{Friday Flicks} Singin’ In the Rain

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I love musicals. As a kid, I grew up on films like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Newsies, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I also devoured the soundtracks for The Phantom of the Opera, Annie Get Your Gun, and Starlight Express (I know). With that sort of enthusiasm for you might think I’d have come across something starring Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, or Gene Kelly before I was in my twenties. You’d be very wrong. While I’ve always loved what I considered “Proper Musicals,” films that focused more on dance were to be avoided like the plague.

Still, it was only a matter of time until I finally broke down and watched one of the most famous musicals of all: Singin’ in the Rain. With Debbie Reynold’s death a not-so-distant memory, I wanted to watch what was probably her most iconic role. I’d seen her in Tammy and the Bachelor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but my memory of her in those roles is foggy–replaced on Tammy’s end with an image of Sandra Dee and in Molly Brown, the image of Harve Presnell in tight pants on a cliff. I wanted to hold a proper image of her in my mind again, and Singin’ in the Rain has definitely given me that.

Singin’ in the Rain focuses on a series of actors struggling to make the transition between silent films and the talkies. For star Don Lockwood, the trouble is that his constant costar has a voice like a honking goose and is convinced he’s in love with her. Fortunately and unfortunately for production company, he’s actually in love with young ingenue, Kathy Seldon–who longs to be an actress herself. When Kathy gets cast in Don’s latest picture, she and Don’s friend Cosmo come up with the perfect idea to save the less-than-stellar film. Of course, their plan entirely depends on Don’s costar remaining ignorant of their scheme.

Singin’ in the Rain is a film which genuinely sparkles during its first act. We’re first introduced to Don as an actor who’s entirely full of himself yet forced to play a part for his production company even off-screen. His lofty opinion of himself is subsequently shattered when he meets Kathy–a girl who’s not impressed with his suave ways and wants to take him down a peg. The duo eventually fall in love, but it’s their early quick-fire banter that shines so much more than their doe-eyed love songs later in the film. It was a blast to see Debbie Reynolds as Kathy hold her own against the charms of Gene Kelly. For most of the film, it’s her sweet, film star looks and fast footwork that carry her role, but in the beginning, she’s given the chance to prove she has personality to spare.

After the film moves past this initial setup phase, Singin’ in the Rain becomes much more about Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dancing their hearts out and less about characterization and plot. While film musicals based on Broadway plays tend to have song and dance numbers that either advance the story or tell us something about the characters, most of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain do no such thing. They’re more about the spectacle of it all–which I found frustrating after a while. Pretty much the sole exception to this rule were the songs “You Were Meant for Me” and “Singin’ in the Rain” itself. “Singin’ in the Rain” comes fairly late in the film and was so refreshing by that point because it actually tells us how Don feels after realising he’s properly in love with Kathy. “Singin’ in the Rain” was probably my favorite song in the film for that reason alone.  

My favorite parts of the film, on the other hand, were the scene where Kathy comes bounding out of the cake (not long after having a discussion about serious acting with Don) and the diction coaching scene with Lina Lamont. The diction scene was particularly hilarious because it reminded me so much of the “Would That It Were So Simple” scene from Hail, Caesar–which you might have noticed has been gaining popularity again with the whole Han Solo getting an acting coach news.

As for the acting in this film, Gene Kelly obviously stole the show. He was an absolute powerhouse as Don Lockwood and that’s why it was so impressive that Debbie Reynolds was able to keep up with him. She was only nineteen when she filmed Singin’ In the Rain, and she did an amazing job acting her part and singing. I’d love to see more of her early roles (which is a definite excuse to watch Tammy and the Bachelor again). Donald O’Connor was also great in his role. He reminded me strongly of the Marx Brothers as Cosmo. His acting was slapstick and VERY physical, and as the comedic relief in Singin’ In the Rain, he definitely carried his part in the film.

On the whole, Singin’ in the Rain is an entertaining film–even if it felt a bit long (regardless of its 103 minute runtime). It’s not a musical I’ll be watching again anytime soon since I’m still of the opinion there’s such a thing as too much dancing in a musical, but I’m not sorry I sat through it in the first place. If you like dance numbers (a lot of dance numbers) and looking at Gene Kelly, this is a film you’ll enjoy watching too.

What are your favorite movie musicals?

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{Friday Flicks} Sing Street

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My taste in film could generously be called peculiar. By those who know me, I’m mostly associated with my love of superheroes, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, bad action movies, and period pieces. While that’s a fairly accurate overview of the sort of movies I love, every so often a film comes along that completely shatters my preconceived notion of what makes a “Melissa Movie.”

The Social Network was one such film. True Grit another. Sing Street is now the third.

Sing Street centers around Conor, a teenage boy whose family sends him to a new school when their finances become strapped. This new school, it so happens, is a terrifying hellhole filled with bullies, abusive priests, and rioting classrooms. With both school and home quickly transforming into a living nightmare, Conor finds escape when he meets Raphina–the cool girl who lurks across the street–and starts a band.

Written and directed by John Carney (who made both Once and Begin Again), Sing Street is packed with catchy pop music and characters who are just begging to break your heart. The film is set in the 80’s and the music ranges from heartfelt ballads to the super boppy “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The tunes alone make the film worth a watch–especially for those who are slightly addicted to 80’s music and movies–but it’s the characters and the story surrounding all that Pop that makes the film more than just a fun flick to watch on a Summer afternoon.

It’s not often I feel tears welling up while watching a film (I’ve only cried during one movie in recent memory and that was Frankenweenie–I ask you not to judge), but I was holding back the waterworks all through Sing Street. Somehow, Carney successfully managed to break my heart into ittybitty pieces thanks to Conor, Raphina, and all the gang. With these sorts of films, you’re never guaranteed a happy ending so in spite laughing at the band’s antics and nodding along to the music, I was genuinely worried about these characters getting into serious trouble–a feat, really, since the film clocks in at under two hours. A lot of films (much longer that this one) fail to make you truly care about the characters. Carney manages to draw brilliant performances out of his young actors all while staging a catchy musical. It’s beyond impressive.  

Speaking of the performances, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo was amazing as Conor. Not only does he have a lovely singing voice, but he portrayed his character with such depth that it’s shocking he was only seventeen when the film was released. Jack Reynor, who played Conor’s older brother, was also frightfully good in his small role. Before Sing Street, I was rather fond of Reynor’s performance in Royal Night Out. He has a Chris Pratt likeability about him, and I have a feeling he’ll be showing up a lot more in the future (hopefully, instead of Chris Pratt). As for Lucy Boynton as Raphina? Well, I’ll get to her in a moment.  

 First, I absolutely must talk about my two favorite moments in the film. The first is the “Drive It Like You Mean It” music video. In context, it’s a happy/sad scene that fractures reality with a perfect, pastel fantasy. Conor tries filming a music video in his school and it doesn’t go according to plan. Instead of the real product, however, we see what Conor wanted it to be like–complete with everyone in 50’s attire, his mother and father happily dancing together, and Raphina in the audience staring adoringly at him. None of that is remotely reality. Instead, he’s in a sad, dreary gym with some really awful dancers playing the audience. It’s a heartbreaking scene wrapped up in a bubblegum, 1950’s venere. Watching “Drive It Like You Stole It,” I was in awe of how perfectly the layers in that scene were pulled off.

My second favorite scene was by far quieter but no less impressive. About midway through, we finally see Raphina listening to Conor’s music by herself. She’s in her bedroom, taking off her makeup, and she puts in his tape. As she listens to him singing for her, she begins to crumble. This is the first time we see her without her “Cool Chick” armor, and it quickly becomes apparent that she’s much younger and more vulnerable than she appeared. Up until that moment, it was possible that she was going to be nothing more than Conor’s teenage fantasy in the flesh, but that scene reveals she’s more than just some perfect, dream girl. She’s someone who’s broken and it genuinely shocks her that this boy properly sees her. I was blown away by Lucy Boynton’s acting in that scene. Over the course of the film, Boynton presents so many different sides to Raphina that I was constantly surprised by how good she was in the role. If she doesn’t become a famous actress sometime in the near future, I will be absolutely shocked.

Sing Street is genuinely one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. Between the plot, performances, and overall storytelling, the film was breathtaking to behold. While I was a fan of Carney’s Begin Again, it’s nowhere near the same level of as this film. (That’s not saying you should skip Begin Again. It is very good.) If you’ve ever liked a movie about first love and big dreams, Sing Street is for you.

If You Liked Sing Street, Also Check Out. . .

  • Begin Again
  • Brooklyn

What’s your favorite film musical?

Board Game Pile of Shame: Five Games I Own But Haven’t Played

A product presentationby Alessandra A. Guerra (1).jpgFour years ago, I discovered the wonderful world of board gaming. It was a bit of a revelation. You see, I’d never been a console gamer and my PC gaming mostly consisted of me playing American Girl Premiere, Oregon Trail, and Torin’s Passage in junior high and high school. Board games, however, caught on with me in a way PC and console gaming never had. I’m an analog sort of person so I liked being able to go into my game closet and pull out whatever game I was obsessed with at the moment (most likely Archaeology). I soon started attending some board gaming clubs and amassing a collection of games.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long before that collection of games got a little too big–at least, too big considering I only play five or so of my games in rotation. My unplayed games quickly began lurking in the front of my game closet, daring me to play them, but as a creature of habit, I didn’t take up those dares. The games remained in their sad, plastic wrapping.

I’m sharing five of these sad games with today in the hopes that putting them out in public will encourage me to actually play them. Maybe you all can even help me pick which ones to play first!  

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Board Game Pile of Shame: Five Games I Own But Haven’t Played

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The Game: Iota

How Long I’ve Owned It: About Three Years

Like most board games, I bought Iota because Wil Wheaton recommended it on his Youtube channel. It sounded like a game I’d enjoy (and not just because of its thirty minutes playing time). Iota’s a pattern making game along the lines of Quirkle but it’s tiny–small enough to carry in a very small purse. Its size is probably the main reason I haven’t played it yet. It gets overwhelmed by everything else in the game closet!

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The Game: Munchkin

How Long I’ve Owned It: About Two Years

Munchkin is one of those few hugely popular board games. It might not quite as all encompassing as Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride but I feel like it’s close. I bought my copy on clearance at Target and it’s been sitting in its plastic wrap ever since. Part of the problem is that it’s a relatively long game (two hours of play time is long for me) and the other part of the problem is I can’t convince my family to play it with me.

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The Game: Slash

How Long I’ve Owned It: About Three Years

This one is just sad. I got Slash through the game’s Kickstarter AGES ago but never sat down to play. The concept is basically that it’s Apples to Apples but instead of putting descriptors to nouns, you’re putting characters/historical figures/famous people together in ships. Basically, it’s a fangirl’s dream game.

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The Game: Lanterns

How Long I’ve Owned It: About Six Months

I discovered Lanterns on Tabletop last year, and from what I remember of the game, its Quirkle meets Archaeology (I really like games where you make patterns and collect cards). Lanterns also has a relatively quick playing time: twenty to forty minutes. My only excuse for not playing this game yet is that I haven’t taken the time to relearn the rules.  

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The Game: Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City

How Long I’ve Owned It: About Six Months

Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City was a Black Friday deal that I couldn’t pass up. I’d been wanting to play the original version (where you make a city and an amusement park), but I hadn’t wanted to shell out the thirty bucks for it. Bright Lights, Big City was cheaper, however, and since it was an expansion by way of companion game, you could play it without owning the original. Of course, I still haven’t played either. *Sigh*

Do you have a board game pile of shame? If you do, definitely take a picture and send it to me on Twitter or Instagram (@readerlygeek on both). Tag it #MyBoardGameShame and help me not feel so bad about my unplayed games.

 So, important question, which of these games should I play first?

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{Friday Flicks} Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lorelei and Dorothy are best friends who couldn’t be more different. One is on the hunt for a rich husband and the other just wants to have fun with all the hunky fellas she can find. After Lorelei becomes engaged to a bumbling playboy, the duo make a transatlantic journey in the hopes that the father of Lorelei’s beau won’t get in the way if they’re all in Paris. Of course, the trip doesn’t go quite as planned for the girls as Dorothy’s tempted by a handsome stranger and Lorelei meets a man who’s swimming in diamonds.

Riotous is the best word for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are laugh-out-loud funny as Lorelei and Dorothy. Between Monroe’s sugary/spacey delivery and Russell’s prowling, the duo dash through their misadventures with aplomb. The beaus in the film are entirely inconsequential because Dorothy and Lorelei’s relationship is so darling. The girls never compete for men (Dorothy likes them tall, dark, and handsome and Lorelei likes them rich) so they’re constantly trying to help each other come out on top. It was sweet to see such a wonderful female friendship at the center of such a wacky Rom-Com.  

This dynamic duo’s most hilarious scene in the film occur around the midpoint when the girls are forced to steal back incriminating evidence from a beau. Monroe’s desperation escalates as she gets stuck in a porthole, attempts to roofie a private detective, and makes swift work of separating a man from his pants. Russell’s great in these scenes but Monroe’s comedic timing and physical comedy are flawless as her character uses her very specific wits to survive and thrive.

Russell’s best moments, meanwhile, come during the song and dance numbers. She has two particularly hilarious performances. In one, she delivers a spot on impersonation of Lorelei (going so far as shimmying to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” for a crowd) and in the other, she serenades a horde of Olympians dressed in nude-toned bathing suits. The latter is a sight to behold, and it’s genuinely a shame we don’t get scenes like that in films today.

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Howard Hawk’s direction is, not surprisingly, fantastic. He brings the funny and gets the actors to perform it to perfection. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes quickly reminded me of how much I cackled watching his Cary Grant features when I was younger. It’s a shame I haven’t seen much more of his oeuvre. . .at least not yet.

If you’ve somehow missed watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (like me), absolutely give it a watch. It’s hysterical, filled with great female characters, and did I mention the Olympians in nude bathing suits?

If You Like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Also Check Out. . .

  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Clueless
  • His Girl Friday

What are you favorite Classic Films?

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Six Marvel Shows I’d Rather Watch Than Marvel’s Inhumans

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The trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans series dropped today, and I must say I’m completely underwhelmed. From the first photos of the cast in costume, I’ve been dreading the release of this series. From the horrible red wig to the nondescript outfits, this show looks bland at best and downright awful if you’re being pessimistic. Take a look:

With the exception of Lockjaw, nothing in the trailer speaks to me. Instead, I find myself distracted by Ramsay Bolton as Maximus, THAT AWFUL WIG, and how mundane this Sci-Fi epic looks. I can’t say I’m completely surprised by my reaction. I may be in the minority, but I have a terrible time caring about the Inhumans plot-lines in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. When it comes to oppressed powered people, I prefer the X-Men, and it still grates on me that the Inhumans were such a big deal in the comics until recently (presumably because Disney, owner of Marvel comics, doesn’t have the film rights to those characters). I don’t really want more Inhumans-focused storylines–particularly in a show that doesn’t contain any of the recent, fan favorite Inhumans.

There are many ABC/Marvel shows I’d rather watch than this one. Some would contain Inhumans, but others would just be fun, adventure series that would pair perfectly with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at its best.

Six Marvel Shows I’d Rather Watch Than Marvel’s Inhumans

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Ms. Marvel Unlike a lot of people, I’m not the hugest Ms. Marvel fan, but even I can acknowledge that this comic series is great for teenagers and could potentially make a fantastic show. If you want to make a show about Inhumans, why not spring for Lockjaw’s best friend instead of Woman-in-a-Horrible-Red-Wig and company?  

 

 

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Squirrel Girl ~ Technically, there is going to be a Squirrel Girl show, BUT wouldn’t it be better if this series was an hour long dramedy rather than a half hour comedy? After Powerless, I question the wisdom in making half hour long superhero shows. It’s not that they are inherently bad. It’s just that I don’t know how many people will be drawn to watching comic book stories in that format. Squirrel Girl deserves more than half a season on a doomed comedy. Hopefully, she’ll get more than that, but I have my doubts.

 

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Moon  Girl and Devil Dinosaur ~ If we’re going to get Lockjaw-level special effects in the Inhumans series, perhaps ABC and Marvel could have digitally created Devil Dinosaur instead. (I love you, Lockjaw. This isn’t about you. I swear.) In Season Four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there were definitely Moon Girl vibes coming from Mack’s Framework daughter, Hope. It made me wish they had let his daughter live so that she could have become Moon Girl–a definite candidate for a spin-off series.  

 

 

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Kate Bishop a.k.a. Hawkeye ~ Since we already have Clint Barton in the MCU, there couldn’t be any harm in bringing the other–arguably cooler–Hawkeye into the fold. Kate Bishop is amazing and it’d be fantastic to have her lead a show that could potentially expand to include the other members of the Young Avengers (much like Smallville grew to include the Justice League).

 

 

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Mockingbird ~ Before Inhumans, Marvel tried to make a Bobbi Morse/Lance Hunter spin-off happen. It didn’t take–which I can’t say I’m sorry about. I adore Bobbi Morse, but Lane Hunter of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was one of my least favorite characters on that entire show. IF a show focusing on Bobbi and not her husband could happen (you know, maybe Lance could be fridged), it would be a blast–particularly if it was in the style of Chelsea Cain’s Mockingbird series.

 

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Agent Carter ~ And finally, the wisest choice would have been just to renew Agent Carter. It wasn’t a perfect show, but it had so much going for it. The cast was brilliant. The fashion to die for. And the historical setting lent itself to exploring areas of the Marvel Universe that get overlooked by the films.  I mean, we didn’t even get to meet Tony’s mother!! That is a complete shame.

 

 

All this isn’t to say I won’t give Marvel’s Inhumans a chance. I’ll watch it in the hopes that it’ll be better than it looks in the trailer. I just wish Marvel and ABC would have taken a chance on another Marvel story–one that could have appealed to those who really just want to see their favorite, female heroes on the screen.

What Marvel Comic Series Would You Like to See On TV? Are You Excited About Marvel’s Inhumans?

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{Film Review} This Beautiful Fantastic

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Bella’s beginning were unconventional. Found among ducks as a baby, she was raised in an orphanage where she nursed a fear of the outdoors and soothed her loneliness with books. Now an adult, Bella lives very much alone with only those books, a typewriter, and radio for company. Her interactions with the outside world occur at the library where she works and over a garden wall with her curmudgeonly neighbor. It isn’t until she has an accident in her neglected garden that her lonely little world begins expanding. Gradually, she is forced to let in her cleaner/cook, the aforementioned grumpy neighbor, and a handsome inventor.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a whimsical fairy tale along the lines of Penelope, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and–perhaps the most well-known of all quirky, girl films–Amelie. Jessica Brown Findlay excellently portrays Bella, a character who has spent years building walls to protect herself from the grief of losing her parents too young. It’s a quiet role–one which calls for Findlay’s expressive eyes and gentle, physically comedy–and while Bella is described as the oddest of oddballs by our narrator, the film and Findlay never allow her quirkiness descend to ridiculous levels (that’s left for her manic pixie dream boy love interest). Bella spends her time dressing like Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice, learning foreign languages on the radio, and obsessively ordering her house. She’s essentially a relatable sort of weird and you can’t help but root for her to begin writing her book and make friends the individuals thrown in her path.

These prospective friends come in the form of cleaner Vernon (Andrew Scott), neighbor Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), and inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine). Each role is played to varying success.  Andrew Scott is impeccable as always as the first person to knock bricks from Bella’s wall. His sweet charm and adorable bumbling-ness make you understand why Bella would immediately make room for him and his calming hugs in her life. It’s a shame really that they cast someone so incredibly likiable in this role because it’s difficult to understand why she would pass up her kind cook/cleaner in exchange for a mad, inventor boy. (Sigh.) Before we get to that mad inventor, it needs to be said that Tom Wilkinson manages wonderfully as Bella’s antagonist/mentor. His character sets Bella on her journey, but he’s more than just the catalyst for the film’s gardening-heavy plot. He’s also given room to grow as he overcomes loneliness and grief of his own. It is the bond and sympathy between Alfie and Bella that centers the story–which is one of the many reasons why her love story with Billy feels so extraneous.

Billy–the main weakness in the film–is in all essentials a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He dresses like he’s a member of a Steampunk club, builds robots that are powered by moonlight, and always has tea and a spare cup at the ready. His character appears to be part of a separate (far quirkier) film altogether, and his and Bella’s love story sparked my only annoyance with the film. Certainly, his “Luna” gives Bella the protagonist for her children’s book, but it’s her experiences with Alfie that drive the fable she’s writing and illustrating. Billy’s cartoonishness makes for an odd fit tonally in this film, and seeing as he’s the only character without proper development, it would have been better if his role had been written around and out of This Beautiful Fantastic.

Thankfully, Billy’s presence doesn’t break this movie. The writer/director Simon Aboud created a  whimsical tale about grief, creativity, and caring for something outside yourself in This Beautiful Fantastic, and while it might not inspired the viewer to pick up a spade and take to the garden, it certainly reminds one of the importance of creativity and moving forward.  

If You Like This Beautiful Fantastic, Check Out. . .

  • Penelope
  • Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
  • Amelie
  • The Brother’s Bloom

Revisiting the DCEU: Man of Steel

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My first introduction to Superman was the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve. I picked it up back when I was in high school in preparation for the release of Superman Returns. You’d think, as someone who had grown up on Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s gothic Batman films, I would be cheesed out by the brightly optimistic Supes of old. I was not. I fell in love with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and soon after fell even deeper in love with Brandon Routh’s incarnation (I will not apologize for being able to quote Superman Returns by heart). To me, Clark Kent has always been doofy, Lois Lane unable spell, Lex Luthor maniacal and bald, and Superman ready to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

It’s not entirely surprising then that Man of Steel came as a bad shock the first time I attempted to watch it. Here was a dark Superman who hadn’t even become Clark Kent of the Daily Planet yet. None of it set right with me so I turned off the film halfway through in frustration. Henry Cavill was not my Superman. I was not ready to accept this incredibly different vision.

Fast forward a couple years. Thanks to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I’ve grown rather fond of  Zack Snyder’s dreary vision for the DC Comics Extended Universe, and with Wonder Woman and Justice League looming on the horizon, I figured it was about time this DCEU apologist rewatched Man of Steel. All signs pointed to the glaring fact that maybe–just maybe–I had been too harsh on it my first time through. It was time to see if that was truly the case.

Man of Steel charts the origin story of Superman from his unconventional (by Krypton standards) birth to his first encounter with a supervillain. Unlike most superhero origin stories, Kal-El doesn’t baulk at becoming a caped hero. From his childhood, he knows it is his destiny to be a protector and a beacon of hope–the only question is when the time will arrive for him to come out of the shadows. The villainous General Zod’s arrival answers that question for him. As evildoers, Zod and his band of misfits are a formidable group for the newly minted Superman to go up against. The Kryptonians’ powers rival Superman’s, but thankfully, Kal-El has more experience using his abilities on Earth. As they become overwhelmed by their new strengths, Kal-El uses his superior knowledge against them–which keeps him alive even when their numbers make it impossible for him to defeat them alone.

It’s to Earth’s advantage then that Lois Lane, the shining star of Man of Steel, takes an interest.

While Man of Steel does have its weakness (pacing, lack of Clark Kent, etc.), its female characters are not among them. Lois might not be the bad speller of old, but the Lois of Man of Steel is still no damsel in distress. She’s equal parts hard-nosed news reporter and co-savior of mankind. If it wasn’t for Lois, Kal-El wouldn’t have known how to defeat Zod and destroy his terraforming machine. She actually blasts her way out of Zod’s ship with that information so she can make certain both Superman and the U.S. Army have the tools they need to make a final stand. That’s just the cherry on top. Lois is amazing throughout the entire film. She never misses an opportunity to be in the middle of the action–even after she gets attacked in a Kryptonian ship and Kal-El cauterizes her wound with his heat vision! Lois Lane is a hero without a cape and Man of Steel doesn’t forget it. That alone endears it in my heart.

Of course, Lois isn’t alone in stealing the show from the male characters. As assistant villain, Faora legitimately overshadows Michael Shannon’s Zod. If you had to choose which of the two to go up against, Faora would not be your pick (Which I suppose is one of the film’s weaknesses. Zod just doesn’t hold a candle to his second in command). Superman’s mother, Lara, also makes a memorable impression by standing up to Zod and feeling genuinely equal to her husband in orchestrating Kal’s future. She even watches her husband die in front of her while saving her son. Lara’s incredibly tough (and dresses like a proper space queen). It’s just incredible how Man of Steel sets the DCEU’s standard for the women stealing the show–something we see again in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.

Unfortunately, one can’t talk about Man of Steel without addressing the notorious issue of Zod’s death scene. It needs to be said that I am against Superman killing people on principle–just like I’m against Batman killing people on principle (looking at you, Tim Burton’s Batman). However, the scene between Superman and Zod did not bother me as much in context as I expected it to. For me, what it all boiled down to was the fact that the Superman of Man of Steel was completely and absolutely green when it came to being a superhero. This is a Kal-El who just learned how to fly and who has never used his powers in battle before. It’s easy to say that Superman wouldn’t kill, but Kal is barely Superman at this point. He’s still learning to use his powers. It’s absolutely understandable that he might do something Superman wouldn’t. Beyond that, the fact that the killing feels like a last resort is important to me. Our green Superman begs Zod to stop hurting people before he breaks his neck. He is even in tears when he performs the actual act. It’s not an easy thing for him to do. You can tell that nearly breaks him. Kal-El is not a killer, but he is forced into the act as a last resort when he doesn’t know what else to do. In the future, I believe Superman can and will do better. For now, he tried his hardest to do what was right and fell short. I understand why he did it–even if I prefer the story didn’t call for him to do it in the first place.

On the whole, I enjoyed Man of Steel. It’s not a perfect film (it is the weakest film in the DCEU), but knowing the seeds it’s planting for the shared universe endears it in many ways. It also helps that it created amazing female characters and gave Henry Cavill the opportunity to put on nerd glasses as Clark Kent. I am more than pleased I gave Man of Steel another chance. It reminded me how much I love these characters–even if they weren’t quite what I expected to see.

Next up, Batman v Superman!

Who is your favorite Superman?

Image Source: Movie-Screencaps

{Book Review} The Girl With All the Gifts

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Melanie lives in the bunker and knows very little of what exists outside the little world of her cell, showers, and classroom. She spends most days studying math, science, literature, and history while locked in a wheelchair–the only bright spot in her days being when her teacher is Miss Justineau. She doesn’t know a different life so her limited experience is not strange to her. There are times, however, when she is curious about the outside world and the secrets those at the bunker are obviously keeping from her.

Unfortunately for them all, Melanie will have the opportunity to discover them.  

The Girl With All the Gifts is an action-packed, popular Sci-Fi novel in the vein of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter or Wayward Pines series. These books are emphatically not thoughtful, character-driven novels. They’re plot-driven, high concept rushes–perfect for movie or TV series adaptations and people needing an engaging, quick read (i.e. they’re great reading slump busters). None of that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you need fluff with teeth. I certainly did when I picked up this book.  

M. R. Carey (a.k.a. Mike Carey of comic book writing fame) never lets us readers take a breath or forget the high stakes in The Girl With All the Gifts. You know the very lives of Melanie, Miss Justineau, and their companions are on the line as things go from bad to worse at the bunker and you’re waiting for something truly awful to happen to them. In that respect, you might be disappointed. There’s not *quite* so much death and mayhem here as you might like (okay, I might like), but what Carey’s novel lacks in excessive blood and gore, it makes up for in the mounting terror that infects each of the characters. The most frightening aspects of The Girl With All the Gifts aren’t violent but rather psychological because, while the writing is reminiscent of Blake Crouch, the story is cousin to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Childhood’s End.

What I liked most about the novel was watching Melanie’s limited experience of the world widen. As she learns more about humanity and what happened to the England outside of her cell, it’s fascinating to see how she deals with the logical ramifications of her knew knowledge. Melanie might be a child, but she is fearless in the face of mounting danger and is a genius who is able to extrapolate truths from the facts she learns from her companions. Both of those things make her dangerous–both to her enemies and possibly even to her friends.     

While Melanie’s story in The Girl With All the Gifts is thoroughly entertaining and frightening, it doesn’t quite make for the perfect action juggernaut. There are plot holes and the characters’ depth is shallow at best (most notably with the onenote villain). The plot maybe relentless, but the first act is a slow enough burn that it’s difficult to get through if you don’t already know where the story is going. None of this makes the book unreadable. It just makes it no shocker that I struggled through the first 150 pages but read the remaining 250 in one day. There are obviously worse faults to have, but I don’t think The Girl With All the Gifts is a book I’ll reread because of them.

If you like thrilling Sci-Fi/Horror or are looking for a book to break you out of that reading slump, definitely give The Girl With All the Gifts a chance. It’s not a perfect read, but it will wrap you up in it’s chilly embrace and refuse to let go.
Do you have any books you’d recommend to end a reading slump?

Top Ten Graphic Novels for Summer Vacation

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Joining in on The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday again. This week’s theme is Summer Reads!

When the days turn warm and the sun starts shining, it’s time to put away comics filled with horror, dystopia, and darkness and turn to lighter fare. Tales of friendship, adventure, and mystery can be a welcome relief from all the monochrome and murder–especially when illustrated in radiant pinks, yellows, and blues.

If you’re looking for something to tuck into your beach bag or read at the park on a sunny day, these ten graphic novels suit as well as any breezy beach read.

Top Ten Graphic Novels for Summer Vacation   

  • Archie Vol. 1: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Veronica Fish, and Annie Wu ~ If you’ve never read Archie Comics before, The New Riverdale is the perfect place to start. The art is breathtaking and the writing is guaranteed to make you giggle. This sure isn’t Riverdale–which makes it perfect sit in the sunshine reading.
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh ~ Brosh’s comic deals with heavy topics like depression, but it’s also sprinkled with HILARIOUS stories about her childhood and awkward misadventures. Warning: Do Not Read This Book In Public Unless You Are Comfortable Getting Weird Looks From Strangers Because Of Laughter.
  • Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kenneth Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau ~ Do you like magic girls? Yes? Then read Zodiac Starforce! It’s about teen girls saving the world with their magical abilities–all while wearing cool outfits and being BFFs!
  • Patsy Walker a.k.a Hellcat Vol. 1 by Kate Leth,  Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles ~ Patsy Walker, unfortunately, wound to a close a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a series that’s highly worth checking out if you’re up for female friendship, cat jokes, and butt-kicking.  
  • Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk ~ If you like how awesome Bobbie is in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this is a series for you. It’s funny, bright, and features a strong female character who breaks that now-traditional mould. There’s also Hawkeye in a swimsuit, if that suits your fancy.
  • Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton ~ One rule of recommending comics is to always recommend Kate Beaton. Her work is the perfect mix if you’re drawn to pop culture nerdery and riffs on history and literature (i.e. if you majored in History or English).   
  • Groot by Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger ~ You shouldn’t need a reason to read a Groot comic, but the selling point for this volume, in particula,r is that it contains art by Brian Kesinger–an animator who worked at Walt Disney Studios. The art is very Disney-fied as a result and absolutely adorable.
  • Grayson Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral by by Tom King, Tim Seeley, Jeremy Cox, Mikel Janin, Stephen Mooney, Guillermo Ortego, Juan Castro, Jonathan Glapion , Carlos M. Mangual ~ A little something for the ladies! Grayson is an action, adventure spy comic written by the fabulous Tom King (check out his current run on Batman and his work on The Vision for non-Summer appropriate fare), but of course, the writing isn’t what’s most memorable about Grayson. It’s the art. The very, very nice art.  
  • Green Arrow Vol. 1 by Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt ~ Green Arrow is one of the most memorable DC Rebirth titles. The art, in particular, is lovely and Black Canary absolutely rocks as she goes toe-to-toe with Ollie once again.
  • Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams ~ Goldie Vance is a modern Nancy Drew with mad driving skills and a nose for trouble. Basically, there’s nothing to dislike about this fun romp of a series.

What comic would you recommend reading this Summer?

{Animated Adventures} Gravity Falls

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There can be benefits to having insomnia. Occasionally, you stumble across a gem while scrolling through Hulu Plus at 2 A.M..

Last month, I had a run of sleepless nights so I quickly exhausted my backlog of New Girl and The Mindy Project episodes. I needed to fill another hour of sleeplessness so I decided to take my friend’s recommendation and try a little show called Gravity Falls.

I am so glad I did.

Gravity Falls is an X-Files-like show that aired on The Disney Channel from 2012-2016. (Don’t let that four year gap lean you on. There are only two seasons of this show.) It follows the adventures of twins Dipper and Mabel Pines as they visit their Grunkle Stan in the titled town.  

Like many fictionalized towns in the Pacific Northwest, Gravity Falls has its share of secrets, mysteries, and quirky characters for the twins to encounter. Grunkle Stan also happens to run the Mystery Shack–which unsurprisingly is the center of a fair bit of weirdness itself. Over the course of the series, Mabel and Dipper encounter gnomes, unicorns, a self-aware dating game, and a triangle bent on world domination. These misadventures are often reminiscent of classic Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror stories–making this series perfect viewing for the pop culture nerds of all ages.

Along with these homages and otherwise wacky stories, Gravity Falls boasts of amazing characters with depth and originality. Mabel is adorable, loyal, and adventurous while her brother is more cerebral and curious. As for Stan, well, he might be a con man on the outside but he loves his family more than anything deep down. It really is amazing how these characters always manage to ground Gravity Falls in reality even when they’re dealing with monsters and the end of the world.     

The animation and voice-acting are also first rate. Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal are particularly amazing as Dipper and Mabel, but I adored Nathan Fillion, Chelsea Peretti, Nick Offerman, and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s guest appearances as well. Alex Hirsch, Gravity Falls’ showrunner, is even more brilliant as Grunkle Stan. Seriously, him being able to create this show and voice-act so well is beyond impressive!   

Now, you should know that your preference for the first or second season of Gravity Falls will entirely depend on whether you are partial to serialized or episodic storytelling in your animated shows. Personally, I prefer episodic so it’s not surprising then that, while I enjoyed the second season, I loved Gravity Falls’ first season so much more. I adored the humor in the stand alone episodes, the quirky homages, and the gradual character development of Dipper, Mabel, and Grunkle Stan. Once the story switched gears in Season Two to build up to the grand finale (Alex Hirsch knew he was ending the show after Season Two), most of the humor’s lost and the homages nearly disappeared (except for one notable Dungeons and Dragons episode). Of course, none of that stopped me nearly giving into tears when the finale wound to a close. Gravity Falls always excelled in creating memorable, complicated characters so that, even when the tone and storytelling style of the show changed, I was still incredibly invested in their stories.

While I wish Gravity Falls could have developed its weird world in future seasons, I’m glad that the creator got to tell Dipper, Mabel, and Stan’s story on his terms. Gravity Falls is a perfect snapshot of a show. It left me wanting more, but I am completely satisfied with the two seasons I was given.

I highly, highly recommend checking out Gravity Falls if you love wacky stories, engaging characters, and animated pigs.

What is your favorite animated television show?

Image Source: Kiss Them Goodbye