Jessica Jones, AKA Intense

No spoilers here, but a trigger warning seems appropriate.  This show deals with abuse and PTSD.  It’s emotionally exhausting.  I haven’t seen the whole series all the way through; that would require far more endurance than I have, and less pursuit of other things that I enjoy.

But I can tell you that from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a really good show.  It’s intense in the kind of way that leaves me with weird twisty knotting feelings in my chest, but without pushing me so far overboard that I can’t watch at all.  It makes me want to keep watching, too.

It’s funny, it’s painful, and I think it has a far better central character and set of central struggles than did Daredevil.  In fact, I think it more or less improves on Daredevil in every way.  It isn’t perfect; there are a few narrative choices so far that I disagree with or which ring false to me but… it’s GOOD.  It’s really good.  I hope you get to watch it soon.

Oh, also, the art for the intro looks a lot like Jeremy Mann’s cityscapes, which are gorgeous.

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Would Watch Again: Fury Road

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This movie is awesome.  It is awe-inspiring.  It is, very literally, spectacular.

If you like action movies, or you like the post-apocalyptic aesthetic, this movie is for you.  If you normally turn up your nose at action movies because they are laden with troubling bullshit, you can still try this movie.  Not because there aren’t troubling themes dealing with sex slavery and the subjugation of women, but because these things are dealt with well, with considerable respect and aplomb, in a movie that treats its female characters as real and very impressive people even when some of the movie’s characters do not.  Fury Road may or may not be a feminist movie (more on that later) but I think it’s a movie that you can watch without feeling like someone snuck you a shit sandwich.

Plus, it’s a really well made action movie, period.  I saw it on Saturday and would happily see it again RIGHT NOW.  It isn’t the tightly-plotted / intricately arranged tapestry of Die Hard; it’s like a formidable piece of Brutalist architecture.  It dominates the landscape with its physicality, its constant tension, and the relentless pace of its driving (heh) narrative.  For more of my thoughts on the matter, read on.

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I’m busy, but…

I have a funny pair of videos for you, to tide you over while I finish my school project.  The first video is an excellent example of why I find Rimworld fascinating (you can read my posts about it if you like).  The second one is what happens when the people making Sesame Street love Game of Thrones.

First, bad things happening to desperate space-wreck survivors (hint, it goes poorly):

Second, yes, they really did this:

Gravity Falls: X-Files for kids, Comedy for adults

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I just spent much of Saturday evening blazing my way through Gravity Falls, Alex Hirsch‘s absolutely wonderful cartoon series.  Gravity Falls was first described to me as “like The X-files but with kids in rural Oregon,” which does a decent job of introducing it.  That also puts it dangerously (tantalizingly?) close to Twin Peaks territory, but fails to convey just how damn funny the show is; I was chortling the whole way through, and would happily watch many of the episodes again (a rare experience for me with most TV shows). There’re still many more episodes for me to watch, and I honestly can’t wait.  I might take a break from writing this just to watch the next one.

So yeah, Gravity Falls is what would happen if you mashed Twin Peaks and the X-Files together in a hilarious and intelligent kids show.  It chronicles the summer adventures of Dipper and Mabel, a pair of twins who’ve gone to spend the summer with their great-uncle (Grunkle) Stan.  They live with him in his house / Mystery Shack tourist attraction, and have the dubious pleasure of working for him while they try to enjoy their summer in the bizarre town and its even stranger environs.

They must face boredom:

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Beasts:

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And popcorn-machine math:

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What’s not to like?  And yes, I did just watch another episode.  Honestly, if you’re at all interested in smart animated comedies, you should give Gravity Falls a look.  It’s definitely a kids’ show, but like the best kids’ programming it uses that as a vehicle to go deeper than you’d expect, instead of holding back.  Despite the innately fantastical nature of the show, it still feels like a very real depiction of the emotional lives of its protagonists, and it doesn’t shy away from the realities of social pressure for impressionable youngsters.  Now, if you’ll pardon me, I really want to watch another episode.

Agents of SHIELD = Lazarus?

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If you read my previous posts about Agents of SHIELD, I’ll forgive your surprise at seeing another one.  It would be a bit harsh to say that the show should have been buried after the end of last season, but it certainly feels like the show was killed and resurrected in time for the beginning of this new season.  Though we still see many of the same people on screen, this show feels wonderfully new and different, perhaps even reborn.

Stepping back for a moment: the first two episodes felt considerably better than season one’s, but they were limited by their need to establish the transition away from season one and it wasn’t until episode three that I was really sold.  In this case, “sold” includes me cackling and clasping my hands in glee.  There have been better and worse parts of the episodes since then, but they continue to leave me excited.  It’s almost a shame that season two builds so much on the context created in the first season, because you’ll have to watch the first season if you want to really know what’s going on between the characters.  I mean, maybe you could get by without it, but you also might miss a good deal that is simply referenced in passing.

You know, I feel vaguely prescient.  When the show started up last year, I said this:

Agents of SHIELD doesn’t occupy that category of stellar TV shows which are unassailably good right off the bat, but it seems to me that the foundation is being laid for a much longer story which should gradually grow in complexity and appeal.  To be honest, I think I may prefer it this way, provided it pans out: a carefully designed and cultivated story that grows into an excellent favorite would be much better than something that starts off promising only to go sour.

I didn’t think that I’d nearly abandon it before it improved, but all’s well that seems better at the beginning of season two, right? I’m sure that’s how that quote is supposed to go.

So, there’ll be no spoilers or anything else like that in this post.  I just wanted to say that, in case you dropped it in distaste at the end of last season, you may wish to give SHIELD another chance.  At least for a little while, until I have the chance to change my mind again.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

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There are lots of things to like about the Avatar series.  I find it hard not to like excellently conceived and delivered all-ages content, especially when it does little to dumb down what it has on offer just because kids will be watching.  Both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra have ultimately delivered that, and at this point I’m definitely a fan (*careful, that link goes to Nickelodeon’s streaming site, and there’re potential spoilers on the page*).

I’ll admit that for a while I was much happier with the first series than with the second, but Korra has been growing on me.  Most of all, I’m really happy about season three and very excited for season four.  Please be aware that I’m going to spoil bits of seasons one and two for you here.  If you haven’t seen them, I’ll put it like this: they’re not as good as they could have been, but they have their own wonderful moments.  Better yet, they set the stage for excellent things to follow in their footsteps, and I would certainly say that they’re worth watching because of it.  And because, you know, there really are some good moments in there.

Now that I’ve warned you, my thoughts thus far are as follows:

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Orphan Black

Deeply watchable.  That’s what I have to say about Orphan Black.

I should amend that: deeply watchable and a bit confusing.  You could easily argue that those are both understatements.

Please bear in mind that this is strictly from the point of view of having watched the first episode, but I’m very excited to watch the rest of the show now.  Let me tell you more.

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SHIELD takes a turn for the better

First things first: if you haven’t watched The Winter Soldier you should most definitely not watch any more Agents of SHIELD.  Captain America 2 is lots of fun to watch, and is way better than Agents of SHIELD.  It would be a shame to have the less entertaining one spoil the better one for you.

Second, despite how much I’m mentioning it this isn’t a review of Captain America 2.  I did love watching that movie though, and I’ll review it later and probably see it again in theaters.  You should go watch it, and keep in mind that all spoilers in this post will also effect your knowledge of that movie.

So then!  If you’ve been watching Agents of SHIELD you’re probably familiar with many of the problems of the show.  Even ignoring any complaints about the acting, one of the show’s big problems is that SHIELD agents (and especially our heroes) appear to be utterly incapable of acting in a clandestine fashion.  Nor are they very good at keeping secrets in a more general sense.  Their incompetency in the realm of secrecy is a running joke between me and my housemate.  And while I’ve been watching in the hopes that the show would improve and perhaps live up to the potential that I thought I saw at the beginning, it’s been stuck on maybe-not-quite-mediocre for a while now.  Every so often there are flashes of fun, little nuggets of something worthwhile jumbled into the dross, but they’re consistently buried.

This most recent episode helped change that.  Look below the break to learn more.

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Madoka: Tragically Magical Girls

There’s so much that I want to tell you about this show, but telling you would be a disservice to you and to Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  This show deserves better than that; I might even go so far as to say that it deserves to be watched.  I’m not saying that it is the alpha and omega of anime (or even of magical girl anime), but it is exceptionally well made.  From the standpoint of appreciating artistic storytelling craft, this is a show that you will want to see.

The art itself is of variable quality.  Some episodes received more time and effort than others, in part because of the end of the show’s release schedule coinciding with the 2011 tsunami.  Background facial animation, for example, is minimal regardless of episode, while the last two episodes truly shine with the extra time that the studio took to release them after the tsunami.  But the anime’s visual design is just as fascinating and worth attention as the storyline itself.  The witches, foes of the show’s magical girls, are bizarre and appropriately unsettling, and each feature their own distinctive style of illustration.  More on that later.

However much I liked the studio’s fascinating art choices, my favorite part of Madoka still has to be the storyline.  I’ll try not to spoil you, so let me put it this way: if you want a happy show, you should pick something that doesn’t have schoolgirls struggling to shoulder the burden of protecting the world.  Sound interesting?

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Kill la Kill: Fashion, Fascism, and a Heroine’s Shonen

Kill la Kill is a bizarre combination of disparate elements.  It follows the genre expectations of Shonen manga, with semi-constant fighting, growing friendships, and that strange running theme of turning one’s previously defeated foes into new allies, but it replaces the normally male leads with female ones and does the same for many of the villains as well.  Despite this refreshing gender-reversal, the show still drips with male gaze and fan service; there are a few moments where the show mentions how ridiculous this is (as the protagonist rages against the stupidity of her outfit), but Kill la Kill still falls into the same visual patterns and doesn’t really change that paradigm.

Kill la Kill (careful, spoilers) excels at the absurd, as one might expect from the same creative directors who brought us Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and offers a look at fascism and fashion.  Or maybe it’s fascism by means of fashion?  The story begins as one young woman’s quest to avenge her father’s murder, as she sets herself against the leader of Honnouji Academy, whom she suspects of having arranged his death.  This school is a fascist dictatorship in which power-augmenting school uniforms are used both as a reward and as a means of control.  Things only get weirder from there.  I think it’s quite enjoyable in the end, but you should probably read at least some of my mixed feelings below.

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