‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ Take 2

I never thought we’d see it happen, but I’ve been hoping for awhile now that someone would take another stab at a live action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Evidently, series co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and the folks in charge of Netflix feel the same way because that’s what we’re getting. Not a sequel series, such as the almost as great Legend of Korra, or a prequel or a spinoff. A full on remake.

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is every bit as terrible as you remember – though also kind of hilarious – but personally I feel like it still doesn’t catch enough shit for whitewashing its leads. In their statement, DiMartino and Konietzko give us the assurance of a “culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast,” so at least that base is covered. As for everything else wrong with that movie, being better than TLA is an extremely low bar to clear.

I totally missed out on Avatar the first time around; hell, I saw TLA first. I didn’t check out the series itself until 2013, when it became my go to for Netflix-and-chill on hungover weekend mornings. I am living proof that being late to a party is better than not showing up, because I was all in before even finishing the first season. I don’t love Avatar quite as much as Star Wars, Harry Potter or The Incredibles, but at this point it’s planted firmly in my personal canon of “Shit that is Awesome.” Hell, it even inspired one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever written.

The world of Avatar has magic (“bending”), hybrid animals, spirits, otherworldly dimensions, steampunk vehicles and huge cities and continents. I’ve no idea how Netflix is going to visualize all of that, though they did pretty awesome work on the new Lost in Space; maybe they’re ready to step up to the next level. I’m just trying very hard to not think about that other Netflix series that featured mystical kung fu and the occasional dragon. It went…poorly.

The world doesn’t need another live action Avatar adaptation, but I’m choosing to be optimistic about it for the following reasons:

  1. It could not possibly be worse than The Last Airbender. DiMartino and Konietzko would have to actively try to make their live action version shittier and the effort involved to do so would kill them.
  2. No one named Jackson Rathbone will appear in this series.
  3. It could grow the fan base and maybe get newcomers to check out the original show and Korra; like, for instance, certain family members who have weird hang-ups about watching cartoons.
  4. A whole new generation will get to here the words “then everything changed when the fire nation attacked.”
  5. I will probably like it more than the four sequels James Cameron is still making for his Avatar.

See? We have so much to look forward to.

The Hillary Step Had Some Amazing Troll Reviews

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The Hillary Step had four and a half stars on Google. It was open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but not on Wednesdays or weekends. This screenshot and all the subsequent ones were captured from my phone.

Living with a baby means that sleep is occasionally hard to come by. She’s not my kid so I don’t actually have to partake in the raising process (thank Christ) but it can still be pretty rough. One of my favorite activities is Googling stuff and I’m especially prone to this when I’m feeling half awake. So one morning after a particularly restless night, I decided to Google Mount Everest’s famed Hillary Step, the 39 foot tall rock face which was the final obstacle climbers had to traverse before reaching the summit. Due to an earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015, the step is no longer with us but thankfully we have some amazing troll reviews on Google that will help us remember it for all eternity.

Here’s some good old fashioned cheeky bullshit:

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As expected, there’s a reference to a certain Everest book you may have heard of. Kidding aside, it’s a terrific read that holds up well 21 years later. Check it out if you haven’t already.

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Faux restaurant ratings are pretty common with these troll reviews. The highlight here is Jack Rollet Chhetri, since everything he’s saying is technically accurate; especially regarding his fifth point.

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Liam Keating had me at “pro mountain critic:”

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This one appears to have been written by Dr. Steve Brule. I must have missed the Everest edition of Check It Out!

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This Google search was an extremely productive case of doing nothing at all. I hope there’s many more in my lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln Lounge: 2008-2018

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The Lincoln Lounge and some of its Lincolns. Photo by me.

My favorite bar closed its doors on June 30.

I have two conflicting emotions about this: I feel bad (duh) but I also feel bad about feeling bad. Given literally everything currently going on in the world, feeling bummed about your favorite bar shutting down feels embarrassingly trivial. That being said, it is a place that is strongly associated with a handful of close friends of mine, one of whom is no longer with us. It really does feel like I can’t go home again.

Lincoln first opened in 2008 but I didn’t become a regular visitor until 2010; maybe 2011. While living in Reno, it was my go-to spot. Somewhere along the way, I became a member of its fabled Mug Club; to join you had to drink all of their beers (initially 70 but it grew to more than a hundred) within the span of a year. For your efforts, you were awarded your own mug and a t-shirt. It felt impressive at the time, though in retrospect it doesn’t feel like that much of an accomplishment. Are you willing to spend tons of money on beer and also to drink it? If yes, then you have what it takes to join the Mug Club.

Granted, that one year deadline sneaks up on you much faster than you anticipate. There were times when I went to some fairly ludicrous lengths to keep myself on schedule. On multiple occasions, I would park my car at my fraternity’s house, walk into Downtown Reno, go to Lincoln and knock anywhere from three to four beers off the list and then I’d stumble back to the house and crash on the couch. I ended up finishing with about a week left, and I drank the last seven beers in one night.

It was worth it, I swear.

In addition to my ascension into the club, Lincoln saw host to my informal graduation party in December of 2012, my moving away party almost exactly a year later and at least one spirited game of darts with the roommates. It was also the site of my first – and so far, only – puke and rally, which was immediately followed by a brief nap on the pool table. It’s that kind of place.

I’ve been back in the Bay Area for the last five years, so opportunities to drink at Lincoln have been scarce. I typically made a point to visit at least once whenever I was in town. The coolest thing to happen there recently was when I popped in around midnight right after seeing Mastodon at the Reno Ballroom (an awesome show despite the terrible venue) and I was promptly recognized as a club member and had my beer served in a mug. That night might have been perfect.

When I heard Lincoln was shutting down, I felt like I had no choice. I absolutely had to drive up to Reno for its last two nights in business. June 29 was the last ever Soul Night (DJ’d soul and funk music from the ’60s and ’70s, dancing, etc) and June 30 featured an album release party for a local band called Pink Awful. I had never been to either a Soul Night (Lincoln didn’t allow patrons to work on their Mug Club lists on those nights, so fuck that) or a record release party, so I got two new experiences out of this sendoff.

It’s not a massive place, but Lincoln got a huge turn out for the last Soul Night. Even Pink Awful (they were fine) managed to pull in a respectably sized audience. I didn’t realize just how many people could fit in that establishment until last weekend. I managed to meet up with four friends and even ran into a fifth whom I hadn’t seen in forever. We had a jolly time; I even got a couple of free green tea shots out of it.

Long live the Lincoln Lounge.

‘Infinity War’ Train of Thought

After seeing it in a packed house on Sunday night, I can say with confidence that The Avengers: Infinity War was worth the wait, six years after the first Avengers flick teased us about who was really pulling the strings. The thoughts below are packed to the brim with universe-shattering spoilers, so please read no further unless you’ve seen the movie

  1. I’m choosing to believe that Valkyrie, Korg and Miek got most of the Asgardians to safety and that the dead ones we see chose to stay behind and help Thor, Hulk, Loki and Heimdall hold off Thanos and the Black Order. People love Korg and Valkyrie, so I’m confident they didn’t get killed offscreen.
  2. Sheesh, poor Loki and Heimdall. At any rate Loki wasn’t going to stick around forever (being a fan favorite can only keep you alive for so long) but dying while trying to doublecross his former benefactor seems like a worthy exit for the God of Mischief.
  3. The cool thing about Thanos’ lieutenants, the Black Order, is how new they are. This collection of lackeys first showed up in New Avengers Vol 3 #8, which was published in 2013. Black Order creators Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opeña and Jim Cheung must be pretty psyched right now.
  4. Hulk’s refusal to appear is pretty easy to figure out: he has never lost a fight and getting wrecked by Thanos has him rattled. I’m 100% positive that’s what’s going on there.
  5. There really is no better way to demonstrate just how different from each other Tony Stark and Stephen Strange actually are then by having them hang out for almost two and a half hours.
  6. Speaking of Dr. Strange, I only just realized there are now two Steves on the Avengers roster.
  7. And while I’m on the subject of extremely trivial details, just whose bass guitar was that in the Avengers HQ? Other than Cap (who is a sketch artist), we haven’t gotten any inkling that any of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are artistically inclined.
  8. Cap stepping out of the shadows cued to the original Avengers theme is a moment for the ages. Holy shit, that was awesome.
  9. I don’t exactly dislike them, but I’ve always found it hard to care about the business with Scarlet Witch and Vision. Thus, it was to my great surprise that I found my eyes watering during their last scene. How did Infinity War pull that off?
  10. The dude Peter Dinklage plays, Dwarven weapon smith Eitri, is in fact a character from the comics (though a somewhat obscure one). I had heard beforehand that Dinklage was in Infinity War, but I assumed he was voicing a CGI character; getting to see his face was a pleasant surprise.
  11. The only fan theory I took into this movie with me was that the Guardians would help Thor re-forge his hammer. I was kind of right and it was kind of cool.
  12. “Crying” was very far down the list of stuff I expected Thanos to do in Infinity War. I won’t say anything further here.
  13. Also unexpected: Red Skull showing up again (though he isn’t played by Hugo Weaving).
  14. Those gross, six-legged mutant alien dog things? Also from the comics.
  15. About the ending: we know there’s going to be a part two, and that superheros traditionally don’t stay dead and that there’s an Infinity Stone that can turn back time AND that a bunch of the new heroes are played by actors who are signed to huge multi-film contracts (like Disney is really going to consign Black Panther to oblivion for eternity after his movie made them billions of dollars). So I get the criticisms about how Thanos winning isn’t going to last. That being said, every actor – Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in particular – sold the hell out that shit. Goddamn, that ending was a gut punch.
  16. There were a lot of upset and confused kids at the show I saw. Could the end of Infinity War be a “No, I am your father” moment for that generation? I’m thinking yes.
  17. Dr. Strange is playing some sort of long game; I can feel it.
  18. My money is on Loki and Heimdall staying dead. Gamora is a 50/50 toss-up. All of the people who got “dusted” are coming back for sure.
  19. Infinity War has given a whole new meaning to my favorite Cannibal Corpse song, “Pounded into Dust.”
  20. FYI, the post-credit teaser is hinting at Captain Marvel. Her movie is scheduled for March 8, 2019 and will be followed by the next Avengers on May 3 of the same year.
  21. Unless the movie itself says otherwise, I’m going to assume that Ant-man and the Wasp takes place concurrently with Spider-Man: Homecoming  or Black Panther. It’s just less messy that way. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave up on trying to be up to speed on the movies a long time ago, so I wouldn’t expect a tie-in.

‘Rebels’ No More

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A mural of the Ghost crew. Image courtesy of io9.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about who Star Wars Rebels is for. It’s ostensibly an animated kids show on a Disney network but new episodes air at 9 in the evening, a time block fitting for a cable drama series. Think about it like this: you have to stay up later to catch Rebels than to see a new episode of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. That’s kind of ridiculous.

My own nitpicks aside, Rebels’ three part finale was an excellent closing that answered most of our questions and gave us some new ones to ponder in a satisfying, anticipatory manner. Ezra’s journey has been delightfully weird and unpredictable, and since there was no way in hell Disney was going to kill off a 15-year-old, having him ride off to God-knows-where with some flying whales (I like to think that whoever created the Purrgil is a Gojira fan) dragging Thrawn along seems like a satisfying answer to “Where do these characters go once the OT kicks in?”

Personally, I feel like the galaxy’s most evil art critic/ultimate cultural appropriator should of just been killed off, like his lackey Governor Pryce. This isn’t because I dislike Thrawn; on the contrary, I find him to be a terrific antagonist, which is why I thought his annihilation would give Rebels the most triumphant possible conclusion. But I get it; fans love him and creators are going to want to use him for future stories. And just like everyone else, I desperately want to know how his unwilling voyage with Ezra and the Purrgil will effect him.

The last minutes of “Family Reunion – and – Farewell” jumps forward to post-Return of the Jedi to give us a peak at the remaining Ghost crew members. It took me a few seconds to wrap my head around the implications of Jacen Syndulla‘s existence and so, uh…yeah, that happened (Kanera shippers all of over the world let out an audible sigh of relief). It’s easy to say in hindsight, but of all the good guy characters on Rebels, Kanan always had the highest chance of dying. And while we all miss him dearly, at least he and Hera’s “will-they-won’t-they” business has some degree of resolution.

Speaking of shipping, Zeb and Kallus had a nice little moment together in which Zeb brought the Imperial agent – turned – Rebel to Lira San to show him that the Lasat had survived the Empire’s extermination. There’s quite a few people in Rebels‘ fandom that are pulling for these two to get together in the romantic sense. I’m not against that per se, but I always thought that the whole “Kallus tried to wipe out Zeb’s people” thing would just be too much for love to overcome, even though the genocide didn’t succeed. I’m not in any way an expert on LGBTQ issues, so what I have to say here carries little weight. For what it’s worth, Dave Filoni is down with your Zeb/Kallus ship.

“Family Reunion – and – Farewell” saves the best and most intriguing for last. Sabine has settled on Lothal (per my headcanon, she totally runs a DIY punk venue in Lothal City) and right before the episode cuts to credits, she meets up with Ahsoka – cosplaying as Gandalf the White, it would seem – to go search for Erza, who is still absent.

Rebels has been through a pretty astonishing amount of change in its four season. It’s crazy to think that it started out as this relatively low-key story about a localized piece of the Galactic Civil War and now it’s giving us space whales and time travel and shit. Even more so than the new movies (which I like), Rebels has really been expanding what we thought was possible in the Star Wars galaxy. Speculation is already rampant on what the next journey of these characters will be and what form it would take. As much I hate to dash people’s hopes and dreams, I don’t think the Rebels crew will make the jump to live action any time soon. No one has ever come out and officially said it, but I strongly suspect Rebels has the same relationship to the Star Wars films that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has with the wider MCU; the TV shows can pull stuff from the movies to work with, but not vice versa. Our burning questions about Ezra, Sabine and Ahsoka will likely come in the form of comics or another animated series.

Then again, Saw Gerrera showed up in Rogue One, so you never know.

Watching Star Wars Rebels has been a pleasure over these last four years. If you are one of those Star Wars fans who hasn’t been feeling Episodes VII or VIII, maybe give this show a shot? It couldn’t hurt.

Here’s Our First Look at “The Incredibles 2”

Jesus Christ, this has been a long wait. Up until it was announced two years ago, I was convinced I wouldn’t ever get a sequel to my all-time favorite Pixar flick. Thanks largely to the efforts of the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero movies have only been the most popular thing on the planet for at least five years now. They would be mad not to give us another adventure with the Parr family. Just to give you an idea of how long ago The Incredibles was, consider this brief list of things that had happened (or not yet happened) as of its release date of Nov. 5, 2004:

George W. Bush was on the cusp of re-election.

The Boston Red Sox had just broken their curse.

The Star Wars prequel trilogy hadn’t been completed yet.

Peyton Manning hadn’t yet reached a Super Bowl.

The Venture Bros. had wrapped up its first (First!) season.

We foolishly believed that Alien vs. Predator would be the worst thing to happen to the Alien franchise.

Hell, Disney didn’t even own Pixar yet.

We didn’t even consider the possibility of  waiting 14 years for Incredibles 2.

Wow, that is some shit isn’t it? I still haven’t even entertained the notion of forgiving Disney for giving us a goddamned Cars trilogy before Incredibles 2. Pixar as a brand isn’t quite as bulletproof as it once was (from a critical standpoint) and while they’ve still made some good and sometimes even great movies since 2004, none of them has resonated with me as much as The Incredibles has. I was 15 years-old and a freshman in high school then and I saw it in theaters three times. Curiously, this was around the age I started getting into South Park, King of the Hill and Family Guy (for instance, I had stopped watching Nickelodeon that year, which is how I missed out on Avatar: The Last Airbender while it was actually on the air). Clearly, the Disney shit wasn’t done with me. I’m pretty sure The Incredibles taught me that it was okay to still watch and enjoy stuff aimed at kids, even into adolescence and adulthood.

If the barely-a-trailer above is anything to go off, youngest member Jack-Jack will have a substantially larger role. If you have never seen the Jack-Jack Attack short film, I strongly recommend it. In addition to being funny and cute, it shows what happens with Jack-Jack and babysitter Kari while the rest of the Parrs were on Nomanisan Island and also shows off more of Jack-Jack’s powers, which is apparently everything. I’m thinking Incredibles 2 will be centered on the youngest Parr; the tyke is pretty powerful and there’s bound to be nefarious people or groups out there who’ll be interested in him. But that’s just speculation.

The Incredibles 2 comes out on June 15, 2018. My expectations are Jupiter-sized.

 

 

Assorted Musings on Alien: Covenant

Yes, I know this has been out for a week already, but since I’m doing nothing else this Memorial Day weekend and negative thoughts really ignite my creativity like nothing else, I just had to get this out of my system. There will be spoilers from here on out.

  1. If you are one of those horror flick purists who thinks that monsters are scarier when they are unexplained and that an origin story detracts from a beast’s air of mystery which makes it so much more horrifying, than you will hate Alien: Covenant. Granted, you probably already hated Prometheus, which this is more or less a direct sequel to.
  2. If you are one of those horror flick purists who thinks that monsters are more effective the less we see of them, then you will hate Alien: Covenant.
  3. Building off the last point, the CGI Xenomorph looks like shit.
  4. Good luck remembering any of these characters’ names or remembering who is married to who. With the exception of about three of them, none of the Covenant‘s crew members have any distinct personality, so you don’t care when someone dies.
  5. That business with David (Michael Fassbender) and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) ends pretty much exactly how you expected it to, and although these new characters are mostly unaware of the events depicted in Prometheus, watching Covenant devote most of its second act to this tiresome non-mystery is pretty damn frustrating from the audience’s perspective.
  6. James Franco is in this (don’t ask).
  7. Speaking of Franco, his frequent collaborator Danny McBride does a pretty good job in this very, very serious movie. He’s one of few highlights.
  8. Colony ship Covenant‘s commanding officer Oram (Billy Crudup) is quite possibly the stupidest character in this whole franchise. He makes the hapless biologist from Prometheus look like Tony Stark in comparison.
  9. David and the newborn Xenomorph that bursts out of Oram striking that dumb pose at each other is extremely dumb. Why is this in the movie?
  10. Chestburster scenes have lost all impact.
  11. The various kill scenes in this movie are so sloppy, rushed and un-artfully constructed that it’s hard to believe Ridley Scott directed this mess.
  12. While technically impressive, watching Fassbender act opposite of himself isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds on paper.
  13. Android Walter (also Fassbender) fighting android David was kind of cool, though it lead to a plot twist that is way too easy to see coming.
  14. Just about every twist in Covenant is telegraphed from light years away.
  15. Watching Xenomorphs get crushed by cranes and impaled by fork lift prongs is admittedly quite novel. I award Covenant style points for these scenes.
  16. If you’re wondering if finding out where Xenomorphs come from is worth all of the horseshit Prometheus and now Alien: Covenant will force you to swallow, the simplest answer I can give you is “no.”
  17. Why are Alien movies still being made?
  18. The Predator films were never this pretentious.
  19. You should probably just go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 again.
  20. Remember that Life movie that came out back in March? It was far from perfect, but it turned out to be a better Alien movie than Alien: Covenant. Check that one out if you missed it.
  21. Origin’s new album will probably be a better Alien movie than Alien: Covenant.
  22. The Martian is less than two years old; rest assured, Ridley Scott fans, some part of that guy still knows how to make a great movie.
  23. We still have Alien and Aliens.