Movie Rants, Uncategorized

A new adventure!

Mae Govannen, mellyn nin!

You may have noticed that I have, once again, disappeared from this blog for an inordinate amount of time. This is because I’ve been doing some work on a new blog, which can be reached at the following link:

https://wizardattheclicks.wordpress.com/

What with my day job, my social life, and just trying to survive in the cold, cruel world on my own and all, I don’t actually have a whole lot of time for blogging. So I decided to take my favourite thing about blogging–which is writing movie/television reviews–and just focus on that for a while, cutting out the clutter. I may one day return to posting random nerdy things here on a regular basis–ironically, that’ll probably happen when I get my life together and start acting like an adult–but for now, it’s all movie reviews, all the time, at my new site, Wizard at the Clicks!

By the way, if you understand the reference in that name, I love you forever.

Namarie,
Aldy

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Marvel, Uncategorized

A Bit of Civil Fangirling

I saw Captain America: Civil War this weekend, and it was amazing! The fight scenes were incredible, there was a ton of focus on character development, and I wasn’t bored for a single second of the two-and-a-half hour run. But I do have one beef with the filmmakers: Why call this a Captain America movie when it’s clearly an Avengers movie? Sure, Cap is arguably the protagonist, but Iron Man and Black Panther are equally important to the plot, and there are 12 superheroes total, including two who are brand new to the MCU. And every one of them gets a chance to shine.

So, because the movie was so much more about the characters than the plot, and because I’m feeling like a lazy fangirl, instead of a normal movie review, I’m just going to list each hero’s awesomest moments. These are roughly in order of how much screentime the character gets, with a slight bias towards the ones I like best. Minor spoilers.

War Machine

Team Iron Man (duh!)
Best moment: Teasing Iron Man after Stan Lee pronounces his name as “Tony Stank.” And right after such a sad scene, too…

Ant-Man

Team Cap
Best moment: Turning into Giant-Man! Also, “Thinks for thanking of me.”

Hawkeye

Team Cap
Best moment: Calling out Iron Man on his latest terrible decision in a well-deserved angry speech.

Vision

Team Iron Man
Best moment: Attempting to cook for Scarlet Witch while wearing a sweater. He’s adorable.

Scarlet Witch

Team Cap
Best moment: Completely owning Vision in a fight. “I can’t control their fear. Only my own.”

Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier)

Team Cap (when not brainwashed into being Team Villain)
Best moment: All the bickering with Sam, and his congratulatory smile when Steve finally kisses a girl. His fight scenes haven’t gotten any less awesome, either.

Falcon

Team Cap (duh)
Best moment: Trying to get people to treat his drone like it’s a real bird. Also, see above.

Black Widow

Team Iron Man (maybe)
Best moment: Going to the funeral with Steve so he wouldn’t be alone, even while they’re having their biggest disagreement ever.

Spider-Man

Team Iron Man
Best moment: Literally every word that comes out of his mouth, which is a lot of words. Highlights include, “Your shield doesn’t obey the laws of physics at all!” and “Remember that really old movie…Empire Strikes Back?”

Black Panther

Team Iron Man…ish
Best moment: Well, to describe my favourite moment would ruin the end of the movie, so let’s just say…every fight scene he’s in? With his sweet bulletproof cat suit and its vibranium claws, just kicking every other hero’s butt without pausing for chit-chat. Man, he is cool.

Iron Man

Team Himself
Best moment: Going after Bucky sans suit, even though he’s no match for him without his tech. And all the times when he sticks to doing what he thinks is right, even when it means losing friends or giving up control over his own abilities. Iron Man’s always a bit of a jerk, but in this movie he’s at least a sympathetic jerk. Not to mention a jerk you feel really, really sorry for.

Captain America

Team Himself
Best moment: Quite a few…stopping a helicopter with his bare hands, bonding with Spider-Man over their NYC origins in the middle of a fight, picking a tiny Volkswagon as a getaway car, and just all the times he tries to make peace between the heroes despite their differences. He’s like the team dad, in the best way possible. And again, one of his best moments is at the end, so I can’t mention it.

The villain is also easily the best to appear in a Marvel movie so far. If you haven’t seen Civil War yet, go see it.

Namarie,
Aldy

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Star Wars, Uncategorized

May the Fourth Be with You!

Happy Star Wars Day! I hope you’re all having a grand time watching the movies…you lucky sods who own the DVDs and the televisions to play them on. All I’ve got is a picture of Han Solo:

…And also this lovely video, which is currently fulfilling two of my needs because “Hamilton: An American Musical” is my latest obsession. If you haven’t listened to the cast recording yet, go do it now.

Okay, I feel better now.

Namarie,
Aldy

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Uncategorized

Let’s speak of the Devil

My favourite Marvel superhero is back! Season 2 of Daredevil hit Netflix on Friday, and I’ve spent the last few days bingeing as much as possible in my spare time. Now that I’ve finished, here’s my overall impression: same old awesomeness from last season, but with a few annoying bits thrown in.

Let’s get the annoying bits out of the way first. Spoiler-free, don’t worry.

Ugh, he can play pool on his own, KAREN.

  1. Love triangle grossness. In this season, not only has Matt inexplicably and unforgivably broken up with his true soulmate, Claire Temple, but he’s also developed an attraction to Karen Page and re-kindled a college romance with a psycho assassin whose last name sounds like Nachos. So there’s a lot of boring drama around that. Now, don’t get me wrong–I like Elektra. She’s an interesting character with complicated motives and tons of plot relevance, even if Matt does spend a little too much time angsting over her. But Karen, while okay as a solo character, is a walking cliche as a love interest–always getting herself in trouble for no good reason and never figuring out her boyfriend’s secret identity, even when it’s stupidly obvious. No thanks. I’m shipping Clairedevil until the day I die. And I sincerely hope this is the last time we’ll ever see an entire episode about Matt’s love life. More ninjas, please!
  2. Cliffhanger endings. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this season ended with a lot more unanswered questions and unresolved plot lines than the last one, which is a wee bit irksome considering how long we’ll probably have to wait for season 3. And I’m a wee bit worried about where some of those plot lines are going to go. Please, writers–be nice to your characters.
  3. Not enough of my favourite people. I expected the arrival of new characters to push some old ones to the sidelines, but I’m still going to complain about it. There wasn’t nearly enough Father Lantom (he only shows up in one episode!), and as usual, not enough Claire. There’s never enough Claire. Although I was quite pleased at the return of Stick and…certain other, more spoiler-y characters.
  4. Loads and loads of gore. This wasn’t annoying, exactly, since a lot of it was a necessary result of introducing the Punisher to the show–but some of the gore felt like overkill (pardon the pun). Season 1 had an unprecedented level of violence for a Marvel property, but since then it’s been outdone by Jessica Jones and movies like Deadpool. This season almost seemed to be trying to re-establish the record, what with the number of people who get shot in the face point-blank, gutted with shivs, or tortured with power drills. I have a pretty strong stomach for movie violence, and there were one or two moments when I had to look away. So just be warned: the fights this season ain’t for the faint of heart.

Now, on to my more positive impressions. As always, Daredevil’s greatest strength is its characters. I’m pleased to announce that nobody lost any of their awesomeness between seasons, and now we even have a few new characters to love. To elaborate:

This is about as blood splatter-free as he gets all season.

  1. Jon Bernthal was BORN to play the Punisher. I always thought his turn as Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead was one of the better things to happen to the show, but now I realise he was wasted on that part. Here he perfectly embodies the pain, anger, and sheer tough-as-nails ruthlessness of his vigilante/serial killer character. And yet he’s able to convincingly show a softer side when it suits him. Plus, the character is just awesome. He’s got a great ambiguity to him: is he really trying to clean up Hell’s Kitchen, or is he just a revenge-driven psycho who happens to target criminals? He’s a great foil for Daredevil and his no-kill code, and all their scenes together are electric.
  2. Foggy Nelson. He’s just a beautiful human being, and I love him with all my hearts. This season he shines, if possible, even brighter than he did in the last one. He may be the show’s (much-needed) comic relief, but he’s also an incredibly brave, kind-hearted,  intelligent guy, not to mention a dang fine lawyer. Everyone should have a friend like Foggy. And those who do have one should APPRECIATE him. *glares at Matt*
  3. More Avocados at Law! This season we get to see Matt and Foggy doing their day job more often, which is awesome. I’ve always loved the idea of a superhero being a lawyer, and this show is really taking the time to explore how that might work–or not. Things tend to get complicated when Matt’s superheroing tangles with his lawyering. But that just means the courtroom scenes are every bit as exciting as the fight scenes, and the two are usually directly linked. Speaking of which…
  4. More amazing fight scenes. I know I just complained about the excessive gore. But so many superhero fight scenes boil down to two dudes punching each other in the face until one falls into a nuclear reactor or something, and Daredevil has always had a knack for making its fights waaayy more interesting than that. This season, we’ve got a “hallway fight” scene that successfully ups the ante on the one in “Cut Man,” plus loads more martial arts-heavy ninja battles. The Punisher even gets his own (just slightly bloodier) hallway fight scene. Each one is beautifully filmed and choreographed. Basically, if you’re a bad guy on Daredevil, you don’t want to hang out in hallways.
  5. More supernatural elements. I like Daredevil for its relative realism, and I don’t think alien invasions, Norse gods, or any of the crazy stuff that happens in the Avengers movies would ever fit into its storyline. But it’s still a superhero show, and Daredevil needs some out-of-the-ordinary baddies to fight. So I liked the way this season spent more time developing the Hand, and all the creepy shenanigans its members are up to. There’s only so much you can do with drug dealers and gangs, but an ancient order of ninjas that may or may not be immortal and is seeking to activate mysterious living weapons called Black Skies? That’s an appropriate challenge for a hero who dresses up in a devil costume.

Overall, I’d say this season proved, once again, why Daredevil is the best thing ever to be produced by Marvel. It has more time to develop its characters and explore its themes than any of the movies, and so it never feels as rushed or crowded as many of them do, even in a season as packed with plot as this one. Unlike most superheroes, Daredevil deals with street-level problems–gang warfare, kidnappings, everyday murders and so forth–and he actually risks something in doing so, since he’s far from invincible. And despite its more “grown-up” tone, this show still knows how to have fun. It retains just enough cheesy comic-book dialogue (“Daredevil must die!”) and crazy ninja fights to remind the viewer they’re still in the world of superheroes, not the real one.

Until next time, boys.

And now I have to wait a year for season 3. Ah, the pleasures and pains of binge-watching.

Namarie,
Aldy

 

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Nerdish Musings, Uncategorized

In Memoriam

So, Harper Lee died the other day. This made me rather sad, because she’s been my hero since I was 13, and now I’ll never get to meet her. But she left behind quite the legacy: arguably the greatest American novel ever written, and the only enjoyable section of lit class in high schools everywhere.

Anyway, I couldn’t think of anything profound to say about a woman who said everything so well, so I wrote a poem for her instead. I’m sure she would have hated it. Here it is:

To Scout

Your words are a strong house
raised from the same Alabama mud as your
sharp bones, your smiling skin.

Its warm, sun-baked walls hang
heavy with time and countless rains,
but the windchimes dance on the porch
and every window is open.

It is a house to be silent in.
A place for looking and listening.
The only music a mockingbird’s cry.

For you, word-builder, loved silence also–
to chase away the noise of fame
and accept praise, derision with only
a nod.

You were pale
and mysterious, cooped up in your house,
though not out of shame,
and I used to lean on your fence,
peer at the windows,
wishing for a tongue to tell you.

For you had given me much:
a new set of spectacles, through which
all people looked more lovely.
You had given me laughter
and sharp, tearing beauty
and a windy, impossible dream.

You have left your house now
and it is the only fitting headstone.
Your words and silences,
fitted together like bricks in mortar
and finished at last.
But you already knew about finishing:
how to speak your piece, bow, and leave the stage
having done one thing well.

Namarie,
Aldy

 

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Nerdish Musings, Uncategorized

How to Be a Better Nerd: A Hobbit’s Guide

It’s 2016, and nerds are ruling the future. Gone are the days of the four-eyed social outcast reading comic books in secret. Now we have all the best-paying jobs, we drive million-dollar industries, we control Hollywood and we’re responsible for the weapon of mass manipulation that is social media. And as a member of the nerd community, I worry that all the power and success may go to our heads. We might be in danger of thinking that our nerdiness makes us special, and therefore nothing we do in the name of nerdiness should ever be called into question. We may forget that our undying love for Star Wars doesn’t give us the right to insult the parentage of everyone who thought Jar-Jar Binks was an okay character.

Let’s face it: as awesome as nerd culture usually is, there are wrong ways to participate in it. There are terrible nerds out there who use their hobbies as an excuse to become bullies or anti-social couch potatoes. Most of us aren’t like that, but it’s a trap I’ve repeatedly come close to falling into. So, to help myself avoid becoming that guy, I turned to the godfather of all nerds for advice.

Here he is, smoking the pipe of wisdom.

J.R.R. Tolkien more or less invented us. Cosplay, LARPing, conventions, Dungeons & Dragons, and the very concept of high fantasy can all trace their origins back to him. And, while I doubt he could have foreseen back in the ’50s that I would be blogging about him in the year 2016 after binge-watching the extended editions of all three movies based on his most famous book, I do think his writing shows remarkable insight into the kind of culture he would eventually create. If you look closely at The Lord of the Rings, you will find that there are lots of nerds in Middle Earth–both good and bad ones.

For our first example, let’s look at Gollum.

Pictured: me, after that Extended Trilogy marathon.

Gollum’s life is a sad story, as Gandalf tells us. He started out as a normal, hobbit-like creature who enjoyed fishing, digging holes, and telling riddles. Then he found the One Ring. By the time Bilbo meets him in The Hobbit, the Ring is all Gollum thinks about. He hasn’t seen the light of day in hundreds of years, he has no friends, and he can barely even remember what the living world is like, all because of the Ring. Worse, he actually knows the Ring is responsible for all his misery, but he can’t let go of it. He’s an addict. He has no control over his own life, because his obsession owns him.

In other words, Gollum is the stereotypical nerd. No social life, no outdoor activity, no personal hygiene–only Star Trek. Or Star Wars. Or video games. Or what-have-you. And sadly, this stereotype exists, albeit in milder form. Haven’t you ever felt a bit like a pale, shrivelled tunnel creature while emerging from the basement after a long Netflix binge? I know I have.

And it goes deeper. How did Gollum get the way he is? After all, not everyone who encounters the Ring immediately commits murder over it, or allows it to drive them away from all their friends. The Ring always corrupts its bearer eventually,  but it takes much longer with some than with Gollum. Well, in The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien proposes a reason why the Ring attracted Gollum more than it did, say, Frodo. It’s because, long before he found it, Gollum (or Smeagol, at that point) was already obsessed with secret knowledge.

He was interested in roots and beginnings; he dived into deep pools; he burrowed under trees and growing plants; he tunnelled into green mounds; and he ceased to look up at the hill-tops, or the leaves on trees, or the flowers opening in the air: his eyes and head were downward.

The first thing Smeagol does with the Ring, once he has it, is use its invisibility powers to find out secrets about his neighbors. That’s part of why he enters that cave in the first place–to find secrets hidden under the earth. Smeagol starts out wanting to know everything about everything. He wants to become superior to his neighbors by knowing more obscure, hidden secrets than they do. The Ring gives him his chance, but ultimately the things he learns turn out to be worthless. Again, painfully familiar. All too often, my relationship with the Internet bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Gollum’s relationship with the Ring. I enjoy the power and knowledge it gives me, but prolonged exposure just shrivels me up and cuts me off from the world.

Now let’s look at an example of a good nerd. There are several to choose from, but I picked Bilbo Baggins.

Again, the pipe of wisdom.

Like Gollum, Bilbo is a curious hobbit who’s not too fond of company. He loves poetry and stories of adventure, not to mention his eager study of maps and languages, but he’s such a stay-at-home fellow that it takes a posse of dwarf royalty and a very powerful wizard to convince him to go on a real adventure. Again, just like every nerd ever. When Bilbo encounters the Ring (and steals it from Gollum), he uses it to help him on his adventure and, later, to avoid unwelcome visitors. But he never kills for it, and in the end he’s able to give it up willingly–one of only two Ringbearers ever to do so. What makes Bilbo so much more resistant to its evil than Gollum?

I think it’s partly because, unlike Gollum, Bilbo never had a great desire to be better than other people. He doesn’t need to know more secrets of the Elves than anyone else in the world. He likes translating their poetry, but he doesn’t really care if anybody else reads it. And Dwarvish armour and weapons are neat, but he donates them to museums when he’s tired of them hanging on his mantelpiece. Bilbo just doesn’t have a huge desire for power and prestige, which is why the Ring has a harder time corrupting him.

The other reason for Bilbo’s triumph is that, even though he’s a bit of a shut-in, at no point does he develop hatred for other people. He’s polite to the dwarves, even as they’re showing up unannounced and eating all his food. Although he doesn’t really fit into hobbit society after his adventure, the only hobbits he ever admits to disliking are the Sackville-Bagginses–and even they get farewell presents when he leaves the Shire. And, most importantly, he shows mercy to Gollum when he had every reason to kill him. Bilbo may not be the most sociable of hobbits,  but he doesn’t push people away. He may not go to a lot of parties, but if you knock on his door, you can be sure he’ll have a plate of seedcake and a story about dragons for you.

Bilbo is the very best kind of nerd: one who likes what he likes for its own sake, and couldn’t care less whether other people think he’s cool or crazy for it. He has true friends whom he values more than “hoarded gold” or any of his hobbies. And he never expects those hobbies to make him superior to others in any way.

So I’m making it my New Year’s resolution to be more like Bilbo and less like Gollum. Fewer solitary all-nighters spent hunched over a screen, more face-to-face discussions about the deeper cultural meanings behind the Avengers movies. Less arrogance, more good-natured fun. And I resolve to go outside more than once every 500 years.

Namarie,
Aldy

 

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