Bulletproof love and war.

2018 will go down as the year of the black superhero from Black Panther breaking all kinds of records, molds and glass ceilings to Black Lightning debuting with a killer season 1. Luke Cage was the one to get that ball rolling two years prior.

Season 1, especially the first half, was a strong effort. Season 2 does what the Marshall Mathers LP, good kid, m.A.A.d city and The Score does by refining what worked in the first season and fixing what didn’t work to provide a deeper, richer and overall better season.

This season takes place several months after what went down in The Defenders (Sidebar: expect spoilers if you missed it. I said what I said!) Luke is back on the block and his profile has risen significantly since he got out.

The public adores him:

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He’s in a good place with Claire:

He’s keeping Harlem clean:

just as he’s living his best life…past traumas such as his estranged father James Lucas (Reg E. Cathey in his swan song) and a power vacuum in Harlem’s underworld as a years-long blood feud between Mariah Dillard and Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) threatens to tear this town apart.

Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, and Chaz Lamar Shepherd in Luke Cage (2016)

Not everyone’s in a good place. Misty Knight’s still reeling from losing her arm in the wake of Midland Circle, she’s been shunned by the police force because of Scarfe’s actions as several of the criminals they’ve put away are back on the streets. I appreciated how the events of the Defenders had a ripple effect on this show and its characters.

Just like last season, each episode is named after Pete Rock & CL Smooth and the soundtrack gets deeper including Reggae to accentuate scenes involving Bushmaster. One scene, in particular, that echoes the Crispus Attucks sequence from Season 1 is set to Mobb Deep’s Shook Ones. Harlem’s Paradise is packed this season with appearances from Gary Clark, Jr, Faith Evans (returning for an encore), Jadakiss, Rakim, KRS One, Ghostface Killah, to name a few.

Mike Colter is having a lot more fun this go-around. Luke is finally embracing the limelight that he tried to stay away from. He doesn’t have a mask like Daredevil and he doesn’t lurk in the shadows like Jessica Jones or the Punisher, he’s on front street all the time. Pop’s Barbershop transformed into a makeshift merchandise spot. In the more dramatic beats, one with Rosario Dawson’s Claire, he puts on an acting clinic about how black men are perceived “I’m a black man in a hoody” says Luke “People have always been afraid of me”. With all of Harlem’s eyes on him (there’s even an app that tracks his whereabouts) the newfound fame amplifies the pressure and he begins to crack when Harlem starts to lose faith. He even gets closer and closer to becoming the Hero for Hire (“Just because you a woke superhero, don’t mean you gotta to be a broke superhero”).

Simone Missick, who stole last season, stepped up tremendously. Misty undergoes a rough transition having to regain her confidence, her colleagues’ perception of her being damaged goods and with a lost appendage on top of everything else. Misty’s arc does echo Yo-Yo’s (played by the fabulous Natalia Cordova-Buckley) journey on Agents of SHIELD last season, where she goes through a similar tragedy to overcome. It takes a new friend to set her straight as Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) stops by to help her out. I love that the show is further building on the groundwork that The Defenders laid down and it makes a strong case for a Daughters of the Dragon spin-off! She even gets the bionic arm which completes her transformation and she does some cool stuff with it!

Alfre Woodard puts on an Emmy-worthy showcase with Mariah Dillard. The one good takeaway from Cottonmouth’s death is that it paves the way for her to fill the void. Mustafa Shakir threatens to steal her spotlight. Instead of a midseason switch, the show’s a lot more focused with its villains this season. Bushmaster is every bit Luke’s physical equal, their fights scenes together are dynamic. His style is very capoeira-like which is a great contrast to Luke’s tank offence.

Tilda Johnson, played by Gabrielle Dennis, is introduced this season as Mariah’s estranged daughter who owns an herbal shop. Tilda’s resentment towards Mariah also parallels Luke’s resentment towards his father. Theo Rossi’s Shades gets a lot more to do this season, he gets to have an arc where he’s more than just Mariah’s arm candy and sneaking around in the shadows. His scenes with Comanché do hint at them having a deeper bond during their stint at Seagate.

The writing has levelled up this season. There’s even easter eggs in the script, especially where Luke utters the words: “where’s my money, honey?”. It’s also unafraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to the current political climate within its world. Putting Game of Thrones and State Property together is a crossover I didn’t know I wanted.

“I haven’t felt this way since November 9th”

Season 2 has a lot more fun cameo-wise. Especially one that was met with a lot of trepidation. I’m talking about Iron Fist. You can rest easy, everyone. Finn Jones in his guest appearance is a well-adjusted, centred and dare I say it…likable Danny Rand. Cheo Coker did the unthinkable with a legit Power Man & Iron Fist episode that did a lot to erase the sour taste viewers have had with his solo outing.  It’s some quality course correction. The warehouse fight scene set to Wu-Tang Clan’s 7th Chamber, pt 2 is all kinds of dope. You’ll be saying “Sweet Christmas” when it’s all said and done. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little more optimistic about Iron Fist’s sophomore run, better yet, a Heroes for Hire miniseries!

One thing this season hasn’t fixed is its pacing. 13 episodes can be a double-edged sword. It can be slow to start. An argument can be made that a leaner episode count could work out for all the Marvel/Netflix shows or it can take a mini-arc approach a la Daredevil S2.

The sophomore curse can’t land a mark on Luke Cage’s face. Season 2 is bigger, better and deeper than the first. Once you get past the glacial pace, it’s a thrill ride. The ending could very well change the game for this sub-universe going forward. It’s a mic drop heard ’round the world!

 

 

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The Real Deal

Warning: Full Spoilers for this episode will follow…

Agents of SHIELD celebrated it’s landmark 100th episode. Instead of some cataclysmic, world-ending scenario. What I received was a story that went big on emotions.

It’s been known that since the end of season 4 that Coulson made a deal with Ghost Rider to stop Aida and their trek into the future revealed by a future Yo-Yo that he’s been living on borrowed time, unbeknownst to the gang.

The episode wastes no time addressing it. Man…it brought the tears. Especially as far as Daisy’s concerned. The Coulson/Daisy bond has never been stronger. “You were what I believed in” cries Daisy. Chloe Bennet’s growth over the last five years has been a joy to see unfold. She conveyed her unease about succeeding Coulson with ease. My eyes glassed over when it happened.

The threat this week was a tear that opens up to “fear” dimension. Which leads to some past faces returning with some major connections to each of the characters. Hive (Daisy), Lash (May) and last but not least…Mike Peterson/Deathlok!

J. August Richards gave the 100th episode a sense of symmetry as he was SHIELD’s first case way back in the pilot. The beat where the ghost Mike throws everything Coulson went through into question could be a harbinger of things to come.

Clark Gregg was in a zone this week. Coulson facing his own mortality drove this episode forward. He, as well as Ming-Na Wen, continues to tease Phil and May finally getting together. Jeff Ward, who plays Deke, the Lighthouse smuggler is having a blast in the present (Zima!). He’s quickly becoming a part of the gang.

There was a cool fight scene with Deathlok (the real one!), Coulson facing Hive, Lash and the Lighthouse roaches in a multi-monster showdown.

The episode is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to easter eggs. The drone from S1 appears, an LMD, a Kree, the Lighthouse roaches but this one beat where Deke walks past a pawn shop and the window displayed a gold mine!

Find them all!

The ending featured a wedding as Fitz and Simmons have made it to the altar. I went through sadness to shock to joy in the span of an hour and it had one more bombshell to drop as it’s revealed that Deke is Fitz and Simmons’ grandson!! (It feels good knowing that their happiness will last for a while)

Overall, Agents of SHIELD‘s 100th episode was a family affair. On-screen and off-screen. Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen wrote the episode and Kevin Tancharoen (Maurissa’s brother) directed it. It subverted my expectations by delivering the heart this show is known for. It was a celebration of how far it’s come over the last five years.

To the whole cast and crew that kept me coming back for these last 100 episodes: Thank you!, I love you all and congrats!

I’m all out of roses to throw!

 

 

Black Panther was a majestic out of body experience

Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. Iron Man. Captain America.

All great, iconic characters. Just one catch. None of them look like me…

Until Black Panther came along.

Black Panther is unlike anything I’ve seen in the 10 year history of Marvel Studios. It’s a film that’s not too concerned with the long-running story of the Infinity Stones and that autonomy is a huge strength. It also boasts a murderer’s row ensemble cast of actors of color and it’s directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). 

It takes place about a week after Captain America: Civil War where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) lays his claim to the throne of the secretive nation of Wakanda.

Right from the jump, Black Panther looks and feels different. Wakanda looks staggering. It’s an Afro-futurist utopia hidden from the eyes of colonialism that represents the juxtapostiion of technological advance and traditionalism. The astral plane scenes are some captivating eye candy. The costume design oozes authenticity. The Dora Milaje, in particular, look amazing!

It also boasts some thought-provoking social commentary as the characters wrestle with the idea of whether Wakanda, for all it’s riches and advances, could help out less fortunate countries or to stay isolated from the rest of the world.

While the themes are loaded with weight, At it’s core, it’s still a Marvel movie and it knows how to have fun. The action sequences, despite some iffy VFX, are fantastic, the South Korea 007-like casino sequence in particular echoes that long tracking shot from Creed and it’s complemented by a killer soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar.

Chadwick Boseman brings a more nuanced T’Challa. He’s a king, first and foremost and a superhero second. Much of his arc is about what kind of king he wants to be. Danai Gurira’s a force of nature as Okoye, the Dora Milaje’s leader. She commands the screen every time she’s there. Lupita N’yongo’s Nakia challenges Wakanda’s traditions as she feels that it can do more. Forest Whitaker’s Zuri pulls the door open to the mysticism of the land. Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is a breakout character in a film that’s littered with a lot of them. Her and Boseman’s chemistry is one of the best things about Black Panther. Angela Basset’s Ramonda, doesn’t get a lot to do here, but she makes her screen-time count.

“…they knew that death was better than bondage”

Once Erik Killmonger (Coogler favorite Michael B. Jordan) enters the picture. Everything gets raised an extra step. A lot of Killmonger’s rage towards Wakanda speaks to a deeper truth about African-Americans who’ve lost touch with their lineage and his views, despite how extremist they are, makes you sympathize with him. It’s a huge breath of fresh air having a Marvel villain that isn’t after a piece of treasure or world domination, he wants his people to succeed by any means necessary and his arc directly contrasts with T’Challa’s. Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) is used a lot better here than in Age of Ultron as he gets to chew a lot of scenery opposite Everett Ross (Martin Freeman).

“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build walls”

Black Panther is as Shakespearean as it gets. It’s an unapologetically authentic celebration of African culture that has something to say. It breaks molds, glass ceilings, and it buries a litany of Hollywood myths about films with a cast of actors of color. I got to feel what others that aren’t the same skin tone get to feel every single time.

It’s truly something special and I’ll remember Wakanda…forever.

All roads have led to this

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per aspera ad astra

(Note: This post has full spoilers on the first ten episodes of the season. I do admit that I don’t have the patience to write a post from week to week. That could change one day.)

It’s been a rough road to the stars on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson and the gang (sans Fitz) have been lost in space from where season 4 left off.

Coulson: Well, I don’t have many details, but I do know that we’re in space

Mack: Yeah, that makes sense. The one thing we haven’t done yet!

The first two hours of the season leaned in heavily on what made the show work so well such as reinvention and humor. Putting the characters in space is another example of the show’s fearlessness of not settling into a comfort zone as it increases the scope of it’s storytelling and it’s also very, very funny.

A common trope in anything sci-fi horror. Never. Split. Up.

Things take a sharp turn left when the crew discovers that on top of being lost in space, they’ve travelled forward through time and if that wasn’t enough, earth has been destroyed…because of Daisy!

They make some new friends along the way such as Deke, a smuggler. Flint, a young Inhuman-to-be (more on him later) and Tess, a prisoner in the Lighthouse.

Simmons gets kidnapped by Kasius, a Kree overlord that’s enslaving inhumans and is forced to serve him by placing a device in her ear that deafens her to everything but his voice. Coulson, Mack, Elena and a wounded May are forced into slave labor to bide their time to figure out a plan to get home to the present day. Daisy and Deke form an uneasy alliance to stop Kasius…until Deke turns on her!

Meanwhile…Fitz was left behind and he was taken into custody by the government for the LMD Daisy’s attempt to murder Glenn Talbot (who’s in a coma) as well as the deaths of Jeffrey Mace (Patriot) and Holden Radcliffe. SHIELD, in the present, has been disavowed. Fitz being Fitz figured out a way to escape the authorities with some help from an old friend…former SHIELD agent Lance Hunter! Together, with Enoch, they were able to send Fitz into the future via cryostasis (With an Empire Strikes Back homage as a nice touch!)

Hunter: I love you

Fitz: I know

Guess who’s back?

Speaking of surprise returns. Robin Hinton, the little Inhuman seer from two seasons ago, played a crucial role in their return home. Robin warns Fitz, Hunter and Enoch of an impending apocalypse that could destroy the planet which ties into Daisy’s unwanted label of “Destroyer of Worlds”

Elsewhere in the Lighthouse, Flint, underwent Terrigenesis, and he became an Inhuman with the power of geokinesis. Luckily, he had Mack and Yo-Yo to help him with mastering his powers. Fitz, now in 2091, infiltrated Kasius’ lair to save Daisy and Simmons. With the deaf device out of her head, Fitz and Simmons decide to get married! (A well-earned moment, I might add!)

The gang, now reunited, decide to carry out their next course of action. Coulson, Daisy, Fitz and Simmons start looking for May on the surface and Mack, Yo-Yo and Flint stay behind to spark a revolution against Kasius’ empire.

“Hello, gorgeous”

A wounded May encounters the future Robin in space and there were flashbacks (or flashforwards…time travel can be a real headache) prior to the Earth’s destruction in 2091 from Fitz trying to build a time machine to the Zephyr-1 crashing to an out-for-Kree-blood Yo-Yo jumping headfirst to a losing battle against Kasius to May raising a young Robin way back in 2022 and footage of Daisy staying behind on Earth to fight an unknown threat. The key to return home to the present lies in Flint’s hands as Robin’s last words before she dies to May were to find him. During the flashbacks, Fitz discovers that they’re stuck in a time loop being forced to live through the same span of time again and again (“Endless. Looped. Time”)

Kasius has got an ace up his sleeve as he’s got a seer of his own…IT’S YO-YO!

Yo-Yo circa 2018 makes this shocking discovery as she faces her disillusioned future self who Kasius has held captive by killing and resurrecting her constantly for whatever he needed (blood, DNA, etc). Future Yo-Yo reveals that in order to break the time loop and prevent armageddon…Phil Coulson must die!

Daisy, still harbouring responsibility for what she has lost, decides to stay behind in the future to prevent this catastrophe from ever happening. An ailing Coulson, now realising that his end is coming, has other ideas as he shoots her unconscious to take her and the rest of the gang back home as the monolith that brought our heroes together is reassembled by Flint. Kasius also met his end at the hands of Mack and Simmons with the latter getting some poetic justice and it gave Mack an opening to stab him with his shotgun axe.

This space opera has reached its crescendo and the gang’s taking a break before the next chapter…

Thoughts:

  • I wanna give VFX supervisor Mark Kolpack a well-deserved shoutout. The visuals looked fantastic. It was roughly 7 or so months between seasons 4 and 5. I can definitely tell that there’s an extra layer of polish in the shots of space or when Elena and Flint use their powers, so that time was well spent.
  • May didn’t have as much screen-time in this arc but Ming-Na Wen made every minute count. As an added bonus, Ming’s recent knee injury got incorporated into the show as May was wounded for most of it. The attention to detail made me smile. Her stunt work coming off of an injury like that is astounding. Her scenes with Robin (young and old) also stand out, as cool as stoic, badass warrior May is, she’s got this rarely seen warmth and it was delightful to see that on display.
  • The Framework has left an indelible mark on the characters, especially Fitz and Mack, who both shined in some of the more dramatic beats. Henry Simmons was terrific in conveying Mack’s pain of not being a father to Yo-Yo and it took a simple fetch quest to pry open those wounds again. Iain De Caestecker also nailed a conflicted Fitz who’s trying to control the mean streak he developed in the Framework. Those human moments help keep this interstellar drama earthbound.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley also delivered her best performance to date on last night’s episode playing both her current and future versions of Yo-Yo. In a shocking bit of fan service, Future Yo-Yo had her arms severed by Kasius (shudders). “Stuck in the loop” cements how different the versions of Yo-Yo are from each other (Sidebar: It’s a real coincidence that this episode aired on Groundhog Day last night which knows something about repetition!)

Burning questions:

  • With this glimpse into the future…what can the gang do to prevent the earth from getting destroyed? Can they clear their names?
  • Coulson made a deal with the devil last season to stop Aida and it led to his current predicament. Will a certain Spirit of Vengeance come to collect?
  • Are Fitz and Simmons gonna make it to the altar?
  • What will the gang’s reaction be to Coulson’s secret?
  • Are Phil and May gonna get together?
  • Will Elena stay in one piece?
  • Should Coulson pass away (not that I’m advocating) will Daisy be his successor?
  • Who the hell is Ruby?!?!

Just as the show is starting to get back down to earth. I was left with more questions than answers. Overall, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in fine form this season & if this is any indication, the 100th episode is shaping up to be a must-see event.

March 2nd can’t come soon enough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. one piece at a time.

Marvel’s first attempt at network TV had a goal: to extend the reach of its cinematic universe to the small screen. Not every show starts off on the right foot and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had its trouble finding its voice in the beginning, it had some obstacles to overcome: having no A-list characters to lean on (there are a few which I will explain later), creating its own characters to invest in, working on a TV budget, etc.

Granted, most people would’ve hopped off the bandwagon and never looked back. I, however, did not.

Allow me to dissect what made this show so good in the last several years:

The Cast:

Dating back to Iron Man. There’s been one man that’s been a constant throughout the first Phase of Marvel films and his name is Phil Coulson. However, during the Avengers…this happened.

I thought that would be it, Coulson had been laid to rest…except he didn’t. Deaths in comics don’t always last and he was no exception. Which led to him headlining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The diversity of the cast is what makes it stand out than any other.

Take a look above. The spectrum of ethnicities is varied and diverse and it has something for everyone. It’s definitely refreshing to see representation as the backbone of its cast.

“Diversity’s very important to us.” says co-creator Maurissa Tancharoen “We [and Jed] are both born and raised here in Los Angeles. We grew up with diversity surrounding us. It’s everything that we know. We like the show to represent the world we live in. Thankfully, we work alongside people who are advocates for diversity, as well. It’s not just us. It’s everyone we work with.”

 

#itsallconnected:

There are countless easter eggs and guest appearances scattered throughout the show and it’s unafraid of bringing on deep cut characters from different corners of the Marvel universe. A few of which crossed over from the films, such as Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Even second-stringers like the Absorbing Man, Mockingbird and Glenn Talbot even appear on AOS and it even gets noticed on the Netflix series. One connection that I found awesome was during Daredevil season 1 where there was a poster promoting a fight between Battlin’ Jack Murdock (Matt Murdock’s dad) and Carl Creel aka the Absorbing Man in Fogwell’s Gym.

Hell of a fight, I bet.

Recently, Ghost Rider got a second chance and it was a smart move to have the Robbie Reyes version of the character in the first arc of season 4. It drives home the show’s core tenets of diversity. It would’ve been easy to have Johnny Blaze in his place (he still shows up!) I’m glad it went that route and it redeemed the character in this medium.

Constant evolution:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrives on reinventing itself. It avoids being stagnant by constantly changing the playing field from season to season. It went from a case-of-the-week format to having a more overarching story and it flourished as a result. Every season adds something to the greater mythos. The characters have also grown into more three-dimensional, layered characters. Even Skye/Daisy went from resident hacker to bonafide superhero.

Without further ado, here’s some of the episodes (in my opinion) that elevated AOS from decent to brilliant, must-see programming.

Full spoilers will follow…

Turn, Turn, Turn

Anyone who’s seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier will know by now. Hydra, an evil organization, has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. to destroy it from within and no one is safe. A well known trope in espionage is “who can you trust?” and that gets pushed to it’s limit as suspicion starts to rise within the gang in this game-changing episode as Ward is revealed to be the worm in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst. It took a lot of work to get that point, but it was so worth the wait. This was the turning point of the series. Sometimes, it takes one episode (and a little help from an Avenger) to change everything.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 9.46.14 PM

I knew from that moment that the best was yet to come!

Beginning of the End

S.H.I.E.L.D. was in a bad way in the tail end of season 1. It culminated with Nick Fury, resurfacing after faking his death in Winter Soldier, to help Coulson and the gang take the fight to Ward, Garrett and the rest of Hydra in the season finale and it changes the game for Fitz and Simmons as this episode leaves them in a bad place. The show ended it’s first year in a far better place than when it began & it can stand on it’s two feet while being tied to the greater mythos. The growing pains was worth it, after all.

What they Become

Season 2 was settling into a post-Hydra world and S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone off the grid taking on operations below the radar. However, this episode changes everything for Skye, the gang’s tech expert as she discovers the secrets of the family that abandoned her. She finds her father, Calvin Johnson who reveals that Skye is Daisy Johnson. It was a revelation, for sure. But nothing prepared me for Terrigenesis!

Skye had been reborn as AOS opened the floodgates to the Inhumans. A moment that it became more than just a spy-fi show. It’s now unafraid to get some good, old-fashioned superpowers into the mix.

4,722 Hours

I can’t scratch the surface of how good this episode was. This Season 3 gem explains Jemma’s absence since Season 2 after she was absorbed by the monolith and ended up off world for six months. Elizabeth Henstridge carried this bottle episode on her back and delivered a standout performance where she ran the gamut from confident to terrified and everything in between. I drew a lot of parallels to The Martian in terms of the story’s format, the lighting and the single-set location. It went against the grain in a lot of ways and it’s a great reason why it became an instant classic.

Self Control

This episode left me speechless. The closing episode of the LMD (Life Model Decoy) arc kicked the story into another gear. Aida, who was introduced in the beginning of Season 4 as Radcliffe’s LMD assistant (pictured above), slowly starts to reveal her master plan to eradicate all Inhumans. Starting with May, Coulson and the gang has been replaced by LMDs right under Fitz & Simmons’ noses. What followed was an intricately plotted, emotionally resonant and utterly thrilling hour of programming. Jed Whedon (Joss’ younger brother and the co-showrunner) wrote and directed this episode. He, as well as the talented cast and crew, hit a grand slam.

and the cliffhanger…oh my god…that amazing, mind-melting cliffhanger…

 

Goosebumps!!!!

Agents of Hydra

 

Hydra.gif

The “What If?” scenario is a trope in TV and comics that always works and we get to see how things would’ve been different. It’s a bit of a cheat to lump in the entire third arc of Season 4. I do feel that it’s warranted. There was a lot of magic at work in this alternate-reality story as a de-powered Daisy and Simmons enters the Framework, a Matrix-like dystopia where Coulson becomes an anti-Inhuman school teacher, Fitz becomes an evil tycoon with Aida by his side, Mack finally gets to be a father, Agent May is now the head of Hydra and Ward is alive…again! (sidebar: there are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes and Ward coming back to life)

The way this story tackles discrimination (the framework presenting a world that fears and hates Inhumans) gives this batch of episodes a political edge without being on-the-nose and it glosses over what’s going on today subtly and it felt like a greatest hits of how far it has come in the last four years with past characters coming back and tying all three stories together in what is quite possibly, the best story that AOS has ever done.

What’s next?:

As the gang were celebrating their victory at a diner that paid homage to The Avengers in it’s own way. They were kidnapped by a shadowy group…

That’s right. This show has gone full-on space opera. Proving once again, that a permanent status quo isn’t in its DNA.

Which brings me to Season 5. The gang is now in another galaxy…one that’s not so far, far away. So many questions about what lies ahead will be revealed when it comes back on December 1st for the two-hour season premiere. It’s been a joy to watch how it quietly and drastically improved from the beginning. It’s something to admire and I can’t wait to dive back into this world as it heads towards the 100th episode.

Thank you to the whole cast, crew and writing staff for all the hard work and unforgettable moments and for many more to come.

And a special thanks goes to Brian Michael Bendis. it’s very cool to see his two of his “daughters” Quake and Yo-Yo in the mainstream.

See you in December!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall TV Preview

The summer begins to wind down and it hasn’t felt like an offseason as far as television goes. Game of Thrones dominated the whole summer as well as surprise hits such as GLOW, Castlevania, American Gods, to name a few.

It’s that time of year again as the fall rush of TV is about to hit us with the usual suspects and newcomers. Here’s some of the heavy hitters.

Stranger Things

When: October 27th

Last year’s surprise smash hit returns for a sophomore season. A year has passed since Will has returned home to Hawkins, IN from his trip to the upside down. Eleven is still off the grid. What lies ahead for Mike and his friends…? Stock up on candy, folks. Nobody’s going trick or treating.

The Good Place

When: September 20th

The best new sitcom of last year capped off it’s first season with one insane cliffhanger. (Do not watch the above video, Spoilers LOL) Eleanor (Kristen Bell) gets transported to the “Good Place” but she struggles to fit into their world. It’s a whimsical, smart and hilarious look at the afterlife. If you haven’t seen season 1, it’s on Netflix right now. Seriously, go. It’s so forkin’ good.

The Flash

When: October 10th

Barry Allen has atoned for his sins. After leaving Central City behind to go into the speed force as penance for his meddling with the timeline (Flashpoint). Iris, Cisco and the rest of the gang tries to move on without the Fastest Man Alive. Season 3 was an uneven season that played it safe. This looks to be an apology for that, expect the brighter, whimsical tone to return.

Arrow

When: October 12th

Just as the Flash lost a step. Arrow came roaring back with authority with a back to basics season 5. It’s heading into season 6 off the heels of what was the absolute best episode of the series with it’s season 5 finale which brought Oliver Queen’s 5 year crusade full circle. Who has survived the explosion on Lian Yu? and what will be left of Team Arrow in the wake of last season’s end?

DCs Legends of Tomorrow

When: October 10th

Sara Lance and the gang took a giant leap forward with a fantastic second season. Legends has cemented itself as the Doctor Who of the Arrow-verse. Expect more of the same with more time travel, new time periods and of course the dysfunctional family dynamics aboard the WaveRider.

The Punisher

When: …2017

Spinning out of Daredevil S2. Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher, grabs the spotlight for his solo outing. Expect gunfights, bloodshed, pathos and of course some insight to what makes Frank Castle tick. Karen Page (Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll) returns as well as a new supporting cast. One batch. Two batch. Penny and dime. (Sidebar: It wouldn’t surprise me if Netflix pulls a Beyoncé and drops the whole season at a moment’s notice)

This is Us

When: September 26th

Consider me officially onboard. I spent the summer catching up on the first season. It’s as poignant and heartfelt as they come. This Is Us, which had a great night at the Emmys, returns for it’s sophomore season. Grab some tissues. Trust me on that.

The Walking Dead

When: October 22nd

After a rather turgid, disappointing season 7. Rick and company have declared war on Negan. To say that season 8 has some high expectations on multiple levels would be a massive understatement because the season premiere also doubles as the series’ 100th episode.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

When: December 1st

As much as the Netflix shows get all the accolades, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. quietly improved over the years and it was at the top of it’s game in season 4. It broke up the season into bite-sized arcs that eventually coalesced and now the status quo got shaken up again as Coulson and the gang are sent off into space. Expect this to air later this year once Inhumans finishes it’s run. And to sweeten the pot, it’ll be uninterrupted starting December 1st with a two hour premiere.

Marvel’s Runaways

When: November 21st.

Every teenager thinks that their parents are evil…but what if they actually were? Brian K. Vaughn’s Runaways has been flirting with the live-action realm for a long time now, At one point, there have been talks for a film, but over a year ago, Marvel decided to take this YA property to Hulu and it’s got a solid pedigree behind it with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C., Gossip Girl) bringing Gert, Alex, Nico, Chase, Karolina and Molly to life. So far, the buzz surrounding this is very, very promising.

The rest of the usual suspects:

Black-ish (Now on Tuesdays on ABC/City)

Supernatural (Thursdays on Space)

Narcos (Season 3 now streaming, Netflix)

The Mindy Project (Final season on Hulu, Tuesdays)

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season 4 now streaming, Netflix)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Head of the Class

Typically, I would give a brief anecdote before diving head on. I’m just gonna cut right to the chase. Spider-Man Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film to ever hit the screen.

I’m sure there’s gonna be a percentage of fans that lionized the Sam Raimi trilogy (The first two films especially still hold up really well, the less said about Spider-Man 3, the better), or the Andrew Garfield mini-run of films (which nailed the Peter/Gwen romance, I didn’t like how it rehashed his origins again) are gathering their pitchforks with that statement. Allow me to explain why this gets so much right.

What sets Homecoming apart from past iterations of the character is that Spider-Man is already established from the beginning. It takes place a couple months after his reintroduction in Captain America: Civil War. It was a huge relief not having to sit through his origins yet again. It was like beating a dead horse during the last reboot. (Sidebar: I can only see Uncle Ben die before it gets redundant)

Tom Holland doesn’t just play Spider-Man, he is Spider-Man. I was sold when he appeared in Civil War. He’s every bit as lovable, courageous and hilarious as he is here and he gets a lot more to do. Initially, I was worried that the trailers featured Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) too heavily, fearing that he may overshadow Peter and make this a Marvel Team-Up type of film. Thankfully, that’s not the case. This is Peter’s story, through and through. Tony’s there for Peter to play off of, to give him the what for and it’s an important part of his arc. Peter’s biggest motivation is to become an Avenger but of course, being a good student, friend, nephew gets in the way of that. It puts the iconic words “Great power comes great responsibility” into practice. He fails a lot more than he succeeds and it makes the character so endearing.

The supporting cast also delivers the goods. Jacob Batalon quietly steals the show as Peter’s best friend, Ned. Zendaya’s awesome as Michelle, who always has an answer for anything. Laura Harrier also did a nice job as Liz Allen, a great choice for a love interest and I did buy that she’s an attainable cool girl for Peter. Jon Favreau makes a return as Happy Hogan and he did a great job as the straight man to Spidey’s schtick. Donald Glover makes a cameo as Aaron Davis, which could have some major implications down the road…Nuff said. Marisa Tomei made a very good Aunt May, too.

The common thread between the earlier iterations of the character (especially the Raimi trilogy) is that each of them condensed his high school days in about the first 40 minutes. Homecoming exploits Peter’s high school life to the max. Jon Watts cleverly masquerades this standalone story as a John Hughes coming-of-age film (there’s even a Ferris Bueller homage somewhere). It’s a huge risk that pays off handsomely.

The tone is perfect. All of Marvel’s films lean on humor and Spider-Man, more often than not, nails that. The laughs per minute is pretty high, and it enhances the action sequences throughout the film and they’re a blast. It doesn’t shy away from the heavier stuff either. The webhead at this point, isn’t a neophyte but he hasn’t mastered his powers yet. He’s growing into them. His banter with Karen, his suit’s UI à la Jarvis (voiced by Jennifer Connelly!) is awesome.

Michael Keaton avoids the pitfalls of being the shortchanged villain as Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture. He did a fantastic job fleshing out a C-list villain and make him sympathetic. He’s not out for world domination, he just wants to provide for his family. That motivation puts him on my Mount Rushmore of great Marvel villains (He’s sharing that with Fisk, Kilgrave and Loki). That makes the film just as street-level and grounded as the Netflix series, sans the violence or brutal subject matter (Sidebar: If I don’t see Spidey meet Daredevil one day…I will flip a table)

The easter eggs also sets this off. The references to the Spider-Man mythos as well as what’s going on in the MCU are everywhere. Peter even recorded a vlog of his trip to Germany where he makes his presence known on the tarmac.

This film grows up before your very eyes. It’s an absolute joy that swung so high that it’s in the upper echelon of Marvel’s best films and it can’t be missed. The Mickey Mouse of Marvel is back on top and Spider-Man Homecoming effortlessly makes the honor roll.

🎵 Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can🎵

 

New York Minute

“You think the four of you can save New York…you can’t even save yourselves.”

What separates this motley crew of street-level heroes is a few square miles.

The Defenders is the culmination of the Marvel/Netflix series. The 8 episode crossover miniseries brings the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, A PI who’s worth every dime…when’s she’s sober, a hoody-wearing ex-con with unbreakable skin and a dude with a glowing fist together to face off against the Hand and their mysterious leader, Alexandra (played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver).

Just because this is a crossover, that doesn’t mean each character’s ongoing arcs are getting put on the backburner. I, for one, hope that each arc gets some progression across the eight episodes (as opposed to the usual 13). Let’s get up to speed on what each of these characters have gone through.

Warning: Full Spoilers for all four seasons (Jessica Jones S1, Daredevil S2, Luke Cage S1 and Iron Fist S1) will follow. Read at your own risk.

LAST CHANCE…

Gandalf

Still here?

Okay. Let’s go.

Better the devil you know…

Matt Murdock’s single-minded pursuit of the Hand has taken it’s toll on the people in his circle. Nelson & Murdock have gone splitsville (for now…), he’s reeling from Elektra’s death (more on that in a second). Wilson Fisk, despite being behind bars, vows to make his life hell when he gets out and he made a confession to Karen by saying these two words:

I'm Daredevil

Matt, more alone than ever, has to reach out if he’s got a shot to stop the Hand and they’ve got a secret weapon…

Tonight’s forecast suggest a Black Sky…

Elektra sleep

Elektra came roaring back into Matt’s life and she brought the Hand nipping on her heels. At the end of season 2, Elektra died an honorable death in the war against the Hand and it was revealed that she’s the Black Sky. Now, with her impending resurrection, Could she lead the Hand to the promised land?

Business booms for Alias Investigations

Smile

It’s been 18 months since we’ve last seen Jessica Jones. Alias Investigations has taken off in the wake of her killing Kilgrave. After giving the hero gig a shot, it’s gonna be much harder now to stay under the radar with her phone ringing off the hook. Being mind controlled for months left her with some massive trust issues. It’ll be interesting to see her start to move past her self-loathing and learn to trust three other men as we head into her Season 2, which is filming right now. (Sidebar: There’s a lot of baggage between her and Luke. The jury’s out if they can move forward)

Sometimes backwards to move forward…Always.

Always forward.gif

When we last left Harlem’s favorite bulletproof son. Luke had to return to Seagate to continue his jail sentence. How he will get out early is anyone’s guess. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen going down to Georgia to bail him out? Make it happen!!

K’un L’un gone?

K'un L'un

Danny Rand, one in a long line of Immortal Iron Fists, has discovered that the mystical city that gave him his gifts has mysteriously disappeared. After spending much of his first season stumbling his way back to New York trying to reclaim his birthright after being gone for 15 years. While that show did have issues (not enough mysticism, fight scenes are hit and miss, iffy writing, etc), I do think that putting Danny under a different creative team (it’s got Marco Ramirez, who along with Doug Petrie, were the showrunners on Daredevil S2) will go a long way to making him stand out amongst his fellow Defenders. Seeing him getting paired up with Luke Cage (Heroes for Hire!) has the potential to redeem the character.

Luke and Danny

Penny (or dime) for your thoughts?

Punisher

The Punisher came in like a force of nature and grabbed the criminal underworld by the balls, much to Daredevil’s dismay. As you can see, Frank detached his old life and he’s running around doing God-knows-what. After stealing the show constantly in season 2. Frank’s gonna get the spotlight this fall (I think, around SDCC ’17, we could get a date announcement) in the Punisher spinoff. Could we see a cameo in the Defenders? Start saving your pennies and dimes…

Way down in the hole….

Any guesses what lies in the bottom of Midland Circle? What could be lurking underground that’s gonna bind these four together….

Who else will join the fun?

The supporting cast is an all star line-up. In addition to Karen. The supporting casts across all four shows will pop up during the Defenders including Stick (Scott Glenn), Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Foggy (Elden Henson), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).

Daughters of the Dragon

Daughters of the Dragon!

This is shaping up to be one hell of a celebration. It all comes to a head on August 18th!

Summer TV Preview

As the current TV season comes to an end. The spring/summer period is a lull between the crop of summer programming. This summer looks to be as stacked as last fall from returning series to new series. Let’s break down some of this summer’s heavy hitters.

House of Cards

The battle for the White House is heating up in the fifth season. The Underwoods have their back to the wall after scheming their way to the top over the past four seasons. Their grip on America’s safety continues to be tenuous. Also, it’s the first season without Beau Willimon at the helm. New showrunners Melissa James Gibson & Frank Pugliese (who joined in season 3) will be taking control. See it May 30th. (Next Tuesday!)

Orphan Black

It’s been a long, winding road for our sestras as Orphan Black heads into it’s fifth and final season. Everything’s gonna come to a crescendo as Sarah/Alison/Helena/Cosima (played by the multifaceted, Emmy-winning Tatiana Maslany) find the answers to the ongoing conspiracy. It’s back on June 10th.

Preacher

The journey to “Find God” begins in earnest as Preacher returns for it’s sophomore season. Based on the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon comic series. Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy leave Annville behind as they begin their quest. It’s blend of dark comedy and character drama will be intact. As well as some good music choices seen above. Season 2 airs June 25th.

GLOW

From the team that brought you Orange is the New Black comes GLOW. A struggling actress in 1980s LA gets thrust into the larger than life world of pro wrestling as part of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling series. It stars Community’s Alison Brie and Marc Maron. Viewers can take it to the mat on June 23rd.

Castlevania

Based on the long-running gothic, vampire-slaying side-scroller by Konami. This animated series geared towards adults follows the last remaining member of the Belmont Clan and his clan’s blood feud with Dracula. It’s written by Warren Ellis (Moon Knight, Karnak, Transmetropolitan) and created by Adi Shankar (Dredd). The jury’s out on if it’ll break the stigma that’s come with video game adaptations. I like it’s chances. Stock up on holy water, stakes and whips on July 7th.

Suits

After spending the last six years walking on eggshells because of Mike’s secret. Pearson Spector Litt is in a good place in the upcoming seventh season. Mike Ross is finally practicing law without any secrets, How will things be different in the firm with this weight finally off their shoulders? Tune in on July 12th.

Game of Thrones

The endgame is in sight in the seven kingdoms. HBO’s juggernaut series returns for a 7 episode long seventh season. All roads are heading to King’s Landing. There’s no going back now. Who will take the Iron Throne? Winter arrives July 16th!.

Marvel’s The Defenders

It’s been a long time coming for these four! The culmination of the Marvel/Netflix series finally brings Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together for this crossover extravaganza. I wanna go into even more detail but that’s gonna be for another post. Take a look at the security footage for when you can see these four wreck shop in the Kitchen.

Rick & Morty

In a move that won April Fool’s Day. Adult Swim pulled a Beyonce and aired the premiere episode of Season 3. It’s out there now but the rest of the season won’t air till sometime this summer. Stay Schwifty.

In the meantime, there’s still a few shows that are currently ongoing to make this wait for the summer rush bearable:

iZombie (Tuesdays on CW, Wednesdays on Netflix Canada)

American Gods (Sundays on Starz)

Twin Peaks (Showtime)

Gotham (Mondays on FOX)

12 Monkeys (S3 On demand, Syfy)

Ronin. Out of Time.

Note: The following is based on the first two episodes of Samurai Jack

There’s something about a series that gets taken off the air at it’s peak.

September 25th, 2004. That was the last time Samurai Jack was on the air. Frustration, confusion and speculation justifiably ensued. It was taken off the air without ever getting a real ending…until now.

I thought this day would never come but Samurai Jack is back after more than 12 years for one last hurrah!

This season takes place 50 years later and it has taken his toll on Jack. After being stymied again and again by Aku’s trickery, Jack is a shell of what he used to be. Staying in the future has caused him to stop aging and he’s been haunted by his constant failures to return home. An Aku-worshipping cult has produced seven “Daughters of Aku” that have one purpose in life: Killing the Samurai.

This is a different show from when it was on the air. The signature minimalist, stylized art style remains intact but it looks even better. The action is just as cinematic and intense as it ever was. The audience that watched Samurai Jack during it’s original run are much older so moving the show to Adult Swim is an act of complete creative genius, it’s more violent and mature than ever and the pathos gets turned up a notch.

Phil LaMarr, who voices Jack, is as good as ever. The newer, more mature tone gives him a chance to tap into something the last 52 episodes haven’t touched on: Jack’s psyche. The standalone nature of the first four seasons didn’t allow much character development. After seeing both episodes of the new season gives a more serialized character arc. Jack’s been a broken man for the last 50 years and it shows, this is a different character.

It’s not completely dour, the show still knows how to have fun. The first episode especially had a scat-singing robot and Aku returns voiced by Greg Baldwin (who replaces Mako Iwamatsu, who sadly passed away in 2006) and he’s just as funny.

It took two episodes to quickly cement the fact that Samurai Jack, even with a 12 year absence, hasn’t lost a step. it is, quite simply, a gift. It’s so gratifying to see a payoff to fans’ patience and it’s a triumphant return for Jack.