Movie Review: The Shape of Water

This week I planned to see 12 Strong, the story of the Green Berets who fought Taliban on horseback. However, I wanted to see it with my dad, so it will have to wait. In the meantime, here is why you should skip Pacific Rim Uprising in March.

While on the night shift at a government facility Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, encounters a humanoid fish monster imprisoned in a lab. Overtime she grows fond of the creature and decides to break him out when his dissection seems imminent.

Guillermo Del Toro remains one of the few contemporary directors that cares about the art of cinema. His shooting style, use of practical effects, and scene composition has remained consistent since is semi-debut with Blade 2. He understands better than anyone the catharsis of spectacle. Not in terms of tableaus or eye-candy, but artistic appeal. Take any scene in one of his movies and you could put it in a frame.

Del Toro has an extreme attention to detail he captures in each movie. He shoots clearly with enough lighting to pick up all the little touches in sets and effects. It is not everyday you find physical sets that are so complex and rich and Del Toro knows how to show them off. Elisa’s apartment alone is packed to the gills (no pun intended) with detail. Even the plain concrete environments are beautifully bleak and weathered. It might seem ridiculous to imagine, but the kind of craftsmanship in his sets used to be the norm for a lot of films back in the day.

On the subject of craftsmanship, the creature effects need no introduction. It is so well done and acted by veteran Doug Jones that you just need to see it. Imagine the Abe Sapien from Hellboy, but as a full body costume. That is the fish monster.

When it comes to the performances everyone brings their A-game. Hawkins gives an exceptional physical performance with no lines of audible dialog. You can infer what she is feeling based on body language and the manner in which she signs. Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg are all great, but Michael Shannon owns the movie. Even when I put aside my bias, the man is just fantastic. His time as Strickland is his most incredible performance to date. It almost makes the entire film. I do not care for the Oscars, but he deserves a win for Best Supporting.

I should not even have to recommend this, let alone explain my reasoning. It is a new Guillermo Del Toro movie, with fantastic practical effects, and Michael Shannon is completely out of his mind amazing. Go see Shape of Water immediately.

(Muh book:


Netflix Review 2: Devilman Crybaby

Like any good thing, not all anime is worth a watch. For me, there are just a handful of titles that have left a lasting impression. FLCL, Samurai Champloo, and Cowboy Bebop are a few I remember and revisit. This has made me very picky when it comes to picking up new shows. To give you an example, I watched the first season of Attack on Titan in 2013, discovered Drifters in 2016 thanks to a friend, and suffered through the new Berserk (yeah, I’m not linking you to that shit). I also watched Kill la Kill four years late. You can boil this down to personal taste, but when picking up a new show, I need to actually have an interest in sitting down and watching it first. With Devilman Crybaby, I saw a short review on YouTube and thought I would check it out. Did it grab me like a lollicon nightmare or does it belong in the garbage with Naruto?

After being reunited with an old friend, Akira goes through a radical change that opens his eyes to a hidden world of evil. Endowed with the powers of a demon, he takes it upon himself to protect humanity.

Devilman attempts to examine the nature of man by pondering the notion of a devil with the heart of a human. Akira starts off as a rather Beta teenager before he is possessed by the demon Amon. Akira takes control of Amon and adopts his extraordinary powers. He gains superhuman speed, strength, and the ability to transform into a winged demon form at will. The only drawback is his hunger for sex and violence. Devilman explores this idea by pitting Akira against other demons and his personal life. He treasures his friends and family and struggles to control his urges on a daily basis. At any moment he could literally fuck his friend Miki to death and eat her corpse. However, by embracing the demonic side as a part of his being, he keeps himself in check.

This stays in line with the show’s theme of human nature. Devilman is up front about Man being ignorant and depraved. It does not shy away from showing intense, graphic acts of sex and violence in each episode to let you know what it is trying to say. It is the villains that remain totally demonic and the humans totally human, whereas Akira is both. How can you function if you do not understand the evil you are capable of? By knowing his capacity for violence, Akira can choose to be good. Everyone else is either one or the other and remains black or white on the moral spectrum. All of this comes to head in the second half of the show where there is a radical tonal shift in how far Devilman goes to make its point.

Without spoiling it the final three pivotal episodes, imagine the eclipse from Berserk if it were 90 minutes long.

It was beyond refreshing to see a hand-drawn anime again. After the new Berserk and that trash Blame! movie it blew my mind to see animations that people put real effort into making. The movements are fluid, clean, and extensive in some places, while also exaggerated when appropriate. In one part, a character is rapping for what seems like three minutes straight. His whole body moves and none of the animations repeat. Granted, the rap was okay, but it was a treat for my eyes after years CG.

The style of Devilman is almost meant to be hand-drawn. Characters and props are sparse when it comes to complex elements like shading and basic details. It is very similar to the show’s manga origins from 1972, where the art style had a lot in common with Astro Boy. Rather than lean into the blown-out, exaggerated designs, Devilman takes on qualities of the classic and contemporary. Everything looks like it belongs in a modern anime, but there is a distinct anachronistic feel with high color contrast and lack of detail. I have never seen a style like this before and if it helps usher in a new era of hand-drawn anime, I do not have a problem with that.

This is a matter of personal taste, but the soundtrack was pretty great. It is a mix of techno, monastic chanting, and standard melodramatic J-pop during the more emotional moments. It is not for everyone, but I was so captivated that I had to mention it. After a certain sequence in the last episode, the track Night Hawk became a part of my personal playlist.

It is not everyday you find an anime that will stick with you for years to come. In the flood of moè torture porn and endless shonen that has taken over the medium, there comes along a title that transcends the norm. It is the kind of anime that harkens back to a time when the medium was about artistic achievement instead of profit. I probably did not emphasize this enough, but Devilman Crybaby will test your tolerance for intensity. It grabs you by the balls and does not let go until the end. I recommend it to not just anime fans, but viewers that would otherwise ignore the medium. It is a perfect example of what happens when anime is pushed to its full potential as this generation’s Cowboy Bebop.

(Muh book:

Editorial 34: The Great Marvel Purge

Following the Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin began consolidating power in what became known as the Great Purge. Military officers, prominent Bolshevik actors, and political dissidents among the citizenry were executed or sent to the gulag. Leon Trotsky, a major figure in Marxist Theory, fled to Mexico where he was assassinated in 1940. It is believed that 1.7 million were killed and several others erased from history. After Stalin’s death, his successor Nikita Khrushchev condemned the Purge and spent his time in office releasing prisoners and clearing names from one of Russia’s darkest moments in history. Marvel Comics is having its own Great Purge and I could not be happier.

The politicization of entertainment has persisted for about three years now. Creators and committees have infected movies, videogames, and comics with politics and PC dogma. Left leaning opinions, fake diversity, and anti-Right sentiments can be found in a variety of media. There were the casting choices of Rogue One and Star Trek: Discovery, the Social Justice takeover of MTV, and lionization of fictional characters based on race and gender. You cannot escape politics because it is everywhere. What we used to forget the world is now a constant reminder.

Of course, I appear bias in my assessment. I have on several occasions made jokes at the expense of Democrats, Blue-Hairs, and Post-Modernists. I imagine you think if more media leaned Right I would be satisfied, but you are very wrong. Politicization from any side of the isle would be ignored, regardless if I agree or not. I consume entertainment to be entertained. I will not watch, play or read pro-gun or pro-capitalist media because I do not need a reminder that both those things are awesome. If I wanted propaganda, I would seek out propaganda. I want to be entertained and I almost gave up on Marvel Comics because I was not being entertained.

Following Jonathan Hickman’s exceptional Secret Wars event, the Marvel universe was reset. This is nothing new as events are a chance for comic publishers to realign their continuity and introduce new stories. At the start of 2016 Marvel Comics began to trickle out a host of books with a twist. Familiar characters were changed in terms of gender, race, and put in new situations. Again, this is standard practice and no one had a problem with any of the changes. I was interested to see how Falcon would fare as Captain America, Iron Man as a 15 year-old black girl, and Jane Foster as Thor.

And then people started reading these books.

Most of the titles I am about to mention I have not read. Comics are an expensive hobby depending on how many you pick up. Thanks to politicization, however, the number of titles I buy can be counted on one hand. I knew ahead of time what to avoid and have enough information to explain why these books have been excised from the roster. The following three stories are no longer in circulation or the characters have changed writers since my reading.

My first experience with politicization was the “Unsolicited opinions on Israel” line in Angela: Queen of Hel. The titular heroin encounters the character Bor who spouts off insults. His dialog is blacked out with descriptors like “A lot of misogynist filth” and “Red Pill MRA meninist casual racism” written over them in white. What the author is trying to say is male characters opposed to a female hero are motivated by misogyny. It has nothing to do with having different beliefs or conflicting ideologies. It is just good old fashion sexism.

The biggest perpetrator of politicization was Nick Spencer’s run of two Captain America books. Aside from his blatant misunderstanding of the character (a trend among these hacks), Spencer used his position to sermonize Progressive politics. Rather than continue where Steve Rogers left off, Sam Wilson was made into a “crowd-funded hero” beholden to the community. There are themes of the plight of the African American, Wilson questioning if Rogers actually stood for the people, and a villainous group called the Americops (how subtle). Spencer also made the new Steve Rogers Captain America an agent of Hydra, leading into the failed Secret Empire event that was an allegory for the election of Donald Trump.

There were many more examples of politicization, but I had the good sense to avoid them. However, there were others who bought these books just to criticize them on YouTube. Thanks to Diversity & Comics, Razorfist, and Micah Curtis, I have more than enough information to make my point. I am only scratching the surface because there is a lot more to this problem than bad stories. The following books have both political elements and show symptoms of the greater disease.

America follows the exploits of America Chavez, a dimension hopper. Seen in Young Avengers and the new Ultimates, America is a decent character with an interesting power set and attitude that sets her apart. In her own book, she was narrowed down to being gay, brown, and a vindictive bitch.

Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, was my new favorite hero until she was not. The character had a decent run with writer Kelly Sue Deconnick. When Deconnick left the mainstream, Carol was given the illusion of depth in a new book. She caused the Civil War II event and was put in command of Alpha Flight, but rather than explore how this affected her character, Carol was relegated to sitcom antics and sermonized about refugees. Good idea, author Margaret Stohl. Take a former Air Force captain with superpowers and put her in the Big Bang Theory.

Iceman is about X-Man Bobby Drake being gay. That is it.

Mighty Thor is about Jane Foster becoming the new god of thunder after Thor’s fall from grace. I actually did not have a problem with this change. I wanted to mention it because someone reading this might wonder why I did not include it. There was one line about feminism, but I think it was isolated and everyone just overreacted. Jason Aaron remains one of Marvel’s best writers.

After Civil War II, Riri Williams, a 15 year-old wunderkind, replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man. Her characteristics include being a girl, black, and borderline sociopathic. Her friends and family coddle her and always say she is a genius. As a result, Riri is a Mary Sue who is not allowed to experience conflict because some people might get offended a person of color can be a character.

And that is what I am trying to get at.

None of these books and characters has anything to them. They have been boiled down to basic traits that a minority of a minority of people will care about. Do you think anyone gives a shit that America Chavez is gay or Carol Danvers has a vagina? Nobody reads comics for the superficial. I did not read Captain America or Invincible Iron Man because the characters were straight white men. I read them because they were cool stories. Comic readers want narratives that put the characters through their paces, but I guess we are not good enough to see them struggle. What could be interesting and a great read is nonexistent because these characters are not allowed to work hard. They are special snowflakes and must be praised for doing nothing because we do not want to make someone sad.

Oh no!

The lead-up to the Great Marvel Purge is not a lesson in avoiding politicization, but in miscalculation. In an attempt to appeal to Blue-Hairs, Marvel Comics alienated its core audience. They transformed beloved characters into sock-puppets for Z-tier authors to prove their Gender Studies degree was worth becoming a debt slave. The people Marvel has tried to appease do not read comics. They are two-dimensional thinkers and accept the superficial over depth and complexity. They prefer simplicity, a character narrowed down to their skin color and whom they like inside of them. Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists care only for what fits their basic and illogical criteria, disparaging the normal or anything that questions their sensibilities.

And Marvel learned the hard way that such thinking does not sell comics.

Following the departure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, his replacement CB Cebulski looked at the monthly sales figures of Marvel’s books. It was clear that politicized and/or underperforming stories were not meeting their quota to warrant continuation. Cebulski had not choice but to pull the trigger. In early December it was announced that America, Iceman, Luke Cage, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Gwenpool, and Generation X were cancelled. Some of the writers took to social media to express their dismay. Gabby Rivera, the writer of America, chose to have a tantrum instead.

It is unclear if other books will last through 2018. Only the numbers can say and it is not looking good. As of November 2017, Champions, a political lite book sold 21 thousand copies, Captain Marvel 15, and Ms. Marvel, a pro-Muslim book that used to be good sold 15 thousand. There is no better proof of the failure of politicization than the numbers; no emotion behind it; just plain facts.

Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists do not operate on fact. They think based on feelings and seeing books they never read cancelled drives them into a frenzy. They do not care about real art with nuance and complexity because it does not fit their worldview. They prefer the obvious, relish the simple, and cherish superficiality. To them, a character is not defined by who they are and a story is not conflict. To them, a character is what they are and a story is meant to reaffirm that the character is perfect in every way. All you get with that kind of thinking is failure and Marvel Comics has a long way to go before it can recover.

I am not one to praise a communist, but I am sure Stalin had only Russia’s best interests in mind when he slaughtered millions. I am being sarcastic, of course. The man was a paranoid psychopath who was desperate to hold onto power. As a writer, I cannot imagine what the authors and artists of those cancelled books must be going through. They probably devoted every waking hour to planning out issue after issue to fit within the limits of the medium. Believe me, that is hard work, and it was all for naught. Thousands of words and hundreds of pages of art will be lost in the Great Marvel Purge. They will be remembered as a tragic misstep in the publisher’s history to remind us what happens when you stop caring about telling good stories. I should feel bad for those artists and writers, but as Malcolm McDowell once said, “They started the fire; they can burn in it.”

(Muh book:

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Much like Blade Runner 2049, Last Jedi is in a precarious position. If it follows the trend set by Force Awakens, then it will use Empire Strikes Back as a template. The only problem is it could never surpass or follow up one of the best movies ever made. That is what we all thought two years ago at the start of this new trilogy. The only way the film could succeed is if it was just good or separated itself from Empire’s long shadow. Did Last Jedi come into its own or crumble under impossible expectations?

After finding Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, tries to convince him to train her and join the war against the First Order. Meanwhile, Finn, played by John Boyega, goes on a mission to help the remaining Resistance fleet before they are destroyed by an even greater foe.

Normally I try to see movies on opening day to keep my opinion fresh and untainted. Given my current circumstances, however, the chatter about Last Jedi was too much to ignore. Everywhere I went on the Internet people were complaining or praising the film like a passive aggressive grandmother with Asperger’s. And after finally seeing it, I do not see where anyone is coming from. Last Jedi has issues that hurt the overall experience, but nothing that warrants such apprehension. It is like people want to hate it for hate’s sake. I think everyone also had entirely different expectations going in, which I cannot get into without giving away spoilers.

Skip to the end if you want my recommendation.

For one thing, if you wanted answers for questions raised in Force Awakens, prepare for disappointment. Whatever answer you think made sense for Rey’s origin, Snoke’s deal, and Luke were wrong or remain unanswered. Last Jedi takes your expectations and grinds them into dust. Like a suspense thriller it almost lies to you by giving you answers that are unsatisfying but brilliant. Given what Force Awakens established and the trend of following the original trilogy, you are almost playing yourself going in because the movie pulls the rug right from under your feet. In this way it takes some pretty big risks and I cannot commend Last Jedi.

Bringing up the visuals seems redundant because most films look good (not really), but Last Jedi is the exception. It is a mix of good CG, puppetry, and practical effects that are some of the best I have seen in a while. The fact puppets were even used in such a big budget movie blew my mind. And then there are the costumes. It baffles me that such artistry and talent was not applied to the Clones in Attack of the Clones, who were all CG. The armor and weapons in Last Jedi are so well designed and realized, I want to make them all myself. And thank God they finally introduced cortosis. Rogue One also had fantastic practical props, but this time everything around the cool stuff has substance and feels like it matters.

Being the second act in a trilogy, the characters in Last Jedi were put through their paces. Force Awakens was our chance to get to know everyone and now we have to see them struggle. However, this is only the case for about two of the three characters, excluding Poe. Rey and Ren had a lot to do and changed in so many ways, but Finn did nothing. He woke up from his very short coma, teamed up with Random Asian, and went on a little quest that accomplished nothing. He remained stagnant as a character with the illusion of change. He had a lot going for him as a reformed Stormtrooper who did not know what he was doing and went nowhere.

Another issue was the humor. Though not as bad as everyone says, there was little too much of it spread throughout Last Jedi. With the story and tone, a prank call joke and one-liners felt totally out of place. It was especially jarring when a morally disillusioned Luke messed around with Rey during her training. Some parts were fine, but I could not tell if I was watching a Marvel movie or Star Wars. For something that has a good handful of serious moments and characters that fail, having more jokes than necessary pulled me further out of the experience. It would have been all right if it were just Finn being funny because that is his character.

Poe’s side of the story with the Resistance could have been done better, or cut out completely if I am being honest. He stays on the last ship fleeing a pursing First Order fleet as fuel runs out. While Poe tries to be proactive and save everyone, an annoying Blue-Hair (I know her hair is purple; that’s not what I mean), played by Laura Dern, holds him back for seemingly no reason. I understand you need conflict for story to happen, but a little logic would have helped. Blue-Hair could have told him what was up or given a good reason not for revealing her plan. Maybe she was afraid of a possible security leak or she had no idea what to do and did not want to say because she was afraid. I would accept that over what we got. Instead, she comes off like your typical Blue-Hair and a terrible commanding office.

I should not bring this up because I hate nitpicking, but I hate the name “Resistance” as a determinate for rebel elements in fiction and real life. Having a real, unambiguous name for a political faction is better than a name that could mean anything. Resistance implies it is against the Establishment, whatever that may be. In this trilogy the problem is the Resistance is the Establishment, the New Republic, and not the standing army. It feels more like a militia with how underpowered it appears. In the original trilogy they were called the Rebel Alliance and it made sense because they were fighting the Empire, a larger, consolidated political body compared to the Alliance. The Resistance should have a name to fit its idea; something like “The Old Guard” or “Republican Guard” because they continue the fight against elements of the Empire.

Other parts bugged me, but not enough to warrant an entire paragraph for each one. Phasma still did nothing. She showed up for five minutes, fights Finn, and probably does not die. For a character that received so much hype before her debut, there is nothing to her, like the videogame Destiny… both of them. The second to last fight was horribly shot. It was a two-on-eight battle with cuts between the minority and it did not look good. There was so much going on I have a feeling the director did not know what to do. The individual kills were neat, but the whole thing was very awkward.

The performances were also improved from Force Awakens. With a story designed to test the characters, the actors had a lot to do. Rey had to confront the truth that everything she was led to believe was more or less false. Kylo had a similar transformation, but took a different route. In fact, the two had a lot more screen time together and showed surprisingly great chemistry. Both Ridley and Driver brought their all and I cannot wait to see what they do next. The standout was Hamill as an older and very different Luke. The part is suited to his age with 40 years after the start of his character’s journey. He has seen more of the world and grown wiser, but also aware of it. Luke is lost in fog of disillusionment and Hamill kills it in one of the few live-action roles I have seen him in recent memory.

With so much noise on the Internet, it is impossible to ignore the chatter surrounding Last Jedi. Some people call it a piece of feminist garbage, an Alt-Right masterpiece, or a bloated mess about 90 minutes too long. There are so many loud voices that it is hard to form your own opinion, even before you have seen the movie. I almost stayed home for fear I would hate it until I came to my senses. For you, good reader, I can only recommend you see for yourself, and make up your own mind. No one can live their life and make decisions according to the opinions of others. That is just plain stupid and Last Jedi was not bad at all.

But if you are convinced by the rabble online, I wrote a book you could read instead. It is free until the 23rd on Amazon for Kindle. If “Lord of the Rings with guns” sounds awesome to you, follow the link below.

Editorial 33 Redux: Whoops

So, I had a bit of a moment of panic early last night. I discovered there were a number of minor errors in the ebook I published in November. Back to Valhalla was a massive achievement and it scared the shit out of me knowing I messed something up after getting ready for publishing for so long. I went a little too far trying to correct my mistake, deleting the original Editorial on here and some promotional materials that had links to the book on Amazon.

When it comes to panic, I am a nothing if not thorough.

Anyway, I deleted the book from the store, made adjustments in a new manuscript, and uploaded the finished file shortly thereafter. It should look better and I will not make the same mistakes again. If you are a reader with an original copy, I apologize for missing those errors. And if you are not a reader, follow the link below if you are interested.


Movie Review: The Disaster Artist

Since Force Awakens, December has become a slog. By the time the month comes round, everyone is ready to see the new Star Wars. Nothing else matters and the studios know it. It is an early start to January, the cinematic dumping ground where undesirables are released to recoup a minuscule profit. I do not want to see anything besides Last Jedi this month and one other movie.

In search of fame, best friends Greg and Tommy, played by Dave and James Franco, decide to make a movie. The filmmaking process, however, becomes a test of their friendship as Tommy becomes more erratic and hard to work with.

Disaster Artist is an ATHFCMFFT situation; no one outside of the fan base is going to buy a ticket. Most people have never heard of The Room (not that one), Tommy Wiseau, or get the appeal of bad movies. Unless James Franco’s magnificent performance grabs them, there is no reason anyone would see this film. For me, I was anticipating Disaster Artist as much as Last Jedi. I have never seen The Room, but I looked up a montage of the best scenes, and I am familiar with its impact on the culture of funny-bad movies. For something so prolific, I wanted to see its origin.

That is where the film hamstrings itself. Right off the bat you lose a significant portion of the potential audience by appealing to fans of The Room. A lot of the in-jokes, Tommy’s mannerisms, and references to that hallowed classic will go right over people’s heads. I saw Disaster Artist with a friend who does not understand why some bad movies are funny and she did not like it. I was laughing my head off while she was still as a statue. That is not to say the film is without merit.

The relationship between Tommy and Greg drives the story. You really feel for the two as they struggle to achieve their dreams in spite of their flaws. Greg is a terrible actor who lacks intensity. Tommy is nothing but intense with no self-control. Together they form an unlikely friendship in order to support each other. Greg needs Tommy for motivation and Tommy needs Greg’s dependence. Being brothers James and Dave Franco worked very well together, selling the friendship that made The Room.

The recreation of the behind the scenes of the movie is why you should see Disaster Artist. The collision of Tommy’s personality and ambition with normal filmmaking professionals is the best part. It appropriately makes up the whole of the second act as an obstacle course for Tommy and Greg. Some of the best moments are from this part and it is reason alone to buy a ticket.

Most films are not for everyone. I avoid all manner of genres for financial reasons and as a matter of personal taste. The Disaster Artist has such a niche subject that most audiences will have no clue what is happening. They would not believe that a man like Tommy Wiseau exists in reality when they see James Franco’s performance. However, I think going in knowing absolutely nothing is the best possible scenario. Knowing what the movie is about ruins the mystique behind The Room and the men who made it. Go see it before you spend all your money on Last Jedi.