Review Roundup: The Dark Tower Movie (Jake Chambers IS NOT Tyler Marshall), Spider-Man: Homecoming (or: Spider-Man: Brofest) and The House of the Spirits (… no sarcasm about this one.)

I could do individual posts on each of these things but I didn’t get a chance to post last week and if I get too behind on the things I want to write about I’ll never get back to them – so. A little bit of a roundup here.

The Dark Tower Movie – Jack Chambers IS NOT Tyler Marshall

Y’all, I have a Dark Tower quote (“there are other worlds than these”) tattooed on my right forearm. You could say I’m kind of attached to this story. Fortunately I know enough to be highly skeptical about any attempt to translate it into film. As excited as I was about the casting and as much as I flailed when the pictures of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey in costume were released (because I knew those two would knock their roles out of the park even if I wasn’t happy with the script) I never believed that they’d really do it. Not really. And then it became clear that what they were filming was … a sort of alternate version of the story which, had they done it well, could’ve been perfectly valid within the bounds of the story, but I didn’t trust that they’d do it well.

And they didn’t.

Sometimes these things just make so little sense – who sat at a meeting and said “It isn’t enough that the Tower holds the entire universe together – it isn’t enough that the universe would just cease to be without the Tower – there have to be MONSTERS. MONSTERS I TELL YOU.”

And who said “this movie ought to be all about the relationship between Jake and Roland, except that story gets pretty messy, and we don’t want the kid to die even a single time … hey, the kid in Black House gets rescued, maybe we could steal some of his story.” Because I really think they took Tyler Marshall’s story and imposed it onto Jake – Tyler was the powerful psychic who could’ve brought down the Tower, not Jake. Devar-Toi was not a horrorshow of kids strapped into chairs – the place in the movie seemed far more similar to The Big Combination in Black House. And while I like Black House, IT IS NOT THE SAME STORY. That movie was not a story about Roland and Jake in a different timeline. That movie was not about Roland or Jake. I’m not quite sure what that movie was, other than a hot mess.

I will say my excitement about the cast was well founded – Idris and Matthew were both brilliant, and both of them had moments where they really shone through despite the script. I really liked the kid playing Jake; he would’ve been even better if he’d been able to play ACTUAL JAKE THE WAY JAKE IS ACTUALLY FUCKING WRITTEN. Same with Idris – god he would’ve been amazing playing ACTUAL ROLAND. AUGH.

But like I said, I expected this going in, so I wasn’t surprised – really, just frustrated, because that was so much wasted potential. They could’ve done such a cool thing, and they didn’t. Maybe one day someone will get ahold of this story and make a full-fledged high-budget cable or Netflix or Amazon TV series out of it because that’s the only way that it’s going to work. Until then, I’m pretty relieved that the line I have tattooed on my arm – which is one of the central lines of the story – wasn’t ever uttered in the mess of a movie.

Spider-Man: Homecoming / Spider-Man: Brofest

Here’s the thing – I’m a Marvel movie fangirl. I see all of them. I always love them. They’re so much fun, I love how they all interconnect, the characters are lovable and hilarious and frequently pull my heartstrings. It’s a geeky franchise done right. And Spider-Man was all of those things – it was fun, it had just the right amount of Tony to keep him involved without letting him take over Peter’s story, it set up a world for a new franchise that has a lot of potential … but I just couldn’t get past the fact that this was, I think, the worst Marvel Studios has ever done as far as having any female characters that actually get to fucking do something.

Yes, they set up Michelle and she’s going to be awesome in future movies but did she really have to stay so far in the background in this one? The character in the movie that interested me the most and they didn’t let her do a single damned thing. There’s no reason that she couldn’t have gotten into some adventure with Ned to help support Peter – something. Marvel is usually so much better about this – I’ve been thinking about it and I can’t come up with an example of any of the Marvel Studios movies that has such a low level of participation by female characters.

And yes, it’s thrown into even more sharp relief by the fact that I saw Wonder Woman not long ago. The thing is, I wanted Marvel to get there first with the female hero lead. They didn’t. They’re working on Captain Marvel but that’s going to be a while. Usually, though, they’ve got some ladies up in there, doing shit. Even if it’s not Gamora or Black Widow kicking ass it’s Jane doing science or Pepper holding shit together – something. So the lack in this one was so striking to me. Guys, come on. There’s just no excuse. Marvel excels at movies that expertly juggle a lot of characters doing a lot of different things – they absolutely could’ve given at least one woman more of an active role. Even if the movie didn’t pass The Bechdel Test (and some Marvel movies do!), they could’ve done better. There’s no reason they couldn’t have done better.

I’m not in a fight with Marvel – I still love them and I’m wicked stoked about Ragnarok and Black Panther, this one just let me down a little.

The House of the Spirits

This week I finished reading The House of the Spirits, which covered Read Harder 2017 challenge #4 – Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.

This was a beautiful book with a scope that manages to be epic (it tells the story of three generations of women) without ever losing its center or distancing itself too much. It takes place in Chile and made me want to learn more about Chilean history. The latter part of the story covers the revolution in the seventies and listening to this audiobook in parallel with the news from Venezuela lately was a bit on the creepy side. People unable to find food in the grocery stores, political opponents being disappeared – knowing that these parts of the novel are based on history is one thing; knowing that these same things are happening in the world right now is another. It really made me want to understand more about the histories and trajectories of South America; there’s so much I don’t know. One more thing on the “Things Jess Wants To Learn” pile.

Storywise, what makes or breaks most books for me is whether the characters draw me in, and this book absolutely succeeded on that front. I loved how complex they all were. I loved Clara – how do you not love Clara? – but there were times when I wanted to grab her and shake her. She was so brilliant and insightful but she let so many things slide without doing anything to change them; she so frequently checked out instead of acting. I adored Alba and identified with her the most. I despised Esteban but couldn’t help but feel empathy for him at the end, which seems to be exactly what Allende intended; I love the message of humanity, the unavoidable cycle of hurt and violence but the importance of love and forgiveness and healing that she brings to the ending. Yet another author I’ve tried for the first time through this challenge that I intend to return to.

Keep Moving. Do Things That Matter. And Don’t Miss Any PokeStops Along the Way.

Before I start nattering about my crazy balance of geekery and fitness and learning, let me just get this out of the way – people, freaking call your senators. Even if you don’t live in one of those ten states, still call them. They need to hear from you. Emails are great, Resistbot is great, but if you can call, call. It’s important.

Okay, on to the rambling.

Last summer when the Pokemon Go craze hit, I was on board big time – it was the perfect game for a fitgeek. Still is really – but after playing regularly for several months I had to stop when they came out with the update that blocked rooted phones.

I had an S5 that I had rooted right out of the box, and after that update PGo wouldn’t run on it anymore. I wasn’t yet ready to upgrade my phone and I certainly didn’t want to go to the trouble of trying to unroot it (no guarantee that that would’ve worked anyway) so I gave up the game. I’ve always thought that blocking rooted phones was a pretty ridiculous move on their part, really – they probably lost 50 legitimate players for every potential cheater they deterred. Anyway.

Last week, after running an S5 for about 3 years, I decided it was time to upgrade my phone. I was reluctant when the carriers stopped giving big ol’ subsidies for renewing a contract – now you’re expected to pay the full cost of your phone, which can get pretty damned high if you’re a techie geek that ogles shiny phones. As evidenced by the length of time that I had my S5 I’m not a person that feels the need to upgrade every year – if I get a good phone I’m happy with it for a while – but when I do upgrade I like to get something super shiny.

Then I found out that my carrier had significantly lowered the cost of its service plans in order to offset the monthly payments you now have to make in order to have a schmancy phone (unless you lay the bucks out up front of course) – which for me meant that I could have a plan even better than the one I had and make payments on an S8+ and still pay about $25 less a month for my plan than I’d been paying.

That made it hard to resist. So now I’ve got an S8+ and dayum is she ever shiny (her name is Starbuck). Also? The Android OS has gotten slick enough that combined with other customization tools like Nova Launcher and Tasker (I was so pleased that most of the Tasker automation I’d set up on my S5 carried over easily to my S8+) I’m getting along just fine without root. Given the price of the phone I think I’d like to keep my warranty intact for a while – maybe in another two years when it’s not brand new anymore I’ll decide I want to start hacking around with it, but right now I’m good.

SO. This means I can play Pokemon Go again – pick up right where I left off – and they’ve added a ton of new Pokemon, so it’s fresh and new again. I set a Pikachu to be my first buddy and got the last few candy I needed to finally get a damned Raichu.

I should mention that since getting kicked off PGo I’ve discovered a new favorite fitness-based game – Walkr, an adorable space exploration game where you get credit for steps (double credit for running, so I clean up). Fortunately they’re two very different kinds of games that don’t conflict with each other at all, so I don’t have to take time away from one to play the other. Walkr just hangs out in the background and whenever you check in you get credit for the steps you’ve taken (you have to keep your phone with you of course, but I do that anyway) and do your exploring, rather than having the game actively open while you’re walking like you do with PGo.

Playing PGo again makes me think about how I’ve moved towards favoring more and more hobbies/education/info sources etc. that I can play/listen to while I’m moving. Because everyone needs to sit and rest sometimes (I’m sitting at K Brew with my Chromebook right now – yep, really getting into this blogging-at-the-coffeeshop thing) and there are some things I can’t do while moving around (my Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons, for example) but I really like to keep moving a good bit of the time. (Sidenote: I’ve been using a DeskCycle all day at work for about a year now, and just recently the boss got us some new active chairs to try out and I am super obsessed with cycling on my DeskCycle while sitting on a Ballo – I love how it keeps me moving and balancing all day; it’s great core exercise, it helps me stay alert and keeps me from feeling like I’ve just been a lump all day.)

Having hobbies and ways to “read” and learn that don’t require me to sit really helps with keeping me moving mentally while keeping me moving physically – I’ve been listening to audiobooks during my runs for years now, and discovering the amazing bounty of podcasts made a big difference too. When it comes to news and politics not only do podcasts offer more variety & less commercial options than you’d get on television but they don’t require me to, you know, sit in front of the television. I adore the Crooked Media podcasts but if they announced “Hey guess what, no more podcasts, we’ve got our own TV station now,” I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them the way I do. Podcasts have really allowed me to follow news and politics in a way that would’ve been difficult to reconcile with my lifestyle otherwise.

At the beginning of this year Fitbit prompted me to raise my daily step goal. I had left it at their default 10k since starting with my Fitbit in July 2015. At the start of a new year Fitbit encourages you to reevaluate your goals, and since my daily step average is way over 10k, they suggested I raise mine. It was something I’d thought about, but I really needed to give it a lot of consideration, because a goal isn’t a small thing for me. See, the thing is, yes, on most days I still got over 15k. So I knew that raising my goal to 15k wouldn’t require me to think about it on most days. But when my step goal was 10k, if I had a day when for some reason I missed my lunch break walk or something threw off my routine and I only got 11k steps, I’d let it go at that – no big deal, a lower step day once in a while is hardly going to wreck my fitness, and hey, I’d made my goal. Because unless I’m sick or there are serious circumstances (there’s been one day this year that I gave myself permission to not worry about steps; I knew that the day’s crazy travel schedule would make it extremely stressful to try to get 15k in – but circumstances like that are highly unusual in my life) I make my goal every day.

So changing it to 15k meant that there would be days I’d need to think about it just a little more, or put in just a little extra. I usually take a 3 mile walk on my lunch break, but if we have one of our occasional group lunches at work, I miss a chunk of steps – with a 10k goal I would’ve just let it go. With my 15k goal, I go for a walk after work to make up the steps. It’s a psychological thing, I know – turning in a 12k day here and there is hardly going to make a big difference to my fitness, but the mindset of not letting myself off the hook for goals I set is a thing with me, and it’s worked really well with my particular brand of OCD – and it keeps me on track handily.

And I love that my goal of learning more, trying harder to keep in touch and understand what’s going on in the world, has been meshing so well with keeping moving. Because maybe keeping moving is a good way of distilling what I’ve been all about lately, what I’ve moved closer and closer to over the last years, and have been really thinking a lot about since November. Keep moving, do things that matter.

And sometimes play Pokemon Go, because hey, it’s the summer and it’s not like I need extra motivation to spend more time walking around downtown while I listen to my current book (almost done with Parable of the Sower, which is amazing, I’ll definitely post about it when I finish) and deepen my Chaco tan, but hitting up all the PokeStops along the way just sweetens the deal.

Wonder. Fucking. Woman.

So I’m typically a Marvel girl. I get excited about all of the Marvel Studios movies. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been writing Frostiron with my bff for, um, lordy, about five years now. (I do believe I mentioned I get nerdy sometimes, eh?)

It’s been a long time since any of the DC movies have interested me. The previews never compel me – most of them just look overly dark and dour. I like a bit of levity in my superhero movies; it grates me if they take themselves too seriously. I’m a longtime Joss Whedon fan and I love his ability to balance humor and drama – his style fit right in with the Marvel Studios tone and that’s part of what I love about all of those movies. Until Wonder Woman I don’t think I’d seen a DC movie since the The Dark Knight.

BUT. Wonder Woman. I was planning to give it a chance no matter what, because let’s face it, as much as I love Marvel they still haven’t given us a fucking Black Widow movie or any movie with a woman lead. I didn’t want this to go by without supporting it. I admit I was skeptical though, given how little the DC stuff typically appeals to me. Then I started hearing my friends talk about it and I started to feel a twinge of excitement.

And now, betcha by golly wow am I ever on board. Not with DC overall – I still don’t want to see those dumbass looking Batman and Superman movies – but I’m all in with Wonder Woman. Because that kicked some ass. Everyone was brilliant in their roles – Gal Gadot is fucking phenomenal and Robin Wright just blew me the hell away.

The movie wasn’t flawless, no, but are they ever? I’m not going to nitpick because it was a ton of fun, gorgeously filmed, a great story, the characters had charisma and chemistry and … IT WAS A STORY ABOUT A WOMAN HERO TOLD BY A WOMAN AND OMG I DIDN’T REALIZE HOW MUCH I NEEDED THAT.

So it turns out that I’m not at all alone in having an unexpectedly emotional reaction to the movie. I talked to a friend about her similar experience, and then I found this article – it’s a thing. I did not expect this movie to hit me right in the feels just because of what it was – and I mean separately from plot feels, because there were plenty of those too – throughout the whole thing, even the scenes that weren’t intentionally emotional, my feels were engaged just by the movie’s freaking existence. And yes, I got teary quite a few times. I did not see that coming.

So even if I’m never interested in a single other DC property, even if they reboot Batman 25 more times and make a dozen more boring cookie-cutter looking Superman movies, I’m no longer a hater. Because they did this first. I love Marvel, but even when (because I know it’ll happen) Marvel comes to the table with a woman hero, they weren’t first. I wanted them to be, but they weren’t – DC was, and that’s no small thing.