Terminator Genisys

MV5BNjQyMzYxMjI2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODIwNjA2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Downside of watching a movie at the start of the weekend: I fall behind. Like, every time. That said, I have a possibly relevant anecdote concerning my personal viewing of the film. See, I made plans to see it with a couple of friends on Thursday afternoon. Due to some failures of brain, one of them ended up at a separate theater at the exact same showtime. We figured it out by the time the movie was over, and he said, who cares? We wouldn’t have talked during the flick anyway, so I basically feel like I did see it with you guys! And you know, that’s completely fair enough.

Except… This is a Terminator movie. After the first two films, three movies and a (tragically underrated) TV series have each been provided as sequels, and unlike the first two movies, no two of them seem to inhabit the same… man, I’m not even sure what word to use. Same timeline misses the point entirely, as none of these movies have ever been entirely in the same timeline. I’d say same universe, but since multiverse is a term of art within time travel theory, that has basically the same problem. My point is, they all feel mutually exclusive in a way that the first two films plus any one of the purported sequels do not.

So, which is the one true sequel? I would still pick the TV version, because it had time to really dig in to plot, character, and philosophy in a way that movies necessarily do not, and also because Summer Glau. (There are more reasons I could name, but these are enough.) But I don’t review TV shows, so it seems only fair to pick a best movie sequel also, and Terminator Genisys is the one. I know you’re shocked.

So, my reasons are as follows. 1) It did time travel plausibly correctly[1], which I’m pretty sure the earliest and worst of the sequels[2] did not even really manage. 2) It understood how and when to throw a curveball. 3) It still cared about predestination, which I think the second sequel[3] did not enough. 4) It for sure cared about where humanity fits into things, which the second sequel certainly did not. Nor really the first one, which was by and large soulless if I’m being honest with myself. James Cameron, famous for creating the first two films which as you can see have been at no point up for debate in this discussion, names this the first sequel he can get behind. I say, well, but did you watch the show? Then, without waiting for an answer that might make me sad, I nod and add, fair enough.

Anyway, though, my anecdote has been left hanging. Which is important, because I believe I indicated it had some partial relevance to this whole topic. Which is to say, at this point, there are so many plausible sequels to T2 that probably there are still more that I don’t know about, leaking into the timeline at various points between 1984 and 2029 (or later!), and really, there’s no way to tell which of them my friend in the wrong theater actually saw. For that matter, he may have ended up in the wrong theater because of one such attempted sequel or other. Time travel, man. It’s a bitch.

[1] Or maybe it did not? There’s definitely one huge question mark floating in front of my brain right now, but I would need to watch all three movies and diagram everything out to be certain. Scotch and other people would be involved.
[2] Terminator 3, I guess? Who can remember.
[3] Terminator Salvation

Unwritten: On to Genesis

81p2Syxd-YLRight after being concerned that I had no clear idea about what anything actually means in the Unwritten series, I accidentally forgot to read the next book for more than a year, due primarily to a shelving logic failure. This is unfortunate in part because, man, I’m just bad at keeping up with most of these series, but especially because as of the current book, I feel like I have a handle on things. Which says something good about Carey’s ability to know when to stop spinning the plates, at least long enough to explain himself. (Also, he’s better at metaphors than I am.)

On to Genesis, in addition to being a clever play on words, lays bare all the questions you may have had about Tommy Taylor and the mysterious organization with which he has been vying for lo these many years. And it leaves plenty of room for whatever will be happening next, proving that you don’t have to be mysterious all the time to avoid running out of story. I guess most authors already knows this, and I’m looking at television show runners here. Either way, it’s a good lesson!

I won’t be saying anything about the actual answers he’s discovered, because they’re cool enough to deserve not being spoiled. I’m just pleased to be able to report that the series isn’t wandering aimlessly after all. Next time: less than a year away, I reckon!

Jurassic World

MV5BMjMyNjI3ODQyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM5NTk5MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Things Jurassic World had going for it, right out the gate:

Dinosaur technology is better than ever
Chris Pratt is, also, better than ever
The John Williams anthem

Things Jurassic World had working against it:

“Let’s add some kids to run around in danger a lot. That makes it family friendly! I’m sure they’ll be great at acting.”
A music person who clearly had no clue how to appropriately use the John Williams bits
The lead female character’s primary role was to gradually devolve from manager of the world’s most lucrative entertainment enterprise to girlfriend, while gradually showing more skin as indicators of key moments along the progression

Seriously, though, if I was not so annoyed by that last thing, the rest of it made a pretty good movie overall. The music part was rough, but at least they got better at it over the course of the film, and the kids were dumb, but really not any dumber than the kids in Jurassic Park. If you like dinosaurs and chase scenes, that’s enough to go by, and as a bonus most of the characters and situations were pretty well developed. But man, Claire is just a terrible character that damages the rest of the movie so much.

I mean, it was still the best Jurassic sequel by a long shot. Of course it was, did you see those?!

Finders Keepers

81EJz58T3CLStephen King books seem to be coming out faster than ever these days! It’s been two a year for… well, a while anyway. But the thing is, mysteries are shorter, so maybe that’s why? Like, these are his “chill out and procrastinate” novels. Of course, now I’m making Finders Keepers sound lazy, which it wasn’t.

I think I remember reading that Mr. Mercedes was the first book of a trilogy. I could be wrong, but if so, it’s because it’s the first book of a series instead. Honestly, if Finders Keepers has a failing, it’s that it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a sequel or not. Two-thirds of the story is a game of cat and mouse between a murderer and a high school kid, but what it’s really about is literature and obsession and maybe a Salinger/Updike hybrid? And it’s pretty good! The other third is a sequel to Mr. Mercedes, and except for where the two stories mash up against each other, that third is a “Where are they now?” slice of life, which was fine but ultimately unnecessary.

Except for the part where there’s a guaranteed additional sequel that is the actual sequel to the first book, and which I very much want to read. But this book was good too. I just kind of wish it had gotten the chance to be completely its own thing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

MV5BMTUyMTE0ODcxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE4NDQzNTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A lot of people will tell you the new Mad Max movie is a feminist film. Those people are right, of course. There are many more women with dialogue than there are men, especially after you correct for one-line extras. It passes the Bechdel test again and again. Nobody’s role is “be rescued”, even the people who are in fact being rescued; and even if it were, they are being rescued by another woman. By any possible metric, Fury Road is a film that glories in being pro-woman.

But is it a Mad Max movie? Is it even an action movie? So, I’ll be honest. I’ve seen those movies, I’m pretty sure all of them. But not since the ’80s. All I remember is Mel Gibson driving around Australia a post-apocalyptic hellscape in weaponized cars, shooting at people he was chasing or who were chasing him. That said, there’s no doubt that this is a sequel to those flicks, both visually and via the clever use of flashbacks that were not intrusive to my lack of knowledge while clearly referencing real scenes that I just couldn’t remember. And as far as action: I’m pretty sure you will not find as much concentrated adrenaline at any point during this summer season. It’s one long chase movie, and you can tell where the act breaks are written into the script because that’s the only time someone isn’t chasing someone else. Aside from one silly action movie trope about the physical toughness of a main character, there was no point where I was confident about anyone’s safety once things started, um, rolling. I have nothing bad to say about this movie that I’m not willing to immediately handwave as an aspect of the genre.

But you know what? It’s important to acknowledge the feminist angle again. Here’s why. Post-apocalyptic fiction has a habit of relegating women to victimhood. That’s what I always praise so highly about the Deathlands series that I’ve been reading, is not only that it rarely falls into that trap, but that it was written starting in the late ’80s, when nobody really cared about that kind of thing yet.

The thing about the post-apocalypse is that women will frequently be victims. This is not a particularly controversial thing to say. Men will be victims too, they just won’t survive that initial step the way women will. Human nature indicates that once power is all that matters, a lot of men will be killed, fewer women will be killed because they can be enslaved for the purposes of the men doing all the killing, and the people who are left will be tough enough to survive on their own / in their own small groups, or they will glom onto the men doing all the killing and help them so as not to be killed themselves. Which is the point. In the post-apocalyptic world, as in all worlds, feminist problems are really just humanist problems with a different word attached to them. Yes, it’s terrible that all those women have been enslaved and someone should ought to do something about it. It’s also terrible that all those men were killed on the way to where the movie started, and it’s terrible that all the boys were brainwashed by the powerful into being cannon fodder for Max (or whoever) to shoot at. None of it is the least bit okay, but the women are the face of it.

What makes Fury Road a great feminist movie is simply that women were co-equally involved in doing something about the world’s humanist problems. Maybe someday we can get there in the regular world, too.

Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack

71DrhQKXp1LSo, the last thing that happened in Fables was all of reality was saved from uncreation. Which, y’know, cool. Now that that‘s dealt with, time to see what’s going on with Jack Horner and Jack Frost (who were fairly major characters in that particular endeavor, you see).

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack are… well, they are new adventures which star Jack and Jack, that much is true. If you are sensing some kind of overlap between the two eponymous characters, well, that is what we in the industry refer to as a mislead. Jack Frost has wandered off into the storybook worlds to be a real hero, while his father has wandered off by himself (well, not by himself, his sidekick is always there, but you know, still away from everyone else) to revel in the fact that he finally has a big treasure all his own. And that’s pretty much all that happens! Admittedly, it’s a five issue trade, but after all that has gone down in the past of this series, you kind of expect more than a single heroic quest and a single… well, while admittedly Jack Horner does almost nothing, there is a major plot progression that occurs, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

I do wish to complain that they’re both named Jack, though. The whole point of a dude having a name is you can refer to him by name, and the people listening know who you’re referring to! ….not anymore, I guess.

Z 2134

z-2134-coverIn the afterword to the book, the two authors discuss how, in the wake of a few successful turns as serial authors (a la Dickens, Doyle, or once, briefly, King), they decided that a good idea for their next plot would be, “What if The Hunger Games had zombies in it?” And, you know what? Yep, that is exactly the book they wrote.

Okay, that’s unfair in at least two ways. 1) The teenage female character is nowhere near as unlikeable as the book version of Katniss Everdeen. 2) The authors developed a world that is… okay, look, neither this world nor the Hunger Games one hangs together very plausibly if you actually start staring at the underpinnings. But this world makes at least as much sense after correcting for the zombies, and honestly maybe a little bit more, even.

Still, though. You cannot really define derivative more precisely than a book whose authors gleefully admit they combined a different successful book with a pop-culture staple. And as much as I’m a sucker for Rube Goldbergian arena combat to the death, that wasn’t even more than a third of the focus of the book. I guess I actually liked the characters and the premise enough to want to know how things turn out? Huh. Okay.

Warning: Z 2134[1] has two sequels and ends on several cliffhangers. Anti-warning: I think maybe there are only two sequels? And they’re all published, so. I know it sounds like my standards have plummeted here, but a) let’s be honest, they were never really so high as that, and b) it’s always nice to have a mindless book to read at a burn.

[1] Oh, also, the title is super-imaginative, right?

The Walking Dead: Whispers into Screams

81+TMcOUkvLBravo, Kirkman. You’ve done it again.

That is to say, he has lived up to and/or refused to live up to (depending on your perspective) the immortal words, Set me free, why don’t you babe? Get out my life, why don’t you babe? Woo-oo-oo-ooo. ‘Cause you don’t really love me, you just keep me hanging on. 

So, it’s like this. I still believe that he has reached the natural end of his story possibilities like two books ago, and that all of this is superfluous at best, wasted opportunities at worst. That said, I will continue reading the Adventures of  Carl Grimes and His Incredible Hat until the cows come home, and that was about 75% of the focus of Whispers into Screams. So, y’know, that’s cool I guess? Or incredibly diabolical, again depending on your perspective.

Powers: Secret Identity

71c4PfYYnGLA thing you may or may not know is that there is a TV show based on the Powers series of comics. It is available to Playstation Network users, which gives you an idea of just how variegated (or perhaps I should say splintered) the streaming landscape looks these days. But hey, people are making enough money to get more and more niche-interest programming created, and that’s fine by me. I’ve only watched one episode so far? But that’s what summer is for.

Anyway, that has almost nothing whatever to do with Secret Identity, which is so far ahead of where they could have gotten in one season that I may as well assume it will never actually be filmed. (Also unlikely to ever be filmed: the literal monkey vagina from a few books ago.) This? This is the book where things get weird. And I say that in full knowledge of my parenthetical above. It starts with yet another superhero team imploding, and ends with Christian Walker’s and Deena Pilgrim’s deep dark secrets all but exposed, just in time for a cliffhanger about how they will deal with the fallout.

That’s not the weird part. Here‘s the weird part.

Along the way, Walker maybe learns something important about his shadow-shrouded past and confronts[1] the multi-pronged cock of Satan. You know, like you do sometimes.

[1] I swear I am not making it up, and I think it’s possible nobody has ever said this phrase on the internet before.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

MV5BMjMxMTIyNzQxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQ1ODk1NDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Last Friday, I made a joke about putting up the wrong review, secure in the knowledge that the correct review, about the blockbuster sequel that was kicking off the summer season, would be following that first review by only an hour or two. So, that was six days ago.

Yep. I really am that busy, apparently.

Anyway, though, Avengers. Did you see it yet? No? I guess that’s not numerically surprising, it has not made the bank it was expecting. And there have been all kinds of complaints, from anti-feminist to muddled and confusing to unnecessary antagonists. Some of that is fair, and some of it is not. I come neither to defend Caesar nor to bury him, just to say that, you know, I still liked it?

Obviously I’m a total Marvel fanboy. But I don’t think that’s it. It got me in the door, sure, but the things that I liked were along the lines of, “It’s really awesome that Whedon managed to provide a character arc for every person onscreen, even though there were like ten of them.” I completely get why someone would turn that around and complain about how overstuffed the thing is, it just wasn’t my experience. Or, “I appreciate how Ultron’s[1] motivations are thumbnailed so quickly, so we can get on to the plot and character development that succeeds his existence.” Which was turned into a question by a person that I wouldn’t have expected to hear it from, about why nobody bothered to explain why Ultron is trying to <spoiler elided>.

And more things like that. Basically, it’s possible that even though I’m actively looking for details about these characters, my decade long immersion in the characters they’re based upon is giving me an unfair advantage over the uninitiated viewing audience. So, I cannot say if this movie is for you. (Well, I can, for three or four specific values of “you”, but mostly I cannot.) I can say that the director’s cut is probably a visibly better movie than this was, and that this movie, despite a couple of missteps, was still a really excellent chapter in what is probably the most ambitious long-form piece of storytelling Hollywood has ever attempted.

There are worse epitaphs.

[1] He’s the guy whose Age it is, right? Age of Ultron? Right? Also, while I’m here: Spader nailed that character. I’m not surprised, but I am pleased.