Monday, June 29, 2015

True Detective Reborn

Let's face it, we all loved the first season of "True Detective." We loved the murky quirky mystery, the bizarre danger, the insane villains, and the wild chemistry of the two unconventional leads. Nic Pizzolatto created some of the greatest television ever made in just eight hours. It was genius.

And then when we heard "True Detective" was to be an 'anthology' series, that a second season would not feature Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (an actor that TD finally made me respect), but a new cast, story, and setting - we were suddenly tentative and lukewarm. When we saw previews, we were even more shaken. This second season didn't feel like the "True Detective" we knew and loved at all. Hardcore fans were worried.

Then we watched the season premiere last week. I'll be the first to admit this, it was not holding my attention. Political corruption, in my opinion, is boring fodder for a police drama, let alone the amazing story that preceded this one. Vince Vaughn badly channeling Vincent D'Onofrio's baby-man Kingpin from Netflix's "Daredevil" did not help one bit. He is almost a joke at some points.

The rest of the cast appears to be not only too many but not quirky enough for my "True Detective" tastes. Colin Farrell's Ray Velcoro comes closest to what we expect from the show, but he does far too much reacting than acting for my tastes. Rachel McAdams barely registered on my radar, and Taylor Kitsch, who was brilliant as both John Carter and Gambit, yet criminally rousted by Hollywood, barely has anything to do either. Along with Vaughn, it felt like far too many, and far too uninteresting, characters.

Many of us fans may have decided to give up on the show after that first episode. If you did, don't. The show definitely got its vibe back last night with the second episode. And I have a feeling it's going to get even better.

Vince Vaughn got a bit more desperate and dangerous. Both McAdams and Kitsch became far more twisted and interesting. Nic Pizzolatto revealed his more familiar dark side, and they took care of that too many characters thing. If you checked out, check back in. This is going to be a wild ride.

And if you'd like a different view on the second season of "True Detective," check out my buddy Jim Knipp's recaps and reviews at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sprite: LeBron's Mix

LeBron is a basketball player, right? Let me hit the Google and double-check. Yes, LeBron James is an American treasure when it comes to basketball, and one of the best players in the world. Sorry, folks, but basketball is just not one of those things in my wheelhouse. Soda, on the other hand, is.

Recently when I saw Entourage in the theater I saw an ad for a new limited edition flavor of Sprite. Now I'm a Coca-Cola man, so yeah, Sprite is right along side there. This flavor of Sprite not only has cherry in it but also orange. I was enticed, my two favorite flavors in a Sprite, sounds like a plan.

Of course there's the very real possibility this could just be a drunken stint at the Coke Freestyle machine, a Frankenstein mix of what might taste good, but can't possibly... because, let's face it, we're not soda scientists - and neither is LeBron James, or at least I don't think he is.

The LeBron Mix, which apparently had been out before under another name, proved quite elusive to find. It was one of those things you see everywhere when it's under your radar yet nowhere when you want it. Fortunately The Bride was able to pick up a bottle in Philadelphia. Yes, at 7-Eleven, despite what Ray had to say about it on a recent episode of The GAR! Podcast.

The first thing I noticed was how much bubble and fizz was in the bottle before I even opened it. I was a bit tentative to twist off the top, half expecting a champagne-like explosion. It didn't explode when I twisted it open, but I did dig the contrast of the dark red label and cap against the lime green bottle. They should think about marketing this stuff during the Christmas season.

Once the cap was off, a wine bottle wave past my nose brought an aroma just like I had hoped, but. But when I tasted the stuff, it was exactly what I feared it was. It was terrible, like some blend of Mountain Dew (not my favorite) and urine (let's not even go there), wow, this stuff was awful. Not recommended. And LeBron, step away from the Coke Freestyle machine. Right now.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

RIP Patrick Macnee

We've lost another one of the legends of genre, one of the masterful actors of our time. Today, at the age of 93, we have lost Patrick Macnee.

Most of the time when folks read or hear me talking about the Avengers, it's the Marvel superhero comic, but Patrick Macnee was part of another Avengers team, the cool Avengers. In the 1960s spy series "The Avengers," Patrick Macnee played the quite dangerous gentleman in the bowler hat and the quick dry wit, and the always sexy female companion. Whether it was Honor Blackman, Julie Stevens, Linda Thorson, Joanna Lumley, or the dazzling mod minx Diana Rigg who accompanied him, John Steed was the epitome of quirky cool. "The Avengers" was smart fun television, the likes of which has rarely been seen since.

The series was by far his only claim to fame however. Macnee was an actor for decades, one of his first roles was in the Alistair Sim (the best) version of A Christmas Carol as young Marley. He's been in James Bond projects, played Sherlock Holmes, been in dozens of TV shows, and most memorably he was the demonic savior Count Iblis in the original "Battlestar Galactica." Macnee was also in This Is Spinal Tap, and he was even an invisible agent in the much-maligned theatrical version of The Avengers.

Macnee was a star of stage and screen, both silver and small, even appearing in music videos by the Pretenders and Oasis. We've lost a legend, and he will be missed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out ~ Disney/Pixar is back with their entry in the 2015 summer blockbuster season - Inside Out. The premise this time is one pleasantly similar to a much-missed EPCOT ride called Cranium Command, those who remember it know what I mean. We see the inside of a young girl's head, the five emotions who run her personality, and turmoil caused when her family is uprooted from Minnesota and moved to San Francisco.

The star power of the flick is provided by the cast inside young Riley's head - Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith who steals the movie), and Bing Bong (Richard Kind) the imaginary friend kept secret from the previews. As Riley deals with the move, Joy and Sadness, along with Bing Bong journey through her personality to get things back in order. Much like the personified characters, the viewers are run through a gauntlet of emotions as well, but then again, that's what Pixar does so well.

Get to the theater in time for the wonderful short "Lava," which may start the emotional rollercoaster early for some folks. I also liked that the director Pete Docter personally introduces the film, a throwback to old Hollywood, and specifically thanks the audience. Nice touch. Two thumbs up for Inside Out.

If you'd like to hear more about Inside Out, it's the featured topic of this week's episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast, and you might want to check out today's blog entry at French Fry Diary as well. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

RIP Dick Van Patten

Dick Van Patten is one of those faces we've all seen on television since we were kids and just started watching television. He's always been there, and now, sadly, he's gone. The great character actor passed away this morning in California after a long illness.

Most folks will recognize him as the father Tom Bradford in the late 1970s drama/comedy "Eight Is Enough." I was a fan of the show, even though it hasn't aged well, and was definitely a product of its times. Van Patten however was in everything, a fixture of anthology shows like "The Love Boat" and "Love American Style," he always played different roles, and was featured in over fifty different series over the decades. His career on TV went from "The Naked City" to " Hot in Cleveland." Van Patten was also a star of the silver screen as well, appearing in such films as "Charly," "Westworld," and "Spaceballs."

Speaking of Mel Brooks, with whom Van Patten worked frequently, that was where I first became enamored with his work. He played Friar Tuck in Brooks' rowdy comedic television version of the Robin Hood legend, "When Things Were Rotten." Forgotten by many and lasting less than a season, this was classic Brooks, and Van Patten was great.

We've lost one of the good ones. Dick Van Patten will be missed.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Daredevil S01 E11: The Path of the Righteous

As Matt continues to recover from his battle with Nobu, and Fisk worries over the poisoned Vanessa at the hospital, we have what seems to be a waiting game. Rather than the one-minute break between boxing rounds, it seems we're getting two or three episodes. I want to see our opponents back in the ring, don't you? Enough foreplay!

Who poisoned the guests at Fisk's benefit? The signs point to Nobu's clan, but didn't Madame Gao say they would have their hands full with other matters? Owsley didn't seem to know at first the drinks were poisoned but caught on quickly, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't him. That pretty much leaves Gao to blame... or Wesley.

Fisk's right hand man has very recently been sidelined by Fisk when dealing with Gao and Vanessa. This would not be the first time I've questioned the exact personal nature of Fisk and Wesley's relationship. Is there more to it than business? Is it perhaps more twisted like that of Mr. Burns and Waylon Smithers on "The Simpsons"? Could this mass poisoning be both an act of sabotage and that of a jealous lover?

However we may never know. When Wesley gets wind of Karen snooping around Fisk's supposedly dead mother, he decides to take matters into his own hands. At first it seems he's going to kill Karen, then he offers her a job, which was puzzling. Why does he refer to Fisk as no longer his employer? What is going on here? Sadly this is Toby Leonard Moore's weakest work so far, and it's his last. I guess he's better in small doses. And what did Karen mean about this not being the first time she's shot someone?

I was happy to actually see Rosario Dawson return as the Claire Temple/Night Nurse hybrid character. I honestly felt cheated last episode when appeared only off-screen in a casual mention. Here unfortunately she is just more foreplay, preluding Matt's further discussion with Father Lantom who implies that sometimes the devil is a good thing, a lesson, a symbol, an inspiration to others.

If nothing else, these pep talks knock some sense into Matt, and he gets back into gear and seeks out everybody's favorite snitch, Turk Barrett. This time however, Daredevil isn't looking for Fisk, instead he wants something sensible - body armor. It would seem that the beating he took from Nobu and Kingpin did knock some sense into him. Turk sends our hero to the workshop of Melvin Potter.

Just in case you need a reminder of who Melvin Potter is, his Gladiator chest symbol is on the wall of his shop as Daredevil breaks and enters. As before, the simple armorer gives our hero quite a pounding. Nerdgasm when Potter threw a circular saw blade at DD. Again, enough foreplay, I want to see a full-on full-comic-dress fight between Daredevil and Gladiator. Did anyone else notice the Stilt-Man armor was missing since last we saw the workshop?

If nothing else, I suspect we'll finally be getting the traditional red Daredevil costume from the comics next episode. This was a slow one, highlighted by Night Nurse and Gladiator, with hopes of better coming.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Daredevil S01 E10: Nelson v. Murdock

The best friend is usually the last one to know. In the comics it seems that friendships and relationships outside the superhero business are kept in the dark far longer than those in the business. Oh sure, there are exceptions, notably employment situations as with Alfred Pennyworth and Batman, but for the most part, for every Thomas Kalmaku and Happy Hogan, there are dozens of James Gordons, Jimmy Olsens, Harry Osborns, and Etta Candys. And then there's Foggy Nelson.

Now as I've said before, I'm not a big Daredevil fan and the gaps in my comics knowledge of the character are large, but to me the character of Franklin 'Foggy' Nelson seems much more soap opera than the usual early Stan Lee fare. While Foggy is Matt Murdock's best friend, his law partner, and at the best of times, his conscience - the early comics portray him as almost a nebbishy comic relief sidekick, more of a Doiby Dickles than a Rick Jones. He was forever caught in that humiliating love triangle with Matt and Karen Page when he hopelessly pined after her while she was always in love with Matt.

And like a 1950s Lois Lane, he stupidly fell for Matt's ruse of having a twin brother Mike, to help cover up his secret identity. As lame as that trick was, I did dig the homage made in this series when Matt tells Night Nurse to call him Mike. Let's not even get into Karen's character as she also fell for Mike Murdock, and hard. But even as a kid, I looked at Foggy and I would never hire Nelson and Murdock - what if you got the dim half?

As the years go by, Foggy continued to be portrayed as ineffectual, and certainly various comics creators put him through hell. Bad marriage, unemployment, an on again/off again friendship/partnership with Matt - none of these things helped to strengthen his character. It's a sad state of affairs that he actually learns Daredevil's secret identity along with the rest of the world when he is outted by the press. And then, Foggy doesn't even believe it until he finds a beaten and battered Matt in costume, just as he did in our last episode.

I think the real turnaround for Foggy Nelson was in the much-maligned 2003 movie, and his portrayal by future founding father of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Favreau. A more gregarious personality and snappy aware dialogue saved him and made cool. And it's this version that Elden Henson mines in his Netflix version. On an interesting sidenote, Favreau also invigorated the similarly hated Happy Hogan in the Iron Man franchise. If I had my way, he'd play Steve Trevor in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie the same way.

In the last moments of "Speak of the Devil," a drunken Foggy came across the horribly beaten Daredevil in Matt's apartment, and is shocked to find its Matt under the mask. Well, at least it's better than reading it in the newspaper. We open as Matt wakes up. Night Nurse has been and gone, and Foggy is understandably angry. "Are you even blind?" launches us into the credit sequence and an "Arrow" style flashback.

Then, they were college roommates, fast friends with common backgrounds, and for Foggy, someone to look up to, and the perfect wingman. It's easy to see how betrayed he feels. The noose tightens when Karen calls and Foggy is forced to do the thing he hates Matt for - lie to someone he cares about.

Meanwhile Madame Gao, who along with Owsley is now all that's left of Fisk's legion of doom, takes a park bench meeting with the Kingpin. She delivers a warning and poses a question. Nobu's clan, who we almost certainly know is The Hand, has a long memory and will be taking their vengeance on Fisk. That's one, but more directly, Gao wants to know when Fisk will turn on her. She says he must decide if he is a savior or an oppressor, for he cannot be both.

Ben gets the bad news about his wife's care and decides to pack it in, giving all his notes to Karen. Under the premise of finding a home for Ben's wife, she has him drive her to a place far away, where she knows Wilson Fisk's mother is. This was a bit weird to me. Why didn't she just tell him, and save them both a lot of time? Speaking of Fisk, his benefit goes very bad very quickly. Poisoned champagne, with more than a few casualties, including possibly Vanessa. Somebody is going to pay...

We are also given, through the flashbacks, the last few pieces of Daredevil's origin. I was left wondering just how good friends were Matt and Foggy. At least how good a friend was Matt, while he's been lying to him for years. I have to admit to liking secret identities done realistically for once. Foggy's reaction to the truth is exactly what it should have been. I just wonder where this leaves their friendship as Foggy tosses their new firm sign in the trash.

As scenes change to address each member of the cast, one can't help but remember the last filler episode "Cut Man," where Matt was also incapacitated. This is a trick that works perhaps once a season, more than that, especially in a series meant to be binge-watched, it's a cliche. As we speed toward a conclusion, this is a solid STOP sign as opposed to merely a speed bump. Much happens and there's lot of good stuff here, but the trick is old and we can see the man behind the curtain.

There are some interesting tidbits in this episode. In Ben's office, among the newspaper clippings on his wall are those about the 'Battle of New York' and the 'Harlem Terror,' referencing the Chitauri invasion and the Hulk's rampage in Harlem, both from the Avengers movies. And in one of Foggy's flashbacks there is a case involving Roxxon, the oil corporation featured in both Iron Man 3 and "Agent Carter," which is constantly on the side of evil in the comics.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Showtime's Spoiler Problem

Showtime isn't HBO, not by a long shot, but they really want to be. There's one thing they could be doing that would bring them closer to their goal, and that's not spoiling their shows before they air.

Showtime has fantastic programming, shows like "House of Lies," "Penny Dreadful," "Ray Donovan," "HAPPYish," "Nurse Jackie," "Shameless," and my favorite, "Episodes," just to name a few. The problem is that seconds before the airing of a new episode, Showtime gives you about ten seconds of highlights of the episode you are about to see, usually revealing major plot points and twists of said episode.

WTF Showtime? I'll speak to you directly now.

You do understand, Showtime, we are already tuned in, or recording via DVR, we intend to watch - there's no need to entice us to watch. We're already there. All this plot revealing preview does is ruin the show for us. Sometimes there's no point in watching after these spoiler previews. See, this is hurting you, and ruining your hard-paid-for programming for you.

Is the point that you don't want us to watch? If so, you're starting to succeed. Stop it, just stop it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mr. Robot

Awkward cynical cyber-security techie Elliot Rodger is also a vigilante hacker by night. Played by former child actor Rami Malek (Night at the Museums) with dreary neo-gothic hipster non-glee, he obsesses on finding the deets on anyone he has to interact with socially to make it easier, but it never does. He's creepy at first, but his mad first person narrative wins viewers over quickly.

If you think Elliot Rodger is an anarchist or nihilist wannabe with an odd sense of justice, it's only because you haven't met Christian Slater's character yet. Mr. Robot is the real anarchist and he wants to bring down the evil corporations, especially the one Elliot works for - E Corp. There's a very paranoid Big Brother vibe, and Slater is very Slater, but it works.

The pilot episode, cleverly titled "," was written by show creator and executive producer Sam Esmail, whose previous credits include Comet and dating Emmy Rossum from "Shameless." It's a single camera shoot interspersed with lots of stock footage and a tense score by Mac Quayle that is vaguely reminiscent of Tangerine Dream on speed.

If nothing else, this is a tale told with an intriguing storytelling style. Worth checking out. Available on several digital platforms and OnDemand right now, "Mr. Robot" officially premieres on USA June 24th.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Daredevil S01 E09: Speak of the Devil

After the end of the last episode, Daredevil and the Kingpin (both as yet unnamed thus, so let's call them as we've seen them - the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and seeming philanthropist Wilson Fisk) are officially at war, and the man in the shadows, the mystery head of the house of cards, has played his hand in the bright sunshine. Things are not looking good for Daredevil, even with his new alliance with Ben Urich. And I'm not just talking about that blow he takes in the opening seconds of episode nine.

The opening fight sequence is between Daredevil and a ninja in red, the latter a master of martial arts fighting skills and weapons. It's pretty intense, and our hero is on the losing end for most of this pre-credits scene. Could this be the first real appearance of so-far-only-speculated Hand? It could be, as this episode is written by show staff writers Christos Gage and Ruth Fletcher Gage. The former is also a Marvel Comics writer who has in the past impressed me with his knowledge and respect for the Silver Age, something rarely seen in today's deconstructionist event themed comics.

Speaking of the Silver Age, there's been a recent hubbub about artist Wally Wood getting credit on the show and a possible lawsuit brewing as well from the comics creator's estate, the fires fanned of course by the rabble-rousers at Bleeding Cool. I think a lot of this comes from the show credit of 'created by' being followed by the names Stan Lee and Bill Everett, and not Wally Wood.

While it's true that almost everything we associate with Daredevil - the red costume, the billy club, the chest symbol - all came from Wally Wood's early redesign of the character, of that there is no doubt, how far should we go with this? I'm on episode nine here and the only reference to the Wood work so far is in the credit sequence itself. In actuality, and I hate saying this, if anyone really deserves any extra credit for this series so far it might just be Frank Miller, stylistically and principally, from his Man Without Fear story.

I know I'm making a lot of folks mad here, especially writers, but all that comics work back in the day was work for hire. Lawsuits decades later are ludicrous. By the same token that Wally Wood gets credit for creating Daredevil, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox and Jerry Robinson should have their names above Bob Kane's for creating Batman - because they really created Batman, and I'd add Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to that list as well. Those five men made Batman more than Kane ever did. As far as I'm concerned, Bob Kane knew his way around a lawyer's office better than he ever did a drawing board. Just my opinion, so you know where to send the hate mail.

The fact is this - comic books are a collaborative artform in a shared universe created via work for hire. Maybe the credit should read, and read accurately, 'created by Marvel Comics,' and be done with it. I'm not begrudging Wally Wood or his estate what is due, but this just gets in my crawl. Enough is enough.

After the credits sequence we once again find Matt in front of St. Agnes with Father Lantom. I doubt we will get a Runaways reference for Lantom, but the fanboy in me still hopes for some nod to Skye from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." for St. Agnes. Either way, this time once again cribbing from Frank Miller, Matt is seeking some sort of therapy through confession. I was pleased that Lantom, unlike Karen and Ben later this episode, has figured out Matt's other identity. It's not that hard.

Merely a plot device in his first two appearances, here Lantom's Peter McRobbie (who had also worked with Charlie Cox on "Boardwalk Empire") has room to play and make an impression finally. Rather than confessional, they chat over coffee, and McRobbie, doing an almost Robert Duvall rift tells a tale of his belief in, and his encounter with, The Devil. Lantom's story is both morality play and warning to Matt. Do not mess with The Devil.

Meanwhile, Fisk revealing himself as a benefactor and savior before being exposed as a devil has hampered if not frozen Ben Urich's investigation. As I mentioned, it kinda lowers my respect for Urich that he can't stand so close to both Daredevil and Matt Murdock and not know they're the same person. So much for the dying art of investigative reporting.

There are some intriguing name drops this episode, most notably Senator Cherryh. In the comics this corrupt senator is close to the Kingpin and has run afoul of Spider-Man, Elektra, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil - most of the heroes in these Netflix series leading up to "The Defenders."

Speaking of the Defenders, when Matt brings the fight to Fisk by visiting Vanessa's art gallery, she makes mention of putting a Richmond on the guest list. "He won't come but he'll get pissy if he isn't invited." Could this be millionaire Kyle Richmond, longtime leader of the Defenders, also known as Nighthawk? The description unfortunately fits the temperamental and much-dissed hero.

Also, location location location. I keep forgetting about the law offices of Nelson and Murdock, across from Atlas Investments, a possible homage to Atlas Comics, the name Marvel went by in the 1950s, and the Agents of Atlas, the retconned name given to the heroes of that era. N&M's offices are also where Van Lunt Real Estate used to be. Cornelius Van Lunt was the criminal industrialist also known as Taurus, one of the twelve-member cartel called Zodiac - longtime enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers.

Back at the art gallery, Charlie Cox shows his first weakness as an actor when putting up a front for Vanessa, but is it bad acting on the part of Cox or of Matt Murdock? An argument could be made for both. When Fisk shows up he is equally uncomfortable. It is almost as if they know each other already subconsciously. Of course they have already spoken as Daredevil and Kingpin in "Condemned", perhaps this meeting is just a formality. And D'Onoffrio's Fisk silently makes no doubt of how he feels about Matt. That final look as our hero leaves says volumes.

Throughout the episode, Foggy and Karen, who are doing most of the heavy lifting, continue to piece together the house of cards with Fisk at its peak. The murder of the tenement woman they had been helping - so soon after Matt's visit to Vanessa has raised many flags. Matt, who has been keeping a low profile as Daredevil, puts the suit back on for a night on the town to release some of his pent up rage on the criminal element.

On this rampage he corners a drug dealer and asks him where he got his product. This product has a symbol on it that we saw Madame Gao's servants packaging in her drug sweatshops earlier in the series. The symbol in the comics is that of the Steel Serpent, an enemy of Iron Fist. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, everything here is connected. Daredevil's tracking of the drugs, and the tenement woman's killer, eventually leads to the ninja, coming full circle to the episode's opening in media res.

The ninja, in what could very well be paraphernalia and costuming of The Hand, is revealed to be Nobu. He knows of Stick, and has some more than human abilities himself like slowing his heartbeat and lowering his body temperature. The battle that follows is intense, bloody, and increasingly one-sided. Daredevil takes the upper hand by luck, barely surviving himself... only to walk into Fisk's trap.

When Fisk offers Daredevil his shot, free punch, in the beginning of a hand to hand combat, our hero is in no shape and is no match whatsoever. Fisk beats him senseless, pummeling his foe almost as he did his father as a boy. When Fisk walks away, telling Wesley to finish him, Daredevil escapes. You might think that's the cliffhanger, but it's not, as it's Foggy who finds Matt near dead, in costume... now things are getting interesting...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Yongary, Monster from the Deep

Recently I talked about Denmark's 1960s entry in the kaiju eiga genre, Reptilicus. Now I'm moving eastward to South Korea for 1967's Yongary, Monster from the Deep, or Taekoesu Yongary, as it's known there. Yongary was more of a traditional giant monster, bipedal and rampaging, and making a beeline to the country of origin's major city - in this case, Seoul.

I was very surprised when I saw this movie recently on basic cable. Before the showing on something called The Works, a digital subchannel of MGM, a rating declared Yongary TV-14, and containing "some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age." Wow. I had to wonder, as I've been watching giant monsters for as long as I can remember - did I have bad parents, and did I turn out all right? Wow.

The monster is strictly adequate, with a horn on its nose and light up eyes. They even threw in fire breath, via flamethrower. Most of the Japanese kaiju TV and even some of the cheaper Gamera movies seem to have bigger budgets, and the South Koreans had a lot to learn about building convincing miniatures. And since when has that country had a space program?

The movie is slow, plodding, and predictable. It's so bad that, yeah, I actually enjoyed the scene where Yongary dances. The moment is refreshing compared to everything else. When I first reviewed this movie, I also trashed its decades later sequel/remake Reptilian. To be honest, neither has aged gracefully. You can read that mess here. Hopefully my reviewing has aged better in a dozen years…

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Daredevil S01 E08: Shadows in the Glass

After a brief interlude with Stick and the seeming world of powers last time, episode eight welcomes us back to reality with the Kingpin. In a beautifully crafted sequence written by executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and directed by Stephen Surjik, the latter known for his work on "Burn Notice" and "Person of Interest," we watch Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk in his morning routine. He awakens to the painting purchased in "Rabbit in a Snowstorm," makes breakfast, gets dressed, but still sees himself as an abused child in the mirror. No dialogue, but wonderfully shot, and so telling of his character, without a word spoken. I'll say it again. Beautiful.

We are introduced to young Wilson Fisk's New York via a wonderful sound-sculpture by the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar." I felt the time and the place. We meet the boy's family and see how he lived. Fisk's father, a failed politician, is played by "The Wire" veteran Domenick Lombardozzi, and there is another mention of Don Rigoletto, the Mafia boss who was replaced as a power broker by the Kingpin. In the comics, young Fisk was his bodyguard and eventually killed him. At some point in this series, someone, I forget who, remarks that Rigoletto retired, in pieces. The flashbacks to Fisk's past are a rich tapestry of old New York, and a tribute to DeKnight's filmmaking skills.

In the present as Matt is brought into Foggy and Karen fight against Union, Fisk is having difficulty controlling Nobu and The Hand. If we're all being honest here, since he started romancing Vanessa, Fisk has been having trouble keeping all of his legion of doom under control. This is a weak alliance at best, only held together by a strong leader. James Wesley wonders why Fisk even needs the Japanese after last episode. The casualness between Fisk and Wesley here is warm, unexpected, and disconcerting. What is their real relationship? Is it more than business?

The villains are on the move in this secret origin of the Kingpin episode. Madame Gao comes to Fisk with a warning about keeping control. The villains are restless, but who is she? Just a guess, but could she be some Iron Fist adversary that will carry to his series later next year? As long as we're speculating about the villains, I'm going to throw this out there. Perhaps Bob Gunton's Leland Owlsley is not the Owl as I have suggested. He keeps talking about his son, also named Leland. If he keeps acting the way he's acting, perhaps old Leland won't make it out of this alive, and young Leland returns for revenge, as The Owl.

Speaking of villains, we run across one (or one and a half) classic Daredevil foes from the hero's rogues gallery. Henching for Fisk, Melvin Potter has also created body armor for his boss, but as he fights Daredevil we get to see his wonderful workshop that includes not only the Gladiator armor, but the Stilt-Man suit as well. Comics fans know that Potter is the villain called Gladiator, a particularly nasty baddie with circular saw blades on his wrists, but in his civilian identity, a mild and special soul. I am psyched, hoping to see both of these villains before the series is out.

Like Skylar Gaertner as young Matt in the last episode, Cole Jenson as young Wilson Fisk is an amazing actor. He is the embodiment and verbalization of everything Vincent D'Onofrio demonstrates with gesture, facial expression, and silence. Truly a case of an inner child, and that is what the actor's portrayal has been all about. And now we know what the painting is all about. The wall of punishment, and we see what happened to Daddy Fisk. It's not pretty, it's not happy, but maybe, it's just. Now we'll have to see the rest of the story, how momma's boy became violent man-child.

There is an interesting parallel struck between the childhoods of Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk. Both men have violent fathers who have lasting effects on them as adults, but it's the way the violence is channeled and the lessons taught and learned that separate them. Still, in many ways, at least on the surface and in the big picture, they are the same. They both think they want to save the city, they both think they have to do it to redeem something their fathers failed at, and they are both very violent men.

Back in the present, Vanessa comes and is his support, his inspiration and his motivation. She becomes the mother to D'Onofrio's childlike Kingpin, and guides him to do what he needs to do - reveal himself, and go public... before Daredevil does. Our hero goes to Ben Urich too late. Yes, he's made an ally, but he's far too late. Daredevil has hit his own wall.

So many folks, following along with me as I review these episodes one at a time as I watch them, have pointed out "Stick" as their favorite of the bunch. I am going to have to buck the majority. "Shadows in the Glass," more the Kingpin's secret origin, is my favorite so far.