Ant-Man

MV5BMTc3NzgxNTM0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDI5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Saturday was a day of two movies. Hooray! The second one was, finally, Ant-Man. To get it out of the way: it was a) definitely relevant to the overall story progression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and b) good enough in its own right. Also, to get the other thing out of the way, it’s about a guy who can shrink to the size of about a flea or a bit smaller, and also he can talk to ants, and he uses these powers to be highly stealthy, mobile, and also to be unexpectedly strong[1], and then he has to deal with a supervillain tailor-made for said powers. Like you do.

There. Now to the meat of it. See, in comics, there are two people who have been Ant-Man. (Well, that I know of.) The first of them, Hank Pym, is one of Marvel’s first characters. The second, Scott Lang, I have not actually gotten to yet. The movie is about, well, technically both of them, but the point here is that it’s mostly about the one I don’t know. Which means, virtually no preconceptions! Paul Rudd was damaged and charming, and the character was entirely likeable. The plot was heisty and heroic and if it was often predictable, it made up for it by never being boring.

My complaints about Hank Pym are spoilers, but the fact that I have complaints can be put down to the fact that he’s a known jerk of a character. (Unlike Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who is objectively as much of a jerk on paper, but people always seem to like him anyway. This has nothing to do with anything, I’m just complaining about it.)

Anyway, pretty good movie. Worth seeing, especially if you’ve been watching the other ones. Spoiler thing about Hank Pym in the comments.

[1] Something something physics: space between atoms is reduced, increasing density and therefore retaining the same strength in a much smaller package; you know, comic book science.

Trainwreck

MV5BMTQ4MjgwNTMyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc1MjI0NDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing that initially confused me about this movie is that it’s classified as a comedy. Which, yes, Trainwreck is definitely that. But it’s got an edge of seriousness throughout. Like, the times when you are cringing because something awful and embarrassing is happening, you’re not simultaneously laughing despite yourself (or staring around wondering why the rest of the audience is laughing); the serious parts are serious. It seems like the classification would be comedy and drama both, but the reason it isn’t, I think, is the same reason the entire thing clicked into focus for me the moment the credits started rolling. Because, directed by Judd Apatow.

Obviously a lot of what goes into a successful comedic drama is the writing, and I concur with what I’ve heard going around about Amy Schumer (also the star) being a comedian to keep an eye on. But leaving aside the writing/direction/acting percentages of what makes a movie work, there’s no doubt that Apatow attaches himself to this exact kind of movie. By which I mean, the kind that starts off as a comedy about bad people failing, and turns out to instead have heart and be about flawed people trying.

There’s no way I can think of to describe the plot that doesn’t make it sound trite and formulaic. Maybe that’s because it is? Still, though, it came across better than that to me. Also, Amy Schumer? I bet she gives good stand-up. She definitely gives good romantic comedy, which is sort of what this is. Only, y’know, less trite.

Vortex

51OaY2ueMYLOkay, I got fed up. It’s time to actually catch up with all my old partial serieses. At least this time I’m only a little over a year between books, instead of three? Anyway, right. Star Wars. Luke and his son Ben versus ancient evil older than 25,000 years of civilization, plus also uneasy Sith alliance, plus also Jedi Order in political quagmire, plus also slavery.

Vortex is totally a middle of the series book. Plots advance in retrospectively inevitable ways (at least, if you want the series to ever end, and at the two-thirds mark, turning a corner was something that had to happen), Sith apprentice Vestara Khai continues to be the best thing about the book, and… you know what, something just occurred to me. I think the series may be trying to finally take a hard look at the difference between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Because, look. It’s easy to say Sith are evil and Jedi are good, and that’s the Lucasian end of the debate. And that kind of works if you also say that there are only ever two Sith, because of how they hoard their power and their trust. What would be the point of a non-evil apprentice if you yourself are evil? But when you expand it to a society (the Sith used to be a species, even if that is no longer particularly the case), well, everyone isn’t evil. Not possible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fuel your power with anger instead of peace, and of course not all anger is evil. Righteous anger is a concept that exists for a reason. So on the one hand the series is showing multiple Sith, all of whom are shaped by their society, some of whom are evil, but some of whom are looking for revenge for probably real slights at most, understandably mistrustful of their longtime enemies at least. And on the other hand, the series is also showing Jedi who have reached different but clearly ethical conclusions about an intractable debate, and then being forced to proceed.

If Jedi can disagree unto death without either of them going “dark side” and Sith can assist in preventing the ascension of an insane god out of enlightened self-interest instead of going “light side”, then the Force is as complex as it ought to be. I’m amused that a fundamental change in how the Force is understood by Jedi and Sith alike might be on the verge of occurring in a timeline that will collapse this December.

Zombeavers

MV5BNTMzMzc4ODc1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM0MTgxMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing I like about monster movies is everything you need to know is presented up front and boldly in the title. I Was a Teenage Werewolf? I think you know how that film is going to go down. Sharknado? Piranha 3D? I’m just saying. Easy peasy.

Which brings me to Zombeavers, a film I first learned about when it popped up on Netflix sometime last month. Literally everything you need to write the script for this movie is contained in the title. Thing 1: these are radioactive chemical zombies, a la Return of the Living Dead. This is a foregone conclusion, because how else would it only affect beavers and not everything else, except if it was somehow tied to a limited geographic area? Thing 2: this is a college kids trapped in the woods movie, a la Evil Dead. This is also a foregone conclusion, because how else do you get the victims near the zombeavers? Ah!, you ask, but why college kids? Because it’s a one word title. Zombie Beavers, you might have some leeway, but with Zombeavers, you need people who are young enough that you know they’ll be naked sometimes, and old enough that this is permissible. The pun is just too on the spot for anything else, and also, man, the poster you are seeing here is unfortunately not the one I see on Netflix.

So, why should you watch a movie about college kids in the woods vs. zombie beavers? Because, despite everything I’ve just told you about the inevitability of the flick, this is the most subversive horror movie I’ve seen in years. Explaining how would be a spoiler, so I won’t do it here. But if anyone asks, I can definitely elaborate in comments, and in the meantime, if you have even a slim percentage of amusement in the base concept, you must see this movie. Like, yesterday.

+1

MV5BMTQwOTA5Mzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkxODAxMDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Before telling you that you definitely want to avoid +1[1], I should at least try to explain what happens in it. So, the first layer of the onion is that it’s one of those high school / early college break-up movies where the boy and the girl have some kind of valid or contrived misunderstanding, and then the one who isn’t pissed tries to make up with the one who is at a big, raunchy teen movie house party, while various secondary stories play out and roadblocks keep appearing to prevent the inevitable reconciliation.

The complicating factor is some kind of space-spawned electrical disturbance that resets time weirdly. So, like, the first one jumps everything backward about 20 minutes, and you have the people who already lived through those 20 minutes and the people from 20 minutes ago, now both existing at the same time. (Not occupying the same space, because the vast majority of partygoers end up in different locations right before the jump, which is convenient I guess?) Then the same thing happens again, but the backward jump is only like 10 minutes the next time, and so forth. Inexplicably, there are never more than two sets of people, but whatever, go with it. Poorly thought out consequences is not why you want to avoid this movie.

Honestly, the background stories all kind of worked. The nerdy girl’s search for peace, the rowdy best friend’s search for a hot chick to bang, the big group’s reaction to the weird happenings going on around them mostly unnoticed, each of these stories plays out in novel or at least believable ways, which is more than you can say for most teen house party movies. But the main story about the boy trying to reconcile with his wronged ex-girlfriend? It starts off in the exact formulaic way you would expect, with him using found knowledge from the time rewind to get his reconciliation speech just right. And then it gets seriously a whole lot worse, without any kind of ultimate consequence or useful lesson.

Long story short: I want to kick this movie in the nuts. And then I want a time loop to jump back 20 minutes, so I can kick it in nuts again at about 19:30, and then the other me kicks it again immediately afterwards.

[1] Because you should avoid it, I’m not going to be shy about the spoilers. If for some reason you think I’m wrong and you want to see it anyway, probably don’t read this review? Also, make sure you’re good on blood pressure meds.

Chill Factor

51Z1R4iI8nLIt is pleasing that I have basically infinity comics to read, because sometimes I fail to plan trips correctly and run out of book too fast. In part this is certainly due to being kind of sick and not wanting to do anything besides read, unexpectedly, but also in part this is because the Deathlands books are comic-like in their own way. Obviously, they read extremely fast, but also they are similar in that they have recurring villains and in that they lay the groundwork for future books in the current book, so the overall story tends to feel seamless instead of purely episodic.

Chill Factor sees one-eyed killing machine Ryan Cawdor off somewhere in the extreme north to rescue his son from a sulfur mine run by Russian slavers, while dodging the tender affections of a series of badly thought out but extremely lethal, er, killing machines. Like, you know, hunter-killer security droids. T-800s by way of R2-D2. Because of handwavy reasons, he’s performing this task by himself instead of with his usual crew, and while I don’t mind that, it’s certainly time for one of the other characters to get a spotlight book.

Anyway, if you like this kind of thing, the series continues to deliver. I especially appreciated, in this case, how convincing the environment was, with most everyone’s lives measured in days or weeks rather than months. Between, you know, the constant sub-zero temperatures, the radiation, and being a slave in a sulfur mine. That said, the books don’t exist digitally, so probably it’ll only ever be just me reading them.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

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?!