Powers: Pilot (2015)

Powers tv

The pilot for Powers is an immaculate, paint-by-numbers, antihero, melodrama. Being a fan of Bendis for a better part of my life, it has been exciting to know one of his creator owned property will be officially adapted. However, I am not sure this is the adaptation I’ve been waiting for.
First of all, the production design is a little too sterile looking. Even when the scene takes place in an abandoned and tagged warehouse, everything looks like it has been neatly decorated. There’s another scene which takes place at a squatter house which could easily be mistaken for a million dollar nightclub. This set design is accompanied by the overdone CGI of the powers scenes. However, the CGI clearly lacks the same budget and the production quality of Agents of SHIELD. Thus, they should have focused more on practical effects. Although Arrow reshoots its action sequences in the same warehouse district countless times, it still adds to the grounded realism which Powers so far lacks.
The acting is very well done by the entire cast. However, the dialogue and plot don’t compliment the acting. The lines are often mediocre that the well acted lines come off sounding melodramatic, which sadly distracts from the scene. The clearest example is when we meet Eddie Izzard’s Wolf character. Thankfully, Susan Heyward’s ability to shoot wit and sarcasm out of Deena Pilgrim’s mouth keeps the dialogue entertaining.
The plot itself is the same one we have all seen in any antihero cop show. This is completed with the hungover and half naked protagonist contemplating his inner demons while staring out the window. However, this time not only do we get the loss of a partner trope, but also we get the loss of superpowers. In fact, the writers just keep merrily skipping through each noir trope without skipping a beat. Yet, when we peel back that nonsense, we’re left with a plot which focuses on a protagonist, Christian Walker, who is suffering through identity loss and suicidal depression. That could be interesting when flavored with superpowers.
In the comicbook world, the reason why the subgenre which comprise of comics like Powers, Wanted, SEX, Kick Ass and many others is because their subject matter often deals with issues not commonly discussed in the superhero genre. With the proliferation of the Superhero genre in movies and tv, it seemed like a good time for Powers to come out. However, the only original aspect of this show is Walker gets his powers taken away, yet that is a very small part of this show.
Nevertheless, I am only referring to the freely available pilot. It could very well evolve and progress further with the characters and the story. But, there are already other superhero shows which are more widely available which have a firmer grasp on the superhero niche. So far, the only ones who will seek out Powers are comic geeks, like yours truly, or PS fanboys. Otherwise, it’s hard to see why one who only knows about superheros through Agents or Arrow to seek this title out.

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Turn (2014) Review

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Created by Craig SIlverstein

Stars:

 J.E. MatzerJohn McAdoreyTimothy Brooks 

 

Turn is based on a book about George Washington’s spy network during the revolutionary war. It follows a always look the other way and do the right thing Abe. After, he falls on hard times. In order to pay back a debt and to keep his pride, he stumbles into a spy network comprising of his friends from the past.

There are numerous reasons why this premier rapidly falls apart. First of all, the Abe is extremely altruistic which would be interesting considering he is suppose to be a deceitful spy, but because they don’t have anyone to contrast his personality with it just gets irritating. He could be contrasted with the Red Coats; however, they are extremely villainy so it’s hard to take the British army seriously. In addition, there is very little time spent on any of the other characters. This seems a bit odd considering this is suppose to focus on the entire spy network. It would have been nice to focus on some of the other characters to at very least world build or set the tone and personality of this era. Because there’s a dichotomy between good and evil, it’s hard to swallow when the story is based on true events.

The camera work was amateurish, there was a shot which was indiscernible from a POV angle or a poorly done tracking shot. Really, the camera work is only slightly saved by the set production; however, the sets still give that feel that this was pushing their budgets limit. Also, the editing is laughable. There are a few times the actors are reacting before the scene cuts to what they are reacting to. For example, there’s a barn scene which starts off awful. The woman walks in the gate and before a reflection of light hits her eye she looks towards the direction of the barn. This is followed by more tedious bad acting which at one point shows them overly startled from a red coat who had yet walked out into the neighboring yard. Furthermore, this debacle mess keeps switching between an oddly angled shot from the barn loft to lopsided close ups of the the Abe and the maid.

Overall, this season premier was poorly put together. The pacing, tone and production were uneven. The acting from the side characters seemed to be spot on; however, the main actors were too melodramatic. Honestly, this felt more like a film school project than a production from a network which has put out some amazing put together shows.

Arrow: Season 2 (2013-2014) Review

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Series Writing Credits

Greg Berlanti , Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg

Stars:

Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey

Arrow Season 1 was about Oliver “Arrow” Queen transitioning from a killer with a kill list to becoming the protector of Starling City. Overtime, Oliver had to learn to trust others and their help, successfully creating a quasi Justice League / Teen Titans superhero group. Although many were skeptical about Arrow being weighted down by the romance and drama like CW’s other superhero series such as Smallville, Arrow had managed to keep those parts to a minimum and gave a lean and mean superhero epic. The same can’t be said for their follow up of season 2.

Although the second season still has the look and feel of the first, that is nothing the producers should be proud of. The set production is still set primarily in the same Office Buildings, Warehouses, Mansion, and the Island. Each scene looks like a duplicate of the last time they were in this type of area. Maybe it’s time for a road trip or some different types of lighting or a new paint job but something should change. Even if they don’t yet have the budget to go into the mountains or a road trip, they could at least fill the offices with some type of details to be able to tell the differences between the DEA, Queen Industries, or Police Departments buildings.

Each episode usually begins with Oliver and Diggle discovering a crime, then they wait for Felicity to tap her keyboard a few times before telling them where to go as she watches Arrow run off with sad puppy dog eyes. More about that later. First of all, the writers must have pulled Felicity straight from the smash hit Revenge of the Nerds. Yep, the writers haven’t updated their stereotypes in about 30 years. If her nerdy portrayal didn’t feel dated then her “hacking” ability certainly does, Felicity’s hacking is so grossly inaccurate that it makes the movie Hackers seem like a programmers technical manual. Finally, Oliver consistently needing Felicity to tell him where and how to fight crime insults and undermines the hero’s abilities. Thus, Season 2 has successfully turned Green Arrow into little more than a tool. Even if the writers wanted to give more spotlight to the side characters, they shouldn’t sacrifice the whole point of watching a eponymous superhero series.

Although it doesn’t make much sense for this to be the highlight of season two, much of this season focused on Laurel Lance and her pill popping and alcohol dependence. It seems this could have been a nod to the infamous 70’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow story which focused on Roy Harper’s heroin addiction. However, this side story carried on for so long that it trivialized the whole issue. In fact, the only reason she became an addict was to overcome her grief of losing her short lived romance with Tommy Merlin. Everyone’s favorite Sara Lance aka Black Canary wouldn’t even exist if she didn’t fall in love with Oliver Queen and follow him where ever he goes, even if it puts her family in grave danger. After Moira “Oliver’s mother” Queen became widowed, she married Collin Salmon who took care of the Queen estate and corporation after Mr Queen died. Then she took the blame for Malcom Merlyn’s, another one of her lovers, villainy. Apparently, Moira’s role is to be consistently subordinated by the men she lets into her life. In addition, Felicity carries a sad torch for Oliver Queen. Oliver admittedly will never have any romantic feelings for Felicity no matter how many times she taps her keyboard and reads the next part of the script from her computer screen for him and Diggle. In fact, in order to break away from her feelings for Oliver, Felicity began a short romance with Barry “The Flash” Allen. Uh huh, that is the origin of The Flash spin off series. Did you notice that every female character in this series has only existed because of their male counterparts? If we rip the men away, none of the females would have any depth, motivation, or history.

Yes, there is a lot of name dropping to this series. However, much of this is marketing ploys to sucker in people who are familiar with the source material. Ra’s Al Ghoul, Harley Quinn and other A list names are only used in passing. That isn’t to say that the B list names such as Blud, Vertigo, Dead Shot, Deathstroke aren’t used more completely. Yet, it feels that the writers are biting off more than they can chew. They keep adding more names to their rosters without successfully fleshing out or furthering the plot. For example, it’s pointless to bring in Deathstroke if the story is still focusing on Laurel’s drug addiction, especially when his sub-plot has nothing to do with hers. There are too many loose plot threads and now every announcement of a new character means there is going to be one more added to the knotted mess.

The only good thing to come out of season 2 is Roy “Speedy” Harper. His characterization has been the hidden and brilliant gem of this series. He starts off as a selfish jerk who has a life altering experience when he is saved by Arrow. We see Roy’s humbled realization that he was saved by a normal man just trying to help the people around him; therefore, Roy begins his crusade of trying to fight for justice and imitate the Arrow. Although he gets beat up many times, Roy refuses to give up the righteous fight. This causes his girlfriend Thea “Oliver’s sister” Queen to become worried for Roy’s safety and forces him to quit. This forces Roy to conceal his nights of being a vigilante from his girlfriend. This is a much more believable reason for having a secret identity. Harper eventually becomes empowered and we see a more believable story of a man learning how and when to control his abilities. This side story isn’t burdened by some weird “Love Hexagon” or any other romantic drama this network is known for. Instead, Roy “Speedy” Harper’s story is a trimmed down no nonsense hero’s journey. It is a perfect compliment to the transgressive hero story we saw from the first season. Overall, it’s a shame the writers decided to try and fit the Comic Book story into their more familiar territory of a teen drama.

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This week, we discuss, Avengers AI, Infinity: Heist, Daredevil, Thor chapter 1, Iron Patriot, Conan the Barbarian, Thief, Final Fantasy X HD, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Divergent, Nymphomaniac, Haunted House 2, X-Men, and more

Orphan Black Season 1 (2013) Review

orphan blackCreators:

Graeme MansonJohn Fawcett

Stars:

Tatiana MaslanyKevin HanchardDylan Bruce

Like most good mysteries, the best way to describe the plot is the pitch. Orphan Black introduces us to a street girl named Sara. One day at a subway terminal, Sara sees a woman in distress when the woman turns to face Sara we briefly see that she’s an exact double of Sara before the double throws herself in front of a subway train. What follows is a multiple layered conspiracy about clones. Each character has depth and is uniquely defined. This says a lot considering Maslany plays seven different clones during the first season. It’s brilliant how she can completely morph into a different role in the same scene. Most cloned movies break the illusion and you begin to see only the actor and not the character; however, this is not the case. Maslany, Fawcett, and Manson work tirelessly to make sure the show never feels like a gimmick. For example, every clone scene is done twice with Tatiana and her acting double, Katheryn Alexandre. Not only is Tatiana trying to recreate each characters unique take, but also Alexandre is trying to act out the Tatiana’s body language, which really makes Alexandre more of an understudy than a double. There’s little wonder why Tatiana Maslany has won or has been nominated for several different awards for her performance in Orphan Black.

Because each character is unique and dynamic, it’s easy for the audience to become invested in each plot thread. However, because of the paranoid nature of the story, the creators do a great job of giving us enough to keep guessing who is behind what and why. Even when the audience correctly guesses who the antagonist is, this often just peels back another layer to their conspiracy and world. Another aspect of the creators genius is they don’t hold back on the ethical philosophies behind cloning technology. They dose it up with liberal amounts of nature versus nurture. For example, it shows dichotomies in the clones personalities. Each clone has a mixed bag of characteristics involving aggression, trust, neurosis, sexual orientation and so on. However, most of them share biological characteristics such as sterility and of course phenotypes. Also, the writers make sure to question the ethics behind cloning technology. Should there be trial tests like other medical inventions? Should scientists be able to patent the clones like one would with microchips?

Yes, this rabbit hole goes real deep. With the closing of the first season, Orphan Black has little interest in slowing down any time soon. Despite the heavy subject matter, the show’s pacing is kinetic and their momentum at the end of each episode rushes you to the next. Overall, this show has a great balance between being a thinking man’s adventure and escapist action.

Hannibal (TV Series) Review

ImageSo far, the Hannibal tv series is shaping up to be the most mind bending ongoing series. At first many were sceptical if we really needed another Hannibal. After all, we already had five movie adaptations. Plus, not only has Thomas Harris not published anything new on our favorite antagonist, but also he was nowhere near the production of this series. Regardless, Bryan Fuller’s reimagining expands on and is filling in a lot of the Hannibal world’s missing gaps. Currently, the series takes place before the events depicted in Red Dragon although the series still focuses on the Red Dragon protagonist Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy. The series focuses on Graham’s ability to deeply connect with serial killers. This connection gives him the ability to  figure out motivation and therefore intricately create a psychological profile of the killers. However, this series elaborates on how Graham can’t simply turn off his empathic ability, and we see Graham’s mental state slip his motivations into a psychotic abyss. The writers narrative use of the Unreliable Narrator storytelling beautifully emphasises Graham’s deteriorating sanity. This is actually what makes the series stand apart from the other adaptations. Previously, we saw Will Graham use this ability, but when the hunt was over, he would often return to his previous sane state of mind.

When Hannibal Lector, played by Mads Mikkelsen, meets Will Graham, Lector, being a cold-blooded sociopath, finds Graham’s ability completely fascinating. First, Lector tries to emulate Graham’s ability by duplicating the murders of serial killers, which leads him to being called the copycat killer. This is another creative reimagining. Although copycat killers have been used in countless psychological thrillers, this one definitely has its own unique flavor. Also, we watch Lector establish the same social and professional bonds of Graham. However, his main motivation is to finally find a person who can connect and understand Hannibal Lector. This is where Lector’s infamous Cat and Mouse interaction starts bleeding through. Throughout the series we see Lector manipulate Graham into not only understanding Lector’s twisted point of view but also carry out the same murderous behaviors.

The production’s mise-en-scene is similar to Swedish Noir style which dreadfully enhances the fact that Hannibal Lector’s cold shadow is cast upon all the players of this series. The murder scenes are elaborate macabre art shows which could’ve gained praise from Salvadore Dali. There are times I find myself scratching my head wondering how this show is being broadcast on NBC’s primetime. If Hannibal keeps up the momentum, Fuller has plans on devoting a season to every Hannibal chapter. I for one cannot wait to see the introduction of Clarice,  the reimagining of Hannibal, and how he will tie Will Graham back into everything. The great thing about stories that already have a pre-established ending is that it gives the creators more time to focus on how to flesh out everything that came before. Right now, Bryan Fuller has convinced me that Hannibal Lector’s story is worth going back to.