Monday, October 20, 2014

Death Bed - The Play

You all know what a fan of Patton Oswalt I am, and if you know the man's stand-up work, you've heard about one of the worst movies ever made - Death Bed. And just like Patton says, it's real.

If you have heard his routine about Death Bed, you know what an accomplishment it is. Now, Death Bed moves higher into the pinnacle of success, it's now a play. Written by Gwenyfer Rohler, and directed by Steve Vernon, "Death Bed: The Play" is for real.

This coming week, October 23 through November 2, Big Dawg Productions presents "Death Bed: The Play" at The Cape Far Play House during Big Dawg's Halloween Horror Theatre Festival. Check out the website for more information here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Arrow S03 E02: "Sara"

We open just moments after we left off last episode. Our Canary is dead, murdered by three arrows in the chest from an unseen (by the viewers) assailant. Laurel brings her to the Arrowcave.

Who did it? Sara knew her killer, and asked what they were doing there. My guesses are Malcolm or Thea (longshots) or someone from the League of Assassins or even Ras Al Ghul himself. Despite this being a show about Green Arrow, there aren't as many archer suspects as one might think. Huntress? Nah. Oliver himself says there are ten he knows of. My money is on Ras, directly or indirectly.

To complicate matters, Lance calls in the Arrow to bring in a new archer in town who's killing people. This was one of the bugaboos of the Golden Age and Silver Age Green Arrow stories. Why does everyone in a costume in Star City seem to want to use a bow and arrows as their weapon of choice? Is there something in the water?

The archer terrorizing the city is one from the comics who goes by the name Komodo. In the comics, Simon Lacroix was a protege of Oliver's father who was obsessed with an 'arrow totem' that supposedly provided enlightenment. He killed Oliver's father for it, and when he didn't find it, became the masked Komodo and vowed to destroy Green Arrow.

In the show however, Komodo appears to be simply another bow-toting assassin. The motorcycle duel between the archers would have been much cooler had it been lighted better, and we had more than just barely different colored helmets to identify the characters. I mean really, a red helmet could have just as easily been Roy/Speedy/Arsenal, right?

When Komodo crashes Ray Palmer's party, and Arrow and Roy follow suit to stop him, all I could think is what all the party goers must have thought - wow, that's a lot of guys with bows and arrows. And it turns out just like we thought - Komodo is not on the suspect list for Sara's death.

Ray Palmer continues to pursue Felicity on a seriously creepy stalker level. And maybe it's the writing or the behavior, but he is nowhere near as charming or charismatic as he was last week. After Superman Returns and his creepy Ray Palmer here, I think Brandon Routh should try a full-on stalker role, he might be good at it, definitely better than the way he plays heroes. And how is it Ray Palmer us so rich on TV but not in the comics?

Laurel continues her instability from last season, but at least she's not annoying about it this time. She's playing a little rough and crazy, edging her closer to putting on Sara's leather as the new Canary. The fact that Dad doesn't want her taking risks pretty much telegraphs that she will. Of course, things don't always go as we think they do, right? How many of us at the beginning of this ride thought Tommy Merlyn would become Merlyn the Magician? More on Tommy later.

One Easter egg I actually missed last episode was from the flashback sequences. Oliver was being held in Hong Kong by an Asian man, who in turn was being made to follow the orders of Amanda Waller. She threatened his family if he didn't, and his family? The little girl who in the comics grows up to become the Outsider known as Katana.

Speaking of flashbacks, surprisingly, Tommy Merlyn has come to Hong Kong looking for Oliver, lured by the aborted email last week. Just like "The Sopranos," just because a character is dead doesn't mean they are off the show. Way to go, Colin Donnell. Not much of a return, but still worth seeing him.

Namedrops this episode include Qurac, Amazons, Bludhaven, and Corto Maltese where we see Malcolm training Thea. Sara's death and Oliver's refusal to mourn deepens the gorge between him and Felicity. Roy suspects Thea isn't where she says she is. Without Oliver's mom, the soap opera has lessened, but it hasn't disappeared. And was anyone else creeped out that Team Arrow buried Sara for real in her fake grave??

Next: Corto Maltese!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Arrow S03 E01: "The Calm"

Quite a few changes occurred in the season two finale of "Arrow." Roy got better and was promoted to masked vigilante, still no codename, but if I had to bet, it would be Arsenal not Speedy or Red Arrow. Speaking of Speedy, Mia is now with her birth father, Malcolm Merlin. Sara has returned to the League of Assassins, and Laurel was let in on the secret of Team Arrow. And oh yeah, our new flashback destination is Hong Kong with Oliver working for Amanda Waller.

We open on Team Arrow acting smooth unison taking down a character I swear was a baddie from "Wiseguy," but what do I know? The episode title adequately describes the team here, peaceful and happy. Diggle and Lyla having a baby, Oliver and Felicity pseudo-dating, all friends united for a common cause. Roy is a little rough, but then he's always been a little rough, probably just missing Mia.

We are five months later, Laurel is a little bit blonder (closer to becoming a Canary herself), her dad has a cane and an illness keeping him from fieldwork, and the anti-vigilante task force has been disbanded. Arrow is finally a hero, or at least not hunted by the police. With crime at an all time low, and the police cooperating with the Arrow, it's hard times for the underworld, don't worry, nature abhors a vacuum.

Someone has to step up to organize the baddies against Arrow. That someone has an accent and has modified the drug called Vertigo to show its user/victim their greatest fear. Well, it's a bit more Scarecrow than Count Vertigo, but this series has never shied away from the shadows of the Bat-universe. His name is Werner Zytle, in the comics, he is appropriately enough the second Count Vertigo. And I love his Prokofiev whistle.

Felicity has been working at a tech support job in the time since last season. It begs the question of who's paying for dinner on this big date between her and Oliver. Obviously, she is. One customer takes an interest in her, suspiciously looking like a deadbeat dad super-stalker. Yeah, it's Brandon Routh, only this time he's playing a superhero other than Superman. This time he's Ray Palmer, who is probably not yet the Atom.

Ray Palmer is sharp, quirky, and charismatic. If Routh had been this much fun as the man of steel, I might have liked Superman Returns more. He wants to take over Queen Consolidated, and turn the old brutalized Starling City into the new and improved (and closer to the comics version) Star City. Not only is Routh entertaining as heck, he also wants a piece of Felicity as well.

The date, the date many of us have been waiting for for years now, Felicity and Oliver. Having exhausted any topic that could have talked about on a first date, Oliver decides to conveniently tell Felicity about Hong Kong. And not for the first time nor for the last time, I need to mention that Felicity cleans up really nice. Emily Bett Rickards is super hot. Too bad our villain cuts in to the date with a rocket launcher. Soooo... why does Oliver take the bleeding unconscious Felicity to the Arrowcave instead of a hospital??

As happy as I was to see Canary come to the rescue when Arrow goes after the new Vertigo, I was once again disappointed in the recent trend in superhero stories - why can't the hero win on their own? I mean, isn't that why they are the hero? As for Sara Lance, our first Black Canary, I wish I could say we'd be seeing her again.

As we know who this season's big bad is - Ras Al Ghul - it's not hard to guess who took her out. If it's not him, he gave the order. The real question is... how long before Laurel puts on the leather looking for revenge?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Scratching the Surface of the New Season

This is just a taste, not intensive reviews, of my impressions of some of what the new television season has to offer.

"Selfie" - Against all my better judgment, I kinda dig this one. The premise, a modern updating of "Pygmalion," only holds so much water and can only last as long as the story does, is just not the usual fodder for a sitcom. Sitcoms like status quo, and by its nature, this is not. Fan fave Karen Gillan ("Doctor Who," Guardians of the Galaxy) is a social media obsessed woman whose straight laced co-worker, the criminally underused John Cho (Star Trek, the Harold & Kumar movies), tries to help her to better herself. This was fun, I don't know how long it will, or can, last, but it was fun.

"Scorpion" - While some folks have laid into this series for its casting, I think I will stick with other critics and trash the series as a whole. I could not stand this thing. Its good points are that it is as manipulative and predictable as a 1980s popcorn flick. Its bad points are that anyone with common sense or has been on the internet at all will be bleeding from the eyes ten minutes in. CBS, what used to be called the old people network, is trying to get its title back. Because, 'inspired by true events' or not, the only people who believe this 'high tech' hokum are folks who think a pager is cutting edge and are still living in the 1990s where hacking is magic. This made my head hurt.

"Castle" - The more I think about this one, the more I think this series has outstayed its welcome. I loved it so much when it first appeared. What was not to like? An old school TV mystery series with a writer at its center? I'm sold. I loved the poker games with real writers from the first season, too bad they vanished. Last season, the stories seemed to suffer from faulty logic that wasn't there the first few seasons. I loved the characters so I hung in there. Then, as a cliffhanger, they had the main character kidnapped just before the wedding. Yeah, a bit cliché, but I remained a loyal viewer. With the new season premiere, we have entered bad soap opera territory with amnesia. I am sure that this show has worn out its welcome and should have ending with a happy ending wedding last season.

"American Horror Story: Freak Show" - I tried this anthology series in its first season, was bored to tears, and fell away rather quickly. Since then it's gotten a lot of hype. When this season's 'freak show' theme was announced, being a fan of Tod Browning's Freaks and HBO's "Carnivale," I had to give it another chance. I was pleasantly surprised. This hot mess is a campy concoction of many genres thrown into a bloody food processor, including "True Blood," "Dark Shadows," Stephen King, John Waters, and Brian DePalma. Love it, so far at least. You can check out my friend and fellow writer Marie Gilbert's reviews of the series here at Biff Bam Pop!.

Speaking of Biff Bam Pop!, you can read my review of the pilot episode of "The Flash" here, my ongoing reviews of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." here, my review of "Gotham" here at Welcome to Hell, and my thoughts on the new season of "Arrow" begin right here on this blog starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Half Baked

When "The Dave Chappelle Show" debuted on Comedy Central, I loved it, and I laughed and laughed. I became an instant fan. I had never known however where he came from. He couldn't have just appeared as a full-blown superstar overnight, right?

His claim to fame was a movie called Half Baked, one that as a stoner comedy was never on my radar. Shrugs. You win some, you lose some. When I found out about it, and saw it also starred another actor I like a lot, Guillermo Diaz, I decided it was probably time to see it. The next time it came around in rotation on IFC, I DVRed it.

Also in the cast are Jim Breuer and Harland Williams, and along with Diaz, and Chappelle, who also co-wrote it, and whose character narrates it - these are our four main stoners, I mean characters. You can plainly see the genius already in Chappelle, and the others follow suit. Stoned since ninth grade, these four grow up to be not just stoners but slackers too. When Williams go to jail, the other three come up with a pot-selling scheme to raise bail.

While the flick can easily be dismissed as a stoner comedy, it's also interesting to watch the early evolution of Chapelle. Diaz is very different from his current "Scandal" incarnation. He certainly made a transformation over the years. Williams has always been goofy, and Breuer has made a career of looking at least perpetually stoned. Steven Wright is also fun in his minor role.

Half Baked is also directed by Tamra Davis who previously worked in music video and now works in television, but along the way has done some really innovative stuff like Guncrazy. Her cred puts the movie in a higher bracket than the average stoner comedy.

There are some cool cameos by Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofolo, Tracy Morgan, Bob Saget, Stephen Baldwin, and Tommy Chong. Co-writer Neal Brennan also shows up. He would later co-create and co-write Dave Chapelle's Comedy Central show.

For the most part, it's a fun flick, only slowed down by an actual plot and subplots. It's much better with just the stoner humor without trying to be a real movie. And of course I bet it's a lot funnier if you watch it while high.