Tuesday, January 31, 2017


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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Daredevil S02 E08: Guilty as Sin

In the last episode of "Daredevil," the Punisher went to trial, from which Matt was absent, Elektra tampered with a witness, and Foggy and Matt had it out finally.  Oh yeah, and Daredevil and Elektra discovered the Yakuza guarding a seemingly mysterious bottomless hole about forty stories deep.  As we open, they're beset by ninjas, and this is only the beginning. 

Just before the ninjas nearly take them out, Daredevil and Elektra are rescued by Stick.  Cue opening credits.  As they try to escape by car, wave after wave of ninjas attack.  This is, no doubt, The Hand.  Badly wounded, they go to Matt's apartment where Stick does some wacky holistic voodoo on Elektra to save her.  Then the revelation comes that not only does Stick know her, he trained her. 

Obviously, Matt doesn't show up for the trial the next day as Frank Castle's former commanding officer takes the stand.  Colonel Schoonover is played by perennial heavy Clancy Brown, formerly The Kurgan, the voice of Lex Luthor, and most recently General Wade Eiling on "The Flash."  He tells a gripping tale of Castle's heroism on the battlefield, adding more pieces to the secret origin of the Punisher. 

While The Kurgan weaves war stories, Stick tells a tale of a different war, an ancient one involving The Hand.  These 'pieces of shit,' as Scott Glenn's Stick calls them, learned the secret of immortality in ancient times and used it to run rampant over much of Asia and the rest of the world.  They seek power and weapons, specifically something called Black Sky, which Daredevil ran across last season in the form of a child. 

The Hand has only one enemy, The Chaste, those warriors trained by Stick to oppose them, to fight them without mercy.  And Elektra is one of them.  Hell's Kitchen is to be ground zero for the battle between The Hand and The Chaste.  Matt treats this tale as a fiction, a power fantasy of Stick's to excuse his homicidal sociopathic behavior.  Unfortunately it's all he's got right now. 

Sigh.  This isn't the Daredevil series I want.  Yeah, it's good, very good, but rather than the Punisher, and Elektra, and The Hand, I think I'd rather have Gladiator, the Owl, the Stilt-Man, hell, even the Jester.  I guess I'm too old school for this stuff.  If they wanted to do a Punisher series (which is already on the schedule) or an Elektra series, why didn't they just do it? 

Frank Castle meanwhile is going to take the stand, supposedly in his defense.  Knowing they will need Matt to question him, Foggy sends Karen (perhaps deliberately?) to tell Matt.  She does, and gets a full view of not only crazy old blind man Stick, but also the dying/recovering Elektra in Matt's bed.  Kiss that relationship goodbye. 

In court, Matt makes a good case for both a mentally ill Frank Castle and the Punisher as the kind of hero we need, and then Frank starts talking, seemingly prodded by a guard.  Screaming that he's guilty, that everyone he killed deserved to die, and that he'd do it again - Frank effectively buries anything his defense was trying to accomplish. 

Back home, Matt throws Stick out after convincing Elektra to stay with him, and stop killing.  As soon as Stick makes his exit, a ninja of The Hand attacks and puts an arrow in Matt's chest.  Despite this obstacle, Matt and wounded Elektra finally subdue him.  The arrow made this fight for me, another wonderfully choreographed combat. 

And then Elektra kills him.  Just because she can, or wants to.  Elektra has a problem, a bad habit.  It would almost be funny if it wasn't so serious.  She's a killer, a sociopath, a psychopath.  All Stick did was channel her sick energy toward his goals.  I doubt Matt can do the same.

The mic drop of the episode is at the end where the suspicious guard takes Frank Castle through the prison to a gym area occupied by one man.  He turns around and we see him - Vincent D'onofrio as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, mentioned several times but unseen since the season one finale.  Cue end credits.  Now this should make things interesting. 

I'm ambivalent about the return of D'onofrio and Fisk.  While admittedly one of the most interesting characters and intense performances of the Marvel Netflix Universe, I would like to think his arc is done.  This is television, not comics where villains return every two months.  Still, I'm game to see what happens. 

Next: Seven Minutes in Heaven!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Daredevil S02 E07: Semper Fidelis

The trial of the People of New York v. Frank Castle is on, and we open the pre-credit sequence with jury selection. It's hard, because everyone has an opinion on Frank Castle, many of them both mirroring and polarizing my own, but as the judge so succinctly says, "This is New York, everyone has an opinion about everything." Let the trial begin.

So, courtroom drama. This is kinda what I have always hoped "Daredevil" would not be about. I know that lawyer shows are popular, always have been, but despite Matt Murdock's calling, this is a superhero show. I want to see superhero stuff. Yes, it is intriguing to put the Punisher on trial, but come on, less suits and more tights please.

I shouldn't really worry however, as the dry lawyer stuff is counterbalanced by Matt playing hooky with Elektra. As with their relationship a decade before, now she is still exerting a bad influence on our horned hero. What is done to the professor who translates the Roxxon ledger is not much better than what the bad guys might have done. Daredevil and Elektra might as well have been mob enforcers.

Later when they pursue a shipment learned of from the ledger, the violence is extreme. It is almost as if Daredevil doesn't care how he's hurting his opponents and that Elektra has forgotten her promise not to kill. I enjoyed the scar discussion and was glad it didn't go where I thought it would, you know, Jaws territory. It was actually more like foreplay with no pay off.

Of course Matt's late night shenanigans with Elektra make him late for the opening remarks in the Punisher trial. Foggy has to step in, and as Elden Henson has throughout this series, supports the more powerful players. Where's his Emmy? When Elektra doesn't like being sidelined by Matt's day job, she tampers with a witness, bringing the brewing hostility between Matt and Foggy to a head.

The fight between Foggy and Matt is intense, and has been simmering since this show started. Now it threatens Matt's relationship with Karen. Matt brings all this anger to Elektra as Daredevil, and to the pseudo-Yakuza. As if to divert our attention from the emotional drama going on, Daredevil and Elektra discover the Yakuza are guarding a hole, with no bottom. Cue end credits.

Not my favorite episode, more of a placeholder really, the bane of binge-watching, but at least the story moved, character was revealed, and significant stuff happened. I just wanted more from it.

Next: Guilty as Sin!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

La La Land

La La Land ~ Already garnering awards and attention from critics since its soft release over the holidays, this is not only one of the best films of the year, quite possibly one of the best in quite a while. When I saw this recently with The Bride, we were literally smiling as we watched. When was the last time any of us saw a film that legitimately brought us joy? This is that movie. We laugh when they want us to laugh, and we cry when they want us to cry, and yet, we don't feel manipulated. The feeling is sincere.

First of all, this is not a traditional movie as we know it. La La Land is a throwback to the Hollywood musicals of old, yet taking place today, with now characters and now sensibilities. Emma Stone (who I usually do not like) and Ryan Gosling play an aspiring actress and musician couple in a love story with ups and downs, song and dance, and charmed me almost immediately. John Legend also impresses with an economy of screen time.

The film has a jazz vibe that will make fans and non-fans of the art form love jazz again or for the first time, and you will never hear "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls the same way ever again. The music is so important and so wonderful here. Draped in vibrant color and unassuming three dimensions, should you choose to see it like that, this is a mesmerizing spectacle of sight and sound and emotion. Funny, sad, bittersweet, and uplifting, La La Land is the movie of the year. See it, just see it, highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Daredevil S02 E06: Regrets Only

We open this episode of "Daredevil" in Quentin Tarantino style reminiscent of Kill Bill as motorcycled Yakuza drag through the streets on their way to take on Daredevil and Elektra to the sound of "Date with the Night" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Cliche and apropos, but I loved it. Great opening. Too bad our 'heroes' make short work of them. The horrifying part is at the end where Elektra, clearly enjoying herself, wants to go out for a bite.

As we know from the last episode, Elektra is more than an adrenaline junkie, she's a sociopath. At the diner sucking down soda and inhaling French fries she matter of factly tells Matt she knows all about Daredevil and even though he wears a mask, "you can't mask that ass, I'd know it anywhere." Another secret identity out the window.

A deal is struck, no killing, and Daredevil will help Elektra with the Yakuza. And if you think that's an unholy alliance, things get more interesting when Nelson and Murdock decide to take DA Reyes on head to head. To keep the Punisher from getting the death penalty, they're going to defend him. I don't like the Punisher, but I like when this show surprises me, and this is one of those times.

The Matt and Karen relationship is moving along wonderfully, as long as you remove the factors from the equation that ruin it all - the Punisher and Elektra. This dishonesty just flushes all the fun and sincerity of Matt and Karen's sweet innocence right down the toilet. It's like a magician doing tricks when you can see the wires and mirrors. Not fun, and not cool.

Karen is pulled deeper into the Punisher's past when he gives a hospital bed confession of his secret origin to her, and her alone. The fact that she knew about his family allows him to trust her. In this way, the Karen/Castle relationship is just a bit more pure than hers with Matt, and it's a shame. Still, even bound to a bed, Jon Bernthal shines in this role.

Meanwhile, Matt and Elektra attend a ritzy Roxxon/Yakuza party. The heist vibe is strong and it's interesting how Daredevil's powers are put to use in this situation. I'd like to see more of this. They get away with something called the Roxxon ledger while a pseudo-reveal is made that this isn't the Yakuza. The Hand, perhaps?

It gets worse. Though convinced to plead guilty, when he gets in front of the judge, Frank Castle pleads not guilty. That means it going to trial. Matt may have to choose between Elektra and the case now. A good episode, more linking than anything else, but good just the same.

Next: Semper Fidelis!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Daredevil S02 E05: Kinbaku

At the end of the last episode of "Daredevil," the Punisher had been apprehended and Elektra had made her first appearance, however momentary, in the series. Like it or not, we probably haven't seen the last of either of them.

Now as one of the few people on Earth who actually liked the 2003 movie and Jennifer Garner as Elektra (heck, comics continuity aside, I even thought her solo film was kinda fun in a wacky way), I have to confess, that much like the Punisher, I don't like the comics character.

In my opinion Frank Miller's work at both DC Comics with The Dark Knight Returns, and at Marvel Comics with Daredevil and the Elektra saga brought on a dark age of grim and gritty violence that comics still haven't recovered from. I respect the genius of the work itself, but the bleed over into the rest of the industry is simply tragic. This type of garbage still resonates, not just in the comics, but the films based on those characters as well. Superman should not be grim and gritty, case in point: Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Seriously, wtf? So there's that, I'm not a fan of Elektra.

"Kinbaku" opens ten years ago as Matt and Foggy try to crash a high class party. When Elektra catches Matt's attention and saves him from being ejected from the party, it is a beautifully framed moment, with bracelets clacking and sound vibrating from fingers on wine glass rim. Props go to Floria Sigismondi, a photographer and music video director, perhaps best known for The Runaways, who directed this episode.

After the title sequence however we are jolted back to reality, and the present, with Elektra's comment that Matt's German beer tastes like piss. Quite a contrast. Elektra Natchios is played by Elodie Yung, whose willowy body and proper British accent take a moment to get used to in the role.

Elektra is back in town for Matt's legal help, and perhaps to rekindle their old romance. Matt is having none of it, even when she goes into an extended exposition on the Roxxon Corporation. She has a business meeting with them and wants his expertise. She makes it seem innocent but also seems game for playtime as well. Matt gives the impression that their time together was a mistake he doesn't want to step in again. All things considered, she's exactly the kind of personality who would make s good assassin.

Back at work, the subplot ruse of Matt being an alcoholic to explain his disappearances is getting old. Speaking of old, Karen seems to be still obsessed with the Punisher, the authorities are keeping things covered up about him. Reyes wants all of the firm's files on the Punisher. And then there's that kiss between Karen and Matt. Oh, the webs we weave.

I loved the Indian restaurant where Matt and Karen's date eventually ends up. So cool with all the neon chili peppers, I'd like to eat there. It's just too bad that the date is colored by both Karen's obsession with the Punisher and Matt's obsession with Elektra. Any goodness there could be is ruined by subtext. As in the comics, I think this relationship is surely doomed before it even begins.

The story jumps back and forth between the decade ago flashback and now, telling the tale of Matt and Elektra. The fight/sex scene in the boxing ring after Elektra suspects Matt isn't blind is so well done, cray-cray, and reminiscent of the playground duel/foreplay scene in the 2003 movie. And of course as the episode goes on we learn what a dangerous sociopath she can be.

We see another date, this time in the home of Roscoe Sweeney, the man who long ago killed Matt's father. Perhaps it's time to discuss the title of the episode. Kinbaku is a particularly tight and nasty type of Japanese bondage. It's not only how Elektra binds Sweeney in the flashback, but the kind of grip she seems to have on Matt, tight and nasty. She still has that grip, as she has brought the Yakuza to her penthouse, and Matt there as well. She knows he's Daredevil, and wants to play.

Next: Regrets Only!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3-D

Creature from the Black Lagoon ~ One of the most awesome things about doing the TCM Classic Cruise is the surprises that pop up when you get on board and finally see the schedule (often the movies being shown are kept secret until the last moment). One such surprise was the showing of Creature from the Black Lagoon, not just on the big screen, but in the original 3-D as it was originally shown.

The last of the Universal monsters, the Gill Man only appeared in three films, two of them in 3-D. This original was directed by Jack Arnold, an old pro at the time with 1950s 3-D after his It Came from Outer Space (not to mention 2-D scifi horror classics like Tarantula and The Incredible Shrinking Man), and he brought the legend of the South American lizard man to life to round out the Universal monsters with one of its most memorable members.

After finding fossils of a possible missing link, an expedition up the Amazon searches for the legendary Gill Man, and unfortunately he finds them. In the Black Lagoon, the Gill Man traps the team, picking them off one by one. It's good fun, with real scares, and the 3-D is rather impressive too. Not too much of the typical campy 'comin'-at-ya' stuff, but more like what's done today, adding depth etc. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than I could have imagined.

There are flaws, but unintentionally funny ones so they're forgivable. Every time the Creature is on screen, except for one scene, his blaring sinister theme plays. It got to be so much fun that we wandered the ship afterward, putting out our hands like claws and going dum-dum-daaah. Also after a while the pissing contest between Richard Denning and Richard Carlson over Julia Adams becomes absolutely ridiculous. And let's not get into what goes on over the bandaged body of one poor victim.

The journey of the Rita down to the Black Lagoon to hunt the Gill Man, and his subsequent hunt for them is classic horror, and so much more fun in 3-D and on the big screen. See it like that if you get the chance, and if not, still see it, it rocks. Recommended.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Daredevil S02 E04: Penny and Dime

We open this episode of "The Punisher"... um, I mean, "Daredevil," with the arrival of Finn Cooley in New York City. In the Punisher comics, this IRA explosives expert walks around with half of his face blown off, but here he's played by suave Scottish actor Tony Curran, who I know best as Vincent Van Gogh from "Doctor Who," but has quite an impressive career beyond his cool geek cred.

After wrecking his own family's funeral Finn goes on a meticulous and vicious rampage that gets him closer to the Punisher than Daredevil in three episodes. I mean, it's not like it's old hornhead's show or anything. As what's left of the Irish mob leaves Frank's apartment, with his dog in tow, kidnapping it John Wick style, the Punisher watches. Yeah, this is going to be ugly.

After the credits, Karen goes to pick up Matt, and they share an intimate tie knotting moment, before attending the lonely funeral of Grotto. Also in attendance is Foggy and, returning from last season, Father Lantom. Even though the gigantic church is empty and echoey, Lantom performs the service as if it was full. His sermon reinforces the drives of both Matt and Karen.

While Karen goes in search of the Punisher, Daredevil pays a visit to Melvin Potter. He's got a new cowl for him as well as gauntlets. He also mentions old contacts are back in town coming to him for weapons but he's turned them down. Melvin is a bit concerned with the hero's well-being, tells him to take care. When DD wishes the same back Melvin replies that he is a reveals the Gladiator chest plate beneath his shirt. Enough foreplay, guys, ditch the Punisher and bring on the Gladiator!

There is a subtle line being drawn in this season so far, and was hinted at strongly in "Jessica Jones," especially in the episode "AKA 99 Friends," that battle lines are being drawn between human and non-human. This all led to Captain America: Civil War and continues in the fourth season of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," but it is interesting that it's rearing its ugly head here in the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Witness Officer Mahoney's distinction made between cops and criminals and 'you people' in his brief discussion with Daredevil.

Now you folks who have been following along as I've reviewed "Jessica Jones" and the first season of "Daredevil," you know I write these reviews as I watch them, so my expectations and speculations are sometimes a bit off. There was unfortunately one aspect of this season that was spoiled for me - Karen Page and the Punisher getting together. For me, that makes the brief gentle moments that Karen and Matt keep having both bittersweet and exceptionally cruel. Because of that foreknowledge, I kinda hate them.

Despite all that, I have to marvel at Karen's ability to track down the Punisher right down to his origins, and even his former family home. This is more than the police, the Feds, or even the Irish mob was able to do - and the Irish were able to take the Punisher down. I joked about the title of this series at the start of this review, but really how much of a hero is the titular hero when he's so ineffectual and supporting cast and B level bad guys show him up so easily?

With Finn, it's quite a character reveal that with much of his family dead, including his son, at the hands of the Punisher, that what he really wants once his prey is in his grasp, is his money back. The Punisher apparently stole millions from the IRA, and Finn is going to get it back even if he has to drill his point home. Frank gets one point for compassion when he gives up the location of the money after Finn threatens his dog. I still don't like the character.

I did like the subtle stealth and almost casualness with which Daredevil attacked the Irish mob's hideout. It was like he was taking a walk in the park, with his eyes closed - and I guess with Daredevil, that's almost a given everyday. Unfortunately after that however, it falls apart. Rather than letting Daredevil rescue the Punisher, the showrunners give the latter some sort of weird precognition that allowed to know what the Irish were up to, so he rigged his van with the money to explode, and sewed a razor blade into his arm for later. Holy Shark Repellent Bat-Spray!

Daredevil and the Punisher escape from the villains' lair like they're buddies in a seventies issue of The Brave and the Bold. They have a little after party in the cemetery, with Frank opening his heart to DD about the rhyme he says before he kills people. The episode title references it and the tale he tells is one of tragedy that many veterans of war know. Has our hero forgotten about all the people this villain has killed? All the horrible things he's done, all the crimes he's committed? Again props to Jon Bernthal's performance, but he is still the bad guy... why has DD forgotten that?

He hasn't. And when the police arrive, thankfully Daredevil does something heroic. He allows the police to take the Punisher in, specifically Officer Brett Mahoney, and makes sure he takes the credit in an attempt to clear any blurred lines he may have caused with the police. I'm just surprised the Punisher went in without a fight.

The episode almost ends with more gentle moments with Matt and Karen, and most significantly a very sensual kiss in the rain that both reminded me of, and consciously tried not to be, the kiss in the rain from the 2003 Daredevil film. I know that kiss is with Elektra and this one is with Karen, but Deborah Ann Woll is very Elektra here... which is a shame because the real thing is waiting for Matt when he gets home...

Next: Kinbaku!