Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Defenders Assemble But Not Yet Though

Yup, this one is a bit of a Marvel/Netflix special in some ways as I completed two of their shows and started the other one though.

Game Of Thrones: The last three episodes of Season Seven certainly ramped up basically everything, didn't it? We had some welcome deaths (Littlefinger, you won't be missed), some shocks (Viseron being taken over by the Night King) and that melee with Jon, Daenerys and Cersei as the latter took her self preservation to a new level, which meant even isolating Jaime of all people. The reveal of Jon's heritage from last season got more expansion during the worst/most clickbait grabbing moment and with six episodes left before the end in 2019 (the current rumour for the eighth season to air), the final moments as the White Walkers make their biggest attack yet was a hell of a way to end an overall excellent penultimate season.

Iron Fist: The weakest of the Marvel/Netflix shows still, but I'll admit things did pick a little in the second half of the season. Adding both Bakuto and Davos into the mix livened up the interactions between Danny, Colleen and Claire as the Hand storyline took something of a brief pause in the finale while Ward and Joy both had to deal with the fallout of Harold's increasingly unhinged behaviour. While I do think there were times where Finn Jones struggled a bit in the role, I am hoping that between The Defenders (which I've just started) and this show's proposed second season the show gets a better handle on Danny. There's certainly potential for that.

Luke Cage: Like it's other Marvel series, this is a show that could do with better pacing but saying that, the second half was pretty solid stuff. I liked the Mariah/Shades team up after Cottonmouth was taken out of the picture along with Luke and Diamondback finally going head to head. The finale didn't feel quite like an event compared to other ones but it was a good way to end the series. I also have to give props to both Misty and Claire, both of whom got better as the series went along, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of them next season.

Midnight, Texas: I've been sticking with this show and while it's not gripping as True Blood was back in the day, it's still a lot of fun to watch. Focusing on characters like Lemuel, Olivia and Fiji certainly doesn't hurt the series as they're easily the three strongest of the bunch but there isn't anyone I actively dislike. Manfred and Creek's budding relationship isn't hugely compelling but it's nice enough and the mix of baddies like a Succubus and that biker gang does keep things moving along at a nice pace along with the arc hints here and there. Just five more episodes to go.

Orange Is The New Black: I've loved this season and given that the riot arc could've easily wore thin after a few episodes, I'm genuinely surprised that the writers managed to get a whole season's worth of a story out of it. Of course it had to come to an end but with the cliffhanger we've got, there's also the chance we might lose a character or two going into the show's sixth season. In terms of flashbacks, I quite enjoyed Piper and Alex's (even with the return of Larry) and their engagement was rather sweet. Next season should be very interesting.

The Defenders: Blitzing through both Luke Cage and Iron Fist in the last week meant getting to the first two episodes of this team up and so far, so good. I've loved seeing the various characters from each show interacting with one another and while we've only had half the gang interacting so far - Luke and Danny, Matt and Jessica, the build up has certainly been rather fun to see. As for Alexandra/Madame Gao/The Hand stuff - at least it's actually going somewhere now and with Elektra and Stick in the mix, I can imagine a lot of bad shit is about to go down in the remaining episodes of this crossover series.

- Ben Platt will be guesting in Will & Grace while Minnie Driver will also reprise her role as Lorraine in the upcoming season.
- Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose will be returning for Season 11 of The X Files.
- Lena Dunham will be playing Valerie Solanas in American Horror Story: Cult. Emma Roberts will be playing a newscaster named Serina Belinda for an episode. Angela Bassett will direct the ninth episode in the upcoming season.
- UK viewers will be able to see The Gifted on FOX from October.
- UK viewers also can see the first season of Star on 5* from this Thursday. It's also been rumoured that Empire will be moved there as well instead of E4 for it's upcoming fourth season.
- Jane The Virgin's fourth season will now be 17 episodes.
- Richard Flood will recur in Shameless's eighth season.
- Kevin Ryan will guest in Once Upon A Time's seventh season.
- Anna Diop and Teagan Croft have been cast as Starfire and Raven respectively for the upcoming live action Teen Titans TV series.
- Katee Sackhoff has a recurring in The Flash's fourth season as the villain, Blacksmith.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Review of The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith & Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers & Jared Stern & John Whittington
Directed by Chris McKay

Batman (to Joker): "There is no "us." Batman and Joker are not a thing. I don't need you. I don't need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does."

After the more dark depiction of the Dark Knight in Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it seems that Lego felt compelled to do their own spin-off on the Caped Crusader with a version that's more of a gently mocking commentary on the brooding hero than anything else.

Will Arnett reprises his role as Batman, living the high life in Gotham City, catching the bad guys and enjoying the admiration that comes with it but at the same time, he's a Batman that has some serious issues with letting people in. Even the poor Joker (Zach Galifianakis) finds himself being rather friend zoned by Batman and that results in something truly interesting.

As we all know, the Joker is a man who clamours attention and when Batman himself is too emotionally closed off to admit that the Clown Prince is his greatest enemy, the Joker's only choice is to surrender himself and virtually everyone else in the Rogues Gallery to new Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson).

Of course Batman suspects that something's afoot and along with his adopted son, Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera), he's soon breaking into the Fortress of Solitude, attempting to distract Superman (Channing Tatum) while his new protege steals a projector in order to send the baddies into the Phantom Zone.

However, what Batman didn't bargain on was the Joker actually wanting to go there in the first place where he manages to escape but not before bringing the likes of the Daleks, the Wicked Witch of the West, Sauron, Godzilla, King Kong, Agent Smith and Voldemort to name a few in order to destroy Gotham once and for all while invading Wayne Island and breaking into the Batcave. That moment led to a hilarious mistake as the Joker assumed that Batman and Bruce Wayne were roommates.

With the new set of baddies reigning chaos on Gotham City, this finally meant that Batman had to put his "working alone" mantra to one side as Barbara became Batgirl, Robin became useful and Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) was just generally awesome as the new team and the Rogues Gallery worked together in order to stop the Joker's latest scheme.

That said, the biggest theme of this movie was getting Batman to accept that he wasn't alone and while it took nearly the end of the movie for him to embrace having a new family as well as a best enemy, it was still a fun journey to see unfold. The moment where both Batman and Joker admitted to hating one another is without a doubt one of the funniest and touching moments we've seen in that 75+ year relationship.

- I loved the various nods to previous Batman movies during this one. I also liked how the likes of King Tut and Condiment King also appears along with the usual suspects. Oh and the Shark Repellent bit too was hilarious.
- Mariah Carey popped up for a few scenes as the Mayor of Gotham City.
- A Justice League party without the Batman - sacrilege!
- The musical numbers made me laugh, but points especially for Who's the (Bat) Man.

The Lego Batman Movie is an unbridled joy. Purely silly, purely heartfelt and extremely funny, I regret that I didn't see the movie in the cinemas during it's release but catching up with it now, I'm really glad this was a success too. It's easily one of the daftest Batman movies you'll ever see but also one of the best too.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Town For Outcasts

Summer's nearly over but there's still be some highlights (and catching up for me) as I look into some of the recent stuff I've watched.

Game Of Thrones: It seems that moving this mammoth of a show to the summer for it's seventh and penultimate season hasn't hurt it in the slightest as the ratings have continued to impress. In spite of leaks and one truly unwarranted cameo from Ed Sheeran in the opening episode, this season has been amazing so far. We've had two epic battle sequences as both Cersei and Daenerys have fought for supremacy while the latter's meeting with Jon Snow has intensified pretty fast too. Along with some characters (Sand Snakes, Ellaria and Olenna) and the reunion of the three Stark children, this season certainly hasn't been idle so far and with three episodes left to go, I can't wait to see what else is in store for us.

Iron Fist: I'm halfway through this series and it's still in dire need of picking up the pace. Out of all the Marvel/Netflix shows, it's definitely emerging as the weakest as even I'm struggling a little with Finn Jones as Danny Rand. So far, he's been a bit too meh for my liking in the role. On the other hand, Colleen is more interesting, Claire has popped up and the Meachums are also picking up a little as well. The plotline with the Hand isn't much better than what we've gotten on Daredevil so far but hopefully it'll pick up in later episodes.

Luke Cage: Like it's other Marvel/Netflix show, there are some pacing issues but I am overall finding this one a bit better than the other one. Once again, you've got Claire Temple added into the mix and the ongoing rivalry between Luke and Cottonmouth has heated up nicely along with Mariah's own machinations as well. Much as I like Misty though, the show could do a little better with her other than her finding out about her corrupt partner and being a thorn for Luke though. I did however enjoy the flashbacks to how Luke got his powers though.

Midnight, Texas: Nine years ago, HBO adapted Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books and turned it into one of their most successful shows with True Blood, which ran for seven seasons. Now in 2017, NBC have done the same with one of Harris's more recent works and are probably hoping for a similar success story. This show has a lot in common with the former HBO hit  - a medium type protagonist, an assortment of colourful characters and an array of all kind of craziness and monsters that go bump in the night. Manfred might be our leading man but it's the other characters that I think people will stay for. Whether that's vampire Lemuel and hitwoman Olivia or witch Fiji (and her talking cat) or angel Joe and his husband, Chuy, this is a show that's hokey but filled with a memorable group of characters but whether or not it will around for long given NBC's history with supernatural themed shows is the other thing. Here's hoping though.

Orange Is The New Black: I have only two episodes left to go and I'm still rather surprised that the riot storyline hasn't completely tested my patience. Maybe it's because we've had some interesting flashbacks (Piscatella's) or the whole situation with Red and Piscatella coming to a head while Tasytee has also been trying to get Joe and Figuaro to actually work things out for the prisoners but either way, it's worked out pretty well so far. That said, after the last two episodes are watched, I do wonder how the show will go as things have definitely been changed a lot this season.

- Jeff Ward will have a recurring role in Agents Of Shield's fifth season. His character name has yet to be revealed.
- ITV are planning another adaptation of Pride & Prejudice for 2020 from the same production company as Poldark and Victoria.
- Hartley Sawyer has been cast as Elongated Man for Season 4 of The Flash.
- Carlos Bernard will play Maggie's father in Season 3 of Supergirl.
- Annabeth Gish will return for Season 11 of The X Files.
- Will & Grace has been renewed for a tenth season while it's upcoming ninth season will now be 16 episodes.
- Brianna Brown will recur in Dynasty's first season. Netflix have picked up the show for UK viewers.
- Emma Roberts will be returning for American Horror Story: Cult but Kathy Bates will not.
- Esai Morales and Benito Martinez will be back for How To Get Away With Murder's fourth season.
- Sydelle Noelle will recur in Arrow's upcoming sixth season.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

My Review of Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Written by Judd Winick
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Red Hood: "Tell me, how does that feel?"
Joker: "You know, it only hurts when I laugh. But hey... I gotta know. Who are you? You said we knew one another. You do seem really familiar. We double at the prom? Or maybe blow up a school bus together?"

And here's another animated movie adapting a popular comic within the Batman franchise. This time around, it's Under The Red Hood which starts with a handy recap of A Death In The Family where the Joker kidnapped and bashed in Jason Todd's Robin's brains in before an explosion killed him. Back in the late 1980's, people actually voted for the second Boy Wonder to be killed but you know, the thing about comic book characters is that very few of them actually stay dead for long.

Now a few decades later and Jason Todd is back, resurrected by the Lazarus Pit in some attempt by Ras al Ghul (Jason Isaacs) to give Bruce back his other son but the process went a bit wrong and now Jason has gone into a weird hybrid of vigilante meets serial killer by donning the moniker of Red Hood, a name formerly used by someone else all those years ago.

Voiced by Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles, Jason's on a one man mission of revenge against the Joker (John DiMaggio) and he does this by targeting Black Mask's (Wade Williams) criminal organisation, bringing it to it's knees and making the gangster so desperate to take out the Red Hood that the Joker suddenly becomes the best option here.

To say that Black Mask is a patsy in this story would almost be complimenting him. He's never been one of my favourite members of the Rogues Gallery but he's absolutely useless in this story. All he seems to do is shout like an imbecile at his beleaguered staff, with even one member Ms Li (Kelly Hu) treating him with little more than contempt and disdain for him. At no point in this movie is he remotely interesting or threatening as a villain.

As for the Joker, he's not got the best voice actor in this one. I've heard DiMaggio in other DC animated movie roles and he's fine but he simply doesn't cut it as the Joker, even though he's given a decent script to work with here. His Joker is certainly lethal in the flashbacks and the delight he takes when he realises that Jason is alive and crazy is amusing enough but the voice just doesn't sound right, no matter how many times I've seen the movie. Sometimes you just need a Mark Hamill for this type of movie.

As for Batman (Bruce Greenwood), he fares a little better but mostly he's reacting to Red Hood's antics or remembering Jason's formative years as Robin before their confrontation with the Joker in the warehouse. There's a nice supporting role for Nightwing (Neil Patrick Harris) who's a bit more cheerful but sadly he's also taken out of the mix a little too quickly for my liking. The movie does however end on a rather poignant and bittersweet note.

- Nice reference to The Killing Joke, which happened a year after the events of Jason's murder. Shame we didn't get an Oracle cameo in this one.
- Judd Winick wrote the comic and adapted this movie. Apparently he prefers the latter iteration.
- There's a clever reference to the Joker's first ever comic appearance with his prison number.
-  We've seen allusions to Jason's murder in two of the DCEU's movies. Oh and a brief Riddler cameo in flashbacks too.

A strong movie, Under The Red Hood provided a great adaptation of it's comic counterpart. While I do think the Joker could've been voiced better and found Black Mask useless, Jason made for a compelling character as Red Hood than he ever did as Robin and the reunion with him and Batman was definitely handled well.

Rating: 7 out of 10