Patreon sample: movie review

I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.

We start with the cheapest tier: movie reviews! If you pledge $1 per month, you’ll get a movie review every month. I’ve reviewed both new and classic films, and here I present as a sample, my review of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum from May 2019.

movie review: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

John Wick was one of the surprise hits of 2014, earning $43 million against a paltry $20 million budget. Nobody expected Keanu Reeves to become an action icon in his late 40s and early 50s, but here we are with the third John Wick movie now in theatres, with the subtitle Parabellum, which is Latin for “prepare for war.”

One of the problems I had with John Wick Chapter 2 was when the contract goes out on Wick, people actually took it. In the first movie, it all made sense, because the inciting incident was taken by someone who didn’t know any better, and Wick was the one going after them. But when the contract goes out on Wick in the second movie, a bunch of his colleagues all take on the task, and you gotta ask, why? The idiot in the first movie who killed his dog was ignorant, but the people who took on the contract to kill the greatest assassin in this fictional world all know exactly who he is and how good he is. There should have been at least a few who looked at their phones, saw the text message, laughed their asses off, and went on with their lives. You can’t spent seven million dollars if you’re dead, and that’s what happens to most people who get on Wick’s bad side.

Parabellum ameliorates this issue in two ways. One is that the movie commences with Wick being completely excommunicated. All support has been removed, and in fact, the only reason he survives to make it to Casablanca is because a doctor and the matriarch of his Romany tribe help him out despite the sanction. (They both suffer for it, too.) And then Halle Berry’s Sofia helps him also because she owes him a favor, and she also may suffer serious consequences. (How much is unclear. Having said that, I’d love to find out in a solo movie featuring Sofia and her two Awesome Dogs Of Doom. This is a spinoff opportunity that the filmmakers should not screw up. Bad enough that we never got a Wai Lin spinoff from the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, the biggest missed opportunity in the history of action movies, but we’re still waiting for a Black Widow movie a decade into the MCU, too. Stop fucking this up, Hollywood!)

Wick doesn’t just have a contract on him, now, he’s got the power of the High Table completely against him. That changes the rules a little bit and makes it far more likely that people will take on the task of going after the indestructible Wick.

The second thing is that we get the sushi chef played by Mark Dacascos and his helpers, who are total John Wick fangoobers. These are guys who want the chance to go after Wick, not because they necessarily think they can succeed, but because just getting to fight someone as amazing as him is an honor. It’s an attitude borne very much of Asian martial arts and the warrior ethos of many peoples from the Eastern hemisphere, where the honor is in fighting a worthy opponent. Winning or losing is less important than the glory of the battle. (I also liked Wick respecting the two henchmen who almost beat him enough to let them live with just a nod.)

Believing that this movie actually takes place in the real world is increasingly problematic the more the series goes on. Too much of the action either takes place in unconvincingly abandoned locations (like the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which is, at least, labeled as closed to traffic, or various side streets in lower Manhattan, or the stacks of the New York Public Library, which aren’t even open to the public in reality) or in the middle of crowds who somehow fail to notice people killing each other right in front of them.

Look, I know that there’s a stereotype that New Yorkers are only self-directed and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them, but that’s only actually true about uninteresting or unimportant things happening around them. If someone trips and falls in Grand Central Terminal, there’ll be a dozen people helping that person up in an instant. Someone being fatally stabbed (an action which would result in blood all over the nice marble floor) would cause comment and not go unremarked upon and unnoticed by the throngs, as absurdly happens in this movie. This is exacerbated by Ian McShane’s Winston saying that he has all of New York behind him when he stares down the High Table at the end, and I don’t buy it for a second, because there’s no connection between the stylized world of assassins and the actual New York City. You don’t see a connection, and Winston’s attempt to make one rings false.

(Don’t even get me started on the absurd geography, as this movie puts things close to each other that are, in fact, nowhere near each other in the actual New York…)

As always with any John Wick film, the action is superbly choreographed, from the hand-to-hand action in the museum storage facility early on to the gunfights in Casablanca to the siege of the Continental to Reeves’s fights with Dacascos and his henchmen. And the acting is superb. One expects great things from Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Berry, McShane, and Dacascos, of course, and they don’t disappoint (Fishburne in particular almost steals the movie, and he does totally steal the closing scene). Also superlative are Asia Kate Dillon as the cool-as-a-cucumber Adjudicator and Saïd Taghmaoui as the High Table representative who takes Wick’s finger and gives him a way out.

Reeves remains the calm center of it all, his low-key ultra-competence and impressive dignity in the face of insanity keeping the film on track nicely.

Having said that, I am frustrated by the outsized praise these films receive while another film that is exactly the same movie in all the ways that matter was critically drubbed and quickly forgotten. I speak of 2018’s Proud Mary starring Taraji P. Henson. The only difference between the Henson film and the Reeves movie series are that the John Wick movies are about white people with a white male lead (yes, there are people of color, but they remain a minority—and, to be fair, there are more of them in Parabellum than in the first two) and Proud Mary is about black people with a black female lead. Gawrsh.

Still, this movie is a fun continuation of this very stylish series with some beautifully directed action and some fine acting by several of our finest thespians. And it sets up Chapter 4, which is likely to be the very war that they were preparing for in this one…

If you liked this review, and want to read more, please consider supporting my Patreon at the $1/month tier!

KRAD COVID reading #54a: “Right On, Sister!” Part 1

In 2013, JournalStone released Limbus Inc., a shared-world horror anthology developed and edited by Anne C. Petty, about a mysterious, powerful corporation that looked for people who were out of work, down on their luck, and had unappreciated skills, and hired them for morally dodgy work. Anne also wrote one of the stories, with others by Jonathan Maberry, Brett J. Talley, Joseph Nassie, and Benjamin Kane Ethridge. Anne, unfortunately, died in 2013. Book 2 was edited by Brett, and Anne had written a story for it, which was included in that book, along with tales by Jonathan, Harry Shannon, Gary A. Braunbeck, Joe McKinney, and Joe R. Lansdale.

For Book 3, Brett brought Jonathan back and also a new batch of folks: Seanan McGuire, David Liss, Laird Barron, and me! My thought for this was that Limbus would likely be targeting women of color, since there are, I’m sure, tons of WOCs out there whose skills are utterly missed by, well, everyone because non-white women don’t do that sort of thing. So I created Wanda Jackson, a part-time waitress and part-time filing clerk in 1978 Harlem who has a talent for talking people into — and out of — things. Were she a white dude, she probably would’ve become a diplomat. But Limbus sees the potential, and hires her for a part of the company so secret, even the rest of Limbus doesn’t know about it. Will she take it?

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

my current ranking of the MCU movies

Several times, I’ve done rankings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, usually when a new one comes out. Thanks to COVID-19, we have no idea when Black Widow is actually going to come out, and I haven’t done one of these since prior to Avengers: Endgame‘s release, so here we go again. At this point, it’s difficult to do a strict numerical ranking of all 23, so I’m going to do it in groups. Each title will link to that movie’s entry in “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Rewatch,” my feature on Tor.com that covered every live-action movie based on a superhero comic.

The Best of the Best:

These three are interchangeable, truly. All excellent movies, all firing on all thrusters. Just great great stuff. I tend to put Avengers on top just because it did so many different things well.

Really Really Good:

I’d definitely put Iron Man at the top of this list, but the others are all interchangeable as well: all really really good, falling just shy of perfection for one reason or another. I tend to put Thor just ahead of Black Panther only because both movies have the same plot, in many ways, and Thor came first….

Good But Flawed:

These movies are pretty much the mid-range of Marvel movies: good, solid films with some flaws that knock them down a bit, but those flaws are pretty minor, all told. Again, interchangeable, these really can go in any order.

Either Not As Good As Their Reputation or Not As Bad As Everyone Says They Are

The headline says it all. Some of these are better than their reps (Dark World, Age of Ultron) or not as good as everyone says they are (Ragnarok, Guardians). Or they’re just not quite as coherent as you might hope (Endgame, Iron Man 2).

The Bottom of the Barrel:

With the caveat that even these are enjoyable in their own way, these are the worst of the MCU, and just do not come together properly at all, whether it’s concept (Ant-Man), execution (Hulk), or both (IM3).

please consider supporting my Patreon

I just hit a nifty milestone, as I got my 50th supporter on my Patreon last week. In honor of the occasion, I wrote my first graphic novel review, of Moonshadow: The Definitive Edition by J.M. DeMatties & Jon J Muth, et al, which went out to all patrons.

But I’d like to hit 60 supporters. So I’m once again rattling my cup in the hopes of bringing all this nifty material to more people. And if I do hit 60, there will be a special reward for all 60 of those supporters…….

If you pledge a mere $20 per month, you get a lot of great stuff — and if you don’t want to pledge that much, there are tiers at the levels of $1, $2, $5, $7, and $10 per month that give you some of the content. But if you do the full twenty bucks, here’s what you get:

  • a movie review a month, including new releases and older movies
  • regular cat pictures, generally 2-3 per week of our incredibly photogenic kitties
  • anywhere from one to six TV reviews a month, of both current shows and old ones I’m catching up on
  • weekly excerpts from my works in progress
  • monthly vignettes featuring my original characters (from either Dragon Precinct, the Bram Gold Adventures, the Super City Cops, Shirley Holmes & Jack Watson, or the tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet)
  • first looks at my first drafts of stories, essays, and novel chapters as they’re completed

If you only pledge $10 per month, you get everything above except for the first looks.

If you only pledge $7 per month, you get everything except the vignettes and the first looks.

If you only pledge $5 per month, you get the movie and TV reviews and the cat pictures.

If you only pledge $2 per month, you still get the movie reviews and cat pictures.

And if you only pledge $1 per month, you only get the movie reviews.

In addition, you also get access to the archives at your tier level, which includes more than 100 reviews, almost 400 cat pictures, more than 30 original vignettes, and more than 200 looks at works in progress at various stages. In addition, there’s been some special content, including random essays, missing scenes from my fiction, and some other bonus material.

Over the course of this week, I’m going to run one item from each of the reward tiers here on the blog as a preview of what you’d get. I hope you’ll consider supporting.

Thanks!

more of the eSpec reading series!

There’s been a ton more readings on the eSpec Books Reading Series channel on the Tube of You since the last time I updated…………………….

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading “On the Wings of an Angel” from the anthology An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk (and reprinted in Flash in the Can: Speculative Microfiction by Danielle Ackley-McPhail):

Jeff Young reading “Beyond the Familiar” from his collection Spirit Seeker:

Danielle reading “Ruby Red” from Flash in the Can:

Gordon Linzner reading “Astral Odds” from the anthology Footprints in the Stars:

Megan Mackie reading an excerpt from her novel Saint Code: The Lost:

Lisanne Norman reading “Hope’s Children” from the anthology Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way:

Gordon reading “Masquerade” from a long-ago fanfic magazine Jeet:

Danielle reading “Mama Bear” from the anthology Bad Ass Moms:

Lisanne reading an excerpt from her novel Circle’s End:

Gordon reading another old story from a fanfic magazine, “The Music of Harry Toad” from Procrastination II:

Danielle reading “The Devil in the Details” from the anthology Heroes of the Realm:

John G. Hemry reading “Dawn’s Last Night” from The Best of Defending the Future:

Danielle reading “Crossroads and Curses” from Trails of Indiscretion: Between Darkness and Light:

Mary Fan reading “On Moonlit Wings” from Bad Ass Moms:

Robert E. Waters reading an excerpt from The Mask of Mirada:

Megan reading an excerpt from Death and the Crone:

Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg reading an excerpt from “Hellbeans” from Bad Ass Moms:

Mary reading an excerpt from The Firedragon’s Hunt:

Danielle reading from The Redcaps Queen:

Paul Kupperberg reading an excerpt from “Come In, Sit Down, Have a Bite” from Bad Ass Moms:

Denise Sutton reading an excerpt from “Did THEY Do That?” from Bad Ass Moms:

Joanna Schnurman reading an excerpt from “A Songbird and Her Cage” from Bad Ass Moms:

Danielle reading an excerpt from “Mise en Place” from the anthology Pangaea Book 3: Redemption:

Mary reading an excerpt from “Haven” in Pangaea Book 3:

Keith R.A. DeCandido (hey, that’s me!) reading “Materfamilias” from Bad Ass Moms:

Check it out, and please subscribe to the channel!

KRAD COVID readings #53: “Journalistic Integrity”

After celebrating reaching episode #50 of KRAD COVID readings by doing firsts — my first-ever short story, my first Cassie Zukav story, and my first Dragon Precinct story — I now go for my latest: the just-released “Journalistic Integrity” from the new anthology Pangaea Book 3: Redemption, in which a reporter goes undercover to learn more about the mysterious Aristai and gets both more and less than she bargained for…

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

on sale now: Pangaea Book 3: Redemption

Now on sale here, there, and everywhere: Pangaea Book 3: Redemption. This is the final book in the trilogy of shared-world alternate-history anthologies conceived and edited by mighty Michael Jan Friedman, and published by Crazy 8 Press. In these books, Earth never experienced continental drift, and life on this planet all evolved on a single planet.

My story in this final volume is called “Journalistic Integrity,” about a reporter named Jamiranda Ked, who goes undercover to find out the truth about the mysterious Aristai, and gets both more and less than she bargained for.

The other stories in the anthology are by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Ilsa J. Bick, Michael A. Burstein, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore & Dayton Ward, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman (him again), Robert Greenberger, Dan Hernandez, Paul Kupperberg, Ron Marz, Aaron Rosenberg & Russ Colchamiro, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, and Marie Vibbert.

Order the book:

I had wanted to be involved in this project from jump, but other deadlines kept me from participating in Books 1 or 2, sadly. I’m really glad I got to be part of this nifty project in the end, though.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Blood Fever”

It’s an entire episode about the Vulcan mating ritual, yet the only sex that anyone has is Vorik with a holodeck character, and that doesn’t even work to tamp down the plak-tow. Sigh. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch suffers from “Blood Fever.”

An excerpt:

I mean, I get why, in 1967, Star Trek did an entire episode about a mating ritual at the end of which nobody actually had sex with anyone because, well, it was 1967. But thirty years later, there’s no excuse for repeating themselves. This was the chance to do a pon farr episode in which actual mating happened, and they blew it, mostly by using the same out they used three decades previous. And it’s not like Star Trek as a franchise has ever been against the notion of characters having sex, as both TNG (“Justice,” “The Price,” etc.) and DS9 (“Looking for parMach in All the Wrong Places,” “A Simple Investigation,” etc.) were full of plenty of instances. Hell, “Elogium” had a lengthy conversation on the subject between Janeway and Chakotay. So why avoid it here?

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Envoys”

Episode 2 is much more encouraging than episode 1, as there’s less forced humor, and the whole thing is full of the usual Trekian optimism along with all the silly stuff. My take on the latest Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, “Envoys.”

An excerpt:

One of my biggest concerns about Lower Decks going in was that it was going to be mean-spirited. This was mostly borne out of Rick and Morty depending a great deal on humor centered around sarcastic abuse and nastiness. Not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s not really a good fit for Star Trek.

“Envoys” shows that perhaps I needn’t have worried.