So mired in today’s melting-pot media landscape, where “so bad it’s good” is replaced by the monolithic “awesome,” I’d nearly forgotten that bad movies, too, can be bad. On paper, a sequel to From Dusk till Dawn can’t be so awful, because the first one was already a B-movie merely elevated by the A-list writing of Quentin Tarantino and the A-list directing of Robert Rodriguez. Take those two things away, and we’re left with a B-movie, which is more expected from the genre. What if, despite my thinking, all those ingredients were actually inextricable? Over the years, I’ve come to understand that the reason From Dusk till Dawn is so packed with crazy shit is because it was one of the first Rodriguez movies produced but not conceived. It apparently cannibalized plot elements from Machete, leaving that film an empty husk, and despite releasing a year after Desperado, makes good on the gun dick. What resulted was a vampire movie much closer in spirit to one of those zany zombie movies of the ‘80s, from The Evil Dead to Dead Alive.
RIP Lance Reddick
In a bit of left-field and tragic news, actor Lance Reddick has died. I was alerted to this by a friend who's somehow always ahead of the curve on celebrity deaths, though he never breaks these things delicately. I don't know how you can, especially if he doesn't know it's one of my favorite actors. No, I never met Lance Reddick, but I'll tell you, I'm writing this having shed a few tears.
Amber’s Picks – 11 March 2023
For me, Prey was a really big deal -- and remains so! It's my top movie of the 2020s so far, and that's owed to a number of factors in tandem: the "slasher from space" premise fully realized for the first time since the '80s, the surprisingly badass heroine, and the performance of the lead actress playing that heroine -- Amber Midthunder. It also felt like the start of a conversation -- and not just the one about the future of the Predator franchise, though that is exciting.
The Coloring Book of Boba Fett
There’s something beautifully paradoxical about The Book of Boba Fett, worth reiterating even a year later, when similar conclusions made for the kind of “mixed reception” that leans increasingly negative with time – like True Detective season two or video games considered “the greatest ever” because of graphics. Coming into the show so late, having finished it only after the first episode of The Mandalorian season three premiered, I’d hoped to have a reaction buoyed by a complete picture, if only because the critical discourse surrounding the show had become so singular and discouraging. Something like, “Okay, now we can reevaluate the show as part of a larger story instead of on its own terms.” That was one of the big complaints, that not everyone wants to watch a spin-off in order to follow the story. Spin-off integrity. Why we’re so concerned with that "everyone" I’m not sure, and if anything, Star Wars completionism is supposed to be impossible, throwing back to its serial origins and calling the first sequel “part five.”
Mercedes Varnado, You Will Be Missed on The Mandalorian
Star Wars trains the eye to pick up on peripheral characters, when they aren’t already eye-catching. Maybe it’s that armored warrior who speaks little but strikes a mean figure. Now, is that Boba Fett or is it Koska Reeves? With an appearance in season two of The Mandalorian measured in minutes, Reeves managed to capture that essence of Star Wars with remarkable persuasion. She said cool stuff, did cool stuff, and she looked badass in blue armor. The good news that season three of The Mandalorian would not be shifting focus from Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin, whose story appeared to be finished, was followed by the heart-breaker that Varnado wouldn’t be returning. In light of that, and barring the surprise cameo, it’s time I paid tribute to a particularly bright spark in the Star Wars universe.
Avatar and Me (and Literally Everyone Else)
If you’ve been a longtime reader/listener here (the hidden part of this site stretches back nearly ten years), you may remember that the conceit of The Battle Beyond Planet X was a defense of the science-fiction genre as more valuable than however I perceived it being perceived. Of course, you look at the ten highest-grossing movies of every year, and more often than not, they’re science-fiction. Superheroes, dinosaurs, space war – science-fiction may just be the least marginalized of marginalized genres (still waiting on that Oscar). This is a perfect reflection of my relationship with the movie and soon-to-be-franchise Avatar, which just so happens to be sitting atop that list of highest-grossers. It is at once a universal experience and one very personal.
A needless open letter to whoever makes Halo, as I'm sure you've seen all of these -- Halo fans have no earthly idea what they want, so no matter how much they whine, just do whatever the fuck you're gonna do.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Review
I’ve noticed that moviegoers like me have had a hard time defining exactly what it is we don’t like about the MCU. Yes, there’s the corporate filmmaking aspect. Yes, Hollywood is friendly with the military-industrial complex. Neither of these have proven satisfying to me, because I’d never cared about either factor with earlier blockbusters. I didn’t complain when it was Terminator sequels or Die Hard or whatever else, but now that it’s Marvel? I think what we never want to say – or admit – is that it’s now the big, popular thing. Nerds who grew up with these comics are watching their old bullies conjugate personalities around things they used as the basis for high school torment. We liked this band before they were popular, and no band has ever been more popular.
Lamb (2021) Review
It’s funny that I watched Splice last month, in accidental anticipation of this month’s Lamb. Made over a decade apart and in two different countries, they share a basic premise but differ on just about everything else – like two conflicting parenting philosophies.
Ep. 102 – Women of Science-Fiction: The Next Generation
One rises and one falls. Stella, of Batgirl to Oracle, returns to discuss what the success of Prey and the cancellation of Resident Evil on Netflix say about the genre, streaming platforms, and representation.