nesting * geeking * critiquing

Posts tagged “childhood

Gripes, Likes & Theories: Batman v Superman

Now that the film is in wide release, I can ignore the advance-screening plea from Zack Snyder not to spoil anything. So be warned, SPOILERS FOLLOW.

As I mentioned before, I went into BvS with super low expectations and liked it pretty well. For me it boiled down to something like Thor: Dark World or Avengers: AoU—not bad to watch once or twice but generally lackluster and forgettable. I also didn’t find it as grim and gritty as everyone is complaining. I mean, yeah, it’s dark but no more than roughly half of everything else that’s come out in cinema over the last decade, including the Nolan trilogy that everyone seems to love (I don’t find it holds up as much more than “meh”).

Biggest misses for me:
1) Batman just gave up his fight because Superman’s mom happened to have the same name?! For the love of Martha, that was some seriously weak writing.
2) Superman’s death lacked ‘gravity’—I don’t think anyone in our screening believed for one minute that he would stay dead. Moreover, I don’t think anyone would have bought into it even had we not all experienced the media hoopla that surrounded the event when it happened in the comics back in the early ’90s. It felt so very emotionally empty and not the least bit cliffhanger-y, which I found incredibly disappointing.
2b) Speaking of media hoopla…SO. MANY. CAMEOS. (I know I already mentioned this before, but it really bothered me.)
3) Lex creating Doomsday inside the Kryptonian ship. I thought it was clever that he cut off Zod’s fingerprints to gain access but otherwise hated the entire scene.
3b) Doomsday was like a bad mashup of Hulk, every Spider-Man movie villain and Hunger Games mutts.
4) Teasers for Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg lacked excitement and depth.
5) Amy Adams. Always Amy Adams.
6) Underutilized Wonder Woman.

I’ll reiterate that I’m genuinely excited for the standalone WW movie now. I wish she hadn’t looked so much like part of the Kardashian klan but Gadot played the fight scenes like she could be a legitimately strong warrior. Expectations shattered.

Still, my favorite part of the movie was spotting TK-421 on Lex Luthor’s prison uniform.

ALSO, I have a BvS/Walking Dead fan theory!
Maggie is Bruce Wayne’s mom, which means that TWD clearly happened in the past…and Maggie either cheated on Glenn or lost that baby and had another later with Mr. Wayne. The “metahumans” are clearly an evolutionary result of surviving the zombie apocalypse. Tell me your mind isn’t blown right now.

 

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She Lives! (aka Batman v Superman Happened so I’m Blogging)

I’m still here, believe it or not! Since last post, I’ve made a geeky pilgrimage to San Francisco (pics and details coming soon, I promise), seen TFA a few more times—totaled 8 at the theater—and worked like a fool. The working part is more exhausting than awesome but it helps pay for toys, and we all know you can never have too many toys.

After posting some pics of myself as a little Superman-loving lass, I won tickets to last night’s advance screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Side note: If I’m ever tasked with writing something that requires a certain character count, I will be sure to make this film the topic because writing the title alone should satisfy most requirements.

“So how was it?” you ask. Weeeeeelllll…
As someone who loved Man of Steel, I liked it fairly well. There are a couple of really good moments that are balanced by some really cringe-worthy ones, which are all outnumbered by a lot of “just a’ight.”

I’m not in the business of spoilers, and not just because there was a Zack Snyder video plea before the movie started, so I won’t give away any secrets. Except that Batman’s parents die. Oops, surprise!

Okay, one teeny-tiny, not-really spoiler: there’s a fun Star Wars Easter egg. I spotted it straight away and leaned over in the middle of the movie to quote a relevant line. I suspect a lot of fans will pick up on it; comment below if you want a hint.

I digress.

People who have already decided to hate Affleck as Batman won’t be swayed, though I thought he was a suitable host for a character who wasn’t supposed to be altogether likable in this story. His acting wasn’t especially nuanced, though I’m not sure whether that was due to him or the writing. He’s easily as good as, if not better than, either Kilmer or Clooney.

Wonder Woman was not on the list of things I excitedly anticipated for this film, particularly after I learned of Gal Gadot’s casting. I was, to that end, pleasantly surprised! The characterization is far more interesting—and less exploitative—than I expected. I might actually kinda sorta be looking forward to her standalone film now <gasp!>.

Surprisingly, the most eye-rolls of the night came not with Jesse Eisenberg but Amy Adams. Sure, Eisenberg was the same smarmy guy he is in every role (and maybe in real life?), but you saw that one coming from a mile away.
I am decidedly not a fan of Adams’ interpretation of Lois Lane, as you might remember from my reviews of Man of Steel. While she and Henry Cavill demonstrated a bit better chemistry this time around, particularly at the beginning of the film, I can’t help but see her as an annoying hindrance. Maybe that, too, is a consequence of the character more than the actor…it’s not like Margot Kidder wasn’t tiresome…or maybe it would be less frustrating with someone else filling the role. It seems we’ll never know.

To be fair, Adams is unseated by Doomsday as my least favorite character in this movie. That’s not saying much, is it?!

If you loathed the Sears and iHop tie-ins from Man of Steel, be prepared for media personality overload on this one. I understand that Snyder et al. are trying to make us believe that Superman’s universe is one in the same with ours. For me, showing endless cameos of recognizable pundits had the opposite effect, ripping me out of my suspension of disbelief.

Stylistically, this is a pretty slick movie. The fight scenes, in particular, have a more comic-book feel than did Man of Steel; I actually felt like it veered into Amazing Spider-Man territory at times. That’s not a complaint, somehow. There are, however, a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences that tend to feel disjointed. The one thing that tied everything together was Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score with themes from Man of Steel beautifully woven throughout. I’ve grown to appreciate the former as one of the better contemporary theatrical scores and this built on it in intriguing ways. Along with the hopeful and heart-wrenching strains, there was an inescapable undercurrent of tension and conflict. Magnifique!

Overall, this girl feels that Batman v Superman lands squarely in the middle of the pack for modern superhero flicks. It’s generally enjoyable if forgettable, but worth seeing on the big screen if you’re at all inclined to see it.

 

 

 


Star Wars Is Like My Cat

It’s been over a week now since The Force Awakens (TFA) came into our lives. And after 4 viewings, including the 7-movie marathon on opening day, I feel like I can finally summarize my feelings about the newest addition to the Star Wars saga.

Growing up, I had the sweetest, most gentle cat in the world—his name, ironically, was Goliath. He was there for every milestone, every moment of joy, every pang of sadness, snuggling and unleashing the full power of cats’ magical calming agent: purring. He was loyal and faithful and wonderful. Just like the original trilogy of Star Wars.

Goliath became one with the Force, so to speak, when I was 16 years old in 1999. Coincidentally, that was the same year that the prequel trilogy dawned.

In 2002—the same year Attack of the Clones released—I adopted a feisty little kitten whom I named Storm (middle name Trooper). Storm was the exact opposite of Goliath; where he had been solid black with yellowish-green eyes, she was a cream and gray tabby with piercing blue eyes. His utter devotion and love was answered with her indifference and bitey-ness. Like Goliath before her, she too was a remarkably good snuggler with an even stronger aptitude for purring me to sleep.

Over the next 12 years, Storm and I had an undeniable love/hate relationship. She exhibited violent mood shifts that usually ended with a new set of bloody teeth marks on my arms or legs. In spite of the scar-inducing teeth, we grew into a codependent pair. When she was good, she was heartbreakingly good, and when she was bad…well, most people would’ve put her down. Not unlike the prequel trilogy, if you catch my meaning.

Too mean to go out any other way, Storm succumbed to colon cancer in January. A long-haired tortoiseshell fluffball named Rue joined our family a month later. You won’t be surprised by this point in the post to find that my feelings about her virtually mirror how I feel about The Force Awakens.

When I first met Rue at the shelter (her name was Zeda then…no thanks), it was a wholly bittersweet experience. I was super excited at the prospect of getting a new kitten but I was emotionally exhausted from losing Storm. Rue, to her credit, was ridiculously wonderful on her own accord and gave me no choice but to enjoy her presence…and yet, I came away perplexed. I wanted to love her, there was little reason not to, but I needed time to process.

I got time, as Rue needed her spay operation before we could bring her home. When we picked her up a couple of days later, I made a conscientious effort to look at her with fresh eyes.

Rue, like The Force Awakens, isn’t here to replace the previous “friends” who helped shape my being, but rather to supplement. Some of her behavior recalls that of my earlier loves and my heart swells with nostalgia. Her personality and quirks are uniquely hers, which brings me utter joy. And some of the things she does…well, they kind of irk me. She’s not perfect, that’s for sure. Some of the irksome behavior is just bad and some of it is largely because it falls flat compared to the grand narrative I’ve created in my head.

There’s a lot to love about TFA, and I think I can say now with certainty that I do love it. Even with last night’s 4th viewing, it coaxed tears out of me during several scenes; some happy, some sad. That’s something few films can boast. But cats, man, cats hit me in the feels every time!

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Spoilerrific ‘Gripes & Likes’ post coming soon!

 


Gendered Toys and the Target Tantrum

I’m probably going to regret posting this. Even so, here it is: I don’t understand the current hoopla surrounding Target stores.

Target recently announced that they’re going to stop gender-labeling certain departments of their stores—specifically Toys, Home and Entertainment. Instead of specifying which toys or bedding options are aimed at girls or boys, they’ll live in generic toy and bedding sections. Despite Target’s assurance that they’re not changing clothing departments, there is alarm and panic in some circles.

Why does it matter what I think? Well, for starters, this is something to which I’ve given a lot of thought over the years, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to the corporate announcement. Moreover, I’m seemingly in the minority on this when it comes to my demographic: the aforementioned “some circles.” I’m an unapologetic evangelical Christian and a conservative. I may lean a bit more towards the moderate end of the spectrum in some regards but I still identify as part of the political right. Assuming Trump isn’t the nominee—and there’s not a better 3rd-party candidate—I’ll likely default to voting Republican in the next presidential election.

While I’m sure there are other arguments to justify the Target outrage, these are the two I’ve heard most vehemently:
1. Franklin Graham (who I largely respect), among others, alleges that Target’s decision discredits God’s creation of two distinct genders, male and female.
2. Target’s move is said to be a slippery slope towards making everything (including clothing) gender-neutral, empowering an increasingly liberal world.

To the first, I genuinely fail to understand the direct correlation. Yes, I believe that God did create male and female for one another physically and emotionally. Beyond just the complementing anatomy, I believe He endowed each sex with certain qualities and characteristics. However, the fundamentals of said qualities and characteristics are obviously not distributed identically from person to person, regardless of their sex. It is those subtleties and differences that make each of us the “fearfully and wonderfully made” individuals who were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. [Or perhaps you believe that our lives are dictated by genetic coincidence, and that’s your prerogative.]

Which brings me to the decades I’ve had to consider this whole thing. I’m a girl, and I’ve got the plumbing, hormones and 32 years of living it to back me up. But I’m not exactly a girly-girl, and I never have been. I played with Barbie dolls, tinkered with fashion and swooned over boy bands, yet from my very earliest memories I know that I loved Superman, Ghosbusters and Star Wars. Those weren’t exactly marketed for girls in the ’80s…nor are they today.

There are girls who enjoy superheroes and trains and dinosaurs. For that matter, there are boys who like to play with stuffed animals and dolls rather than action figures and toy weapons. That doesn’t mean they will grow up to be transgendered or unable to fill traditional societal roles. And regardless of what they grow up to be, we as Christians are called to love. Period. You don’t have to agree with his or her lifestyle, but you must love him or her as a fellow human being created in God’s own image. I digress.

As an adult, it’s easy to justify buying toys or sheets from whichever store section you please. As a child, though, it can feel like running the gauntlet just to get a glimpse of your favorite characters on store shelves. No matter how much parents embrace and encourage a child’s enthusiasm, it can feel like you’ve crossed some invisible line that makes you inherently weird because you’re a little girl in the boys’ section (or vice versa). Even if you’re too young to read, you can see the signage that makes it impossibly clear that you’re out of your proverbial lane.

Now I’m not advocating we petition Star Wars to incorporate pink into their packaging (please, don’t use pink!) or demand that Barbie streamline to androgyny. They don’t even have to live side by side on the shelves—that wouldn’t make much sense from a merchandising standpoint anyway. But why as an overarching categorization do we have to label them ‘Boy Toys’ and ‘Girl Toys’?

There are plenty of stores that don’t differentiate, Kohl’s among them. They have a toy section. Plain and simple, TOYS. Know what else they have? Housewares and bedding that aren’t blatantly separated based on which sex “should” like the designs. I’ve not heard any complaints about/threats to boycott Kohl’s nor TJ Maxx/Marshalls, which merchandises in the same way. So why the outrage over Target; is the problem that they were overt in informing us about the changes? We petition for transparency then protest when we get it.

To the second point, it’s true that small moves and counter-moves can eventually culminate in big shifts. And maybe the end-game for places like Target is to ultimately shift culture in favor of more European, post-Christian norms and mores. I’m not one of their executives, but this feels like a somewhat paltry move if that’s the goal. More likely, I suspect they just see dollar signs and ebb with the tide of money.

I do think Christians people in general need to be cognizant of what’s going on with society. And, by all means, talk with your wallet and support the companies that you feel best represent your values.

For me personally, I see a lot of the other things happening in our world today that cause more distress than signage in a toy section or home goods. I sincerely don’t understand how this is the best battle to wage…let alone the right hill to die on.


Eggs

When I was a kid they represented your brain or, somehow, your brain on drugs. “Any questions?”
Later they were rebranded, because eggs need a marketing strategy, apparently?! Now the ad gods will tell you they’re incredible and edible.

Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that farm-fresh eggs are more than just incredible and edible—they’re powerful! I don’t mean like protein and nutrient powerful, I’m talking time-machine powerful. And I’m not yolking.

It doesn’t matter what my day has been like, a fresh egg instantly takes me back to my grandparents’ house.

Mama and Papa lived about 3 hours away so “going down home” meant driving on narrow 2-lane highways and crunchy gravel roads, traversing sweeping curves and nauseating hills. I grew to learn the nuances of the little towns we passed through, the countryside blurring past my window. Excitement swelled with each passing mile

The farm was a wonderland for this suburban girl. The majority of the acreage was wooded with pin oak trees; a rock-rimmed pond and big, open field anchored the space east of the house. It was that one big field that captivated my imagination.

During our visits, my mom and I slept in the bedroom with a little window that overlooked the far field. Papa used to tell me that he went out into the clearing late at night to smoke a peace pipe with the “Indians.” Naturally, I believed him. Night after night I planned to peek out and watch his ceremony. But night after night, my little body was tired from play and lulled to sleep by the sound of the fan, the softness of the bed and the “magic paintbrush” bedtime story. I never did manage to stay awake long enough to see the Indians for myself.

In the early days Mama and Papa kept pigs, rabbits and chickens. Each morning Papa took me out to the chicken house to gather eggs and spread feed. One half of the little red shanty was the chicken coop with storage in the other half. The feed—kept in a huge barrel, which seemed bigger than me—smelled of dried corn and grains, organic and sweet. I loved running my hands through the mixture, letting the little morsels fall between my fingers and back into the barrel. When the chore was complete my dusty hands proudly cradled the eggs, and my shoes glistened with the early morning dew…and the occasional bit of chicken poop.

Mama fixed eggs for breakfast, usually fried. We gobbled them up with buttered toast and cold milk served up in pastel-colored Tupperware cups. No matter how often they were washed, the thick plastic tumblers carried the faint stench of cigarette smoke and looked perpetually dirty from the hard water.

The best farm visits were when all of my aunts/uncles and cousins came, too—I’ll never know how we all fit in that little trailer. Back then I was the middle cousin, the only girl; 3 years separated each of us. No matter how hot and humid, we played outside with reckless abandon. There was a long, old platform trailer that made a nice (if only imagined) respite from the scratchy farm grass, chiggers and ticks. That trailer also served as the home base when my older cousin Dusty and I pretended to be Ghostbusters.

Things changed when I was 6 years old. The farm got a new double-wide trailer with plenty of room for all of us.  Sadly, Mama went to be with Jesus before she got to really enjoy it; she was just 5 days shy of her 56th birthday. April 21 marks 26 years past.

It’s amazing how something as mundane as an egg can bring back such a flood of memories, but that’s exactly what happens when I eat a farm-fresh egg. I know what’s for dinner tonight!

Chicks, Donuts & Dusty

Chicks, Donuts & Dusty

Note: elements of this were edited from a 2013 post; an earlier version of this piece was published on my now-defunct blog, The Road to Kilmarnock.