My 2020 Reading Stacks #2: The Horror and Heroism of “Becoming Superman”

Becoming Superman!

A highly recommended read, from the introduction by onetime Babylon 5 writer Neil Gaiman to all those other pages not written by Gaiman.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year, each and every squarebound work of qualifying length that I’ve read gets a capsule review apiece. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will still pop up here and there, albeit in an outnumbered capacity…

And now, we rejoin reading time already in progress…though this time with a single memoir that hit me on numerous levels.

7. J. Michael Straczynski, Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood. The sub-subtitle on the cover of the celebrated writer’s 2019 autobiography pulls no punches and tells no lies: With Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War Crimes. Those diverse, potentially lurid topics are by no means a complete list. He left more than a few surprises between the covers, where they await discovery as each is torn out of his family’s deep, dark closets and brought to light.

Continue reading

Old Guy with a PS3: Year 5 Results

Borderlands Handsome Jack!

One day I’ll have to murder Handsome Jack after he turns into an intergalactic madman, but in our shared past he’s just tipped me $22 for saving his life. What a guy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, at the beginning of 2016:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays. The following is a rundown of my first year’s worth of solo PS3 adventures…

…and it’s been a minor MCC annual tradition ever since. Last year’s entry covered a banner year in which I made time during my limited gaming sessions (three times a week at most, 90-120 minutes/sesh) to plow through five different games, winning four of them and infuriated at the other one. In 2019, I managed…um, not many. Very, very not-many. But I have excuses!

Continue reading

“Ad Astra” Per Verba Omnium

Ad Astra!

If his space soliloquies mend just one broken father/son relationship out there, then they were worth it. Did they, though?

In the grand, 21st-century tradition of Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, and First Man comes another tale of an A-lister shot into space with a massive budget both in-story and in reality. Honorable mention goes to Duncan Jones’ Moon, which had to make do with a fraction of the cash but was more relatable than at least two of those tentpoles.

Continue reading

Our Dark Summertime Binge: Seven “Black Mirror” Shards

Black Mirror!

Toby Kebbell watching his own lifelong YouTube channel inside his artificial second eyelids in a Black Mirror oldie.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. As I wrote at the time, Veronica Mars season 4 fit right in once we finished the finale. The second season (part 1) of Hulu’s Light as a Feather broadened its scope and tightened up its ensemble interplay, but still had Death lurking around every corner. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars was a downbeat bummer in its subject matter as well as its various letdowns.

I’ve been selective about which new shows I add to my docket. I’ve skipped many a popular show over the years, which means I stay ostracized from all the best online discussion groups. Among those I’d been procrastinating till now was Black Mirror. The base concept of “Twilight Zone, but cutting-edge and extra nihilistic plus F-bombs” wasn’t an easy sell for me. Also, I heard about that first episode. My son, aghast at the repressed memory of it resurfacing, recommended I skip it and just watch the rest. The suggestion was wise and tempting.

Continue reading

“Men in Black International”: In Praise of Pawny

Pawny!

Pawny gives his film debut one thumb way up!

I had no intention of seeing Men in Black International, but a funny thing happened while waiting for it to show up on basic cable three times a week.

Ever since the Blade Runner 2049 debacle, I’ve curtailed my visits to the theater closest to our house and spent most of my moviegoing dollars in the next town over. Last week I received an email from their frequent-watching club, despairing that I’ve only been there twice so far in 2019 and, as incentive to pretty please come back we miss you omg we’re dying over here, they loaded a free movie pass onto my card. That was unexpected, but nice of them…though the pass had a one-week expiration date and this week’s lineup was four movies I’ve already seen and written about, one R-rated comedy that was not quite tempting enough, and lots of dross in varying amounts of CG.

After fifteen minutes of severe overthinking, I cleared my head, blinked a few times, and lined up for the one with Thor and Valkyrie in it.

Continue reading

“The Predator”: Battle of the Bass Fishermen from Beyond

The Predator!

“Rest assured I was on the Internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.”

No one in their right mind walks into a Predator flick expecting cinema genius. They’ve never known the respect that the Alien series originally garnered among sci-fi-horror fans, which may explain why viewers are swiftly enraged whenever an Alien sequel is terrible, but merely shrug and move on when another Predator drops and flops. The series to date, ranked for newcomers:

  1. The original, From The Director Of Die Hard, still my favorite Schwarzenegger movie
  2. Predators, in which renowned character actors are stalked and slaughtered for morbid fun
  3. Alien Vs. Predator, because director Paul W. S. Anderson guarantees at least one great action scene per film, which is all we got
  4. Predator 2, which defies any attempts at remembrance
  5. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, the closest I’ve ever come in the past ten years to stopping a movie halfway through because it was That Bad

In a similar vein, fans of Shane Black films know what they’re getting — sarcastic tough dudes spouting quotable quips while firing very loud weapons at henchmen and everything around them explodes, and sometimes there’s as many as one (1) actress holding her own in their midst while rolling her eyes a lot. They’re effortless steel coaster rides, but always easy to nitpick later for hours if you dwell on them for more than three minutes. The original Lethal Weapon remains Black’s most cogent potboiler to date, but if you’ve seen such films as The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, or the thoroughly idiotic yet sometimes compelling Iron Man 3, you know what I mean.

Like Reese’s with chocolate and peanut butter, someone at Twentieth Century Fox wondered what would happen if they did the same with Shane Black and The Predator. Why not throw them in the same vat and watch what happens?

Continue reading

“Pacific Rim: Uprising”: Mecha-Lecha-High? Mecha-High-Nee-NOPE

Pacific Rim Uprising!

Blue Man Group: The Metal Years.

Much as I’d love for John Boyega to be successful in everything he touches, I felt sheepish about my issues with Detroit and hoped I wouldn’t have to harp on him again too soon. Then I rushed out to see Pacific Rim: Uprising in its second week of release, and realized…well, uh, here we go again. It’s still better than at least three of Michael Bay’s Transformers films, but that’s…well, I wouldn’t call that a “low bar” so much as it’s me whispering to Boyega and director Steven DeKnight that I won’t tattletale if they want to walk around the climbing wall and skip the bar as a courtesy.

I try not to hold MCC to too many inflexible rules, but one of the few remaining is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. Now that Uprising‘s home video release is coming up this month, maybe it’s past time to hold myself accountable for that promise and face down this long-delayed entry, no matter how fruitless it may end up.

(Look, I’m not a great self-promoter. Anyone who’s been here long enough know this. We persevere together anyway.)

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: