The Boys E04 Supes Are People, Too

The Boys E04 presents viewers with the largest peek into the world yet. We have already seen Supes acting terribly, consequences be damned. While plenty of that still happens in the episode, characterization expands to show that Supes are people, live complicated lives, have emotions, fears, and regrets. As the best example in the episode, Deep extols to his therapist the virtues of dolphins, while lamenting how the rest of the Seven treat him. He calls himself the ‘diversity hire.’ This scene plays out in earnest fashion. We can almost feel Deep’s shame and rage and sadness for being a creature of the land and the sea. It is tempting to feel sorry for Deep in this scene.

But you know what? Fuck that guy. The Deep doesn’t deserve pity, not after what he did to Starlight, and she’s probably not the only person he’s sexually assaulted. The Deep is not a good guy. He is not a stand up fellow. And he certainly doesn’t deserve redemption or sympathy. I’m just sad that the dolphin he tries to save suffers from his incompetence.

Another example of The Boys e04 focus on the humanity of its characters is Translucent. Turns out, he had a kid, information that throws Hughie for a loop, which is understandable. After all, Hughie did press the button that detonated the bomb that killed the Supe. Granted, giving the Supe a son just to stir emotions is a cheap technique. Yet, it works in this instance because it so cliche, and that is what I realized about The Boys after watching e04. This show is taking the piss, as they say, out of superhero storytelling. Going into the show, I knew that, or at least should have.

The Boys E04 People Are Flawed and Dangerous

However, if you’ve read my review of the first episode, you will see that I felt the show lacked something. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but maybe I can now. The missing element for me through the first two episodes especially was the overall point. Those episodes moved so quickly that they did not have time to build the larger world.

In contrast, The Boys e04 takes some time to breathe, which is funny to say. This is not a slow episode by any definition. Even still, it manages to develop the characters, the world, and stakes.

These stakes range from deciding to free a woman locked in a cage, to letting a passenger plane crash and then using the tragedy for gain. In the case of the latter, Homelander makes that decision.

He and Maeve are sent by Madelyn Stillwell to stop a group of terrorists who have hijacked the plane. They arrive, making short work of the bad guys. Homelander then smiles for the passengers and gives them a round of applause for being so brave. Here, he’s the quintessential superhero. He’s Superman: caring and friendly and optimistic. Which is, of course, bullshit.

There is another terrorist in the cockpit and before either Supe can stop him, he shoot the pilot, and Homelander tries to fry him with his laser eyes, but hits the console instead. Claiming no other choice, he tells Maeve that they have to leave and let the passengers die. She reluctantly agrees. As they try to leave the ship, Homelander reveals his true colors.

The image shows Homelander from The Boys e04. His eyes glow red and the caption reads, 'You stay the fuck back, or I'll laser you, goddamn it!'

In The World of Supes and Norms There are No Hereos

So they let the plane crash and take the passengers with it. Homelander may be a remorseless prick, but Maeuve isn’t. The tragedy clearly affects her, and she sheds tears for the dead. Homelander, on the other hand, seizes the opportunity to take advantage of the crash. He blames the government for not allowing Supes to be part of national defense, and uses the crash as a rallying call to get people excited about the idea of Supes in the military. Like the sociopath he is, Homelander politicizes the deaths of people he chose not to save. He is a prick.

The Supes are not the only one who get to spend some time developing their characters. The Boys get their share as well in e04. We learn Butcher had a wife or girlfriend. And we know she’s not in the picture any more. We don’t know what happened to her, but we can probably guess it was a Supe. My guess is Homelander because Butcher has talked about getting the evil Superman.

We also see Hughie on a date with Annie January aka Starlright. They’re bowling and having a good time, but Hughie also has a mission. Butcher wants him to bug Annie’s phone. During the date we learn that Starlight is a good person through and through. Or at least, that’s how Hughie sees her. I’m not sure if I trust her, though. Typically in stories like this if someone is too good to be true, they usually are. I would be happy if Annie turned out to be exactly what she says. That would be a refreshing twist in this show. A bit of light in the darkness if you’ll excuse the pun.

Hughie Makes A Choice

I didn’t really wonder if Hughie would follow through with the mission. I figured he would. But, I will say, I dislike him for it. As I wrote above, I don’t completely trust Starlight, but I don’t want her trust betrayed. She seems like a good and moral character, so of course she gets taken advantage of. To paraphrase Darth Vader, she’s far too trusting.

I understand why Hughie bugs her phone for both plot and character considerations. If he doesn’t bug the phone, then the narrative runs the risk of stalling because a new plan needs making. From the standpoint of the character, he is still reeling from Robin’s death, and he world he has entered. Bugging Starlight makes sense, and gives him something to focus on. It’s too bad, though. He could have trusted her, and made a new fried. Erin Moriarty and Jack Quaid have good chemistry together and are fun to watch on screen. (Although, it must be said that Moriarty has natural chemistry with everyone she shares a with.) It’s going to be sad when his deception is what causes her to lose her faith in people starts dating Homelander.

Hughie made his decision to betray the trust he and Annie have started cultivating.

The Boys e04 Frenchie Endangers the Mission

Like Hughie, Frenchie is processing some shit. Unlike with Hughie, though, we are not privy to the force driving Frenchie. He finds a woman in a cage guarded by men with guns. Instead of leaving her in the cage, he does what most decent people would, and frees her. This turns out to be a mistake. She’s a Supe and a killer, and now she’s on the loose. The Boys track her in the C-story of e04, and Frenchie lets her go each time, claiming she is a good person.

And really, that last point is what the mission statement of the series seems to be right now. There are no good people, only bad people. This is a nihilistic view to be sure, but one that fits well with the world of the show. Supes are commercialized, and crime fighting is staged and approved by corporate interests. They do it for a paycheck, not for Peace, Justice, and the American way.

Now that the show has come to a place where I realize this very simple and easy fact, I am enjoying the series much more. This has been the best episode of the series so far. It manages to do a lot of good character work while moving along at a breakneck pace.

Have you seen The Boys e04? What did you think of it? Is there something I missed in my review? Got questions or something to say? Leave me a comment, and click the follow button to subscribe. Thanks for reading.

Ready Or Not Review: A Great Horror Comedy

This Ready or Not review will be as spoiler free as possible. If you’ve seen the previews, you know the premise of the movie. If you haven’t seen the preview, or movie, why are you reading this? The premise is simple: there is a rich family that upholds a special tradition whenever someone marries into the family. Of course, as this is a horror movie, that tradition is quite sinister.

Even if you know nothing about the flick when you enter the theater, the first few minutes shows you everything you need to know before flashing thirty years later and telling the story.

The image shows the poster of Ready or Not, the subject of this review, with Samara Weaving wearing a wedding dress and carrying a big gun.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers in this review of Ready or Not, I will focus mostly on the themes, performances, and overall atmosphere. Samara Weaving plays Grace, the target of the sinister family tradition, and her character’s evolution is a sight to behold. She starts off as funny and confident, and is clearly a good and genuine person. She is not the manic pixie dream girl, nor is she a hard case. In the first few minutes we spend with her, she feels like a real person. As the movie progresses, that realness never goes away, even as events continue to take a turn for the insane.

Whether the film is exploring what family means to us, or how far we will go for our loved ones, family is a major theme. The Le Domas family believes in the necessity of upholding tradition because if they don’t, bad things will happen to them. The filmmakers make a smart choice by tying the familial themes to the horrific events of the movie. If they had not done so, the character’s motivations would feel weaker.

Review: Ready Or Not Emphasizes Tradition and Comedy

Supplementing the theme of family is the importance of tradition. If tradition isn’t followed, the family will suffer. It is clear that the members of the Le Domas clan are into their traditions, even if they don’t always seem to grasp the gravity of their actions.

While I didn’t find too much of this movie to be actually scary, the premise is horrifying. Also, there are a few moments of terror, but mostly, this film is lighthearted horror. It’s more like Evil Dead 2 or Shaun of the Dead than Nightmare on Elm Street. It may seem weird to hear that this is a lighthearted movie, and maybe that’s not the right word. Still, I think it fits. There’s a fair amount of action, some tension, and a lot of comedic moments. The elderly Aunt Helene is my favorite character after Grace. She is a wicked old lady with some great lines, and has one of the best scenes in the movie.

I really liked this movie and would have no trouble watching it again. It’s clever, and filled with good performances. Also, it has enough twists and turns to remain refreshing. I think people will consider it a classic horror comedy quite soon.

So, there’s my Ready or Not review. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it as much as I did? Did you hate it? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark Thrills With Chills

I saw Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark yesterday, and I liked it. Similar to many of my generation, I grew up with these books. They were required reading for playground discussion. We all loved them. We loved the grotesque artwork and the creepy stories. They weren’t terribly terrifying, but they hit that horror sweet spot for tweens that often lacks development. I suppose that area is improving; it’s been a while since I was a kid.

The image shows the red movie poster for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

As much as I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books growing up, I forgot about them. Not because I felt that I outgrew them, but rather because life got in the way, which is often the case. So, when I heard they were making a movie out of the book, I was excited to revisit and rekindle those memories.

The film tells some of the stories from the books, and references many others. The only two I really remembered were ‘Harold’ and “The Big Toe,’ and I was pleased to see them on the screen.

The movie, unlike the books, uses a framing device. It starts on Halloween in 1968 and introduces us to the four main characters: Ramon, Stella, Augie, and Chuck. Ramon is a hispanic who is not from the town of Milner Valley, but the other three are friends and have been for a long time. Stella, Auggie, and Chuck have decided to take revenge on the local bully, Tommy, by egging his car and hitting him with a flaming bag of dog poop.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Frames Its Story With Human Horror

Beginning the film in this fashion is a good choice because it introduces the characters and provides the audience with a near instant connection to them. Also, such a framing device is not to be unexpected in an anthology. After all, audiences are suckers for over-arching narrative. For the film, that narrative is about Sarah Bellows. Sarah is a local legend, known for scaring, and possibly killing, children. Of course, there is more to her story than that, and the movie does a fine job of telling it.

I don’t want to get too deep into spoilers, so I will turn my focus to other things. The creature design in this flick are amazing. The filmmakers did a damn fine job following the illustrations and making these things come to life. They are visceral and well-realized, even when they look somewhat plain. I am sure the special effects team employed a fair amount of CGI, but there also seemed to be a fair bit of practical effects, too. The combination works quite well. In horror, audience immersion is key. It’s difficult to scare people if they don’t believe what’s on the screen.

The acting is top-notch as well. When dealing with child actors, there is always the chance that they won’t be able to put in a good performance. Fortunately, that is not the case in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. All of the kids put in strong, believable, performances.

PG 13 Horror At Its Finest

For the most part, the film succeeds. It provides some jump scares, and has an overall atmosphere of fear. Additionally, it uses one of my favorite horror tropes: the evil of humans is scarier than any monster. Stephen King often employs this trope, and he is one of my favorites. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

Why do I love this trope? Simple: creature monsters are imaginary. Sure, they might be bloody and misshapen and look scary, but they aren’t real. Humans, on the other hand, are all too real. As is the damage we inflict on one another. Exploring that aspect of the human condition through monster stories is one of horror’s best tricks. Used here, it enhances every aspect of the film quite nicely.

This is a good scary movie for the younger crowd. It’s not too gory, but it does have some disturbing images. It also has enough creepiness to appeal to older teens as well as adults.

Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? If so, what did you think. Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.

The Boys E03 Super Heroes are Commodities

The Boys e03 pushes Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train forward, while doing some admirable world building. If the first episode was about Supes not acting heroically, and episode two was about how terrifying a world with Supes would be, The Boys e03 examines how they fit into the public eye.

One of the most powerful scenes in this episode is when Hughie returns home to get some fresh clothes. Posters of The Seven, and other heroes line his walls. While Hughie may not seem to notice the posters as he packs, I did. Seeing the superhero propaganda on his walls gave me an “Oh shit” moment. Because how awful would that be if you had posters and toys of the person that killed your girlfriend. The social implications are vast, and it is a wonder more people in the world don’t hate Supes.

When he does soak in the fact that he had an A-Train funko pop he tears the posters from the walls, and breaks whatever else he can. Hughie is in shock from the events of last episode. Destroying the merchandise offers Hughie a chance for catharsis. For me, this is the series at its best, and is definitely more what I expected from the start.

Starlight Makes a Choice in The Boys E03

The parallels between Starlight and Hughie also continue to develop, albeit in disparate fashion. Previously, Starlight got in trouble for performing a heroic act without permission from her corporate overlords at Vought who call her in for a meeting, possibly to fire her. However, they decide not to fire her. Instead, they bring in the marketing department to develop and sell an origin story. They also provide her with a new costume that she resists. The new costume is skimpy, with a plunging cleavage line. In short, it’s a woman’s superhero costume.

The image shows Starlight's new costume, which she wears in The Boys e03 despite it conflicting with her morals

Starlight tells Madeline Stillwell that she has a right to present her body however she wants. Madeline agrees, but says the only way Starlight gets to do that with The Seven is to wear the new costume.

The pain of the choice is clear on Emily Moriarty’s face as it runs a spectrum of nuanced facial expressions. The actress has really shined in the roll, portraying perfectly slide from idealism to cynicism. She looks sideways at the uniform, head tilted back, shoulders up. Her body language expresses resistance to the idea. However, as she considers the offer more thoroughly, her shoulders relax in resignation, and her head slumps. She exchanges exploitation for membership, and takes another step further from her moral center. Her quote to Hughie at the big race says it all, “I don’t know if they really want you to be a hero. I think they just want you to look like one.”

The Boys E03 Revenge is the Name of the Game

For his apart, Hughie is drunk on the power he felt when he pressed the button on the bomb. He tells Mr. Milk–a new addition to the team–about it, and MM nods. Then, he warns Hughie about taking it too far. But for Hughie. there is no such thing as taking it too far. A-Train killed his woman and disrupted his life. Nothing short of total vengeance will suffice.

To this effect, Frenchie, Butcher, Hughie, and Mr. Milk pay a visit to Popclaw. Popclaw is A-Train’s girlfriend. MM and Hughie bug her apartment, and as they leave they bump into A-Train. Hughie stares at the Supes who killed his girlfriend, waiting for acknowledgement. There is a moment of silence which A-Train asks if Hughie wants an autograph. Instead of keeping quiet and just moving on, Hughie says he thinks they’ve met before. A stupid thing to do.

I understand that Hughie is pissed A-Train can’t even pay him the courtesy of remembering him. Plus, he is still riding the adrenaline wave. But, this was stupid and could have gotten both Hughie and MM killed. Revenge is their purpose, but they need to be smart about it. Hughie forgot that for a moment.

Homelander and Queen Maeve

This episode also brings us our first glimpse of Queen Maeve in action, and she kicks ass. Then she has a team-up with Homelander, and things go less well. The series has been hinting that Homelander is a violent psychopath with amazing powers. The Boys E03 makes that clear. Homelander is the kind of guy who will punch through a man’s chest, and then get mad at the dead guy for getting blood on his gloves. Homelander is the kind of guy who will threaten an ex-girlfriend with death if she ever moves on. Murderous Superman is not necessarily a new concept, especially not in comics, but it is something we haven’t seen a lot of in movies and TV.

Power Corrupts and So Does Compound V

By establishing Homelander as the biggest prick of them all because he’s the most powerful, the show subverts Superman. And in so doing, it provides a fresh take on the superhero genre in the medium of the screen. If the biggest hero can be a villain, then there are no heroes. Everyone is already a villain, or one in waiting. Even Starlight has slipped. She wants to be part of The Seven so badly that she’s willing to compromise her values. No one is safe from the corrupting influence of Supes.

How far Starlight will go to maintain her position in The Seven is a question worth asking. On one hand, similar to Hughie, it seems that she will do anything to be a member. On the other hand, when she gets leered at and told to show her tits, there is a flash of indecision. I expect the show will delve deeper into this aspect of the plot and her character, but I don’t expect her to abandon The Seven.

Finally, and returning to the idea of superhero marketing and image, A-Train has a big race. If he loses, he is out of The Seven. Here is yet another instance of people doing whatever it takes to be part of the biggest superhero club around. Only in the case of A-Train that action is to take superhero steroids, also known as Compound V. The drug greatly enhances super abilities, but the user loses some control. A-Train was on V when he ran through Robin.

This episode is the best one so far. Have you seen it? What are your thoghts? Let me know in the comments.

The Boys E02 Superheroes are Terrifying

Now this is more like it. The Boys E02 provides what I felt the first episode lacked, enough satire to fully subvert genre expectations. By focusing on aspects other than over the top violence, this episode manages to highlight the social problems caused by Supes. Granted, the first episode did this to a degree. After all, Robin’s death is the driving force behind Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train.

Additionally, this episode builds on the social impact Supes. First, we see A-Train visiting a child with terminal cancer. A-Train arrives, all smiles and arrogance. Then, the kids says he wanted Translucent because Translucent is his hero. A-Train tells the kid he’ll teach him how to run when he gets better. The child does not take these words well. The whole scene is awkward and hilarious in a terrible way.

The picture shows Homelander from the Boys S02

The Boys E02 focuses mostly on Homelander as well as the fallout from episode one. Again, I am going to be as spoiler-free as possible in this review. Still, there might be some spoilery things in here. If you care, there’s your warning.

The choice to develop Homelander is a wise one. As the Superman analogue, he sets up a myriad of expectations for the audience. Such expectations should already be shifting after his actions in E01, but we still don’t know much about him. Here, we learn that he wants to be more than just a pretty face, and also that there is some darkness in him, and is the darkness that makes him scary. From when we learn of Homelander’s darkness until the end of the episode, his presence looms large. He shifts from the typical Superman archetype, to something reminiscent of JMS’s version of Hyperion in Supreme Power.

The Boys E02 There Are No Heroes Only Supes

Meanwhile, Hughie and Butcher are still trying to resolve their situation. The trouble is, they don’t have any good options. This story line pushes Hughie closer to the edge as the time to make a choice draws near. We learn that the Butcher is a mercenary who specializes in subduing Supes. Admittedly, I found the beats in this plot line a little too predictable. I understand the need for these scenes, and they do a lot of good work portraying Hugie’s struggle. Yet, the outcome never really seemed in doubt.

We also learn more about how fighting crime for the Vought corporation works. And, I would say, it works about the way you’d expect. Vought uses the most advanced technology to predict where crimes will occur, and then they send their heroes there. It’s all very efficient, but doesn’t lend itself to feeling heroic.

I appreciate this look at how the sponsorship works. On one hand, it s not surprising. If superheroes did exist and they had corporate sponsors, thing would most likely operate in this fashion.

Character Studies

The subversion of the Superman type in the form of Homelander, along with the corporate control aspect play into the theme of The Boys E02: the loss of innocence. In fact, that seems to be the overall series theme. We see this in the general portrayal of Supes in this episode, as well as the characters of Hughie and Starlight.

Each character’s story contains darkness and difficult choices. They both death with pain and loss of innocence, though in very different ways. Hughie has access to a support group. It’s dysfunctional and horrible and is going to get him in trouble, if not killed. He is grieving for Robin, and trying reconcile his need for vengeance with his need to maintain his innocence.

In contrast, Starlight processes her loss of innocence by asserting herself, and unleashing her anger against a couple of deserving assholes. She is alone and has no support structure. She can’t tell her mom for fear of disappointing her, and she has no friends. Starlight regaining some confidence is important for the character and the story. Plus, it gives us a chance to see a Supe actually doing something super heroic. Of course, she faces punishment for performing an unsanctioned Super activity, further driving home the point that there is no place for heroics in the superhero business. Plus Erin Moriarty kills it as the determined and near-desperate Starlight, infusing her performance with a contrast of nuanced emotion and bright-eyed optimism.

All in all, this episode was stronger than the first one, and I have hope that I will enjoy the show if they continue in this vein.

Have you seen The Boys E02? What did you think. Drop a line in the comments if you feel inclined.