So, Rise Against did a Song for DC’s Death Metal (a look at Broken Dreams Inc.)

Watch the video:

DC’s Dark Nights: Metal was one of the biggest, craziest, darkest, and more beloved event books in comic history. A real metal inspired story and look that’s been escalated with all I’ve seen in this sequel series, Death Metal. It is almost perfect synergy to get a song to illustrate all the book represents and stands for and Rise Against is a great pick.

I like Rise Against as a band. They made two of my favorite songs, Satellites and Savior. They have a strong command of writing a song while making it feel epic. They do, in their lesser songs, devolve into just screaming and not advancing the song. That makes them a good if possibly risky pick. Thankfully they stick to what works for them.

Forturnetly and unfortunately they made a Rise Against song. It’s not bad in anyway. The beat and riffs rock. There is a lot of power and energy behind both the production and lyrics. When turned up loud, it feels like a big song about… well it’s what most Rise Against songs are about, loss of innocence, death of the American dream, general rioting against big businesses. So, yeah it’s not really a song about the DC heroes.

Part of this disconnect I’m feeling comes from how I don’t know what the story of Death Metal. Maybe Death Metal is all about automation taking over, riots of the underclasses, and are the children of lesser gods (this part I do believe). This isn’t to say I want an anime OP for the book… actually I do. That would be awesome! I just want something somewhat related to the heroes and their struggles in the book, and that did kind of happen.

What? You don’t remember Mercenary by Panic! at the Disco? The song produced for the Batman: Arkham City game, it is also a good song and, though can be equally vague in the way post-first album Panic! can be, but at least its bridge uses a Jonathan Crane voice line as a bridge to put us in the head of Batman. Broken Dream Inc could be getting into Batman or one of the other character’s heads, but again I wouldn’t know the story.

The video for Broken Dreams Inc uses art from the comic along with additional ADRd lines to frame the events as something the heroes created. It makes the line, “A chaos we ourselves created,” literal by having the chaos be The Batman who Laughs and the scenario of this Heavy Metal Apocalypse be on the heroes heads as something they must solve. The video also tries very hard to find literalizations of song lyrics in the book. A truly funny example is, “And they’re changing the locks on the doors,” paired with the Joker closing a jail cell. It’s goofy in a way I don’t think they intended. Even with the pairing of comic pages it is hard to see the relation other than the lyrics being what the heroes are saying to The Batman who Laughs and his villains, but that’s not nearly as explicit as they think it is.

There was no place to really put this since I framed this as the song relates to the the DC universe and characters, but the title “Broken Dream Inc” is a great title and used really well. It is given one line, but feels like it’s supposed to be informed by the line before and after. In the chorus and they sing, “When the factories are automated/Broken dreams incorporated/Gather your things but there’s nowhere to go,” they make the line about broken dreams feel more like something added to the factories and business. The peoples broken dreams are incorporated into the business so you can try to leave but you won’t go anywhere. The line says that businesses, corporations and the like are not just made by the people in charge but by those who gave up everything to work there. Who had dreams of their own but were broken under the weight of the impossible system we live in. It is a really haunting line that far more interesting way to use it, instead of being the name of an actual corporation.

More comic companies need to do this. Sure, Death Metal is more closely related to an actual genre of music (though I would not classify Rise Against as death metal, they are the most normie friendly metal they could get), but that doesn’t mean more comic companies can’t do this. Adding a secondary, multi-media element, that isn’t as intrusive as a tie-in novel or game, but can get the themes and tone across is brilliant. Songs are the perfect medium to accomplish that task. They can be as brief, lyrical, and bombastic as needed all while never being crucial to understanding the text of the story. A whole event book that had a song tied to each release and was meant to be listened to with each book would be epic and really unique. And since unique is all the comic book industry has left it sounds like a great idea.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Does The Silence Of The Lambs Ride The Performance Of Anthony Hopkins? (A Review)

My new interest in the fictional killer Hannibal Lecter has led me to not only watching the show Hannibal, but also deciding to watch all of the movies with the character. Along with that, I have also ordered the collection of books by Thomas Harris where the character originated so that I can also read them. The best thing about all of these various forms of media surrounding the character, I have gone into each one almost blind. The one exception being The Silence of the Lambs. An Oscar darling of a movie that took some of the biggest awards home has always been something that I knew about, but have never had the pleasure of actually watching.

Yes, I said it. I have never seen The Silence of the Lambs. I have never even seen portions of it. All I know about the movie is that the stars are Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Had I not watched the Hannibal TV show prior to watching this, I likely wouldn’t have known anything about the character of Hannibal either. Even with how well Mads Mikkelsen played the character in the TV show, I went into this movie with a blank slate understanding that it was Hopkins himself that defined the character before Mads took his shot. 

With the success in the back of my mind, I did my best to shut those thoughts out so that I could just enjoy the movie. The one point that kept nagging at me though was that I have continuously heard that Hopkins is outstanding but is only in the movie for about fifteen minutes. The moment they introduced him, I started to get worried that the rest of the movie wasn’t going to be able to live up to the quality of character he is right off the bat. 

The fifteen minutes however is a little exaggerated. Maybe on a technical level if we break down the total time, I might be wrong and it might actually be closer to fifteen minutes, but it never feels like it’s a short amount of time spent with the character. Understandably though, Hannibal is not the main villain of the movie so his role should have been limited the way it was. The unfortunate result though is that I think they got more out of Anthony Hopkins than they expected. He falls so deeply and perfectly into this role that it really is just a damn shame that the movie wasn’t focused on him. 

He was putting on an acting clinic in every scene that he’s in with Jodie Foster as Clarice being the perfect contrast to what he was bringing. The incredibly odd yet perfect chemistry between the two is what makes those scenes the absolute best and highest points of the movie. If not for Hannibal, we would not have had such a powerful performance pulled out of Jodie Foster. That’s not a knock by any means on her part because she’s a very gifted actress, but you could see her skill being pulled out of her with every Hopkins interaction. 

I keep bringing up these two characters as the main points of a movie that is actually about another character, Buffalo Bill. A sadistic serial killer who has a gender identification problem with himself. I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to say that, but essentially he wants to be a woman but is unable to get a hospital to do the surgeries. This leads him to turning a bit psychotic and kidnapping women to eventually kill them and pull their skin off so that he can wear their skin.

Yeah, crazy enough that’s actually the kind of serial killer that matches up with what I was hoping to get as a second to Hannibal even though Hannibal technically is a second to him. The good thing though with Buffalo Bill being this crazy in what he does is that it makes him a truly fearful villain for Clarice. He never reaches the bar that Hannibal sets, but works for what the story was trying to do. The only downside of the character and movie as a whole is the ending encounter between him and Clarice. It seemed a bit cheesy and unlikely that he would have left himself that open to be killed. Unless of course you assume that he had just given up on everything but with him getting ready to kill her, it just didn’t seem that way. 

This brings me to the story as a whole from start to finish. The story is very strong in how it sets up the plot and mystery and everything coming together with all of the moving pieces, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing as much as I expected it to. I believe this is by nobody’s fault except that Hopkins was just so damn good as Hannibal. He gives an all time performance that overshadows the rest of the movie and leaves you wanting more. Especially with an ending that leaves you hanging and wanting the story to continue with just Hannibal and Clarice. 

Does the movie deserve to be recognized as well as it is or is it riding the back of an all time performance of a villain seconded by another fantastic performance by Jodie Foster? I can’t say that I have actually seen all of the other movies that were nominated that year, so it’s hard to say. The performances are well deserving of the awards, but the story itself I feel doesn’t quite live up to how good the characters were. Now again it’s nitpicking because this movie is so much better than most movies that have attempted to do a similar story, but I was just expecting a bit more. 

It also leaves me wondering what could have been with a season 4 of Hannibal that was expected to introduce Clarice where we could have gotten another adaptation of the Silence of the Lambs storyline. There are just a lot of moving parts when discussing all of the different adaptations of a story that I have yet to read. This movie in the end is a great movie, I was invested the whole time and couldn’t get enough of the chemistry by Foster and Hopkins. I can see why it has received as much recognition as it has, but I still have some questions for what could have been better. 

I will be reading and reviewing the books soon enough, so it will be an interesting comparison when I get to that point. I will also be reviewing the other Hannibal films that have been released, so again we will see how those end up being. If you have seen The Silence of the Lambs and have your own comments or questions then feel free to comment below or email us at and follow us @TowerCityMedia

The Devil All The Time is Bafflingly Bad (a Review)

In the Babysitter post (it’s good- you should read it) I mentioned the impossible balance Netflix must walk with its two heads. The content head, having material enough people will want to watch, but has to be diverse but unified; along the production head that must find stories they think good enough to fit on their platform while also confirming to their brand. Well that gets more complicated when you add in big name star. The Babysitter had character actors at best, but when you try to make an A-List, star driven story while also meeting the above criteria that makes it even more impossible to come out with anything amazing. Then double it when it comes to an adaption of a novel.

Set after World War II the story follows an ensamble cast along the border of West Virginia and Ohio. It principally follows Tom Holland’s Arvin, an orphan forced to move back with his grandma, uncle, and step sister of a sort (it’s complicated). Life gets hard when their town preacher leaves and a new preacher played by Robert Pattinson comes to town. Meanwhile a Bonny and Clyde-esqu duo kill hitchhikers all covered for by the female half of the duo having a brother for Sheirff.

This movie is bad. Quite bad in fact, but it’s not all bad. The production values and purposeful throwback style to older dramas give it a distinct feel. Match that with a mostly good cast and a couple of strong, but not movie saving, scenes, it can work at times. Unfortunately it misses far, far, far (I could keep going) often.

Out of the two movie killing plays this film takes the worst is the pacing. For around 75% or more of the film nothing is happening. I thinks characters are making changes that will inform them later, but it honestly drags all of that out. To give an example, it takes 40+ minutes just to get Tom Holland on screen. Once he arrives the movie must then juggle every other character that he gets lost. To make it worse the editing is attortious. Strange cuts. Weird non-flashback flashbacks. A non-linear story that doesn’t realize it is non-linear, but also wants to try and act like it is. All of it makes for an ungodly slow movie. Despite being just over two hours, the time drags by worse the being carted on mud by a horse. A defense of these choices would go back to the films themes. I would agree, but there is a catch. What the movie thinks it is doing, is showing a family or group of people having to deal with the throws of religion and high powers thrust upon them. Unfortunately it handles these themes and the ways they are gotten across with all the ease of dragging a person through the woods with a horse (I keep going to that metaphor but that’s not a movie reference).

One of the hot debates in cinema is the voice over/narration. If done well no one would even notice. It is not inherently bad, just how it’s used. This movie uses voice over and makes me feel dumb in the process. The film begins in voice over and that is a fair enough choice. A staple in many films. Give us a setting and tone, but then it keeps going. It goes so long that it informs us the viewers of character motivations that don’t seem present in the film. The ultimate in telling, not showing. The voice over will explain what events or perceived higher power drives someone. To make it worse when it doesn’t do that in scenes it feels off. It holds your hand so much that when given any freedom it feels like your let loose in a field surrounded by horses carting dead bodies. I mean to say your lost and confused. On top of making you feel dumb because it has to tell you everything that happens, it also slows the pacing down and show the movie doesn’t trust the story it’s telling. It seeks to need to fill the cracks it’s own narrative can’t fill. It’s sloppy.

The film was based on a novel by Donald Ray Pollock, as well as voiced by him. I’m sure the book is okay, even pretty good, but the strict adherence to the books prose, scene transitions, and narrative style make for a choppy, hand holding experience. Books can flow into different scenes within a paragraph or two. Movies can, but need more care. If done wrong you end up with a film like this where scenes stop, start, and will cut with no warning or rhyme. Similarly, books can say what characters are thinking straight out. Doesn’t make it better than showing through action and interaction, but is a more natural thing to read than to have explained to you while pictures on screen convey the exact same themes and ideas. It’s just clunky and ruins anything the book could have done well by wasting it on accuracy to the source material.

As baffling, confusing, and kinda pretty this movie is to look at, the most confounding thing is how it makes Tom Holland look like a better, more brutal (cause apparently I’ve been reading the wrong Batman comics/watching the wrong Batman TV shows all my life and people think he’s just a brutalizer… yay…) Batman than the already cast and currently in production zone with Robert Pattinson. Doesn’t mean he’s bad, but Tom Holland really does shine in the film and it is a shame he is stuck with such limp, dead-horse drawn-body material.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Yeah, but is The Legend of Korra good, Though?

I just finished my season-by-seaon look at The Legend of Korra, and overall I find it a facinating series (6,000 words of fascination later).

The most fascinating, and my favorite thing about this series is the complicated and diverse discourse the show has. This might be because I relish argument as pure sport (read my piece on Smash Bros for further understanding— it’s good). You might believe what you say, but it’s just a debate. It doesn’t matter (can you tell I spend no time on message boards— Discord Servers, God I’m old). That makes how this show can have articles and videos decrying it as a failure while other praise it as sophisticated story telling. It’s why, as much as I hated early DCEU (and really all dc movies after Dark Knight), I find the debate around them to be so interesting because it’s the same kind of thing. To that end I watched so many analysis and editorials on Korra, as well as read articles to really gauge all the talking points people have, and to help measure where I fall.

One phrase I kept coming back to in my head was, “I hate to criticize this show because I love looking at it,” and that sentiment holds true no matter how many editorials or video essays I watched. I think it stands as one of the best looking animated series even after the animation slump between season one and two when the switches from Studio Mir to Pierrot and then in season four. This does sound back handed, but it goes deeper. The visuals are only a part of it. I think the character designs are striking. Each one oozes with personality some of the people embodying them don’t have. Korra in particular is one of my favorite characters for the look alone. Some of the complaints that her design is busy feels mixed. I like her season four outfit a lot, but it also feels like an evolution of the brash nature she once had (also I’m shocked she’s not more of a female icon. Not because she is swoll as Hell but because she gets away with wearing sweats for the whole show, and of the little I know about women, comfort is key).

But even designs as simple as Kuvira and Zaheer all give them some concrete personality. There is also no accounting for how much I care for the world of Avatar that just spending more time in it feels good, and giving it a full HD upgrade helps it come live. Though I also love the tone and atmosphere of the series. It balances the line of being mature and goofy better than Avatar did even as the writing is lesser. This made the multiple times I watched through footage during the video essays that much more enjoyable.

Even as a shallow compliment, me liking visuals, that should tell you enough of my opinion, but I have more thoughts. Some of them are not so subtle responses and expansions of points I heard and read during my deep dive. All of them center around the changes, not necessarily evolutions but some times evolutions, made from one series to another.

Not all changes are bad, and neither are all differences. Two objects are able to exist as opposites without one being better (why do you think Mean Girls is my favorite movie while Avengers Age of Ultron is my favorite superhero film). I might like one more than another but I wouldn’t quantify them the same. Many elements between Avatar and Korra are felt in that way. The biggest being a comparison between Appa and Naga.

Appa was an essential part of Avatar. Not just because he was Team Avatar’s transportation, but because he was one of the last remnants of the Air Nomand civilization, and crucial comic relief and empathy. There is a reason it is a big deal he is stolen and forced to flee his numerou captures all to get kidnapped by the Di Lei and eventually freed. It made us care for this big loveable creature. He clearly had emotions and obviously meant a lot to Aang and the rest of the team. Naga, Korra’s spiritual animal, less so. Naga plays a role only in season one as Korra’s city transport before they get a satomobile. After that she is abandoned to being background dressing and occasional cute animal comic relief with Pabu. That means Naga holds far less emotional weight to the series. If she got kidnapped I would fear the situation but would not be nearly as affected. This might sound like a negative, but it’s just a difference.

Naga and animal side kicks are not as important to Korra the series, and the characters that have them are used to show they are immature in some way (similar to say Kristoff and Sven in Frozen). Heck, they are used as a parody of animal side kicks in the movers Bolin films in season two with Verick. Basically, there is a reason Bolin becomes more himself in season four when he reunites with Pabu after fleeing Kuvira’s army.

The other example of problems that aren’t problems are harder to quantify because though they are not problems conceptually, they are never handled great in the series to hold them up. The first of these is Korra being so sheltered growing up and training. As pointed out in Avatar, the reason an Avatar must go on a journey is to learn the world and find masters who will help them understand themselves and the world they must protect. Korra, for plot reasons, did not have this. In universe that makes sense. By the time Korra is born the Avatar is a key positon right for exploitation like kidnapping. Of course this lack of seeing the world has unforseen consequences on Korra. Without having seen the world her brash attitude causes her to make situations worse. A key character flaw like that is perfect for great writing, unfortunately it seems like the team doesn’t realize that’s a problem, or figured it out too late and tried to adjust course by humbling her. They just never stuck to it.

I hate to rewrite stories. It’s my least favorite form of critique (also why I dispise theory talk or speculationcasts. Wait for the thing to come out and then discuss what it does. Don’t try to predict and get your hopes up when it doesn’t reach that goal). But the team had many good points in the story to do this and never did. When Korra loses her bending against Amon they could have done a season on her regaining them. When Korra loses Raava they could have done something with her gaining that back, and when she is crippled by Zaheer they do something with her then, but by then it’s the end of the series and feels like they’re finally getting around to telling the story they were trying to tell. Unfortunately by that time the series is over and any future is only possible in comics, not in the animated series proper.

Another one that isn’t bad is one the show deals with quickly but feels ever present even as the team moves past it. That being the stationary nature of the series. Instead of a world spanning trip across mystical lands, constantly searching and being hunted like in Avatar, Korra seeks for a more stationary cast and setting. This is most true in season one as New Team Avatar tries to deal with the unrest in Republic City, but even afterwards, in the later seasons, the locations they go to are all reused and feel more like limited TV sets than a full on world.

Now saying you should discount a show because it reuses sets would seek to discount most all television, good and bad. Instead I mean that Korra seeks to be more focused on having a consistent setting. This works for the most part. Despite decrying the Americanization (which I would push back against some as, seeing pictures of streets in Hong Kong and Beijing they look similar to that as well) and steam punkery of Republic City, it is a place brimming with life. Same with the Southern Water Tribe, Zaofou, and the Spirit World, they are all places interesting enough in design, tone, or culture to make spending time there enjoyable. It also gives more time to get to know the groups and people living there. In theory at least, it doesn’t always execute on that.

A great example is Zaofou. We spend a good chunk of season three and four in the city, but it feels unclear how it operates, how it was founded, and its function in the larger society. Instead time is focused just on Su and Lin. This is good in theory, but when we have to care about it later it’s hard because we know so little about it or what it stands for. This also means sometimes time is spent too long in one location to be enjoyable and feels like a slog. Hence the lack of energy in places like the Bending Arena, police stations, air temples, and Kuvira’s camps. It might also be why the final fight feels so lackluster. Though it is in Republic City, the city is never displayed or conveyed well, making the fight seem smaller and less substantial than it should.

One issue this focus on staying in the same places leads to a lack of world building outside the set locations. Normally this wouldn’t bug me except for one little nibble… we don’t know what’s going on with the Fire Nation.

This seems like a strange oversight borne from a good place. The last series spent a lot of time with the Fire Nation, so gooing back to it would be odd and might feel like a rehash of what’s come before. Unfortunately not touching it at all leads to questions I have about it (in the same way I question what the rest of the world is like in stories like The Hunger Games or Divergent). The most we are given is that Zuko was leader until his daughter took over. They are also in some way connected to the World Army that General Iroh is connected to, but other than that it’s a giant mystery, and it shouldn’t be. The Fire Nation should be a hotbed (no pun intended) of possible stories. It’s now a nation having to recover its image after going full totalitarian. It must be ripe with debate, intrigue, and drama over how to recover their tarnished image. Instead we get a couple scenes with Zuko and one scene with his daughter and after that it is abandoned.

Yet, that might not be as true as I once thought (to bury the lead a little, it is true what I said before, I’m just focusing on something else). An idea that is often overlooked in the first half of the show but made a strong focus in the latter seasons is Republic City as a part of the Earth Kingdom. Land stolen by Avatar Aang, Zuko, and the Earth King. Some call this colonization and feel like the show doesn’t address that enough or paints it as a good thing that the Earth Kingdom was taken over by an invading or previously invaded power. That is a compelling thought. There is some logic in it, but feels like an argument the show would make about a political ideology. It wants to be an allusion or allegory for a real life problem but has too many in-universe issues getting in the way.

Just like how Amon says that non-benders are oppressed but chooses to use only a sport to illustrate that, Republic City was not something taken by Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang. Granted we don’t see how it transpired, just given an explanation, but the explanation seems to be one of unity and experience. To create a place not tied to any of the nations. It also doesn’t seem to have been taken by force, but instead compromise. Whether that’s true or not is hard to say, but the fact both the Earth Queen and Kuvira want to take it back by force are ways to illustrate that they’re villainous in some way. They want to take a place of independence and force it back under the rule of one nation. That doesn’t mean there is no discussion to be had. The decision of the Earth King from 60 years ago shouldn’t take precedent over future goals, but there is no discussion had in the show or reasons to think its meant to be villainous in their own right other than what they represent.

The final change between the shows is its use of multiple villains on the same level instead of a consistent overarching antagonist with minor minions as the day-to-day foes.

This change is nothing new for semi-serialized and fully serialized TV shows. Clearly an influence on the team was Buffy, which did that consistently (kind of) for seven seasons, along with most superhero and crime shows. They give fresh threats for the characters to face instead of just one insurmountable threat they’re training for. It’s a tried and true method that flexes writing and planning skills, especially when you try to make them more relatable and sympathetic.

In my 5 Things I Would Change with Avatar (It’s good, you should read it), one of them was to give Lord Ozai more refined goals and motivation. Not necessarily make him sympathetic, but at least have definition other than being a crazy fire monster voiced by Mark Hamill. Korra attempts to do that for multiple villains to mixed results. Both Amon and Unalaq were the roughest of them and share the most in common. Both are villains that are supposed to be foils for Korra, a person who has mastered a skill she has not and thinks that they are the better for it. Of course where they break down is in their motivations. They are both far more self serving than once thought, and devolve into villains as cliché as Ozai, but with rhetoric to make them sound smart.

Zaheer and Kuvira fare far better then Amon and Unalaq, but suffer from different problems. Zaheer’s ultimate freedom, anarchy-chaos as natural order shtick works better than I think people give it credit for. The idea air bending is total freedom and he gets that through a major change as if I’m he was chosen to enact that freedom onto the world would be great if it was explored more. Yet. much is put on him for being idiotic, unthoughtful, and more selfish than he thinks. Criticism of him killing the Earth Queen and hoping for the Earth Kingdom to sort itself out only to lead Kuvira into power is seen as a negative trait, but could also have been done on purpose. That’s one of this outcomes where it’s hard to tell if it’s a happy accident or planned. Either way, the fact he is a villain should automatically rule out anything he says… except for the fact the team tried and failed to make their past villains have a point and support that with how society changed to better address their grievances. Meaning it’s hard to tell if Zaheer’s ideals are supposed to be taken seriously or just his actions.

Kuvira on the other hand is supposed to be taken utterly seriously. She left to mend the broken Earth Kingdom and instead instituted a fascist government. The problem with her is that so little is really shown of a normal life under her. I’m not sure what she’s really protecting them against. There are bandits and raiders shown in the first episode, but they seem more displaced and turning to crime by her intervention than helped. Interestingly though, being she is the closest one to Ozai’s ideals, she’s given some backstory. Unfortunately that doesn’t make everything she do make sense. Most of it feels constructed to make her Nazi-lite (all the totalitarianism, none of the death camps), and also want to her to be sympathetic but not go into detail why she makes some of the choices. One of the biggest examples is throwing other element benders into prison camps. In fact, much of what Kuvira does feels like all posturing and threats (which she’s good at. Now I know what Baatar was into cause I’d want her to step on me too), but doesn’t go far enough. Even if they wanted her sympathetic they could make it feel more out of anger than an actual, honest threat. I think she needs just one line about not wanting to lose power to someone who could replace her, or threaten the other nations if they interfere with her land reclamation. But even as I want her to be more in-depth she serves her narrative purpose well enough.

Even as the villains make no political sense, as much as they want them to, that’s not their main role. With each villain they were foes to help Korra grow, but also to learn from. Now despite the fact Toph just explains what the viewers and Korra were supposed to take from the past villains, Korra does learn. The believablity, understanding, and “too easiness,” aside, of course, she grows even if she doesn’t realize it. Amon, by taking her bending, forced her to believe in the forces inside her, thus helping her throw her first air-punch. Though Amon lied about his origins he still taught Korra the importance of belief even if that wasn’t his goal. Unalaq built on that further by forcing her to come face-to-face with the spirit world and how the Avatar neglected them. Zaheer forced Korra to her lowest point in order to help her build up, and Kuvira is the culmination of everything she learned rolled into one final conversation at the end of the series. It’s far more reminiscent of classic TV writing. She needed one lesson to deal with the other. Execution of these ideas might be wanting but they drove their point home.

Every change above is a lateral move. In concept none are better or worse, just different. Of course, not all differences are positive. Some of the changes in course were not for the worse. Most talked about and agreed upon is the change in bending.

Bending was both a martial art and an artform. There is not end to the amount of times I watched the behind the scenes on Avatsr just to see where they got the inspiration for each style of bending, and what that bending said about the person using it. That last point was so crucial there was a whole episode with Zuko trying to get his bending back. All to say that style was important. Korra the Series change to make it all generic MMA combat (granted I’ve watched enough Joe “Welcome to the Show… Friend of the Show… Hey good buddy… probably true” Rogan to know MMA isn’t generic). Even if it isn’t, they have simplified it all down to a base set of moves and styles every character used.

There are a number of reasons this happened or could have happened even if they didn’t mean for it to. Some of it comes from an honest and impossible place to advance the world. The most obvious examples being electricity and metal bending. Those two styles and moves of bending were big hits and important parts of the worldbuilding. If they didn’t advance those styles of bending people would have called foul on more people not learning, but since they did advance it the world feels less deep. People have to work at metal bending, and some can’t do it at all, but they make electric bending just a normal skill fire benders can do (though to compare it back to the lack of exploration with the Fire Nation, maybe they do have to learn but it isn’t explained at all). The second, less obvious, is how benders are no longer suppressed like they were under the Fire Nation, meaning more benders are around. This would logically mean not all of them would be properly trained to bend elements, hence getting the street fighting/boxing styles of combat most benders use. That makes sense why the Equalists could take them. They actually had to train to fight them on an equal level.

Of course that isn’t the whole change because the biggest culprit/chicken and the egg scenario is pro bending. Pro bending did not have to exist. That was one element of the show no one wanted or clamored for. However, once you hear those words in your head it does get possible ideas spinning. The direction, a three v three boxing-alike, makes sense if you think of it as a 20s era sport. Boxing is huge and very American, which this series is pushing. That decision is also where the change in bending is shown. All bending can no longer be this whole art form because now it needs to be quick, high impact moves. Basic jabs, kicks, etc. what makes it kind of worse is how there is seemingly no strategy to the sport. Just hit hard and fast. The only time it feels classic or like it’s a new spin is when Korra uses that to figure out air bending stuff with the dodging, and the one on one fights. That brings me to the discussion of why it had to be that way in the first place. There are plenty of other sports to copy. An automatically better and more interesting idea is a ball control game where you scores points by throwing a ball into a goal with only bending. Have two field players and a goalie. That would expand bending by seeing how each element uses its power in new ways, and get Korra on a team so she has instant access to bending friends. And if it has to be fighting, make it a team of one on one fights and add other game elements to it. This too would expand bending by maybe having a water bender who can cut rocks, or a fire bender who is good at fighting water. Just so many options, none of which would have caused the portrayal of bending in the series to change.

None of this is to say that pro bending on its face is bad, just could be better. The show kind of agrees with me and realized it was a good world building idea at best by sidelining it in season two, and then having Su’s sons in Zhaoufu make a way better bending sport with a metal disk that can bounce around. Basically, pro bending isn’t the problem, it’s the symptom.

The most aggravating thing about the series can be seen in microcosm with bending. Bending changes and there is some talk about it, but other than that it is left as it is with no sense of how others really feel about it. Something like that should play as a big question to the audience who came in right after the past series, but it’s not. It would be like if they changed The Force in Star Wars (people argue the sequels did). But not just giving everyone the ability to force push or force kick or whatever, but said you could fly and throw rocks like an earth bender. Stuff people would question why it changed and if it’s supposed to mean something. But, it is only slightly addressed, maybe up to be a problem that isn’t. Problem, then forgotten about in the way lots of things are where I don’t know if they forgot about it or I was just supposed to stop caring, or if they wanted to go in another direction and didn’t mind just dropping it.

Of course this is compounded by how pretty the show is and how fluid the fights are. I just love watching them so much that it almost gets me and makes me not care so much… until I see some of the most basic Aang/Zuko fights of season one and see far more strategy and care going into every movement. Zuko and Aang trying to strike each other, or avoid hitting, on top of the well in front of the scent shop has far more going on than just cool punches and kicks.

Though what makes many of those even smaller, less important, fights work is all of strong ground work laid by the story in Avatar. No matter how seemingly pointless an episode is, or divergent from the path, they do work in one way. They fill in the space between big moments. They might not progress larger narrative, but they move the story forward. Something Korra the Series, doesn’t have or get.

Filler gets a less than stellar rep in story telling. Horrid memories of Naruto and DBZ stories that just seem to waste the viewers time are all associated with that word. Some of that is valid. More of it is not. The defining difference is how that time and those episodes are used. An example outside of this franchise would be Gravity Falls. Gravity Falls is a great series that has a first season which consists of mostly stand alone stories and a second season with a mix of stand alone and plot-building. However, instead of relegating the stand alone episodes to a seperate world that doesn’t affect anything, they are used to setup the characters and build on them while also being reincorporated back into the main plot. Turns out none of that was filler, it was doing work the whole time.

Avatar had this similar structure. Each episode, whether big or small, helped build on some aspect of the world, characters, or story. Every episode, even in book one, is meaningful. The one exception is The Great Divide (even the show makes a joke of it), but that makes up for it by being the most intellectually interesting episode of the whole show (I have a whole other editorial on that, but don’t want to bog people down in constant Avatar content). Though, the fact The Great Divide was reused in some way proves it wasn’t filler. It still added something to the series. Korra the show, contrastly, doesn’t seem to see its story in that way.

Some of the problems with the show is production kerfuffles we’ll get into later, but the show misinterprets filler and is the worse for it. Every episode, aside from the clip show (which was budgetary) has to contribute directly to the main story and progress the plot in a single direction. They find ways for some b-plot digressions, but that single drive and limited episode count per season leaves little room of characters to just hang out. Sure, that happens in the show, but instead of talking about character stuff it is instead just about the plot. Any time New Team Avatar is together it has to connect back in someway to the villain plot (or love triangle). There is no space for an Ember Island— Breakfast Club style hangout movie or a revenge story, or just a goofy episode where Aang can’t sleep and the gang has to help him find some peace while also highlighting the seriousnesss of the possible encounters ahead.

Korra the Series, does give some of these introspective moments to its characters. The episode of Tenzin learning to train the air benders, Korra Alone, or Korra dealing that trauma of Amon, and the digression with Tenzin and company in Civil War two-parter. But it’s never spread evenly. It’s lathered to only a couple character. Hence why a solid B-Rank side-character like Kya is granted more depth… heck, even Meelo gets more character than essential New Team Avatar members like Asami and Mako. When they’re together they can only talk about the plot or their generic romance banter, not anything about who they are beyond their character bio (woman in STEM and angsty Batman-alike).

Laid out like that, it feels like everything that characterizes The Legend of Korra is the drive not to be Avatar the Last Airbender. That, again, is a tough spot to be in. It makes a sort of sense to try and go in a totally different direction with the same franchise. Try to break any possible comparisons you can. Unfortunately, kind of like the series, they don’t go far enough one way or the other leaving them in this strange middle ground. It tries to take the series in many different directions but doesn’t or can’t commit to most of them. It tries to be more serious but has characters who use the exact same comedic sense as the past series. That similar sense of humor paints them as lite versions of past characters, and someone to write off. The villains want to have more depth and interest in ideals but aren’t given the time and space to flesh those ideas out, or just lie about the ideals making them no better than the main antagonist of the first series. The action is changed, but isn’t substantial different enough. It’s the same as before but watered down.

It is a noble thing to try and go in a new direction. Just look at how Himoru Arakawa went from the neigh-perfect epic of FMA to the slice of life drama, Silver Spoon. Not saying the team should have done a completely different kind of story and genre all together, but structural shifts and looking at this world in new ways makes sense (though maybe a totally different show all together would be better liked, ultimately, no one will know until if/when that happens). It is, in fact,the only solution the team really had, they just are also following up a classic series, beloved by millions, and iconic to boot. It’s an unenviable position that is made worse by the tumultuous production.

When looking into the show for any amount of time though, it’s clear the path the series took to being completed was less straightforward than its predecessor. From near the very beginning the show was myriad in production woes and would be for the rest of the series run. Starting with Nickelodeon’s trepidation at having a female lead in a show aimed at an older demographic, to constant changes in how many seasons they go, budgetary changes, and an unstable release location and schedule. It must not have been an easy show. The fact the team was working on, at one point, 30 episodes at once; with each being in a different stage of development. Post-production on one, production on a second, and pre-production on a third set of episodes. It’s no wonder so much of the show feels off, there seemed to be no time to collect your thoughts and plan. It had to be a full steam ahead type of adventure. With that being so common knowledge, it feels almost impossible to try and review the series without stating how much of their vision was compromised not by studio meddling, but by time constraints. There is no way this series was this team’s full vision when pressed like that. All questions of if the team thought through this story or plot point goes right out the window when you realize they were put into such an unsure place that it would be impossible to know what to plan out fully and what just need to be worked out in the edit.

That is not to say the series is blameless. This is the story Michael DiMartino and Brian Konietzko along with the rest of the team made. All productions have their issues. This one may have had far more or not, but in the end this is the story they chose to tell and how they chose to tell it. It is not fair to the act of criticism to just write all art off as not being given enough time. Time doesn’t fix a story that is misguided or mishandled in the first place.

This part is something I wasn’t able to put anywhere is just how good the casting is. I said in the very beginning how the cast isn’t as great as Avatar. While some of the actors in Avatar are transcended and star making, they are using two different styles of acting. Avatar, to be more on brand as a cartoon, kept more cartoonish voice acting. They used that to subvert expectations in places for serious moments, but on the whole was exaggerated. Korra the Series, is far more understated when it comes to voice acting. That sounds like this should go up with the lateral changes, but the difference is in the quality of the actors they got.

Neither of these show strike me as having a star studded cast, but when you look over the cast list, it is clearly star studded. Steve Blum as Amon isn’t star studded other than he’s a popular actor, but getting Lance Henriksen as his partner with the goggles is baffling. Adding to that is season two’s additions. I already mentioned Aubrey Plaza, but you get James Remar (last seen as Dexter’s dad Harry) as Unalaq in a completely inspired performance. Knowing who that is now makes me like him a whole lot more. But you also get Cutty from House as Kya. But it keeps coming, Bruce Davidson is the voice of Zuko and was Senator Kelly in the X-Men movies. Grey DeLisle returns as one of the members of the Red Lotus. People who know who Henry Rollins is, does Zaheer, and finally you get Zelda Williams – daughter of Robin Williams- is Kuvira. It’s almost no wonder why every character is given both so much and so little with a cast that strong. Everyone has to have lines to say and stuff to do because you have some major people in the booth. It’s another one of those impossible situations the team was placed in.

Yeah, all of this is interesting, but it doesn’t lay out if the show is good or not. The answer is that it’s not that simple. People come to different shows for different reasons. Whether they care about story, animation, meme moments, to cringe, or genuine enjoyment, it’s all valid reasons to watch something. In my research of the discourse I have found people who love the show but see it’s flaws, think it’s a flawed show with good qualities, those that think it’s a problematic show that can help other grow from its mistakes, and those who find it utterly insufferable, irritating, and just straight garbage. I fall in a strange place on that list.

A part of my enjoyment of things I like are also the things that make me hate it. I love shows and movies that are terrible or have bad things in them because they are just so bad. Nothing comes to mind immediately, but often when people say something about a show or movie I like is bad I will agree and say it’s great. I think maybe Rise of Skywalker is the best, most well known, current example. That’s an insane movie that makes no sense and totally contradicts or changes stuff in the previous movies and I love every second of the ride. Korra is like that for me. I would say it’s, on balance, better than Rise of Skywalker, but has those same kind a of moments. The whole (rightfully molined) kaiju battle between Ultra-Korra (who could also step on me) and Unavaatu is utterly dumb and only makes sense as a move for spectacle, but is also so enjoyable to watch. Same with most of the pointless pro bending matches, whatever nonsense Bolin is up to, and the times characters actually take any of the villains politics seriously (yes take the man who forces bending away seriously in any government). It makes minimal sense but has such an energy that I can’t stop watching.

It almost doesn’t matter if the series is good or not. The mere fact there is this much to say about just one TV show is admirable in its own right. It may not live on in my brain as a series that made storytelling feel effortless like it’s predecessor, but it’s many manhandled political ideas, characters, stories, and themes will live on forever in this virtual space and in my brain as something I couldn’t stop thinking about… and that is good.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Hot 100 Review: Before you Go by Lewis Capaldi

Watch the video:

You will not meet a bigger proponent for the return of normal instruments and song structure back into popular music. Not to say music that breaks from it is bad, but it often would have been better served if it were. That means people like Peter Capaldi should be Godsends. Finally, a return to normal structure. Unfortunately, a good structure doesn’t a good song make. Structure is but a framework. It’s the components that make something great. And the components for Before You Go are overall lacking.

When adhering to a well-worn structure there normally two paths to take when completing it. One is to have a musically simple song that is built on strong and clever lyrics. The other is a complex melody, chords, and arrangement that is grounded by straightforward lyrics. Not every good song falls into these categories, but as a framework it is solid. Before You Go is both musically and lyrically simple. Very straightforward guitar and piano arrangements. The lyrics, too, are simple, but also sort of interesting.

Before you Go is a consument breakup song. It is about not seeing the forest for the trees. Ignoring or overlooking the little signs, and paying the price for them by asking them something before they go. It can be a powerfully strong and sad concept when hit the right way. This song does not hit the right way.

Of the many reasons for it, is how seemingly clueless the narrator is. Cluelessness as a trait isn’t wrong on its own, but Peter the writer doesn’t seem to realize that the cluelessness is the reason for the breakup. Or, more specifically, the reason he has to ask, “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make your heart beat better?,” and “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make it all stop hurting?” is because he was unable to realize the problems with his love interest or refused to see the problems. That might be fine if that was reflected, but Peter seems to disagree as his thoughtlessness and cluelessness is blantantly overlooked.

This is best shown from, “When you hurt under the surface/Like troubled water running cold,” “Was never the right time, whenever you called/Went little by little by little until there was nothing at all,” and the bridge, “Would we be better off by now/If I’d have let my walls come down?/Maybe, I guess we’ll never know/You know, you know…”

These lines by themselves don’t sound too bad. But together they compound, along with Capaldi’s incredibly whiny voice, to be unbearable. It sounds like he is trying to come off strong and sincere, but instead every time he talks about the relationship it sounds like a dog begging for food. That makes all the talk seem disingenuous. He might be hurt and sad but he’s not honestly reflecting, just moaning.

A line that people might call foul on with this reading is in the first verse when the narrator says, “Our every moment, I start to replace/Cause now that they’re gone, all I hear are the words that I needed to say.” That sounds like the person realized what the did wrong all along, and even as it does say that, it’s not accurate since that’s in the first verse and the rest of the song doesn’t support him. It sounds, again with the singing, like him whining and saying anything to get the other person to believe him.

The video throws whatever the song was supposed to mean out the window, into traffic, then get run over by said traffic, and then rained on for good measure. The lyrics and framing without the song all feel to be built around a terrible breakup. It seems incredibly obvious. The video, though, decides to make the song about losing a loved one, but in the shedding their mortal coil way, not breaking up way.

To support this point, the video starts by focusing on the romantic relationship between a guy and a girl. Throughout the video it goes to the girl with other people doing things like skating, playing on the beach, visiting family in the hospital. Normal, good person stuff. Then it takes a turn when the video is suddenly at a funeral for her and there are flashbacks of her. It then ends with her voicemail playing. All of this clearly states that she died quickly and tragically. Most likely by accident. I assume accident because the other would be…

It’s not hard, if you read the video as part of Capaldi’s intent to center around suicide. The not saying or calling are now even worse than a breakup but signs someone needed help but were ignored. That is far more tragic. That turns the “Before you go,” into a wish being able to help but can’t. Unfortunately the video doesn’t have any contacts to the Suicide prevention hotline, or anything like that. It just means the girl died and it’s sad. Unrequited words and feelings for a person is strong, but the song by itself isn’t about that. Or it would have made that the focus instead of adding it with the video.

So, I heard this song before. I reviewed Peter Capaldi’s last song and watched this video closer to when it came out… months ago. This song making it onto the top 10 shows just how strenuous the charts and all entertainment media is with the virus. No songs have come around to shake it up. They are stuck playing songs from the BC era. Some of them, like Circles or Blinding Light are good and deserve the more praise they get. Some, like this, less so. A bland song trying to punch above its weight with a video it can hardly support lyrically.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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That Moment When you Wait for Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan to Show Up (a Review of Cobra Kai Season 1&2)

Karate Kid is one of those nearly perfect 80s movies. A movie so precise in its focus and execution that the fact it didn’t always exist seems odd. Even after follow two more movies of varying quality and a host of spin-offs and reboots the original persistent as a classic. Cobra Kai, originally a YouTube Original (cause that’s the best way to get a TV show out there) seeks to ask the question of what would those characters be like as grown up adults now that they moved past the pressures forced upon them.

One of the jokes and ideas from How I Met Your Mother that will always stay with me is how Billy Zabka was always the original Karate Kid and this show seeks to answer what would a series be like if that were true. Not to make him a literal Karate Kid, but to make him the secondary protagonist he always could have been.

That’s not to say there isn’t a new Karate Kid. In fact there are pointedly two who would be two more protagonists to round out the ensemble. These two newbies are Miguel, a new teneant who moves into the same apartment as Johnny Lawrence and gets him to train him and restart the dojo. On the other side is Robby, Johnny’s son he’s never spent time with. When John is forced back into his life or tries to renter it, Robby decides to work for Daniel at his fancy auto shop and start learning karate from him in the same way Daniel learned from Mr. Miyagi.

The first season is best explained as a remake or reboot (even as it is a continuation) of the first film but with more steps and drama injected into the proceedings. Normally that would feel utterly tedious and banking on nostalgia, and it kind of is, but it is done with the goal to humanize characters new and old and focused on a goal. That goal being to fix some of the problems with the original film, along with add more depth. The best example being how even as the main character wins he doesn’t, in fact, get the girl or come out on top. Instead it seeks to examine some of the toxic nature the show sought to try and break down. The original movie did this as well but wants to make it perfectly clear on its goal.

The second season is far more complicated. It’s hard to tell if it is better or worse for it. The first season was a tight story with Miguel being a default protagonist. Most of the show follows his journey. But going into season two Daniel has a dojo with his daughter and Johnny’s son. Kreese, the stable genius, is back, and the drama just continually escalates while trying to balance all the characters and plot points they want to get. On balance it is more successful than not, and digs in deeper at the toxic culture. Why toxic culture can spread, and how it ultimately doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t miss too. Too much of the drama is built around people not listening or not saying something. For the teenagers it works better and by the final episode is clearly the point of the season. For the adult characters it’s much harder to believe, but does make up for it by showing how it is clearly the old guys trying to relive their glory days and endluging in boneheaded drama than the writing for the show. The season does end on many strong gut punches that make you want more and to see the characters grow.

That has been the most surprising part of the show, the characters. Daniel and Johnny were never amazing characters. Arch-types at best. This digs into them and makes them balance out. Their rivalry reminds me of something Chris Sabat said in a DBZ behind the scenes interview. In that he says how fans want Goku and Vegeta to get along but are often so wrapped up in their own drama that it’s difficult. That same dynamic is at play, and the writers know it by showing they can be friends. Unfortunately they are both too strong willed and dismissive to see the good the other one has. Kreese, being the only other returning character, at least back for more than one episode, plays a good contrast. He never changed and is shown to be the worse for it.

As great as it is to have the original characters portrayed well it is the new cast that makes it amazing. Everyone has a certain flare, personality, energy, or well delivered arc with great dialogue, to help pull through some of the worse drama. They all feel pretty well drawn and have good stances that show the best and worst in everyone. It is easy to both have a favorite while also copping to how dumb they can be, which is often the point when it comes to kids. They can act dumb and it be just a blip they learn from. By the end, though, you want them to be better and see the error of their ways.

Something that did improve and make the show just stellar is the action. The original films were fine. Good for the time but bad in the ways the original trilogy in Star Wars is bad. They did the best with what they had and is impressive to appreciate, but are outclassed by what can be done now. Usually that is for CGI and effects, but I mean cinematography and choreography. All the fights are so well planned, feel built up to, and look great. This is best shown in the utter awesome final fight in the last episode. Everything keeps building with characters getting payoffs left and right, and the action is crazy if a little too Hollywood for a show that was better than that… until the end anyway. By the time that fight rolls around it feels like the whole team is showing off and they earned it. Then they end with a gut punch that just gets you and makes you feel devastated.

The reason it is so devestating is how it contrasts with the comedy. The show can be uproariously funny at times. Some jokes like Johnny being a guy trapped in 80s, or just how done Daniel’s wife is with all the silly Karate drama, and the nerdy kid Demitrie. It has such a good sense of comedy and how to balance that with the rest of drama and themes they want to tackle.

It’s almost like the show was able to find its own sense of balance. No one is a real hero or villain. The show is not just one kind of story or another. It doesn’t just wallow in the nostalgia of the past, but doesn’t try to move past it and deal with only the new character.

I am gushing about the show because it is an amazing show. Maybe one of my all time favorites (for now… see FOGO for more details), which is odd cause I don’t care about the Karate Kid. I don’t think it’s bad by any means, but it felt so standard and of its time that it never hit me in the right way. I respected it but didn’t care. I care now. I want to see these characters grow, change, and find balance even if Jaden Smith doesn’t show up at some point (I think that might be in an alternate universe since they name check Jackie Chan and it would be weird for him to show up after being mentioned).

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Pizza Girl drifts On By (a Book Review)

I read a lot. I try to get through a book a week or a comic book/manga/graphic novel in a day or two. This means I mostly read stories with “sequential art” in them. Not because I hate normal books, but I find trying to pick one out daunting if it’s not part of a series or a known author. I decided I wanted to change that and pick up all the new books I could starting with debut novel by Jean Kyuoung Frazier, Pizza Girl.

Set in the early 2010s the story follows pregnant and unsure of her future, Pizza Girl. She’s eventually given a name near the end of the book, but that doesn’t matter. She drifts through life. Lives with her Mom and boyfriend/baby daddy Billy, works at a pizza parlor, and is just dejected with what to do in the future. Everything changes when she delivers a Pickle-Pizza to Jenny, a new move in to the California neighborhood. They form an odd kinship that seems destined to either last forever or drive Pizza Girl deeper as she gets more and more lost.

The story is one of the many growing Millennial Quarter-life crisis/coming of age stories. It reminds me of Ingrand Goes West in a lot of ways with that. Though, Pizza Girl the character is one who had to drive to do anything in her life and unsure of what to do even if she wasn’t pregnant, at a dead end job, and didn’t graduate high school. It is a big help and a great choice to make this a first person narrative then. It allows us to get into her head, see where she is coming from based on the experiences both forced on her and ones she made. One example of a situation forced onto her was her father was being a consummate drunkard. Meanwhile, in her own life, she had a history of more running from problems than facing them. Like skipping class or choosing to fail assignments in school because she didn’t like them. Though they are never paired together it is clear that comes from having to group up so quickly, and now that she’s pregnant it will keep advancing leading to her not having a childhood she could be proud of and give to her own child.

As a coming of age narrative, it is a very simple and straightforward one of them. It’s not a very long story. I don’t just mean in page count, coming at at just over 190 pages, but in plot. Oddly enough though it is a book that, even as it’s substantially light on plot, could have been much longer and felt just as satisfying. Most of this first person book is told in summary. Pizza Girl will go over her day and some key events but will never dwell on them. She’ll go into details about character appearances and actions but very little dialogue. It makes sense doing it that way. She is coasting through life, so she will not spend the time dwelling on it when she retells it or narrates it back to the reader. It puts up more in her head. It makes sense. It just creates some problems.

The biggest problem this, mostly summary, approaching to telling the story is that I get very little of the tone in certain scenes. She will have conversations but since are mostly summarized I don’t get the chemistry, bonding, and depth one would get in fuller conversations. This leads to many of the characters feeling more hollow than they mean too. Her boyfriend Billy should be incredibly interesting, and has a reveal near the end that should feel bigger. Unfortunately none of that is fully established because many scenes are just glossed over. Again, that is the point, but it feels like wasted potential. Something that goes for every side-character in the story. They do their narrative job but come at the cost of being flatter for it.

However, since it is mostly written out instead of debated in text, the writing needs to be good and it is. Nothing ever gets too abstract and flowery that the point is lost, but nothing so bland and straightforward either. The world and environments are painted just enough to get a necessary enough picture to convey meaning. The bulk is, again, in summary, and those summaries do feel like full stories in themselves. The prose combines just enough detail to paint a picture and combine it with the right amount of context to get across everything it needs to. Some paragraphs do go on long, or feel like they could be chunked better, but it’s not ergregious or distracting.

The book is a compelling enough time. Pizza Girl does come alive and feels like a person you would know, but does have growing up to do. Even as the book closes it’s not a perfect arc. She is on her way to being better. Her life with her Mom and Billy is on its way to being better and with the closing lines it’s clear none of this would have gotten her to that place if she didn’t put the pickles on a pizza for Jenny, and end up falling for her in some way.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Unpregnant more like Abor(what? What do you mean I can’t have that word in my title?That’s just what the movie is about. Okay, nevermind) – a Review

Despite being apart of the same network, it seems like HBOMax has been struggling to find programming to put on their service. That makes the edition of original movies interesting, especially simple road trip movies. Though, like romantic comedies, they are a staple of cinema and a good palet cleanser. A movie that can be made for any age group really. It’s almost genius unless they did something crazy like make it center around a hot button political issue. Then that would be crazy!

Wait, oh no…

Based off the book of the same name, the movie follows valedictorian Victoria. When she takes a pregnancy test and it comes back positive she scrambles to find a solution. Her only solution, however, is to travel from middle America Missouri to Albuquerque if she doesn’t want to tell her parents. After planning her route and trip she hits a snag when her boyfriend, who knew his condom broke, wants marriage and to settle down while her friends seek to sleuth out who is pregnant when the test is found in the school dumpster. This leads Veronica to turn to the only person she can trust to take her is her former best friend, who accepts. Once they hit the road however it is far from smooth sailing or driving in this case. Troubles with the law, anti-abortion freaks, an unhinged limo driver played by Giancarlo Volpe, and a stalker boyfriend are all mountains they must climb for something she should be able to get done down the block.

Road trip movies are built off of two things, chemistry between the leads and the detours the trip takes. This movie is passable on both. The two leads played by Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira give an all too standard former friends that were torn apart by growing up, home issues, and then eventually societal school pressures. Nothing about them feels very fresh outside of the, what unfortunately passes as progressive, differences. Thankfully one of them is played for more of a joke as we find out her friend is a lesbian and that she’s been out, but just didn’t tell Veronica about it. Bailey also gets more to work with, like trying to reconnect with her dead-beat dad while Veronica has her procedure looming.

The detours are hit and miss. Some, like borrowing a car without asking permission leading it to be seen as stolen and impounded feels a little too normal. Same with a trip to a a very Texas stock car race and carnival. But then it takes a turn with the above referenced anti-abortion people which leads to a full on desert car chase. They don’t find a good balance between just kind of weird without being outlandish and normal but not being dull. That same sentiment can go for the end of act two spilt and get back together. It just doesn’t quite find that center.

As much as those are problems, that’s not what the movie is about. It’s instead about abortion. Well in-so-far as it treats it like a normal procedure women should just be able to get, and that constant interference is unfair. Most of this comes out when Veronica has her mid-movie freak out. Stating rightly how back home she needs parental consent to get one but not to have to child, and just the lunacy of the whole stigma around it. None of it helped that her normal friends spend most of the movie playing “Veronica Mars” to find out who is pregnant and seek to mock whoever it is. It’s message is clear when you get to the procedure and the movie decides to just factually state what it is like and how it will go. It’s a scene that wants to empower and provide real information instead of playing “debunk the obvious lies.” If it fails in anything on that front, it would be how the movie still points to the stigma around abortion being that it’s a few bad apples who don’t understand and just need education instead of the systemic policing of women’s bodies (and failure to hold the separation between religion and state) that it is.

The movie is fine. Nothing that will change the world even as it seeks to deal with a heavy topic in a straightforward way, but maybe that’s enough. The movie is PG-13, and though it is on HBOMax, maybe teens will find it and see that they are not alone or that they don’t have to conform to what is told to them. It’s a fine enough movie for me, but I can see it making an impact on the right person.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Two Nights with The Babysitter (a Review of Babysitter and Babysitter Killer Queen)

Netflix as a studio is strange when it is compared to Netflix the streaming service because their needs are so different. Netflix streaming needs to have content, their own or someone else’s, available to share and watch that is so diverse that anyone could find anything to watch. Meanwhile Netflix the Studio has to make movies they think will be good and watched, but also fit on their steaming platform in a way that anyone in the mood could watch it while being its own piece. That is a difficult tightrope to walk, for sure, and I think The Babysitter and it’s newly released sequel fall into that category. They have to be made for anybody to find while also being of a certain genre and piece that can be marketed to certain groups to produce a unique set of films.

The Babysitter is the first film I’m reviewing in the conventional sense that I have also watched before. Technically speaking. I watched it once then forgot about its existence until the trailers for its sequel started coming around, so with fresh eyes and appreciation for (best actress every) Samara Weaving its time to dig into the original.

The Babysitter follows 12 year old Cole, a classic nerdy, shy kid who just so happens to have to coolest and most attractive babysitter ever, Bee played by Samara Weaving. After a bet with his childhood friend, Cole says he’ll stay up after he’s supposed to go to bed and see why Bee is really up to. He’ll live to regret that when he finds out Bee has a classic posse of cliché horror teens, but with a twist. Instead of running from the demons they are the monsters. Now Cole must go lethal Home Alone in order to survive the night.

Never has a movie, even one I only had vague feelings about, gone up in appraisal and estimations so drastically. The only thing that ever stuck around was it not feeling finally consistent. A black comedy horror movie where the tone isn’t sure if it’s supposed to be a children’s movie with an edge or a comedic splatterfest with a child at the center. That still persists this time around. It feels like the film wanted to be a throwback to 80s teen horror and Goonies-alike adventure films but had to push itself into a harder R to compete with the more modern and gruesome horror fair. But there is so much more to appreciate.

The biggest, most obvious standouts is the casting. After her star making roll in Ready or Not, Samara Weaving is a force to be reckoned with. She is just so expressive, and can portray any emotion with compete earnestness. Of course she is not alone. Her chemistry with Cole and the rest of her team is impeccable. The horror troope in particular feel all just weird and original to stand out. The jock who wants a challenge and forces Cole to stand up for himself, or the ditzy cheerleader with a head on her shoulders and ambition. They stand out. Unfortunately not all of them do. Some are just around for the deaths.

Calling this a deadly Home Alone feels apt. It feels like all the fan theories about what would happen to the Wet Bandits if they didn’t live in a cartoon world, and they are all fun, satisfying, and unique. Dropping a guy onto a diamond award to have through their neck, blowing someone up with a giant firework, hanging someone by the neck so hard their spine breaks off. They are all perfectly comedic in the amount of gore and fun.

Of course, the film is shot well. It’s utterly stunning just how confident, bold, and oddly professional it feels. That seems obvious, but it looks like the standard for what all horror/horror-comedies should be. Strong sets, good use of shadows and reveals, and just solid camera work all hold the rock solid character arc together.

The main through line is that character arc. A nerdy kid learning to grow up is classic and this movie makes it work by making the obvious fresh. Every setup, even as they are screamingly obvious, all feel earned by the end, and ultimately tragic as Cole must let go of his first love and one of his best friends. It’s really effecting and heartfelt even as the comedy is hit and miss.

It’s overall a solid film that seems both obvious and odd to get a sequel for.

The sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, is a more ambitious film than its predecessor but comes at the cost of being less focused and reliant on some minor sequelites.

Set two years after the last movie, Cole is not doing well. After Cole tried to tell the real story of what happened that night he was labeled a pariah, crazy, and someone in need of being taken to a psych ward. To make it worse, a new kid in school, Phoebe, enters the pictures When Cole decides to ditch school and a trip to said psych ward to go with last films crush, Meleanie, and her friends to a boat house party the night takes a turn. It’s revealed Meleanie was part of the original cult the whole time, and to add insult to injury, the original posse returns with a one night pass to make good on last movies threat. When Phoebe enters the picture at the wrong time it is up to Cole and Phoebe to survive the night while Cole and Meleanie’s parents try to find them.

From a summary like that alone it is clearly far more complicated with many, many additional moving pieces. Not just plot and story wise, but they up the gore and splatter stakes in something closer akin to an Evil Dead sequel of that TV series. The posse die in new and more gruesome but ridiculous ways that all have one foot firmly planted in the cartoonish. Well that and a socialists wet dream of CG, whether it looks good or not. That’s not even taking into account the amount of skits, gags, and exaggerated imagery used to push the whole piece into something more farcical and wild.

For just a taste here is a factual list of images the movie gives: decapitation through a surf board, getting stuck a well endowed person stuck between a cliff and pulling them down till their neck snaps, a retro video game fight scene, a “sex” scene where the imagery is all disco dancing and clips that a 50s movie might use to depict sex, and impalment with a deer horn chandelier.

None of that should still doesn’t discount the plot which is both unpredictable on how it will all play out, but once the end arrives it feels like it wasn’t going to play out any other way. Some of the scenes feel like they are playing for time and comedy longer than they need, and not all of the new characters get enough screen time, but in the moment it all feels like it could go anywhere.

That spontaneous energy and storytelling carries over into how Samara Weaving’s Bee returns and her overall role. It, like everything, feels stupidly obvious (especially a reveal in a character’s past), but still satisfying.

The casting is still great. The new characters, though they don’t get a lot of screen time, do feel distinct and stand out from the old cast. Not all of whine feel as fresh. Some like Robbie Amell’s jock character feel like a breath a fresh air and a friendly face while others feel like they’re back by obligation. The reuse of old bits and jokes don’t help the matter. They try to spice it up by seeing a snippet of their backstory being recruited by Bee. They just aren’t fleshed out enough or funny enough to make up for the reused jokes (again, except for Robbie Amell. Guy is freaking perfect).

The overall filmmaking isn’t as strong as the previous either. The above mentioned reliance on CG, and wanting to reuse old tricks makes the film feel restricted. However, when it’s time to get bloody they do not hold back.

Even with those problems it is still a really fun time and makes for a satisfying dual watch with the previous film. They are both fun, energetic horror comedy movies that still don’t feel like they know who the audience is for. It’s too comedically gory to be for adults, but too sexual to be for kids. With Cole being older it helps, but still feels like it is adult for the sake of appearance more than choice. But, that audience problem is one problem many Netflix films have, and no Samara Weaving can save them from that fate.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!Everest

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Hot 100 Review: Mood by 24kGolden (feat. Iann Dior)

Watch the video:

Something that often drives me when writing is not only trying to figure out my opinions on a song, but to try and understand why a song is popular in the first place. But moreso than that, it is an exercise in getting into other people’s heads. Mood is a fascinating example of that.

Coming in at barely under two minutes and thirty seconds, it is a concise song that packs two verses and a chorus repeated three times all in the search of what feels like an internal monologue of a fight someone would never actually say… except for in this song. It’s got a really solid guitar riff and vibe that pulses throughout the song. The music pairs well with the vocals. 24kGoldn and Iann Dior have voices that feel very classicly alternative-punk while being understated. Like it’s a song made to sing or mumble along to.

The line about how this feels like an argument or retort in someone’s head to an argument, but would never actually say is built off the chorus. A blatant call out of tone policing in the first line, “Why you always in a mood? Fuckin ’round, actin’ brand new,” is a line visceral enough to get across the point but feels just generic enough to fit any situation. Like a more forceful “You’ve changed,” or something. And, even though it’s kind of a joke that he’s calling the person out, and is tone policing feels the need to clarify and correct in the next line, and ends with almost a dismissal of classic fights by saying, “Baby, I ain’t playing by your rules/Everything look better with a view,” as a way to say that he knows how this argument is supposed to play out but knows how to mix it up. It’s a subversion.

The first verse and pre-chorus by Iann Dior stays on that idea of suberverting an argument or trying to not have one but has a lot of disjointed lines that make it feel off. The real standout lines being, “Baby, I am not your dad, it’s not all you want from me/ I just want your company,” is used to direct how the argument is not really at him but at someone else. To put a point on it he says the best line in the song, “Girl, it’s obvious, elephant in the room.” The problem is so big it’s an elephant she’s ignoring and that she started in, causing the argument. That being supported in the following lines.

The biggest weakness the song has is the pre-chorus for it leaning too hard in the open-ended direction. The two lines, “We play games of love to avoid the depression/We been here before and I won’t be your victim,” should work and be self-explanatory, but feel off. The first line doesn’t specify what he means by games of love. I would imagine it’s a type of addiction to romance, but the need to fight and start arguments might be a form of self-harm. A wanting to feel bad because feeling bad feels good (try to diagram that sentence ELA teachers). These questions infect the second, more on brand line, about trying to flip the script. Unfortunately it’s not direct enough about what that means. How the person will not be a victim anymore. The chorus that follows feels like it’s trying to answer that. The calling the person out for “actin’ brand new,” and the changing up the location, but the rest is up to imagination.

The second verse is a final closure on what the song is about even as it still has a chorus and pre-chorus left. It’s a direct call to how even as he might be in love he doesn’t want to constantly argue, or being messed with. He knows she can love him but wants to get past everything else.

The video is incredibly straightforward. It cuts between the two artists rapping for the camera surrounded by women with classically scary additions like horns or snakes. One of 24kGoldn in a backdrop of sunflowers, one of Iann Dior in a loft bedroom arguing with a woman, the ant shot of looking up at the duo during a thunderstorm, and then 24kGoldn with a girl and getting into an argument while at a parking destination. All the symbolism is really obvious. What feels less obvious is how whiny the song sounds when facial expressions are added. Like the lyrics in a vaccum feels progressive, but added with the vocals and images comes off far whiner and like they’re ducking an argument over trying not to have one. Like it pushes the dismissiveness of their tone far harder with the context than when just listening to it by itself.

Even with the new whiny and dismissive tone it’s still enjoyable. The lyrics are not deep enough and with a song this short it wouldn’t be hard to beef it up, but I can also see (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) a lot of “good” TikTok joke videos using key lines from the song. Not to say I want that, but this song just puts those in my mind. You could say it puts me… in a mood!

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box:!