Categotry Archives: Movies

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On the Origin of Tee-Hees

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“I have a theory about the Joker,” said the most pretentious nerd ever.

Okay, now that I’ve acknowledged my extreme worthlessness, let’s get on with it. I think it’s impossible for the Joker to have a satisfying origin story. I don’t mean that there’s no writer good enough or idea captivating enough to work. I mean that any satisfying origin story cannot work for the Joker by definition.

It's not funny!
It’s not funny!

There are many, many explanations for The Joker peppering the literature. Some of the most interesting takes on his background (like The Killing Joke, which does contain some remarkable writing despite its vile and demeaning treatment of Barbara Gordon) acknowledge that they are on shaky ground at best, or even outright lies spun by the least reliable narrator. Some of the best interpretations of the character (The Dark Knight, duh) don’t bother explaining him at all, and this gets at the heart of my argument.

While he was occasionally little more than a clown- or playing-card-themed villain (see the Silver Age Batman comics for examples), he has largely been an agent of pure chaos*. When he lapses into logic, it’s invariably to show Batman how puny and unreliable reason is when confronted with reality–using logic to refute itself. The best Joker stories revolve around his provoking Batman to question or abandon his ideals, and he invariably wins by losing. He personifies the second law of thermodynamics, and that’s why he’s so compelling and terrifying: he reminds us that death is inevitable and the universe is uncaring.

He’s not a person so much as he’s an abstraction. That’s true for many comic book characters (e.g. The Hulk is rage), but in his case it limits his personhood much more sharply. Rage and other heroic/villainous qualities are human, but chaos transcends humanity–heck, it transcends what we think of as reality. If you are chaos, then you aren’t a person with a history, much less an origin story.

The Joker can either be a terrific iconic villain, or he can have an interesting backstory. But maybe what we need is more contradiction. I’m all in favor of adding more and more canonical origin stories to the mix until eventually we realize that they’re all wrong and misguided and unimportant. Tell us all the lies and one day we’ll see the truth.

And so it goes. Gotham has been nodding and winking about The Joker’s origin even as it’s been ducking and weaving in an effort to avoid the inevitable. If we’re all lucky (especially the showrunners), it’ll be cancelled before the big, unsatisfying reveal. Or maybe they know what they’re doing and can find a way to just call down the Joker without explanation. I’d watch the hell out of that.

* When I use the word “chaos,” I don’t mean random or ever-changing. I mean a state that reflects complexities our minds aren’t complex enough to understand. It’s the natural order of the universe that can’t be compressed into the artificial order we create with our minds. I swear to god I am not high.

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SDCC Movie and TV Trailer Round-Up

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As always San Diego Comic Con was filled with trailers: some made me feel better about things I wasn’t sure about, some just whipped my excitement into a frenzy, and still others that… well… Anyway here’s a quick round-up of some of the trailers I watched:


Trailers That Made Me Go SQUEE
These trailers legitimately gave me goosebumps when I watched them.

American Gods

I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS. Of all the trailers this is the one that I lost my mind over, the one I keep watching over and over. The casting is spot-on, with every new announcement building my glee. The trailer looks like how the book feels which is exactly what you hope for in an adaptation. Look for an upcoming episode of Nerdhole where we’ll turn you onto the novel by Neil Gaiman so you can read it (or re-read it) before this show finally drops in 2017.

Luke Cage

HOLY CRAP. Based on what we’ve seen of Cage in Jessica Jones and what this trailer has to show, it’s going to be fantastic. And Mike Coulter… SWOON.

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Episode 65 – Warcraft: The Beginning

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No orcs allowed in the Uncanny Valley
No orcs allowed in the Uncanny Valley

Should you see that World of Warcraft movie? Listen and find out. Since Paul and Rob are so woefully ignorant when it comes to all things WoW, we invited two smarties from Mary’s guild, Kraken Skulls, to help enlighten us. Big thanks to Jeremy and Mike for taking the time to join us!

ERRATA
Even the Lore Dorks miss now and then. When we were talking about one of the towns that was destroyed in the film, we said “Redridge” when we meant “Lakeshire.” The town of Lakeshire is located in the province of Redridge. We sincerely regret the error.

UPDATE: Apparently Warcraft did NOT make enough money in China to guarantee a sequel, so the future of the franchise is uncertain.

RELATED UPDATE: Mike sent this Wired article about why Warcraft did so well in China.
Tl;dr: China’s State content regulatory entity only allows 35 foreign films to open in the country each year, and the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda owns Legendary Entertainment, which made the movie. It goes even further to look at how Legendary funded the making of the movie by selling equity to Chinese entities, including the China Film Group, which is apparently a part of the Chinese government.

ALSO: Blizzard is finally doing something about the toxic community in WoW, they’re instituting a silencing system for repeat offenders.

LINKS

TRAILER

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Rob can’t not write about Squirrel Girl…

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…and now I’ve got a hook. During an interview with a fashion site, America’s younger sister Anna Kendrick revealed her interest in playing SG should she ever burrow her way into the MCU. Some time ago I pitched Shailene Woodley for the role, but I’m not about to rule out Kendrick, especially after seeing the work of this clever fellow:

She's here to kick butts and eat nuts.
She’s here to kick butts and eat nuts.

I’m way behind on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl thanks to Marvel Unlimited’s digital delay (and my cheapness), but it’s pretty much the funnest thing out there. Make a point to check it out–it’s not like all the other comix. Each issue starts with a recap brilliantly told through her Twitter feed, and the character’s relationship with the rest of the Marvel universe is as wonderfully weird as ever. ENDORSED.

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Episode 60 – Civil War

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Another clear example of media bias against your favored candidate.
Another clear example of media bias against your favored candidate.

As Captain America: Civil War draws near, Rob gives a quick 101 on the huuuuge comics event that spawned its primary conflict, if not exactly its plot. Whether you’re leaning toward Team Cap or Team Stark, the writers at Marvel need you to understand that you are supporting difficult moral choices. There’s death and drama and fascism and Canada and Aunt May in peril–it’s worth a read, even if the series ends with a disappointing shrug followed by a Major Character Death*.

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* Which lasted about two years. Time flies when you’re a Dead Major Character!

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J.J. Abrams Rekindles Hopes for Portal and Half-Life Films

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Portal: No Escape short film

In a recent interview with IGN about 10 Cloverfield Lane J.J. Abrams addressed the progress of the Portal and Half-Life films that he and Gabe Newell—head of Valve, the studio that made both games—announced back in 2013. Abrams told IGN, “Not yet, but they’re in development… And we’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.”

It’s interesting to imagine what a Portal movie would be… especially considering that Abram’s collaborator on 10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan Trachtenberg, created a live-action short film called Portal: No Escape back in 2011. In case you missed Trachtenberg’s short, it’s a great proof-of-concept:

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Episode 54 – Star Wars

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Make Star Love AND Star Wars!
Make Star Love AND Star Wars! (On the set of The Force Awakens)

The Force awakened recently, and no doubt most of you have already seen the new, largely Lucas-free flick. Paul and Mary have plenty to say, while Rob listens attentively and occasionally highlights his ignorance of the franchise. The bottom line: We can maybe forgive those terrible prequels now.

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Jurassic World Is Super Fun Despite Its Shortcomings

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Check out all the majesty.
Check out all the majesty.
Let me start with this: Jurassic World was never going to surpass the experience of seeing the original Jurassic Park in the theater in 1993 for me. It was the first time we saw real dinosaurs on screen (well, real-ish… more real than the stiff, plodding dinosaurs of movies past.) Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs were smart, fast, felt like real animals, and they were brought to life in a way we’d never seen before. Yes, it was chock full of scientific inaccuracies, but that hardly mattered to the dinosaur-lover inside of me… I was Alan Grant, tearing up at the majesty and magic of the creatures, just as Hammond intended.

So Jurassic World was never going to be that. But it was also never going to disappoint me… I already knew there was a gang of velociraptors rolling with Chris Pratt on a motorcycle. And that was every bit as awesome as I anticipated… in fact all of dino-action was FANTASTIC. From the pastoral grandeur of the roaming herds of herbivores to the over-the-top, kick-ass climactic fight scene, Jurassic World DELIVERED. And seeing the park taken to the logical conclusion was satisfying, as were all the winks to the fans and nods to the original film. I loved it. I loved every minute of that stuff. I laughed with childish glee. If you’re at all hesitating, it is ABSOLUTELY worth seeing this in the theater, because the magnitude and action are the best things about the film.

That being said, literally every female character in this film is an eye-rolling stereotype or a prop. I mean, it’s not like anyone is well-written, but it’s particularly egregious with the women. This movie couldn’t be any more male-point-of-view. The main female character, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a lazy 1980s cardboard cutout of a corporate ice queen who doesn’t know how to have fun and is completely out of touch with her environment. Also probably she wants babies because every human female wants babies. Judy Greer—as Claire’s sister and the boys’ mother—was criminally underused. She has a weird melt-down at one point that’s completely unsupported by the plot, and also she’s sure her sister wants babies. The other female cast members include the older son Zach’s girlfriend (prop); Zara, Claire’s assistant (prop); Vivian, from the control room, who refuses the advances of her co-worker but also cries alot (I know people had just been eaten, but none of the dudes are crying!); and all the girls Zach looks at (also props).

The 22-year-old Jurassic Park was infinitely more feminist. In that film we only had two female characters but they were both solid. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is a badass, she’s clearly respected in her field, she’s not afraid to call people out, and she doesn’t burst into tears at every possible turn. Lex (Ariana Richards) was actually an improvement from the novel… sure she’s not thrilled about the outdoors, but it seems to do more with her being a computer geek (sorry, hacker) than a girl. And she helps save the day on more than one occasion… she distracts the raptors in the kitchen, and she knows the “Unix system.” Weirdly, even the female raptors in the original film were better written: they were calculating clever girls, whereas Blue and her gang take orders from a man. They couldn’t even write the female dinosaurs correctly!

This all makes it sound like I hated the film, but I honestly didn’t… it was everything you want and expect from a dinosaur-fueled thrill ride. In conclusion, I give Jurassic World 10/10 Barbasol Cans for awesome dinosaur action and nostalgia, but only 7/10 White Suits for mild sexism and exhausting tropes.

And now for some spoilers:

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Ready for Opening Night of Jurassic World

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Hold on to your butts: Nerdhole heads to opening night of Jurassic World tonight, and I AM READY! I’m wearing my vintage 1993 Jurassic Park Island Tour tee shirt. 22 years ago today I saw the original on opening night with my best friend Chris and my two sisters. Chris nearly lost his arm like poor Mr. Arnold because I kept pulling on it in terror and excitement. Despite all the scientific inaccuracies and nonsense Jurassic Park is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

Obviously we’ll have lots more to say about this, and I promise my review will be filled with ALL CAPS and ALL OF THE EXCLAMATION POINTS.

jurassic park island tours tee shirt

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LinkHole: A Round-Up of Headlines From the Past 24 Hours

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The Martian
The Martian
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