Zombeavers

MV5BNTMzMzc4ODc1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM0MTgxMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing I like about monster movies is everything you need to know is presented up front and boldly in the title. I Was a Teenage Werewolf? I think you know how that film is going to go down. Sharknado? Piranha 3D? I’m just saying. Easy peasy.

Which brings me to Zombeavers, a film I first learned about when it popped up on Netflix sometime last month. Literally everything you need to write the script for this movie is contained in the title. Thing 1: these are radioactive chemical zombies, a la Return of the Living Dead. This is a foregone conclusion, because how else would it only affect beavers and not everything else, except if it was somehow tied to a limited geographic area? Thing 2: this is a college kids trapped in the woods movie, a la Evil Dead. This is also a foregone conclusion, because how else do you get the victims near the zombeavers? Ah!, you ask, but why college kids? Because it’s a one word title. Zombie Beavers, you might have some leeway, but with Zombeavers, you need people who are young enough that you know they’ll be naked sometimes, and old enough that this is permissible. The pun is just too on the spot for anything else, and also, man, the poster you are seeing here is unfortunately not the one I see on Netflix.

So, why should you watch a movie about college kids in the woods vs. zombie beavers? Because, despite everything I’ve just told you about the inevitability of the flick, this is the most subversive horror movie I’ve seen in years. Explaining how would be a spoiler, so I won’t do it here. But if anyone asks, I can definitely elaborate in comments, and in the meantime, if you have even a slim percentage of amusement in the base concept, you must see this movie. Like, yesterday.

+1

MV5BMTQwOTA5Mzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkxODAxMDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Before telling you that you definitely want to avoid +1[1], I should at least try to explain what happens in it. So, the first layer of the onion is that it’s one of those high school / early college break-up movies where the boy and the girl have some kind of valid or contrived misunderstanding, and then the one who isn’t pissed tries to make up with the one who is at a big, raunchy teen movie house party, while various secondary stories play out and roadblocks keep appearing to prevent the inevitable reconciliation.

The complicating factor is some kind of space-spawned electrical disturbance that resets time weirdly. So, like, the first one jumps everything backward about 20 minutes, and you have the people who already lived through those 20 minutes and the people from 20 minutes ago, now both existing at the same time. (Not occupying the same space, because the vast majority of partygoers end up in different locations right before the jump, which is convenient I guess?) Then the same thing happens again, but the backward jump is only like 10 minutes the next time, and so forth. Inexplicably, there are never more than two sets of people, but whatever, go with it. Poorly thought out consequences is not why you want to avoid this movie.

Honestly, the background stories all kind of worked. The nerdy girl’s search for peace, the rowdy best friend’s search for a hot chick to bang, the big group’s reaction to the weird happenings going on around them mostly unnoticed, each of these stories plays out in novel or at least believable ways, which is more than you can say for most teen house party movies. But the main story about the boy trying to reconcile with his wronged ex-girlfriend? It starts off in the exact formulaic way you would expect, with him using found knowledge from the time rewind to get his reconciliation speech just right. And then it gets seriously a whole lot worse, without any kind of ultimate consequence or useful lesson.

Long story short: I want to kick this movie in the nuts. And then I want a time loop to jump back 20 minutes, so I can kick it in nuts again at about 19:30, and then the other me kicks it again immediately afterwards.

[1] Because you should avoid it, I’m not going to be shy about the spoilers. If for some reason you think I’m wrong and you want to see it anyway, probably don’t read this review? Also, make sure you’re good on blood pressure meds.

Chill Factor

51Z1R4iI8nLIt is pleasing that I have basically infinity comics to read, because sometimes I fail to plan trips correctly and run out of book too fast. In part this is certainly due to being kind of sick and not wanting to do anything besides read, unexpectedly, but also in part this is because the Deathlands books are comic-like in their own way. Obviously, they read extremely fast, but also they are similar in that they have recurring villains and in that they lay the groundwork for future books in the current book, so the overall story tends to feel seamless instead of purely episodic.

Chill Factor sees one-eyed killing machine Ryan Cawdor off somewhere in the extreme north to rescue his son from a sulfur mine run by Russian slavers, while dodging the tender affections of a series of badly thought out but extremely lethal, er, killing machines. Like, you know, hunter-killer security droids. T-800s by way of R2-D2. Because of handwavy reasons, he’s performing this task by himself instead of with his usual crew, and while I don’t mind that, it’s certainly time for one of the other characters to get a spotlight book.

Anyway, if you like this kind of thing, the series continues to deliver. I especially appreciated, in this case, how convincing the environment was, with most everyone’s lives measured in days or weeks rather than months. Between, you know, the constant sub-zero temperatures, the radiation, and being a slave in a sulfur mine. That said, the books don’t exist digitally, so probably it’ll only ever be just me reading them.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

Terminator Genisys

MV5BNjQyMzYxMjI2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODIwNjA2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Downside of watching a movie at the start of the weekend: I fall behind. Like, every time. That said, I have a possibly relevant anecdote concerning my personal viewing of the film. See, I made plans to see it with a couple of friends on Thursday afternoon. Due to some failures of brain, one of them ended up at a separate theater at the exact same showtime. We figured it out by the time the movie was over, and he said, who cares? We wouldn’t have talked during the flick anyway, so I basically feel like I did see it with you guys! And you know, that’s completely fair enough.

Except… This is a Terminator movie. After the first two films, three movies and a (tragically underrated) TV series have each been provided as sequels, and unlike the first two movies, no two of them seem to inhabit the same… man, I’m not even sure what word to use. Same timeline misses the point entirely, as none of these movies have ever been entirely in the same timeline. I’d say same universe, but since multiverse is a term of art within time travel theory, that has basically the same problem. My point is, they all feel mutually exclusive in a way that the first two films plus any one of the purported sequels do not.

So, which is the one true sequel? I would still pick the TV version, because it had time to really dig in to plot, character, and philosophy in a way that movies necessarily do not, and also because Summer Glau. (There are more reasons I could name, but these are enough.) But I don’t review TV shows, so it seems only fair to pick a best movie sequel also, and Terminator Genisys is the one. I know you’re shocked.

So, my reasons are as follows. 1) It did time travel plausibly correctly[1], which I’m pretty sure the earliest and worst of the sequels[2] did not even really manage. 2) It understood how and when to throw a curveball. 3) It still cared about predestination, which I think the second sequel[3] did not enough. 4) It for sure cared about where humanity fits into things, which the second sequel certainly did not. Nor really the first one, which was by and large soulless if I’m being honest with myself. James Cameron, famous for creating the first two films which as you can see have been at no point up for debate in this discussion, names this the first sequel he can get behind. I say, well, but did you watch the show? Then, without waiting for an answer that might make me sad, I nod and add, fair enough.

Anyway, though, my anecdote has been left hanging. Which is important, because I believe I indicated it had some partial relevance to this whole topic. Which is to say, at this point, there are so many plausible sequels to T2 that probably there are still more that I don’t know about, leaking into the timeline at various points between 1984 and 2029 (or later!), and really, there’s no way to tell which of them my friend in the wrong theater actually saw. For that matter, he may have ended up in the wrong theater because of one such attempted sequel or other. Time travel, man. It’s a bitch.

[1] Or maybe it did not? There’s definitely one huge question mark floating in front of my brain right now, but I would need to watch all three movies and diagram everything out to be certain. Scotch and other people would be involved.
[2] Terminator 3, I guess? Who can remember.
[3] Terminator Salvation

The Unwritten: On to Genesis

81p2Syxd-YLRight after being concerned that I had no clear idea about what anything actually means in the Unwritten series, I accidentally forgot to read the next book for more than a year, due primarily to a shelving logic failure. This is unfortunate in part because, man, I’m just bad at keeping up with most of these series, but especially because as of the current book, I feel like I have a handle on things. Which says something good about Carey’s ability to know when to stop spinning the plates, at least long enough to explain himself. (Also, he’s better at metaphors than I am.)

On to Genesis, in addition to being a clever play on words, lays bare all the questions you may have had about Tommy Taylor and the mysterious organization with which he has been vying for lo these many years. And it leaves plenty of room for whatever will be happening next, proving that you don’t have to be mysterious all the time to avoid running out of story. I guess most authors already knows this, and I’m looking at television show runners here. Either way, it’s a good lesson!

I won’t be saying anything about the actual answers he’s discovered, because they’re cool enough to deserve not being spoiled. I’m just pleased to be able to report that the series isn’t wandering aimlessly after all. Next time: less than a year away, I reckon!

Jurassic World

MV5BMjMyNjI3ODQyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM5NTk5MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Things Jurassic World had going for it, right out the gate:

Dinosaur technology is better than ever
Chris Pratt is, also, better than ever
The John Williams anthem

Things Jurassic World had working against it:

“Let’s add some kids to run around in danger a lot. That makes it family friendly! I’m sure they’ll be great at acting.”
A music person who clearly had no clue how to appropriately use the John Williams bits
The lead female character’s primary role was to gradually devolve from manager of the world’s most lucrative entertainment enterprise to girlfriend, while gradually showing more skin as indicators of key moments along the progression

Seriously, though, if I was not so annoyed by that last thing, the rest of it made a pretty good movie overall. The music part was rough, but at least they got better at it over the course of the film, and the kids were dumb, but really not any dumber than the kids in Jurassic Park. If you like dinosaurs and chase scenes, that’s enough to go by, and as a bonus most of the characters and situations were pretty well developed. But man, Claire is just a terrible character that damages the rest of the movie so much.

I mean, it was still the best Jurassic sequel by a long shot. Of course it was, did you see those?!

Finders Keepers

81EJz58T3CLStephen King books seem to be coming out faster than ever these days! It’s been two a year for… well, a while anyway. But the thing is, mysteries are shorter, so maybe that’s why? Like, these are his “chill out and procrastinate” novels. Of course, now I’m making Finders Keepers sound lazy, which it wasn’t.

I think I remember reading that Mr. Mercedes was the first book of a trilogy. I could be wrong, but if so, it’s because it’s the first book of a series instead. Honestly, if Finders Keepers has a failing, it’s that it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a sequel or not. Two-thirds of the story is a game of cat and mouse between a murderer and a high school kid, but what it’s really about is literature and obsession and maybe a Salinger/Updike hybrid? And it’s pretty good! The other third is a sequel to Mr. Mercedes, and except for where the two stories mash up against each other, that third is a “Where are they now?” slice of life, which was fine but ultimately unnecessary.

Except for the part where there’s a guaranteed additional sequel that is the actual sequel to the first book, and which I very much want to read. But this book was good too. I just kind of wish it had gotten the chance to be completely its own thing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

MV5BMTUyMTE0ODcxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE4NDQzNTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A lot of people will tell you the new Mad Max movie is a feminist film. Those people are right, of course. There are many more women with dialogue than there are men, especially after you correct for one-line extras. It passes the Bechdel test again and again. Nobody’s role is “be rescued”, even the people who are in fact being rescued; and even if it were, they are being rescued by another woman. By any possible metric, Fury Road is a film that glories in being pro-woman.

But is it a Mad Max movie? Is it even an action movie? So, I’ll be honest. I’ve seen those movies, I’m pretty sure all of them. But not since the ’80s. All I remember is Mel Gibson driving around Australia a post-apocalyptic hellscape in weaponized cars, shooting at people he was chasing or who were chasing him. That said, there’s no doubt that this is a sequel to those flicks, both visually and via the clever use of flashbacks that were not intrusive to my lack of knowledge while clearly referencing real scenes that I just couldn’t remember. And as far as action: I’m pretty sure you will not find as much concentrated adrenaline at any point during this summer season. It’s one long chase movie, and you can tell where the act breaks are written into the script because that’s the only time someone isn’t chasing someone else. Aside from one silly action movie trope about the physical toughness of a main character, there was no point where I was confident about anyone’s safety once things started, um, rolling. I have nothing bad to say about this movie that I’m not willing to immediately handwave as an aspect of the genre.

But you know what? It’s important to acknowledge the feminist angle again. Here’s why. Post-apocalyptic fiction has a habit of relegating women to victimhood. That’s what I always praise so highly about the Deathlands series that I’ve been reading, is not only that it rarely falls into that trap, but that it was written starting in the late ’80s, when nobody really cared about that kind of thing yet.

The thing about the post-apocalypse is that women will frequently be victims. This is not a particularly controversial thing to say. Men will be victims too, they just won’t survive that initial step the way women will. Human nature indicates that once power is all that matters, a lot of men will be killed, fewer women will be killed because they can be enslaved for the purposes of the men doing all the killing, and the people who are left will be tough enough to survive on their own / in their own small groups, or they will glom onto the men doing all the killing and help them so as not to be killed themselves. Which is the point. In the post-apocalyptic world, as in all worlds, feminist problems are really just humanist problems with a different word attached to them. Yes, it’s terrible that all those women have been enslaved and someone should ought to do something about it. It’s also terrible that all those men were killed on the way to where the movie started, and it’s terrible that all the boys were brainwashed by the powerful into being cannon fodder for Max (or whoever) to shoot at. None of it is the least bit okay, but the women are the face of it.

What makes Fury Road a great feminist movie is simply that women were co-equally involved in doing something about the world’s humanist problems. Maybe someday we can get there in the regular world, too.

Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack

71DrhQKXp1LSo, the last thing that happened in Fables was all of reality was saved from uncreation. Which, y’know, cool. Now that that‘s dealt with, time to see what’s going on with Jack Horner and Jack Frost (who were fairly major characters in that particular endeavor, you see).

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack are… well, they are new adventures which star Jack and Jack, that much is true. If you are sensing some kind of overlap between the two eponymous characters, well, that is what we in the industry refer to as a mislead. Jack Frost has wandered off into the storybook worlds to be a real hero, while his father has wandered off by himself (well, not by himself, his sidekick is always there, but you know, still away from everyone else) to revel in the fact that he finally has a big treasure all his own. And that’s pretty much all that happens! Admittedly, it’s a five issue trade, but after all that has gone down in the past of this series, you kind of expect more than a single heroic quest and a single… well, while admittedly Jack Horner does almost nothing, there is a major plot progression that occurs, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

I do wish to complain that they’re both named Jack, though. The whole point of a dude having a name is you can refer to him by name, and the people listening know who you’re referring to! ….not anymore, I guess.