping on things and burning them with his atomic breath, Kong is found on the island. Kong falls asleep after getting drunk off the berry juice, naturally. Of course, the two humans from Tokyo decide to try to bring him back with them.

As usual, Kong escapes on the way back to Japan, and eventually the two monsters face off. Godzilla has the upper hand in the first fight with his breath weapon, and Kong retreats after getting burned by Godzilla. In this movie, Godzilla has now developed a weakness to electricity, so the government is able to hold him back by supercharging the power lines around the city.

However, Kong is not stopped by the power lines. Instead he is supercharged by them, and plows through doing a little destruction before grabbing a woman and climbing the National Diet Building. Thanks to the power of berry juice, they are able to put Kong to sleep and rescue the poor woman.

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The government decides that Kong and Godzilla must fight each other and in the hopes that they will end up killing each other. Using balloons (yes, balloons), they are able to airlift Kong to Mt. Fuji, where Godzilla is taking a stroll. They drop Kong right in front of Godzilla and the two begin battling again. Once again, Kong is overpowered by Godzilla until storm clouds form and Kong is struck by lightening. It supercharges him and evens the battle, as Kong is now able to shock Godzilla by just touching him.

The battle is very physical. The suit actor who played Kong, Shoichi Hirose, was a black belt in judo and showed just how skillful he was by doing a shoulder throw to Haruo Nakajima, who came back as Godzilla for a third time. Nakajima weighed almost 300 pounds when in the Godzilla suit, so for Shoichi Hirose to be able to perform a shoulder throw during the fight is very impressive.

Godzilla and Kong battle on until both of them fall off a cliff into the ocean. Their underwater battling causes an earthquake, and at last Kong rises to the surface and begins to swim home. Godzilla is nowhere to be seen, but the watching humans do believe there is a chance he is still alive.

This movie is a fun little romp, as long as you apply what I like to call Godzilla Philosophy when you watch it. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy it for what it is: two guys play-fighting while knocking down toy buildings. Yes, the plot is silly. Yes, the Kong suit is godawful ugly, and yes, it is not possible in any way that this could happen. But if you watch it just for fun and can suspend your disbelief for the movie, it can be very entertaining. This was the second monster battle movie that Toho had made, and it is much better than Godzilla Raids Again.

Now, there is a myth in the Godzilla community about this movie that I need to address. A lot of people are under the misconception that there are two different endings for this movie: that in the edited American release, Kong is the winner, and in the Japanese version it is Godzilla that rises up out of the water and swims away.

I hate to break it to you, but that is nothing but myth. As much as it pains me to tell you this as a Godzilla fan, Kong wins! Toho Studios even considers this ending to be an official loss for the Big G. You have to understand that at the time this movie was made, Godzilla was still considered the bad guy, so he had to lose at the end of the story.

However, there is one difference between the American ending and the Japanese one. At the end of the movie, you hear Kong roar, and it is then followed by Godzilla’s roar. In a way, this shows the audience that he did indeed survive the battle.

I suggest that you watch the original Japanese cut of the movie. It is much better than the Americanized version, which was heavily edited and loses a great deal in the process. The musical score is completely changed, a lot of the human plot is altered or dropped, and it to me is a much better movie when seen unaltered.

Up next in the Summer of Godzilla: Mothra vs. Godzilla! SSSSKKKKREEEEROOONNNK!

 

 

G-FAN RATING

Special Effects: 3 SRRREEEROOONNKS

Plot: 3 FOOT STOMPS

Fun Factor: FOUR ATOMIC BREATH ATTACKS


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.

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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.


GodzillaGeek: Godzilla Raids Again

This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek

Gojira was a huge success for Toho Studios when it came out in 1954. It broke box office records, earned the equivalent of the Oscar in Japan and was a powerful allegory for the dangers of nuclear war and the heavy cost of using such weapons.

Toho decided to make a sequel to Gojira, and began production for the second film starring the overgrown lizard. However, it feels like a lot of the magic that Toho was able to capture for the first Gojira movie did not make it into Godzilla Raids Again.

The movie begins with a pilot (Minoru Chiaki) for a fishing company in a forced landing near an island due to engine trouble. Another pilot (Hiroshi Koizumi) comes to his rescue on the island in his own plane. Before the two can leave the island, a huge shadow blocks out the sun. The pilots look up and see Godzilla looking down at them. While the two men hide, another monster appears and begins fighting with Godzilla. After a little back and forth fighting between the two behemoths, they both fall into the ocean.

The two pilots escape and go back to Japan to report what they saw. The men identify the other monster after looking at several different pictures of different dinosaurs, and it is discovered that the other monster is called Anguirus.

Gojira_no_gyakushu_posterActor Takashi Shimura reprises his role from Gojira as scientist Kyohei Yamane-hakase in a brief cameo to tell the local government of Osaka that there could be no way they could hope to stop this new Godzilla, who is a different one from the one that appeared in Gojira. The authorites of Osaka decide to try to use flares dropped from planes to lead Godzilla away from the city if he should appear.

Which he does. Face it, you knew he was going to show.

The plan is set into motion and it is actually working, until some convicts from the local prison stage a escape while being transported through the city. In the chaos of being chased by the police, an oil refinery explodes. The sound and bright lights draw Godzilla back to Osaka, and he makes landfall. The military begin their attack on Godzilla, but none of the weapons work to stop him.

Just as he is about to start his rampage of destruction, Anguirus arrives out of the ocean to engage Godzilla in battle. This is when one of the biggest weakness of this movie shows itself. In the first movie, they slowed down the camera to make Godzilla’s movements sluggish. It gave the appearance of weight and mass to Godzilla and added to the illusion of his massive size.

But a mistake happened with the filming of the combat scenes between the two monsters. Instead of slowing the film down, they sped it up. But instead of fixing it, they released the final film as is. Maybe they were short on money, or they actually liked how it turned out, but watching it now makes the scenes seem comical.

It takes away whatever feelings of fear or dread could have been built up by the sight of two giant monsters fighting in the city of Osaka. Even the sight of Osaka Castle being torn down due to the two monsters battling each other loses any tension. Godzilla wins the fight when he bites Anguirus on the neck and then sets him on fire with his atomic breath. He leaves the city in ruins and the search for him begins again.

The two fishing-company pilots help in the searching for the monster and at last find him. The movie ends with the military succeeding in their mission to bury Godzilla in a massive avalanche of ice and snow on a small island. One of the pilots we have grown to know in the movie dies trying to help keep Godzilla distracted, giving the military time to arrive and pays the price for it when his plane is brought down by Godzilla’s atomic breath.

Godzilla Raids Again is nowhere near as good as the first movie. Maybe it was because they rushed it into production to strike the anvil while it was hot, but it is a rather disappointing film compared to Gojira. None of the human characters are memorable or really gain any kind of emotional response from the viewer comparable to Akihiko Hirata's performance as Dr. Serizawa. The musical score isn’t as memorable as Gojira’s and is rather dull. Even though this movie introduces the concept of kaiju battles, it suffers a great deal from the camera work.

One of the few good things in the movie is that it introduces the monster Anguirus, who went on to become a fan favorite for G-Fans with his ‘never say die’ attitude against stronger opponents in such movies as Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Gigan. I still recommend checking out the movie if you wish to be a Godzilla completist like I am; just be prepared for a movie that is nowhere near as good as the first one.

 

G-FAN RATING

Special Effects: 2 SRRREEEROOOONNKS

Plot: ONE FOOT STOMPS

Fun Factor: ONE ATOMIC BREATH ATTACK