The Coldest City vs Atomic Blonde

***Spoiler Alert***

If you haven’t watched the movie or read the graphic novel, come back later.

Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 spy tasked with unmasking the secrets of double agent Satchel/Stachel in Cold War Berlin. Set during the days leading to the fall of The Wall in 1989, our heroine must locate a list with the names of the secret agents in the area. When the British lose control over the material, they fear it will pop up in Moscow or the Black Market. Satchel/Stachel may be the broker of the information but he/she may also be the reason for the leak. Who can you trust in a city full of duplicitous intent?

Atomic Blonde borrows from the original story to give us an action packed, girl power romp, full of suspense, 80s cosplay, and intrigue. However, the original character was not blonde, was not associated with the CIA, and is not involved in as many car chases and staircase hands on combat as Charlize Theron’s version. The graphic novel is in black and white, blending the environment in the background without having to be bothered with the music and cultural accoutrements of the times. Whereas the movie is all 1980s neon noir, the novel is dark, crisp and sleek. It is about the narrative, not the visuals. The spies should blend in, not stand out, to perform their jobs successfully.

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For the most part the story flows in the same direction. Perceval is not a punk/counter cultural young gun but rather an old and distinguished station leader. With a more subdued demeanor, it is neither hard nor easy to read malicious intent in his words. Not enough info is there to pass judgement early on and claim he is a double agent, much less leader of any gang or Ice Men. If Lorraine ever had physical proof that he was the leak, she burnt it or disposed of it, just like in the movie. We learn of this after the briefing ends and closer to the end of the book with no further action or interaction with the Russians. It ends with the twist, which may be hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film prior to reading the material.

The entire Spyglass storyline is used as a distraction in the novel but has a bit more meat in the screenplay. He knew the names, proof that the list was real and tangible, vs in the novel where he never actually confirms he even handled it. The character fades into the background quickly, and is assassinated to prove a point: Lorraine and Perceval have been made. French agent Pierre Lasalle comes into the fray claiming to have proof of Perceval’s betrayal, but we soon we are shown that the perpetrator of the double cross had been our Atomic Blonde all along.

It is worth mentioning that Delphine’s character was supposed to be Pierre but it was updated to make the story a bit more unique. Again, the movie was about the visual component of the story, and it needed a bit more flair to stand out from the pack of love stories that accompany the 007 rhetoric. Also, there is no apparent romantic link between James Gascoine (the agent that is killed during the opening sequence) and Lorraine in the novel. She isn’t ties down to a man, family or any other element that would explain her origin story or motivation. You are not given any information about who she is and what drives her. The director had carte blanche to develop her on screen as he saw fit, and he made her three times more fierce than drawn.

There are other minor differences that don’t change the storyline too much. Some of the extra conspirators, like the kids in East Berlin are added to expand on the atmosphere of the times and provide some historical commentary. They also provided a means to add German actor Til Schweiger into the plot which is always a treat for the movie buffs and nerds. (See the blog post on Atomic Blonde for more info on the movie.)

In the end, both versions are entertaining in their formats. Overall, an avid reader and movie buff as myself can get through both in an evening. I was not disappointed by either nor have reserved criticism for the sake of argument. I found both formats entertaining and relevant. Girl Power all the way. Enjoy Atomic Blonde, The Coldest City and prequel The Coldest Winter if you are interested in researching the subject further.

Happy hunting! 😎

 

She Changed Comics (Image)

Finally! A book about women who challenged and impacted the comic book industry. Featuring the likes of Gail Simone, Jill Thompson and Aline Komisnky, it is full of contemporary references that will resonate with comic book enthusiasts. Is it perfect? Close to it. Is it missing people? Even the editors say it probably does. Will it change the mind of the men in the medium or serve as proof that women can illustrate and pen graphic stories? Hopefully so. Does it matter/is it relevant for the times we live in? Yes.

Why?

Women have fought for decades to bring their perspective into the mainstream media and it seems to be paying off. We see more female led stories, female written, inked and edited materials. How did this come about? Because the women featured in this book never gave up on their dream and desire to share their imagination and experiences with the rest of humanity. Some of their work has become so iconic or instrumental for society’s understanding of change that it is featured in curricula throughout the United States and beyond!

Censorship, persecution and discrimination were never far behind these ladies who range in age, gender, race, religion and culture. The comics movement is international, and not confined to the Western world therefore it has many faces and backgrounds. There is room to build a more robust anthology and document the entire history of women in this field. I hope Image and other publishers seriously consider investing in expanding the project in the near future to paint a better picture of the struggles of women and minorities in this industry.

Please share this review, buy the book, and share with the women in your life. The materials at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (cbldf.org/she-changed-comics) and follow up on those artists that catch your eye. There is also suggested reading provided under each profile in the book that are worth following up, especially if you recognize works you are currently reading or are familiar with. That’s how I found Persepolis (buy/rent On Demand) and The Diary of a Teenage Girl (blog linked here).

Enjoy!

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the screenplay focuses on the sexual awakening of 15 year old Minnie Goetz during 1970 San Francisco. Armed with her cassette player and recorder, she chronicles the ups and downs of sex, her need and desire to explore the subject fully, while documenting her escapades for posterity.

The story starts with Minnie’s declaration that she wants to have sex. Her targeted paramour, her mom’s 35 year old boyfriend Monroe. Despite their 20 year age difference they embark on a journey to find love and happiness between the drugs, alcohol, lies and insecurities of the times. When Monroe isn’t available, our protagonist looks for other means to feel touched and wanted, showing us how emotion and desire can make or break us. Through it all, she faces slut shaming and rejection from the ones she loves as her secrets are revealed.

Forty years ago, this type of work was unheard of, even in the underground comix scene, were the author gained respect and notoriety. Women then found a voice, shaping the medium to express their concerns about life, love and gender roles, reaching a broader, more receptive, audience. Even though Phoebe was part of the zine and underground movement it wasn’t until 2002 that she combined her notorious prose and graphics to share her take on the life of a teenage girl amidst feminism and the sexual revolution. Her work is admired by her peers and held in high regard. (See the She Changed Comics website for more info.)

The movie stars Bel Powley (Minnie), Alexander Skarsgård (Monroe) and Kristen Wigg (Charlotte, Minnie’s mom), with appearances by Christopher Meloni (Pascal) as Minnie’s ex-step dad. Watch On Demand, or stream online.

Enjoy!

Mischief Managed

August literally started off with a bang. At 2:35 am on the 1rst someone backed up a truck to our single car port garage door and bent it in. Ugh! Zach rush down the stairs and woke us up, but we figure the crumpling aluminum must have perturbed our slumber and nudged us out of sleep. It took a good 30 mins for Z to calm down and he hasn’t slept away from us since.

The house, folks, is not even a year old and this happens. Our deductible was higher than the repair cost, shaking my head (smh), so it was funded out of pocket. Whomever did this better have a good excuse. This ordeal has not been cool, especially since the cameras failed to catch the perps. (Line of sight issues.) The bad luck has to turn. We still have no yard and now this happens. Less money to reinvest in the property; more hassle to get things settled into place.

As long as they didn’t target our house and the other two neighboring dwellings just cause we could all afford the repairs, I can be at peace. Adds fuel to the fire, this whole you can afford it rhetoric. Sad. No one’s property should be stolen or vandalized based on that premise. Just because a person has means it doesn’t give you the right to decide how their money is to be spent. And no, not all damages to property are covered by insurance. Leave a note. Do the right thing.

I need a vacation…

Ozark (Netflix)

“Their last resort.” A clever tagline for a show that keeps painting its main characters into a corner. It isn’t enough that the Byrde family had to flee Chicago to save their lives from Mexican Cartel lord Del Rio; their arrival at the Ozarks got them more drama than they could handle.The bad luck never stopped following them, and as a family, now they have to figure out how to launder 8 million dollars to save their own hides.

MV5BODIyNzk5NDg5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE5NjA5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Marty (Jason Bateman) made a deal with the devil and now his accounting skills can’t save him from his own ambitious plans. Thinking that the vacationing town could provide a decent money laundering front, he sets for the promise land only to find it was a bust. The local poppy farmers have cornered the illegal business market forcing Marty to change his approach. A hotel, strip club, a church, and a funeral home later, his scheming is so convoluted that even the FBI can’t figure out his strategy.

Ozark also stars Esai Morales as Del Rio, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde. It is streaming now on Netflix.

The Sliding Door v Zach

When people say “he/she has the persistence of a pitbull” they weren’t kidding! Our pit-lab mix Zach loves to assert his dominance over certain areas of his realm (aka our new house) and he will not budge until he gets his way. Stubborn. Will cry, whine and bark until you fulfill certain requests. His crown jewel is asking us to keep the sliding door open so he can access the yard at his own volition.

The fun part is that my husband refuses to leave the door open during certain times of the day. Therefore, Z goes outside and comes back to a closed door. He proceeds to inform us he want to come in, which my husband refuses to do. “Open the door so I can go out again, bro”. We get caught in this dance of pausing whatever we are doing to open and close the door behind him. Guess my original idea of getting a sliding door opener is back on the drawing board.

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As I type this, Zach is inside the house staring into the great outdoors. He loves the smells and sounds of the yard. The door, to him, a mere accomplice, that lets him see what is happening right outside his domain. The truth is they are allies, not enemies, and we had yet to realize it. With the sliding door as his co-conspirator and gateway to freedom, Z always wins.

Gone (Investigation Discovery)

Gone is a different take on true crime murder and disappearance mysteries: by the end of the show we are left with a closed case. These one hour documentaries aren’t trying to solve a crime but rather show the humanity of the victims and their loved ones, who faced the cruel reality of waiting years, even decades, to know what happened to those taken too soon.

What is refreshing about this brand new show is that not all cases have a suspect; some missing folks turned out to have disappeared due to freak accidents. In its storytelling, the show attempts to communicate the sorrow and helplessness of waiting for a loved one to return while knowing that there is a chance that they have been long gone. Even though the relief is palpable when they recount the ending of each missing person’s case, they make sure you understand why their pain is relevant.

For those who are not well versed in these types of cases, the episodes refer to the laws of the time to explain why officers handled the missing case report information in a particular manner. Failures to rescue victims in time resulted in new procedures that enhanced how we all react to abductions. Amber Alerts, security cameras and other tools have been deployed to speed up the process of finding those who have disappeared into thin air. Every report, for an adult or a child, is taken seriously.

Watch Gone on Mondays at 9/8 pm, or at 6pm in PST on ID, Investigation Discovery.

Cold Justice (OXYGEN)

Kelly Siegler is a retired Texas prosecutor who dedicates her time to help solve cold cases. For three straight seasons, she has helped evaluate over 50 cases, with more coming in season 4. In what Wikipedia and IMDB tout as a mix of CSI and Cold Case, the investigations are furthered to a point where new and old suspects can be presented as prime candidates for Grand Jury indictments. They leave the families and communities sighing a sense of relief whenever they find out who is the murderer amongst them.

It was refreshing to see a woman investigator at the helm with the credentials to conduct the best possible analysis of the facts. Helping local law enforcement isn’t easy, but her know how and success rate as a prosecutor (show opening speech claims 100%) make her indispensable to solving these cases. So far, most episodes have resulted in good leads, and I wish they had the episodes on Xfinity On Demand to assess how the show was presented prior to its move to Oxygen from TNT.

New episodes of Cold Justice air Saturdays at 8pm.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

A few years ago I met a guy that works at JPL. We all treated him like a rock star and with reason: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is every engineering nerds dream job, right up there with Skunk Works and Disney’s Imagineers. My pal has pictures with every actor and director involved in space movies, as their mock ups are borrowed and used in films like Interstellar and Armageddon. Shortly after meeting him, his team told me they were hiring. Had I read Donna Shirley’s Managing Martians sooner, I would have been all in, even if it meant moving to Pasadena, CA.

Asking around, I knew there had to be more stories about the women that worked there. What I wasn’t expecting was that there would be so many! You see, depending on the statistics and who you ask, there is at least 18% of women in engineering. Companies like GE want to #BalanceTheEquation and hire over 20,000 women into leadership positions. The cool part is JPL has been hiring women since the age of the human computers, and one of these women, Sue Finley, has actually been there so long she is one of NASA’s longest tenured employees. 50+ until her retirement in 2016.

The book itself features the story of a few of the women following them from the moment they got hired through multiple pregnancies, and rehirings. Women didn’t have the luxury of maternity leave so their opportunity to serve ended the moment they started to show. Barbara Paulson, Helen Ling, Macie, Margie, Sue, Silvia and Ginny stand out off the top of my head, with many more serving their country and science valiantly. Check out their stories and the cool satellite images inside the book. Nathalia Holt did a wonderful job relaying the story of these marvelous women. The Rocket Girls will always reign supreme; we honor their memory reaching for the stars, building atop their legacy.

To infinity and beyond!

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