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Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Avengers, The Cabin in The Woods, and the next wave of Joss Whedon

Good Tuesday, readers! Today is the day I FINALLY review the year’s biggest superhero movie! A film I’ve seen almost as much as The Hunger Games and probably enjoyed more than most summer movies in the past five years. Yes, I’m talking about The Avengers! Though, I am physically unable to mention The Avengers without mentioning the other Joss Whedon-written film that most people ignored when it finally came out around the same time. I’m talking, of course, of The Cabin In The Woods. Yes, this is a review two-fer. What do the films have in common besides having the same co-writer and the same star? Well, it might be that these two films are a signifier of a new age of Joss Whedon that’s coming our way.

Spoilers for both films follow the picture.

The other night when I was logging back into my iChat account, I went through some old statuses I had put on my account over the years. Some were quotes from movies, songs, and TV shows. Many were inside jokes between me and friends. One status from 2010 stood out in particular though, and that was “Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers? Existence of God no longer in doubt.”

Any theological debates aside, that’s honestly what Joss Whedon directing and co-writing The Avengers felt like at the time when it was announced a little more than two years ago. A God-proving miracle. At the time, The Cabin In The Woods had been delayed for the second time (and would be delayed again two months after The Avengers announcement), and Dollhouse had been cancelled by Fox only months before. All Joss really had going for him at the time was the less-than-well-received Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic and a few ideas for projects that hadn’t been realized. So for Marvel to turn over the tent pole picture that had been in the making since the first Iron Man to the constantly spurned nerd icon that had only directed one movie before this was pretty much an honest-to-God miracle.

And Joss certainly did not waste it. The Avengers isn’t just Marvel’s dream fully realized. It’s a fully realized comic book movie. Something that I only thought Edgar Wright had managed to do when he directed the kinetic comic book known as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Here, it shows that Joss is a fan as much as us and that he wants this to be as epic as we’re all hoping it will be.

It’s not just that the acting was top-notch, the one-liners side-splitting in true Joss Whedon fashion, and the action wonderfully exciting and over-the-top like a comic book movie should be, it’s that everything here is fantastically developed. The Avengers could have easily been “Iron Man and friends,” but it’s truly a film about a group of people coming together for a common cause. As many people have commented on, this film really made The Hulk shine in ways that he has never before, and it proved that the Black Widow is not just there for the sex appeal. She’s a well-developed character who manages to be the one who saves the day. While it doesn’t have as many ladies as other Joss Whedon films, the ones that are there still manage to be really quite awesome. Pepper is brilliant, and Maria Hill manages to be a badass right hand to Fury. I’m looking forward to the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray where Maria opens and closes the movie because of Cobie Smulders’ performance.

Basically, it’s the Superhero Team movie we all knew we wanted, and Joss made sure that we got it. His success is a gift to all of us, and payday for Marvel and Disney. I’m sure someone at Fox is kicking themselves for canceling him twice.

But what of the other movie by Joss that came out this year? The weird little horror film that no one knew anything about going into it only known as The Cabin In The Woods? Well, that Mutant Enemy production from Whedon and Drew Goddard is another sort of brilliant. And really, if you haven’t seen it and are wary of spoilers, STOP READING NOW. Another frustration that Joss Whedon has provided me along with killing Wash, Book, Tara, Anya, Jenny Calendar, Fred Burkle, and Phil Coulson, is the complete inability to talk about The Cabin In The Woods without spoiling it for everyone.

When I finally saw The Cabin In The Woods, I went in blind. That was kind of hard to do since I didn’t see it until a month after it released, but all I knew going into it was:

  1. I had been waiting for this movie since 2009.
  2. It was directed by Drew Goddard and written by Drew and Joss.
  3. Chris Hemsworth did this movie after Star Trek, but before Thor.
  4. That it is very tongue in cheek about horror movie stereotypes, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

And oh, did going in blind after waiting for three years pay off in spades. Centered around a group of college students who become the inadvertent sacrifices to ancient Gods when they travel out to a cabin in the woods, the film makes fun of the horror movie stereotypes that have existed since the days of The Evil Dead while explaining why they exist. It’s darkly funny, and oh-so-clever. From the opening scene where you see the secret compound that’s carrying out the horrors in that cabin to the absolutely chaotic third act where every horror movie nightmare is unleashed, the movie is an absolute thrill ride that manages to pay homage to the films that gave us those stereotypes while making fun of the movies that have reduced those stereotypes down. The characters manage to be normal people while this is all happening (unless they’re being controlled by pheromones) and the twists are just completely unexpected. Like Sigourney Weaver being the one giving everyone the orders. The main five consists of five great performances, but Fran Kranz as Marty managed to become one of my favorite Joss Whedon characters throughout the process of the film.

(And I might have been convinced that Jesse Williams needs to be Finnick Odair. Please Lionsgate?)

So what do these two unrelated films have to do with the future of Joss Whedon’s career? Well, how about the fact that he’s no longer just a nerd cult icon? He’s just directed the biggest comic book movie in the history of comic book movies. Maybe The Cabin In The Woods will be a cult movie, but it just shows that Joss is ready to take over film the way he took over TV. Serenity was just the preview. Here’s the opening night. And when Much Ado About Nothing andDr. Horrible 2 come out, I hope that traction will continue. Because this really is Joss Whedon’s time and we’re only just now seeing the beginning of his career in movies. He’s not just a nerd icon anymore. He’s about to take everyone else for the ride of our lives.

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Film

 

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Reversing retrofuturistic technology tropes with The Legend of Korra

Good Monday, readers. I’m going to have to apologize again for the delay on my review of The Avengers. Getting prepared for and attending Steampunk World’s Fair made writing blogs a bit difficult. Plus, watching my new favorite television show made me want to change my next topic.

Earlier this year, I decided that I was finally going to start watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Mostly because I have been hearing about the series for years and wanted to finally see what everyone was talking about, but partially because I REALLY wanted to see The Legend of Korra and the completionist that I am wouldn’t let me watch the new series without seeing the old.

Desire to see The Legend of Korra aside, I massively enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was great example of the power of animation. It was emotional and heavy, but it still managed to include a lot of life’s natural humor within it’s books as well. The action was well done, and getting to know the characters was like getting to know a group of friends. Aang’s journey to becoming a fully realized Avatar wasn’t just a story for children. It was a story that was timeless at any age.

It didn’t hurt for me that the series was a little bit Steampunk as well. It wasn’t as overt as some series. Most of the world of Avatar had been set back technology wise due to the Hundred Year War, but there was still a nice range of technological advancements that benefited benders and non-benders alike. My favorite example of this was ‘The Northern Air Temple’, where Aang returns to one of the air temples to see that a group of refugees with flying machines has taken over living there. This is the beginning of the Gaang’s  relationship with The Mechanist as well as an interesting take on adapting technology in a world based on bending of the elements and how to use said technology against those who would use it to destroy. It’s a common trope in Steampunk and Retrofuturistic works that the antagonists are at the technological advantage and it’s up to the protagonists to use their skills to defeat them, be it their own inventions, wits, or powers. But it’s a trope that works if it’s done right, and I think Avatar: The Last Airbender managed to balance that question of advancing technology fairly well.

(WARNING: What follows will include some SPOILERS for the two most recent episodes of The Legend of Korra. Proceed at your own risk.)

Flash-forward 70 years to The Legend of Korra. After the Hundred Year War, the world is less divided. So much so that the United Republic of Nations was formed as a place that the world could live in harmony. This causes a spike in the technology that was used by the Fire Nation and the Resistance to create a world where bending and technology have come to co-exist completely. Firebenders work lightening in the power plants, metalbenders help enforce the laws of Republic City, and the world’s main sport is a confluence of bending and tech. This, of course, leads to a technological have and have not situation between Avatar Korra and the battles she has to fight. Except this time, the ones that have the technology are the ones that have been repressed by the bending co-dependence.

You see, a large part of the “Antagonists Have the Technology” trope in Retrofuturistic fiction is that it’s mostly in the hands of the repressors. It happened in The Hunger Games with the Capitol keeping the Districts away from the technology they had as much as possible, and it definitely happened during Aang’s time as the Avatar. How often did we see Aang and his friends have to fight off a Fire Nation tank, War Balloon, or Drill? We even saw Sokka, Suki and Toph take out a whole fleet of flying war machines that were going to help Ozai destroy the Earth Kingdom in the final episode.

But here in The Legend of Korra, it’s especially emphasized that the ones with the technology that could cause danger to the city are the rebels who want to take out the bending piece of the equation. While ‘The Aftermath’ showed that this technology was being provided by Hiroshi Sato, the richest man in Republic City, it’s still being dispersed to rebels of all classes. It’s being given to people who aren’t seen as valuable by some people in the city due to their lack of bending, and are willing to put the balance of the city and others in danger in order to put everyone on the same level. Basically, for once, the antagonists are regular people who just happen to have access to electric gauntlets and platinum mechs that can’t be bent by the police.

The fact that Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino decided to reverse the common trope in this way just emphasizes a certain point in the war between Republic City and the Equalists. That there is a certain discrepancy between benders and non-benders in the world of Avatar and it’s only emphasized by the fact that so much of the jobs and technology in the world depend on benders to use it. While not all benders are like this, there are certain benders that will abuse their powers and abilities to get what they want and it has only been made worse in the years between Aang’s death and Korra’s arrival in Republic City. Now it’s Korra’s job to fight against those who want all benders taken out of the equation for the actions of few. Coexistence is not an option for these people any more, despite the fact that taking benders away from Republic City will upset the balance of it. It opens the door to how Korra has to consider her fight, how she will recognize the privilege she has as the Avatar, and how she will find a way to bring peace back to the city that has desperately needed its Avatar since the death of Aang.

Sadly, we have two weeks in between this episode and the next episode, but hopefully we’ll begin to see how Korra will begin to approach this fight and carry on the legacy that Aang left behind.

My Avengers review will come this week, but I’ll also be looking at the ladies of the Avatar universe as well. Why? Because why not.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Steampunk, Television

 

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My Six Favorite Fictional Moms

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I spent the day seeing The Avengers for the second time with my mother. It was quite exciting! And by exciting, I mean emotional.

Anyway, while we were sitting in the coffee shop, waiting for the movie to start, I decided to come up with my list of my six favorite fictional mothers. Mostly from television, these are the mothers that make me wish I lived in their universes, no matter how screwed up those universes actually are. And believe me… some of them are…

Let’s start with our honorable mention, though.

Honorable Mention: President Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)

While Laura herself was not a mother to anyone person, she was very much like a mother to the fleet and to many of the people on board the Galactica. Smart, caring, and headstrong, Laura did what she needed to do to help with the preservation of the human race. All while fighting cancer. She made her mistakes, but there was no one in the fleet more fearsome than President Roslin. Well, maybe Admiral Adama, but considering the fact that she stood up to him more than once, I have to give it to the teacher.

 

 

6.) Marlene Griggs-Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Oh Marlene. The Iron C**tian of Pawnee. While we may not see a whole lot of Marlene Griggs-Knope, she’s still an awesome lady who you don’t want to cross. Her daughter may not always agree with her method of doing things, but it’s easy to see where Leslie gets her determination and drive from. I hope that now that Leslie has succeeded in getting on the Pawnee City Council that we’ll be seeing more of Marlene in City Hall.

 

5.) Katara (Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra)

Katara is another one of those mother-like figures. Caring and sweet, yet stern and tough, Katara of the Southern Water Tribe is always looking out for the best interest of her friends and people who need her help. She refuses to leave people behind, and she always stands up for the people she loves and herself. Of course, she can have a little bit of fun too. While we haven’t seen a whole lot of Katara actually being a mother, I bet that she was an awesome mother to Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin. And to Korra too.

4.) Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler (Doctor Who)

In the Whoniverse, there are some fierce mothers who stand up for their children, no matter how old they are. Or in the case of Amy Pond, how displaced out of time their daughters are from them. Still, this example is truest for Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler. Francine is the mother of Martha Jones, my favorite companion and it’s easy to see that badassery runs in the family. While Francine doesn’t become a part of Team TARDIS the way Rose’s mum Jackie does by the end of Davies’ run, she still stands up for Martha. Hell, she nearly shoots The Master after the Year That Never Was is reversed! Jackie is very similar to Francine in that she may not care completely about the Doctor, but she supports her daughter every step of the way. Of course, Jackie learns how to hold her own against the aliens of the universe and even makes the Doctor cringe a little bit.

3.) Morticia Addams (The Addams Family)

It’s hard to say why Morticia is just so perfect as a mother and as a person. Is it her cool demeanor? Is it the way that she cares about her children and how they get along? Or is it just the way that Morticia makes morbidness seem completely normal? Whatever it is, this matriarch of the Addams clan has continued to stand the test of time through comics, television, movies and broadway and has stayed the mother that every darkling wished they had.

 

 

 

2.) Joyce Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Starting off as the stereotypical ignorant mother to all of the things Buffy does, Joyce Summers ends up becoming a mother to two fierce and lovely daughters and pretty much all of the Scoobies in Sunnydale and beyond. While she initially disapproves of Buffy’s status as The Slayer, she comes to accept her daughter’s involvement with the supernatural and becomes her biggest line of support. When her character began to face health problems, we all worried and hoped that she would pull through in the end. Which, of course, didn’t happen, because Joss Whedon likes to break your heart in the worst possible way. Whenever I watch ‘The Body’, it becomes impossible not to mourn for Joyce. She wasn’t just Buffy’s mother. She was our mother too.

1.) Madeline Westen (Burn Notice)

I should preface this with how hilariously behind I am on Burn Notice. Like to the point that if I was to catch up, I would just have to go to the beginning and just start all over. However, no matter how behind I am, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I love Maddie Westen with a fire that can burn a million suns. While she may not be the perfect mother, she’s still a fierce and determined woman who will put her children first and will put a stop to anyone who tries to harm them. Even if one of them used to be a spy for the US government. Of course, she is the same mother who makes that spy shake in his boots. Maddie Westen, I love you and your chain-smoking self.

That’s it for fictional moms. Next month, I’ll feature my favorite dads. And on Wednesday, I’ll be spilling my feelings about The Avengers.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Film, Television

 

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Even Punk Rockers Deserve Respect

Hello readers! Sorry for the lack of updates in the past month. I’m afraid that my blinders went on as I headed for the finish line of university. Which, by the way, ended up being a successful run.

As my formal return to my blog, I wanted to speak about something related to my Journalism degree and interests in music. It’s been a topic that’s been on my mind since Patrick Stump spoke candidly about his depression and lack of motivation brought on by disrespectful “fans” at his shows, but came back to the surface when Tom Gabel of Against Me! came out as Transgender, and that she will soon be adopting the name of Laura Jane Grace.

Now, maybe these two topics seem so far apart, especially with my own unfamiliarity with Against Me!, but both of these topics bring up issues of respect in both the fan community and in journalism.

Patrick’s issues seem to stem from some members of the Fall Out Boy fan community. It’s a problem that all the members of Fall Out Boy have been facing since the band went on hiatus, and it’s the fan community’s unwillingness to change. I can understand the frustration and wishing Fall Out Boy would get back together. I especially know what it’s like to not be happy with the direction the project is going. However, there’s a difference between not being happy with something, and constantly berating someone both online and at their shows.

I mean, seriously. What makes someone think it’s appropriate to pay $20-$50 for a show just to tell someone that you liked them better when they were fat? That’s not just terrible manners and general horribleness, that’s wasteful spending on top of it. And all because they think telling someone that they think he’s horrible now will send him back to the band he used to play in? Well, guess what? Patrick Stump is now reluctant to go back to music. How’s that for results?

I haven’t seen much terrible fan reaction from Against Me! fans about Tom, but there were plenty of reports that initially didn’t respect her pronoun preference that were later changed. The AP style guide dictates that a reporter has to respect what the person identifies as/presents themselves as, but shouldn’t that be obvious before something goes to print?

Of course, there will always be the people, journalists or not, who won’t respect gender pronouns and name changes and who will act like this will kill the band.

Friends, journalists and fans, I ask you to have some sense of respect when dealing with things like this. Whether they be someone you love creating music that might not be up to your standards, living as the gender they truly identify with, or whatever else it may be, you’re still dealing with a human being trying to live their life. A performer is not a robot, and you never know if your negative words are going to effect them or not. I’m not asking to be completely uncritical, but don’t be a dick about what you don’t like or don’t understand. And as a journalist, you have to be fair in your assessment.

And, of course, respectful of what someone is going through.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in General, Internet, Music

 

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