Movies

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Last night, I decided to revisit one of my childhood’s memories of a movie. This one being The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, available on Disney plus. When a chunk of the budget goes towards Sir Sean Connery, and you realize they had to use that remaining amount to hire other actors, stunts, editing, and all that other jazz that goes into making a movie… It’s actually not that bad for what it is. Especially considering these days when having shit writing is okay as long as everything else looks pretty. If only 20th Century Fox had the level of bots, and ownership of media companies, as some people these days. Maybe then we could look past the over-the-top silly narrative. But then we look over at Marvel Studios, and can’t help but notice that some movies and characters look very uh, similar…

The characters in the movie are different than the actual characters they’re based upon, from both the original author’s works and the source comic material. One might daresay it tried to come up with an original twist on it all. Allan Quatermain is a hunter with the impeccable ability to never miss his shots (unless he wants to). Hello, Hawkeye. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a scientist that takes an elixir that changes him into a hulking brute with its own personality and consciousness. Hello, Hulk. An invisible thief that provides comedic charm to it. Mina Harker as a vampire badass that despises the evil inside her. Hello, almost Blade. Tom Sawyer as the American gunman that sprays all his shots merely hoping to hit the target. Hello, you know what institution. My favorite, Captain Nemo with his giant ship/submarine, and his army of Indian soldiers/pirates. Yea, I can see why this might be a hard sell. Dorian Gray as an immortal, wealthy douchebag. Hello, investors.

These fellas, and lady, all team up to stop a rich merchant of death from profiting from even more war. In a totally alternative world where only this kind of stuff exists there, this villain blows up various structures, kills innocents and places evidence framing a foreign nation in order to try and create a world war. Oh man, the profits that villain would stand to gain. Back to the movie, it had some great action scenes that were just simply ridiculous yet funny to watch. You could see had they only hired a more competent writer, or even director, this movie could have got a sequel. There are glimpses of awesomeness in it. Sir Sean Connery is always fun to watch. Shane West doing his job as the American heartthrob to draw in American audiences and help them be interested in the story. Peta Wilson as the Vampire dressed in leather (beating out Underworld by 2 months). Tony Curran was enjoyable as a smarmy, loveable bastard. Stuart Townsend as the cunt, and I could visually see why they’d wanna initially hire him as Aragorn way back when. Jason Flemyng was clearly having a delight playing the troubled doctor having concerns about trusting the monster inside of him. Especially during the transformation scenes. Those look like it took hours to apply him his make-up and costume. Naseeruddin Shah was fantastic as the martial art badass sending bad guys flying with mere kicks. His commanding presence was a joy amongst the silliness.

Honestly it all comes down to the writing and story direction as it being a failure. Yet, it had diversity for once with a brown action hero. Clearly that should have excused it from any wrongdoings, and audiences should have flocked to watch it otherwise they’re racists or intolerant. This movie deserves a sequel, or a remake. In a time of super-powered characters gracing the screen, these characters would fit right in.

TV Shows

Ms. Marvel

This was the first Marvel show that felt like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant pond. The formulaic pattern to all their shows and movies left one wondering if it was possible to interject new life into it all. Yet, there was a spark here, and it blossomed into a wonderful tale about a young, Muslim girl, who struggles to find her own identity as she clashes with a clandestine organization, a shadowy government agency and all that comes with growing up in a culturally rich household. The relationship of her character with her well-meaning Pakistani family and the culture clash that arises with the notion of superheroes, is given room to play out. At the center of all this, is newcomer actress Iman Vellani, in her first onscreen role, who is just a delight to behold.

Early on, across the six episodes that make up the miniseries, there’s a scene between Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her parents. They want to take her to the comic-con she’s been wanting to go, on the condition her dad takes her. He’s so excited, and even dressed up as Hulk in an attempt to connect with his daughter. But in a typical teenage fashion, she bungles it up, disappoints her parents, and hurts her dad’s feelings. It was the acting of Iman in that scene that ultimately connected me with her character, and her depiction of the character. She expertly portrayed the various emotions that come in such a scene. Of feeling guilty, and about to cry upon the realization that you made your parents upset. That you directly caused the tears in your dad’s eye. Her acting here was nothing short of amazing, especially for a newcomer.

The story is not without its faults, such as having villains with not enough character development established to explain why’d they do things. This results in it feeling rushed, that the villains rushed through to try and get to their victory. It takes away from the excellent world building, and character development that’s happened so far. Yet even with all that, it manages to finish strong. Its strength lies in the familial story arcs. Of Kamala’s parents and their relationship to their superhero daughter or of being accepted by the community despite being a Muslim hero with a dazzling set of powers. And speaking of powers, the changes to her powerset from the comics is perfectly okay because this is a character that is all about her identity within the community, and her religion clashing with her identity as a superhero. Individuals don’t relate to the character because she can stretch her arms, or change into another person. They relate because they’ve known that struggle of being different, of being an ethnic immigrant struggling compared to your Caucasian neighbors. The culture clash that inevitably arises.

The CGI is on par with current Marvel miniseries outings, and the musical score was truly impeccable. I loved the fusion of Indian/Pakistani music and hip-hop beats to create this stylistic fresh take on the urban hero. It really helped add to her cultural identity. The creative use of CGI to demonstrate conversation also helped it to stand out. The supporting cast was good, especially Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s mom and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s dad.

Overall, I really liked the show. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be “wholesome”. And it really helps that the lead actress, Iman Vellani is so endearing in her portrayal of Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel.

TV Shows

Stranger Things Season 4

Having just finished the 7th episode, I like how everything came together before we get the last two episodes by July 1st. There was emotional satisfaction and payoffs, and we can see where the show will go next. Each episode felt like a movie in its own right, especially that seventh one coming in 1hr40mins long. The production value was top-notch, and it was clear to see that the Duffer Brothers had put long hours of thought into it. The level of care and detail, and overlapping themes while bringing attention to the earlier seasons was nothing short of a masterstroke.

This season parallels the themes and plot of the first, with Eleven having to come into being her own person. And acquiring super powers. The big bad was well established early on, with clues being feed dripped slowly to uncover its true identity. The horror was on point, with both the supernatural and that of a mob mentality – especially that of narrow-minded, religious small towns. It didn’t shy away from showing the brutality of it all; of dead children, traitors in both US and Russia – the torture that accompanies both sides, and the grotesque nature of the monsters.

The acting was excellent as usual from these group of kids… well now, teens or young adults. Some seem to have grown up faster than the rest, like Lucas. Though that’s probably due to him being older than the others playing his friends. I enjoyed David Harbour’s performance the best, as the grizzled American prisoner in a Russian gulag. And I liked the actor playing the guard turned friend, Tom Wlaschiha as Antonov.

The electronic synth soundtrack was a joy to my ears, being a fan of that genre. It added well to the immersion factor of the 80s we’ve come to know for Stranger Things. Costume design was on point as well.

Overall, I quite liked this season. They tuned down the Russians from being the bad guys to merely being the opposition that happens to exist in their world. The bad guys are established this time around as some evil entity from the Upside Down dimension, and the US general hunting down Eleven and the scientists helping her. There is a lot of various political messages I could probably get into, but I’d rather not. I turned off my brain mostly, and enjoyed this fantasy sci-fi horror show. I’m excited for the end.

Movies

Moonfall

Everything about this disaster movie fits the typical bill for Roland Emmerich. CGI extravaganza with widespread near total destruction with only a handful of survivors, and long periods spent trying to gain audience sympathy for characters and their families. I came for the aliens and destruction that I expect from his movies.

The opening sequence and the final act regarding our trio of heroes were the best parts for me, and I definitely want a sequel. I want to see where it would lead. Patrick Wilson did a terrific job especially when it counted to get the audience emotionally teared up. Halle Berry was working with what she had, her character didn’t get the same impact as Patrick Wilson’s did. And John Bradley, of GOT’s fame, came off as initially annoying yet became loveable and misunderstood. His character’s arc I wish to see more of in the sequel.

I had to leave my brain at the door to properly enjoy this. It was fantasy up until the final arc where we finally got some sci-fi in the mix. The soundtrack was great; helped increase my heartrate in intense sequences. The actor playing the son of Patrick Wilson’s character was so terrible that I am surprised he got cast. It takes something special to pull you out of a B-movie’s immersion.

Overall, either you’ll find it an enjoyable popcorn or snack-filled movie, or you’ll find it downright dumb and silly. It can be both. If you like aliens and conspiracy theories in your movies, I’d recommend it. Or if you simply like seeing the world get destroyed in CGI destruction.

TV Shows

An Open Letter to Lauren S. Hissrich

When you adapt a work, or a story, to a different medium, such as television, you need to maintain the theme, aesthetics or message of the original source. You cannot drastically change the characters, with which fans have become endeared to, to your own fan fiction. You have to create an overarching narrative based upon the original source, using their characters as established, to further their arcs and growth. This doesn’t mean you do a 1:1 ratio, and perfectly replicate the plot on screen. This wouldn’t work. What it does mean, is to read the original source, and understand these character’s motivations, fears, emotions, and arcs and replicate them with your actors and actresses. Once you truly understand these characters, and what drives them, then you can focus on making a narrative. You failed step one.

There are spoilers to season 2 of the Witcher here on out. I cannot abide, sitting by idly, while this showrunner ruins a beloved franchise, and runs it into the ground.

“It starts in the writers room. 20 weeks of book-reading, story-spinning, imagination-bending, head-bashing, vodka-slurping and cake-eating.” From her Twitter.

20 weeks? Are you sure? If that was true, then how come you completely butchered/ruined the characters of Eskel, Yennefer, and Vesemir? Eskel is a kindhearted man (who didn’t have a lot of book time), with a heavily scarred face but he proved that looks aren’t everything as he’s a brother like figure to Geralt, and cares deeply for others. What we got? An asshole womanizing douchebag, who doesn’t like anyone, is constantly mad, and brings a bunch of street whores (in summer clothes) to his hidden castle, located high up in the wintery mountains. Apparently, he’s infected by a leshen despite witchers having a natural immunity to almost all disease and poisons. And then, Geralt has to kill him. But don’t worry, we explain his drastic change in behavior due to this infection, and we have a scene showing Geralt fondly remembering who he used to be.

Next, in what world did you read that Yennefer would even remotely think to sacrifice Ciri for personal gain? The answer is 0. It would never happen, she grows to be like a mother to her and not once does she consider to use Ciri for her own gain. Secondly, you can’t have a mage lose magical power casting a spell, especially one of Fire magic when you go and introduce a bounty hunting mage that solely uses fire magic. I tolerated these changes because maybe, the ending could be good, with proper set-up for more events. Nope, you decide to have Vesemir consider killing Ciri to stop her. The older, grandpa, protective of everyone, and has a soft spot for all witchers under him, and deeply trusts Geralt, is going to stab Ciri? That this man who would never consider subjecting another child to the trial of grasses because he knows the suffering, that he would do it to Ciri? How much vodka did you slurp?

I only touched on three characters here. I could probably write several pages on how badly you fucked up Ciri; using portals and casting spells under extremely stressful situations with no proper training and succeeding. Did you watch Star Wars, look at the character of Rey, and think, “Yea, let’s make Ciri like that.” In case you forgot during that 20 week binge, Ciri spends months training with Yennefer before she can even do anything.

If I had to wager a guess, you did read it and then actively decided to ruin it. You took 90% of the content, threw it in the trash, and made your own weird fan fiction, and you have the audacity to call it an adaption of the Witcher. No, you were heavily inspired by it. Adapt it? No, you did not do that. This isn’t the first time you’ve done this. You did it to the Defenders by Marvel. Calling it an adaption is nice legal speak/contract speak, and man, paying off the author a fat sum to call it good? That’s classy.

The best parts of the Witcher have nothing to do with you. Henry Cavill is the reason Geralt is so well received. His physicality and what he brings to the role is so much more than the atrocious writing that plagues his character. A) He’d never use Ciri as bait. Period. B) He’d never say “I will kill Yennefer.” If he did, that’s because the Yennefer you created is some sort of monstrosity and has nothing to do with the actual character.

Elves are not innocent beings, they are just as monstrous and murderous as humans. There should be only 4 witchers at Kaer Morhen, not the 15 or so random dudes that then get randomly killed off during the final episode. “Lambert, Lambert, what a prick!” You switched up the identities of Eskel and Lambert, and as aforementioned, killed off Eskel.

It’s like you decided to pervert as many characters as you could, to change them drastically to whatever messed up vision you thought you had in mind. Vilgefortz, Cahir, Tissaia, Calanthe, Rience, Nenneke, Phillipa Eilhart, and even Nivellen, all of these were made into subversions of what they are. Oh, Geralt and Ciri don’t care that Nivellen let a vampire massacre an entire village of people but draw the line that he raped a priestess 13 years ago. Yes, that one act for which he repented as best as he could is far, far worse than letting entire families get massacred. Yes, I understand Lauren.

“When I talk about The Witcher, I always talk about how these three characters coming together — Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer — they come together as a family. It’s the most important part of the series for me,” Hissrich said.

Right, so in what world do they come together as a family? Yennefer betrayed both Ciri and Geralt in your fan world, Geralt thought and considered killing Yen. In what world, would Ciri ever trust Yen again? How would Geralt? Well, you see, in my finale, through the power of love and family, we get Ciri to return to Geralt and Yen and break free of the mind possession by a demon. Yen heroically sacrifices herself by slitting her wrists allowing the demon to possess her instead. Together, my newfound family sends the demon back where it came from while establishing that the Wild Hunt is searching for Ciri. FAMILY! All that’s missing is Vin Diesel appearing on screen saying “we are family.”

Hold up! Why is there a demon running around amok? The first witchers would have killed it, or exorcized it, not trapped it in a tomb that anyone could find. Oh well, this isn’t the Witcher. This is Netflix’s low fantasy drama that happens to share a similar name.

So to end, I don’t care that you didn’t follow the book’s events or plot, or narrative. Shit happens. I do care that you keep calling it the Witcher when it’s only that in name only. Everything else has been stripped of its original identity, and watered down to a shell of what it is. A better title for the show would have been The Hexer.

And to Henry Cavill, or MyAnna Buring, you guys were phenomenal and tried your best, and I want you to know, in the words of the great movie, Good Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.”

The blame is solely on Lauren’s shoulders who is entitled to her artistic impression.