Intelligence in Modern Film – The Mind-Bender

The 2000s have seen a rise in the number of intelligent, complex, plot-driven films that challenge the viewer. These films are somewhat similiar to film noir, in that they often feature a protagonist rather than a hero, and often have either downbeat, depressing endings, or endings that at the very least are thought-provoking and keep the film in mind for weeks. These films are also, often, genre-spanning – sometimes recognizably science fiction, sometimes not – and sometimes the science fiction element is only introduced at the very end. I call this new style of film, “The Mind Bender”.

What is a mind bender? Mind benders are films in which certain important information is withheld from the audience, and when revealed, that information drastically changes the audience’s perception of the film and its characters. Mind benders are films which call attention to the fact they they are films, and the techniques and conventions of film. Mind benders include films with unusual structures, such as circler films with no beginning or ending, or films told in reverse or backwards. Often they are morally ambiguous films, somewhat like film noir, but without the fedora-wearing trope. With the moral ambiguity comes a sense that often, mind benders are also depressing films with downbeat endings. Most of all, mind benders are films that require close attention. They often require multiple viewings to understand fully. Mind benders are complicated, adult films, that never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. In contrast, these films depend on the audience being intelligent enough to understand them.

One form of mind bender is a film in which certain information is with-held from the audience, information which changes the entire perception of the film. For example, M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 film, The Sixth Sense. Audience members often don’t want to reveal the secret to their friends and family, simply recommending the film – because knowing The Secret ruins the film. The Prestige (2006, Dir. Christopher Nolan) also relies for its impact, the revelations and change in audience perception of the three main characters.

Another type of film that falls into the mind bender category is the film that calls attention to the conventions of films that all of us, as audience members, take for granted. Inception (2010, Dir. Christopher Nolan) does this by, not breaking the fourth wall, but by taking conventions of film and turning them into indications that the character is dreaming. For example, two characters are sitting in a cafe and the one asks the other one, “How did you get here?” Unable to remember, the young girl becomes confused. The first character then explains she can’t remember because she is dreaming – and you can never remember the beginning of a dream. This points directly at the film and television convention where two characters are in New York and one talks about going to Paris, and the next scene shows them sitting in an sidewalk cafe with the Eiffel Tower in the background, and maybe even a subtitle that says, Paris, France. We don’t see the character go home, find her passport, pack, drive to the airport, buy a ticket, go through security, wait, get on the plane, the plane flying, the character going through customs and security again, and then the character arriving at the Parisian cafe. We assume they took a plane, and just accept that (a) the characters were in New York and are now in Paris, (b) they took a plane to get there. And we, the audience assumes, at least some time has passed. Often one can easily assume the scene in Paris is the next day. There was a time when an insert of a plane flying (or taking off) was used to indicate international travel, but that’s seldom used anymore because it’s accurately viewed as a waste of time. Yet, Inception draws attention to this idea by making sudden scene changes an indication that one is dreaming. And, Inception itself is an allegory about film itself.

The Prestige (2006, Dir. Christopher Nolan) is a film that calls attention to editing, because the story is told in reverse order. Many films such as Sunset Blvd (1950, Dir. Billy Wilder) and Double Indemnity (1944, Dir. Billy Wilder) start at the end, then flash back to explain the protagonist’s predicament. But in those films, the story is told sequentially after the initial scene, and narration is used to further orient the viewer. The Prestige, however, is told in a series of interweaving flashbacks, with each preceding the previous one. Not only do these flashbacks explain the storyline, but they also change the viewer’s perception of the characters – another key characteristic of the mind bender film.

All mind bender films require deep concentration by the viewer. They assume the viewer is intelligent and can follow a story in which the information is given out bit by bit – in reverse order, for example, the film Memento (2000, Dir. Christopher Nolan) is actually told backwards. Each scene in color in Memento precedes the one before it. The black and white white scenes, however, move forward in time – and act almost like a commentary on the color scenes. So Memento is, in a sense, two films in one. That the main story is told backwards in Memento both emphasizes the main character’s “condition”, and calls attention to film editing as the viewer must re-order the scenes mentally to fully understand the film. These films are challenging, which makes them enjoyable. It’s an intellectual exercise based on figuring out what is going on, rather than excitement at what happens next.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Dir. Michel Gondry), besides being a rather depressing romantic tragedy (it certainly isn’t a comedy), combines elements of The Prestige and Inception and pre-dates both films. The film calls attention to editing – though not quite as clearly as The Prestige, where the viewer is constantly re-ordering the scenes in his or her own head, but as Joel Barish’s (Jim Carrey) memories break down – by having the scenes literally break down, elements, sets, furniture, even buildings destroy themselves to indicate that Joel can no longer remember them. This is something that Inception does as well, in a grander and even more fantastic style as entire scenes rip themselves apart to indicate not only that the characters are in a dream – but that they are realizing they are in a dream.

Looper (2012, Dir. Rian Johnson) is another mind-bender film. Looper imagines a world, where the secrets of time travel have actually been discovered – then time travel is made illegal because of the obvious problems it could create. So, of course, it becomes a tool of the mob. The main characters are all mob assassins, paid in silver, to kill people that the mob wants to get rid of. Living in an underground economy, and using their silver to pay for what they want, these assassins mostly hang out in mob bars – buying a drug they take by squeezing it in their eyes, as well as alcohol and female companionship. These assassins wait for the day they “close the loop”, and receive a payoff in gold for their final assassination. The film follows one assassin, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who discovers that all the loops are being closed, and then gets his final assignment. However, the way it’s supposed to work is that the assassin kills someone, then checks for payment. However, Joe realizes that something is wrong, and checks first – and realizes the person he has to kill is an older version of himself – he lets his older self (Bruce Willis) go. This, of course, causes problems in its own right – and the film shows the audience, graphically, what happens to a different Looper assassin who doesn’t fulfill a contract. The film’s shocking and disturbing ending has Joe break the loop in a novel, effective, self-sacrificing, yet depressing way. The film is violent, after all, it is about professional assassins, but I liked it, because the acting, and visuals were good, the plot was unique, and the film made you think. Looper is another intelligent mind-bender film. Looper is also a circler film, with no real beginning or ending.

The Butterfly Effect (2004, Dirs. Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber) is another film about time travel. I saw it when it was originally released in 20004, but not since. What I remember about the film was that involved the main character using time travel to try to improve the life of the girl who lived next to him when he was a child. However, everything he does to try to change things makes both their lives worse, not better. In the end, the time traveler eliminates himself from history – and the present version ends-up in an insane asylum talking about people and events that don’t exist. Because no one else knows about these people and events he’s assumed to be insane. The same thing had happened to his father (or another close relative). Although The Butterfly Effect also is intelligent and makes you think, I personally didn’t like it because of the depressing end – and the raw treatment of cruelty to children and animals was inappropriate.

Overall, though Mind Bender films are great to see once, they are intelligent, and they trust that the audience is also intelligent. Mind Bender films call attention to film techniques such as editing and to film conventions. Often, because of their complex stories, Mind bender films are ones that film viewers like to see more than once.

Agile Update – Week 12

Wow – three months of using Agile Methodology as a personal and professional development tool. I’ve found it very successful. It really does help to focus on goals, and to see accomplishments week by week.

This past week I wrote four blog posts on WordPress, including two new movie reviews that were posted to both WordPress and Blogger. My Movie Project Blogging Project is now firmly back on track and I’m back to the point where I had stopped in my alphabetical reviews (The Third Man) – the film had been a stumbling block, probably because I knew it was grim and depressing, but with stunning cinematography. When I did watch it, then review it, I found I liked the film as much as I remembered mostly because of the film’s look. And it also has a twisty-turny plot that’s intelligent. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t give up on the project and I’m now firmly back on track!

I also wrote two book reviews on GoodReads this week. One was of the Doctor Who Missing Adventure original novel, Managra, and the second was a review of the DC Comics Graphic Novel Nightwing:  Blüdhaven. Reviews can be found on GoodReads.

This was also a good week for professional development. I finally received the February issue of Intercom magazine from the STC and read through the entire thing. The focus this issue was on the nitty-gritty of writing techniques. I think I learned the most from the article on Noun Strings, simply because it confirmed the “my head says” idea that grammatically correct English beats “Business English” shortcuts  because it’s more understandable. To make sense of this, you need to know that I was forced to read a book in one of my classes, written by a barely-literate businessman who insisted one should never use “big complicated words”, or long sentences, or scientific language – even in a scientific journal article written for other scientists. I actually had to perform writing exercises from the book where the goal was to make the sentence as short as possible and didn’t matter if the sentence no longer made sense. It was not just the worse writing book I’ve ever read, nor the worst textbook I’ve ever read – but the worst non-fiction book I’ve ever read. Textbooks, especially in writing, should be helpful and practical – they should not give bad advice. It was like reading a car manual that if you followed the instructions to the letter – would destroy the car. The article I read in STC’s Intercom confirmed what I instinctively knew, for example, the importance of “small” words like prepositions which enhance reading comprehension (the business writing book I so despised would have you eliminate all prepositions as “unnecessary”)

“Connectives, mostly prepositions, are very important for fluid reading, explicitly informing the reader about how words are related to each other. Without them, readers must infer those relationships, and inference may be difficult or result in faulty sense-making. Exposing a sentence to different interpretations is counterproductive in expository writing… “Understanding, Curing and Preventing the Noun String:  Part 1” by Bradford R. Connatster, Intercom, Feb. 2015, p. 11 

This was but one useful example in this well-written article. There were many more. But then, the entire professional organization magazine is usually filled with helpful, useful, and interesting articles, and something I look forward to reading each month.

I also attended my InDesign class and finished all homework and the quiz.

What didn’t happen this week was Yoga class – due to truly crazy day that day.

Two of my main goals that I have been using this self-structured Agile program for are writing and exercise. The writing goal, at least three posts a week, has been consistently accomplished. I’m going to add to that that I will write at least one, preferably two, movie review posts, as well as keeping up with DVD reviews and book reviews of what I watch and read. I’m also going to add that I should write one technical or how to post per week. (I shudder already thinking about that because it’s difficult to come up with good topics.)

The second goal is exercise and more healthy living (better food – less fast food, etc.) I’m the type of person that likes to cook – but I don’t like making dinner. Which means I like trying out new recipes and foods, but I don’t like coming up with something – based on whatever I have on hand, in 20 – 30 minutes, especially after a busy and exhausting day. However, I also know that cooking for yourself is healthier than eating a lot of fast food, take out, and heavy restaurant food. And the exercise thing is almost a no brainer – we all need it. I just tend to hate it – because I’m not very coordinated, or into sports (especially anything involving a ball being thrown at me). I mean, I’m almost phobic of having things thrown at me. But I know it’s important. And when I’ve gone to Yoga class, even just once a week, it did make me feel better – and that was just a very gentle stretching Yoga class. So the new goal is to do Pilates at least three days a week, at least one set. Secondly, to pick-up a exercise class of some sort, each term. My Yoga class was at my church for a very reasonable $15.00 for the entire six week class. I doubt I’ll find something to replace it that’s that cheap, but there are community education classes and such that aren’t as expensive as some of the professional Pilates and Yoga studios.

Professional development, like writing, is something I enjoy and it’s not as difficult for me to stay motivated to work on it. These weekly posts will continue, as well as reading professional development material. I’ve also been working to develop my Twitter contacts and followers, reading about Social Media for Business, and building a curated list of Infographics and Blog posts on Pinterest (as well as cross-posting the best to Twitter). It’s an enjoyable learning experience that I hope to put to work in my future career.

The Third Man

  • The Third Man
  • Director:  Carol Reed
  • Date:  1949
  • Studio:  London Films Productions (UK)
  • Genre:  Film Noir, Mystery, Drama
  • Cast:  Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Wilfrid Hyde-White
  • Format:  Black/White, Standard
  • DVD Format:  NTSC, R1 (Criterion Collection)

“Is that what you say to people after death? ‘That’s awkward.’ ” – Holly

“Death’s at the bottom of everything, Martins.  Leave death to the professionals.” – Major Calloway

“Look down there, would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you £20,000  [English Pounds Sterling] for every dot that you stopped – would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money? Or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spend?” – Harry Lime

Holly Martins (Cotten) is a down on his luck American writer who jumps at the chance when his old childhood friend, Harry Lime, offers him a job in post-World War II Vienna. He arrives in a city that’s still literally digging out from the destruction and rubble of war, and a city that’s split into British, American, Russian, and French zones (so having your passport handy is of vital importance), only to find that his friend, Harry Lime, is dead. The police believe it to be an accident. Holly has trouble believing his old friend is dead. He starts to investigate – at first, merely to learn what happened. He talks to various people, the porter at Harry’s building who witnessed a few things about the time of the accident, Harry’s girlfriend, Anna Schmidt, other friends of Harry’s, and becomes suspicious that not only was Harry’s death not an accident – but that something odd is going on in Vienna.

Harry also has several encounters with Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) a member of the British police for the British section, and his aide, Sgt. Paine (Bernard Lee). When he takes his suspicions to the police, he’s told, not unkindly, that even if Lime was murdered, the police won’t waste resources investigating – because the man was a racketeer, involved in the Black Market, and most importantly he was involved in a scheme to steal, cut, and re-sell penicillin to sick and injured men, women and children – that resulted in several deaths, and a number of children with meningitis. As first, Holly doesn’t believe his old friend would be involved in such a scheme. Later in the film, Major Calloway shows him proof of Harry Lime’s involvement, and Holly reluctantly believes it. Still later on – Calloway takes Holly to a hospital ward filled with children who were left mentally disabled because of the tainted medicine and the resulting meningitis. There is considerable restraint in the scene, the audience doesn’t see the sick children – only doctors and nurses tending to them, some shadows and medical charts, and the reactions of Holly, Major Calloway, and Sgt. Paine.

Holly also spends time with Anna, Harry’s girlfriend. He begins to develop feelings for her – and she seems to return those feelings, but it’s not to be.

About halfway through the film, when Holly’s considering leaving Vienna altogether, he actually meets Harry Lime, who isn’t as dead as everyone thought.

The second half of the film turns into more of a moral dilemma for Holly. Harry wants him to join him in another scheme to make money, that would probably harm as many people as his last one if not more. Holly tries to get Anna to go with him – but she’s still in love with Harry. Anna’s been having her own problems – she’s living with a false passport, perhaps even a false name – because, as a Czechoslovakian she would be sent to Russia. Anna’s reactions throughout the film are influenced by her blaming Holly somewhat for getting her in trouble with the police and her undying and unexplained love for Harry Lime.

Meanwhile, Major Calloway holds his duty to turn Anna over to the Russians, because she’s an illegal immigrant, and the carrot of arranging her freedom over Holly as well.

Holly agrees to set-up Harry after Major Calloway presents him with proof of Lime’s involvement in the drug stealing and selling scheme. They also discover that the person buried in Harry’s grave is the missing hospital porter Calloway’s been looking for.

However, an encounter with Anna again shakes Holly’s resolve, he meets with Harry Lime, who turns out to be a real sociopath. Harry does not take up Lime on his implied offer to go into illegal business together someplace outside of Vienna.

Holly goes back to Calloway – who this time shows him the children in the hospital. Holly resolves to set-up Lime to help the police, especially as Calloway lets him have Anna’s passport back.

Anna – gets off the train (Calloway had also supplied a ticket out of Vienna), she sees Holly and blows up at him because she knows he’s setting up Harry. She even rips up her forged passport.

The conclusion of the film is a chase in Vienna’s sewers, as Holly, then the Major and his troops, then police from the other districts of Vienna all chase down Harry Lime.

The brilliance of this film isn’t in the overall plot, though the dead man who isn’t dead was probably somewhat novel at the time – the brilliance is in the details. The cinematography of this film is just incredible. Director Carol Reed uses all sorts of unusual, tilted, and strange camera angles, which alongside the strange score, act to put the audience at unease. This odd setting emphasizes for example, Holly’s isolation and grasping need to trust somebody. It sets all the characters apart, especially Harry Lime who towers over the film, despite not really being in it all that much. Lime is the “Third Man” of the title – referring to a Third Man who witnessed Harry’s death as described by a witness, whom everyone else involved denies was even there. The discovery of a “Third Man” is an early clue that Holly discovers and uses to try to find out who “killed” Harry Lime.

The setting of this film is also unusual. Vienna is literally pulling itself out of rubble. Piles of concrete, and stone dust, and bombed out buildings are in nearly every shot. Nothing looks new and almost nothing is whole. There is evidence of war in nearly every scene. Oddly enough, the sewers are the only structures that seem solid, not crumbling or broken – and they are far underground. But it isn’t just the buildings that are destroyed – the faces of the people, all very old or very young (except the main leads who are all probably in their 30s) – are a visual hint that the able-bodied men are all gone – and good young women don’t appear on the streets. Anna, who works in a theater singing comedy opera in German, isn’t exactly what the times would have called a “good woman”. The faces of the bit players, and the few people in the streets, have character – but they have also seen pain and destruction.

Overall, I would highly recommend watching The Third Man at least once. Visually it’s a film not to be missed, despite the bleak setting. I’d say it really needs to be seen because of the bleak setting.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Justice League Throne of Atlantis

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title:  Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis
  • Director:  Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2015
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Matt Lanter, Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Sumalee Montano, Sam Witwer, Sirena Irwin, Juliet Landau, George Newborn, Khary Payton
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Not all heroes wear capes.” – Sub Captain

“Death by collateral damage in a surface war does not comfort me. They kill our race, they poison our oceans, they will destroy this planet and take Atlantis with it. We must protect our people and attack!” – Prince Orm (aka Ocean Master)

“You speak to me of betrayal – you who spilled Atlantean blood and blamed it on the surface world! I have eyes everywhere Orm and you will pay for your treachery!” – Queen Atlanna

“This coup is over!  I am Queen and war is not in my plans!” – Queen Atlanna

I really enjoyed this DC Animated Feature — and it’s the first time in several DC Animated films I’ve been able to whole-heartedly say that. Although technically a Justice League movie, Throne of Atlantis really concentrates on the character of Arthur Curry and his journey to becoming Aquaman, and part of the New 52 Justice League.

The teaser for the film has a sub near the Marianas Trench responding to an SOS call. The sub is attacked and all aboard are lost. Cyborg is called in to investigate, and he calls in the rest of the Justice League.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man is in a seaside bar in Maine, getting drunk and sharing his troubles with a live lobster in a tank. The bartender cuts him off the booze. When the same bartender takes the lobster out of the tank to make it into someone’s dinner – the man, Arthur Curry, gets in a fist-fight. He’s very strong and a good fighter, despite being drunk. He rescues the lobster, keeps in in his vest, then escapes outside. Defeating several guys from the bar who attack him again, as well as one man armed with a knife, Arthur releases the rescued lobster, sans rubber bands on its claws, back into the ocean.

Cyborg holds a meeting of the entire Justice League, with Flash convincing everyone to show up, though it’s Green Lantern who brings in Batman. Once everyone arrives he shows him the information about the attack on the sub. Wonder Woman recognizes the writing on the weapons as Atlantean. Shazam (Captain Marvel, Billy Batson) suggests contacting an expert in Atlantis and it’s lore. Superman and Batman go to investigate.

Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is living in his father’s lighthouse.

Prince Orm, in league with Black Manta, confronts Queen Atlanna, his mother, whom he blames for his father’s death. His father, the king was warlike and was considering a war plan to “cleanse” the surface dwellers. Atlanna, by contrasts, wishes to abandon their isolationist practices and contact the surface to broker a peaceful co-existence. Atlanna sends Meara to find Arthur, her older son.

Black Manta talks to Dr. Shin, the expert on Atlantis, on the phone, then sends his troops after the scientist. Dr. Shin arrives at Arthur’s door to give him some information about his father. Arthur is very hung-over and takes awhile to get to the door, he agrees to let Dr. Shin in, but when he closes the door to take the chain bolt off, Dr. Shin is attacked and killed by Manta’s troops. At the same time, Black Manta’s troops, under orders from Prince Orm, attack and kill Atlantean farmers.

Meara rescues Arthur from Manta’s troops. She takes him to Atlantis and sees the dead villagers who have been attacked.

Superman and Batman investigate Dr. Shin’s lab – but everything’s been destroyed. They find enough to lead them to Arthur Curry.

Prince Orm uses the attack on the Atlantean villagers to stir up hatred and war. Queen Atlanna tries to arrange a meeting between herself and the Justice League. Meara explains to Aquaman that he is the son of Queen Atlanna and a human, his father, Thomas, this sequence uses flashbacks. Meara shows Arthur his armor. He wears the orange and green body suit but not the outer armor.

Meara and Arthur are attacked by Trenchers (sea creatures). The Flash arrives to help Arthur and Meara. A few minutes later, Green Lantern, then the rest of the Justice League arrive to help.

Prince Orm, who shares his dead father’s hatred of the surface world, again confronts his mother, Queen Atlanna. However, she knows he was behind the attack on the farmers, and she insists they will not go to war. He kills her – then blames her death on a surface dweller. Orm and Manta will lead the Atlanteans to war.

Arthur and some Justice League members go to Atlantis. They meet an old woman who says the city is empty because Queen Atlanna is dead, at the hands of a surface dweller, and Atlantis prepares for war.

Arthur, Meara and the League investigate, and run into Orm in his Ocean Master uniform. He brags that he killed his mother, the Queen. He then uses the Trident, the symbol of royal power and a powerful weapon, to attack and imprison the League.

Meanwhile, Batman, the Flash, and Shazam who have stayed behind get an alert that a tidal wave is heading for coastal cities, including Metropolis.

Arthur uses his royal power to break out of the cocoon Orm trapped him in, then uses his telepathic power to call sea creatures to help. He gets the Leaguers free and defeats the sea monster guarding them. Arthur also rescues Meara.

A tidal wave heads for Metropolis, the National Guard arrives, and sirens go off in the city causing panic. An Army General orders the Atlanteans, led by “King” Orm to stand down. Orm orders his troops to attack. The army attacks back. The entire League joins the fray, both those who had gone to Atlantis, and those who had stayed on the surface, including Aquaman and Meara.

The League keep getting defeated in battle. Finally, Batman finds Cyborg and reboots his systems. He finds out from Cyborg that Orm killed Atlanna. Cyborg has computer recordings of this. He plays the recordings a couple of times to the Atlantean troops. When Orm claims it’s a trick, Meara backs up the recording, swearing it’s a true depiction of what happened. The Atlanteans lay down their arms and stop fighting.

Arthur makes a speech that he will guide his people. A little while later, Arthur is “knighted” as king, takes his place as ruler and king of Atlantis. The League meanwhile decide they need to meet on a regular basis, and Arthur is invited to join the League as Aquaman.

I really enjoyed this film. It’s an origin story for Aquaman and explains how he became part of the Justice League. The film also had some great touches – the flashback scene of Arthur and his father when Arthur realises he can swim underwater without difficulty and he also sees his mother, the flashbacks explaining the ill-fated romance between the Atlantean Princess Atlanna and Thomas Curry, and my favorite – the scene at the beginning of the film of Arthur pouring out his heart and troubles to a lobster in a tank, then rescuing the lobster.

The Justice League are not the real stars of this film – it’s Aquaman’s movie. But they are all present, and they do have things to do. I also felt each character was in character and their individual tasks and actions suited their characters.

Overall the film was highly enjoyable and it’s highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next film:  The Third Man

Batman The Brave and the Bold – Season 2

  • Series Title: Batman the Brave and the Bold
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 25
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Diedrich Bader
  • Original Network: Cartoon Network
  • Production Network: Warner Brothers (Animation)

The second season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold was extremely uneven. There were some very high points and some very low points, and some episodes could have been great but they just fell flat. Again, the series is a team-up show, however, rather than having the shorts, followed by the main story – several of the shorts in the first half of the season feature Starro – the psychic starfish from outer space. Starro also gets his own 2-part story at mid-season. The Starro story did work, though it wasn’t quite as effective or as psychologically scary as the character’s appearances in Justice League Unlimited or Young Justice (as Starro-Tech). I kept wondering where Superman was – because there’s nothing scarier that Supes being controlled by an outside force of evil. Still, considering how much lighter in general Batman: The Brave and the Bold is as a series, the two-part story did work, and the League’s eventual win against Starro did come at a cost.

“Chill of the Night” was not only my favorite story for this season but, so far, for all of BtBatB. It was just awesome. First (other than the short) it felt like a Batman: The Animated Series episode – not only does it show That Fateful Night (which, yes, we’ve seen before) and had red skies and dark background, like B:TAS – but Phantom Stranger and Spectre – the spirits of Justice and Vengeance (respectively) were played by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. These two spirits were fighting over Batman’s soul (it was very, um, is existential the right word?). AND to top it off, in the flashbacks Thomas Wayne was voiced by Adam West and Martha Wayne by Julie Newmar. Yeah. Nothing like three generations of Batman in one. Color me impressed.

“A Bat Divided” felt very much like a similar episode of Farscape, where Moya (the living ship), was split three ways – each having its own effects on the crew. The episode featured Firestorm, and Batman is split into three Batmen – Action/Battle Batman, Scientist Batman, and Loafing/relaxing Batman.  I liked it.

“The Super-Batman of Planet X” has Batman sucked through a wormhole in space to a planet where he has Superman-like powers. To Batman’s credit, it doesn’t go to his head, and he helps that planet’s version of Batman until he can find a way home. The only problem with the episode, is it highlights one major problem of BtBatB which is Batman is completely alone – no Alfred and seldom any Robin/Nightwing. Guy Gardner has to rescue Batman, after putting him in danger in the first place.

“The Knights of Tomorrow” I also liked. Told from the point-of-view of an unseen narrator, who turns out to be Alfred (in only one of two appearances – the other is “Chill of the Night”), and shows the Mantle of the Bat being passed from generation to generation. Bruce Wayne eventually retires from being Batman and marries Selina Kyle. He turns the cape and cowl over to Dick Greyson. Meanwhile, Bruce and Selina have a son, Damien, whom they train in self-defense and fighting. When Bruce and Selina are killed – Damien joins Dick as Robin and eventually grows up to be Batman, with his own Robin. This does play a bit with established continuity, for example, in the universe where Bruce and Selina retired and married – they had a daughter, Helena (who become Huntress), not a son. Damien Wayne is the son of Bruce and Talia Al-Ghul. And the story skips Jason and Tim altogether, as well as cutting out one of my favorite characters – Terry McGinnis (truly, watch Batman Beyond, it’s awesome!) Terry’s a lot like Dick – whom I’ve always liked. The one bit I found almost frightening was Alfred repeating Amanda Waller’s line, “There must always be a Batman.”

“The Masks of Matches Malone” is the story which features the Birds of Prey singing, “No One Does It Better (Than the Birds of Prey)” which is simply marvelous. The story itself is a bit weak – Batman goes undercover as Matches Malone, and gets hit on the head and thinks he really is Matches Malone – a gangster and thief. The Birds of Prey are left to stop crime in Gotham and to try to get Batman back to his own self. It’s fun, and the video is definitely awesome. You can watch the music number here.

On the negative side – two more Batmite stories (ugg), “Cry Freedom Fighters” which was just dreadful, and just several so-so, not terrible, but not bad stories.

Agile Update Week 11

It felt like I did nothing worth while this week at all, but looking over my daily outcomes in Evernote, I found I actually had a pretty successful week.  This is something about this particular program that really works.  This week I wrote three posts on WordPress, including a movie review that was also posted to Blogger.  I posted the info for the podcast segment that I recorded two days ago and was finally broadcast last week. I went to yoga, and kept up with my InDesign class.  I finished this week’s homework on Friday. I even went out on Saturday with a friend and attended a meetup event.

I also learned something new this week – how to download and install fonts from the Internet. That may sound simple, but it’s something I had never done before – and since I’m learning InDesign, I’m also trying to learn more about graphic design concepts.

Overall, it was a good week after all!

Guest Segment – Secret Friends Unite Podcast

February 17th, 2015, I was offered the chance to be a guest on a fan podcast called, Secret Friends Unite!  I’d never been on a podcast before so I was honored, excited, and very nervous! The organizer of the podcast and I worked through the technical aspects. I now own a computer headset/microphone combination, which wasn’t that expensive for a really nice model. The next challenge turned out to be my lousy Internet connection (seriously, Satellite Internet? Second worst thing next to dial-up.) but I recorded my segment using Audacity, a free audio recording and mixing program, which also turned out to be easy. So I learned a lot, and I mean I lot, and I did two things I’d never done before – recorded audio with Audacity, and submitted a segment to a podcast. It was a nice stretch for me and it was great! I hope to record another segment soon!

The download link for Secret Friends Unite episode 24 is here.

Here is the Facebook Page for Secret Friends Unite. The Twitter handle for Secret Friends Unite is @SecretFriendsU.

My segment is the Geek 101 on Doctor Who. Check it out and enjoy!