Tom Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander

Tom Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander

Full disclosure, I’ve never played a Tomb Raider game in my life.  But I remember when the original movies came out; and I’ve been told numerous times that its protagonist, Lara Croft, is practically Lady Indiana Jones.  This film has piqued my curiosity ever since I started getting ads for it on Instagram. 😀

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft

Recently, I tried watching the original 2001 Tomb Raider film with Angelina Jolie.  I found the first 20 minutes of it to be thoroughly unpleasant.  I ended up skipping over several uncomfortable minutes of straight-up objectification of Lara Croft’s unnervingly Barbie-like physique before I gave up entirely.  (She can look like whatever she pleases; what I take issue with is the objectification.)  This aspect of Lara’s presentation seemed to overshadow the archeological quest premise they were leading into — which sounded incredibly silly. The Illuminati, really?  Perhaps kitsch and camp are elements retained from the videogames; I wouldn’t know, but as a new viewer with a background in Indiana Jones movies, I wasn’t buying it.


The 2018 version made me feel a lot better. Tall, gangling Alicia Vikander strikes me as a much more respectable and respectful Lara.  By that, I mean she is portrayed in a way that respects women, and she is also a character who grows throughout the film to command respect.

The film introduces Lara as a young woman earning minimum wage as a bicycle courier in London; her father, Lord Richard Croft, been missing for the past seven years, but Lara refuses to presume him dead as the rest of the world has, thus depriving herself of a tremendous inheritance.  A series of unfortunate events convinces her to sign the papers acknowledging her father’s death and finally accepting her inheritance: the first item from it being an ancient puzzle box from her father.

This puzzle box unlocks a sequence of clues pointing to the circumstances of Lord Richard’s disappearance: his lifelong quest for the mythical tomb of the Japanese Queen Himiko, legendary for her ability to kill whole armies with the touch of her hand!  Lara travels the world to find her father’s last known location, find that tomb, and (of course) raid it.

The character lives on the wild side, but her initial, introductory exploits and conflicts seem more real-worldly.  Everything is so grounded.  This is clearly a serious adventure film, dare I say a grittier, genderbent Indiana Jones film — a delightful contrast to the pulpy content viewers accepted in 2001.

While Jolie’s Croft was apparently well on in her tomb-raiding years, Vikander’s Croft is young, naive, and vulnerable.  This is her origin story on a personal level just as much as it’s an introduction to this iteration of her character, so as a viewer I found her much easier to connect with.  In this Lara Croft’s character development arc, there are moments where I expected cinematic drama, but instead, events played out with a lot less pizzazz; with real-world emotional responses like subtle, numb shock when she is made to confront her father’s alleged killer.  Unlike the typical problematic “strong female characters” of the modern age, Lara is neither overemotional to the point of weakness, nor an overcompensating half-Vulcan.

Lara, with an iconic weapon: a bow and arrows

There are, however, plenty of other moments that played out like a videogame might, where liberties are thrillingly taken with the laws of physics.  Lara’s athleticism is explained away by an active lifestyle back home, working as a bicycle courier during the day and boxing recreationally.   But falling into a river from the height she did halfway through the film would probably kill someone!

Like a 3D model in a videogame, Lara only sustains so many superficial injuries as is aesthetically pleasing; and yet, there are moments where it’s clear she’s trudging on despite the obvious pain she’s in.  As this movie is based on a computer game, I’m not complaining too much.  Unrealistic physics is far better “fan service” to the gamer demographic than what the 2001 movie had to offer.

The movie ends on a very satisfying note, yet it leaves just enough room for continuation without sounding desperate.  What sets this Lara’s story apart from that of her male counterpart, Indiana Jones, is how her quest resolves itself in (pseudo)science, while Indy is shown that in his world, supernatural “hocus pocus” is real.  That was a plus for me, as I don’t enjoy supernatural, spiritual content in films.

Overall, I enjoyed this relatively wholesome film adaptation of a videogame franchise I’ve never played.  Alicia Vikander, to me, is Lara Croft as she should be for the new generation of gamers, geeks, and little girls who could use a more relatable globe-trotting hero to go alongside Indiana Jones.

Back to the Future, Re-Imagined for Young Readers

Back to the Future, Re-Imagined for Young Readers

I received a free copy of this book from Beyond the Marquee, as part of a giveaway they ran in collaboration with Quirk Books.

Back to the Future is one of my favorite sci-fi / time travel movie franchises of all time.  (Sorry, Doctor Who, but you’d best stick to television.)  The three-part film series follows the intertemporal exploits of eighties-born teenager Marty McFly and his mad scientist mentor “Doc” Emmet Brown in their time-traveling DeLorean — because if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?  (I happen to think phone boxes are fairly non-heinous myself, but nobody asked me…)

There are a few reasons why the original film (and then its sequel) might not be ideal for viewing by the youngest members of a family.  It’s rated PG-13 for good reason, and its sequels venture into even darker territory.  But great Scott! Worry not, because the first installment of the Back to the Future film trilogy is now available in storybook form, re-imagined for an audience of children (or collectors who are children at heart).

Art credit: Kim Smith

Back to the Future, written and illustrated by Kim Smith, is just one volume in the POP Classics storybook series from Quirk Books.  Other titles include Home Alone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The X-Files, sources that range from family-friendly to made the kids hide behind the couch in terms of mature or disturbing content.  At first glance, Kim Smith’s charmingly whimsical illustrations and the easy-to-read blocks of text stand out as incredibly kid-friendly.  The story is condensed in all the right places for optimum G-rated-ness (the scene where Biff attacks Lorraine during prom night is handled particularly effectively), and then some to improve the flow.

Art credit: Kim Smith

At my age, with no one to read it to, I enjoyed occasionally chuckling at what and how the book abridged, and marveling over the resplendent little details Smith included in the pictures.  Just because they aren’t talked about doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  I’m also very impressed that someone had the great idea of making these very mature fandoms palatable to a young audience. (Do I like the potential consequence that now these kids will be more inclined to consume the original, less kid-friendly media in the future?  Not as much.)

Art credit: Kim Smith

Adults can’t be expected to immerse themselves fulltime in the Teletubby fandom alongside the toddlers in their lives.  Sometimes they’re going to turn on the TV and watch something more grownup-appropriate, coincidentally in front of their children.  And kids are perceptive and inquisitive, so you may find yourself having to explain the premise of a show that’s waaaay over their heads.  In that respect, I feel it’s especially good for younger kids who clearly have some exposure to “grownup” fandoms they don’t fully understand.

I think POP Classic storybooks like Back to the Future are a great way parents or older siblings can bond with the young, aspiring geeks in their lives.  The story is told in a cute, quirky, kid-friendly way, but due to its novelty factor, the book can surely be appreciated at any age.


What movie or television series would you like to see adapted into a children’s book?  Let us know in a comment down below!

The Charmed Ones are Back

The Charmed Ones are Back

Like a witch in a room full of warlocks, no popular franchise is safe in the golden age of reboots.

Alyssa Milano (Phoebe), Shannen Doherty (Prue), and Holly Marie Combs (Piper)

The original Charmed ran from 1998 to 2006, depicting the ever-changing lives of three magical sisters (at a time) and showed that witches, just like everyone else, are human and need to be loved.

Twenty years after the original premiered, the CW channel has announced that they are producing a reboot, featuring an all-new cast for the new generation.

The new series trailer, released on May 17th, really piqued my interest.  It prompts classic fans to ask questions like “Why are there only two sisters in the beginning?” and answers them in due time.  It also does a great job at reminding old fans of key points in the sisters’ origin story and showing us how they’ve been rearranged for this new iteration.  The trailer also flows like a condensed pilot episode, but still leaves enough to be revealed in a full episode.

Instead of Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), and eventually Paige (played by Rose McGowan) Halliwell, this series revolves the three Vera sisters Macy, Mel, and Maggie: Read more

Willow: Sequel Speculations

Willow: Sequel Speculations

This seems to be the year of eighties movie reboots … and reboot hints.  Recently, following the premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ron Howard revealed in an interview that he’s considering directing a sequel to his 1988 fantasy movie, Willow.

Willow, a collaboration with George Lucas and Lucasfilm, told the story of the eponymous young Nelwyn (dwarf … or, let’s be honest, Hobbit) (Warwick Davis) on a quest to protect a magical baby whose birth is prophesied to trigger the downfall of the realm’s evil sorceress queen, Bavmorda (Jean Marsh).  Willow and baby Elora are accompanied by the roguish swordsman Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), and a comic relief duo of brownies, Rool and Franjean.  (I actually discovered Willow through the Japanese tie-in arcade game – a bit like Ella Enchanted the movie versus the book, they exist in my mind as entirely different stories which share names.)

Willow was a fine standalone movie, with plenty of swashbuckling, fantastical moments and just the right amounts of comic relief, but I wouldn’t say no to a sequel.  We seem to be living in the golden age of reboots … or the gilded age, as a friend of mine aptly puts it.  Might as well make the most of things, you know?

But this wouldn’t be the first time Willow was given a sequel treatment.  In the 1990s, George Lucas commissioned none other than Chris Claremont to pen The Chronicles of the Shadow War Trilogy.  These books centered around Elora Danan who (spoilers) didn’t die at Bavmorda’s hands, and lived to be a teenager.  Her adopted parents, Madmartigan and Bavmorda’s daughter Sorsha, did not make it past the first act.  Willow got a name change, “Thorn Drumheller,” for reasons that remain unclear to me.  Also, there were dragons!

Aside from the inclusion of said dragons, I’m not a fan of the direction these books went; knowing Lucasfilm, I doubt the writers of this prospective sequel will be at all hindered by their existence.  Willow’s expanded universe is small compared to that of Star Wars (aka the Legends books).  Surely the fanbase won’t miss one trilogy of books where the (undeniably) best characters died a few chapters in!

Regarding this potential film sequel, Ron Howard thinks “it would focus a lot on Elora Danan, although Willow would have to be significantly involved.”  That premise sounds like a very similar starting point to The Shadow War, but the possibilities about how it continues from there are endless.  Where the modern Star Wars and Indiana Jones sequels revisited elements of the protagonists’ pasts for nostalgia’s sake, I think it would be wise to keep moving forward with Willow.  Most of the conflicts of the original film were resolved by the end: the antagonists were defeated, the gigantic monsters were slain, and the heroes lived happily ever after.  I think the ideal sequel would expand on the world of the first Willow film, introducing us to new realms and a new set of conflicts that are nothing like what we have seen before.

Elora (right)

Assuming most, if not all of the surviving key players of the first movie would be set to return, there remains the question: Who would play Elora now?  In Shadow War, Elora (as illustrated by fantasy artist Ciruelo Cabral) was a teenager, pictured with dark hair as opposed to the curly blond ringlets of her infancy.  In terms of fancasting, I’m gravitating towards Dafne Keene (of Logan fame).  Appearance-wise, I think Miss Keene fits the bill, and I imagine she’ll definitely be old enough to play the teenage heroine by the time this project is greenlit, if ever.  The older Elora is, the easier it will be to realistically explain the age disparities of the original cast between Willow and the sequel.


What do you guys think of this potential sequel?  Have you seen the original Willow movie?  In general, what do you think of Hollywood’s current obsession with remakes and reboots?  Leave a comment below!

4 TV Shows That Ended Too Soon

4 TV Shows That Ended Too Soon

This past week, fans of the Brooklin Nine-Nine TV series went from totally devastated to immensely relieved when the show was dropped by the Fox channel … and picked up soon after by NBC.  Tragedy is often the catalyst for unity, even in realm of fandoms and geekery.  In the tense hours after the initial unfortunate cancellation announcement, at the prompting of author Paul Kreuger (@NotLikeFreddy) on Twitter, people came together to commiserate and fondly remember other wonderful shows that were sadly cancelled way too soon.  In no particular order, here are my picks:


Agent Carter

In the 21st century, Captain America was rescued from a cryogenic state by the modern-day SHIELD organization and became one of the founding members of the Avengers.  But back in 1942, Peggy Carter, Cap’s girlfriend, believed him to be dead.   The Agent Carter TV series on ABC picked up where Peggy’s story left off, and really allowed for the character to shine on her own.

From the way she was introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, you could tell she wasn’t merely a damsel in distress, and that she was perfectly capable of holding her own, but Agent Carter dove deeper.  I really got to know Peggy as an individual, not the sidekick, love interest of a superhero, or the one-dimensional “strong female character” archetype we see so often.  While most of her make counterparts at the SRS (a precursor to SHIELD) failed to take her seriously because of her gender, this series showed its modern-day viewers just how strong and independent a heroine Peggy Carter is.  Her superpowers?  Courage and resourcefulness.

Agent Carter also introduced some loveable side characters like Howard Stark’s endearingly awkward butler Edwin Jarvis (sounds familiar, right?); and Peggy’s co-worker and ally, Sousa, who also understands what it’s like to be discriminated against in the workplace.

The first season covered the devious machinations of the Leviathan organization; the Red Room where Natasha Romanoff would eventually become a/the Black Widow; and Peggy’s grief in the immediate aftermath of Captain America’s presumed death.  It was so gripping — I may or may not have binged it over the course of a week….  The plot took several unexpected turns, some devastating, some positively exhilarating, and many both.

When the second season came out, there was a noticeable change of pace and setting.  In terms of a villain arc, we went from dark, gruesome subject matter to … plain old dark matter.  Perhaps to combat the cliché of two women tearing each other down to make any progress in their lives, the villainess of this season, glamorous actress and struggling scientist Whitney Frost (aka Madame Mask in the comics), is portrayed in an almost sympathetic light despite her nefarious schemes.  (She, too, wasn’t taken seriously as a scientist by her male counterparts, and took to acting … and manipulating them instead.)

While Peggy got some closure in terms of love and prospective marriage, the season ended on an overall lackluster note.  (Something about a ragtag team of grown adults playing tug-of-war with a rift in space just didn’t cut it for me.)  But was it egregious enough to constitute axing the series?  As someone who’s sat through worse on The Flash and Supergirl, I really don’t think so.


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

BBC America and Netflix partnered to produce this hilarious (and shamelessly gory) ball of wibbly-wobbly, Wholockian stuff.  Based on the writings of Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker fame), Dirk Gently tells a story fraught with time travel, mystery-solving, gore, comedy, gore, and did I mention gore?  (It’s not for the faint of heart.)  Bringing together a cast of seemingly unrelated characters to investigate a series of seemingly unrelated events, we quickly learn that everything is connected.

British actor Samuel Barnett plays the delightfully weird, Doctor Who-like “holistic detective” (read: socially inept, wannabe mystery solver with an unnatural knack for discovering clues) Dirk Gently.  His sidekick is cynical, foul-mouthed Todd Brontzman, played by Elijah Wood (who hasn’t aged a day since he played Frodo in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films).

In their quest to solve the mystery of a wealthy, reclusive businessman, Todd and Dirk cross paths with “holistic killer” Bart Curlish (played by Fiona Dourif of Chucky fame) and her unwilling companion, techie Ken (Mpho Koaho); and a grouchy, middle-aged man who seems obsessed with a dead Rockstar.  All of that might sound positively strange, but watch on if you dare, because everything is, indeed, connected….

Like Agent Carter, the show was cancelled after its second season.  The first season was so good, it’s understandable if the writers found it hard to top.  The first season was just the right balance of weirdness and humor, focusing more on the story itself than character development.  The second season struck me as more character-oriented, and it ventured into all the more outlandish and otherworldly territory in terms of the setting.


Stargate: Atlantis

Atlantis, in my opinion, was the best Stargate series of them all.  As someone who grew up around people who enjoyed Stargate: SG-1, Atlantis felt like a refreshing new take on a familiar concept that I could appreciate on my own … with my SG-1-loving older friends and family, of course!  I don’t think I can pick a single favorite character from the wonderful ensemble cast; they all grew on me, and there was onscreen chemistry all around.

SG-1 lasted for a good ten seasons; Atlantis lasted only five.  The ending felt so rushed and underwhelming.  You could tell the team wasn’t ready to fly back to Earth and live out the rest of their days simply wondering what else lay in store for them in the Pegasus galaxy.

Joe Flanigan, who played John Sheppard, apparently tried to buy the rights to the franchise from Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer so that he could step into the role of showrunner, but was unsuccessful.  Still, if you’re into reading, the Atlantis saga continues in the form of books.  Fandemonium published the Legacy series, where the Atlantis crew flies back to the Pegasus galaxy for more adventures….


Star Trek: The Original Series

If you’re as much of a Trekkie as I am, surely the opening montage has been ingrained in your memory from hearing it countless times.  Captain Kirk promised us a five year mission, not three.  (Picard was wise to vaguely present a continuing mission in The Next Generation.)  Having heard about it my entire life from my parents and grandparents, I started watching Star Trek in my first year of junior high school, and the episodes ran out far too soon.

So many TV shows today (including the new Star Trek: Discovery) are episodic, and if they’re on Netflix, they’re meant to be watched consecutively.  (Search your feelings; you know it to be true.)  Star Trek: TOS was something you could watch in no particular order – just pick out an episode that sounds interesting from title alone (“The Man Trap,” anyone?) – and you won’t be lost in context.  Plus, there’s something altogether quite endearing about a show set in the space age … where everything’s just so progressive, but everybody’s dressed like they’re from the sixties.

Star Trek was revolutionary for its time; perhaps those who didn’t understand it couldn’t put up with another two years of man-eating aliens made from shag carpets and the captain’s thespian, morale-boosting deliveries.  Half a century and five official spinoffs later, evidently, people can.

There have been numerous fan attempts at continuing the original USS Enterprise’s five year mission.  The best yet, in my opinion, is Vic Mignogna’s Star Trek Continues webseries.  (You might recognize him as the voice actor of Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and drunk uncle Qrow Branwen in RWBY.)  As CBS started cracking down on fan productions in anticipation of Star Trek: Discovery, the crew of Continues successfully toed the line long enough to wrap up an eleven-episode series that effectively bridged the gap between The Original Series and Star Trek: The [Slow] Motion Picture. 🙂


Those are just a few of my favorite shows that I feel ended way too soon. What are some of yours?  Grab some tissues and leave a comment below!