April 24, 2017

Dimension 404

Been watching Dimension 404, which is Hulu’s answer to Black Mirror by way of Freddie Wong’s company RocketJump. While it’s chocked full of a whole bunch of familiar and famous faces and features opening narration from Mark Hamil, in terms of writing and production it’s a very poor answer to Black Mirror. It lacks Black Mirror’s cleverness, social commentary, pacing, and sense of foreboding.

The second episode, for example, stars Patton Oswald and Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland in what is supposed to be a scary parable of teenage conformity and instead ends up being dull, predictable, and more than a little cheesy.

I was trying to think of a good comparison and then I saw someone say it’s like comparing Are You Afraid of the Dark? to The Twilight Zone and that really sums it up pretty well. 

April 20, 2017

Iron Fist: Final Thoughts & Next Seasons Hopes

Finally finished the last episode of Iron Fist. Is it amazing? No, it’s not. But it’s not completely awful. There was the shadow of something really good there and there's still potential. When Iron Fist fires on all gears, it manages moments of real fun and feels like classic 80s-era Chuck Norris/Van Damme cheese.

If you take a moment and really consider it, the showrunner and the writers had an unenviable task. Iron Fist is the last show before The Defenders so it had big shoes to fill. It also also had to tell its own story, shore-up connections to the other Netflix shows, and be sure it set-up some things that would be needed for The Defenders.

Regardless of any of that though, there will undoubtedly be a second series of Iron Fist. Despite being panned by critics, it scored big numbers for Netflix. So here are my thoughts on how to make second season better:

Pacing—beyond anything else, if they fix the pacing it will help the show immensely because the pacing was terrible. Just terrible. The whole thing with Rand Enterprises and the Meechums that eats up so many of those first episodes should have taken maybe an episode. Not to mention by the time the climax came in the last episode, it lacked punch.

Excitement—an unstoppable martials arts master, a lost city, ninjas, a form of super-heroin, a dark secret of immortality that can bring people back from the dead? That all sounds like the makings of non-stop awesome. But somehow, Iron Fist manages to often be boring. Absolutely positively boring. There were a couple of episodes that felt like they went on forever to the point where I’d pause the episode to see how much time was left. Yes, I get Danny’s enemy this season is ultimately himself but you can stick to that theme and not be boring. Season 2 needs to up the excitement and the action factor by like 10 fold.

Fight choreography—Fight choreography for television programs has come a long way, a long way. If you’re going to have a show about an immortal weapon, the fight choreography needs to be top-notch. Iron Fist’s choreography was so-so at best and sometimes really kind of awkward, especially since I watched the first season of Into The Badlands right before I started it. Some of that can be fixed by giving Danny his mask so they can have an actual martial artist doing the bulk of the fight scenes instead of Finn Jones looking like he’s trying really hard and hoping his arm is in the right place.

Danny Rand—I like that Danny is often earnest. I like the on one level his growth is stunted and he’s still a kid. I like that he suffers from PTSD. But somehow, and maybe this one is just me, he manages to often be unlikeable and kind of off-putting. That needs to be fixed. (Daredevil Season 2 had the same problem though—Matt Murdoch was the least interesting character and it’s supposed to be his show.)

Mysticism/Buddhism—There are plenty of legit schools, sects, treatises, concepts, and ideas from real Buddhist esotericism that Iron Fist could have drawn from and used in the show: vajrayana, mantrayana, shugendo, shingo, kuji-kiri, mikkyo, etc. But even when they pulled out made-up Hollywood-Buddhism-like-new-age-double-talk, it was weak sauce. And the mysticism angle can easily been used to allow Danny to communicate with the previous Iron Fists to reinforce the idea that the Iron Fist is a title and role that transcends race or sex.

April 14, 2017

Political Post: The Mother of All Bombs

Yesterday the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in a combat operation. The tunnel complex being bombed in Afghanistan was financed by the CIA during the the 1980’s bankrolling of the mujahideen’s conflict against the Soviets—the very same conflict where Osama Bin Laden first cut his teeth. Since that conflict the complex has been used by everybody from drug-smugglers to ISIS. The foreign policy of the United States generates unrest and conflict with long-term consequences that it must later go and confront, creating a Möbius Strip of suffering and death that only benefits corporate interests and the unquenchable greed of the elites.

Yesterday, however, also marked the 98th anniversary of Eugene V. Debs' imprisonment for sedition. Debs was a union organizer, founding member of the IWW, 4-time Socialist candidate for president, and a Hoosier. He was arrested and convicted for speaking out against the Wilson administration, World War I, and urging people to resist the draft in a speech he gave in Canton, Ohio. What Debs said in Canton, Ohio, is just as true today:
"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.

"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.

"And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace."

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