Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Dungeons and Doggos webcomic Tumblr VLeeiLLustrations

Forget the Stranger Things kids—the real Dungeons & Dragons campaign we wish we could sit on is these puppers.

Dungeons and Doggos is what it says on the tin, but the capacity for jokes is endless. Watch Pickles, Tonka, and the rest of their canine party don very convincing disguises, challenge Spectral Wraiths to games of Fetch, and employ their greatest defense of all: inviting the baddies to pet them.

Yay!!! Petting!!!

Dungeons and Doggos webcomic

Follow the rest of the campaign on Tumblr!

([syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed Jul. 25th, 2017 04:00 pm)

Posted by Alex Brown

Midnight, Texas, is a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a safe haven for people (or “people”) who can’t live anywhere else or don’t want to. It also may be sitting on top of a hellmouth, if that ominous glowing red light coming up through Manfred Bernardo’s (François Arnaud) floorboards is any indication. Speaking of the possibly-fake-but-probably-real psychic, Manfred flees Dallas for Midnight at the behest of his dead grandmother Xylda (Joanne Camp) to escape her determined creditors. He couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Within a few hours of Manfred’s arrival he encounters the corpse of Bobo Winthrop’s (Dylan Bruce) missing fiance, hits on Creek (Sarah Ramos) the daughter of a very overprotective father, has his life force sucked out by vampire Lemuel (Peter Mensah), steals holy water from a creepy reverend (Yul Vazquez), witnesses Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley) go all The Craft on a couple of cops, is beaten up by Olivia the hitwoman (Arielle Kebbel), and summons a host of very pissed off ghosts and maybe a demon. At least he doesn’t see Joe (Jason Lewis) sprout wings or hear Fiji’s cat Mr. Snuggly (Joe Smith) talk. Gotta save something for the second episode…

The main season arc looks like it’s going to be sorting out who killed Aubrey (Shannon Lorance) and dealing with the Sons of Lucifer white supremacist biker gang. Not to mention all the magic and supernatural happenings. Now, I’m a fan of Charlaine Harris’ work. I wouldn’t call myself a superfan or anything, but I’ve read all her stuff and enjoyed it all, no matter how stupid. The Harper Connelly series will always have my heart and frankly if I had to pick a Harris series to adapt to television that would be my first stop. Her Midnight, Texas series is typical of her work, in that it’s more or less literary cotton candy.

The premiere seems to be sticking fairly close to the first book, Midnight Crossroad. When Aubrey’s body is found in a creek and the cops – with Manfred’s psychic help – turn up a gun registered to Bobo, he gets accosted first by a pair of neo-nazis and later by two grouchy sheriffs. Turns out Aubrey was still married to a white supremacist gang leader when she fell in love with Bobo. But this ain’t Bobo’s story, even though his plot drives the action. Manfred is our protagonist, albeit one who mostly just stumbles from scene to scene. As in the books, Fiji is the most interesting character on screen. By the end of the trilogy, it’s clear the series really belongs to her. Whether that will translate to television we’ll have to wait and see.

I honestly can’t remember if this is canon or headcanon, but I always pictured Manfred as brown. He’s definitely supposed to be short, scrawny, and looking like a pierced punk, and Arnaud’s too much of a tall drink of bland for my taste. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with the diversity. Most of the main cast are people of color, which is a huge plus for network television. My only reservation is with Fiji. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Fitz-Henley, but in the book she’s plus sized. I knew it would be too much to hope for television to cast a fat actor as the romantic lead, but still. We really need more body shape diversity on camera, and casting Fiji as skinny is a lost opportunity.

Midnight, Texas’s biggest mark against it is that it’s on NBC. This is a show that needs room to be bloody and sexy. Network television’s constraints are really going to hamper the story in the long run (especially if they are headed in the direction of the final showdown from Night Shift). Without the backing of a cable channel or streaming service, it lacks the budget to fully convey the craziness of a rural fantasy. More importantly, without a strong showrunner with a unique voice at the helm, it’s just another television show. With True Blood, Alan Ball added visual verve and social commentary to the metanarrative. Writer and executive producer Monica Owusu-Breen is a veteran television producer, but a lot of the shows she’s worked on suffer a lot of the same mediocrity maladies as Midnight, Texas.

To be fair, Owusu-Breen is actually sticking true to the canon; Harris wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit her on the head, and her idea of social commentary is having her only gay couple own a salon and behave like Birdcage LARPers. But I want more out of a show built on the idea of a bunch of outcasts forging a family out of disaster. If Midnight, Texas wants to succeed, not only does it need to be socially relevant but it must find a way to be more creative than its source material. Everything in the premiere is something you’ve seen before. It’s time to up the game and craft their own fantasyland, one that goes beyond Harris’ relatively limited vision.

Midnight, Texas is almost a good time. It suffers from the worst side effects of being on network television: mediocrity, half-assed graphics, and insisting on drama over camp. This is a show with vampires, angels, witches, ghosts, and sundry other supernatural beasties I won’t spoil for the newbies. Something like this ought to lean full into its bonkers premise. Say what you will about True Blood, but it totally understood its base material. Sure, it jumped the shark by the end (so did the book series, for that matter), but even when it was eye-rollingly stupid it still generally stayed true to its nature as a sex and blood-soaked paranormal romance. Midnight, Texas the television show is about as inventive and out there as Supernatural, a show that went off the rails about 8 seasons ago.

In my review of the final book in the Midnight Texas series, I summarized every Charlaine Harris property thusly: “Charlaine Harris is very good at what she does even if what she does isn’t very good. No one goes into one of her books expecting high art or powerful literature. When she gets into a narrative rut, she falls back on intensely detailed descriptions of events or locations that have absolutely no relevance to the plot or characters. When the plot gets too twisty to untangle, a random character from the periphery turns up to tell the main characters everything they need to know and what they need to do in order to resolve the problem. Bad things have few consequences and emotional turmoil lasts about as long as a plate of biscuits in front of a hungry teenage weretiger.” If you read that and your first thought was “Weretigers? Cool! Are they shirtless?” then welcome to the Charlaine Harris fanclub. If that description made you want to run for the hills, then Midnight, Texas is probably not the show for you.

Final Thoughts

  • In case it wasn’t clear, I’m definitely going to keep watching Midnight, Texas. I really need a new dumb fun supernatural show to watch.
  • Plus I gotta support Owusu-Breen. Put a Black woman in charge and diversify the cast and I’m there, quality be damned.
  • From what I can tell, the show doesn’t exist in the same ‘verse as True Blood. Which makes sense, I guess. In the books, Manfred and Sookie don’t interact but live in the same world.
  • STOP USING THE SLUR “GYPSY.” Seriously. Please put that offensiveness in the trash bin where it belongs.

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
([personal profile] sartorias Jul. 25th, 2017 08:57 am)
These are transitional scenes in that they flash to the past but are building toward a coming confrontation. But on repeated viewings, we can see deep groundwork being laid for even bigger stakes.

And oh, the emotional moments are riveting.
Read more... )
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([personal profile] oracne Jul. 25th, 2017 08:59 am)
I was thinking this morning about the very few music groups I don't like, and why I don't like them. This was prompted by a song coming on the radio and me turning it off.

1. Steely Dan. I know, I know, Bard College. But the main singer's voice irritates the crap out of me. It's so...whiny. It feels like it is scraping every nerve. The twangy stuff in the background exacerbates the effect.

2. Elvis Costello. His voice is so-so to me, but also, an ex-boyfriend loved his stuff.

3. Florence and the Machine. I should like this band, but all their songs sound too similar to me, and there's not enough change within the songs, either with the style or within the singer's voice. Maybe if it was more Metal? Because I am okay with the repetitive nature of a lot of Metal, and Industrial. Regardless, the singer's voice always sounds a bit strained to me as well, so I guess there's subconscious discomfort with that.

4. Frank Sinatra. I have never liked his voice. I have no idea why. He gives me the creeps like knowing some man is following you down a dark street.

5. Kenny G. No, no, no. *cries*

What about ya'll?
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Posted by Liz Bourke

Today, I want to talk about two short narratives that are steeped in Americana.

Ursula Vernon’s writing is filled with compassion, weird shit, and sharply observed humour: in some ways, much of her short fiction and most of her novels as T.K. Kingfisher is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett at his best. (One could call her an American, feminist Terry Pratchett — but that would do her a disservice: Vernon is very much her own unique self as a writer and an artist.)

Lately I read “The Tomato Thief,” her Hugo-nominated novelette. Published in Apex Magazine, it’s a sequel of sorts to the short story “Jackalope Wives,” which won (among others) a Nebula Award for 2014. If “Jackalope Wives” is good, “The Tomato Thief” is even better.

A couple of weeks ago, I observed that it was rare to find older women as the protagonists of their own stories in SFF. Vernon’s Grandma Harken is an older woman in the mould of Granny Weatherwax (one reason why the Terry Pratchett comparison comes to mind) who alleges that she doesn’t particularly want to fix other people’s problems but seems to do it a lot anyway.

In “The Tomato Thief,” Grandma is really looking forward to the first harvest of her tomatoes. She lives on the edge of a desert, where it’s really hard to grow tomatoes, and she grows the best tomatoes around. When she discovers that her tomatoes are going missing — being stolen — she sits up on her porch waiting for the thief. It takes a while, but who and what she finds — a shapechanger bound by a ring in their tongue — leads her to put on her walking boots and go fix another problem.

There are train gods and their oracles. A desert landscape that feels real and a character in its own right. A talking coyote. And Grandma Harken standing up for her desert, kicking selfish interlopers in the arse and taking names.

You did not steal an old lady’s tomatoes. It was rude, and also, she would destroy you.

It’s an excellent novelette, and I seriously recommend it to your attention.

While I’m talking about things to recommend to your attention, let me add Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, out from Tor.com Publishing this August.

This is a peculiar little novella, but an appealing one. In a future (but not very far future) America, anarchist and vagabond Danielle Cain arrives in the anarchist/squatter community of Freedom, Iowa, looking for an answer to what spurred her best friend Clay to commit suicide. Freedom was the last place he spent any amount of time, and although she’s aware her quest is quixotic, she’s committed to it nonetheless.

In Freedom, she finds both a community that appeals to her, and magic. Magic that’s killing people. It turns out that Clay was part of a ritual that summoned a guardian spirit (a three-horned deer) that killed people who preyed on others. Now that the guardian has turned on its summoners, the community is torn between trying to unsummon its guardian, and keeping it. Danielle finds herself, along with tattoo artist Brynn and a houseful of anarchists, at the centre of efforts to prevent more bloodshed.

This is a really interesting novella, thoughtful, well-characterised, well-constructed, and tightly paced. Killjoy blends horror and social commentary in a sharp first-person narrative that builds to an explosive conclusion.

I recommend it.

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, is out now from Aqueduct Press. Find her at her blog, where she’s been known to talk about even more books thanks to her Patreon supporters. Or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign

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([personal profile] steepholm Jul. 25th, 2017 03:34 pm)
I'm now back in England for a few days. On Friday, like Odysseus with his oar, I will be setting out again, in a different direction, as westerly as my last trip was easterly, but I already feel quite disorientated.

That will keep, though. Let me bring my Japanese adventure to a brief conclusion.

By my third day in Kanazawa, I was a bit fed up at not feeling well enough to take advantage (or at least enjoyment) of all the interesting things on offer. As I mentioned in my last entry, Kanazawa has really thrown everything into being a tourist-friendly city, and one side effect is that, much more than in Tokyo itself, I often had shopkeepers waiters, etc. talk to me in English, despite my best efforts to talk to them in Japanese. Often I went with the flow, but on Monday something in me snapped. Seeking a small amount of food and a large amount of cool air, I went into a restaurant that had its menu in both English and Japanese, and having said "Hitori desu" (in context, "Table for one") was led to table by a waitress who insisted on repeating that back to me in English, as if (being a gaijin) I might not understand the Japanese I had myself spoken. I don't know why, but I felt a miffed by this, so when she came to take my order I made a point of reading it in Japanese, kanji and all - only to have it translated into English for my benefit again. A little later, I asked a different waiter for a water refill ("Sumimasen, omizu wo okawari oneigaishimasu!"), to which he replied, as if explaining a grown-up concept to a two-year-old, "Water."

I knew I was being a bit ridiculous, but it was beginning to feel like some kind of weird mind game. Eventually, not quite having been able to finish the food, I called yet a third waiter over, and said in Japanese that, although the food had been delicious, my appetite had recently been suppressed due to the heat and that I was therefore unable to eat it all. At last, this un-phrase-bookable little speech turned a key, and a suitable reply in Japanese was my reward, topped with the customary compliment on my linguistic skill (which, admittedly you get in many places if you manage to say "arigatou", but in this case felt like a crown of bays).

Vindicated, I set about paying my bill - but so dizzy was I with the twin draughts of heat and victory that I put down the wrong amount of money, and of course as soon as I got to the till all my good work was undone, as the woman kindly explained in English that "We need TEN more. TEN". In vain did I protest that my maths rather than my Japanese was at fault. In fact I was so flustered that didn't register the glass door at the entrance as I left, clattering into it and leaving an unsightly splodge of gaijin sweat at the level of my face - for which I apologised in good Japanese, I think, but by then that was no longer the point.

I hasten to add that this humiliating encounter was not typical. In fact, I had a recuperative episode an hour or so later in a small souvenir shop run by a very old, very small woman (she was 95, in fact, as she repeatedly informed me, deaf in one ear and blind in one eye). She told me all about her life - no nonsense about English here! And, to be fair, I've had a lot of interesting conversations in various places, usually with the owners of businesses where I was the only customer. I think of the bar in Nishiogikubo, learning (over a light tuna meal) why the owner threw it all up to become a whisky specialist; or the bar in Takayama where I drank iced coffee while the owner told me all about his motorbike obsession, which had taken him across Europe (Germany - land of beautiful cities and gentlemen - was his favourite, France - where people are "ijiwaru" - not so much, but for bike engines you can't beat Italy, apparently). On the whole, I think I've done okay, language-wise.

On Tuesday I caught a shinkansen from Kanazawa to Toyama, whence I rode a mountain train up, up into the mountains, past rivers, bridges, coniferous forests, dams, more bridges, etc. It was very beautiful, but I was happy to let the landscape slide by without photographing it. After all, most of Japan looks like this - trees and mountains, mountains and trees. The people live in the gaps in between.

My destination was the small town of Takayama, where I was booked in to a ryokan for a couple of nights. My appetite and energy still weren't back to normal (on returning to England I found that I had lost half a stone over the course of the month), and far from being treated to wafting mountain breezes, as had been my hope, the temperature in Takayama was still around 33 centigrade. Nevertheless, I really liked Takayama, not least because of its many rivers and streams, which criss-crossed the town in a way that made me feel quite at home (although probably no one else would have been reminded of Romsey). Anyway, here are a couple of boys looking at the carp in the river. I'm rather proud of this photograph!

DSC00295

As well as rivers, Takayama was replete with many old (i.e. wooden) Japanese style streets, most of which sold either sake, hida beef, or sarubobo. What's a sarubobo? Why, it's the mascot of the town, as far as I could make out, which exists in the form of baby monkey with (generally) a blank red face - although Hello Kitty versions also exist - and is meant to be a good luck charm.

DSC00290

The other big thing in the Takayama is the twice-yearly festival, which takes place in spring and autumn, and involves a number of ancient festival floats. Of course, I was there at the wrong time of year, but I did visit the shed where they are kept (I was almost the only visitor), where I listened to an English guide that was almost inaudible, though I forgave it for the honesty of the notice taped to its side:

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The floats were interesting, though:

DSC00302DSC00301DSC00304

My last first in Takayama was entering a shared bath, something I'd not been in a position to do on my previous visits to Japan. There are many Youtube videos detailing the proper etiquette, and I was a bit nervous about committing some faux pas, but it seemed to pass off okay - at least, people were too polite to upbraid me if I did get it wrong...

DSC00289
Don't know what they're doing
But they laugh a lot
Behind the pink door


I won't bore you with my uneventful trip back to Tokyo, or the pleasant last meal I had with Miho, Mikako and Hiroshii, or even my overnight stay at the Hotel Sunroute, Higashi Shinjuku. By that time I was in travel mode, and all my efforts were concentrated on making a month's worth of Stuff fit into my two cases. Instead, I will leave you with the following cheery message, which I saw in a Takayama toilet. In Japanese, it reminds people to take their rubbish away with them, but its message to foreigners is far more welcoming:

DSC00308

Yes, Japan, I will keep bringing my trash! Hopefully I can bring some as soon as next year, but that depends on events still hidden in the mists of futurity...

Posted by Emily Asher-Perrin

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets

It has been 20 years since the debut of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. That windup rainbow world of artifice and hodgepodge captured many viewers and left the world wondering why Besson refused to make more space opera movies when he clearly had am incredible knack for the genre. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was to be an answer to that silence, and a pointed one too; the decades-running comics series that the movie sprang from is one that Besson drew heavily from in creating Fifth Element.

Safe to say, when Besson said in interviews that he rewrote the entire script after seeing Avatar, we should have known what we were in for. (Avatar, for all its visual innovation didn’t exactly deliver on expert dialogue or intricate story subtleties.) As a result, despite the gorgeous settings and architectural hodgepodge that Besson excels at, Valerian fails utterly where it needs most to fly. How the story fails still manages to be an interesting exercise, particularly looking back at Fifth Element, which Valerian is so inextricably tied to.

[Spoilers for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets]

You have to begin with the strangest puzzle piece in the film’s assembly: the casting. It’s impossible to tell how old Valerian (Dan DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are supposed to be, but the actors look like teenagers, and don’t act much older, unless we’re meant to believe that DeHaan’s faux-deepened “action hero” tenor is convincing by any measure. The narrative tells us that Valerian and Laureline and excellent and experienced operatives for the government roughly five centuries in the future, but there is nothing present in the story to truly convince us of this point; the duo routinely screw up and can’t seem to manage a mission without flirting both awkwardly and irritatingly, which is clearly supposed to be a plus somehow in their rapport.

Which brings us to Valerian’s greatest problem and central conceit—the plot revolves around the idea that Valerian is a galactic sex machine (he has an encyclopedia of women he as rolled around with, which he and Laureline call his ‘playlist’ for some godawful reason) who doesn’t believe in longterm relationships, but find himself in love with his partner. She insists that he only wants what he can’t have, but he asks her to marry him, and the question of whether or not she’ll say yes is what the audience is meant to follow with rapt interest throughout a story that has much bigger fish to fry. There is one gaping problem with this: Valerian is an unlikable crapsack. I cannot think of a nicer way of putting it, and what’s more, he’s not merely unlikeable… he also only has about half of a personality to begin with. The only things we hear him talk about are being good at his job and how much he wants Laureline to admit she’s in love with him, which are not enough traits to form a human being. They are enough traits to form a two-dimensional asshat who no one in their right mind would ever be charmed by, however.

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets

Laureline is equally sub-rendered as a person. The viewer is clearly supposed to gather that she is the brains of the operation as she tackles technical issues and ass-kicking with aplomb, but all she ever talks about is how she refuses to give into Valerian’s flirtations because he doesn’t trust her enough to let her take point on things. That is the only thing stopping her from jumping into his arms, apparently. Well, that and his playlist. This supposed superduo go on about how great they are for the government at every available moment, but they’re only ever accused of being unprofessional and difficult to manage by their superiors, so it is really hard to understand what we’re supposed to be impressed by.

(If anyone wants to start that tired old argument of ‘it’s because the film is based on a 50-year-old comic that contains ideas about love and sex that would be outdated now’…. don’t. There is no excuse for dialogue like this—unless it’s meant to be read as a pure parody. Your main female character does not need to start the film angry that her work partner forgot her birthday, and he doesn’t need to respond by “playfully” pinning her to a beach chaise and suggesting that they bone. Adaptations are meant to do what it says on the tin: adapt the source material. Part of adaption is getting rid of material and attitudes that no longer serve the narrative you are trying to build, not doubling down on romantic tropes that seem at home in your average John Wayne movie.)

Outside of this deeply flawed romantic plot, there is a far more interesting story at play. We learn that there is a threat to Alpha, the space station known as the “City of a Thousand Planets,” which our dream team is meant to neutralize. But as the layers are peeled back, this threat is proven nil. Instead, it turns out that the real nastiness comes in the form of a general from their own government (you can pretty much guess he’s the bad guy once you know that he’s played by Clive Owen), one who destroyed an entire planet and its indigenous civilization in a battle thirty years previous. A small number of these aliens survived and found their way to Alpha, and they have been working to rebuild their society piece by piece. Valerian and Laureline, recognizing that their government must make amends, need to switch sides and fight for people who have been wronged.

But first Valerian has to encounter Rihanna the Shapeshifting Alien Sex Worker and Ethan Hawke the Cowboy Space Pimp.

The strangest part about the above sentence is that this should obviously be the point where the movie utterly derails, and instead the opposite is true; this encounter is the only thing that injects life into this movie. Following his partnership with Bubble (that’s Rihanna), Valerian suddenly seems more human, which is in no small part due to Bubble’s refusal to spare his feelings on how ridiculous she finds him. The two of them rescue Laureline (she’s being held by a group of aliens who want to feed her to their king and you know what, it’s just not worth explaining this part don’t ask), but Bubble gets hit on their way out and ends up dying after telling a tearful Valerian to take care of the woman he loves.

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets

And if this is the part where you go “Huh, Luc Besson has a weird thing about blue alien women teaching male protagonists something about love and responsibility before dying their arms,” then you are top of the class! It’s also the point at which the effectiveness of The Fifth Element is most clearly juxtaposed to the clumsiness of Valerian; somehow in these completely parallel scenarios, Fifth Element manages to display both more naiveté and more maturity than Valerian does. Korben Dallas’s catharsis when hearing the Diva sing is what opens him up to the prospect of falling in love again, and that love is wrapped up in the later choice to be vulnerable before Leeloo—a tall order for a man still reeling from his recent divorce. It is the mature decision of a person who has already experienced emotional pain opening himself up to the possibility of more pain in hopes of gaining something better. But Valerian’s artistic revelation—and it is pointedly framed as art in the same way that the Diva’s performance is art; Valerian calls Bubble “an artist” more than once after seeing her morphing sex fantasy dance routine, and that is what resonates in him, the artistry of her performance—is bound up in the journey of a woman who has lived a much darker life than anything he has known.

Bubble is an illegal alien on Alpha, with no rights and no one to turn to. Valerian promises to use his government clout to fix that problem for her, but her assistance in his quest to save Laureline is ultimately what gets Bubble killed. Valerian has to reckon with the fact that his choice to enlist her help leads to her death, and come face to face with the idea that his life is a comparatively easy thing that he still finds room to whine about. It could be a scathing commentary about privilege, but it lands awkwardly because Valerian doesn’t have enough room for emotional vulnerability that would make this horrific turn in the narrative worthwhile.

Instead, he finds some small measure of this vulnerability after Laureline insists on going against their government directives, when she demands that they give the matter converter (that’s the MacGuffin) to the wronged alien group without permission from their bosses. Her insistence that Valerian trust her and hand over control of their mission results in the smallest of breakthroughs, and he finally gains a measure of humility. But it still falls short of all the turmoil that The Fifth Element manages to work through… which is baffling considering that fact that the older film doesn’t go out of its way to address those themes.

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets

There are so many plotholes in Valerian that it’s a mistake to try and count them all. In addition, the split focus between Valerian and Laureline’s blossoming how-can-this-pass-for-a-love-story and all the intrigue around Clive Owen’s evil doings results in a destructive amount of exposition in the final half hour of the film. There are also a lot of very unfunny jokes (including a bunch about having a ‘girl inside you’ when they learn that Valerian has been carrying a shade of an alien princess’s spirit). Despite Besson’s insistence on creating “optimistic” visions of the future, there is very little optimism to be found in Valerian, in large part due to the cavalier attitudes the two central characters seem to have toward everything except each other for the majority of the film.

It’s all a damned shame because there are some beautiful themes at work here. Cooperation, learning to trust, the acknowledgement that when you do wrong by someone (or a whole group of someones) you don’t continue doing wrong by them to save your own skin. And there is true technical innovation at play in the film, some of the greatest seen in the past decade. The upcoming Ready Player One film is going to have difficulty matching up to the work Valerian has done with the concept of virtual reality and inter-dimensional interaction, as the opening operation that Valerian and Laureline execute is one of the most intricate, impressive sequences that cinema has seen in ages. The soundtrack is dazzling and the imagery (provided mostly in advance due to the groundwork laid by the comic) is stunning enough to warrant the film’s existence regardless.

But the most promising thing about the movie is shoved into the first three minutes: a montage detailing how Alpha came to be. At the start, we see humanity coming together to build out their space station, many peoples gathering, embracing, shaking hands as the years go by and more nations join the endeavor. Then… aliens. They arrive and humans shake hands with each species they welcome. Some of them have metal hands, and some of them have tentacles, and some of them are covered in slime, but they are greeted as equals. And then Alpha grows too large and must be released from Earth’s orbit so that it can continue to makes its way across the cosmos as a beacon of unity and camaraderie. Three minutes in, and I was in tears. Then the rest of the movie arrived and it was like an abrupt deflation of the world’s biggest balloon.

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets should have been an ode to that future, and somehow it got bogged down in the love story between two children who have barely accessed their emotional control panels. Had the film chosen to center on a non-romantic love, perhaps, a building of trust between two partners, we would have seen something special. But it’s hard to be optimistic about a future where your trusted coworker has a “playlist” of women on his computer and Clive Owen commits genocide against a peaceful race of tall, gender non-conforming, pearl-gathering, iridescent faeries.

It’s just too bad, because those three minutes were truly extraordinary.

Emily Asher-Perrin would like to watch the film’s opening on repeat. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
([personal profile] yhlee Jul. 25th, 2017 08:51 am)
For your amusement, hexarchate Tarot readings (coding and spreads by [personal profile] telophase, card meanings by me):
No art right now, just meanings. The 78-card jeng-zai deck corresponds to the traditional Tarot but is specifically a hexarchate Tarot circa Kel Cheris' era. As such, upright sixes are all positive while upright sevens are negative, and the fours are lucky/unlucky.

This site is for entertainment purposes only: neither guarantees nor apologies are given for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any reading you may receive, and no responsibility is taken for any calendrical rot that may ensue. Hopefully you do not live in the hexarchate.

Posted by Alex Brown

Oh Image, how I’ve missed you! It’s been ages since the biggest name in indie publishing has released something new that really excited me. Sure, a lot of their ongoings are permanent staples on my shelves, but I was more ready for something brand spanking new than I realized. That drought is at long last over. This summer, Image Comics has delivered two fantastic new ongoing series, Crosswind and Moonstruck.

Within moments of hearing about these two series, I had an order into my local independent comic book shop. Now that I have them in my grabby little hands, I can assure you my untameable eagerness was well worth it. Both take new tacks on old tropes, both are gorgeous to look at and wickedly fun to read, and both will leave you begging for the next issue.

 

Crosswind

With just enough preamble to ground the plot, Crosswind takes no time in getting straight to the action. Cason Bennett is a Chicago hitman with killer good looks and a swagger as sharp as a knife. Something shady is going on with his boss, and a conspiracy seems to be brewing in the background. Across the country in Seattle, Juniper Blue is a put upon housewife. Her husband is cheating on her, her stepson is an angry brat, and her skeezy teen boy neighbors get their rocks off by constantly sexually harassing her. Out of nowhere, a sinister someone says a curse and Case and June swap bodies. Issue #1 ends without any explanation or fallout—talk about a cliffhanger!

The two protags make for a fascinating contrast and intriguing comparison. June is as attractive as Case, but where he’s overly confident in himself and his abilities, she’s so been so beaten down by the men in her life that she hunches over to make herself as small and unobtrusive as possible. Cason is a man of action falling deeper into a hole he may not be able to dig himself out of. The actions he’s forced to take before his swap test his loyalty to his organization. He isn’t so much acting as being pushed around like a pawn. June isn’t an assassin, but she’s just as much of a pawn to more powerful men. Heartless men come at her from all sides, but where Case has his gun and his effortless cool to back him up, June has nothing.

I, for one, can’t wait to watch June work through her emotional distress with Case’s gun as he punishes vile men for mistreating June. Cason-as-Juniper can finally stand up for herself and take on all those assholes trying to break her. Juniper-as-Cason has the chance to become stronger, emotionally and physically, and fight back against inequity. Telling a macho man to shut up and get back in the kitchen and giving a beleaguered woman a gun and a reason to shoot it will make for very interesting blowback.

Really, I don’t even need to talk about how great the writing is. I mean, it’s Gail Simone. Of course the story is stellar. Simon Bowland’s lettering is spot on. The bolding of certain words as a rhythm to the dialogue so you can almost hear the characters speak. And the staccato speech bubbles and text boxes ramp up the tension and keep the story moving at a rapid fire pace. The real star here is Cat Staggs. Her work is as cutting and compelling with a vivid, cinematic quality to it. Simply put, her art is phenomenal. Truly, I wouldn’t change a thing about this issue. To me, it’s abso-bloody-lutely perfect.

Writer: Gail Simone; illustrator: Cat Staggs; letterer: Simon Bowland; production: Carey Hall. Image published the first issue of this new ongoing series in June 2017, and the second is scheduled for July 26.

 

Moonstruck

In a world where magic and fantasy are the norm, Moonstruck tells the story of a lesbian Latina werewolf named Julie who has heart-eyes for the yet to be seen Selena. Julie’s best friend is Chet, a queer centaur barista, and she pals around with a medusa, vampire bat boy, and an oracle. The cast is diverse as all get out, everything from skin color to gender identity to body shape. While there are hints about darker things to come, the story is largely about the blooming relationship between Julie and Selena and Julie’s insecurities about her wolfy nature. So far the story is light on action and heavy on introducing the characters, but it’s an angle that works in Moonstruck’s favor. A story like this, I don’t want it bogged down in big set pieces. I want to take my time with Julie and Selena and their weird world.

Grace Ellis got her professional start on Lumberjanes, and the heart that makes that series so wonderful is here on Moonstruck. Her dialogue is refreshingly candid without being crass or cruel. By the end of the first issue, I felt like I’d been BFFs with Julie and Chet for years. I’m a sucker for complicated relationship plots (whether romantic or platonic), and just the little taste we’ve had so far of Ellis’ story suggests it’ll be a good one. Clayton Cowles’ lettering is top notch as always. Really digging the font choice.

But it’s Shae Beagle whose praises I really want to sing. For a newbie who was still attending Columbus College of Art and Design when they got this gig, Beagle has the feel of a seasoned comics artist. They have a distinct, adorable style that perfectly fits with Ellis’ script. Their art is expressive and playful. Anyone who can have such a strong handle on coloring this new to the game is worth respecting. I’m going to enjoy watching their career grow.

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised a comic like Moonstruck landed at Image rather than BOOM! Box. This delightful all-ages queer fantasy series is right up BOOM!’s alley. Well, regardless of who publishes it, I’m just glad it exists. Like with Goldie Vance, Misfits, and Kim & Kim, I smiled through the entire reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading…). Consider me hooked.

Writer: Grace Ellis; artist: Shae Beagle; letterer: Clayton Cowles; editor/designer: Laurenn McCubbin; guest artist/SDCC variant cover: Kate Leth. Image published the first issue of this new ongoing series in July 2017, and the second is scheduled for August 23.

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

([personal profile] molniya Jul. 25th, 2017 10:16 pm)

Currently reading

William Shakespeare, Othello (audiobook). Good for the commute to work.

M.E. Mayer, One for Sorrow. Historical mystery (fall of the Roman Empire times). Too early to say if it's any good.

Recently finished

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (audiobook). In secondary school I thought Shakespeare was terribly overrated, but I actually really enjoyed the drama of this.

Paul Doherty, The Book of Fires. Brother Athelstan initially sucked me in because of the fun characters, and now I'm actually interested in the history of the Peasants' Revolt. What a trap. Well played, Paul Doherty.

Up next

Waiting for my reserve on the latest Chalion novellas to come through :D

Tags:
ffutures: (Default)
([personal profile] ffutures Jul. 25th, 2017 11:31 am)
If anyone has tried to phone me at home over the last few days, there's currently a bad fault on the line and it's almost impossible to understand what people are saying or recognise voices - as evinced by a couple of totally incomprehensible answering machine messages. BT say it ought to be fixed tomorrow.  Fortunately it doesn't seem to be causing internet problems so far.


Posted in full at: http://ift.tt/2tFMHfT on July 24, 2017 at 11:12PM

Tags:not a reblog, charity, DWCrosspost

Tumblr post (this is likely a reblog, and may have more pictures over there)
rosefox: A cartoon figure slipping toward a gaping hole in the paper. (slipping)
([personal profile] rosefox Jul. 25th, 2017 02:26 am)
I'm having one of those "parenting is so hard, when does it stop being hard, oh right, never" days.

I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.

Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.

"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.

(My right ear is the void, apparently.)

(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)

And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.

You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.

I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.

I guess maybe it does.
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([personal profile] nineweaving Jul. 25th, 2017 01:01 am)
And as long as I'm musing on British actresses, my stars, Fiona Shaw!   An interviewer asked her. "Richard II.  What about playing a man?"  "I didn't really approach it as playing a man.  I approached it as playing a god."

Her Waste Land is a masterclass in speaking poetry.

 Nine
([syndicated profile] apod_feed Jul. 25th, 2017 04:45 am)

Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people. Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people.


james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
([personal profile] james_davis_nicoll Jul. 24th, 2017 11:15 pm)
Saw a squirrel hop into the back of a pickup truck and wait, giving every impression it was waiting impatiently for something. Does it know trucks move? Is that how it got to the library?
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([personal profile] will_conqueror1 posting in [community profile] summer_of_giles Jul. 24th, 2017 07:42 pm)
 

Title: Promises
Author: Will_conqueror1
Rating: FRC
Summary: The day Rupert was born Clara made a promise to look after her little brother. Over the years she took many opportunities to make good on that promise.
Word Count: ~2400

A/N: This is a prequel to my Misadventures of Ru and Clara series, which is unfortunately not yet ready to post, but in the meantime I have this series of snapshots from Clara’s point of view, to introduce you to the characters. The Misadventures series is a prequel to my Chronicles of Ripper series.
A/N: Thanks to Littleotter73 for the Beta and for all her help and guidance as I try to get this series off the ground.


*****

Read more... )

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