Posts Tagged ‘Threat Quality’

BvD1I haven’t done one of these in a while, because honestly, recommendations generally aren’t necessary, at least in extended blog format. The moment you see something you like, either you tweet it or mention it on Facebook, or you text the person you think would like it, or some other site writes a thing on it and all you have to do is share a link.

But guys, Dracula kicked the everliving crap out of Batman in a cartoon made for kids and I feel like not enough of you know that.   (more…)


Response to the Breaking Bad finale has been interesting in its lack of consensus despite its sense of finality, even Breaking Badamong those who thought it hit the mark (which is most reviewers, really). By which I mean, unlike an ambiguous end (Sopranos, or even Lost), there’s not a lot to debate, plotwise.

But particularly telling are those thinkpieces that seem disappointed or betrayed that Walter White “got away with it,” or that he wasn’t sufficiently punished for his many and varied crimes.

That line of thought is, perhaps, slightly reductive. This show doesn’t have the moral of “Crime Does Not Pay,” it never did. Its central conceit is “Actions Have Consequences.” And thinking in moral absolutes doesn’t really deal with all the aspects of the show, including the fact that as much as it’s about moral decay and a slow reveal of one man’s own monstrous nature (and creative color schemes), it was also a crackerjack crime thriller.

That Walt’s return to town, grizzled and hollow, his only companions a pile of money and a gigantic machine gun, his only comfort thoughts of final vengeance, harkens back to the climax of a western is no accident. Breaking Bad only started in something resembling reality, but its heart has always been a pulp thriller, and this final season (both parts) has had westerns on its mind a lot.

So yes, the protagonist does get to go out on his own fatalistic terms, more or less. He takes out his enemies, he leaves provisions for his family, and he even reaches some kind of resolution with his student, tense as it may be (more on that in a moment). When he lies down to die, he does so surrounded by his legacy.

But jesus christ, the cost of that “victory” was so staggeringly huge that it’s hard to see it as a “win” of any kind unless we’re seriously stretching the definition. The man destroyed his own family while claiming to help them. He abused and implicated his wife and cost her her home. His brother-in-law is dead. His son will undoubtedly spend the rest of his life trying to shed the name “Walter White, Jr.” Holly will grow up wondering why they never, ever talk about Dad. Even his own name will be forgotten, replaced by the nightmare alter-ego: Heisenberg. Oh, they got the money? Hooray.

And look at the blast radius, the sheer number of people dead because Walter White couldn’t grasp a basic scientific truth: for every action, a reaction. Things he can’t possibly foresee because he believes he has absolute control. Collateral damage like Mike’s granddaughter and Brock.

There are only two real victories here. The first, Walter’s final admission to Skyler that all of this wasn’t because of family, but his own ego. This long-delayed self-reflection allows Walt to do the one thing that’s been clear to everyone over the years, things they’ve told him to his face: Walter White needs to die.

Though that’s really only the half of it. Walter’s a cancer, and that cancer has spread. So everyone connected: Todd, his uncle and crew, Lydia…all of them have to go too. That final shootout and Lydia’s poisoning are Walter cutting out the poison from his world as decisively as he can.

Which leads us to victory number 2: Jesse Pinkman, a guy who’s suffered immeasurably because of Walt’s insatiable Breaking Bad Jesseneed for power and control. To Walt – at least, until he realizes the bullet in his gut will probably do the job by itself – Jesse is also the only one who can end his reign of destruction. After all, the kid’s earned this last shot, right?

Except once again, Walt doesn’t understand Jesse’s needs. One last time, he mistakes what he’d want – final revenge – for what Jesse wants, and what he finally takes: A life free of Walter White’s influence. He refuses Walt’s final request to shoot him, and gets away like a bat out of hell.

Jesse Pinkman gets away, and to me that seems like a minor miracle.

Maybe the ultimate punishment isn’t enough for Walter. Maybe it isn’t fair that when he lies down to die, he thinks he’s “fixed” things well enough, never grasping the weight of his deeds to the satisfaction of the audience.

The end result is that Walter White can’t hurt anyone else, and Jesse Pinkman is free to find a better life. And no one became a secret lumberjack.

And that’s gonna have to be good enough for everyone.


Previously, on REVOLUTION, a show NBC was so proud of that it decided to take a six-month break, then was surprised when everyone kind of forgot about it …

Rev1Billy Burke and The Cape were STILL punching each other and then telling each other they’re brothers; Google Pete wrote a special machine code to get the nanobots floating in the air (yeah, it turned out it was nanobots) to stop suppressing electricity, they killed off one of their two minority characters (the explosion lady), Gus Fring took control of the army, and Colm Fiore revealed himself to be an emissary of the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES before launching nukes at Philly and Atlanta, then killing himself, because he was on 24 once and he knows how it is done.

And Tracy Spiradakos nearly, NEARLY managed to find a third facial expression, which she tried out after watching Fiore shoot himself in the head. It looked kind of, but not entirely, like mild annoyance mixed with being grossed out.

If all this seems unusually fresh in my memory, it’s because I watched the season finale on Netflix just now in anticipation of the season 2 premier. Wait, not anticipation. Cautious curiosity, I suppose?

See, over the summer, Eric Kripke – remember when this show was billed as being the brainchild of Kripke and J.J. Abrams? Well, like most shows with Abrams attached, he seems to no longer be attached – basically sided with the viewers that they had made a series of errors. Minor things like “The story is dumb” and “Who gives a shit about nanobots?” and “Wasn’t the whole point of this show to be a world without power, so why are there fucking helicopters everywhere?” and “Why is everyone so clean-looking?”  (more…)


Look, I won’t lie: I am exactly the audience for ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (hereafter known as SHIELD before I go nuts typing). The flipping panels and then the big red Marvel logo kicking things off got me giddy despite myself.

SHIELD-castBut that’s not to say I was blindly behind the show, far from it. For one thing, in my mind, if you do a SHIELD show, it should look like the spy-fi Steranko book from the 60’s, by which I mean it should kind of look like The Prisoner. And, well, we knew that wasn’t gonna happen. The closest ABC could ever get to that was Alias, and they’re not going to go ahead and remake Alias.

The long and short of it is, SHIELD feels slightly manufactured, which isn’t a surprising criticism when you consider all the corporate hands on it. It could stand to be a little weirder, a little looser, a little more visually stimulating than, say, your standard episode of Modern Family. It could probably stand about 10% of Joss Whedon’s last TV project, Dollhouse, with all its implausible sci-fi brain-tech and bad behavior, in its DNA.

But that’s also something I quite liked about SHIELD, particularly in contrast to my memories of Dollhouse. Unlike the latter – which is easily Whedon’s most crushingly pessimistic project, a series that went from “Lead goes undercover as back-up for a pop-singer” to “Well, the world’s pretty much been destroyed” in very few steps – SHIELD presents a fairly optimistic worldview, one I’m perfectly willing to tune into for now. (more…)


There will be spoilers, guys. For this show and a bunch of shows it cribs from.

blacklist 1As I watched the pilot for The Blacklist, I was amazed at how many borrowed elements were going into the makeup of this show. Then the main character straight-up pulled a prop from Revenge up from the floorboards and I was preeetty sure someone was punking me.

I mean, it’s a wooden box with a mysterious brand engraved on the lid – a brand (in this case a scar, rather than a tattoo) also found on the heroine’s wrist. I mean, that is one of the Big Things on Revenge. In the floorboards and everything. That is just nuts.  (more…)


SLeepy HollowSo…Ichabod Crane chops off a Redcoat’s head during the Revolutionary War, is buried by his witch wife, wakes up 250-odd years later after the Headless Horseman arises in Sleepy Hollow (and chops off a few heads), teams up with a resourceful deputy and together they learn they’re about to enter into a vast conspiracy of biblical prophecies and historical oddities encoded in George Washington’s secret bible.

That’s the in and out of SLEEPY HOLLOW, a show I simply assumed would be too stupid to enjoy as anything other than “Ohh, these pilots keep getting sillier, don’t they?” tongue-clucking. But no. Through an irritating combination of decent-enough acting, competent direction, a solid-enough budget to keep this from looking like a backdoor pilot from an episode of SUPERNATURAL, and dialogue that suggests the showrunners know just how silly all this is – and also the brief  presence of Clancy Brown, who, like sea salt, makes everything just slightly better – this was actually a fairly enjoyable hour of pilot.

Unfortunately, it’s also next to impossible to say what this show will be like on a week-to-week basis.  (more…)


John LennonJohn LennonIf you had not spotted this, apparently a Canadian dentist, Dr. Michael Zuk, has announced plans to sequence John Lennon’s DNA, based on a rotten molar he bought off auction for $31,000, with the ultimate goal of (his words here), “bringing back one of rock’s greatest stars.”

Now, I don’t want to be a Simon Science-Bad or Nelly No-Clones or anything here, but I’m going to go ahead and say this is only going to end in tears, for a few reasons.

Problem 1: Cloning’s not a thing we can do.

This seems obvious, so that’s why it’s first. That dude wants to spend $31,000 on pipe dreams, howzabout he pays off the rest of my student loans and we can start dreaming together while dancing around in our solid-gold shoes?

But then again, Dr. Zuk is a Canadian dentist. Who just laid down $31,000 on a diseased fossilized tooth, so maybe we shouldn’t take this off the table right away. What with their universal healthcare, are they further along in the cloning-race than the good old U.S. of Original Human Beings A? Oh my god, is universal healthcare in Canada based on Parts: The Clonus Horror?!

Get on that, fresh new controversy,, while I get to the other problems.

Problem 2: The tooth.

This particular tooth, upon which mad science is about to be zapped, is a rotten molar Lennon lost in the early 60’s and gave to his housekeeper (y’know, like you do), who gave it to her son and yada yada yada now a Canadian cloning enthusiast has it.  (more…)



Deadpool GameI managed to bang through Deadpool in a week. Not even a week of furious game-playing. Just an hour or two a night. Yes, it was on Easy, but then I wasn’t looking for a challenge, just some fun. It’s what I like about Activision’s Marvel games – they’re pretty straight-forward. You play a game with Wolverine in it, then Wolverine is going to run around stabbing dudes and yelling. Hell, it’s unlikely he’s even going to die all that much, assuming you put a lot of XP into his health bar.

Same with Deadpool – and that dude not only can heal and slice people, he can shoot them and teleport out of danger, too. So, that’s what you do. For, I guess, about 12 hours total. There is a more unconventional spot in the middle where Deadpool has to venture into a strange underworld to retrieve souls for Death, though surprisingly that still involves a lot of shooting dudes.

Ultimately, it’s on me for enjoying Batman: Arkham City, the Assassin’s Creed series and even last year’s open-world Amazing Spider-Man tie-in so much. I don’t need EVERY game to have expansive sets I can wander about and explore in (and buy new outfits in), but without that feature, it sure does feel like an unambitious game.

Lotta cursing in there, too. That was a surprise.

Best part of the game: Sinister’s imperfect exploding Gambit clones, who come at you in droves chanting “MON AMI! MON AMI! MON AMI!” before you blow them up.

Tomb Raider

Tomb RaiderMy first question when my friend lent me the rebooted Tomb Raider, as I looked at young, inexperienced Lara Croft on the cover and remembered those weird comments about keeping her safe from danger, was, “So do I have to worry about the threat of rape in this thing?”

“No…well, I mean one guy does get a little handsy, but that’s it.”

Relieved, I went home and started playing, until I realized I also should have asked, “Do I have to worry about getting mauled by wolves or crushed under a rock or stabbed in the neck?” Because the answer to that is, yes. Yes I did.

It’s not so disconcerting that they chose some pretty graphic, messed-up possible deaths, it’s that WOLVES ARE MAULING AN INEXPERIENCED, TERRIFIED GIRL. It’s startling, and you as a player feel guilty that you let it happen. In starting Lara Croft off at ground zero with virtually no resources, few skills and – this is the important thing here – living in a constant state of fear and exhaustion – it actually makes the player feel complicit every time you fail to get her out of danger (and again, I am not great at video games, so…this girl is going to be dying quite a lot, I’m afraid).

Which is a very strange motivator to get through the game – to reach a point where you/Lara are skilled enough to not, y’know, get stabbed in the neck with a booby trap. It’s like the GOB Bluth method of gaming: “Now once you can climb over that wall without getting punched in the stomach, you’ll have a lot more fun!”

Assassin’s Creed III

This game is so assured that you will like it that it makes you sit through 10 minutes of “The Story So Far…” explanations about a character nobody gives a shit about, and a conspiracy involving assassins, Templars, Roman Gods and the Apocalypse that is nearly impossible to make sense out of.

Pictured: A guy you do not play as for 2 hours.

Pictured: A guy you do not play as for 2 hours.

And then it sticks you on a boat for another 20 minutes.

And then once you finally get to Boston, just when you think you’re going to get some sustained combat going, it makes you reload a musket in real time.

And that’s when it dawns on you that you haven’t even been playing as the ostensible star of the game, the guy on the box in the white hood … you’re playing as his dad. For two straight hours.

What I am saying is that Assassin’s Creed is a series that is comfortable with everyone taking their time.


Here’s the thing about Wolverine: It’s actually pretty hard to do an outright BAD story with him, because as a W - Millercharacter, he is remarkably easy to get a handle on.

A lot of writers get these weird anxiety attacks over how “hard” it is to write Superman, which is basically how things like Man of Steel happen. They cite the issue that a man who has as many abilities as he does, and is as steadfastly moral as Superman is, can beat any challenge (this is, by the way, a dumb notion, so if there’s a writer out there who’s in the midst of this dilemma, may I offer this starting point: Come up with a threat that can’t be ended by Superman putting his fist through it or hurling it into the sun, and work from there).

But while Wolverine has a few things in common with Superman – nigh-invulnerable, capable of outfighting just about anyone, and already the subject of thousands of stories, raising the question of what new can be said about the character – they’re never seen as story-hurdles because the core engine of Wolverine offers so much fertile ground. It’s been articulated a lot, and I’m pretty sure Braak wrote a piece to this effect a few years ago, but basically:

Wolverine is a living weapon that wants to be something better.

And if you can’t come up with a story that addresses that core idea…well, you’re probably also someone who thinks “Having too many powers” makes Superman an impossible nut to crack.

All of this is to say, there are a LOT of really good places to start if you’ve never read a Wolverine comic before.  (more…)


A few recent articles have pointed out that this year has been marked by a surprising number of big-budget commercial disappointments (After Earth, Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., and Pacific Rim – which, BTW, the wife and I quite enjoyed), and how the smaller counter-programming films – even, god help us, Grown Ups Goddamn 2 – have been the quiet successes of the summer.

Moon KnightPretty much, if it didn’t feature Iron Man or Superman, it kind of thudded. People are slowly but surely getting bored at watching the same damn giant movie again and again and again, unless there’s a superhero involved somehow.

In the wake of the 2014-15 movie-promo fest that is Comic-Con these days, it got me realizing, in a few years, even having a superhero won’t help. My evidence for this? Me.

To gear up for The Wolverine, I popped in the first X-Men movie, which I haven’t watched in years. Aside from noting that there was a time when Hugh Jackman was simply very well-built, but not to the negative-2% body-fat, eating-whole-chickens-to-mainline-protein levels he gets to these days, I was mostly charmed by how…crappy it looks.

I mean, it’s fine, it’s not like the bricks are all made of Styrofoam or anything. But it’s clear the people paying for this movie felt like they were taking a huge risk, and were hedging their bets financially. Remember, other than Blade, which could be thrown into the “horror” genre category fairly easily, the last superhero movie at the time was Batman & Robin. THAT was the image in people’s minds when they thought “superhero movie.”

I also remember my blatant excitement that there was A superhero movie in theaters. ONE SINGLE MOVIE.  Simpler times, those times. (more…)