• The Flash s06e05 – Kiss Kiss Breach Breach
    How is this show so boring… so much happens yet so much of it It’s a very strange Cisco episode. Barry and Iris go on vacation before the Crisis crossover (possibly to film the Crisis crossover) while Cisco holds down the front. Now, I can’t remember the last time Carlos Valdes was charming but I think it was two seasons ago. It’ll happen every once in a while now and you can tell it’s not intentional. Somehow Valdes’s original energy gets through, despite finally being a superhero and having a girlfriend. Only now he’s not a superhero and he’s got a different girlfriend (Victoria Park) and he’s unsure of himself. There’s an absurdly bad subplot where Valdes and Park are supposed to be adorable together and they really aren’t. They’re annoying together. Because even though they get the big story, involving guest star Danny Trejo and a couple big surprises, the most interesting stuff in the episode is the very small subplots with the other cast members. Because they’re also filming Crisis? Who knows. But Danielle Panabaker having another super-quick showdown with season big bad and Venom wannabe Sendhil Ramamurthy is not great drama. Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin being trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel and running out of air could be great drama—a good show would’ve turned it into a full episode—but the show manages to kill it by giving Martin this monologue about faith. Only his faith turns out to be in the upcoming Crisis meaning he can’t die now. He’s got to be around for the crossover. Only really schmaltzy and not meta at all. It’s a bummer. Valdes eventually gets better and it’s not the worst episode by the finish—the show leverages Hartley Sawyer being a success after what seemed like a questionable start—but if all Valdes’s storylines going forward are going to involve him getting into situations where his stupid powers would save his life or mean he could save others… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten rid of them. I wish I could remember when this show worked on a regular basis. I wish I could remember back to season two, to when it actually disappointed when it didn’t deliver on its potential. Now it just doesn’t even try to generate potential. It’s distressing how poorly the show utilizes its cast these days. Also there are no big action set pieces here. Cheap ones only. Maybe the money’s going toward Crisis. Hopefully. This whole season hinges on the big crossover to breath life back into it. Not a great place to be. If a Jesse L. Martin monologue can fail, nothing’s safe anymore. And Martin’s monologue failed hard.
  • The Punisher #40, Man of Stone, Part 4 (of 6)
    Man of Stone puts Frank into a world where he doesn’t belong. This issue has him showing down with rogue Russian general Zakharov in Afghan mountains; the general wants Frank alive so Frank will confess on TV. See, Zakharov has a romanticized view of himself and his soldiers. His resolve is a strength and he sees the same thing in Frank, only Frank’s got no romanticized view of himself or anything else. Zakharov’s projecting. The world where Frank doesn’t belong isn’t Afghanistan or shootouts, it’s in the daydreams of general’s and CIA agent’s (good and bad). Frank doesn’t get jack to do this issue. He gets a kind of big action set piece but it’s not about his experience of it, rather the damage he does on others because he’s the Punisher after all. He and O’Brien hang out a bunch but it’s all her talking and him occasionally showing interest but eager to remind her they’re not going to prom after they take out the Russians and her evil ex-husband. There’s no Frank narration this issue either. When he’s got an exposition dump, it’s brief and in dialogue to O’Brien. There’s also a lack of preparedness on Frank’s part, echoing the previous story arc, which is either Ennis covering for dramatic manipulations or Frank just being out of his element. Though I suppose in this story, it could also be he was too busy making the beast with two backs with O’Brien. After three issues of being a prop, O’Brien gets her big monologue here and it’s… okay. Fernandez does a better job with O’Brien as action hero in the issue than Frank, but he doesn’t bring anything to her talking head panels. He doesn’t have the timing for it, which isn’t a surprise. It’s effectively done, it’s just not as good as it could be. Because O’Brien does belong in this world only she wishes she didn’t. Or wishes Frank did. Even though Man of Stone is far from the best arc—and, frankly, not the bounce back (so far) the series needs post-Barracuda—it does at least do something with the characters. The only new character this arc is Zalharov’s main flunky, who hates Rawlins; they’re kind of comic relief. Everyone else is back from previous arcs, laden with baggage. Good baggage, well-placed baggage. Ennis’s characters are in better shape than his narrative needs.
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954, Mark Robson)
    With the exception of Grace Kelly (the only significant female character in the film), none of Bridges at Toko-Ri’s main characters are ever explicitly scrutable. Even when the admiral, Fredric March, muses about the nature of war and the men who wage it, the film’s already established March’s thoughts don’t betray him. He’s not cagey; if anything, he’s a conversational duelist, on the offensive. It’s a very interesting development on the character, who’s initially set up as a sad old man with a dead son who latches onto those officers with similar demographics in his command, in Toko-Ri’s case it’s William Holden. Holden’s a disgruntled lawyer from Denver, Colorado who got called up ahead of activist reservists because of his WWII experience. He’s got Kelly and two daughters at home; he’s miserable at war, living on the carrier, flying missions; he’s trying to grow a drinking problem and he’s thought through faking mental issues to get out of flying those missions. And he’s not quiet about it either. One of the strangest things about Toko-Ri’s script, other than it really being a grim, tense, terse war movie with a bunch of character drama shoehorned in to utter perfection, is how little the film is concerned with establishing Holden’s character. The movie opens with March, then goes to Mickey Rooney, who’s fourth lead in the first half, third in the second… maybe second in the second. March is the admiral, Rooney’s the rescue helicopter pilot (Earl Holliman is Rooney’s sidekick), Holden’s the pilot, Kelly’s the wife. Holden never gets a scene to himself until into the second half of the movie, after he’s been introduced through Rooney’s lens, March’s lens… maybe not Kelly’s lens. She doesn’t really get a lens. She gets the dramatic music and she gets to speak plainly about her feelings, though she’s also adorably small c conservative—the one full, sweet scene we get with Holden, Kelly, and the daughters is when they’re in their Japanese hotel and they go to the steam baths and there’s a Japanese family there too. It’s cute but not pandering; mostly thanks to Robson’s direction and Holden but also editor Alma Macrorie, who’s just as good doing the comedy as the fighter jets. The movie opens with Holden crashing into the ocean, Rooney saving him, March bonding with Holden and telling him Kelly and the daughters are waiting for them in Japan. Then it’s three days ahead and we only get hints of how they passed from Holden’s expressions and how he interacts with the other guys on the ship. The point of that very soft character development technique becomes clear later, in the second half of the film, when it’s just Holden shutting all the guys out on the ship after they’re back to sea, headed to a dangerous mission. Bridges gives its characters their own politics, identifying most with Holden—who’s slowly buying into March’s take, but March also just sees Korea as a diversion from Soviet Russia… but for progressive reasons. Sort of. Kelly’s living “Donna Reed Goes to War.” Rooney’s a sociopath we find out. A lovable one, but a complete sociopath. The film is character studies but fits them into the epical war drama frame. While mostly being tense action and preparation for action. Valentine Davies writes a really tight script; Bridges is based on a James Michener so who knows where that efficiency is from. Because there’s also Robson. He opens the movie with this very practical look at the way aircraft carriers work. The film opens with a thanks to the U.S. Navy for their participation, but it’s not clear how much participation Bridges is going to get. It gets a whole lot. There are big action set pieces, both in and out of fighter jets. Macrorie and whoever did the miniature effects startlingly match the actual jets. It’s a beautifully edited film. Including on the opening “welcome to an aircraft carrier” montage sequence. It fits into the narrative eventually, but for a while it’s just Robson displaying this world. Very quickly the grandiosity of the carrier becomes mundane. Very quickly. In fact, I think Robson just cuts away from the carrier setup and never comes back to it. So he truncates it, because Robson keeps a brisk pace through the Japan sequence. Yeah, there’s the cutesy bathhouse scene but there’s nothing else. Otherwise the film’s always working toward the second half, where it slows down and puts Holden through a wringer and the audience never really gets to understand exactly what’s going on with him. Because even though the narrative distance is fairly firm on being about what happens to Holden and around Holden, it also seems like it could toggle over to being about what Holden’s going to do, which would change reads on how previous events unfolded. The Bridges at Toko-Ri doesn’t tell the audience what kind of the film they’re actually watching until around the third act; from the start, it promises to tell them, then keeps building to it. For at least an hour. It’s kind of breathtaking how well Robson and Davies pull it off. They don’t do it for the benefit of the genre—the early lefty-ish war movie—but for the film’s. Instead of going big, Robson and Davies keep it about the four main characters. It’s a tricky finish and the film’s very nimble in the execution. The best performances are Holden and March. Not to knock Kelly or Rooney, they just don’t get the parts. Holden doesn’t really get to talk about his and March doesn’t talk about his when he’s talking about his. Robson cuts to their close-ups and waits for their reaction, in expression or dialogue, the film unable to continue until they’ve had their moment. Bridges hinges on them. Kelly and Rooney are both excellent, but the film doesn’t hinge on them in the same way. Because Kelly does get to talk about her experience; arguably her learning to speak up for herself is the film’s only traditionally successful character arc. She doesn’t suffer in silence or obfuscation. Rooney’s an entirely different case, initially set up as comic relief (or near to it) he’s actually something quite different. While still retaining some of the comic quality. But just as tragic as everyone else in their mutual delusions. The Bridges at Toko-Ri takes the pieces of a war action movie and a war melodrama and assembles them into something very special. Great work from Robson, Davies, Holden, March, Kelly, Rooney, editor Macrorie, and photographer Loyal Griffs (save a rear screen projection shot here and there). It’s a phenomenal piece of work. ★★★★ CREDITS Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by Valentine Davies, based on the novel by James A. Michener; director of photography, Loyal Griggs; edited by Alma Macrorie; music by Lyn Murray; produced by William Perlberg and George Seaton; released by Paramount Pictures. Starring William Holden (Lt. Harry Brubaker), Fredric March (Rear Adm. George Tarrant), Grace Kelly (Nancy Brubaker), Mickey Rooney (Mike Forney), Earl Holliman (Nestor Gamidge), Charles McGraw (Cmdr. Wayne Lee), Keiko Awaji (Kimiko), and Robert Strauss (Beer Barrel). This post is part of the 5th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon hosted by Samantha of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, Emily of The Flapper Dame, and Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema. RELATED Other films starringGrace Kelly Other films directed byMark Robson Other 1954 releases RECENTLY I Died a Thousand Times (1955, Stuart Heisler)Picnic (1956, Joshua Logan)Stalag 17 (1953, Billy Wilder)The Buccaneer (1938, Cecil B. DeMille)High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann)
  • The Punisher #39, Man of Stone, Part 3 (of 6)
    Ennis starts the issue with some more framing: Frank and O’Brien eating rations in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan. It’s a two page teaser, with Frank giving in and going for a roll in the sack with O’Brien. Again. Even though, the narration reveals, he’d told himself not to do it. Ennis’s Punisher MAX has done a lot of things in its run so far, but establishing Frank Castle gets horny in his downtime… well, it might not be the biggest success but it’s definitely a success. Frank Castle: Sexual Being. Who knew. The rest of Frank’s narration, with a couple exceptions in the last couple pages, is about him getting to Afghanistan. It’s not a lot of narration, because on the last plane he meets a reporter who’s going to talk his ear off and give the reader some exposition as to how big bad Russian villain Zakharov got the “Man of Stone” nickname; doing heinous shit to Afghan civilians during the Russian occupation. What’s weird about the sequence—besides the comic cutting from the intro to the exposition dump to Zakharov and his goons preparing for the Punisher’s arrival—is how Frank probably knows all of it (yet doesn’t want to talk to the reporter so doesn’t mention it)—so it’s exclusively for the reader’s edification, which plays weird. Something’s missing. Maybe Frank’s narration. The issue continues the arc’s weird pacing—like Ennis is doing all the bridging issues in the front—with, once again, barely any time spent on O’Brien. She and Frank probably get about the same amount of page time but he’s got the narration to make more of an impression. Dialogue-wise, they’re probably equal. Or Frank’s less. O’Brien’s opening scene is with Yorkie, who does most of the talking (though not all) and then she and Frank talk a little, but pragmatically. Rawlins gets the most dialogue or at least seems like it because he’s got this lengthy ranting monologue about being a great spy and how valuable he could be to Zakharov. Rawlins and Zakharov get the most agency in the arc; Frank’s just reacting to them, O’Brien’s just a damsel (of sorts). It’s an efficient, effective issue, with Fernandez drawing Frank the tourist a lot better than Frank at home, though he barely gets any panels compared to anyone else. Even when Frank does get a panel, Fernandez usually concentrates on something else. Fernandez’s art on Punisher is better because he’s drawing less Punisher. But, given Fernandez’s lows on the series, I’ll take it. Man of Stone is half over and Ennis has just completed arranging the pieces on the board. He’s done a fine enough job with that arranging, but hasn’t really given a sign of what’s to come for anyone involved. There’s this inevitable showdown feel to it… except Ennis has only talked about the inevitability not shown it.
  • Evil s01e06 – Let x = 9
    So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago. And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah. But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation. Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?” I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist. Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.
  • Watchmen s01e02 – Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship
    As good as “Watchmen” gets at dissecting the comic book, learning from its anatomy, figuring out how to adapt it to live action—though this episode is nowhere near as uncanny as the previous one with composition—the show, pardon my French, fucks with the viewer. Alan Moore comics don’t fuck with the reader, they explore and they reveal (without ever being about the reveals). “Watchmen: The TV Show” is all about narratively cheap but big budget cliffhangers. It’s not exactly frustrating or disappointing—because it’s HBO after all—but means whatever the show creatives learned from the comic… they didn’t learn enough. And “Watchmen: The TV Show” is going to suffer from it. This episode, written by Nick Cuse and show creator Damon Lindelof, is all about surprises, even when they should be obvious to the characters if not the audience. “Watchmen: The TV Show,” like a TV show, is going all in on the money shot reveals, where it’s stage play Dr. Manhattan’s junk or the clone reveal or… the flashbacks to the cops getting attacked by the white supremacists. Turns out Regina King and husband Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he’s really the guy from Aquaman, I can’t believe it, he’s good in this show) didn’t adopt some white kids because it’s a better reality but because the kids are her dead partner’s kids. It’s One Good Cop. But without Michael Keaton and Rene Russo. Makes you wonder how their Batman Forever would’ve been. Anyway. The show also reveals—again, the show’s exposition is all about the reveals too, whether it’s DNA tests or tough talking cops—the reparations are for victims of hate crimes or descendants of hate crimes. The show opens with a newsreel about the destruction of Black Wall Street. It’s not clear how Black Wall Street is going to figure in to the Watchmen aspect of the show, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a good plot device and, actually, completely reasonable for big budget Watchmen fanfic. I don’t think Moore would’ve ever done it because Lindelof’s exploiting the idea whereas Moore never exploits things. So Tulsa because White people in Oklahoma are racist who aren’t ever going to take responsibility for their great-grandparents’ murderous racism so they Klan up to take on the federal government only with Rorschach masks. Kind of a big deal, but also something the show is happy to keep as ground situation, which is concerning. How seriously is “Watchmen” going to take this aspect of the story, which is the whole point of Regina King so don’t end up giving her a shit part. Like Tim Blake Nelson. He’s maybe going to have a shit part. Or not even enough of a part to have a shit part. Don Johnson’s got some “say it isn’t so” reveals in this episode but you know he’s going to come out of it fine because Don Johnson can do amusing shit-stain. All of a sudden I really want to watch Tin Cup, which isn’t out on Blu-ray, which is dumb. Yeah, Nelson… Nelson’s either going to really pay off or he’s going to be a waste. He can be a waste in a few ways, but so far it’s unclear how he could pay off. “Watchmen: The Limited TV Series” is nine episodes; we’re almost a quarter done. There’s only so much time; the longer the show goes on more concerned with turning Easter eggs into plot points… the less it seems likely the show’s going to add up to anything. And there’s a very low bar here. “Watchmen” just has to not screw up its actors’ performances, it just can’t screw up the production design as far as the adaptation, it never actually has to be good. It just can’t be embarrassing. DC and Warner Bros. have been humiliating themselves on Watchmen adaptations for what seems like decades but really has only been eleven years. King is shouldering the globe, but it’s far from steady. It also doesn’t hurt, despite not great material, Lou Gossett Jr. is awesome.
  • The Punisher #38, Man of Stone, Part 2 (of 6)
    Why is the only thing Fernandez unable to reliably draw, even with his much improved (and self-inked) Man of Stone style… why can’t he draw the Punisher? Frank’s out of action the entire issue, literally sitting around on the telephone, and Fernandez can’t seem to figure out how to draw Frank’s arms. It’s really, really weird how he can handle everything else but not Frank. So I guess it’s good Frank’s only in the first couple pages and the last page. He’s on the phone with Yorkie, Yorkie’s about the blow O’Brien’s brains out. The British are helping the Americans protect former Taliban and O’Brien’s killing former Taliban so she’s got to be got. Frank learned about the British involvement thanks to BBC America, which is a throwaway line but does give an idea what Frank puts on in the background while cleaning his guns. There’s quite a bit about how Americans war—the British soldiers aren’t happy about taking assassination orders from the CIA, evil ex-CIA guy Rawlins points out they can get Frank to Afghanistan—he’s not going to want to get into a firefight with the angry Russians in New York City; Americans like going to war in other people’s countries. Quick but important digs from Ennis, as Man of Stone is more about geo-political conditions than anything with Frank himself. So besides the frame, the issue is about Yorkie and his team capturing O’Brien and getting into a fight with Rawlins and the Russians and then Rawlins getting dangled over a cliff until he comes up with another plan to take down the Punisher. The Rawlins and Russians stuff is forward moving, while the O’Brien and Yorkie pages are more like cast catch-up. Ennis seeing what the pair is like together, having written them both alone. It’s Punisher MAX world-riffing. It’s a good use of pages, as far as the single issue goes, though maybe not for the overall arc. Especially since Yorkie has this great closing joke for O’Brien and the comic skips her reaction. Actually, the comic skips O’Brien’s reactions to almost everything. She’s either quiet or muzzled. If the arc has an epical structure, outside the issue’s individual ones, we seem to have just gotten to the end of the first act. Ennis is gradual about setting up the ground situation, far more committed to the individual issues’ plotting. Even if this one doesn’t much involve Frank.
  • Smiling Woman (2019, Alex Magaña)
    Smiling Woman runs just under three minutes, which is too short. It needs at least another minute; frustratingly, the material’s already there, the film rushes through it. The establishing shots and the point of view shots from lead Ariel Fullinwider are too quick. Even though they're quick and don't invite scrutiny, they seem sped up. Smiling is in a hurry and it doesn't need to be. Writer-director-producer-editor-cinematographer Magaña is good at almost everything the short tries. Magaña’s composition is good, the lighting is excellent, he directs Fullinwider well. The problem is entirely with the hurried pace and the abbreviated feel to the runtime. Fullinwider is alone at a train station, waiting. All of a sudden she sees a creepy, smiling woman (Merlynda Sol) on the opposite platform. Then Sol vanishes when Fullinwider looks away. Then Fullinwider starts getting texts from an unknown source—it's so strange how, as technology advances, so do malevolent supernatural beings’ ability to manipulate it… if only boomers were as good with tech as ghosts. Eventually Fullinwider runs away, with Magaña fast forwarding a bit from the initially real-time pace. Fullinwider’s good. She can handle the pace. Sol’s creepy but not annoyingly so. You never get too much Smiling Woman in Smiling Woman. The short needs to take its time, even if it's just for a good jump scare. Magaña’s use of music—licensed stock stuff—is excellent but the music itself lacks personality. It's competent, generic scary music. Combined with the too short run time, the music turns Smiling into a great proof of concept for a commercial or something. Magaña’s enforced brevity tries to solve problems the short doesn't have. Not Recommended CREDITS Written, produced, directed, edited, and photographed by Alex Magaña. Starring Ariel Fullinwider (commuter) and Merlynda Sol (smiling woman). RELATED Other 2019 releases RECENTLY
  • All Rise s01e07 – Uncommon Women and Mothers
    Tony Denison is finally back. Not for very long in sort of a “let’s defer Tony Denison some more” way, but it’s nice he’s back. It gives second-billed but at least fourth in the show’s heart Wilson Bethel something else to do this episode besides prosecute extremely sympathetic non-binary young adult experiencing homelessness J.J. Hawkins for arson. “All Rise” quadruples down on the pronouns this episode and never makes a joke. It’s got slimy businesspeople respecting pronouns. Though this episode also has Black woman judge Simone Missick telling her mother, Black woman social worker L. Scott Caldwell to trust the system to do the right thing. Because the system’s fine, it’s the people. So… ew. Lots of optics here. Missick also has to be contrite to boss Marg Helgenberger at one point… while reaffirming how much, as a judge, she loves the cops. So… double ew. Thank goodness the show realizes Ruthie Ann Miles and Lindsay Mendez can be buddies and have hijinks, this time involving them both wanting to be fire warden. I hold the opinion all television programs ever could have their opening titles cut to the “Night Court” theme song, but rarely do I ever hear it so often as when “All Rise” is having its hijinks. Oh, and assistant assistant D.A. Bethel does get to tell off boss Reggie Lee when Lee’s ranting about the dangerous homeless because before Denison became a bookie to the Russian Mob (based on this episode’s visual indicators), he and Bethel at one point lived out of their car. Though pretty soon Bethel met Missick and found a second, better parent in Caldwell. What’s funny about the show’s schmaltz is how it’s also visually soft and upbeat. If it had any grit or grain, it’d be an interesting contract. Instead, it’s like the show is… Oh. Yeah. It’s wearing its safety pin. But the cast. But for the cast. Seeing Missick and Bethel doing straight network drama is damned interesting, considering it’s not where their futures lie. At least not in an “All Rise”-type form.
  • The Punisher #37, Man of Stone, Part 1 (of 6)
    Leandro Fernandez is back on the art, inking himself, and he’s better than he’s ever been before. There are still some panels where it’s clear colorist Dan Brown is doing a lot of the shading, but overall it’s a big improvement over Fernandez’s usual art. The issue brings together a lot of the series’s leftovers—there’s ex-CIA assassins Rawlins and O’Brien, there’s the Russian general, there’s Yorkie. Well, Yorkie gets a name drop towards the end. He’s promised. Rawlins is trying to team up with the Russians, only to discover the hardass, Wilson Fisk lookalike general from the Mother Russia arc. This arc, Man of Stone, well, the general is said Man of Stone. He doesn’t take to slimy American fixer Rawlins and most of their subplot is spent with the general, Zakharov, torturing him. Until Rawlins is able to come up with a plan to take on Frank. Zakharov’s still mad at Frank for the whole killing Russian troops in a nuclear weapon silo thing. Meanwhile Frank is working his way through some drug dealers, which then puts him on a collision course with the Russian mob. The Russian mobster name-drops O’Brien, who skipped last arc, as a person of interest, though Frank doesn’t know O’Brien’s out there killing the off the Afghanis who kidnapped and assaulted her. Now, post-9/11, these guys are all American assets because… America. It’s a lot of setup, with most of the humor in how vicious sociopath Rawlins being no match for Zakharov and his crew. Initially Ennis gives Frank a lot of narration but mostly drops it after the first scene, which is an action sequence; he’s interrogating people, no need for narration, just talking heads. So other than the soft cliffhanger with O’Brien and maybe a couple pages of Frank’s shootout, it’s all talking heads. Just one talker about to have the other talker castrated talking heads. Ennis is really good at keeping it moving, with Fernandez all of a sudden able to keep up. Whatever Fernandez did while talking the last arc off helped. So far Man of Stone is a gritty, realistic espionage thriller juxtaposed against Frank being Frank. It’s perfectly solid stuff, engaging as a prologue to whatever’s coming next. Even if the only thing Fernandez can’t seem to figure out how to reliably draw in Punisher MAX is The Punisher. Also weird is how it’s following up on the arc where Ennis embraced pulp for Frank’s narration and takes an entirely different approach here.
  • All Rise s01e06 – Fool for Liv
    Something about this episode feels like it ran into the show’s budget. Though there’s some location shooting. Kind of a lot of it, but there’s no action at the locations. There’s standing or sitting. And it’s never on the A plot, always B or even C. On the A plot, outside Jere Burns as a terribly written slick defense attorney, everything feels like it’s under serious constraint. Burns is defending a social media star’s assistant, accused of murdering the social media star. All of the assistant’s fans are in the courtroom disrupting the proceedings, making judge Simone Missick look unable to control her courtroom so her job is ostensibly in jeopardy and Burns is being slick instead of actually lawyering and on and on. But it’s all done cheap. It’s supposed to be lighting up social media only the show never shows how that lighting up affects anything. It’s like the show knows having social media fans dox jurors is bad, but it doesn’t know why it’s bad. Does “All Rise” even employ any legal consultants? It doesn’t seem like it does. There’s some good stuff with Missick and court clerk Ruthie Ann Miles hanging out, but in a very humorous way not in actual character development way. I’m also not sure but it seems like Missick is having trouble not laughing at some of Miles’s best deliveries. And the stuff with Missick and Burns gets to an all right point, so it’s a shame to episode doesn’t end with it but instead subjects us to more of Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson’s courtship. So Camacho’s got a case where she’s defending a guy against Wilson Bethel, who’s got nothing to do this episode because he’s not allowed to try cases in front of Missick and instead his boss, Reggie Lee (who’s a regular?), tries it. Bethel and Camacho are trying to work out a plea deal for her client, whatever. The episode makes Bethel seem potentially shady, which he isn’t. “All Rise” is aspirational. Bethel’s a white knight. But Camacho doesn’t seem to trust him, but then she does once Bethel reminds her he’s a white knight. Their plot feels like writer Conway Preston was just trying to pad out the episode. It’s not good. It’s lazy. Camacho and Brinson’s cutesy courtship is worse though. It’s annoying. They’re now officially obnoxious together, which is too bad because they’re both likable apart. And their relationship used to be cute versus cutesy. I think this episode’s the equivalent of a bunt, if I’m getting my baseball metaphors right.
  • Eegah (1962, Arch Hall Sr.)
    Eegah is a rather bad, rather weird, and yet spirited budget King Kong picture—with a prehistoric Southern California caveman instead of a giant ape. Sure, there’s the teen idol aspect to it, but once the film commits to damsel in distress Marilyn Manning madly crushing on survived since the Stone Age Richard Kiel and the film basically then being about Manning and dad (director Arch Hall Sr.) trying to keep Kiel preoccupied so he doesn’t remember to rape Manning… okay, maybe it’s a little bit more than just a budget King Kong. Though Kiel running amok in riche South California in search of true love Manning has an almost earnest quality to it, especially since Manning’s actual boyfriend (Arch Hall Jr., son of producer-director-costar Hall Sr., natch) is kind of a dipshit. He’s a wanna be blond Elvis in 1962, complete with band; he gets three big numbers in the film… maybe more actual songs but three showcases. The first act of the film plays like a promotional video for Hall Jr.; hey, he can “sing” and he can “act.” Though it’s probably unfair to get on any of the actors for their performances because the whole thing is looped, presumably by the original cast but who knows; the sound person didn’t, you know, record the sound. Hall Sr. probably should’ve paid a little more. Though maybe the dubbing gives Eegah some of its charm… also maybe not. It’s never entirely clear if the film has charm or just seems like it ought to be charming. Because of the dubbing, it’s impossible to know what Manning’s original intent was during the attempted rape scene. It’s literally contradictory and very rough. In the middle of this silly pseudo-monster movie (but biblically accurate, the film reminds a couple times) there’s this plot development about the impending sexual assault, then the actual sexual assault (with daughter Manning sacrificing herself to save father Hall Sr., so, there’s something there too)… and it never gets dealt with. Other than Manning mooning for Kiel because she realizes what a lamer she’s got in Hall Jr. Even though Hall Sr. kind of gets that Manning is hot for Kiel. And Hall Sr. is vaguely creepy around Manning. Though it seems more like a budgetary problem than anything actually creepy… wait, no. There’s a scene where Manning wants to pamper Hall Sr.; they’re being held captive by Kiel and Hall Sr.’s ego is bruised. He’s a famous adventure writer and this caveman who survived thanks to sulfury water is one upping him and about to rape his daughter. So Manning gives Hall Sr. a shave. That shave leads to Kiel wanting a shave and Manning realizing without his hundreds of thousands of years old caveman beard, Kiel’s kind of hot in a giant way. Kiel’s “dialogue” consists of grunts and gibberish, frequently saying “Eegah,” which convinces questionably competent adventurer Hall Sr. its Kiel’s name. Because he goes around saying his name to himself. And go around he does. When Kiel’s chasing the heroes in their dune buggy—the film’s very big on Hall Jr.’s dune buggy. It’s a shock he doesn’t have a musical number while driving it, though I suppose he does do an expository monologue about dune buggies during their ride, which is also something. There are occasions where Eegah is almost accidentally good, like when Hall Sr. gets dropped off by helicopter—or maybe it’s just because it’s cool to see “M.A.S.H.”’s Korean landscape again–and it’s this intense, silent sequence of shots, with Hall Sr. no doubt calling in some favors. In lieu of good sets or complex shots or… tripods, Hall Sr. has helicopters and really nice cars and…. Oh, crap. I forgot the swimming sequence. So while Hall Jr. sings a song about another girl—all of his songs have a girl’s name in them, never Manning’s, because he wants her to think he’s a player—Manning swims around and twirls off the crappy water slide in the country club Hall Sr. got permission to shoot in. Or didn’t get permission. But it’s a long song, long swimming sequence, weird swimming sequence. One can only imagine Hall Sr.’s “swim sexy” direction to poor Manning. So, yeah. There’s some icky stuff to Eegah, especially if Manning is supposed to be sixteen. The film’s weird. And often terrible in amusing ways. It’s impossible to take seriously in pretty much every way. Unless you’re interested in early sixties Southern California visuals. Or for examples of how not to light people on location. Vilis Lapenieks does some stunningly inept lighting. Eegah is one of those movies where you wonder if the making of stories are better than the movie, but it’s still weird enough to be amusing. The weird also covers some of the iffy material. Though… the third act does actually have a lot more potential than the film realizes. I can’t believe I forgot about the third act. There’s this fight scene between Hall Jr. and another band member. The other band member wants Manning. There’s like a dance off before the fight, with Hall Sr. and some other old guy standing there commenting on it pseudo-obliviously…. It’s all just so strange. It’s ineptly produced, with terrible sets, yet it still manages to be weird in ways unrelated to being too cheap or not, you know, good. Eegah’s sort of bewitching. And sort of not. ⓏⒺⓇⓄ CREDITS Produced and directed by Arch Hall Sr.; screenplay by Bob Wehling, based on a story by Hall; director of photography, Vilis Lapenieks; edited by Don Schneider; music by André Brummer; released by Fairway International Pictures. Starring Marilyn Manning (Roxy), Richard Kiel (Eegah), Arch Hall Jr. (Tom), Arch Hall Sr. (Mr. Miller), and Lloyd Williams (Mr. Kruger). RELATED Other 1962 releases RECENTLY The Phantom (1961, Harold Daniels)Silver Streak (1976, Arthur Hiller)Pale Rider (1985, Clint Eastwood)
  • Supergirl s05e05 – Dangerous Liaisons
    This episode could be a lot worse. It does have some significant lows—like when Azie Tesfai has to pretend to cry, which she’s absurdly bad at doing. Like, it’s uncomfortable. Especially when you realize they went with the best take. Got to be able to cry on “Supergirl,” it’s one of the show’s many go to things. And Phil LaMarr is terrible as the evil Martian. Him being onscreen does nothing to improve his performance. Lena (Katie McGrath) has him prisoner and is doing experiments on him so she can rid the world of evil thoughts. She’s like a good guy Lex Luthor, driven mad not by Supergirl burning all her hair off but by not telling McGrath her secret identity, partially because McGrath’s from a supervillain family and does crazy stuff. Like shooting a laser into the Antarctic to cause a global flood—when Martian David Harewood compares it to Noah’s flood is when, basically, I gave on Harewood. He’d been really weird all episode and it certainly seems like having a completely crappy story line has finally felled him. Bummer. Anyway, global flood, good thing there are superheroes like Supergirl, Harewood, and Dreamer. And Chyler Leigh. Can’t forget Chyler Leigh in her super-suit, which she actually gets to use as she saves people on the waterfront, which Tesfai sees, which triggers PTSD and a truly bad crying scene. But when you get past all the bad stuff, it’s a fairly tightly told thriller. Mostly out of the cape Melissa Benoist and season love interest-to-be Staz Nair are trying to figure out what terrible thing female Mark Zuckerberg Julie Gonzalo is trying to do and it seems like it’s going to be apocalyptic. Once it’s clear it’s not a two-parter and there’s actual stakes… “Supergirl” delivers. Yes, the villain looks like a bad Robocop cosplayer with some stolen Doc Ock arms but the tension’s still there. Maybe it’s director Alysse Leite-Rogers, maybe it’s the script. But it’s an engaging hour-long show, which tolerable weak points. Oh. And I really, really, really miss Mon-El. Nair’s earnest but quite wanting.
  • It’s hobby
    My real writer friend has a real writer problem right now, which puts things in a lot of context. In grad school my best instructor/the best instructor in terms of encouraging writerly behavior and practices surprised us once by saying to call yourself a writer you need to be published. Thinking about it fourteen-ish years later when many of my classmates have gone on to teaching, not teaching, writing, not writing, being a writer is about trying to making it your career. I was always more concerned with the accompanying safety net instead of doing the tightrope stuff. When I worry about my writing, it’s this stuff, it’s the blogging. It’s hobby. Something to keep the brain from atrophying. If there’s some particularly good writing up online, I don’t know. Even when I do read over old posts, I don’t pay too much attention to them. Hence the constant discovery of fifteen year-old typos. That’s not a real writer problem. Just like that “that,” an edit pass or editor would do something about those typos. I always hated paragraphs. So no more paragraphs on Summing Up. White space. Maybe even some fucking dashes. But not paragraphs. I used to go back into writing and add paragraphs. I think even in undergrad when it was a history paper and I was already leveraging my rather impression exposition against having a very, very weak thesis statement. If I remembered a thesis statement at all. I used find funny citations too. Run-on sentences, artificial paragraphs, funny citations. Factually accurate but still more concerned with being entertaining. I did obnoxiously well with it, which was the point. — I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with blogging the last few days. I’ve got a good schedule with Comics Fondle’s Punisher posts. Don’t really have to think about it, just follows my work schedule. Because I feel more self-conscious about crying over Garth Ennis Punisher in private than I do in public. In public you can whirl in some potential embarrassment; it’s not just about the sadness of the comic, it’s about whether or not you’re willing to make a spectacle of yourself. And, for “The Slavers,” definitely. This latest arc’s got no teary-eyed moments, neither did the last one, so maybe someone told Ennis to stop trying to make grown men try. Of course he went on to do it all the time in the sequel series so who knows. Reminds me: Ennis has a new Punisher series coming; Soviet. Can’t forget about that one, as I’m nearing half done on my Punisher MAX read-through. After I finish it, I think I’m moving on to Swamp Thing but I’m not sure. I’m still not happy about how I write responses to chunks of issues versus issue to issue. I shoot for 350 words on single issue posts, 500 words on the chunks (i.e. Limited Series, Mini-Series, Maxi-Series, Story Arcs, Collections, One-Shots, Graphic Novels). So it’s basically 350 words for a twenty-two to twenty-six page comic, 500 words for anything over thirty pages or multiple issues. Because even though I can watch a three hour movie and write about it a day later and fixate on something in the first act, it doesn’t work that way with comics. If there’s a too visible act structure over a six issue story arc, the comic isn’t doing its job as a periodical. So maybe the difference is between ongoing and not? But I need to figure it out; I’ve got a lot to read after Punisher and I need to figure out how to write about it if I’m going to write about it. I put a lot of thought into Comics Fondle. Not work, but thought. Of any of four goddamn blogs—I really should’ve just folded everything into Stop Button—CF has the most potential for impact. If I can get someone to read Love and Rockets and Ennis Punisher, well, it’s a good thing. And I’d love to be cited in some scholarly paper about Ennis’s war comics. Or write one. But I’d need a sabbatical. — Em-dash. — I think 750 is the new Summing Up word count target. Not target exactly, minimum goal. Someone tried convincing me to do something similar back when Stop Button strictly followed a 250 word count per post. I haven’t had a problem with writing terseness since freshman year of undergrad or so; the 250 word limit did something to how I write. And my writing after the years of 250 word posts is better than my writing before, so whatever it did worked. Some of it is CYA, obviously. Back when I started The Stop Button, the world hadn’t decided what was acceptable film criticism. Through some expository paragraphs on the old posts and actually amp up the snide remarks and I’d be just fine… for about four years ago, but still. We’re now over the 750, by the way. Last thing: we’re listening to Louis Theroux’s book, Gotta Get Theroux This (highly recommended), and he talks about how it took him two weeks to write his spec script for “Newsradio.” I made a lot interesting choices, media consumption-wise, in writing school. “Cheers” and Lanark, for example. I wrote an episode of “Cheers” because I was convinced you ought to be able to hack out the plot structure in an afternoon and have it through edits to a reasonable quality in a day or two. I mean, I was right. Theroux got his two week thing from popular sitcom writer wisdom, which seems like an artificial constraint. Going to a writing program at an art school helped with one thing… cutting through the bullshit and deciding what kind of effect you want something to have. Does that effect need the bullshit or just to be itself.
  • Batwoman s01e05 – Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale
    This episode has no awesome Batwoman action. The only Batwoman action scene is not very good, in fact. It’s all that stealthy Batman Begins type action as Batwoman breaks into estranged sister and supervillain Alice’s base and takes her prisoner, presumably leaving all the thugs unconscious… even though they then wake up and start attacking the dad. While Ruby Rose doesn’t emote a lot, not even when she finds out she’s been duped or made a terrible decision or really not thought out her plans, which should be a bad thing but somehow isn’t. Like the aloof quality makes all Rose is processing—finding out long dead sister is alive and supervillain, becoming Batwoman, dating life, whatever—seem a lot more reasonable. Because the way the show is handling Rose and Rachel Skarsten (as the supervillain sister) is actually fairly impressive. It helps Skarsten’s good, but the plotting of the reveals and the character development is solid stuff. The show doesn’t shy away from the big twist, instead going further than just embracing it and making it the whole show. “Batwoman” is about Rose and Skarsten. The Bat-branding is adornment. Also good this episode is step-sister Nicole Kang freaking out after she finds out her mom, shady defense contractor Elizabeth Anweis, did something really shady and hurtful. Kang ends up hanging out with Camrus Johnson (while looking for Rose) for much of the episode, annoying him in the most amusing ways. Kang’s the show’s best actor and Johnson’s good at the humor so it’s really fun to see them together. Especially since the other B plot is Meagan Tandy and Dougray Scott trying to find Rose and Skarsten. Saying Tandy and Scott are utterly charmless is about the most complimentary observation one could make based on this episode. Mostly because they’re so terribly miscast. But it’s a surprisingly solid episode. Like, impressively so. It proves it doesn’t need good Batwoman action scenes to succeed, not when it knows how to leverage Skarsten and Kang.
  • Blinded by the Light (2019, Gurinder Chadha)
    What’s not clear about Blinded by the Light is how much of the film’s success is because of lead Viveik Kalra or because about ninety straight minutes of soundtrack consists of The Best of Bruce Springsteen. The film, based on an actual British Pakistani Springsteen stan, is about teenager Kalra discovering Springsteen at just the right time in his life—it’s 1987, Thatcher’s England has no jobs and overt skinheads (it’s also funny how this film, set in the 80s and in the UK, feels very 2019 for the US), Kalra’s got a controlling dad (Kulvinder Ghir, in the film’s most troubled part), he’s starting at a new school, his best friend (Dean-Charles Chapman) has got a Pet Shop Boys knock-off band and accompanying style. Kalra’s feeling caged and, after a chance encounter with the only other East Asian guy at his new high school—Aaron Phagura, who’s appealing enough but literally has no personality beyond a smile. Phagura loans Kalra a couple Springsteen tapes; it takes him a few days and a few significantly severe new problems in his life to listen. Once he does, Light becomes an attempt at visualizing how a person connects with a song. It’s obvious stuff—emphasized lyric excerpts on the screen with some Adobe animation on the text itself—but director Chadha goes all in on it. Get over whether to not it’s creative enough and focus on whether or not it’s functional enough. Because the film tries to avoid ever actually talking about politics. It shows the politics. It shows Ghir gets attacked by Neo-Nazis; they’re matching and blocking the way to Kalra’s cousin’s wedding. But it doesn’t get close to the characters as they experience it. There’s a detached narrative distance, which gets stylized to some degree with the music, but the film never explicitly ties the events surrounding Kalra to the accompanying Springsteen songs. It seems like there’s an intentional clue from Chadha on how to watch the film at one point—Kalra is in an East Asian dance club and puts on Springsteen and watches how the sixteen year-old working class Pakistani girls really are just the sixteen year-old working class American girls in the song. And so on. It’s a great moment, though Chadha doesn’t know how to amplify it. Though Light’s even keel, tone-wise, is one of its most consistent successes. Other than Kalra. And the accompanying Springsteen songs doing their job because they’re Springsteen songs. The film’s got a lot of inconsistent successes. Something works here for a while, stops working for a while, starts working again. Or something working goes away then comes back, still working. The plot is better than the script, which is most exemplified with dad Ghir. Ghir’s got the film’s biggest personal journey—Kalra’s Bruce Springsteen obsession is indicative of far more serious problems—and Light is way too comfortable letting Ghir be a caricature. When it’s time for Ghir to get a moment to act and not react to someone else, the film cuts away. By the time Ghir starts putting his foot down about Kalra’s very un-Pakistani attitudes, it’s too late for the scene to carry much weight. The film actively encourages everyone involved to give up on Ghir because even as he’s a Springsteen song character too… the way the film grafts it with the working class Pakistani father in the eighties story doesn’t give Ghir much agency. It’s a really effective performance from Ghir, but it’s not a good part. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of good supporting parts. There are lots of good supporting performances, but the parts are all rushed; if you’re a supporting cast member, you don’t get a complete story arc. You’re lucky if you get even a brief subplot—like Kalra’s sister, Nikita Mehta, clubbing and having a boyfriend—or Kalra’s eventual love interest, Nell Williams, and her struggle against her conservative parents. Williams is a great eighties movie character—the costuming in Light are fantastic, ditto the production design. By Annie Hardings and Nick Ellis, respectively. Director Chadha is definitely able to realize a comprehensive vision here, it’s just a very safe one. The film doesn’t go hard on the musical stuff; there are some musical numbers, which are good, but they go away pretty soon in the second half, replaced by montages, which are different. It also doesn’t go hard on the political stuff. Outside the fight with the Neo-Nazis, Kalra and Ghir are always keeping a stiff upper lip and turning the other cheek as far as the racism goes. And Light never gets into the characters’ heads for their reactions to it. So the good supporting performances—Mehta, Chapman, mom Meera Ganatra (who gets the film’s worst part, but kind of because it should be from her perspective instead), Williams; Phagura’s fine. He’s got nothing to do but he’s likable. The only iffy performance is Tara Divina as Kalra’s cousin who comes to live with them recently before the movie it seems like… maybe? There’s something murky in the ground situation but she’s a brat and Divina’s too thin about it. Great cameos from Rob Brydon, Hayley Atwell, David Hayman. Blinded by the Light hits its target but isn’t aiming high enough; it’s just too middle of the road, leveraging Kalra and Springsteen instead of informing them. ★★½ CREDITS Directed by Gurinder Chadha; screenplay by Sarfraz Manzoor, Chadha, and Paul Mayeda Berges, based on a book by Sarfraz Manzoor and inspired by music by Bruce Springsteen; director of photography, Ben Smithard; edited by Justin Krish; music by A.R. Rahman; production designer, Nick Ellis; produced by Jane Barclay, Chadha, and Jamal Daniel; released by Entertainment One. Starring Viveik Kalra (Javed), Kulvinder Ghir (Malik), Dean-Charles Chapman (Matt), Nell Williams (Eliza), Meera Ganatra (Noor), Aaron Phagura (Roops), Nikita Mehta (Shazia), Tara Divina (Yasmeen), David Hayman (Mr. Evans), Hayley Atwell (Ms. Clay), and Rob Brydon (Matt’s father). RELATED Other 2019 releases RECENTLY Sid and Nancy (1986, Alex Cox)Hope and Glory (1987, John Boorman)Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)Agent Carter (2013, Louis D’Esposito)Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, Joe Johnston)
  • Blade II (2002, Guillermo del Toro)
    There’s a legitimately great sword fight scene in Blade II, after some really solid ones—the film’s CG assists never help it but director del Toro does understand how a fight sequence is like a dance sequence (particularly in the great sword fight) and star Wesley Snipes is always ready to show off his fight choreography abilities. The sword fight is so good you spend almost the entire rest of the film waiting for del Toro to execute something superior. Why open with such a stunning sequence if you don’t have something even better later on. But with Blade II, there is no better later on, not for swords, fists, or anything else. None of the fight scenes following the sword fight get anywhere near the ones in the first act, which were Matrix-ripoffs but still well-executed Matrix-ripoffs. There’s a “this would be confusing if it mattered” sequence where Snipes and his newfound team of vampire super-vampire hunters each fight the super-vampires and the focus moves from character to character. The super-vampires all look like Nosferatu as homaged in Salem’s Lot, only their faces open up like a Predator and they shoot out tentacles and an inner mouthes of Aliens. It’s not a bad design but it’s nowhere near as terrifying as it would be if the CG weren’t middling. A lot of Blade II fails thanks to its bad CG, particularly in the third act, which isn’t good. It’s like del Toro knows the right shot, the technology just isn’t there to execute it. Of course, Blade II having piddly CG is the least of its problems. It’s got a lousy script (courtesy David S. Goyer) and some really, really bad acting. And costumes. The costumes are terrible. At some point the vampire super-vampire hunters put on this glossy black body armor and look like the stormtroopers from Masters of the Universe: The Movie. It’s also not clear how the body armor helps them? Or would help them against the super-vampires or Snipes—see, Snipes has to take over this team of elite vampire commandos who trained to take him out but now have to deal with the more dangerous super-vampires. About the only way to make the shiny body armor sense would be if Snipes had them wear it to embarrass them. But the shiny body armor is nothing compare to main villain Luke Goss’s ratty clothes. He’s got this intricately choreographed fight scenes but thanks to the costume he looks lumbering and artificially sped up. Blade II has a bunch of slowdown and speedup editing techniques. They’re all terrible. Not sure if they’re editor Peter Amundson’s fault or del Toro’s. The film is a particularly frustrating tug of war between attentions—it’s a Snipes star vehicle, only Goyer’s script gives way too much to the supporting cast (almost to snipe Snipes), and then del Toro’s just trying to show off what he can do. At least del Toro doesn’t actively work against Snipes, who easily gives the film’s best performance but only because he’s not terrible like almost everyone else. Goss ends up giving the second best performance by default; he’s at least trying. If the rest of the cast is trying and Blade II is the best they give… shivers. The worst performance is probably Norman Reedus as Snipes’s new sidekick. The film opens with Snipes rescuing his old sidekick, Kris Kristofferson, who’s also bad, but not as bad as Reedus. Kristofferson’s still really bad, but at least he’s committed to the performance. He was nowhere near as physical in the first movie as in this one, crawling all around as Snipes and Reedus worry the vampires secretly turned him before Snipes could rescue him. Is Leonor Varela worse than Kristofferson? Maybe. She’s really bad. But she and Kristofferson are better than Thomas Kretschmann, as the head vampire (and Varela’s father; the film never explains if its vampire father or father father). The more Kretschmann gets to do, the worse Kretschmann’s performance. Blade II doesn’t even get a good performance out of Ron Perlman, partially because—even though Goyer’s script doesn’t want to give Snipes too much to do, it also features him frequently pwning his uneasy vampire allies at every turn. The rest of the supporting cast is low middling, with Danny John-Jules’s being the most acceptable. Matt Schulze is nowhere near as bad as I was expecting; possibly because Perlman not being good draws attention away from him. Gabriel Beristain’s photography runs mostly cold. Despite that awesome sword fight scene, which is shot entirely in blue light except for the spotlights—it’s so gorgeous it’s hard to say the film’s not worth seeing just for it; maybe the sequence is on YouTube—but other than that scene, Beristain and del Toro shoot the nighttime exteriors through a sort of piss yellow filter. There’s some okay lighting throughout, but mostly piss yellow. Not sure if it’s a budgetary choice or a stylistic one but the result is… pissy. The action choreography deserves better. The second best thing—after the good or better fight scenes—is Marco Beltrami’s score. Sure, it’s derivative of other famous film scores, but it comes together fairly well. Except when the action is cutting between all the “good guys” fighting the Max Schrecks… there’s no flow between the action focuses in the score. Benefit of the doubt is Beltrami scored each character’s sequence separately and then Amundson screwed it up in the cutting but it’s just as probable Beltrami couldn’t figure out how to go between sequences. Like, it’s a surprisingly good score for Beltrami. The heavier lifting might’ve escaped him. Fixing a poorly conceived action sequence is a lot for a score to do. Anyway. Blade II. It’s a disappointment. It’s a testament to Del Tori the film’s a disappointment, given the crappy script and the bad acting and the goofy visual effects. As for poor Snipes, who has to fight for relevancy in his own vehicle… he gets a pass. He’s able to sell the potential for the franchise, even if the film doesn’t. ⓏⒺⓇⓄ CREDITS Directed by Guillermo del Toro; screenplay by David S. Goyer, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan; director of photography, Gabriel Beristain; edited by Peter Amundson; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Carol Spier; produced by Tomas Krejci, Patrick J. Palmer, Peter Frankfurt, and Wesley Snipes; released by New Line Cinema. Starring Wesley Snipes (Blade), Kris Kristofferson (Whistler), Leonor Varela (Nyssa), Luke Goss (Nomak), Norman Reedus (Scud), Thomas Kretschmann (Damaskinos), Danny John-Jules (Asad), Matt Schulze (Chupa), Donnie Yen (Snowman), Karel Roden (Kounen), and Ron Perlman (Reinhardt). RELATED Other Blade films Other films directed byGuillermo del Toro Other 2002 releases RECENTLY Blade (1998, Stephen Norrington)Wildcats (1986, Michael Ritchie)Sleepwalkers (1992, Mick Garris)Highlander: Endgame (2000, Douglas Aarniokoski)Star Trek: Nemesis (2002, Stuart Baird)
  • Watchmen s01e01 – It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice
    The only times “Watchmen” doesn’t feel calculated are when you can’t imagine the shot as a David Gibbons comic panel. Every couple minutes you can feel how the sequence of shots would feel as a Watchmen comic, showing how just because DC Comics could never figure out how to do it without the original creators doesn’t mean episode director Nicole Kassell and show creator Damon Lindelof can’t figure out how to do it while adapting it to another medium. Though, to be fair, the secret might be in adapting it. Especially since the show creators don’t just have decades of comic book adaptation tropes to avoid they’ve also got the actual Watchmen: The Movie as one hell of an example of terrible Watchmen adapting. The show figures out what the movie couldn’t, primarily in terms of acting (get good actors and then get good performances out of them) and come up with a sound design not focused around selling a soundtrack album. “Watchmen: Episode 1” often sounds a little like an eighties John Carpenter movie, just with less synth. It’s disquieting in all the right ways. In fact, there’s nothing the show does wrong but only because it’s positioned itself rather securely. Its ambitions are only in delivering itself as a product. “Watchmen” doesn’t allow itself performance anxiety, just a base execution anxiety. The show doesn’t worry about giving stars Regina King and Don Johnson great parts, it just worries about never giving them bad ones. It also gives Johnson Frances Fisher for a wife, which does a lot of immediate character development. Everyone else is background, even Tim Blake Nelson who seems like he’ll be great as the thing progress. So far Yahya Abdul-Mateen II—as King’s homemaker husband—is perfectly fine, which I was initially worried about because he was so bad in Aquaman. But, no, having a director who cares about acting helps. The only Watchmen comic character to show up so far is probably Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias. Probably because they’re teasing it. “Watchmen: The TV Show” might try to get away with not explaining all the pertinent history. Lindelof has utterly changed the context—the show’s set in 2019 in the Watchmen: The Comic Book universe, some thirty years after the events, with Robert Redford being president for thirty years (vs. Nixon) and having gotten reparations through, which has led to a Rorschach-inspired white supremacist organization. So in “Watchmen: The TV Show” universe it takes actual reparations (and Black people apparently not having to pay taxes) to get white men so steamed up but in reality it only took a Black president, which would make for great, pseudo-intellectual water cooler talk, which is what “Watchmen” is sort of all about. Lindelof, Kassell, and everyone else do their corporate overlords great service with the show… they’ve finally turned Watchmen into a crossover property, something not a single DC Comics creator could do. Also, given the Black Wall Street massacre finally getting mainstream coverage… can we stop listening to white centrists from Oklahoma yet?
  • All Rise s01e05 – Devotees in the Courthouse of Love
    Nadia Gray’s back this episode, which is surprisingly distinguishing as Gray doesn’t make much impression other than everyone making fun of her name—Ria’s hard for them—and boyfriend Wilson Bethel’s general eye-rolling at her being a supermodel brand influencer. Of course, Bethel doesn’t really want to be dating her because he and Simone Missick are best friends who complete each other but just can’t get together at least until season two if they rush things, season three if they take their time. But the show’s ready for Gray to go now. The episode takes place on the courthouse’s annual Wedding Day, when there’s a big group wedding or some such thing. Gray’s all soft about getting married, Bethel’s not interested (he can’t even say he likes her because woke white guy still guy); plus he spends the entire episode almost flirting with defense attorney Lindsey Gort. Over in Missick’s courtroom—the show finally addressed Bethel not being allowed to lawyer in Missick’s courtroom because they’re besties last episode; took them long enough—anyway, Missick’s got a nun trial. I’m not sure if nuns on trial is a lawyer show trope but it certainly seems like a lawyer show trope. Or when nuns show up in the hospital show. It’s a trope. If it’s not a trope now, it used to be a trope, when you kept tripping over Catholics on TV. You know, before the whole “our organization exists to protect and further child rape” thing, which “All Rise” never addresses because—deep down—the show’s not controversial. And there’s no controversy this episode, other than Missick figuring out how bad the legal system screws poor people in dollars and cents and tries to fix it. Positive change we can all agree on, this week on “All Rise.” See, progressives aren’t going too fast, this week on “All Rise.” The episode does give Marg Helgenberger an all-right scene—her best in the show so far, even if it passes Bechdel but only because Helgenberger’s queer—and Paul McCrane’s back. They don’t give McCrane much to do except be Judge Rocket Romano but it’s fine. It’s Paul McCrane. Last episode J. Alex Brinson and Jessica Camacho got their chemistry in sync, this episode it’s Missick and assistant Ruthie Ann Miles. Quick refresh—Miles is the experience clerk who’s supposed to hate new SJW Black lady judge Missick but it turns out they work great together. They’ve been fun to watch since the first episode, but now they’re finally getting their rapport worked out. “All Rise” isn’t on the most even ground but it’s getting to be solid ground. Solid, uneven ground. Uneven, solid ground. Whichever means it’s basically all right and the performances carry it.
  • All Rise s01e04 – A View from the Bus
    Todd Williams shows up for the first scene—he’s top-billed Simone Missick’s husband who’s been MIA most episodes—and gets her off to work. They still don’t have much chemistry together. Even if Missick and Wilson Bethel don’t have romantic chemistry together, they’ve got something. Missick and Williams haven’t got anything. They’re kind of ludicrously mismatched. Sure, the show hasn’t hit the guest star casting peaks of the pilot but it hasn’t been bad. Williams isn’t bad, but he’s not an inspired choice. And him being an FBI agent is just kind of weird. Especially given how willing the show is to get “political,” but apparently the FBI is above reproach. It’s very weird. The episode does near that inspired guest star casting—not in terms of name or experience, but quality—with defendant Jacob Gibson. He’s the college-going young Black man who still hangs out with his… urban friends and one of them killed someone then had Gibson drive away. The big deal of the first half of the episode is when judge Missick agrees to take the jury to the crime scene. Field trip! Only then there’s an active shooter situation and Missick’s got to worry about whether she prejudiced them because they’re worried it’s Gibson’s friends who were trying to intimidate the jury. Jessica Camacho’s Gibson’s lawyer so of course she’s worrying about it too. Suzanne Cryer’s the shockingly obviously racist district attorney who wants to humiliate Gibson before his conviction. It’s tense stuff, even pasteurized into CBS appropriate milk. You can tell it doesn’t work right because J. Alex Brinson is hanging around Camacho and Gibson the whole time but he doesn’t actually get to reflect on how white people treat Black men they suspect of being dangerous, even though the episode opens with a “previously on” recapping bailiff Brinson getting cuffed up by the white sheriff deputies. Meanwhile Bethel’s going up against previously established not corrupt but dirty cop Erin Cummings. He’s suspicious of her evidence and does a full investigation; strangely the show doesn’t bring up Cummings’s “support me because I’m a woman” thing she tried using on Missick a few episodes ago, which might not be standards and practices but the show just showing its lack of self-awareness. But Richard Brooks is back for a scene and it’s awesome to have Brooks back for a scene. It gives Bethel a lot to do and he’s great at it but you’re still sitting there thinking… that’s Bullseye, he can do a lot more. At least the episode ends on a reassuring montage sequence and not another “let’s work together” speech from Brinson. And he and Camacho are getting cute together. It’s hard to see Brinson as cute, given he’s son of a bitch abusive cop husband Jeff from “Travelers” but it’s starting to work.
  • Blade (1998, Stephen Norrington)
    Back when the movie came out—on DVD, anyway—I tried watching Blade 1 a couple times. The first time I turned it off before I was twenty minutes in, which used to be a soft rule (give the movie twenty minutes, depending on runtime); I think I gave it until Stephen Dorff showed up, then had to stop. Stopping when you see Stephen Dorff is always a reasonable action. The second time I with a friend (because a Blade buddy might help me get through it?); we put it on, I promptly passed out. The funny thing about the latter attempt was I passed out before I had stopped it, though I think I woke up for some of the end… but maybe not. I didn’t know Blade had a bad Raiders of the Lost Ark rip for an ending. The first failed attempt was during the controversial—amongst my film enthusiast friends—“you don’t stop a movie if you start it” period of nineties film snobbery. That period overlaps, possibly entirely, with the “sit through the end credits to show respect for the crew” period of nineties film snobbery. These periods weren’t me solo, in fact I picked up at least the latter from my film snob peers. The former seemed like common sense, but is, of course, the anthesis of common sense. The second failed Blade attempt—I mean, I was also blasted—was during in a different period; “why bother watching if you’re not learning anything from it.” That period didn’t just cover film, it was for all media ingestion. Why read a novel if it’s not going to teach you (specifically) anything applicable for your writing craft. That third period went the longest, well into when I started blogging about film here on “The Stop Button.” While I see that third period as an organic result of the first two, along with some seasoning from academe, my film snob pals never went for it. Somehow it was too far a leap. And I’ve also given it the boot, slowly over time, as I discovered how I wanted to write about movies. In some cases, it’s spending three hundred words talking about not watching the movie. And Blade is the perfect subject matter for that approach. Because Blade is not a good movie. I toyed with the idea, after all these years, of how crazy it would be to give Blade a star. But anything good about it is incidental. Director Norrington just couldn’t manage to make it terrible because he was distracted screwing something else up. The film also has a stunningly bad script from David S. Goyer. Between the godawful exposition (Kris Kristofferson gets a lot of it and can’t do any of it) and the quizzical plotting—when the Raiders of the Lost Ark thing takes over in the second half, along with the big second act surprise, Blade feels like a very different film. Sort of. It’s still ugly in all the ill-advised ways Norrington employs, like the harsh, high often contrast lighting (courtesy Theo van de Sande, who either’s responsible or not but I wouldn’t want to track his career either way) or the crappy CG. Blade is ostensibly super-gritty but only when it’s Wesley Snipes. The nineties emo vampire stuff is never super-gritty. Norrington’s understanding of super-gritty is occasional shaky cam and inept head room and letting editor Paul Rubell chop whole seconds of action out to make it seem speedy. Every once in a while, there will be a sequence—like Snipes with his samurai sword taking out an endless stream of vampires dressed like they’re Joker thugs from Batman ’89—and you can see exactly how Norrington could’ve done it well. Because pretty soon it would be done well. Blade anticipates the visual tone of future films but none of the future style or technical ingenuity. Because Norrington sucks. Someone also got the idea to have Mark Isham score it like John Williams, which doesn’t make sense until the end when it’s Raiders; for a while the movie pretends it’s Terminator 2—Snipes and partner Kristofferson hanging out with on-the-run-from-the-vampires hematologist N'Bushe Wright in their clubhouse; those scenes are really weird with the Isham score. Goyer’s script isn’t derivative and is bad. Norrington’s direction isn’t ever not derivative and is bad. It’s incredibly interesting how the two collide. Stuck in the middle are Snipes and Wright. Blade can’t help but give Wright a great role and Goyer and Norrington can’t help but try to destroy it. Norrington’s got some… toxic masculinity issues. Or maybe just rape culture ones. It’s a couple things, with Wright being on the receiving end later (courtesy “no way” ex-boyfriend Tim Guinee), but the first one is Norrington’s onscreen director title card. It’s a gross “really, dude?” Wright comes out very sympathetic, but she’s a lot better at the urban vampire action than the pseudo-Raiders thing. Some of the problem with the Raiders thing is Norrington’s bad visual storytelling, some of it is Goyer not giving Wright enough to do; if any of it’s Wright’s fault, you basically can’t tell. Goyer and Norrington give their separate badnesses 110%. You can barely make-out the acting through it. Well, except with Dorff, who’s hilariously bad, Donal Logue, who’s hilariously bad, Udo Kier, who’s hilariously bad but also very obviously just playing a caricature and not trying… every once in a while, you get the feeling Blade could’ve been a lot better if it just let itself camp out on the shitty vampires. Wesley Snipes killing a bunch of silly, shitty white vampires would be a fun movie. Especially if Norrington had long enough shots of Snipes kicking ass. Snipes gives his physical performance his all in Blade and Norrington picks up about twenty percent of it. Other times the camera will be focused on a pillar instead of Snipes doing a jump kick or whatnot. Norrington is a stunningly bad action director, even for bad action directors. Other bad performances include Arly Jover, who at one point seems like she’s going to give a good performance but then doesn’t. Sanaa Latham is actually good, which takes a few moments to comprehend–unqualified good acting in Blade. For Snipes, it’s a good lead role. Ish. There’s not a lot of heavy lifting, his occasional personable action hero insert shots are weird, but he gets through it. He and Wright have less chemistry than… I don’t know, Kristofferson and Wright or something. It’s unfortunate and another way the filmmakers fail Wright. I’m a little curious how the Isham score stands on its own—at one point he’s got to add all the tension to an action sequence because Norrington can’t figure it out–but otherwise, Blade doesn’t have much one could learn from it. Outside the contextual trivia. It’s nowhere near as bad (or good) as it could be, which is the biggest disappointment of all. It’s eh. ⓏⒺⓇⓄ CREDITS Directed by Stephen Norrington; screenplay by David S. Goyer, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan; director of photography, Theo van de Sande; edited by Paul Rubell; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Kirk M. Petruccelli; produced by Robert Engelman, Peter Frankfurt, and Wesley Snipes; released by New Line Cinema. Starring Wesley Snipes (Blade), Stephen Dorff (Deacon Frost), Kris Kristofferson (Whistler), N’Bushe Wright (Karen), Donal Logue (Quinn), Arly Jover (Mercury), Tim Guinee (Curtis), Sanaa Lathan (Vanessa), and Udo Kier (Dragonetti). RELATED Other Blade films Other films directed byStephen Norrington Other 1998 releases RECENTLY Blade II (2002, Guillermo del Toro)Wildcats (1986, Michael Ritchie)Shadow of the Vampire (2000, E. Elias Merhige)Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento)Major League (1989, David S. Ward)
  • Planetes, Volume 01 (2003)
    The first volume of Planetes has five different stories. They’re vignettes. I’ve read this volume before, I remembered the vignettes. Even if the first story doesn’t feel much like a vignette. The story opens with a spaceship disaster. Actually it opens with a cute married couple and then the disaster, because it’s sad when disaster strikes. Except the husband—Yuri—survives and goes on to become a debris collector in the future. The future being the comic’s present tense. Yuri’s not the only debris collector on his ship, there’s also serious Fee and joker Hachimaki. Because Yuri’s so quiet and Hachimaki’s so loud, Hachimaki quickly becomes the “lead” of the story. He’ll be the lead of subsequent stories in the volume, but in this one it really feels like he’s usurping the actual lead. It’s an okay story; it doesn’t pass a reality sniff test but it’s okay. It certainly distinguishes creator Yukimura Makoto and Planetes as a little different. And very willing to tug on the heart strings. The second story is about Hachimaki meeting a girl on the moon base. He has to go to the moon base because people weren’t meant to live in space and it screws up their bones. Except this girl turns out to have been born on the moon and so can’t go to Earth and there’s a gentle romance until it turns out she’s twelve, which is kind of creepy and Yukimura doesn’t ever deal with it. There’s also some more stuff with Fee in the story, but it’s not until the third one where she gets the focus. The third story, and where Planetes distinguishes itself as something other than thoughtful, realistic space stuff, is about Fee craving a cigarette and being willing to take down interplanetary terrorists to get one. It’s pretty awesome. Yukimura’s not as good with the fast-paced action as the gradual stuff—Planetes is better when it feels like 2001 versus Star Wars—but the writing makes up for it. Lots of fun. And thoughtful too, with the terrorists. The fourth story is about Hachimaki taking Yuri home to meet his family. There, Hachimaki contends with his annoying little brother and Yuri possibly flirting with his mom. There’s also some okay-ish character development for Yuri, though it feels like Yukimura is shoehorning it in, and a lot of humor involving the little brother. The last story is about Hachimaki having space paranoia or something and how he works through it. It’s a fairly serious finally, without much action or payoff, making it a very uneven finish. Overall, Planetes peaks a little too early. The last couple stories, ostensibly imperative for character development, just aren’t interesting. The one with Hachimaki’s family plays way too much to humor (at Hachimaki’s expense) and then the last story positions him as dangerously vain, with Yukimura again avoiding exploring it fully. There’s a lot of cool stuff to Planetes, but it ought to be adding up to something by the end of the volume and it doesn’t. Yukimura’s capital A ambitions, at least with the characters, never work out. The little stuff, like Fee’s cigarette obsession or Hachimaki’s flirtation, works out a lot better. Yukimura just hasn’t got it with the character development… even though he focuses on it.
  • Biloxi Blues (1988, Mike Nichols)
    Biloxi Blues has some rather peculiar, rather significant third act problems. Like, it doesn’t have a third act. Did they cut a bunch to keep the PG rating or something? Because at a certain point the rising action stalls out and the film goes into montage summary overdrive. After giving lead Matthew Broderick and ostensible love interest Penelope Ann Miller an amazing “meet cute” first dance, full of chemistry and energy, Miller never gets another line. She’s in a few montage shots, as Broderick romances her, but she’s not even present in the film, just visible. It’s a very weird development, especially considering how phenomenally director Nichols shoots that dance scene. And Nichols has a lot of very thoughtful direction in the film, which is another reason it feels like it doesn’t have a third act. None of the direction is thoughtful. In fact, it’s tonally regressive. The end of the film—the last real scene—turns everything into a smile, with writer Neil Simon and Nichols running as far away from every question or difficult thought they raised as fast as they can. It just doesn’t make any sense. Unless Simon didn’t have an ending to the movie and for some reason everyone—Nichols, the producer, the studio—just shrugged and said, “Yeah, Matthew Broderick can sell it with narration, he’s Ferris Bueller, it’ll be fine.” Is Broderick’s narration read good? Yeah… it’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. It’s also not his fault because Simon doesn’t give him anything to say really. Whatever lessons Broderick learned from his time in boot camp in 1945 Biloxi don’t come through in the narration. Or Broderick’s onscreen performance. It also turns out he’s supposed to be narrating it from the present, which seems weird with the accompanying shots. There’s got to be a story behind Blues’s production. There’s just got to be. Because no one has a full character arc in the entire film. Not even Christopher Walken, who’s about one great scene away from a fantastic performance. He never gets his great scene, never unconditionally. It’s usually a combination of script and Broderick; Broderick, not in performance or in role as written, never gets to honestly react to Walken. Walken hounds Broderick for much of the film, because Broderick’s a New York smart-ass and, well, he’s also Jewish. Walken’s not going to take a cheap shot about the Jewish thing, but it’s there. Anytime Walken and Broderick have some kind of showdown where you want to see Broderick’s reaction—or, hell, Walken’s—the action goes to the rest of the platoon. The rest of the platoon is alpha Matt Mulhern, wannabe alpha Markus Flanagan, average guy Casey Siemaszko, popular but good guy Michael Dolan, and super-nerd (and fellow Jewish guy) Corey Parker. All of the performances are good. It’s exceptional Parker’s able to get away with such an exaggerated stereotype, especially since there’s not a lot of consistency with the character in the script. He starts the film constantly farting and having to take a crap. Apparently it stops being a problem after he starts eating the army food. He’s also supposedly having all sorts of run-ins with Walken; we see some of them, but never the fallout. It’s just like with Broderick… Simon’s not interested in the characters developing from their experiences in Blues. But Nichols directs for it. The way he positions the actors—Broderick, Parker, Mulhern, Flanagan, Siemaszko, Dolan—Nichols has got a distinct focus. Only then the script goes somewhere else and Nichols lets the film lose that focus. As a result, it always feels like something’s missing. Especially with Walken; especially after the “third act” reveals on Walken. Biloxi Blues should given Walken a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and doesn’t. Mulhern’s really good. Dolan’s really good. Flanagan and Siemaszko are sort of flat good; the script doesn’t really give them enough. In Siemaszko’s case, Simon forgets about him too. Great cameo from Park Overall. Good photography from Bill Butler, good music from Georges Delerue, great production design from Paul Sylbert. The forties soundtrack selections aren’t great and tend to be during the ill-advised “for laughs” sections, but they also make the film seem artificial and vaguely insincere, which is definitely not what it ought to be doing. Biloxi Blues should be really good. It’s got the pieces to be really good. Instead, it’s decent, but a misfire. ★★½ CREDITS Directed by Mike Nichols; screenplay by Neil Simon, based on his play; director of photography, Bill Butler; edited by Sam O’Steen; music by Georges Delerue; production designer, Paul Sylbert; produced by Ray Stark; released by Universal Pictures. Starring Matthew Broderick (Eugene Morris Jerome), Christopher Walken (Sgt. Toomey), Matt Mulhern (Joseph Wykowski), Corey Parker (Arnold B. Epstein), Markus Flanagan (Roy Selridge), Casey Siemaszko (Don Carney), Michael Dolan (James J. Hennesey), Penelope Ann Miller (Daisy), and Park Overall (Rowena). RELATED Other films directed byMike Nichols Other 1988 releases RECENTLY Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, Mike Nichols)The Cheap Detective (1978, Robert Moore)The Goodbye Girl (1977, Herbert Ross)Seems Like Old Times (1980, Jay Sandrich)Ladyhawke (1985, Richard Donner)
  • Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959, John Guillermin)
    Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure is a fairly solid action thriller. Tarzan (genial, musclebound Gordon Scott) is hunting nemesis Anthony Quayle through the jungle. The movie opens with Quayle and his crew robbing an African settlement. They’re after the dynamite but they end up killing a couple people. They’re also in blackface, which would just be a dated oddity if you didn’t realize they were in blackface until one of them is deliberating the fate of an actual Black person, a sick African child. It’s this really weird moment in the film and it’s the first really memorable sequence. Greatest Adventure seems a little different from the start. So the gang. Sean Connery is the cocky, rough and tumble one, Niall MacGinnis is the nerdy Dutch one (he’s the diamond guy—turns out it’s all about diamonds), Al Mulock is the secretive boat driver, Scilla Gabel is Quayle’s woman. Connery and Gabel are flirty but it’s never a thing for Quayle because Quayle’s so secure. Connery worships him, MacGinnis is terrified of him, and Mulock respects him. Because Quayle and Mulock are the older guys who aren’t shifty Dutchmen or cocky heartthrobs, they’ve got the experience. Half of Greatest Adventure is this “after the heist” movie, just set in Africa on a questionable boat. There are certain exterior shots where the boat looks really fake. And I think always when it’s on a set. And now I guess I better just get the set-talk over with. Greatest Adventure has profound production deficiencies. Director Guillermin and cinematographer Edward Scaife are mixing location shots from two obviously different locations—usually with a jump cut courtesy Bert Rule—but Guillermin and Scaife also have some set shots, then some projection composites, then stock African safari footage. And then Rule’s jump cuts. And Guillermin’s composition. He’s so close on it, every time. The way he shoots leading lady Sara Shane ruins her performance. Well, okay, Rule’s cutting probably hurts it worse, but Guillermin has a very strange way of shooting Scott and Shane—like he doesn’t trust them with the scene, and then when they succeed (occasionally with qualifications, yes, but still success), Guillermin doesn’t acknowledge it. Scott and Shane have this relatively effective love affair in this tense experience. Because Shane didn’t mean to tag along with Scott, she just wanted to be a jerk to him—Shane’s a model but mostly just a special friend to a very rich guy. The characterization of Shane and Gabel—their character setup—is not great. But Gabel and Shane get caught up in the events—Scott hunting Quayle, Quayle deciding to hunt him right back—and both women start their own character arcs, totally separate from the boys. It’s cool. Even with all the issues. Scott’s fine. Well, until the end when he needs to carry the movie, even for a moment and he can’t, but he’s fine. Even with the goofy dialogue. He’s got very goofy dialogue to show he’s Tarzan and not some regular dude. Formal but grammatically incorrect or something. But it’s all about Quayle. Quayle gives a truly superb performance. He gets to Ahab out, he gets to bare his soul, he gets to handle the mundane personality conflicts between his crew, he gets to have this weird but sincere romance with Gabel. Quayle takes the role as written and adds all sorts of depth to it. Guillermin helps a lot with adding texture—with the bad guys, anyway—but it seems like Quayle’s out there on his own and Guillermin is just getting to watch like the rest of us. It’s a great villain performance. And rather grounded, especially considering it’s Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure. It gets good for a long while, then the end fumbles. Badly. But Guillermin tries a lot and some of it succeeds. Quayle’s legitimately fantastic performance, for example. ★½ CREDITS Directed by John Guillermin; screenplay by Berne Giler and Guillermin, based on a story by Les Crutchfield and characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs; director of photography, Edward Scaife; edited by Bert Rule; music by Douglas Gamley; produced by Sy Weintraub; released by Paramount Pictures. Starring Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Sara Shane (Angie), Niall MacGinnis (Kruger), Sean Connery (O’Bannion), Al Mulock (Dino), and Scilla Gabel (Toni). RELATED Other Tarzan films Other films directed byJohn Guillermin Other 1959 releases RECENTLY The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma)Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy)Tarzan and His Mate (1934, Cedric Gibbons)At the Earth’s Core (1976, Kevin Connor), the digest versionThe Rock (1996, Michael Bay)
  • A Tattered Web (1971, Paul Wendkos)
    For its sub-genre of TV movie, A Tattered Web is pretty great. It’s a dirty cop story, only the dirty cop—Lloyd Bridges—is only a dirty cop because he’s trying to protect himself from a murder change and he’s only trying to protect himself from a murder charge so he doesn’t upset his daughter (Sallie Shockley). See, Bridges only killed this woman Anne Helm because Helm was sleeping with Shockley’s husband, Frank Converse. And Bridges didn’t even mean to kill her, he was just shoving her against the wall and, boom, somehow killed her. It was an accident. And Bridges was really about to call it in before he realized he didn’t want to go to prison; even if he got a jury sympathetic to the manslaughter nature of it… Bridges was there to harass Helm for sleeping with Converse. He was abusing his authority big time. And Web is from the early seventies so theoretically he might get in trouble for it. So the movie is Bridges trying to stay ahead of his partner, a better than his material Murray Hamilton, while trying to convince Converse there’s another murderer—because the cops are after Converse because he’s the lover—and trying to make sure Shockley doesn’t find out about Converse and Helm. There’s always a lot going on in Tattered Web; it’s got a great pace. It’s also got a rather strong script. There are a lot of narrative shortcuts and whatnot—it’s a seventy-some minute TV movie, after all—but writer Art Wallace still takes the time to have Bridges, now fully conspiring with Converse and framing an innocent man (Broderick Crawford), there’s still this scene where Bridges just gleefully watches Converse get his ass kicked. Even though the subplot doesn’t do much for the story, Web does have this one about Bridges becoming a violence junkie. It’s not great, writing or acting, but it’s weird and imaginative and you can cut it some slack. It’s nice Wallace cares enough to do character development, which isn’t just for Bridges. Though Bridges also has this great one about the self-loathing his cover-up is causing. There’s visible pain in Bridges’s face when he manipulates Crawford. It’s often a good performance; Bridges isn’t phoning it in. He gets carried away but only slightly. If he doesn’t rein it in himself, it’s like the film’s Converse standing by to pull Bridges back. Converse gives the best performance. It takes him a while to get going—as he’s doing more dick things at the beginning—but then he starts getting actually good. Shockley you wish was better because she’s clearly capable of it (she pulls off the weird infantilizing interrogation scene she has with Hamilton), but she gets abandoned for the end. The end is a drag down fist fight on cliffs overlooking the Pacific. There’s no room for girls there, just the men who have to prove themselves. It’s a poorly done action scene—Bridges’s stunt man has brown hair versus blond—but it’s a great idea in the narrative. A Tattered Web is all right. ★½ CREDITS Directed by Paul Wendkos; written by Art Wallace; director of photography, Michel Hugo; edited by John McSweeney Jr.; music by Robert Drasnin; produced by Bob Markell; aired by the Central Broadcasting System. Starring Lloyd Bridges (Sgt. Ed Stagg), Frank Converse (Steve Butler), Sallie Shockley (Tina Butler), Murray Hamilton (Sgt. Joe Marcus), Broderick Crawford (Willard Edson), Anne Helm (Louise Campbell), John Fiedler (Sam Jeffers), Val Avery (Sgt. Harry Barnes), and Whit Bissell (Mr. Harland). RELATED Other 1971 releases RECENTLY The Happy Ending (1969, Richard Brooks)High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann)Vanished (1971, Buzz Kulik)Jaws 2 (1978, Jeannot Szwarc)The Fastest Gun Alive (1956, Russell Rouse)
  • Black Orpheus (1959, Marcel Camus)
    There’s a lot to love about Black Orpheus. Director and co-writer Camus does a bunch of great stuff, just not when it comes to how he and Jacques Vito adapt the legend part. Orpheus is about, you know, Orpheus (Breno Mello), who is now a Brazilian trolley car driver slash musician slash dancer, and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn), who is now a… young woman who comes to Rio trying to avoid a stalker (Adhemar da Silva). They meet and Mello is immediately infatuated, which is complicated by his impending nuptials to Lourdes de Oliveira. For her part, Dawn doesn’t fall for Mello until she hears him singing. Now, Camus and Vito go rather on the nose with the adaptation—de Oliveira and Mello hear about the legend from the marriage license clerk. Apparently Mello has never heard of it before, which seems… if not impossible, at least improbable. If Dawn knows about the legend or hears about it during the film’s present action, it happens off screen. But it’s not clear how much this matter-of-fact handling of the source plot is going to affect the film until the finale, when it turns out Camus and Vito don’t have anything up their narrative sleeve. Mello’s trip to the underworld—updated to late 1950s Brazil—is perfunctory. Narratively, Camus and Vito have spent most of the film building the subplots; even though Dawn knows she’s on the run from this stalker and in danger, she doesn’t get to be the protagonist when it’s important. She does for the chase scenes (one of them), but Camus and Vito’s narrative distance doesn’t really allow for traditional protagonists. Mello, for example, is a constant mystery. First, you wonder how he’s got it worked out in his head de Oliveira is going to be okay with him throwing her over for literal stranger Dawn on the day they get their marriage license. It’s also a little weird Dawn’s cousin, Léa Garcia, is so supportive of Mello’s conquest—though, some of it might just be every woman in Black Orpheus secretly hates every other woman in Black Orpheus, at least if they’re not related. The parts are fifty percent good, fifty percent iffy. Visually, most of the film is about movement. It’s Carnaval. It’s time to sing and dance and there’s a lot of it going on. Camus and editor Andrée Felix do a fine job editing together these sequences, which are often focused on the dancers’ expressions (and how they convey the experience) rather than their footwork. But there’s some very impressive footwork. Mello’s great. And the third act loses that movement. Sure, Camus still focuses on some movement, but they’re smaller scale movements. For example, when Mello’s at a de facto seance, Camus showcases someone who’s got the spirit and is speaking tongues. Is their movement important to the scene overall? Not really, but it gets even worse when it turns out it’s all a foreshadowing MacGuffin. Of course, the third act loses a lot more. Camus and Vito drop supporting cast, but they also turn the cast they’ve got into avatars at best and caricatures at worst. They all become functional, losing their personality. It’s worst with kids Jorge Dos Santos and Aurino Cassiano. They’re omnipresent in most of the film; they think Mello’s awesome and follow him around, trying to get him to play guitar for them; they think Dawn’s amazing and follow her around, trying to help with her burgeoning romance with Mello. But then they lose most of their agency in the final third, inexplicably separated on the way to Carnaval just to provide for a reuniting moment at Carnaval. It ought to be foreshadowing things might not go well for the wrap-up, something further confirmed when it turns out the value the characters place on human life is… shockingly low. That and manslaughter. And guilt. The best acting is from Garcia, de Oliveira, and the kids. Mello and Dawn are both likable but their performances aren’t particularly deep. They’re never able to convincingly convey their characters apparent desires, though everyone around them is fine doing so. Maybe it’s how they’re written. Great photography from Jean Bourgoin, great music from Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Feix’s editing is uneven but only because there are constantly shots where the cast is clearly looking at someone for direction. Not clear if Feix just didn’t cut right or if he didn’t have an alternative. As far as the surface goes—setting Orpheus in modern-day Brazil during Carnaval—Black Orpheus does fine. But it definitely doesn’t fully utilize its available resources. And the big dramatic finish seems way too rushed in how Camus shoots it. ★★½ CREDITS Directed by Marcel Camus; screenplay by Camus and Jacques Viot, based on a play by Vinicius de Moraes; director of photography, Jean Bourgoin; edited by Andrée Feix; music by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim; production designer, Pierre Guffroy; produced by Sacha Gordine; released by Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France. Starring Breno Mello (Orfeo), Marpessa Dawn (Eurydice), Lourdes de Oliveira (Mira), Léa Garcia (Serafina), Waldemar De Souza (Chico), Alexandro Constantino (Hermes), Jorge Dos Santos (Benedito), Aurino Cassiano (Zeca), and Ademar Da Silva (Death). RELATED Other 1959 releases Other Brazilian films RECENTLY
  • The Punisher #36, Barracuda, Part 6 (of 6)
    Turns out the big problem with Barracuda isn’t going to be Barracuda not being a great villain or the Wall Street betrayal arc not creating great ones either, but Ennis not really having a finish for Frank. Sure, he’s got a concussion and he’s outgunned, but his big plan in this issue doesn’t allow for every contingency. It also goes wrong because Frank gets sloppy—again, the concussion can allow for those mistakes, but shouldn’t he at least recognize it, acknowledge it? After gliding over past tense narration pitfalls, Ennis slips and falls just when he needs to keep it going. Barracuda might seem like an arc about a “guest as tough as Frank” adversary and some scumbag Wall Street types, but it’s really about Frank Castle messing up and apparently not learning from it. It’s weird. Especially since Ennis brackets the arc with this open-ended “what’s the only thing more dangerous than a barracuda” bit in the narration. Is it the sharks? There are a lot of sharks in this issue, some fully visualized, some just shadows in the water—both equally awesome, thanks to Parlov. Or is it Frank? Is Frank the only thing more dangerous? Because he’s not. Because he gets caught with his pants down this issue. Again, weird. But far from a bad issue. Parlov’s art is great, Ennis’s writing is strong in everything else, whether it’s the Wall Street subplot (the boss’s conniving wife and her lover) or Barracuda. Though the resolve does have an unfortunate plot… depression. It’s not a hole, it’s something they needed to deal with in panel not off page. Parlov's implication is fine, it just doesn’t have any dramatic resonance. Ennis brings the conclusion in all right, albeit with a somewhat fake finish—that dangerous barracuda musing—but it certainly feels like something happened with the Barracuda arc. The Punisher versus Wall Street certainly promised a lot more potential. And it’s not like Ennis is trying to avoid sensationalism—there are sharks eating investors and so on. Something just seems off, like mid-arc changes were made or things just didn’t shake out in the writing. For the first time ever, Punisher MAX ends up leveraging the art to support the writing. Thank goodness Ennis has got Parlov to do it because Parlov can do it, does do it. Barracuda’s not great (outside the art) and it’s more than a little disappointing, but it’s still good. It’s just good enough instead of superb.
  • The Punisher #35, Barracuda, Part 5 (of 6)
    It’s a bridging issue but also not. Actually, there are some major plot developments here, just not much involving Frank. Other than him surviving and deciding it’s time to stop screwing around with the Wall Street guys and just take them out; thanks to Barracuda, Frank’s now taking things as seriously as he should have been before. He doesn’t have that observation in his narration, but he’s dealing with a concussion for sure and probable brain damage so he’s too exhausted to reflect on the mistakes. He’s also got a time limit. Today’s the day—the Wall Street guys are going out on a boat and Frank’s going to do something to it. Ennis doesn’t reveal what, as next issue needs some surprises, but it involves Frank scuba diving for a bit. Also seagulls pooping on him, because Ennis wants to keep it a little lighter. And Parlov draws great passed out Frank and bird shit. But Frank’s not in it much. Most of the issue has boss’s wife Alice and her lover (and boss’s flunky) Dermot teaming up with Barracuda. Ennis keeps Barracuda dangerous but starts using him for comic relief too, which would be fine if it didn’t make him seem less capable. He doesn’t think his plans through, eventually scaring Alice enough she decides they’ve got to get rid of him. So Barracuda is double-crossing the boss for Alice and Dermot and they’re going to double-cross him just… because. As Barracuda’s characterization starts getting iffy, Ennis turns Alice into a much better character than he ever suggested before, which is too bad. It would’ve been nice for her to get all the agency earlier. Well, agency for something other than cheating on her husband with his protégé. And protégé Dermot’s need for a stronger leader comes through here too, even if Ennis doesn’t do much to it. It’s a perfectly entertaining issue—great art from Parlov—but it’s pretty clear Ennis doesn’t have much more ambition for it than the entertaining. Gone is any character development for Frank and the Wall Street schemers are adequate villains, but far from great ones. Barracuda too seems like a bit of a misfire. It’s impossible to believe he could’ve survived with so many appendages intact given his irresponsible nature. Instead of a worthwhile foe for Frank, Barracuda’s basically comic relief. Makes you wonder if someone told Ennis not to go so dark with the arc midstream.
  • The Punisher #34, Barracuda, Part 4 (of 6)
    This issue makes two things very clear. First, Punisher MAX would’ve been an even more successful book if Goran Parlov had been handling the art chores throughout. His expressions—for the talking heads scenes—are phenomenal. There’s one scene where the big boss is monologuing to his flunkies and it’s just these three guys sitting around an outdoor table at a bar in Florida and it’s sublime. Parlov’s so good. Especially when you take the second thing into account—everyone should have to fight a shark in a comic. Ennis and Parlov make Frank Castle versus great white shark into an absolutely phenomenal sequence, especially when you throw in the past tense narration not to mention the opening frame establishing Frank doesn’t end up a shark’s lunch. Parlov’s able to keep the situation terrifying and tense, even when the outcome is foregone. The issue is split between Frank, the shark, and Barracuda, and then the Wall Street guys. Stephens cries his way back in the fold, pissing off Dermot because the boss treats it as a teamwork learning opportunity for Stephens. The weirdest thing about Barracuda is how thoughtful Ennis gets with the workplace dynamics, sure the big boss is a reprehensible piece of shit, but he’s good at managing people and encouraging performance from his staff. It’s like Dale Carnegie with mass corporate fraud, which might just be the natural result of Dale Carnegie. Anyway, while Dermot’s running off to lover and boss’s wife Alice to lick his wounds after getting shut down, Frank’s trying to will himself to stay alive despite the considerable damage he’s taken. Barracuda moves between the two plots, finally sitting down with the boss—after terrifying Stephens and Dermot—to figure out what’s next. Since they think the Punisher is dead, which is kind of an obvious mistake but Ennis has already started peppering in holes in Barracuda’s armor. He’s not quite as serious as he ought to be, in a very different way than Frank, who knows he’s screwing up. Barracuda is just overconfident. His bluster actually works really well with the Wall Street guys’ bluster. Barracuda is a relatively simple arc, but Ennis is very thoughtful in its execution. It’s extremely well done. And Parlov’s just wonderful to have on the book.
  • The Punisher #33, Barracuda, Part 3 (of 6)
    Ennis wastes no time getting Frank and Barracuda together this issue. He even goes so far to use coincidence to speed things up—Barracuda’s on his way to New York to take out The Punisher and just happens to see Frank walking off his flight. Dumb luck. And bad luck for Frank, who’s almost completely unprepared for any trouble. Frank’s narration gets into what he’s done wrong as well as why he’s done it, why he’s let his guard down so much. It’s interesting, engaging stuff, but it’s just priming the reader for the eventual confrontation. But before Frank and Barracuda can mix it up, Ennis checks in on the Wall Street-half of the story. Number one flunky Dermot is continuing his affair with boss’s wife, Alice, even after she humiliates him—rather amusingly—in public just for a laugh. Even so, it turns out Alice hasn’t just been fooling around with Dermot for his disappointing sexual prowess; she’s looking for a partner. And she’s got him hooked. So they’re busy scheming to throw over the boss. Their plotting subplot is the most exposition in the comic—until Barracuda gets talking later on—because when Frank wakes up, he and Barracuda just get into a fight. A big, bloody, gloriously illustrated fight. It’s an eight page fight scene, in two parts, with Frank taking out an eye, chopping off some fingers, but unable to even slow Barracuda. And the Goran Parlov art is nothing short of glorious. The way he paces the fight, the panel compositions, it’s superlative. Also very good colors from Giulia Brusco. The issue ends on a couple cliffhangers, one hard, one soft. While Barracuda is driving his boat out to dump Frank to the sharks—and blathering at him the entire way—Dermot is hanging out with the boss, only to discover the boss has brought Stephens—who Dermot intended to have killed—back into the fold, seemingly cementing Dermot’s decision to plot against the boss. It’s not a particularly fast read, even though it’s a mix of action (in addition to the eight page fist fight, there are a couple pages of Barracuda running Frank off the road) and abbreviated talking heads. The pacing just works right in both modes. Parlov does a great job with pauses in action or conversation; also time transitions. It’s thrilling to have such accomplished art on the book.
  • The Punisher #32, Barracuda, Part 2 (of 6)
    There’s a lot of action this issue, but it’s all Barracuda doing it. Meanwhile Frank is getting information about why a dirty cop risked it all to take out Wall Street guy Stephens. Frank and Stephens have breakfast in a diner. The diner’s called “Frank’s Favorite Diner.” Not sure if that one is an Ennis touch or a Parlov touch, but it’s sure a welcome bit of humorous detail. Parlov draws the hell out everything in the issue—Barracuda versus snake, Frank and Stephens’ talking heads, catching up with the Wall Street wolves (particularly number two man Dermot as he lets himself get seduced by the boss’s wife), Barracuda versus bangers, Frank preparing for what’s next. It moves quickly, Ennis again playing with the whole idea of a bridging issue. The scenes with Frank and Stephens fill out the backstory—why Frank Castle is going to care about some energy company and their Wall Street schemes—while Dermot screwing around with boss’s wife Alice is setting the ground situation for what’s going to come. Very few people are more successful at plotting out a six issue arc than Garth Ennis. Especially when he’s got Parlov on the art. Meanwhile, Barracuda terrorizes the rest of the issue, giving even the most obnoxiously unsympathetic a sliver of humanity (because he’s so utterly lacking in it). The finale has Frank prepping for the trip—he’s going to Florida to strong-arm the big boss. It’s an easy job (Frank tells us in the narration), so why bother driving and bringing guns with him, he’ll be able to just pick them up in Florida. Easy-peasy. Except it’s past tense narration and Frank knows he’s making mistakes; so we get what is de facto introspection from Frank. Including the gem about what promotes white collar criminals to his sights—deaths. It’s not a soft Frank Castle by any means, just a too cocky one. And a talkative one. Ennis’s character development for Frank in Barracuda comes in the narration more than anywhere else. The issue ends on a rather ominous note, one panel after Parlov (and Ennis) get in a sight gag about Frank’s reading habits. Because even though we know the story’s not going to go smoothly—we’re in flashback from a shark slaughter, after all—at this point, we’re seeing a relaxed Frank Castle. We know he should be concerned with that approach, even if he doesn’t. And not just because his narration tells us to get worried. Because at this point, Frank doesn’t even know Barracuda exists; the reader’s just spent an entire issue being mortified by the guy.
  • Wait
    I want to find an amusing cartoon reminding the reader not to go off their anxiety meds so I can take it up behind all my screens, home and work, and turn that incredibly stupid decision into a trope from popular entertainment set design going back to at least the 1970s. I feel like there were comic strips where the comic strip characters tacked up comic strips. We all want to get organisized. Or whatever. I never thought it was funny. I need to watch that movie again, but I don’t particularly want to watch it… I just took a break to consider the possibility of pitching an article comparing Taxi Driver and King of Comedy to Joker and trying to get paid to watch the movies but I don’t want to write that article. I don’t know what I want to watch. Not anymore. Not in 2019. Though some of that negativity seems recent. The acute nature of it. Possibly because I fiddled with my anxiety meds and am seeing a reaction. I thought it was just Fall 2019 and Columbus Day was pushing it over. But… no. I feel like the internal anxiety pressure is rising even without the externals. Hence the need for a freaking daily reminder not to do something dumb and fiddle with anxiety meds in 2019. I also need to fiddle with my coffee but it’s going to have to wait.
  • The Punisher #31, Barracuda, Part 1 (of 6)
    Punisher #31 starts off with a couple surprises. First is Goran Parlov on the art. Parlov’s excellent. He’s the best artist the book’s had in a long time. Second is Ennis using a flashback device. The issue starts with sharks chowing down on a bunch of fresh bodies and Frank watching from a boat. The narration announces it’s a frame—it’s the end of the story—so Ennis, via Frank’s narration, takes us back to the start of it. Ennis has done some past tense narration before—last arc, actually—but he didn’t use an actual framing device where he had action set in the present and then flashed back. Not like he’s doing here. It’s interesting; Ennis is far more comfortable with Frank as narrator than ever before, which is a good thing. Presumably. So the story starts with Frank finding some Wall Street guy tied up naked in a drug den (after Frank’s hit the den). Turns out the dealers had been keeping the guy hostage and raping him. Frank’s not particularly sympathetic and leaves the guy, not thinking much about it. The reader’s going to think about it—because Ennis jumps the action over to his Wall Street pals, including the one who hired the drug dealers to kill him. Unclear this guy knows what they did instead. There’s a lot of good talking heads—both in Frank and the guy, Stephens, and then Stephens’ pals, big boss Harry and Harry’s number one flunky, Dermot. Ennis and Parlov also make sure we take notice of Harry’s trophy wife, Alice. Well, they make sure we take notice of Alice making sure Dermot takes notice of Alice. Frank gets brought back into the situation because he notices a dirty cop on the news, heading in to talk to the survivor. Gets Frank thinking he might not want to abandon him. So off he goes for a rescue mission, which is complicated because he’s still ostensibly on the cops’ shit list (from the previous Slavers arc). Harry the big boss calls in the nuclear option, Barracuda. Now, the issue opens with Frank musing in narration about barracudas without context (other than he’s on a boat named Barracuda), so there’s a very nice wrapping feel. And it’s been a great setup issue as well. Ennis gets a lot done. Parlov’s able to do a bunch of exposition in the art, lots of great tone setup and so on (particularly the “wealth porn” aspect of it). So very good issue. Even if the setup—Frank coming across someone at a crime scene and helping them against his better judgement—is identical to the Slavers setup. It’s fine… you’d just think Frank would acknowledge it in the narration, especially with everything else he calls out. Parlov’s such a welcome art change too. He gets how to do the script. So good.
  • Hopefully
    I’m changing up my posting schedules. Cutting back on Visual Reflux basically. VR is actually the most work because of the screenshots. My workflow on prepping them is a pain. Then Comics Fondle, because even though there are the header images on Stop Button, comic book panel grabs are tough. Because I don’t read everything digital. In fact, I’m moving away from it so then it’s taking an actual picture of the page and processing it. I’m going to a daily post thing, with Stop Button alternating, then Comics Fondle or Visual Reflux on the off days. Unless I’m doing a read through on CF, then it’s just CF alongside Stop Button. Visual Reflux is technically the second most popular blog, but only because people keep reading the “Hot Zone” post. Comics Fondle has actual readers. And then I’m trying these text dumps on Summing Up. A hundred and fifty words this one. The length is going to be based on when it looks acceptable on the theme. One hundred words yesterday was too slim. This one’s hopefully better.
  • So many feelings
    I’m in a foul mood today. Like, fuck Columbus Day. It was a long day—with some highlights, got to see people, had positive social interactions and whatnot—but the day had already been a little shitty by that time and I was intentionally compartmentalizing my post-traffic rage—wow, post-traffic rage; I had feelings about the day today. Maybe it wasn’t enough sleep, maybe it was too much. Maybe I really do need at least half a second cup of coffee before heading in. Or maybe just fuck Columbus Day. It’s a very bad day in 2019. I’m sure lots of good things happened out there, but reality still sucks and still having to think about fucking Columbus Day just aggravates it. So many feelings. I need to go to bed.
  • PTSD (2019)
    The best thing about PTSD is creator Guillaume Singlein’s action. He paces it beautifully. The book, when it doesn’t have dialogue but just people doing things… it looks its best. So it makes sense Singlein’s going to be good at the action too. Of course, whether or not PTSD should have action is a whole other thing. The comic takes place in a post-racial Asian metropolis. There are Asian people, White people, Black people. No difference between them. It's almost post-gender too—the many women living on the street in the comic don’t seem to be under threat of rape, for instance—but when the protagonist flashbacks to her war days, her comrades definitely treat her as a little sister more than an equal. Even though she’s the only one who can shoot. Singelin’s male-gaze-free manga style also plays into the postish-genderness. So the protagonist. She lost an eye in the war; the flashbacks lead up to that event, after focusing on when she learns certain things pertinent to the present action (her medic skills). In the present she’s a loner on the streets, addicted to painkillers (government provided to vets, which Singlein doesn’t explore and is, I suppose, one of the biggest logic holes in his ground situation), not above robbing the occasional fellow junkie or even inept drug dealer. Her path to redemption comes in the form of a kindly old vet—the war has been going on forever (and is presumably still going on but that one’s not clear either)—who loans her a dog. The dog then gives our hero the will to live. So she goings to war, Punisher-style, with the drug dealer gang. Hence the awesome, albeit narratively questionable action. She’s especially dangerous with the dog, who goes along even on rooftops, and her lost eye doesn’t do anything to impair depth perception, which is good. Besides the dog and the old man, the only people who like the hero are a single mom diner owner and her son. Only our hero doesn’t care about the single mom’s attempts at altruism—Singelin has a really, really hard time writing the dialogue for the single mom and why she’s all of a sudden caring about the starving people on the streets—but he does manage to queer code the hell out of the relationship. And, spoiler, it’s all a red herring. Because when our hero does find herself, it’s got nothing to do with the mom, the kid, the old man, or the dog. Singlein got to the end of the avenging vet angel arc and then realized it was actually classist, apparently, and so our hero has to move forward in a different way. Other than just having all the drugs. The only thing unpredictable about the end is when Singlein does a pointless six month time jump forward. Good movement, even if manga’s not your thing, but it gets real bumpy during the dialogue. Really, really, really bad dialogue. Not sure if it’s Singelin or the translator. But the simplistic motivations and anorexic character depth suggests no translator was going to fix the existing problems. I mean, hey, if you’ve got the shakes from PTSD… try doing charity work. Works better than highly addictive drugs. Nice art can only compensate for so much.
  • Batman Versus Predator (1991)
    Batman Versus Predator, in case the title doesn’t give it away, is bad. It’s real bad. It could be worse, sure, but it’s real bad. It doesn’t open terribly—sure, the Kubert Brothers art is pretty bland from go, but the subject matter is at least sort of interesting (compared to where it goes later). And writer Dave Gibbons (who doesn’t just overwrite the comic, he badly overwrites it) has some style for the opening. He juxtaposes the Predator attacking some old guy and his dog with the Gotham City championship boxing match. The former isn't important (other than it's a little weird the Predator is attacking a junkyard watchman), but the latter turns out to be the whole comic. See, the Predator isn’t initially interested in hunting Batman or even (armed) criminals or (armed) cops. It’s out to take out the championship boxers. Because they’re champions. Says so on the news. The Predator watches a lot of news in Batman Versus Predator and repeats sound bytes to make dialogue. Because Gibbons is incapable of writing an action sequence without a bunch of stupid recycled sound bytes the Predator has picked up somewhere. At one point, it seems like the comic would be at least somewhat better without their constant addition. But then, once the Kuberts never get any better—they can’t make the Predator versus the criminals interesting, they can’t even make Batman versus the Predator interesting, though it’d probably be hard to do given the big showdown is in the woods surrounding Wayne Manor. But there are times when it doesn’t seem like Batman Versus Predator isn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Sadly, all of them are in the first issue (of three). And by the end of the first issue, it seems kind of unlikely the book is ever going to turn around. Most of the comic, overall, is about the crooked businessmen and gangsters who run Gotham (and the boxers) getting wiped out by the Predator. It kills them because… it knows they’re swinging dick criminals and it came to town to hunt some white collar looking criminals. Then it takes on Batman and puts him down for the count—there’s this terribly ineffective device where Gibbons and the Kuberts have a single panel showing Batman getting home all cut up at the bottom of pages while above the main action with the cops or crooks or whatever plays out. Because Jim Gordon’s got a big part. Not sure why he doesn’t try to take out the Predator himself as the Kuberts draw him just as buff as Batman, which is considerable because they’re Batman is super buff. So big and buff it’s like, obviously you need some meaty muscle guy like Ben Affleck for that part. But you wouldn’t want to see Batman Versus Predator: The Movie with Batfleck or anyone else, because the only thing the comic succeeds at showing is how bad it would be. Even though it’s about two “characters”—Batman arguably has less personality than the sound byte spouting Predator here—who are known for their wonderful toys, there’s not much competition. You’d think after fighting aliens since the fifties or whenever they first showed up in a Batman comic, Bats would have some better ideas than he comes up with here. Nope. There are a couple times in action scenes where it’s like… why did that work? The Predator is scared of cars? The big action finale has Batman in special armor, which looks like the suit from the end of Batman Forever, though I don’t think the Kuberts got a thank you, and then he has a sword at some point. Because armor and swords and whatever. Batman Versus Predator is pretty dumb, even for a comic called Batman Versus Predator. I’ll bet if you bought this comic back in 1990 thinking it would resemble Watchmen in some way because of Gibbons, you were pissed as all hell. Though, as someone who bought it back in the day—at age twelve—I recall being shameless about it. I shouldn’t have been shameless. I should’ve acutely felt the shame.
  • The Punisher #30, The Slavers, Part 6 (of 6)
    Ennis keeps it tight for the last issue of The Slavers. Frank’s perspective, lady cop Miller’s perspective, no one else. Other characters get significant moments—the other cop, Parker, gets some material, the dirty cop gets a big part in a scene, the old man has his showdown with Frank, Jen Cooke plays off Miller, and Viorica is back for a check in. The issue starts with Ennis establishing all the characters are their places; everyone’s waiting for Frank to act, but Frank’s being methodical in his planning. The result of the planning is a straightforward action sequence, then the immediate and long-term fallout. There’s a devastating epilogue, where Ennis writes the hell out of Frank’s narration—he doesn’t push it as much here as he’s done in previous issues, but there’s a lot to read between the lines on. But it’s not Frank’s story to tell and he knows it. He’s not the hero because there can’t be any heroes in the story, not even for people like Cooke and Miller, who both wish there could be. For the wrap-up, little stuff Ennis has done in previous issues comes through; Miller, for instance, gets an entirely different arc than expected, something foreshadowed in the last issue. Instead of showcasing the action sequence, which does have a fantastic hook, Ennis is more interested in the character development. There’s also Frank’s bandaid solution to the problem of trafficking, which is more about shocking than actually being effective. It’s Frank, the good guys, Ennis, the readers, punching against the impossible brick wall of the human trafficking reality. Ennis also delves, through Cooke and Miller mostly, into the morality of The Punisher and the positives and negatives of a moral vacuum. The positives and negatives of even considering such a thing under these circumstances. It’s probably Fernandez’s best art in the arc? There are no glaring bad panels. I’m sure there are some iffy ones with Frank, but when Fernandez has to do the epilogue summary panels, he nails them well enough to forgive them. The comic’s so damn good you can’t even remember the iffy panels. You can barely remember the action, as everything else is so much more important. Because Frank doing his thing isn’t the story. It’s not even the gravy. It’s immaterial to the problem at hand. Because not even a superhero can fix this world. By the end of the issue, when the futility and tragedy of everyone involved gets the eyes tearing up, it’s hard to determine exactly what’s contributing to which profound feeling of sadness. It’s outstanding writing from Ennis, effective visual storytelling from Fernandez, and one hell of a comic. The Slavers, more than any other arc so far in Punisher MAX, comes through as a full narrative gesture. It’s devastating, obviously, and brutal, but it’s also brilliantly done. Ennis’s writing is truly awesome here. Especially (but also not especially) Frank’s narration.
  • The Punisher #29, The Slavers, Part 5 (of 6)
    This issue has an Ennis Punisher “wow” moment. It ends with it. Two of them actually. One in Frank’s handling of Vera, the woman who handles… the Human Resources department for the trafficking ring. One in Frank’s narration. The moments leave you with a feeling of emptiness and profound sadness. Because while they’re not surprises—and the perfectly inform everything around them—they bring an exceptional level of humanity to Frank. Even with the omnipresent narration this arc, there’s still a significant narrative distance. Not so in this issue’s conclusion. Punisher MAX is, after all, basically all about Ennis finding Frank Castle’s expansive, beautiful, tragic soul. Anyway. Had to cover that part while still teary. Heart-wrenching stuff. It’s a fairly quick issue again. Ennis opens after Frank has finished with the son, finding himself in a firefight with the old man, who’s trying to kill his son for the botched hit. Shootouts at big houses on lakes in upstate New York are not Fernandez’s strong suit, but it works. Ennis’s writing on Frank’s narration is great. It’s comfortable, assured, willing to show some personality. After that scene it’s all about the B and C plots tying together—it’s the penultimate issue in the arc, after all—so the cops team up with Jen Cooke who brings them to Frank, giving Frank a chance to make one really good joke while finding out what’s going on with the NYPD being all up in his business lately. It’s a lengthy talking heads scene with mostly repeat information—the characters are just finding out what the readers have known for issues—but it’s excellent. The personalities of all four characters (Frank, Cooke, the two cops) come through very nicely. Ennis has done a great job establishing the characters. There’s some more with the bad cop and the old man confronting Vera about the hit before the end. It’s an excellent issue, outside the often wanting artwork. Ennis’s careful construction of it all is paying off. That ending though… it’s something special. Ennis peppers extra personality for Frank this issue—when he’s got to interact with people instead of just shoot them or torture them; it’s where Ennis has to excel beyond expectation just to get it to work (another basic description of Punisher MAX, it’s able to work because Ennis’s writing is exceptional on the title, past the exceptional it’d need to be just to get it to function). So good.
  • So Much
    I’m taking weekends off from Comics Fondle and Visual Reflux. VR is a little more graphics intensive than anything else I do and CF is going to get about as much as it, though in different ways… awesome new phone camera(s) means being able to do nicer images for posts. One of the reasons I never started doing pictures in posts was not being able to ensure the quality of those images. It’s a lot easier now—you can just screenshot a digital comic, right? But you can get it done; back when I started the blogs, flip phone cameras… nope. But maybe a Summing Up post on weekends. One, maybe two. At least one. Maybe. We’ll see how it goes next weekend, though I’ve also got a much higher word count target on Summing Up posts than anything else—besides Stop Button, which has a variable target. I’m writing this post instead of doing anything else on my to do list, which isn’t anything pressing but there are some productive items. I really want to go play a video game, so instead I’m being productive with something besides the productive items on my to do list. It’s like differing procrastination. I’m also now wondering if I might be able to make the VR graphics intensive stuff more like the coming Comics Fondle graphics intensive stuff, which would mean I could defer an item off today’s list. Innovate to avoid. And the more innovating, the more avoiding, the more waiting down the clock until there’s no longer enough time to do anything on the to do list and instead I’ll just have to put some of them off until later tonight. It’s very difficult to get excited about having to force down your electrolyte supplements. At some point, nothing’s going to taste worse than elephant’s ball sweat so why even try to figure out the spectrum. With all other blogging, I have an ambition. With Summing Up, the only way I can rely on myself to actually post to the blog is to have no ambitions. No schedules, no plans… I can’t even remember what the theme looks like right now. I think it looks all right. Or it’s just Baskerville 2. I’m liking Baskerville 2, even if the header image area is lousy and the title font is a tad much. Clearly I’m not too worried about it because I still haven’t done anything with the Visual Reflux header, though I did just get a relatively fast and easy idea I’ll probably try to get done after this post but before I run out of screwing off time. I’m getting pretty good at maximizing all those times. Something about the word count targets. It gins up the enthusiasm just right, leading to a huge wink paragraph for Logan’s Run today and a little wink for Rambo V tomorrow. Given I’m going through the first couple years of Stop Button right now and rather impressed with how little I tried back in those early days… it’s nice to be thoughtful. I’m kind of curious when the change occurs. Because there’s a period, before the 250-word constraint but after I started submitting to MRQE where I got my verbosity on. Haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m also putting off doing the day’s catalog capsule post for Stop Button. I’ve got to do cat litter soon, like… there’s only so much you can do.
  • The Case of the Missing Plastic-Tipped Tongs
    When I started 2019, I had this idea I’d consolidate all my blogging. Actually, wait, no, when I started 2019 I was going to start a TV blog (A Televisual Feast, natch) and do a lot of TV blogging, starting with a watch-through of “Penny Dreadful” because I’d gotten it for real cheap on Blu-ray in the late fall. Maybe on Black Friday. But then we wrapped up “Comics Fondle: The Podcast” and decided to do a relaunch, “Visual Reflux,” and if I was setting up a whole new site for the new podcast, why wouldn’t I just do some blogging there… I was getting excited about self-hosting again. Old time blogging. Bringing the geekery back into it. So, funny thing… Comics Fondle: The Blog turns ten in a couple months. When I started Comics Fondle back in the day, it was too late to be starting a new comics blog. I already had a “brand” as far as it mattered in 2009 blogging, but it wasn’t CF, it was Stop Button, of course. And, because I clearly wanted to give myself an out, Stop Button was never part of the Visual Reflux: The Blog concept. I should’ve known launching a secondary blog in 2019, even if it consolidated, was a bad idea. Especially for the amount of work I really wanted to put into it. I had a lot of TV to watch, potentially, and I think I’d already decided on the Punisher MAX read-through. I swear I should have a little style guide with all these various boldings and dashes. Anyway. It’s now September. 2019 is almost over. I’ve managed to read two books this year, as opposed to a book a week—Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History, by Blair Imani, and Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets, by Feminista Jones. Both are great. HERstory would basically be a great older kids book, like fourth grade, but also to old age because it’s a who’s who. Imani’s got some great chapter introduction essays too. And Reclaiming Our Space is an amazing history of social media in the last ten or so years. And Jones is an excellent writer. So good books. But only two. And many, many, many months apart. But I have successfully completed—almost, one more to go—an intentionally scheduled Punisher MAX deep dive, which had always been a problem before; not finding or making the time, but getting to the write place with the writing. Because if blogging is just going to be my writing, the posts have to be about the writing, not the subject. Figuring out how to talk about the subject while still being about the writing… it takes time. Basically, it turns out I was doing constraints wrong. In the many years Comics Fondle and Stop Button had strict per-post word counts, I learned how to write concise, which is great, but it turns out general word count targets work a lot better for how I write now. I shoot for 650 words on something, or 450 on a shitty movie, or 1,000 on a great one, and there’s no ticker—the writing app, Ulysses has turned out to be a great investment—just knowing if I hit it and where I am in the writing impulse… it works out. My writing practice—my blogging practice—has changed. Some of it, which I don’t really want to address right now, has to do with recognizing the difference between blogging as writing and blogging as work. I don’t do the latter, I do the former. One of The Stop Button’s earliest subtitles was “An Appreciation of Amusements” (in 2019, I don’t even want to think about how much The New York Times influenced the blog’s style, but, suffice to say, Oxford commas are now a thing) and I’ve now come to think of the posts more as the amusements themselves, separate from the discussed media. Then today I decided… why not bring back Summing Up, since I never got around to archiving its posts and it’d probably be easy to clean up and it’s not like micro.blog is working out for longer form colloquial blogging. So instead of having two primary blogs, one The Stop Button, the second comprised of one secondary (Comics Fondle) and two tertiary (Televisual Feast, which never launched with new posts, and Summing Up, which has been in a very strange place for a long time), let’s just do all four. I’ve got the domains anyhow. And MarsEdit. So it’s very easy. Also… self-hosting a blog in 2019. Icky bad.
  • September will be great
    So TV is starting in September. Not sure what the first series I’m going to do a deep-dive on, but it’ll be… something finite. Cable or streaming or British. We’ll see how it goes. Schedule-wise, for TV, I’m thinking one TV post a week to start. Then more once I get a feel for it. Or maybe not more if it doesn’t feel right. We’ll see. At the same time, there will be more regular Comics Fondle posts. I’m not waiting until September for the next Punisher arc, but there will be a Punisher arc next month with the new schedule. It’s currently looking like–Stop Button, VR or CF, Stop Button, whatever wasn’t the previous, Stop Button, and so on. Visual Reflux posts will either be a TV post or just some blathering like this post. Stop Button gets the most posts because it gets the most readers. I think it’d be even more accurate to say it gets readers. VR and CF are read. They do not have much in the way of regular readership, however. The whole idea of creating a centralized posting site instead of changing The Stop Button into that centralized posting site was a mistake. But I’m not running to change up Stop Button. My self-hosted WordPress experiment was miserable. I got nothing out of it except Google Analytics telling me no one was coming to the site. It would’ve been a fine idea for 2007 or 2008. But not even 2009, as CF was one relaunch too many of comics blogging after I split the comics from the movies on Stop Button because I couldn’t get it to work right on WordPress. And doing both side-by-side crashed Sandvox a lot. Punisher will start either at the end of this week or the beginning of next. I’ve got a couple comics to read before I get to it and I’m also reading Feminista Jones’s Reclaiming Our Space and not putting it on a shelf this time. I was doing a lot better on reading in January 2019 than any other time this year. Meanwhile there’s a lot of Stop Button posts this month—I know because I’ve got three in the queue and I never have many in the queue anymore. Six blogathon posts in August, then five more the first week of September. The new Stop Button scheduling officially takes over after those September posts. So eight more movies between now and September 8. Not a lot of time for comics or TV, unfortunately. At least not TV I’m then going to write at length about. I didn’t end up writing about “The Boys” after the first couple episodes. I don’t have an “Elementary” post I don’t think. Maybe I’ll feel differently after I see the last episode. But there was also the plan for how I was going to do the “focused” posts for TV: watching the season through (hence shorter seasons), then go through episode-by-episode to post. I’m not sure if it’ll work. Maybe the better thing would be brief posts and build up once I get used to writing about TV. I’m sure I’ll figure it out by September. “Mindhunter” starts in a couple days. Maybe I should try to work with that.
  • Social-less Micro.blog
    I’m not sure if I’ve written at length about micro.blog; I might have over at Summing Up before. But I don’t have any tags or categories for the majority of the older posts and… I’m not doing a deep dive to find it. Basically, I was waiting for micro.blog to launch (knowing about it because of the excellent Core Intuition podcast) and got tired of waiting so I launched Summing Up. I stopped doing Summing Up because 2016 election basically. It took a while to kill my blogging (inauguration put the real nail in it) and, even though I had a micro.blog I didn’t use it). A year after deciding micro.blog wasn’t for me, I’ve decided to start using it as a Twitter posting client for ramblings. Because it turns out I don’t fit in at micro.blog, social network-speaking, which is fine. Core Intuition doesn’t do a Patreon so a fiver a month plus using MarsEdit via SetApp in addition to owning MarsEdit because it’s awesome gets to be my support. What’s interesting is how much response I get on Twitter to my micro.blog posts. More than when I just tweet. Maybe it’s something about how I conceive of tweets vs. micro.blog posts. Though micro.blog doesn’t have posting photos into the post yet, which is one of my favorite web ux things. I can’t help but note I still haven’t gotten around to any TV content for Visual Reflux. It’s going to happen. It’s imminent. Once I read the second Punks Not Dead arc, TV (well, streaming) is happening. This post is because I just noticed yesterday how I got zero interaction on micro.blog but a bunch for the same posts on Twitter. I have a solid Twitter. A cultivated Twitter. Especially mutuals. Even if many folks have left because it’s a shitshow. I’m hesitant to give myself a TV schedule for VR just because it’s all new. But maybe I will. When I get closer to it making sense. I’ve got to do things like sign up for Hulu and install the app and so on. Headphones. Need to find my headphones. TV watching on lunch breaks makes sense but I’ve got zero experience with it these days. It’s been almost fifteen years since I first did it, with “Battlestar.” It’s possible I blogged about “Battlestar” back then. Who knows.
  • Dreck’s not an adjective
    It’s been a week since my last Visual Reflux post. Soft renovating the garage to make it a cat paradise takes up a lot of time, even if it doesn’t take up a lot of mental space. I also sort of forgot where I was going with VR after my last post; I went from a post about all the blogathons I’ve been participating in the last couple years to finishing the blogathon index on The Stop Button, which has no deadline. Whatever was I going to do on VR and why hadn’t I given myself a deadline. It’s entirely possible I’ll have a “triage journaling” post one of these… weeks, but it’s a little less likely than a post about the new Bastille album, which at one point seemed certain. Just like at one point doing a watch-through of “Penny Dreadful” was going to happen. And now a watch-through, in some fashion, of “Mr. Rogers” seems more likely. I’m not really big on sticking to my plans for my blogs. They don’t pay anything. And they’re a hobby, not an interest. I’m not sure how many times I’ve made that “hobby, not an interest” Carlin reference since I started blogging—fifteen years ago—but I’d guess at least six. It’s how I think of blogging. It costs money. It doesn’t make money. But I’ve got it cost-effective at least. Especially now Visual Reflux has moved off self-hosted because why in 2019. Anyway, if I’m sticking to the schedule I set up… this post is actually going to be Stop Button’s new programming. See, when I started Stop Button I was still trying to watch something like a movie a day. At least one every two days. Something extreme and difficult. For a long while I was doing at least three features a week; shorts came in to supplement. But it was a lot. It’s not a lot anymore. When I watch a movie on a work night, it’s a lot to keep rattling around my head. I’d almost prefer bad movies. Of course the trick of hits on a bad movie post is the bad movie has to be popular enough someone once saw it and almost liked it or used to like it and then came to reason. Because why else write about bad movies if not for the hits. Bad movies of course being different than terrible movies. Or godawful ones. Hang on. Let me find a good adjective. Dreck. But dreck’s not an adjective. I don’t discuss movies in relation to one another in posts if I can help it. It’s kind of… the goal, actually. The purpose. Other than occasionally making witty quips or finding a good sentence to shit on a terrible movie like Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The point is it’s hard to come up with a watch list. It’s hard to program. Life doesn’t lend itself to marathoning Jerome Bonnell because life sucks. So starting in September, I’m starting to think of Stop Button in programming “seasons.” Because everything is fucking seasonal now—I was on the bleeding edge of comics having seasons, for distribution, I have witnesses—so why not my movie blog. It’ll be two probably unrelated features a month, plus whatever else incidentals (features, shorts, whatever)—I’m going to be loose with that scheduling at the start—then two probably unrelated features the next month, then a return to the most popular (either with me or with hits) categories the third month. Because if I don’t systemize this shit… I’m never going to get around to watching Desert of the Tartars again and I’ve wanted to watch that movie again since I finished watching it the first time. Azumi 1 too. I really want to return to that post-undergrad pre-MFA era. But I also want to really get to some Catherine Corsini. Or Moonlight. Or Beale Street. There are almost 2,000 movies on my watch list and I’ve only been working on it for three and a half weeks. I’ve got to get moving on this shit. And I’ll also be posting the short capsule reviews en masse here once a month. A Visual Reflux special. Speaking of VR specials—I’m going to assemble all my latest Punisher MAX posts over here in the next couple days; just not sure how. And there, another post. Easy-peasy.
  • Actual Newsletter Reading
    I started using the new NetNewsWire this week. I knew about it being back, but I hadn’t investigated it because… Feedly. Also in the post-Google Reader world, my RSS reading has failed. But I got curious about NNW again. It’s got Feedbin support and I love Feedbin. Feedly I don’t love, but find it useful. Feedbin I love but always found limited. Probably should’ve tried making folders in Feedbin, but whatever. It took NNW until I discovered them. While I was playing on Feedbin’s web interface, I discovered you can send your newsletters to your Feedbin. I like newsletters. I even tried doing a special newsletter thing in addition to blogging a few years ago. That didn’t work out. I was subscribed to a few TinyLetter accounts back when it flashed in the pan, even if they were just blog posts. And thanks to Feedbin, they could even have a blog post UI. At least an RSS-y blog post UI. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters because Gmail and endless storage. I’m really bad at my personal email inbox maintenance (currently at 577). And going through and changing the mailing address on all the newsletters seems like a pain. Then I realized Gmail and filters so now I’m just marking the email read, archiving it, forwarding it to Feedbin. It’s going to take a while to get all of them over there no doubt, but they’ve started showing up there and not the inbox so it works. Maybe it’ll lead to more actual newsletter reading, which is behind even the blog reading.