justice for han

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: it’s been one year since the release of The Fate of the Furious and the lack of #JusticeForHan still stings.)

The Fast & Furious franchise is headed for its ninth entry with Hobbs & Shaw, the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham-led spinoff from director David Leitch. It marks a departure from the series’ new status quo after a decade (and then some) of Vin Diesel-driven family drama. Though more pertinently, it presents the franchise with another opportunity for something with which it’s all too familiar: course correction. Specifically, it’s an opportunity to deliver #JusticeForHan.

The departure of Sung Kang’s Han Lue (a.k.a. Han Seoul-Oh) was inevitable come Furious 7. After the character’s demise in entry #3, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift back in in 2006, the series went into prequel mode for three full films all the way through Fast & Furious 6, just so Han could rejoin the fold. In the seventh film in 2015, time finally catches up with the Fast Family as Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is retroactively revealed to have caused the crash that killed Han in Japan. It’s a major plot point that makes Shaw the target of Casa de Toretto.

But with the eighth entry, The Fate of the Furious, in April 2017, Deckard himself became part of the Family, with Han being entirely forgotten. Something was amiss in the fabric of this saga, and it wasn’t sitting well with fans who had embraced the series unironically, this writer included.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: A Quiet Place is a good horror movie, even if it’s not a horror movie made for horror fans.)

A Quiet Place is an easy movie to love. It was directed and co-written by John Krasinski, star of The Office, who oozes the same sort of self-deprecating American charm that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar. Krasinski acts in the film alongside his equally likable real-life wife Emily Blunt and a cadre of cute kid actors. It has a simple, air-tight conceit: a family is forced to live in silence after the world is occupied by alien creatures who are drawn to sound. The world-building is effective, the scares all earned, and the emotional core is well-developed. The ingredients are all there, and for the most part they gel.

A Quiet Place is a good movie – but is it a good horror movie? Spoilers follow.

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isle of dogs cultural appropriation

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: a writer grapples with her love of Wes Anderson and the question of Isle of Dogscultural appropriation.)

“I wish somebody spoke his language.”

Those droll words uttered by one of Isle of Dogs’ many English-speaking dogs, Duke (Jeff Goldblum), in response to Atari Kobayashi’s (Koyu Rankin) impassioned Japanese ramblings, get to the heart of what makes Wes Anderson’s stop-motion film so charming — and so troubling.

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Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Breakdown - Eddie Redmayne as New Scamander

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer made one writer so angry.)

When I was a kid, the image of Hogwarts conjured magical surreality; a cognitive awareness that this place wasn’t real in the technical sense, but alive somewhere in the crook of a collective imagination. The words of Dumbledore spring to mind: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

That’s how I’ve always seen stories. Real, because the words make them so. And, in the case of Hogwarts, real because the movies made them so, too. In the Harry Potter films, the castle took on an eerie actuality: towers like sharp teeth or open arms, depending on the slant of life. All great fantasy castles have that familial dichotomy. That’s how Hogwarts has always felt: like family, like home.

So, why did its appearance in the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer leave me completely cold? Actually, worse than cold – almost angry?

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Inclusion Riders

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: should inclusion riders be requirements for all Hollywood production companies?)

Frances McDormand’s Oscars speech raised Hollywood’s awareness of inclusion riders – contractual stipulations that basically demand racial and gender diversity for at least fifty percent of a project’s cast and crew. It’s only been a few weeks, but we’re already seeing companies adopt inclusion riders as their standard policy moving forward. That’s a good start in an industry which has been extremely slow (and has sometimes even refused) to react to social progress.

But as some companies actively embrace these changes, at least one major entertainment provider is shying away from them.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

why Ava DuVernay turned down Black Panther

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why it’s a good thing that director Ava DuVernay says she’s not making a Star Wars movie.)

Star Wars fans are ready for change.

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe boldly enters its latest stage, handing its major franchise staples to black auteurs and New Zealand comedians, it’s become somewhat apparent that Lucasfilm is holding back. Their latest slate of behind-the-scenes announcements and rumors – that the Game of Thrones guys are writing a new series, that Stephen Daldry might direct an Obi Wan standalone – feel as by-the-numbers as you can get. After the production kerfuffles with Rogue One and the upcoming Solo, maybe it’s just insurance; a “let’s hire the industry guys with safe track records so we can stay on schedule” ideology. But that safety net approach has the fans concerned. By avoiding potential risks, are we in danger of a roster of bland lookalikes that keep the series chugging along but never grow it in new directions? This is a galaxy far, far away, let’s not forget. Isn’t it time to get weird?

For a lot of us, potential relief came in the form of director Ava DuVernay, who’s been long-rumored to be next in line for a Star Wars project. But DuVernay crushed hearts on Twitter today when she announced that she isn’t, in fact, doing a Star Wars film, telling fans that the series “is not for me.”

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Black Panther Phenomenon

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Black Panther is a film that celebrates blackness…and that should become the new normal.)

For some, the Black Panther movie may be a new phenomenon, a perhaps radical showcase of black talent in which both the men and the women are centered equally — and where they stand tall like royalty as accolades continue to pour in far and wide. It’s supposedly an anomaly, a moment to celebrate. And that it is; an important example of black excellence taking center stage.

The red-carpet presentation at its January premiere was by itself a sight for sore eyes, black decadence at its finest, accessorized with deep hues and pops of gold.  It was that rare mainstream occurrence in which our beauty literally radiated in a space historically dominated by the likes of Greta Garbo, John Wayne, and Frank Sinatra. And finally, FINALLY, others saw in us what we’ve seen in ourselves since the dawn of time.

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Mark Hamill The Last Jedi

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Mark Hamill is completely wrong about Luke Skywalker and the Jedi.)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is easily the most divisive movie the iconic sci-fi saga has ever seen. Hardcore Star Wars fans are having endless debates about whether director Rian Johnson‘s new chapter in the franchise throws everything we love about Star Wars to the wind, or if it merely introduces new elements into the galaxy while still respecting what came before it. This is an argument that will be going on for years to come. Now Mark Hamill is throwing some more fuel onto that fire.

We already know that Mark Hamill fundamentally disagreed with Rian Johnson’s ideas for how to continue the story of Luke Skywalker, but he eventually came around to the filmmaker’s way of thinking. But Some recent remarks from the original trilogy star about the trajectory of Luke Skywalker in the movie indicate that he still hasn’t come to terms with his character arc. In order to properly discuss this concept, we have to dig into spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet, do not read any further. Read More »

last jedi backlash

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: addressing the toxic, dangerous fan backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.)

It’s okay to dislike Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Your opinion is your own and no one can take that away from you. However, there’s something rotten in the Star Wars fanbase. People on the internet have decided to devote countless hours to tearing down a movie that plenty of others love. And while no movie is perfect — Star Wars: The Last Jedi least of all — what’s the point in taking the fun out of movies? Is it retribution for a ruined childhood or vindication that your opinion is right? Or is all this backlash to The Last Jedi simply another product of the internet’s penchant for knee-jerk reactions and instantaneous gratification?

This past weekend, Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to critical fanfare and skyrocketing box office numbers. But those accomplishments have been overshadowed by a looming force in the sci-fi franchise’s fandom. Some fans are calling it the worst Star Wars movie yet. A few more are harassing director Rian Johnson on Twitter. Others are petitioning that Last Jedi be removed from the series canon immediately. And the difference between the Rotten Tomatoes user and critical scores are very wide. So let’s examine what caused this rift between the critical community and the die-hard fans, and whether it says something about the movie itself, or a growing toxicity in fandom at large.

Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead.

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Star Trek Beyond Review

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why Quentin Tarantino and Star Trek are a match made in hell.)

I’m calling on all of every Star Trek “purist” who claims to have a problem with Star Trek: Discovery to direct their indignation to a piece of news worthy of such emotion — Quentin Tarantino directing a Star Trek movie.

For whatever reason, Paramount has agreed to let Tarantino direct an R-rated Star Trek film, with The Revenant writer Mark L. Smith becoming a prime scriptwriting candidate. The film would be the first R-rated film in Star Trek franchise history. Not only that, but Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, wants to be on board.

I, for one, am shocked. First, because J.J. Abrams, who has had such a good handle on the Star Trek reboot series up until now, has okayed this unholy union. Second, because Tarantino should have enough self-awareness to know he does not belong anywhere near the Star Trek canon.

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