Netflix Fun, July Edition

As always, little snippets of reviews from stuff I saw on Netflix or Amazon or Vudu or whatever, which didn’t do enough to get me to write up a whole big blog about each of them.

Timer
Cute premise: in the near future, technology will be available to let you know when you’re going to meet the person you’re destined to spend the rest of your life with. The movie follows a cute Emma Caufield— easily recognizable from her Buffy days, though the character is far different—as she goes from hopeful, waiting for her timer to wind down, to by the end done with the whole deal. Yes, it’s a comedy.
First off, let me say that due to my only listening to independent music—except for Rush—I hardly ever hear any songs I know playing in movies. But then, Meiko really doesn’t qualify as independent anymore, does she? All to say that there’s a perfectly placed snippet of her Piano Song at the beginning.
More to the point, the movie is surprisingly sweet, and funnier than expected. And the reason I watched it in the first place—Michelle Borth—can always be counted on to bring the Bohemian, even when in a hospital in Afghanistan, as she did in one of her series. Emma Caulfield carries what’s really a light frothy movie, though the dramatic and emotional parts are also well done.
Here’s the thing: that’s what I thought about it the first time I saw it, a few years ago. In fact, I gave it a 4.5/5. But now I watched it again and felt completely different about it. I did notice some things that escaped my view the first time, like the hilarious Matchmaker Patty; I would hate that woman in real life, but I love her here. And all the people in the credits have timers too, producers and everyone! That was really funny. And a fantastic line I missed the first time, or simply didn’t remember it: “My eggs! They can hear you!”
But then we come to the one thing I don’t like about this movie: as funny as Michelle Borth can be—“Tell me what you did or I’m gonna pee on your bed!”—everything Emma Caufield has to do is so cringeworthy, far into butt monkey range. Even from the start there’s so much awkward, and it’s just too painful to watch.
So yeah, I liked it a lot more the first time, and if I were to combine the scores I’d now call it a:
6/10

Particle Fever
Ever wonder how a massive supercollider is made, then used? Find out in this movie.
The first visage that caught my attention came right away, as during construction of CERN they’re lowering a huge piece—five stories tall, if I heard that right—that is surprisingly in the shape of the Millennium Falcon. But despite how long it took to build the Hadron, that’s not the main point of this film. Mostly it follows some physicists, both on the ground there in Switzerland and around the US, as they eagerly await the start-up and then the results while trying to explain to the audience exactly what’s going on and what they hope to see.
Though the scientists interviewed throughout are pretty good communicators, giving great lectures, most of it still goes over my head. There was one eye-opening explanation of how important the experiments are, how it might even be the end of physics if they get it wrong. Then there’s Monica screaming, “We rocked!” She’s my fave. But the best line had to be “Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret to success.” And funniest moment was during the interview while driving: “And I missed my exit.” Or else the baby screaming while everyone was listening to what they’ve all been waiting for. But something that also needs to be mentioned is just how painful that rap was. . .
Some of the CGI is hokey, others are pretty cool. The graphic showing the Higgs at the middle of the wheel is the best explanation I’ve seen so far. There’s also a bit of theater at certain points, like when they tried so hard to make “first beam” so dramatic. And near the end, so much cheering and even Beethoven’s 9th for numbers changing on a screen—just seems funny. Would have liked to see how the reporters reacted to this, because for me it woulda been anticlimactic.
Totally expected Dr. Higgs to get emotional, but that was also the most touching moment. And then it ends with a shoutout to one of my favorite movies, Cave of Forgotten Dreams!
8/10

Thor 2: Dark World
As I’ve stated before, I’m not much for the superhero genre. If I’m watching one of these it’s usually because there’s an actress I like—in this case two—or it’s something that I simply can’t pass up, like Wonder Woman. So I try not to get too wrapped up in reviewing these, but in the end can’t help it.
Though Thor has appeared in The Avengers, and showed quite a bit at the end of the first movie, it’s here where you see how much the character has matured. He actually laughs when he’s teased now. There’s a little bit of character development to Sif as well, but Jane. . . not so much. Darcy is Darcy, but that’s okay, that’s what she’s there for. It’s Selvig who changes the most, but not in a good way, although I’m sure the actor enjoyed running around in his underwear.
As always in these kinds of movies, there’s too much speechifying by the bad guys. Around halfway through I thought, “Now I see why Loki’s in this: comic relief!” More fool I. Certainly not sorry about what happened to him—Selvig speaks for me—or what we thought happened to him, anyway.
As you might expect, I watched this for Natalie Portman, and she did not disappoint. There are some moments in here that prove she’s underrated on her comedic side. Jane has sequestered herself in labs—or chasing tornados—for so long she doesn’t seem to know how to act around strangers, mostly to hilarious results. Her excitement at going through the Bifrost leads her to give Heimdall a totally informal “Hi!” which is a great harbinger to when she does the same later to the Queen. . . who by the way is her lover’s mom, but she’s too nervously excited to realize it in that moment. But her best line is probably “I like the way you. . . explain things.”
I also love Kat Dennings, who just like on her TV series doesn’t seem to be acting at all, simply being her usual snarky real-life persona. She actually has great chemistry with Hemsworth, the best example being when she asks him “How’s space?” so he can laconic, “Space is fine.” His best moment, though, is likely when, after a great pause, he throws out, “So. . . who’s Richard?” followed by Jane’s exasperated “Really?”
Hair color change and an accent can do wonders; how many recognized “Chuck” as Fandral? If anyone saw Zach Levi in the short he did for The Adventures of Basil and Moebius, he’s got the exact same accent and character here.
The one thing I genuinely loved is the music. Appropriate heroic themes, even for those spoiled by John Williams; the horns in particular were pretty tasty. The one thing I most disliked was how dark it was, in this case more literally than spiritually or psychologically. Ultimately that’s the fault of the director, but you wonder if the cinematographer ever said anything. Best scenery was during the end battle in London, as well as the boat/ship chase.
Most of all, though, the bad guy wasn’t that interesting, and the plot was all over the place. Didn’t like it as much as the first.
5/10

Star Trek: Beyond
The second reboot film was so disappointing I skipped going to this when it was in the theaters; that’s the first time that’s ever happened to me with Star Trek. So my expectations were pretty low going into this.
As usual nowadays, Kirk gets to be a total butt monkey at the start, though in this case it gives him a chance to be angsty. The part where we see Sulu meeting up with his husband and kid was nicely done in that it wasn’t a big deal, just here it is and moving on. But more than anything it hurt to see Anton.
Another part I’ve always disliked is seeing all the dead when the Enterprise is blown up—literally. Too much showing of bodies floating off into space. It does seem to be a staple of these movies, going all the way back to Wrath of Khan, but this is one way all the series, and their lower budgets, have it better. And what’s the deal with yet another Enterprise biting the dust? Seems like the name is bad luck!
Random thoughts:
I lived for the moment I could hear Spock say “horseshit.” I can die happy now.
No way Kirk could be beamed while on the motorcycle at full speed.Gimme a break. It’s one thing for Chekov to have done a difficult beam in an earlier movie, but remember that here they were using 100-year-old transporters.
My fave character was Jaylah. “Do not break my music!” And her taking the captain’s chair, reportedly adlibbed, was classic. And at the end when she says “Aye’ to Scotty. Love that she’s going to Starfleet Academy, where she won’t be anything like Kirk, I’m sure; hope she breaks the demerits record.
Best unexpected visual: Chekov tapping his foot to the “classical” music.
Kirk says he couldn’t do anything without Spock, but no thanks for Bones? He was the pilot who saved his ass!
Shohreh Aghdashloo always brings it; she’s the coolest commodore ever.
That photo of the original crew: awww. . .
Idris did his best with a villain that though appropriately motivated didn’t really hit as a classic bad guy. I suppose allowances have to be made for a script that was hastily rewritten.
As always I stay for the credits, and noticed that the actors are listed alphabetically, with Cho first. That’s lovely.
While I have no complaints about the music—soundtrack, I mean; not the choice for destruction—I have to say the sound effects were more memorable. They spent a lot of money and time on that space station, but some of that CGI budget might have been better served during the battle inside the crushed Enterprise, which simply came out too dark. But other than that it was a pretty enjoyable movie that would have done well as a two-part episode on one of the series.
7/10

Iron Man
Completely forgettable. I wrote two notes, and one of them said Gwynnth has never looked better than in that blue dress at Disney Hall.

Iron Man 2
More of the same. Only reason I watched it was because I thought that was ScarJo’s best look and wanted to see it in all its undiminshed glory.

Star Wars: Rogue 1
Like I mentioned about Star Trek above, this is the first Star Wars movie I did not go see in the theater; glad I didn’t.
Rather than dole out the exposition in small chunks, there were too many places and too many people at the start. Despite the great idea of placing it right before the start of the original movie, the writing is mostly unoriginal, as were most of the plot points. The best line had to be the “samurai” getting a bag placed over his head. “Are you kidding me? I’m blind!” And while I don’t have anything bad to say about the acting—other than Forest Whitaker overdoing things, to my shock—it’s telling that the most memorable is Wash. . . I mean, Alan Tudyk playing a robot.
They tried to make a big moment out of the Vader unreveal, but it was. . . underwhelming. But easily the worst scene was the attack in the rain, with the characters being completely stupid, especially Jyn yelling out “Dad!” You had a character with street smarts galore and you have her do something like this? The whole scene was one idiotic choice after another; it felt like the writers simply wanted to get this over with and move the movie along.
Another thing I didn’t like about that scene was the darkness, although part of it was no doubt due to the rain. But that was more than made up for by the location at the end, Scarif, especially the establishing shots from above. Maybe I prefer the Seychelles a little more, but you certainly can’t go wrong with filming in the Maldives, and I doubt any of the actors complained about it, other than the long trip. What’s weird is that according to the credits they also filmed in Wadi Rum in Jordan, and I’d just been there a few months ago. Not that deserts look all that different from each other, and since the King of Jordan once appeared on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. . .
Can’t say I noticed the music at all. That’s not a bad thing, but really, what can you say about the first Star Wars movie not scored by John Williams?
The whole thing felt rushed, despite the slow pace at the beginning. They took some time to give her a backstory, but since it ended up in the plot—i.e., her father—it doesn’t really count. About halfway through, my thought was “It’s okay, but glad I didn’t pay to see this in the theater.” At that point I was calling it between a 5 and 6/10, keeping in mind that I gave Force Awakens a 7 and enjoyed it a lot more. Then the battle in the rain happened. . .
Some critics, and even the composer, have written about this movie having a lot of heart, but I frankly didn’t feel it. Maybe in the Imperial traitor who brought the message to Jyn, but that’s it.
4/10

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Heathens and Passions

Britannia: We Who Are About To Die
In what seems like a small prelude but isn’t, a young slave girl is about to be raped, but like me notices the knife nearby and kills her attacker. In the meantime there’s a new cult in Rome that the rich kids are joining, only some of them are the ones being sacrificed, so the world’s first official detective has another case, and this time doesn’t have to go all the way to Britannia to solve it. Eventually it gets personal. . .
Good of them to have recaps before every issue; every comic should do that.
This story is not as strong as the first one, but then it’s more about the moments. With the Wonder Woman movie and especially the way women all over the world are responding to it, it’s amusing to see the same thing happening in Ancient Rome with a female gladiator. I don’t remember ever reading about any such archaeological evidence found, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find there were hucksters like the one here outside the Colosseum, selling souvenirs. My favorite line had to be “By Mithras!” Having studied that cult, it made me laugh.
The last part is “silent,” which makes it more intriguing. Too bad it took him long enough to realize who, or what, the bad guy was, which was a letdown.
3/5

Heathen V.1
Aydis is the heroine of this story, clad in a bikini under a fur coat out in the snow. She’s telling stories to her horse—not so farfetched, as it turned out—as exposition about her quest, which is to save Brynhild—as the chief Valkyrie is spelled here—and maybe kiss her. But of course things are never that easy, especially when mythological creatures are involved; in her case, she might be lucky that becoming a plaything of the gods is the worst thing that happens to her.
It doesn’t take long to find some hilarious characters, in this case the two wolves who bicker like an old married couple. “I liked him.” “Me too. I’m glad we didn’t eat him.” The horse they’re talking about, Saga, might be my fave equine of all time, even if he’s described thusly: “Oh that’s right, you’re not the flying kind of horse, just the annoying kind.”
Best line: “Let’s walk off that stutter.”
Norse mythology is a bit different than usual here. This Freya, for example, reminds me of Aphrodite—playful yet plotting—when the two goddesses of love are usually so different. And just because I’ll never have another chance in my entire life to say this, “Don’t hate the Freya, hate the game.”
The cliffhanger did its job; I want more. This was thoroughly enjoyable; I liked just about every character, except for some of the gods. The artwork is not typical, somewhat like sketches that have been watercolored, but it works well with the stark landscapes featured here.
About 10 pages of other covers to finish things off.
4/5

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte
Fair warning: I HATE the Day of the Dead. . . or better to say it scares the crap out of me. The scariest night of my life was one of these festivals on the tiny island of Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro, in the state of Michoacan in Mexico, where this whole thing originated. So I’m gonna try really hard not to let that affect me, but I doubt I’ll succeed.
A curandero—think witch doctor—leads Mechanika to a small Mexican town on the night of the festival. Among the people she meets is a little girl who’s incredibly adorable. . . when she’s not in skullface. As I’ve mentioned in previous stories, it’s amazing how good she is with kids.
This is a weird story in a literary sense as well; by the end of the first issue she would have usually been in a few fights, and the villain introduced. This time it doesn’t happen till much later, with everything before it some sort of exposition, either hints at her reasons for being there or the author delving really deep into the traditions. For example, “Life is only a dream, a temporary holiday. Every minute here is a gift.”
As always there’s a few fun moments, usually at the Lady’s expense. For one, we see her dancing, which is so out of the ordinary for her that it’s pretty shocking. She has been to fancy dances back in England, but that was undercover; this time she had no other reason to do it but to enjoy herself, and it actually looks like she does.
Best line: “She threw a tortilla at him. . . and he ate it.” I can picture him catching it in his mouth. And I find it completely hilarious the local catholic priest is also engaged in this pagan heresy ritual.
But the one thing I’ve always hated about these stories is how many innocent people have to die so Mechanika can learn a lesson or feel the urge of revenge. This one ramps it up to 11; I’m mad at the author for making me care about all those people and then wiping them all out for no other reason than to send the Lady on a rampage. Feels almost like a betrayal.
Toward the end it more than makes up for the lack of action early. There’s quite a bit of her backstory early on, but none of it is in context. No surprise she spares the last guy, seeing herself in him, but as far as her development, that’s about it. This was so completely different than the previous stories it hardly feels like the same character; for one thing, she didn’t get to play dress up more than once.
Despite an abundance of colors that are actually quite typical if you’ve ever traveled through Mexico, most of this story takes place at night, and there’s green phosphorescence everywhere, so artistically it’s not as interesting as the previous editions.
A few pages of covers as usual at the end.
3/5

Grand Passion
A Bonnie and Clyde-type pair of thieves hit the same town over and over, always disguised differently so that they’re never recognized (narrator knows well enough, though). They even have sex on a bed of stolen money every time. One day their luck runs out and during the shootout, as they kill each other’s partner, the newly widowed cop and the female half of the duo fall into instant lust. But because he killed her partner, she has to get revenge no matter how much she wants him, because some code expects her to.
It’s one thing for the characters to speak in accents, but here the narrator does as well, and it’s annoying; perhaps it’s a case of the British writer overdoing it. The sex scene is all kinds of weird, yet it makes sense in the twisted perverted logic they’re using. This cop may be upstanding—unlike the others, it’s made clear long before it becomes a part of the story—but he’s an idiot. Doesn’t matter how “in love” he is, he loses situational awareness way too often in the gunfights. But calling it “The Battle of Buttercup Lane” is all sorts of awesome.
Best lines: “That. Is. Insane.” “Yeah, I know. Welcome ta “Me.’”
Didn’t love this—that last twist was no surprise at all—but it had some humorous moments amongst all the darkness. As a police procedural it’s lacking, but then what can you expect from a “one good cop” story where even he doesn’t turn out to be so good after all?
There’s over 20 pages of bonus material, including sketches and scripts, one of which describes the solo “making love on money” scene, with the author telling the artist, “This’ll be a fun page for you to draw.” Hope it was true.
3/5

Pathfinder: Worldscape V.2
After a couple of unexplained battles where he doesn’t do nearly as well as he’d hoped—“Not gonna lie. Glad no one was around to see that”—a warrior ends up fighting in the arena against all kinds of monsters and hot babes, with his last challenge being the one and only Red Sonja. His snark of “I’m guessing they don’t call you Red because you embarrass easily” comes off just as well as you’d expect. In the meantime his friends have their own adventures in this strange universe, with all the stories eventually converging at the end, but not before other famous mythical characters show up, especially John Carter and Tarzan.
As a lifelong fan, I have to say this is the worst representation I’ve ever seen of Red Sonja, both physically and character-wise. That hair. . . she looks like she went to a stylist in the Deep South.
Best line: “Who names their planet after dirt?” Like this green guy, I’ve had the same thought. Second best: “I do like a girl in leather,” said by another girl.
In the second issue there’s a ton of backstory that hits you like a school bus—yes, there’s a reason I use that simile—all at once. But despite all this exposition, the whole thing was simply too confusing to grasp. So many sides, too many people fluid in their loyalties. . . the only way I could eventually get through it was to stop caring. It’s fair to say this would be a lot smoother if you’re familiar with these characters, either through previous editions or the role-playing game this seems to be based on. As this was my first venture into this universe, I’m sure I failed to grasp a bunch of points throughout.
Oddly enough, in the 50 or so extra pages Sonja looked a lot more like her old self. The last 20 pages are stuff like stats and stories for the role-playing game.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Erotic Motorcycles, Teachers, and Time Travel

I feel like instead of the usual funny line or snippet of conversation, I should post a nude photo or some such when it’s a review of erotica. . .
Nah. There is a photo I can recommend, of Katherine Heigl in a black leather catsuit, out there in the vasty internet, if that helps.

His Human Rebel
Fourth in a well-written series of male alien master/female human slave stories, this one features a more common soldier rather than aristocracy, as well as the most delightful lead character so far.
Unlike the previous reasons for buying up humans, this time a whole bunch are brought in from a jail to help the war effort. And in fact Cambry does learn to fly, but once Lundric has her in his sights that becomes secondary. . . though she does have a hidden agenda of her own.
There’s a formula to these dominance erotica stories, so I don’t worry about the plot too much. The guys almost always act like entitled Neanderthals, so it’s the female protagonist that will make or break a book. There’s some similarities in them as well, as they start out feisty and learn to love, or at least obey. But the women are sufficiently different to make them unique and entertaining.
In this case Cambry’s pretty awesome, my fave of all the ladies in this series, and that’s saying a lot. Too bad her trust issues keep her from being honest with him—not that he’s earned it, but still—but that’s the way of most romance novels, even the sci-fi erotic ones. Lundric’s even more Neanderthal than most, especially at the beginning, but if she taught him to treat people better then I guess her “sacrifice” was worth it.
4/5

Stay After Class
College senior virgin desperately wants her cork popped before her next birthday, because a psychic told her to. She’s got her sights set on her art professor doing the honors, but the last thing she expected was for him to take her on a long frustrating journey to that point.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand it’s a well-told romance, but on the other. . . I can’t imagine her being that patient with someone who, as much as he wanted to do right by her, was manipulating her the entire way. He certainly wouldn’t have done that with an older woman, or one not as innocent. Despite his claims, it felt like this whole long timeline was more about him; she could have been more open about what her deadline and the dating app meant, but he treated her like a child far too much, and his excuse of “protecting” her was the ultimate in condescension.
As for the characters, Amanda was a lot of fun, as was her BFF. Even their emoji use was on point; the cherry with the fireworks was particularly hilarious, as well as the band-aid. As for him, he seems to be a genuinely nice guy who simply has no idea how to treat a modern woman; he seems to be stuck in some sort of weird age of chivalry, mixed with some Neanderthal “She’s mine” crap. Every other character seemed to be differing shades of evil.
I will admit the author almost got me by including a musical piece by one of my fave musicians, Jesse Cook, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t give any extra credit for that.
3/5

Slave to the MC
In the second book of a series—I did not read the first—a smart sassy part-time stripper deals with trying to pay off her mother’s debts while being the sexual plaything of an entire motorcycle gang, including the wives.
This story is unusual: it’s one thing for a submissive to be such with one master, but to be a more than willing slave to a gang, not just in sex but having her entire life controlled. . . that’s not seen often. The good thing is that, even as she fights it, she realizes she enjoys this kind of thing, which makes it a lot easier to take. She’s surprisingly introspective, and pretty damn smart, at least in her thoughts if not in her life choices.
Wasn’t particularly a fan of the story, since I hate all the gangster stuff, but some of her thoughts were intriguing, and if she’s willing—as she always is—the sex scenes are pretty hot in a primal way.
3.5/5

30th Century: Escape
A military woman from long in the future sends troops back to the 27th to fix history so humans don’t get genocided, but instead of heading the mission she slips off to the 21st to start a new life.
This story had a lot of potential, but the writing was surprisingly stilted for someone who’s published so much. On the other hand, this might be his first work of fiction, and if so the inexperience shows. The conversations feel wooden and the descriptions lack style; oddly enough, that happened more and more toward the end. Having read other sci-fi erotica recently, this simply pales in comparison. In fact, it’s odd that it is listed under erotica, as there aren’t any sex scenes until the last half, and even then it’s lackluster, pedestrian. One of the main reasons is the use of the word penis. . . exclusively; apparently the author lives in an ivory tower or cave where he’s never heard of another word for the male organ.
It’s not just the sex scenes, though; there’s not a lot of emotion in the writing, period. She cried, she felt sad, that’s it; no elaboration. By contrast, the science stuff goes on for pages. Her dissertation defense lasted far too long, making me think this was the whole point of the book, with the rest just framing. And most of the science was far over my head even when she was asked to explain it in layman’s terms. Annoying.
Some of the writing is just ridiculous. “You are the mother of the children. . .” Did you really think she didn’t know that, Jen? Another example: “Jennifer gritted her teeth, hoping she was not talking over his head. If she was, would his attraction to her die?” Seriously? What a modern 21st century woman, let alone 30th. More to the point, in the few scenes we get of the 30th century—as well as the 27th—they show worlds that don’t seem all that different from today, especially socially as compared to technologically. That makes no sense; not much thought was put into that. Another problem was all the characters I had to keep track of, particularly the women, as some of them had similar names.
I wanted very much to like this, which might account for some of the disappointment. I enjoyed the premise, all the way up to her being alone on the island. Once she was rescued it went downhill. Jennifer is for the most part a likeable lead character, though there were times when she was simply too good to be true. The anthropology and archaeology of the Pacific Islands was interesting, as it fit into my own hobbies, but in the end it didn’t lead anywhere, so I suspect it was just the author’s pet.
And it was so sad that we never saw the dolphin again. . .
2/5

;o)

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Overview
This movie is what I wished Supergirl had been.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the series, but I don’t love it, feel so many things could have been done better from the outset. This movie gets them right.
One more thing: I’m not a fan of superhero movies. I watched the first two Avenger movies because of Joss Whedon, caught the first Thor on TV due to Natalie Portman, and one rainy afternoon when my plans were cancelled I saw the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Caught glimpses of an Iron Man on TV, but that’s basically it: never seen a Spiderman or Hulk, and the only Batman I ever saw was because Uma Thurman was in (boy, did that suck). So yeah, this was unusual, especially seeing it in the theater.
The day before this I mentally shrugged as I flicked on Doctor Strange on Netflix. Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t stand most of it inspires me to give Wonder Woman such a high grade, but that’s doubtful; even without that waste of time, The Wonderful Woman was superior in every way.

Writing
As always, this is where it starts. The plot goes back to World War One, and for the most part is a slice of life in the giant conflict until the two supernatural beings butt heads. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing groundbreaking either. And since the character had already been introduced in a previous movie, it was necessary to find a frame to set what is really a prequel, and the photo did the job perfectly.
Thankfully both the writing and directing are just as interested, if not more so, in the characters as the story and effects, especially but not limited to Diana. While most movies, even superhero ones, have humorous moments, they abound here, most of it coming from Diana not having the slightest idea how to behave with people who didn’t have the same idyllic upbringing as her on the Amazon island—when Steve first shows up, then amongst the crowds in London—particularly with men. My favorite was her trying to get through the revolving door at full charge. There isn’t that much humor after that, other than a few moments with the motley crew assisting them. But even more so, there’s some beautifully poignant instances within the ugliness of war, of which the most endearing is Diana telling an obviously shell-shocked Charlie to stay, because otherwise no one would sing for them. The acting is fantastic here, both their faces perfect, but it’s the words that make the moment memorable.
While most superheroes seem to have a personal motivation for doing what they do, be it vengeance or wanting to prove themselves, I very much like that the writers made Diana’s inspiration, as naïve as it is, simply wanting to do what’s right. And while it’s one thing to write a strong character who can also be romantic and funny, they gave her a special quality not often seen: kindness. There aren’t many superheroes who show compassion, but she has it in abundance.
It’s always hard to tell how much of the battle scenes is scripted, as writers usually throw in the kitchen sink and then see it whittled down due to safety or budgetary restraints. But if there’s one moment from the final battle that had to be in the original script, it’s her levitating over Ares, showing him she wasn’t the least bit bothered after all his attacks. He’s obviously disturbed by that, goaded into overplaying his hand, launching basically everything he had at her, never figuring it would rubber right back at him.

Directing
Like a referee in a sporting event, I’m of the belief that if I don’t remember much about what the director did, then it was a good job. I can’t think of any particular scene in this movie that stands out from that perspective. Of course I’ve seen Patty Jenkins’ other film—being a Charlize Theron completest—and while it was thoroughly deserving of the acting Oscar, some of that is always attributable to the directing.
In this case she shows a more than knowledgeable grasp of special effects and battle scenes, as well as comedy and sweet moments, some of them romantic but others not. Perhaps it’s the pacing that deserves the most merit, with enough respite given between the grittier moments for the audience to rest and reset. More to the point, this did not feel at all like 2 hours and 20 minutes.
If there’s one particular moment that deserves some mention, it would have to be when Diana finally realizes what Steve had said to her—she hadn’t understood him due to momentary loss of hearing—just before the plane blows up above her. The view of the explosion over her shoulder—even though she’s lying on the floor—followed by the quick cut to her face is perfect, as is leaving the camera on her for longer than usual so Gal could run through all the emotions of the moment, which are discussed in the next section.

Acting
There’s an easygoing rapport between Gal and Chris, but my favorite relationship, brief as it is, is between her and Lucy Jones. It’s easy to tell when Diana is appreciating Etta’s humor; it feels like they instantly became sisters. This is the first relationship she’s formed with a woman not from her island, and she seems happy to realize things won’t be that much different from that particular standpoint. The men, of course, are a different matter.
As I mentioned above, the moment when Diana tells Charlie he needs to stay because otherwise there’d be no one to sing for them is superb. It’s easy to see how much he needed that validation, especially after freezing during sniper duty. Gal’s face is so perfectly sweet, and you can see in his eyes that he’ll follow her anywhere from that moment on. There’s an earlier scene when Steve tells the boys that the money’s run out and they should go home, and they all refuse, partly because they’re enjoying themselves but mostly because Steve’s their guy and they’re loyal. But in this instant it becomes Diana’s gang, though it helps that Steve becomes her follower as well.
As for possibly Gal’s best acting moment, if it’s not the one I just mentioned, it would have to be the same as I wrote about in the directing section above. Right before her heroic second wind, when she’s seemingly trapped and out of the fight, she takes a sideways glance and sees Sameer, Charlie, and Chief huddled together, preparing to die, and feels like she let them down. Then the plane explodes above her, and there’s so much to see in her face—disbelief, sorrow, rage—all culminating in the moment when she realizes her destiny, even more so than her No Man’s Land trek.

Cinematography
Other than island of the Amazons, there’s surprisingly little in the way of landscapes, unless you count the trenches. Even the establishing shots are dark and moody. On the other hand, walking through the London of 100 years ago is always a pleasure; particularly enjoyable were the train station shots, reminding me of the similar scene from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Though the colors aren’t as dark as the broodiness of other such films, there’s definitely a lot that’s muted. Every yellow, for instance, seems to comes out as an earth tone. That’s fair in the trenches and No Man’s Land, but there were other places where I would have wished something different. In fact, the only place I can remember being at all bright is the German reception, where she dances with the secondary big baddie while the sword is tucked down the back of the beautiful blue dress she stole from the rich matron outside. And though it’s a bit of a cliché, the fire they’re looking at as Steve tries to pseudo-romance Doctor Poison is gorgeous to watch.
The stuntwork, especially the battle on the island, is spectacular, with some tricks I don’t think I’ve ever seen. The firing-arrows-while-swinging moment, as well as the jump/flip with multiple arrows, are wonderfully realized, the latter all the better for the slow motion. Wonder Woman’s battles—the trenches, the town, inside the baddies’ base—are more imaginatively staged than expected, but of course it’s the final battle between the gods that takes the cake. Throwing cars around is always gonna look good, especially when you’re not Hulk-sized.
I don’t have individual sections for wardrobe, makeup, hair and the like, but as a photographer I have to take a moment to mention how incredible—even more so than usual—Gal looks in London once they’ve finally figured out her style. In the trenchcoat, with her hair back, her amazing facial bone structure is in perfect display. I’ve been photographing models for almost a quarter of a century, and I’m often baffled at how popular certain supermodels are, when I would never want to shoot them. This look shows exactly why she was so successful in her previous career.

Music
Unless it’s John Williams, it’s hard to differentiate—or perhaps it’s easy to write the style—between the music, especially the main themes, in superhero movies. Which is why the moment that stands out the most is Wonder Woman’s first battle, when she throws off her overclothes—finally revealing her costume—practically runs up the trench ladder into No Man’s Land, and singlehandedly attacks the German lines. Whereas most of the time you’d get the battle cry—think Indiana Jones—in this case it’s anything but; it’s so soft and heartfelt that at times it’s almost a dirge, which perhaps stands for a loss of innocence, but somehow adds to the enormity of the moment much more than bombastic horns and the like. Most times music supports a scene; this is one of the rare ones that adds to it. Something similar happens after the climactic scene, when it’s time to decompress before the celebration. And bringing in her theme from the Batman/Superman movie, with Tina Guo’s crazy cello, the moment she bursts into the enemy HQ was perfectly timed.
And Ares of course gets an appropriately evil-sounding theme.
In the end I would qualify this soundtrack as for the most part happily restrained.
As always I stay through the credits, not always looking for easter eggs, mostly enjoying the music. The full theme is appropriately heroic and triumphant, but then it changes to a song that in and of itself isn’t bad, except it completely confirms why I can’t stand Sia’s vocals. You do get that we’re supposed to understand what you’re saying, right?

“Feel”
This is what makes it more than just a great movie. Go online and look at all the photos of little girls dressing up as a superhero they can actually look up to. All that would have meant nothing if the film sucked, but in addition to not sucking, it had an undeniable spirit, not just good triumphing over evil, but the feeling that it’ll all work out if we pitch in together and do what’s right.
Whereas nowadays superheroes are written as jerks—I’m looking at you, Ironman, but Thor and Batman and others too—it’s a breath of fresh air to see an origin story that not only starts with innocent happiness but also ends with the hero not completely giving in to the cynicism caused by the trials she’s been through. Yes, she stops superheroing for a century, but in that time there’s no indication that her love for humanity has gone away. There’s something in the framing moments, when she receives the photo Bruce Wayne sent her, that shows she does still believe in the ideals she was brought up with, as confirmed by the one man who taught her most about humanity and she’s now staring at for the first time in a hundred years: Steve Trevor.
One last note, though not about the movie: this was the first time I’ve sat in the recliner seats at a movie theater, and though I’ve been to other movies where the whole place shakes when there’s a big explosion, I felt it a lot more here, and I am not a fan of it! So there. . .

Overall
8.5/10

;o)

Book Reviews: Big Steaming Plate of Graphics

Generation Zero V.2: Heroscape
Having read the first one, and remembering thinking “To hell with the plot, where’s the next hilarious joke?” I gobbled this one up eagerly. And in case I’d forgotten, there’s the always-great “The story so far” on the first page.
The first volume had a superhero vibe, but this one turns fully sci-fi as the team has to go into other realms/worlds/reality spaces to take down the evil corporation that has taken over the town of Rook, Michigan. Unfortunately there’s a lot of talking and little action at first; it takes them being turned into anime to get things rolling. There’s also less funny, though there were still some hilarious moments, like the scary pregnant Stepford smiler, “I second your ‘hrm,’” and “You are all so totally under arrest. . . obvs.”
If anything, the whole story was even more confusing than the first one. More importantly, it just wasn’t as much fun as the first.
3/5

Lady Mechanika Steampunk Coloring Book V1 & 2
“For ladies and gentlemen of all ages.” Nice.
Mechanika is one of the loveliest graphic novels ever drawn, so it’s no surprise the first attempt to franchise it is coloring books of the “Beautiful Victorian heroine.” Sounds like a perfect description.
These appear to be originals rather than taken from the graphic novels, as the first drawing is of an underwater scene not previously shown. (Even in the iron swimsuit she’s curvy and hot.) In most shots she’s holding a revolver in a Charlie’s Angels pose. On the other hand, the gorgeous redhead baddie from the first story makes an appearance, as well as others, so there’s that.
In the second volume the famous jeweled bird makes an appearance, as well as the infamous jetpack, and her costumes become even more outlandish, befitting every kind of climate on Earth. But the best drawings are the ones where she’s being Action Girl rather than just standing there posing. One of the drawings has her in a small skirt, stockings, and a cape; can’t help but wonder if her lower legs were included she’d be in knee-high boots, because it had a distinct 60s vibe.
It’s intriguing looking at these pencil drawings and imagining how they’re gonna turn out.
“Liked the artwork? You’ll love the stories!” Which is no doubt what this is about, right? Getting more people to read the graphics.
3.5/5

Dollface V.1
She’s known as “The Ball Jointed Witch Hunter,” which definitely sounds unique.
A spirit called Lila has come from the time of the Salem Witch Trials to the present, now housed in the body of a 3-D printed hottie. The title of the book is well named, as along with her pink hair and sexy maid’s outfit her face does indeed look doll-like, thankfully not in a creepy way. She’s got a human sidekick and a formerly human sidekick, who now looks like a reject from a ghost cosplay convention. The Necromicon is in there too, and Weird Science and Bride of Frankenstein are mentioned on the same page.
When she wanders into a bar, fielding compliments for the first time, she comes across an enemy when the witch icon pops into her head. Another time she throws herself off the roof and makes a perfect landing, celebrating with a woo-hoo that shows she learned about living in this century quickly. And her exclamation of “Oh fuck beans!” was particularly fun.
Unfortunately the action slows down in the middle as the story goes into a huge flashback to explain how she was built and her spirit came to inhabit the sex doll body. It also shows how Ivan became a ghost blob.
The authors must have thought that, in a story full of witches, animated dolls, and ghosts, nothing needed to make sense. Not true. And sadly it’s not nearly as funny as it hopes to be.
10 pages of covers and bonus.
2.5/5

Flash Gordon: Kings Cross
After a clever recap of past events via radio and movie trailers, the setting remains the movie theater as—is that The Phantom? Yes, twice; he’s got a redheaded sidekick now—they capture a poacher before heading off to Mandrake’s place to see what the next big crisis is. In the meantime Flash has to rescue Zarkov from some Russian goons. Then all they need is for Dale to show up so the plot can get moving, concerning tidal waves striking every coastline in the world.
Now that Dale’s become so serious, I like redhead Junior Phantom, so full of snark. Some of the best moments include:
“Close your eyes and think queenly thoughts.” “Really?” “Well, close your eyes, anyway.”
“Don’t apologize for loving me, darling.” Can’t believe Flash said that with a straight face.
Never expected to see Flash—or anyone—riding a giant bat.
This was not an easy slog; if it wasn’t for the humor I’m not sure I could have made it through. Got too silly in places.
15 pages of extras.
3/5

Great Divide
An apocalypse leaves the human race unable to touch each other and hearing the voices of those they killed, however accidentally. One survivor goes into a bar—it’s both a joke and it isn’t—and gets taken for a literal and figurative ride. From there it’s one survival test after another.
When I was halfway through I noted that I hadn’t found any point to this yet, as though the journey is the actual plot. I think the dog is the hero of this story, because the otherwise main character is best described here: “It’s hard to go more than a few hours without punching him in the face.”
The best line is “A big box of post-apocalypse puppies.” There’s a Star Wars reference that took me a moment to get. And I love that the biggest piece of currency is a Vampirella comic.
There’s also a dozen pages of exclusive digital content, starting with weblinks to music, coloring pages, an excerpt from a book written by one of the bad guys, and a collection of short stories. Then there’s variant covers and ads, especially for Army of Darkness, which was worth a good chuckle.
3/5

Infinite Seven V.1
Whenever someone gets kicked out of a plane, you always know a flashback is coming.
The basic plot of this story is: What happens when you kill an assassin? You get his job in the assassin squad, though you still have to go through virtual reality testing and the hazing of your fellow assassins, like the woman who shows plenty of bare midriff, even more cleavage, but has a mask over her face. She’s actually pretty intriguing, compared to the German who thinks he’s Ah-nold and names his gun Long Tall Sally.
The author didn’t do his research, or is stuck in the James Bond mode. These are not assassins, they’re mercenary soldiers. Assassins don’t get into firefights, trading quips along the way; they go in silently and take out their target without anyone finding out they were there until they’re gone.
Those making quick appearances include Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch edition), Bruce Lee, George Washington, Chuck Norris, Alien, Clint Eastwood, Chucky, and the bridge of the Enterprise.
There’s a cliffhanger, but it’s pretty ridiculous.
The plot is purposefully too outlandish to be believable, but that’s okay; the problem is in the details. As they say, fiction has to make sense, and there’s too much lazy writing here.
2/5

A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies
Instead of a good night story, a kid asks his dad about asteroids destroying the planet. Dad remembers a book a crazy relative gave them and checks it out before reading it aloud, a thoroughly smart move.
Though it masquerades as a children’s book, don’t you fall for it either. The looks the dad gives as he reads are priceless. Then, thoroughly scared, he hides in the most ironic place.
This author could teach a class on rhyming, especially with how badly it’s done in today’s music. Every letter gets a stanza, except Z, because zombies are so bad they need seven.
You need a particular brand of humor to enjoy this; I sure did.
4/5

Artful
The book that would nowadays be described as a spinoff of Oliver Twist gives pre-Victorian London a supernatural twist, as the one and only Dodger helps a woman he finds wandering the streets, which leads to much more than saving her from a territorial hooker.
For a non-streetwise lady who picked the wrong place to have a Roman Holiday, Trina sure figured out how to play him easily. Eventually she’s captured by vampires, led by Mr. Fang—really?—so the Artful one has to go save her again, for once sacrificing himself and his future prospects for the good of someone else.
So, turns out Fagin is a vampire. Okay. I suppose that explains a lot, as does what he eventually becomes. Van Helsing looks like he belongs on a ranch in Wyoming, not London. Besides, his son with the relevant name has a bigger part. Dracula wasn’t much of a villain here, used and then sunburned without much of a fight. But apparently vampires can use The Force.
“You’re the hero of this adventure.” Not much meta there.
As a sequel to Dickens, this falls far short. It’s an okay historical vampire story using characters mostly already created, but wouldn’t have been much different without them. It’s simply a literary shortcut. It’s too bad, for I’ve enjoyed this author’s Star Trek novels in the past.
2.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshots: Tunisia after Djerba

(The Story of Djerba is in a previous blog.)
The ferry back to the mainland took only twenty minutes and wasn’t at all crowded, like most ferries on this sea. A call yesterday had nabbed me a car and driver, who grinned for some reason when told our destination would be Matmata. Commonly known as a Berber troglodyte settlement—which makes it sound worse than it was, considering how elegantly decorated some of the caves were—it had been a port founded by the Phoenicians, full of temples, the forum, baths, and a market, the kind of historical site where I could spend hours photographing and playing archaeologist.
Which I did, of course, but that wasn’t the actual reason for being here. Lunch wasn’t usually a highlight in my itineraries, except when it took place in a famous movie locale, in this case the interior of the Skywalker home in the first Star Wars movie. {The propaganda said it was the home of Luke Skywalker’s parents, which I promptly called them on; the English-speaking tour guide rolled his eyes and said new brochures were on the way, from a different printing company, that said “Luke’s aunt and uncle” in large print. Don’t know if that was truth.}
Despite its formal name of Sidi Driss Hotel, it was known locally as the Star Wars hotel, for obvious reasons, considering all the visitors it received. Since I can never get used to spicy food, I brought along my own provisions, but pretended to eat up as the owner regaled me with stories about the filming of the first movie, particularly how everything had been returned to normal after shooting, because no one figured it would be such a gigantic smash, but lucking out in that the crews came back and restored it to shoot Attack of the Clones.
As soon as lunch was over I smiled to myself, ready to immerse my photographic soul into shooting every inch of this place. The exteriors of this set were pretty far away, and best left for last, but the Mos Eisley exteriors, especially the cantina, from the first movie were a lot closer, and somewhere in between was the castle from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And though it took a lot of slogging and I never had a chance to verify it was the right spot, the top of the dune where Luke watches the binary sunset was a bucket list moment.

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphically Cute Bugs and Tasty Dinosaurs

She crawled over to the big cat and cooed, “Here kitty kitty. . .”
The tiger turned to her with a look of “Girl, please.”

The Circle
Kid whose mom dies moves with dad to a new town. Depressed enough, he finds the new school so bad even something as simple as trying out for the basketball team gets him beat up. The castoffs are mean to him too, but he’s accepted, and he’ll take that. They go hang out in an abandoned mine shaft, and eventually it turns into an occult thing. Then it really gets horrible. His only hope is the scary old lady who lives upstairs.
In the end I ended up not liking this very much. It’s a mean story full of mean people without even an ounce of hope. And it ended without wrapping up the main plot point, especially now that everyone who could exonerate him is dead. I had to go listen to uplifting music for three hours to get rid of the sudden depression I felt from finishing this.
There’s a lot of sepia, which can be beautiful but in this case only makes everything look dull. The faces are all drawn to look sad; the main kid I can understand, but the rest. . .
2/5

X-O Manowar V.1: Soldier
This should have been subtitled, “They just keep pulling me back in. . .”
A seemingly immortal human with magic armor is tired of fighting and goes off to another planet, finds himself a woman, and tries to be a farmer, only to get forcibly drafted into the local war. When he not only survives being cannon fodder but achieves the mission’s objective, he gets sent on a suicide commando raid by a jealous superior.
I don’t know if it was brains or experience, but it’s easy to see how he survived the first battle. . . not that the battle was easy, of course. My other thought was that the visuals were a lot less bloody than usual for such scenes; not complaining, just noticing.
In the end I didn’t see much that was original here. Even the main character looks like a Viking berserker. And the introduction of his support team came too fast, all at once; had no idea who was who, and other than the woman it didn’t get any better during the raid.
The artwork frequently has the characters without pupils, and it’s creepy and disconcerting.
Unlike most collections, this one doesn’t include the whole story, so of course it ends in a cliffhanger.
2.5/5

Voracious V.2: Feeding Time
Right off the bat there’s a “previously.” Thank you!
Chef cooks up dinosaur meat, and it’s authentic, because he has a time machine to go hunt dinosaurs in the past. But now there’s a parallel universe involved where the dinosaurs became the top dog instead of the monkeys, just like in Harry Harrison’s West of Eden. The difference is that while that book actually did have dinosaurs developing their own society as would be expected through their reptilian biology, this is basically a human society, just with dinosaurs instead of mammals. Even the “gear up” scene, with the lead dino in a wifebeater/bulletproof vest cradling his big-ass weapon, is right from the human world. And they get drunk and go on rampages just like the mammals. But hey, they have flying cars. Thankfully they don’t speak the same language as humans; that would have been too much. (slight sarcasm)
This first part is told from the dinosaur point of view, especially the detective whose wife is missing and presumed eaten. . . I mean, never ever existed. The second takes place in Utah and then back in time. There’s enough of the present for me to ascertain that when she isn’t drunk and vomiting, girl-next-door Starlee (is she supposed to be Kaylee from Firefly?) is more attractive than just-another-Noo-Yawk blonde Jenna. {Boots > Heels.} There’s some truly funny stuff in here, such as the intro blurbs, like: {Warning: Contains a dinosaur getting some sweet sweet revenge!}
I know that Owen is crazed on said revenge, but it’s weird that he screams about saving the missing dinosaurs while he’s killed a few of the scientists to get to the gate. I do like how there’s no one truly evil in this story; the “bad” guys are accidental, through ignorance or “disease,” if that’s the word for it. But the dinosaur hoodie. . .
Nice quote from Ozymondius to end it.
The artwork is more than serviceable, with the bright colors taking center stage. There are three main settings—small town in Utah, Dino City, and way-in-the-past forest, and they all look great. Even better is the Native American flashbacks in the last issue. But seriously: did you have to write “Wink” right under the wink?
Each chapter has extras, like dinosaur recipes. Sounds yummy. Also behind-the-scenes stuff from the creators. Particularly interesting is one of the artists explaining why he’d never go back to working by hand now that he uses a computer. And at the very end there’s a page about those who Kickstartered enough to be drawn into the story, even as dinosaurs. Cute.
So, despite a few misgivings and plot points this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I look forward to the last part of the trilogy.
3.5/5

Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug and Cat Noir
Three stories from this animated TV show from France.
Story #1:
It’s the dreaded Valentine’s Day in Paris, and most of the characters can’t say I love you to the face of their crush, while the one who does gets crushed on the bridge of locks. . . then turns evil, making people fall out of love with the sling of an arrow.
If there’s a quibble, it’s in the fight scenes, which in two dimensions are confusing. And I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for having the villain actually say “Mwahaha!”
Story #2
The kids are filming a movie in class, but the lead heroine is scared of. . . well, everything and everyone, it seems. Perfect candidate to be made evil; too bad the ensuing monster wasn’t scary at all.
It’s funny how Marinette likes Adrien when he’s himself and loathes him as Cat Noir, even though they’re the same person. And he likes her as Lady Bug but doesn’t spare her a second look in her civilian guise.
#3
The father of one of the girls is a mime about to star in a big production, but his understudy blocks him, leaving him susceptible to the dark side. Have to admit, giving the bad guy the superpower of. . . mime was inspired.

Marinette is an awesome character. For a teen to be a superhero but unable to gloat about it, and always failing to get what she wants in the end, she takes things remarkably in stride, never losing her sense of humor or sweetness. Her big aquamarine eyes, which get even bigger when she’s joyful, perfectly offset the purple hair. Early on there’s a shot of her caught as she’s rooting through the trash, and the look she gives is priceless, worth the price of admission alone. She’s incredibly cute and usually doesn’t mind being teased, and is one of the most intriguing teen protagonists I’ve ever seen. Adrien manages to pull that off in no small way as well, even when his fame and wealth are added to it, though he becomes a bit of an arrogant jerk when he’s dressed feline.
The best parts of these stories are the humor and the way the friends have each other’s backs. My one pet peeve is in wondering: when the person in each story gets turned evil, how do they instinctively know their powers? Who told them they could suddenly fly or use their props to shoot lasers and such? But anyway, ignore those plot holes and just enjoy.
There are 225 pages for only three stories—including “Exclusive digital pages!”—which seems like a lot of work until I realized that these are screencaps from the TV show, with everything 3-D and bubbly.
BTW, I liked the first of these so much I went looking for the TV show, and found it on Netflix! It’s surprisingly accessible for adults. Can you say “binged?”
4/5

;o)