KSR’s take on recent non sports related happenings
The Great Filter theory, developed by economist Robin Hanson, posits that the reason humans have failed to find extraterrestrial life is that all advanced forms of life destroy themselves before expanding habitation beyond their original home. If an alien race ever lived on Pluto, we would not know of them because they killed each other before making it off Pluto and towards Earth. The Great Filter challenges any species’ existence. Can advance life overcome existential hurdles – whether created by a natural force or themselves – to extend its reach across multiple planets?
That question is central to The Twilight Zone’s sixth episode “Six Degrees of Freedom.” As a group of five astronauts are preparing launch for a round-trip to the red rock of Mars, humanity enacts its Great Filter via nuclear war. North Korea launches missiles at a number of the United State’s largest cities, and the United States aptly retaliates. Global warfare ensues just as the team is celebrating the beginning of their historic mission. The crew’s space center is among North Korea’s targets, so they hurriedly launch the ship into the galactic abyss and reckon with the fact they are likely the last humans left.
Their coping mechanisms – a generous phrase, given the gravity of the situation – are varied. Crew leader Alexa Brandt (DeWanda Wise) is an ardent supporter of detachment. She orders the ship’s AI assistant, a.k.a. Space Alexa, to block all communications to Earth as a protest to Rei Tanaka’s (Jessica Williams) repeated calls to her parents’s home. Flight surgeon Katherine Langford (Lucinda Dryzek) tries to ease the tension between the two of them by embodying the things the whole crew cherishes from civilization; she sings songs to the crew, creates birthday parties, and consoles the crew through their apocalyptic nightmares. Jerry Pierson (Jefferson White) mansplains the situation to all of the crew, bringing up the Great Filter Theory to explain the severity of their mission’s implication, as if the severity of nuclear annihilation isn’t apparent enough. Jerry also makes sophomoric remarks about the differences in everybody’s reality. “In your reality, those tomatoes taste real but in mine? No way.” The crew collectively rolls their eyes at his faux-intellectual garbage.
But Jerry’s penchant for institutional skepticism is the linchpin of the episode. He decides at one point that the whole mission is a simulation. At some point before launching, the crew was transported to a Six Degrees of Freedom simulation that allows for space-like motion. His 200-day long experiments have proved that none of this is real, man. It’s all a test to see if humanity is capable of passing through The Great Filter and expanding its life reach to other habitats. Jerry, sans suit, releases himself into the great black vacuum to prove his hypothesis.
The ship has no windows, so the crew is unable to see what happens of Jerry’s body, or if they indeed are not floating through space. Their only vision of the outside comes through cameras – cameras that could be manipulated by the system, bro. While they think Jerry was likely going mad from the shock of Armageddon, maybe he was onto something. His conspiracy has the power to corrupt the whole mission. The burden the crew carries as the last human life in existence, though, is far too heavy to be risked by Jerry’s potential mindless rambling.
“Six Degrees of Freedom” attempts to answer the question of humanity’s ability to survive despite its worst tendencies by embedding various broad traits in its crew. Captain Brandt is goal oriented and determined, unwilling to let the grief of Earth’s demise hold her back from the mission. Rei is angry at the world, but her anger stems from sentimentality. Rei wants to believe in the strength of the human race. Now that optimism has been wholly corrupted, and every effort she makes to contact people at home proves that hope is essentially dead. Katherine is the loving mother of the crew. And Jerry, of course, is not trusting of institutions nor accepted cultural narratives.
What happens when you put all of these people together and give them the knowledge that they are the only of their kind? Essentially you get the same dynamics that Earth is familiar with. Optimism in the good of humanity is usurped by “rational” progress toward a scientific goal that leaves the interests of society behind (think of Deep Fake videos; they are technological achievements that will certainly ruin massive aspects of national and international relations). We try to reconcile those heartless failings with care and tenderness, which works for awhile until personal interests conflict yet again.
While acknowledging the toxic tendencies society leans toward, “Six Degrees of Freedom” ends on a largely hopeful note that seems to suggest humanity can pass through The Great Filter. The potential for that success, though, depends on trust not only in one another as individuals but the alliances we share as groups. It is an oddly pro-government stance from a show that has depicted the darker sides of governmental bodies (see “Replay” and “The Wunderkind”). Of course, we can work passed corruption if we cling to what makes humanity worth fighting for. The crew of “Six Degrees of Freedom” successfully keeps our virtues at the forefront of their minds, and through that focus they are able to keep out species alive – if just for a small moment.
Episodes of “The Twilight Zone” are available exclusively at CBS All Access.
So, last weekend was a bit of a big deal. Between the release of Avengers: Endgame and the Game of Thrones episode “The Long Night”, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre just experienced one of the best weekends in genre history. Endgame shattered opening weekend box office records. GoT hit 17.8 million viewers, HBO’s highest viewing total in its history. Endgame was the culmination of 21 movies and 10+ years of storytelling, arguably (only for the most argumentative) the most ambitious film project in cinematic history. GoT, on the other hand, was hurtling toward a potential conclusion to the storyline that’s been in the making since the first scene kicked off the show over eight years ago. So yeah, last weekend was a huge deal. As a big fan of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre I was naturally excited to experience it all. Yet on Monday morning as I was catching up on group texts and discussing things at the office I kept circling back to one thing: women played a massive part in creating the biggest weekend in this genre. This realization hit me in two big ways. First, the female characters I’m referring to were not just secondary characters with big moments, but major franchise characters who greatly impact the story. Second, the execution of that was so natural that it didn’t even dawn on me until much later.
When you consider the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre there is not a shortage of significant female characters. Ripley (Alien), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), and Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are examples of female leads who were the face of their respective franchises. When you look at the historically great movies and TV shows in the genre, though, female involvement is still present but with significantly less star and narrative power. Star Wars featured a prominent female character, Leia, but the story was still Luke’s story. The second trilogy had Padmé, but not much female representation beyond that. Battlestar Galactica had a number of prominent female characters, but at the end of the day the storylines were driven mostly by an Adama or Gaius Baltar. The Harry Potter franchise had Hermione and a host of other major female characters, but Harry and Ron were still the bigger focal point. Lord of the Rings had Arwen, Eowyn, and Galadriel which were important to the story, but outside of only a few key moments that story was definitely driven by the male characters. The list goes on to include other big franchises like The Matrix, Avatar, Lost, and others. Even the earliest movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had minimal female involvement. This is not an indictment of those franchises, in fact I love them all, but the significance of the female characters in those franchises didn’t seem nearly as noticeable when compared to Endgame and “The Long Night”.
That brings me to the other point. The storytelling which got us to last weekend’s big moments has been leading us there for several years. Game of Thrones has been building its female characters since the beginning of the series. Cersei and Daenerys have been main characters since the first episode. Sansa, Arya, and Brienne have grown throughout the series to the point that they are main characters as well. Going into this final season Arya and Sansa had been added to that upper echelon of main characters formerly reserved for Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Cersei, and Jamie. As the events unfolded in “The Long Night” there were some narrative surprises including almost all of the aforementioned female characters, but they were 100% believable. Those characters had become so multidimensional that it didn’t seem out of character for a normally diplomatic character to pick up a sword and start stabbing, or for a battle hardened killer to show signs of doubt and resort to running away. A big part of what made “The Long Night” such a big event was that natural progression of those characters.
The path to prominent female inclusivity for Endgame was a little less organic than Game of Thrones, at least for the first half of the MCU. Women have been involved in most every MCU movie, but outside of Black Widow, those female roles were mostly limited to non-superhero support roles. There became a slow influx of female hero characters like Scarlet Witch, Okoye, Wasp, Gamora and Nebula, among others. That culminated in this year’s Captain Marvel, the first MCU movie to feature a female lead. By the time of Endgame, many of those characters are no longer around due to Thanos, but there’s still a prominent crew of female superheroes which impact the events of the movie. I won’t say more than that with regards to characters and events; but like “The Long Night”, the female characters significantly affect key sequences which impact the story. Those characters are such an ingrained part of the story at this point, though, that those moments felt natural and not forced.
While I’m heaping praise all over these two franchises I do want to acknowledge some of the franchises which laid the groundwork that helped bring more female inclusivity to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. As I mentioned above, Aliens, Buffy, and Hunger Games were big in promoting female star power in the genre. In recent years Wonder Woman, Star Wars VII/VIII, and Rogue One have been instrumental in pushing women to the forefront of Sci-Fi/Fantasy films. Women are also becoming bigger characters in other traditionally male-dominated forms of entertainment. This year’s Wrestlemania was main-evented by a Women’s Triple Threat Match. At the time of that event it wasn’t a stretch to say that the three participants in the match were near-consensus top five superstars among ALL wrestlers, not just women. Becky Lynch was considered by most to be the top star in the business, which was unheard of in the wrestling world.
Also, while this post is overwhelmingly positive toward the MCU and Game of Thrones, this is not to say that everything those franchises have done with female characters has been perfect. Both have given in to stereotypes and genre tropes which marginalize groups of people, not just women. I also don’t want this post to be some sort of declaration that women have taken over Sci-Fi/Fantasy and climbed the mountaintop or broken a glass ceiling or whatever cliché you want to use. Despite the fact that these characters were allowed to organically grow into this level of prominence and that it took me a while to recognize the difference of those moments versus the genre expectation, the fact is that I did notice it and it did stick out, which means it’s still not normal. As a guy I don’t feel remotely qualified to talk about representation, or lack thereof, for women or any group, but as a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan it was really cool to see these characters get big moments on the biggest stage.
I’d love to hear what you thought of Endgame and “The Long Night”, be sure to leave your comments below.
By Blake Vickers on ©May 01st, 2019 @ 6:01pm
When 12 year old me first picked up my dad’s dog eared copy of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I assumed that the story was all leading up to the Ice and Fire bit. After all, the prologue of the first book and the first scene in the pilot of the television adaption were an introduction to the White Walkers. The silent ice demons with a knack for necromancy are established as the ultimate threat from the very beginning, and as the series progressed we were browbeaten with a simple message; all of the cut throat politics and squabbling for the throne has been meaningless, the dead are coming, and we need to be ready. This message got louder and louder, and by the time we got around to the back half of the series, it seemed that Jon Snow and his quest to fight climate change was the central story of the series. I mean, it’s literally in the title. It’s ice vs. fire. Death vs. life. Apparently, that has never been the case.
As a fan of both books and the show, Sunday’s installment of Game of Thrones, “The Long Night” was quite possibly the most disappointing episodes of television I’ve ever seen. I say this as someone who caught the finales for both Dexter and True Blood as they originally aired. It was anticlimactic, atrociously filmed, nonsensical, and utterly infuriating on a narrative level.
Why Couldn’t I See Anything?
As many have pointed out, “The Long Night” was dark. Like, really f**king dark. I get what they were going for with that, look at the episode title, but when you’re watching something isn’t it important to be able to see what’s going on? It’s not like this was even the first battle sequence that they’ve filmed at night. “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall” both took place after dark, and were both crystal clear visually. This was not the case with for what was apparently the most important battle in the series. It was incoherent, with the contents on screen looking like an amorphous blob of black. When that blob wasn’t gracing our screens we were given seemingly identical shadow people striking at each other. You couldn’t tell who was alive or dead. Every now and then I could make out one of our familiar characters. There’s Sam laying on a mattress of zombies whilst being eaten. Oh look, Brienne is backed up against a wall with about 20 of them mauling her at once. Is that Tormund? Wait, no, that’s still Sam lying on his undead mattress.
It seemed like we were watching the same characters being killed over and over again for the sake of cool visuals. Just how long were Jaime and Pod up against that wall being eaten? How many times did Sam’s mattress try to eat him? And, for the love of God, why was the Dothraki cavalry sent out like that? Half of Deanerys’ army is wiped out just for the sake of a single shot. Granted, it was a pretty cool shot.
Well That Was Anticlimactic
There were so many things in the episode, big and little, that came off as anticlimactic. Why didn’t we see any of the actual White Walkers fight? They seemed to be there just to look cool and intimidating without serving any purpose. Can you imagine how much more satisfying it would’ve been to see Jorah and Theon make their last stands against the snow men from hell rather than rank and file zombies? And what about the fact that the episode didn’t have any room for big moments for anyone in the episode but the people that died or Arya? Think back to previous battle on the show; Tormund biting Small Jon Umber’s throat out Rick Grimes style in “Battle of the Bastards”, Tyrion’s heroic speech in “Blackwater”, or Jon beating the shit out of Ramsey Bolton. There were no epic confrontations here, aside from one for side character Lyanna Mormont.
What makes these omissions even worse is that it would’ve been so easy to have worked moments like this into the episode. Someone could’ve fought a few actual White Walkers. Sansa could’ve used that knife in the crypts. Jon could’ve channeled his inner Dennis Quaid and killed that zombie dragon. The Night King never even took that sword off his back and gave us a final showdown. And he’s played by Vladimir Furdik, by all means, go down the YouTube hole and watch that dude do some sword fighting. It’s mesmerizing. Rather than have any kind of confrontation, he got shanked by a character he had never even laid eyes on before. Speaking of that…
Has Jon Ever Even Had A Purpose
Contrary to some narratives popping up online, Arya Stark is not, nor will she ever be a Mary Sue. She’s been broken, beaten, and scarred throughout the series. The events of Arya’s journey have rendered her a borderline sociopath, with a deep love for her family being the only thing keeping her from going completely off the edge. She’s one of my favorite characters, but her killing the Night King was a god awful choice for the writers to make. Not because she’s a woman or so called Mary Sue, as some needle dick Incels have been screeching on Reddit and Twitter. But because her story has never been about the White Walkers in the first place.
At some point in the next three episodes, Daenerys is finally going to take the Iron Throne. Whether you think she’s the right person for it or not, there’s not arguing that it has been the entire point of her journey. Now, if you will, imagine that just as she is about to take it, Davos comes up from behind and pushes her out of the way before being declared queen. Now, as amazing as Queen Davos sounds, it pisses all over Daenerys and her entire story arc. Having Arya, someone who’s heard of the White Walkers all of two episodes before, be the one to defeat them more or less makes Jon and Bran the most redundant characters in their own stories. As both of the remaining Stark boys’ (Jon is a Stark. Rhaeagar might’ve been his father, but he wasn’t his daddy. Miss you, Ned.) entire story arcs were tied to the Night King and his army.
It’s literally been Jon’s only goal for the since the very beginning. It’s why Bran lost his humanity to become the Three Eyed Raven. And neither of them did a damn thing or served any purpose the entire episode. Jon, who’s been preparing for this fight for years, spent the episode aimlessly flying around on a dragon whilst Bran was apparently pirating Endgame through the Weirwood Net. What’s been the point of either of their journeys if both of them are absolutely useless by the end of it? Why did Jon and the Night King have multiple epic stare downs if the two of them were never going to have any kind of confrontation at all? Hell, why bring Jon back from the dead if Arya has been the one destined to be defeat the White Walkers?
A Twist For The Sake Of Having A Twist
David Benioff and Dan Weiss, GoT’s showrunners have confirmed that this has been the plan for around 3 years for the White Walkers. Solely because it’s unpredictable. It’s certainly subversive, I’ll give them that. Having that tenacity to subvert expectations has been part of the reason why the show has been so successful in the first place. But that trick only works if it makes sense within the confines of the narrative and pays off. The Red Wedding happened because Robb Stark executed one of his allies and broke a promise. But the Army of the Dead, which is supposed to be the overarching plot thread of the show, is swiftly dealt with in one episode because of a throwaway line about eye color 6 years ago? It’s a lazy twist for the sake of a twist that not only was unsatisfying, but made Jon and Bran’s entire story arcs meaningless.
The White Walkers and their plot will go down as one of the most pointless storylines in the history of television. 8 years of buildup and mystery all thrown in the trash in a single episode. It invalidates the entire message of the series. All that stuff about the Throne being meaningless because of the White Walkers was stupid, let’s get back to some of that sweet squabbling! The final battle with Wine Drunk Incest Queen and Pirate Bam Margera is gonna be tight as hell. All jokes aside, I’m well aware that there are still three episodes left of the show. Anything could happen. But honestly, I’ve just got no interest in what that might be after this. And of every sin “The Long Night” committed, despite the confusing action sequences and terrible writing, that’s the worst thing it could have done.
After a wild battle at Winterfell, Nick Roush and T.J. Walker return to to Kentucky Thrones Radio for reconstruction. What will life be like in Westeros without the White Walkers? They discuss what lies ahead in the final three episodes of Game of Thrones. Highlights:
— Is the Catspaw dagger actually Lightbringer?
— How do we make a cameo in the show?
— Jon and Dany’s next move is to…
— How Tyrion’s decision-making will affect the outcome of the show.
— Where was Bran warging? Will it matter?
— Euron gets his knee dirty.
— Where will Cersei take the battle?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By KSR on ©April 30th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruse can’t wait to discuss Avengers: Endgame and they’re prepared to talk about it all without giving The Funkhouser Situation audience any spoilers. Listen to them tap around the topic and talk about a few other things around the world of pop culture, like…
— Adventures at the grocery store.
— The enormous pressure the writers faced to finish the Marvel series properly.
— The final season of Big Bang Theory.
— Taylor Swift has a new music video.
— A look back at John Singleton’s best movies.
— Will the new Seth Rogen-Charlize Theron movie be any good?
— A little Game of Thrones discussion.
— A royal rumor in Hot Goss!
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar.
The Long Night has arrived and Kentucky Thrones Radio has survived. Nick Roush and T.J. Walker went live with Trevor Kelsey to talk about the incredible battle at Winterfell in episode three of season eight in Game of Thrones. Highlights:
— A terrible way to use Dothraki and trebuchets.
— Malisandre saved the day.
— Was it too dark?
— Arya is the Real MVP.
— The dragon fight lived up to the hype.
— Have we seen the last of the Night King?
— Jon Snow still makes terrible battle decisions.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
So if you didn’t know, Avengers: Endgame hit theaters and like the good nerds they are Daniel Dunston and Bill Sheehy went to see it on opening night. They were so moved by their experience they decided neither one could write the review alone so they decided to write it together. BS = Bill Sheehy. DD = Daniel Dunston. Bill and Dan’s Excellent Review of Avengers: Endgame begins now!
BS: The landscape of comic book movies has fundamentally changed over the past 10 years, due in no small part to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Iron Man came out over a decade ago, I remember very vividly, an MTV Movie Awards skit that featured Robert Downey Jr, where a kid said Iron Man was good but it was screwed once The Dark Knight comes out. It’s funny looking back at it now because of just how massive the MCU and Iron Man has become, gone are the days of Iron Man as an opening act, he’s become the main event. Over the past decade we’ve seen twists and turns, and moments we could only dream of. We’ve had different Hulks and War Machines but through all these movies and stories they’ve delivered characters that we’ve grown with and give a damn about. It’s because of all this growth and care that Avengers:Endgame reaches the euphoric heights it’s able to take us to. We’re in the Endgame now, and what a spectacular place to be.
DD: A common complaint with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short, especially as it relates to Avengers: Infinity War is the fact it has so many characters and interconnected stories that it must be impossible to tell one coherent narrative. However, Infinity War managed to tell a narrative focused primarily on its villain but the challenge is different for Avengers: Endgame. The film has cut down much of its large cast of characters after the snap at the end of the last film and it is probably for the best because that means you get to spend more screen time going deeper into the emotional states of the remaining Avengers. Endgame is one of the better Marvel movies with how it handles its characters as you see how they all deal with their own failings. You understand why characters would behave in certain ways because you get a better understanding of who they are.
BS: I think one of the greatest aspects of them dealing with those failings is just how broken and battered our heroes have become. It never feels like the forced dark and grittiness of their counterparts in the DCEU, it’s actually earned and my god is it a perfect way to deal with the emotional gut punch that was the snap at the end of Infinity War. They also find really bold an unexpected ways that our heroes are dealing with such a profound loss. From Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, without spoiling it, they somehow find the perfect character arcs that show actual character progression over the course of not just this film, but the entirety of the MCU. I just found it so interesting, because how do you deal with such profound loss and what would happen tomorrow if half of the world was just gone? They deal with it in such a human and believable way.
DD: However, let’s not just focus on the darker side of the film here. There is actually a surprising amount of levity and humor there as well. It may seem like it wouldn’t fit in with a story that left off on such a downer but the humor keeps the movie from feeling monotone and unbalanced. Too often, superhero films think they have to choose between lighthearted romp where the plot goes out the window or a serious subdued film that has no place for humor or fun of any kind. Avengers: Endgame balances this perfectly. The humor always seems natural and the quips by the characters seem very true to form of how each character would behave. More importantly, the moments when you are laughing or cheering set you up for the emotionally devastating moments of loss or grief that follow it. The humor never takes away from the characters arcs and the grief never really clouds the brilliant spectacle that brings the fast-paced action people came to see.
BS: Dear God does this movie know how to deal with spectacle! Infinity War was my favorite MCU movie because of its spectacle and heart. I never thought anything would make me get up and cheer louder than Thor triumphantly joining the battle in Wakanda and saving the day, well that was until I saw Endgame, because off the top of my head I can think of three just in this one movie. There are some truly insane moments of pure comic book nerdgasm that made Daniel have to physically sit me down and tell me to shush. When the first Avengers movie came out, so many people said that they never thought we would ever see the Avengers on the big screen and that in itself was an insane achievement. Fast forward to today and I literally cannot believe some of the shots and scenes that the Russo’s have so expertly directed and given us in this film. Beyond the obvious awesome nerdtastic goodness, the movie is really, really pretty to look at, with cinematography that sells the giant spectacle. Daniel and I didn’t see it on an IMAX screen, but I can guarantee you’ll wanna see this on the biggest screen possible.
DD: But this movie isn’t just big set pieces for spandex-clad individuals to punch each other. It is filled with smaller moments that really bring out the heart. There was a quick shot at one point of Tony Stark simply looking at an old photo but Robert Downey Jr’s performance in that scene and the weight he put behind it nearly broke me. Almost every actor in Endgame has at least one moment like that and with a cast this talented it’s easy for them to add weight to those smaller moments. Even amidst the action sequences, you can see smaller moments amongst the characters further developing their relationships and strengthening our connection as an audience with them. That isn’t easy to pull off in a franchise that has been going on for 22 films and 11 years but the Russo brothers pulled it off expertly.
BS: It’s in these smaller moments where Endgame becomes something more than just another comic book movie, or another MCU movie. These moments give us some really jaw-dropping, tear-inducing moments that make this movie so special and why I think it’s important to see this movie more than once to take in everything that happens. I’ve already seen it twice and while I was emotional the first time and was obviously excited to see the movie, the second time I saw it, these moments really hit me and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried at several points throughout the course of the movie. I’ve cared about these characters since I was in middle school and seeing their growth over the past decade really got to me.And what’s so great is that if you’ve paid attention and cared as much as I have, there are great callbacks to the entire MCU. It feels like a fitting conclusion to a series of film that so many people like myself care about.
DD: The MCU callbacks can be a double-edged sword for the movie. The movie has a lot of references to past MCU movies. Some are small, just a line or two of dialogue here and there, but some are larger scenes or more important characters. This is both good and bad. The movie feels like a finale to the entire Marvel storyline so far and so it makes sense to tie everything back into it. The callbacks work to sometimes add levity or drama to scenes that might need it and they reward the viewer for sticking it through 22 movies and investing themselves in this world and its characters. However, if you aren’t familiar with the entire Marvel canon or just don’t remember certain movies that well, you might miss out on some of what the scenes are going for. The movie does assume, probably correctly given the audience it’s going for, that you have an investment in the franchise already and they don’t need to remind you of certain things. The only other kind of nitpick negative I can say for the film is that there are a few moments where plot conveniences are used to expedite the story. For the most part, they are used for smaller moments and usually played for laughs but if that is something that bothers you, you have been warned.
BS: Infinity War had that same issue as well, but honestly if this is your first Marvel movie, good luck! It’s kind of your fault at this point if you haven’t checked out at least one. Beyond that, I did have a few minor problems with the movie and its structure. Once again, we’re not gonna spoil it, but the mission that the Avengers go on can be a bit confusing, and the rules that it sets up can lead to a couple of different inconsistencies in the story. With a 3 hour long movie, I was worried that it may drag on in spots, and there are a couple of spots where I did look at my watch, but on the whole, it really moves at a fast pace and honestly felt about as long as Infinity War. This is as nit-picky as it gets but we really don’t see how the snap affected a lot of the outside world in places like Wakanda, which seemed to be hit pretty hard in Infinity War. That’s 100% a personal nitpick for me but I really wanted to see more from there and I didn’t get that.
DD: Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives. If you have seen all or even most of these movies, you probably care about the characters already and everything we have said has just made you more excited to see something you were already planning on watching. If you have never seen a Marvel movie before, this is probably not the best one to jump in on. As a capstone to a story that began in 2008, Avengers: Endgame is exactly what it needs to be, a breathtaking emotional thrill ride that leaves you happy to have gone along on the journey and excited to see what the future might hold. Personally, I enjoyed this more than I have any other movie that has come out in the past few years and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
BS: I completely agree. Avengers: Endgame at its best is comic book fans Return of the King, filled with twists, turns, and scenes that we only could have dreamed of as a kid. It’s a thrilling and emotional finale for the Infinity Saga and a fitting conclusion to the past decade of the MCU.
Bill and Dan’s Excellent Score: 9.5/10
Andy Samberg’s comedic opus Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – a spoof on modern pop music stardom – features a scene in which Samberg’s character Conner4Real shits in the bathroom of the Anne Frank House. The scene is a riff on Justin Bieber’s infamous note left in the Anne Frank House’s guestbook: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” David Ehrlich wrote in his review that Popstar‘s satire is not quite as absurd as the real-life event it criticizes. “There’s no getting around one stubborn truth about this frequently hilarious movie,” he writes. “The incident that may have inspired it was also the incident that rendered it unnecessary.”
The same can be said of The Twilight Zone’s newest episode “The Wunderkind,” in which an eleven-year-old child is elected President of the United States. The episode takes this premise to very heavy-handed and obvious places, offering nothing new to our already frantic discourse concerning the White House. “Huh, doesn’t this childlike behavior remind us of a certain orange-faced Oval Office occupant?” asks the episode’s writer, as if they are the first to deem Trump’s conduct childlike.
Local cute boy Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay) initially rises to moderate fame as a lets-play YouTuber who pwns the noobz in Fortnite – he makes a point to say his first content endeavors centered on Minecraft, but he is too old for that “little boy” game now – but shoots to viral stardom when he announces his candidacy for President. Disgraced campaign manager Raff Hanks (John Cho) sees Oliver’s video and immediately pounces on him as a serious candidate. Raff ran his previous campaign into the ground, but Oliver is a chance at a new beginning.
Oliver clicks with the American public instantly. His statements bestowing the virtues of “being nice to other people” and “having more Star Wars movies” seep into the citizenship’s hearts. His apparent goodness makes him a strong enough candidate as any, so the public believes, and he skyrockets to the top of the polls instantly. Despite several poor debate performances displaying no true knowledge of public policy – sound bites include “taxes are good except when they’re bad, but they’re mostly good, right?” – Oliver utilizes his innocent charm to cement his throne as America’s Sweetheart, climbing his way to the American Presidency.
Oliver’s brattiness is teased throughout the episode through screaming matches with is parents or refusal to participate in debate prep, but only when he ascends to the Oval Office does his character truly sour. His demands as Commander-in-Chief turn quite extreme. He calls for Nintendo to give all American’s a free Gameboy or he will impose a million-dollar-per-Gameboy tax, burying the company in a pit of financial failure. He wants to “fire” all of Congress when they request his medical report. The aides, rather than pushing against Oliver’s demands, follow his wishes blindly. Any confrontation leads to an immediate firing.
The Trump allegory is painfully hamfisted. Stories of Trump’s inadequate knowledge of governmental functions and refusal to consider other’s points-of-view are far too numerous for me to mention. But the attempt at political commentary in “The Wunderkind” proves useless as it is preaching to the choir. No Trump supporter will see “The Wunderkind” and think, “Oh gee, maybe Trump really is bad.” Nor will any Trump nay-sayers come away with new insights on his Presidency. The episode regurgitates familiar rhetoric surrounding the Trump era with no new perspective to offer. “The Wunderkind” is not trying to make an argument; it is inviting already like-minded viewers to join in on beating its dead horse. Trump is a petulant child! We get it!
We have seen a lot of incredible Trump Era art that insightfully examines what led to his Presidency and his failings as a leader (BlackKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, The Death of Stalin, and The Favourite are four examples from 2018 alone). But those films are adding to the conversation and try to point out toxic aspects of the United States that were already thriving before Trump took office. “The Wunderkind” has no similar ambition. It is content to say “Trump is bad” and leave it at that. In a show as hellbent on confronting questions of American identity as this new Twilight Zone revival is, “The Wunderkind” single-layered identity as an anti-Trump narrative does not bravely enough consider what it is about Trump that is so troubling. It is more comforting to point and mock than it is to look inward.
Episodes of “The Twilight Zone” are available exclusively at CBS All Access.
By KSR on ©April 24th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
The KTR crew is double-dipping this week to preview what will be the final defining moment of Game of Thrones. Nick Roush and T.J. Walker preview the Battle of Winterfell by predicting who lives, who dies, who wins and so much more. Highlights:
— Will the Tyrion/Bran conversation mean something significant in the future?
— General Walker and General Roush’s Battle Plans.
— Will Bran’s masterplan work?
— We haven’t seen the Night King; could he be going somewhere else?
— How Jenny’s Song could preview the fate of Jon and Dany.
— There’s no way anything bad could ever happen in the crypts.
— What potential act would be so egregious, T.J. would quit watching?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
In case you haven’t heard, oh who am I kidding, you know that Avengers: Endgame is coming out this weekend. Marvel is tying up the loose ends on the story it has been telling for 11 years and 22 movies. But what if you haven’t seen any of these movies or you didn’t want to rewatch all 21 movies that came before Endgame? If only you knew someone who spent their life preparing for this moment and could help get you ready to watch Avengers Endgame. If only… alright fine, you’ve convinced me, I’ll do it.
What happened to bring us here?
Let’s start with the big question and to truly do this we need to start from the very beginning of the Universe. No, I’m serious. The history of the Marvel Universe begins with the single most important moment to everything that has happened since. Time to get all up in this deep lore.
Before the Big Bang there were six singularities. When the Universe was formed, these singularities became the six Infinity Stones. Gems with immense power each with the ability to manipulate certain aspects of the Universe and the potential to basically make whoever can combine them and wield them successfully into a god. But they are too powerful for any normal being to wield. The stones scattered to the far reaches of the Universe though they basically seemed to all end up on Earth eventually. We will check back in with the stones as they come up but now let’s get to the rest of the events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the MCU for short, and we’ll do it in chronological order.
Game of Thrones returned for another week of reunions and a little hanky-panky in the show’s 69th episode. Nick Roush is back to correct T.J. Walker’s garbage takes in another episode of Kentucky Thrones Radio. Highlights:
— The show is running out of time and T.J. is sick of waiting around.
— A candid conversation between Sansa and Dany revealed a few things.
— We now know the Night King’s motives.
— An all-time Tormund episode.
— Arya’s swinging a new hammer.
— Some people are just asking to die after too many feel-good moments.
By Brent Wainscott on ©April 21st, 2019 @ 4:00pm
To my KSR Avengers fans out there: we’ve finally made it to Avengers week. Just a little over a year ago, Thanos snapped his fingers to wipe out half of all living things across the universe. This week, we’ll get to see our favorite heroes attempt to defeat Thanos in Avengers Endgame. Because it’s finally the week of the movie premiere, I started thinking… what Kentucky sports figures would be in the Avengers, and what superhero are they most like? Here is what I came up with.
Tony Stark – John Calipari
When people think of the Avengers, the first hero to come to mind is often Tony Stark – same with the University of Kentucky and Coach Cal. Both Cal and Stark are the faces of their franchises and both brought life back into their program. When the first Iron Man came out in 2008, Marvel hadn’t been putting out movies quite to the ability it was now; then it hit, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. When Cal took over, he had to rebuild a Kentucky team left in shambles after the short Billy G era, and he made Kentucky cool again.
Coincidentally, both Stark and Coach Cal took over around the same time in 2008 and 2009. There are also a lot of similarities in their personalities: Tony Stark is a genius who changed the game with his first Iron Man suit, and it brought about a whole new generation of heroes. Similarly, Cal re-invented the game with the One and Done, and just like Stark, he is still evolving his craft, thanks to the recent infusion of grad-transfers.
With each guy having a swagger on level 1,000 and confidence through the roof, both guys are definitely considered “the man” to their respective franchises.
Spider-Man – Lynn Bowden
Who doesn’t love Spider-man? Who doesn’t love Lynn Bowden? I’m not going to lie – I believe this is the most dead-on comparison on this list. I mean, just look at the picture.
Just like Spider-Man, Bowden is an electrifying asset to his team. With his unbelievable quickness, elusiveness, and agility, Bowden posses the same athletic traits as Spider-Man. Not only is the athletic comparison dead on, but both of their personalities are lovable as well.
Spider-Man is the kid of the group. He’s known for his quirky remarks, and sometimes he says something and you can’t help but shake your head and crack a laugh. The same can be said when Lynn Bowden takes to Twitter, and no one ever knows what he’s going to say next. Plus, there was that time Lynn Bowden asked Coach Stoops during a KSR session if he could go in his office to play Xbox.
Both are great heroes who play huge roles already on their team, but both still have so much potential still. Just like I can’t wait to see Spidey on the big screen more, I can’t wait to see Lynn Bowden on the field more this season.
Thor – Abbey Cheek
Thor is known for his pure strength and ability to knock out anything with one swing of his hammer. The same can be said for UK softball’s all-time home run hitter Abbey Cheek.
Every time Cheek steps to the plate, you feel like the ball will leave the yard. The senior third baseman has made a career of destroying her opponents with one swift swing of the bat as she has helped lead the Cats host back to back Regionals en route to a Kentucky record of 57 career home runs and counting.
Thor is one of the most powerful Avengers, and it’s no question Abbey Chek is one of the most powerful Wildcats of all time.
Captain America – CJ Conrad
When one thinks of Captain America, they think of a leader. A guy with a huge heart and a lot of class, but who can still defeat his opponent. He is the penultimate captain, and for Kentucky, that is CJ Conrad. Captain America gets ribbed a little bit amongst the Avengers for being the respectful old man, but CJ Conrad is the same, in a way. With his fantastic philanthropy work off the field, his classy interviews and his respectfulness that all display his maturity, CJ Conrad is one of the most mindful people you will ever meet.
On the field, Captain America is known for his shield, despite his amazing athleticism and his ability to fight any opponent without it. Theoretically, the same can be said for CJ Conrad’s blocking ability. While he is a great receiving tight end, it seems as he got used in blocking schemes more than he did catching passes. Although, when he did get the ball thrown to him, something positive almost always happened for the Cats.
CJ Conrad is the ultimate captain.
Hulk – Josh Allen
Just like the Hulk, Josh Allen is a monster on the battlefield. You know where he is at all times, and he’s easily one of the most feared assets on any team he is on. He strikes fear into all his opponents. Just like the Hulk when assembling a team of heroes (athletes), Allen will be one of the first guys picked.
Off the field, Josh Allen turns from the Hulk into Bruce Banner. He is a stand-up guy who is driven to perfect his craft, just like Banner.
Not to mention his body transformation is reminiscent of Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk.
Hawkeye – Zack Thompson
When you think of Hawkeye, you think of pinpoint accuracy and never missing his target. The same can be said for Zack Thompson. Thompson is one of the most dominant pitchers in all of college baseball right now, with a record of 3-1, an ERA 2.5 and 91 strikeouts this season. Zack Thompson has been vital, but – just like Hawkeye – it’s easy to overlook Thompson due to the team around him.
The only difference is Hawkeye gets outshined due to the amazing heroes around him, while it’s easy to forget about ZT if you’re not a UK fan due to the lack of success from the Bat Cats this season. Regardless, both Thompson and Hawkeye are deadeye marksmen who never miss their target.
Starlord – Benny Snell
To fans of The Guardians of the Galaxy, Starlord is one of the most respected heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (until he punched Thanos in the face), but to the rest of the universe, Starlord gets no respect. So much so that in the opening scene of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, he presented himself as Starlord and the one response he got was “who!?” But throughout the movie, Peter Quill made sure you knew his name, and Benny Snell is the same way. Proving doubters wrong since day one and having fun in the process.
With his fun-loving personality, fans love Starlord because even when he’s defeating his opponents, you can catch him dancing, singing and talking some major trash. That is completely reminiscent of the one and only Benny Snell. Snell loved playing to the fans when he played at Kentucky – he would find himself on the video board constantly, and he always knew when the camera was on him.
When your girl goes through your phone and finds nothing pic.twitter.com/qFw1AsTJMk
— Nøtdante** (@n0tdante) September 20, 2018
Rocket- Tyler Herro
Some of you may think this of a reach, but when you step back and think about it, these two are more alike than you realize. If you are unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy you may think of Rocket as “just a regular raccoon,” and for some people, they think Tyler Herro is “just another white guy who can shoot.” But in reality, they both bring so much more to the table. Just like Herro, Rocket thrives surrounded by enemies. We all watched how Tyler Herro performed on the road this season, and for Rocket, he was known for escaping out of 24 prisons, including in the second Guardians. Rocket helped break himself, Yondu and Baby Groot out of captivity.
Not only do they both thrive surrounded by enemies, but they both also love to shoot, despite bringing other qualities to the table while talking some trash in the process.
One final comparison for these two: in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, with time ticking down and his back against the wall, Rocket led his team to victory under pressure when he was able to blast out of prison. Very reminiscent of Tyler Herro draining that three-pointer to beat Houston.
Nick Fury – Vince Marrow
To the Avengers, Nick Fury is the ultimate recruiter. In one week while trying to engage his Avengers initiative, Nick Fury was able to recruit Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk to create the greatest superhero team ever assembled.
While Vince Marrow’s recruiting didn’t happen as quickly, helping the players go from a 2-10 dumpster fire to the best team in the history of the school in just five years is quite impressive. Without Fury, the world doesn’t see the Spider-man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man team up. Without Marrow, Kentucky fans don’t get to see Benny Snell, Lynn Bowden and Josh Allen team up to conquer college football.
Do you agree with the comparisons? Who did I leave off?
Avengers: Endgame hits theatres Thursday Night.
Go Cats. Beat Thanos. @BrentW_KSR
The Twilight Zone in its first three episodes has delivered a variety of genres: “The Comedian” is a mildly supernatural parable; “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” is a mystery; and “Replay” is political allegory. It is fun to see the show bouncing around different avenues to deliver its storytelling. But now The Twilight Zone has entered truly bonkers territory with its science-fiction laden fourth episode “T Traveler,” and the confidence I once had in being a moderately intelligent person has been shaken by this episode’s refusal to hold the audience’s hand.
“The Traveler” takes place in the State Trooper station of a small Alaskan community. It is Christmas Eve and Captain Lane Pendleton (Greg Kinnear) is hosting the station’s annual Christmas Party. Every year – to boost his own ego – he pardons one of the criminals in the jail to spread seasonal joy. Since nobody is in the jail on Christmas Eve, Sergeant Yuka Mongoyak (Marika Sila) arrests her brother Jack (Patrick Gallagher) simply to provide Captain Pendleton a pardonee for the party. Yuka locks her brother in the cell and returns to the party until Pendleton gives her orders to release him.
When Yuka comes back to release Jack she discovers a stranger (“Adrian Bryant’s Pick for Sexiest Man Alive” Steven Yeun) has entered Jack’s neighboring cell. The man claims to be a hit YouTuber named A. Traveler. A. Traveler, well, travels across the world to create video content covering his adventures across the globe’s greatest natural and man-made feats. Captain Pendleton’s pardoning ceremony is one such feat in the eyes of the YouTube community, according to the stranger. As A. Traveler’s praise for the Captain grows more extreme (he once claims that Russian agents say they will never invade the U.S. because they’d have to get through Captain Pendleton), Pendleton consents to giving the well-dressed stranger the greatest gift of all: a trademark Pendleton Pardon.
A. Traveler joins the Christmas party after being released and proves to be quite the guest. He sings karaoke, he praises each officer individually, and he does his fair share of flirting. But as Yuka grows more suspicious of the conspicuous guest, he begins to exhibit alarming behavior. He outs the dirty laundry on some of the officers’ disorderly conduct (a la excessive drinking and refusal to pay child support). Pendleton’s attitude on the man turns sour after his draconian escapade. Yuka, similarly distressed, attempts to ally with Pendleton to discover the mystery behind the well-dressed visitor.
“The Traveler” is very concerned with the questions about truth and agenda. All of the characters, including our main protagonist, are made to be untrustworthy. While Yeun is the antagonist-lite of the episode, Pendleton is also quite shady, bemonaed by Yuka and Jack as a self-indulgent prick. He opens the Christmas party with a speech about how his Christian ancestors tamed the great, uninhabited land of Alaska. The tension between his alpha-colonialist sentiments and Yuka’s resentment of Inuits (as well as other Native American groups) being pushed to the ass-end of his – and America’s – cultural narrative creates a fascinating dynamic between the two characters: Pendleton is the worst of America’s patriotic tendencies, and Yuka seems to want to usurp him at any point she can. Sadly, this specific duality is rarely explored beyond the episode’s first twenty minutes.
A. Traveler utilizes their division to his liking. He lauds Pendleton as the epitome of American values (in many ways, he unfortunately is), but tells Yuka that soon she will be rightfully in charge of the post. Between his hypocritical attitudes to the two and his repeated lies concerning his identity – one moment he is a YouTuber and the next moment he is an FBI agent – we learn A. Traveler has many secrets hidden beneath his charming grin. But the episode seems to be asking us if trusting Pendleton or Yuka is any more reasonable than trusting A. Traveler. Motives inherently infect institutions, and believing in any one person’s agenda can be very dangerous.
“The Traveler,” despite its interesting questions on individual exploitation, is a tonal mess. At some points it desires to be a governmental thriller, but when it settles into that groove it moves into a mild but contextually jarring science-fiction world where natural laws as we understand them are tossed away. The cast does as well as it can with the material – thankfully neither the script nor the direction dampen Yeun’s astronomical sex appeal – but their performances get lost in the mixed messaging of the story. While it is a nutty episode that I cannot stop thinking about, it does not build to a wholly satisfying experience.
That is as much as I can say without spoiling the end. But I can’t not talk about the absurd direction that this episode takes in its last few moments. So after this point there will be spoilers for “The Traveler.”
[ONCE AGAIN: SPOILERS FOR “THE TRAVELER” FOLLOW]
In the early moments of the episode we see a pink star overlooking the State Trooper station as Yuka and Jack make their way in. They are both perplexed by the sight, but shrug it off as a harmless anomaly. The moment they resume marching forward the star zips away into the forest line. What we now see as a U.F.O. is a not-so-subtle hint that this episode is about aliens. I was well primed, then, for Steven Yeun to be an intergalactic troll.
What I was decisively not prepared for, however, was that this intergalactic troll would be a meddler in international affairs. A. Traveler reveals that Pendleton has sold the location of the nearby Air Force base’s power grid to the Russians. He insists that if Pendleton does not act quickly, the Russian agents currently on their way to confirm the location will be sabotaged by the American agents that the Traveler have tipped off. Pendleton will be exposed as a treasonous agent and will be put away for the rest of his life, if he is lucky enough to not have started a full-scale war between the two countries.
Pendleton rushes to the grid to stop the Russia/America conflict, but then there is no Russia/America conflict. A. Traveler lied so that Pendleton would lead his alien army to the grid for them to invade. When Yuka is left alone with A. Traveler after Pendleton leaves, he reveals his scheme to her while also revealing her abdication of her duties in favor of taking down Pendleton. A. Traveler has lied to her repeatedly and she has pressed him on those lies, except for when he promised Yuka that she would take over Captain Pendleton’s job very soon. That lie she accepted. Once the promise was made, Yuka, became much more hands off, and therefore complicit in a scheme she could have obstructed. The Traveler still leaves the opportunity to take Pendleton’s job (assuming his demis) open to her, under the condition she submit to his authority.
Deciding that she will not cave to A. Traveler’s plot, Yuka rushes to stop Pendleton from revealing the location of the grid. She arrives to find Pendleton fully aware that A. Traveler was lying. He also exposes her corrupt ambition for wanting to overthrow him. “It’s only a lie if we choose to believe it,” he says while staring down the bullet of Yuka’s shotgun. Alien ships soon fly over the two of them, and the credits roll.
Admittedly, I have a hard time making out what the episode is trying to say. As mentioned above, it seems to be delving into ideas about how we exploit our personal agendas at the expense of progress. Both Pendleton and Yuka are at war with each other over conflicting interests; all it takes it the Traveler to raise their conflict to its full potential. Pendleton’s knowledge, though, muddies the waters for me. I don’t believe it is meant to be an optimistic ending – one that would be saying man can be aware of his flaws enough to know when he is being played – given that the aliens do invade. His last line, though. I don’t know what to make of it.
I am going to have to revisit “The Traveler” again to make sense of the whole ordeal. I am unsure if it is admirably ambitious or remarkably silly. Regardless, trying hard toward a great goal and failing in art is much preferable to playing it safe. Of course, it may have hit its target. I may just need to give myself more time to find out what that target is.
The Twilight Zone’s first episode, “The Comedian,” is free on YouTube for those without a CBS All Access subscription. All other episodes will only be available on CBS All Access.
For six more weeks, Game of Thrones is in our lives. Prior to the season eight premiere, the KSR crew collaborated to create a friendly competition.
Before an NFL football season, fans draft players to create a fantasy football team. In similar fashion, we picked which characters will die from our favorite fantasy show. There are four options for each character’s fate at the end of season eight:
Each person will get one point for a correct answer. To clarify, if a character dies and comes back to life at any time they will qualify as “undead.” Even though Jon Snow has technically already done that, it does not count. As for Bran, well, that’s a whole different ball game. If a person correctly predicts who will sit atop the Iron Throne, they get three bonus points.
People aren’t too confident Dany is going to live to see the end of the show. On the other hand, nobody believes Samwell will die. Jon Snow was the most popular pick to win the Iron Throne, while Jaime and Sansa received some surprise love.
While we wait for the results, enjoy the dulcet tones of Kentucky Thrones Radio. A new podcast will be on iTunes each Monday afternoon. Valar Morghulis.
It’s the beginning of the end. Following the final Game of Thrones season premiere, Nick Roush and T.J. Walker discuss the reunions, revelations and everything in-between from “Winterfell.” In this episode of Kentucky Thrones Radio you’ll hear…
— There’s a new intro, but what does it mean?
— The origins of the Golden Company and their “unbreakable” contracts.
— Is Sansa actually the smartest person in the show?
— Jon’s love for caves has transitioned to waterfalls.
— Where in the hell is Ghost?
— Jon knows he’s a Targaryen, how will Dany take the news?
— Who had the best one-liner?
I was at dinner with a friend when my girlfriend, Kennedy, started blowing up my phone with irate text messages. What the heck. / That’s not Twilight Zone. / That doesn’t have a freaking lesson. / That’s just throwing in something pretty weird and being like, “Huh, weird, right? / I am mad. This is not correct. Why did this happen to me. No good.
She was referring specifically to “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” the second episode of the new Twilight Zone series. While I bemoaned the failings of “30,000 Feet” for some length last week, Kennedy put its primary issue far more succinctly than I managed to: “It is not surreal,” she said. “It is a murder mystery. Rather than a ‘who-dun-it,’ the episode is ‘who-gonna-do-it?’ That isn’t Twilight Zone-y.”
She has a point. The glaring flaw of the first two episodes is that the premise is not in any way metaphorical. While “The Comedian” is supernatural, the idea doesn’t really hold an inherent message. “Nightmare at 30,000” is hardly supernatural and meanders endlessly to a lame climax. Serling’s aim with the original Twilight Zone was to bring sociopolitical discussion to a television world through allegory, as outright mentioning politics would never be allowed. That the first two episodes of CBS All Access’s new swing at the property are so apolitical is a peculiar failure.
The Twilight Zone’s third episode, “Replay,” is a massive course-correction toward political messaging. While Serling’s original show could only hint at current events, “Replay” outright addresses social struggles while still maintaining the otherworldliness of the original series.
The episode revolves around Nina Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) and her son Dorian (Damson Idris) as they travel to Dorian’s college freshman orientation. Nina is filming the event on a massive camcorder from years past, which Dorian takes ample time to mock. Nina discovers that when she hits the Rewind button on the camcorder time itself literally reverses. Nina uses the ability to reverse time repeatedly in attempt to avoid confrontation with Officer Lasky (Glenn Fleshler); despite the repeated do-over’s, the different routes she takes to the school, and the varying degrees with which she tries to relate to Lasky, every trip to the college results in Lasky pulling Nina and Dorian over, putting them into great danger.
“Replay,” by Kennedy’s metrics, is incredibly Twilight Zone-y. It is remarkably tense; Lasky pulls the family over multiple times throughout the episode, but each encounter between the three grows more fearful. Lasky is stern and relentless, and his racism seethes through his pores any time he speaks with Nina or Dorian. The fear Nina and Dorian have of Lasky is, unfortunately, the fear that many African American families must live with. The sight of red and blue sirens always bring the prospect of fatality at the hands police, and the epidemic of police brutality is at the center of the episode’s plot.
“Replay,” as well as being politically cognizant, is very cheesy and sentimental – as many Twilight Zone episodes are. Nina as more or less shunned her family and childhood life, not having talked to her brother Neil (Steve Harris) in years, nor going to her father’s funeral once he passed. Dorian does not resent Nina for depriving him of an extended family, but he desperately begs her to reconnect with Neil and develop a familial connection that he has not been blessed with. The “solution” to overcoming Lasky’s threatening presence is tied to Nina’s family (I will not spoil how, exactly), and it brings a sappiness to the episode that the first two notably lacked.
The show emphasizes the power of solidarity. Nina needs to learn to embrace her past to ensure a safer future for her son. Her solidarity with her family – and the African American community at large – are key to the episode’s thematic and emotional success. “Replay” is hopeful for the future while recognizing the difficulties that come with progress, and the balance of optimism and realism is a key tone that unites the episode with Serling’s original series.
The stance that “Replay” takes against police brutality is very likely to alienate some viewers from the show. The original series was no stranger to episodes critiquing racism, but none were quite as overt as “Replay” is. And police brutality, especially in conservative states like Kentucky, is always sure to spark rage condemning the “war on police.” CBS’s release an episode so aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement (various allusions to Black Lives Matter are interspersed throughout the episode’s locations) speaks to a mission of inclusion present from the series’s start (thinking of Jordan Peele hosting, Kumail Nanjiani being the lead of the first episode, and the team of African American writers who worked on “Replay”) and a willingness to give stories to populations that – even in the ’60s Twilight Zone – have been excluded from Hollywood en masse.
“Replay” pushes the political legacy of Rod Serling much farther than I am sure he ever would have imagined. Even if it alienates more conservative viewers (although hopefully they will learn from the episode rather than immediately protesting it), the push works exceedingly well and is exactly what the show needed to improve on the banality of its first two episodes.
The Twilight Zone’s first episode, “The Comedian,” is free on YouTube for those without a CBS All Access subscription. All other episodes will only be available on CBS All Access.
By Blake Vickers on ©April 11th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Not since Twin Peaks has there ever been a television show to garner as much fan speculation as Game of Thrones. Given the mysterious, puzzle box nature of the book series it’s based on, how could it not? For years, viewers have been re-watching and theorizing to help answer some of the biggest questions in the series. Who is Jon Snow’s mother? Where do the White Walkers come from? What happened to Benjen Stark? Heading into the final season, all of those questions have been answered. Speculation has been one of the most enjoyable things about watching Game of Thrones. With the end beginning this Sunday, one final question hangs over our heads; just how does this massive, convoluted thing end? As a longtime fan of the series (I read the books years before the show came out, you unwashed troglodytes), I’m gonna take a crack at answering that. Be warned, I’m 90% sure one of these is correct.
The White Walkers Are Defeated, A lot of People Die
Fully completing his transformation into a character written by J.R.R. Tolkien, Jon Snow leads the armies of men into a final battle against the Night King and his icy horde. The budget is massive. The predictable characters (Jaime, Davos, Tormund, Theon, any CGI Animal Friend, Brienne, Jorah, Either Stark Sister, etc.) fall. It climaxes with Jon dueling and defeating the Night King (probably in front of the Iron Throne), but being mortally wounded in the process. He dies in Daenery’s arms. This is followed by a time jump that shows what happens to the survivors. The series ends with Daenerys triumphantly riding a dragon or Tyrion introspectively drinking a glass of wine and spitting out one last one liner.
Cersei Wins and Does Democracy (And More Incest)
After Jon, Daenerys, and everyone else defeat the White Walkers, Cersei and Euron come in from behind with their army of mercenaries and pirates and wipe out whatever is left of the good guys. She then systematically murders almost every remaining character in the series by firing Tyrion at them with a ballista. Jaime is made her personal her personal love slave. Cersei then callously abandons the throne after securing a life of security and luxury for herself, her love slave/brother, and their unborn child. Seizing the power vacuum, the surviving peasants revolt and set up a very basic form of democracy. Euron starts a Crüe cover band.
Everyone Is a Faceless Man
After a fairly conventional finale, one more shocking twist is thrown into the mix to darken a seemingly happy ending. Arya Stark hasn’t been Arya Stark in a long time, SHOCKER, she’s dead! As Arya’s face is peeled off like a latex mask, it’s revealed that The Waif (creepy girl that tried to kill Arya in season 6 ) has been taking her place ever since, for… reasons? Only it doesn’t stop here, more faces begin peeling off. It is quickly revealed that the entire cast has been killed and replaced with Faceless Men. Valar Morghulis, all men must die, this is so edgy and cool. Wildfire explosion. Somewhere far away, David Benioff and Dan Weiss pat each other on the back and go on to make the shittiest Star Wars movies ever.
The One True King Returns
In a shocking turn of events, neither Jon nor Daenerys kill the Night King. Brienne stands triumphantly over his frozen corpse. The surviving characters are just as shocked as the viewers. One (probably Bronn or Tyrion) makes a dry remark. “Well, that’s one less to worry about”. Brienne stoically replies, “No. One fewer”. It’s at this point that Brienne’s face is peeled off (last time this happens, promise) like a monster mask in Scooby Doo, and Stannis Baratheon makes his return. The one true king has been posing as Brienne since she supposedly killed him in the season 5 finale. He has one last offer for the people of Westeros; bend the knee or be destroyed. And by God, do they bend.
Jon Snow Becomes a Lumberjack
After an incredibly sub-par final season, everything is lined up for a pretty standard finale. The bad guy is locked away, Jon and Daenerys are expecting. That is until Arya randomly suffers a stroke, and is rendered brain dead. After stabbing the Night King in the neck with an ink quill, Jon puts Arya out of her misery. He takes her body out to sea and submerges it before sailing directly towards a storm to join her in the afterlife. Time jump. Daenerys is living in Argentina with the baby. Tyrion wears Hawaiians shirts and fedoras now, calling himself Angel Batista. Everyone thinks Jon is dead. In the last few minutes of the episode, we are taken north of the Wall to find him quietly living as a lumberjack. That’s it. Nothing else really. Lame, right?
Frodo Destroys the One Ring and returns to the Shire, Forever Changed
After the heart wrenching final steps of their journey results in Sauron’s defeat and the salvation of Middle-Earth, Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring settle into new lives. Aragorn as the King of Gondor. Legolas and Gimli ride off together onto new adventures. Frodo, Sam and the rest of the Hobbits return to the Shire to little fanfare. Sam, Pippin, and Merry settle down fairly well, but they’ve all got their scars. Frodo in particular is irrevocably damaged, bearing serious PTSD from his time with the Ring. Due to this, he shares a tearful goodbye with all of his companions and sails into the Grey Havens with Gandalf, his uncle Bilbo, and some of the last of the elves. It’s very, very sad.
The Mother has Been Dead this Whole Time and Ted Ends Up with Robin
I know this is pretty harebrained, but hear me out. The Mother has been dead this whole time. BOOM. Bet you didn’t see that coming? But “why”, you ask. The show is called How I Met Your Mother, what would be the point of it if she was dead the entire time? If the show was really about the mother of Ted meeting the mother of his children, why does he spend half the show talking about all the times he banged their Aunt Robin? This is what it’s been leading up to. You know it. I know it. Just accept it.
The moment we’ve been waiting for is almost here. Just days away from the season 8 premiere, Nick and T.J. predict who will win the Game of Thrones. Highlights:
— Will any of Malisandre’s ominous prophecies ring true?
— Do we really have to sit through a Theon redemption story?
— How the legend of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer could play a big role in season 8.
— Will Cersei die at the hands of her Valonqar?
— What’s the most likely endgame scenario?
— Dead pool time.
By Blake Vickers on ©April 09th, 2019 @ 8:30am
Speaking of pop culture, New Zealand gets pegged as the country that gave the world The Lord of the Rings franchise. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s a truly beautiful country and being the birthplace of the greatest trilogy in film history certainly isn’t something to be upset about (kiss my ass, Star Wars). But high fantasy is far from the only contribution New Zealand has made to film and television. It’s also given us some really funny people. Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, Brett MacKenzie, and Taika “God” Waititi are just a few of the masterminds that call New Zealand home. And if you’re not familiar with any of their work, it’s about time you caught up. Flight of the Concords, Short Poppies, Hunt for the Wilder People, and Thor: Ragnarok (okay, most people have seen this one) are just a few movies and shows these guys have been involved in. And I love every single one of them, but they pale in comparison to What We Do In the Shadows.
The Office, but with vampires. That’s a quick pitch for Shadows, and if it doesn’t at the very least pique your interest, than nothing will ever please you. Co-directed, written, and starring Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows is without question the funniest movie of the decade. Filmed as a mockumentary, it centers on a group of vampires living together in a flat in New Zealand. Each of the roommates stands in as a different take on vampires throughout film history. There’s Deacon, who at 150+ years old is the “young bad boy of the group” and a mush shirted avatar of all things from True Blood. Viago, the sweet natured, love-struck dandy played by Waititi with the style of Bela Lugosi. Vladislav, the hyper dramatic riff on Gary Oldman’s take on Dracula, played by Clement. And then there’s Petyr. The less you know about him the better. They lead an ideal life, luring victims into their home and taking the bus into Auckland to try to get themselves invited into clubs (they have to be invited because of the whole vampire thing). It’s only when Petyr drags the would be victim Nick into their undead ranks that their world comes crashing down around them. As the laid back, somewhat naive Nick drags the group kicking and screaming into the modern world.
The film finds equal amounts of hilarity in showing us these characters dealing with both the mundane and the supernatural. They’ll argue over who should do the dishes before floating in the air and hissing at each other. You’ll learn why vampires prefer the blood of virgins (because it sounds cooler) and see our boys shit talk a group of werewolves. And good god, man, the sight gags in this thing. There’s even a cat with Jemaine Clement’s face, damn it!
Shadows has become a legitimate cult classic in the years since its release back in 2014. Its popularity has grown so much that it got itself a spinoff of the same name on FX. At the time of this writing, the second episode has premiered, and it seems like a pretty solid adaption. While Deacon, Vladislav, and Viago are missed, but Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Energy Vampire Collin Robinson make for good replacements (with the IT Crowd’s Matt Berry being the clear standout as Laszlo). The setting is changed from New Zealand to Staten Island, which they have been ordered to conquer or die by the perpetually unrecognizable Doug Jones’ Baron Afanas. As the group have been far more concerned with making glitter portraits or other such activities than inflict their vampiric superiority.
It retains the aesthetic and feel of the film. Both the film and television show feature very low key, but impressive practical effects showing off the absurd abilities of our protagonists. Awkward floating, geysers of blood, and bat transformations can all be seen in the pilot episode of the show alone.
As amazing as the film is, I think TV is the medium most suited to Shadows, as there is simply more time to spend with these characters. Most of the humor in both the film and show comes from watching these ancient creatures struggle to comprehend modern social norms. One sequence from the pilot that left me cackling involved a particularly disastrous trip to the grocery store taken by Nandor. Another from the second showcases Laszlo gifting a pile of dead raccoons to an elderly city councilwoman in a misguided effort to seduce her. With television, there is far more time to showcase these diversions, and the story is far better for it.
Whether you’re watching the film, television show or both, there’s no going wrong with What We Do In The Shadows. The film can be streamed on Amazon Prime and the show airs Wednesday’s at 10:00 PM on FX. If you don’t laugh your ass off or are at the very least intrigued, feel free to track me down in person and yell at me.
By Adrian Bryant on ©April 06th, 2019 @ 11:00am
The world is currently suffering from Jordan Peele Fever. Since he took us all to the “Sunken Place” in his directorial debut Get Out, America has been following his every move with excitement. That excitement compelled approximately all U.S. citizens to travel to the movie theaters two weeks ago to see Us, which made an astounding seventy-million dollars its opening weekend. And now America is looking to Peele to gift his talent to a new rendition of The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access. Peele serves as the show’s host and executive producer, and his face is plastered over trailers and posters that beg us to tune in to “Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone.”
What is remarkable about the first two episodes (the first is available on CBS’s YouTube channel for free) is that Peele is not incredibly involved. His only story credit is on the dismal second episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” – more on that later –, and the show displays none of his visual style. Peele simply serves as the host and little more; he pops up in the introduction to remind us that we are entering… The Twilight Zone, and he pops up at the end to wrap up the show’s themes.
The show’s largest oddity so far – and the one that speaks perhaps the most to Peele’s apparent creative absence – is that unlike the immensely political original series that Rod Serling ran, The Twilight Zone of 2019 doesn’t seem to have themes. Peele is one of the more overtly political filmmakers working in the blockbuster realm today, which makes him seem like an obvious heir to Rod Serling. He isn’t really operating in that role, though, because the first two-episodes are more concerned with preternatural unease rather than social commentary. Peele’s involvement in the two is largely relegated to narration, and none of his social cognizance is present in either of the episodes.
The first episode of the show, “The Comedian,” follows stand-up comic Samir Wassan (Kumail Nanjiani) and his repeated on-stage bombs. Samir believes in the power of comedy as art and wants to use his platform to make meaningful political statements. One of the most prominent jokes of his unpopular set has to do with the Second Amendment’s language (it has the words “well-regulated” in it, guys!). He is lost in his failure until he meets comedy legend J.C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan). Wheeler tells him that the people don’t care about what he has to say; they care about him. If Samir puts himself out there, the people will “absorb” him. Samir is reticent to bring his personal life in to the stage, but who would ignore the wisdom of J.C. Wheeler?
Samir brings his experiences to the stage first by making fun of his nephew for being on his phone in the audience. After many laughs at the expense of a small child, Samir’s nephew disappears from the audience. In fact, he seems to have never existed: Samir’s girlfriend has no memory of the boy when asked and none of the audience members who approach Samir after the show recall the jokes he made made. The crowd “absorbed” the child and removed him from existence. Samir is at first horrified, but then spends the rest of the episode sadistically using this newfound power to wipe-out anybody in his life that has hurt him in any way. As he erases his foes, he increases his Twitter followers and his popularity. Samir grows into a comedy star.