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Posts tagged “Ewan McGregor

Week of 6-1-2022

One of the things that always bothers me about serialized shows over episodic are these kind of in-between shows like we had on Superman and Lois this week. It’s not really filler… Well, the subplot about Lana‘s daughter and her music might be, but for the most part, these are all story threads that need to get into the series but can’t necessarily be wrapped up in a solo adventure. There’s not so much a story going on this week as there is connective tissue being developed.

In the aftermath of Superman finally telling Lana his secret, we really spent a lot of the episode with her trying to deal with that, and how that affects her relationship with the Kents. While I think the revealing your secret identity trope is way over done (Let’s face it, live action Batman whips that mask off anytime potential booty is in the vicinity) what I really enjoy about this episode is it finally gives us some real Lois and Lana drama. It’s something that I didn’t realize I was missing so much. Lana and Lois were always a little uneasy around each other, indeed sometimes downright hostile towards each other in the comics… We haven’t really seen a whole lot of that in this story. Lana reveals to Lois that she’s not nearly as angry at Clark and she is at Lois. Since they moved to Smallville they really connected. They had a real friendship… She was the one that Lana would call if she needed something or just needed to talk. That’s the betrayal she’s feeling. It is completely irrational and unreasonable, because as Lois explains, it wasn’t her secret to tell. In fact, I find myself a little disappointed in Lois here because she ends up coming back to say she’s sorry and then laying out everything else… Jordan, the history, everything about Superman. That’s not the Lois Lane as I know. Lois is stronger than that, even in the face of this sort of friendship. We get such a good description though, of her life and metropolis. Too busy with work, and then with being a mother… She never had time for real friends. It’s an interesting perspective and one that rings true. It’s a sort of character development that really makes Superman and Lois such an interesting series, and some of the best Superman I’ve seen in my lifetime. We get some shenanigans with the kids as well, and again I can’t overemphasize… I should hate these teenagers. These characters have so much potential to just be annoying frustrating and a distraction from the main plot, but I’m finding myself invested in everybody. It’s good stuff, and we’re starting to see the beginnings of the armor for Steele’s daughter. We knew it was coming, and I’m actually kind of excited to see it show up.
 
Speaking of shows that are in the middle of a serialized story… Obi-Wan is really kind of stuck in the middle here with episode three. It’s a sort of thing that kind of makes me wish this is just been a film instead. There’s not enough for a six hour miniseries, but plenty for two. Still, we’ve got some action as Obi-Wan spirits lay out a way through a sort of Jedi underground railroad. It’s interesting enough, but then we really get some chills with the arrival of Darth Vader. We get the whole assembly and armor sequence, and just the sheer intimidation of him wandering the streets. Indeed, I think this is a lot of what the fandom really long for. It’s the kind of thing we wanted to see in between the films and certainly during the wilderness years. It’s one of the reasons why the Marvel comics are still as beloved as they are. To see this familiar shapes… Stormtroopers and probe droids and Vader flanked by all of it, it’s a beautiful thing. Seeing him fight with Obi-Wan… I know the back of my mind is screaming they’re breaking canon, but it really is a sort of thing you want to see. The fact that they’ve got Ewan McGregor at the perfect age for this in the storyline as well is a real blessing. Especially since as I mentioned last time, he’s honestly become more Obi-Wan than Alec Guinness. It does_however one of my problems with the prequel’s. I’ve never been able to reconcile Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker or Jake lights for that matter, as Darth Vader. The Vader we see in episode three is evil. He’s cruel and impatient. He’s everything that made him so terrible in the original trilogy… But he doesn’t feel like Anakin in the prequel‘s. He doesn’t move the same way our talk the same way… He is far more prone to snap and murder somebody in the blink of an eye. There is so much of the refined brutality in him that it just never feels like Anakin . But I’ll tell you what it does feel like… This absolutely feels like Darth Vader to me.

That makes the inclusion of inquisitive Reva so much more baffling. She’s fine for what she is, but if you were going to include a villain like this… I mean why? Why have A second stringer like this when you actually have access to Darth Vader as a villain? Putting him in there makes anyone else pale in comparison and quite frankly I think I’d enjoy this more if all of her lines and duties were basically just handed straight to Vader. Vader wasn’t above doing foot work and getting his hands dirty… He wasn’t the grand pubah of the Empire (Although he was pretty close). The fact that he was a hands-on sort of leader only makes him more terrifying and he’s the real deal and I think fans want to see in the series. It only lends further credence to my belief that the Reva character and most of her art was grafted onto the series for runtime purposes… And honestly, there’s not a whole lot of use for it. I’m far more interested in seeing character development with Obi-Wan than I am with her and her strangely modern American hair (seriously, it’d be like if someone had given Lando an Afro and Empire strikes back it would’ve just stuck out like a sore thumb and so does this!). I’m also disappointed in Lucasfilm in characterizing any criticisms of the show or of the character in particular as racism. It’s a really tired old trope, and attacking the fans makes me less than enthusiastic about following this show… Not more.
Nevertheless, we’ll see what happens next week.
 
The Orville has returned! Holy crap, I didn’t realize just how much I was missing this show. It’s kind of like back when I first watched the Orville. It reminded me just how much I missed having good Star Trek like Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. That’s kind of the thing… It took dreck like Discovery and Picard to make me realize how much I missed the days of Berman and Braga. And it took a couple of recommendations between my best friend and Gary over at nerd Roddick to really get me on board… But now that I am, I’m so happy the series is back. I’ve missed it since it went on that extended hiatus after the second season. Especially considering we left so much kind of unresolved. Season three comes back with a vengeance… Literally. The story kind of involves the way the crew is relating to Isaac, the robotic crewman… Part of the race of robots I just tried to destroy humanity. Basically, Orville borg. The thing is, they handle it extremely well. We get themes of unease and bigotry and xenophobia but we explore all sides of it, and quite frankly, the people who are espousing The various views… Pro and con, they’re all part of the heroic cast. This way we get to really explore the ideas, rather than what modern Star Trek does… Just telling you what you’re supposed to believe… This one’s more interested in playing with the concepts and letting you find your own truth. Even if it’s hopefully theirs… That’s how real Star Trek always do politics, and it’s refreshing to see it again. Looking at things from all sides.

The other thing this gets right, something that is extremely Star Trek, is the starship porn. Let me tell you something, this first episode of the third season is total starship porn. The Orville is in space dock for refit, and while we only kind of heard about the refit of the Enterprise NCC-1701, we really see a lot more of it here. A lot of space walks, a lot of fly-bys, lots of shots of the spacfoode dock itself. If you’re a fan of beautiful starships, this is absolutely for you. Really lovely looking ships is something that’s absolutely been missing from Star Trek ever since the new TV series begun. While I wasn’t a fan of the 2009 Enterprise, there were some real design chops there. Everything in Discovery and Picard is just flat and ugly… The Orville understands working the beauty of a starship and it all makes it so much more fun. I am so glad to have the Orville back, I am so glad to have some real Star Trek back to watch While Prodigy catches up and gets ready to launch the back half of it season.
 
By the way, for anyone wondering, yes, I’m still keeping up on the foods that made us and it’s sister show Adam eats the 80s. The 80s show isn’t nearly as much fun as I had hoped and unfortunately, the food that made America… I don’t know if it’s running out of steam or not. But I will say this, little Debbie versus Entenmann’s… That’s some weird subject matter!
 

Not much to speak of and comics last week so I may as well tag it on here. I did pick up Deadpool bad blood… This is sort of Rob Leifield‘s triumphant return to the character he created. Thing is, the Deadpool that Rob Leifield created is not really the Deadpool we know today. There’s significant differences in tone and in general zaniness and all that’s fine. But life is treating him the way he always did. That’s his prerogative, he’s the creator. But what the sense of being, is very much a Rob Liefeld book for Rob Liefeld fans. And boy, is it ever Liefeld. I mean, Liefeld on steroids. It’s a little jarring, almost enough to make me rethink my constant emphatic defense of the man’s style.

Still, I expect that Liefeld fans will really dig this, but I got admit, it’s just not for me. Issue one didn’t do a whole lot for me, and I’m jumping off this title with issue two.

Ghost Rider on the other hand, continues to blow my mind. I’ve dipped my toe in Ghost Rider here and there over the years. He’s a staple of the Marvel universe, but he’s usually treated mostly as a superhero. Perhaps supernatural superhero adventures, or Scooby Doo – kids Halloween party levels of spook. But it’s always comic book spooky. It’s always super hero affair, it’s always comics code levels of terror.

That’s not what we’re getting from this Ghost Rider series.

This Ghost Rider book is straight up horror. Not dark fantasy, not horror edged or supernatural heroics, this thing feels like straight up horror. Not even comic book horror, like Man Thing or Tomb of Dracula… Reading this book gives me very similar vibes that I get from old Garth Ennis Hellblazer back in the day. We’re constantly seeing unspeakable monstrosities slither into existance.  The writer knows he can’t pull off a jump scare but he can definitely shock you. He can create imagery that just lingers and disturbs and that’s exactly what he does. There’s a real brilliance to it and I feel like this is what Ghost Rider always should’ve been… What it always wanted to be. This one’s a book you absolutely need to go out and pick up.

 
 

 

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The Shining Part Two : Doctor Sleep

I think that Doctor Sleep had been out well over two months before I actually got a copy of it. Still, it didn’t take long for me to bang through this book. The better part of the week perhaps? In the years since, I’ve read it probably more times than I’ve actually read The Shining. It’s one Kings best works in a decade at least. Something about it compels me, and it’s not just the connection to The Shining, in a lot of ways, I’m far more fascinated by the AA components of the book. There is a marvelous story here, built on the smoldering ruins of a world King created, ready to accept a new chapter. That’s one of the interesting things to note about the film in the book versions of the shining. The film attempts to build atmosphere. But the book really is creating an entire world around the hotel, it’s history, and the Torrance family. It’s just great in-depth stuff. And absolutely the sort of fertile house soil that will grow some thing when you very least suspect it.

Stephen King’s never been happy with the Kubrick Shining. This is no secret. Indeed, he went as far as to authorize the TV miniseries back in the 90s… And what disaster that was. Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay do a good enough job, although the Monet films land. But the miscasting of young Danny is an absolute crime. It’s not just The total lack of charisma, but even the look is just wrong. The perpetual upturn lip, exposing buck teeth that would embarrass a beaver. The toneless whine of this child’s voice, it just ruins the film for me every single time. But then again, we also have the terrible make up on the ghosts and the genuinely small, cramped feeling of what should be an expensive grand hotel. It just doesn’t work.

In a real way, King’s best chance at rewriting, and reinventing the shining to put emphasis back on the book, was to do a sequel. Dan grown-up, and what really is the aftermath of the horrors he experienced in the overlook hotel. Maybe I’m just talking for myself. But that’s exactly how it felt for me. Like legitimize in the book as the “real“ version.

It’s hard to describe my trepidation when I heard they were adapting it for the screen (and that may have something to do with why it’s taken a few years for me to actually watch the film!).

Look, this is a task I absolutely do not envy director Mike Flanagan. Because he’s faced with a unique problem. How to adapt a book that is a sequel to another book that was made into one of the most beloved horror movies of all time… but done so in a way that it still adapts the normal book that’s a sequel to the different book that you’re adapting into a film… Oh, my head hurts.

I never felt like I needed elements of The Shining in Doctor Sleep while I was reading the book. But it’s a fair argument that more people have seen the film than have read the book… It might be a more even split among baby boomers and Gen Xers of a certain age who saw the book sitting on their parents shelves, but overall the Kubrick film is far more visually iconic.

Flanagan himself wasn’t new to King’s work. He’s a lifelong fan, but more importantly he had some credibility to his name. This is the person who did the adoption of Geralds Game, a book that was largely considered unfilmable. He found the right balance, what things to alter to be able to make the movie without compromising The story or key elements. He kept true to the core story and knew where the cosmetics mattered and where they didn’t. It was this sort of credential that was enough to get him in front of King to ask about adapting Doctor Sleep for film. It’s a tricky proposition. King’s attitude towards the Kubrick film had not softened at all over the years, but it’s an unparalleled understanding of the core story and all of the material that allowed Flanagan the inside to present his idea. A scene at the bar, something that would truly examine, explore and progress the Torrance family story arc… something that King felt never happened before… And an intriguing enough idea that it moved King from a firm quote “No.“, To “Keep talking, I’m listening.“

Doctor Sleep is the story of Daniel Torrance (played perfectly by Ewan McGregor – seriously, his performance can not be underplayed here), in the years after his experiences at the Overlook hotel. We find him, a washed up alcoholic pretty well hitting rock-bottom. On the other side is Abra, a teenage girl who is coming into her full power in The Shining. And in the darkness, The True Knot. A group of psychic vampires led by Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson – who manages to feel immediately familiar – even though I’ve never seen her before in ANYTHING. Hmmmm. Perhaps she really IS a vampire!), all intent on drinking Abra‘s Shining right out of her, and purifying it through pain.

The film follows the book fairly closely for the first two acts actually, although it does nod its head towards the film here and there. A flash once in a while, rare and scattered. We discover early on that Dick Halloran is in fact dead in the story. That immediately signals to this being more of a sequel to the film than the book, though you could probably wrap your head around a rationalization if you need it to. The actor is a brilliant re-creation of Scatman Crothers though. It’s an almost dead on impersonation and really well realized. Carl Lumbly has been made up to be the spitting image and a perfect Dick. They re-create Danny as a young child as well, but it’s again, used sparingly so the fact that he looks just attach off in the face… You’re not given enough time to really think about it. Shelley Duvall‘s doppelgänger Alex Essoe fares a little worse. Duvall is a much more recognizable actress, but one might argue that the events of the shining changed her… Aged her. Jack Torrance however, is shocking when we see him. He’s perhaps the epitomie of watching Flanagan is done with this movie. That face is not Jack Nicholson‘s, but everything about him is Jack Torrance. The hair and the mannerisms, the color and the movement. Henry Thomas (yes, THAT Henry Thomas) absolutely nails it and I buy it immediately, never questioning the entire time he’s on screen… And he’s on screen for a while.

Why? Because it’s that third act where things really start to diverge from the book. In the book, the final showdown between Danny, Abra, and rose the hat… It takes place at the site of the overlook… But of course in the book, the Overlook was reduced to a burning, smoldering rubble when the furnace exploded. Today it’s just an overlook point, a scant campsite with a few picnic benches and a plaque that might mention the grand old hotel. Rose meets her end in those outbuildings.

The problem is, for this film to really appeal broadly, we need more than that. We need the hotel itself, we need… The Overlook.

We’re never given a proper explanation as to how the building is still standing, why the electric still works or why it’s so pristine inside. Who knows, perhaps it doesn’t even exist anymore… But it’s held together by the sheer force of will stemming from Dan’s imagination? Or perhaps it’s just a cursed old haunted house, the sort of place that can’t ever really die. Whatever it is, 30 years later, it looks exactly the same… And I mean exactly the same. Kubrick’s estate handed over photos and documents, even the original plans for the Overlook so it could be built and replicated down to the last detail. And when I say the last detail, I mean last detail. Photos, props, even sheets of paper with the inscription “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.“ typed immaculately dozens of times across the crisp white sheets. The directors sets his third act there, with Rose the Hat meeting much the same end and she does in the book, perhaps in a more visual way, perhaps more ghosts eating at her life force than what the book might describe (along with some that a visually more recognizable), but the essence is still there. However, Flanagan then pushes the climax even further enveloping us in the terror that is a return to the Overlook. It’s ending is ultimately a satisfying climax, especially in this format… where you’re limited by the 2 1/2 hours to tell a story and tie the strings together. In a lot of ways he’s done the impossible. He’s merged the book and the film together, and created something that reconciles both. Just as importantly, he’s created a film adaptation that I once again enjoy just as much as the book.

Well, almost.

Doctor Sleep is derivative. It is an adaption. It is a piece of art with a foot in both the literary and cinematic world. But it’s not The Shining. It’s not necessarily it’s own entity the way that the book and film versions of The Shining are. here. No, this is definitely the Earth 2 version of the book, and as such will never be quite as satisfying. But as far as party tricks go, pulling this off is a pretty spectacular one. It’s available on streaming now, it’s on DVD now, go find it.