I haven’t written about The Walking Dead for a while. I haven’t felt like it’s been worth writing about for a while. But now that it’s under new management and a major cast member has exited the show, I was interested to see where the series stands after nine seasons, an eternity on network television.
(Coincidentally, this ended up being 3,600 words, an eternity on the Internet, so if you don’t feel like reading that and want to leave right now, I really can’t blame you. I wrote it, though, so I’m posting it, dammit!)
I grew up reading comic books and was firmly in the Marvel camp, more specifically with the X-Men.
For the last couple years, I haven’t watched any Marvel movies (save for the X-Men movies, but they’re in their own bubble universe). It wasn’t for lack of desire. I just missed them at the theater, and then I missed them at home, and before I knew it, I was like seven movies behind. I wasn’t going to jump back in with the latest at that point, and the new ones kept coming out.
So the lady and I have been catching up, and we finally got to Thor: Ragnarok. I liked it. It was fun. Trouble is I feel like the filmmakers did everything they could to not make a Thor movie while making a Thor movie. I don’t think they were subtle about this (there is no other reason for them to cut Thor’s hair than for it to be symbolic).
I recently caught up on all of Marvel’s Netflix series, and I found myself compelled to compare them to each other. It makes sense. Following the formula set by the Avengers film sequence, each superhero has his or her dedicated series, and then in 2017, they came together to form The Defenders.
First a note: All but one of these series have only produced one season, so things could change. The creators could right the ship or sink it. I don’t expect my rankings will change too much, considering these first seasons will always exist, but crazier things have happened. Also, this is all spoiler-free, so if you haven’t seen all of them yet, never fear.
I saw The Last Jedi a couple weeks ago, and like most of you, I hrmph’d out of the movie theater, feeling an immediate need to reflect upon what I’d just seen. For those first 24 hours, I experienced strong emotional waffling as seemingly warring factions in my brain attempted to win out. I expected this tension would continue to evolve, but it didn’t really. I think both of my minds are right.
I’ve decided The Last Jedi is a really good Star Wars film in its own right, but in context of the series and its surrounding culture, it’s mediocre and even harmful.
This is less a review and more a reaction. That said, I spoil the hell out of the film because I found it really unsatisfying to discuss my points in general terms, which leads me to my first point [final spoiler warning].
I just got back from seeing The Dark Tower. I’m a stewer. When I see a film, I generally can’t talk about it immediately afterward. I have to let it stew in my mind awhile. When my wife asked me what I thought about it, I found I had fairly instant thoughts on where the film succeeds and where it fails.
[This review is spoiler-free, by the way.]
It’s been years since I read the books, and to be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with them. I love the core story, what Stephen King was trying to do, but ultimately, I think the series is flawed in several major ways. So I was eager to see a reimagining that wasn’t a strict adaptation. I was excited to see a story using those core elements without having to conform to the original narrative.
That’s what we have with the film, and if you want to read more about my thoughts on all of that, click here.
The reason I bring this up is to give you a point of reference on my expectations. I take no issue with the film deviating from the source material. In fact, I welcome it. And all of that stuff, the faithfulness, the adherence to the original story, let’s pack that up and set it aside for now. Let’s just talk about The Dark Tower film as a film on its own.
I enjoyed it. Ultimately, though, I’m disappointed.
The Dark Tower film adaptation comes out this Friday, and while there’s a general buzz about a cool-looking film where Idris Elba plays some kind of cowboy knight from some kind of ethereal realm and Matthew McConaughey plays some kind of wizard with creepy fingernails, and there’s, like, gunslinger kung fu (gun-fu?) and stuff, excitement among fans of the novel series appears mixed.
It has all the makings of a summer blockbuster, and it has Stephen King’s name attached to boot (which arguably is a liability in some circles). But there’s this nagging baggage it seems to be lugging around.
If you haven’t read the series, you probably have a friend who has. Go ask them where they sit on this one, and you’ll probably get a moderately animated shrug, which is weird, especially for a franchise of this magnitude and prestige.
So what’s the deal?
(Minor spoilers for the book series below, but if you haven’t read it by this point, I don’t think you’ll mind. Either way, proceed at your own risk.)
Last night, I watched Passengers, the film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence whose characters wake up far too early on a colonial spaceship that’s en route to a new planet. I think it’s a film that certainly has its flaws but is ultimately worth a viewing for any fan of character-driven science-fiction. It’s a film that, given a fair shake, deserves attention for some solid storytelling and acting. But critics panned it.
With such an interesting premise and two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, you might think it was a solid bet. So what happened?
It’s conjecture, and a film’s failure and success is contingent on innumerable factors, but I think Passengers is another film where the critics got it wrong. What’s more, the film sufficiently and specifically addresses the most substantial problems in the second half, which makes me wonder if the critics who panned it checked out after a major development in the first half in which a character does something utterly, morally repugnant, something that is a huge risk in the realm of storytelling, something good stories have to do to be memorable and effective.
I spoil the hell out of the film below, so if you haven’t seen it and plan to, you may want to wait to read this until you do. But before you go, the bottom line is Passengers is a wonderful film, and you should watch it. If you’re interested, don’t be like me and let the critics dissuade you.
The Walking Dead’s mid-season premiere just aired, and I’m seeing a lot of criticism of the show’s first half of season seven. I endured this criticism through November, but now I feel like it’s getting a bit tired. While I acknowledge the purpose of television is to entertain, I think these critics miss the point of what The Walking Dead is doing and, therefore, can’t appreciate it.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. I think the show is still great, and if you’re interested in why I think that, please read on.
(This is fairly spoiler free, but if you’ve been under a rock and don’t have any idea what happens at the end of season six/beginning of season seven, you might want to turn away.)
I don’t review movies here all that much, and the honest reason is it isn’t often that I see a relevant movie when it’s relevant. Movie theaters are too expensive, and by the time a movie gets to Netflix, it’s old news and has to contend with my desire to catch up on Supernatural.
But so many people close to me told me to go see Arrival that it got me out of my apartment on a Friday night with my wife for a romantic evening of food court dining and aliens. And it turned out to be special.
Arrival is a film that works on a simple premise: aliens arrive and park their space ships over 12 seemingly random locations on Earth, and then they just sit there. The tagline poses the question, “why are they here?”
Beyond that, Arrival is a film that works on extremely complex premises. It’s clear that this film was lovingly crafted and resided in the minds of brilliant story-tellers for such a time for them to get it all right. It is thoughtful and thought provoking. It feels authentic. It is, by many metrics, a perfect film, nailing the basics and knocking the most high-level concepts out of the park.
In 2006, I left a Virginia Regal Cinemas mad as hell. The first X-Men movie wasn’t perfect, but it was a slam dunk for superhero films and a great beginning for the franchise. X-Men 2 was very good until the ending. X-Men 3 was a crushing defeat for fans and a prime example of how overbearing movie producers can ruin a film.
It has to be this. It has to do that. Demands like these lead to a story that is contrived. But what’s interesting to me is that X-Men 3 didn’t just feel contrived. It had such rippling effects to the series that it’s ruined every film since.
This is the measure of Brett Ratner’s failure in X-Men 3. If you’re not aware, the first two X-Men films were directed by Bryan Singer. But when Singer was unavailable to direct X-Men 3 because he was working on Superman Returns (which is underappreciated, in my opinion), the movie producers opted not to wait for him, and that decision ruined the franchise.
Last week, I finally got around to watching X-Men: Days of Future past. The premise is that the events of the original trilogy led to an apocalyptic future where genocidal robots, called Sentinels, fought a war with mutant-kind, and the rest of humanity was collateral damage. As a result, there are very few people left in this apocalyptic wasteland, and it’s all because we couldn’t learn to overcome our primal fear of people who are different.