Nerd Homework: Supernatural Seasons 3 & 4

Season 2 of Supernatural was a really incredible season of television, that established a tone and world for these characters. Season 3, continues that, though leans much harder into the noir feel of things, which is pretty cool, actually.

Also, it gives us Katie Cassidy as Ruby, a demon who’s helping the guys, and I didn’t think that I could like Katie Cassidy this much in a part. My reaction to her has ranged from “She’s fine but annoying,” (Juliet on Gossip Girl,) to “BAH SO BAD WHYYYY????” (Season 1 of Arrow) to “She’d be fine if they’d give her anything to fucking do!” (The rest of Arrow) so I was genuinely impressed by the work she did with a competently written character.

I also want to make something clear: I’m plugging my nose to a lot of stinky misogyny and homophobia on this show. It’s there. It’s casual. I’m aware of it. I’m also hooked. So I’m doing some ignoring. Women are casually called sluts and whores near constantly. If Dean or Sam so much as looks askance at another dude who is of course attractive because this is The CW and they breed actors on an island to be impossibly beautiful, superficially charming, good at crying on cue and often Broadway caliber singers and dancers, there’s immediate, “NO HOMO!” It’s kind of annoying.

But not annoying enough to drown out the show’s virtues. The writing is clever, the mythology is inscrutable but fun, the performances are game and entertaining. And man is Dean Winchester fun.

I’ve been around the block a time or two with The WB and The CW, and I’ve imprinted on many of their pretty pretty boys, but man, I think it’s real (fictional one sided) love with Dean Winchester. He’s brooding and complicated and dangerous and I love him so so much.

 

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Ready For Endgame: Ant-Man & Captain America: Civil War

This was a strange time for The MCU, it was becoming abundantly clear that the two guys they’d put all their chips on were getting exhausted, (Or too expensive in one case. I’m pretty sure RDJ would play Tony Stark until he died.) the internet discourse around the movies was pointing out that they sure were heavily skewed towards white guys named Chris, (I remember a think piece on Comic Book resources that specifically said, “The minority dude or lady could be named Chris, Marvel, we’d all be cool with that!”) and the need for new blood was imminent.

Not to mention, and I really can’t stress this enough, people did not give a shit about Ant-Man until it opened. I’ve been carefully tracking, watching and writing about superhero movies since 2008, and the only discourse around Ant-Man was about what a huge bummer it was that Edgar Wright had dropped out of the project years before.

I recall making several jokes, on this blog, about how I kept forgetting that it was coming out. Though I was intrigued by the cast I liked a director by the name of Peyton Reid, who’d made two movies that I’d seen about a hundred times, Bring It On and Down With Love. How did a man go from directing dorky girl sleepover staples, that no one else had really seen, to replacing one of the great gods of nerddom on a fracking Marvel Movie?

Now, I don’t care so much about that. Because, Ant-Man is wonderful. It’s funnier than any other MCU flick, it’s small, and personal and charming. It also features legacy characters, which I’ve mentioned is one of my favorite things in superhero stories.

Scott Lang is a loveable goof, a good guy, who does bad things because he keeps backing himself into corners. No excuses are made for his criminal behavior, though explanations are given. (To me the difference between these two things is subtle but important. An excuse is meant to absolve the person, an explanation provides context.) He loves his kid, he cares about his ex, he has good friends.

Hank and Hope Pym are the glory here though. My god, are Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lily spinning straw into gold with these roles. They’d be rote, even expendable in any other actor’s hands but they run with the straight man silliness they’re asked to take on.

Civil War, even more decides to push the status quo to the breaking point. This seems to be the Russo brother’s MO, though I think we’ll talk about that a bit more in a few weeks when I tackle Infinity War. Civil War picks up where Age Of Ultron left off, Cap is leading the Avengers, but when a mission goes south, and they get a break in the case to find Bucky, the life Steve’s been building falls apart.

But it falls apart spectacularly, with recruiting of new allies for him (Hey Ant-Man, nice to see you!) and for Tony, (Well, I’m just going to shove young Mr. Parker into a corner where no one can hurt him, ever, because he’s perfect and wonderful, and he definitely didn’t fly off to space with Tony and get killed and you know what? It’s been almost a year and I’m still not OK, MR FIEGE!) and neutral but what like to kill Bucky please and thank you. (Prince T’Challa of Wakanda gives NO FUCKS about these colonizer boys and their problems. He just wants to avenge his Baba.)

And it falls apart because of Zemo, who is an excellently deployed villain. He manages to do what Ultron could not, destroy the Avengers. Breaking them up from within, using the long simmering personality conflict between Tony and Steve to do, by bringing it to a boil.

And that brings us to Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. I do not come here to bury Captain America, for Iron Man says that Captain America was a villain, and Iron Man is an honorable man…I’ve been thinking about my background in Shakespeare a lot lately, since Christmas when I tried (in vain) to explain to a coworker that Shakespeare was the pop culture of the time, and it’s canonization is all the more interesting because of it. “Superheroes are our modern American mythology,” is basically a cliche at this point, and one that I’ve never much agreed with.

Marvel’s movie versions especially have more in common with The Bard’s melodramatic weirdos than they do with Zeus and his brood. And never more so than in Civil War, you can almost see excising the fight scenes, and this becomes a dramatic fight between two kings for the soul of England.

Civil War is always better than I remember when I watch it. More dramatic and grounded, makes better use of it’s characters and hammers home it’s theme beautifully.

But this is again a middle step. It’s setting up the guys who are going to take over. All worthy, by the way.

Next week we’ll talk about Doctor Strange and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, so, we’ll see how that all goes.

60 Books In 2019 #11: The Queens Of Innis Lear By Tessa Gratton

There have been a few moments in my life when I thought “maybe I read too much.” And when I read the book jacket for The Queens Of Innis Lear and realized that it was a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear but using the story structure made popular in fantasy fiction by a certain bearded fellow in Arizona who’s got a thing for dragons and twincest, and I audibly gasped and maybe danced a little jig, because that sounds awesome, was one of them.

That thought didn’t stop me from picking up Tessa Gratton’s book though. And as I read through her take on the story I was giddy. Her three sisters, Gaela (Goneril), Regan, (Uh, Reagan) and Elia (Cordelia), all maintain their characters from the play while being given new wrinkles and motivations and loves and hates.

This is a very good book, that I loved very much, enough to revisit my least favorite of the big ass end of life melodramas in The Folio. (My rankings go: Macbeth, Tempest, Lear.)  I want to live in this book. I want to learn this magic, which is deep and Celtic and land based and rooted in blood and matriarchy and sisterhood.

Gaela made herself a warrior, and used magic to make herself sterile in hopes of seizing her father’s crown like a man. Regan, wanted only to be a mother but couldn’t carry a child to term and clung to her older sister after her own mother’s death. Elia always felt pushed aside by her sisters, so was devoted to her father. Her sisters resented this and those resentments curdled. As they father nears death and asks for them to prove who loves him best, their world explodes.

Gratton is beholden to the story we all know, but she doesn’t cleave to it. The best Shakespeare retellings don’t. She uses the play and twists it’s workings to her purpose. Funny, how I said after A Throne Of Glass that I wanted a break from fantasy worlds, and then immediately dove right into one that I fell madly in love with.

Up next is more fantasy! (Like I said, I have some books out of the library, so I’m stuck at the moment…) Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. The internet went bonkers about this book when it came out a few weeks ago, and I have to admit it will be fun to get into a fantasy series at the beginning and then wait a decade for another book and whine with everyone. (I’m sure Mr. James has a plan it’s just, how I’ve observed these things going.)

60 Books In 2019 #10: Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I’ve always been pretty content with the fact that the YA Fantasy world I fell in love with Tortall, the mystical kingdom of Tamora Pierce. I think that if I’d gone for something more masculine, or say involving Woodland creatures who were anthropomorphized, it would have shaped my taste in a very different way.

Because of reading about Alanna and Daine and even the girls of The Magic Circle before others, I have little patients for female characters in fantasy who are one note. (You’ll recall it was part of my problem with The Name Of The Wind last year.) Luckily, even when I rolled my eyes at parts of Throne Of Glass (oh there is plenty of eye roll worthy material here.) it was never because of our main character.

Celaena Sardosien, once the greatest and most feared assassin in the world, is liberated from a prison camp by a handsome prince, and an aggravatingly surly Captain Of The Guard and placed in a competition to win her freedom.

The set up is good, really good, and this is a frothy, exciting mystery of a book, with a strong point of view, with ancient secrets and magic at it’s center. I enjoyed it. I didn’t fall head over heals for the world or anything, but this is fun, and a girl can’t live on sexy gay vampires and intergalactic politics alone, ya know? (To name the last few series that have drawn me in.)

I’ll pick up the rest of this series, probably. My current TBR pile is 10 books tall, all but one is either fantasy or sci-fi, and part of what I realized as I read this, is that I think I’ve over done it on those genres, so once I get through these 10, (and I’m flying to California in two days for a week long vacation, so that should be soon…) I’m going to go for more realistic stuff. I haven’t read a memoir in ages, I want to explore some contemporary YA, and I did say that I was going to get more into Baldwin, so it’s not like I’m lacking in choices at this point.

But I liked Celaena, I liked her friends and the men who love her. I think the premise at the center of this series, as I understand it so far, is intriguing. I also appreciate when internet writers make it as “real” writers, and Sarah J. Maas is one of those. (Hell, I’m banking on it being a thing. Check Out The Marina Chronicle!) 

Up next is Queens Of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton. King Lear isn’t my favorite Shakespeare, but I’ll always jump on a chance to read some retelling of The Bard!

What’s The Sitch?: Kim Possible 2019 D-COM

It’s been just over three years since I rewatched Kim Possible, the seminal (to me at least!) Disney Channel cartoon about a teenage superhero, her friends, and their beloved Naked Mole Rat pal. Kim meant a lot to me as a teenager, and I came to really love what the show did as I rewatched it, and I was super eager to see how Disney Channel brought her into a new generation with this movie.

KP Movie

The movie was delightful. It executed Kim perfectly. She’s here in all her butt kicking, overly confident, but insecure when it counts, good friend, heart stopping glory. We also get fun takes on Shego and Drakken, and a slightly minimized roles for Ron and Wade at the expense of a new character.

Kim’s been working as a superhero for a few years as she prepares to start her first year of high school. The opening mission is Kim and Ron rescuing a kidnapped scientist from Proffesor Dementor. (Patton Oswalt! He voiced Dementor as well. This sparked joy!) It’s followed up by Kim running for the bus, after her mom, played by Alyson Hannigan! talks to her about high school. Kim’s got it on lock, though because OF COURSE SHE DOES.

She doesn’t. Barkin rearranged the school, Bonnie informs her that cheer squad isn’t the cool thing anymore, and no one knows her from her adventures.

Not Baddical, y’all, not baddical at all.

Shego breaks Drakken out of prison and he decides he’s going to enact a plan to destroy Kim.

Meanwhile, Kim and Ron meet and befriend a hapless new girl named Athena, and takie her to Bueno Nacho, and then on a mission. (I should note that this was around when I realized we were pretty deep into things and hadn’t met Rufus and I started to get pissed. (He showed up like two scenes later. And it was perfect.)

The mission, which involves Shego taking an energy source from a a museum, goes well, because Athena is a great fighter. Kim gets insecure, Athena becomes a big deal, turns out Athena is a robot programmed to make Kim insecure and steal her essence?

(This plan was an episode, btw. But it’s a good rough outline, so I’ll allow it.)

In the end, Kim learns to be a better friend, Athena joins the team, and Drakken is shrunk down to a middle schooler and enrolls at Middleton, setting us up for a sequel.

Boo-Ya’s And Nacos

  • I really really enjoyed the cast, Sadie Stanley and Sean Giambrone bring Kim and Ron to life with such joy and precision. Giambrone doesn’t get quite enough to do, and while de-aged Drakken is a decent set up for a part 2, I think a stronger choice would be Monkey Fist, which would give Ron a solid B story. Taylor Ortega was also great as Shego, and the rest of the cast followed suit.
  • Christy Carlson-Romano played a pop star who owed Kim a favor and gave her a lift to the mission, Nancy Cartwright stayed on as Rufus. Will Friedle was not to be found. (Yet another reason for Monkey Fist…just sayin.)
  • Nana Possible, Bonnie, Barkin, The Dr’s P, and the Tweebs all made appearances. And Drakken name drops Duff Killigen and Senor Senior Senior. The lack of Monique, Brick and Josh Mankey is a bummer, but understandable given the time constraints.
  • One of the big things I took away from the movie is how tight a concept Kim Possible is and how charming the best DCOMs are. The good ones always had oodles of charm, usually centered around their humor and strong casting.
  • In conclusion, the movie was good, but there was something very important missing:

Monkey Fist.gif

Ready For Endgame: Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Last weekend when I watched Molly’s Game I tweeted the below:

If Molly’s Game is the Sorink-iest movie to ever Sorkin, Avengers: Age Of Ultron might be the Whedon-iest Movie to ever Whedon. I’ve long linked the two in my head. They’re both TV Titans, theater dorks, and overfully pleased with their own cleverness.

I also happen to be a big fan of both of them.

There’s a moment in “Once More With Feeling,” the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where Buffy stops the Scooby’s theorizing about their foe with a simple, “I’ve got a theory, it doesn’t matter.” Her point becomes that as long as they’re all together, they’ll prevail. They do. Of course they do.

Nick Fury delivers a similar speech to The Avengers as they sit around Hawkeye’s kitchen table halfway through Age Of Ultron, then Vision and Cap do the same about a half hour later. Ultron is also full of grey villains who switch sides (Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver), excellent team work, and a deus ex machina of an ending predicated on, “the true avenging was the friends we made along the way!” tropes.

So, yeah, there’s a lot to like here if you’re a Joss Whedon fan. Which I am.

But there’s also a lot to dislike, if you’re a fan of the MCU, which I also am. There’s a pretty steady stream of fans who insist that Whedon “doesn’t get,” Captain America and Thor, and I don’t think that’s it. Neither of them behave out of character in Ultron, but I do think that Whedon isn’t interested in them, particularly.

He is interested in Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, so the movie focuses on them. And, he’s interested, as he always is, in the normal guy who dances with gods. There’s a reason why Xander Harris and Winifred Berkle and Wash are so well fleshed and beloved by the fanbases (Well, maybe not Xander, people have kind of turned on him…) it’s because Whedon’s enamored of that guy.

So Hawkeye gets some real stand out moments, where as Thor and Cap fall a little bit more flat here than they did in The Avengers. Tony, meanwhile, is at his most insufferable here. Truly, it’s astounding how arrogant and misguided he is. But, as always Robert Downey Jr. sells it. I happen to not totally hate the Banne/Natasha pairing, it’s not great but again, it hinges on the performances, ScarJo and Mark Ruffalo do well.

The problem is, I don’t know that Joss Whedon belongs in film, even film that is essentially long form TV like the MCU. If Age Of Ultron were a season finale, the fact that two cast members get basically side lined would be mostly OK. Not great, but OK. But this is an ensemble movie, and two main characters, especially one who was coming off of a huge shift in status quo, like Steve was, and needed strong direction in the first place, like Thor, not having any kind of arc, is problematic.

So yes, the movie has some big problems. But the stuff that works, really, really works. James Spader’s voice performance as Ultron is a hoot. The big action pieces are a excellent. The birth of Vision is a lovely piece of sci-fi whackiness, and my God, that “when you step out that door, you’re an Avenger,” moment is a heart string tug.

But it’s a mess. And Whedon’s gone on record saying he wasn’t interested in playing ball with the Infinity stones storyline, which I think also contributes to Thor’s sidelining. And honestly, watching the movie, you see what it could have been if he’d had his way. It probably would have been quite different. But his reach exceeded his grasp. I joked last week that I think the movie broke his brain.

Whedon took a long break after Ultron, and listen, it’s not like it was unearned. But I think he also knew that he whiffed it, and he needed to regroup. He didn’t get what he wanted and the work was subpar, for him, for the sandbox he was playing in. It’s far from his worst work. (There are some clunky ass episodes of Buffy and Angel and ya know, Dollhouse exists.) It’s also far from his best. Joe and Anthony Russo take it from here, and they do it really, really well.

Next week, things come back to Earth, for a little while, at least. Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War come due, and once again, we’ve got two movies that I like a lot. Especially Ant-Man. (Also, really, except for Dark World there aren’t any MCU movies that I dislike. And even that, I more nothing than hate.)

Nerd News: Batman VS The Ninja Turtles

“So we’re making an animated movie where Batman meets the Ninja Turtles and also Batgirl is voiced by Rachel Bloom, and one of the Ninja Turtles is voiced by Darren Criss.”

My response to this news was to pinch myself, because I was pretty sure I’d hallucinated.

Batman 

VS

The Ninja Turtles

Featuring The Voice Talents of Reenie’s Choice For The Future Of Musical Theater If You Dumb Dumbs Can Stop Felating Pasek And Paul For A Second And Open Your Damn Eyes? and One Of Three Actors That Ryan Murphy Knows How To Write For? (I have very specific positive feelings about these two performers.)

This movie is going to rule! I’ve kinda dropped out of the DC Animated Movie thing. But as I spend 2019 reinvesting in superheroes in general, I’ve been tempted to catch up on stuff.

Regardless, I’ll definitely watch this, and probably would have even without Bloom and Criss involved because Batman. Fighting. The. Ninja. Turtles.

It’s a little 90’s kids cartoon dream play pretend. (Sadly, though, Conroy not voicing Batman, that would be the only way to improve this.)