Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Riverdale

The newest of the loosely based comic book shows debuted last week on the CW. One might say, don't they have enough of those over there already? And while DCTV mastermind Greg Berlanti is one of the executive producers, this isn't a DC Comics show, it's Archie Comics.

Now Archie and the gang have been translated to the small screen many many times, but only animation seems to stick, the live action attempts have flailed in the ratings and vanished. This time the showrunners have the characters and concepts solidly into the adult 21st century. Behind this is specifically Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa - the award winning writer from "Glee," "Big Love," the remakes of Carrie and The Town that Dreaded Sundown, dozens of comics, and one of the current heads of Archie Comics.

From the opening moments the first episode is very Lynch-ian, as if the intent was to do "Twin Peaks" rather than the Archies. Most of the characters are here, and well cast, but mood is very Blue Velvet and Shadow of a Doubt, a small town where innocence only hides darkness. The high school vibe borrows much from a "Beverly Hills 90210" feel, which is painful for us old folks as Luke Perry plays Archie's dad. Ooof. I'm old, but so is he.

Feeling old isn't the worst this show has to offer though. Before the opening credits even roll, we learn that Archie had a torrid summer sex encounter with Ms. Grundy. Yeah, they go there, but before you gouge your eyes out, this Grundy teacher is young and hot. Future episodes tempt us with Betty and Veronica kissing and Josie and the Pussycats doing a modern remake of "Sugar Sugar," I'm not sure which is the bigger outrage… I have to say I also kinda dug Jughead as the creepy loner/writer with the Silent Bob vibe.

All that said, the show is compelling and worth watching, especially for viewers out there cold turkeying for the new "Twin Peaks" and the lesser "Wayward Pines." However, other than a couple cool Easter eggs, and characters with the same names, there's not much here for Archie fans. I'll give a few more episodes. What did y'all think?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Arrow S05 E10: Who Are You?

First off I should mention that "Arrow," as well as "The Flash," "Legends of Tomorrow," "Supergirl," and a few other CW shows have all been renewed early. Although such an early renewal is unusual, what is really intriguing is that "Arrow" had originally been conceived as a five-year project. I guess the future really is wide open, at least in the Arrowverse.

We open as we left before the mid-winter finale, with Laurel alive greeting Oliver in the Arrowcave. Trust me, he's as shocked and disbelieving as we are. Laurel claims that at the time of her death, Sara rescued her and healed her with the technology of the Waverider. At first Oliver accepts it, then Felicity comes in, and so does she. That said, she can't help but wonder why the Legends can save Laurel but not Malone. That old devil time travel.

Considering however that there was no mention of these events in the previous night's episode of "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," I'm calling shenanigans. And if she's not Laurel, who is she? Prometheus? Laurel's 'resurrection party' is sparsely attended and the mood is a bit grim. Everyone is still upset by Artemis' betrayal, Prometheus still on the loose, and yes, Detective Malone's death at the hands of Green Arrow last episode. But of course, Felicity set the party up with only one intent - to get Laurel's DNA. Even if the rest of Team Arrow is drinking the Kool-Aid, Felicity is still in the job.

The DNA is a match. And just as Rory is joking with Felicity about evil twins, Felicity realizes that Laurel does have an evil twin. Before she can even mouth the words Black Siren, they're attacked by... guess who? The Black Siren. I love when comic book shows are comic booky. It just makes this fanboy right here squeee!

The Black Siren was freed from S.T.A.R. Labs by Prometheus. The video sent over by Cisco seems to indicate magic or teleportation as no alarms were triggered and they were in and out. But things aren't working out between Prometheus and the Black Siren. I guess Prometheus is not as cool a boss as Zoom. She arranges a meet at the Black Canary statue that goes awry, taking the statue with it. Broke my heart to see that.

Still Team Arrow apprehends her, and Oliver tries to interrogate her, to no avail. He can't separate her from her doppelgänger, and if can get redemption for his Laurel through her evil twin, he'll do it. Felicity however knows her ex's weaknesses and tries to compensate. Felicity hooks up the Siren unknowingly with tracking nanites and sets her free. Oliver is of course livid. In the meantime we get some nice interaction between Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific. Wish there was more of that.

The nanites lead the team to both Prometheus and the Black Siren. It was great seeing Overwatch in the field, despite alternately being bait and a target. And of course Prometheus got away again, although I'm not sure how. He had a chance to kill Green Arrow but seemed to sneak out the back in the middle of the fight.

The Bratva flashback continues to drag on, only brightening up when Talia al Ghul shows up. I love Talia, but I'm sorry, folks, after Damian Darhk (who continues to haunt the Legends of Tomorrow), I am all League of Assassins-ed out.

Also Oliver goes to Adrian Chase to defend Diggle, but while there he learns that the DA knows Malone was killed by Green Arrow being manipulated into thinking he was Prometheus. Chase does intercede on Diggle's behalf only to find the military is set on eliminating Diggle. Chase cleverly saves him, if only temporarily.

The stinger at the end of the episode fades in from Oliver swearing he'll find a replacement for the Black Canary, someone worthy of the mantle. We see a woman take out two bikers in a bar with a sonic scream. Really? Are there so many metahumans out there now that powers are repeating? And I say powers and metahumans because I don't see any tech here.

Next: Second Chances!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore 1936-2017

Actress, icon, and star of television, stage, and film, Mary Tyler Moore, has passed away. She was 80. As long as I've been aware, she's always been there, whether it was reruns of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" or the Saturday night tradition of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," there's never been a time when she wasn't in my world, on my TV screen, or elsewhere. Recently I was diagnosed with diabetes, and there as well, she was a heroine for me, just as in the 1970s she was an icon for women all over the world.

I have seen every episode of the two above TV series, and loved most of them, their content impacting me to this day, sitcoms or not. The production company she co-founded with then-husband Grant Tinker, MTM Enterprises created some of the best television of the 1970s and 1980s, and I was a fan of those as well. I also really dug some of her failures, especially the short-lived and hilarious sitcom titled "Mary," which featured a pre-"Married with Children" Katey Sagal.

Mary also wrote books, starred on the stage, and on the big screen, notably in Ordinary People, and one of my guilty pleasures Flirting with Disaster. And who couldn't love her as a nun courted by Elvis Presley in Change of Habit? We have lost one of the great ones today, the woman who could truly turn the world on with her smile. You will be missed, Mary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not ~ Okay, confession time, I've never seen this film until very recently, but I've owned it forever. When I first got a VCR (yeah, we're talking that long ago) I taped several movies from PBS that were perfectly uncut classics, this was one of them. I got a chance to watch most of them, but somehow never got around to To Have or Have Not. Later I even bought a proper VHS copy of the film, and never got around to that either, but on the most recent TCM Classic Cruise, I finally caught it on the TCM Stateroom Channel, a favorite chosen by guest programmer Raquel Welch of all people. But yeah, finally.

Set in World War II, post-fall of France St. Martinique, while we were ironically docked in St. Maarten, this classic brings Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall together in a tale of treachery and intrigue. Bogart does his usual American caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Bacall does her immortal line, You know how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow." but there's so much else to this than that. This is where the couple's real spark and charisma sizzles, where the chemistry really heats up more than other vehicles with the two. They are gold together, on screen as much as in real life.

There are surprises, more action and violet sequences than is usual in these types of films, and it works well in the context of the day and today. Walter Brennan provides wonderful comic relief, but Hoagy Carmichael stands out to me as the best of the supporting characters, providing a terrific musical soundtrack as it happens - one of the better bits right after a shoot out in the club. Classic songs and talent, love it.

I also loved finding where Barbra Streisand calling Ryan O'Neal 'Steve' in one of my favorite movies, What's Up, Doc?, comes from. Equally fun is Bogie's equally unwanted nickname for Bacall, 'Slim.' Great stuff. This movie is a classic for a reason, and now, after far too many years, it's one of my favorites too. One of the best, see it now, don't wait like me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Badlands

Badlands ~ There is no doubt that the 1950s rampage of spree killer Charles Starkweather changed America. Even Stephen King has talked about how the events in the Midwest affected him and altered his life. Society was changing, youth was changing, and it was bloody.

The movie Badlands, written, directed, and produced by Terrence Malick, tells the Charles Starkweather story from the point of view of the fifteen year old girl who may have been his accomplice or may have been his captive. Played by Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in perhaps their best performances in my estimation, the two teens are involved in a tragic love story that is less based on fact and more rooted in Malick's vision of life and America of the time. Holly and Kit are some twisted Bonnie and Clyde for whom murder is in the backseat to their awkward love and journey into darkness.

Spacek narrates the film, giving a soft lens love struck version of events, even when we see what actually happens. Even when we know that Kit is a sociopath, Holly writes it off as strangeness or uniqueness with a romantic flair. In some of it however, as in when her father shoots her dog, one has to wonder if she was also disturbed, or a liar. And small part that he has, Warren Oates, who plays her dad, also gives a hell of a performance with few lines.

After killing Holly's father and burning the house to the ground, the two go on the run, but more or less go and live in the woods, getting back to nature, and playing house for a bit. The fairy tale notion of this mirage is broken by a passing truck in the background. The parallels to the hippie movement are apparent, even with Holly's off-kilter narration. In some places here the film mirrors the more artsy portions of Bonnie and Clyde but with more surreality. The haunting carnival score by George Tipton helps that illusion. And in some places it feels like a test run for Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen.

When men come calling with guns, Kit and Holly are on the run again, more traditionally, in the badlands. Their love story is mirage-like and slow motion, her narration and even Kit's attempts at recording his thoughts lethargic but fascinating. In the end it becomes more seventies car chase than anything else, I guess because it had to, but it feels out of place after what came before.

Still, with all the surreality and illusionary love story, and wishing it was a crime story, I still love this movie, and watch it every time it comes on television, even if it's edited. One of my favorites, recommended, it sure rings the bell.