Monthly Archives: December 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home

I would be remiss if I did not first point out that in addition to being otherwise fun and sans commercials, the Alamo Drafthouse pre-show is especially useful for movies that require recaps[1], because they can tell you everything you need to know and with mostly a bare minimum of spoilers involved. Although, because reasons, the No Way Home pre-show had more spoilers by implication than most. Since previews for these are to some extent unavoidable, it had no spoilers that I didn’t already know about, but if you avoid better than me, this is harder to recommend. (Also, you may not have a local Alamo. For this, I can only offer my sincerest condolences.)

All of that to say, there’s a third Tom Holland Spider-Man movie. The last one, you might remember, ended on the second biggest bombshell in MCU history: Spider-Man is both accused (with documentary evidence!) of murder, and has been publicly identified as Peter Parker. Where do you really go from there? Well, if you’re a prospective high school senior trying to get into MIT, and you also know a wizard, you try to magic your way out of it. I mean hell, probably if you know a wizard, you do that whether the other things are true or not, right?

None of that is important, nor per se is the plot, although I enjoyed the plot a great deal and it retroactively made other movies I’ve seen before (but will not link to at this time) better than they were. What is important is that this is the best version of Spider-Man, the one who sees his great responsibility not as simply using his great powers to fight and stop bad guys, but as using his powers to help people. And sure, that involves fighting and stopping bad guys, frequently, especially when you live in a comic book world, but it’s not the most important way to do it. It’s barely an important way at all, to be honest.

I know everyone talks about whether Pete will be the next Iron Man, but… nah. As far as his heart and soul, he’s the next kid from Brooklyn Queens who is just here to step up because someone has to, sometimes. No offense to Sam Wilson.

[1] such as, say, anything put out by Marvel Studios these days

Jigsaw (2017)

I just got extremely lucky[3].

See, in doing my research for Jigsaw, a movie that I didn’t even know existed until like a year ago, I came to realize that I never[1] saw Saw: The Final Chapter aka Saw 3D not aka Saw VII[2] like it should have been. But now I’ve already seen number eight! Which is where the lucky comes in, because this one is set ten years after the original several movies, all of which spanned a relatively short series of months, and thus the Jigsaw killer has been dead for like ten years, and this plot is something completely new. ….or is it?? More appropriately, …or is he [dead]??

Which is where I run into my main complaint about what was otherwise a pretty straightforward entry in the franchise. One of the best things about the movies, aside from inspiring me to coin “rube goreberg device”, is that Jigsaw has a code. And the code is, if you follow the rules, you get to live. Which meant that when following the rules seemed only moderately tangential to living in this particularly movie, I had to spend most of it trying to figure out if it was a crappy Saw movie or if something else was going on.

Normally, it would be a spoiler to indicate whether I will continue to seek out additional movies in the franchise, but, well, it’s me. So at least I’ve got “no spoilers” going for me, which is nice.

[1] here we go again
[2] In retrospect, I sort of knew this one existed. I just forgot to watch… it… oh hell, no, I did see it. That’s embarrassing.
[3] No, it turns out I’m less lucky and more forgetful. Blame me, not the movie.

Hack/Slash vs. Vampirella

I know very little about Vampirella as a character, save that she exists and dresses… provocatively, let’s say. However, I know a great deal about Cassandra Hack, so I am qualified to speak on two thirds of the factors that went into this book.

Well, three fourths if you count the name, which is a little odd. Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella implies that the titles are fighting, rather than the characters. And that’s just weird, right? (I mean, obviously if the characters are all good guys in a crossover, their fighting will be resolved amicably before they deal with the real threat, I’m not talking about that; ‘sjust the way things are done. But who ever heard of books fighting? Get it together, title bro!)

Okay, I’ve lost the thread. Anyway, thing one I can address is the plot, and it was, y’know, fine. Cassie and her road trip buddy / fighting companion Vlad do the thing they do, dealing with a threat that could range anywhere from “might kill some teens at  summer camp. again.” to “extinction-level event in the offing”, and they do so the way they usually do: messily.

To reiterate, I cannot address thing two, which is how was Vampirella’s characterization? Because I have no idea. Maybe Shawn Aldridge has written for her before, and maybe not. Her artistic rendering matched my vague memories of book covers past, so there’s that.

Thing three is Cassie’s characterization, and, um… it wasn’t actively terrible. I know it can be hard for some authors to correctly capture some voices. Honestly, it’s a testament to Marvel’s editorial staff over the first 25 years, that characters come across poorly so infrequently. But speaking, as we were, of Cassie’s voice… she had one mode the whole book, and it was vulgar bluster. Which is a thing she does sometimes, but honestly, the blood-spattered cheesecake in these books has never been good enough for me to tolerate a one note character, not for nearly this long. I really hope that whoever authors the next of these books has a better handle on what makes them tick. Or else, maybe this was simply a Vampirella book, and the target audience doesn’t care about my concerns at all?

Beats me!

The Pool (2018)

So, what I knew about The Pool going in is that it was a Thai movie about a dude trapped in a really deep, empty pool with a crocogator. Which, yeah, that’s enough by itself to fill like 75 minutes I reckon?

So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is in fact a pressure cooker of a plot, where every few minutes brings another new twist that ratchets up the tension another notch, until… well, that would be telling, obviously, but what I will say is that by the end of the movie, I believed the writers were willing to go to any lengths, which is ultimately what you want out of a horror movie but so rarely get. Nobody is safe, no line is uncrossable.

Billy Summers

It really should not take me four months to read a book, too-busy job and toddler-rearing or not. And I mean, don’t mistake me, I read really a lot of comics in this period as well, but… something isn’t right, and I need to address it[1]. All that said, despite a four month duration, I was pretty happy with Billy Summers, even though after the early act two surprise shift in direction, I expected not to be.

The way things start is, Billy is a hitman who is a) smarter than he acts, b) only takes jobs on bad people who deserve it, and c) has just been offered one hell of a payout on his next job, even though he had kind of already convinced himself it was time to retire. I, uh, think we all know what that means. Hell, even Billy knows, but the money shines a little more brightly than the flashing genre signpost in his mind does.

Later… well, that would be telling. I will say that by the end of the book, my misgivings about the second act shift in direction had largely been settled, the long delay mainly because it was impossible to be sure whether it would turn out okay until the end of the book. I can imagine wanting to stay away, though, and I’m aware of just how vague I’m being: this is for spoiler purposes. But if you personally want to know what I would be waving you off from as a hazard, just let me know and I will divulge.

Lastly, it’s a little weird how political King has become. I mean, not on Twitter, he should do whatever he wants there. And I also understand that one writes what one knows. It’s just jarring after reading everything he’s written, a catalog that by a small margin predates my own birth, to see how much politics has seeped into his overall viewpoint in just these last recent years. The good news is, boomer blind spots or not, at least he’s on the right side of history. (The other good news is that just because it’s there to notice and be surprised by, it’s not like he has, this time or previously, written a book about politics. (Even if act three is sort of a political revenge fantasy.))

[1] Possible way to address it: accept that I’m primarily a comics reader and have 35 years still to catch up on. For various reasons, I’m not perfectly happy with this option.