Tag Archive: Review


One to Watch, in 2015

Gotham TV series

In a week that saw Fox’s “Gotham” achieve its best-ever ratings on US television, here’s a link to my article at the Xtreme Entertainment Network, reviewing the show’s first season, for UK audiences.

Dark Nights, in “Gotham”

Oh, and best wishes for 2015. Hope it’s a good year, for all of us.

Peace.

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The CW's The Flash
First: did you miss ME?

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is: BUSY.

My world outside the blogosphere has been chock-full of writing assignments in the tech arena. In parallel to that, there’s developing my own brand of crime and suspense fiction, trying to sell my screenplays, and the whole “trying to have a life” issue.

One of the jobs I did recently was a preview / review of The CW’s “The Flash”, for the UK market. I put it out through the Xtreme Entertainment Network, a start-up based in London. Xtreme specializes in video games, movies, TV, and related media.

Could be an outfit worth watching. “The Flash” certainly is.

You can check out

My Review, Here…

Peace.

Arrow’s On Target

Arrow's on Target

The CW (makers of “Smallville”) have repackaged the Green Arrow as a hard-edged vigilante drama series.

And it’s pretty darn good.

The Stars

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen / Arrow
Katie Cassidy as Dinah Laurel Lance
Willa Holland as Thea Queen
Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen
Colin Salmon as Walter Steele
Paul Blackthorne as Det. Quentin Lance
Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn
David Ramsey as John Diggle
Jamey Sheridan as Robert Queen

The History

The Green Arrow – a sort of modern-day Robin Hood, complete with longbow and gadget-laden trick arrows – was introduced in the 1960s.

This was partly to relieve the pressure on Batman, who was felt to be appearing in too many of DC Comics’ publications.

Like Batman’s flip side, Bruce Wayne, Green Arrow Oliver Queen was portrayed as a then millionaire, now billionaire playboy, whose flighty public persona hid dark secrets, and a propensity for vigilante violence.

Both characters were a counterpoint to the square-cut, squeaky clean Clark Kent / Superman – with whom they were often at odds.

The CW highlighted this relationship in “Smallville”, where Justin Hartley played Oliver Queen / Green Arrow, for much of the latter half of the show’s 10-year run.

Within the separate (from the mainstream of DC Comics) universe of “Smallville”, the show emphasized the wise-cracking, smart aleck aspects of the Green Arrow – which mirrored the character’s persona in the mainstream DC Comics of the 1980s and early 1990s.

With “Arrow”, the CW has created another pocket universe.

But there, the comparisons end.

Justin Hartley’s “Smallville” Green Arrow was like the Roger Moore version of James Bond. Or, at best, Pierce Brosnan.

Stephen Amell’s “Arrow” is Daniel Craig.

The Premise

The yacht carrying billionaire tycoon Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan), his son Oliver (Stephen Amell), and Sarah Lance, younger sister of Oliver’s “steady” girlfriend, Laurel, goes down in a heavy storm.

Sarah Lance is swept to her death, from a cabin onboard ship, but the Queens make it to a life raft, along with another survivor.

Before dying (okay; dispatching the third survivor, then shooting himself in the head), Robert Queen charges his son to be strong, and survive – to right the wrongs that Robert Queen did, in life.

And, to bring to justice the dangerous, rich and powerful individuals holding their beloved home of Starling City to ransom.

Which pretty much sets the tone, for the show.

The raft dumps Oliver on a savage, uncharted island where, for five years, he develops a prodigious set of skills, simply to survive and adapt.

Rescued by a fishing vessel which spots his massive signal fire, Oliver returns to Starling City.

To find his mother married to his father’s number two man at the company, his sister on drugs, his girlfriend cursing him for having a fling with her sister, then letting her die…

And his mission to clean up the city, not so cut and dried.

The Trailer

Courtesy of YouTube:

The Verdict

This show has great potential, and it’s beginning to realize some of it, already.

I’ve compared Stephen Amell in the title role to Daniel Craig, as 007, and the similarities are there:

The stocky build, and craggy features.
The intense character.
The air of gritty realism.

There’s less gloss on show here, than in “Smallville”.

Some bone-crunching and occasionally dazzling martial arts.

And when Arrow (He does wear green – dark, of course – and uses the color on his gadgets) shoots his trademarks at machine-gun wielding thugs, people actually die.

There are nods already, to the Green Arrow’s retinue of supporting characters from DC Comics.

Like Willa Holland, as Oliver Queen’s illicit drug-taking kid sister, Thea. Nicknamed Speedy.

Which, incidentally, was the codename given to the Green Arrow’s young sidekicks, in the comics.

Among whom was Mia Dearden, a reformed (and presumably drug-taking) prostitute, who became the first HIV-positive character ever to appear in mainstream comics.

There’s scope here for a brother and sister double-act, with archery as rehab for the wayward Thea, then.

Katie Cassidy, as Dinah Laurel Lance is yet to sport fishnet tights and a domino mask like her DC Comics (and “Smallville”) counterpart, the Black Canary.

As a trial lawyer in Arrow, Laurel (less emphasis on the Dinah, here) is required to talk a lot. But there’s no evidence that she can shatter concrete, with her voice.

Early days, yet.

I imagine there could be some nods in this direction, as the series evolves.

Which I hope it does.

“Arrow” is quality entertainment, and well worth a look, if you get the chance.

8 and a half, out of 10.

That’s it, for this one.

Peace.

Dredd’s Solid, in 3D

Dredd 3D: Solid

Mind you, it would have been, without it.

Director Pete Travis and Karl Urban as Dredd deliver a solid reboot of the 2000 AD comic character first brought to the screen in Danny Cannon’s “Judge Dredd”, by Sylvester Stallone.

The Stars

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd
Olivia Thirlby as Cassandra Anderson
Lena Headey as Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal

The History

Judge Dredd first appeared in the UK publication 2000 AD, as a sort of post-Apocalyptic Dirty Harry. A remorseless, vigilante cop operating several notches above the other vigilante cops charged with policing a society, gone wild.

In the 1995 film “Judge Dredd”, Sylvester Stallone brought the character to life in a high-gloss, big-budget tale of betrayals, huge robots, cannibals, and clandestine genetic experiments that featured Diane Lane as Dredd’s colleague Judge Hershey, and Armand Assante as his evil twin, Judge Rico.

The Revised History

“Dredd 3D” offers the same global situation, but with markedly less gloss.

A near-future Earth ravaged by disease, conflict and nuclear disaster (terrorism, toxic spills, war, or any combination thereof), where the remnants of humanity are crammed into high-rise apartment blocks in any of several Mega Cities.

The Judges – of whom Dredd is still by far the most efficient – are charged with maintaining order, and have the power to act on the spot as judge, jury, and executioner.

The Premise

In Mega City One (Dredd’s jurisdiction), there’s a new crime cartel in town, headed by scarfaced ex-prostitute Madeline Madrigal (a.k.a. Ma-Ma), played by Lena Headey.

This cold and ruthless lady is looking to flood the streets with Slo-Mo, a new designer drug that lets anyone using it experience time at a quarter speed.

It’s also one that gives the effects department full rein to exploit 3D technology in creating a number of quite elegant reduced-time events.

Meanwhile, over at the Hall of Justice, the Chief Judge gives Dredd the task of breaking in Cassandra Anderson – a young mutant (resulting from the effects of nuclear waste) who is flunking out of the Judges’ academy, but whose powerful psychic skills would make her a huge asset to the force.

Dredd and Anderson are dispatched to the block where Ma-Ma is (unknown to our heroes) hiding out, in plain sight.

Cue ambush, lockdown of the huge building, and a tense siege situation, as Ma-Ma and her minions attempt to dispatch (ie. kill) the two officers of The Law.

The Trailer

Courtesy of YouTube:

The Verdict

Solid.

Solid set-up.

Solid performances, all round.

Solid cop thriller. The premise in the apartment block would play out with any metropolitan police force.

Not big-budget flashy, but not cheap, either.

Dredd 3D is played straight. And adult; there’s a lot of salty language on offer, here.

There are (very) occasional one-liners, but overall the tone is as grim as the expression on Karl Urban’s (visored) face.

Yes, true to the original comics, Dredd’s helmet never comes off. And that’s good.

He does get to declare his signature line, “I am The Law” – but not in a cheesy way.

I was a little underwhelmed by Olivia Thirlby’s rookie Cassandra Anderson – mainly due to my own preconceptions.

Judge Anderson was always one of my favorite female comic book characters, and I know Olivia Thirlby as a talented actress of considerable wit and personality.

Her performance here is solid, but there’s not much evidence of the sexy, sassy, psychic Anderson that I know and love.

Granted, it’s the character’s first outing in this new franchise. And she’s on “sudden death, will she or won’t she become a Judge” probation here, so she can’t exactly wisecrack with her supervisor (Dredd, who’s not the wisecracking type, anyway), but still.

A bit more fire and humor from Thirlby / Anderson would have been nice – and in keeping with the relationship Judge Anderson has with Dredd, in the comics.

Perhaps we’ll see more of this, in the sequel(s).

There should be one (or more), because this movie is pretty good, over all.

7 and a half, out of 10.

And a welcome respite, from the Obama – Romney show, I’ll bet.

I’ll see you, post-election. I hope.

Till then.

Peace.

Elementary’s Cool

Holmes and Watson - Elementary
Pretty much. And you won’t need a high school diploma, to understand it.

The History
Following hard on the heels of BBC television’s excellent updating of the Sherlock Holmes legend (“Sherlock”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, and Martin Freeman as Watson), it was only a matter of time before American TV jumped on the bandwagon.

“Elementary” is CBS television’s re-imagining of the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous literary creation.

The Stars
Aidan Quinn, as New York Police Department Captain Tobias Gregson.

Jonny Lee Miller, as Sherlock Holmes.

Lucy Liu, as Joan Watson.

Hang on; JOAN??!?

Yeah, that’s what I thought, at first.

But, it works. Kind of.

The Premise
Burnt out, and drummed out on account of some as-yet-to-be-named addiction (Given that it’s Holmes, we presume that non-prescription drugs were involved), Sherlock Holmes leaves his job in London as a consultant to Scotland Yard, and moves to New York.

There, Holmes is given accommodation in one of his father’s apartments – on condition that he stick to a strict program of rehabilitation.

To enforce and monitor this state of affairs, Holmes’ father hires Joan Watson (a former surgeon) to act as Sherlock’s live-in “sober companion”.

Joan soon finds that she’ll need to be on her toes, as one of her ward’s conditions of service is that she accompany him on his new job – acting as a consultant to the NYPD.

Segue to scene of baffling crime. And Holmes deducing startling facts about the case, in classically quirky manner. Indulged all the while by NYPD Capt. Tobias Gregson – a man familiar with Sherlock’s methods from a previous encounter, in London.

The game is afoot. And all that.

The Trailer
By courtesy of YouTube:

The Verdict
Miller is a much better than adequate Holmes, for the modern era.

He’s more vulnerable, than narcissistic, the ravages of his addicition having presumably blunted his natural arrogance.

The intellectual vanity is still there. And the remarkable intellect.

His British accent, too. A deliberate choice, on the part of the producers – and a good one, I think.

Lucy Liu is fine, as Watson. Cool and demure, she nonetheless manages to convey some of the awe mere mortals feel, in the face of the great detective’s more startling deductions.

There’s the barest frisson of chemistry, between the two (Lucy Liu; she does that). But, that’s all there’ll ever be – or so the producers maintain.

Will they, or won’t they? They won’t. Also a wise choice.

Their initial murder case (I won’t spoil it, for you) is multi-faceted and puzzling, but a little low-key. I’m hoping that the proposed series will throw up some punchier and more expansive mysteries.

On the whole, not bad. Not bad at all.

Not as good as “Sherlock”, but it’ll do.

Peace.

Nicely Assembled

Image

Marvel Studios’ production of Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”, I mean.

A huge-budget, huger-scale, and hugely ambitious project that was the culmination of several years’ work.

The sum of many parts. And many characters.

“The Avengers” comic book title first brought several of them together in the 1960s, as a fighting force composed of “Earth’s mightiest heroes”. As does the film of 2012.

If you are a follower of recent cinema, you will no doubt be aware of the commercial and critical successes Marvel has scored with its various flagship characters. All filmed under the Marvel Studios banner – but each movie done in collaboration with separate studios.

Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).

Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

Captain America (Chris Evans).

The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – the third actor to play the Hulk’s human alter-ego, Bruce Banner, in the wake of Eric Bana and Ed Norton).

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, previously seen in “Iron Man 2”).

And Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who had a brief cameo in “Thor”).

“The Avengers” movie unites the team in a single adventure, under the direction of Joss Whedon (who co-wrote the tale).

He has done a fine job. Not surprising, really.

The creator of television Sci-Fi classics like “Firefly”, “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, and “Dollhouse” is noted for delivering intelligent, witty fantasies, played out by diverse characters. “The Avengers” continues in this fine tradition.

Each of the main characters has a chance to shine, much to do, and an opportunity for humor, in an epic saga which assembles the team for the first time, under the watchful (single) eye of Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), head of the global security agency known as SHIELD. (Both Fury and SHIELD have featured in some capacity in all of the heroes’ individual franchise films.)

The Avengers must defeat the global threat posed by Thor’s adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, in hissingly evil pantomime form) and the Ch’tari – an alien race brought to Earth by the Tesseract (the blue power cube Odin stole from the Frost Giants, in “Thor”, and which the Red Skull used against “Captain America: The First Avenger”. Wheels, within wheels.)

Cue in-fighting, between the heroes, intrigue, and full-out inter-dimensional warfare, above the streets of Manhattan.
All that, plus an aircraft carrier that turns into a flying fortress.

It’s brilliant fun, and highly entertaining.

And will, of course, spawn a sequel (or two).
There are allusions to this, at the end of the film – by which time The Avengers’ trademark mansion is already being put together by Iron Man / Tony Stark.

But we won’t be seeing the group as a whole until after their next round of solo adventures.

Do yourself a favor, in the meantime.
Grab some popcorn, and see this movie.

And I’ll see you, soon.

Peace.

First Class Job

X-Men: First Class. It is.

I had reservations, when I first saw the pre-production stuff posted on various sites around the Web. As a life-long X-Fan and self-admitted geek, the shots and costumes looked rather dicey.

Kudos to Matthew Vaughn and Marvel, for proving me wrong. This is a cracking good film.

Events kick off in 1944, at the concentration camp scene in Poland, from “X2: X-Men United”, where the young Eric Lehnsherr first exhibits his magnetic (Magneto-ic?) powers. Meanwhile, in Westchester NY, an equally young mutant telepath, Charles Xavier, discovers a little blue shape-shifter girl named Raven, raiding the kitchen of his parents’ mansion.

Flash forward, to the Swinging Sixties, and the film hurtles on, in Cold War spy thriller mode.

We’ve got young man Eric (Michael Fassbender), pursuing leads and dispatching witnesses with ruthless efficiency, as he attempts to track down the monster who made him the monster he now is: Nazi war criminal turned mutant uber-villain, Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon).

And young man Charles (James McAvoy): witty, urbane, brilliant – and fully capable of kicking ass in his own, unique manner.

It’s Sean Connery’s James Bond versus John Steed, from The Avengers. And it works.

This being 60’s spy territory, we also get strong and gorgeous female leads.

January Jones is just fine as powerful, white lingerie sporting telepath, Emma Frost. No British accent, but that’s okay; her bio in the comics lists her as a native of New England, so she’s a Stateside gal. And yes, I know her ability to turn herself into a living diamond isn’t supposed to manifest till much later. Just think alternate universe; this is REEL life, not a comic book, fer crissake.

I confess I was thoroughly smitten by Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven / Mystique – in both her human camouflage and natural blue skin forms. She’s not hissingly evil, or angelically good. Like everyone here, she’s believably ambiguous. And since she ages at a quarter of the human rate, I expect we’ll see more of her, in future.

As I hope we do of Rose Byrne, as Moira MacTaggart. Destined to become a leading global figure in mutant research – for now, kicking it, Modesty Blaise style, as a plucky CIA operative.

Stage set; game on. And the game is preventing World War 3 – as orchestrated by Sebastian Shaw, in an attempt to eradicate humanity, and leave the Earth free, for mutantkind. It culminates in the Cuban Missile Crisis – as staged by opposing factions of super-powered mutants, caught between the global superpowers.

It’s spectacular stuff. I mean, you’ll get to see a man levitate a nuclear sub from the ocean depths, while clinging to the landing gear of a cruising war plane. That’s worth the price of admission, alone.

Grab some popcorn. See this. It’s good.
I highly recommend it.

Peace.

Can’t Speak…

Highly enough, about this one.

“The King’s Speech.”

Written by David Seidler, a screenwriter who (unlike so many A-List scribes) is not only old enough to shave, but old enough to have sons (and daughters?) of A-List-screenwriter age, who shave, as well.

The film documents the ascension to the British throne of lifelong stammerer, King George VI (father of the current Queen, Elizabeth II) – in the light of his ongoing treatment by speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

Excellent performances, from a stellar cast.
And easy to understand why Colin Firth walked off with so many major awards, this year.

Check out the trailer:

And, yes.
I do realize there’s a Royal wedding coming up, this Friday.

And, possibly.
That fact did influence me to blog about this film, at this time.

God Save the… whatever.

Peace.

I Liked It So Much…

I saw the movie. Having read the screenplay, first.

As part of my (ongoing, life-long) course in Movies 101, I’ve been reading as many of this year’s Oscar-nominated Best Picture scripts as I can.
And seeing as many of the movies, as possible.

I’ll be laying several of my verdicts on you, in the coming weeks.

First up: Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit.”

A simple enough tale: Young girl hires grizzled lawman to exact retribution for the murder of her father by a small-time outlaw, in the Old West.

It’s told with the Coen Brothers’ trademark quirky characterizations. And a fair bit of pathos.

Fine performances, all round, with newcomer Hailee Steinfeld (Best Supporting Actress nominee) holding her own among veteran Oscar nominees / winners Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin.

Check out the trailer, below:

In typical Academy Award fashion, the movie got 10 nominations, and not a single award. Oh, well.

Interesting (or not?) Trivia: The hymn featured in the film’s opening and closing narrations is a variant on the same song, used in the same context, in the movie “Wild Bill” (as in, Hickock) – which also starred Jeff Bridges, as a legendary lawman of the Old West.

Have a pleasant weekend.

Peace.

Cool Gadget, This

And, it’s FREE.

Presenting…
SSuite Office QT Writer

QT Writer: The Menu, Explained

QT Writer, from SSuite Office, is a word-processor you can balance on your little finger.
The download file comes in at under 1 Megabyte – and the program itself unzips to just a little more than that.

It does everything you’d expect a word-processor to do:
* Opens and Saves documents to RTF, DOC, or PDF formats.
* Composes text with graphics, symbols, or images.
* Prints, with Previews.

I use several word-processors, for a range of tasks (screenplay editor, novel organizer, short stories, notes & scribbles). And, this one fits right in.

My one quibble is the lack of tool tips. Or a Help file.
But, you can figure out how it works, from my explanatory graphic, yes?

QT Writer.

I like this puppy.

Did I mention that it’s FREE?
I did.

Here’s the download link, again:
SSuite Office QT Writer

Peace.