Riverdale Binge Recap: Chapter One: The River’s Edge

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Fred Andrews, Alice Cooper (what), Jughead, Veronica, Archie, Betty, Cheryl, Josie, Hermione Lodge, Kevin. The Main Cast of Riverdale.

(Author Note: I’ve been incredibly lax in my posting schedule, so I’m using this as an exercise to force myself to produce content.  I promise I won’t rely on recaps for everything forever.  Enjoy!)

The episode begins with a narrator.  We don’t know who it is until the end of the cold open.  It’s Jughead, best known in the comics for eating burgers and having a dog.  We’re clearly going for a Twin-Peaksy vibe, and a moody, evocative, stylized opener.  Two beautiful redheads in a red convertible, with romantic music playing.  They’re both (over)dressed in white, which anyone who’s seen a movie can tell you spells out bad things for them.

“Are you scared, Jason?” Cheryl Blossom smirks at him.  He isn’t.  The scene plays out like a love scene, though we have established the two are in fact not only siblings but twins.  Really going for that Supernatural periphery demographic, here, aren’t you, CW?  The next thing we know, Jason is ostensibly dead, his sister-widow shellshocked and soaked on the shore.  A pretty, preppy blonde couple in their late 40s scoffs from the shore “I hope he suffered, making them, you know, not suspicious at all.  These are Betty’s parents, it turns out, and they are awful.

The cold open ends with a car pulling up and a pretty young woman peering out at Riverdale High.  Most of this episode is laying groundwork, so I’ll just lay this out by character for this round.

A perfectly normal brother/ sister relationship, right?

Archie:
When we finally meet series lead Archie, we get the impression that he’s on the other side of an ugly duckling summer, and has had a mysterious summer romance with a woman who turns out to be his MUSIC TEACHER.  Gone is the stern but kind Miss Grundy of the comics.  Nope.  Now she’s younger, hotter, and A COMPLETE PREDATOR.  The show seems to try to make the power dynamic in this completely messed up situation look even, despite the fact that she’s easily a decade older, probably more.  Archie wants to study music, and become a musician, suddenly, because working at his dad’s construction company made him sad. So he quasi-blackmails Grundy into teaching him music  He and Jughead aren’t speaking.  Who knows why. Maybe Jughead got as tired of him as I am already. I feel like Archie is in a different, dumber show than literally everyone else.

Betty Cooper:
Modernization looks good on Betty.  She’s obsessed with her college resume, returning from a prestigious internship that she got after freshman year of high school.  Her sister has disappeared over the summer to be institutionalized after a breakup with now-dead Jason.  Her mom is pretty much the worst, pressuring and nagging Betty at every turn.  She has a sassy gay friend, recent addition to canon Kevin Keller.  Betty wants to be a cheerleader (the inappropriately dubbed “River Vixens.”) and becomes instantly best friends with Veronica Lodge.  Her character translates far better than Archie’s to 2017.  She pursues a Taylor Swift-esque romance with the boy next door that looks like the director really, really liked the video for “You Belong With Me.”  Betty seems to be one bad day away from snapping, which is a fascinating element to sweet, perfect Betty.  However, in very un-Taylor fashion, Betty gets rejected big time by Archie in her big romantic confession scene in her front yard.

Cheryl Blossom:
Cheryl’s characterization is intentionally inconsistent in the pilot.  She seems to be using her brother’s demise for as much sympathy as she can, while not being a nice or even acceptable person, or even all that sad after the first scene.  She taunts Betty about her older sister’s relationship with Jason.  She acts like keeping the dance from being canceled is the equivalent of solving world hunger.  She’s terrible.  She also has Josie and the Pussycats (who are awesome but don’t add much to the plot in this episode) play the song she and her brother were conceived to in his memory.  WHAT.

Veronica Lodge
Riverdale really needs you to like Veronica, and they go to every length they can.  They sink the Archie/ Betty ship in the pilot, make it Miss Grundy’s fault instead of Veronica’s.  When she and Archie kiss in the closet at the School Dance Afterparty, Veronica is falling on the grenade so that Cheryl doesn’t hook up with the dude everyone’s comparing to her brother because why.   She pushes the Reformed Mean Girl trope, trying to be kind to all, and dressing down Cheryl when she’s cruel to Betty.  Veronica is obviously attracted to Archie, but doesn’t want to lose Betty as a friend despite knowing her for roughly twelve seconds.  I’ve never seen a show try so hard to make you like a character- but it works, and I do like her.

Kevin Keller
I’m glad to see Kevin in a major role, even if he’s written as a little stereotypical.  Kevin is clearly picking up the comic relief mantle since Jughead left it somewhere in his Dashboard Confessional phase.  His affair (I wouldn’t call it a relationship) with Moose catalyzes the end of the episode- sneaking off into the woods, Kevin and Moose discover Jason’s body, not drowned as we’d been told, but with a bullet wound in his head.

Jughead
Barely seen in this episode despite being one of the main four.  He’s definitely the character pulled furthest from his roots. He and Archie had a fight.  We don’t know why.  I still think Jughead got tired of Archie.

 

The biggest issue with this is the Archie/ Grundy plotline. We seem to be ignoring the fact that she is a predator.  PREDATOR. Secondly, I have to consistently remind myself that not only are they in high school, they ARE FIFTEEN.  SOPHOMORES.  Most people turn sixteen over their sophomore year.  These are CHILDREN. MISS GRUNDY THAT IS A CHILD.

Another much smaller issue I have is the over-the-top hyper-literate teen dialogue.  Despite the fact that I actually talk like that, it seems really forced.  It seems super weird, but it’s only the pilot.  So, let’s see how this goes!

 

 

 

 

How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation

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Hey, team!

My crazy season is over at work, so I can actually pursue fun things again.  Here’s the rundown for the summer.

  1. Binge watch the following:
  • Riverdale (I’m about 2/3 of the way through, and loving it)
  • Supergirl
  • Bridezillas (don’t you judge me)
  • Invader Zim
  • Twin Peaks (old first, then new.)
  • Flash (really, I swear this time)
  • Legends of Tomorrow
  • Star Wars: Rebels
  • Star vs the Forces of Evil
  • GAME OF THRONES SEASON SEVEN Y’ALL

2. See the following films

  • Wonder Woman
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • finally see the Lego Batman Movie
  • Logan

3. Work on my long-gestating podcast, Talk to Your Kids About Podcast.  In each episode, a special guest who is probably someone I already know will join me to discuss the historical context behind my favorite genre: The Very Special Episode.

4. Appear at the following conventions alongside +2 Comedy:

  • Wizard World Philadelphia June 1-4
  • Anime Next as part of Cosplay Pro Wrestling (June 9-11, Atlantic City, NJ)
  • Another PotterCon, I hope.
  • Too Many Games Expo (June 23-5, Oaks, PA)
  • DexCon (July 5-8, Morristown, NJ)

So watch this space- I’m going to recap and react to the thirteen episodes of Riverdale from Monday, May 29 to Saturday, June 10, one a day. The longer shows I’m going to handle in groups of episodes, but Game of Thrones will be one at a time, too.  The podcast will be in pre-production for the summer, with episodes launching with the new television season this fall.

Anything you’d like me to watch and review?  Let me know!

 

The Return of Pretty Nerdy Things

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Good morning, team.

I have a confession to make: I sort of lost it after the election.  I lost touch with nerd culture, missed a Marvel film and a Star Wars film during their theatrical run, and sort of fell out with reading anything but the news, which I read obsessively.

News is important.  So is passion, and it’s time to come back to what I love.

I have some updates, personally and professionally. I have officially joined +2 Comedy- those of you who know me know that I’ve been tangentially involved for a few years, but had held off on becoming a full member.  So the “Where’s Laura?” tab will be getting nice and full of updates.  I’m considering taking some short videos from cons we go to as well, just as some bonus content.  Is this something you’d be interested in?

I’ll be teaching a freshman seminar class this fall on Themes in Graphic Literature.  This is exciting and terrifying, and I’ll tell you all about it.  I am shopping around a few pieces for real publication as well, like in journals/ magazines.  I will tell you if anything develops here.

Oh, yes, and I got engaged over the winter, so that’s another thing happening.  Plan to see some articles about how to geek up your nuptials.

Mostly, though, I plan to come back to this blog.  A thing I love, and frankly a thing I’ve missed.  Welcome home, nerds.

BREAKING: 3 New Harry Potter Ebooks Coming in September

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Today it was announced, possibly as an apology for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that three new ebooks will launch in September.

The books, clearly intended to be supplemental pieces for the canonical seven, are under the heading Pottermore Presents and include the following titles:

  • Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists
  • Shorts Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies
  • Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

According to Amazon’s official description, the first title will have dealings with the origins of Most Hated Villain in History Ever Dolores Umbridge, as well as the truth behind the conversation where Slughorn and Tom Riddle discuss Horcruxes. Also detailed will be the history of Azkaban and other Ministry of Magic-related fare.

The second title will discuss fan favorites Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin, in stories that Marauders fans will excitedly lap up.  We’ll also meet poor Professor Kettleburn, the Care of Magical Creatures professor replaced by Hagrid in the third book.  Sibyl Trelawney will also be featured.  Most of McGonagall’s backstory was detailed on the Pottermore web site quite a while back, but I’m hoping for expansions and details!

The final title is the big question mark of the three, with very little detail promised on Amazon.

I, for one, am really hoping that there is more content in these ebooks than Pottermore provides.  I worry that this means we’re never getting that giant encyclopedia we were always promised, too.

Divergent Finale Film Ascendant Canceled

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Are we finally seeing the end of the multi-part finale? The dystopian YA craze?  Both?

Lionsgate announced yesterday that due to the critical and commercial failure of Allegiant, the third Divergent film, that finale Ascendant has been canceled as a feature film. Lionsgate claims to be shopping around a tv movie and spinoff television series.  Ascendant was to start filming this summer for a June 2017 release.

Divergent was merely cashing in on the pattern that was started by the final Harry Potter book and continued by Twilight and The Hunger Games franchises.   However, Allegiance had a mixed reaction in its book release, while the film was utterly reviled (13% on Rotten Tomatoes- that is worse than any of the Twilight films or Razzie darling Fifty Shades of Grey.)

Critical reception of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was very positive.  At a Rotten Tomatoes score of 78%, it ties with Order of the Phoenix for the lowest scores of the franchise, but still Certified Fresh. However, Deathly Hallows (whose book celebrates its 9th anniversary today) was a massive door-stopper of an incredibly well-received finale. The choice to split into two movies was widely accepted, with the note that many people wished Goblet of Fire had done the same.

Twilight had a different experience.  While none of the movies were rated particularly well, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 was the most reviled, with a paltry 24% rating. Widely regarded as a filler film intended to cash in on the success of Harry Potter’s split finale, the trick worked on its largely young teenage fanbase.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 was again the lowest rated film of the franchise, with a 65% score.  Even the positive reviews, however, admit that the story seems stretched too thin and the material should probably have been one film.  Like Divergent, Hunger Games goes rather dark in its ending, but the book was much more well received than Allegiant.

Only time will tell if Ascendant ever actually sees the light of day. Variety admits the Lionsgate has not even begun to pitch the projects.  Digging around on Twitter, none of the stars have commented, though Ansel Elgort has an extremely impressive Pokemon roster. The official Divergent account is also staying mum.

The dystopian craze seems to be dying out, with several Twilight and Hunger Games follow-the-leaders suffering at the box office.  TV seems to be the smarter way to go, with shows such as The Vampire Diaries, The 100, and Teen Wolf able to find footing.  TV’s Shadowhunters has found the success that eluded the film release The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  Delirium and The Selection have failed to launch television shows, with the latter failing twice.

I’m hoping this will open the gates for new ideas instead of the constant case of Follow-the-Leader and multi-part finale cash-ins.  What YA books do you hope take off in the absence of this trend?

Review: Ghostbusters 2016

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Was Ghostbusters good?  Yes

Was Ghostbusters perfect?  No.

Do I care that it wasn’t perfect?  Honestly, no.

SPOILERS BELOW.

An ensemble comedy featuring four women, none of whom is the “sexy” one.  One is black.  One is plus-sized.  One is an oddball genius, and ambiguously queer.  One is a mousy academic.  All four have to rely on their brains, not what men think of their bodies, to save the day.  I’m going to take the ladies one at a time.

The Ghostbusters:

Like pretty much everyone, I was worried when I saw the trailer that Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan was going to be a racist caricature of a sassy black woman as the only one of the Ghostbusters not to be a scientist.  Instead, Patty is intelligent and a quick study.  In the after-credits stinger, Leslie Jones is clearly analyzing audio, even dropping the wham!line: “What is Zuul?” Patty is an amazing character- she shows up, comes to play, and becomes an invaluable member of the team.  She’s persistent, resilient, and she decides to change her own fate when she leaves the MTA to start busting- and studying ghosts. She never quits, never backs down or backs out, even when things start getting really messed up.  She’s clever, loyal, and funny, and never falls back on stereotypes.  I don’t really see why she couldn’t have been a scientist, but I think the character we got was pretty great anyway.

(Edit: The concerns above paragraph actually make a little bit more sense after I researched a bit- Feig originally developed the role for Melissa McCarthy and changed it to Leslie Jones to give her more of a breakout role, while placing McCarthy as the more reserved Yates.)

Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates was a solid hit for her.  McCarthy tends to play very over-the-top, and having her be the Only Sane Woman of the group allows her to dodge some typecasting.  She is a plus-sized heroine who has NO MAJOR GAGS ABOUT HER WEIGHT.  Let me say that to you one more time in the back.  She’s a heavier-set lead character who didn’t need to be heavyset because of the plot for reasons like Hairspray.  She just happens to be plus-sized, and she’s a brilliant scientist, a loyal friend, and a resourceful hero.  That’s amazing.

Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is a young woman who works in academia dealing with the struggle to be taken seriously, and her book and friendship with Abby are Old Shame for her.  Her clothes pre-Ghosbusting tell the whole story: very conservatively cut but in quirky mismatched prints.  As a fairly new Physics professor, she has probably fought to be taken even remotely seriously. Tywin Lannister smacks her down as her boss, because plot. That being said, Erin is supposed to be the emotional center of the film, but there isn’t quite enough to connect to. Her possible sacrifice and rescue of Abby needed a little more set-up to pack that grown-up Frozen punch. Abby Yates comes off saner than Erin Gilbert despite studying the paranormal and being presented initially as crazy.  Probably because Erin becomes a walking Freudian slip whenever Kevin turns up.

Finally, my favorite character, and probably yours, because she is pretty much everyone’s, Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann.  Growing up, the geekiest member of a team was very nearly always male- Billy the Blue Power Ranger, Donatello, etc.  If the geek was female (Gretchen in Recess comes to mind) she seldom took action. So seeing a smart geeky girl who looked a little like me start really kicking ass and taking names and being awesome?  Amazing. Jillian is slightly androgynous, unabashedly weird, and finds joy in every moment. The movie belongs to her, and she’s clearly the breakout character of the film.  McKinnon does a fine job here.

Kevin:
First of all, let me say: Chris Hemsworth acts the crap out of this.  He’s genuinely good in the role.  I just think Kevin is actually too dumb.  Like, I would have accepted a guy who was ditzy (the logos, or the phone in the aquarium joke, for example) but it’s hard to take one who you can’t figure out how he functions (Saying he’s not listening by covering his eyes, for example.) I understand he’s a send-up of ditzy secretaries, but I can’t think of a secretary character who is actually that stupid. I would have liked one flash of brilliance or even competence to him just to give the Busters a reason to keep him around.

The Reboot Problem
This is a nitpick, because I hate this about pretty much every prequel, reboot, remake, whatever.  It’s the faux-organic development of tropes we already know.  The logo starts out as a graffiti artist’s interpretation of the ghost in the subway (but looks literally nothing like the ghost in the subway.)  The only clever one was the firehouse- I loved the fact that there was a nod to it being absurdly expensive, as it would be in NYC, and that they pretty much win it as a prize for saving NYC.

The Cameos, both good and bad:
The Ramis nod was beautiful and simple.  Weaver gets a pass, since she’s a bonus scene in the credits and therefore a perfect place to put an over-the-top cameo. Hudson and Potts made cameos as characters that would have existed in the plot-Patty’s uncle who owns the car Jillian turns into the Ecto-1 and a hotel concierge respectively.  Potts does a perfect cameo, honestly.  It’s just enough of a nod to Janine without stopping the action or feeling unnatural. Aykroyd’s veers into stupid. Why does this cabbie know so much?  Bill Murray had way too big of a role, and he honestly didn’t bring much to it.  His scenes were actually some of the most bleh in the movie.

The Editing:
Paul Feig said the original cut of the movie was 4 hours.  I missed some of it.  I think Erin and Abby needed to part ways again temporarily for the former’s rescue of the latter to pack as much of a punch. Moving Kevin/Rowan’s absurd Thriller sequence to the end was probably wise.

The Villain:
Like any number of Marvel movies, the villain is really there to catalyze events.  I’m sure the choice of making Rowan a miserable, socially ostracized white guy didn’t help the movie endear itself to the incredibly vocal male critical base. He’s not a memorable villain or all that great of one.

The Impact:
The next generation of little geek girls will have Abby, Erin, Patty, and Holtzmann to look up to.  For that, I am profoundly grateful, just like I’m grateful they have Rey, and they’ll have Wonder Woman in a movie.

I loved this movie, but it doesn’t make it perfect.  However, I am happy to support it, and endlessly glad it exists.

 

Free Thoughts on Pokemon Go

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So, um, hi.

+2 Comedy’s Noah and I got back from DexCon, then 4th of July, then Pokemon Go.  So there was no DexCon recap.  We were so busy with Game the Gamer that I didn’t really get to play anything, so let’s leave it at Game the Gamer was awesome.

But like, Pokemon Go, right?

I admit, it took me a little while to get the hang of it.  I downloaded it Wednesday night, and didn’t feel like going out for a walk, so it seemed sort of pointless initially.  However, I figured out what I was doing, and now 2016 will be the year of Hamilton and Pokemon Go.

Sorry I’m not writing more.  I’m playing Pokemon.  Byeeee.

 

 

 

Too Many Games Recap

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Well, that was so much fun.

I’m home from Too Many Games, and we had a really great time.  I roomed with Uncle Yo and TV’s Noah of +2 Comedy, and golly, did we have an adventure.

Friday:

We hit all of the traffic and didn’t get to the Con until 5.  The con opened at 2pm.  Oops.  Anyway, upon arriving, it was off to go confirm that ProJared and Doug Walker were actually joining us for that night’s improv panel, and it was not a cruel joke.  Both of the lovely gentleman were ready to play.  We found These Guy Are Sick’s Brett Vanderbrook and Darrin DeMarco, and we put on an amazing show.  I actually remember the show, which almost never happens, partially thanks to the incredible Mew.  WHO DREW FANART IN REAL TIME.  Seriously.  I am framing this in my home.

Seriously. FANART. If you were there, you will recognize all of these moments.

Seriously. FANART. If you were there, you will recognize all of these moments.

So, yeah.  This was a life highlight.  So many people came up with kind words after the show  We loved it, it was amazing.

 

Saturday:

This was, bar none, the craziest day ever.  After arriving at the con, we got a chance to walk the floor (and I definitely didn’t buy a Flareon plushie because that would be irresponsible.) Seemingly before we knew it, 4pm had rolled around and it was time to get ready for Cosplay Pro Wrestling.  If I have failed in the past to mention it, I’m the Princess in Residence, the General Manager, Ring Announcer, and Legit Boss (yeah, no, that’s Sasha Banks, my bad) Princess Peach.  I had to take my first bump, which means that after three shows of being a seemingly untouchable onstage presence, I was about to get hit for the first time. I would say I hadn’t been that nervous in ages, but to be honest, I was crazy nervous for the improv show. Our Luigi informed me that he was going to do a HHH sledgehammer spot.  Which means I was going to get hit in the face with a warp pipe.  We did the spot, and I’m told it looked good, though I really have no idea what it looked like.  I was really surprised- by interrupting the fight, I turned the crowd against me in a huge way.  I really never get to play evil, so it was a little bit fun.  I also didn’t realize that when a wrestler hits you, they connect- I didn’t expect the pipe to touch me.

The rest of the show was amazing.  The guys and the wonderful Wii Fit Trainer put on incredible matches, and the crowd was crazy into it.  If you were at Too Many Games and heard an entire corner of the room chanting “HOLY SHIT,” you should have stopped by!  Our real-life fearless leader, Mike Goldstein, is just fabulous.  He checked in on me the next day, and was just an absolute rock star.  The audience was one of the greatest characters in the show- they kept us guessing.  We were so fortunate that Keith Apicary and MegaRan decided to stop by and save Uncle Yo from Giovanni.

Afterwards, I helped my friends at +2 Comedy by keeping score at Game the Gamer.  I will be promoting their kickstarter when it goes live this August- it’s a really special show, and I’m proud to be even a small part of it.  We hit the afterparty, and then we hit the hotel room and bed- hard.  I don’t think I’ve been that tired in a very long time.

 

Sunday:

“I’m such a heifer.  I ate, like, two bowls of Special K.” -Cher Horowitz, Clueless

I started my day by eating a lot of cereal, and then had to finish the Powerpoint to my Women in Gaming Panel, Wait, Samus is a Girl? A Brief and Ridiculous History of Women in Games. Brief was the right word.  I ran a little under time, and I think it would have been good to add a little more.  I was worried I would have too much ground to cover and over-edited.  I got a few games to play on my to-do list (Transistor) but I am still resisting Overwatch because I fear I will never leave the house.  We had an amazing discussion, and I actually gained a lot of insight into how people really feel about women in gaming.  I also felt better about my constant insistence on how I play Princess Peach stronger and stronger.

 

All in all, Too Many Games was more than kind to me, and I can’t wait to go back next year and have more fun, make more friends, and, well….balls.

 

(I’m posting this from DexCon, which is incredibly fun.  Guys, I am pretty much the luckiest.)

Appearance Information- Upcoming News

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Hey, Team,

Just a quick couple of things.

I’m the worst for not posting, but I have a sick Undertale review in the works.  I also just might be starting a YouTube channel later this summer.

I’ll be appearing TOMORROW at 8:30pm (oh crap) at Too Many Games Expo in Oaks, PA as the host and director of Too Many Games Improv.  I can exclusively confirm the involvement of Doug Walker, The Nostalgia Critic; and known accomplice Uncle Yo.  We’ll be in Panel Room 2!

I will also appear as Princess Peach in Cosplay Pro Wrestling on Saturday, as well as debuting my new panel Sunday, called: “Samus is a Girl?  A Brief, Ridiculous History of Women in Games” (Sunday, 3:30pm, Panel Room 2.)

I’ll also be helping out my close personal friends in +2 Comedy at this years DEXCON event in Morristown, NJ next weekend.  Keep an eye out.

 

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Also, I got Hamilton tickets.