Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde ~ We saw this on last year's TCM Classic Cruise, which of course is the way to see any movie, in the company of passionate like-minded individuals, introduced by industry professionals, and in this case - of a classic silent film - accompanied by a live orchestra.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra is no stranger to this kind of stuff as their name might imply. They've produced soundtracks, and performed live similarly, for The General (I even bought the DVD with their score while on board), The Mark of Zorro, and one of my favorites, as well as one of the first, movie serials - Les Vampires.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra compiles and performs the film music, called 'photoplay music' in the lost vernacular, just as it was done back in the day. Silent films never had official soundtracks as we know today. Each theater had a house band that had a repertoire of various types of music appropriate to each scene. Mont Alto continues the tradition.

I can't tell you all what an amazing experience it was to arrive early for the showing in the Walt Disney Theatre to get a good seat and see and hear them performing. Wonderful to both see and hear them before they recessed below the stage so the film could be seen. The music played came from an assortment of composers like Gabriel Marie, Gaston Borch, and Wilson Smith.

The music was seamless. The Bride noted at times she had forgotten there was a live orchestra performing because the film and the score interacting in concert was so involving. Of course the music merely set the background for perhaps one of the most thrilling and frightening of the silent horrors - Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde from 1920.

New York passes well for Victorian London, but then again, it had to. Shot around John Barrymore's schedule to accommodate his title role as Richard III and you can see the character in both his Jekyll and Hyde, as well as a hearty dose of overacting. The work schedule must have been crazy, wearing pounds of armor on stage every night and then filming this flick during the day with so much strenuous physical acting.

His transformations are wonderful and his Hyde with the scarily long fingers and his simian Yeti-like head is terrifying. Notably, each transformation was designed to make Hyde appear more dominant and monstrous, but that first transformation was all Barrymore - no make up, just him. Bad girl Nita Naldi is hotness embodied, for me at least, and good girl Martha Mansfield is suitably porcelain and unspoiled, for the moment at least.

It's not just that this is the 1920 silent version of the story, or that it's John Barrymore giving one of his greatest performances, this one showing on the TCM Classic Cruise on board the Disney Magic was special for another reason - its score was being performed by a live orchestra. This was not just a classic film, this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Lost Universal Monster

Normally when one thinks of the Universal Monsters, there are five biggies one thinks of - Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Of course there are second tier monsters like the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter, the Invisible Woman, and other derivatives.

But does anyone remember the lost Universal monster? Who knows the Gorilla Girl, a monster so popular in her time that her film spawned two sequels? 1943's Captive Wild Woman starred John Carradine, and introduced Acquanetta as the Gorilla Girl. Jungle Woman and The Jungle Captive quickly followed in 1944 and 1945, yet no one seems to remember the lost Universal monster.

The gist of the series is one of surgical terror and mad science. Would the transplanting of human glands into a gorilla create a more human gorilla or a half-human beast that would haunt your nightmares? Your guess is probably right. This precursor to theoretically Planet of the Apes is moody, atmospheric, campy, and a perfect fit into the Universal horror mythos.

Yet, no one remembers. Was it because she was a woman? Even in the horror world were women second-class citizens? Let's look at that list above again. The only females in the bunch are derivative of male major players. Perhaps the powers-that-be ignored the Gorilla Girl on purpose to keep women down.

You can still see these movies, and I suggest you check them out if you can. It's like finding a new Universal horror, and in a way, it really is.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Arrow S04 E04: Beyond Redemption

Pre-season publicity talked about Rutina Wesley of "True Blood" coming to "Arrow." The character she would supposedly be playing would be Liza Warner - Lady Cop.

Lady Cop was one of a number of unique ideas showcased in a DC Comic called First Issue Special. Warlord was launched out of the book, but many of the characters - Starman, Codename: Assassin, Atlas, Manhunter, and Lady Cop - would languish in limbo for decades before being used again. After Liza Warner's first appearance as Lady Cop in 1975, she next appeared a chief of police in All-New Atom in 2006.

And now here in "Arrow." Based on her actions here in the opening, she might want to change her name from Lady Cop to Cop Killer.

Elsewhere, Oliver has announced his intention to run for mayor to Team Arrow, despite my argument against it in my review for "The Candidate," and they're not impressed either. His campaign headquarters will be the same as Sebastian Blood's office, and that's where the other surprise comes in. Oliver has, with the help of Cisco and S.T.A.R. Labs over at "The Flash," built a new Arrowcave in Brother Blood's old lair.

Curtis is still in the dark as to who the Green Arrow is and so he takes a guess - is it Neal Adams in data processing? Is Neal Adams the Green Arrow? Um no, but he is one of the comic book character's best artists. Curtis is coming off more as a cool version of Moss from "The IT Crowd" than Mr. Terrific. And speaking of Mr. T., am I the only one noticing how close Diggle's outfit is to his, without the Fair Play logos, of course?

Felicity and Curtis have also discovered some sort of signal coming from 'the late' Ray Palmer's phone. Now we know he's not dead and just trying to get their attention from sub-atomic size, but they don't. He might also be responsible for the new Arrowcave's power glitches as well.

Speaking of things we already know but they don't, Laurel is studying bad idea theater again, and tells Papa Lance about Sara. And of course, just to show that terrible judgment runs in the Lance blood, Quentin goes to Damien Darhk for help. Seemingly helpful and commiserating, Darhk tells him if it was his daughter, he'd put her down. Of course, later in the episode, he just can't do it.

Lance and Oliver's little meetings are becoming more and more frequent. I keep waiting for old Quentin to throw his hands up in the air and just arrest him. It's really odd that these two have such a contentious relationship when they're on the same dude, while over on "The Flash," archenemies Captain Cold and Flash are almost a bromance. Strange contrast.

When Oliver learns that Quentin has been working with Darhk, it sarks a fire beneath the next meeting between the two. We find exactly how Oliver does look to the elder Lance as a father figure, and how the whole mayoral deal, and possibly the whole change from Arrow to Green Arrow were all about him. Quentin is not a good daddy, perhaps another reason that he is the one in that grave at the end of the season's first episode. Throw in the fact that Oliver showed him the new Arrowcave, and Quentin practically has a target on his back.

This episode also features the return of the real star of "Arrow," Stephen Amell's bare chest as he dies the salmon ladder. Even though I'm straight, I had hoped these aspects would return to the series. I do kind of miss the tattoos however. And I'm waiting for the storyline that both requires, and mentions that he kept, the Bravta tattoo.

In the end, this episode spins on two radically different points. One, that Oliver actually is going to run for mayor, and two, that somehow Lady Cop is the villain of the episode. I didn't really like that last part. Maybe she was misguided, and we did see some interesting tech like the canary cry canceler (I hate the new cry however) and the arrow deflecting gauntlets, but Liza Warner super-villain did not sit well with me.

The stinger at the end shows that Sara has broken free, but that's cool because next week, John Constantine returns to television. I cannot wait!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Island of Dr. Moreau 1996

The Island of Dr. Moreau ~ In prepping to watch Lost Soul, the documentary about writer/director Richard Stanley's aborted attempt to make this very film - I sought out and watched the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau for the first time. I must confess that I have not read the H.G. Wells novel it's based on, one of more than a few holes in my Wells reading, but I have seen the 1977 version, and I know the basic story.

First, this is a period piece that has been updated to modern times, introducing the idea of genetics into simpler concepts of Wells' beast men. Sometimes change is not good. Other than the idea of genetics this updating does little for the story. I was disappointed in the make-up, primitive even for 1996, face masks not much better than the 1977 movie.

With the inclusion of Marlon Brando as the titular role of Dr. Moreau, comparisons can't help but be made with Apocalypse Now, in both character and story. In fact, these similarities drove a wedge between once friends H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad, who wrote Heart of Darkness, on which Apocalypse is based. The presence of Brando, as well as his performance, do not help that situation one bit.

I was also very disappointed in the cast, Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk simply walk through the film. David Thewlis, so wonderful as Remus in the Harry Potter movies, has no charisma as our POV character, and the great Marlon Brando is... is... I don't know what the hell Brando is in this movie. I never realized until seeing this how dead-on the "South Park" parody of Dr. Mephesto was. Wow.

I was also surprised that I saw nothing special or spectacular here visually. I usually enjoy John Frankenheimer's work, in fact, I think this is the only one of his movies I did not love. Now I can't wait to watch Lost Soul, to see what may or may not have gone wrong. Because this, is so wrong.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 ~ The film seems to take the first few minutes to completely undo the happy endings of its predecessor, almost as if it didn't want to think about it, or acknowledge it, or possibly the flick was written without knowledge of the first movie. This struck me as a bit odd as both were written by star Kevin James and frequent collaborator Nick Bakay. It's okay however, as this is a whole new adventure for Paul Blart.

Despite its juvenile comedy reputation, I was quite fond of the first Paul Blart Mall Cop movie, with its cunningly subtle remaking of Die Hard. In this installment, six years after the original, Kevin James' Blart has been invited to a security officers convention in Las Vegas. He thinks he'll be a star because of his actions in the first movie, but that was a long time ago. He's joined by a cadre of oddballs in his field, including his former "King of Queens" cohort Gary Valentine with a very disturbing hairpiece.

Besides dealing with his daughter trying to leave the nest, a less than exciting B plot, there is also something funny going on at the Wynn Hotel (getting lots of free publicity), as a gang of art thieves are planning a major heist. Yeah, hilarity ensues, and only Paul Blart Mall Cop and his new comrades can save the day. Kevin James is adequate, Valentine steals all the scenes he's in, but Ana Gasteyer and Loni Love are criminally underused here.

I did have a hearty laugh a few times at Blart's comic book superhero kryptonite weakness of hypoglycemia. And I loved the Mini-Kiss cameo. Beyond that however, this was still a decently amusing passage of time. The heist scenes are top notch. Good for the kids.

Don't forget to check out my interview with the director of this flick, Andy Fickman, here at Biff Bam Pop!, and be sure to see his new movie, The Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Arrow S04 E03: Restoration

As I began watching this episode of "Arrow," I had momentarily forgotten the scenes of next week's episode at the end of the last episode. "Restoration" didn't start with the usual bang. Green Arrow and Diggle were fighting the H.I.V.E.'s ghosts and not getting along as per usual this season. They need to grow up if you ask me. Even in Nanda Parbat, it was business as usual with Nyssa trying to kill John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlin as the new R'as Al Ghul. This was all old territory.

Even when Laurel and Thea arrive at the lair of the League of Assassins with the body of Sara in tow, the situation is neutered. We know Sara is going into the Lazarus Pit and coming back to life because we've seen her in the trailer and other scenes from the upcoming "Legends of Tomorrow." Please don't give pretense to suspense that just doesn't exist, and especially do not prolong it.

Luckily we get something new when Diggle arrives home to find an A.R.G.U.S. agent in his house. He says Lyla hired him to track the folks behind the death of Diggle's brother. The prime suspect is a Mina Fayad, who's just flown in from Markovia to help Damien Darhk with his vigilante problem in Star City. She's brought a recent nasty from the Flash's comics Rogues Gallery named Double Down.

While Diggle tracks Fayad on his own, Green Arrow goes solo against the scary metahuman Double Down. In the comics he was once criminal Jeremy Tell who got mixed up with a cursed deck of cards that bonded to his skin, and later he developed the ability to hurl these razor edged cards at opponents, simultaneously scaring the crap out of them as he peeled them off his skin. This frightening villain was created by writer Geoff Johns as a longtime inmate of Iron Heights, possibly inspired by the Golden Age Flash story, "Deal Me from the Bottom."

The TV version of Double Down is a victim of the particle accelerator explosion in Central City over on "The Flash." Rather than supernatural in origin and visceral in visual, this Double Down's powers are more like turning tattoos into physical objects than peeling off skin. Essentially he's more Tattooed Man than Double Down.

Over and above the Nanda Parbat subplot with its constantly changing Lazarus Pit rules, and the Oliver and Diggle finally working together to find Mina Fayad, or even the mind-numbingly boring Flashback Island stuff, the real action is with Double Down. Felicity, just as Oliver did seasons ago, goes to her employee for help on a case. In this case, she goes to Curtis Holt with one of Double Down's cards.

Not only do we get some intriguing explanations on how Double Down's powers work, we also get a peek at the prototype of what will become Mr. Terrific's T-Spheres. The card however not only leads Double Down to them, but also down to the new Arrowcave. Curtis gets a crash course in his employers secret life, and I absolutely loved when the villain takes him down Elevator Action style. And in a nice change of pace, Felicity fends off the meta.

Over on/at Nanda Parbat - where is this place anyhow? I always had the sense it was in the Himalayas, but in the "Arrow" series, it seems like it's just a few blocks away because it takes no time at all to get there and back. Regardless, Malcolm finally agrees to put Sara in the Lazarus Pit, and she emerges a savage animal. Sigh. Yeah, they are going to prolong this.

I must say this episode was a bit of a refreshing change of pace. Usually the A story with the super-villain is boring on "Arrow," with the gold nuggets coming in the subplots and character bits. Here, I loved the parts with Double Down, and wish there had been more.

Next: "Beyond Redemption."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Arrow S04 E02: The Candidate

With the mystery of who's in the grave at the end of last episode still lingering, we enter a new age on "Arrow." The Green Arrow and Speedy patrolling the streets of Star City, wow, that's just enough to put a smile on this fanboy's face. Add in a Black Canary and a T-helmeted Guardian and I'm all in. The war against the ghosts of Damien Darhk continues.

I liked the bit in the opening where Felicity wants a codename. Even though she's effectively Oracle, she can't really take that name, or can she? She also suggests that Diggle needs a codename as well. Guardian, as I hinted at above, would be nice. The T-helmet however might be more indicative of a new character introduced in this episode - Echo Kellum's Curtis Holt.

Initially introduced as the smart guy at a Palmer Technologies board meeting, he is much, much more than that. He's the live action TV version of Mr. Terrific. In the comics, Michael Holt is the second hero to hold that title. The first is one of my favorite Golden Age superheroes. A polymath, a renaissance man, the man of a thousand talents, and the third smartest man in the world, Mr. Terrific just rocks. Sadly, Mr. Terrific is not here yet, and Diggle is probably not him anyway. It'll be Curtis Holt.

Then there's the mayoral distraction. It's become a bit of a joke that anyone who wants to be mayor of this city dies. So when Queen family friend Jessica Danforth (played by an aging Jeri Ryan) steps forward, we already know she's in trouble. An assassination attempt is made on the new candidate by yet another Batman villain, this time, it's Anarky, not one of my favorites, this relic of the grim and gritty anti-hero eighties is of course working for Darhk and H.I.V.E. In a nice callback however, it's mentioned that used to work for the Bertinelli crime family.

This whole mayor thing may seem to be leading to a place from the comics where Oliver Queen runs for mayor, but I'm going to say it doesn't happen, despite how it feels at the end of this episode. The showrunners know better. We live in a nation that is unfortunately divided near-violently by politics. If Oliver runs, he would have to declare a party or at least leaning, and the last thing a TV series wants to do is alienate half of its audience. So, I'm saying it's not going to happen.

Apparently the madness that comes upon folks dipped in the Lazarus Pit has a cumulative effect as opposed to an immediate effect when it comes to the TV version. Thea is going slowly 'pit crazy' along the way. The brother/sister tension increases as Oliver brings it up to her. Laurel volunteers to talk to Thea, and try to get her to relax, but once alone, it turns out she has other plans.

Laurel, finally learning what the Lazarus Pit really is, has decided to bring her sister back from the dead. We know it's probably going to work because of the presence of the 'White Canary' in "Legends of Tomorrow,' but that peek inside Sara's coffin was not a hopeful one.

Speaking of coffins, we're back to the question of who is in that grave at the end of the last episode. Let's mark off the possibilities. Quentin Lance is number one on my hit parade. As the Larry Lance analogy, and pissing off Darhk this episode, we know his time is limited, but is his time up yet? There's also Diggle, who would add to the angst and guilt already in Oliver's wheelhouse, especially since they haven't quite made up yet. It's not Felicity as many folks believe, because, let's face it, Barry would cry like a baby if it was her. My bet is on Lance, then Diggle.

Speaking of the Flash, the baddie of the week next episode is a Geoff Johns addition to the Flash's Rogues Gallery, a rather bizarre and creepy one, if I may say so myself…

Next: Double Down!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher ~ This animated feature comes to us from Madhouse, the folks behind Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore, and the four Marvel Anime series - "Iron Man," "X-Men," "Wolverine," and "Blade." I wasn't too fond of the feature, but I liked the first three series quite a bit. I was initially a bit conflicted seeing this one because as happy as I was to finally see the Black Widow get some time in the spotlight, I am not a Punisher fan.

This feature does not hold back on the violence, and is definitely not for the kids. As a matter of fact, the opening scene with the Punisher, a graphic bloodbath gunfight, is everything I hate about the character. My heroes don't wholesale murder dozens of individuals just because they're in the way. No matter his motivation, even if there's a heart in there somewhere, to me, the Punisher is a murderer and a villain, no better, if not worse than the 'scum' he 'punishes.'

Most irritating of all, regarding the sequence, is that the Punisher doesn't kill the big bad in charge, a fellow named Cain, but allows him not only his life but to escape as well, after killing dozens of his underlings outright. Punisher's murder spree is interrupted by Black Widow, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D. They manage to only distract the killer. The Punisher in this feature is superhuman, almost supernatural, as if the animators were unaware of the character's origins and 'power set.'

A deal is struck, Punisher's freedom for his cooperation in the SHIELD mission that collided with his criminal massacre. Forced to work together, the Black Widow and the Punisher pursue Leviathan, a Russian offshoot of Hydra, who were among the big bads in the first season of "Marvel's Agent Carter." When Widow describes Leviathan to the Punisher, it's startling to hear his hypocritical care for dead civilians. Again, I reiterate, villain.

Now there's some weird stuff going on in this story. There's a character who's a mish-mash of both the original Red Guardian and Hank Pym foe Egghead, an anime stereotype version of Amadeus Cho staying at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Istanbul headquarters for some reason, and cool cameos of old school Marvel villains like Count Nefaria, Baron Zemo, Taskmaster, and others. The Hulk shows up as well, ridden by Amadeus Cho in a visual that conjures both the Imperial Guard's Warstar and Rankin-Bass' animated "King Kong."

And just so you don't think the Avengers part of the title is misleading - Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and War Machine all show up late in the third act. They help wrap up Leviathan's bio-soldiers as well as Graviton, and the Griffin, and the other villains. Quite a finale, and I would love to see more anime Captain Marvel.

Now there is a nice evolution in the Black Widow and the Punisher's partnership. They go from opponents, to bickering couple, to the Widow actually teaching him something about mercy. So I didn't hate him as much at the end as I did at the beginning, but I still have intense dislike. The score by Tetsuya Takahashi needs to be mentioned also as its one of the best parts of this feature.

The animation is spectacular, visually stunning, and the kind we've come to expect from the company who also did "Death Note," Batman: Gotham Knight, and The Animatrix. And as much as it's not the Punisher we know, it is kind of cool seeing his eyes glow in combat. As I said, it's pretty violent, but worth seeing for comics fans, and Punisher fans will probably love it.

And if you'd like to hear more discussion of this feature, or my feelings about the Punisher, please check out this week's episode of The GAR! Podcast.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Same Old Same Old

With the end of this summer's "Big Brother," featuring the dumbest cast of housemates in over a decade, it's time for the return of both "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race." The latter I can take or leave, mostly because I don't know the players. I will tag along watching for a few weeks and see if there's anyone I like, and then decide if I'll keep watching, based on whether there are teams I want to root for, or teams I want to see crash like train wrecks. That's how these types of competitive reality TV shows work for me.

This particular season of "Survivor" has cut out the middleman, so I'm all in. Everyone who is on this season is someone who has been on the show before, thus the subtitle "Second Chance." I already know the players, know who I want to win, and who I want to hiss. I'm in, and I'm enjoying it. This has been a great season of "Survivor" so far.

Some shows come back with the same old same old, and it works, and some it just doesn't. I watched, or tried to watch, the season five premiere of Showtime's "Homeland." I had the same reaction, although much stronger, that I have had in previous seasons. I wanted to shake 'crazy eyes' until she agreed to leave the show. Much like Damian Lewis finally left, it's time for Claire Danes to take off. Her time is done. Give Rupert Friend's Peter Quinn a chance to shine and make the show about action and espionage instead of mental illness and bad decisions.

Which brings us to "Heroes Reborn." We're getting the same old same old again, and again I suspect, there will be no pay off. In the first season of "Heroes," we were introduced to a cast of interesting characters all on a collision course. The final conflict featured them all together, and we all wanted to see them all together again. Seasons after that, until its first death, never delivered that again.

We're here again, with the same formula. We have interesting characters seemingly on a collision course, but I can feel the same tricks and traps happening. The show will fall in love with villains and give them too much screen time, and the heroes the viewers fall in love with will go through hell and lose time to these villains. It's never enough of what we want. We want the wonder of Hiro, not another season of Sylar.

As far as the rest of the offerings this new season go, here's a quick rundown. I like "South Park" better without an inner continuity. "Moonbeam City" is just one joke, and it real old in the first ten minutes. "Fresh Off the Boat" and "The Goldbergs" are still going strong and very funny. I just can't get into "Empire," it feels like a "Power" wannabe that never delivers. As far as the music business goes, I'll wait for HBO's "Vinyl." "Sleepy Hollow," really? They still make that?

"Scorpion," which I do like, despite its wide avoidance of the true story source material it's based on, has gotten both better, and worse. While the stakes are heightened and the action has been turned up, both good things, it has fallen into that relationship hell that killed "Moonlighting," "Lois and Clark," and "Cheers." Yeah, will they or won't they? And if they do, it's just about over.

And if anyone that mentions "Gotham" to me gets a slap. Oh, the potential. The producers should write a book about how to ruin a great show. How do you let a brilliant idea like a police procedural with Batman references fall apart?? It could have been so good…

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Arrow S04 E01: Green Arrow

How do you make a fanboy giddy? Easy. Make them wait three seasons of a Green Arrow television series before ever even uttering the words "Green Arrow" or "Star City." Finally, they're here.

Now, that said, the last episode of last season could have easily have been the end of the series. Starling City was protected. Malcolm Merlin was now the gentler and friendlier R'as Al Ghul. Arrow was no more. And Oliver and Felicity had driven off to Coast City to live happier ever after. But nothing ever stays happy and shiny in Starling City for long...

Nothing says domestic bliss like a smiling Oliver saying, "Felicity Smoak, you have failed this omelet." I'm not sure I care for Oliver having most of his tattoos removed either. Felicity is still having trouble convincing Palmer Technology she's a good replacement for Ray - who we all know is just shrunken, not dead.

I loved seeing the Black Canary and Mia, I mean Thea as Speedy try to stop a hijacked Kord Industries truck. I also loved Speedy wanting to called Red Arrow, and Diggle replying that "a red arrow just means you can't make a left turn." And then lo and behold, Diggle shows up in a costume(!). Is that T opening in his helmet supposed to remind us of Mr. Terrific? Interesting. All in all, as much as I enjoyed her debut here, Willa Holland is an unconvincing action heroine, unless of course she's acting like an untrained amateur. Which she is not.

Next we have the info dump of a town meeting. Starling is now Star City, and they can't keep a mayor, or even interest one because they keep getting killed. The latest person to decline is Walter Steele, who folks might remember as Oliver and Thea's stepfather. The city has a high speed rail line to Central City, and it's jokingly suggested they have a Flash Day. The baddies are the newest problem however, better and sleeker than regular criminals, they call them ghosts because they disappear into thin air, just like they did with Team Diggle in the last scene.

Just then they get a visit from the big bad of this season, Damien Darhk, chillingly played with the arrogant confidence of a veteran a-hole by Neal McDonough. You might know him from HBO's "Band of Brothers," or as Dum Dum Dugan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and on "Agent Carter," but here he is all villain. He wants this town council to just let the city die, to let his ghosts do their jobs, and he'll be in touch.

And then the ghosts start to off members of the city council, and that's just the first ten minutes of the episode. We all knew it was coming, Laurel and Thea go to Coast City (or is it Ivytown?) to rouse Oliver out of his "domestic life of tranquility and souffl├ęs." Speaking of Coast City, flashbacks are back, but neither on the island nor Hong Kong. It's Coast City where the unreasonably thin Amanda Waller tries to coach Oliver in vigilantism. We all saw Hal Jordan's flight jacket in the bar, right?? No matter, he's quickly back to the island…

Much like the stubbornness obstacle in this week's season premiere of "The Flash," the grudge between Oliver and Diggle borders on ridiculousness. When faced with the task of saving your city, you put this kind of crap behind you. If you're going to live in a superhero world, you have to realize that certain pettiness is beneath you. To Oliver, Diggle, and even Barry, just grow up. You're wasting screen time.

As the reunited Team Arrow watches from the shadows, Damien Darhk punishes one of his ghosts by touching his chest and seemingly sucking the life force out of him. Afterward Oliver suggests this is mystical rather than metahuman. Possibly this is setting up the John Constantine appearance this season? I can't wait. Personally I was never really a big Hellblazer comics fan, but I dug the NBC show.

Team Arrow, featuring Oliver with a new suit and a new name, save the day from the exploding rail line, and they didn't even need help from the Flash - which I thought for sure was coming when I spied Grant Gustin's name in the opening credits - holy spoiler, Batman! The Flash does show up in a teaser scene several months later with Oliver swearing lethal vengeance in front of a grave Batman style. We don't see the grave, but is it Felicity? Thea? Diggle? Time will tell.

And while I try to ignore the obvious distraction of Oliver attempting to propose to Felicity, making her the obvious choice in the grave, it's the other ending of this episode that is really upsetting. Quentin Lance is cahoots with Damien Darhk. This is not good, and perhaps it means that maybe the disguised Larry Lance's time on this show is coming to an end? Surely they wouldn't off the super popular Felicity, right?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sampling the Season

"The Muppets" - I have to admit I wasn't expecting much from this after hearing the premise. The idea of an environment like "The Office" behind the scenes of a Muppet show didn't do much for me, especially with the reality television one-on-one diary room moments with the cast. I would rather see a Muppet show than behind the scenes with a Muppet show.

I needn't have worried. Sure, if still like to see the real "Up Late with Miss Piggy" show, but this was still darned good. We got to see deeper into the characters of some of the Muppets. The bits with Kermit and Miss Piggy were very funny and quite insightful despite the horror they appeared to be in the pre-show hype. And the Fozzie bear jokes in the first episode were hilarious. Thumbs up, I really enjoyed this and can't wait for more.

"Limitless" - This series, like a couple others this season, is based on a movie, in this case one by the same name from 2011 with Bradley Cooper, which in turn was based on the novel "The Dark Fields" by Alan Glynn. Basically there's a smart pill called NZT that does a Lucy on its user, 100% of their brain cells and all that nonsense, only a bit more believable. Oh and unlike most movie to TV products, this isn't a retelling or reimagining, this is a sequel to the film. Bradley Cooper is even in the first episode.

Now, much like "The Muppets," the hype for "Limitless" was more than a bit misleading. The ads made it seem a lot like the Golden Age superhero Hourman, one of my favorites, who gained enhanced speed, strength, and endurance on one hour after taking a pill he called Miraclo. What makes this sadder is the implied potential promise of an "Hourman" show on the CW spinning out of "Arrow" where super-soldiers were created by a drug called Mirakuru. That's not "Limitless," sad face.

That said, it wasn't bad, but it did have the same stink of things like "Journeyman," "Revolution," and sadly, the new series "Blindspot," from the folks who brought us "Arrow," "The Flash," and "Supergirl." While it may be temporarily good, there is an underlying overarcing story that will probably never be resolved. I can't invest that kind of time, so unfortunately "Limitless" and "Blindspot" may be on the losing end of this stick. If they're that good, maybe I'll binge later, but for now, no.