It’s About Time We Got Wonder Woman (Spoilers Ahead)

Comic books aren’t my thing. I have to constantly ask my kids who is Marvel and who is DC, the difference between the Justice League and the Avengers, and then I sat through Suicide Squad wondering what the point was.


Photo credit: Clay Enos; image taken from IMDb.com

Wonder Woman, the television show, came out when I was very small, but I caught reruns from time to time. It was the first action show I remember where the woman wasn’t a sidekick or a love interest or just a female version of a superhero (Batgirl, Spidergirl, Supergirl). Along with thousands of other girls, I twirled around in an enclosed space pretending I was going to change into Wonder Woman.

After two generations of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man movies; after Thor and Hulk and Deadpool; we get Wonder Woman.

She kicked ass. Diana Prince might not twirl around to change into Wonder Woman anymore, but she still kicked ass.

Along with a full retinue of resplendent Amazon warriors, Diana ceaselessly trains for the day she will kill the god of war, Ares, and restore peace to Earth. Her coach is the fabulous Robin Wright (who constantly tells Diana she’s stronger than she thinks) and after Diana rescues an American spy posing as a German pilot, who’s chased by the real Germans, Robin and the rest of the ladies BRING IT in a battle on their shores.

(I spent most of the movie thinking the pilot, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, was supposed to be Captain America. I don’t know why and I finally remembered Pine played Captain Kirk. We need someone else besides a guy named Chris in future superhero movies. Please and thank you.)

I spend the rest of the movie as anxious as Diana to kill Ares. Friends, Wonder Woman Gets Shit Done. Steve, and his ragtag group of buddies, and his bosses, and the Germans, all try to sidetrack Diana. The movie went a little long so I can tell you there was an ill-advised shopping trip, a dancing lesson and many strategic arguments with Steve. Diana shrugs and then does things her way. You can put any feminist saying behind it: she persists; she fights the patriarchy. She slogged through a battlefield because she was determined to save a village. She gets some help from Steve, but it’s her battle. She eventually has a showdown with Ares, who of course tries to mansplain her destiny and manipulate her. No one comes to her rescue. She has to figure her shit out. And as soon as she realizes she’s fighting for love, she’s indestructible. She’s stronger than she ever thought.

Gal Gadot is stunning, but the movie is smart enough not to stoop down and make her beauty a big deal; it’s sort of incidental. During the aforementioned shopping trip, which I feared would be a ripoff of Pretty Woman, Diana is surprisingly uncomfortable. The expensive clothes don’t suit her, because she’s a warrior. Steve at no point overshadows or detracts from Diana. He’s merely trying to channel her in the right direction.

The battle scenes were immensely satisfying and my favorite part of the movie, probably because I feel so helpless sometimes in the current political climate. The Amazons mow down Germans. Wonder Woman singlehandedly battles legions of them and eventually defeats the GOD OF WAR all by herself. And as a brilliant woman told her, she was stronger than she thought.

[EDITED TO ADD:] Last week, I worked out with a different group of people at the gym; I’d seen them around but didn’t know them personally. As we went through our rounds of exercises, one woman would surreptitiously watch me and then say, “You need to use a heavier weight.” I dutifully went back to the rack to choose a larger dumbbell and and she just shook her head. “Come on, you can go up at least 20 more pounds.” She made me go higher on every single exercise, and the workout was that much more challenging. Her message, like Antiope to Diana, was “you’re stronger than you think you are.” I was back with my regular group today and I saw the woman on the other side of the training room. I shouted over that I was going with a heavier weight and she just replied that she’d continue to keep her eye on me.

It’s About Time We Got Wonder Woman (Spoilers Ahead)

Suicide Squad: One of the Bleakest, Most Violent Movies I’ve Ever Seen (Contains Spoilers)

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A few weeks ago, my husband asked me to go see Suicide Squad with him. Comic books are not my slice of nerddom, but I appreciate flawed, troubled heroes in conflict with complicated, brilliant villains. As a bonus, the actors genuinely seem to be having a good time. I don’t put a lot of thought into these kind of action movies; I’m just along for the ride. In fact, I was so distracted by the background scenes in Zack Snyder’s Batman trilogy (Pittsburgh, where I went to college) that I completely wasn’t paying attention to the plot at some points.

I didn’t read that much about Suicide Squad, except that fans got so upset about poor reception from critics that they wanted to completely dismantle Rotten Tomatoes, a service that aggregates reviews.

On paper, I should have loved this movie. The characters were nearly all complicated, brilliant villains. The “good guys” arguably were worse than the villains. But after I watched the film, I spent a good two hours trying to process what I’d just seen (my husband liked it, unequivocally) and then woke up a lot during the night, tossing and turning about it.

Here are my thoughts, in random order:

  • Too much Joker. The movie was excellent in explaining Harley Quinn’s backstory, and Jared Leto doesn’t eat scenery, which is an easy trap to fall into when portraying the Joker, but half his scenes could have been cut and the movie would have been fine.
  • Not enough Katana. Why is she on on the government’s side? Because she’s a vigilante, like Batman? Who is her alter ego? Why does Flag trust her implicitly?
  • Too many “bad guys”. The premise of the story is that evil meta-humans are captured and manipulated by the government to become the last line of defense should another meta-human attack the country. The government official in charge of the program, Amanda Waller, is arguably a worse human than the criminals are. Her human deputy, Flag, is slightly better, only because he falls in love with an archaeologist who is the host body of a meta-human witch. (I would have liked to have seen more of these scenes, because Hot Solider Guy falling in love with Bookish, Shy Woman is totally my thing.) All the evil and no one really good makes the movie unintentionally too dark and hopeless.
  • Croc is misused. Croc didn’t do anything wrong, except be cast in a DC Comics movie when he should be a character in an X-Files reboot. He just wanted to be left alone (except I think he would have gotten along well with Mulder and Scully), and only became an animal when the government treated him like one.
  • The big rescue. The criminals are dispatched to Midway City because the meta-human witch wiggles her way out of Flag’s control, reunites with her meta-human brother, and immediately proceeds to build a weapon to destroy the human race. The ensuing construction zone traps someone important, whom the villains must rescue. They have to get to one of the top floors of the building, and after the target is safely in hand, they plan to escape by helicopter. (You need a bunch of people risking life and limb to help you climb two flights of stairs? Maybe you should invest in some cardio training.)  The target is none other than Amanda Waller. I’d been hoping it would have been Batman, whom half the squad wanted to have killed, but it’s the person who least deserves to be rescued.
  • Weaponry. The meta-human witch captures soldiers, makes out with them, and they become part of her army. Flagg and his cronies can’t kill the new soldiers with the best artillery Uncle Sam can buy, but Harley Quinn destroys them with her … baseball bat. OK.
  • Changing from bad to good. Diablo and Deadshot flirt with the idea of not using their skills anymore for evil. Diablo is riddled with guilt after killing his family in an uncontrollable fit of rage, and Deadshot sorely wants to be reunited with his daughter. But there’s nothing in it for them! Waller refuses to commute their sentences, even after they accomplish their objective and kill the meta-human witch. (Harley, who gets credit for the demise, receives an espresso machine in her Hannibal Lecter-esque prison cell.) Harley encourages everyone to “own their shit” and just embrace evil.
  • The hero gets the girl. The Bookish, Shy Woman returns after the witch is killed. We don’t know why this happens. We don’t know what hold Bookish, Shy Woman has over Hot Soldier Guy in the first place, except Waller uses his love to her advantage. In a movie that wants characters to embrace evil and own their shit, true love is a big cliche that seems out of place here, although it’s arguably the only good outcome of the entire movie.
Suicide Squad: One of the Bleakest, Most Violent Movies I’ve Ever Seen (Contains Spoilers)

Unsolicited Thoughts on Bad Moms from a Mediocre Mom


I saw Bad Moms last night with about 14 other women. The experience of watching the movie with other moms was more enjoyable than the film itself.

There were some very, very funny moments, and it was deeply cathartic listening to harried suburban moms swear as much as I do. 

However:

  1. The movie pits moms against moms. There’s nothing that upsets me more. Eventually the antagonist reveals she herself is a bad mom beneath a steely perfect facade, but it’s way too little and way too late.
  2. Men were reduced to caricatures. Husbands were either domineering chauvinistic pigs or slacker doormats. Mothers can still be deeply unhappy if their partners are successful, involved parents. Their feelings are just as legitimate.
  3. Mila Kunis gets a parking spot in front of the school every single time, no matter how late she is. No one calls her out for ruining the order of a pickup line. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. EVER.
  4. There is nothing like getting drunk and vandalizing a supermarket with your bitches, but that is not a girls’ night I usually have. We get wasted in our pajamas in the privacy of our own homes and shout at the television.
  5. The movie throws a lot at us: it’s OK to embrace your inner frat boy! Embracing your inner frat boy makes you selfish and you should always put your children first! No, put your career first! No wait: put your MARRIAGE first! Standardized testing is bad! Kids should be kids! But the best message–we should be raising our children to be good people–is only glanced upon.
Unsolicited Thoughts on Bad Moms from a Mediocre Mom

The Entitled Fan

I came across this gem of a story via Twitter yesterday, right after I learned Disney ordered a reshoot of the upcoming Star Wars film Rogue Nation.

I consider myself a nerd–not nearly cool enough to be a geek–but I operate on a rather narrow slice of nerd-dom. I like some science fiction, a handful of popular television shows and movies. I’ve never been to a con. For the most part*, I don’t even visit websites for shows or look for spoilers because I genuinely want to be surprised. 

(*The exception is the X-Files, because it peaked during the early days of the Internet and I had unlimited access to the Internet at college. I eventually disliked the way the show was going so I read more than my share of fan fiction that was devoted to Mulder and Scully NOT having a relationship.)

The article really made me think about what it means to be a fan and what I should expect as a fan.


Annie Wilkes is a character in Misery, a Stephen King novel. Kathy Bates went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Wilkes in the film adaptation. In the story, a writer gets into a car crash and is kept captive by a nurse who is his biggest fan. During his rehabilitation, she forces him to resurrect a character he killed off and write a new novel dedicated to her.

Over the years and with the advent of social media, fans have more access to their favorite shows. People who like The Magicians can explore a website dedicated to Brakebills, the fictional school that the characters attend. Casts of Orphan Black, Shadowhunters and the Magicians all tweet and interact with fans while episodes air. Like Breaking Bad, Orphan Black has a behind-the-scenes show following every episode with cast members, writers, extra footage and more. That’s not including Comicon and other appearances, plus promotion tours and the like.

So with all the fan outreach to promote and encourage viewership of shows, fans can end up feeling as though they should be able to dictate plot development, casting decisions and more. When he was playing Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher, Wil Wheaton was excoriated at public appearances by fans of the show who were annoyed by the character. To put it another way, people lashed out at a real, live actor because they didn’t like the pretend person he portrayed.

I’m not going to lie:  If George R.R. Martin were to get in an accident near my house and I had to shelter him during a storm, I’d at least ask him about Winds of Winter. My daughter, who just finished the fifth Harry Potter book, has said on more than one occasion that if she ever met J.K. Rowling, she’d ask for a novel (or series) about Severus Snape, easily the most misunderstood character in the series.

But people tend to flock to the Internet, like newspapers before it, only if they really hate or really love something. That’s what I love about the article: exploring the good and bad sides of extreme fandom.

The Entitled Fan

The Goonies is the 1980s Version of the Hobbit

Last night, my husband had a night out with friends and I offered to take my kids to see Zootopia, which simultaneously has been called the best children’s movie since Beauty and the Beast AND an animated argument for racism and xenophobia.

Eventually, the kids opted to stay home and have a movie night. This is great because I don’t have to spend half of my husband’s paycheck on tickets and concessions, but also troublesome because the act of choosing a movie in my house is what I imagine to be similar to the UN dealing with any Middle Eastern country.

They eventually settled on Goonies. We’ve tried to watch it before but my husband, the Captain of the Fun Police, put the kibosh on it since the kids in the movie say “shit” and Chunk  hilariously and incorrectly glued the David statue’s penis on after breaking it off.

We all loved it. Unlike a lot of other movies I’ve seen and loved from childhood (*cough* The Neverending Story *cough*), Goonies really holds up, despite the lack of technology: “Kids, that’s a cassette player; cassettes came before CDs but after vinyl.” I think it’s a strong argument that great storytelling trumps special effects, every single time.

The Goonies, as everyone knows, stars Sean Astin, who went on to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance as Sam in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I thought back to when I read and watched The Hobbit with my children, and an idea came to me: the two movies had a lot of similarities.

For example:

  • Both movies feature an unlikely ensemble on a treasure hunt to reclaim their homes. Thorin Oakenshield is determined to deliver an eviction notice to Smaug while Mikey and co. are desperate to prevent their houses from being destroyed.
  • The dwarves have a song that describes what happened to them and their home. The Goonies have an oath. OK, maybe I’m stretching.
  • When the dwarves arrive at Bilbo’s house, they eat everything in sight and although they eventually clean up, Bilbo practically had a coronary as the dwarves manhandle the furniture and decor. In Goonies, Mouth terrorizes the Walshes’ maid, Data obliterates the screen door upon entry and Chunk breaks the aforementioned statue and museum pieces in the attic.
  • Both groups feature an overweight oaf-like character: Chunk and Bombur. (The Fratellis threaten to eat Chunk just like the trolls try to eat Bombur and the dwarves.)
  • Mikey and Thorin both come across maps to the treasure that need to be translated. Mikey enlists Spanish scholar Mouth and Thorin, deferring to Gandalf and going against his better judgement, consults Elrond, the Elvenking, to make sense of his. (Mouth wholeheartedly approves of the journey while Elrond is much more cautious.)
  • Mikey and Thorin both faces tests that measure their greed. Mikey leaves some of the treasure for One-Eyed Willy, although Thorin succumbs to the same sickness from which the gold-hungry dragon suffered.
  • Everyone overcomes great odds to eventually succeed.

Of course, the Goonies’ journey is not as epic and takes place over 24 hours or so; not seven months. My son (loudly) reminded me that no one dies in the Goonies, while SPOILER three of the dwarves eventually lost their lives at the end of the Hobbit.

My daughter just smiled and nodded and said, “That’s great, Mom. Can we please watch our cartoons now?”

 

 

The Goonies is the 1980s Version of the Hobbit

Reading Aloud to My Kids: The Hobbit

I strongly believe one of the best thing you can do for your kids, from infancy, is read to them every day.

My kids are now 10 and 7.5. I’ve always been lax about filling out their reading logs. My oldest had to start completing her own last year, and because my oldest is diligent about nearly everything in her life, I don’t have to worry about her reading. We had a much harder time with my youngest. He seems to like reading books online and prefers nonfiction, especially Minecraft strategy books. I can’t justify Minecraft/Pokemon books; I’m a very lenient person who lets her kids read nearly anything but even I have limits.

My oldest had a fabulous teacher last year, and when I went in for a conference she told me that even at this age, kids love to be read to. I’ve tried reading books to them before but it never quite stuck. So for my New Year’s resolution this year, I said I would read aloud to my kids nearly every night.

We started with The Hobbit, which admittedly was a very ambitious choice on my part. Both my kids were into it, but for them the high point of the story occurred relatively early in the book, when Bilbo met Gollum and they tried to trick each other with riddles. My son got bored almost immediately afterward, and to be honest, I didn’t blame him. A lot of the book is a group of men talking about where they’re going to go, then reaching their destination, then getting into trouble and out of it. The cycle repeats about 10 times. My daughter has a much better attention span, but got impatient when the group refused to follow directions and stay on the main road.

Not even a talking, vindictive dragon or a battle among five armies could interest them near the end.

When I’d finished, my daughter wanted to know why none of the characters in the book were women–she’d sworn Fili was female–and just sulked awhile after I told her I didn’t know.

We watched the first movie in the Hobbit trilogy this afternoon, and I was surprised that my daughter watched most of it, but she had remembered most of the book and, again, has an impressive attention span. Much like when I read them the book, they were most excited about Gollum. Interestingly, my daughter thought Thorin Oakenshield (played by my pretend boyfriend Richard Armitage) should have had a more majestic beard befitting his royal status as Prince of the Dwarves. “Even Bombur has a better beard,” she complained, and she had a point: Bombur was the large bumbling dwarf who at times has to be rolled places.

Our next selection, The Phantom Tollbooth, was much better received and we are working on Peter Pan right now.

Reading Aloud to My Kids: The Hobbit

I Don’t Care About the Oscars Anymore

I once dated someone who considered himself to have superior taste in entertainment, most notably music and cinema. Up until that point, I’d really only listened to Top 40 radio and I didn’t have much of a taste in movies at all. The mix tapes he made me while dating were pretty good–I’m showing my age again–but he refused to listen to anything I liked that I found on my own. We saw a lot of Serious Movies too, but for someone who claimed to care about movies more than I do, he took me to see Cable Guy–oh, how he loved Cable Guy–and Titanic. He was completely floored by The Shawshank Redemption, even though I knew what was going to happen because I’d read the novella. (Although he’s known mostly for horror, Stephen King’s work spans a number of genres. The movie Stand By Me also is based on one of his short stories.)

After we broke up, my horizons grew beyond Top 40, thanks to a noncommercial radio station I started to listen to. And I started to watch a lot more independent film, too, but mostly I’d try to watch all the Oscar nominees each year, because I thought that was an arbiter of taste. When I started dating the person who became my husband, it rapidly became apparent that we did not have the same taste in music or movies (or television shows). And that’s fine! I had some friends who wanted watch the same movies I did, but then we all got married and had babies and going to dinner and a movie became an investment.

I live in a different town now, and if I want to see a Serious Movie, I just go by myself. I once felt sorry for people going to the movies by themselves, but now I understand that they were doing exactly what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, without any distractions.

But I don’t see many Serious Movies unless they’re out on Netflix or Amazon Prime around Oscar season. Instead, I go to the movies with my friends as a form of entertainment. We usually see a movie a few weeks after it opens, so we have a better chance of happening upon a nearly empty theater with some very gracious patrons. Because my friends and I are LOUD when we are at the movies. We sang along to all the songs in Pitch Perfect. We hurled warnings at Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey. We stood with Katniss.

I stopped paying attention to the awards ceremony years ago, regardless of the host or the presenters or the nominees. I discovered that the Oscars aren’t based on merit, but as the result of fierce campaigning and power-brokering on the behalf of studios and a handful of actors. I’m guessing–I’m not a Hollywood Insider or even a Hollywood Outsider–that becoming an Academy Award winner allows you to make films or star in them a whole lot easier, so it really perpetuates a cycle of the same kind of entertainment being made every year.

I know on the surface that this theory is pretty weak; films like Fifty Shades of Grey and even Hunger Games don’t win Oscars but they are huge hits at the box office. But they’re based on books that already have sold millions of copies, generated copycats and spinoffs, and are pretty much destined to be hits, despite questionable quality.

I have friends who have Oscar parties: they get all dolled up and it’s a really serious affair with ballots and prizes for the attendants who guess the most winners and everything. I’d go to one of those if invited (again, as a conduit to hang out with people), and I’m actually quite interested in Chris Rock’s material and what he has to say–but something tells me he needs to get everything approved by Powers That Be, just like the Oscars themselves.

I Don’t Care About the Oscars Anymore