Showing posts with label television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label television. Show all posts

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First two episodes of "Marvel's Jessica Jones"

Here is where I don my comic hipster cap and harken back to the days when I was picking up Brian Michael Bendis' Alias during its initial run.  Yeah, yeah.  I was reading Alias before reading Alias was cool.*

You have to keep in mind, and the kids will never believe this, but Bendis did not arrive on this Earth fully formed as a successful writer of Avengers and X-Men.  He started in indie comics (if you're never read Torso and Goldfish, correct that situation), with a particularly noirish/ crime-ridden bent to his work, which was how I picked it up.  It's good stuff.

Marvel was in a really weird spot when he showed up.  The Spider-Clone debacle,  merging with an action figure company and, basically, the 90's had nearly done the entire company in.  At the time, they were a publicly traded company, and their stock totally, totally tanked.  It was ridiculous.  For all the warm fuzzies the kids have about that 1992-style X-Men of Many Pockets, that shit almost killed Marvel the first time around under the stewardship of Bob Harras, currently steward of DC Comics (hey, DC, how are sales over there, pals?).

So, by the turn of the Millennium, new leadership was installed and Marvel was trying all sorts of stuff, including not-quite-Vertigo type titles under the Knights (basically PG-13) and Max (basically R-rated) banners.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wherein I just gush about "The Flash"

I keep meaning to write a post about Fargo,currently airing on FX.  But, for right now, I just recommend you watch the hell out of that show.  But I suspect writing about Fargo will take a super long time, I'm not going to do that tonight.  And, I'm not going to talk about Supergirl, which was actually not half-bad on Monday.

Instead, because its a Tuesday and its fun as hell to discuss, let's talk about The Flash.

this is not the actual Flash, btw

There are a large number of reasons I tune in every week to see the Scarlet Speedster, and I don't think I talk about it enough, but Grant Gustin is actually really pretty great as Barry Allen.  The guy has taken a character that comic nerds always insisted was "boring" (a diagnosis I never fully understood), and found the kind of guy it would take to be The Flash.  I know, it's crazy to think that a level-headed person with a sense of responsibility would put on tights as readily as the now omni-present anti-hero, but Gustin and a crack writing team have managed to make Barry a buyable, believable character in the middle of a very, very strange world.

And, speaking of strange...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Supergirl Watch: Season 1, Episode 3

Much like Smallville, I suspect that any critical viewing of Supergirl will be an exercise in shooting fish in a barrel.  So, I've brought my 12-gauge and CBS has provided the barrel.  Let's maim some metaphorical fish.

good thing this bronze statue is actually lead.  Hope no one misses it so I don't have to find a pipe or literally anything but this valuable looking statue.

I came to many realizations watching this week's episode.

  1. Reactron is not a terribly creative villain.  He was kind of a one-trick-pony/ no personality guy in the comics, and here...  more of same.  Why did I used to like that guy?  Costume design?  No idea.  I like the name, though.  Could be that's it.
  2. If Cat Grant were anymore one-note on this show, she'd be a tone in Koyaanisqatsi
  3. The writers have just absolutely nowhere to go with Win.  That dude is going to die horribly so anyone can give him a passing thought and he'll ever have mattered in the show.  Also, I am not sure working a low-tier job at CatCo would set you up to hack satellites, get you $30K in equipment, and all the rest of the Smallville Watchtower responsibility he's taken on.  He's so forgettable, I have to place him every time he appears in frame.
  4. I have no idea what Kara's sister's name is after 3 hours of television.  She's just "Kara's-Sister".
  5. By episode 6, not one character in the DCU will have a secret identity unknown to Win.  truly, that man is the nexus of the DCU

Three episodes in, I'm a little stunned at how badly the writers are handling Cat Grant.  I have no huge expectations, but that the "interview" scene was incredibly poorly managed after the big build up last episode.  It's like Cat's terrible dialog is infecting everyone else's forgettable or fortune-cookie dialog.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

40 Years of Lynda Carter Wonder Woman

This weekend marks the 40th Anniversary of the debut of the TV show Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter.

If you've never seen the show, or not watched it since the 1970's, it's my official position that you should correct that situation.  Over three seasons across two networks and a story taking place across 30-odd years, the show went from post-Batman '66 campiness to a straight family-friendly action-drama and covered Nazis, alien invasion, small time crooks, leprechauns and super-dolphins.  And robots and smart-assed computers.  And twirling.  So much twirling.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Evil Dead Watch: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 1

It was with absolutely zero trepidation that I plunked down my subscription for the otherwise seemingly useless Starz channels that I could watch the new TV series, Ash vs. Evil Dead.  I'm not a grade-A screwhead, but I am a fan of the Evil Dead movies, star Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi.

We also get Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago as the new generation to ride shotgun with Ash.

It certainly didn't hurt my decision to get onboard that the show would co-star Lucy Lawless, who - spoilers - does not actually appear in the pilot aside from her credit.  So, sorry about that.

What the pilot does have is a remarkable mix of comedy and horror in the Evil Dead 2 tradition, a supporting cast that seems to fit well into the Evil Dead spirit, and a parallel storyline with actress Jill Marie Jones, who looks vaguely familiar because she was briefly on Sleepy Hollow.

I don't really know what you people want to hear.  It's a first episode, and much like Supergirl, it's working itself out as a show, but it's one that will rely perhaps on less of a single tone for the characters.  Because if Bruce Campbell has figured anything out in this life, it's how to be Ash and what will make his fans cheer.  The show is a hard-MA or R rating, and the gore factor is tuned up to Evil Dead 2 levels with improbable amounts of blood in the human body, and Raimi clearly happy to exploit CGI to get more creative exploding heads and whatnot.  While the non-practical FX take a beat to adjust to, of course it makes sense that the show would exploit the potential there.

Ash seems to have accidentally unleashed hell on Earth once again, but rather than doing so in a secluded cabin, he's let it out in suburban Michigan in a way that, frankly, it seems surprising he hasn't done in the previous 30 years since the events of Evil Dead 2 and his return to the world, which we can pin to 1985, meaning his return from Army of Darkness occurred during the correct timeframe.

Anyway, I'm pretty much in the bag for this one, so don't expect a lot of critical viewing of this show.  My biggest fear was it would be neither funny nor scary, and before we ever even get the title up, bother were more than taken care of.

Oh, the show must have drawn in a massive flood of Starz subscribers, because it was renewed before it ever even aired.  So, look forward to two seasons of Evil Dead mayhem.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Supergirl TV Watch: Season 1, Episode 2

Okay.  As I suspected it might be, Episode 2 was a far cry better than the pilot.  So, everybody settle the heck down.

Yes, the episode was still rife with issues within the episode, and it's hard to see how some of the story elements are going to avoid narrative traps and holes, but I wasn't just grimacing my way through the episode and, despite the bleached out lighting and utter lack of eyebrows on Calista Flockhart (she had eyebrows in the 90's.  I suspect Harrison Ford has taken them.), her dialog wasn't just setting me on the edge this go-round.

I don't get why DC Entertainment can't seem to decide what the hell the "S" stands for.  You just spent millions on an ad campaign telling people the "S" stood for "Hope" and now you're saying it stands for "Stronger Together", which is kinda corporate-retreaty-trust-fallsy.  Hope was fine.  I was kind of telling my TV "please don't do this...  please just say 'Hope' and move on."  But, nope.  This is why people wind up hating comics.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Preacher" trailer arrives from AMC

The first trailer has arrived for AMC's adaptation of the 90's Vertigo comics series, Preacher.

Here you go:

The series was written by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon for, I believe, every regular issue and most of the Preacher one-shots, back when DC had a wing that was responsible for actually doing some fairly creative things under the watchful eye of Vertigo mastermind Karen Berger.

I don't write about his work a lot, and I probably should, but sometimes I think Garth Ennis is the last of that 90's-era bunch who has managed to stick it out, continue to get better specifically at comics writing, and is the last of the generation that believed comics were on an upward climb toward telling stories that people would care about rather than churning through nostalgia, giving comics form to internet memes, and maybe becoming a respectable form of literature rather than pop-culture artifact and detritus.

Sure, he dabbles in some of that, too, but even when Ennis has written superheroes, he's written some really damn good superheroes, from his stint on Hitman (his Superman/ Tommy Monaghan interactions were pure gold), and he did some excellent work with Punisher.   I may not have found The Boys particularly my thing, but, man, any war comic he does is well worth the read.  War Stories and Battlefields are both just absolutely stellar titles, as well as his work with Enemy Ace at DC and Phantom Eagle at Marvel.

He's able to swing effortlessly between some jet black gallows humor, shocking violence and genuinely heartfelt moments, often all in the same comic.

In short - he's one of the best writers working today, and maybe ever, in comics.

To say that Preacher spoke rather well to me when it hit the stands while I was in college is a bit of an understatement.  Between Preacher and Morrison's Invisibles, I felt like I was getting made-to-order comics, or - more realistically - comics that gave me something new I didn't know I'd be interested in.

Where The Invisibles sometimes lost me in British or dated references I couldn't yet follow, Preacher - despite (or especially because it was) the fact that the creators weren't American or Texan - made a hell of a lot of sense to me.  Scenes took place all over, but the heart of the comic was in Texas, with roots in Louisiana.  Scenes took place on Congress Avenue in Austin and just outside The Alamo in San Antonio.  I, too, had out of control friends and whatnot.

In retrospect, I hate to say how much influence Preacher and The Invisibles had on my 1997-penned screenplay for Screen Writing class, The Hypothetical Elevator.  I was absolutely unaware of the influence at the time, but, boy howdy - yes.

I'm not sure what to think of a TV series.  Of course I'll give it a shot, and I trust AMC to try to do something interesting with the ideas from the series.  I can see bits and pieces of the characters in the trailer, even if it's clear, already, that they have no intention of sticking with the comics on a page-to-screen basis.  That's fine, it's worked out okay for The Walking Dead.  And you really don't want everyone spoiling the TV series by just picking up the comics - which ran about 75 issues if you include the specials, I guess, and had a concrete conclusion.  No need to get folks deciding that they don't need to watch the show already.

Sure, I will absolutely be tuning in.  Should be colorful stuff if they do anything like the comics, but it's going to be some seriously MA-Rated TV in the process.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Super Watch: Supergirl Pilot on CBS

So.  Here's where I'm the jerk who didn't like the pilot of CBS's new Supergirl TV show that everyone is so excited about.

Look, sometimes I forget just how terrible 90% of network television truly is.  It's no secret network TV has its formulas, its trope for every situation, and never met a bit of exposition it didn't like.  I get that they had to get the character introduced and get a lot of things started quickly, and in the post-Lost wake, the networks think they've learned their lesson and are absolutely terrified of not giving the audience every detail about a show in the first episode.

And I say this as someone who likes Supergirl.  A lot. I've got Action 252 hanging up in my office in a frame (please don't rob me).  I've read Silver, Bronze, 90's, 00's and even gave the trainwrecky New 52 Supergirl a shot.  I'm not a stranger to the character.  And, while I actually like the general tone of "Kimmy Schmidt as Supergirl", because I was really convinced I'd never see that take again (thank you, Sterling Gates, wherever you are, for giving me that Supergirl, oh, so briefly)...  The show is a mess.

Yes, it is a show for children and for those who don't know Supergirl, and no one is under any legal or moral obligation to maintain fidelity to the comics.  I think Marvel has proved that's all pretty unnecessary so long as you get the basic details down.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Flash Watch: Season 2 - Episode 2 "Flash of Two Worlds"

In my book, there are a few places you can say that really changed comics.  The publication of New Fun Comics, Action Comics #1, Detective #27, Sensation Comics #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #1, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen...  stuff like that.

We can break down how each of those changed comics, and some were in large, cultural shift-y kinds of ways, while others took more time to reveal themselves.

Flash #123 is one of the places you can put your finger on that changed comic books in ways no one anticipated at the time.  Pretty remarkable that between the first appearance of Barry Allen in Showcase #4, which I'm saying is the start of the Silver Age, circa October 1956, and the Flash of Two Worlds issue, circa 1961, we saw two huge changes in the state of comics thanks to one character (and, I'd argue, to a lesser extent in how Barry Allen dealt with his villains in those early issues).  Today, it's almost impossible to imagine modern comics from any publisher without the concept of a multiverse (see Marvel's current Secret Wars event or the many worlds of Archie Comics).

The multiverse exploded the possibilities for comics, for alternate universes, and became a staple of sci-fi in everything from Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" episode to the existence of shows like Sliders and Fringe.  And, of course, is part of mainstream physics at this moment in time.

Before we get too far into discussing how cool I find the multiverse, I want to also mention that I have a tremendous amount of affection, in general, for the characters of the Flash titles, and Jay Garrick of the Silver Age and Jay Garrick of the post COIE/ pre-New-52 definitely falls into that category.

So, of course, it was tremendously fun to see Jay put on the helmet on a legitimate TV show.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Flash Watch: Season 2 - Episode 1 "The Man Who Saved Central City"

Last year I tuned into the CW hour-long superhero action/drama The Flash expecting the same crippling disappointment I've found with most things DC Comics in recent years, Dark Knight Trilogy aside.   At my core, I always want these things to work, so you got to show up and see what they do.  And, in this case, I think The Flash is doing it right.

Sure, the show dabbles in some of the angst and romantic melodrama you've come to expect from the network that turned Superman into a weepy teen for a solid decade with Smallville, but unlike doe-eyed Superman, this show understood that a program needs momentum, not endless circling of the drain when it comes to character and plot development.

Of course, the creatives behind The Flash was never embarrassed of the source material to begin with, but then they went ahead and just swung for the fences, because Barry Allen does not do "slow burn".  In Season 1 we got a huge amount of the Flash's Rogues Gallery on screen, up to and including Gorilla Grodd (and I got Captain Cold, who is secretly one of my favorite villains anywhere in comics).  And we saw a lot of other DC heroes running around, like Firestorm.  All of that would have been a lot of fluff and of no consequence, if, at the center of it, we didn't also get a pretty solid story about a kid who saw his mother die in a blur of mysterious red and yellow, and saw a man in yellow kill his mother right in front of him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Flash, Season 2 debuts Tuesday!

I don't talk about the character as much as Superman or Wonder Woman, but I think it's been pretty clear to longtime readers that I'm a fan of DC's speedster dynasty and the whole Flash concept.  From when Carmine Infantino drew his first strobe-image of Barry Allen in motion, this was a book that looked pretty straightforward, but which got really weird, really fast way back in the Silver Age, and it never turned back.*

And, lest we forget, the whole concept of a multi-verse in comics was spawned in the classic "Flash of Two Worlds" story in The Flash #123, back in 1961.

Speaking of, Tuesday sees the season premier of The Flash as it enters its sophomore year.  And, look who shows up:

hell, yes
Jay Garrick has been vital to the Barry Allen Flash comics since that 1961 issue, and it's awesome to see he'll get screentime and, I hope, a recurring role.

Last season was the most fun I had watching any one TV show.  Maybe it's not as intricate and adult as Mad Men or The Americans, but it does exactly what I want a Flash TV show to do - be super weird, have lots of fun twists and turns, use super speed in new ways all the time, and make Barry Allen an all right kind of guy.

They threw everything at the wall last season, and it mostly worked.  Now we see what happens when they don't just worry about time-travel, they worry about the multiverse.  Let's hope this isn't the season where they drop the ball.

Here's some posters:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Doc Watch: PBS's American Experience - Walt Disney, Part 1

True story.  The first birthday wish I remember making, and I'm not sure that I thought the mechanics of how this would work out or the sheer body horror of it all, but I distinctly remember wishing I'd become Mickey Mouse.  This went on for a few years until I read an article, probably in Dynamite! or something, about the fact there had been an honest-to-god guy named Walt Disney and it wasn't just a brand name like "Buster Brown" or "Cracker Jack".

Then, for a few years, I wished to become Walt Disney.  Then I wanted mutant powers or some such and all that went away.

I had a pretty good idea of what Walt Disney had done for entertainment.  Despite the fact the guy was dead (I was semi-obsessed with the fact that both Walt and Elvis were dead, but very present in our lives) I watched his cartoons, his TV network, his live-action adventure films, went to his amusement parks, watched his nature documentaries and I had a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was a pal.  My interest in animation and the entertainment industry continued, and at some point in high school I bought a Walt Disney biography and read one or two animation histories.  And not all of it was rosy.

In a lot of ways, reading up on Walt Disney was how I learned to reconcile the good with the bad when it comes to the folks we revere.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

TV Comedy Noir Watch: The Spoils Before Dying (2015)

I am absolutely flabbergasted that the 2014 IFC mini-series The Spoils of Babylon is not more widely discussed.  It had an all-star cast, a distinctive narrative and visual style and did something most comedy utterly fails to do - continue to tell a story that's still sort of interesting as the thing goes along.

The 2015 follow up is The Spoils Before Dying.

Now, follow me here.

Both series are framed by introductions of each episode by author, screenwriter, producer, director Eric Jonrosh.  Jonrosh was the sort of high-literary figure of the 20th century that's since been kind of forgotten as Fifty Shades of Grey has come to define the modern American novel.   Jonrosh also embodies the worst excesses of the brightest minds of the 20th Century and their more, uh, colorful golden years.  And is played by Will Ferrell in a beard, old age make-up and about 150 extra pounds.

this is not actually me, your humble blogger, but I understand the confusion

The Spoils Before Dying is less the sprawling 1970's-era TV mini-series than its predecessor and, in a tale unrelated to the prior series, a noir-jazz-Mickey Spillane mash-up pastiche.  Again, the story itself would probably be fine as a drama, played straight.  I'm not kidding.  It's a tight little murder mystery with Chandler-esque turns and a nice upping of the ante in the final act.

But that's not really so much what they're up to.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Television Weekend: "Wet Hot American Summer - First Day of Camp" and "Penny Dreadful"

I don't often "binge watch" TV, but when you can get through a whole season of a TV show in four hours, sign me up.

The 2001-era movie, Wet Hot American Summer, has, apparently, become a staple of Netflix viewing.  Or something.  Because, for some reason, 14 years later, Netflix has doubled-down and produced 8 episodes of a TV show that should be insanely expensive to produce, just off actor's salaries.  My guess is that everyone is working at scale or something, because, really, what was a herd of mostly up-and-coming actors in 2001 are now established either in Hollywood or smaller comedy circles.  The Netflix series has also added a bucket-load of additional actors in other roles, including Jon Hamm (who has just shockingly good comedy chops, as he's demonstrated multiple times over the years), Michael Cera, and a few I don't want to spoil.

If you missed the original movie, the conceit was a play on "the summer camp picture", which was a staple of the 1980's, from comedies to horror films.   The adult-aged actors played 16-year-old camp counselors, and, Friday the 13th aside, worked not just aspects of those movies, but of camp, in general.*

The original movie squishes a lot into a relatively short running time.  It's a great ensemble piece playing out over the last day of camp as everyone concludes their unfinished business, from romance to preventing a rogue satellite from landing on the camp.  You're either with the movie or you're against it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Rowdy Roddy Piper Merges With The Infinite

just look at that magnificent bastard

Working a crowd isn't easy, especially doing so as the bad guy.  But, man, somehow Rowdy Roddy Piper became not the villain people loved to hate - people just plain ol' loved him.

I don't follow wrestling now at all, and my window of interest when I was a kid was pretty narrow, so my viewership occurred primarily during that early 1980's window where the WWF was suddenly everywhere, and you had colorful characters like Jimmy "SuperFly" Snuka, George "The Animal" Steele, Mr. Fuji, the Iron Shiek, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

At age 8, I liked it a lot.  The plots were straightforward.  Mean Gene Okerlund had a cool, dry wit we all admired, and it was a lot like watching live-action comics, but only as complicated as the Hostess ads.  There were good guys and bad guys, and sometimes they switched.

Among the wrestlers I liked, I counted Rowdy Roddy Piper.  That guy had moxie.  He was hilarious, he didn't take anyone seriously, and he was just fun to watch.  I just assumed because I liked him he was a good guy who happened to talk trash or something.  He had a kilt, bagpipes, and a mouth that didn't really stop.  But, no, he was a bad guy.

In fact, his gig was more or less that he was the biggest SOB in wrestling, pretty keen with an insult or gag or low-blow.  All with a cocksure attitude backed up with wins, and a fanbase that adored the act.  The clips you watch now are, uh... un-PC, to put it mildly.  But he didn't need to be un-PC, he just needed to be a needling jerk.

In fact, he's been voted the best "heel" in wrestling multiple times.

That, my friends, is the sort of life goal I aspire to.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Another Eric Jonrosh masterpiece has resurfaced - The Spoils Before Dying

Finally. At last. Eric Jonrosh's most controversial work makes it to television.  Jonrosh is a bitter pill for much of America to swallow, but swallow it we should, for Jonrosh's work isn't just about America.  It's about US.

A spiritual sequel to The Spoils of Babylon, I cannot wait to see Jonrosh's look at a very different America finally get it's release.

Here's the trailer for Babylon, if you've somehow missed it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Justice League TV Show - Secret Origins

I don't know what the hell is going on with my cable at home, but it isn't good.  Likely a mixture of the fact that we haven't updated our boxes or our modem in years and the technology has obviously continued to change.  So, we're basically cable-less until we get a technician out sometime next week.

In this spirit, Jamie got into the DVDs, and popped out with Disc 1 of the first season of Justice League, the 2001ish launch of the DC Heroes team-up show featuring "The Magnificent Seven":  Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and The Flash (traditional magnificent seven swapping Aquaman for Hawgirl, but I get the motivations behind the swap and, frankly, it worked beautifully).

We watched the first three episodes, also known as the Justice League movie, "Secret Origins", wherein some pretty well designed aliens invade Earth and the seven disparate heroes team up as a unit for the first time, at least in the world of the Timm-verse that started with Batman: The Animated Series and continued with Superman: The Animated Series, both series legends in superhero animation in their own time and something I can't believe people don't talk about more instead of praising the just seriously gawdawful 90's X-Men and other cartoons.*