ANNIHILATION (2018) An Earth Odyssey

The greatest threat of exploration is the unknown. It is something that cannot be comprehended or compromised with. Facing this, our normal signals and behaviors become scrambled, our bodies betray us. Hypothermia convinces us that stripping will warm us up. We attempt to drink seawater to quench our thirst. We become convinced that what friends we may have scheme to betray us. We call these unmotivated attackers eldritch or uncanny, powerful and unknowable forces that escape even the confines of good and evil. And yet humanity’s is a history of exploration, of venturing into the unknown and in doing so conquering them. We seem driven to seek them out, to drag them into the light, to challenge their dominance over our fragile forms.

Annihilation, a loose adaptation of the first of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, by writer-director Alex Garland, presents as a treatise on this facet of human nature, and even suggests a reason; because the other side of the eldritch is the sublime.

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BLACK PANTHER (2018) Wakanda Forever

It’s impossible to separate the superhero from its power-fantasy roots. The genre was built on the fantasy of the children of refugees, strangers in strange lands, who wished to have the power to protect those like them and fight against those who forced others out of their homes and under the jackboots of oppression. Over time, that changed to fit the power-fantasies of relatively well-off white male comic readers, who wished to use power to instead demonstrate righteousness they felt was suppressed by a society who didn’t realize their potential.

And then there are the Black superheroes. Marvel’s Luke Cage, a bulletproof black man, couldn’t be brought down by the same means that killed Black leaders like Dr. King, Malcolm X, or Huey Newton. Black Panther’s vibranium suit fills that same purpose; but even more important is his nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is in so many ways the ultimate African “what-if.” What if there was a nation that was spared the parasitic influence of Europe, a nation of Black people free to grow unencumbered by the tragedies of slavery and colonization. What if they took advantage of their god-given talents and resources to become the most powerful and advanced society on the planet?

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Have you ever wanted to watch every sci-fi movie at once? If so, The Cloverfield Paradox would be what you get if you wished on a monkey’s paw. The movie is a mess, an uneven mishmash of tones and tropes that can’t even follow the Calvinball-esque rules it barely sets for itself; and all on the backs of barely one-dimensional characters.

The plot follows the international crew of the Cloverfield Space Station, and its mission to perfect a particle-accelerator that would produce unlimited free energy and save the world from a war over dwindling resources. Why did the world gamble on an experimental space particle accelerator over existing renewable energy like solar and wind? Who knows? Nothing else in this movie makes sense.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Approaches Apotheosis with “Nathaniel and I are Just Friends!”

It’s rare that an episode of television – especially something on a channel like the CW – can genuinely surprise me, and even rarer for that surprise to leave me (relatively) speechless. And though Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has delivered quite a few gut punches, especially over it’s most recent season, I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how transformative “Nathaniel and I are Just Friends!” would be. For almost 40 episodes of television, we’ve gotten to know Rebecca Bunch, and for better or worse, she’s become somewhat predictable. She goes through cycles, and, as the adage goes, tries the same thing over and over expecting different results. When she does make progress, she inevitably ends up backsliding. Like most great television characters, we root for her to succeed while being keenly aware of the character flaws that keep her from completely doing so. But in this episode, to the glee and musical delight of Michael Hyatt’s Dr. Akopian, Rebecca Bunch has a breakthrough.

And it only takes eight months.

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“Somewhere Else” Ends THE GOOD PLACE’s Second Season Exactly as Expected

That is, unexpectedly.

~ Spoilers below – duh ~

The last episode of The Good Place ended with Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason failing their test to get into the Good Place, and Michael and Janet popping through the Judge’s portal at the nick of time to help them with their case. And whether or not the four humans will be sent back to the Bad Place – what looked to be the climax for the entire season – is decided before the episode’s first commercial break in a conversation of half-sentences between omniscient eternal beings. They won’t.

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TV I Watched this Week 1/22 – 1/26/18

Quick note before this (last) week’s TV reviews. In an effort to focus more on writing more substantial opinion pieces and features, starting next week, I will no longer be reviewing every episode of TV I watch in a week. Instead, I will review only episodes or moments in what I watch that really stick out to me that week. Generally, season finales, big plot developments, or other special, or especially good episodes will get full reviews, but I’ll no longer try to force myself to have a 400-word opinion on every twenty to forty minutes of television I consume.

Black Lightning 1.2 – Lawanda: The Book of Hope

Where the series premiere did a great job introducing us to Jefferson Pierce and his relationship with his family; this second episode expands on his relationship with his ex-wife, Lynn; and with Freeland.

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Comic Reviews 1/31/18

Quick note before this week’s comic reviews. In an effort to focus more on writing more substantial opinion pieces and features, starting next week, I will no longer be reviewing every comic I read in a week. Instead, I will do more of a “recap” type article, noting and reacting to just the issues or moments in comics that really stick out to me that week. Some comics, mostly end-of-arc issues, event climaxes, or other special, or especially good comics will still get full reviews, but I’ll no longer try to force myself to have a 200-word opinion on every twenty pages of an ongoing story.

Dark Nights: Metal #5

As the teams of heroes close in on the last pieces of Nth metal in the universe, and try to overcome the ambushes that awaited each of them, Batman and Superman delve into the Forge to find one last spark. Meanwhile, the Batman Who Laughs tells Barbatos that the time of their conquest is nearly at hand.

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