Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Last Week in Pop Culture #31

With the official 2013-2014 TV season drawing to a close last week, and with me (mostly) caught up on the show I comment on regularly, as well as another looming work trip threatening to throw off my regular schedule once again, this will be the last regularly scheduled "Last Week in Pop Culture" post. I reserve the right to drop one in periodically, if there's something of note I'd like to talk about, but I won't have one up (nearly) every Saturday going forward.

However, I am hoping to resurrect my Retro Reviews of The Simpsons sometime soon (once I get back into the groove after my trip and give myself a little break). So look for those again shortly! 

And, of course, I've still got three X-aminations posts a week to do, plus all my stuff at Sound on Sight and Capeless Crusader, and Dr. Bitz has three more Game of Thrones reviews to do, so you won't be lacking for content from us this summer, regardless!  

Around the Web
Just one additional post this week, my weekly Market Maven column from Monday. 

X-Men: Days of Future Past


Not bad. It wasn't the greatest X-Men film, but it was entertaining, well-constructed, well-acted. The Sentinels were handled well, most of the action scenes were top notch, and kudos for wiping out most of The Last Stand. In the middle of the pack, but near the top (I'd still put X2 and First Class above it, for sure).

Like First Class, I thought this one had some pacing problems, though in the opposite direction. Whereas my biggest criticism of First Class was that, particularly in the middle, it was too fast-paced, to the point where the second act almost felt like one big montage and entire scenes and set pieces and locales flashed by in minutes, this film felt like it slowed down way too much after Paris and before the last big set piece in DC.

Part of that, I think, comes from the fact that the 70s era X-Men are lacking characters with flashy powers, so once they bid adieu to Quicksilver and unless Magneto was doing something, the action just wasn't as visually exciting as in the future set scenes.

Seriously, that stuff with Blink was pretty damned awesome. I'm in the "Blink is not as cool as everyone else seems to think" camp, but then I see this, and I start to get why she's so popular.

Having Bishop charge up his gun was just dumb. I get that "has a big gun" is part of his character bio, but I'd almost rather they skip the "charge up" part if they insist on giving him a gun. 

McAvoy and Fassbender continued to kill it. I'd watch an entire movie of just them hanging out (or Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, for that matter).

I get that they wanted Kitty to play a role in the plot, especially since her original role was usurped by the popularity of Wolverine, but I wasn't clear if she was using some kind of device to send minds back in time (it seemed like she had some wiring or gloves or something on her fingers), or if that was supposed to be some kind of extension of her mutant power (like, she can phase...minds...through time?)?

Similarly, I'm not sure that the whole "young Xavier is taking drugs so he can walk but is powerless" added all that much to the story. I mean, I know why they did it, but I'm not sure that what was gained was worth the obvious artificiality of the plot device.

In terms of continuity wanks, why did Future Wolverine have adamantium claws? He lost the adamantium in The Wolverine (which led on from The Last Stand, which was part of the future timeline), and while he obviously could have just gotten it back at some point offscreen, the fact that his claws were metal and not bone never factored into the future story, so why not just have him slash Kitty with bone claws and avoid this question entirely?

Also, loathe as I am to recall the first Wolverine solo film, that movie established that Wolverine and Sabretooth fought in Vietnam and first met Stryker there, yet when this movie opens in 1973, Wolverine is stateside and hasn't met Stryker yet. No time travel had occurred at that point, so there's no reason anything at that point in time should be different.

At the end of the day, this movie needs to be applauded for one thing over all else: at least they brought back Cyclops (even if he is still just a dick cockblocking the character everyone in the audience has been conditioned to love). 

Once Upon a Time: Snow Drift & There's No Place Like Home


Given that finales on this series usually revolve around the defeat of the villain-du-jour and a setup for the next season (or half-season) status quo, it's something of a curious decision to hand over this two-part finale to what was essentially a character piece for Emma. Granted, it was a character piece couched in a pretty blatant Back to the Future homage, but still. Not a bad thing (this was a largely entertaining two hours of the show, some clunky/obvious dialogue aside), but definitely a curious one given the show's history.

As for that homage, wow. All of that had to be intentional, right? I mean, even the botching of Snow and Charming's first meeting involved one of Emma's parents being in a tree. Then you had Rumple as Doc, Emma battling her parent's nemesis, Biff/Regina, it's all there. I was half expecting Emma to play "Johnny B. Goode" before returning to Storybrooke, at which point she'd return home to find a new jeep waiting for her.

I didn't see the Marion thing coming (though I should have), but it did make me laugh, just from a "of course that's who she is" standpoint. While this is obviously going to have repercussions next season, I really hope it doesn't mean a return to straight-up, boring Evil Regina next season (especially once Robin learns Marion originally died at Regina's hand, adding a further wrinkle to the situation).

I was fully expecting the woman who turned out to be Marion to turn out to be next season's Big Bad (since the finale has to do some setup in that direction); instead, that turns out to be Elsa from Frozen, emerging from the urn Hook disturbed. I'm betting they haven't cast her yet (since we never saw her face). I'm also curious if they're going to make her an actual villain; something tells me that wouldn't sit right with the legions of Elsa fans out there, whom the show is obviously courting. 

Given that Rumple was in full sparkly regalia, and there was a CGI portal spinning behind them, Morrison and Carlyle really killed that scene when Emma told him about Neal, and begged Rumple to let his son die a hero (even if the circumstances of that death still remain dubious, in terms of narrative necessity). 

I'm glad Hook and Emma finally got together, not because I was shipping them or anything, but just so the show can move on from that particular set of story beats. 

Was Emma's Princess Leia alias the closest we'll ever get to a Star Wars nod on this show, now that the galaxy far, far away is in the same corporate house as Snow White, Belle and Frozen? Yeah, probably.

Red's back (again)! Always a pleasure to see Meghan Ory; hopefully, with Intelligence officially cancelled now, she'll be back more next season. 

Aurora is in Storybrooke now; turns out Zelena's magic broke just before she gave birth. Sure, whatever show. At least they explained what triggered the time portal. 

Agents of SHIELD: The Beginning of the End 


Having Coulson and the gang rebuild SHIELD is a pretty decent setup for the next season. It gives the show a specific purpose, while maintaining the "working without a net" feel of the last few episodes. Plus, it opens a window for future SHIELD appearances in the MCU. 

Keeping Ward around for next season isn't exactly a surprise, and in principle, I have no problem with it. I just worry about the inevitable redemption arc, after one arc where he's still a bad guy, then another arc where he has to team up with SHIELD against a greater evil, followed by the arc where he decides maybe he wants back in but nobody accepts him and we're supposed to feel bad for him, followed by the arc where he does get accepted, followed by all the time after that when we forget about all the people he's killed.

Skye realizing what the "Incentive Program" meant was actually pretty clever, and by giving Deathlok the means to turn on Garrett, she proved herself to be an effective member of the team without being too Mary Sue-ish.

Also, Deathlok turning on Garrett was a pretty great "F@#K yeah!" moment. 

Has there every been a moment more Whedon-y than when Garrett seemingly comes back from the dead, only to be shot by Coulson from offscreen? 

I have no idea what to make of Fitz's injuries, in terms of what they could possibly be setting up for next season. I do hope Triplett sticks around.

I'm not sure I quite like the idea that Fury brought back Coulson just because he's always been the heart of SHIELD, but it is a very Whedon-esque notion.

So, is the new Koenig a twin, a clone or an LMD? I'm thinking LMD, because if they're not going to use it for Coulson, they've got to use it somewhere.

Other Shows I Watched 
Silicon Valley "Signaling Risk", Veep "Detroit", 24: Live Another Day 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM" " Glee "Opening Night", Suburgatory "Dalia Nicole Smith", Modern Family "The Wedding (Part 2)", The Big Bang Theory "The Proton Transmogrification"

Quotable Quotes
Agents of SHIELD
Skye: I have a weapon much better than a bomb that will absolutely destroy you.
Ward: And why is that?
Skye: Because you slept with her, and she’s really pissed off.

Coulson: Think he learned his lesson?
Fury: He learned something.

15 comments:

  1. You can't do a Days of Future Past without a Summers, I guess.

    Can't get excited of the movie, but I found it highly appropriate when Anna Paquin's only Rogue scene was announced to be cut off from the film, in light of the scene in Uncanny X-Men 188 where Rogue silently notes that there was no mention of her in Rachel's narration and wonders if she was dumped into some unmarked, back-alley grave.

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  2. One thing about Marion- didn't Robin tell Neal that she took ill and died? Why would Robin think she died from illness if she disappeared one day and Regina executed some people the next day?

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  3. I'd def rank DOFP over First Class. My rankings:

    1. X2
    2. DOFP
    3. First Class
    4. X1
    5. The Wolverine
    6. X3
    7. Wolverine: Origins

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  4. I'd probably go

    1. First Class
    2. X2
    3. DOFP
    4. X1
    5. X3

    I haven't seen The Wolverine, but it has to be better than Origins

    7. Origins

    I actually really liked the training montage-like middle section of First Class. That's the only real time I can think of that the X-Men actually train with their powers in the films. And I think the Cuban Missile Crisis is still the biggest ending they've had. Plus they made the blue and yellow suits work! That bumps it up a notch for me.

    I'm mildly concerned that they seem to be giving Apocalypse a randomized power set for the next movie, but we'll see. And for all the flack Last Stand gets for killing Cyke, Singer really scorched the earth with that character before Ratner got hold of him.

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  5. "That's the only real time I can think of that the X-Men actually train with their powers in the films."

    There was the brief danger room sequence in X3.

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  6. There was the brief danger room sequence in X3.

    Or was there? Time Travel!!!

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  7. One great thing DOFP did was fix a lot of the continuity problems throughout the movies.

    One bad thing it did was create more continuity problems.

    And so many of them could have been fixed or addressed with small bits of dialogue.

    A big one for me is that, so, Trask captures Mystique and they make super sentinels.

    Then why is mystique in X1 and 2? Shouldn't Trask have her? Unless she escaped somehow (which, if that's the case, just tell us that. problem solved).

    I have a bunch more that we bitched about after we saw it in theaters, but i can't think of them off the top of my head (the bone claws was a big one for us. (oh, also, does this mean that wolverine never becomes weapon x? Because presumably Mystique takes him at the end)

    But, mostly, i really enjoyed the movie. I giggled like a school girl when they nodded to the quicksilver mageneto relationship. It was just fun and reminds me why i've always loved the xmen. Yes i'm a little sad that we're not ever going to have xmen on the same level as we have avengers and the other marvel movies, but if they keep making them like this (even with continuity problems) i'll keep seeing them.

    And Apocalypse was so fucking awesome. I love apocalypse a lot, though, so he could have been reading a newspaper and i would have fangirled out

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  8. @Teemu: I found it highly appropriate when Anna Paquin's only Rogue scene was announced to be cut off from the film

    She's still in there, briefly, but given how little I care about Movie Rogue, I didn't mind the absence at all.

    Anonymous: One thing about Marion- didn't Robin tell Neal that she took ill and died?

    I honestly can't remember - I'm pretty sure he discussed it with Belle at some point too, but I don't remember the details.

    @wwk5d: I'd def rank DOFP over First Class. My rankings

    I'd swap DOFP and First Class, but otherwise we're the same. It's been while since I've seen X2 all the way through, but I suspect it holds up.

    I haven't seen The Wolverine, but it has to be better than Origins

    It is. The third act has some problems, but it's actually a pretty solid film, with more nods to the Miller LS than you'd expect.

    I actually really liked the training montage-like middle section of First Class.

    The actual montages, I like. My problem is just that the entire middle section, montages and not, is so rapid paced it all almost *feels* like a montage. We're gathering the team! We're in Russia! Now we're at the X-Mansion! Now we're training! Now we're having an introspective chat!" Oddly enough, the pacing seems to slow down for the big action finale, simply because everyone is in relatively the same place for it, so we're not ricocheting from location to location quite so fast.

    And for all the flack Last Stand gets for killing Cyke, Singer really scorched the earth with that character before Ratner got hold of him.

    Yeah, my biggest beef with Cyclops' death is that it happens offscreen, and no one (in the film) seems to care. It isn't even verified until the very end, when we see the tombstone. No one could even be bothered to say "I am sad about Scott's death". All of which just underscored the point that nobody gave a shit about Movie Cyclops, which, of course, bugs me.

    But Singer certainly didn't do the character any favors: in the first two films he plays less like the nerdy guy trying to hang onto his girlfriend in the face of the cooler Wolverine and more like a smarmy jackass standing in the way of the true romantic pairing, and then he spends what little screen time he gets in X2 brainwashed. Blegh.

    @Sarah: Then why is mystique in X1 and 2? Shouldn't Trask have her? Unless she escaped somehow (which, if that's the case, just tell us that. problem solved).

    I don't think Trask captured her in the original timeline, he just got a sample of her blood, and from that, was able to figure out how to make Morphin' Sentinels.

    oh, also, does this mean that wolverine never becomes weapon x? Because presumably Mystique takes him at the end

    Yeah, I'm not sure where, if anywhere, they're going with that. I suppose it depends on whether J-Law or Hugh Jackman come back for the next movie. I got the impression they just wanted to show the audience that Mystique was still out there, rather than setup a specific plot point.

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  9. I quite enjoyed DoFP, maybe as much as X2. In terms of continuity... whatever. I don't care. Time travel time-travelled everything up. All that mattered to me was good acting, dialogue, and action (and holy moley did they do a fantastic job with Quicksilver, Blink, and Iceman) and I thought DoFP delivered.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  10. Concerning Wolvie and Striker: Meeting him in 1973 was probably the first time Logan REMEMBERS meeting Striker for the first time, but it doesn't mean that it was first time they actually met. Remember that Wolverine's memory has been fucked with dozens of times over the past few decades.

    Overall, I'd put rank the movies like so: DOFP, FC, X2, X1, The Wolverine, W:XO, and X3.

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  11. "but it's actually a pretty solid film, with more nods to the Miller LS than you'd expect."

    ... unless you expected more than one. :)

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  12. I'm sorry for falling out of the groove on these. Happy summer hiatus!

    X-Men: Days of Future Past

    My ranking of the X-Films is pretty much in line with the rest: X2, First Class, DOFP, X1, The Wolverine, X3, Origins — with the caveat that I haven't rewatched any of the older ones in a while.

    // McAvoy and Fassbender continued to kill it. I'd watch an entire movie of just them hanging out //

    I really want them to do a limited run of Godot together just for the total mindfrak.

    Kitty's ability to send people('s minds) back in time was not explained at all, but that was par for the course in the future scenes. Nobody save Xavier and Magneto had any characterization. They were a bunch of powers/visuals, that's all. I guess Bobby came with whatever residual memory the audience retained from previous films, and maybe Kitty too, but Storm being a total cipher for the entire series kinda evens that slate. Given that there were fewer of them than in Last Stand and that the powers/visuals were mostly pretty cool, I suppose it's not as big a mess, yet the flip side of that is that since the group was relatively small the lack of any personality is much more glaring.

    Although I'm pretty sure I've never read a story with Blink in it, so she's not one of "my" X-Men by a... um... longshot, I agree that those portals rocked — getting to see the location that was being entered or left behind through them was just really cool, especially at the end.

    Wolverine having adamantium claws wasn't a problem for me, because clearly lots has happened between The Wolverine and 2020ish. The fact that DOFP clears away not just Last Stand but the first two films as well, now that sort-of makes my brain itch, even if there was no way around it if this film was gonna be set in the '70s to continue on from First Class; so does, as you say, how Stryker jibes or doesn't with Origins, and even more so the hash made by Magneto and Mystique out of what originally happened turning the dystopic future into a bright one when by all rights things could easily be just as bad. Had the movie been even a tad better with, to borrow a phrase, all the "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff", I would be more prone to take the ending on faith, but I feel left with less a sense of "Look at all the uncharted territory we can explore in those 50 years!" and more "You have a lot of 'splainin' to do." For all I know that plays into Apocalypse, of course.

    Given that Scott and maybe even Storm haven't been born when history changes, I would've been totally fine with them not showing up in the revised future so that they could be recast and rebooted. I may not be the Cyclops fan you are, Teebore, if only because I didn't follow him as long as deeply as you did thanks to bailing on the X-Men decades ago, but Scott is the X-Men to me. He and Ororo really both deserved better.

    Also, I totally call frumious bandersnatch on Quicksilver watching the tense White House standoff on TV when he fricking lives in DC and based on the (totally awesome) Pentagon sequence he could literally be there in a minute or less.

    I hated that First Class was set in 1962, a year before X-Men began publication, like the generational changes to the mythos weren't screwy enough, yet given that I feel a sort of perverse admiration towards DOFP being set during the reprint years. We have yet to get one of the semi-reboot/prequel/whatever films that takes place during a time that actual new X-Men comics were published.

    The Apocalypse tag confused me because I thought that was a chick, and while I know next to nothing about the character — Egypt? Okay... — I do know, or thought I knew, that he was a he, and a much bulkier he than he/she looked to be in the tag, although the movies don't necessarily keep to that sort of thing.

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  13. Once Upon a Time: Snow Drifts; There's No Place Like Home

    I was sure that Emma was going to end up being Cinderella when we got to that ball.

    Gold not caring (or pretending not to care) whether the dagger is hidden like Belle wants just makes no sense. As much as she's saying that she trusts him, she's also saying that it needs to be safeguarded — and she's right. If he wants the ruse to work he should be playing along.

    Agents of SHIELD: The Beginning of the End

    One big reason why I haven't commented on these posts for so long is that my feelings about this show and The Winter Soldier are complicated. I think SHIELD got really good, yeah, and the movie might be the best Marvel film yet, but the whole Hydra thing was just a little too big for me. Life stuff prevented me from finishing some blogposts on the subject, and I kept punting on my comments here so as not to be writing over myself, and conversations here kept growing in length and continuing the next week and blech. I do think the setup for next season is a good starting point, and like I said I really appreciated how things came into focus the back half of this season; however, I just don't quite buy SHIELD completely falling apart, dismantling itself or being dismantled, both as a gigantic narrative precipice to fall over in theory and in execution how that gigantitude hasn't been reflected consistently enough or well enough in the show. We can always pick this up again in the fall.

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  14. @Blam: [Scott] and Ororo really both deserved better.

    Indeed. I'm not the world's biggest Storm fan (and her increasing importance in the film franchise even while she continued to not really do anything added to that), but both are pivotal X-Men characters who were handled pretty poorly.

    Also, I totally call frumious bandersnatch on Quicksilver watching the tense White House standoff on TV when he fricking lives in DC and based on the (totally awesome) Pentagon sequence he could literally be there in a minute or less.

    Ha! Good point. His presence could have jazzed up the finale too, visually. I think the filmmakers didn't realize what an asset they had in the character, considering the way they just kinda wrote him out after his big action scene.

    while I know next to nothing about the character — Egypt? Okay... — I do know, or thought I knew, that he was a he, and a much bulkier he than he/she looked to be in the tag

    He is a he, and he is from ancient Egypt, but he hasn't always been as bulky as he commonly appears now. Whilst growing up/coming into power in ancient Egypt, he was relatively normal, size-wise, not unlike how he appeared in the teaser scene. For what it's worth. I wouldn't be surprised if he was bulkier in the actual film.

    As much as she's saying that she trusts him, she's also saying that it needs to be safeguarded — and she's right. If he wants the ruse to work he should be playing along.

    I love that he actually just slides it back into her shopping bag, all like, "it'll be just fine here, dear". Like, he isn't even suggesting a realistically unsafe hiding place, he's not even suggesting a hiding place at all. Agreed, it's pretty dumb, just in terms of maintaining the ruse.

    however, I just don't quite buy SHIELD completely falling apart, dismantling itself or being dismantled, both as a gigantic narrative precipice to fall over in theory and in execution how that gigantitude hasn't been reflected consistently enough or well enough in the show.

    I get that. Like I've said a few times, I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of SHIELD just being gone now (and that the SHIELD we saw was retroactively so heavily comprised), which is why I'm glad the new status quo is all about rebuilding. The MCU movies perhaps made too big a thing out of SHIELD, but I still think it's an important element of the universe, and needs a presence in the movies moving forward.

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  15. @FuryofFirestorm: Concerning Wolvie and Striker: Meeting him in 1973 was probably the first time Logan REMEMBERS meeting Striker for the first time, but it doesn't mean that it was first time they actually met. Remember that Wolverine's memory has been fucked with dozens of times over the past few decades.

    True, but the movie made it clear this was also the first time Stryker met Wolverine too (ie he was surprised to see/didn't know Wolverine), even though, according to Origins, at this point in the unaltered timeline, Wolverine should have already been working with Sabretooth, Blob, Wraith, etc. in Stryker's mutant hit squad.

    @Jason: ... unless you expected more than one.

    Mercy killing the bear, tracking down the poacher in Jose's Bar, Japan, Shingen, ninjas, Yukio, samurai swords, Mariko, a weakened Wolverine...they're not all the most specific references, granted, but they're there. :)

    Even Viper and Silver Samurai's presence can be attributed to the Claremont/Smith follow-up in #172-#173, even if both characters barely resemble their comic book counterparts and don't do the same things. Just their presence (instead of two random characters) seems like a nod.

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