Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

It would seem that the improbably has happened. No, pigs aren’t flying, and Hell still hasn’t frozen over, but DC has made a movie that was a genuine pleasure to watch. Wonder Woman made a valiant attempt, and there were certainly things to admire about that movie, but in a very similar way to how Thor: Ragnarok broke Thor out of a less-than-ideal mold, Aquaman has finally broken the “DC movie” mold and presented itself as a thrill from start to finish.

Now, are there things that could have been better? Of course. No movie is perfect, and I’m not even close to claiming that Aquaman is. The problems, however, were exclusively the minor ones that plague nearly all movies regardless of quality, with nothing breaking my immersion or challenging my suspension of disbelief.

The visuals were excellent from start to finish, including the camera work, even during the (well-choreographed) fight scenes and the (well-prepared) final battle. The acting proved well above expectations, particularly from Jason Momoa, who proved he can shine far brighter as Aquaman than he did in Justice League, given a script and a director who knows what he wants (another above-expectations performance from the director of almost exclusively horror movies, James Wan).

This DC movie, for the first time, went into Marvel Studios quality, ranking right up there with the Iron Man and Captain America origin stories, and surpassing some of the less-than-stellar sequels, though the somewhat predictable plot and by-the-numbers ‘becoming worthy’ storyline keep it from aspiring to the lofty heights of the truly great superhero movies.

In all, I’d give Aquaman a solid 8/10. A thoroughly enjoyable watch, and one that I can see myself re-watching alongside my favorite Marvel movies, but not a masterpiece, nor particularly ground-breaking.


Leave a comment

Filed under Non-Writing Related, Reviews

Heroes and Villains

Thanks to the creative gingerly-writing on Tumblr, I’ve recently acquired a set of characters and the bare bones of a story based in a world populated by super-powered metahumans, heroes, villains, and all shades of morality in between.  Our two main characters are Declan Mortell, an arguably psychopathic businessman/supervillain who uses his powers and schemes to further his company, and Aurelia Frisk, a mid-ranked superhero who finds herself the focus of Mortell’s attention.

The following pieces of fiction are based on the aforementioned gingerly-writing’s prompts (shown here in blockquotes), and are not necessarily indicative of the final state of the characters or their world, but should give you an idea of where my head was at when I started developing this story.

Prompt #1058

“It’s so fascinating, isn’t it? The inner workings of the human body.”

The hero took one look at the intestines splayed across every surface in the room, turned green, and ran for the door.

“Oh come on,” the villain called after them. “You asked me if I had the guts to face you. Well, here they are!”

The hero stood outside the room, doubled over, hands on her knees, breathing hard. “Get out here! I have questions!”

“I think I’ll stay in here, thanks.” The villain idly kicked at one of the assorted intestines, watching it splay across the floor. “I’m liking this new queasy look on you, and I get the feeling you’ll start hitting me if I come out there.”

“Bet your ass I’d start hitting you…” she grumbled under her breath, pushing herself upright and turning towards the room, holding up one hand to block her vision. “Where the hell did you even get this much guts?”

“Funny story, actually. You ever wonder what happens to the dysfunctional organs of people who get transplants?”

“Oh god, you didn’t-” The hero doubled over again, covering her mouth and gagging.

“Please, they weren’t being used for anything important. I might as well take them off the hospitals’ hands.” He shrugged.

“So you could use them as a fucking punchline?”

“Worked, didn’t it? I’m decidedly winning this encounter.”

“Get your ass out here and I’ll show you just how much you’re ‘winning,’ you psychopath!”

“Still good in here, thanks.”

Prompt #1066

“It’s not kidnapping, it’s just…preventative measures. Hero restraint.”

Unimpressed, the chained up hero crossed their arms and narrowed their eyes. “It’s kidnapping,” they asserted. “Stop trying to wriggle out of it.”


“I hate you.”

“I’ve never been anything but nice to you! Why would you hate me?”

The hero spent a long moment staring at him, scrutinizing his innocent expression. “You’re a supervillain. You commit heists from research labs, banks, and hospitals. You kidnap and experiment on innocent people-”

“Well yeah, but what have I ever done to you, personally?”

“Do you remember the room full of intestines?”

The villain chuckled. “Yeah, that was great. We had a good laugh about that, didn’t we?”

“I wasn’t laughing.”

“Yeah, you were mostly gagging out in the hallway.”

Her cheeks colored slightly. “Shut up. Besides,” she rattled the chains again, “this time you actually have kidnapped me.” When he started to open his mouth, she actually hissed at him. “Hero-napped. Taken preventative measures. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a crime committed against me, personally.”

His lips pursed, and he rubbed his chin. “Okay, fair. But can’t you let this one slide? What’s one little abduction between friends?”

“You’re a psychopath. I have a policy against being friends with psychopaths.”

“That’s a little able-ist of you, isn’t it, hero? Aren’t you supposed to be a symbol of justice for all people, not just mentally stable ones?”

She let out a groan, slumping forward against the chains. “Please just kill me and get it over with.”

“Kill you?” The villain sounded alarmed. “Why in God’s name would I kill you? Like I said, I just need you to be here for a few hours and not, you know… elsewhere.”

Her head snapped up again, fixing him with an intense look. “Why? What are you planning?”

He grinned, an entirely joyless grin that, for the first time, accurately reflected his behavior. “Let’s not spoil the surprise.”

Prompt #1084

“Just tell them!”

The hero shook their head. “I may be in love with them, but they’re still my nemesis. They never get to know.”

“He’s going to notice when you avoid him for six months.”

“I’ve avoided him before. Never for six months, but a few months isn’t unheard of.” She shook her head, cradling her stomach with one arm. “That’s why I told you. I need you to keep him busy.”

“You’re joking, right?” Their sidekick stood up, pacing rapidly back and forth across the room. “He’s a psychopath.”

“I know.”

“The only reason you can keep him as your nemesis for an extended period of time is because of this inexplicable thing you two have going on.”

“I know.”

“He’ll kill me! That’s not an exaggeration, either; remember what happened last time a hero tried to consistently foil his schemes?”

She winced slightly, a vivid mental image springing into focus. “I remember.” She reached out and took her sidekick’s hand. “But he won’t kill you. Killing you would hurt me, and he wouldn’t do that. Not in that way. He’ll come up with increasingly elaborate plots, trying to force me out of hiding, and he’ll present you with wild theory after wild theory as to why I’m avoiding him this time, but he won’t kill you.”

“That’s not much of a relief.” The sidekick sighed, using his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. “So, what, in six months you show up and pretend nothing happened?”

“I’ll tell him I had a bad case of mono. It’s a stupid reason, but it’s all he’s getting.” She squeezed his hand, looking up into his eyes. “He can never know, understand? If he knew, God only knows what he would do. I know him better than anyone, but even I can’t say whether he’d take to the notion fondly, and want to control it, or if he’d see it as something coming between us and try to… get rid of it.” She shivered. “Secrecy is our only option.”

“And if he finds out? Finds out not only that it exists, but that you lied to him about it? Hid it from him?”

The hero’s hands curled into fists. “Then I’ll deal with him. Whatever that entails, I’ll make sure no one but me gets hurt.”

(Time passes here; gingerly-writing asked for a continuation, and so I wrote more.)

She could hear the door opening from the kitchen, where she bent over the counter, chopping vegetables for a soup. “You’re back early! Did he not show up today?”

“He got tired of the runaround.”

The hero’s grasp on the knife shifted from cooking to combat, and she whirled toward the sound of his voice. Her eyes were wide, and her heart raced. “H-how?”

Her villain didn’t respond immediately. His gaze slid from her eyes down over her, taking in her civilian clothes, the rounded belly peeking out from her loose shirt, her bare feet, and only after the end of all that did he bother to notice her knife. “So long as you kept coming out to meet me, I didn’t attempt to discover your secret identity. When I tired of your sidekick, however…” He shrugged lightly. “It only took me a week when I put my mind to it.”

She tightened her grip on the knife, cheeks coloring slightly from his casual examination. “What about-”

“Your sidekick is fine,” the villain cut her off with a dismissive hand wave. “A series of traps took him out of the picture for a few hours. He’ll escape eventually, or I’ll release him when I’m done here. I just couldn’t have him interrupting us.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And what is it you plan on doing here?”

“Is it mine?”

The tip of the knife sank a few inches, and her gaze was drawn to his. His question, so forthright, so earnest… but coming from someone like him, it couldn’t be. Her knife came back up to combat readiness as she cleared her throat. “I don’t know.” He always knew when I lied. “I only had one moment of foolishness with you, and I was seeing someone else around the same time.”


The coldness in his voice had returned with a vengeance. “No one you know. He’s not in the picture anymore.”

He was quiet for several heartbeats, his gaze absently directed at her midsection, chin resting on his knuckles. “Do you have a doula?”

Another disarmingly earnest question. “I… a what?”

“A doula. A midwife. Someone to assist you leading up to the birth, during the birth, and in the weeks immediately following.”

“No… No, I’m flying solo here. I have an OBGYN, but-”

“I’ll send you a list of candidates tomorrow. Be a dear and pick one without putting up a fuss.” He had already pulled a small tablet out of his coat and begun tapping at it.

“What? No, no way! Why would I ever trust someone you sent me?” She shook her head, the knife hand having fallen to her side, confused frustration replacing fear.

The tapping ceased, and he took two steps towards her, cupping her face in his free hand, eyes gazing intently into hers. In a moment of panic, she swung the knife upwards, but the wrist of his hand holding the tablet casually blocked against hers, holding the knife at bay.

“If there is even the slightest chance that you carry my heir,” he murmured, thumb tracing her jawline, “then I am going to make sure that you, and he, are given the best possible chance.” He grinned softly, adding, “As to why you’ll accept my assistance… Let’s make a little deal, hm? As long as you’re allowing me to assist with the care of this child, I will not commit acts of villainy. No heists. No murders. No schemes or plots. If you are going to focus on this child instead of on me, then I will do the same.”

Her cheeks burned with a confusing mix of emotions. Fear. Suspicion. Hope. Arousal? She kicked herself mentally, letting the knife fall from her fingers, clattering to the floor beside them. It’s not him. You just haven’t felt anyone touch you but your doctor in months now. “If I agree to this… how long could I expect it to last?”

He smiled, but it wasn’t his usual, mirthless smile. An uncomfortable smile, as though he didn’t use it often, but one with the faintest flicker of genuine warmth. “As long as you allow me,” he repeated, slowly guiding her hand back down from its attacking position. “If that lasts until the child is 18, then 18 years.”

She stared up at him with wide eyes. The villain who had never gone more than two weeks without committing a major crime was offering to give up crime for nearly two decades? “I can’t possibly believe that,” she said, almost a whisper.

“Then we’ll just have to take it one day at a time.” He released her, stepping back and turning for the door, tapping away on his tablet once more. “You’ll have that list by tomorrow.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Characters, My Stories, Short Stories, Supers, Writing

Movie Review: The Last Jedi

I just got home from seeing an early screening of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, and if I could sum up my thoughts and feelings in a single word, it would have to be… unsatisfied.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with stunning visuals, good pace, spot-on comedy, and of course John Williams’ classic handiwork on the score, but while I enjoyed it during the act of viewing, when the end credits began to roll, I found myself staring at the screen and wondering what was missing.  There won’t be any spoilers in this review, so don’t worry on that front. I’ll be discussing this in a more abstract way, and arguing with people who have seen the movie about the fine details.

One of the biggest criticisms of The Force Awakens I heard from people is that Rey is a ‘Mary Sue’.  A character who can do no wrong and excels at everything she attempts. As one might have already gathered from the trailers, The Last Jedi disabuses us of this notion. She remains the same character, but circumstances change and she finds herself in scenarios that show us her flaws and weaknesses. This is a positive thing for her development arc, and yet I find myself more disappointed by the choices she makes now, as a more fully-fleshed character, than I did in The Force Awakens.

The other big attack on VII was that it was nothing more than a retread of IV: A New Hope. If you’re in that camp, I’m afraid you’re in for more of the same; The Last Jedi covered a lot of ground that had already been covered in both V: The Empire Strikes Back and VI: Return of the Jedi. I defended The Force Awakens because I felt that a little retreading and fanservice was useful, even needed, to reboot the Star Wars universe. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and said I would render a more final judgement after Episode VIII. Well, VIII has come and gone, and I’m left feeling the fool. Again, there was a great deal to like about this movie, but the plot beats, and even some of the scenes and shot choices, were ripped directly from Episodes V and VI.

It wasn’t so far gone as to make me lose my hope for the series. After all, they’ve run out of old movies to copy, since they de-canonized the prequels, so anything they make now must be new material, new ground. This movie did, however, suffer from being the middle of a new trilogy. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, held in many circles as the greatest of the original trilogy, The Last Jedi fails to offer us anything concrete to carry into the next movie. The plot twists and character arcs were either deliberately unresolved or simply not well fleshed-out, so the entire movie ends up building a sense of anticipation that never really pays off.

Despite all this, I would give The Last Jedi an 8/10. There were enough moments with emotional impact to keep me invested, and the humor knew exactly when and where it should be, and showed itself in those places and only those places. Once again, I find myself in the position of saying, “Well, we’ll see if it all pays off with the next movie,” and tenuously defending Disney’s choices while hoping they know where they’re headed; sadly, with Carrie Fisher’s passing, and the subsequent rewrite of Episode IX that that forced, I’m beginning to question whether they can pull it off. They cleaned up some of the questions surrounding the first movie, only to generate another batch, and personally disappointing me in a few specific ways.

See you in two years, when I decide whether or not Disney was able to pull together a trilogy that matched or even outshone the original.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-Writing Related, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Videos

Speculation on Marvel’s ‘Defenders’

With the first official post for Defenders being released, I thought I would share what I expect from it.

I’ll start by going over each of the individual shows that led into this, giving each show and character a separate rating.

Daredevil (9/10)

The flagship show, and still the best one.  Daredevil, the show, was an excellently-crafted work.  The characters were well-rounded, the plot was strong, and the camerawork was spot-on.  That may sound like a strangely specific piece of praise, but this show deserves it.  In particular, one of the fight scenes early in the show, which takes place in a long hallway, and consists of one, unbroken shot.  While the rest of the show never quite reaches that level, that shot earns it some brownie points.  Daredevil, the character, is also a solid 9/10.  He’s likable as Matt Murdock, attorney at law, and his backstory and motivations for becoming Daredevil make sense.

Jessica Jones (2/10)

I actually disliked this show.  Even David Tennant’s role as Kilgrave, the villain, couldn’t make this enjoyable for me.  I’ve been told that it was an accurate representation of Jessica’s backstory in the comics, and that she’s a much better person, post-origin-story, and given the end of the first season, I do hope that will be the case.  Jessica Jones, the character, was a 3/10 at best, but there was the glimmer of hope that she’ll improve.

Luke Cage (6/10)

My biggest problem with Luke Cage was that each episode felt about 25% too long.  There was good stuff in every episode, but there was a lot of unnecessary filler and fluff that was frankly just boring.  Cage himself was a decent character, 7 or 8/10, but he was dragged down somewhat by the clutter of his show.

Iron Fist (8/10)

Before Iron Fist came out, I had doubts about whether I even wanted to see Defenders; Daredevil was the only show that I really wanted to continue watching of the three that existed.  Iron Fist, while not quite as good a show as Daredevil, renewed my faith in the Netflix/Marvel franchise and got me quite excited for the union of these four shows.  The Iron Fist himself, Danny Rand, is a 9/10 character.  He had a surprisingly good arc involving his naivety with how the real world works, and maintains a solid, engaging sense of self throughout the show.

Defenders (???)

Without spoiling the endings of the existing shows, there are plenty of leads buried in the shows as they stand to pull them all together.  Most of these involve Claire Temple, the nurse character who makes appearances in all four shows, and who is a 10/10 character in her own right.  Overall, I’m fairly excited for Defenders, and hoping that Matt Murdock and Danny Rand play well together, because those two could carry the show on their own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Marvel, Non-Writing Related, Reviews


Time is a human construct.

Cleverer men and women than I have written at great length on this subject.  They have written about how humankind is unique among all life on Earth, in that only we fear time running out.  We schedule our lives around numbers based upon the rotation of our planet, agreed-upon terms that the passing world doesn’t even notice.

We have idioms for time.  It flies when we have fun, and it slows to a crawl when you’re taking a standardized test.

And sometimes, three days and two nights can seem like an eternity.

Humans develop habits and hobbies to fill our time.  We talk to each other, create media for each other, spend hours of our day interacting with other humans.   Consciously or not, we fill our space with ideas and items, things for our minds to occupy themselves with.

Our lives are so full of things that we have an entire classification for the strange thoughts we have when we are alone.  “Shower Thoughts”.  The time when it is most difficult for us to occupy our minds, when they are free to wander and wonder.

So what happens when all the things that make up a life vanish?  What happens when a mind, previously suspended in the comfortable white noise of all the ideas and items and interactions of the world, finds itself in a still, quiet space?

The first urge is likely to fill the void.  Open your phone, open your computer, open a book, turn on the TV.

But what if it doesn’t work?  What if the mind is so rattled by the silence that our attempts to generate new things for it just can’t hold its interest?  It has only one thing left to look at.


Introspection has never been my strongest suit.  “Tell us about yourself!” was always a statement I dreaded.  I used to brush it off.

“There’s nothing much to tell.”  “What you see is what you get.”

Sometimes I’d make things up entirely.  Anything to deflect the discussion in a direction that was not towards me.  A direction other than inwards.

And yet, I’ve spent three nights and two days doing little else.

I didn’t know where to begin.  When one is practiced at avoiding an activity, getting started can be difficult, to say the least.  So I started with words that others had ascribed to me.  Criticisms I had always brushed aside before.  What did I care what this person or that thought of me?  But now it was different.  The words were under my skin, inside my head, and this time, they could not be brushed aside.

Some of them were no surprise.  Even with an aversion to introspection, there were character flaws of which I had always been well aware.   Some had been dismissed as trivial, others eternally set aside.  “I’ll work on changing that… just not yet.”

But some words were new.  Accusations that echoed in my mind like the gavel of a judge pronouncing her sentence.  Many of them even brought back memories of times when I had denied that those words could ever apply to me.

And yet, they did.  And they do.  Three nights and two days, and I’ve worn a rut with how many times I’ve walked the same mental pathways, always circling back to the same conclusions.  She was right.  They were right.

There are many mistakes I made whose repercussions can never be undone.  Words and deeds whose wrongs can never be put right.  It took a lot to finally make me see.  Years of slowly-gathered emotion, clarified and honed into a single, piercing event.

But now I see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sanders and Socialism

This is me, making my first and last sincere plea to anyone who thinks Bernie Sanders actually has a good, solid economic plan for America.  I see bits and pieces of this all over the internet, so this is less of a personal blog most and more of a bundle of other things to look at, gathered for your convenience and summarized.

Let’s start with a look at a country which is unequivocally socialist, and yet which never seems to be addressed by the rabid masses that are “Feeling the Bern”: Venezuela.  Here is an article that sums up what’s going on there.  Rationed electricity, leaving homes without power for hours at a time.  The country outsourcing the printing of their own (staggeringly inflated and increasing worthless) money because they literally don’t have the resources to do it all.  People hunting cats, dogs, and pigeons, and robbing water trucks in an attempt to survive.

“But Bernie’s a DEMOCRATIC Socialist”, I see commented on articles like these.  Well, I have another point to counter that.  Bernie has often pointed at Denmark as the benchmark, an ideal to which we should strive.  Well, Denmark wants Bernie to stop pointing.

While speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the center-right Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he was aware “that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism.”

“Therefore,” he said, “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

While he does admit to a certain level of welfare state, even that is being cut back, according to the New York Times.

Denmark has among the highest marginal income-tax rates in the world, with the top bracket of 56.5 percent kicking in on incomes of more than about $80,000. But in exchange, the Danes get a cradle-to-grave safety net that includes free healthcare, a free university education, and hefty payouts even to the richest citizens.

Parents in all income brackets, for example, get quarterly checks from the government to help defray child-care costs. The elderly get free maid service if they need it, even if they are wealthy.

But few experts here believe that Denmark can long afford the current perks. So Denmark is retooling itself, tinkering with corporate tax rates, considering new public sector investments, and, for the long term, trying to wean more people, the young and the old, off government benefits.

Even in our own country, we can see this trend of Socialism being a brief economic relief, followed by either reformations (as Denmark is trying to do) or disaster (as in Venezuela).  FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression kept a lot of people in work, at least enough to keep their families alive, until World War II kick-started our economy and brought us back on top of things.  But now, even a socialist step as comparatively small as Social Security is proving how damaging it can be.  With the Social Security trust fund running out, recipients will start receiving less than they put in, about 75 cents on the dollar, in about twenty years, and those who draw on disability can expect to feel the sting well before that.

To expect Socialism to fix a problem that Socialism itself has caused, no matter what you call it, is madness at its heart.  Venezuela, fiercely socialist, is a barren wasteland, on the verge of collapsing entirely, where a value menu McDonald’s burger costs $170.  Denmark, loudly denying that it is socialist to begin with, is cutting back on those traits that Bernie Sanders espouses because they are unsustainable.

Socialism.  Doesn’t.  Work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, Non-Writing Related, Politics


War never changes.”

Iconic words from a game series almost as old as I am.  And yet, they seem blatantly untrue.  Wars were once fought with swords, with bows.  Now wars can be fought entirely from behind screens, with soldiers of one faction never actually seeing the soldiers of the other faction.

Today, as I ponder yet another unproductive online discussion, I realize how true these words are.   It was posited to me that the advancement of 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence would soon render human labor unnecessary, that all the world would have to embrace socialism, which would end poverty, which would, in turn, end war.

At face value, this seems like a reasonable hypothesis.  If the value of labor falls to almost nothing, and all humans can just kick back and relax, reaping the benefit of automated labor, why would we keep fighting?

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world.  Even if labor has no value, even if every country embraces socialism and the income inequality vanishes, there will still be reasons to fight.

For an immediate example, take the war in the Middle East.  Not just the current operations, but the entire period of conflict in that region, going all the way back to the 1990’s.  Without trying to argue any of the theories of exactly why we were involved, we can still get a good grasp of the motivating factors.

First, natural resources.  There is oil in the Middle East, and oil is the lifeblood of modern industry.  Even in this hypothetical perfect world, the oil will still only be where it currently is, and there will still be those who want it badly enough to fight for it.

Second, ideologies.  Whether you believe that the Muslim terror organizations are extremists distorting their holy scriptures or stalwart fundamentalists doing exactly what the Koran tells them to, the fact remains that there are Muslim terror organizations, and they are using the Koran to spur their followers into a war that they consider holy.  No amount of economic change or political shift will stop people intent on inflicting harm on others purely because they believe it to be the right thing to do.

Third, vendettas.  Personal or national, there are some hatreds that run deeper than circumstance.  Sometimes irrational, sometimes misplaced, but nonetheless real, hatred will always exist, and will always drive man against his fellows,  The Muslim terror organizations, particularly those involved in the conflict in the Gaza Strip, hate the nation of Israel.  There can be no peace brokered between two parties, when the only goal of one party is the utter eradication of the other.

This is another idea that sounds utopian on paper, but which would not survive contact with humanity.  Human beings, whether you believe them to be inherently good or inherently evil, are undeniably flawed.  Greed and pride and wrath will always bring about conflict, even in a perfect world where machines give humanity everything it could want.  When there is no logical reason to fight, someone will find an illogical reason.

Because war… war never changes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-Writing Related, Politics