Gillian Reviews Train to Busan

Just watched this and I loved it. It’s about a father and daughter who are traveling on a train when a zombie outbreak happens in South Korea and zombies get on the train.

The little girl nails her scenes. The suspense and action are great. The film is centered on the two but addition character give it an ensemble feel. One of the main themes of the film is saving yourself vs saving others and I love how they played it out.

It is a South Korean film so subtitle reading is required but well worth it.

Rating 5/5

 

No More “Firsts”

Danica Roem is the first openly transgender state legislator in the USA. Not the first. Althea Garrison was the first transgender state state legislator in 1992.

It’s important to celebrate firsts. They show progress to, hopefully, a better country. I was going to say world but I think many places have beat the USA to many of the “firsts” we celebrate. By saying “this is the first time this has happened” we plant a flag in history but the USA has a bad history with planting flags where they don’t belong.

The new news article is the headline. Whole stories are condensed into a single sentence. Then as often happens with online media someone writes a new article off of the first. They can’t use the exact same headline so they change it. “First Openly Transgender State Legislator” becomes “First Transgender State Legislator” becomes “First Trans Person Elected Ever”.

It’s a game of telephone played by “journalists” and bloggers for sensational news. I see it happen every time a “First” is announced. “The First” is a story but maybe it shouldn’t be. Firsts are great but they aren’t and shouldn’t be the start and end of a story.

“Trans Woman Elected to State Legislator” is a rare enough event that it doesn’t need to be the first. This is news. This is history. This is what should be reported. Clear factual articles. Remember headlines are the new news articles.

“Firsts” are flag waving and we’ve had enough flag waving in the past year.

Gillian Reviews Star Trek Discovery ep 1&2

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Star Trek: Discovery ep1 or Star Trek: Shenzhou series finale part one

The opening credits are interesting. I like the mix of technical drawings and “strange new planets and new lifeforms” imagery.

As someone who grew up idolizing Spock and Data for their logical natures, I find Michael Burnham to be very interesting. Her logical nature overriding, but not eliminating, her emotions is what I had hoped to grow into as a child. She very obviously is not a human pretending to be a Vulcan but a human who was raised by Vulcans. Her overtly emotional response to the Klingons at first seemed in opposition to her “upbringing” but is fully in line with being a survivor of a Klingon attack as a child. Sarek even cautions her during their vip call to not let her past influence her decisions.

This first episode is very Burnham centric which makes sense because she is the main character but I don’t really feel like I got a read on any of the other characters. Except for Saru, Doug Jones’s character, the science officer. He is very good at sensing danger and death as we are reminded every time he speaks. Despite Burnham having served on the Shenzhou for seven years, I felt there was a sharp separation between her and the rest of the crew. I’ve stayed away from most spoilers but I know the Shenzhou does not survive episode two and Burnham is transferred to the Discovery. I don’t know if any other characters survive so this might just be to keep the audience from getting attached to temporary characters.

I don’t mind the new(old) look of the Klingons. Klingon history and government was not offered as an elective at my high school but there’s enough exposition to keep the plot running without bogging down the story. I do like the idea of the different “races” of Klingons.

Star Trek: Shenzhou series finale part two

In this episode, we get a glimpse of Burnham seven years ago when she joined the Shenzhou crew. I’m a little confused about how some one who trained at the Vulcan Learning Center and Vulcan Science Academy just joins a Starfleet crew. Maybe they transferred her credits. Anyway we see her Vulcan upbringing did take quiet well but she has loosened up a bit in the last seven years.

Surprise, Burnham is carrying part of Sarek’s soul with her that lets them mind meld over light years and it’s never come up in the past seven years or anytime before that. This would have been a great season one reveal during Star Trek: Shenzhou.

Starfleet is thoroughly established as non-violent which I like.

I was not expecting the ending with Burnhan being court martial-ed and sentenced to life imprisonment. It’s going to be interesting to see how they justify making her first officer of the Discovery. I knew “something” happened, the Shenzhou was destroyed, and she ended up on the Discovery. I didn’t expect that “something” to be her committing mutiny.

Previous series and movies have kind of played a little loose with enforcing Starfleet regulations. As long as the hero saved the day any transgressions were swept under the rug or punished with a slap on the wrist. For example, Kirk and co. stole the Enterprise and blew it up during The Search for Spock and were punished in The Voyage Home by being assigned to the new Enterprise.

These two episodes are well crafted and fun to watch but I’m worried about how the rest of the season will(or won’t) flow with them. They set up a lot of Burnham’s character and the state of Klingon/Starfleet relations but I feel like that could have been revealed in episodes set on Discovery. The series is named after the Discovery so it seems like an odd choice to the start the story before the main character reaches the ship. I’m not saying I don’t like these episodes. Maybe it was important for us the audience to see the Shenzhou’s last mission before getting to Discovery. I will be watching the rest of the series.

Rating 4.5/5

Getting My ID

So, a couple of years ago my driver’s license expired. I put off renewing it because I’m just bad at taking care of things like this. The previous time it expired I was able to renew online but when it expired this last time I had to go into the DMV to renew it. Today I went to get an ID card because I haven’t owned a car in more than nine or ten years so I don’t see the need to have a driver’s license.

I took the bus for the first time in a while. I rarely go further than my job or the superstore where I shop, both of which are within walking distance of my home. It was weirdly nostalgic to ride past almost every place I’ve lived in the last fifteen years.

Because it has been more than two years since it expired, I needed my birth certificate and other documents to prove my identity. To get a birth certificate you need to show your DL or ID but you can use other documents to prove your identity as well.

I honestly thought today was going to be a struggle to get my documents because I’m trans and haven’t changed my name or gender marker. I don’t pass perfectly but generally I get treated as a woman. Having average looks helps sometimes. Also I don’t have like guy clothes anymore so I couldn’t try guy drag. I have some polo shirts but no pants. I gave up on pants a couple of years ago. Skirts are just more comfortable, cooler on hot days, and can be layered on cold days.

Anyway, all my worrying turned out to be for nothing. I got my birth certificate with no problems. At the DMV, the woman didn’t comment about anything. I didn’t get misgendered at either place. I don’t think either of the women I talked to used a honorific at all which I don’t mind but is a little odd for Texas.

Gillian Reviews Dreadnought by April Daniels

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Dreadnought by April Daniels is awesome. It’s about a trans girl superhero and it’s written by a trans woman.

The first chapter and a few others made me cry; it hits on a lot of things I felt as a closeted trans teenager.  April Daniels does not pull any punches about what it would be like to live with an abusive transphobic father. I didn’t have to deal with that myself because I came out a little later in life but some things still ring true. Like the way he says “son” and “boy” when we meetup. The quiet wishing that he would just accept me for who I am.

The superhero part of the story is funny and action packed but also real about how messed up being a superhero would be. It reminds me somewhat of “Soon I Will Be Invincible” by Austin Grossman on that front.

It’s a good book that hit me hard in the emotions. Be warned that it doesn’t shy away from the trauma trans girls live with.  Goddess, I want this to be a movie just to hear Danielle’s last line said out loud, “I’m transgender, and a lesbian, and I’m not ashamed of that.”

The sequel just came out today so I have another book to read right now.  Both books are available on Amazon in paperback and kindle formats.

Rating: 5/5

“Love and Comets” and Other Stories Ebook

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My first collection of stories from my website is available on my Gumroad Store for the low price of $1.99.  It contains forty stories I published on my website in 2016.  Stories include:

  • “Love and Comets” – a slice of life space adventure featuring a trans woman
  • “What’s the Last Thing You remember?” – Just a normal story about a woman having her memories uploading into a clone after her death
  • “Our Ghosts” – a poem about space and ghost stories
  • “Watchtower at the End of the World” – post-apocaliptic fantasy story about a small group of people surviving
  • “How Long is Forever?” – a poem about an immortal pondering her life
  • “Hidden Trees” – a surreal story about hidden spaces
  • “The Day is Hot” – a story about an encounter I had on a hot day
  • and many more…

The first twenty five people who use the code “firstbuyers” get it free.

Gillian Reviews Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a brilliant sequel.  The first movie, of course, had to be an origin movie introducing not only several new characters but also the cosmic space setting.  It was a colorful action packed funny and at times moving (“We are Groot.”) film.  If it could be said to be lacking anything it was depth to the characters and their relationships.

This is where Vol. 2 shines.  Did you want to know about Gamora and Nebula’s relationship?  Did the reveal that Peter’s father is something unknown perk your interest?  What about Yondu and the Ravagers keeping Peter from his father?  Vol. 2 pick up these threads and runs with them.  Every main character gets some time to breath and become more fully realized.

While this movie doesn’t directly involve Thanos or the infinity stones, I definitely feel the strings starting to come together for the Infinity War.  One mid-credit scene promises to tie almost directly into it.

Stan Lee’s cameo and mid-credit scene are great.

I saw the movie in 2d and thought it looked marvelous.  I definitely noticed some shots that seemed made to play up the 3d but they weren’t too annoying.  I am almost tempted to see it again in 3d.  Bottom line I loved this movie and will probably be going to see it again 3d or not.

Rating 5/5

Spoilerish musings below. Continue reading

Tale of Two Trailers

Two trailers for two media properties I’m interested in were released recently: The Dark Tower movie and The Defenders.

Watch The Dark Tower trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjwfqXTebIY

Watch The Defenders trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h3m7B4v6Zc

I have mixed feelings about both.  Let’s start with The Dark Tower.

Now, I’ve read all the original books at least once.  Stephen King wrote another book after he “ended” the series that is an interquel that I haven’t read.

I honestly don’t pay a lot of attention to movie set pictures or read speculation about the story of things I’m interested in.  I like to see one trailer and then see the thing.  So, I’ve seen Idris Elba in costume, I don’t know how many months ago, and that’s all.  I’m also aware that the movie is technically a sequel to the books but I wasn’t prepared for how far the story would bend from the books.  It looks like a combination of the first and third books but a couple of major characters are missing.

I would have liked to see a seven or six movie series since the fourth book is largely a flashback to Roland’s youth.  But I can see how hard it would have been to make such a series profitable.  After giving myself a little time to let the implications of this movie as a continuation of the books sink in, I feel more at ease with the apparent story choices that have been made.  Ka is a wheel, after all.  We won’t know for sure how it pans out until the movie is released on August 4.

Now The Defenders.  First some positives.  Yay to Misty Knight returning!  Yay to the return of Matt’s scarf mask!  Yay to Jessica’s snark!  Yay to Luke Cage’s reaction to Danny!  Yay to Iron Fist getting a haircut!  Yay to seeing these superheroes all together!

Now my concerns.  Mostly, I’m not happy about The Hand being the apparent big bad that they all have to band together to defeat.  I was talking to my roommate the other day about how I didn’t really like that Iron Fist was fighting The Hand in his series.  The Hand was introduced as Daredevil’s villain so I feel like it should be dealt with in his series.  I get that The Hand is a city-wide threat and it makes sense for them to all fight it but that could have happened in the Daredevil show via a series of guest appearances. The Defenders, I feel, should be about them facing something none of them have encountered before with Claire being the one to bring them together.

Also, I’m feeling like Daredevil season three is going to spin out of The Defenders which means it won’t make sense to watch season two and three back to back in the future.  This is just like in mega crossover comic events where the last page of a comic tells you to read a completely different comic to continue the story.  TV shows, like the CSIs or Buffy and Angel, occasionally have done this but only with one episode.  To have an entire season of the story from one show in another show is unheard of.

But, like with The Dark Tower, all we have is a two-minute trailer so we won’t really know the story until the show comes out on August 18.

 

Boom Mics and Movie Mistakes

So back in 1999 I saw the Sixth Sense in the theater and thought it was great except for the boom mic popping in at the top.  Later when I saw it on vhs the boom mic was gone.  I never gave it much thought.  At most I thought when movie had been cropped into the full screen version they had cropped those scenes in a little more.

Last night I was listening to episode #289 of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, in which one of the brothers talks about how he saw one of the Night at the Museum movies and the boom mics where clearly visible.  The other brothers mock him for suggesting such a high budget movie would allow boom mics to appear in the frame.  In the next episode they mention they got some emails explaining that movies don’t come pre-framed and it’s up to the theater to “letterbox” the movie correctly.

This practice is also the result of many movie mistakes wherein something that should be just offscreen is made visible by bad framing either in the theater or when transferred to vhs or dvd.  For instance, in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure the gag of him pulling out an absurdly long chain is ruined by bad framing showing the chain entering the bottom of the container.

It boggles my mind that filmmakers would leave it up to thousands random people to make sure their movies were shown correctly.  Like I wouldn’t publish a book and tell the readers, “Don’t read the paragraphs at the top and the bottom of the pages.  They’re not part of the text.”  I would guess there are mechanical reasons that the physical frame of film has to be a certain height and width to work with existing projectors but I don’t understand why the “letterboxing” wouldn’t be applied to the film before copying it and sending it out to  the theaters.

Gillian Reviews “Dimension 404”

Dimension 404 is a six episode scifi anthology series by Rocket Jump airing on Hulu.

Ok, so this isn’t the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.  The show is more akin to Black Mirror but with a lot less depressing consequences.  Its episodes are centered around modern tech culture and pop culture with a scifi wrench thrown into the machine.

I’m going to be honest the first two episodes felt mostly average.  Rocket Jump has made a lot of really smart and cutting edge shorts.  I just didn’t feel these first two episodes live up to what I know Rocket Jump can produce.  Even Patton Oswalt doesn’t elevate the second episode, Cinethrax, above good.  From Wikipedia, I can see the first two episodes had several people working on the story and writing the episodes.  The rest of the series has just one writer per episode.  It looks like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen on those first two episodes.

The third episode,Chronos, is absolutely fabulous.  A procrastinating physics student discovers that her favorite ’90 cartoon seems to have been erased.  And then the main character from said cartoon appears in real life leading to an adventure through time.  The writing of this episode is really good which can be be hard when time travel is involved.

The fourth episode Polybius is based on the creepy pasta about a video game cabinet from the ’80s of the same name that had some unusual effects on players.  It’s set in the ’80s, the one episode not based in modern times.  Another solid story but it does lean on the video game tropes a little hard.

The fifth episode, Bob, is tied with the third as my favorite.  An Army psychologist about to head home for Christmas is tasked by the NSA to help the giant brain they’ve hooked into the internet with some performance issues.  I especially love this episode because Jane the psychologist is shown talking to her wife and daughter at the beginning and no one ever says anything about it.  There’s never a scene where she gets mistaken for straight.  Also, I love how much diversity there is in this episode.  Jane is played by Constance Wu.  The NSA agent who picks her up is a woman, going by her actress’s nationality she’s Chilean.  The Director of the NSA black site is a white woman and the technician who tends to Bob is black, played by Malcolm Barrett who also plays Rufus on Timeless(another show I love).  The only white man of note, in this episode, is the terrorist Bob is trying to track down.

I really like this series and hope they continue it. There’s one more episode left in the series to air on April, 25, on Hulu.

Rating 4/5