Editorial 39: What’ve I been up to?

Coming soon.

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Movie Review: Deadpool 2

I have said before that Deadpool in the comics is a joke that got old really fast. After about six issues of in-jokes and 4th Wall gags, it becomes clear there is nothing else to him. I am sure die-hard fans will correct me, but I do not care. I went into the Deadpool movie expecting to see the same humor, but in the context of film and was pleasantly surprised. Instead of talking about how aware he is of being in a movie every other scene, Deadpool had a mix of real jokes with hints of 4th Wall breaks scattered throughout. It turned out to be a great comedy thanks to Ryan Reynolds and I could not wait for a sequel. Was DP2 an improvement or has film-Deadpool gone the way of his comic book progenitor?

After getting mixed up with the X-Men, Deadpool finds himself caught in the middle of a temporal battle between a young mutant named Russell, played by Julian Dennison, and Cable, played by Josh Brolin, who comes back from the future to kill him.

To put it simply, imagine the first Deadpool, but more and you get DP2. Seriously, there is no other way to put it. There is more action, more gore, more jokes, and it does not feel bloated or derivate in the slightest. Everything that made the first great is also improved in quality with the self-aware humor utilized in a variety of clever ways. One of the best moments happens after the first set of end-credits and it was amazing.

The standard humor is enhanced by the introduction of a larger, more involved cast. Colossus has more to do, Russell has a sizeable role, and then you have Domino and Cable putting in their two cents. Each has their own ticks and personality that juxtapose Deadpool’s unique humor. Cable is the straight man, Russell a naïve kid, and Domino the closest DP2 gets to a real person. This allows Deadpool to bounce his jokes off others like a live audience, giving the humor a ton of added flavor. It could have turned into a reaction-fest like a Paul Feig movie, but thankfully, the cast is not made up of hacks.

After the departure of Tim Miller, David Leitch took over as director. Having past experience with John Wick and Atomic Blonde, he brought his eye for action to DP2. Given the powers of each character and ridiculous tone, he had a lot of room to be as creative as possible. I do not want to explain further because you should see for yourself, but get ready to enjoy yourself. I will say, as a fan of the Domino, her sequences could not have been more fitting.

As for issues, they are small, but not enough to really hurt the film. There is awkward dialogue in some places and certain lines I could barely understand because the score was so overwhelming. Not much, but I had to point them because you will notice them.

So, Deadpool 2 was great. I would not say it is better than the first because it stands its equal. Everything that made the first exceptional was pushed to the limit and carefully refined for maximum quality. It is better than most comedies and just happens to feature action to rival some of the classics. Definitely go see it and pay very close attention to everything because there are a ton of cameos from other actors.

Editorial 38: A New Thing

So, the past five months have not been great. I do not want to get into it too much, but back in December, a very close friend of mine broke my heart. It felt like a whole part of my life just ended, like a death in the family. As much as I have tried to move on, I have not felt the same since. I have a real job and I am arguably in a better place as of now, but I do not feel any different. I am still empty.

Usually, to get out of an emotional rut, you take anti-depressants or focus on your work. I am not filthy millennial, so pills are not a practical solution in my eyes. However, my writing has been stagnating as of late. There are less and less new movies I actually want to see and the ones I do are spread weeks apart. My last review was Infinity War and while waiting for Deadpool 2, I have seen it three times. I was going to write about Internet Blood Sports until the entire establishment imploded on itself. I could not find any motivation to write and I have no idea why. Sometimes I go back to what inspired me if I ever need help putting pen to paper, but even that did not help.

After a lot of thinking, I decided to do something new and different. I have been working on a follow up to my book Back to Valhalla. It is not a sequel, but a new story entirely. My plan was to go through the usual routine of publishing and releasing it sometime towards the end of the year. However, given what I am trying to do and my lack of motivation, I am going to release the story chapter by chapter on here, once a week.

As of writing this, I am halfway through writing the completed work. A small portion is a draft while the other is rougher than sex with a paint shaker. Obviously I have a ways to go, including getting a cover artist, and copyrighting the story. I cannot say when I will release the first chapter, but be on the look out in the near future.

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

10 years ago I saw the first Iron Man in theaters with my dad. I was 15 years old, but the proceeding films had a massive influence on my late formative years. I got into comics thanks to MCU, opening up a whole new world of storytelling that changed me as a writer. Some of the most impactful books I have ever read are comics and the movie franchise that started it all is about to reach its ultimate climax.

While on the hunt for the Infinity Stones, the Mad Titan Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, travels to Earth to recover the last of the stones. His arrival signals all the heroes to come together to stop him.

Infinity War is technically the first of two parts, but it feels like the MCU’s greatest experiment. These films have been coming out for a decade with dozens of characters and continuity threads brought together into one movie. I cannot fathom the mental gymnastics required to pull off such an immense feat. It is not just a question of juggling an ensemble, but an ensemble with layers of continuity that influence the shared world.

As a comics reader Infinity War has a lot in common with an event story, a one-shot arc where most of the characters in the Marvel Pantheon assemble for a universe-changing story. A few notable events include Civil War, Secret Invasion, and AvX. The Avengers films are also event stories, but on a smaller scale in the context they bring together whoever showed up in the last few movies. With Infinity War, it is more appropriate to think of it as an event, taking in the whole of the MCU for one half of an epic story.

Not unlike Star Trek: Beyond, the film takes control of the ensemble by pairing up characters into different groups, and setting them off on their own adventures. Thor joins the Guardians, Iron Man with Dr. Strange, and Captain America teams with Black Panther. Then the groups splinter into smaller teams to achieve their own objectives, sometimes running into others along the way. This is where Infinity War shines because you have characters with years’ worth of development bouncing off of each other. Their interactions are rife with clever banter, emotional intensity, and arguments on how to approach an objective. It is the essence of the MCU taken to its logical extreme without feeling overwhelming.

While Infinity War has everything we have seen before, it is the first time we get to know Thanos. In the comics he was one in a long line of villains that love Death and/or want to die. To achieve this goal he decided to be a genocidal maniac. I never liked him, but Brolin’s Thanos is rich in depth. His motives go far beyond being bad to be bad or that he wants to die. He has a grand vision and the sacrifices he makes take a very clear toll on him as a person. Despite the character being entirely CG, this is Brolin’s best performance since No Country for Old Men. Not even kidding. Thanos is the best part of Infinity War and the reason to see it.

There is one hang up that may be a problem. Being so dense with characters and tons of great action to rival Winter Soldier, there is a lot to digest. Get ready for the longest 160 minutes of your life. However, it is probably for the best because Infinity War could have (should have) been much longer. It was the correct choice to focus on Thanos, but he has a quartet of minions that are visually distinct and nothing else. I read the story that the film takes its name and those minions have unique names and reasons for joining Thanos. In there cinematic incarnation, we hear only one of their names and no more character development beyond they serve Thanos. If you see the movie and want more, check out Jonathan Hickman’s event story of the same name.

Like always I am keeping this short because Infinity War is good. Why give everything away when it would hurt the experience? It is the culmination of 10 years of movies full of characters and continuity brought together in a single film and it is just the first half to an epic climax. Go see it immediately.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA

Editorial 37: Muh Domino

Like Bryan Singer and Holocaust porn I am obsessed with how Fox ruined the X-Men. Other than X-Force, I never cared for that part of Marvel Comics. They never clicked with me, but when it comes to the X-Men movies, I am like a hardcore fan. The MCU set a standard that was not only achievable and infinitely more appealing than what was the norm until 2008. When I look at what Fox has done in comparison, I am dumbfounded they cannot grasp basic aesthetic and tonal concepts that would vastly improve the films. And while the man responsible is more or less out of the picture, the bleak seriousness of the Singer-Verse persists and it has affected one of my favorite characters.

Prepare for some high quality autism.

Domino is a mutant with the power of probability manipulation, a passive ability where she creates her own luck. It happens in random, small bursts where she will hit a target via ricochet or score big at the tables. In terms of character, there are a lot of places you can take the idea of a person who basically gets whatever they want. Based on what has been written, Dom is a fun-loving free spirit, living life fast and loose as one of Marvel’s many mercenaries. She is a great action character and her premiere cinematic incarnation in Deadpool 2 (DP2) looks like pure dog shit.

Before I get into: no, it is not because the actress is black. Zazie Beetz is pretty good on Atlanta and I have hope she will do Dom justice. However, whoever picked her make-up and outfit should lose their job forever. DP2-Dom looks like a cross between a spinster stuck in the 70s and an extra from a Mad Max rip-off like Land of Doom. If there were ever a time and place for Singer-Verse tight leather, it would have been perfect for Dom. Instead we get a failed Black Widow cosplay made by someone who is colorblind. There are blue patches on the sides, a flesh-colored stripe down the middle that was clearly unnecessary, and lots of dirt-stained vinyl.

DP2-Dom is a microcosm of the problems with Fox’s X-Men. It is devoid of class and style and reeks of embarrassment. The people that make these movies hate the material and do everything they can to distance themselves from the comics. There were moments when the X-Men films embraced their origin. X-Men First Class was a step in the right direction and Deadpool could not have been better. DP2 looked like it was keeping up the momentum until I saw what they did to muh Domino.

There is a lot that goes into character design in comics. First and foremost is the color scheme. Everything has to match and look good on the page. You can have a terrible looking costume and make it great with the right choice of color. I am not a fan of Wolverine’s traditional outfit, but the use of color makes him look awesome. The same can be said for Mitch Gerads’ Punisher with a combination of tan, black, and white. What matters is how color is arranged into the character design. The MCU understands this and translates the costumes directly from the page to screen.

Like other characters Dom has a simple three-color combination. This changes depending on the artist, but the usual scheme is ash-white, black-blue, and black. The arrangement of color is typical Marvel character design, particularly in regards to the X-Men. If you need to make a ton of different mutants, easiest way to do it is change their skin color, hair color, or put some weird marks on their faces. In Dom’s case she has a giant blue-black spot over her left eye and ash-white skin. Her lips and hair are also blue-black, giving her a geisha look that was common among 90s era characters. The black in Dom’s design lies in her costume, though this changes between artists.

Most Marvel characters are visually striking, but what sets Dom apart is her high contrast. Her color scheme is heterochromatic with intense light and dark shades, allowing her features pop. Her emotions are clear as day thanks to her blue-black lips and her left eye practically glows surrounded by her signature spot. The high contrast also makes Dom aesthetically pleasing. Her features are not too busy or outlandish. She is beautifully simple and stands out among the Marvel pantheon with little to no effort. I would go so far as to say her design belongs up there with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.

So, what did DP2 do to Dom? They gave her a gaudy ‘fro, did not paint her skin, and put some white shit around her eye. I gather the thought process behind the make-up was to add contrast based on the actress’ natural skin tone. However, the tone of white they used does not pop enough to qualify as contrast. The spot should have matched her hair or a darker color that would have stood out. Muted is the operative word here because nothing about DP2 Dom’s design pops. I also have no clue why they went with a fugly-ass ‘fro that would be impractical in a gunfight. It is more of target than a hairdo.

I can just feel the laziness in her design. No one bothered to paint her in the standard colors. I understand if Zazie Beetz did not want to be painted; Jennifer Lawrence hated being Mystique so much, she was barely in full make-up. If it is so irritating wearing body paint, then why are so many actors in the MCU okay with it? From what I know, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and almost everyone else in the Guardians movies wear body paint without complaint. It is not even that much: just the face and hands. That is all Dom needs unless she is wearing something other than her costume. It is so easy and I cannot believe the make-up department was that lazy.

A faithful incarnation of Domino would have not only been easy to pull off, but fit perfectly in line with Deadpool 2. Again, this is not a matter of casting choice; this is all about aesthetics and the continuous failure of Fox to shake the pedophilic stench of Bryan Singer from their X-Men. I am going to see Infinity War this week and I hope, when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet, he merges the MCU with the Singer-Verse and erases it in favor of something to be proud of.

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson. Dogs. Stop-motion. That is all you need.

After the dog population in the city of Megasaki reaches its peak, the mayor orders the deportation of all dogs to a waste disposal island. Desperate to see his dog Spots again Atari, the adoptive son of the mayor, flies to the island to get him back.

I have said before that execution informs originality. We have reached a point in storytelling where all narratives are essentially repeats of each other. The way we are able to differentiate one story from another is how we tell them. Christopher Nolan put a realistic crime-drama spin on Batman. Son of Saul was a Holocaust story shot entirely from behind a man in Auschwitz. Sicario was a Drug War thriller in the guise of a suspenseful horror movie. All these stories have been told before, but we remember them because of how they were told.

It is impossible to forget a Wes Anderson film. Even if you hate the guy, his work will remain at the back of your mind because his style is so unique. His precision and attention to detail is unparalleled. The sets, cinematography, and editing have this character that defines Anderson as an artist, and it has been there since his rise to notoriety. Moonrise Kingdom, Royal Tenenbaums, and Grand Budapest are wholly distinct and you will never forget them.

Isle of Dogs is Anderson on steroids. Given the medium, he has complete control of how everything looks including the props, characters, and sets. His technical signatures make the transition with plenty of tableaus, wide static shots, and humorous editing all present and accounted for. Isle is pure auteur cinema and the only limit was Anderson’s imagination.

More importantly, the movie is entirely handcrafted. Stop-motion is the pinnacle of cinematic art. One minute of footage can take hours of coordination and posing by animators and Isle is 101 minutes long. The faces of the characters, which were hand sculpted, had to be changed for every expression and the individual strands of dog hair had to be pressed in. The art form alone makes Isle worth your consideration, as well as any other stop-motion film. Seriously, give these movies your attention.

Again: Wes Anderson. Dogs. Stop-motion. Go see it. However, Yoko Ono voices a minor character. If you like the Beatles, that may be a problem.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA

Movie Review: Ready Player One

I remain of the opinion that nostalgia is creative poison. It certainly has a place in the creative process, but the constant celebration and veneration of the past leads to artistic stagnation. I get it; the 80s were awesome unless you had AIDS or a mental illness. Ronny Reagan was in office, all the best movies were coming out, and pop music was tolerable. However, the more you dwell on the past, the less you grow and evolve. Like Deadpool and Robot Chicken the joke gets old really, really fast. There is no better tool for inspiration than nostalgia, but if you use it as a crutch for creativity, you are not creating a damn thing.

When I first heard about the book Ready Player One (RPO), it sounded like a perfect nightmare, and that was before I found out Will Wheaton was apparently a character. Seriously, the guy is more hated than Voyager and Discovery combined, and that is not taking into account his opinion of gun owners. That alone kept me light-years away from the story, more so as I learned about the narrative over time. I resigned myself to ignore the film adaptation until I heard Steven Spielberg was directing. After that, there was nothing that could keep me from buying a ticket.

The story of RPO is Willy Wonka meets Tron. There is this massively multiplayer online world called the Oasis that everyone plays and they are competing to find a set of three keys to gain control of the world and the fortune of its creator Halliday, played by Mark Rylance. The clues to complete the challenges and acquire the keys are in Halliday’s past and Wade, played by Tye Sheridan, has been searching for the solutions for five years. At the same time, the IOI Corporation is sending its employees into the Oasis with the goal of capitalizing on the game’s economic and societal value.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover RPO was not a laborious cringe-fest like the book. The celebration of nostalgia is there in many forms, but in ways that work for the story. Character avatars, props, and background elements play a role in the narrative. Everyone is obsessed with the past because they do not like the present and the story is more or less about how Halliday kept himself grounded in the past. Because he was incapable of interacting with others he created a world built on the foundation of nostalgia to interact with like-minded individuals. All the references are in service to this idea and do not weigh down narrative as pointless window dressing.

The only problem is Halliday’s story is a subplot. The challenges bring to light his character, but not enough is explored. The most we get is he has a one giant regret and acknowledges his personal shortcomings. There is also backstory of Halliday forcing his only friend out of the company and we do not get any more information beyond characters talking about it. That is where RPO caught my interest and it went nowhere. Exploring Halliday’s character would have given the film more meaning beyond little hints of what it is trying to say.

The rest of the movie is standard Spielberg stuff. You have the hero down on his luck, the comical super villain, and all the schmaltz that has come to characterize his work since Third Kind. You cannot deny his films are fun and RPO is a relative delight to watch. I say relative because it does not feel very fun all throughout.

The opening race challenge is a perfect example. It should have been exciting, but the lack of score drained the life from the scene. Intense visuals can only get you so far. It is not just a lack of score, but also a lack of soul. All this cool stuff is happening on screen and I did not feel anything. Maybe it is just me and my hatred for nostalgia, but there was a moment at the climax that should have made me happy beyond comprehension and I felt nothing. All this cool stuff on screen and it amounts to things happening.

It should be noted that the special effects and animation are well done. Motion capture can be difficult to translate given how humans do not move at 24 frames a second. My one gripe is the visual style makes everything and everyone look the same. It can be difficult to tell characters apart because they look like the same humanoid with different physical features. The art styles that define certain characters in their respective titles were ignored outright and you could not tell them apart. Tracer is not supposed to look like Chun-Li, neither is Jim Raynor and Master Chief. It would have been visually interesting if they looked like they do elsewhere.

So, Ready Player One is difficult to recommend. Though I struggled to find the emotional value of the film, I did not hate the experience. It was cool seeing characters I recognized crammed into one movie and it was not a nostalgia cringe-fest like the latter seasons of Robot Chicken or Pixels (God help us). It all comes down to the fact that Spielberg makes some of the most watchable films out there, even if they are boring or horrifying. If you have a free weekend and Annihilation is not playing anymore, get yourself a ticket.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA