Category: Things To Watch

Netflix review: GLOW Season 2

Last year I reviewed GLOW season 1, so natural next step: review GLOW season 2. This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched season 2 yet and you care about that sort of thing, come back and read this later. The 30 minute episodes make GLOW super bingeable so it’s pretty easy to cruise though the entire second season.

GLOW season 2 picks up with the ladies returning to work, trying to exhibit a little more ownership over their roles. For Ruth and Debbie this means trying to take on new roles on the other side of the camera, and for the other women, it’s exploring their characters and relationships more. As I mentioned in my season 1 review, it’s the side characters of GLOW who really hold my heart. And while the incredibly complex relationship between Debbie and Ruth continues to be a central-ish plot point, each of the other ladies (and Bash) also get their chance to shine. They are no longer “the one who dresses as a wolf” or “the British woman.” Instead we get a deeper look at these women in terms of what drives, motivates, and in some cases, transforms them.

This is important not just in terms of giving the diverse cast opportunities, but because for me, the relationship between Debbie and Ruth doesn’t have much of an arc and therefore, neither do their characters. At best, you watch them go from friends to enemies to begrudging co-workers, neither overly likable, despite the fact that outside the ring Ruth is often set up as hero of sorts whereas Debbie remains aloof and purposely removed, at times casting herself as a villain. These roles being the opposite of their wresting characters still isn’t really interesting enough to make up for the fact that Debbie and Ruth seem more like the anchors for the ensemble than anything else. More than anything, they provide a static touch point rather than any dynamic catalyst.

Another focus of this season is how these women operate in the space that has now been made for them. In season 1 we see them fighting for their place, trying to get a foot in the door, even if that means playing up to 80’s stereotypes of race and gender. In season 2 you get the sense that now that there is a bit more stability in their wrestling shows (they have fans and everything), many of the characters are exploring that space and are trying to take ownership of it. One of the more interesting arcs is Beirut’s. While she accepted her character in the beginning, her real desire is to shed the guise of a terrorist and rise again as her truer self, a phoenix. This, in parallel with the exploration of her sexuality make her character the one who has perhaps gone through the most transformation.

It’s so rare to get a show with such a large female ensemble cast, let alone one where the focus is on the internal relationships of the character themselves, rather than an outside male influence. As much fun as watching the evolution of the wrestling was, what really held my heart in GLOW was watching the evolution of the friendships and the formation of the family.

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My Top Ten Steven Universe Episodes

I have been trying for ages to write about my love of Steven Universe. I’ll happily go on at length about the show and my feelings about it in person, but getting it all down in writing seems more elusive. I think it”s a sign of just how good the show is and how much I love it that my attempts to get it all down come off as a messy jumble of feelings and details that never really gets to the heart of what makes the show so good.

So instead of describing the entire show and my love for it, I’m taking on the still difficult but more manageable task of listing my favorite episodes. To give you an idea of how tough this is, I started out writing about my five favorite episodes and quickly discovered I couldn’t do less than ten. But, unlike an overview of the whole series, it gives me a narrower window to look at the series and my feelings about it through.

Like any such list, this one is totally subjective and reflects my opinions of the moment. Your list is almost certainly different. Next week, my list may be different. Heck, it may be different tomorrow or an hour from now. Discussion is welcome and encouraged. Continue reading

The Vision and a Series of Unfortunate Events

Hope you are all enjoying the summer and staying cool. In previous posts, we have discussed some podcasts and books that we have been into lately. My current summertime media consumption has included reading The Vision and watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So why am I talking about these two things together? Besides being the things I have most recently read/watched, they both employ a style of narrative storytelling that warns you what’s coming. Rather than dampening the story, these breadcrumbs lead you through the drama and guide you into darker elements without even coming close to diminishing the gut punch or (especially in the case of The Vision) some truly difficult emotional moments. The story remains compelling despite what could be termed as spoilers built right in.

Of the two, A Series of Unfortunate Events (SoUE) is clearly the lighter fare, geared for ages…well I would say 8 and up, but you know your kid. These stories were first a book series and then a Netflix series. The story follows the Baudelaire children as they are orphaned and then repeatedly terrorized by Count Olaf, a villain obsessed with getting his hands on the fortune the oldest daughter will inherit when she is of age. While I stopped reading the books after about 3 (there are 13 in the series), the Netflix series manages to stave off some of the repetition with a very strong cast and interesting stylized visuals. The most fun part of the series is Patrick Warburton who plays author and narrator Lemony Snicket. Snicket, with a dry gravitas that Warburton is just perfect for, tells you right off the bat what you are in for. And what you’re in for is horrible people treating some innocent kids horribly. Anyone around them is also pulled into the horribleness -horribleness that is largely orchestrated by Count Olaf. The narration acts as a teaser, breaking the fourth wall to remind viewers of the drama they are watching play out, reminding them that they are watching a show that is literally telling you it’s a series of unfortunate events. And yet, you still think and hope things might go the Baudelaires’ way.  But don’t hope, because they don’t. But still, I found myself moaning and groaning and hoping maybe, just this time, things would be okay, even as Patrick Warburton’s dulcet tones continuously told me they wouldn’t.

The Vision is a 12-issue comic series by Tom King. It’s available in two trades, so do yourself a favor and just buy them both because if you start this series, you are going to want to finish it.  

This story uses a similar narrative device to the one used in A Series of Unfortunate Events, SoUE is largely comical in its misery, The Vision is too real. An unseen narrator tells us that Vision decided to create a family. They move to a suburban neighborhood in the Washington DC area and try to fit in. This never happens. Instead, the Visions exist in a limbo, not quite human, not quite synthezoid. Sometimes they go through the motions, acting as they think humans should. Other times they are perhaps too human, unwittingly falling into the perils of violence, mania, and love. The villain in this story is largely unseen and debatable. Is it life? Ultron? Vision himself? Despite this story not having a mustache-twirling antagonist like SoUE, you know in the first few pages that this experiment in family won’t end well. Over 12 issues, we watch the pieces fall and shatter on the floor. Knowing this is coming doesn’t make this story any less compelling. Instead, it’s a study of an unraveling of a dream – its own series of unfortunate events, and we are never lead to believe it will be anything but that.

So, a similar narrative device, but 2 different stories in tone and weight. I would recommend them both but maybe have some tissues available when you read The Vision.

Summer Reading 2018 – Mixing It Up

For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
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Comics Characters You Should Get To Know: Thanos

This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.

Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading

Kickass Fictional Ladies: Ruby and Kelly from Ash Vs Evil Dead

I’m perfectly fine admitting that I never thought that I would be writing this post. I was never a huge fan of the Evil Dead films and as a person who has seen many of her favorite intellectual properties canceled or rebooted with less than stellar results, the absolutely perfect Ash Vs Evil Dead series kinda annoyed me.  The tone is spot on, the horror elements are both unique and hilarious, and Ash is the same kind of person he’s always been. This series is proof that reboots can be done, and done well… And almost as if to add insult to injury, Ash Vs Evil Dead accomplishes the very thing that the previous films lacked – interesting and capable female characters.

What? An article arguing that Ash Vs Evil Dead is feminist and contains not one but two notably kickass female characters? Indeed. So here we go.

 

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Image: STARZ

 

 

For those of you not as familiar with the show, when we first meet Ruby Knowby (played by the suspiciously ageless Lucy Lawless) she claims to the be the daughter of Raymond Knowby – the professor in the Evil Dead films who discovers the Necromonicon and Kandarian dagger. I don’t think I would be spoiling too much to say that Ruby’s history is much more, um historical? complicated? spooky? than that.

What makes Ruby a great character is that she’s smart. Smart enough to connect herself to Ash’s past and insert herself into this life. She’s also smart enough to adjust her plans to the circumstances around her. You almost feel shocked when an idiot like Ash gets the better of her, but I think that’s the point. It’s engaging because Ruby is formidable and interesting in her own way. She gets annoyed at Ash but always manages to keep her goal in sight. A well-written villain (and acted – Lucy Lawless is GREAT!) is one that you’re excited to see, love to hate, but also find appealing on some level…even when you know you shouldn’t. Ruby is one of those villains. Oh, and she’s a woman. Well done, TV show.

 

Ash vs. Evil Dead Key Art and Marketing Shoot 2015

Ruby, Image: STARZ

 

The other awesome female character in this show is Ash Williams’ friend/teammate Kelly Maxwell. In many ways, Kelly starts off as a basic “strong female character.” She puts Ash in his place when he tries to flirt with her and is basically angry all the time and bitterly sarcastic. In a lot of shows, this would have ticked off all the boxes for their required strong female elements, but over the seasons of the show, Kelly has proven to be more than that. Her attitude is linked to her life and past rather than just it just being a personality trait. Better yet, she even becomes more comfortable showing other parts of her personality including extreme loyalty to her friends and loved ones.

 

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Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

Kelly becomes even more interesting as a character when you compare her with her counterpart on Ash’s team, Pablo Simon Bolivar. Rather than just having Kelly fill in what may be considered the more feminine role on the team, most of that role sits comfortably with Pablo. Kelly is the one who takes to fighting more naturally and it’s Kelly who formulates a lot of strategy and planning. Additionally, when it comes for the group to take a break, Kelly is the one who grows restless with no demons to battle while Pablo is perfectly content to stay in town with Ash to both support him and set up a food cart. Pablo is the one serving as the emotional heart and team cheerleader. Best of all, it isn’t a bad thing and he still is a force to be reckoned with on his own.

 

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Pablo and Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

I personally find it very exciting to find awesome ladies in surprising places. Ash Vs Evil Dead proves that you can not only reboot an older male-focused property but also update the story to include more women characters who serve as much more than plot devices. There are rumors that the third season of this show could very well be the last, so if you’re a fan of kickass ladies and inventive horror action sequences, you should be getting your hands on this in hopes that the series might continue a bit longer. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. I certainly was.

 

 

Ready, Player One?

Hey all – Today we bring you a guest post from Honorary Lady, The Goog. He went to see Ready Player One this weekend, and since Tiny Doom opted out on this one, we asked him to share his thoughts. Ready? Go…

This is going to be heavily laden with spoilers about the plot (or lack thereof), and less spoilery about the movies easter eggs.

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Hello internet, it’s The Goog, aka Castle Thunder Graphics, aka Dan and I enjoyed Ready Player One.

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I’m Mario, Donkey Kong is the Internet, the barrels are opinions.

 …okay, I see some of you are still here, so let’s chat.
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What Women Want – is Action Movies.

Recently, I came across an article on Women and Hollywood regarding a survey Fandango did that looked at women’s movie-going habits. Women have often been an untapped market in both movies and comics. “The industry” often claims it knows what sells to which market, namely action movies for boys and romantic comedies for girls. This data thankfully pokes holes in that theory.

Some data highlights:

  • The majority of women surveyed chose action movies (with 22% of the vote) as their favorite movie genre, while only 9% chose romance or romantic comedy as their favorite genre.
  • 82% are more inclined to see a movie with dynamic female characters.
  • 75% prefer to watch movies with diverse casts
  • 77% contend that female characters are often stereotyped in blockbusters.
  • 75% would like to see more female ensembles in the movies.
  • 62% feel that women are not equally represented in big screen roles.

This survey highlights some of what we ladies have known all along. We love action movies or a good Hollywood blockbuster. We also want more of them with diverse casts, especially female-led ones. We want to be able to see ourselves in these female characters. That means well-developed characters, complete with flaws, who are not fridged or victimized. Bonus points for not filtering that character though the male gaze.

The recent success of movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther hopefully drives home the points from this survey as movie-goers vote with their feet and wallets. There have also been earlier films that paved the way and gave action movie loving women something either enjoy and inspiration to future film makers.  I’ve always loved these types of movies, so here are some of my favorites.

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True Lady Confessions: I Love Musicals, Even the “Bad” Stuff

Quick Note: Hey everyone! We ladies so enjoyed working together on our themed posts last month that we decided to choose a theme for this month as well. We’re taking a cue from Valentine’s Day and writing about love in all its splendid and sordid forms.

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I suppose we should get into the Way-Back Machine this month to talk about where my corny romantic soul really discovered love for the first time – musicals.

In fear of aging myself, I can tell you that I remember when my father came home with a VCR for the first time. In his hands, two videos: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and the MGM classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. And now, over 30 years later, these remain two of my favorite movies. And you guessed it, they’re both musicals.

It isn’t surprising that a young Smalerie would lose her mind over a Disney movie – especially one that’s so darn pretty to look at. What is slightly more uncommon was that I would also become OBSESSED with musicals. I would watch whichever ones I could get my hands on, spending way too much time during my teen years trying to explain the difference between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire’s dance styles, and begging my parents to gift me with Show of the Month Club tickets. Back in those days, my taste wasn’t as discerning as it is now and I’ve lost my taste for most Rogers and Hammerstein, but that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t still swell when a character spontaneously breaks into song.

I often find it hard to explain to people why my love for this genre is so ingrained in my system. I think it has to do with how music is linked to our emotions. Things that can be hard to express in just words can now be done with music, movement or dance, and words.  Feelings (good and bad) are exaggerated and heightened in a way that can often feel so much more genuine that we expect. Almost as if music helps distill them to their very essence. Sure, some musicals are simple and can feel trite or silly, but others can capture a culture or moment in time. Look, not every musical out there is any good, but if you’re open to perhaps making a new discovery, I’d be happy to point you in a toe-tapping kinda direction.

3 Musicals for People Who Might Not Like Musicals:

Little Shop of Horrors – I feel as if this musical is practically perfect in every way. It’s funny, dark, and filled with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. There’s also a lot to see in this show whether you just stick to the movie or see it live just because you want to see how they pull off the plant. This show is the reason why I loved Alan Menken and Howard Ashman before they left for the fluorescent lights of Disney. And I will always love Little Shop, original disaster ending or happy Hollywood one.
See also: Avenue Q, Bat Boy: The Musical, The Book of Mormon


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (TV Series)
– A masterclass on the human condition, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is hilarious but often almost painful to watch due to its accuracy on how people treat others and themselves. I think what makes this show work is that it can often be easier to sing about your issues than actually confront them. Songs are used as internal monologues, highlight particular emotional arcs in the story, and can just be so honest and funny. People who don’t like musicals might enjoy watching this show just for how clever it is.
See also: Garfunkel and Oates (TV Show), Heathers: The Musical

 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – A great rock show that’s funny, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. The film version is great, but this is one of those shows that I would love to see live at some point. The main character talks directly to the audience and in the right venue, that’s a great opportunity for the performance to feel personal and intimate. I can’t remember how I even heard about Hedwig originally, but I do remember being so charmed by the music.
See also: Tommy, Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror (Picture) Show

 

When Less is More: A Tale of Two Bats

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The animated and live action Flying Graysons. Copyright Warner Bros.

Author’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on my old site, The Ink and Pixel Club.

Comparing two works based on the same source material can lead to interesting discoveries.  Seeing how the same story is handled can reveal the differences in the filmmakers and their approaches to their craft.  If can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different media.  Or, as with the two works we’re going to look at today, it can reveal a much broader concept, like the positive side of limitations.

Batman is an ideal subject for this kind of comparison.  DC’s dark knight has been repeatedly reinterpreted for different media, different audiences, and different times.  Yet in nearly every new version, a few key elements remain the same, keeping the result recognizably Batman.  The part of the Batman mythos that we’ll be examining today is the death of the Graysons, a key moment in the origin of Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

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