Last week we said goodbye to the citizens of Pawnee, Indiana as Parks and Recreation took its final bow with promises of an even greater future for Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and company in the fictional reality where we all want to live. Seriously, after seven seasons who wouldn’t want this glorious female warrior in charge of the country? 10940410_705055929591737_2688036775043691284_nAt the same time the first, but hopefully not last, season of Marvel’s Agent Carter ended with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), after saving New York City from another villainous attempt at bombing the Big Apple, reaffirming her stance as a woman who knows her value to the world even if it isn’t reciprocated. Though these two shows are dissimilar in regards to genre, setting, and time period, their commonality lies in the driven, passionate, and independent women at the helm.

When looking at Leslie Knope and Peggy Carter it’s easy to assume that gender is their one uniting factor. How else would a modern-day Mid-Western civil servant share any similarities with a British ex-pat intelligence agent in post-WWII New York? And that’s before you add in the science-fiction, superhero element that practically pushes Agent Carter as far from Parks and Rec, genre wise, as possible. But fear not, you beautiful tropical fish. Yes, gender is a factor in comparing Leslie and Peggy, but it’s really about how their respective worlds perceive women, their response as women, and the impact that has on the viewing audience that matters. Leslie may be navigating the modern world of middle-American politics but Peggy’s struggle for acceptance and acknowledgement is just as relatable. These are women who’ve dedicated their lives to serving their native/adopted country regardless of their rank within the system. Though they may desire more, it’s how they face their obstacles that earns them the respect, loyalty, and friendship of those around them and affects the most change.

137683_0115Though we’ve only had eight episodes of Agent Carter, Peggy’s importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been apparent since a skinny kid from the Lower East Side took his first steps towards being Captain America. One of the premiere officers of Army intelligence during WWII, Peggy held her own in the boys club of the military, earning the respect of the men she worked with through her tenacity and resolve on the battlefield. In the trenches, she was more than just Cap’s sort-of girlfriend. The harsh reality of “civilian” life post-war, however, is that in the eyes of her colleagues in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) she’s only viewed as Cap’s girlfriend with many of her accomplishments in the field overlooked or just plain ignored. The frustration of watching Agent Carter is the accuracy of its blatant and subtle sexism and the knowledge that there really isn’t an end point. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel where we can definitively say women gained all the respect and equality. It’s not just the attitudes of post-war culture, it’s a parallel of the modern day struggles of women in the workforce. Think about it. Women are still fighting for equal wages.

Still. In 2015.

Even the basic assumptions made about women in the show are mirrors of current workplace and online cultures. 1382589830prejpg-daab11_624wConsider two of Peggy’s colleagues, Jack Thompson and Daniel Sousa. Like Peggy, they’re war veterans, but the two approach the SSR’s sole female agent in very different ways. Thompson is all bravado, a blatant chauvinist who can’t even bother to get Peggy’s name right so long as he gets his coffee and lunch order placed correctly. Sousa, on the other hand, is more sympathetic to Peggy since he’s also the target of Thompson’s jibes because of his injury during the war. And while Sousa attempts to be the good guy, telling Jack to back off and treat Peggy with more respect, Peggy calls him on his white-knighting. He may think he’s doing the right thing, being a better man than the others, but there’s a more subtle form of sexism occurring. Peggy doesn’t need Sousa to come to her aid, she’s perfectly capable of defending herself. Assuming she needs defending is just another way of reinforcing the gender stereotype that women are incapable of taking care of themselves. In fact, the underestimation of women plays throughout the entire series as virtually every female character uses their perceived weakness to their advantage against men. Dottie hides the cold, Russian assassin behind a helpless doe-eyed mid-Western persona, Angie starts spilling fake tears to distract Thompson and Sousa, and Peggy frequently makes use of her invisibility within the agency as she conducts her side investigation into clearing Howard Stark. Though she’s loathe to use her second-tier status, it’s a tool nonetheless. It’s actually an interesting look into the character’s psyche and makes for an interesting thought exercise as to the state of mind of other women at the time. Peggy clearly has some control over how she’s viewed at the SSR and her side investigation challenges that control. It forces her to examine her place within the agency, concluding that though she’s invisible to her colleagues, for the most part, she’d rather not be seen then looked at as helpless.

agent-carter-iron_ceiling_howling_commandosAt least with Thompson there’s something Peggy can fight against. He wears his prejudices on his sleeve, so changing his mind and proving her worth as an agent would of course mean showing competency during a field mission involving the Howling Commandos. And it really is the most effective turnaround because even though Peggy and Thompson do bond over being soldiers, Peggy ultimately relates to Thompson on a human level by showing sympathy and empathy when he comes clean about his experiences in the Pacific Theater. This isn’t the writers going “if woman, therefore motherly role” as a means of justifying their shared moment. This is about vulnerability. Peggy taking the lead after Thompson freezes in a firefight, and her giving him orders to snap him out of it, gives him, for the briefest of moments, some insight about the real Peggy Carter. The true strength of her character is her ability to have those feelings for someone who, for all intents and purposes, wouldn’t respond in kind. Peggy’s goal isn’t to belittle her colleagues or emasculate them for the sake of her own self-worth. As she says in the season finale, she knows her value, and it’s not about getting her name in the paper or recognition from a state congressman. For Peggy, it’s about getting the respect and trust of her colleagues; not as a woman but as an agent.

What’s important to note about both Agent Carter and Parks and Recreation is that neither show treats its characters, male or female, like idiots. Peggy is exceptionally good at what she does but is still treated as a glorified secretary by her male peers. It’s not out of cruelty just misguided sentiments. Though she’s often frustrated by the men in the SSR or downright disgusted by any of Howard Stark’s shenanigans, Peggy never calls them incompetent. She, too, makes mistakes but we’re still rooting for her because we know what she’s capable of. And though we may desire comeuppance for some members of the SSR, the show is much wiser than that, presenting a snapshot of a bygone era that still holds relevance today.Parks & Recreation

Leslie Knope, however, could have easily become the female version of The Office‘s Michael Scott. Parks and Rec certainly owes its existence to The Office, but thankfully Leslie, as a character, was given much more substance than being a lovable goof. She is a lovable goof, by the way, but there’s no one on the show who ever questions her competence at her job or her intelligence because she’s a woman. If anything, Leslie’s hyper-competence and her extreme passion for governance often puts her at odds with the people of Pawnee and occasionally her friends and co-workers. At the same time, it’s Leslie’s passion for her work that leads her down the path to a ridiculously rewarding and awesome future.

The phrase “Be The Leslie Knope of Whatever You Do” is essential to what makes Parks and Rec and Leslie so special. From the beginning of the series, we know that Leslie is full of vim, vigor, and vitality for her work in the Parks Department. She shows excitement for a job that offers very little in the way of gratitude from the people she serves but Leslie isn’t necessarily looking for accolades. Her reward is helping people because she ultimately believes in the power of people coming together in order to accomplish a common goal. It’s why she loves working for the city. She gets to change people’s lives, whether they notice or not. What’s refreshing about Leslie’s consistent optimism is it’s never portrayed on the show as something we should pity her for. Leslie isn’t a character meant to be seen as pathetic because she doesn’t grasp the reality of her situation. The exact opposite is true. Leslie is very aware of how lb2-300x202she’s perceived by people, but it doesn’t deter her. If anything, she sees the complacency and apathy of those around her as a challenge, which she meets head on. She matches Ron Swanson’s anti-government paranoia and April Ludgate’s pessimism with openness and a helping hand and we cheer her on because, like Ron, April, or pretty much every person living in Pawnee, we see the greatness and the passion Leslie puts into everything she does and we want to apply that same passion to what we do in our own lives. We want to “be the Leslie Knope” of our own passions.

To me, Leslie is the embodiment of the modern feminist. Not only does she show an exhausting amount of joy, confidence, and passion for her job, but she also has the ideal balance of career and family. The road towards this ideal, however, was not an easy one. At the beginning of the series, Leslie’s career goals often took precedence over her personal life – except for Ann because nothing comes between Leslie and Ann! – but once she met Ben Wyatt the priorities began to shift. There’s this prevailing myth that women have to choose between having a family or having a career, which is complete bull. Women don’t have to choose one or the other. They can have both if they put in the time. It’s about balance and in Ben Leslie found her balance. Like her philosophy that teamwork and helping people are the ultimate goals of government, so too did Leslie apply the same mindset to her relationship with Ben. Once they decided they were a team, that they were in it for the long haul, every decision was made by the Knope-Wyatt household committee. Thankfully Ben shared Leslie’s passion for government and civil service but he also shared a Parks and Recreation - Season 5passion for helping Leslie fulfill her dreams. It’s still a rare thing for a male character to put a female character’s wants and needs over his own in any form of media. If we see Leslie through Ben’s eyes, however, we know that her drive will propel them forward no matter what. Ben is no more sacrificing his goals than Leslie would if the situation were reversed. But it isn’t really a sacrifice for them. Whether it’s a position on the city council, Congress, Governor of Indiana, or President of the United States, Leslie and Ben are a team and they both get to enjoy the ride together.

This, of course, only scratches the surface of Parks and Recreation‘s legacy on television. Hopefully it’s the beginning of greater things for Agent Carter. Either way, we’ve been fortunate enough to let women like Peggy Carter and Leslie Knope into our homes. Their mark on us is what counts and if I were to venture a guess, I’m pretty sure there are going to be more girls and boys striving to be like Leslie and Peggy in the future.

It’s about time the most badass group of lady adventurers returned to grace us with their foul mouths and sweet fighting skills. When last we left the Rat Queens, Palisade was under attack from reality-warping tentacle creatures, RatQueens_09the Abyssals, sent by Gerrig Lake as vengeance against Sawyer Silver. In the wake of their first unsuccessful charge, the Rat Queens and the remaining warriors of Palisade rally together to storm Gerrig’s stronghold, stop the attack, and save Sawyer. Unfortunately, their presence, especially Hannah’s, may have been part of his plan all along.

The influence of the past on the present appears to be the broader theme of Rat Queens‘ current arc. Gerrig is avenging the death of his wife, who he blames Sawyer for by using dimensional beings from Dee’s former religion – the community she left in order to find herself. Under the spell of the Abyssals, Violet’s break with her dwarven clan and the seeds for the group’s name were planted. We were even been treated to a look at Braga’s past and the dangers of a culture unwilling to change. Now, it’s Hannah’s turn and like Dee and Violet her mother is at the center of it all. If there’s a second recurring theme to Rat Queens, then it’s the power of a mother’s love. And not in that sappy “saved by the power of love” deus ex machina kind of way that’s been overused, but a deep understanding and empathy that many mothers have that gives them greater insight into the needs and wants of their children. On a personal level, I can attest to this. Sometimes it feels like my mom knows what my decision or actions will be even before I do and she trusts that I’ll find my way despite times when I couldn’t feel more lost. Granted, one could make a case for both parents having a positive influence, but so far in Rat Queens the only two fathers featured have been bullies or ignorant jerks. They mean well in their own way, but the mothers of our Queens gave their girls the most important tools to becoming the women they are – acceptance and compassion. As far as Hannah’s hallucination goes, there’s clearly some untruth DumbBradgoing on where her mother is concerned. No spoilers, but you loyal readers may recall Hannah taking a “rune call” from her mother in the first issue of Rat Queens, so either the Abyssals are just messing with Hannah’s head or the scene in question actually happened and Mama Vizari recovered. If it’s the latter, then that’s one hell of a recovery.

This issue also marks the introduction of Stjepan Šejić (Sunstone) as the book’s new artist and by N’Rygoth is he fantastic! Already known for being a speed demon of an artist, Šejić maintains the full-figure look of the Rat Queens but gives them an extra bit of muscle and umph that aesthetically puts them on par with his DC Comics doodles of Wonder Woman or Big Barda. These are strong women and Šejić puts as much of that mentality into how the Rat Queens come across visually. There’s also a wide range of expressions that Šejić captures perfectly, from Mama Vizari’s annoyance to the condescending grimace of a castle guard. And as detailed as the faces look, there’s a gorgeous quasi-defined painted quality to his backgrounds and colors. I admit I do miss Roc Upchurch’s illustrations, but Šejić has definitely found a new way of looking at the world of the Rat Queens.

Pick up Rat Queens #9 on March 4th and remember how fucking dumb Brad is!

If you’re so inclined to pay attention to award season, then you probably know (or glanced at your various feeds on Facebook or Twitter) that the 87th Academy Awards happened and there were quite a few politically charged moments that will undoubtedly garner more attention and discussion than the actual show. This is hardly new territory for the Oscars. The ceremony may be an over-long self-congratulatory tribute to Hollywood, but as far asOscars ratings and viewership go, the Oscars, in one night, still reach more people than the average one-hour drama. It’s not Superbowl numbers by any means, but it still puts the award show in the advantageous position of political theater if one seizes the opportunity. And during the broadcast several award winners did their damnedest to do some carpe dieming.

Prior to the ceremony, the Oscars were already under fire for whitewashing the categories, snubbing critically acclaimed Selma director Ava Duvernay and star David Oyelowo but still nominating the film for Best Picture and Best Song. As noted by the Hollywood Reporter, this is the second time in two decades that the lineup of nominees was all-white, the timing of which couldn’t be worse in light of the racially insensitive emails leaked during the Sony hack and the Academy’s supposed promise to give diversity a greater focus. Is it any wonder that host Neil Patrick Harris’ opening joke – “Today we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry…brightest.” – and his sharp response to the audience applauding David Oyelowo during an interstitial bit – “Oh, sure, now you like him.” – were met with nervous laughter and timid applause? The saving grace of the snub, however, was the stirring John Legend, Commonperformance of “Glory” by Common and John Legend that brought the audience to tears. Legend later used their Oscar win for the song to point out the parallels between Selma and current racial tensions in the United States.

Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. God bless you. [Source: Democracy Now]

The Oscars also served as a platform for women to make their voices heard through any and all means. Before the ceremony even began the Oscars were at the center of a Twitter campaign spearheaded by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls community and the Representation Project called #AskHerMore, which called upon correspondents covering the show to ask actresses more engaging questions about their work instead of asking about their clothes. Reese Witherspoon brought attention to the campaign on Instagram and on the red carpet, which Robin Roberts of ABC P-A-600utilized in her coverage, though it sloughed off towards the end. Luckily, Witherspoon and fellow actresses Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o were keen to talk more than fashion.

Once the show was in full swing, it was Patricia Arquette who took the stage after receiving the Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood and stated plainly to Hollywood and the viewing audience:

To every woman who gave birth to every citizen and taxpayer of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!

The rallying cry brought the house to its feet in applause and produced what will probably the greatest GIF ever of Meryl Streep.

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Arquette’s speech was a definite response to the Sony emails between studio executives discussing the wage discrepancies between actresses and actors. And while we might roll our eyes at the idea of an actress getting paid more money, we still have to remember that it’s a job and, like any of us nine-to-fivers, if a woman’s skill set is the same as a man’s, then she should get paid the same amount. America’s workforce isn’t guided by gender roles anymore, but it is a country where single-income families are the norm and if a woman is the head-of-household, then what she isn’t being paid adds up. Arquette’s words similarly ring true for the state of Hollywood and its treatment of actresses. As indicated previously, beauty is often the topic of choice on the red carpet instead of the phenomenal work accomplished by women in the industry. The worst kept secret in Hollywood is the shelf life of an actress’ time in which she goes from sexy leading lady to fourth-billed, middle aged nag. By paying actresses less money, Hollywood reinforces this outdated attitude, valuing marketability over merit.

The night wasn’t just full of calls to action. Some speeches were poignant messages of understanding in the face of societal pressures and stigmas. After winning Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, Graham Moore, bared his soul, saying:

Oscars Graham MooreAlan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. And I do. And that’s the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard. In this brief time here, what I want to use it to do is to say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now, I’m standing here and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And then, when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.

Moore’s speech struck a chord, tapping into the cultural atmosphere of isolation and alienation towards anyone deemed “different”. Whether you’re gay, straight, queer, trans, or just left of center, the truth of Moore’s words can apply to just about anyone. It was especially moving given that earlier in the broadcast Dana Perry, producer of the winner for Best Short Subject Documentary, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, dedicated the award to her son who’d committed suicide in 2005 and proclaimed that suicide needed to be talked about “out loud” before the orchestra played her off. After the speech, Perry told reporters:

We need to talk about suicide out loud to try to work against the stigma and silence around suicide because the best prevention for suicide is awareness and discussion and not trying sweep it under the rug. [Source: ABC News]

When I was studying archival science in college there was one particular lesson that remained prominent: if you’re not in the record, then you don’t exist. The same is true of media and if there’s really an overall message to take away from this year’s Oscars, it’s that visibility equals legitimacy. Those in charge of crafting the Oscars ceremony love to wax poetic about how film reveals things about human nature or how the movies are a oscarreflection of our society. So what does this year’s smattering of nominees say about our society now? Who are we? What do we value? Whose voice is coming through louder? Who has a voice? We need to see ourselves and we need to be challenged to experience the uncomfortable truths of our society. The movies can’t completely solve these issues, but it’s a familiar medium, a language we all speak, and those responsible for honoring the industry’s achievements might do well to realize that when they cast their ballots next year.

Oh, Jupiter Ascending, you had such high aspirations and yet you failed so badly at achieving anything short of “so bad it’s good” status as a movie. It’s unfortunate too when you consider the latest high-concept space-opera wannabe movie from the Jupiter AscendingWachowski siblings is the only main stream release film to come out this year that isn’t an adaptation, sequel, or reboot of an existing property. Unfortunately, originality is the only thing going for it as the movie slogs around from beautiful set piece to beautiful set piece with no rhyme or reason given to the actual plot or developing any of the characters beyond their archetypal role. But I can tell you right now it’s the most fun you’ll have at the movies until Age of Ultron comes out in May!

For the curious: Jupiter Ascending is about the titular Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian-born immigrant working as a cleaning lady in Chicago, who finds out she’s the genetic reincarnation of the deceased matriarch of the Abraxas family – an intergalactic dynasty and corporation of millennia old humans who’re responsible for “seeding” the Earth. The discovery of her new-found regality, which comes with ownership of the Earth, puts Jupiter in the middle of an economic power play between the three children of the late mommy Abraxas with Earth serving as the brass ring for all parties involved. The oldest of the siblings, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), however, is more than ready to “harvest” the Earth – cull the population to make a goo-like regenerative serum from human genetic material – if it means keeping the planet, and it’s profits, out of everyone else’s hands. Oh, and Channing Tatum plays a human/wolf hybrid named Caine who’s basically there to continually save Jupiter and fly around on his fancy gravity-defying boots.

jupiter-ascending-_23-jpgSo where did the movie go wrong? Well, just about every aspect of the film is problematic. Some of these problems are clearly the result of the film’s delayed release by Warner Bros. from July 2014 to February 2015 for reshoots and an extended post-production schedule. It’s understandable that the studio might be concerned with another high-concept science fiction movie from the Wachowskis considering their last foray, Cloud Atlas, was only saved from being a financial bomb by the international box office. Add to that the popularity of recent sci-fi action hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and, to a lesser extent, Edge of Tomorrow, and it’s not surprising that the studio would set aside pseudo-philosophical exposition and world-building in favor of what’s proven popular to audiences. That’s what Hollywood does.

The result of such late demands and changes, however. is a movie that’s edited within an inch of its life. The first act suffers the most from these edits. The choppy exposition and lack of transitional scenes only serve to introduce characters quickly and push the plot forward so they can get to the next action piece. For example, Jupiter, in need of money to buy an expensive telescope, decides to sell her eggs to a medical facility. While she’s in the waiting room fidgeting nervously, the nurse calls her name and the immediate scene following is Jupiter being put under anesthesia and fighting against the nurses while groggily 1401886372_jupiter-ascending-467saying she’s changed her mind. There’s no scene of Jupiter getting prepped for the procedure or watching as the nurses set out their instruments, nothing that would make her uneasy and lead to doubts. It’s a lazy cut from nervous to full on fighting against the overly insistent nursing staff all for the explicit purpose of getting Caine into the operating room to save Jupiter from assassins faster. I’m not kidding that the movie hinges on Jupiter being kidnapped or handed off from one crazy Abraxas sibling to the next so she can be put in a position where Caine has to rescue her, which means pew! pew! pew! BOOM! and scene. Rinse and repeat. When all is said and done, Jupiter is nothing more than the film’s maguffin, or more accurately, the sexy lamp.

Not that anyone in the cast comes off that much better. Perhaps there were deleted scenes that fleshed out the characters more, but studio meddling can only be blamed for so much when there are significant structural and character problems that had to have been in the script from the get go. The Wachowskis have previously been criticized for favoring style over substance and it definitely shows in this case. Jupiter is the damsel in distress with no significant wants, needs, or motivation after learning she’s essentially Queen of the Universe. Not even the bare minimum of effort is put into making her remotely interesting and it doesn’t help that Kunis’ go-to reaction to everything is just “meh”. Presented with a new dump of exposition or yet another inconvenient kidnapping, Jupiter takes it all in with about the same amount of emotional heft you’d find from Twilight’s Bella Swan.

Jupiter marriageUnlike Edward and Bella, Caine and Jupiter at least have some chemistry, which is mostly due to Tatum’s natural charm since he’s given very little to work with as a the brooding, tortured, and misunderstood hybrid soldier with a chip on his shoulder where royalty is concerned. SO TORTURED! All of this so there can be some sort of class conflict to serve as romantic tension between the literal dog soldier and the low-born turned royal special snowflake. The three Abraxas siblings don’t have much to offer beyond what you’d expect from warring elites with mommy issues. Redmayne’s Balem rasps and whispers his dialogue in an attempt to be more interesting than his cartoonish, Oedipal tyrant role will allow; Douglas Booth’s Titus is the hedonist looking to steal some of the profits from his brother; and Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique, though the least threatening, is perfectly happy to play Glinda the Good Witch to the whole proceedings by using Jupiter as a proxy saboteur. The only believable relationship in the entire movie is between Caine and Stinger (Sean Bean), and that mostly consists of punching, betrayal, and motivational speeches – though not necessarily in that order.

The awesomely awful final product, however, is still one of the most entertaining movies to come out amid the Oscar-baiting drudgery in theaters right now. Even when it’s trying to be super serious, Jupiter Ascending comes off as goofy craziness and I love it for that! The smallest detail, like character names, produces a loving groan of “Really?” from me. Bean’s Stinger is a human/bee hybrid, get it? Caine is part dog, Get It? There’s a human/elephant hybrid named Nesh, GET IT?! Obvious names are obvious! The dialogue is either overly heavy-handed or so amazingly cheesy you’re not sure how the actors managed to say their lines with a straight face. It’s a movie that wants to be grandiose in its execution but for every huge effects shot of a space ship riddled with decadent golden statues there’s an obvious green screen moment of Channing Tatum trying to make faketerry gilliam skating with Kunis riding piggyback look cool. It’s not cool, it’s hilarious especially if you think about Tatum miming skating while making faces for the slo-mo shot. Even as I typed that sentence I started laughing to myself. And the Brazil-inspired bureaucracy sequence (complete with Terry Gilliam cameo) was priceless in its complete disregard for what the film had previously established in tone and style. Oh, Jupiter Ascending, never change!

Actually, I’d like to see the shooting script for Jupiter Ascending or, at the very least, I hope the Wachowskis put out a Director’s Cut of the film. I’m curious about what was so obviously cut from the movie and whether or not it would make the story better or add to the insanity. I know the Wachowskis don’t like to put out alternate cuts, or do commentary, but I think Jupiter Ascending would only benefit because to say that that the film is a hot mess is a bit disingenuous. For all of the special effects and fast-paced action sequences, there are some interesting ideas and valiant attempts at world-building going on throughout the film. Maybe the Wachowskis were too ambitious or overreaching, but I’d rather filmmakers were too ambitious and failed than played it safe and succeeded. Hollywood, unfortunately, doesn’t see it that way. I’m confident though that despite its poor performance in theaters, Jupiter Ascending will reach cult status when the DVDs and Blu-Rays come out. And I look forward to the movie nights that follow.

So, have you seen Jupiter Ascending? What did you think?

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Sam talks with Ben Blacker, co-creator and writer for the Thrilling Adventure Hour! They chat about the writing process, the stage show turned podcast turned successful kickstarter, and television as a medium.

Ben Blacker

Follow @BenBlacker and @ThrillingAdv
Check out thrillingadventurehour.com

Intro and outro music “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl

I don’t know if anyone noticed but there were a lot of big deal pieces of news that dropped recently from Marvel, DC Comics, and Comedy Central. While I definitely plan on elaborating on most of these topics with more in-depth pieces, I thought you all might enjoy my thoughts on a few key subjects.

 

Spider-Man Joins the MCU!!

Great day in the morning, people! Spider-Man is finally gonna get the Marvel Studios treatment as it was announced that Sony, who owns the film rights to the webslinger, and Marvel reached a deal that will put Spider-Man into the billion-dollar empire that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the clean break fans of Spidey were hoping for since Sony will still distribute any films involving the world of Spider-Man, but at the very least we know that producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal will have significantly more creative control over the character.

Spider-Man MCU

With the addition of Spider-Man to the MCU roster, Marvel has already begun the search for a new Peter Parker. Rumor has it that actors Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fury) and Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, Maze Runner) are being considered for the role of Peter since Marvel wants to start fresh. So far, the plan seems to be introducing Peter into an upcoming movie in the MCU, most likely Captain America: Civil War, with a solo film to follow scheduled for release in 2017. While I can understand wanting to draw a clear separation between the MCU’s version of Peter versus how Sony has depicted him, it’s a bit of a shame that Andrew Garfield won’t be continuing the role. He and Emma Stone were the best parts of the Amazing Spider-Man movies.Spider-Man-Joins-Marvel-Cinematic-Universe

The announcement has produced plenty of excitement but also concern on the part of fans – not just of Spidey, but the MCU in general. With the addition of Spider-Man’s solo film, Marvel has pushed back the release dates for the Black Panther and Captain Marvel solo films that were originally due out in 2017 but are now coming out in 2018. It’s not a drastic change, but it does send a message. We’ve seen Peter Parker in five movies, so it’s not like audiences won’t know the character. What we haven’t seen, at all, is Black Panther or Captain Marvel on the big screen. Maybe it was part of the deal with Sony that Marvel had to put out a Spider-Man movie by a certain point, but it’s a bit disappointing that Spidey seems to come before other characters when Marvel has been doing just fine without him in the MCU so far.

There’s also the issue of Peter Parker being Spider-Man. It’s not surprising that when the deal between Sony and Marvel was announced that Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe, almost immediately became a trending topic on Twitter. One of the long-standing problems with the MCU has been diversity and adding Peter to the list of Marvel movies led by a yet another straight white guy has its drawback in terms of inclusion. Of course, with Marvel actually having a hand in shaping Peter hopefully it won’t be too long before Spider-Verse becomes a cinematic reality. If we could somehow get Miles or Spider-Gwen out of this, then I’ll be a happy camper.

 

All-Female Avengers!a-force-female-avengers.0

With Secret Wars promising to alter the comic book universe of Marvel by smushing the various realities together to make a cohesive Marvel Universe, one of the bigger sub-announcements of the event is the book A-Force. Starting this summer, co-writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett and artist Jorge Molina will bring all of the MU heroines together, along with a new hero named Singularity, to show exactly what happens when the women of Marvel get together to kick some ass!

Announced on The View because ABC and Marvel are both owned by Disney and anything involving female superheroes must have an outlet via a show with an all-female panel of hosts, G. Willow Wilson had this to say about the book:

We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of very different characters — from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies. They’ll all have to come together to answer some big questions: What would you sacrifice to succeed? What is being a hero worth? [Source: Mashable]

 

singularityThough the cover features just about every heroine of Marvel, the core group of A-Force, according to Wilson, will consist of She-Hulk, Dazzler, Singularity, Nico Minoru, and Medusa with appearances from Captain Marvel, Storm, Spider-Gwen, and Wasp all but inevitable. While this isn’t Marvel’s first book with an all women cast, it’s certainly the most anticipated. What has me so excited, based on the cover alone, is the presence of Jubilee and Rogue in their “classic” X-Men cartoon outfits. Hopefully this will be the return of mutant Jubilee because I’ve never been a fan of no powers, vampire Jubilee. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about…it’s a long story.

 

DC Announces Post-Convergence Lineup!

In an effort to focus on diversity (to some degree) and once again bring in new readers, DC Comics has announced the 24 new titles coming out in June after the Convergence summer event. Though Convergence is essentially a mini-crisis event that focuses on all eras of the DC Universe pre-New 52, the aftermath will see the company dropping the New 52 moniker in order to publish books less dependent on continuity in favor of emphasizing titles that are more “inclusive”, “accessible”, and “contemporary”. Said co-publisher Dan DiDio:

In this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity as we continue to empower creators to tell the best stories in the industry. [Source: Newsarama]

dc-new-hed2-630x419

One could argue that DC hasn’t been all that focused on either continuity or storytelling, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one if only because it seems like they’re actually trying to make an effort. I still wish that de-emphasizing the New 52 meant abandoning that continuity entirely, but alas it shall remain. A girl can dream, right? Anyway, here’s the list of new titles and creative teams ready to grace our pull lists in June! I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the ones I’m interested in!

New Titles:

Batman Beyond
Written by Dan Jurgens, art by Bernard Chang

Black Canary
Written by Brenden Fletcher, art by Annie Wu and Irene Koh

Constantine: The Hellblazer
Written by Ming Doyle, art by Riley Rossmo

Cyborg
Written by David Walker, art by Ivan Reis

Dark Universe
Written by James Tynion IV, art by Ming Doyle

Green Lantern: Lost Army
Written by Cullen Bunn, art by Jesus Saiz & Javi Pina

Doomed
Written by Scott Lobdell, art by Javier Fernandez

Earth 2: Society
Written by Daniel Wilson, art by Jorge Jimenez

Dr. Fate
Written by Paul Levitz, art by Sonny Liew

Justice League of America
Written and drawn by Bryan Hitch

Justice League 3001
Written by Keith Giffen, art by Howard Porter

Martian Manhunter
Written by Rob Williams, art by Ben Oliver

Midnighter
Written by Steve Orlando, art by ACO

Mystic U
Written by Alisa Kwitney, artist to be revealed

Omega Men
Written by Tom King, art by Alec Morgan

Prez
Written by Mark Russell, art by Ben Caldwell

Red Hood/Arsenal
Written by Scott Lobdell, art by Denis Medri

Robin, Son of Batman
Written and drawn by Patrick Gleason

Starfire
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner, art by Emanuela Lupacchino

We Are Robin
Written by Lee Bermejo, art by Khary Randolph

In addition, there will also be four six-issue mini-series

Bat-Mite
Written by Dan Jurgens, art by Corin Howell,

Bizarro
Written by Heath Corson, art by Gustavo Duarte

Harley Quinn/Power Girl
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, art by Stephane Roux

Section Eight
Written by Garth Ennis, art by John McCrea

[Source: Nerdist]

What titles are you excited for?

 

And finally…

Jon Stewart to Leave The Daily Show Later This Year

Yeah, I’m definitely going to cover this more in-depth, but suffice it to say that The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart in particular, have meant the world to me since I was in college. Some of the most profound, hilarious, and poignant moments have come from The Daily Show and I will always have Jon to thank for that. Sixteen years is a good run, Jon, and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

And now, your Moment of Zen

 

Sam talks with Aaron Diaz, creator/writer/artist of Dresden Codak. The two talk art, Lord of the Rings, webcomics, and dinosaurs! So a little something for everyone!

aaron-diaz-dinosaur

Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!Braga1

Previously I did a review of the Rat Queens One-Shot that focused on Braga’s life before Palisade, the Peaches, and the Rat Queens when she was still the Orc chieftain’s son, Broog. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with guest artist Tess Fowler, Braga’s story is one of exploring the stagnant culture that breeds intolerance as Broog tries to pull his clan out of the rut of war and brutality, but meets resistance at every turn. Tired of fighting against his own people, Broog leaves his clan disappointed but hopeful that his clan will eventually come around. The issue is significant not just for addressing transgender characters in comics, but also for how the subject is broached. At no point does the transition from Broog to Braga occur within the story. Instead, Wiebe and Fowler make it about the environment surrounding Broog and the factors that push him to leave. It’s a brilliant story, so I reached out to Kurtis Wiebe with my eight questions and he was kind enough to answer them through email.

Read the rest of this entry »

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes is Frank McCourt’s charming and uplifting memoir about 252577living in severe poverty in 1930s and 1940s Ireland. The kind of romantic poverty that involves no food, no proper clothing, fathers leaving, fleas everywhere, siblings dying, and getting a full time job at fourteen to support the family. All the sorts of things that prove that social programs are not needed.

Spoiler Alert: The main character, Frank McCourt, eventually writes a memoir.

I give this 4 out of 5 Guinness Pints.

Next week’s review, a book on the totally not tragic battle for Stalingrad!

Sam is joined by her friend Nathan for a discussion about TNT’s The Librarians.

The Librarians

Intro and outro music “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl.