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the triumphant-ish return of five things. [five things, 6.9.17]

These days, there’s just too much media to consume.

Combine the accumulation of all the great things created in human history, and you already have too much to get to in one lifetime. Add to that the fact that amazing stuff is currently being made at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, and you have a recipe for despair.

The last thing you need is some asshole giving you a list of more things you should check out.

In that spirit, here is a list of five things you should check out.

None of these things are obscure, but all of them seem underappreciated based on my limited line of sight.


1. Power Man and Iron Fist by David F. Walker

I haven’t watched it yet, but by most accounts, Netflix’s Iron Fist was underwhelming at best. Many people responded more favorably to Luke Cage, but while I enjoyed the character on Jessica Jones, the standalone show fell really flat for me.

Fortunately, I don’t need Netflix if I want a great ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist story, because David F. Walker has been absolutely killing it since relaunching the title for Marvel early last year.

Power Man and Iron Fist is witty, playful, socially aware, smart, and above all, really fun.

Walker is able to embrace and transcend the blaxploitation roots of the title in ways that work on every level.

Also, did I mention it’s really fun? The style? The art? The characterization? Fun, fun, and fun.

Power Man and Iron Fist does just about everything the Luke Cage series tried — and in my opinion failed — to do as far as social commentary goes, but without ever taking itself very seriously.

I want David F. Walker to write all of the things.

Will the Heroes for Hire ride again? Can Danny and Luke get their old mojo back in order to stop an entertaining rogue’s gallery from tearing Harlem apart? Will someone be able to use the Supersoul Stone, and artifacts like it, to become the darkly powerful Grandmaster of Street Magic? You’ll have to read and find out.


2. A Band Called Death

I finally got around to watching this movie. You should finally get around to watching it, too.

I expected it to be entertaining, appealing to my music and record loving heart. And it was. I had a great time watching the story of Death and the strange series of events that led to the band being discovered 34 years after recording their only album.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional power of the film’s third act as it touches on the beauty of family and the bittersweet nature of hope.

Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying.


3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Obviously, the film isn’t underappreciated. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki‘s modern classic — one among many — is well-known.

But the book by Diana Wynne Jones? Now, that’s a different story. Literally, actually. It’s a very different story than the one Miyazaki told — his changes were reportedly made, at least in part, to create a film in response to the American war in Iraq.

Obviously I won’t go into detail about specific differences, because that would ruin all the fun for any of you who decide to read it. What I will say is that both stories are great, so it isn’t hard to love each of them.

Jones immediately shot up my list of authors whose work I want to devour entirely, in much the same way that a fire demon eats bacon. Neil Gaiman’s love for Jones already had her on my list of authors to check out, but Howl’s Moving Castle plants her firmly in the ‘Give Me More’ category. Her writing is funny, wise, and layered. Her narrative voice is bright and playful, and the way she limits the reader’s field of vision based on Sophie’s perspective — even though she isn’t the narrator — is done with heaping portions of humor and insight.

This is a quick read, and well worth your time. Just try not to drag the movie into it. Let each stand in conversation with the other, not opposition.


4. Mo’ Meta Blues by ?uestlove

Seeing The Roots live is one of the greatest music experiences currently available in this world. The two Roots shows we’ve seen were infectiously joyful, wildly fun three-hour-long homages to music and life, with Questlove as the mad genius ringleader [[I read they’ve since tragically retired the three-hour-long so-called ‘Springsteen shows.’]] This book felt a lot like the text manifestation of those shows. I loved it.

One of my favorite things is passionate, knowledgable people talking about the things they love most. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate or knowledgable about a given topic than Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is about music.

I loved learning the story of Questlove, beginning with his parents’ record collection. I loved learning the story of The Roots, beginning with Black Thought’s rivalry with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men — they all went to the same arts high school in Philly. But most of all, I loved the deep, overflowing love Questo has for music and seeing how that passion has shaped his entire life, and American music along with it.


5. Legion

I tell ya, I thank the gods of television that Noah Hawley is making shows.

David Haller thinks he’s crazy, but it turns out he’s actually just a wildly powerful mutant. Then again, maybe he’s crazy.

You may think a television show adapted from the pages of an X-Men comic won’t be to your liking, but if let that keep you from watching Legion you’ll really be missing out.

This show isn’t what people might expect in their knee-jerk assumptions about a show based on a comic. It’s super trippy and lots of fun… I know, I’ve said almost everything in this post so far is fun, it’s just that these things are fun.

Legion is like if Pushing Daisies and Fargo — the show, obviously, because Noah Hawley — had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with Charles Xavier.

The show is smart and quirky, with unexpected delight and/or creepiness waiting around every corner.

The cast is especially great, with the performances by Aubrey Plaza, Dan Stevens and Jemaine Clement deserving gold stars in my book.

Seriously, don’t let the comic origins put you off if you don’t like comics. You can hate super hero films and still love this show. The show is designed so someone who has never even heard of comic books can jump right in and enjoy it. I know that might be hard to believe coming from a guy who started this installment of five things with a comic book, but it’s true. I promise!

 

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kingsman: the golden circle. [trailer park.]

I loved the first Kingsman film. It was playful, energetic, and irreverant, but also visually competent, delivering some really memorable scenes. It joyfully celebrated and roasted all the Bond tropes, but with a bit of an updated sensibility. Also, Firth was at peak Firthiness and Taron Egerton delivered one of my favorite star-making roles in a while, with a pitch-perfect performance full of just the right balance of cocky swagger and sweet vulnerability.

I really hope this sequel doesn’t go the way of Kick Ass 2.

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atomic blonde. [trailer park.]

Apparently, thanks to franchises like The Raid and John Wick, we’re going to get competently made action movies now.

If the first two trailers for Atomic Blonde are any indication, this is going to have some solid fight scenes, where the camera holds enough to let choreography, physicality and acting tell the story and be thrilling. These look like long take fight scenes that skew away from the over-edited bullshit that passes as action these days.

Great filmmaking can come in any genre, and I’m going to watch the fuck out of this movie.

Also, how about that cast! Wee-ow!

I feel like even if the fast majority of this film falls short, the camera work and the choreography should be enough to make it well worth a watch.

As bonus educational content, you should watch check out these:

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spider-man: homecoming and a ghost story. [a month of happy.]

That’s right, folks, two trailers for the price of one (plus, a bonus video)!

First, Spider-Man: Homecoming has a new trailer, and I’m sharing it, because, obviously.

And second, David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story

Lowery has a style and sensibility I really enjoy. His work directing Pete’s Dragon last year — with that film’s lovely visual competency — made me hopeful that Disney is going to expand on their new tendency to allow talented young directors to actually put their stamp on core Disney films. This trend is further evidenced by the fact that Ava DuVernay is currently directing the studio’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Not only does DuVernay check the young talented director box, but the fact that she backed away from Black Panther because she felt like she wasn’t going to get enough creative freedom says to me that her involvement with A Wrinkle in Time means she got assurances that she would be given the stylistic license she rightfully craves.

Anyway, I’ve been excited about this and I’m glad we finally got a trailer!

As a bonus, for anyone who didn’t watch it the first time I shared last year, here’s Lowery’s short film Pioneer. It’s really great, and was the first thing of his I saw (a list that’s still pretty short).

PIONEER from David Lowery on Vimeo.

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taika waititi. [a month of happy.]

When I watch a Taika Waititi film, I feel happy. As a person with clinical depression, that’s basically like saying that I found a huge gold stash hidden in my basement.

I’ve already written about him twice since October, so imma be lazy and repost all that. Still true.

Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have a comedic voice that is unendingly amusing to me.

All of Waititi’s writing has this rare combination, where it’s so sharp and funny, but also genuinely sweet and warm. He revels in the flaws and awkwardness of his characters, and it’s where I find so much joy in his work.

And:

A friend recently asked people on Facebook to give a list of their favorite films since 2012, and I listed What We Do in the Shadows; not just because of my affection for that film, but because I needed a representative of Waititi’s work.

His films are so full of charm and joy and sweetness, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople is no exception. Plus, I’m a sucker for stories about people who come together and make weird nontraditional families. It deserves all the inclusion it has gotten on various lists of underrated or underappreciated films of 2016.

Taiki for life!

I bet some people are unreasonably disappointed when they visit New Zealand and it’s not actually Middle Earth. I’m probably going to be unreasonably disappointed if I ever go because everyone doesn’t talk like a character in a Taiki Waititi film.

And:

Here I am, the president of the Taiki Waititi fan club, at it again.

I don’t really know what else to say to get my friends to watch Waititi’s movies. I don’t know how anyone could not love his work. Don’t you like being happy?!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is stuffed with joy, charm, and Waititi’s trademark lovable weirdos who become a family. There’s so much sweetness, but it never gets cloying.

Recently, when I recommended Hunt for the Wilderpeople on this blog, I joked that I’ll probably be disappointed if I ever go to New Zealand because people won’t talk like Taiki Waititi characters. The more I think about it, I realize it’s actually just disappointing that the people of the world in general don’t act more like Taiki Waititi characters.

Also, here is a trailer for Boy, which is criminally underseen.

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