Review: Luke Cage E.03 - "Who's Gonna Take the Weight"

If the first two episodes of Luke Cage were like watching superhero Shakespeare, then "Who’s Gonna Take the Weight” is all about becoming an emotional catharsis to answer our pent-up frustration with tragedy. When people talk about Shakespeare or when they call something Shakespearean, they’re usually talking about dudes in puffy shirts, star-crossed characters, and big speeches. You won't catch me doing that, though. I'd offer up , rather, that at the core of every Shakespeare play are characters who are driven by complex needs and forced to navigate their complex social and political hierarchies. They’re a realm of emotional politicking and that description is what the first two episodes of Luke Cage felt like.

Harlem is a living and breathing place here. There are lines drawn in the sand and desperate people willing to poke and prod them to find what they want. Some characters want money, some want power and others justice. Luke Cage just wants to be left the hell alone.luke-cage-poster

So far we've seen people get what they want and get what they wanted, launching their intersecting paths into an unavoidable climax that ended the second episode.

There’s a reason so many of Shakespeare’s plays end in tragedy. Why so many are filled with thankless if inevitable deaths and chaotically uprooted social structures. It’s that they’re made-up of people and people are selfish and destructive even when they want to do the right thing.

Luke Cage, however, came with a promise of not being a tragedy. A bullet-proof black man entering the cultural consciousness at a time when we are surrounded by the real faces of wrongfully slain black men and women by the police promised to protect them.

Luke Cage cannot be a tragedy.

From the very first episode, people on the sidelines have been telling Luke to use his powers and change things. The cops are too ineffectual to do anything. The politicians are in bed with the criminals. Luke uniquely stands with abilities and incorruptibility to do something and this episode is when it finally starts to happen.

When Luke fights back, it feels good. The choreography is sloppy and the action undeniably campy but it almost has to be.  We need to understand the invincibility of Luke; we have to bear witness to what happens to the people who point a gun at a bulletproof man.

The show’s style is hugely carried by its soundtrack and that’s no better delivered than here. When the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Bring da Ruckus” starts thumping and Cage storms a fortress nestled in the heart of Harlem, it feels good. Doesn’t matter if a bunch of dudes clumsily swing machetes, the scene moves in tune with the music you believe everything.

This moment of righteous justice from Luke makes it a strange choice for this episode to be where the morals of vigilantism get questioned. Misty Knight debates with her partner what role super-powered vigilantes play in a world with the Avengers. Where should these powered individuals stand while the police try to do their jobs?

This is a question the Netflix shows have summarily avoided and desperately needs to be addressed in superhero film and tv. Real world vigilantism never ends well for anyone. These people are ill-equipped and unaccountable making them a danger not just to themselves but everyone around them. Without protocol, they invite mistakes and recklessness—a type of danger that this season later tries addressing but ultimately proves ill-equipped to handle.

TV shows like the Wire tried and succeeded in showing what happens when someone wages a one-man war against gangs and drug dealers. They’re heroes but there’s a tragic inevitability to their struggle as men can never be legends.

Luke Cage, however, can be. He’s super strong, super tough and a licensed brand.

Here even the show’s narrative betrays Misty’s reasoning. We saw with our own eyes what happens when no one pushes back against the bad. We saw Pop die. We saw a community torn to shreds while the cops kept their hands behind their backs and twiddled their thumbs.

For those who read ahead, we already know that inevitably Misty will not even believe her own words which is unfortunate because this is a solid question to ask.

Coming from this show, though, it’s unsurprising. Not just because the role's role as wish-fulfillment about a bulletproof black man in a social climate where they’re shot nearly daily on the street but because of the show’s troubling love of excess.

Episode three ends on a note that sours—something resembling a Wile E. Coyote cartoon more than a proper political and race driven narrative so many people wanted this to be. That’s because when this show gets drunk on its own internal bombast, it gets sloppy. So in love are they for the moments when Luke wraps a car door around a confused thug, they never stop to ask if they should pump the brakes.

While that becomes a greater problem for the series as a whole, at this point in the season it’s okay.

Just lean back and enjoy seeing a bulletproof man clean the streets and bring da ruckus.

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Luke Cage E.03 - "Who's Gonna Take the Weight" Director: Guillermo Navarro [/su_box]


Review: Luke Cage E.02 - "Code of the Streets"

Like its predecessor, episode two of Luke Cage moves at a slower pace. The simmering tensions between characters come to a head by the end of it. In a lot of ways, this episode coupled with episode one serve as the origin of Luke Cage as a hero. And while dramatic, the big bang at the end of this episode isn't the most surprising thing about the series' second showing. No, the most surprising thing turns out to be a little piece of character insight in the form of what I call the, "Pull the trigger" speech. To find out what that is and what I think of the show after the first two episodes check out my review below. luke-cage-posterI'm going to start by mentioning a few actresses who got the snub in my last review, Simone Missick, and Alfre Woodard. Much like Luke Cage, I was unfamiliar with the characters as they were/are portrayed in the comics, I only know them as they are portrayed in these past two episodes. While both give excellent performances, Missick's performance, in my opinion, saves Detective Misty Stone's character. Considering that most of her lines and screen time in these past two episodes have been dedicated to flirting with Luke, delivering gritty detective banter, and showing up the neighborhood basketball players, she could have easily been the cheesiest character in the show. But Missick brings enough confidence and humor to the role to make the character believable. As for Woodard, she plays her character well (she plays Mariah Dillard, the cousin of Cottonmouth and councilwoman for the district). But her performance is hindered by her character's lack of an objective. With regard to her character's motivations, I'm not sure where to place her yet. She is definitely on the antagonist side of the spectrum, but after watching this episode, she seems as if she is trying to convince her cousin to get out of the game. I'm not sure if this concern for her family is genuine or self-preserving, but either way, this episode does a lot to round out her character.

As for the pacing, this episode is all about the big finish. I don't want to say too much because I'm trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I will say that the major plot point in this episode probably won't come as a shock to most of you, it didn't for me. Not to say that it was a bad choice, it was just predictable. But the real revelation, as I mentioned earlier, actually comes in the form of a speech given by Cage to a would-be assailant. The moment starts off a little rocky as if we're about to see a new patriotic side of Luke. But then it turns around and becomes the moment when shit gets real! And I really mean what I say when I use the word "real." In most shows or movies, we'll often see a character get angry, for some characters that's almost their entire identity, but what we don't see is the pain. The pain that lies at the root of the anger. I think this is one of the things that makes this interpretation of Luke Cage great. From the first moment he stepped onto the screen, we've known Luke has been in pain. In Jessica Jones we learn about the loss of his wife, in these first two episodes, we learn that he was wrongfully imprisoned. And while we as the audience have been witness to this via his body language and general temperament, we haven't, until this point, seen that pain take center stage. For a show to bring in that anger, that despair, and that weariness all in one speech is a bold and impressive choice.

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Luke Cage E.02 - "Code of the Streets" Director: Paul McGuigan


Review: Luke Cage E.01 - "Moment of Truth"

Last Friday I sat down with my girlfriend to watch Luke Cage, Netflix’s most recent series in the quadfecta that is The Defenders. Now, I wasn’t the biggest Luke Cage fan going into this series. Don’t get me wrong; I was excited, but that excitement came from watching the others series Netflix has put out. I liked Daredevil, and Jessica Jones was even better, so my enthusiasm was coming from a place of wanting to see another great TV show rather than excitement about seeing a character I loved on TV. Now I wasn’t completely ignorant; I had read a few Heroes for Hire, and I was impressed when he showed up in a crossover or two. He was more like a historical figure for me, the Jack Johnson of comics. Historical and important, but not really fleshed out. Now after watching the first two episodes of the series, I can say that this character has become real for me, more so that Jessica Jones or Matt Murdock. luke-cage-posterWe have to start with the acting. Mike Coulter is perfect for this role. He was great in Jessica Jones, but in this episode, he really shines. From the opening scene, you get a sense of who Luke Cage is and what he believes. Coulter puts on a great performance, switching between sensitive to tough guy on a dime. I also liked that he’s a bit tougher than he was in Jessica Jones, everyone once in a while in this episode you get the “Man, good thing this guy is on our side” kind of feeling.

The second actor I want to highlight is Mahershala Ali. He plays Cottonmouth and just like Coulter’s Cage, we get to see who he is and what he’s about from his very first appearance. He’s got the perfect kind of charisma, great villains have, an unapologetic hustler who is all about the business when it gets right down to it. What I also liked about Ali’s performance is that while in the first scene we get to see who Cottonmouth believes himself to be, in the subsequent scenes we get to see him in his less polished form. We see him badgered by his cousin, belittled by an associate from another gang and downright out of control. Ali displays an excellent amount of range for a villain who can oftentimes be narrowed to the too cool gangster.

As for the style of the series, it stays within the vein of the shows that have come before it but provides its own perspective that differentiates itself from the predecessors. The most obvious example of his is the music, which has taken a queue from Jessica Jones and doubled down. The soundtrack is a fusion of gritty jazz and hip hop and works wonders. This episode is on the slower side, which is what I expected considering the pace of the other Netflix’s Marvel shows. We get to see a lot of introduction to characters and a lot of set up for relationships that are going to be primary points of conflict and alliance later on. My only complaint is that sometimes the writing can get to be a little too much. It’s the same way I felt about Jessica Jones writing; it’s trying to be so smooth that it slips and ends up being comical. But it’s a small flaw that doesn’t pop up too much in this first episode.

As first episodes go, it’s a slower burn, but by the time it ends you can already see each piece is going to end up on the board. We’re still in the opening moves, but the tension is palpable.

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Luke Cage E.01 - "Moment of Truth" Director: Paul McGuigan


Review: Brooklyn Nine-Nine S4 E.01 “Coral Palms – Part-1”

I only have one friend that watches this show which is a damn shame. It is one of the funniest shows on TV and the only other comedy besides Modern Family that makes me laugh like a raving idiot. To put it plainly, I loved this episode. I also worry about its writing constantly. To explain that I will tell you that this episode picks up six months after the end of last season which is something they’ve done each season. I appreciate that because it gives a real sense of time passing. People can look different due to other roles they’re working in the “Biz,” and it’s fine because time in their world has passed.

Jake and Holt are in Florida, and if you hate Florida, you’re in for a treat because they rip the hell out of the state. I too hate Florida, and so I loved every cruel joke at its expense. Therein lies the problem with this episode, though, it’s all Jake and Holt. Over the course of three, now four, seasons the actors have developed an incredible chemistry with each other. The jokes, even when expected, are hilarious because of their delivery. Good comedy starts with good writing but ends with better delivery (you could also argue that it doesn’t always need the writing).

The gist of the episode is that Jake is working the Figgis case while Holt is working at a mini-golf place. Holt discovers what Jake is doing and takes his files which forces Jake to take a job alongside him to make Holt’s life hell. They end up being recorded by a woman I can only describe as perfect TV white trash, and they have to convince her not to upload the video or reveal their location to Figgis.


Let’s ignore the convenient writing in that the woman didn’t have enough data left on her plan in order to instantly upload the video. And the fact that no one else caught it or uploaded it as well. All that aside it was a funny episode because it succeeded in showing how miserable these two life-long cops are without their jobs and for setting the stage for them to be thrown back into action.

Again, though, the problem is that it relies on Jake and Holt to carry the entire episode which they do and do easily. Making me wonder how the show will feel when the rest of the cast comes back. My biggest problem with last season is that it resolved the cliffhanger from the previous season within a few episodes. Then it hung out until the winter break and came back with the Figgis storyline. While this episode was quite funny, the majority of the third season was not. Which leads me to wonder if the cast is too big and the stories are being spread too thin.

I know that this review is more of a question about the series and where it’s heading and not so much about the episode. I think I pretty clearly summed up my feelings on the episode in the beginning. And yeah, it’s not the “correct” way to review, but I’m writing this from a place of a viewer that watches shows with a critical mind and wonders about these things. I don’t want to drop this show, but I’m not going to sit through another season like the last. This episode alone had more memorable jokes than anything I can remember about last season. It’ll be quite a while before I forget Holt talking about boobs being desirable because they were heavier or that he wasn’t able to delete the video on the phone because it’s not the same as his phone. There’s some Archer quotability to this episode and series, but it needs to be this strong every episode, not just at the beginning and end.

Score: 4/5

Brooklyn Nine-Nine S4 E.01 “Coral Palms – Part-1”

Review: The Good Place – E.01 “Pilot/Flying.”

Why a TV review? Because there’s a section for it and I always wanted to have more than just comics reviewed on the site. That and with all the new shows out I get curious and like to check them out. The Good Place stayed with me, but not for the right reasons. The premise is easy to sum, but the show actually takes seven minutes or so to get you to the answer. The afterlife isn’t what you thought it was and there only exists a “Good Place” and a “Bad Place.” Kristen Bell… sorry, Kristen Bell’s character Eleanor is a bad person that has been mistakenly put into the “Good Place.” For whatever reason, she reveals this to her soul mate, and he faces the dilemma of helping her become a good person or narcing her out. Pretty simple. Things go crazy when all the crap Eleanor talks on day one, suddenly come to life on day two. Now the clock is really ticking for her to be a good person.

the-good-placeI’ll start with the good things about The Good Place. The acting is solid. I don’t believe for one second that Ted Danson is actually a nice person, but since he’s gone grey everyone wants him to play “aged mentor” and he does it quite well. I still don’t believe that he’s a good person IRL. Bell is believable. She embodies the character and after the training wheels are taken off you no longer look at her and say, “Hey, that’s Kristen Bell.” Her character’s dedication to swearing is commendable and probably the only humorous thing about the show. To clarify, she can’t swear and is automatically made to say something in the place of swearing like “Fork” instead of “Fuck.” I have no such censor. It also looks wonderful. The set they’re using and will likely use to death, looks great. You want to be there it’s so joyously designed. The CGI doesn’t feel out of place and if used correctly could add a lot of humor in the future of the show.

Now for the bad. It has a concept that can’t last. Why? Because if she’s bad shit goes south quickly. That and the cliffhanger to the second part of the first episode reveals that someone knows she shouldn’t be there. Why they played that card instantly is beyond me. Back to the flawed concept. It’s like My Name Is Earl. Great show, but after the first season, you understood that it was going to be the same shit over and over. Earl messes up; we get a funny flashback; he makes amends. Same thing here only the flashbacks are pretty terrible. I felt like I was watching Samantha Who: Part 2, New Who, which is to say it’s the same flawed premise. Anything that hinges on a character overcoming their flaws quickly, rather than at a steady pace is never going to last. They’ve shot themselves in the foot with the rules of their own universe. Simply put, Bell’s character is only funny when breaking the rules and when she has to adapt and change it makes it less funny.

Bouncing back to the casting, I should mention that the supporting cast feels worthless. They can act, but right now they’re completely unnecessary to the story. Jameela Jamil’s character is given a lot, and I mean a lot of screen time, and she does absolutely nothing. You could tune out while she talks because none of it is useful to the story or her character. It is the epitome of filler dialogue.

My last point is nitpicky. The show opens with an explanation of sorts about “The Good Place” as it calls it because it’s trying to avoid religionist undertones. Ted Danson aka Michael, explains that all religions have it about 5% right. He goes on to make a terrible joke that breaks the logic of the world’s own rules later on, but that’s not the point I’m making. The problem is that after they blow off religion, they completely and totally do a Christian heaven, just with technology and no mention of God. I’m not offended by this, but it seems like if you’re going to say all religions were wrong, you should bring a stronger version of what’s “right.” Again, it’s me being nitpicky, but it seemed like a really odd way of calling it heaven without calling it heaven. Call it what it is and just be done with it since the title of your show is already pretty annoying.

If you watch this first, double episode, you may find it hard to make it to the end. I imagine they did that because they knew the first episode would chase people off. I almost didn’t finish it and wondered if I would make it to the end. While I enjoy Bell’s character, I really can’t stomach watching a show just for her while her character breaks the logic of their own show. That and comedy plays it safe for the most part waiting to be offensive or sexual in the flashbacks alone. I could just watch My Name is Earl if I wanted to see that again, but I don’t.

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The Good Place – E.01 “Pilot/Flying.” Director: Michael McDonald Writers: Michael Schur, Alan Yang


Review: The Tick - Pilot

Amazon Pilot Season is here! What does that mean and why the hell should I care? It appears to be Amazon’s slightly weasely means of getting out of putting its weight and money behind a variety of shows catering to different interests by backing the pilot episodes of three different shows and letting the public decide which show is worth the most money. In my opinion, the other two shows look just awful, so The Tick gets my vote for simply being the most immediately clever and colorful show. For perspective’s sake, I liked the old cartoon show, did not like the old live-action show, and I never read the comics. The Tick, as a character, is best not when engaging in visual gags like his contemporaries Freakazoid! or Earthworm Jim, characters known for their engaging encounters with their villains but in exchanging wacky, almost-mundane dialogue with his sidekick Arthur. This is probably the reason that the original live-action show seemed like a solid idea. Which it was. I just take extremely petty issue with their execution.

So how’s the pilot to the new Tick? God help me I have no idea. I understand what a risky thing this is to say for a reviewer, but hear me out.

The Tick, again, in contrast to Freakazoid, The Mask, or Earthworm Jim, has always been a parody: every aspect of it is ingrained in being a twist on the conventional formula. The Tick himself being an idiot is a joke on both the ridiculous degrees of heroism displayed by normal superheroes and something of a performance gag based on his ludicrously muscular appearance. The Terror being geriatric is a gag based on the concept of the elder space-villain, and his age having an effect on his performance as a villain is consistently funny. Arthur being both a mockery and kind of a dweeb is a play on the sidekick’s usual resignation to "the brains" to the hero’s "brawn." Freakazoid’s a freak because being a freak is funny, but the joke doesn’t rely on pre-established knowledge like The Tick does.

Tick_Landing_page_750x375._V282759396_That being established, I cannot tell, for the life of me, how much of this new Tick is a joke. A shocking amount of time is given to the character of Arthur and his tragic backstory: spaceship lands on his father and the superheroes inside are blinded by space-syphilis and shot to death. Attempting to play that angle straight to any degree seems like a joke in itself, but lo and behold, characters take genuine pity on him and his sister takes a deeply personal interest in making sure that her brother is healthy. These scenes are played with equal parts silence and somber music. The degree to which it appears to be sincere is difficult to explain because explaining it sounds like the show is trying to be funny about it.

I’m not convinced that it is trying to be funny about it, though. It’s as if this show is literally trying to make my job harder on me.

The Tick himself takes up about 30% of the screen-time in this pilot and what I can say is that his presence is a genuine delight. Save for the dodgy CGI that surrounds his scenes and a suit that’s not totally visually appealing; The Tick is written as masterfully as he ever was and Peter Serafinowicz is a phenomenal actor, doing an amazing job with the part. The Tick's pilot would have been served much better by not focusing on Arthur's development before becoming a superhero but rather his development as a superhero. I understand this to be a pilot, and its efforts are in making sure everything is in place, but this pilot is also trying to sell the show as a whole to both its producers and audience. Spending so much time away from the show's main draw was always going to be risky, and I don't think it paid off this time.

This review is tough because while 30% of the show is funny and compelling, I can't tell how much the other 70% of the show is. If it isn't kidding, then the makers aren't phenomenal at character building and can only advise that they spend as much time on The Tick as possible, whether in or out of his suit a la Deadpool. If it is, I advise they spend more of their time on better, funnier jokes in the future.

This is assuming The Tick has a future. I will say I genuinely hope it does if nothing but to see what little character development we are given pay off and to see "average" fulfill its promises of being "good."

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The Tick - Pilot Director: Wally Pfister Writer: Ben Edlund Studio: Amazon Studios


Review: Stranger Things - Season 1

Written by Jake Wood

Remember Super 8? The 2009 J.J. Abrams film, produced by (and largely inspired by) Steven Spielberg? Well directed, solidly entertaining, but shallow and derivative? This review is about Stranger Things.

For the people who have Ad-blocker on (and thus missed out on the ads for it on every Youtube video in existence), Stranger Things is that new Netflix series your buddies watched in one sitting the other day.

Is it worth watching yourself?

You liked Super 8, right?

Because I’m new to this, and I’m already testing your patience – Yes. If you have any interest at all in seeing Stranger Things, then you should absolutely check it out. It’s Amblin Entertainment nostalgia-porn, somewhat visually interesting at times, kinda touching in places, and I want more things like this to exist.

Still here?

That’s cool too.

I hope I don’t unconvince you.

It’s a little over-simplified to just call Stranger Things “Super 8: The TV Show,” but for the most part – it kind of is. In a nostalgic time period (1983 in this case), small-town U.S.A. has a monster problem, with some confusing government conspiracy involved. It’s also “Super 8: The TV Show” because it’s aiming directly for that Classic Spielberg hole in your heart; it looks like it at times, it feels like it at times, but it doesn’t fill you up like the real deal (*snicker*).

The show ultimately revolves around three storylines:

Police Chief Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers (David Harbour and Winona Ryder) are the adult leads of the show. Their story has the most in common with Close Encounters (and a lil Poltergeist); with Joyce being the obsessed adult destroying her family life, as well as the sad mother whose child is abducted by the monster (so she’s both Richard Dreyfuss AND Melinda Dillon in Close Encounters).

Stranger ThingsJim Hopper is basically your less-likeable Chief Brody surrogate. They investigate the conspiracy involving the local nefarious research facility (that they always had their suspicions of), the monster, and the disappearance of her son, Will.

The second storyline is the least derivative of Spielberg movies; this one focuses on Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers (Joyce’s creepy older son), admirably played by cutie Natalia Dyer and reanimated corpse Charlie Heaton. Their storyline is pretty much a teenie-bopper monster movie: Boy likes girl from a distance, girl has a douchey boyfriend who pressures her in to having sex for the first time, creepy boy creepily takes pictures of girl taking her clothes off before aforementioned dicking, and wuh-oh there’s something in the background of one of his creepy pictures.

Hey you liked Super 8, right?

Their storyline is actually inconsequential to the over-all plot, and has no real satisfying conclusions. Pity.

The third storyline revolves around Mike Wheeler (Nancy’s younger brother), a mysterious girl in a buzz-cut named Eleven (Elle for short), and Mike’s annoying friends – the token black one (also the ONLY minority character of significance in the show), and the token one with a speech impediment (also fills the "fat kid who likes food" role). Mike and the other two boys were Will Byer’s friends. They team up with Eleven, who has a connection to the monster, and also has psychic powers - because the writers ask a lot of you.

Oh they also dress her up at one point, with a wig and everything, just like in E.T.

There’s an infamous clip from the ad campaign of Terminator Genisys, where James Cameron says

“The movie starts – and I start to see things I recognize.”

This is the movie-going (and now TV-watching) experience these days. Nostalgia is the name of the game, and has been for years. Is it all bad? Kinda. I mean, not all the time. Just most of the time. Okay almost all the time. On the whole, we’re scraping for literally anything recognizable to make a movie or show out of. But this is different. If only slightly. Classic Spielberg is basically the pinnacle of entertainment to me. From 1975-1993, that dude just fucking cranked out masterpiece after masterpiece.  It’s nice to see a few take a step back, and at least aim high. Aim high. You might hit low, but you can’t hit high if you don’t aim high.

So yeah, The Duffer Brothers (they may want to work on a more showbiz-friendly last name) aimed high. Didn’t quite hit high.

The visual touchstones of the show are lovely, easily the most cinematic looking show produced by Netflix. I’m a sucker for Christmas-light lighting, so I loved how prominent they are, I loved seeing Winona stringing them inside her house like a crazy person (this is her Devil’s Tower mockup in the living room), or her clutching a clump of lights until they glowed. They aimed high. However, the look of the show is a bit too modern, too slick. I’m not a celluloid film snob, but it has its place, this is one of those situations where it needed to be shot on film.

And the monster looks like a Tremors: The Series reject.

The music, both score and soundtrack are great to listen to. They aimed high. However a synth score is more indicative of something like a John Carpenter film, not Spielberg. The show needed a more traditional score; I don’t know jack about music but I’d call the type of music John Williams did “dingly.” It needed a dingly score. With xylophones or whatever. Hell, the trailers for the show had that.

Winona Ryder is pretty shrill and not-believable – I think she got hung up on being "unhinged." I can’t stand almost all of the child actors (not that they give bad performances, I just hated them), don’t ever give a kid with a lisp that many lines ever again; the exception being Eleven (played by the unfortunately-named Milly Bobby Brown), Hollywood - do not ruin that girl. The rest of the actors are all serviceable in their parts: creepy boy Charlie Heaton is a serviceable creepy boy, douchey boy Joe Keery is a serviceable douchey boy (I want to punch his haircut), and David Harbour acts gruff or something.

Natalia Dyer is a standout. If anyone’s going to breakout from this – I would expect her to; it’s nice to see a girl-next-door role played by a more mousey girl these days. If this were any other show, I would’ve expected an MTV Original Series boom boom young woman. Bella Thorne. I would’ve expected Bella Thorne.

Oh, and Matthew Modine is an evil science guy with white hair. There wasn’t anybody else available?

It’s frustrating at times, especially when ‘Stranger Things’ almost hits something truly special. The ending to episode three is where the story itself reached out for something daring and interesting, if only the producers took that route and ran with it – that sequence, set to a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” (sung by Peter Gabriel) is genuinely haunting and a hint at what the show could’ve been.

I have no idea whether this is a mini-series or not, because it was my understanding going in that this was a one-and-done story (and after a quick google, I still don’t know). There’s a lot in this show that doesn’t make a lick of sense (even after suspending my disbelief that all this wacky shit can happen), ESPECIALLY if this was supposed to end with some finality.  I already said the teenagers’ story doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion, but none of the other storylines really put a button on it either.  At best, the main story of “Does Joyce Byers get her son back?” gets a definitive yes or no.

…Or does it? Fuck you.

It’s not perfect. Far from it. It’s not amazing. It’s watchable overall. But only just.

Like Super 8.

But I want more people to try more things like this.

I want more Stranger Things to exist and less The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or whatever. At least I think I do.


Review: Outcast E.01 – “A Darkness Surrounds Him”

To start with I have never read Outcast. I know that’s probably weird given how much I read and the fact that I run a comic book site. The reason I passed on it was A) it was picked up as a TV show before the first issue hit stands and B) I wasn’t sent a review issue because the sales for it were too good. I figured, why bother reading it if the sales or so good it doesn’t need to be reviewed. I don’t regret this choice.

It's hard not to compare this to Preacher since they're both summer cable programs based on comic books turned into TV shows and that said Outcast seems to be better suited for the TV medium. Even if it’s just slightly better. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Robert Kirkman has had a lot of hands on time with The Walking Dead or that Fox/Cinemax was there to guide it better or simply the fact that by selling the TV show before creating the comic allowed him to write the story out as a rough draft in comic form and then final draft for TV. Whatever the case it worked better as a TV show than Preacher. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the review, but this is really the only place for me to make a statement like that.

Outcast PosterTo recap the show there’s a kid possessed by a demon. A dude whose mom was possessed by a demon or possibly the same demon, living back at his childhood home because supposedly he did something to his daughter which broke up his marriage. Eventually their paths cross and dude discovers that basically demons have been trying to get at him his entire life. There’s a lot of flashbacks from his childhood showing his possessed mom’s abuse and then one flashback that reveals that he’s not as bad of a guy as the story has 100% led you to believe.

It’s built for TV minus all the flashbacks. The flashbacks are typically a comic book gimmick and while I don’t know how many issues of the comic this is combining, I kind of hope that it’s at least more than one because the episode was bogged down by them and hopefully they lighten up on them for future episodes.

The acting is a mix bag. There’s some good acting when it comes to horror, but it also all involves children which is not for the faint of heart. Hopefully it being demon’s will pacify anyone that would be like, “there’s a lot of kid beating going on here.” On second thought it’s on Cinemax so I don’t think people who say such things have Cinemax. At any rate, the lead actor Patrick Fugit does a fine job. He’s believable even if he looks like utter shit. They show him at one point looking all clean-cut and dapper and while his appearance is reflective of where he is in life, it’s just not a good look on the dude. I know that’s that a weird criticism, but it bothered me the entire show. The rest of the cast is seasoned. There’s a lot and I mean a lot of familiar faces. It’s too soon to say if they’re a good cast together or just a bunch of good actors working on the same show.

I will likely watch more of Outcast and here’s why… I haven’t read the comic. I think that if you haven’t read the comic its worth watching as well. If you have, it doesn’t matter. It never matters because even though Kirkman wrote the comic for TV, TV still changes everything. Looking at this as just another TV show, I’m interested and would continue to watch it. For a first episode it did a hell of a job of not feeling like a pilot and rather the start of a season. That’s a difficult feat for any TV show so it should be applauded for that. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start. If we did half points this would get one, but as decent as it was it's still pretty average when you remove all the shock value.[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Outcast E.01 – “A Darkness Surrounds Him”
Friday’s on Cinemax


Review: Preacher E.01 - Pilot

I have not read all 75 issues of Preacher. I own and enjoyed the first volume, but as I read it I felt as if I was late to the party. In my personal opinion the comic is a bit dated. In the same way that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns have had their corpses picked so much that you’ve seen their influences throughout comics, so too has the ultraviolence of Preacher. Hell, I can point out five comics just at Marvel in which writer Garth Ennis picked his own corpse like Arseface and his Marvel brother Fuckface. My point being that I’m not an authority on Preacher nor am I really shocked by it. I get that for some it was their window into “comics can do that?”, but that wasn’t the case for me. That brings us to 2016. We’ve read the casting, we’ve see who’s producing and we’ve even gotten AMC aka “The Walking Dead channel”, all lined up for a Preacher TV show. But how? How can you have the ultraviolence and the politically incorrectness of the comic on TV? Surely it must be rated X?!? To answer that question… you do it exactly the way they’ve done it here.

Step one is to get producers that are passionate about it. Doesn’t matter if they read comics or not, its Hollywood and even Robert Kirkman doesn’t give a fuck about his comics when he adapts them for TV. The next step is to get hot talent. Get that guy that stunk up Misfits for two seasons because he looks and sounds the part and get those two Marvel TV actors that everyone loves right now. The next step is the network. You need a network that’s desperate for some kind of hit after losing all their top shows and can’t seem to recreate the magic of their first comic book TV show’s success. Once you’ve got AMC it pretty much means you’re golden to do whatever.

So what do you do?

Do you stay close to the comic or do you Walking Dead this thing and use the frame-work and create a new version? Well… you’re on AMC so the answer should be pretty obvious. If you’ve read all 75 issues of the comic series then do not and I repeat, do not compare this show to the comic book. In fact, we as comic fans should never do that. They’re different mediums and we’ve seen both ends of the adaptation spectrum. On one side you have Sin City, the most faithful adaptation ever and then on the other side, oh I don’t know pick anything from Fox or Sony. The point is, they’re never going to be like the comics because that would defeat the purpose of the comics.

Now after four paragraphs you’re probably wondering what happened on the episode? Not what is it about because you’re a comic fan or at the very least saw a shit ton of promotion for this show and already know about the characters and world.

Well it’s about Jesse coming back to his home town to make good on his promise to his father who was a Preacher as well and was shot in the head. This unfolds through a series of annoying flashbacks, each longer than the last, but still the same flashback. Tulip is on the run for stealing a map for the biggest score ever and she’s a woman scorn so she’s in town to bring Jesse back into the mix of her life. Cassidy is being hunted and gets ambushed on an airplane in which he’s working as a host. And the voice of God is searching for a host and making Preachers of all different faiths explode including Tom Cruise.


The pacing for this first episode can best be described as a teenage boy blind folded searching for his first pair of boobies to grope only to feel a man’s chest because he’s being pranked by older teenagers and now his raging boner pitching a tent in his underwear (he’s in only his underwear by the way) is circulating social media along with him grabbing man-boobs with a smile... and then a frown. Basically it’s groping around in the dark and not finding what it’s wants to, but still really excited that it might get there. Or just bad. The pacing is bad.

It takes 36 minutes to have our main character introduced to us and it’s a cheap pop for the comic readers. It was written and executed as if it were going to be played to a large crowd at some point, say South by Southwest, so that one idiot could cheer-shit their pants and get the rest of the people watching hyped. If any other TV show waited until it was half over to tell you whose who, you would probably give up on the show. By waiting that long you give the audience a chance to give the character a name and you know what I called him? Even knowing the character’s name, I called him Howard Stark. Because you refused to tell me his name outside of calling him Preacher. Which is the name of the show.

The acting is good. That’s the sad part about the pacing is that these actors are doing a hell of a job, but you keep letting their performance down with all the breaks and the “here’s how we all meet” origin story. Joseph Gilgun is a bit hard to understand at times, just as he was on Misfits, but after a few episodes your ears will be trained and it won’t matter. Ruth Negga is hands down the best actor on the show, even if her accent seems unnecessary. Dominic Cooper is right behind her, both with acting and the accent. He’s good at it, but he loses the deepness in his voice that makes it so distinct. Everything he says is light and whispery and it might be intentional, but let's hope they're not being that lazy and not wanting to put a filter on him when he "god talks."

The action is the best part of the show. Which is good and bad. I wanted to be into the story more, but I wasn’t. Everything in-between the action seemed like a waste of time. Like go ahead and look at your phone and just look up at the action. Even though it was the best part, the choreography and the slow motion was not the best. There’s a really bad fight between townies and some “politically correct” mascot people, which is absolutely bad-looking. Like student film, first time with a camera bad-looking.

The show itself isn’t bad, but it’s not good. It doesn’t play to the strengths of the TV medium and I don’t know if that’s a director thing, producer thing or an AMC thing, but it’s something. It shows inexperience on many levels and perhaps too much trust from AMC. It’s as if they just said, hey you’ve made films and shit all your careers, clearly you understand pacing and how to hold a viewer’s attention for an hour with commercial breaks… go for it. And then they realized they didn’t know how to do that. It’s a pilot though so really the next three will show a true vision of what to expect from the show.

There’s still a couple of questions up in the air though. If you’re a fan of the comic and haven’t watched it should you? If you’re a fan of comics in general should you watch it? And lastly, if you’re just a fan of good TV drama should you watch it? No, no and maybe.

Preacher has a long road to go before it’s pulling in fans like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. It’s already got one mark against it due to the subject matter which is going to chop some viewers no matter what you think, but there’s nothing awe-inspiring about this adaptation. It’s perhaps a little too safe and catered to a TV audience in all the wrong places. But hey… you probably already watched it so who cares?

[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Preacher E.01 Airs Sundays on AMC


Review: Lucifer 1.2 – Lucifer, Stay. Good Devil

After enjoying the first episode I was curious to see how they would actually pair Lucifer and Chloe up so that they can continue to solve crimes together… the answer is not very thrilling. The episode is unfortunately a lot like most second episodes… rehash of the first. The reason being that pilot episodes are usually created in a bubble. They’re more standalone than jumping off points and so it’s usually pretty difficult to continue stories from the pilot when the second episode is filmed six months later and the entire direction of the show has changed. If you need any bigger proof of this just watch the first two episodes of Constantine as they abandon the entire premise of the show and recast a character. I know, I know… I’ve brought up Constantine again. Well… that’s because this show is a lot like Constantine in some ways. I fear that based on this episode that it might be heading towards cancellation like Constantine. Really the only thing saving it is that it’s a late season premiere and Fox hasn’t announced anything else coming down the line. That and Million Moms continues to give it great publicity by not shopping at places they don’t already shop at because “Lucifer” is the name of the show and god forbid kids watch it… what fucking kid wants to watch procedural TV shows based off a comic book they never read? I don’t know, but they’re a pretty cool fucking kid and their mom should back off.

In this episode we explore Chloe’s movie star past… in painstaking detail. We meet a Paparazzi she hates as he confesses to running someone off the road and getting them killed. The case is, who actually ran them off the road and if you pay attention you’ll figure it out before they do. Lucifer just tags along… that’s how he continues working with her. It works considering Chloe never checks in with a boss and is technically on Medical leave because Lucifer could save her life, but not heal her arm. At one point Chloe invites Lucifer to tag along because it’s easier than dealing with him just showing up. That was an actual exchange between them.


Maze and Amenadiel do the exact same thing and say practically the same lines.

Maze: “What are we doing here Lucifer? Why have you changed?

Amenadiel: “Go back to Hell Lucifer, there’s a balance… also, you’ve changed”

Wow, I hope in the third episode they remind us that Lucifer has changed and that he’s not being very devilish anymore… except for when he is. Tom Ellis isn’t perfect this go around either. Having Lucifer look at everyone and say, “Tell me your desires” is more like a pickup artist trying to land a date then it is an interesting story device. Try just having him look at them and adding a sound effect rather than boring us with the same line over and over. That and I will say that him sweet talking the desk officer, who just so happened to be a woman each time, was the biggest chunk of convenient writing I’ve witnessed since giving up on The Flash.

Let’s not forget Dan, who is the newest addition to the cast and has the lamest name. I mean Trixie and Chloe are nothing that grand, but fucking Dan? Why not shoot for the stars and call him Dante just to make it interesting. His character makes zero sense. He’s nice to his ex-wife and really he doesn’t come off like a bad guy making his character motivation strange. At least the previous Dan looked like a smug dickhead, new Dan just looks fishy.

I’m used to second episodes being rehash of the first, but this was a bit too much. It’s not enough that I’ll give up on the show, but it leaves me to believe that there’s not a lot of faith in this show succeeding which is always a bad sign. It’s like, why should I get invested if the studio didn’t? Too bad it’s not like Gotham and they just let them fuck around and do whatever for two seasons.

Score: 2/5

Lucifer 1.2 – “Lucifer, Stay. Good Devil Director: Nathan Hope Writers: Tom Kapinos, Joe Henderson Airs Monday’s on Fox

Review: The Magicians 1.3 – Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting

SyFy marketed The Magicians wonderfully. They showed all the magic and fucking that the show had to offer in the teaser. Women floating in a skirt? Check. Floating while fucking? Check. A shirt being blown off a woman in a scene that turned out to be more rapey than sexy? Check. It was marketed wonderfully because it caught the attention of everyone looking for a Harry Potter fix, but with sex as the reviews the show quotes over and over tell us. So much so that they made it their tagline… I checked it out because I downloaded the SyFy app on my X-Box One and realized that there wasn’t shit to watch on SyFy anymore. I figured, well… let’s watch their one and only new show. It is Harry Potter with adults. It’s kind of sad in that way because the author of the books doesn’t outright acknowledge that, but he sure as shit doesn’t shy away from it. The actual premise is that it’s Harry Potter mixed with Narnia and it’s like a grad school course. Because you only get invited after college… and yet the show complains that the magicians don’t know enough and they don’t have enough time and wait… maybe if they were kids they would have had enough time! See what I’m getting at? Change the age, change the locations and keep the accents, but it’s still a Potter knockoff. Don’t worry, I actually think that knockoffs can be fun and enjoyable.

At any rate our main character is Quentin Coldwater, he’s the chosen one, but who the fuck knows why. It’s the typical, “I don’t actually do anything, I’m just told I’m special” type of chosen one story. He’s a dick. There’s nothing really to like about this guy because when he discovers magic he turns into a complete dick to his best friend Julia. Sure he had a crush on her and she dated his friend instead. Sure she told him to grow up when it came to the Narnia esque books (Fillory in this world). Sure she… wait, that’s all she did other than tell him she knew he was in a hospital for being mental. Also we’ve seen her perform more magic than him at this point in the show, but hey… chosen one.

The third episode sees their two worlds meet again. Julia has been practicing magic with a bunch of… I don’t know what the fuck to call them. Basically magicians that don’t get to go to school and have to steal their spells anyway they can and as we learn, that can include sexual favors if need be. As we saw at the end of the second episode, there’s a traitor in the midst at the school and Quentin and Eliot track down a stolen book and that leads them to Julia. Quentin and Julia have another unprovoked argument in which Quentin furthers Julia’s motivation of learning magic in spite of him.


As for the rest of the episode, they assign a magic discipline and we learn that Penny can transport himself with a thought (like Jumpers), and that the teacher lady that does nothing but drop her accent can do it too… with a car though. Penny is apparently really fucking powerful and yet not our main character or the chosen one. I kind of hope he dies so we don’t have to deal with his one emotion that he busts out for everything… confusangry, confused and angry at the same time.

Alice’s story is about her brother haunting a fountain. We learn what happened to him and it’s pretty fucking lame actually. He was doing too much magic and turned into nothing but magic. On the plus side, Alice won’t be releasing anything dangerous shit trying to find him since he’s gone-gone now. She’s leaving the school supposedly and frankly I don’t care because it’s obvious the she’ll be back and that her and Quentin are going to lose their rose petals together.

The endings of each episode are pretty awkward. This one has Alice leaving and Margo telling her, “I like challenges.” That’s how it ends. I said, “Booo” outload. Even with all my bashing there were some good parts, but really there needs to be better character development. Right now Elliot and Margo are the only characters I like and something tells me I shouldn’t actually like their snotty attitude that much. Otherwise more character development please. There’s been zero effort in that, they’re just throwing these characters into situations and frankly without getting to know them, I don’t give two shits who lives or dies. It’s better than most SyFy shows, but it needs work. Because it’s SyFy it’ll run five seasons before being cancelled so that they don’t have to pay for syndication.

Score: 3/5

The Magicians 1.3 – “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting” Director: Scott Smith Writer: Henry Alonso Myers Airs Monday’s on SyFy

Review: Forever – The Complete Series

Forever can easily be summed up as a Sherlock Holmes style of story, if Sherlock was an immortal doctor that had learned all his deduction from years and years of experience. That is of course the big twist of this otherwise procedural show, the main character Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is essentially cursed to live forever. Whenever he dies he wakes up naked and in the nearest body of water. We’re introduced to this fact very quickly in the pilot episode as a train explodes and he winds up in the river. There are two possible answers to this immortality that the show introduces, but never ultimately has the opportunity to answer. The first is the pocket watch that Henry has had or found off and on throughout his life. I personally believe that this is the source of his immortality, but the show offers a second option later in the form of the gun that originally killed Henry. His immortality began on a slave ship heading to America. The ship is actually his families ship and this repugnant fact is addressed later when he finds out and wants no part of the family business.

In the modern timeline, Henry is a medical examiner. He’s forged modest papers to get the position in New York where he’s lived a great deal of his immortality. He’s not alone though, he has a son (played by Judd Hirsch) … who is not immortal. His son is also adopted as he and his wife took the baby post World War II. You see, there’s the interesting part of all this. Henry, has for the most part lead a normal life since World War II. He’s had a family and only married once. We later learn that his wife disappeared and her disappearance drove Henry mad for a time.

At any rate, Henry is the head medical examiner and of course he’s kind of a genius having absorbed more knowledge than most can in one life-time. He attracts the attention of a detective whose assumes they have an open and shut case only to have Henry proclaim murder. That becomes a familiar element of the procedural part of the show.

ForeverCompleteSeries_V_DD_KA_TT_1566x2250_300dpi_5dfd3fabFor a great deal of the episodes Henry doesn’t die. He just helps Jo (Alana De La Garza); his detective partner solves crimes. You have to suspend your disbelief here because the only other detective to bring a medical examiner along is iZombie and so that should tell you how ridiculous it is. I’m sure there’s some pretty basic rules in place as an officer that you don’t let medical examiners question your witnesses, but it becomes a running element of the show.

The adversary of the show is a very Moriarty character. They enter into Henry’s life after discovering he’s immortal like they are. Though Adam, as he likes to be called, has lived so long that he’s lost a lot of interest in humanity especially after being experimented on by Nazi scientists all throughout World War II. There is a very Holmes/Moriarty relationship between them though as they both understand what the other has gone through for the most part. They’ve both lived so many fake lives, but they’ve chosen different paths. Adam, turns out to have a great origin. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it is a famous historical figure. It really set the stage for the possibility of other historical figures being introduced later in the series, but atlas… that won’t happen.

The final showdown with Adam had an outcome with great consequences. It wasn’t amazing because there was a lot of sloppy writing leading up to it, but the actual consequences of it made of an interesting predicament for later episodes in the show. Adam could potentially come back as an even crazier character and I really found that to be interesting and dangerous.

The show avoids the pitfall of making our two leads romantically involved or in this case interested, until nearly the end of the show. Then, almost as a desperate gasp for attention it begins developing a storyline between Henry and Jo. It’s unfortunate because they bonded over being without their spouses, Jo without her dead husband and Henry without his wife that disappeared and could be alive, but probably isn’t. That brings me to my next point in that the show never really finds itself.

From the beginning to the end it tries to figure out if it’s a procedural, if the leads will be romantically involved, if it’s going to rely on the flashbacks of Henry’s past, if it’s going to run his beginning timeline parallel with his present timeline. It never finds itself and it stops relying on Henry dying to allow him to have more interesting outcomes and instead opts for putting Jo in harm’s way to protect him. It was interesting one episode and then overkill any other time it was attempted thereafter.

The series also wastes a lot of time just being procedural. Here’s our murder of the week that doesn’t look like a murder, but Henry says it is and he’s never wrong. Henry’s story is slowly developed and we see a lot of flashbacks to his early immortal days that attempt to tie into the episode’s story or just peel back a layer of his personality. Personally, I grew to hate the flashbacks as they reminded me of Arrow and that wasn’t a good thing. They quickly became overused and forced feeling.

The mystery of the disappearing wife ends up being a great deal of the finale and it’s stretched far too thin. To the point that it kind of gets ridiculous. Especially when they tie it into another story element. At that point you really have to acknowledge the convenience of the writing to tie together two elements that really have no business being anywhere near each other.

The sad part is, I actually really enjoyed the show despite all my criticism. It’s my joy for it that made me so critical of it. I was disappointed when it was cancelled, but not entirely surprised. The show really needed to pick a path and stick to it, but instead opted to change at someone’s whim. I don’t know if it was the networks, the producers or the showrunner, but the first six episodes of the show are the tightest and most interesting. There’s several after that, that manage to be quite good, but after those first six is when the emphasis on just solving murders takes over and it began to look a bit like Bones which is not a compliment.

I would recommend the DVD set if you liked the show. It contains several deleted scenes for each episode and while I don’t know if they really add anything to the story, it’s at least an interesting add-on to give the one season solid replay value. I did in fact say DVD earlier because let’s be honest we don’t need every TV show on Blu-Ray. If you were a fan of the show, then it’s worth the purchase. If you never watched it, but you’re a fan of Elementary, Bones or hell even Highlander, then you might just enjoy this hidden gem you missed.

Score: 3/5 (Show), 4/5 (DVD)

Forever – The Complete Series Studio: Warner Brothers Price: $47.99 (Made To Order) Release Date: 1/19/16

Review: Lucifer 1.1: Pilot

Since Constantine went off air I’ve been desperately waiting for Lucifer to premiere. Not because I’m some diehard of the original comic (though I have started reading the new series), but rather because the trailer for the series sold me on it. We meet Lucifer and we’re introduced to his “power” in the cold opening. It’s a scene just to establish that he’s “bad” and has an effect on people. It’s not the best cold opening, but it’s a safe opening. After he makes it to his nightclub LUX, we learn through exposition and a visit from an angel that Lucifer has left Hell in favor of owning a club off of the Hollywood strip. A famous singer that he helped guide stops by the club to ask if she in fact sold her soul to the devil to which he tells her no. He seems to really care about her as he asks her to just get her life in order and nothing more.

Then she’s gunned down… along with Lucifer.

He actually gets back up and questions the shooter who was hit by a bus. From there he decides that he’s going to basically solve the case. He meets a detective that no one on the force wants to work with and his charms don’t work on her. Their paths cross again as Lucifer seeks answers for the woman’s death and we successfully see his powers in action.

The first episode does a fine job of introducing Chloe our soon to be co-main character. For Lucifer its easy, read the bible or just the quotes that it leads off with. The point of Lucifer’s story is to present another side of the story that’s written in the bible so we don’t need backstory on him. We do need it on Chloe and we learn everything. She was an actress at one point and took her top off on camera. Then she became a cop and stood against other cops which is why she’s a pariah in the department. Her ex-husband is one of the villains from Arrow season 2 and he’s there just to look like a dick.


Lucifer, played by Tom Ellis, is the best part of the show. His voice is what does it. He has this distinguished voice. It doesn’t quite sound British, but it kind of does. I don’t know, it’s just fantastic and he really makes the entire show worth watching. I laughed hard when he said “Trixie is a hooker’s name” to a small child. A) Because it is and B) his delivery was great. Chloe, played by Lauren German was okay. She was a bit too polar for me at times. She was extreme either in her dislike or like of Lucifer and it got in the way of the believability of their budding relationship.

Interestingly enough I watched the leak pilot from a while back and noticed a startling difference… they re-cast the ex-husband. I wish they had stuck with the original guy, but Kevin Alejandro (Arrow’s Sebastian Blood) is the perfect guy to hate. Rachel Harris who plays Dr. Linda, is actually not annoying in her role as well. Which is good because according to IMDB, she’s in the next twelve episodes.

For a pilot it’s quite good. There’s some hokiness to the story in the fact that an officer would never bring along a civilian to question or arrest a suspect, but that’s TV for you. Happens every week on several different shows and we keep watching. Otherwise, if I score this just against the typical pilot, it scores high.

My only concern for the show is that it’s going to be procedural as fuck and that will kill it, just like Constantine. For this show to be successful you can’t honestly have Lucifer be a crime fighting consulting detective every week. There must be something else for him to do, but I have a feeling that it will be exactly that. Hopefully Fox’s audience will like that and support it because I really want to see more from Ellis.

Score: 4/5

Lucifer 1.1 “Pilot” Writer: Tom Kapinos Director: Len Wiseman Airs: Mondays on Fox

Review: Making A Murderer

Written by guest contributor Dave Fox

Even if you haven't seen Making A Murderer yet, you have heard about. It's been a huge subject for "water cooler" discussions in offices (do offices still have water coolers?) and has blown up on social media. An online petition even prompted a response from The White House!

So why has it caused such a sensation? Ten years in the making, the documentary tells the story of Steven Avery, an unremarkable man from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. The Avery family owned a large vehicle salvage yard in Manitowoc County from which they made a modest living. Steven Avery's life took a wrong turn in 1985, when he was arrested for the sexual assault of a local woman, Penny Beernsten. He was later convicted of the crime, despite having numerous alibis for his whereabouts at the time of the attack. Avery spent 18 years in prison as a result, until DNA evidence pointed in the right direction, towards another man guilty of several violent crimes in the area. Avery was freed in 2o03, once the miscarriage of justice was confirmed. Understandably, having lost nearly two decades of his life, he filed a lawsuit against the Manitowoc County Sheriffs Department and several individuals associated with his case. He was looking for damages in excess of $30m.

MAM_Vertical_Keyart_US.0Soon after filing his lawsuit, Avery found himself behind bars again - accused of the murder of local photographer Teresa Halbach. Soon after, his nephew Brendan Dassey was also accused of involvement in the violent crime. The documentary delves deep into the case, alleging a conflict of interest for the Manitowoc County law enforcement officials who dealt with both of Avery's arrests.

Because Making A Murderer is on Netflix, it's not an ordinary documentary. An hour long show, even a feature length film, would not be able to go into as much detail a this show does. The documentary consists of 10 episodes of 45 minutes to one hour, and it unfolds at a slow yet beguiling pace. The tension soon ratchets up though after only a couple of episodes, and you'll find yourself hooked.

Film makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos do a wonderful job of using the documentary format to tell the story of a true crime thriller, with all its twists and turns. I don't want spoil anything, but even after it's over, the hours and hours of evidence, there are still questions to be asked and answered. Certainly, there are still enough theories and counter theories online to show that Making A Murderer has got plenty of amateur sleuths thinking! The film clearly has an agenda - like almost any documentary - a story that it wants to tell, and whatever you may think about the innocence (or otherwise) of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, it will certainly make you think, and wonder exactly what it says about the American justice system. And there can never be too many thought provoking documentaries made. Let's hope the success of Making A Murderer heralds a new dawn for the documentary.

Score: 5/5

Making A Murderer Directors/Writers: Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos Studio: Netflix & Synthesis Films

Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Written by guest contributor Dave Fox

Online streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix have changed the television game over the last few years. Starting life content to stream films and TV shows people had already seen, they then made the leap into original programming. Ever since Netflix consulted an algorithm to tell them what people wanted to see and produced House Of Cards, they have been scrambling to out do the traditional channels and networks.

Of course, they don't even have to produce their own content all of the time. They also have the option of hoovering up the shows that traditional, risk-averse networks pass on. One such show is Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, hands down the funniest sitcom of 2015. It was the post-30 Rock creation of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, originally developed for NBC. According to Fey, the network "weren't feeling confident" about the comedy and so passed it on to Netflix. They made a huge mistake.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has one of the catchiest theme songs around, and if it sounds familiar, it's because it is. We've all seen viral memes along the same lines: an excitable local resident gets interviewed about a crime, and his words get auto-tuned into an irritatingly catchy song.

12154322The words in the opening credits are shorthand for Kimmy Schmidt's themes: "they alive, dammit. But females are strong as hell". The four women we see emerging from a bunker in the pilot episode's cold open had been held captive in there for fifteen years by a deranged preacher, the leader of a doomsday cult. The first face we see is that of the main protagonist, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper). It's not what you might expect. She's not cowed, scared, broken or defeated. Instead, she smiles as bright as sunshine.

Soon enough, Kimmy and her three bunker-mates are shipped off to New York for a round of television interviews, but as they head back to Durnsville, Indiana afterwards Kimmy decides to make a break for it. She doesn't want to return home where she'll forever be viewed as a victim, one of the "mole women" who escaped from an underground bunker. She resolves to make a clean break and forge a new life for herself in Manhattan.

She finds herself a tiny basement apartment complete with a crazy landlady (Carol Kane) and an out-of-work gay actor roommate named Titus Adromedon (Tituss Burgess). She even stumbles her way into a job working for Upper East Side socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's first season charts Kimmy as she adjusts to her new life and tries to deal with her past - she gets a job, a boyfriend, gets caught in a love triangle and goes back to school. She - accidentally - joins another cult, this one cycling and fitness based and reluctantly attends the trial of the man who kidnapped her, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm).

Ellie Kemper's larger-than-life performance steals the show, but her co-stars have chance to sign too. Tituss Burgess crushes every scene he's in as Kimmy's roommate and 30 Rock alum Krakowski is on career best form as the rich and out of touch Jacqueline.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is undoubtedly hilarious, but given the subject matter - a woman kidnapped and, it's strongly hinted, abused for 15 years of her life - is rare material for a sitcom, so maybe it's understandable that NBC passed, but the network should have been stronger and had more faith. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt doesn't make jokes about dark subjects to offend or shock in the way a lesser show would. They aren't exploitative, and Kimmy's such a well drawn character that she is more than her traumatic past. Her story didn't end when she came out of that bunker.

Ultimately, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt doesn't trade on cynicism or offence for the sake of it. It's message is one of resilience and hope. You'll come away from binge-watching the first season on Netflix sore from laughter, but with a message you can take into your daily life: find that small, unbreakable you inside yourself, and never let it go.

Score: 4/5

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Directors: Tristram Shapeero, and others Writers: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, and others Studios: Netflix, Universal Studios, Little Stranger Inc, Bevel Gears, 3 Arts Entertainment

Review: American Horror Story: Freak Show

Written by guest contributor Cameron Gallagher

After having watched Hotel, and just coming from Coven, I skipped Freak Show, because I was waiting for it to come to Netflix. Coven, has been my favorite of the entire shows run so far with the magical sense of horror and a compelling plot to go along with it, but after watching Freak Show, I have a new favorite.

Freak Show follows the story of a Freak Show (obviously) and their leader, Jessica Lange, and basically it is all of the insane things that come with a new addition, Sarah Paulson, a two-headed human, and how she basically creates the fall of the beloved Freak Show. This show had a lot of things going against it. Coming off a season like Coven, there is a lot the show would have to accomplish in order to not push away its viewers.

3-disturbing-new-posters-for-american-horror-story-freak-show6I think this show really flourished in its storytelling and visuals.  In previous seasons like Asylum and Murder House, the stories seemed to be sewn together, just barely hanging on by a thread and seeming a little too convenient for my liking, but Freak Show raised the bar for really bringing in multiple stories, and having them all fall nicely together, and being not only coherent, but VERY entertaining.

This is by far the best visually of the series. Everything from camera movement to the color palette of the series blew my mind. The style was pushed so heavily by the production team, you can feel the authenticity in its costumer design, sets, and cinematography. Every time I would see the circus tent, I would imagine what it was like to be there and the warm and hot feeling the Florida air had. It created a very surreal feeling.

The acting was phenomenal, as most of the seasons have been. Particularly the character of Dandy Mott. The psychological depth and hatred you had for this character… made you love him. You basically watched the beginning and formation of a serial killer, and it was incredible to watch how his character would justify things and his recklessness. I was very impressed with Finn Wittrock’s performance in the role.

Jessica Lange’s narcissistic backstory seems to be getting a little repetitive, considering all of the seasons have really had that same message behind her character, and the show can be a little slow at some times, but it was made up for in its acting and production value. AHS gets it’s well deserved 4/5. Make sure to check it out yourself and enjoy!

Score: 4/5

American Horror Story: Freak Show Directors: Various Writers: Various Studio: FX Episode Total: 13

Review: American Horror Story: Murder House & Asylum

Written by guest contributor Dave Fox

Every well-regarding TV show in history has had its detractors. Even a classic like Twin Peaks divided opinion. Lost often split audiences right down the middle. I even know people who find documentary-of-the-moment Making A Murderer boring. But there's one show that seems unanimously loved, at least by people I know: American Horror Story.

Ever since the show debuted in 2011; friends, co-workers and relatives have been telling me to watch it. I always resisted, horror isn't really my thing, and there are so many shows to catch up on that it was always very low on my list of shows to watch.

91TWKcwjhlL._SY606_But, one fateful day recently, I was browsing listlessly through Netflix when my fiance suggested that we watch American Horror Story to "see what the fuss is about". I agreed, and it's a decision I will always regret.

The anthology series is currently on its fifth season, American Horror Story: Hotel. Naturally, my experience started at the beginning with American Horror Story: Murder House. It's the season that is almost universally regarded as being the best. Given how much I hated it, I can only imagine how awful I'll find Hotel once I get to it (if I get to it!).

Murder house follows the Harmon family: psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) and their moody teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). They move into an old mansion in L.A. and are haunted by strange happenings and the apparitions of anyone who had ever died in the infamous "murder house".

Haunted house tales are as old as time, and the setting is perfect, in theory, for a creepy, suspenseful thriller. But instead of that, Murder House delivers a shrill, jumbled mess. The Harmon family seem to be going through about twelve different crises at once while the house itself is haunted by what seems to be an innumerable number of ghosts. Not content to tell a simple ghost story, the show throws everything at the wall to see what sticks: a school shooting, suicide, rape, a mutation in the basement, scientific experiments gone wrong, the's all there. And most of it doesn't need to be. Murder House feels as though it's written by an excitable child with ADHD.

1r1American Horror Story's second season, Asylum, is much the same. It's worth mentioning that American Horror Story is an anthology series like True Detective and Fargo. Each season is distinct, following a different story and a different cast of characters, albeit with a revolving cast of actors playing different roles. So Asylum takes place in, well, an asylum. Unlike Murder House, it isn't set in the present day but in the 1960's. The season follows the lives of the nuns, doctors and patients who occupy Briarcliff Mental Institution. Again, the setting is interesting. Given the horrors that were seen inside the walls of mental institutions during this period in history, the potential was there for some really creepy, unsettling television. Creator Ryan Murphy even said the season was "based largely on truth and truth is always scarier than fiction".

"Based largely on truth"? Asylum contains with in its walls a former Nazi in hiding, experimenting on patients; mutated, feral, cannibalistic ex-patients who live in the woods, a serial killer who kills women and wears their skin, exorcisms, devil possession, the Angel of Death, rape (yep, again), oh, and aliens. Because why the hell not? It's fair to say that it has absolutely nothing to do with the truth. In Asylum, just as in murder house, a promising setting is ruined by jumbled storytelling. Absolutely nothing in Asylum makes any sense. In fact, both of the first two seasons lurch from idea to idea and don't seem to settle on anything at all. It's irritating, it's distracting, and it's certainly not scary.

I haven't yet moved on to season three (Coven), but I'm sure it will have as much frenetic, unfocused energy as Murder House and Asylum. All I want is for American Horror Story to live up to its name and tell an actual story. A solidly plotted story that sticks to an idea for more than five minutes, and carries it through to the end. Sadly, I think it's far too much to ask.

Score: 2/5

American Horror Story: Murder House and American Horror Story: Asylum Director: Bradley Buecker and Various Writers: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Various Studio: 20th Century Fox

Review: Doctor Who 9.01 - The Magician’s Apprentice

Doctor Who is back! I can’t say I was that excited after a really lackluster eighth season, but there’s always a bit of excitement when the show returns. I know that there’s always a bit of a transition when a new Doctor is introduced, but in the past it’s always been used to kick off a major storyline for the new Doctor. I mean with the Tenth Doctor we had his entire endgame started in the first episode of his appearance. It was as if it was created at the same time so that there would be an exit strategy for when Tennant left the show… clearly that wasn’t done for Matt Smith whose storyline ended up being a lame duck ending and a lot of pieces that were being built up ended up being swept under the rug instead. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor at first, but he grew on me as all new actors to the role often do. What became painful clear was that Jenna Coleman’s character of Clara had in fact worn out her welcome. Her storyline last season was boring and I was glad when her boyfriend died. I hated him instantly and I will never be able to enjoy that actor in anything he goes on to do. The eighth season came across as a trial and error season. Showrunner Steven Moffat came across as not really having a plan for the new Doctor because too much of what he was building was ruined by Matt Smith’s early exit. The first episode of the ninth season, The Magician’s Apprentice, felt a lot like the start of the Eleventh Doctor’s last season.

The episode begins on a planet in the midst of war. We see old school style bi-planes flying and shooting lasers at men with bows and arrows… that shoot lasers. One of the soldiers sees a boy running off on his own and wants to help him. The boy freezes in place and the two talk before the man helping him has his leg grabbed by a clay covered hand coming up from the ground. Creepy awesome Doctor Who is back I thought. The visuals are incredible on this scene and the man is sucked under. The boy screams for help after this and in typical Doctor fashion he arrives to help the boy. Things get interesting though when he asks the boy for his name and we learn that it’s… Davros. You either understand what that means or not, but to explain it would ruin it so I’ll move on.

Then we move to another scene in which a dude that is clearly a big ass snake named Colony Sarff is looking for the Doctor and turning up at all kinds of places that he’s not welcomed. Eventually he winds up at Karn looking for the Doctor and there’s a great line just before Sarff reveals why he’s looking for the Doctor and it involves Davros.


The story then kicks over to Jenna who feels super cool and important when the government calls her when all the planes are frozen in time in the sky. Eventually Missy reveals herself and it’s all great with her. Missy is amazing and actress Michelle Gomez is phenomenal in the role. Together Missy and Clara track down the Doctor who seems to think he’s going to die tomorrow which is a very loose term for Time Lords.

The episode is pretty damn good until the Doctor returns. Actually I should say up until the point that the Doctor is discovered by Clara and Missy. The Doctor is apparently just fucking with time at this one given point and while it’s supposed to be fun and not worth too much thought… well we’re dealing with a series that thinks a lot about time travel and so that’s just injected into us as well. Basically it’s hard to ignore the rules when the show has engrained them into us.

The ending of the episode was B.S. and I can’t wait to see them pull their punches on the second episode. Oh and Missy and Clara are supposedly dead even though we know they have junk time travel devices on and that’s an escape route that’s been used too many times before… that and I kind of hope Clara is dead as I for one am really happy to see Jenna Coleman finally leaving the show for something boring which I’m sure will suit her better.


I liked the episode for the most part, but the well-worn devices that Moffat loves to use just weren’t working this time. How many times have we seen someone die while he’s the showrunner only to see them come back some way somehow? Frankly, comic book deaths hold more weight because the only time people die in Who is when they’re a supporting character or leaving the show.

I liked the reveals, but it was just the moving parts to get to them that still feel really weak. I’m beginning to think that Moffat isn’t the best showrunner and should pass the torch and go back to writing. He has some great episodes and you can always spot one of his lines like, “Right behind you and one step ahead”, but even that is becoming old hat. This could have been a great episode, but instead it was better than average and just barely. Even still it was better than anything the last season had to offer and hopefully this season will just erase that all from my memory.

Doctor Who is definitely back, but I’m missing that exciting feeling that’s usually attached to it. Hopefully Moffat and company can turn it around.

Score: 4/5

Doctor Who S9.E1 “The Magician’s Apprentice” Writer: Steven Moffat Director: Hettie MacDonald

Review: Arrow 3.23 - My Name Is Oliver Queen

The Arrow finale was, in a word, underwhelming. A lot gets resolved and settled, and it’s all well and good, but this episode wasn’t particularly exciting, especially as a season finale. Merlyn reveals to Team Arrow that he and Oliver have been planning this for a while, and that it had to look like Oliver betrayed them in order for Ra’s to trust him. This makes perfect sense and Team Arrow should probably have figured it out themselves, but they’re a bit too busy feeling actually betrayed. Elsewhere, Oliver reveals himself to Ra’s pretty immediately. Ra’s is heading to Starling to unleash the bioweapon- against which Team Arrow is already conveniently inoculated. He’s aiming not only for the city Oliver loves, but also for Damien Darhk, because another rushed subplot was exactly what this episode needed.

The final showdown between Ra’s and Oliver is also pretty underwhelming. They duel on a bridge while the SCPD looks on, a sniper waiting for a “clean shot.” The sniper’s kind enough to wait until Oliver and Ra’s hash it out; Ra’s gives Oliver his ring and his title, then dies. Oliver’s then shot by the sniper fellow and tumbles off the bridge, and it’s Felicity in the Atom suit who saves him. I’ll admit that bit was pretty sweet.

Arrow 3.23 My Name is Oliver Queen

This episode had a few other good points. Barry makes a very brief appearance. Lance shows up for the first time in a couple episodes- I think it’s been at least three since we’ve seen him. Thea works the Arsenal suit, and even gets Oliver’s blessing to become yet another Starling City Mask. I enjoyed the little exchange where she says she’s considering going by Red Arrow and Oliver replies that he’s already told everyone to call her Speedy.

In the end, Oliver’s vigilante days are behind him; it’s time for him to leave Starling, and Felicity’s going with him. I know many are excited and/or relieved that they’ve finally gotten together, and I’d include myself in that, though I’m kind of amused that he’s still technically married to Nyssa. And as per their “deal,” Oliver gives the Demon’s Head ring and title to Merlyn, which can’t possibly go wrong.

Overall, the finale did well wrapping up all the loose ends, but that’s about it. Despite packing so much into one episode, it really dragged and did little to hold my interest.

Score: 2/5

Arrow 3.23 – “My Name Is Oliver Queen” Watch Arrow on the CW, Wednesdays at 8/7c.