The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Visual Genius

I keep hearing all the time that "at least Snyder is a visual genius" and, honestly, I don't even believe that. His movies are ugly to look at. Drab. Dark. He's addicted to blue gels on his camera lenses. They're repulsive to look at.

Darkness works wonders with a character like Batman, but Superman is supposed to be colorful. It creates contrast. Superman is the day to Batman's night. I don't even like Superman at all, and I feel I understand him better than Snyder does. Look at this, Superman fans, I am defending your hero from the damage Snyder has dealt him. This is what it has come to.

AMC's "Better Call Saul" has a cast and crew of creative geniuses. The best cinematography on television. A single episode has a tiny fraction of the budget that BvS has. Both seasons probably have only a small fraction of that budget. And yet, Snyder, the so-called visual genius couldn't come up with better shots than the average on "Saul".

These shots are amazing and I wouldn't mind having them on my wall. Snyder hasn't created any shot that comes close.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Zack Snyder Is a Piece of Shit

I just came home from "Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice", and I am going to open this up by saying that it was the most miserable movie going experience of my life. And I didn't expect it to be. I watched reviews, read reviews, I knew just about everything going into it. Well, most things. I felt like I had already seen it, so I figured that I could enjoy it as a bad movie and laugh at it's ineptitude. And while there were a handful of moments where I did exactly that, I was mostly denied.

The cast was mostly fine. Ben Affleck turned in a good performance in a movie that ended up failing him. Cavill, well, I'm indifferent towards him and wish he had a chance to really show off what he could do with this character in a good movie. I'd need to see more of Gal Gadot to formulate an opinion, because she didn't get to do anything of note... she didn't need to be in this movie. Jesse Eisenberg was the worst villain I've ever seen in a comic book movie... I don't know what the hell he was trying to do there, I think they may have been trying to replicate Heath Ledger's Joker but they failed miserably.

You remember the dark age of comic books? The 90's? When everything had to be darkness, death, destruction, carnage, and nihilism to show the world how "kewl", "mature", and "badass" comics were. Those comics were all terrible, they are a stain on the industry. Well, Zack Snyder took that era and made a movie out of it... though it felt less like a movie and more like three hours of a forty-year-old pretentious fanboy crashing his action figures against each other.

There is so much to say, it's almost all been said. I could drone on and on about Batman murdering people (but, if so, why is the Joker still alive?) Or Lex Luthor's jar of piss. The awful soundtrack. The fact that Superman kills someone on screen and a few scenes later says he didn't kill anybody. Um, were the editors watching the movie? There were no establishing shots, scenes just switched in a jumbled and confused manner. There was absolutely no reason for Wonder Woman to be there besides setting up her movie, and she didn't really do anything.

And it was boring. My god, it was boring. The movie just kept going and it refused to end.

But I'm going to mention something that I haven't seen get brought up. There's a character in it who survived the destruction of the Wayne Tower in Metropolis, but lost his legs in the process. The event is treated like September 11th. This man is treated like a 9/11 survivor. He visits a memorial for those lost before vandalizing a Superman statue in red paint with the words 'FALSE GOD' and immediately, he's arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat. Um, he vandalized a statue. If I go to the Lincoln Memorial and spray paint it with pro-Confederate bullshit I'm not getting charged with making a terrorist threat. He's later bailed out by Lex Luthor who turns him into a suicide bomber for an attack on the Capitol... and yes, this man does it willingly. Zack Snyder took a character he depicted as an expy of a September 11th survivor and turned him into a suicide bomber.

I don't know how it happened, I don't know how he did it; but it happened, he did it. Zack Snyder managed to prove himself to be worse than Michael Bay. It's amazing. It's tremendous. There are not enough adjectives in the world. Allow me to explain: Michael Bay is a juvenile sleaze that has no idea how to construct a story, flesh out characters, or direct action sequences that cohere. Michael Bay's audience consists of angry, young, horny white teenage boys looking for something to masturbate to. That's Bay's audience. Bay admits it. Bay wears it on his sleeve. Bay doesn't care. Zack Snyder, on the other hand, makes his movies for the exact same audience, but insists he is some artistic genius. Zack Snyder is a pretentious asshole, he's Michael Bay if Bay deluded himself into thinking he's Stanley Kubrick. But he's not. He's just some schmo. A deeply stupid schmo.

Snyder says that he is depicting these characters as they truly are. But if you thought Superman murdering Zod was bad, this Batman kills people. A lot of people. Dozens of people. He wields a gun, holds a man hostage with it, and then shoots the gas tank on a man’s flamethrower, killing him. I'm pretty sure that Batman's refusal to kill is one of the central aspects of his entire character. Because if it isn't, and he does kill then I ask again why is the Joker still alive in this universe?

Snyder must have caught some WB higher ups with their dicks in some kids. I'm 100% certain this is how he's still getting work. The fact that his next dream project is an adaptation of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" explains so much.

When "Man of Steel" came out, my response to it provoked some negative reactions. I was even accused of taking perverse pleasure at the thumping it was taking. I actually wasn't, but I am now. I do admit it. I love that this movie is being trashed. I love that the reviews are scathing. I love that in all likelihood, while it will have a strong opening weekend, word of mouth and terrible reviews are going to sink it. This movie is heading towards an under-performance that is sure to disappoint the suits at Warner Bros. Board members are likely having meetings as we speak, as they have a five year financial plan depending on a DC Cinematic Universe. Someone's head is going to roll. Who's? Considering all of the criticism centers on the fact that they put an incompetent charlatan in charge as their guiding hand, probably Snyder's.

The worst thing about this is that I do not want these movies to fail. Yes, I understand that my hatred of Superman is a matter of public record but I also believe that competition is a good thing. Good movies based on DC characters mean Marvel ups their game to make better movies, and then DC does the same. DC's movies are awful, meanwhile Marvel Studios is getting way too cocky for their own good.

Here's the thing though. I love Batman. And while I don't like Superman, and I'm indifferent to Wonder Woman... I recognize that these are three of the most iconic characters in the world. They mean a lot to many people. Those people deserve to have good movies about these icons. It might not be my thing, but their fans deserve to receive what I, as a Captain America fan, am currently getting. They deserve to receive what I, as a Gargoyles fanatic, could only dream of having.

As we left the theater, my brother and I overheard a woman who saw it with her husband say the following:

"That movie was choppy, dreadful, and pretentious! I don't even like superheroes and I felt bad for people that do!"

And that's how I feel. Superman fans, let me extend a hand of friendship to you and say that while I don't like your hero, you deserve better. I want you to have better. An icon deserves better. He doesn't deserve Zack Snyder. Nobody deserves Zack Snyder.

At the end of the day "Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" is a deeply stupid and offensive movie made by a deeply stupid man.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Where I've Been

I have a new job that involves a lot of over time. Sadly it means less time is being devoted to this blog. But I'm not abandoning the blog all together, I will have some content coming up. Another retro-review is in the works, and I am timing the release of it to coincide with the premiere of "X-Men: Apocalypse"... and that's the only hint you get (admittedly, it's a pretty large hint).

So what are my thoughts and musings about recent pop culture?

1. I loved "Deadpool". I saw it opening weekend, haven't had the time to go see it again but I want to. It's definitely a must-buy for my Blu-ray collection.

2. Season eleven of "Supernatural" has been on fire. I'm not sure what happened, if there was a shake up behind-the-scenes, or what. But it's been the shot in the arm that this show has needed for years. It's easily the best season since the fifth.

3. Downton Abbey had a good ending, but not great. I'm not entirely sure what I expected, but not everybody should have gotten a happy ending. Things just seemed to work themselves out.

4. This year's Oscars were very boring. I didn't have a horse in the race. We all knew DiCaprio was going to get his pity Oscar so he wouldn't have to play a role where he literally kills himself to win. But he should have gotten one years ago for his role in "Django Unchained". Not for this. I'm glad "Mad Max: Fury Road" cleaned up at the technical awards. But the highlight of the evening was Morricone finally winning an Oscar... screw Leo, Morricone deserved one forty years ago.

5. "Better Call Saul" continues to be the best thing on television. Season two is, so far, everything I hoped for even when I didn't know exactly what I was hoping for. Some of TV's best acting, and definitely TV's best cinematography. This has to be the most talented team working on television, and everyone should be watching this.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Lucifer - Thoughts, Musings, Opinions

♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Lucifer loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red & yellow, black & white
they're precious in his sight
Lucifer loves the little children of the world
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫

How did this show come about? Anti-hero led television shows are popular. And the Fox Network loves their police procedurals. And comic book adaptations are popular... which is probably the only reason Fox paid for the rights to a comic book they probably wouldn't have needed to buy the rights to at all to make this show. Just drop the names "Amendiel", "Mazikeen", and "Lux" and you have the exact same show without having to pay DC Comics, Warner Bros, Neil Gaiman, and maybe Mike Carey a lot of money. It's not like Gaiman created the character, Lucifer Morningstar is in the public domain.

I probably shouldn't curse in a review that I want to be at least semi-professional, but why does Lucifer give a fuck about these people?  Why does he give a shit about punishing the wicked? To back up slightly, when the show opens, Lucifer is a sex hound who has had a number of affairs (I will admit that it's been a while since I read the comic book, but I do not recall him ever bedding any humans or showing any interest in bedding humans... but hey, what should I expect from the showrunner behind "Californication"?), and a pop star he had a fling with is murdered... Lucifer, feeling sympathy decides to make her killer pay and teams up with a detective in the LAPD played by Lauren German whom is the only human he met impervious to his charms... and he develops a bit of an infatuation, and said detective's seven-year-old daughter comes to love him after Lucifer helps her out with a bully. Meanwhile my eyes and ears are bleeding as I watch this. Why couldn't that child have been Elaine Belloc... human offspring of the archangel, Michael, with hidden powers? Well, I suppose she could be, but....

I'm not going to say the Lucifer of the comic was some evil villain... but he definitely wasn't a nice guy, or a good guy. He hated his father, he was ruthless, he had a sense of fair play but twisted... exact words. He wasn't interested in buying or corrupting souls... he just wanted to give his hated father the finger, even to the point where he created his own universe to rob Yahweh of his "monopoly"... and his existence came with one rule: worship nothing. Ultimately, he's a conceited prick rebelling against his conceited father. As David Easterman, a character who sees himself as a victim of Lucifer, puts it: "when the devil wants you to do something, he doesn't lie at all. He tells you the exact, literal truth. And he lets you find your own way to hell". The Lucifer of the comic book is not a nice person. He doesn't care about humans. He doesn't care about anyone, really. Except God... because what he's doing is a temper tantrum on cosmic levels.

BTW, Lucifer's supernatural ability to charm just about any woman into bed, or anyone into doing anything he wants. The episode ends with him going for therapy, and paying the therapist for services rendered with sex... all through his devilish charm. Didn't we just see such a thing on Netflix's "Jessica Jones" TV series without it being played for laughs? In fact, on "Jessica Jones", Kilgrave and his ability were chilling. Now, I'm not saying I expect good behavior from Lucifer, but he wasn't doing this in the comic book... and the way the comic book was written, were he doing this, it wouldn't have been played for laughs. It would have been chilling because, while the comic book tried and succeeded in making its title character compelling, it never really tried to make him likable. The show is trying to make him lovable and sympathetic.

Mazikeen is well cast, but she's shunted off to the side when she should be the "love interest" of our devilish protagonist, not some LA cop. In the comics, she was a daughter of Lilith and became defacto leader of an army of demons... all while loyal to her lord and lover. Maybe she'll be given more to do here later on, but I already dislike the way she's being written.

The comic book was very existential, very philosophical, and very smart. This show is none of those things. None. I'm not against changing things for an adaptation, most adaptations do it because different mediums come with different sets of rules, requirements, pacing, etc. But this show changed the source material on a fundamental level, the very premise of the show is divorced from the comic book. I didn't like this. I really, really didn't like this. The Fox Network probably wouldn't air this if it wasn't adapted into a police procedural, that is the only explanation I can even conceive of in regards to this TV show. Because all of the show's problems come down to this decision. Remember when that "Punisher" TV series was in development where Frank Castle was a cop by day while moonlighting as a violent vigilante by night? This is cut from the exact same cloth as that pitch. The Fox Network took a great comic book, one of my all time favorites, and... they slaughtered it.

I don't think Tom Ellis does a bad job with the material he's given. I wouldn't mind seeing him play the Lucifer Morningstar that I know and love, even though he wouldn't have been my first choice. But there's nothing about this pilot that compels me to come back. If I hear that the angle of Lucifer working with the LAPD is removed, Lauren German's detective character is removed, Lucifer caring about humans one iota is removed.... er, never mind. Honestly, I hope this thing gets cancelled and HBO or AMC pick up the rights, because I am confident that the Fox Network forced the police procedural friend to all children Lucifer Morningstar angle on this thing (yes, I know he had a line about not liking children, but his actions spoke much louder than his words).

Would I like this if I had never read the comic? Probably not. I don't like police procedurals and I wouldn't like that the Fox Network pussified the Devil. If you're looking for a great version of Lucifer on TV, then by all means check out the fifth season of "Supernatural" on Netflix. Also, now more than ever, I'm glad he's returned recently in the show's eleventh season because it's a much needed antidote to this show. That Lucifer is well written, compelling, and not sympathetic. This Lucifer goes for therapy. Ugh, Lucifer hates God, pure and simple... he has no delusions about it.

If you enjoyed it, then by all means, keep watching it, and keep enjoying it. I'm glad it's working for you. But I don't like it and unless the show is significantly retooled, I doubt I will ever like it. Have fun with it, but I'm out.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Greatest Evil

Not at all conscipuous

The great thing about being an American is watching our great country have one of its epic freak outs, take a complex problem and make it infinitely worse. You see, we Americans have a habit of thinking we're helping when really, we're not. There are few examples more prominent than the War on Drugs.

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared "drug abuse" public enemy number one, drug enforcement than increased under the Reagan administration where Nancy Reagan made it her pet cause, and this continued under the George H.W. Bush administration... and it was around this time that the "Just Say No" campaign became truly prevalent. Police officers would visit schools to lecture and lie to kids about the dangers of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol; and the commercials on TV where kids were taught that they weren't chickens and pot dealers were turkeys. The most infamous anti-drug PSA had to be "Cartoon All Stars To the Rescue" where every single popular cartoon character on Saturday morning came together to rescue a kid named Michael from the evil clutches of Mary Jane.

But we're not here to talk about "Cartoon All Stars To the Rescue". No. You see, what we're here to discuss was produced and aired roughly ten years before America's next great freak out... the War on Terrorism. I'm going to ask you a question. Do you think the United States armed forces would ever ally themselves with Osama bin Laden to take out a drug lord? Oh sure, we allied with Osama to push the Commies out of Afghanistan during the Cold War, but that's a whole other freak out and this blog entry is only big enough for two. But would Colin Powell ever stand on an aircraft carrier with Osama bin Laden to lead their forces in a raid on Pablo Escobar's compound in Columbia?

Well, Duke and Cobra Commander once did exactly that. That's right, kids, today we're here to talk about another one of those animated propaganda pieces designed to program you to vote against legalizing medical marijuana as an adult. That time G.I. Joe, which is the code name for America's daring highly trained special mission force, put aside defending human freedom from Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world, put aside their differences with said ruthless terrorist organization to do battle with... THE GREATEST EVIL!

Before I proceed any further, "G.I Joe" like "Transformers" was based on a popular toy line, and was advertised on TV by a hit cartoon produced by Sunbow. Those old cartoons were clunky and corny, but had a charm to them that made them entertaining. "The Greatest Evil" was not produced by Sunbow. It was produced by DiC, the most hated company in the animation industry. Their episodes lacked any semblance of the previous series' charm, as most of their animated output was always very half-assed. DiC was almost single-handedly responsible for the fall of television animation by the late eighties.

To quote animation producer, Buzz Dixon:

"They ferociously underbid competitors (going so far as to lose money on shows just to deny competitors a chance to do them) and they ferociously oversold their stock to investors (projecting an ever increasing number of kids’ shows on the air when even a basic market analysis would have shown the market to be flooded; I have learned not to be in awe of stock market investors’ alleged intelligence because of this). This led to a collapse of the syndication market for kids."

The rest of that interview can be found here.

With all that over, I can continue an analysis of this two-parter while also bringing up the socio-economic ramifications of the War on Drugs, the lives ruined through mass incarceration, and that, quite frankly, Marijuana and most controlled substances should just be legalized and overseen by the FDA. But no, this two-parter doesn't deserve that kind of dignity. Instead, I intend to light up a joint and mock the crap out of... "THE GREATEST EVIL"... Hey, good news, Satan, it's no longer you...

We open in a really bad, run down neighborhood in a major metropolitan area.You know the type, I believe Red Forman tried to kill RoboCop in one of these. A small army of the most conspicuous looking drug dealers are gathered in a street exchanging their little bags of magic dust (er, drugs) from lots of people. Out in the open. Where anyone and everyone can see them...

... you know, when I was in High School and I wanted to buy some pot, if we met in a public place, there'd be one handshake where cash was exchanged and then, fifteen minutes to a half hour later, a second handshake where a dime bag was given back. It wasn't supposed to be conspicuous. But who am I to argue with Bob Forward? He wrote "Beast Wars" and I loved that show. 

In front of the tall and very crummy looking building, obviously the headquarters for these drug pushers, a girl in her late teens or early twenties is begging for something stronger from one of the dealers... it takes her a whole month's pay to stay high for one night. The dealer tells her "tough shit" before his boss, a drug lord called the Headman cuts in and decides to give her a free sample of their newest product called SPARK!!!!! As this deal is about to go down, an angry mob rushes into the streets and chases the drug dealers back to their headquarters shouting things like "NO MORE SELLING DRUGS TO KIDS!" The Headman activates the buildings defenses and laser rifles pop out of garbage cans, the windows, the works... the angry mob is pushed back as the Headman laughs manically.

"You people must be fools to try and interfere with me! I  am above the law!
I rule this block! I rule this city! And soon, with my drugs, I will rule your lives!
I am the Headman! And the Headman reigns supreme!
Heheheheeheh... Ah Ha ha ha ha ha! HAW HAW HAW!!!"
- Actual Dialogue

Wow, and that was just the teaser, and this is a two-part episode. This is going to hurt.

We open at the Joe base where Lieutenant Falcon... oh no. Not him. Not Lieutenant Falcon. If he's going to be the protagonist of this story, we're in for some really deep hurting. Time for a little bit of history. Lt. Falcon is the younger half-brother of Duke (G.I. Joe's most boring leader). How he became an officer is still unknown, except he was a constant screw up in the 1987 animated "G.I. Joe the Movie" where he engaged in acts of insubordination, abandoning his post, sexual harassment (really!), allowing the enemy to rescue the captured Cobra Emperor, Serpentor (don't worry, Serpy's not in this... he's long gone), which all culminated in Serpentor throwing a live snake through Duke's heart and killing him... er, I mean putting him into a coma. Duke's only alive because kids all over the country had a collective epic freak out about the death of Optimus Prime and Sunbow, at the last minute dubbed in a line about Duke going into a coma and at the end, a line about how he came out of his coma.

See what you did, Falcon?

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, Falcon is up late, cleaning his gun when Mutt comes in, places a friendly hand on his shoulder, startling Falcon who then drops his bottle shattering it on the floor. Mutt apologizes but Falcon continues his epic freak out. The alarm sounds and the Joes are summoned to battle Cobra who are engaging in another one of their many acts of mischief. As Falcon boards his helicopter he pulls a bag from his pocket and says it's "time for a little pick me up." Okay, Lt. Falcon is on drugs... this reveal is somehow more surprising than Hillary Clinton announcing she was running for President last summer.

I should also interject now and say that the vehicles on display are really stupid looking. This was late into the franchise when the absurdity was enhanced. Don't get me wrong, G.I. Joe was always weird and corny, but a lot of this is just plain stupid.

As they approach an airfield, Cobra is breaking into a plane. Falcon ejects from his helicopter to go after one of their henchmen, causing Duke to cry out "has Falcon gone nuts?" Um, no Duke, I'd say this is pretty standard behavior for Lt. Remedial.

As the battle goes on, a Crimson Guard in his own chopper receives a call from the Baroness who addresses him as "Crimson Guard Number #1" (whom I will refer to as #1 from here on out) and informs him that there's an urgent message from the hospital that something has happened to his sister, Cindi.

The henchman Falcon was chasing attempts escape by some kind of one-ban gyro-copter... I don't know what to call it... and Falcon grabs onto him by the leg and in mid air, blasts the tail of the thing, causing Duke to call him an idiot as the copter goes down and crashes into the airport's baggage department. Falcon gives chase again in a go-cart (yes...) but Cobra escapes and Falcon manages to crash the thing and injure himself. Duke pulls Falcon from the debris and orders his men to let Cobra go so they can help the rescue teams, then blames Falcon for screwing up. All and all, a very typical day for Lt. Falcon. Back at the base, Duke dresses Falcon down causing Falcon to throw a tantrum, then storm out of Duke's office to take a hit of SPARK!!!!!

Meanwhile, at the hospital, #1 is visiting his sister, Cindi, in the hospital (in full Crimson Guard regalia!). Turns out Cindi was the girl the Headman gave a free sample of SPARK!!!!! to, earlier. She suffered from a drug overdose. #1 demands to know where she got the drugs, and Cindi tells him about the Headman.

"More and more, everyone pays the Headman! 
Everyone needs the Headman!
And for a very good reason! They can't help it!
- Actual Dialogue

It's going to be hard to not post this guy's dialogue, it's hilariously bad.

Back at Joe Headquarters, Falcon is shivering as he attempts another hit, but he drops his bag on the ground as Duke walks in. Duke grabs the bag, and realizes what should have been apparent to him since the early 80's. His baby brother is on drugs. Duke has his own epic freak out and kicks Falcon out of the Joes and disowns him.

Before we proceed any further, I would just like to point out right now that when Duke found out his half-brother was sick, an addict, he freaked out on him and disowned him. While earlier a Crimson Guard, an elite member of Cobra, upon finding out his sister was on drugs immediately set out to help her. And prior to that, while said Crimson Guard was in the middle of a mission, the Baroness called him to let him know there was a family emergency... and the Baroness is supposedly a dangerous sociopath. Now we know that there's more familial compassion in Cobra the Enemy than there is in G.I. Joe. And knowing is half the battle.

Anyway, after Duke storms off, another Joe... I have no idea what his name is... offers to hear Falcon out. Falcon wanted to be a better Joe, so when he learned about a new drug called SPARK!!!!! it sounded like what he'd need... but no one ever said Falcon was smart. The sob story, it helped him at first, then he became dependent on it. The other Joe says he was a drug addict as a kid but he had family that loved him and helped him recover... but all Falcon has is his big brother, blond-haired, blue-eyed, Nazi poster boy... Duke. Honestly, I think they deserve each other.

Back at the hospital, Cindi goes into a coma and might never come out (and without having a live snake thrown through her heart). #1 has an epic freak out and storms out to his helicopter where he and Duke have an encounter and engage in an air battle... that fast turns into an air collision. They both ride a parachute down and agree to a truce... then Duke starts venting about how pissed he is at Falcon and his drug habit; seeing common ground, #1 says he's in the same boat. Duke bellows that the Joes could swat the Headman like a fly if Cobra wasn't keeping them busy... um... does the United States have any other branch of the armed services or law enforcement that can do this? #1 says that if Cobra didn't have to worry about G.I. Joe, they could crush the Headman... the better question is would Cobra Commander care? Duke then asks the best question of all "So the only thing standing between us and the Headman's downfall is each other?" #1 proposes extending the truce as drugs are a bigger enemy to fight. Duke agrees and says they'll need all their forces to fight the Headman and proposes a team up with Cobra. #1 agrees to try and convince Cobra Commander.

Sigh... I need to go here. Take it away, Optimus Prime... 

This sums up exactly why D.A.R.E. and all the "Just Say No" propaganda was so stupid. Where does all of Cobra's equipment come from? That's actually always been a plot point, Destro and his M.A.R.S. corporation are Cobra's weapons suppliers. How does Cobra pay for it? Yes, I know they have legitimate business fronts, but.... Cobra would be selling drugs, not fighting them! Terrorist organizations have been involved with the drug trade. The Taliban has branches that sell heroin to fund their reign of terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan! And Cobra, really... "We're an evil terrorist organization based on murder and fascism, bent on world conquest and subjugation, but at least we aren't drug dealers!"

But, I suppose that propaganda had to work on some kids. During my time in the "Gargoyles" fandom, I remember someone asking if mob boss, Tony Dracon, was "evil enough to sell drugs". The guy ran protection rackets, sold guns on the street, chop shops. Yeah, "Gargoyles" didn't dive into it but I'm sure that's where most of Dracon's income came from. And the person that asked me that, I'm sure he had seen this episode.

#1 proposes this alliance to Cobra Commander, and displaying some rare common sense, CC rejects the idea as stupid. #1 counters by reminding Cobra Commander that drugs are big business and the Headman would have accumulated piles and piles of cash. They'd let the Joes do the hard work while Cobra takes the cash. Sadly, this is the only scene in the entire affair that even comes close to making sense. It falls apart when you're reminded that Cobra should be the ones selling this shit and profiting off of it, but at this point I'm just grateful that I don't have to listen to Cobra Commander of all people monologue about the evils of drugs... I guess D.A.R.E. didn't get to him.

Back at Joe Headquarters, that Joe from before (who I now know is named Bulletproof) informs Duke that Falcon checked into the hospital and suggests Duke go see him. Duke, again displaying far less compassion than the Baroness, calls Falcon a disgrace to the Joes and his family... and just storms off again... he calls a meeting of the Joes where he informs them that G.I. Joe is entering the War on Drugs, but they'll need help so instead of joining forces with the D.E.A., they're joining forces with Cobra. Naturally, the rest of the Joes call bullshit on this but Duke puts his fist down declaring this team up is officially an order. Bulletproof stands up and makes a speech about how, as far as G.I. Joe is concerned, drugs are the world's greatest evil.... sorry, Lucifer.... it's still not you.

Where the hell is General Hawk in all of this? I doubt he'd let this shit fly.

G.I. Joe and Cobra meet on an open field, and while both sides shoot snide remarks at each other, Duke and Cobra Commander agree the best solution is two-person teams between one Joe and one Cobra to keep an eye on each other, and instead of determining the best teams by comparing personnel files, specialties, etc. Duke and Cobra Commander decide to pick names out of a hat.

"You will work with your lab partner and you will like it!"

We only get three official teams. Duke and Cobra Commander team up. Bulletproof and Metalhead team up (ugh, I forgot all about Metalhead... and I wish I didn't have to be reminded), and Mutt (and his dog, Junkyard) team up with the Baroness (remember, this sociopath is more compassionate than Duke). I'm sure wacky hi-jinks will ensue. Or not, maybe shenanigans.

On authority of the unnamed city's mayor (who can run an election as being strong on the military while being accused of being weak on terrorism), Jobra (hey, how's that for a celebrity couple name?) attacks the Headman's headquarters. We get a standard action scene where both sides stand around shooting lasers at each other. While this happens, the Headman is in a moutain factory smack dab in the middle of the desert where he rambles on about how he will flood the world with SPARK!!!!! when he is informed of Jobra's attack on his headquarters. So the Headman sends his goons to the hospital where they abduct Falcon and Cindi.

#1 and a Joe called Shockwave (sadly not the cycloptic Decepticon) are sent in, where #1 plots to grab the money once the Headman is nailed. Duke and Cobra Commander's plane is hit and our, um... "heroes?" are in peril as it begins to crash and we get the dreaded TO BE CONTINUED followed by this screen.

I think I'm going to go smoke a joint before I dive into part two. I need it.

Duke and Cobra Commander bail out before their plane crashes into a building, and you can tell this was pre-9/11 because the building is undamaged. As this happens in the desert, Falcon and Cindi are brought to the Headman's factory

All while inside, #1 appears to betray Shockwave to the Headman's goons, but uses it as an excuse to get the drop on them... I'll buy #1's actions, he'd hate the Headman over his sister's overdose, but that doesn't justify anything else about this stupid alliance. But, oh ho, the Headman's money is an even bigger priority than Cindi. Because... COBRA!!!!!!!!! Shockwave and #1 destroy the building and the Headman's goons are captured. But it's all for nought as Duke learns that Falcon and Cindi were captured.

We return to the Headman's factory where the Headman decides to recruit Falcon instead of keeping him as a hostage. This is a wonderful thing, as it gives me another Headman monologue to transcribe... and voice actor, Scott McNeil, with his evil Silverbolt voice, keeps on managing to end each sentence with an exclamation point.

"How about joining my team, after all what have you got to back to!
Disgrace! A brother who doesn't care! Pain! Withdrawal! It's agony isn't it!
But I... I can give you power! Luxury! Money! And what you need most of all!
Take it! I know you're hurting! If you join my team you can take all you want!
Anytime! What do you say!
- Actual Dialogue

Falcon backhands the bags of SPARK!!!!! from the Headman's hand and, this is a line I need to transcribe also... "What do I say? I JUST SAY NO you disgusting piece of slime!" Congratulations, Lieutenant Falcon, you've earned the respect of all the other, better, Saturday morning cartoon characters.

"I'm not a chicken, you're a turkey!"

Falcon clocks the Headman, grabs Cindi and makes a run for it.

Mutt and the Baroness are searching through the remains of the Headman's urban headquarters and thus begins a running joke where Baroness can't bring herself to bother to remember Mutt's name. Right now she's calling him "Rover". It could be worse, Mutt... at least it's not Duke. She orders Mutt around at which point he declares that he's not her servant, and has an actually good comeback. "Certainly not, I demand much higher standards from my servants and more obedience from my dogs." Oh, Baroness... I'll be your servant any time.

Yes, I know this is Sunbow and not DiC, but I don't care, Sunbow drew her better.

As Jobra fails to interrogate the Headman's goons (because the Joes are forcing Cobra to abide by the Geneva Convention), Falcon manages to call Duke on his Dick Tracy watch, where Falcon begs Duke to bail him out one last time for Cindi's sake. Duke agrees and begins tracing the call, but not without getting a dig in... because he's a worse person than the Baroness. Shockwave traces the call as the Headman's goons (called Headhunters) ax their way into the radio room. Duke again uses the word "EVIL" to describe SPARK!!!!! as Falcon and Cindi escape into the factory.

We're about to enter the final act now. Falcon and Cindi are evading the Headhunters in the factory. Jobra is about to attack, and the Headman continues to exclamation point at the screen! Let's finish this!

Bulletproof and Metalhead argue about how to properly use ammo, and Metalhead... ugh, kill me, I can't stand this guy. Where's Baroness? Oh yeah, on a copter with Mutt and Junkyard, and now she's calling him "Bowser". The Baroness demonstrates why she's still one of the few competent people and despite the snide remarks, with Mutt's strategy, she takes out most of the Headman's defenses. I apologize, but I'm not going to snark on the Baroness... she's pretty much the only bright spot in this two-part propaganda spectacle.

Falcon steals a blaster from a Headhunter and drags Cindi into the Headman's vault where, well, Cobra Commander would have a boner to be in there with all that cash and, truthfully, so would I. They spot the Headman's secret escape hatch, but instead of escaping, Cindi has an idea.

Meanwhile, the Headman begins his own epic freak out as he pulls out his own hidden stash of SPARK!!!!! and breaks the number one rule of any competent drug lord, never use your own product. Is he going to overdose? I hope not, after all this, I might end up missing his liberal usage of exclamation points.

Jobra breaks into the factory and confronts the Headman in his office where he's laughing like a maniac and his face has turned red. He makes a run for it, being pursued by both sides of Jobra. Well, except for Cobra Commander who is tearing the Headman's office apart searching for his money.

-Actual Dialogue

Jobra chases the Headman into the heart of his factory where he grabs a hose and plans to douse them all with a lethal overdose of SPARK!!!!!

"At least I can depend on my drugs to stand by me!
A curse on all of you, you ruined my business! But now it's your turn!
Prepare for a lethal overdose, you meddling fools!
I can see the headlines now: G.I. Joe and Cobra overdose on SPARK!!!!!
When I deal with clients like you, it's not suicide!
-Actual Dialogue

Falcon and Cindi rush the Headman, and tackle him... in the process he gets blasted by his own hose and practically drowns in SPARK!!!!!

See, drugs aren't evil. They just killed a bad guy.

The Headman stumbles over and collapses into a control panel as Cobra Commander walks in calls an end to the truce now that the Headman is dead, and I don't need to type Jobra anymore. #1 invites Cindi to join him in Cobra, but Cindi would rather go to rehab. #1 sighs and joins Cobra Commander in searching for Headman's loot. Duke just casually muses that things are back to normal.

The Headman briefly regains consciousness, and reminds G.I. Joe that he reigns supreme, and even on his last drawn out, agonizing breaths, he manages to exclamation point. He hits the self destruct button before becoming the first and only character in the entire history of G.I Joe's television tenure to collapse dead on screen... I guess it's allowed when selling propaganda to children.

The Joes evacuate and Duke, deciding he wants to be a better person than the Baroness, lets Falcon lead the way out. Meanwhile, Cobra finds the vault where Cobra Commander is ecstatic and claims that they're rich... which I would assume he already was considering he runs a para-military terrorist group, but what do I know? The mountain explodes after the Joes escape as Cobra Commander flies over in his helicopter, mocking the Joes by waving a bag of money at them... the bag even has a cartoon dollar sign on it.

Duke and Falcon reconcile and Falcon is welcomed back into the Joes, but Falcon insists on going back to the hospital with Cindi and then rehab... well, if this is anything like the Falcon I remember, I think he has other ideas about Cindi. Cindi also points out that they took the Headman's cash from the vault earlier, and they want to donate his drug money to drug recovery programs. Which causes Duke to wonder what Cobra Commander made off with.

I had this same look in my eyes while watching much of this.

Turns out that Cobra Commander stole sacks of shredded newspaper, and throws one of his legendary temper tantrums. Baroness watches, turns to #1 and says she's "starting to miss young Bowser already".

The Joes head home as the camera pans away where we see the Headman's dead arm sticking out of the rubble.

Followed immedietely by an edit so sudden, it's like being hit by a truck:

It was like being hit in the head with a sledgehammer... and then, as if all that just wasn't quite enough, we get a voice over by Bulletproof telling us to not take any medicine unless given to you by your parents or doctor.  But what if your parents are junkies?

I won't lie to you all, this was a rough one to get through. I enjoy myself some "G.I. Joe", I have a fondness for the original Sunbow run of episodes, they were entertaining and charming like the original Transformers cartoon often was. And Larry Hama's "G.I. Joe" comic book was actually really cool, as is his current continuation of it over at IDW. But these were the DiC seasons, and they were neither cool nor charming. Yes, Sunbow had the infamous PSAs, but this was a PSA stretched out over forty-four minutes. It was a propaganda piece, pure and simple. And it's hilarious in an ironic way, but propaganda like this probably did more to hurt their message than they did to help it. I'm sure Bob Forward's heart was in the right place even as he was handed a laughably stupid premise. Could it have been done better? Sure, but not by DiC. Make the Headman an agent of Cobra in charge of dealing drugs which are then funneled into the organization's terrorism, and the premise is immediately improved. But I suppose, given the political environment at the time, Hasbro didn't want their iconic and, let's face it, very entertaining villain, Cobra Commander to be a drug lord. In which case, you relegate it to a series of thirty second PSAs at the end of the episodes and call it a day.

So what is the greatest evil? I think I'm going to lay that title at the feet of epic freak outs, mob mentalities, moral superiority, etc. Propaganda like this pushes that, and we as a society need to learn to keep our cool, step back, and figure out sensible solutions to problems large and small. Just say no to epic freak outs. Now we know... and knowing is half the battle. G.I. JOE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Flash - Super Rapist!

I often see "Justice League Unlimited" hailed as the best written superhero cartoon of all time. I have disagreed with that ever since I first heard it. Aside from the fact that I can think of several superhero cartoons with much better writing, I cannot give that title to a cartoon that "accidentally" wrote a rape scene in. I can hear you all now. "God damn it, Greg. Not this again." But, I refuse to let this go.

For those of you that don't know, "The Great Brain Robbery" involved Flash and Lex Luthor switching bodies. Lex as Flash spent the episode trying to avoid capture on the Watchtower, while Flash as Lex tried to avoid detection and in the process, Lex's friend with benefits initiated sex believing it was Lex Luthor. As Lex, Flash could have said no, could have said he had work to do, but he didn't. He allowed it, and by Tala's own words later, he was into it. But, as I and most sane humans have said for a long time, rape by deception is still rape.

But people defend Flash's actions here. Worse than that, they say it's not rape. Tala consented, she initiated. And, the dumbest of them all, she's a villain so it doesn't matter. I've heard all the excuses. And it sickens me that we, as a society, still can't agree on the simple concept of what rape is. Wait, let me walk that back. I think that we, as a society, have agreed on what it is, but certain types of people refuse to agree to the concept for reasons that I wish escaped me, but don't.

So, for those of you that continue to defend Flash's raping of a woman, let's alter the situation a little bit. Honestly, I shouldn't have to do this, I feel sick about this, but I think it's the only way to hopefully make some of you understand.

Let's say Lex Luthor, in Flash's body, managed to make it to one of the Watchtower's teleporters and escape. Let's say Luthor transported himself to Flash's hometown, Keystone City. Let's say Luthor somehow figured out who Wally West was, where Wally West lived, and decided to hide from the League in Wally West's home while he plotted his next move. Let's say when he got there, Wally West's long time girlfriend, Linda Park was home. Let's say she was feeling frisky. Let's say Lex Luthor, disguised as her boyfriend, did nothing to stop her advances. Let's say afterwards, she said he was quite enthusiastic. Now, let's say after Flash and Lex Luthor are restored to their bodies, the real Wally West has to break the news to Linda over who she had just spent the night. Was Linda Park raped? Do I even have to ask?

What's different about this situation? Nothing. Any asinine excuse you can conjure up to justify what Flash did to Tala can be conjured to justify Luthor doing the same thing to Linda. In as such that there is no justification. What Flash did was rape, the fact that he is officially a superhero doesn't make it any less a rape. It was rape. There is no gray area here. No debate. Bruce Timm's "Justice League Unlimited" turned a hero into a rapist, and rewarded him for it.

The last time we see Flash in the series another supervillain, Giganta, plants one on him for no reason.

Yes, I know. Flash is funny, he's pleasant to be around, and many of you don't want to think about him committing a horrid act like this. But he did, whether the show acknowledges it or not. Now, I could say that the worst thing about all this was that no one at Warner Bros caught it; but that wouldn't be accurate. The worst aspect of all this are all the people making excuses and justifications for it.

Authorial intent or not, your hero is a rapist. This isn't an opinion, it's a fact.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

End of the Year Grading

You know the drill.

Agent Carter - After the tremendous disappointment that shall not be spoken of, I went into this with a horrible chip on my shoulder. I needn't have been worried. It was everything I could have hoped for. Hayley Atwell is talented and delicious. A solid A.

Ant-Man - If you would have told me in April that I would like this movie more than "Age of Ultron", I would have laughed in your face. But it turned out to be better. There was a lot more heart to it, with a lead that was very endearing. However, they never explained to me why Hope couldn't have worn the suit. I give it a B.

Avengers: Age of Ultron - This was a tough one for me, it was definitely the biggest disappointment of the year. I had problems with the editing, Ultron's characterization, too many hands in the stew, and it was too bloated. It succeeded in lowering my expectations for future movies, and sadly is a sign that Marvel Studios might be getting too cocky for their own good. It wasn't awful, it just wasn't great. I didn't grade it in my initial review, but now I give it a solid C.

Better Call Saul - My favorite TV series of the last year. I wrote about it quite a bit earlier, and I can't wait for the second season. My grade: A+.

Daredevil - Agent Carter was great, but I still had that chip on my shoulder. But there was nothing to worry about, this show was terrific. The casting was great, the action was brutal and real. And Vincent D'Onofrio was perfect as Wilson Fisk. I look forward to season two. A.

Downton Abbey - Still a very enjoyable show, but beginning to show its age. Most of the ideas are gone, and even I'm wondering what's left to be done. The final season has started airing, and we'll soon see. B.

Game of Thrones - Yes, season five was easily the weakest season of the series so far, no it was not an abomination. And I'm not touching certain controversies with a ten foot pole, so don't ask me to. Okay, the plot arc with the Sand Snakes in Dorne was awful, but this is still good TV. I still look forward to the next season and will give this one a solid B.

The Hateful Eight - Just reviewed it, my favorite movie of the year. A+.

House of Cards - The weakest season yet, and I can't quite put my finger on why. It's got another season coming, and I hope this is the end because I have no idea just how much longer Frank Underwood can keep getting away with his crap. B-

Jessica Jones - The chip on my shoulder was gone by this point, and we ended up with a show that, in my opinion, far exceeded Brian Michael Bendis' comic book. The show was bold, exciting, and offered one of TV's most chilling villains. More than that, it was one of the most honest and straight forward depictions of what a rape victim goes through (at least, that's what I've been told by several sources). There are a lot of think pieces out there, so I'll just say it's an A.

Jurassic World - I watched this one OnDemand in a hotel while on the road. Glad I skipped it, because it was horrible. Horrible looking dinosaurs, weak CGI, and as much as I love Chris Pratt, his character was an archetype that needs to go. I also thought the notion that Bryce Dallas Howard's character arc of being a bad career woman who learned that children and family is better was sexist and offensive. F.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Now this was more like it. It's a lot of people's favorite movie of 2015 and I can't blame them. Great characters across the board, beautiful effects, the wonderful use of color. It was a pleasure from beginning to end. I found no fault with it. A+

South Park - Loved this season. Best season in ages. P.C. Principal is the best new character since Detective Yates. I'm glad he's sticking around, he's the perfect anti-Cartman. A.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Just reviewed it. Loved it. A-.

Star Wars Rebels - I was rough on this show when it started, and I know why... chips on the shoulder. I've since re-watched the first season and I've been keeping up with the second season. I really enjoy it. B+.

Supernatural - It's funny, when season ten ended, it ended on one of the lowest points the series had. To quote my friend's podcasting partner, it was trash. Yes, season ten introduced Rowena (who was the best new character since season five), but the season sucked. Now we're in season eleven and it's almost a completely different show. While not perfect, thus far it has been consistently the best the show's been since the fifth season. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it hasn't happened. Is this a return to form? I hope so. I want to give the latter half of season ten a and the first half of season eleven a B+ so I'll just average them both to a solid C.

The Venture Bros: All That And Gargantua 2 - Wrote a longer review at the beginning of the year. But it was the best animated anything I watched all year. Funny, action packed, cleared the board while setting up a new status quo. I can't wait for season six. A+

Special mentions. Really enjoyed the final run of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and I miss it and him. I'm not digging Trevor Noah's tenure, thus far. Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show has grown on me. I like Stephen Colbert's new Late Show, but miss the teeth he had on the Report. And my heart now belongs to John Oliver.