Friday, November 24, 2017

Hella Awesome: Why Thor: Ragnarok is the Best Marvel Movie of 2017 (Spoiler Warning)

I watched Thor: Ragnarok last Saturday and left the theater thinking this was hands down the best Marvel movie of 2017. This is coming from someone who loved Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I will admit that I haven't seen Spider-Man Homecoming, as I'm not a big Spider-Man fan. But even if I had seen it, it could not have changed my mind about Thor: Ragnarok.

Now, before I go any further, this review will contain spoilers (as stated in the title). So if you have not yet seen the movie, get thee to a theater!

Ok, with that out of the way. Spoilers in three…two…one...

Starting the movie with your regular dose of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) arrogance, but spruced up with his own humor, was a great way to reintroduce the audience to a character we had not seen in some time. And I don't mean the humor at Thor's expense that we had with his first visit to Earth. But Thor actively teasing a Balrog-like fiery god creature, distracting it, and yet still managing to miss the timing of Mjölnir's entrance. It was a cheeky introduction to the movie's humor, which had me laughing out loud repeatedly.

This movie did well to wrap up items from the previous Thor and Marvel movies. Thor's relationship with Jane Foster aka the "mutual dumping", the missing father and King of Asgard, the whereabouts of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) since the battle with Ultron, and the strained brotherly relationship between Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Speaking of relationships, I wonder if Thor will spend any time mourning the violent murder of all his friends. Poor beardy guy, blond Zachary Levi, and hard-of-hearing Samurai dude. I know their names of course, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to treat them in the same manner as the movie. I can understand it not making any sense to say their names in the quick scene when they die. But Hogun had actual dialog, he couldn't throw a little shoutout in for his deceased friends? Poor Fandral and Volstagg, you too may be gone but…well actually, you just might be forgotten.

Back to the main story. I thought Cate Blanchett was hella fantastic as Hela, the Goddess of Death. As the main antagonist in the film, Thor faces not just another sibling bent on claiming the throne, but an adversary whose strength is far greater than his own. A being so set on complete domination of the entire universe, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) had no choice but to lock her away. But with his power taken by Loki, Odin can no longer outrun his mortality and his passing unlocks whatever barrier contained Hela, allowing her return to Asgard. While trying to stop Hela from reaching his home, Thor is thrown out of the bifrost along with Loki, out into the unknown reaches of space. Imagine the rainbow road from Mario Kart, and the moment you get hit by a turtle shell and go careening over the edge into space. It was sort of like that.

Speaking of old video games, that is the sort of feel I got from this movie. The music and the color palette reminded me a lot of a retro 80s video game or movie. I’m a big fan of the 80s; the music, movies, and video games. So I could appreciate the nostalgic vibe the movie gave off.

While Hela is literally causing hell for the Asgardians, Thor spends a good while trapped on a garbage planet as a “prisoner with a job” gladiator for The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). The Grandmaster, like many others on the planet, wound up there by falling through a portal and then building himself up to the man in charge. It was through one of these portals that Thor wound up in a junkyard, was captured and delivered to the Grandmaster’s arena, and pitted against the Hulk aka “his friend from work”.

The entire battle sequence between these two Avengers was awesome. Each landed blows that would have destroyed any normal man, alien, or rock creature. The fight does leave you wondering which of the two truly is the strongest Avenger, as their fight is interrupted by a shock to the body of Thor administered by a device in his neck with the Grandmaster’s finger on the button. The fight isn’t the only great part of this whole scene. Throughout the fight, a nervous Loki sits watching everything play out, after Thor was nice enough to remind Hulk of he and Loki’s past encounter. Loki certainly was not looking forward to meeting the Hulk again any time soon, after the last time the Hulk tossed him around like a ragdoll. But it definitely cheers Loki up, the moment that Thor thinks he has won Hulk over and is instead given a taste of the ragdoll treatment. Of course, everything works out after the fight, with Thor spending time in Hulk’s room, having a heart to heart with the big guy. Hulk is after all his favorite, way better than that Banner guy, until later when Banner is back then forget about that Hulk guy. Thor wins over Hulk and convinces his friend to get him an audience with a fellow Asgardian.

Here is where it got really interesting and we as the audience get treated to a bit of the Asgard lore. Thor discovers that his captor (the one who delivered him to the Grandmaster) is one of the elite guard of Asgard, a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). The Valkyries rode atop winged horses and were the first wave of attack against Hela. Thor, who wanted to be a Valkyrie as a child, was filled in on their fate by the last of them. She was saved and somehow wound up on the universe’s planet-sized junkyard, where she quickly found work supplying the Grandmaster with fighters for his arena. Included in her conquests was not just Thor, but the Hulk as well, whose capture I would love to see as a DVD extra. While Thor is busy trying to convince Valkyrie and the Hulk to join team “Revengers”, Hela is busy explaining to her lackey Skurge (Karl Urban) just how Odin was able to get those 9 realms under his control. She does so with a little redecorating of the throne room. What was once a mural of a peaceful Odin and his new family, broke away to reveal a warrior Odin with a mighty horned crown and Hela by his side. She was his executioner until her thirst for complete dominance caused Odin to lock her away. He set aside his ornate crown and covered up every bit of history involving Hela, choosing to rule the realms through treaties and peace.

While all this is happening, Heimdall (Idris Elba) is kicking ass and taking names with the bifrost sword, which he stole to keep Hela from jumping to any other realms and effectively trapping her on Asgard. This of course sucked for the Asgardians, but he did his part to protect and hide away as many as he could. He held off Hela’s undead army long enough for Thor to return to Asgard through a portal, on board the Grandmaster’s pleasure cruiser (which they probably should have reconsidered taking, or at least disinfected). And now, for the main event.

Thor takes on Hela, after promising Valkyrie that he wouldn’t die, while Bruce as the Hulk, Heimdall, and Valkyrie take on Hela’s forces to save the Asgardians. An outmatched Thor takes his scrapes, including losing an eye (just like dad), to hold off Hela long enough for another spacecraft to show up. A craft conveniently large enough for all the Asgardians, full of the revolting aliens from the space junk planet who are led by Loki. Loki welcomes his former subjects aboard as their savior and then joins in the fray. Meanwhile, Thor summons his inner strength after a vision of his father reminds him that he isn’t the god of the hammer but the God of Thunder. This allows him to get over the loss of his hammer and wiggle out of Hela’s grasp while she’s lit up like a Christmas tree.

Now, let me just take a quick moment to discuss Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, or more importantly the loss of said hammer. Shortly after Hela’s release, Thor aims to take her on in an attempt to send her back to whence she came. Just like in many fights before, Thor relies on his hammer to attack. It's an action he immediately is taught to regret, when Hela catches it in mid-throw and crushes it as though the hammer was made of clay. With his hammer gone, Thor struggles to come to terms with the loss of not just a weapon but something more akin to a trusted friend. He says as much to one of the other gladiators who he befriends, telling him about the hammer and how it would allow him to fly and fight. This was a poignant moment for Thor, and the audience as well as we see how much the loss of the hammer has affected Thor, especially while he is looking through the weaponry provided to the gladiators. It's no wonder that Thor finds himself as less of a warrior without it and too weak to fight against Hela. Until the dream chat with dear old dad, which reminds him just what he’s capable of as a god.

Thor’s attack of course does not stop the ever powerful Hela, whose power continues to be drawn from Asgard itself. What is Thor to do but convince Loki to set a plan into motion that even Loki thinks is bold. We are treated to Loki’s amusing stroll through dad’s man cave of trophies, where he eyes the tesseract longingly, but sticks to his brother’s plan.

What plan is that you ask? The old “enemy of my enemy” plan. No wonder Loki was willing to go along with it, as far as Thor’s plans go, this was way better than the humiliating (to Loki) “get help” plan. This plan basically entailed Loki pretending to be injured and then Thor calling for help before chucking him at their unsuspecting target. It sort of helps you understand Loki’s viewpoint a bit more, as to why he didn’t exactly have the best relationship with Thor growing up. But back to the plan at hand. Loki grabs the skull of Surtur (Clancy Brown)--you remember him, fiery guy from the beginning who Thor defeated to keep him from wreaking havoc on Asgard--and tosses said skull into the eternal flame of Asgard. The same eternal flame that Hela used to bring her dead army to life. So I’m sure you can guess what happens from there. Thor meets and defeats Surtur, Thor meets and is defeated by Hela, so Thor resurrects Surtur and introduces him to Hela. The boss battle ensues, while Thor and Valkyrie are scooped up by the Hulk and brought aboard the spacecraft, which departs just in time to see Surtur strike down Hela and all of Asgard implode. The heroes brought about Ragnarok instead of stopping it and in doing so saved Asgard, because Asgard is not a place but a people.

Now I would be remiss, if I did not mention Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his short but helpful role in the film. When Thor first returns home with the skull of Surtur, thinking that he has successfully stopped the Asgardian apocalypse, he discovers that Odin is not quite himself. He witnesses a play about Loki’s death which has been completely over exaggerated to make Loki out to be the selfless hero. It is actually a really great scene, where the play actors are fun cameos of well known actors playing Thor, Loki, and Odin. Actor Thor is played by Luke Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth’s brother, who makes a very realistically convincing Thor when the blond wig is added. Actor Loki is played by Matt Damon, yes, the Matt Damon. Actor Odin is played by Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame. But I digress, Loki is forced to reveal himself and returns to Earth with Thor to look for their father. Not too long after their arrival, Loki is snatched and Thor is left with a business card leading to his whereabouts. Thor winds up meeting Doctor Strange and they come to an agreement. Strange helps Thor find his father, if Thor gets Loki back to Asgard as soon as possible. There are some great comedic moments between Strange and Thor, which leaves you hoping they interact again very soon.

So there you have it. My review of Thor: Ragnarok. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. What better way to show my absolute love for this movie, then to write a post about it. I truly wish I could go see it again, but I have my eyes set on The Justice League next and then Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But believe me when I say, I enjoyed every aspect of this Thor movie. I went to see it with my mom and she equally enjoyed it. Seated beside me was an elderly grandmother who went to see the movie with her teenage grandson. I’m sure she knew far less about the Marvel Cinematic Universe than I do and yet she laughed at all the same humorous scenes that I did and she was just as invested in these characters as I was. The movie introduced us to two strong female characters in Hela and Valkyrie, clearly on opposite sides of the hero spectrum. The presentation of the movie was fun and colorful and as I mentioned before, gave off a nostalgic vibe to please my inner child with a world of pure imagination (yes, there is a Charlie and the Chocolate reference in the movie).

Hats off to director Taika Waititi (who I loved in What We Do in the Shadows) for not only hitting the raised bar of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but surpassing it with no sweat as the best Marvel movie of 2017. At least in this Marvel fan’s humble opinion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Late to the Game: A Ready Player One Review

I recently read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, after having borrowed the book from my boyfriend during my last visit. I had heard of the book not only from him but from mutual friends who had read it as well. They all had glowing (spoiler free) reviews of the book and it had certainly been on my radar for some time. But, what finally made me get my butt in gear was the fact that the novel is being made into a movie. The movie is slated to come out in 2018 and I certainly did not want to wait until the last minute.

Now, as I mentioned above, there are plenty of reviews out there for this book. One more is probably not needed, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the book anyway. This will also be a spoiler free review, despite there probably being a lot of reviews out there with spoilers by this point as well. I've always believed its important to avoid spoilers no matter how long after something has been released into the world. Take Game of Thrones for example. The show is halfway through it's 7th season and I have never seen a single episode. Yet I have not seen, read, or heard any major spoilers. I decided long ago that I would wait until the show was over to finally to catch up, all the while expertly avoiding major spoilers. So long story short, there will equally be no spoilers from me.

Any book that references Oingo Boingo in the first few pages is a book for me. I've been a fan of Danny Elfman since I first watched Nightmare Before Christmas in high school. I know, I was really late with discovering that as well. But I have loved the movie and Jack Skellington ever since. For those who may not know, Danny Elfman was the singing voice of Jack. It was shortly thereafter that I delved into his former (by that time) band, Oingo Boingo. I had completely forgotten that Dead Man's Party was an Oingo Boingo song, it had been some time since I had heard it. Now I will admit, I did stop reading the book to fall into an Oingo Boingo rabbit hole on Youtube. But in my defense, I was at work when I started reading the book and I had only planned to read a little bit of it anyway, just to start it. On that day, our work system was being upgraded leaving a bit of downtime. But, I did still have some smaller projects to work on and Oingo Boingo certainly helped pass the time.

Once I really dove into the book, I enjoyed every page of it. Even when I wasn't familiar with all of the old school video game references, the references I did know certainly made up for the deficit. It also prompted me to watch a movie I had not seen yet, WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick. It's a Broderick movie that had completely slipped by my radar for some reason. Whereas Ladyhawke, and of course Ferris Bueller's Day Off, did not. But apart from this second minor distraction, I let nothing further deter me from finishing the book. Well, apart from finding the time to spend reading the book. While it may have taken me longer to read it than it probably should have, that is in no way a result of the content. It's an amazing book.

The many, many great references aside, this book has a fascinating future setting and storyline unlike any other that I have come across. The unique characters make it easy to become invested in their lives, especially that of the main character and his friends. The book also takes a form of technology and makes it a part of everyday life for the world represented within it's pages. The technology being VR (virtual reality, but on a massive scale. It's funny though to think, the real world has made giant leaps in the way VR is used and commercialized for today's consumers. A world like in the book is not too far fetched, especially when it comes to full immersion VR, which is both frightening and astounding. Just a couple weeks ago, I got the chance to try out a friend's VR goggles. They had it set up at a party for anyone to try and play around with. They had it set to Google Earth. Using the hand controls, you could navigate the world and then zoom down to a specific place. The detail and clarity was so impressive that it felt like I was standing in a different country, instead of my friend's office space. It's incredible how far we have come with VR technology.

Now with that being said, my overall opinion of the book is to give it five stars out of five. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially those people of the Generation X and older Millennials who remember what it's like to grow up in the 1980s. Of course, that is not to say that this book would be lost on a younger audience. The references may have been plucked from the 80s, but that shouldn't stop the younger generations from seeking out this book for it's amazing story. The main characters in the book are far removed from that particular era and have learned everything they know about these popular references from their version of the internet. It's no big leap that today's youth could and can easily do the exact same thing. My three year old niece can navigate a smart phone better than I could when I got my first smart phone at the age of  21. So I would not say this book couldn't easily be read by teens interested in a sci-fi adventure set in an alternative world.

Regardless of when you were born, go out and get a copy of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. You will not regret it. Now all I have to do is wait for the movie, which is slated for a March 30, 2018 release.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Essay For Gishwhes

This year's Gishwhes (Greatest Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) has just ended. It was another week of crazy scavenger hunting fun. With over 200 items, it was a packed week of finding things, creating things, donating to charities and causes, and spending time with your team of friends and newcomers.

I've shared about past hunts and if you check my Facebook and twitter accounts in the next few days, you will see what our team has accomplished this year. My goal here now, is to share one specific item. An item that took me time to finish and then way less time to post on twitter in the first ever tweet storm on my twitter account.

One of the items was to write a 2,000 word essay about the best way to get pregnant for the 10th time. Yes, the 10th time. That was it, the only instructions and no other information was provided. Being a writer, of course I jumped on this item straight away and starting brain storming ideas for this essay. I hadn't written an essay since my early college days, so I knew I was going to be a bit rusty. But once I settled on what I was going to write, I researched some sources and set to work, writing and formatting. I even used citations to give credit to every borrowed quote, fact, and statistic. This was going to be the best essay about getting pregnant for the 20th time the world had ever seen.

There was a catch though. Once I was finished writing all 2,000 words, I had to post the whole thing on twitter. Now for those who don't know, you send tweets on twitter, tweets that are usually short statements of whatever you want. Short statements consisting of 140 characters. So after I was finished, I went through and split the whole thing up into 140 character chunks and then set about blowing up my twitter feed with a gishwhes-related tweet storm.

I had to submit a picture of the tweet as part of the scavenger hunt, along with a link to the tweet, so that there was proof I had completed the task in order to gain points. Every item is worth points and once you complete them, you submit a photo or a video, in the hopes of gaining the allotted points and maybe even bonus points. So, it was well worth the effort to earn 80-something points.

Now, for those who don't want to spend time scrolling through my twitter feed, here is the essay in it's entirety.

How To Get Pregnant for the 10th Time
Essay by Stefanie Muniz

If someone would come to me to ask about the best way to have a child,my initial reaction would be that they were hitching their horse to the wrong wagon. As a woman who is on the fence about whether to have even one child, I would imagine I am not the right person to ask. But that’s not the question. The question is not about the best way to have a child, and is in fact more along the lines of the best way to get pregnant. This of course triggers my next reaction, which is to quote Prissy, played by Butterfly McQueen, who once said, “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies” (Gone with the Wind, 1939). I feel I can relate to that line. Now, I do know a certain extent about child birth and getting pregnant, despite never having been pregnant or being witness to anyone else’s birth. Most people, and certainly most adults, know the basics of pregnancy and giving birth. We have learned about these things throughout our adolescence, from our parents or in school health classes.

So, even though I don’t have any experience with this topic myself, I do have some personal experience from being around friends and family who have been pregnant and have given birth. I am sure I am not alone in that regard. With that in mind, I do not think I would be completely out of the realm for offering advice to someone who is interesting in learning the best way to get pregnant for the 10th time. Yes, getting pregnant for the 10th time and the best way to do so, is indeed the question here today. A third reaction would be expected here, possibly along the lines of, “why would someone with 9 kids want to get pregnant for the 10th time”?! But that’s not my next reaction. I’ve learned not to judge something or someone based on initial gut reactions, in the way we all learn things, by making the mistake of judging people based on a gut reaction or my own preexisting prejudices.

People often make assumptions of people, based on learned behavior from our parents or social settings, which leads us to draw comparisons between ourselves and others. It’s a habit, I myself have been guilty of, which we often must work towards overcoming as part of becoming an adult. If you have a prejudice, it does not automatically make you a bad person. Most people have them and may not even be aware they do, subconscious prejudice, which can seem harmless but lend well to making assumptions. For example, someone chooses not to shop at secondhand stores because they believe secondhand stores have lower quality used items. When in actuality, secondhand stores are great for finding unique items that most of time have only been used/worn once or not at all and are in new condition.

So, what is my point here? It’s simple.Who am I to judge why someone would like to have a 10th child? We do not know their personal life. Even if the person asking is a friend of yours, who are we to judge that 10 is one to many? Furthermore, unless this friend is someone who would share their deepest secrets with you, you may not entirely be aware of what is going on in their lives. It is for that reason, you cannot assume that someone who is looking to get pregnant for the 10th time has 9 children at home, or even if they do that they are not capable of having a 10th one or shouldn’t have a 10th one. It is not up to you to make that decision, the decision is up to the person looking to get pregnant. If they are asking for your help or advice with the matter, they obviously trust your opinion. The best thing to do is not try to convince them otherwise, because you don’t think it’s right, but instead do try and lend them a hand. Even if you don’t know where to start, the helpful effort would be appreciated,and that is the intent here as well.

I am going to offer different suggestions for practices that could help someone get pregnant for the 10th time, along with the pros and cons so someone can determine what the best way is for them. First, there is what can be referred to as the “good old fashioned” way by some, but is technically speaking the act of conception through intercourse. Secondly, there is the choice to use a surrogate for carrying the child. And lastly there is the process of artificial insemination.

I want to begin by stating that I am not a medical professional, I have not studied in the medical field, and I am not certified in any medical sense. What is listed from hereon out are strictly suggestions based on researched facts and figures, and nothing more. The advice provided in this essay should not be taken above the advice of a licensed medical professional.

The easiest starting point for having a child, be it the 1st or the 10th, would of course be to decide to have a child. It would be a good idea to find a partner who is also willing or that your current partner is in agreement on the subject. It takes two to tango, that’s a line I’m sure we have all heard and know is not limited to just dancing. But, I digress. The same can be said about having a child. Both parties have to be willing and able. It is at this point where both adults have consenual intercourse with the hopes of conceiving a child. Now if you have successfully conceived 9 healthy children, chances are this is the way to go when trying for kid number 10. It’s worked out for you well so far, so more power to you.

However, it would be remiss of me to not take into account the negatives that could effect the success of conception with this method. Taking into account the scenario where you have successfully conceived 9 nine times, but for one reason or another have not carried to term all 9 times, then you may need to seek an alternate method of conceiving or having a child. There are many reasons that a pregnancy doesn’t go to term and results in an early termination of the pregnancy. The frequently asked questions of a medical website suggest that common causes can be smoking and alcohol, “Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine also have been studied as causes of early pregnancy loss.” (FAQ090. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. August 2015. Despite these things having been studied the research is not entirely conclusive, but the general thought is to avoid these things in excess. Some woman believe that the early termination of their pregnancy is due to something that they may have done, but that is not actually the case in most early pregnancy occurrences. The same aforementioned frequently asked questions section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website states, “About one half of cases of early pregnancy loss are caused by a random event in which the embryo received an abnormal number of chromosomes.” These specific things also do not take into account the age of the woman who is attempting to get pregnant, which can cause issues or problems as well, especially if the woman is over the age of 40.

So what can you do if you come across this issue or another that keeps you from naturally and safely conceiving a child? There is always the option of finding or using a surrogate mother to carry your child. This is of course the process of another woman being impregnated with your egg through an implantation process or the surrogate mother’s own egg being fertilized by the your partner. If you do not have the fortune of knowing someone who would be willing to carry your child, such as a good friend or family member, there are companies that help hopeful parents-to-be with finding a stranger to have their child. I don’t know about you, but I would personally go with a stranger that was artificially implanted with the egg fertilized by my spouse or significant other. It could get a bit awkward with using a friend or family member, especially if you don’t go the artificial insemination route with the surrogate mother. But if you do and there is a willing family member, I have heard of cases where this has worked out just fine.

Surrogacy is also a safer alternative for women who have been identified as having a chance for a high risk pregnancy or unable to conceive. A surrogacy website online shared that health is certainly a factor for a surrogate pregnancy and how it related to success, not just for the contributing parents but also for the surrogate mother as well. They stated, “The greatest success will always come from an IVF procedure where the sperm donor has had thorough medical evaluations, the egg donor is young and has a positive fertility history, and where the surrogate is also young and has met rigorous fertility criteria. In general, success rates in cases similar to this will be between 55% and 75% for a fresh embryo transfer using two high-quality embryos.” (Surrogacy Success Rates. Sensible Surrogacy. 2014.

So let’s say you don’t want to go with a surrogate mother and you just need a little help with getting a pregnancy to take. In Vitro Fertilization or IVF, could be the solution for you in order to conceive. A medical website provided a few reasons for needing IVF, “IVF is usually the treatment of choice for a woman with blocked, severely damaged, or no Fallopian tubes. IVF is also used to overcome infertility caused by endometriosis or problems with the man’s sperm (such as low sperm count). Couples who simply can’t conceive and have tried other infertility methods (such as intrauterine insemination) that have not worked for them can also try IVF.” (Conrad Stöppler, Melissa, In Vitro Fertilization IVF Introduction. E Medicine Health. 2017.

Whatever the reason, IVF, would allow a couple having difficulty, to not only conceive a child, but also carry a child naturally without the need for a surrogate. For those not familiar with the process, with IVF, the egg is fertilized by the sperm in a laboratory dish and once fertilization has successfully taken place the egg is implanted into the woman. The woman will then be assisted with the pregnancy by various aids and medications to ensure a successful pregnancy carried out to full term. IVF can be a costly solution, but if you have no other choice, it would be a worthwhile investment for the end result of having a child.

Now, with all that said, there is still one other option. I will not go into great detail with this option, as it is not really a way to have a child, but it would result in getting a child. This option is of course adoption. You use an adoption agency to adopt a child from another country or from foster care or a similar child adoption agency in your country. If you do not wish to have a child of your own or cannot have a child of your own, it would certainly be a viable option for becoming a parent. It isn’t too difficult to look up adoption agencies online and contact them for more information regarding adoption.

So there you have it, three ways to have a 10th child. I will leave it up to you to pick the way that is best for you, because only you will know.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's About Time: Doctor Who's Big Announcement

The BBC's TV & Internet Spot for the announcement.

Yesterday the BBC made a big announcement concerning their longest running sci-fi show, Doctor Who. The British Broadcasting Corporation had hinted recently that they would be revealing the new actor to play the latest iteration of the show's title character, the Doctor. All would be revealed on the 16th and the fandom waited with bated breath. It has been a long awaited reveal for fans of the show, since it was announced that the current actor and 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, was leaving the show after this current season. So, it was natural that there was a lot of speculation regarding who the next actor would be to take on the role.
Jodie Whittake
To both my surprise and relief, a female actress was revealed as the 13th Doctor. The show has finally taken that big step for it's main character as well. There will probably be people out there upset by this news, who feel it doesn't hold true to the character's history, the Doctor being a woman. But I could not be happier for the show to make such a move. It’s about time!

I am sure the show will come up with a clever explanation and reasoning for the female Doctor. But for me, that's the least interesting part of this announcement. The BBC, and new showrunner Chris Chibnall, chose Jodie Whittaker to take on the role for Season 11 (11th Season since the show’s reboot in 2005, but in actuality there have been 36 Seasons since the show’s beginning in 1963). Chris Chibnall is taking over from Steven Moffat who has been showrunner for the last three seasons and a lead writer for the last six. Chibnall is well known for his work on Torchwood, the first popular Doctor Who spin-off series, and ITV's detective series Broadchurch. And it's the show Broadchurch where the connection lies, as this is also the show that Jodie Whittaker played one of the main characters alongside Doctor Who alums David Tennant and Arthur Darvill. I have no concerns over Whittaker's entrance into one of my favorite shows. She’s stepping into well worn shoes, but they’re not going to be too big for her to fill. She will most certainly be receiving quite a few tips and advice from the previous Doctors and companion.

Left: Steven Moffat Right: Chris Chibnall
Now, to be clear, I am not saying that Jodie got the role because of her connection to Chibnall and former Doctors. In an interview with The Doctor Who Team, from the BBC's Doctor Who website, it’s mentioned that Chibnall met with Jodie for what she thought was a meeting about Broadchurch. During this meeting he urged her to consider auditioning for the role. After a lengthy audition process and many equally talented actors, they decided on Jodie based on her amazing audition.

Doctors 1-12
Fans of Doctor Who are familiar with the show's unique element. It's main character, a 1000+ year old time and space traveling alien, can regenerate into a completely new person whenever he comes into a life threatening situation to save himself from death. This of course is a big reason for the show's longevity since it first premiered in 1963. It's not so difficult to continue with a show for over 50 years when you can constantly switch out your lead actor. 12 different actors have portrayed the Doctor: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, John Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi. John Hurt is also worth mentioning, who played the War Doctor at the end of Matt Smith's run in Season 7 and the 50th Anniversary special. This was an incarnation which fell between McGann and Eccleston, even though the character was not written until much later, who chose not to take the name of "The Doctor" and therefore does not technically fall within the list of 12 Doctors.

Missy and the various Masters.
Regardless of whether you have watched the series, you can see by the list of names that the Doctor has always been a man. The show took a big step towards gender reversal when they took the Doctor's arch rival and fellow timelord, The Master, and had him regenerate into Missy aka The Mistress played by Michelle Gomez. A role, much like The Doctor, which had previously been played by men and most notably Roger Delgado (originator of role from 1971 until 1973) and more recently Derek Jacobi and John Simm.

The Doctor is all about change: companions, locations, bodies. And changing into a different gender is wrong and out of character? Oh please. The alien race which the Doctor belongs to are called the Timelords, and just like the human race they consist of both the male and female gender. They are not a single race of men. So what is the big deal for the Doctor to turn into a woman? It was previously established, with the War Doctor, that The Doctor was able to choose to become a warrior, something that was completely outside his established persona. Then what is there to stop him from deciding to become a woman?

I would like to go back to the interview from The Doctor Who Team. It’s a brief interview but I found it quite interesting. They asked 13 questions for the 13th Doctor, which you can find here. I read through it and feel even more excited for her involvement. When asked what it felt like to be the first woman Doctor, she had this to say, "It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you're told you can and can't be. It feels incredible." I am of the mindset that social norms are outdated and that people shouldn't feel constricted to fitting into a specific box just because of their race, gender, etc. So this quote is a joy to read. She was also asked what she would tell the fans, "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that's exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one." How can you not be excited about someone with such an outlook on taking over the lead role in a beloved TV show? A show which is literally based on change. I know I am.

Bring on Season 11!

Fairly soon, Jodie Whittaker will be off on adventures in the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wonder Woman AKA the DC Movie You've Been Waiting For

I'm not just saying that because I'm a woman. I'm saying that because I'm a DC fan, who has been waiting for a movie that would make up for the short falls of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that would raise DC to Marvel's playing field, and a movie that would wow me. Wonder Woman did just that.

Gal Gadot was already a shining moment in Batman v Superman as the Amazonian super hero. So I had no doubt that a full length feature dedicated to a female badass would be anything but great.

To say that there has been a lot of buzz surrounding this movie would be an understatement. This is a movie that has been a long time coming. But why is that exactly? Why has it taken this long to have a Wonder Woman movie? The answer is simply that the comic book world is much like our own. In the past, when comics first came to be, minorities were rarely represented and women certainly fell into that category. Now a days, strong female role models are available and are represented across many different platforms. May it be film, TV, books, in businesses, or job fields that were once primarily male dominated. Now is the time that you can have a super hero movie with a strong female lead that says I can stand beside men and lead them.
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

We needed a time like now, for a movie such as this to be made. I don't just mean a time where women have more rights. I mean a time where super hero movies are blockbuster hits. Where you can make a Batman movie and have it be a success, or a successful Superman movie, and not stop there. Wonder Woman is a powerhouse staple of DC comics, an instrumental member of the Justice League, where she is an equal to the likes of Batman and Superman. Marvel is only starting to bring their strong female characters to light, DC has been supportive of Wonder Woman for quite some time. You not only had a Batman series in the 60s, but you had a Wonder Woman series in the late 70s. My childhood memories of Wonder Woman start there, with the wonderful Lynda Carter. She wore the iconic blue, red and yellow outfit. She fought with her lasso of truth and wrist guards, and she had an invisible jet. As a kid, it was cool to think that someone could have an invisible vehicle. It lent itself well to a child's imagination, where you could decide what it looked like and not be wrong. Naturally, as one gets older, you realize it was silly, campy and not that great a show. But, while Wonder Woman was only on the air for three seasons, it and Lynda Carter did pave the way, a stepping stone on the road to a film which would do justice to such a great female character and role model.

This brings me to my next point, why it was ridiculous for there to be an argument over whether or not there should be an all female showing of Wonder Woman, or that if there was one there should also be an all male showing. What? With everything happening in the world currently, that is what we need to argue about? In a time where we actually need Wonder Woman to save and protect the innocent, people think that the big deal is that women should have a special showing of Wonder Woman. For me personally, I could care less. I would not directly seek out an all female showing of the film. I base my movie viewing on when I have time to go see the movie. I would not have an issue if there was a female viewing, it's not absolutely necessary but it's justified. How often have super hero movies seen a large female audience flock to the theaters for another reason than to stare at the pretty? I'm not saying that men are not allowed to like a female super hero, and that there aren't a lot of women into comics, on the contrary. But if there are men that take issue with an all female showing of Wonder Woman, they're clearly missing the point of Wonder Woman. People should celebrate Wonder Woman for its achievement but not make too big of a deal out of it. You cheapen it and make the film seem like it's a novelty rather than a step towards this type of heroine becoming a regular thing. Do you know what type of showing this movie should have? An all kids showing. Where girls can see what a true female super hero is and have someone to look up to as a role model . Where little boys can see that girls can be strong and fair, caring and smart. Further instilling in the next generation the important values of bravery, compassion, loyalty, and love.

Now, it would be remiss of me not to briefly mention the soundtrack of this movie. It was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Legend of Tarzan, Hacksaw Ridge), a British composer with quite a varied body of work. I happen to be listening to the soundtrack as I type and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of great instrumental soundtracks. The music is both subtle and spectacular, when it needs to be and is perfectly suitable for the scene it appears in. The track names are great also. You have Angel On the Wing, Pain, Loss & Love, Wonder Woman's Wrath, We Are All To Blame, and the only track with lyrics, To Be Human by Sia featuring Labrinth. What we think of as the main theme with the high-pitched screeching guitar, which captivated us all with just a few notes in the trailers, appears in more than one track and it could not fit the character any better. It made me grin like the Cheshire Cat in my seat, as it first played through the booming speakers of the theater.

With that said, let's get a little more into the movie then shall we?

Gal, Robin and Connie
Chris, Danny, and David
The cast in this movie is amazing. Gal Gadot a Wonder Woman to reckon with. She is beautiful and gives a flawless portrayal of an intelligent young woman whose biggest hindrance is her naivety towards modern society and the world which surrounds her sheltered island. Then to round out the strong female cast, we have Robin Wright as Diana's aunt, General Antiope. Don't mess with Princess Buttercup, as Themyscria's mightiest warrior she will kick your ass and make you say, "As you wish!" We also have Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. She rules fairly and with strength but is very protective of Diana, her daughter. Captain Pine Chris Pine plays Steve Trevor, the American working as a WWI spy for the British. While many may have trouble separating Pine from his popular role of Captain James T. Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek movies, I did not feel his previous role distracted from his portrayal of a spy with an unwavering commitment to complete his mission and make a difference. You have the typical bad guy in German baddie, Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston. His main goal is to guarantee victory instead of the pending armistice through means of chemical warfare. In a role that surprised me, for a reason which which I will not give away, you have the talented David Thewlis as Sir Patrick. The British actor is well known for playing Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter series. The movie is rounded out by a stellar supporting cast of characters; Said Taghmaoui as Sameer, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, Eugene Brave Rock as The Chief, and Lucy Davis as Etta, to name a few.
Patty Jenkins

I should also mention, this movie was directed by a woman. There of course are other female directors out there, this is not something new. But it's like the icing on the cake for the Wonder Woman movie. I don't usually pay that close attention to directors, so I didn't know that Patty Jenkins was directing this movie until someone mentioned it. I'm not really familiar with Patty's previous work, but she did a fantastic job bringing this movie to life and giving vision to the writers' story. The story and screen play was written by Zach Snyder, Allen Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs. Speaking of Zach Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman, he even had a cameo in the film. It's not a big cameo and it's unclear where exactly he shows up, but he appears in the background as a WWI soldier.

The movie is set during the First World War, the war to end all wars. Oh, if only the people then would have known what would happen just about two decades later. While some may claim this is reminiscent of Captain America and World War II, the environment of the first world war was different. You had different powers fighting amongst themselves: the British Empire, Ottoman Empire, German Empire, Austria-Hungry, and many more. The great war, as it was known, was the worst conflict the world had ever seen at that time. Such unbelievable destruction, and death. Not to mention the dawn of chemical warfare. The shock it left in it's wake was the needed catalyst to send Diana onto her path to protect the innocent and defend the weak. 

Themyscira, the Amazon's Paradise Island

It's hard to pick out my favorite scenes, one because it was just a really good movie and it's hard to settle on one or even a couple favorite scenes. Two, its a cop-out to just say all of it was my favorite and three, I'm starting to forget some of it. So I will settle on, the opening scenes on Themyscira. The opening scenes were beautiful. The real-life location used for the film is the famed Amalfi coast of Italy in the Mediterranean.This is the type of place that you long to visit when you see it on TV or in travel brochures. I've always wanted to visit the Mediterranean coastline of Italy. It's gorgeous with idyllic cliff-side towns overlooking the clear blue-green water of the sea. This particular coastline is a 25 mile long world heritage site boasting beautiful beaches, with not too much tide and not too many waves. It sounds so peaceful and relaxing. The scenes shot in this location, which also had a lot of CGI to add more cliffs and the large impressive buildings of the Amazons, made you understand why they chose this location. You add in the adorable child actress who played the young Diana and you have a great origin put forth in the first act of the movie. I loved getting to see Diana's lifestyle and upbringing.

Italy's Amalfi coast.

So, I think that will do it for my review of Wonder Woman. There is so much more I could add and go over, but I feel I have achieved my task of enticing you to go see it. Besides, there have already been quite a few reviews that have dived deep into the meat of the movie and given away a lot of the film because of it. I like the fact that I have been able to write this much and yet not given anything away. 

I will leave you then with this final word: go see this movie ASAP!

This is totally my desktop image.