Street-Level Heros and Hotties

In comic book parlance, heroes are rated by the power level they have and where they do most of their work. The kind Hollywood often tried and almost always failed to bring to life on the big screen has been what they termed “Street Level” heroes. (Batman has been the exception to the rule.) These are heroes who’s powers are not necessarily that powerful. They aren’t Thor. And often their villains are of the normal human world, the mob, cartels, corrupt government officials, spies, etc.. Despite his long association with the Avengers, Captain America is considered a Street Level hero because own his own, he is not that physically powerful. In his own title, he is usually dealing in “normal” human crime and political intrigue. Think Avengers films vs. Winter Soldier.

Daredevil is the epitome of the Street Level Hero. Beyond his senses, he has no superpowers. He’s not super strong, he doesn’t fly, he can’t heal quickly. The guy really has nothing but his knuckles (and batons) and iron will out there on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. And that is pretty much where he usually stays. He occasionally gets wrapped up in the Hand, etc., but Hells Kitchen is his home and he is going to protect it.

Now we all want to erase the two hours of torture that was the Ben Affleck movie. And the Netflix series does that. It’s fantastic. They got everything dead on, and it works. The plotting is fantastic, the characters and actors perfect. It totally rocks.

Dare Devil

Not in the least helped by the fact that they got a perfect actor for Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Charlie Cox nailed the character. Righteous without being self righteous. Cynical while trying to make the world a better place.

Who is Charlie Cox?

So if you saw Stardust (and everyone should), the fairy tale for grown ups written by Neil Gaiman (fantastic book, fantastic movie, especially due to the casting), you may remember this adorable fellow.

Charlie Cox Stardust1

Who became this handsome young fellow.

Charlie Cox Stardust2

Who now looks like this. Rawr.

CharlieCox

(Have I mentioned I love brown eyes? And beards?)

And is playing this guy:

Charlie-Cox-as-Matt-Murdock

Who this character’s secret identity.

 

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

Daredevil

Even if the superhero-angle was not involved…

Charlie_Cox_shirtless_1

I don’t usually go for guys that much younger than I am, but HOT DAYUM! I’d wake up with him every morning. And not get out of bed for three hours at least.

(Though sadly, he too is a victim of entertainment industry’s chest waxing fetish. Poor lad.)

Charlie_Cox_shirtless_8

I just spent the weekend catching up/power watching (it’s a sport, damnit) Jessica Jones (oh so satisfying ending)  and the second season/series of Daredevil. The whole Frank Castle storyline was awesome (Best on-screen Punisher E-VAR! And I appreciated the character rejected the PTSD defense because it was “an insult to those really dealing with it.”). But I just hated Elektra. I did not understand why Matt wasted time when he was desperately needed elsewhere, by the people who were truly his friends, on that spoiled, manipulative, murderous, self-involved bitch. She keeps breaking the biggest ground rule he lives by, and he’s keeps folding. The sex must have out of this world for him to decide their differing moral codes don’t matter.

In the comic book, Elektra’s death is one of the great tragic stories of Marvels history. The TV show? “Oh thank the Gods…wait. NO! Don’t bring her back to life!”

Yes, they uncovered a horrific conspiracy, but we’re supposed feel Matt’s angst being torn between these two utterly unlikable characters (Elektra and Stick) and the two characters we adore (Foggy and Karen) when I just wanted to slap the guy. I even felt bad for Frank Castle/Punisher.

Otherwise, the show is fantastic. Just the scene in the graveyard between the Punisher and Daredevil is perfect. It was the perfect reveal, even for a jaded comic book audience who knew why the Punisher did what he did.

This what Daredevil and Jessica Jones are: They live at the human level.

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Jessica Jones was, at points, hard to watch. Not because of the physical violence, but the emotional brutality. It should also come with a trigger warning to anyone who has been through an abusive relationship or been raped because Kilgrave is a rapist and psychological abuser. The writers put the classic words of projection, gaslighting, blame the victim, accusation they wanted it, “I wouldn’t have done that if you had behaved,” etc., and then the “pity me, I only do this because horrible things happened to me” flip, of a rapist and abuser into Kilgrave’s mouth and they were delivered with completely frightening verisimilitude by Tennant. I watched Secret Smile a long time ago (utterly, catastrophically, abysmal plotting) and he does do that creepy abusive stalker ex-BF thing well. Kilgrave just gave him a chance to dial it up to 11. He is completely sociopathic/psychopathic. And not in a cute way like Sherlock. In an utterly “People are things to be used, toyed with and disposed of, usually by making them kill themselves in utterly grotesque ways for shits and giggles.”

Jessica Jones Kilgrave

I heard Ten/Doctor Who fans were having kittens.

And yet Tennant makes Kilgrave’s love for Jessica (at least the closest Kilgrave can come to loving someone other than himself) feel “real.”

JessicaJones

And yet, in the almost the same breath he can order the servants he has in thrall to “peel the skin from their faces” if Jessica does not return to him in the two hours promised. (And Tennant makes it work by underplaying moments like that.) He is evil. But his warped care for her, his honest shock and heartbreak of betrayal, it’s “real.” You can’t feel sorry for the guy because he is one of those creatures who needs to be removed from the face of he planet. But it made his character more terrifying because of where those emotional extremes pushed him to. How dangerous Jessica is making him because of his feelings towards her.

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I liked that Krysten Ritter was utterly fearless about making Jessica unlikeable.

JesicaJones

MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES

You usually never see that in a lead. Even if the character is written as unlikable, the actor tries to find some way to make them appeal to the audience. Ritter’s Jessica did not give a shit, but people who have been through a major, life-altering trauma often are unlikeable. They’re prickly, if not actively shoving people away, untrusting, cynical, emotional mood swings. They are extremely adept at keeping people at a distance. And after time, you actually come to like the brutally brusque, drunk, foul mouthed, shame and remorse-filled, dishonest, skirting the edges of morality (occasionally falling over it), courageous, flawed heroine she is. It’s an excellent portrayal of someone who is still a victim stumbling and trying to find her way to survivor. Ritter is brilliant. She’s not afraid to go there. You get to like and root for the character not just because you sense her underlying goodness that she herself can no longer see because of the shame she carries for what was done to her. She’s a hero in spite of herself, in spite of Kilgrave trying to destroy that in her. (And Ritter played that perfectly!) You want to see her crawl back into the light. You want to see her conquer her mental and physical rape, because that is what he did, for an extended period, by conquering her rapist.

And it was so satisfying when she did. (Yes my dears, spoilers:)

 

And I like that it was not “I’ve killed my rapist and suddenly I’m whole.” That was just her first step. That’s real. There is no magical switch you flip and it all goes away.

The plots was intricate and extremely well done and satisfying, the actors were all brilliant. These are two great shows.

And I’m not just saying that because of this…

Carlie Cox

Really. I’m not.

Truly.

(Adorable and shirtless!)

Much Geekness: Star Wars; Alas poor Ahsoka, I knew you well.

For those of you who enjoyed Star Wars IV-VI (the original trilogy: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)  and now VII (The Force Awakens, which rocked, so totally), there is a lot more to the SW universe.

For decades there have been the Star Wars novels covering just about every character seen and every era mentioned in the Star Wars Universe. I confess I have not read them. The Force Awakens definitively showed the novels to be in their own continuity. However, they have a great fan-following, despite being their own cannon.

Now for the most part I am a Star Trek fan (and Babylon 5), but I see no point of dissing one franchise for the other. They are both thoroughly enjoyable with their ups (ST VI: The Undiscovered Country and Empire Strikes Back) and their downs (Star Trek V and Revenge of the Sith). In fact, to compare them is rather like apples and oranges because while both take place in Science Fiction universes, in their stories, Star Trek is more Science Fiction, while Star Wars is more Fantasy.

Think about it, the lowly hero who is “the chosen one” who goes on a journey to find himself and his power, magical power (The Force, mitichlorians be dammed), a weapon of power handed down from father to son (and possibly to granddaughter). Even Joseph Campbell, the scholar who wrote Hero of a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth (an account of his interview with Bill Moyer) pegged Star Wars for what it was: A Hero’s Journey straight out of our classic legends. (And indeed, it came out that Lucas had read Hero with a Thousand Faces, which had in influence on his scripts.) It’s Epic Fantasy set in a SciFi universe. And there is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, the fact that Star Wars is Epic Fantasy in the mode of a classic legend was probably the secret of its wildly unexpected success. When the first film came out, 1977, it splashed down into a pop culture landscape that had a lot of moral ambiguity and disillusionment. In 1977 the movies were either distracting fluff like Smoky and the Bandit or depressing like A Bridge Too Far. (Annie Hall being the obvious artistic stand out of that year.) And SciFi had almost faded into obscurity. The only competition Lucas faced was from his friend Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was a straight up SciFi film.

Now we think of The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad & Odyssey, Beowulf and the Arthurian Legends as these ancient epics that belong in the realm of scholarly study. But we forget these were the pop culture of their time. These were the stories the working people listened to in taverns and at hearths and in temples and courts, etc. These were cultural ties that connected people.

Star Wars did that for the modern generation because it filled the need of the epic hero’s journey that modern society lacked. The Lord of the Rings film series did that again, reaching across the genre boundaries to touch billions of people with Tolkien’s take on that archetypal tale that is practically the basis of the human conception of ourselves and human universe/worldview.

Anyway, rambling aside.

The Star Wars prequels sucked. We can all agree on that. It really came down to one huge failing (Jar Jar Binks and wooden acting aside, which I blame in direction because how else do you make Natalie Portman wooden?): Anakin was unlikable. He was arrogant, whiny, snotty, and a mass murder (When he said “I killed them all!” why Padme did not back out of that room slowly and jump on the nearest land speeder out of there, I have no idea.)  When you have a character that is going to have a major fall as the audience knew Anakin must, you have to get the audience invested in that character, get them to care about him and grieve when he falls. Lucas did not do that. He had two films to get the audience to like him and Anakin remained an arrogant bratty adolescent that if the audience gave a damn about at all, it was because they wanted to push him into that lava pit themselves.

(Seriously, if I were Obi Wan I heard Anakin going off on one of his “He’s holding me back!” rants, I would have said. “Tell you what kid. I will take the advice of the Jedi Counsel to stop training you, and dump your sorry ass back on Tattooine in slavery were we found you. Then you can think about how you are being “held back.”)

What corrected that grave error in writing and casting in the films was not seen by the majority of the people who saw the films: The Clone Wars TV series. Taking place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, in the six years it was on it showed Anakin as a likeable character! His arrogance is tamed to cockiness and a usually charming, and successful, disregard for the rules. His anger to tamed into a passionate protectiveness for the people in his life (and some jealously over any male that gets near Padme despite possessiveness being a major Jedi no-no). And he has a sense of humor. A real one! The series does hint and sometimes show the darker aspects of his character, that passion becoming rage, the jealously becoming paranoia, the cockiness to the arrogance that would become a single minded belief that what is “right” in his eyes (manipulated by Palpatine, who can be seen gently sinking his hooks into Anakin throughout the series) is worth any cost. And very occasionally they show that, when pushed, he can be a cold blooded killer. From time to time, they do hint heavily at the transformation coming. But for the most part, he is shown as a whole, real person and you actually get to know, like and care about the guy.

(Big Bonus: No whining.)

So much so that going back and watching Revenge of the Sith after watching the show, the film has a much greater emotional impact.

Part of that journey into likability is that Anakin took on a Padwan of his own: Ahoska Tano.

Ahsoka is just a kid when she signed on as his Padawan. As such she comes to idolize her master under what appears outward to be an almost fraternal relationship rather than that of master-and-student. In sharing rebelliousness and cocky natures, he frequently makes big-brother jabs at her while she frequently takes little-sisterly jabs at him. But the fact is she would follow him into hell. Their relationship is a large part of what humanizes Anakin, but Ahsoka quickly became an extremely popular character in her own right.

And let’s face, the SW Universe was short a few kick-ass women.

She also received a warning about Anakin’s nature and the effect staying with him could have on her life. At that moment, she brushed it aside. But Ahsoka’s time with the Jedi was cut short when she was suspected of being part of a terrorist attack. Anakin defended her constantly while she went on the run to find the real terrorist, another Jedi Padawan who had become disillusioned with the Order and realized that they were the cause of the war, that they was being misled (by Palpatine, though she did not know it) to the Dark Side.

But despite vindication, when the Jedi Counsel, a group Ahsoka had put her trust in since she was a toddler, doubted her, she began to have doubts in herself, of where her life was going. She left the Order and Anakin in what is one of the most heartbreaking series/season finales.

(Big props to the music here)

As someone pointed out, the “I know” says a lot about how far their relationship had come. That she knew how torn he was, and why, and had kept his secret. Far from master and student, they had become two people who knew and trusted each other implicitly.

(And without a hint of romantic tension. Because y’know, that can happen.)

Clone Wars continued for one more season after her departure, but it was never the same. Ahsoka was a vital spark in that show and it simply couldn’t float without her. Her abrupt departure and lack of information about her in the subsequent series/season and Revenge of the Sith (she was not shown among the Jedi killed under Order 66) and other media (I think she appeared in a video game) resulted in fans yelling “WHAT HAPPENED TO AHSOKA TANO!?!” every time a new Star Wars anything was announced.

The current TV series, Star Wars Rebels (which takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope), at last brought Ahsoka back as one of a leaders of rebels against the growing Empire. Not a Jedi, but perhaps with something the Jedi had lost.

And what was great is they got the same voice actors for Ahsoka and the rare instances where it was needed, Anakin.

And we learn is that her leaving may have had a more devastating effect on Anakin than we realized.

Ahsoka showed up in the series first, but when Darth Vader (then an unknown figure working for the Emperor) shows up at the end of series/season one, the fans were waiting for one thing: The show down.

And we got it at the end of series/season two. The thing is, knowing that we do not see Ahsoka in A New Hope or any of the subsequent films, I knew that she was not walking away from this. She is the final string to Anakin’s humanity that Vader has to cut (much like Kylo Ren thought killing his father would). But the battle itself, both physical and emotional, was what everyone had waiting for, for four years.

And it did not disappoint.

(And yes, that is James Earl Jones as the Vader, but it’s Matt Latner’s Anakin’s coming through  that kills you. If you spent hours binge watching Clone Wars, that is.)

And did anyone else catch that during the fight there were seconds of Vader’s lightsaber going green?

The writer/director did leave a slight ambiguity for those fans who need to believe she goes on. But if this is the end for Ahsoka Tano, and I think it was as it should be both artistically and in terms of continuity, it was perfectly done with light touches used to the greatest effect. (For example, it was Anakin’s voice very end saying, “Then you will die.” Not Vader’s. *heartbreak*)  A beautiful, if tragic, end not only to Ahsoka’s arc of becoming something more than a Jedi, but also Anakin’s arc into Vader.

On a lighter note..Haha

I watched the BBC mini-series of War and Peace and I enjoyed it.

War and Peace

I admit the presence of Tom Burke was a factor (hawt), even if his character only exists to be a bastard.

        Dolokhov: “Oh, so good to have met you on this day we are going into battle in which we might die. I regret there was any misunderstanding between us.”

Pierre’s reply should have been, “You fucked my wife. I shot you. Seems pretty straightforward to me.”

Alas, no.

Anyway I thought, What the hell, I’ll give it a go.

Now, War and Peace is one of those novels you read just to say you have read it, and I now realize why.

        It was an o.k. story (if sexist as hell, Tolstoy obviously believed only men are capable of self aware interior philosophizing, but I guess that is the sexism of his time) until about 1/2 – 2/3rds of the way through Tolstoy goes off on these rants about how modern (for him anyway) historians suck and don’t understand anything. I’m not sure what his point was beyond “God is the answer to everything that happens,” but he goes on and on and on, to the point of repeating himself at least couple times. And this is interspersed with the last 1/3 of the story. You end up plowing through 10+ pages of ranting at a time trying to get back to it.
        And then he keeps going on with his belaboring rant against historians for 26 pages after the story is over!
        And his problem is that he looks at historiographical theory in absolutes. He believes that historians believe it was great men who steered history or it was social movements that steered history. Now maybe back then that may have been the case (not my period). The truth is that it is both. (You can never reduce anything dealing with human nature to a single theory, or even three.) A social movement created the French Revolution, but Napoleon is Fucking Napoleon and you can’t say he was merely a tool of a social movement swept along by the tide.
        Talk about “writer in need of a copy editor.” This book could have cut by at least 1/3 if he had stuck to the story and let it *show* how history “really happens” in his theory rather than spending well over 200 pages (at least) *telling.*
        Like I said, the story itself is good, kinda like Jane Austin meets Bernard Cornwell, but with more politics. But good Gods, would Tolstoy just shut the fuck up and tell it!
        But the BBC mini-series is very good. I rarely say this: But skip the book and watch that instead.
        (Sorry about the paragraph breaks. I don’t know what the hell is going on there.)

Dear Felicity Smoak

Since you have decided that Ollie is the one for you (the the look in Ray’s beautiful, big brown eyes when you walked away so heartbreaking), I would more more than happy to pick up Ray Palmer on the rebound.

After all, we would not want to poor lad to suffer for long:

Just pass along my e-mail: GeniusAdorkableHottiesMakeMyToesCurl@rawr.com

Sincerely,

~ Kip

P.S. Guuuurl, are you really that dumb?

P.P.S. At this point, they are pretty much lifting right out of Batman’s stories. I mean, the only relationship this bears to the comic book Green Arrow are the names.

Escapism

The last two weeks have been really crappy. (I will be so glad when 2014 is over.)

So I have doing nothing but pure escapism. I finished Goldman’s The Lady Queen (a review is in my Goodreads feed). I’ve been reading Sabatini (though there does not seem to be an electronic version of The Black Swan out there…very odd), catching up on TV shows (Blacklist, Arrow, Flash, Marvel: Agents of Shield, and of course Constantine and Doctor Who), and working on my tiny house design.

This leaves more room in the living area, shortens the length I have to run water pipes, and deals with the reality of the wheel wells.

Jenny's Tiny House Design2

I also got to see Big Hero 6 which was fantastic. A wonderful film with a lot of heart that hits all the tropes without being stale.

As far as TV goes:

The Blacklist. I will watch anything with James Spader. He knows how to effortlessly portray being the smartest one in the room with no modesty or shame about either affably or sinisterly lording it over you, sometimes at the same time.

The Arrow took a while to get good, but it has. Though I feel like I should be bothered that Steven Amell + twenty years looks like my ex. But I am totally on board with the Olicity ‘ship. Plus, John Barrowman’s playing affably evil.

The Flash is just fun.

Marvel: Agents of Shield has actually gotten good. It ties into the movie-verse tightly and the whole “Hydra sleeping in SHIELD” thing gave the show the direction it lacked.

Constantine is good. Not great, but good. It’s the first season, so it may take a while to find it’s feet. I did like last week’s play on the Robert Johnson myth.

Doctor Who. It took a while for Capaldi to settle in, but he has and very well. The stories also got fantastic. And Missy (Michelle Gomez) was a brilliant twist on the madness John Simm had set up. (Though just who will Charles Dance be playing?)

Constantine

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I am a Marvelite longstanding, but DC simply does magic better. It’s darker, wilder and the people writing and drawing it know their RL occult stuff, often grounding in history which makes it WAY more creepy than the random demon from another dimension as Marvel does it. Marvel too often treats magick well, like magic: A wave of a wand to fix problem. Magick in the DC’ verse is much less under the control of human magick-users, they are playing with fire in a big way and it is just as likely to bite them in the ass as help.

Constantine is not the Sorcerer Supreme of the DC ‘verse (if anyone, that’s Doctor Fate, and even he is a double-edged sword). He is a wildcard badass who uses more trickery than magick to end evil. Sure he knows magick, but he is not magically powerful (or at least not the most powerful). It’s more that he is dead clever with it which makes him much more dangerous than your average bear.

I can’t find scans of it, but in one story, the mobster-type bad guy has tied Constantine up on the edge of the Thames where the tide will drown him. Constantine gets the guy to name everyone he’s killed.

“Funny thing, names. Names have power…”

And the corpses of all his victims rise up out of the river and kill the guy.

He’s an Alan Moore character. Need I say (no pun intended) more?
Constantine’s stories tend to walk more of the horror side of the fence (and being dark and off on the Vertigo imprint, the writers also have more freedom in their storytelling to sometimes get profound), so I have not read about lot of Hellblazer or his eponymous series. But what I have seen of him in other series and Gaiman’s Books of Magic, he is awesome.

I watched the pilot of the Constantine TV show over the weekend. I thought it was solid. Pilots are never awesome, they are usually too busy establishing everything to tell a first rate story. I thought Ryan did a good job (though Constaintine is supposed to be a Scouser). It looks like they set up a lot of the universe fairly true to form, with some nice fanservice/continuity nods (the helmet of Doctor Fate being the biggie). It’s made clear he does smoke, he just doesn’t do it onscreen. Yes, it’s sanitized, but did we really expect a occult horror story on primetime network TV? It will be interesting to see if they keep his bisexuality from the comic. And I am *really* hoping they bring in Swamp Thing.

There is a lot of potential in the show. I’m waiting to see how it develops over the next few episodes.

Babylon Drive

Babylon cool

So, my funny Babylon 5 convention story:

AgamemCon was a small Babylon 5 convention held in Los Angeles while Babylon 5 was on the air in the 1990’s. Jason Carter (the brunette in the foreground) played Marcus Cole, the show’s resident hottie. Marcus was a bit boyish for my tastes, but Carter had great chemistry with his castmates and lovely comic delivery that made him very entertaining to watch.

ANYway, because it was held in Los Angeles, they got pretty much the entire cast at the convention. Because it was small, the actors could take time to have a conversation that the audience could actually hear during panels, they would take time to answer questions at photograph signings, and you would bump into them all over the place.

At the time I smoked (yes, evil me), so at one point during the afternoon I stepped outside for a cigarette. Well, turns out Jason Carter smoked too and he was holding court with the rest of the social pariahs of tobacco. He got going on a funny rant (not a full-blown angry rant, more of a befuddled vexation)  about political correctness, which was just starting to really take hold. He was from Britain, and to him it seemed excessively strict and prudish (and in and of itself that says something). In the course of the semi-rant, he turned to me and said, “If I told you you had beautiful breasts, would you really find that offensive?”

Now, I was 22? And I did, and still do, have it going on the landing, and in person, Carter was an energetic (almost to the point of frenetic), funny, charming force of nature, so I ended up blushing and stammering “Uhm, no” while he continued on with his oration to the group.

It broke up, we went back inside, the rest of the Con was awesome. It was made even more fun by the fact that my friends and I stayed overnight and ended up having a running lightsaber battle through the suite and up and down the halls.

And that was my brush with celebrity, the lasting effect of which was that I could say for years afterward, “Marcus Cole likes my breasts” and be hated by 80% of the femme geeks around me. 😀

(Babylon 5 was one of the finest SciFi shows on TV, blessed with both truly extraordinary writing, both in story structure and dialog, and a fantastic cast. The effects are dated, but the story is stunning. The first series/season started rather rough, but by series/season two it was in full swing, surging ahead with the serialized format written in multiple overlapping arcs. If you get a chance to see it, I *highly* recommend it.)