The Fast & Furious Guide to Titles

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge one by its title. It’s your first step into the book’s world and, unlike the cover, is actually made by the book’s writer. Same goes for video games, TV, and of course movies. One franchise has turned the simple element of its titles and turned them into a singular art form, wherein merely the reveal of said title is massive news. That franchise is also the single greatest film franchise on the planet. I know it’s the greatest because this happened:

Incredible.

There are 8 movies currently in the Fast & Furious franchise. These are their titles:

The Fast and the Furious

2 Fast 2 Furious

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Fast & Furious

Fast Five

Fast & Furious 6

Furious 7

The Fate of the Furious

Every one of these titles tells a story, both of the film, society, and what was happening behind the scenes. Each one is brilliant in its own way. But they all start from one place, the beginning.

3

Live life a quarter mile at a time.

The Fast and the Furious really is just Point Blank with cars. Well, cars and FAMILY. That core idea of family is what has allowed this franchise to bloom like it has while still retaining a semblance of depth beneath its bluster. This first title tries to convey that depth by speaking hyperbolicly of the central players in the film. They are the fast. They are the furious. But which is which? Vin Diesel wins every race against Paul Walker, which would make him the fast. But he’s also the one who’s accused of beating someone to death with a wrench.

Fun fact, throughout the franchise Torettos pick up wrenches to weaponize. This happens again in Fast Five and Furious 7 as a call back to the serious crime that makes the police look into Vin Diesel.

He clearly has anger issues, so is he the furious too? Is the title really just speaking uniformly about Vin Diesel, or do we give the title of “the fast” to Paul Walker simply because he can’t be referred to as “the furious?” We may never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that this title would set the template for everything that came after. Just about the only rule for future entries into the franchise would be the required appearance of either the word “fast” or “furious.”

Of course they decided to make a statement straight away on the sequel.

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How Fast Do You Want It?

To follow up a movie like The Fast and the Furious, all the sequel had to promise was that it would be faster, or more furious. But no, this wouldn’t simply be faster. It would be TOO FAST. TOO FURIOUS. You won’t be able to handle how fast and furious this movie truly is. Look at those neon lights coming off of those cars. The world will fall away and it will merely be us and our speed. Our fury will be all encompassing. We are no longer describing the characters, we are describing the world we are about to enter. You are not prepared.

Fun fact, this is the worst film in the franchise.

Since Paul Walker was the only returning star from the original film, this film couldn’t be sold as the continuing adventures of Dom and Brian. Instead it was marketed as the next level. The chases would be bigger, the bromances deeper, the ladies hotter. They would do that thing where a car drives under and through a truck. It followed the rules set by the first, utilizing both “fast” and “furious” and introducing a new one. This series doesn’t just use the number of its entry, it bathes in it.

Then the third film completely disregarded that rule.

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On the streets of Tokyo speed needs no translation.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the most divisive film in the franchise. For many, like myself, it is the best entry in the series, for others it is the weakest. This is probably because it ditches the entire original cast in favor of a southern boy with the thickest accent known to man going to Tokyo where he learns to drift, cool racing where you skid around corners. I do it in Mario Kart all the time. The title is clearly a dry run for the alternate universe version of these movies where they go straight to DVD and each one is titled something along the lines of, The Fast and the Furious: Havana Nights, The Fast and the Furious: Philadelphia Wheelie, or the like. But instead the return to physical cars and the beloved character of Han brought many fans in to watch, that with a cameo by Vin Diesel in the end brought the series back from the brink.

Fun fact, this movie is actually sixth in the series timeline.

The title is comprehensive. You’re getting the fast, who in this case is Drift King, you’re getting the furious, who is absolutely Lucas Black, and they will be Tokyo Drifitng. It’s the most economical title, but that also makes it stand apart from the others. It breaks the rules, but that’s alright. That’s actually the third rule. There are no rules.

For example, how to confuse your audience by using the original title again but just slightly differently.

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New Model. Original Parts.

Fast & Furious takes the undercurrent of 2 Fast 2 Furious that it describes the franchise and not the characters, and works it like none other. Behind the scenes this was when the words saga and mythology started being thrown around for the franchise. It was the beginning of something bigger while also being much smaller than what would follow. The film itself is the most utilitarian and necessary of the sequels. It had to get Brian and Dom together again so they could go off on adventures and nurture their bromance. It’s probably the darkest of the franchise, with Vin Diesel investigating the death of Michelle Rodriguez, but it also has the most exhilarating finale.

Fun fact, there’s a sequence in this film where Vin Diesel reconstructs Michelle Rodriguez’s death through sheer car knowledge. A sequence that turns out to be entirely wrong when Michelle Rodriguez turns up alive 2 movie later.

Again a Fast & Furious movie refuses to use a number. Again it makes sense. Fast & Furious is the soft reboot of the series. An ideal entry point to come in on and stick around for the ride. Just make sure to buckle up, it’ll be f– well you see where I was going.

Except nobody expected what came next.

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Feel the Speed. Feel the Rush.

Something I learned early in school was to choose between either writing out numbers or just entering the digit. Fast Five took that rule, looked at 2 Fast 2 Furious, remembered there are no rules, and threw it out the window. Again it feels like the title is describing the Fast Five in this film, but there are eleven central characters in this movie so which five are the Fast Five. Let’s assume Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, then I assume you add Tyreese and Sun Kang because they came over from the other films, but then who is the fifth fast? Is it The Rock? What happened to the furious? I know people are angry in this movie. Is that no longer relevant? More importantly, why do the words Fast and Five share the same F? Is it a metaphor for Vin Diesel’s bromance love triangle tension between both Paul Walker and The Rock? Probably.

Fun fact, this is all practical:

Fast Five is the peak of the series. After this one they were on a hot streak, which is why the titling gets a little lazy moving forward.

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All Roads Lead to This.

For much of the marketing for this one I felt they lost their way with titles. It was simply an earlier title with a number at the end. I expected better from The Fast and the Furious. Then, in the movie itself, the title appears as Furious 6. The first word and the ampersand deleted entirely. Surprising the entire audience with a reminder that they still know what they are. This one wasn’t describing the franchise but the Furious 6, most likely including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, The Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, and Jason Statham (stay past the credits!). This is also the last movie to take place before Tokyo Drift in the timeline, so technically this movie is fifth. Oh, and they’re back to typing digits!

Fun fact, Rita Ora starts a street race at night in London in this film, implying that this is a regular thing she does.

Technically, since this film is Furious 6, that puts it in an odd position next to its follow up.

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Vengeance Hits Home.

Literally! Jason Statham blows up Vin Diesel’s home! Furious 7 will always be connected to the unfortunate passing of Paul Walker. It feels like it was heavily rejiggered from something different, but it also has the scene where they all drop from a plane onto a mountain road to catch a bus with a super hacker on board. So yeah it’s still amazing. This is also the first time the number of Furious people syncs up perfectly with the core team. They’re The Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Tyreese, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster. It also has the second best ending of the series, but for compleely different reasons than the first.

Fun fact, this will make you cry:

There are three eras of Fast & Furious. Pre-Rock; counting The Fast and the Furious through Fast & Furious, The Crew; counting Fast Five through Furious 7 (notable for every one of these featuring a number in the title), and following this we enter the Post-Paul Walker era. They knew they had to shake things up moving forward, and the perfect place to start was the title.

Family no more.

Surprisingly it took until the eight film for this series to use an outright pun in its title. F8 and Fate being interchangeable in the marketing. Well played. It sends a message of moving forward from the tragedy of Paul Walkers passing into the future for these characters. The plot also plays into the balancing effect his character had in the stories. Vin Diesel is adrift without his bromance, and his beef with The Rock is evident on screen as well as off.

Fun fact, The Rock called a cast member in this one a “candy ass” and though we all thought it was Scott Eastman, it turned out to be Vin Diesel whose ass was candy.

Eight movies in and these movies are still finding new ways to title themselves, a surprise and delight every time. May the next two, yes two, have titles as elegant as the Fate of the Furious, bearing the beautiful return of the word “the” in the title.

Thought for the record, it looks like the Fate of the Furious is that they just kind of forgive each other no matter how egregious their past crimes were. Like, the things Vin Diesel does in this movie are about on par with some of the stuff from Civil War, but while the Avengers broke up the FAMILY is as strong as ever. Hell they even let Jason Statham sit at the table when he shouldn’t because he KILLED HAN.

Fun fact, Han’s full name is Han Seol-Oh.

-JP

PS, This wound up taking itself far more seriously than I intended. Much like my own interest in these movies.

The Defenders: Hallway Fights Power Rankings 2016

In the history of humanity there have been many locations to fight. War zones, college campuses, main streets, docks, and even airports, but in 2015 we became aware of the ultimate location to fight in; the hallway. Hallway fights give all the awesome of a normal fight, but with the added claustrophobia of being in a hallway. Nobody does hallway fights better than The Defenders over on Netflix. That’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. So now that all four shows has arrived, the time has come to rank every hallway fight they have gifted on us.

Except for Jessica Jones. She doesn’t fight in hallways. Hers would be the red headed step child of these series if it weren’t also the best of all of them.

Anyway, there are a couple things to be aware of in these fights. First off, quality of hallway. Is this a nice hallway with lots of tchotchkes to throw around? Is this a random aisle somewhere? Just kidding, the only kind of cramped spaces we want here are hallways. Aisles don’t count. Secondly, how stylish is this fight? Sometimes hallways get a little boring and we have to pay attention to the fight in the hallway. Is this fight an entertaining one? Lastly, how bad did the bad guys get wrecked? If there’s a take down that makes you think, “Ooh. They’re never leaving this hallway.” then that’s got to count toward the rank.

With all that in mind, we have about 6 hallways fights to parse through so let’s get started.

6. Danny Rand and Davos vs The Hand – Iron Fist

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Look, I may not know a lot about Iron Fist in the comics, but I do know a lot about hallways. The hallway in this fight is cramped and yet a ton of bodies get in there. Still, there isn’t even video of this fight online and it is far from the best in Iron Fist. If you want to watch it, track down episode 10 of Iron Fist.

Fun fact: almost none of the great fights in Iron Fist actually feature Iron Fist!

Quality of hallway: Tight as hell

How stylish: Not nearly as stylish as it should be

Ouch moment: When the guy got punched? with the Iron Fist? I don’t know, this fight isn’t actually very memorable.

5. Danny Rand and Joy Meachum vs The Hatchet Men – Iron Fist

When a group of Chinese thugs break in to kidnap Joy, Danny rushes to the rescue. This is in episode 4 and it is a breath of fresh air for the series. While the show plodded along for its first two episodes or so, but when the hallway fight shows up you know you’re in a Defenders show.

Quality of hallway: Hey this is a nice hallway! Very well lit with a lot of space for spin kicks. I’m pretty sure this is in a hotel, so these guys are just lucky no one stepped out of their rooms at this moment.

How stylish: The music is poppy, the fight feels fun, there are hatchets, and they even get some split screen in there. Oddly split screen only shows up one other time in the show, way down the road in episode 12. It’s not even in a hallway then either, it’s in a foyer. Why even bother?

Ouch moment: When Danny busts out the Iron Fist to break that guy’s hatchet. Technically nobody is hurt, but that man’s morality for sure took a beating. Not so much an ouch moment as a “moralouch” moment. Hah! Okay I’ll be over here.

4. Matt Murdock vs Biker Gang – Daredevil

Step aside Iron Fist because the king of Defenders fights is here. Daredevil! Though really Iron Fist you have no excuse for your weak fights. In episode 3 of season 2, Daredevil attempted to outdo it’s legendary hallway fight in season 1. Daredevil’s been having a rough night. He’s been chained up on a roof, argued with the Punisher, and had a gun taped to his hand. Still, once he’s beaten up the Punisher he has to get him out of the building teeming with angry biker thugs. DD throws Frank into an elevator and goes wild on the bikers. But there’s one major problem, it barely takes place in a hallway! What is this, a stairwell fight power ranking? Come on!

Quality of hallway: Before Daredevil, a little dingy. Could use a paint job. Huge. After Daredevil, dark as hell and covered with shards of glass from all the lightbulbs. Nice one red, you ruined this hallway.

How stylish: This is a cool and long fight. They use some clever editing to make it look like a single take fight. Plus, forcing a gun into Daredevil’s left hand with a chain wrapped around his right changes up his fighting style completely. And one last thing, Daredevil fights are great because he always gets exhausted by all this. He even stops for a breather here. Why don’t any other fights do this?

Ouch moment: Daredevil gets that chain around a man’s neck and pulls him over the side of the staircase so he drops several flights. See, if he had stayed in the hallway he could have walked away from this.

3. Luke Cage Raids Crispus Attucks – Luke Cage

For the first couple episodes, Luke Cage teases this moment. Luke breaks into Crispus Attucks, a community center now controlled by Cottonmouth, takes everybody down and steals the bad guy’s money, all while keeping his ipod ear buds in place throughout. Now that’s talent. I for one will never tire of watching Luke walk through bullet after bullet fired his way, plus there are like three different hallways in this fight!

Quality of hallway: Well it’s Harlem so… In all seriousness, the hallways are fine community center hallways, except for that last one that’s been modified with a cage door. Now that’s a nice hallway.

How stylish: The man is listening to “Bring the Ruckus” as he literally brings the ruckus. Just like the entirety of Luke Cage, this is stylish as hell.

Ouch moment: That poor fool behind the cage door. He just keeps firing and Luke just keeps coming. Then he just pulls the guy into the door and shrugs him off. Damn.

2. Frank Castle vs Prisoners – Daredevil

Honestly this is all on the Kingpin. Wilson Fisk convinced Frank to go to prison because he could get him close to a man who knows about the massacre that killed Frank’s family. He gets Frank into that man’s cell block, Frank gets the info he needs and kills him. Then Kingpin double crosses the Punisher and leaves him in the cell block with all the angry friends of the man he’s just killed. This was always going to be painful, but this is also the only fight here where one man straight up kills everybody else.

Quality of hallway: As a prison cell block, this hallway really stands out from all the others. The white walls and stark lighting let the blood really pop, and there is a lot of blood. 10/10, good hallway, would recommend.

How stylish: Again, the only fight here with gratuitous murder. It stands apart from the crowd. It almost makes me want the Punisher in his own show. Though I still don’t for the record. He’s a better foil than a lead.

Ouch moment: Honestly there are a lot to choose from. The hatchet at the end (hey! hatchets show up twice!) stands out for sure, but if I have to pick one moment it’s when Frank falls next to another inmate and just goes at him with his shiv. That’s the moment I realized he was going to kill all of these people.

1. Matt Murdock vs Thugs – Daredevil

Of course this was going to be in first place! The hallway fight that introduced us to hallway fights. In episode 2, after a group of thugs kidnaps a little kid, Daredevil tracks them down to their secret hideout and takes them all down. It’s brutal, it’s exhausting, and it helped put these Netflix shows on the map in a big way. Without this scene its hard to say if any of these hallway fights would exist, and for that I thank it.

Quality of hallway: I wouldn’t want to hang out in this hallway for long periods of time. The lighting is trash, but I worry if it were better I would find puke on the floor. It’s a good hallway for a fight but not much more.

How stylish: Unlike that hallway fight in season 2, this one truly is one take. One brilliant and hard to watch take. You can see the energy drain from Daredevil-by-way-of -Dread-Pirate-Roberts with each attack and, unlike in other shows, just because he hits a guy it doesn’t mean they don’t get back up. This is their hallway after all, and nobody wants to lose a fight in their hallway.

Ouch moment: For sure when the one guy takes a microwave to the face! That’s the whole reason I made this category!

Those are our Defenders Hallway Fights Power Rankings for 2016! Later this Summer our heroes come together to truly become the Defenders, and between you and me I heard there first meeting is a hallway fight.

#HallwayFights

-JP

PS, But seriously Iron Fist is kind of a mess. If you watch it, watch it for Colleen Wing and Claire Temple. Honestly we should all just thank god for Claire Temple every day.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Why I’m a Writer

My sister introduced me to Buffy. Though that wasn’t the first time it was on in our house.

I distinctly remember my mother talking about it, in regards to the musical episode. It was something new and interesting on TV and she wanted to watch it, so we put it on TV that night. This was 2001 and I, a 7-year-old, wasn’t exactly grabbed by it. But my sister was, and she dove right in.

I was resistant at first, mostly because it was about a girl and how could I relate to that? I know, but I was very young when I thought this way. Still, for a time it was on in our house every afternoon after school, two episodes in a row over on FX, and the next day the story would continue. Eventually I broke down and started watching.

I think the first episode I saw was “Real Me,” the second episode of season 5 and the first full episode to feature Dawn, Buffy’s sister who didn’t exist until that point. Do you understand how insane and poetic that is? I came in when Dawn did, and I think Season 5 still stands out to me among all the rest because it was the first I watched all of.

I only learned what a “season” of television was because of Buffy. They could so easily be divided up based on their Big Bad who was annually swapped out for someone bigger and badder. The first seasons on DVD anyone in my house owned were Buffy, and I started making my way through in order after my sister was done with them.

Never at the same time. I was always a little behind, choosing to watch through in my own order. Season 1 was okay but not great, only in the years since did I realize that most plots there could have been solved with cellphones. Season 2, however, was great. I don’t think I’ve seen a TV villain as personal, affecting, and dangerous as Angelus. Think about it, after Angel turns evil in episode 14 (spoilers?) he stays that way for the next 8 episodes and appears in every single one of them to attack the Scoobies.

Think about every show on TV inspired by Buffy. They never give the villain that much screen-time for the risk of overusing them or making them look weak. Angelus never once appears weak. It’s actually pretty amazing.

Of course as a kid my favorite villain was the Mayor in season 3. I thought he was funny and I thought Faith was just cool. The third season finale was one of the most epic things I had ever seen on TV, bad CG and all. That was the moment. That exhilaration that came with that finale, the sense of scale that only came with living with these characters for 56 episodes, that was when I realized that TV is a better storytelling medium than film. If done well.

Since then I have watched a lot of TV. Too much, many would say too much TV. I have seen good and I have seen bad. But the biggest thing I learned was that there is nothing I would rather do than tell stories in the same way. To lead an audience to the higher highs that TV can accomplish.

Growing up I have rewatched the series a few times, from the highs of season 2, the mids of season 4, the lows of season 6, but I will never forget the first time I saw the series finale, Chosen, in season 7. It remains as one of my favorite hours of television ever. A group of heroes against the horde of demons, but then the women stand up to defeat them all. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m only a feminist because of Buffy.

Now on the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think about how much it has created my own artistic tendencies. Along the way I have met many other writers inspired by Buffy, almost a whole generation of upcoming talent sees the show as an inspirational touchstone.The characters, the way they talk, and the villains that are cool not because they’re mysterious but because we know them so well. I think we’re going to make some great TV.

-JP

PS, if you haven’t seen Bad Buffy Outfits yet then boy do I have a Twitter account for you.

Logan is Quiet, Violent, and Worth Paying Attention To

Have you ever been in a fight? A real dragged out brawl? There’s a point where you just run out of energy and every punch you land is running on empty. Its here where you start thinking about why you’re fighting or how it got to this point.

Logan is the movie version of that. A man running on empty, looking for a way to finish the fight.

It’s a very good movie. Hugh Jackman explores what is essentially the only storytelling territory left for this character. The action is there, blood and all, but none of it is triumphant for Wolverine. His fights hurt to watch, and seriously hurt him, to the point where I just wanted him to get out of there.

The action scenes that’ll stick with you aren’t his, they’re hers. Dafne Keen as Laura aka X-23 kicks so much ass in this movie that I almost wish it weren’t R-rated for the sake of little girls experiencing how cool she is. But no, the rating is worth it to see her dispatch enemies with both the claws in her knuckles and feet with all the energy they merit. She’s the most high-key element to a very low-key movie.

Almost a year ago I argued that Deadpool was special because of how weird and comic book-y it could be. This movie proves the opposite may actually be true, especially after Apocalypse went to that place and it didn’t go well. Perhaps the future of the X-Men franchise lays in it as a series of slightly lower budget character pieces instead of overblown blockbusters.Deadpool is a story of love over looks, kind of. Logan is the tale of a man at his end, and an examination of what kind of man he is after his very long life.

Worth mentioning, never once in this film does Logan call himself Wolverine, nor is Laura called X-23. In fact, in this movie Wolverine has reclaimed the name he was born with, James Howlett. Here’s a hot take, the film can be read with Logan as his superhero alias and not Wolverine.

X-Men needs to set themselves apart from the pack in some way, because right now they stand as the awkward alternative MCU that’s been technically running longer under one continuity. But that timeline is a mess and the number of great movies they’ve made; X2, X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past, they do not outweigh the number of bad one; X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Apocalypse. To be honest, X-Men Apocalypse burned me so bad I told myself I was out for all X-Men movies in the future. I’ll admit, yes I still came for Logan and I will most likely be there for Deadpool 2, but the mainline X-Men fare is no longer for me. That being said, with more focused material like Deadpool, Logan, and from what I hear Legion is also very good, suddenly the X-Men universe breathes to life.

The MCU is the superstar franchise with great characters that’s a lot of fun. The DC Extended Universe, as it bills itself, is the one where they’re clearly spending a lot more money and want to give more power to the directors to let their voice shine with these characters. But X-Men finds itself somewhere between, which is why people forget why characters like Wolverine can’t be in the Avengers. They don’t even have the monopoly on characters that have powers but are feared by those they protect ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought Inhumans onto the scene. They’re basically mutants!

There was a lesson to be learned in Deadpool’s success and it turned out Fox found it and followed it. Use the character to find the tone (be silly with Deadpool, be violent with Wolverine) then tell a story that speaks to them. These quieter X-Men movies are blowing the pants off their more bombastic siblings and I would be interested in more like them. Word on the street is they want to do another X-Men movie where Jean Grey goes Dark Phoenix. First of all, please don’t, and second of all, maybe there’s a version of that story that fits into this framework?

I don’t know, I’m not a producer. Go see Logan.

-JP

PS, Logan wouldn’t work so well if we hadn’t known Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine for almost two decades. Just something to consider.

PSA: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Having a Banner Year

People like to root for the underdog. Our heroes are the rebellion raging against the empire. A small band of heroes taking on an army. It’s hard to tell a compelling story about the guys with all the power keeping down small threats.

That was the flaw in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one.

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For the first 16 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the team went on adventures to different parts of the world to deal with relatively unconnected missions. There was drama, but there wasn’t much of a sign that the show would become one cohesive whole.

Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out. Now, when S.H.I.E.L.D. crossed over with Thor: The Dark World it really didn’t. Sure, there were Asgardians, but no element of the movie affected the show. But The Winter Soldier ended with S.H.I.E.L.D. being shut down because it had been taken over by HYDRA.

The stakes were raised, to say the least, and the show delivered a string of episodes that (mostly) brought the whole season together. It was an exciting time to be a fan of the show because the characters were turned into the underdogs. That’s a status quo the series has largely kept to for the following seasons.

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Season 2 ran with the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hydra story, but knew that the super-spy series needed more super powers in it. The MCU couldn’t use mutants, so S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed the Inhumans. The back half of the season became about figuring out how they move forward with more superhumans running around than they knew of, and they’re all organized. Aside from almost forgetting to tie into Avengers: Age of Ultron, that season ended with terrigen crystals getting into the worldwide food supply and S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming the Inhumans police.

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Season 3 was a pretty good X-Men show with extra spy fun. Of course they spent the first half of the season fighting Hydra again, though this time led by their old friend Ward. They’re like cockroaches that Hydra, though they are up front about it. “Cut off one head, two more take its place” is the catchphrase after all. Plus they revealed that the jerk world security council member from The Avengers, the one that wanted to nuke New York City, was actually Hydra all along. So that’s fun!

The season took an odd turn when Hydra brought Hive, the Inhuman that Hydra’s been worshiping for centuries, to Earth. Maybe I prefer my Hydra to be Nazis and not ancient cults but I wasn’t a fan. Also they killed Ward. Ward! Either way, they beat the bad guy, a team member died, and we were treated to a time jump of several months. Which is how we come to season 4.

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You’re probably starting to figure out how this works now. Around season two the series started breaking its season into two wholly separate arcs. At that point this was probably necessitated by the long break Agent Carter forced into the series, but it also made the writers tell concise stories that were stronger for it. S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Ward, S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hive. But in season 4 they made this explicit by giving the series a fun subtitle for each arc. That first arc was Ghost Rider.This was the first time SHIELD could really get their hands on an iconic Marvel character and shape them as their own. Smartly, they chose to skip Johnny Blaze and instead introduce Robbie Reyes as their Ghost Rider. They told a simple revenge tale with extra magic fun, but they still kept that magic in the Marvel mold of, “this is all super science from a certain perspective.” Most important of all though, Ghost Rider looked great on a TV budget.tumblr_odu2p1ipkd1so8xfgo1_500But the Ghost Rider arc also happened at the same time as S.H.I.E.L.D. stepping out of the shadows and becoming a real US intelligence organization again. The fear was that S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t be underdogs anymore. Well the show solved that issue in the second arc of the season; LMD.shieldlmdWaaaay back in season 1, when the Hydra reveal happened, it was seismic because we didn’t know who we could trust anymore. We didn’t know who was Hydra and who was S.H.I.E.L.D. Now the show has managed to put the audience back in that head-space in a completely new way. First there was one LMD ( an android or Life Model Decoy), Aida, who appeared to go rogue. She was easy to fight because the team could identify her easily. But then the evil scientist who made the LMDs started copying members of the team. First Melinda May, and then four core team members at once to infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. That episode aired last night and it was, no lie, one of the best the series has ever put out.

The team couldn’t trust anyone, leading to some great standoffs, Daisy had one of the best fights of her career–

–and LMD May had a crisis of faith over whether or not she’s truly alive. Then the whole thing ended with a small band of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on the run. They are the underdogs once again, leading us into the the third arc for this season. Plugging their minds into the Framework, a matrix-like simulation of the world where their friends’ real minds are being stored.

This season has been killing it, turning in one consistently great episode after another, which is not something every superhero show can say. I am on record saying I would stop watching this show after season 3, but I am really glad I did not keep that promise.

I’ll leave you where the show left me, an introduction to the Framework:

-JP

PS, WARD! WARD! WARD!

On Script Coverage

One of the strangest things about Hollywood is that the big decision makers in production, and agencies or management firms for that matter, will never be the first people to read your script. The first people you have to impress with your writing will almost always be a Development Intern. A college student (who probably wants to be a writer) who will read your script, write a synopsis and review of it, and pass that along to the Development Executive who will use that coverage, as its called, to decide if they should take the time to read the whole script on their own.

It makes sense to free up the executives time from reading scripts so they can worry about the other aspects of their job. What is frustrating is that some of these people reading your script are so new to the task that they are not adept at parsing out what is and is not good writing. I would know, I was one. I read both high level Hollywood scripts and low level For-TV scripts. I found most of them to be bad, but since then a couple have hit theaters and proven to be really good. It’s made me reassess how difficult reading a script an visualizing it in your head can be.

When you go to film school they teach you all about proper screenwriting format. But an odd truth is that there really aren’t any hard and fast rules to screenwriting format. As long as the reader can follow the action that’s perfect. They were teaching how to write a shooting script, which is not nearly the same as one built to be read. A shooting script is a meant to only convey movement and action, the rest is left up to the director and other crew members. The best scripts to read give you that movement and action, but also the tone of the piece and an idea of what everything looks like. They make sure you never get lost and can picture the movie in your head. It’s easy to get lost in a script.

I’ve read scripts where action is taking place in three different locations and, instead of using scene headings every time, they just use transition text. It saves space on the page and it creates less of a break for the reader. I’ve read scripts where a family has four children and, since they know you’ll forget which is which, the writer labels each with their age every time they show up on the page. It allows you to know these are the actions of a 9-year-old versus the actions of a 14-year-old. Sometimes a writer will even directly address the reader, break the fourth wall, even when they aren’t writing that kind of script because its the only way to convey what they want from that scene.

This is why its so nerve-wracking writing and submitting a script. You constantly wonder, did I present that scene well? It all makes sense in your head because you’ve been living in the script for so long that you cannot see it from an outsider’s perspective. Then you wonder, who’s reading the script? Is it an intern or someone a bit higher up? Will they understand what I’m trying to say here? Will they jive with the tone? Then, no matter who is reading your script, they’ll condense it into a one or two sentence logline, a quick summary, and their own opinion. Only then can your story potentially make its way to screen.

So throw out the rules and write a script they can’t stop reading. It can be easy to get bored, walk away, and come back having lost your place. Write a script that makes them laugh out loud. It’s easy to remember something that made you laugh since it so rarely happens on the page. Write a script that makes them want to see “that moment” on screen. It’s easy to recommend something you want to see done right.

Then keep on reading and writing, because the only way to get better at either is to continue doing both.

-JP

PS, Why does anyone choose to work in an industry this difficult? Why did I?

We Stand United

The day after election day I called my parents. I was distraught to say the least. It felt like the world was falling apart all around me and I needed the stability they could provide. My father told me that in one of the first elections he participated in, he voted against Richard Nixon. It was a way of letting me know that he’s been in a similar situation as myself and we all got through it okay. At the time it made me feel better, but these days I’m not so sure the comparison is accurate.

We are, as of this writing, 12 days into Trump’s America. Each day has brought with it a new piece of news that shocks me to my core, followed by a reaction to said news that restores my faith in humanity. A man speaks about uniting America at his inauguration, and the next day women, not just American but from all around the world, unite to protest against him and what he represents.

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The Women’s March will go down in history books at the largest global protest in history. A declaration that, though he may be in control, the President is in for a fight every step of the way. We haven’t stopped either, within two weeks there has been a second (and completely impromptu) protest at airports in regards to his executive order barring those from largely muslim countries from entering the country.

In the past, I’ve wondered what a Nazi rise to power would look like with modern technology. I don’t wonder anymore, I know it is impossible. Because of how information can travel and how the world has become globalized, he can’t silence everyone who stands against him. Hell the National Parks Service went rogue! There’s an old poem I’ve seen thrown around online a lot recently.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Martin Niemoeller

People have been using this poem about the rise of the Nazi party in relation to our own President’s autocratic interests, but it doesn’t quite track in modern day. In 1930s Germany people simply could not communicate in the way they do now. They didn’t speak out for the communists, trade unionists, and Jews because they didn’t know each other, their society didn’t bring them together. Today, the whole world is connected together, which means I don’t have to know a single Muslim personally to know that this is bad:

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And this is good:

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Before I saw these demonstrations I felt so powerless moving into this new era for our country. Yes, of course, call your senators and congressmen, but I live in California which is arguably the most blue state. I already know my representatives are going to fight for the rights of those that don’t have the safety of being a straight white man. Now I know that standing up for something, that saying something, can make a difference.

Still, I worry that my view is tinged from living in the bubble. I didn’t know the population of people willing to look past all of Trump’s flaws to elect him existed. I didn’t think any of this was possible. Now I have to actively look outside my echo chamber to see the world. There’s an excellent website called Blue Feed, Red Feed that shows side by side comparisons of democratic and republican Facebook feeds for a variety of stories that I recommend everyone looks at. I want us to stand united, all of us, which means we have to understand and educate both them and ourselves. Also the them vs us position isn’t exactly healthy. The most important thing is not to stand quietly and let this happen, because the more attention drawn to his deplorable actions, the more likely it is for someone across the aisle to look at those issues a bit more closely.

The irony of this is that I still put a lot of credit to the Bernie Sanders camp for all this. I might have said it before but a lot of people I knew who had written off our politics suddenly became involved when they saw him as a candidate who would stand for him. A lot of millennials who might not be paying attention today had they never heard of Bernie. Instead they are all drawing war paint across their faces and hunkering down for the next couple years.

“No. You move.” – Captain America

-JP

PS, apparently the President won’t be sending any of his people to speak with CNN anymore. I feel like I’ve entered Bizarro world. Look at this report from Jake Tapper:

The way they use clips in this is straight out of the Daily Show’s playbook!