Star Wars: The Clone Wars
2008 • 98 minutes • Warner Bros. Pictures
Can you hear it? The slow, subtle turn of fandom’s head back to Marvel? The sound of dust being brushed off Captain America shields and hankies being stuffed into knapsacks against the impending Bucky Barnes feelings?
Well, if you can, I can’t, dear reader. Despite all the signs that the wind and your tumblr dashboard is starting to change direction to a different Disney property, I remain almost composed of Star Wars. After the glorious high of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seems that my fever for that franchise will never abate. This is liberally aided by the fact that Star Wars, as a film series, is composed of four quality films and three exquisitely choice bad movies, satisfying my entire cinematic palette in one go. It is only the Expanded Universe’s decanonization that keeps me from running full tilt into it.
To soothe this ravenous appetite, I decided to finally embark upon Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’d thought about picking up The Clone Wars—the only Star Wars property currently streaming on American Netflix—over the holidays, but my dreams of introducing my nephew, Wolfboy, to Star Wars were shattered when he declared The Clone Wars “too scary” and went off to to his favorite movie, the existential horror show that is Cars. I mainlined holiday cooking shows instead. But it was only a matter of time. I’ve heard such good things about this television series, about how it gives Anakin Skywalker more time to develop from frustrated young Jedi to Sith Lord and gives Obi-Wan a quasi-romantic interest in a Mandalorian duchess named Satine. (Yes, she’s named that for the same reason you think she’s named that.)
based on Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
2012 • 95 minutes • Lionsgate
Fun fact, cats and kittens: even as I sit down to write this, I still don’t have a really good feel for the Judge Dredd comics. I certainly plan to—I’m scenting vicious satire on the air—but I haven’t had the time since I watched it last week. I’m a busy lady.
Yes, my pop cultural blind spots can still amaze, even as I and the natural progression of time do our utmost to popping them like bubble wrap. But having proved too small in 1996 and tragically nonexistent in 1977, Dredd simply never came onto my radar screen, even when the Empire Podcast discussed it positively back when it was released. It took tumblr recommending it to me for me to watch it. (Why was tumblr recommending? Because I keep “tripping” onto the Domnhall Gleeson tag over there. Simple woman, simple tastes, etc.)
Why sit down and review this before catching myself up and counting myself lucky to live in the digital age? Because this is my blog, I will do what want to, etc., and also because I believe in utilizing my pop cultural blind spots to put myself in media situations that normally wouldn’t exist. In an age of reboots and remakes that assume the viewer has seen the original (Star Trek Into Whiteness, anyone?), it’s almost a superpower when it comes to consuming and critiquing media. That’s why I watched Prometheus before Alien, just to see if it would work. (Spoiler alert: it did not.) Can someone with no knowledge of Judge Dredd beyond having once watched the Nostalgia Critic review the 1996 Sly Stallone adaptation sit down and enjoy it without any prior knowledge?
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt
2015 (originally published 2014) • 136 pages • Marvel
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (or issues 6 through 11) finds newly minted Ms. Marvel, Jersey City’s own hometown hero, navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a teenage superhero—hiding her identity to protect her loved ones, interfacing with the larger world of superheroics, and, of course, saving the day. Specifically, saving the day from the Inventor, the strange cockatiel-human hybrid who has been kidnapping teenage runaways for assuredly nefarious purposes.
Generation Why keeps up the same high level of quality seen in Ms. Marvel: No Normal—unsurprisingly, as the only major difference in the creative team is Jacob Wyatt stepping in to illustrate issues 6 and 7. Wyatt plays nicely in the quirkier house style of Ms. Marvel (I especially love the way he draws Kamala’s prominent nose), but Adrian Alphona’s teen indie movie in a bottle style is still the most perfect complement to G. Willow Wilson’s writing.
The Empress Game
by Rhonda Mason
2015 • 352 pages • Titan Books
As concepts go, The Empress Game seems pretty clearly suited to my taste: a galactic empire elects its empress not through political process, but through the Empress Game, a tournament of ritualized combat where any woman with a title can compete for the seat. The mysterious but brutal pit fighter Shadow Panthe is hired as the illegal double for Princess Isonde, the emperor-elect’s politically powerful beloved, but participating in the game will bring her uncomfortably close to her past.
Ooh! Action, awesome ladies, and mysterious pasts? Sold! (And also sold on the strength of that cover, which insinuates both female empowerment and pulpy delights. I am a simple woman of simple tastes.) When I saw that Thea recommended this at the Book Smugglers, I immediately added it to my list.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2015 • 135 minutes • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I have never really been a big Star Wars fan. I’d always found the franchise fascinating, as both a pop culture junkie and an amateur fandom historian, but I’d never developed the deep, enduring affection I’d seen it generate in other people. But something about the run-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens woke something very strange within me. I watched a fanedit of the prequels. I talked endlessly about how terrible Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life is. I threatened to make Mrs. Captain Phasma sweaters (which will totally happen). I plotted endlessly about what the film could hold. I became, bit by bit, obsessed with Star Wars.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens made me a Star Wars fan before it came out, and now? I am completely composed of Star Wars for the time being and I am loving every minute of it.
2012 • 130 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Anonymous holds a special place in my biography—it’s the film that introduced me to theaters that serve real food while you watch, planting the seeds for my lifelong devotion to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. I saw Anonymous because I knew an underclasswoman in college who desperately wanted to see it. But the only place showing the film was a weird theater on the north side of town, so she needed somebody with a car, a free afternoon, and the willingness to submit themselves to Anonymous. And I, connoisseur of bad cinema, was that somebody. Off we went to Cinebistro, a restaraunt/theater joint with luxuriously cushy seats, a full bar, and twenty minutes of previews. I fell in love instantly.
And as for Anonymous? Well, Anonymous may well be one of the greatest bad movies of our times.
The House of Shattered Wings
by Aliette de Bodard
2015 • 402 pages • Gollancz
Urban fantasy is a hard sell for me. It’s not that I dislike the genre as a whole, but more that I was never exposed to sufficient amounts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kiddo to develop a taste for it. (Instead, I was exposed to super sufficient amounts of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda. This means that I bleed unicorns and also means that when it comes to the new Warcraft movie, I am a reverse Alien vs. Predator: no matter if it’s bad or good, I still win.)
So The House of Shattered Wings never even made it on my radar until Tor.com republished author Aliette de Bodard’s “On Colonialism, Evil Empires, and Oppressive Systems” back in September. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it; it is necessary and searing. It made me so excited for The House of Shattered Wings, despite my disinclination for urban fantasy, that I got nervous. (Although it’s not like that’s difficult.) Even after I started reading the thing, I’ve been Johnnie come lately to enough series that I was briefly terrified that I’d rented the second in the series. (This may seem unwarranted, but Memory’s review of An Apprentice to Elves excited me so much I accidentally rented The Tempering of Men instead of the book in question.)
Perhaps urbane fantasy is the best generic moniker to toss The House of Shattered Wings’ way—this is, after all, a novel set in the ruins of Belle Époque Paris, devastated not by World War I but by the war in heaven, brought forward several millennia. Continue reading
Only Ever Yours
by Louise O’Neill
2015 (originally published 2014) • 406 pages • Quercus
We didn’t discuss Elissa Sussman’s Stray in any great detail in my publishing program—after all, we weren’t supposed to know what the book was, just evaluate the excerpt we were given. (And definitely not start screeching its virtues to all comers. Uh, oops.) But one comment has always stuck in my craw. One of my fellow students, whose identity I will obscure to protect their innocence, wondered if feminists wouldn’t hate Stray, because it shows women in a negative light.
As a feminist who was loving it, I was aghast at the idea that feminists can only ever be satisfied with seeing women in a positive light: feminist dystopian fiction has a long and storied history. Speculative fiction’s most noble usage is to reflect our society back at us at slant angles so that we can see the truth (as the author sees it, anyway). I said my piece and we continued through the exercise.
Two years on, I shudder to think what that person would have made of Only Ever Yours, the darkest and grimmest satire I’ve come across in a long, long time. The misogynistic thinking that lies just beneath the surface of a lot of modern thinking about women is taken to its logical extreme, creating a truly horrific dystopia that is, as Ana at the Book Smugglers points out, composed entirely of misogyny. Only Ever Yours is inevitably compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s only The Handmaid’s Tale if women were reduced specifically to their sexual utility to men instead of “just” reduced to their reproductive capabilities.
Masters of the Universe
1987 • 106 minutes • Cannon Films
As a connoisseur of bad movies, I am also a connoisseur of bad movie podcasts. (I am, at some point, going to do a podcast roundup, now that I listen to even more of them. I just need to blast through one or two backlogs first.) The best and popular two are The Flop House and How Did This Get Made? I prefer The Flop House (sample episode: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Live!), due to its charming hosts, focus on studio movies, and some kind of East Coast allegiance. Or it could just be that blasting through their backlog got me through the first few months of my current day job. I look forward to every episode. But I do listen to its West Coast sibling/rival, How Did This Get Made? on occasion, if they cover a movie I’ve seen (sample episode: Xanadu, with a great riff on how it could possibly be as over budget as it was). I like it, but I haven’t ever been so excited for an episode that I went out and watched the film in question.
Until How Did This Get Made? covered Masters of the Universe with guest host Tatiana Maslany. Swoon. I’ve been meaning to watch Masters of the Universe since forever—because have you met me?—and this was just the swift kick in the rear I needed to finally sit down and watch it.
Saga: Volume 1
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
2012 • 160 pages • Image Comics
I think I read this too fast.
Saga has been relentlessly talked up to me ever since its inaugural issue in 2012. I’ve read the reviews. I’ve heard the good word. I’ve clapped eyes on the cosplay. Hell, I danced with a Prince Robot IV cosplayer at con once. Hype is such a hard thing to balance; some things are hype-proof (Hannibal wail okay that obligation is done for today) and some things… well, some things collapse like a flan in a cupboard, to quote Eddie Izzard, when exposed to such high hype levels. And that’s not to say that the hyped texts are undeserving of their hype, per se, but just that expectations and execution have unpredictable chemistry.
Saga is the story of Alana and Marko, two soldiers from different worlds at wars—Landfall, an empire rooted in science, and Wreath, Landfall’s moon, whose inhabitants practice magic. The two worlds have been at war since time immemorial, but because the deconstruction of either planet would destroy the other, the war has been outsourced to other planets. Landfall soldier Alana falls in love with her captive, Wreath soldier Marko, and the two escape… and have a baby, in a society where Landfall’s people and Wreath’s people loathe each other. The concept of them having viable offspring is offputting, but valuable. So we’ve got two soldiers on the run from their respective governments, desperate to protect their new family and escape the war, and the forces on their tails: the forces of Prince Robot IV, Landfall’s heir apparent, and the Will, a mercenary sidetracked in this volume by the discovery of a child sex slave ring.