Sunday, November 19, 2017

Justice League and the DCEU *SPOILERS*

Property of DC and Warner Brothers

****SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THE DC MOVIES--JUSTICE LEAGUE, SUICIDE SQUAD, MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, WONDER WOMAN, BUNNICULA: EATER OF SIN AND CARROTS, AND THE LEGEND OF WINN DIXIE.****

My wife and I saw Justice League at the Thursday night premiere. As soon as I got home, I barfed all of my thoughts about the movie onto Mastodon because it has an awesome content warning feature that lets me hide things behind a "show more" drop. Since it was so long, I figured I'd repurpose it and put it here for posterity.

I want to talk about Justice League, the DC Cinematic Universe as a whole, and a bit of what Justice League means to the franchise as a whole. To do so, I'm going to be comparing the DC Cinematic Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know that people hate comparing DC movies to Marvel movies, and I sorta almost get it to an extent. The movies are so different that it's almost like comparing apples to oranges. It's difficult to compare Man of Steel and Spider-Man: Homecoming because they are drastically different movies with drastically different plots, tones, and themes.

On the other hand, DC and Marvel are both shared superhero cinematic universes--which wasn't even a thing until Marvel pioneered & arguably perfected it. It is something that DC immediately jumped at doing, and what a slew of other properties from Ghostbusters to Universal Monsters to Lego to Hasbro want to do as well. DC has obviously been influenced by Marvel, both in what they have done and in what they haven't done, whether or their fans want to admit it or not. DC announced plans for a Justice League movie and an expanded cinematic universe almost immediately after Avengers was a hit, so the comparison is fair.

CONCEIVING A UNIVERSE

DC has been struggling for their movieverse to be as big and beloved as Marvel's from the jump. They were already behind because nobody expected Marvel's gamble to pay off, nor could they have predicted just how big and successful it would become. Nobody thought Marvel's faintly interconnected movies were going to pay off to anything. Nobody thought the Avengers would work, until it did. And then everyone started frantically scraping together their own plans to mimic Marvel's success.

And that's the biggest problem with DC's cinematic universe. They rushed it to try to play catch up.

Like I said, almost immediately after the Avengers proved itself, DC cleared their throats and said, "Uh...yeah. Us, too, y'all!" The catch to that is Marvel spent at least 5 years building up this shared universe. They laid the groundwork by giving each superhero their own movie. We understood each character's deal going in, so all The Avengers had to do was focus on bringing them together as a team and making their group dynamic work.

You don't have to have solo movies for each character in a team up movie. Avengers is solid enough that you don't have to have seen the rest of the movies to enjoy it. Guardians of the Galaxy didn't, either. But the first four Marvel movies weren't just about setting up the characters. They were a mission statement for the company. Each character had a unique look, feel, personality, setting, color pallet, and yet the movies were similar enough in tone and execution that they all felt like they belonged together under the same umbrella brand. (Incidentally, this is why we'll likely never see Thor meet Daredevil. Netflix's shows may be the same "universe," but their execution is so different it would be too jarring to work effectively.)

Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger are all solid movies. They might seem a bit simple and almost quaint now because the genre has evolved so much, but if you rewatch them, they work exceedingly well as stand alone, individual movie entries. Marvel was rewarded for being patient. There's world building the possible setup for future movies, for example they hint at the Ten Rings (the terrorist organization that the Mandarin works with in Iron Man 3) all the back in the first Iron Man, but it's all very subtle and way in the background stuff. And that stuff works best there or when it's relegated to post credits stingers like Tony Stark showing up in the Hulk's post credits scene.

Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron don't follow this rule, and they suffer for it. There's so much introducing other elements for other potential movies that the films have a hard time telling a coherent story. Thor literally disappears for a good chunk of Ultron to go have a mostly off screen side quest.

This is why DC's movies (except Wonder Woman) don't really work in any meaningful way, and why Marvel has proven more successful at this. Marvel's movies are more coherent, better structured, and better paced. It's not that Marvel's movies are fun and DC's aren't--although I'll get into tone a little more later--it's that Marvel focused on telling individual stories while DC tried to cash in on something they hadn't earned.

BUT HOW IS JUSTICE LEAGUE?

For the record: Justice League is probably the least worst of DC's current output (except Wonder Woman--whenever I refer to DC's movies, just assume I always mean "except Wonder Woman"). It's pretty fun. As far as bringing characters together to fight, it mostly works. The characters feel like a team. There's camaraderie, laughing, teasing. There's a lightness that hasn't been in the other movies. And it's in color--not that washed out Twilight-esque thing they did for a while. And these are all things that word toward making the movie enjoyable. But it's not like "the studio made it more like a Marvel movie, so it's better." It's that the studio took the time to better understand each of the characters and try to figure out a tone that makes them work together.

When Justice League stumbles, it's usually related to a previous movie's failures. Since all of the previous DC movies (except Wond--oh, you get it) were pretty fatally flawed--sloppy editing, muddied tone, poor pacing, inconsistent characterization, confusing plot, and horribly ham-fisted attempts at building a shared universe--any time Justice League tries to address threads set up in previous movies, the film stumbles and loses momentum.

Let's look at DC's movies so far.

A DC MOVIE TIMELINE

Man of Steel was very influenced by Christopher Nolan's deconstructionist approach to Batman. The flaw there is that while you could do that version of Superman, Man of Steel doesn't know whether it wants to be the hopeful, classic Superman from years past, or if it wants to be a grittier, more realistic Superman. Because of that indecisiveness, the movie is majorly flawed. Enjoyable, maybe, to some, but it can never nail down the message it's trying to send. It's too busy either pushing in Important Themes--like that Superman is Space Jesus--or trying to be edgy--like Superman killing Zod--that it never settles on a consistent story.

Batman v Superman doubled down on the darkness and heavy themes of Man of Steel. I think it was DC's way of trying to differentiate themselves from Marvel. "Marvel is colorful and jokey and fun, so we'll be washed out and serious and gritty." There is a way to do that in superhero movies, and Nolan is a great example, but people tend to remember the Nolan Batman movies as much darker than they actually were. There were moments of humor and lightness to balance the tone. There was very little of that in BvS, and the movie felt crushed by its own sense of self-importance. Another thing to note: Batman, at least as he has been presented since the Bronze Age, lends himself more to darker, stripped down, gritty reinterpretations. Since Superman's whole schtick is generally Old American Corniness and Goodness, it's a bit harder to do that.

BvS was so dark and unenjoyable that audiences and critics bounced hard off of the movie. But DC had already sort of bet on that being Their Thing to make them different than Marvel, and Suicide Squad was already under production with that similar tone in mind. In a desperate attempt to fix stave off another box office lashing, DC reshot and re-edited large portions of Suicide Squad. What ws originally clearly going to be more of the same grittiness was recut to be neon, irreverent, and somewhat Deadpoolish. But that wasn't how the movie was written or originally conceived, it was constructed artificially later from the rubble of the previous movie. They even went so far as to hire an outside editing company to recut the movie based on the success of one trailer. Because of that, the movie comes out a confused mess with no identity.

Then, the blessing that was Wonder Woman came. It was the most similar to a Marvel movie--there's friendship, color, moments of humor to balance the heavy war stuff. It's not perfect--the story stumbles a few times, and the final confrontation feels too long and a tad out of place--but it nailed its tone so well, and the tone is appropriate to the character, that it's easy to forgive the flaws. Even though the movie deals with a lot of the same themes that other DC movies had, it does so in a way that makes sense for Wonder Woman.

Cut to DC, again, frantically reshooting large portions of Justice League to try to make it align more with the lighter, more hopeful moments of Wonder Woman.

Tonally, none of these movies flow from one to the next because DC had no plan. It was just, "Do what Marvel did, but maybe the exact opposite so no one can say we're copying?"

On the bright side, it seems that maybe DC finally gets that your movies have to have characters and a story and not just a series of philosophical grumblings to fill time between sets of punching. They also seem to have learned it's okay to have fun, and maybe their future movies will start to reflect that from conception rather than frantically trying to fix it in post.

On the down side, as I said, the previous movies give Justice League hurdles it can't quite clear to break away.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T, AND WHY

Wonder Woman is inconsistent from BvS to WW to JL. Her character arc as a whole makes no sense. She ends Wonder Woman--in the past--deciding that humanity is worth saving, but in BvS she had been in hiding and not helping anyone for years. They try to strike a balance by saying that Steve Trevor's death is what caused her to withdraw...which doesn't make sense because it was his death that showed her that inherently flawed humanity still had good in them that was worth fighting for and coaxing out--a very Doctor Who lesson that is hilariously botched by JL.

The Flash and Cyborg are handled pretty well. I'd guess that's because they have decent pre-existing templates on how to deal with them from the Flash TV show and Teen Titans that they can use to construct a base and then tweak the tone as they see fit. The Flash doesn't really feel like any Flash from before--he's more anxious, nerdier--but he feels like a Flash character. And Cyborg isn't the exuberant, joyful goof he is in the cartoon. Instead, they lean into the Frankenstein's Monster angle--but that was also covered in the cartoon. Both treatments fit the characters, they're performed well, and they give them unique motivations.

Aquaman is just there. Momoa is a good actor, and his performance is solid, but he also gets the least introduction or on-screen time to development, which sucks because he has THE MOST BACKSTORY. There's a whole kingdom with palace intrigue, and also he has a double life on shore, and also it seems to imply that he hasn't been back in Atlantis for long, so is he the king or is someone else ruling in his place? and all of that and the magic and strange physics of this other place and other people is handled in like five minutes so he can surf a dead parademon to the ground during the climax. He's basically this movie's Thor, but without the development.

It's such a shame. He has a few moments here and there that are almost something--a few bits where Momoa's charm is able to shine through, but he gets constantly outshined by Cyborg and the Flash because their story is easier to summarize. I seriously kept forgetting Aquaman was even in the movie until it intentionally focused on him doing something. It was so sad. At one point, he talks about how they got their asses kicked in a fight, and I had to pause and think back because I literally could not remember him being at that fight.


THE DCEU SUPERMAN: A CONUNDRUM


Meanwhile, the DCEU version of Superman has always sucked because it feels like Zack Snyder doesn't understand Superman on a conceptual level. Every time JL shifts over to its Superman stuff--Lois and Ma Kent and such--it is SO BORING. Lois and Clark just decided at the end of MoS that they were together without any romance subplot or scenes of them having anything beyond the most strained work-related conversations to get them there. Just, "sure Metropolis is destroyed but fuck it, let's make out." When they're reunited after Supes is resurrected it should feel like this amazing love-conquers-all moment, but instead I was rolling my eyes because besides on scene where Clark jumps into a bathtub with Lois in BvS, when have we seen them have any sort of chemistry at all?

The entire death/rebirth of Superman arc feels so hollow. DC tries to do too many things in one movie without properly setting them up. Superman killing Zod doesn't emotionally resonate unless you're familiar with the comics because Superman's no killing rule was never established in Man of Steel, so him finally killing Zod after leveling nearly half of Metropolis feels horribly irresponsibly when he could have saved so many lives. If they wanted the reason he wasn't killing Zod to be that he was the last Kryptonian and Superman felt a kinship with him and didn't want to lose the last of his kind...that also wasn't set up, so it failed in that way as well.

In Batman vs Superman, Superman is tortured because everyone wants him to be everything but also a lot of people keep describing Superman as a symbol of hope. 1) Those two things don't jive together in the same movie. 2) We don't get to see Superman be Superman before DC is trying to deconstruct what it means to be him. We needed a middle movie in there where maybe he spends his time trying to build up his trust of the people after leveling Metropolis. Maybe he saves Metropolis from another threat, this time without destroying large chunks of the city. Maybe he pubicly sacrifices himself and everyone sees how good he really is. That would make his death resonate. But because we never see the transition from nobody to hero, when he does die, it doesn't feel like it matters.

His resurrection doesn't work for the same reason. Throughout the first half of the movie, everyone talks about how Superman was this symbol of hope, but we never got to see this, so it doesn't mean anything. So when he comes back, it doesn't really mean anything. Plus, his resurrection isn't a big end of the movie climactic thing. It's done halfway through the movie and proposed almost as a joke. The DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF SUPERMAN--THE MOST FAMOUS COMIC BOOK SUPERHERO IN THE WORLD doesn't really matter. It just kinda happens.

BUT!

I think they did it, y'all. I think they finally get Superman.

No, it doesn't make ANY SENSE based on everything else we've seen. We never got to see Superman be a hero, so everyone deciding he was Space Jesus and a symbol of hope feels forced silly. No, it doesn't square with how they've characterized Supes up until now. Superman has been morose, tortured, and self-serious throughout these movies. We know at least cares about the little guy from his roving days as a bully stopping vigilante in Man of Steel, but every scene of him saving people, he looked like he was miserable.

BUT!

After he's resurrected and gets into a stupid fight with the team because death makes people evil or some shit and disappears for a while, he shows up in the climax to help the team fight the big bad. It looks like everything is going south for our heroes, and we hear, "I like Truth...but I also like Justice."

He smiles.

He laughs.

He does this "aww shucks" thing when people compliment him.

He specifically leaves his superpowered teammates to continue fighting the big bad because he and the Flash are the only ones fast enough to get everyone to safety quick enough.

HE GETS IN A RACE WITH THE FLASH--which admittedly they already did better on Supergirl--BUT STILL Y'ALL HE HAS FUN FOR ONCE.

Remember that one good scene in Man of Steel where Superman flies for the first time and has so much fun that he bursts out into a joyful laugh? He's that guy for the whole LAST THIRD TO A QUARTER OF THIS MOVIE. Which admittedly, isn't much. But still. I think when the inevitable Man of Steel 2 comes, it might ACTUALLY be halfway decent.

His costume still sucks. There's still nothing to break up the blue onesie, so your eyes are awkwardly drawn to his crotch bulge. BUT I WILL PUT UP WITH AWKWARD CROTCH IF IT MEANS SUPERMAN CAN BE THE BIG BLUE BOY SCOUT AGAIN.


WRAPPING UP

Basically, this movie is fine. It's not great. It's actually almost the exact same plot as the Avengers, but for a DC movie, they finally managed not to make a train wreck. Whether meeting the bare minimum of a functional movie should be applauded is another story, but since I love these character, it was nice to see.

I still don't know that it's worth dropping the money to go see in theaters--especially if you haven't seen Thor: Ragnarok yet--but it was okay. It was fine. Perfectly adequate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Toot Toot Goes the Mastodon


Are you on Twitter? If you are, you probably know it's a swirling dumpster fire of awful. It is a place where all of the nightmares of our world can endlessly scroll before your eyes like a portal into the darkest circles of hell.

The normal news cycle would be exhausting enough, but it's also overrun by white supremacists, Nazis, harassing bots, and worse, they're all treated as rational and deserving of space to say whatever they want because of freeze peach.

Enter Mastodon, the latest attempt to de-throne Twitter (and the rest of the social media juggernauts). On its surface, Mastodon is a Twitter clone with a higher word count allowance--500 instead of 280. When you log in, it even looks exactly like Tweetdeck, but with different skins. Underneath the hood, though, there's some really cool stuff both on a functionality level and a basic structure level that makes it at least a potential Twitter contender.

The Basics

The code that Mastodon is written in is open source, which means anyone can go out and make suggestions and start projects to make improvements to the platform. This is cool because it means, were you sufficiently talented and motivated enough, you could write up and introduce improvements to the platform. It's community based rather than answering to the board of directors at Twitter.

Functionality

Setup to Mastodon can be a tad complicated, and I want to talk more in depth of how it works and the pluses and minuses, but let's save that for later. Let's pretend you've already signed up and are ready to start using it.


  • Like I said, it's a Twitter clone in a lot of ways. It's laid out like Tweetdeck, and functions almost the same.
  • The tweets are called toots. TOOTS!
  • Because of elephants. Get it?
  • You can:
    •  toot something
      • a normal post
    • boost something
      • like a retweet or reblog
    • or favorite something
      • like most social media platforms
  • You can add media to your posts--images, videos, etc.--and the platform will generally format them so that they look nice and fit the layout.
    • The pictures aren't quite as sleek and functional as on Twitter--you can't just swipe from picture to picture--but it's not clunky either.
  • The little globe symbol at the bottom of the message area is your privacy settings. You can set toots to go out:
    •  publically
      • everyone can see it, including not your followers
    • followers only
      • so that it's only visible to your followers
    • or that it goes "unlisted" 
      • I'll explain that more in a sec
    • You can also choose "direct" as an option. 
      • This is how Mastodon direct messages--it looks just like a tweet in your feed, but it can ONLY be viewed by the person that you sent it to (and the admins that mess with the code, but that's obvious).
  • You can also tag your posts with a content warning--that's what the CW is for.
    • This creates a title on your post, basically, that lets you give a quick heads up of what will be buried below a "see more" option. This way, if you want to talk about something particularly traumatic, you can hide it so people can engage with it as they want. This is true for politics, nudity, and other potentially heavy topics. 
    • It's ALSO super useful for spoilers! One of the fights everyone always has on Twitter is how long do we wait to talk about something before it's out of the "spoiler zone." Well, now you don't have to worry! Tag it, "Thor Spoilers" and spoil to your heart's content!

Instances

The most complicated aspect of Mastodon is the concept of instances. This is because Mastodon isn't a  centralized thing, per se. With Twitter and Facebook, there is one centralized platform that has one board that oversees the enforcement of rules. Mastodon is a framework on which anyone can start their own mini-Twitter...or mini-Mastodon, if you will.

That already sounds weird, so let me back up a second.

If you've used Reddit, you know that there is Reddit, the overall application, and then there are subreddits--rooms that you can enter that have their own rules for what's acceptable. You can interact with the people of r/fantasy (a fantasy devoted subreddit) for years and never have to speak to anyone outside of there.

Mastadon is very much like that. The difference is, with Reddit you still only have one account and one group of official people that oversees the Official Reddit Rule Enforcement. Each Mastodon instance--each "room"--requires a separate account, however.

The really cool thing about Mastodon is you don't have to be part of an instance to follow someone from that instance. So, I joined tootplanet.space because it was queer friendly, had very straightforward rules, and I loved the space theme. A lot of the SFF authors I follow on Twitter, however, joined wandering.shop, which is intended to function kind of like an online science fiction/fantasy convention where you can talk about SFF books and TV shows and interact with authors and fans. I can still follow those authors and interact with them while being a member of my instance.

Some people stressed about which instance to join, and one of the flaws of Mastodon is that there aren't obvious ways to find what's out there. A tool does exist, but if you don't know about it, you might miss it. You can go to https://instances.social, which has a tool that will ask you questions and help you narrow things down to some possible options based on what languages you speak, how many users you want in your instance, and what specific moderation rules you're either for or against.

But why instances? Why set it up that way?

Home, Local, and Federation

When you setup your account on your instance, your home timeline will probably have one or two accounts that you auto-followed--that's usually an admin account of some kind, kinda like Tom from MySpace. Beyond that, your timeline will be empty.

There are, however, two other timelines that you can look at: Local, which is a stream of everyone in your instance, and federation, which is a combination of everyone that you follow and everyone that the people you are following follow. (That's not 100% accurate, but it's close enough for these purposes.)

This is how I saw it explained on Mastodon that helped clarify things a little:
  • Home--this is my home and it's full of my friends whom I invited in.
    • If you post a toot "followers only," it will go to your followers feeds only.
  • Local--this is my neighborhood where I chose to live.
    • You won't follow everyone you see here, and not everyone you follow appears here. This is your local community.
    • When you post a toot "unlisted," it will not post here
  • Federation--this is the city I'm staying in. It's full of friends of friends
    • All of the people you follow will appear here, along with everyone that they follow
    • Posting toots unlisted means it won't show up here, either.
Dipping into the latter two feeds will give you suggestions on who to follow beyond searching for someone.

And? So what?

Recently on Twitter, I saw a white supremacist call someone the n-word. When the person responded by calling the white supremacist a "fucking racist," they were suspended for a week. The white supremacist wasn't disciplined by Twitter.

Twitter is driven by ads and media buzz. They have shareholders and a bottom line. It's a business, and it's trying to sell you things and sell you to advertisers so they can sell you things. Because of that, it means that, in spite of any rules they may have in place, they're not incentivised to kick off the Nazis unless they have to--in Germany, Nazism is illegal, so those accounts are blocked there. Just not here because of freeze peach.

Because Mastodon isn't centralized, as long as you join an instance with good moderation rules and an active admin, you don't have to deal with that nonsense. Abusers can be banned from the instance, but it's better than that. Your admin can ban entire instances from interacting with your instance. writers.blah can decide that they don't want to deal with nazis.shitheads and ban the entire instance. In fact, tootplanet.space had a list of banned instances and why they were banned. It's one of the reasons I decided to join them--they were very straightforward.

Each instance has its own set of rules, so some instances allow literally anything. Some are more restrictive. Some allow NSFW posts untagged. Some don't. Some allow swearing. Some don't. That's the beautiful flexibility of instances. AND you can still follow folks from other instances with different rules, too. So you can follow that puppet porn account all you want, even if your instance doesn't allow YOU to post puppet porn.

What's the downside?

Because each instance is a separate account with a separate password and separate settings, if you were to decide that the instance you're in doesn't fit, you have to create a new account elsewhere. There's some nice tools put in place to bring your mute, block, and following lists with you so you can keep what YOU see the same, but you can't bring your followers with you.

Some people really want there to be a single account that you create, and then you can check into different rooms as you wish. There were legitimate concerns raised of people being able to impersonate other people in other instances, and since there's no centralization, it'd be next to impossible to get rid of them all. There's no central authority, so there's no "verified" option like on Twitter. This is a legit concern.

Although Mastodon has been marketed as "Twitter without the Nazis" that's not accurate. As I said, Nazis can join an instance or create their own. It's up to the admins of whatever instance you join to block them and keep them out. It would be pretty easy for the Nazis to whip themselves into a frenzy, mob an instance, and bring it down from the inside, and everyone would have to just start new accounts elsewhere, which is a bummer.

There's also the possibility that you could run afoul of the mod and get booted for whatever reason. As Chuck Wendig pointed out, mod drama back in the BBS days was real and it would be easy for a mod to take a sudden disliking to you, and you'd just lose that account.

There also needs to be better muting in place. You can mute and block users, but muting keywords is restricted to a by-column basis. Just because my instance is good about not posting spoilers for Thor Ragnarok doesn't mean that everyone in the Federation timeline would be. Plus, if I absolutely never want to see the word rutabaga, I should be able to mute that universally. Unfortunately, that's not the case for right now. You can, like I said, mute keywords by column, though, which is nice.

Another functionality that I miss is making lists. I have a list on my Tweetdeck of my friends so that, even if I don't want to read through my whole feed, I can get an update on how they specifically are doing. That functionality isn't present at this time.

These are real issues, and if the platform continues to grow, these are things that they would either need to come up with answers to or figure out work arounds for.

Final thoughts

I really dig it. Like, a whole lot.

I think community policing is a really great way to deal with most harassment issues, including being able to just completely ban an instance so you don't have to deal with the shit gibbons at all. 

I also like the additional functionality of the content warnings letting you hide potentially sensitive information and letting users choose for themselves whether they want to engage. Politics, whether you agree with someone or not, has made Twitter into a nightmare where joy goes to die most of the time. It may be the front line for the resistance, but it's also front line of my sorrows.

And finally, Mastodon puts the social back in social media. There's an interesting sense of pride and identity, especially in the smaller instances. You feel like more of a tight knit community, and you all agree on what you consider acceptable. You don't have to follow everyone in your instance, but you'll likely still interact with a lot of them, and you can always drop into the Federation stream to get a sense of what Mastodon as a whole is talking about--at least within your circles of interest. And that's really cool.

I hope this sticks around. An awful lot of people moved over there, but I can see the instance confusion being a barrier to entry for a lot of folks, and the potential for impersonation in other instances is higher than I would like. For folks looking to use it as a marketing platform like Twitter, it doesn't function as well as Twitter does for that. But for everything else, it's so much more enjoyable.

Check it out. See what you like. Hit me up. Follow me. I'm @whirlingnerdish@tootplanet.space.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

The October Movie Challenge (with The Me!)

Photo by van Ort  Some rights reserved from Flickr
As I said last week, we did the 31 Days of October Challenge--which is to watch one horror movie every night in October. Because we're damned fools that should know better, we actually worked in quite a few extras.

Seriously, we have a serious movie problem. Especially me. I have it bad. What am I gonna do, though, NOT watch a movie?

Last week, my wife wrote up her thoughts on each movie we watched, and now it's my turn!

Please enjoy!

**************
  1. Gerald's Game
    • Mike Flanagan can basically do no wrong for me at this point. I love horror, but my favorite horror is when creators tap into their characters and create very personal stories that aren't just scary, but display the heart of the story. It's why King's books work so well, and Flanagan does that perfectly in his movies. I've heard some complaints that it goes too long, but I thought the ending was very good thematically for the character. Don't @ me.
  2. Beware the Slenderman
    • My wife is obsessed with true crime documentaries, so this was her pick. I liked it, I thought it was an interesting look at a complicated case since mental illness is a complex issue. However, there were times where the documentary sauntered up to "people who like creepy things could be dangerous," and I'm just not here for that. The best part for me was exploring the history of the Slenderman mythos since, unlike traditional folklore, it has a discernible creation we can point to. And yet people still believe it. I get it was supposed to be a documentary about the crime, but I really want a documentary that just deep dives into internet folklore and creepypastas now.
  3. Ginger Snaps
    • I dug the hell out of this. Katherine Isabelle is great, and it's one of those beautiful movies that could have only come out in 2000 that has just enough late 90s trends to make it feel of the time but gives a fascinating peak to where cinema and horror could have gone if 9/11 hadn't happened. More practical creatures in horror movies!
  4. Wrong Turn
    • This movie sucked. It wasn't the worst thing, I suppose. Just a dumb slasher movie, but without the charm of the 80s or early 90s and without the silly cynicism and deconstructionism of the late 90s early 00s. It was just...there. Mutant rednecks murder folks. Yay...
  5. Cube
    • I really liked this movie. It's fascinating how similar it feels to Saw--traps, a mystery that has to be solved for why these people are here--while predating the entire Saw franchise. It's a lot of fun, a tad cheesy at times, but I actually have a soft spot for the "people locked in  room figuring out why they're all there" genre--which Saw dips into, not always, but frequently.
  6. It (2017)
    • I was surprised that my wife was so keen to watch this movie. She has been afraid of clowns since I met her. She watched the first trailer and called me at work freaking out--scared, but also excited? Turns out, this movie is fantastic. Probably my second favorite horror movie this year. The choice to just leave the adults stories to a sequel was the right one. This movie earns its R rating, and I didn't expect that since R rated horror movies are pretty rare these days. Very good, I'm stoked for the sequel.
  7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    • We all know this movie. I like it. It's cute. But the reason we saw it for Spooktober was because we had the chance to see it outside with a live orchestra performing the score. I literally got goosebumps repeatedly throughout the film. They're doing it again next year with Chamber of Secrets, and I will be there if I can.
  8. Blacula
    • I really really liked this movie. I didn't really know what to expect. I don't know that I've ever seen a proper blaxploitation movie. I've seen the parodies of those, so my understanding of the genre is filtered through style and parody. That said, this movie was great--a fascinating spin on Dracula. Using the slave trade as the backdrop for vampires was an excellent idea, and Blacula really came across like a tragic figure. The movie was surprisingly sad.
  9. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
    • This was actually my 3rd or 4th favorite Friday, I think. I don't have a lot of love for the Friday franchise--they're very repetitive and don't really get interesting until part six. That said, this one was silly, and I enjoyed the bounty hunter character.
  10. The Purge: Election Year
    • It was chilling watching this movie in a post-election world, especially since there's a subplot about Russians that was insanely prescient. The franchise has turned more action oriented than horror--if it'd been me, I wouldn't have followed up on Frank Grillo's character and instead pursued another character, but it was good.
  11. Flatliners  (2017)
    • This movie sucked. I thought maybe the hype was overly negative because people were nostalgic for the original, and since I'd never seen the original, I figured I'd enjoy it more. No. It was very stupid. Diego Luna's character has nothing to do, and the ultimate pay off for what's causing the haunt is so so so weak. Seriously the saddest, silliest movie. Also, the PG-13 rating felt like it was handcuffing the movie. Like, at times the movie felt like it wanted to go super dark, but back-pedaled instead to a softer, weaker place. Just don't. It's not worth it.
  12. Happy Death Day
    • Essentially, this is horror Groundhog Day. Unlike Flatliners, this movie didn't feel handcuffed by its PG-13 rating. The point of this movie wasn't gory deaths, but the inventive ways she dies and the mystery behind her repeating day. The main actress is really great in it. The movie was a great time--highly recommended.
  13. Freddy vs. Jason
    • This movie gets a lot of hate, but I actually like it. I thought the way the two franchises together was pretty seamless. Some people were apparently pissed they focused more on Nightmare's mythology than Jason's, but I ask you this: what Jason mythology? There isn't any. Nightmare, meanwhile, has tons. Not casting Kane Hodder was bullshit, though. And that homophobic line toward the end. Otherwise, pretty solid. I wish it had revitalized the two franchises rather than being a dying gasp for both of them.
  14. Halloween
    • This was the original, and it was great. I'd never seen it before, and I got to see it with a double feature of Friday the 13th on...well...October, Friday the 13th. Obviously, this movie is a classic. It is the best slasher I've seen of its era. And that score. Chills.
  15. Jason X
    • So stupid. So glorious. So many puns. So much late 90s early 00s future nonsense. A robot lady fights a nano-bot armored Jason in space. That is all you need to know to understand this movie. I love it. It is dumb, but I love it.
  16. Get Out
    • Amazing. Chilling. My favorite horror movie--and might be my favorite movie of this year. I look forward to Jordan Peele's future works. 
  17. Life
    • This movie was basically Alien. That said, it's really good. It has a few interesting twists and turns, the set work  to make the antigravity feel real was astounding. The creature was cleverly designed, and as it evolves throughout the movie, it still looks cool. A surprisingly big budget, all star cast that basically no one saw, and that is a shame.
  18. Little Evil
    • This was a very silly, fun little movie. Lots of references to horror classics packed into the movie without it devolving into the lazy reference humor of the Scary Movie franchise. Adam Scott is great in everything. 
  19. Final Destination
    • I really like this movie. It FUCKED ME UP as a kid. Death will come for you in a Rube Goldberg machine-esque fashion! The plane crash in the beginning was wild since this came out in, I think, '99. In just 2 years, this movie wouldn't have come out.
  20. Saw 2
    • I actually like most of the Saw movies. The mystery of them keeps you going into the next one, and the gore, to me, never really felt gratuitous. I mean, it is gratuitous, but there's always a point for it. John Kramer's story is fascinating, and while the first one was a great locked room mystery, this one is great to get a peak into the mind of the killer. Plus, it's a bit of a commentary on how toxic hypermasculinity hurts everyone, including yourself.
  21. Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
    • A classic. Amazing. I love this movie--although maybe not as much as the sequel? So good.
  22. Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
    • Jackie Earle Haley is amazing. He, seriously, did a great job making Freddy scary again. Unfortunately, the movie can't decide whether it wants to remake the old movie, or do something new, so it keeps waffling back and forth. The movie's opening scene is legitimately great--the red and green lighting of Freddy's world is a wonderful call back to the original series, there's surreal, spooky imagery. And then the rest of the movie is...bland to bad. The calls back to the original are bland. The pay off the mystery is bad bad bad.
  23. Saw 3
    • Again, I liked this movie. This is the movie in which--spoilers--Jigsaw dies. A doctor is tasked with keeping Jigsaw alive while another guy goes through a maze, confronting each person that was responsible for the death of his son as Jigsaw tries to teach him forgiveness. I feel like they perfect this hall of horrors premise in a later sequel, though. Tobin Bell is fascinating.
  24. You're Next
    • I love this movie. Adam Wingard's recent efforts have left me cold--Blair Witch was...fine...and Death Note was stupid. But this movie? This is just about perfection. A beautiful twist on the home invasion genre, and I've read their pitch for the sequel. It kills me we'll probably never see it.
  25. Saw 4
    • This one was my favorite for a long time because we learn the most about Jigsaw. And I do like some of the final twists. However, Riggs isn't quite as interesting a character to focus on as some of the others, and I feel like they waste some of the potential with Eric Matthews character. But still solid.
  26. Saw 5
    • This movie focuses on Luke, who has retired from his diner in Stars Hollow and become a cop in the city. Not really, but basically. And it's...okay. It's a bit of a pissing match between two cops, both of whom look similar enough that sometimes you have a hard time telling them apart. Still a decent mystery, but it feels less like a full movie in itself and more like an episode from a TV show.
  27. Saw 6
    • I don't like the story of the cop that survived the previous movie. I do like that this movie retcons the entire franchise into a commentary on the health care industry in America. This is the movie that perfects that hall of horrors things that Saw 3 did. I had a quibble with one person's inclusion that wasn't really clear enough in what they did to deserve Jigsaw's wrath, but otherwise I dug this one quite a bit.
  28. Saw 7
    • This poor movie. Oddly, the most expensive, it looks the cheapest, and that's sad because this features the return of Dr. Gordon from the first movie! I like the way this movie ties up a lot of the mysteries and feels like a decent final chapter...which...it is. They did good.
  29. Tucker and Dale vs Evil
    • Hilarious. One of my favorite horror comedies ever. Maybe it's because I'm from Arkansas, but this one really hits home.
  30. The Fog (1980)
    • Some people said this movie was slow, but I would call it atmospheric. It's all about setting up the characters and building the dread. The fog effect was a great way to make a scary movie monster for cheap. Not my favorite John Carpenter, but pretty good.
  31. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
    • Love this movie. (Im)patiently waiting for the Criterion release. 
  32. Jackals
    • A decent movie with an interesting set up for a home invasion movie, but I feel like it fell just a little short of being really good. There were a few stumbles in the plot, but there were some really good performances. 
  33. Jigsaw
    • I really dug this movie. Somehow, this one feels more cinematic than the other ones. I don't know if they got a bigger budget or what, but the scope somehow feels bigger. Tobin Bell returning to the franchise was very welcome. There were some questions, some quibbles, I had with the ultimate twist that don't necessarily strike me as a problem...but I would love to see them addressed in a sequel.
  34. Gone Girl
    • This is my 2nd favorite Gillian Flynn book, and I love this movie. Creeping dread, disturbing, cerebral. It has a weird almost anti-feminist flavor to it that works for the movie, but also makes me tilt my head at Gillian Flynn a tad, but also this movie is great.
  35. Trick r' Treat
    • Fun. Silly. A wonderful Halloween movie. I forget this movie is an anthology sometimes because the films are woven together so carefully.
  36. Halloweentown
    • I love these goofy movies, especially the first two. Classica, and with Carrie Fisher's mom! And one of the great villains of a Disney movie: Kalibar!
  37. Hocus Pocus
    • Hilarious. Amazing. Gay as shit. I love it so much. Pretty much entirely carried on the three witches' performance. So so campy and great.
  38. The Nightmare Before Christmas
    • This movie made me who I am today. It is the first movie I can remember that really twisted my tiny heart and got me into horror. I've loved creepy, spooky stuff ever since. I love, love, love this movie from top to bottom. It's also a wonderful movie about cultural appropriation and how just because you like a thing doesn't mean you understand it or can take ownership of it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Childhood Toy Nostalgia!

Yesterday my wife and I were wandering around the store goofing off because we'd just gotten out of a movie and didn't want to go home yet, and I stumbled across an amazing discovery. Dr. Dreadful's was a toy that I remember seeing commercials for all the time growing up. I'd always wanted them, but never got one.

Turns out they're back and almost exactly the same.

I also remembered another commercial because my brain is flypaper for stupid, useless information. Anyway, enjoy this geek out while I'm neck deep in NaNoNonsense.