Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong

A year ago, summer was called off, theaters were closed, and studios pulled their largest potential blockbusters from the calendar. Although far from perfect, and with too much of the Godzilla story built on the ashes of the weakest film of the series (Godzilla: King of Monsters), Godzilla vs. Kong delivers the kind of big dumb summer blockbuster audiences have been waiting two years for. The culmination of Legendary's MonsterVerse wastes little time getting both King Kong and Godzilla on-screen. And, clocking in at under two-hours, director Adam Wingard knows not to overstay his welcome.

Monday, March 29, 2021

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Originally envisioned as a stop-motion film featuring King Kong fighting a giant Frankenstein Monster, the struggling project was given to Toho Studios which saw in Kong an adversary worthy of Godzilla. The story involves a submarine which takes absolutely no attempt to avoid hitting a giant iceberg which cracks and releases the slumbering Godzilla once more. The movie is a bit unclear on if people know who Godzilla is (they know at least about his name, but otherwise the film is inconsistent about the creature's history).

MacGyver - C8H7ClO + Nano-Trackers + Resistance + Maldives + Mind Games

With resources stretched thin, MacGyver (Lucas Till) and Riley (Tristin Mays) are sent to Bosnia to look into a local leader attempting to silence protestors. Using updated technology which Russ (Henry Ian Cusick) identifies as belonging to an old adversary (Jeremy Crutchley), Mac and Riley discover police are using tear gas to insert nanobots into the bodies of the protestors making it easier to track, jail, and permanently silence them. Once infected, Mac and Desi (while working through their own issues) have to work fast in able to keep themselves and the protestors out of the hands of the police while Russ attempts to pump the scientist for the information necessary to shut down the program permanently.

King Kong

1976's King Kong holds up fairly well nearly 45 years after its release. The first remake of the 1933 film, producer Dino De Laurentiis and director John Guillermin's film is memorable for its practical effects including the mechanical Kong mask developed by Carlo Rambaldi and Rick Baker giving Kong's face a wide range of emotion. While some of the composite shots merging Kong with the world aren't as effective today, there's still quite a bit of movie magic. Baker also credits cinematographer Richard H. Kline whose work he felt hid the limitations of what could be done with Kong at the time.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - The Star Spangled Man

After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier kept them apart for the entire opening episode, "The Star Spangled Man" throws Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) together so quickly you almost wonder if you missed an episode in-between. Finally playing to the strengths of the odd couple pairing, and offering a more consistent narrative that doesn't ping pong around nearly as much as the show's opener, the second episode gives us a team-up not just between Bucky and Sam but, unexpectedly, working alongside the new Captain America (Wyatt Russell) and his sidekick (Clé Bennett) who discover the gang of Flag Smashers they've all been chasing (well, except for Bucky who just tags along to bug Sam) turn out to be super-soldiers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Superman & Lois - The Best of Smallville

HarvestFest comes to Superman & Lois & Jonathan & Jordan in an episode that offers more moody teenage drama, our first glimpses of a teenage Clark's (Dylan Kingwell ) time in Smallville, and Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) stumbling on the bizarre experiments conducted by Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner) thanks to some investigating by Chrissy Beppo (Sofia Hasmik). The out-of-time Captain Luthor (Wolé Parks) introduces himself to Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) who he believes can lead him to Superman. The episode's epilogue offers the sudden reappearance of Tag Harris (Wern Lee) confronting Jordan (Alex Garfin) proving the government is worthless at keeping any super-powered individual, even a teenager not in control of his abilities, under wraps.

The Flash - Central City Strong

In an episode about recovering for both the city and for its characters, Abra Kadabra (David Dastmalchian) returns with threats of destroying Central City using an anti-matter bomb. The use of a villain from the future allows the show to offer another tease about a new looming threat coming for our hero, which (of course) it can't wait to awkwardly work into casual conversation. While there's much to praise "Central City Strong" in focusing on the aftermath of recent events, for both those trapped in the mirror dimension and those who unknowingly lived their lives with duplicates, several aspects of the episode are poorly written including the clunky dialogue of giving back to the community, the foreshadoing of the Caitlin / Frost (Danielle Panabaker) reveal, and the anti-climactic finale as the show doubles down on Barry's (Grant Gustin) power of love being a better super-power than his speed.

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1

I've always liked Marvel's Black Knight, the mix of super-hero and Arthurian legend (although I must admit my favorite version wears a leather jacket on top of chain mail armed with a lightsaber). Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1 offers some insight into the mental and emotional state of hero and part-time Avenger Dane Whitman who is in possession of the cursed Ebony Blade which offers him the chance at heroic action but only by diving head-first into dark emotions and power he doesn't fully understand.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Debris - Solar Winds

The third episode of Debris continues the ongoing storylines of the shadowy private group looking to add to their own collection of debris (with the help of some members of the government) and the questions concerning Finola Jones' (Riann Steele) not-so-dead father (Tyrone Benskin). The odd occurrence of the week takes place in a field where window mysterious appears and disappears, with other people trapped on the other side, without any apparent nearby debris (which is actually found rather easily once they begin investigating a larger area). The episode plays on the theory of certain places on Earth where the fabric of dimensions can allow someone to walk from one world through the next.

The History of The Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Courier

Based on true events, director Dominic Cooke's The Courier offers a solid period thriller surrounding Soviet scientist Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) and British salesman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) who becomes a vital piece in Cold War espionage by smuggling Soviet secrets out Moscow for Penkovsky and into the waiting arms of MI6 and the CIA in the months leading up the the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Penned by Tom O'Connor (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), The Courier fits easily into its genre. The structure of the film, following events from beginning to end in chronological fashion, does offer a rather large shift in The Courier's final half-hour which may have been avoided by more imaginative editing and structure. Cumberbatch and Ninidze will gather the most interest here. The women of the story don't fare as well. The film has a lesser interest in Wynne's wife (Jessie Buckley) and almost no interest in Penkovsky's family. Even Rachel Brosnahan as the CIA agent who brings the case to MI6's attention and pressures them to make good on their promises, isn't given anything all that interesting to do.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - Episode 1

The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the latest Marvel series to hit Disney+, shows promise. It also shows an inability to focus not unlike that of a ADHD pre-teen on a sugar high without ever giving us time to settle in and get comfortable in any one aspect of the larger story. Jumping around quite a bit, "Episode 1" catches viewers up on both Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). The opening sequence, which feels more than a little reminiscent of the ship rescue in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (complete with the return of Georges St-Pierre as Georges Batroc), confirms Sam's role with some unnamed part of the United States Armed Forces while introducing a new character (Danny Ramirez) whose relationship to Sam is apparently to find trouble for the Falcon to solve.

Superman & Lois - Haywire

"Haywire" is most notable for Superman & Lois & Jonathan & Jordan adopting one of the pillars of Smallville. It turns out in this reality Smallville, Kansas, was also pelted with loads of Kryptonite which explains Morgan Edge's (Adam Rayner) interest in mining the town and offers the first "freak" as one of the Kent brothers' classmates exhibits odd powers after being be exposed to the rocks. All the major themes from the first three episodes are revisited here. Clark's (Tyler Hoechlin) split focus causes problems with everyone, in bad writing that was easy to see coming General Sam Lane (Dylan Walsh) begins to view Superman as a threat for no reason at all, Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) is stymied in her attempts to keep Edge out of Smallville, Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) continues to sulk at his brother's sudden popularity, and Jordan (Alex Garfin) begins to grow into his role as a member of the team.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Boss Level

B-movie actor Frank Grillo, best known for his role of Crossbones in the Marvel Universe films, stars as soldier Roy Pulver stuck in a time loop reliving the same day over and over again. Structured like a video game, although the explanation for the loop turns out having nothing to do with a video game, Ray fights through the army of oddball mercenaries every day but always ends up dying at some point.

The story behind Ray's predicament traces back to his ex-wife (Naomi Watts), her latest scientific breakthrough (which of course is never adequately explained), and her evil boss (Mel Gibson) who apparently has a never-ending rolodex of ridiculous killers on hand and a hard-on to kill Ray. The film is structured by showing us some sequences over and over again, and other times jumping forward to only the new moments. It does make use of ideas in both Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow in Ray using his unique situation to learn more skills to survive. Sadly, writer/director Joe Carnahan's film is nowhere near as good as either of those films, or last year's far more enjoyable entry into the genre Palm Springs (also released on Hulu).

The Flash - Mother

If Huey Lewis' "The Power of Love" had been blaring throughout "Mother," the episode would be no more schmaltzy. In what was originally planned to be last season's finale, Barry (Grant Gustin) gets a new, new artificial Speed Force based on the power of love. No, really. And just in time too, as Eva McCulloch (Efrat Dor) has begun replacing the citizens of Central City with her mirror duplicates en masse. Thankfully, she's no match for... the power of love. The episode also offers yet another farewell to Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), as the rebirthed original Wells returns to help Team Flash one last time. The episode leaves the door open for a possible return of the character while also leaving a couple of Easter Eggs in the character's look back at something occurring just prior to Barry's speed being restored and some odd lightning that shoots out of S.T.A.R. Labs (possibly laying the ground for new speedsters?).

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Clone Wars - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Style

Street Fighter Girls Fay Prince & Ririkana

Fay Prince is a cosplayer from Taiwan. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram and support her on Pateron.

Ririkana is a Japanese cosplayer. You can follower her on Twitter and Instagram and support her on Patreon.

Monday, March 15, 2021

James Bond: Agent of SPECTRE #1

There's a problematic question at the heart of the first issue of James Bond: Agent of SPECTRE which asks how James Bond might end up working for the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. Of course, the answer is never. However, writer Christos Gage does provide a scenario where Bond might appear to work with the evil organization to further his own ends.

Legacies - To Whom it May Concern

As Landon (Aria Shahghasemi) begins his journey back to the land of the living, which includes a run-in with the Necromancer (Ben Geurens) inside Malivore, the rest the students have attempted to move on with their lives. Josie (Kaylee Bryant) continues her experiment of attending Mystic Falls High not realizing how much trouble the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young & Gifted is in trouble by bleeding students following their latest life-and-death battle. In order to keep a large enough student body, they need at least two of the skeptical prospective students to sign-on for the new semester. The sets of the school certainly look empty without the extras moving about, as do those of Josie at Mystic Falls High as the script keeps her from large gatherings which would be problematic during COVID shooting (although the disease itself is never mentioned).

Sonjaversal #2

The second issue of Sonjaversal doesn't do anything to clear up just what caused Red Sonja's current trouble of having Sonjas from every shade jump dimensions and attempt to kill her. While the comic restates the fact that Red Sonja has apparently done something to anger her god, we don't see much evidence as to what that might be (other than perhaps the seemingly disconnected story of Sonja battling and then bedding an attractive warrior some time before any of these events were set in motion).

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Nocterra #1

Writer Scott Snyder and artist Tony S. Daniel reunite at Image Comics to offer a dystopian future tale of endless night. Anything living left in the darkness for more than 10 hours becomes a Shade which continue to evolve. Humanity is scattered across various outposts with those known as Ferrymen to transport them at great risk.

Debris - Pilot

The "Pilot" episode of Debris introduces us to MI6 agent Finola Jones (Riann Steele) and CIA agent Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) who work together to deal with alien spacecraft debris which has unusual properties after hitting the Earth. Similar to The X-Files and Fringe, the show sets the stage for bizarre occurrences which will need to investigated. Unlike those shows, however, we know what is causing the odd incidents (although not what kind of chaos the various debris may unleash as they have very different properties). There's not much wrong with the first episode, although it feels like yet another of "those shows" which despite a solid set-up and weird stuff to investigate every week doesn't quite do enough to sell me on coming back week after week. Will I watch another episode? Probably. Is it must-see? Hardly.

The Rise & Fall of Knight Rider

Monday, March 8, 2021

MacGyver - Diamond + Quake + Carbon + Comms + Tower

The identity crisis that has plagued MacGyver's Fifth Season continues here as Codex appears again as a major threat and then is completely dismantled (again) off-camera. In-between we get MacGyver (Lucas Till), Desi, and Riley (Tristin Mays) in Mexico City searching for a Codex headquarters where they become unsuspecting pawns of Murdoc (David Dastmalchian) and Andrews (Joe Pantoliano) who create a man-made earthquake in an attempted power play to grab control of the disorganized Codex. The earthquake sequences provide some pretty good special effects for the show providing one of the better aspects of the episode as does the reveal of Andrews' real plan of attempting to earn a role as Codex's new leader by eliminating MacGyver and his friends (even if the events following it are anti-climactic).

Suicide Squad #1

For the second time in a calendar year, DC relaunches Suicide Squad with a new team. Notable here is the inclusion of the Peacemaker, the character who John Cena will play in the upcoming 2021 film The Suicide Squad (although the rest of that team bares little resemblance to what we see here). Amanda Waller is back in command, in full-figured form, as is Rick Flag (although he's far from pleased with the new direction the Suicide Squad is headed, starting with the recruitment of a new member inside Arkham Asylum).

The Blacklist - The Cyranoid

It's been a couple of years since I sat down and watched and episode of The Blacklist. Honestly, I was a bit surprised it was still on. Built on deceptions, secrets, swerves, the battle of wills, and half-truths, the show long ago outlived the original plotline and has attempt to continue to morph in able to keep things going while struggling to still keep its storyline at least marginally plausible. "The Cyranoid" is good example at how ridiculous things have gotten. Mara Davi guest-stars as a stand-in for Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone who doesn't appear on camera), an agent with a camera and microphone following Keen's instructions which include proposing a partnership with Neville Townsend (Reg Rogers) and committing murder in the black site of the FBI. While primarily focused on the search for Keen, the episode also features an ongoing storyline about Raymond Reddington's (James Spader) fear the FBI is closing in on an asset who still has an important role to play in his larger byzantine schemes.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith

I'll admit, I fell off a bit with my reading of rebooted Buffy and Angel comics with the whole Hellmouth crossover. I've picked up a bit here and there, and that's what made me notice this new 40-page one-shot centered around Faith. The issue offers a glimpse of Faith prior to her introduction in Sunnydale but after she became noticed by the Watchers Council as a potential Slayer (Or became a Slayer? It's confusing).

Prodigal Son - Face Value

Since it's premiere, Prodigal Son has balanced how far over the edge to take it's characters. In "Face Values" the show goes a bit too far over the line as Malcom (Tom Payne) is distracted from his latest case involving a doctor Botoxed to death by what turns out to be his sister Ainsley (Halston Sage) screwing with him after discovering what he has kept from her. While this means Ainsley isn't a serial killer, it does mean she's perhaps even less mentally stable than the show has explored so far as she is incapable of realizing just how far she has taken things to try and teach her brother (who risked his job and prison to protect her).

Superman & Lois - Heritage

Two episodes in, it's becoming pretty clear that the name of the show should be Superman & Lois & Jonathan & Jordan as the show continues to divide its focus to the various Kent family members. As expected, Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) becomes the more sullen of the two brothers after the family's relocation and his trouble fitting in with the Smallville football team. Jordan's (Alex Garfin) momentary good humor about spending time with his dad and visiting the Fortress of Solitude is quickly dashed when his hologram grandfather suggests that he doesn't have enough Kryptonian DNA to ever develop true powers. Holo Jor-El (Angus Macfadyen), what a jerk. (Also, did anyone else think it odd that somehow Jor-El was able to capture footage of Kal-El's escape and Kryptonian's destruction which, you know, he didn't live through or have time to be able to program into a computer?) As for the Kents, I may be able to stomach one moody Kent sibling, but two is going to get tiresome rather quickly.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Black Cat #3

With half of the issue taking place inside the mind of the Black Cat, Black Cat #3 doesn't do much to advance the overall tie to "King in Black" which turns out to be a good thing (and not only because I could care less able the larger event) as this single issue detour turns out to provide a hell of a lot of fun.

The Flash - All's Wells That Ends Wells

The first episode of The Flash's Seventh Season picks up the unfinished threads of last year's truncated season with an hour filled with enough plot for three episodes and wild tonal shifts. Most notably, the episode features the breakthrough necessary to power the artificial Speed Force and restore Barry's (Grant Gustin) disappearing speed. However, there's a catch as Nash (Tom Cavanagh) connection to the Multiverse turns out to be the only possible fuel, meaning The Flash has found yet another way for Tom Cavanagh to die. It's sad to see Cavanagh exit again, although there still is one version of the character out there looking to tangle with the Flash (but Reverse-Flash doesn't factor into this episode at all). Before exiting stage left, again, the episode includes a goofy sequence with the various versions of Wells stored temporarily within Barry's body which is best forgotten as soon as possible.

Batman: Black and White #3

Batman: Black and White #3 offers up five more Batman stories in black and white. The third issue is notable for the absence of Bat-villains (except as a cameo in a single panel of one tale), instead focusing on alternate realms, alternate Batmen, street punks, and the legacy of Batman.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Us Again

The latest Disney short, released with Raya and the Last Dragon, gives us a dialogue-free tale about being as young as you feel. Director Zach Parrish's Us Again, with music from Pinar Toprak, introduces us to the elderly couple of Art and Dot who rekindle a bit of their old magic in the rain. Feeling young again, the curmudgeonly Art finds a youthful swagger his wife hasn't seen in years offering a joyful extended dance sequence and leaving the audience with a moral about enjoying the life you have in front of you rather than focus on the past.

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1

After their plane is forced to crash in the ocean by a religious zealot determined to kill Hellboy before he grows up and brings about the apocalypse, Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm find themselves on an island filled with all manner of monsters including gorillas, giant crabs, and velociraptors. So much for the fun archeological dig they pair had planned (perhaps with mummies!), now they will need to survive.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Raya and the Last Dragon

Through an extended opening sequence, heavy on narration, we're introduced to the divided nation of Kumandra which was once threatened by the film's underdeveloped boogeyman monsters known as the Druun (think less scary version of the creatures in Edge ofTomorrow). Years later, the last guardian of magic (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) are betrayed by the selfishness of humanity as the Druun escape leading Raya in search of the last dragon who was able to stop the Druun centuries before.

Boys State

Boys State offers a glimpse into the annual tradition the American Legion has held in since 1935 where high school juniors are brought in to learn about government and politics firsthand. The documentary focuses on the Texas Boys State working in two separate political parties to build a representative government, create a political agenda, and run for various offices including Governor.

Allowing us to look at the next generation of potential political operatives, Boys State shows us teenagers have already learned the some of the worst lessons of politics from those they have watched govern them. While several of the students don't take the opportunity seriously, offering bills for change the pronunciation of "W" or trying to impeach an elected official they dislike personally, the film turns on the introduction of Steven Garza who plants his flag on the idea of cooperation, combined self-government, and honestly helping others which offers a nice change of pace from the pro-gun and anti-abortion message that otherwise permeates the debates. Although we don't have to wait long before personal attacks begin to change the narrative.