As the Ladies resident (but not only) lover of spooky things, I wanted to share three things I am doing to get in the spirit for what is my highest holiday – Halloween!
I’ve only recently started listening to Darkest Night having learning about it via Deadly Manners. We’ve mentioned some spooky podcasts before and there are lots of them out there, but this one really distinguishes itself though the sound design. As you are told in the intro, this podcast really is best experienced with headphones, but beware…the experience can become quite immersive. No joke, the other morning I was listening to an episode while walking to work and I literally leapt across the sidewalk because I forgot the sounds were only in my ears.
Darkest Night is a story based podcast that follows Project Cyclops, an experiment where severed heads are sent to a lab for a process that draws the blood from a victim’s optic nerve so the moments before their death can be experienced and documented….but is that all that’s really going on here?
Rating: 4 out of 5 severed heads
Whooo boy, we finished this over the weekend and what an emotional roller coaster. This Netflix show whips you from fear, to sorrow, to anger as it pairs terrifying images with the equally terrifying human condition. The Haunting of Hill House is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel and a love-letter to the 1963 film The Haunting (also based on Shirley Jackson’s novel). Like all good horror, it’s not just about ghosts or murder. HoHH looks at trauma, obsession, and grief and how the lasting impacts can follow you through life, even if you think you have locked them away.
Don’t get me wrong – this is real deal spooky. As you watch, pay attention to everything, because things happen in the background and in your periphery to keep you as off balance as the characters are. Episode 6 is particularly masterful is how it pulls you reluctantly through long shots that become more and more dizzying to reflect the downward spirals of the characters.
Too late in the series I really started to key in on the color symbolism used in the filming, and now I want to watch it all over again to follow that thread. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, I’m a little jealous of you getting to experience it for the first time.
Rating: 5 our of 5 red doors
Hopefully some of you were able to make it to the Comicazi Cookie Clash this year. It’s an amazing dessert filled event for a great cause, Boston Partners in Education. While I am not someone who loves or thoroughly enjoys baking (I’m not great at the exactness of it since I tend to like to experiment – not a good idea in baking unless you are really down with the science), I have competed in the cookie clash every year since its inception. Fun fact: The Cookie Clash started originally as competition between The Red Menace’s cookies made with love (she LOVES baking and is quite good at it), and my Cookies made with Hate™ (recall: I don’t love baking).
But I digress…this year I decided I wanted to go for flash rather than substance and made these gooey eyeball cookies for my baker’s choice entry. While these cookies taste good – sort of a cheesecake sugar cookie, they aren’t super exciting or nuanced. But then again, you aren’t making them for nuance, you are making them because they fun, colorful, and involve so many candy eyeballs.
The best advice I can give it to follow the recipe directly, and that getting the neon food coloring colors is totally worth it if you want that bright popping color. I also got 3 different sizes of candy eyes and found that the mixing of different sizes really adds a lot to the aesthetic. Otherwise, these cookies are pretty easy and a lot of bang for your buck.
Rating: 4 out 5 Beholder eyes
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.
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.
Hey all! Hope you all survived the rollercoaster of the holidays. After making it through this past week you deserve some time to veg out. Perhaps a hardcore binge watching session is in order and you are looking for something you don’t have to work to hard on? In that case, might I suggest Reign…and before you think I am still hitting the holiday punch, hear me out.
It’s well documented that I love a costumed drama. And yeah, that what’s Reign is. It’s oh-so-loosely based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, her ladies in waiting, Catherine de Medici, and Elizabeth I. It’s also a CW show so it’s about as historically accurate as a Baz Luhrmann movie, or A Knights Tale (and yes, I like that movie). It’s fan fiction of the time, or what you day-dream the Elizabethan period is like. Clean, glamorous, everyone has good teeth and hair, and clearly there is indoor plumbing hidden somewhere. Additionally, there is some good old-fashioned CW drama, including but not limited to sexy Nostradamus, castle ghosts, and weird but network TV safe sex stuff.
But underneath all that gloss and manufactured drama, what Reign does really well is present a compelling cast of women, whose characters are in powerful positions. The relationships among these women are complex, but largely center around friendship and support rather than competition. How refreshing! Politics and social mores supply enough external pressure on these women and it’s nice to see a show that realizes that. They may be Queens, or other royalty but that doesn’t exempt them from the need for strategic marriages, and other political alliances. These plays for power make them vulnerable enough. Having friendships and allies is key in a society that has given women power via a monarchy, but still hopes they will merely be figureheads or puppets.
Over the 4 seasons of this show we watch the relationships among the women shift in the way friendships do as life changes. And when someone falls from power, Reign manages to work in some modern sensibilities so these women rarely become victims….or at least are not victims for long. Also, the women stay the center of the story. While there are always men in each story line, it’s the women who remain the protagonists. They are who drive the narrative, unlike some other recent shows that promised me a female driven western…I’m looking at you Godless, but that’s another post. Characters, especially Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth are fully formed with strengths and weaknesses. They aren’t perfect, not by a long shot, sometimes their passions drive them, other times we watch them wrestle with and ultimately make difficult decisions for the good of country. As the show goes into later seasons it’s these characterizations that seem to drive the show more than the love triangles of earlier seasons. and hence, for me, it’s the later seasons that are more interesting, more mature.
So if you are looking for something to entertain you while you dig out from the holidays, maybe try bingeing Reign, in the very least you’ll get some great fashion idea for the next cosplay ball you attend.
The weather has turned cold and many of us are preparing for the long winter – filled with hot cups of tea, ill-fated attempts to wear 6 sweaters at once, and spending snowy evenings with your dear friend, Netflix.
And that’s where I come in. I’m a firm believer that Netflix time should be quality time. Until their algorithm improves, I’m hoping to spare you some time searching through their catalog and point you right towards the good stuff. So in this edition of Netflix Hidden Gems, I present you with April and the Extraordinary World.
Warning: Possible spoilers
Welp, it’s been a long time coming. Back from when we all were like “Whoa” when the first Daredevil series came out, to when we were like “Ugh” at what went down with Danny Rand, the Defenders is now on Netflix.
Coming down off Iron Fist, I feel like Defenders could only go up. And it did, starting with the open credits, which remind us that the city is actually the main character here. And it’s more than Cap just calling back to being from Brooklyn every chance he gets, the boroughs of NY are more than a setting, they are the uniting factor for the team. As metaphors go it has the subtlety of a jack hammer, but that’s ok, I’m not really watching this for subtlety.
Defenders isn’t perfect, and I did wish there was more, but for the most part what Marvel does well is bringing together the huge cast of characters they have been building towards. It’s not just about the title characters, but also all those supporting folks. Almost all of them are there (though I do wish there was more Marci), even if some character appearances feel like checking a box. That said I’m not going to complain about one moment of Sigourney Weaver’s (and her outfits) screen time, so yes, sacrifices need to be made.
The main storyline focuses on The Hand, immortal clan leaders, and dragon skeletons, so this gives Matt Murdock and Danny Rand an easier entry into the main story line, while Luke and Jessica remain a bit more street level chasing down tendrils that show how larger schemes affect everyday people. This is really the heart of Defenders and having Jessica remain a 5-star general of snark gives you a touchstone back to what the regular folk might be thinking.
Some additional thoughts:
Claire Temple. She is the voice of reason and a pragmatist in a world with super strength, glowing fists, and bullet proof skin. She’s also the catalyst, the center spoke who brings everyone together. While her appearances in earlier episodes start strong, as the series continues she and Colleen are marginalized to emotional back-up for Luke and Danny. NOT COOL.
Luke Cage has the patience of a saint. He finally calls Danny out on his privilege, asking him what he did before he became the Iron Fist, has he really earned what he thinks he’s owed? And maybe that’s what will salvage this version of Iron Fist, giving him counterbalance. And remarkably, Danny seems to welcome this. Sometimes boundaries are good, so let’s hope Luke continues to play that role because when the series starts one of the biggest disappointments is that Danny Rand hasn’t grown at all. He still thinks everything is about him, and for some reason, Colleen is still with him. WHY??? And she even makes excuses for him when he finally does turn inward to examine what Luke says. WHAT???
By episode 3 we see the 4 heroes come together in what is now a ubiquitous hallway fight scene. I love this and I don’t care if they do one in every series. There are also some nice Power Man and Iron Fist feels.
Black Sky (or as I called it, Dark Afternoon) made Elektra more palatable for me. Previously I didn’t find her overly interesting, but this incarnation of her seemed to have more dimension.
Unlike Claire and Colleen, Misty Knight’s story progressed in some really big and important ways. She has a new look and will soon have a new arm. Will we see Control? God, I hope so.
Despite my earlier griping, this story is still about Danny Rand. He’s like the Key Master or something, and while the character is better in this series, he’s still the least compelling. Except for one moment…..that dumpling scene in the restaurant. Danny finally abandons all his super hero drama and just wants to stuff his face the instant some dumplings show up. I have never felt closer to the character than in that moment.
The next Netflix series is The Punisher, and while it’s in this universe, it’s not super closely tied to the Defenders. I think what I am looking the most forward to is right now is the next Jessica Jones season. David Tennant is still involved so what’s not to look forward to?
Hey all, I’m gonna review the Netflix show, GLOW. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it and then let’s chat. There be spoilers here and I don’t want to ruin the show for you, ok?
GLOW starts with an acting audition that is too real even by today’s standards. Main character Ruth (Alison Brie) is at an audition; she reads a meaty part with passion, and conviction….only to be told, no honey, that was the male part, can you try it again reading the other part? The other part is one line, letting the boss know he has a call on hold. This sets the stage for one of the more meta themes of this show. Yes, it’s 2017 now, but really, how much have things changed? Continue reading
Enough time has passed that if you were going to watch Iron Fist and care about spoilers, you have probably done that…but, you know, if you do care, maybe read this later.
Does Iron Fist really deserve the panning it’s getting? Ehhhhhh, maybe, maybe not. But with the bar set so high from the other Marvel Netflix series, Iron First comes off as a master class of missed opportunities and poor choices. Much has already been written about Danny Rand’s casting. Yes, Iron First is white in the comics. Could that have been changed? Absolutely. Would the show have been better served by having an actual martial artist as the title character? Heck yes, but that’s not the missed opportunity that I’ll be talking about. Rather, Marvel had a chance to turn the tables on a privileged white male protagonist, and they let that opportunity wane. Continue reading
All right, by now, you hopefully had a chance to watch the Netflix series Luke Cage and at least have some idea who Misty is. If you haven’t and you want to remain 100% spoiler-free, maybe go set up some binge watching time and come back to this later. Otherwise, read on and consider this a bit of a character primer on the comics version of Misty, which will hopefully give you some more background and get you even more interested in this kick-ass lady.
The Jessica Jones Netflix series is set to start on November 20. While Daredevil has shown us that you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the show, it’s sometimes nice to get some background on a character. I guess it should be said, if you haven’t already read the comics, and you want to go into the show completely fresh, you may want to skip this post. But I am trying to keep things higher level so as not to unwittingly spoil.
Jessica Jones is a Marvel character who appears primarily in 2 comic series, Alias, and The Pulse. I read them both and hooo boy are they different.
Alias was a 28 issue series back in the early 2000’s. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Alias was the title that launched Marvel’s Max comic line. The Max books are R-rated, darker, rougher, NOT ALL AGES and Alias jumps into that headfirst. Jessica Jones was a new character, created explicitly for this series. When we are introduced to her, right away we realize she’s far step away from other female characters we have seen in the comic world. Jessica is a super-powered human, but she’s is not a superhero. As the owner and only employee of PI firm Alias Investigations, Jessica is a hard drinker, a chain smoker, who curses like a sailor raised by a truck driver. She’s angry, and paranoid, and doesn’t suffer fools for a moment. You want to talk damaged characters? Jessica is a human train wreck. And that’s what’s so great about her. She’s not one of the bright eyed, impossibly coiffed, female characters who were (still are?) prevalent in comics. She’s how you feel on your darkest days when you have completely lost your way so badly that you can’t determine what’s good from what’s not.
So I debated talking about “that scene.” I will, but I am going to keep it very brief. Yes, in the first few pages there is a sex scene that implies Jessica is well, adventurous. Less than being character building, I took it as a way to show “hey, these aren’t comics code comics.” To my read it’s consensual so that’s all I’m going to say about it. We are all grown ups here.
Consent is actually a big theme in Jessica’s story. The big deal is less what she consents to, but rather how she loses free will and the effect it has on her. This is the real crux of her story. When we meet Jessica she is working as a private investigator in the superhero world, have firmly retired from costumed hero-ing. The first 4 story arc in the series have Jessica using what she learned in her hero days to work on cases that don’t necessitate Avengers-level attention, but do take someone with the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that Jessica has. We don’t learn the specifics of why Jessica has retired until the last story arc where both her origin and why she got out of the superhero game is revealed.
The story line, “Purple,”give us a look at Jessica’s main foe, Zebediah Killgrave, The Purple Man. Admittedly, naming a villain The Purple Man is kinda doofy. But his powers of pheromone-based mind control make him one of the more frightening characters in the Marvel universe. Mind control powers are not new, but there is something particularly insidious about Killgrave, and how his powers work, that make him particularly damaging.
The Pulse is less about Jessica and more about The Daily Bugle newspaper. It’s the shiny, slick, and frankly, antiseptic follow-up to Alias that continues to follow Jessica’s story among other happenings at the Bugle. The Pulse is not a Max series and therefore the tone is completely different from Alias. Or at least that’s what I am going to blame it on since the writer is the same. Jessica is no longer a private eye, she’s sort of a roving lifestyle reporter for “The Pulse,” the superhero section of the Bugle. Also, Jessica is pregnant.
Yup, she’s pregnant. Did I mention she’s pregnant? Don’t worry, she mentions it on almost every page, so you know, you’ll figure it out eventually. Pregnancy has apparently changed Jessica from a well-developed character with nuances, into a woman with super abilities who is pregnant. And that seems to be about it, there is very little left of the Jessica we saw in Alias. I really really like damaged, paranoid, angry Jessica. She was real. This new version is so generic that I swear, when I picked up the book after a week-long reading break, I didn’t even realize the character on the page was supposed to be her (which is commentary on the art and the story)! Yeah, The Pulse is pretty disappointing.
So, if you feel like reading, I recommend you spend some time with Alias, and skip The Pulse. From the previews it looks like the Netflix series is going more along the Alias route anyway. Which is great since my hope for the show is that was get a nuanced female character who tries to battles her demons and maybe finds her way to the other side without losing everything she was.