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

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.

 

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

Gillian Reviews Predestination

My roommate and I watched Predestination, a movie based on the short story “-All You Zombies-” by Robert A. Heinlein.

When I first heard of this movie and what it was based on, I was interested in seeing it.  The one trailer I saw made the movie look action heavy and was focused on the Fizzle Bomber who isn’t a character in the short story. I assumed the filmmakers had taken the basic idea and changed almost everything else.  The movie is actually very faithful to the short story and expands it without rewriting it into a different story. The Fizzle Bomber plotline shows up mostly at the beginning and end and a few scenes in the middle but it doesn’t overwhelm the story like I thought it would.

Even going into the movie basically knowing the entire story, I still really enjoyed it. If you like smart time travel movies, then you will probably like this movie.

Rating 5/5

Cloverfield – Review

Ok, so I’m only like nine years late with watching this move but 10 Cloverfield Lane is on Hulu so I thought I’d watch Cloverfield before watching the “sequel”.

For starters, it has been a while since shaky cam has given me a headache, so long in fact that I almost didn’t realize why my head started hurting.  I don’t know if newer movies have “fixed” this problem but it hasn’t been an issue for me for some time.  Or maybe I just haven’t been watching movies with a lot of shaky cam.

Beyond the movie causing me actual physical pain, I was also in mental pain watching this so called found footage movie.  Most found footage movies have a reason that the cameraman keeps filming.  They’re making a documentary or they’re a journalist or they’re trying to document something specific.  Hud, our cameraman, starts filming a party and when the giant monster attacks the city he just keeps filming.  Not a bad premise but he films everything.  He films when they’re walking along the subway lines, when they’re just standing around talking, when his friends are pushing against a door to keep out the little monsters; he just keeps filming.  There are so many times when he should be using two hands to do something and he just keeps filming.

And once he’s dead you would think that would be the end of the tape.  Nope cause then his friend picks up the camera from his dead body and starts filming everything.  He films himself and his girlfriend huddling under a bridge.  In that scene he has to be holding the camera up at eye level.  Why?  Why would he do that?

Another problem I had with the movie is near the end after they have rescued Beth from her building, where she was impaled on some rebar, And everyone starts running toward the military.  Everyone is faster than Hud.  Even the woman who was impaled through the chest can run faster than the cameraman.  How is that possible?  I understand it’s so the filmmakers can have a shot of everyone running to the military but come on.

I’ll admit the monster looked cool and when it was on screen smashing stuff the movie was enjoyable but these moments were short and fleeting.

So overall: shaky cam bad, cameraman motivation bad, monster cool.

Rating: 1/5

Review – Arrival

Twelve alien ships appear around the world.  Louise Banks, a linguist, is brought by the army to one of the ships and attempts to communicate with the aliens.

I watched this movie last night and I am blown away. I love stories that play with the audience’s perceptions or preconceptions.  I really can’t say more without spoiling the movie.

Rating: 5/5

Batman v Superman Review and Reaction Post

I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  I know it’s old news and I’ve missed the boat to write anything original about this movie but I thought it would be fun to write down my reactions as I watched the movie.  I am going to preface my reactions with a short review.

I’m tore about whether I like this movie or not.  Superman is a weird Christ-like figure who is conflicted about being a Christ-like figure but doesn’t do anything to dispel that image of himself to the public.  His mother tells him he’s can be the hero or not because he doesn’t owe people anything.  A message that pairs nicely with the lesson his father tried to teach him last movie about letting kids drown in a bus to protect his secret.

As much as I hated Superman in this movie, I loved Batman just as much.  Batman is shown to be the urban legend, almost supernatural being, and the World’s Greatest Detective.  Alfred is a joy to watch interacting with him.  This is the best Batman I have ever seen, not counting Batman the Animated Series.  It’s very obvious that this was meant to be Batman’s movie and if Superman’s characterization had not been broody angst man, it would have been a truly excellent movie.  As it is, Superman brings down the movie to just good enough.

Rating: 5/5 for Batman and 1/5 for Superman.  Wonder Woman gets a 3/5 for showing up.

And now for my reactions: (beware of spoilers beyond this point) Continue reading

Quick Movie Reviews

Terminator: Genisys

I had very low hopes for this movie after Terminator: Salvation but this movie has resurrected the series for me.  Salvation was a slog through a plot that didn’t really matter since we already knew about the human looking terminators and that Skynet would be defeated someday.  Genisys takes the story back to what was good about the first two movies: traveling through time to kill Sarah Conner.  It doubles down on that by introducing two more plots to kill her and a guardian terminator called Pops.  What could have been a confusing mess is handled well enough to be fun action movie.  Rating 4/5

American Ultra

This movie was much more violent than the trailer led me to believe.  I expected a bumbling stoner clerk with “super spy” abilities.  What I got was closer to Kill Bill than Clerks.  Still not a bad movie.  Story runs on over the top action but still delivers some comedy and drama. I really liked the dynamic between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.  Rating 3.5/5

Interstellar

This movie is a hard science fiction movie in the same vein as 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a bit more action.  Set in a future, year unknown, that doesn’t look too different from our own a man stumbles into a secret NASA project to find a new home for humanity in a distant galaxy.  I like that movie is almost purely driven by science.  The NASA robots were a surprise.  They look like the monolith from 2001 but coated in polished aluminum, with two small monitors for a “face” and very human sounding voices.  Completely nonhuman looking but still very humanized.  Rating 4/5

Brief Review of Timeless

So, do you remember the Quantum Leap episode where Sam encounters an evil leaper and has to set right what they put wrong?  Well, Timeless is basically that episode as a series but better.

Timeless is a new series on NBC about a team of three, a historian, a soldier, and the time machine’s pilot, who go back in time to prevent an anit-American terrorist from changing America’s history in a stolen time machine.  Don’t worry there’s no Islamophobia in this show.  The terrorist leader, Garcia Flynn, has his own as yet unknown reasons for wanting to change the past but they seem to be tied to the historian of the good guys and main character, Lucy Preston.  Flynn has a notebook that has Lucy’s handwriting in it, which he claims she hasn’t written yet but will one day.

The other members of the are Wyatt Logan, a soldier chosen by Homeland Security, and Rufus Carlin, the time machine’s pilot and the black man of the team.  Wyatt has a dead wife in his backstory which he wants to save now that he has a chance but he is also a dedicated soldier.  Rufus is an employee of the company that built both the stolen time machine and the prototype they use to try to stop Flynn.  He was actually very reluctant to be the pilot not only because of the danger of time travel but also because he is black.  He says one of the best lines to his boss, “Also, I don’t know how it works across the pond, but I am black. There is literally no place in American history that would be awesome for me.”  There’s something shadowy going on with his boss but it’s not clear how much Flynn knows.

This show has a nuanced take on time travel or rather the results of time travel.  In many shows it’s common for history to be almost immutable, resisting changes with almost comical deus ex machinas.  Or history is a delicate jenga tower, pull the wrong block out and it all comes crashing down(until you put it back exactly like it was before).  In Timeless the characters act like history is the jenga tower but if they keep things mostly in place history goes on like nothing has happened.  Well, almost like nothing happened.  The main characters involvement, if significant, do become a part of history and can have effects that are unpredictable, like having a school named after your alias or changing someone’s family tree.

At this point I’ve only seen the first three episodes.  The first two were really good with trips to the Hindenburg crash and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  The third one didn’t have a specific event tied to it but was still a good episode.  Overall I’d say give the first episode a watch.  I know there are like two other time travel shows starting soon but this one feels like a home run.