Let’s Talk About Aquaman

You know, when I first heard that they had confirmed my favorite beautiful barbarian, Jason Momoa, as Aquaman, I had mixed feelings. I grew up with the old school Aquaman. You know, the blonde one. The one that looked like he spent a little too much time hanging out with the surfers in Malibu. And he wasn’t super tough looking either. This is the Aquaman I was used to.

A more traditional take on Aquaman.

A more traditional take on Aquaman.

So given the thought of a tall, darker prince of the oceans – one of mixed ethnicity, I wasn’t entirely convinced. But that feeling was of course, based on my pre-conception and looks alone. And I am the first to admit that when given a good script and good direction, Jason Momoa is capable of great acting. Let’s not forget that his portrayal of a character who raped his wife on their wedding night won our collective hearts and made us feel like that Attila-the-Hun personality might be okay – if only he would look at you longingly and call you “Moon of my life.” Though his time on Game of Thrones was short, Momoa’s portrayal of Khal Drogo made him a household name in only those few weeks.

Conversely, he had the misfortune of portraying the title character in the sad, stupid reboot of Conan the Barbarian. And while he looked the part, for sure, nothing could save that movie from such a truly horrible script. (Rose McGowan’s ridiculous performance didn’t help either.) But everyone knows that even good actors can do bad jobs sometimes; usually when at the mercy of a less than competent or inexperienced director. Which brings us to the subject at hand:

Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs Superman; Dawn of Justice.

In case you haven’t seen it yet – here it is; the first look at Momoa as Aquaman.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Of course it does. And based on this photo – I’m in.

BUT.

My concern with this image isn’t the look of it. I have set aside my preconceptions of what Aquaman should look like because this version of the character looks FREAKING AWESOME. I like the idea of Aquaman being more of a badass (and super freaking hot).

My concern is, or rather I should say, continues to be with director Zack Snyder. We all know that Snyder is capable of making movies LOOK AMAZING. Everything he’s given us so far: 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Man of Steel, have been visually stunning – beautiful to watch and truly inspiring stylized worlds that exist in high contrast and low color saturation. And from the press and teaser photos that have been released so far, Batman vs. Superman looks to be within that same apocalyptic palette. Unfortunately, Snyder’s movies, while beautifully rendered, just aren’t good.

Everything of his that I have seen (with the possible exception of 300, which I thought was actually a pretty entertaining flick but I may have been severely influenced by both Gerard Butler’s and Michael Fassbender’s abs) has been terrible. I mean, not just bad, but really and truly awful.

Let’s look at the evidence: Sucker Punch was nothing more than the misogynist wet dream of a very immature teenage boy. (And I’m not even going to get into the way he portrays women in general.) Watchmen just had too much crammed in – the story rambled, it had a significant lack of focus, and most of the characters were boring versions of their comic book counterparts. And Man of Steel… well, it was just bad. I talked about it a bit here once before, but to recap – essentially we had two fantastic actors, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams, reduced to cardboard cut-outs of themselves. Man of Steel was nothing more than destruction porn under the guise of a Superman movie.

And this, my friends, is what concerns me most about Aquaman. So far, in press releases for this movie, we’ve been given Khal Drogo underwater and a Wonder Woman who looks more like Xena the Warrior Princess than the Amazon goddess, so we’re sure to get another visually epic film from Dawn of Justice.

But the question is, will Snyder stick to his usual formula of focusing more on the visuals than the story?

I love the ideas for Batman vs. Superman that I’ve heard, and what we have been told is the direction this movie is taking. But I simply can’t get excited to see a movie from a director who has proven to be no more than a mediocre storyteller and who seems to have no actual ability to direct his actors to good performances, no matter how badass the characters look in production stills.

Why Yesterday I Didn’t Wear Pants

I’ll be honest. Last year wasn’t a great one. 2014, while it didn’t kick my ass across the room like 2013 did, did have more lows than highs, and in general it just wasn’t great.

There were of course, moments of greatness – like getting to spend some time in Paris with a very dear friend who I hadn’t seen in FAR too long. Also, getting to know my newest niece. Cause even at just over a year old, she’s pretty frakking amazing. And a couple of people came into my life or became bigger parts of it, who I now can’t imagine my world without.

But then again, there was the severe lack of employment, leading to a severe lack of funds, leading to a questioning of myself, what I do and my talents for doing it, and just generally putting me in a head space that wasn’t only unhealthy but downright destructive at times. I had a few medical problems, some rather serious, that had to be dealt with. Those weren’t fun. And paying for them isn’t going to be fun for quite some time I imagine.

But that’s all behind me now – at least as much as it can be for the time being. And as the new year started recently, I started looking at the things I wanted to change in my life, my work and my relationships. The news year’s resolutions started to form, though I really hate the term “resolutions.” Resolutions, for me aren’t a thing that you should measure. They are just things you do. And they shouldn’t be started under the pretense of New Year’s or for any other reason that begins with social pressure to “make yourself better.”

Instead, I set myself GOALS at the onset of a new year. Goals are tangible. Goals have a definitive success level that can be measured. When you reach a goal, you can see the result and say “Hey, I did that. That’s good.”

I have five this year. The first four are indeed personal and rather normal. They are the boring ones – paying off of credit cards, going on a specific vacation I’ve been wanting to take for ages, lose the weight I put on due to my medical problems last year… you know, the usual bullshit sorts of things that people talk about. But then there is the last one. And this specific goal is the one that made me take off my pants in public yesterday.

I WILL, AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH, DO SOMETHING NEW THAT IS WELL OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.

(Honestly, I hope I do these things more than once a month, but I figure once a month is a good starting point.)

So I did it. One down, eleven more to go. Yesterday, along with over 100 other people, I took off my pants and rode around all day on the Los Angeles metro. And I liked it.

I participated for the first time in an annual event simply called the “No Pants Subway Ride.” It is organized one day a year spanning 59 cities in 29 countries and I can tell you, it’s a blast.

I arrived at our meeting point, where there were a varied group of people of all styles and subcultures standing around sort of aimlessly, until we all started asking each other “Are you here for the no pants ride?” At some point, about 15 minutes before we all headed into the actual metro station, someone announced that it was time to de-pants. And we did. Some straight off with no issues, and some of us (I assuming the other newbies like myself) taking an extra beat before pulling off our outerwear.

But then, there it was. A group of mostly total strangers all standing around in our underwear. Some wore costumes, some made outfits out of their underthings, some had themes, and some, like myself, just didn’t have on any pants. Which is sort of the point. The idea of the mission is to act like there is nothing off or wrong or different about not wearing pants. We were instructed to get on the train in small groups. To act as if this was just a normal day on the train.

So we did. Several times, the friends I was with were asked why they weren’t wearing anything below the belt – particularly because they were specifically dressed in Hogwarts uniforms sans pants. One of them just pretended she’d forgotten them. The other blamed his lack of trousers on a spell gone wrong. I just looked at the questioning parties as if I had no idea what they were talking about.

But that was just part of the fun. Now, I’m no prude by any means. I will wear the tiniest of skirts to a nightclub without batting an eyelash. In that environment, I am totally comfortable. But this was not a nightclub. This was not an expected venue for the outfits (and lack of them) that were seen and worn. Which is what I feared would take me out of my comfort zone. And it did. For a little while. But not for as long as I thought it would. The sheer absurdity of being in a group of people all walking around without their pants on in the middle of Los Angeles – at Union Station, on Hollywood Boulevard, was brilliant. And un-surprisingly freeing. To be honest, I lost all self-consciousness in minutes.

Also, not surprising, was the friendliness with which everyone greeted each other. It’s hard to throw attitude when your junk is on display, unprotected by nothing by thin cotton panties, teeny tiny briefs or form hugging shorts. If that’s all it takes to break down cultural strata, maybe we should all go pants-less more often.

I could try to wax on about the day and how life changing it was, but the truth is that it wasn’t that. It was just exactly what it was supposed to be – a brilliantly fun day, and after the subway riding portion of the day ended, my friends and I adjourned to the Pig-n-Whistle for some beers and burgers until it was time to put our pants back on and head home. And I did accomplish what I had set out to do – I did something new that took me out of my comfort zone. I highly suggest that everyone try to do that more often.

With this goal in mind, already I feel like even if this year isn’t overall better than last, at least it’s going to be a hell of a lot more fun.

Me with the No Pants representatives from Hogwarts.

Me with the No Pants representatives from Hogwarts.

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Part of my favorite no pants clan – a Star Wars group. A Stormtrooper, an Ewok, Han Solo, Darth Vader and even a Wampa – all without pants.

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The crowd with no pants heads up to Hollywood Boulevard.

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Just a normal day on the metro… without pants.

The Desolation of Smaug. Also, I have to pee.

Sunday afternoon, I went to see The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.

So, um…. well, it was long. And parts of it made me dizzy. And Thranduil’s eyebrows are stunning. They jump right off the screen at you in 3D. 

But I had some issues.

BE WARNED: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE.

SERIOUSLY – IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY STOP READING NOW.

DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.

DON’T YELL AT ME IF THIS RUINS A MAJOR PLOT POINT FOR YOU.

Okay, I think I have warned you as best as I can. So here we go.

1) Too much CG. The CG was beautiful at times, but the pace of the movie actually made it easier to spot the sloppy bits and lose the feel of it. Also, there was just too damn much. Some of the practical effects were gorgeous. Peter Jackson really needs to leave out some of the CG in the future and let the creature builders, make up artists and effects specialists do their jobs. Because it’s so much better when it’s real.

2) Tauriel. While I applaud Jackson for adding not only a female character to the film, but a strong powerful female character, (which The Hobbit was sorely lacking) the whole Kili/Tauriel thing bugs me. Okay, let’s see how this plays out. Legolas likes Tauriel, but his overly eyebrowed father won’t let him pursue her. Thranduil tells her this. Her feelings towards Legolas are confused until the moment when she meets the Hottie Dwarf. And gets all moony-eyed over him. Was that actually necessary? No. Could we PLEASE have a strong, capable, awesome female character who isn’t automatically someone’s love interest? Please stop adding extraneous love stories to otherwise awesome action movies. (And yes, I am a girl who is writing this.) The Hobbit is no place for love stories. Except of course mine. Towards Richard Armitage (Thorin, if you’re not aware), but the non-dwarf version.

3) IT WAS TOO DAMN LONG. I get that Jackson seems to think that the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit movies are a sweet sweet love letter to his homeland of New Zealand. And no one is denying that New Zealand is beautiful, but the outdoor sweeping scenery sequences are unnecessary. New Zealand is beautiful. We Know. We Know. We all want to visit. Can you get back to the story? Cause I have to pee.

4) Stupid Over the Top Action. Some of the action sequences were so damned ridiculous you just had to cringe. The charm of the original story of The Hobbit was that it was mostly about a character who was totally inept. Bilbo Baggins was not a superhero. He didn’t do amazing things. He stumbled through his journey and most of the action in that book happened by accident. When you take the fact that Bilbo is an accidental hero out of the story and create these elaborate choreographed action sequences that show like The Nutcracker Ballet of CG, it just feels forced. And inauthentic. And um, when did Legolas become the Elven Superman? Because seriously, that guy apparently is incapable of missing anything. And I’m pretty sure Jackson almost made him fly.

When a group of people go to a movie on a Sunday afternoon, the result you want as a filmmaker is them walking out of the theatre chattering excitedly about “and when that happened? And then when that happened?” You want them reliving all the best moments of a film. But after The Desolation of Smaug my friends and I stood outside discussing nothing more than how Lee Pace did most of his acting with his thick and lush eyebrows.

*PS – Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Hobbit, part deux. And I still think it’s worth seeing this movie…

BECAUSE SMAUG IS PRETTY FRAKKING AWESOME.

The Problem with Wonder Woman

Earlier this week, the announcement was made that in Zach Snyder’s upcoming film Batman vs Superman, we get yet another important character introduction – in the form of everyone’s favorite Amazon – Wonder Woman. She is to be portrayed by an Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot. In the time since the announcement was made, the internet has blown up with reactions. Some were positive, some were questioning… but most, that I saw, were very negative. But the question I pose to you is this – WHY?

Once again, as it was with the Ben Affleck/Batman announcement – the general consensus is that the actor picked for the role is totally wrong for it. And most of the comments I saw were based on no more than a quick trip to the actress’s Wikipedia page, IMDB page and an extensive array of images of her as an actress, model and most notably – a Miss Universe contestant. While I agree with the fact that I’m not sure that she fits MY vision of what Wonder Woman should look like, I don’t know anything about this woman. And I would venture a guess that most of the more vocal haters don’t either.

I’ve never seen her act. At least not in any English-speaking roles – I do remember (only because it was on TV yesterday) she played the Israeli girlfriend of Mark Wahlberg’s security operative in Date Night. But most of her screen time was 1) spoken in Hebrew and 2) pretty much focused on the fact that she wasn’t wearing much. That was her role – the hot non-English speaking girl in the room. And she was cute in that role, if not very memorable. But then again, that was meant to be a throw-away role set as a bookend to accentuate Mark Wahlberg’s awesomeness compared to Steve Carrell’s NOT awesomeness so in fairness, I really can’t base an opinion on that.

Having no information on Gal Gadot’s acting history aside from that one small role, I looked her up. Apparently she’s been in a Fast & Furious movie or two. I can’t speak to that, having not seen the films from that franchise that she’s in. Again, I’m pretty sure most people who are hating on the choice haven’t seen her act much either. So let’s not talk about whether or not she’s a good actress. What I really want to get into here is the commentary that she is “too skinny” or not the right look for the role.

Let’s see how she stacks up against the description of the Amazon tribe Wonder Woman comes from:

1. Amazon women are meant to be tall. She’s 5’9″ according to her IMDB page – so throw her in a pair of stack heeled boots and BAM – SHE IS TALL.

2. Amazon women are meant to be strong and athletic – well – this girl is a former member of the Israeli military – arguably one of the most well-trained and most capable military forces on the planet. Having lived in Israel – I have known more than a few Israeli soldiers. You do not want to fuck with them. Trust me. So I’m pretty sure she will be doing most of her own stunts. Or at least she’ll be able to, even if they don’t let her.

3. Amazon women are meant to be beautiful. Check. No one is disagreeing with that. The girl is beautiful.

Now let’s look at the character more specifically.

1. Wonder Woman should have ultra dark hair and blue eyes. Okay. So, no one in Hollywood has ever dyed their hair or worn colored contact lenses to portray a particular character, right? I’m pretty sure if they can turn Christopher Eccleston into an evil white elf with glowing crystal blue eyes and seamless super pointy ears, they can handle a box of L’Oreal blue-black hair dye and some Acuvue tinted lenses.

2. Wonder Woman should be voluptuous. Okay, I’ll give you that – Ms Gadot is not particularly voluptuous. However, we have seen more dramatic body transformations in Hollywood than on the Jenny Craig website, so let’s again, give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s not only men who can bulk up, build muscles and gain or loose weight as needed. So there is no reason to assume that just because she’s thin now, she won’t be bulked up for the role. There is no reason you can’t be curvy AND athletic. And with the wealth of nutritionists and trainers available to her, I’m confident, that she can alter herself physically to fit the more curvy and buff look of Wonder Woman.

3. Wonder Woman’s accent won’t be right. No, not kidding. Not a huge concern I’ll grant you, but I saw one hater post that said “She talks funny.” Um, have you ever heard a woman from the long-lost Amazonian colony speak? Yeah, neither have I – so who’s to say what she should sound like. As long as they don’t give her a misplaced psuedo-British accent, which as we all know, is the go-to “you’re not from American, but we shouldn’t know where you are from exactly” accent, then it really doesn’t matter. Also, dialect coaches. Hollywood has them. Bet hers has already been hired.

Not one of the arguments I saw about this announcement had anything to do with Ms. Gadot’s ability as an actress. They all had to do with what she looked like. So, based on the lists given here, all of your shallow and pointless arguments are now invalid. Could we all agreed to let it be until we actually see how GOOD Ms. Gadot is or isn’t in the role?

My concern with this role, isn’t the look of the actress, but with the way that Zach Snyder seems to treat female characters the way an adolescent boy envisions them. Even his most empowered and strong-willed women tend to give up their power to a man at some point in the narrative. That is something that Wonder Woman would never do and I cringe to think at what may be going through Snyder’s head in planning her portrayal.

And what worries me more, is that I just don’t think that Snyder is a very good director. I mean, look at Man of Steel. He took several talented and proven actors and turned them into walking cardboard. Granted, they’re pretty walking cardboard but still cardboard. Man of Steel would have been a more engaging movie if it’d just been Henry Cavill standing shirtless in front of the broken landscape of Krypton for 2 hours. At least I would have enjoyed it more.

Who knows if Gadot will be a good choice for Wonder Woman or not? There is no way to know if the role is something that she (and Snyder) can handle with the respect it deserves. But let’s also remember, no one thought that Heath Ledger was going to be a good Joker. And a lot of people hated the idea of Christian Bale as Batman too.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that all out of the way – let’s talk about what the uproar is really about.

After months of speculation, discussions and and teasing on the part of any number of entertainment and comic book “insiders” – the problem you’re all having with the new Wonder Woman is simply this:

She’s not Jaimie Alexander.