Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was pretty good

I know it’s been out for a few weeks and the time for Hot Takes and Clickbait Reviews is gone, but as I’ve stressed this week, I do not care. I’m going to do things when it is good for me to do them.

Last week I took the family to see Sonic 2. Plenty of fun, just as good as the first one, with new characters and a new adventure. The whole “Tom’s sister-in-law gets married” thing was dragged out just a little too much but there were funny parts in it, and that’s what a movie like that is supposed to do.

I mentioned in the first one that Ben Schwartz voicing Sonic was a good idea because it didn’t distract me, I didn’t know who he was or what he looked like. Sonic 2 made me feel validated because Idris Elba was the voice of Knuckles, and that was a little too much. He’s too famous for that, I think. But I’m just a late-30s dad, nobody cares as long as I cough up the money, lol.

Anyway, here’s to the big studios hopefully pulling their heads out of their butts and making more family-friendly stuff with good plots and actual character development in them.

Channel Recommendation: Valliant Renegade

I follow a couple of pop culture channels on YT, specifically ones that report on movie industry news. One such is Valliant Renegade, run by a guy who’s worked in said industry for the last twenty years or so, and knows a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff going on with the major studios.

In his most recent episode he teamed up with a writer called WDW Pro, who runs a website covering the Disney parks in California and Florida. Not really my forte, but with the recent developments in Florida, I appreciated his expertise.

Basically this video covers why the FL government decided to strip Disney’s special status as a borderline independent state within Florida’s borders, how that special status came to be in the first place, and what Disney had been doing with it. Give it a watch.

It wasn’t very long ago that Marvel was actually good…

I’ve got an idea for an eventual video about when DisneyMarvel peaked. No spoilers yet, just know that what I’m about to say totally fortifies the theory:

Netflix-Marvel’s Daredevil series was among the top 3 of trilogies that Marvel has produced on screen in the last 10 years. Maybe top 2. (The Captain America movies were all hits too, pretty much perfect across the board.)

I’m rewatching the series with my wife. It’s her first time through them all. Man alive, compared to what we’ve gotten in the last two years from Marvel, Daredevil is trophy-worthy. I’m not high on the violence, I am extremely high on the story and the values therein.

The first seven minutes of the first episode rapidly establish the key elements of Matt Murdock’s character:

–He lives with his (single) father, who cares a great deal about him. Jack Murdock is devastated when Matt gets in a traffic accident.

–He has selfless tendencies and has since childhood. Matt pushed an old man out of the way of a car accident, getting blinded as a result.

–He’s Catholic, though less devout than his father or grandmother. Nevertheless it’s a core part of who he is. Matt goes to confession and we get some effective exposition about why he’s there.

–He’s proud of his family heritage, specifically his father’s resilience, and believes that he (Matt) has inherited that quality. He’s willing to test the idea. Those Murdock boys have the devil in them.

–He’ll risk his life and well-being to make the city he loves safer, including rescuing helpless women and beating the absolute piss out of human traffickers. End the opening with the scene at the docks, where Matt knocks out three henchmen and lets the devil out on Turk Barrett.

Great writing in TV and film is so hard to come by in the 2020s, it seems. It’s not like all the Marvel stuff was great, don’t get me wrong–and among the Netflix properties, Daredevil was the only good one. My idea of great writing is writing that makes me want to write better, to write like what I’m watching. Daredevil passes that test in spades.

More as we make our way through S1.

So hey, “Sonic the Hedgehog” was surprisingly good.

I missed this one on its first go-round. Wasn’t all that stoked for movies in mid-2020 and there was still a ton of uncertainty going on.

But now, two years later, my boys are old enough to shut up in a movie theater for two hours, so I can get into an ongoing franchise with them. I showed them this trailer and said hey, there’s a sequel out now, so if you CLEAN UP YOUR FREAKING ROOM AND DO SOME CHORES we’ll have a Sonic weekend.

The original plan was to see both flicks. They only earned the first one, so we rented this off Amazon and watched it tonight.

Man, it was really, really good. Ben Schwartz did a great voice for Sonic, and while he’s physically recognizable, he doesn’t have the vocals that constantly distract you, like when Ryan Reynolds played Pikachu. James Marsden proves he’s still got some Hunk left in the tank after playing Cyclops 20 years ago (does the dude even age?) and while they had his character in an interracial marriage, they didn’t make any racial jokes or woke BS.

Imagine that! A movie without Current Day stuff or Social Issue jabs in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty-something! Just two people of different races who are in love! HOW CAN THIS BE?!

And the story was strong too! I never delved deep into the Sonic lore as a kid–I never had a Sega, but the kid across the street had one, so I played it a few times. As far as I know, they were at least visually true to the source material, and gave us a quick introduction to the world without dragging it out or torturing the backstory. Sonic is a powerful critter, people will want his power, he should hide, or people he love will suffer.

Very basic superhero stuff, but with enough twists and tweaks to keep it interesting.

Solid humor, likable characters, and holy crap, Jim Carrey delivers a 90s-era comedic performance that is just beautiful to watch. Here’s a crazy villain who you’re not rooting for, you’re not agreeing with, but you’re still enjoying, because he’s fun to watch.

It’s no surprise that the first movie did well, and if they hold to this methodology, then I’m not surprised the second one made another truckload of cash.

I’ll post my two cents on that one after I see it.

Trying something new with Radcracker

Instead of doing several small episodes per week, I’ve decided to do one big episode of the main podcast. It’ll drop every Friday. Here’s the first one, and the next one lands tomorrow. They won’t all be 45 mins, but hey, sit down and turn on a game and listen to my opinions.

Channel Recommenation: The Dave Cullen Show

The YouTube algorithm has its misses, but it wouldn’t be the second most powerful search engine in the world if it was made of suck. One of its recs to me over the last year was The Dave Cullen Show, featuring a British host who posts somewhat regularly–if not on a schedule–and has sensible, entertaining breakdowns on the state of pop culture.

Dave doesn’t limit himself to just that, though. He’s big in the tech world, and runs a website at http://www.ComputingForever.com. Caveat, I haven’t checked out the site itself, I just know him through his YT videos, and I back him on SubscribeStar.

Here’s his most recent vid on the state of corporate Star Trek products, namely the new Picard season.

“Prince of Egypt” is better than I remembered

When you’re a kid in a devout Christian household, your parents tend to drag you to the movies whenever Hollywood decides to cash in on your faith. This was the case in 1998 when DreamWorks released The Prince of Egypt, an animated feature about the Exodus that was intended to compete with the Empire of the Mouse.

I was a high school freshman back then, and I remember seeing the flick over Christmas Break. It was fine–nothing life-altering, as I had already read the book and I knew how the story ended. It was cool to hear Captain Picard’s voice as Pharaoh and it gave the whole ‘killing Hebrew babies’ episode some extra weight when he said “They were only slaves.” Movies of classic stories can bring things to life in a way that the written word can’t.

Still, it wasn’t the kind of thing you ran out to tell your friends about. “Oh BROOOO did you see the part where Moses was like ‘let them go!’ but Rameses was like ‘NAH’ and then…yeah!” But that had more to do with the value I placed on peer opinion, and less to do with the quality of the product on screen.

Which, now that I’ve seen it recently, is pretty damn good. The animation style, while divergent from the expectation that Disney had conditioned into audiences, was consistent and realistic. The soundtrack has aged very well. And while the story of Moses’ progression from prince to prophet leaves you with no surprises, the clarity of Rameses’ motivations gave me a lot to chew on for days.

(Since we’re reading Exodus this week at church, the wife and I watched the movie with our kids, which prompted all of this.)

On that note, I wanted to address one of the most important parts of all this, and that’s the “foreword” that comes up before the movie starts playing. Basically the creators say that this is an adaptation, they made some changes for the purposes of the format, but it’s true to the spirit of the story, and y’all should just go read the Bible for the details.

Perfectly fine. Shoot, it’s downright humble compared to the full-court press gaslighting that you get from Amazon and Disney when you point out that their versions of Middle-Earth and Marvel run completely counter to their source material. Remember when studios respected their audiences, instead of acting entitled to them? Dude.

Anyway, between reading the book and watching the cartoon, I’ve been thinking a lot about Moses and Rameses. There’s a lot I don’t know about them. Was Moses really surprised to find out he was a Hebrew? Not sure. Was Rameses really the Pharaoh during these events? Also not sure. There’s a lot of historical reading in my future.

But the lessons of both these mens’ lives as shown in the movie are very relevant to me. Moses had to go against his upbringing, against everything he was comfortable with, to serve a higher, righteous cause. Even after meeting God in the burning bush he still had to do the hard work of confronting the brother that he loved, and asking him to do the one thing he feared: dismantle the empire he was supposed to guard.

And Rameses! I have a new appreciation for this character. From act 1 we get a clear motivation for this guy: live up to his responsibility. Protect the dynasty that will one day be his. Don’t be the weak link in the chain throughout history. There has to be immense pressure on him.

In a sense these are two men who are both utterly devoted to their deities, one of whom serves an imperial pantheon and the other of which answers to the one true God of all creation. Moses doesn’t want Egypt to suffer but Israel is already suffering and that has to end. Rameses is more loyal to his father than to his brother, and when his gods go up against the Hebrew god, he doubles and triples down in a contest of wills that can only have one outcome.

There are so many lessons in this, and when you can fit so much into a tight piece of writing, man…that’s just good storytelling. Even at the end, in the Red Sea, when the waters close in on Rameses and he throws his hands out like he can stop it…that is an excellent character right there. A villain who sticks to his goals despite every chance and every reason not to. His motivation and his values are clear, they’re just wrong.

I’m gonna keep chewing on this. You should too. Go rewatch Prince of Egypt. Let me know what you think.

Get back to work.

As of 2019, “Gladiator” has achieved Secondhand Superhero status.

Gladiator (2000) - IMDb

Y’all know Gladiator, that awesome flick from 2000 that was mostly ahistorical but still an excellent story.

Well starting in 2013 it became a Secondhand Superhero candidate, and last year it fulfilled the minimum threshold of 4 actors.

Russell Crowe as Maximus (Jor-El)

Did Gladiator really deserve the best picture Oscar? | Film | The ...

Why We Didn't See Jor-El In Batman V Superman, According To ...

In 2013, Crowe played the father of Superman in Man of Steel.

Djimon Hounsou as Juba (Korath the Pursuer/Wizard)

Gladiator, a movie review | Ms M's Bookshelf

Captain Marvel and Korath – Why is Carol Danvers teaming up with ...

SHAZAM! Movie Concept Art Gives Djimon Hounsou's Wizard Shazam A ...

Hounsou actually has a foot in each major comic universe, as he was a hunter in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)/Captain Marvel (2019) and a powerful wizard in Shazam! (2019).

Connie Nielsen as Lucilla (Hippolyta)

Connie Nielsen Shares Her Favorite Memory From Ridley Scott's ...

Hippolyta: Sit Down with Wonder Woman's Connie Nielsen

Nielsen was Diana’s mother in Wonder Woman (2017).

Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus (The Joker)

Going The Extra Mile - Joaquin Phoenix's Craziest On-Set Antics ...

Joker' Joaquin Phoenix had a love/hate relationship with the role

Phoenix earned himself an Oscar for playing Batman’s most formidable villain.

There’s one last actor who deserves a shout-out: Spencer Treat Clark, who played young Lucius. He also played Baron Von Strucker’s son on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but I felt like I was reaching with that one.

Gladiator 2: release date, cast and everything else we know about ...

Spencer Treat Clark | Agents of shield, Marvel agents of shield ...

Then again, I used Lois & Clark as a qualifier, so maybe that’s ok.

“Knives Out” is a Secondhand Superhero story

Knives Out (2019) - IMDb

Last week I watched Knives Out with the DreadWife. Fun movie, gets a little bogged down in overthinking itself, and the lefty stuff was way heavy-handed, but the acting was great and the mystery was well-done.

A few days later I dug into the cast on iMDB and realized that it meets the threshold for a Secondhand Superhero flick. Most times I prefer a movie to have four actors in it that played in superhero movies. Other times I make exceptions.

The best example is Stardust, which has Superman, Catwoman, Daredevil, and Sinestro in it. An example of a reach is Star Trek: First Contact which features Professor X, Dum Dum Doogan, a minor character from Captain America: Civil War, and a nameless scientist from Thor: The Dark World.

Knives Out isn’t as much of a reach, but it’s not so clear-cut either. Here’s what we’ve got:

Chris Evans as Ransom Drysdale (Captain America)

Knives Out: Top 10 Best Quotes From Ransom Drysdale | ScreenRant

Captain America's Best Moments In The MCU, Ranked - CINEMABLEND

While the movie doesn’t have an obvious main character, he’s one of the top three.

Michael Shannon as Walt Thrombey (General Zod)

Walter Thrombey from Knives Out Costume | Carbon Costume | DIY ...Man of Steel' Actor Michael Shannon Has No Problem With General ...

Walt is in the second tier of characters for this ensemble film.

Katherine Langford as Meg Thrombey (Morgan Stark)

Knives Out's Thrombey Family Is Terrible - But Which Member Is the ...

Avengers : Endgame : the cut scene of Katherine Langford (Morgan ...

This is where we start to reach, because Langford’s only appearance in the MCU comes from a deleted scene in Avengers: Endgame right after Tony snaps Thanos. She plays an older version of his then-young daughter.

K Callan as Wanetta Thrombey (Martha Kent)

The Knives Out Family Members, Ranked By How Horrible They Are | GQ

Farewell to a Hero's Father—A Tribute to Eddie Jones

And the biggest reach of them all is K Callan, who plays a woman of indeterminate age (though she would have to be in excess of 100 years old.) Callan played Martha Kent on Lois & Clark, the Superman TV show in the 90s.

Bonus points for having Martha Kent be General Zod’s grandmother.

Anyway, we’re just getting deeper into the rabbit hole, proving that everyone in Hollywood is attached to a superhero project in one way or another. This game is more fun than the Kevin Bacon one.

 

Cancellation was the best thing to happen to #Firefly

Been a minute since I rewatched this classic, which is now old enough to vote in the US. Yes kids, 18 years since Firefly aired, and 18 since it got booted from Fox.

That shouldn’t shock anyone. Ask The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. just how well Fox supports good westerns.

Anyway, I’m partway through the pilot and still loving it. The characters, the dialogue, the speed of the story, it’s no wonder the show continues to find new fans even after all this time.

One thing that aids that? Its cancellation.

The brevity that was heaped upon it when Fox pulled the plug has helped to keep the overall story tight and tidy, especially with the conclusion that the movie Serenity provides.

It’s the same principle that makes 8-episode streaming series so successful. There is a such thing as too much.

Just ask The Hobbit trilogy.

Plus the perception of injustice–“How could you cancel something so great?!”–gives it the oh-so-coveted victim status that the new century thrives on.

There are comics that continue the story, and some of them have been good, but they run into the Hobbit problem after a few issues.

Too much of a good thing isn’t still a good thing. Too much is just too much.

Something to keep in mind with my own work. It’s why I’ve taken a liking to shorter pieces. Satiate the appetite and move on.

Get back to work.