Monthly Archives: March 2017

Z 2136

As you have no reason whatsoever to remember, I read the previous two books in this trilogy sometime in the last year or two I guess? And they were perfectly cromulent serial schlock. Hunger Games plus zombies, only a little light on the good half of that equation; and if I’m being honest with myself, probably they could have done a better job copycatting the game aspect of the equation. But still, if I don’t pause and think about the hundreds of better books on my to-read shelf, there was nothing wrong there.

As of Z 2136, consider that trend broken. And I mean, broken just really badly. This is the worst book that I’ve ever managed to finish. The writing didn’t change, and the already established characters were still, y’know, fine I guess. But the new viewpoint characters and the change in plot direction were just abysmally bad. Here’s my point, which I will need to entirely spoil the surprise ending of the second book plus I guess all of this one to make, but that’s okay because, seriously, do not read these books:

There were three main characters in the series, a father and two children. The father was part of the government apparatus but also had sympathies with the rebels who didn’t like living in six dystopian cities even though the walls kept the zombies out. Later, he killed his wife via mind control and was put into the zombie hunger games. Later still after learning the truth, his daughter was too. None of that really matters except that it’s an establishing shot for the shock ending of Z 2135, in which the father is executed, Ned Stark style. And then in the afterword, the authors were all, we weren’t really planning on this, but we decided we needed a big cliffhanger, so here you go!

Which leads into the third book, where one annoying guy is transformed into a raving lunatic, while another bad guy is transformed into a new father figure to replace the one they killed and then apparently realized they still needed. Result: half the book is spent on the motivations and travails of new characters about whom I already didn’t care, only now everything was so weird and forced that I actively hated them instead of just not caring much. Then, later, the book just kind of grinds to a halt instead of having an actual ending. Everything I’ve seen indicates this is a trilogy, which is a relief since Amazon would probably have already sold me book four at 99c before I knew how horribly things turned out; but I lost control of that sentence, and how I meant to end it was “but if I didn’t have these outside sources, I would be quite certain they were planning on writing more.” Because while it was not a cliffhanger demanding more story, it also was not the end of a story.

If everyone had died, that would have been more emotionally satisfying. First, because everyone never dies, and I’m pretty sure any real zombie apocalypse is much more likely to turn out that way than the way they always do turn out. But mostly because, fuck these people. They basically all deserved to die, and the ones who didn’t are at this point acceptable casualties in my vendetta.

Kong: Skull Island

I feel bad about this, insofar as it implies things that are not true. See, I saw the new Kong movie like 10 days ago, on opening weekend. And yet, no review! The implication, of course, is that I didn’t care for it, when the implausible truth is that I just completely forgot to write anything. (I mean, I remembered once or twice while being busy with other things, but basically not at all until I finished the book I’ve been for some reason reading, and then remembered, wait… uh-oh.) So now here I am, both late to the party and simultaneously devoid of credibility.

Through such predicaments I forge ahead! Here’s the deal with this movie. It’s a monster movie, and those are always, at heart, as dumb or as cool as you think monster movies are. Of course there’s no uncharted island in the Pacific populated by humans co-existing with giant prehistoric beasts. Of course there wasn’t in the 1970s when this is set, either, even though it’s mildly more plausible from a “we haven’t charted every square meter of the world yet” angle. And either you’re the kind of person who nods at what I’ve just said and goes on with your day, or you’re the kind of person who says, I know there isn’t such an island. But wouldn’t it be cool if…? On top of that, it’s a Kong movie, which means that an oversized ape is going to fight oversized non-ape monsters and helicopters, and some people are going to respect him while others want to use him, and he’s going to have a soft spot for diminutive blondes. All of these things are inevitable, and you’re either cool with them or you’re not.

My point is this: if you are cool with those tropes and inevitabilities, this is a spectacularly executed example of the genre. Samuel L. Jackson, in one scene, portrays Captain Ahab as well as I believe he has ever been or will ever be portrayed, and John C. Reilly’s character would be enough to carry a lesser movie by himself. (The leads are pretty good too? But with less to work with script-wise, since they are busy being leads.) Plus sexy special effects, an Apocalypse Now visual sensibility without getting bogged down in being anything like Apocalypse Now as a story, and a post-credits scene that has me salivating for this movie to make back enough on its investment.

The Shallows

The Shallows is a straight up woman vs. nature tension movie. One sentence premise that fills an hour and a half of breath-holding and making the same motions the actor is making, as thought it would help her. Remember Frozen? The one that’s not a Disney movie, I mean, where the kids are out skiing and they get trapped on the ski lift at the end of the weekend and have to figure out how to survive the weather or the fall with no help coming? This is like that more or less, but with surfing instead of skiing and with, er, different challenges.

It’s definitely a what you see is what you get kind of flick, and would be moreso if I had not avoided a really obvious one word spoiler just to prove I could. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, though obviously I should be playing video games instead. Still, gave me a chance to listen to the Blues Brothers soundtrack while writing this, so I guess it’s not a bad trade.

(I’m not kidding about that doing stuff for the imperiled character thing, by the way. I was saying for her in Spanish the things she was yelling in English, as though my lesson would help her learn anything or let the people she was yelling at comprehend any better. You know, as you do.)

Logan

So, another X-Men continuity movie[1]. Logan is set in 2029, which is somehow only 12 years from now. I think there are maybe two or three things I can say about this movie, without getting into territory I’d rather avoid. I mean, it’s basically impossible to review anything without spoilers[2], so I always try to limit myself to what you’d know within 5 minutes (or 1-2 chapters) anyway, but sometimes it’s more than that, and this is one of those times.

The first thing is, this is a movie that doesn’t fuck around. Wolverine has always killed people, which is unusual enough for a comic book setting, but he’s never killed people the way he would kill people, you know what I mean? Here, he definitely does. Which is useful as a calibration tool for the rest of the movie, is my point. The second thing, I’ve already said in one of the footnotes anyway, so if you are trying to avoid spoilers more than I am (which maybe you should!), you can miss that easily. The third thing is that the movie is about something. I think it’s been a while since the theme of a film has shone strongly enough for me to care about mentioning it. (Or maybe they’re always so obvious as to not be worth mentioning?)

Anyway, this is a movie about responsibility. It is the lens through which nearly every character views things. Like, I don’t know if everyone is right about what responsibility has or has not accrued to them, nor whether everyone is right about how they do or do not discharge that responsibility. But it permeates every decision, and it’s a strong theme for a strong movie. Which reminds me of a fourth thing I can definitely say, which is that the three lead roles are acted exceptionally well. Nobody will look at this movie when the 2017 retrospective awards season comes along, but I think maybe they will have made a mistake, when they do not.

[1] As opposed to the rest of Marvel continuity, since the Disney people made a deal with the Sony people to share Spider-Man, so now there are only two such continuities extant.
[2] I picked the poster that most reminded me of The Last of Us, because the movie put me in mind of that. Which is a spoiler if you’ve played that game or know of it, but explaining that the correlation is by no means perfect, or even necessarily strong, would itself be a spoiler. This is hard, is all I’m saying.