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SJW Murder of Star Wars Continues With Keri Russell Interest

Dan

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Fellas, there’s just too many women in space. Asian women, brunette women, middle-aged women, purple-haired women, little orange grandmas. Back in the good old days of sci-fi, you knew where you stood. Men were real men, women were real props, and little furry creatures from Endor were little furry creatures from Endor. But that’s all changed now. There’s no room for the white men anymore. And despite the very serious and not at all childish outrage over Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, the monsters at Lucasfilm have decided to add yet another woman to Star Wars, robbing bread from the mouth of the underprivileged white, cis male and making our space wizard laser battles too unrealistic to watch. According to Variety, JJ Abrams has ruined his sterling reputation as a hero of the resistance by eyeing Keri Russell for a new role in the upcoming Episode IX.

Russell, who has previously ruined films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with her gender, was on a list of actresses wrongly considered for the role. Eventually, the “executives” at Lucasfilm decided to begin talks with Russell just before July 4th after several meetings with their prospective actresses. The role is reportedly “action heavy,” something women can’t do even though Russell has tried her best to do “stunts” in shows like The Americans (where she won an Emmy, probably for being super hot or something), and the aforementioned Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Russell has previously worked with Abrams, who is writing and directing Episode IX, on Mission Impossible III, where she filled a woman’s natural role as damsel to be rescued by strapping white hero Tom Cruise.

While they’re still in early talks with Russell for the role, her experience with Abrams and the attractiveness of a role in Star Wars means there’s a very good chance she’ll take the part. Abrams will have to cast two more roles for the film as well, roles which will hopefully make the cast more realistic by adding more white men. Abrams, of course, took over from creative genius Colin Trevorrow after “creative differences” with the fools running Lucasfilm caused a split. Production begins on Star Wars: Episode IX later this month and will release May of next year.

I have my ticket pre-ordered. That’ll show ’em.


Image courtesy of Walt Disney

Dan

Author, Editor, Podcaster, Media Junkie. Currently working towards an MFA and trying to get a sci-fi novel published. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Wichita and Indianapolis.

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If only Keri Russell actually had won an Emmy… Maybe she will, but I kind of doubt. I have lost faith in the idea that people who vote on these awards have any clue about good TV.

Television

Netflix Is Resurrecting Avatar: The Last Air Bender…In Live Action

Dan

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Water…Earth…Fire. Long ago, the three books lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when Shyamalan adapted. Only the Bryke, masters of the franchise, could stop him. But when the world needed them most, they vanished. Ten years passed, and the fans discovered the new Avatar: The Last Airbender, from a streaming service called Netflix. And although their hype generating skills are great, they still have a lot of budgeting before it’s ready to adapt.

It’s been a solid decade since Avatar: The Last Airbender, considered by some to be the best children’s cartoon of all time, aired for the final time. Since then it’s lived on in comics and novels (there is no movie in Ba Sing Se). The sequel series, Legend of Korra,  which definitely didn’t  affect the writers on this site at all, also wrapped in that time but joins its parent show in the pages of comics, for better or for worse. But now, 10 years after our last on-screen adventure with the “Gaang,” Netflix announced via Twitter that they would be resurrecting the iconic series, with the original creators, and begin production. Not only that, but it would move from the world of animation into the flesh and blood world of live action.

Since the show and its successor wrapped, Bryke (a.k.a Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino) and company have kept themselves busy. Konietzko has been busy working on his Threadworld series of science fiction graphic novels while Dimartino released his debut novel Rebel Genius. Netflix has taken several veterans of the Avatar into the show. For example Aaron Ehaz, the Emmy-nominated head writer from ATLA, recently debuted his own series, The Dragon Prince, for Netflix; and veterans of both ATLA and LoK Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos are the showrunners on Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Master Playwright Pu-on Tim, however, has yet to top his magnum opus

The new show, according to the scant information we have, will be a remake of the original show but not a direct translation. According to Bryke, who will be executive producers and showrunners, the new Avatar: The Last Airbender will “build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building.” While the core story of the show will likely not change, it’s clear that Netflix is allowing a great deal of freedom to alter the show as they see fit, with the benefit of a decade of hindsight and story changes. They also remain committed to a “culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast” for the program, most likely a response to previous (similarly named but definitely not related to the show) live-action programs that may or may not have turned Tibetan and Inuit coded characters white.

The only glimpse we have at the new show depicts Aang and Appa on the frozen wastes of the South Pole

The new show will be a partnership between Netflix and Nickelodeon as a part of Netflix’s lineup of shows aimed at children and families. It will enter production early next year. Keep an eye out here on the Fandomentals for news and, eventually, dissection of every little thing we learn when we learn it.

Are YOU excited for a new Avatar: The Last Airbender show? What are some things you want them to change? Is there anything they should leave alone? Sound off in the comments.


All Images courtesy of Nickelodeon and Netflix

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‘A Simple Favor’ Is Delightfully Bonkers

Jeremiah

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A Simple Favor is a darkly fun and twisted noir thriller. Movies this dark are rarely this stylish, much less this fun. Paul Feig, once again, shows us that he is one of the more underrated directors working today.

Easily the most stylized and impeccably framed of Feig’s movies to date, A Simple Favor is nonetheless knowing and sly in its machinations. A Simple Favor is a movie that earns the adjective “wicked.” Much like The Last Of Sheila, it is a movie that relishes in its characters’ topsy-turvy morals.

The supposed moral center of A Simple Favor is Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), a perky, optimistic, doting mother. She’s the type who when she signs up to volunteer for an event at her son’s elementary has to be told not to sign up for all the positions. Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) is a dapper, martini drinking, devil-may-care beauty. She’s not a mother so much as the woman Stephanie wishes she could be.

Odd, since Emily seems to wish she was anybody but Emily. At one point while their sons have a playdate the two moms chat at Emily’s house. Every gushing observation from Stephanie is met by a cutting reveal of the truth of the matter. “I love your house!” “It’s a money pit.” “You are so lucky.” “I want to blow my brains out.”

For all her wry smirking and impeccable fashion sense, Emily is a woman who seems incapable of happiness. But as the movie unfolds we begin to realize that Stephenie, with her cheery demeanor, is racked with grief over the death of her husband and brother. The two women seem drawn to each other, bonded by their deep unrelenting misery.

Feig directs comedies and comedies require tension and knowing when to release the tension. A Simple Favor bubbles with tension from the first frame and spends the rest of the movie building to a crescendo. The clever thing is how we don’t even realize the tension is even there until mid-way through the movie.

John Schwartzman, the cinematographer, has each scene carefully and artfully framed. From the get-go, A Simple Favor feels like a movie that has been tailored and crafted. Feig and Schwartzman ensure each line and scene are perfectly measured, cut, and lit. For all the stylization Feig never allows it to overwhelm the movie. Despite the bonkers twists and turns, the bug-nutty reveals, Emily and Stephanie are deeply grounded, albeit complex characters.

The script by Jessica Sharzer deftly plays with the what we as a society deem “the ideal.” Sly and subversive as the credits rolled I didn’t half wonder that despite the film’s posturing if it was actually rooting for Emily rather than Stephanie. Stepping back it’s important to note that A Simple Favor is told largely through Stephanie’s eyes. It goes without saying that by the end we soon realize Stephanie isn’t a reliable narrator.

Pay attention and you’ll notice the subtle difference in how Lively plays Emily in both Stephanie’s memories and how she plays her in her own memory. In some ways, the tragedy of A Simple Favor is Stephanie’s ultimate betrayal of Emily. While you may disagree with that after seeing the film, I would argue there are at all times three different narratives going on.

The first is Stephanie’s. The mommy vlogger who makes a new best friend with someone she sees as the ideal version of herself. The second is Emily’s who we see has lost so much and has realized she cannot bear to lose more. The third is Feig, who is bound by cinematic and narrative morality to feign siding with Stephanie but who we feel secretly and wholly sides with Emily.

Lively has long been an actress underserved by the industry. Feig allows for Lively to give a nuanced and textured performance as a mother who discovers she really will do anything for her child. Not to mention, like Feig himself, she plumbs the depth of a tortured psyche while dishing out razor sharp insults without so much as batting a perfectly brushed eyelash. It is the type of performance that at once moves us while vibrating at a near perfect melodramatic pitch.

Kendrick’s Stephanie is a coiled spring of neurosis and desperate loneliness. Her idolization of Emily borders on fetishization. Kendrick’s Stephanie is a woman uncomfortable with her own power but who sees in Emily the realization of her potential. It is a role Kendrick has played multiple times but here she manages to hit notes within the character that lesser directors have kept her from exploring.

When Stephanie begins to dance to a classic French pop song, Emily watches bemusedly. Stephanie realizes she is being watched and stops, embarrassed. We realize, much like Emily, we’ve just seen Stephanie be genuinely happy and carefree. It is a brief moment played out between the smiles of each actress while the awkwardness is smoothed over by Sharzer’s witty dialogue.

You may have noticed I have been circumspect about what exactly A Simple Favor is about exactly. I’m not a man who believes in spoilers. Increasingly I’ve taken to dismissing the notion of such a thing more and more.

But there are films in which going in knowing as little as possible is part of the fun. I’m not saying that if you happen to know what transpires before going in, A Simple Favor will be ruined for you. Far from it. But going in blind can add a layer of unbridled joy that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling.

I will merely say that A Simple Favor is a slick and stylish noir that is as dastardly as it is deliciously twisted. Sharzer’s script allows for the reading of something a little more than a budding friendship between Emily and Stephanie. At one point we even learn of a past woman loving woman relationship Emily had.

But Sharzer and Feig carefully and deliberately imply and play this without implying the stuff that is wrong with them is intricately tied to the bisexuality/lesbianism. In other words, they are aware of the psycho lesbian or the murderous bi-sexual tropes. Great strides are taken so that the sexuality or the intimacy shared is never viewed as the thing that is wrong or frowned upon.

Having drinks one afternoon Stephanie drunkenly confesses to Emily a long-buried and shameful secret. She breaks down crying, Emily holds her and the two kiss. Stephanie pulls away and apologizes but Emily dismisses it. “It’s okay, It’s nothing big. It’s just a kiss.”

The sex scenes in A Simple Favor, despite being directed by one, seem to eschew the male gaze. Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) throws Stephanie onto the bed and begins to joyously and sensually go down on her. The camera stays on Stephanie’s face as she writhes with ecstasy. While Sean is a pivotal character, at no point is either Feig or Sharzer ever really interested in his sexual satisfaction. Much like with Stephanie, his sex scenes with Emily are shot from the waist up. It’s Emily’s pleasure we’re meant to see and empathize with.

Noirs are a genre of film whose own definition is nebulous and at times weirdly undefined. Often it is defined by style more than content or setting. But what noir ultimately is, is the exploration of the tragedy of fate. When we watch a noir we see characters trapped either by their own obsessions, beliefs, actions, or circumstances. A Simple Favor is a noir that checks all of the above.

We witness a chain of events that once put into motion becomes impossible to derail or stop. The only option is to merely sit back, watch, and marvel at the simply gorgeous and impeccably tailored lady suits.

Few movies can pull off the high wire act of the film’s denouement. A clandestine meeting in a graveyard between Emily and Stephanie as they use a tombstone as a bar to fix some martinis. Emily is garnished in a brilliant white pinstriped suit, without an undershirt, twirling a cane, while spewing a delightful impossibly over the top exposition dump. Guys, I’m telling you it’s amazing.

Renee Ehrlich Kalfus did the costume design. I mention her name because her role in A Simple Favor is as important as Feig’s, Sharzer’s, Schwartzman’s, or the editor’s Brent White. Emily’s and Stephanie’s outfit tell stories as well as give us hints at their psyche.

Mark Twain famously quipped, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Women, especially have long been judged by the clothes they wear. Pleasing a patriarchy is a futile effort as any woman will tell you since no matter the outfit it seems as if women are in some ways always “asking for it.”

Kalfus uses color and style to give us a glimpse into not just how Emily and Stephanie think and feel. More importantly, the outfits give us an insight into how they wish to be perceived. In the beginning, the desire is controlling the perception of how the outside world views them. But as A Simple Favor tap dances toward the end it becomes clear they are trying to control how they are perceived by each other.

A Simple Favor is a slick and sumptuous noir that reminds us that there’s no reason this can’t be fun. Feig has made a joyous and knowing celebration of women behaving badly while never being judgmental or condescending about it. These women rejoice in their shortcomings, consequences be damned. Women are rarely allowed to be this complicated, this fun, or this weird and twisted. If A Simple Favor is any indication of what we’re missing then it is a crying shame.


Image Courtesy of Lionsgate

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Sherlock Sacrifices For Love In Elementary Finale

Veronica

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Finale time! Will my wild theories turn out absolutely right or tragically wrong? Who knows! But wrong. Definitely completely I was wrong.

Last episode ended with the dramatic revelation that the season baddie, Michael the Vaguely Creepy Serial Killer, was beaten to death. The lead suspect is Joan. The episode begins with FBI Agent Mallick interviewing Joan. She hasn’t been arrested yet, but the FBI has questions.

Joan doesn’t have a reliable alibi. That would be too easy. She was alone with her mom, who has dementia. Mallick thinks that Joan fixated on Michael. She wanted revenge on him for the way that Michael hurt Sherlock, his victims, and Joan herself. But Mallick has more than just motive to back up her suspicions.

The FBI has a tape. Michael called his friend from the last episode, Bazemore, to try and explain his actions. That puzzled me, because last episode, Michael said that Bazemore ODed. I assumed that Bazemore died and that was why Michael attacked Joan rather than continuing the cat-and-mouse game. I can’t figure out whether this was a continuity error, my misunderstanding, or somewhere in between.

Anyway. Michael called Bazemore and they have it on tape. As he’s talking, he’s interrupted mid-sentence. He says Joan’s name, and then there’s the sound of a beating. That sure sounds suspicious. Joan can’t explain it.

So back at the brownstone, she and Sherlock meet with a defense lawyer. She warns them that Mallick is a dangerous opponent. Then she literally doesn’t show up again for the rest of the episode, making the whole scene supremely unnecessary.

Alone at last, Sherlock asks Joan if she killed Michael. If she did, he’ll help her get away with it. But Joan insists she didn’t and in turn asks Sherlock if he did. Also no. Thus, they are left with finding the real killer. They can’t expect much, if any, help from the police, who will be under pressure from the FBI.

Nonetheless, Sherlock asks Gregson for the files on Michael’s murder. Gregson refuses. He says that if Joan is innocent, the evidence will prove it.

Sherlock isn’t willing to wait for that. He breaks into the morgue and steals the autopsy report on Michael. He also performs his own autopsy and takes pictures of the corpse to show to Joan.

There’s severe head wounds caused by a blunt object. That could explain why he said Joan’s name on the tape; maybe he was just confused. Also of note is that someone neatly stitched up his stab wound from Joan. Joan doesn’t think it was done in a hospital. It reminds her of emergency medicine of the kind that would have been performed in the Vietnam War. Wow, that’s a really specific thing to just know off the top of your head, but okay. It gives Sherlock an idea.

He goes to an NA meeting and sidles up to an older man named Denny. They met before at a meeting. Denny was a combat medic in the Vietnam War and he too knew Michael. When Sherlock starts asking questions, the guy gets shifty, but with some pressure he agrees to talk to Sherlock privately.

Denny hadn’t known that Michael was a killer. Michael had simply shown up on his doorstep, bleeding, with a story about an altercation with a drug dealer. Denny obligingly stitched Michael up and let him crash on the couch. He was still there in the morning, gone by the evening, and shortly later Denny heard on the news that Michael was a) dead and b) a serial killer. He was scared of getting in trouble himself so he didn’t go to the police. Sherlock promises to keep him out of trouble if he’ll just help Sherlock in return.

The dynamic duo investigates Denny’s house. It’s the last place Michael was alive…and maybe dead too. Sherlock finds traces of a lot of blood that was cleaned up in a hurry. This could be the scene of the murder. When they spray Luminol they find traces of footprints. A woman’s footprints, the same size as Joan’s shoes.

So now they know where Michael was killed. But once again, the clues point to Joan. How did the killer even know where to find Michael? Sherlock proposes a theory. Agent Mallick is the real murderer. Perhaps she was afraid that she would never catch Michael. Killing him was the only way of stopping him. Now she’s pinning it all on Joan. That would mean that our two detectives can’t go to the FBI with this new crime scene. It would only be used to further frame Joan.

That is, if the crime scene was even still there. But it isn’t. Sherlock persuaded Denny to burn his house down and gave him money in exchange. Joan is furious but Sherlock angrily stands his ground. He’ll do what he has to in order to protect her.

Meanwhile, the FBI is still chasing Joan. Mallick and some other agents interview Bell. He staunchly defends his friend, even when Mallick threatens to use the case to torpedo his chances with the Marshals.

Bell doesn’t like to be threatened. Shortly after the interview, he meets with Sherlock privately and hands over the police’s files on Michael. The two men share a tense moment of friendship and wordlessly shake hands.

Michael’s body was lying in a pile of trash. When murder victims are found in landfills or dumpsters, the trash around their body is cataloged for clues. In Michael’s case, that trash is interesting. Joan and Sherlock know the murder was in Queens. Yet, his body was among trash from Harlem. How does that happen?

Joan and Sherlock check out a facility for garbage trucks and chat with a particular sanitation worker there. When the two first began investigating Michael’s case, you may remember that they discovered a man who had been convicted of one of Michael’s murder. With Sherlock and Joan’s help, he went free. This sanitation worker, a mechanic for the trucks, is the father of that man.

Sherlock thinks that fact is important. Obviously the mechanic has no reason to be fond of Michael. Maybe Michael’s killer recruited his help in disposing of the body. The mechanic could have stolen one of the trucks, driven out to Queens, picked up the body, then dumped it. That could explain why the trash was from Harlem.

The mechanic angrily denies it. First of all, the truck facility is guarded and all the trucks are GPS tracked. There’s no way that anyone could steal one. Secondly, if someone did kill Michael, he thinks that person is a hero. He isn’t going to help anyone, even the people that saved his son, catch Michael’s killer.

As the detectives continue to explore the facility, Joan wonders if maybe it was the other way around. Rather than taking a truck to Michael, maybe the killer brought Michael to the truck. It would be easier to sneak a body in than a truck out. If so, there facility has security footage. Her face would be on camera.

But nothing’s ever that easy. When Sherlock and Joan ask the guards for the security footage, they discover someone beat them to it. A law enforcement officer came to the facility and took the tapes, leaving behind no copies. Sherlock suspiciously asks if the agent was Mallick.

But it wasn’t Mallick. The cop was a man named Gregson. Are you thinking, “ohh nooo” yet?

Captain Gregson returns to his home to find it tossed. Sherlock is waiting in the dining room. He was looking for the tape but couldn’t find a copy. Gregson must have destroyed it.

Why would he do that? For one simple reason. Hannah killed Michael. After all, he killed her roommate, her best friend. In the time since then, she became fixated on revenge. She investigated his life, learned who all his friends were, so she knew he’d go to Denny after Joan hurt him.

It was never supposed to be pinned on Joan. Hannah didn’t even know that Michael was recording when she killed him, nor did she hear him say Joan’s name. (As for why he did that, we never really get an explanation.) She disposed of his body.

Gregson never knew of any of it until afterward. But eventually she came clean to him and he realized that her one vulnerability would be the security footage at the sanitation facility. She’s his daughter. He did what he had to in order to protect her.

Now they’re at an impasse. Sherlock demands he come clean to the FBI. Gregson refuses. He insists it will all blow over and the lack of evidence will vindicate Joan. Sherlock points out that regardless, her career and reputation will suffer. Gregson blames Sherlock for Michael’s involvement in their lives in the first place.

It’s Gregson’s daughter. It’s Sherlock’s best friend. Neither is willing to budge and they part in anger.

Sherlock returns to the brownstone and updates Joan. He thinks that they should tell the FBI anyway. They don’t have proof, but if the FBI is doing their due diligence, they should at least investigate the Gregsons. That could be enough.

But Joan understands why Hannah did what she did. She doesn’t want Hannah to go to jail or for the captain to get in trouble. She agrees with Gregson; maybe it’ll just blow over. They should wait things out. It could make her adoption chances harder, maybe impossible. But she’s willing to take that risk. Sherlock still wants to protect her, but Joan says that if he’s her partner, he should support her.

At this point, Sherlock does what he always does. He takes things into his own hands and goes to meet with Hannah Gregson herself. She too never wanted Joan to be a suspect. Sherlock tells her to confess, to admit where the murder weapon is.

The FBI come for Joan. But not to arrest her. Mallick has news for her. She’s no longer a suspect. Someone else confessed to the murder of Michael and even provided the murder weapon. But it wasn’t Hannah. It was Sherlock.

Well, not Sherlock himself. He turned himself over to the British consulate, struck up some sort of deal with MI6, and they sent a messenger with Sherlock’s confession. Britain is refusing to extradite him to the US and if Sherlock ever steps foot in the US again, he’ll be arrested.

Joan returns home in shock and finds Sherlock there. He’s not supposed to be in the country anymore, but he had to see her before he left. This was the only way he could think of to extract all of them from this situation without anyone going to jail for it. Joan is angry he didn’t try harder to fight, but for him it was worth it to protect Joan. She saved his life and taught him his life was worth saving. They emotionally say good-bye and finally admit they aren’t just partners; they love each other.

For the final scene, we see Sherlock in England, in the famous 221B, consulting with a client. But he isn’t really paying attention to the man’s story of a runaway bride. His neighbor next door is distracting him with a tremendous noise. He storms next door and knocks. The door opens to reveal, of course, Joan.

They walk down the street together. They have work to do.

Thoughts:

  • I predicted that Moriarty killed Michael. Hoo boy, I was wrong! I absolutely did not see it coming that Hannah was the killer! That was a deft twist. It made sense but surprised me.
  • That being said, why was there so much storyline this season about Moriarty if she wasn’t going to actually do anything?
  • The scene where Sherlock and Joan said goodbye was very emotional and touching but a little silly considering that obviously they weren’t going to really part. I was sitting there tearful, but also thinking to myself, “But why doesn’t Joan just move to England too.” And she did! I was worried, though, that the line about them loving each other was going to lead into a kiss or something, especially with all that romantic crap a few episodes ago. I’m very glad it didn’t.
  • It’s intriguing that the shots of them in England felt like a natural end to the show. Except…season 7 is already in the works. Hm.
  • So wait, is this the last we’re going to see of the rest of the American cast? No more Bell? We know he’s going to the Marshals, so he’ll be okay, but no goodbye scene? That’s sad. Farewell, Bell. I’ll miss you!
  • This is our season finale, so see you all next season!

Images courtesy of CBS

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