Friday, February 23, 2018

Batman 66 - Episodes 17-20 Reviews

Sorry it's been a few weeks since my last post but getting back to this little project, the selection of episodes here range from the debut of a new villain for the show to the debut of my favourite villain of the series too.

1x17: True Or False False

Okay, so False Face isn't entirely new for the show but he's one of those rarer, lesser known DC villains and this one here is it's own iteration for the show with Malachi Throne taking on the role. However this episode alone took some delight in having him credited as ? as we didn't see False Face's real visage, instead the episode relying on him using that melted and creepy looking mask as he plotted against the Dynamic Duo and disguised himself as a few different characters before leaving both Batman and Robin glued to the train tracks. 8/10

1x18: Holy Rat Race

A good concluding part to this two parter, though there's the somewhat cliched trope of False Face's female accomplice, Blaze falling in love with Batman and wanting to redeem herself while also being relegated to damsel in distress as well. The second half does take on a robbery plot line with False Face even disguising himself as Commissioner Gordon at one point before he's taken down. I have to give props to that mask though, it's absolutely terrifying to look at for too long. 7/10

1x19: The Purr-Fect Crime

Ah, the purr-fect two parter. Catwoman is undoubtedly one of the best members of Batman's Rogues Gallery, if not the best as she dips between baddie and anti-heroine but for this show, it's mainly the former with occasional hints of the latter. While this show has given us three versions of the character in it's three season run, the best version for me has always been Julie Newmar's take on the Princess of Plunder. In this story alone, she's deftly introduced by stealing golden statues, shamelessly flirts with Batman before putting both him and Robin in a dangerous pit. Of course, for Catwoman, that's merely her way of saying hello. 9/10

1x20: Better Luck Next Time

Well, Batman and Robin managed to survive the pit of doom and Catwoman herself was a bit too quick to betray her henchmen and keep the loot for herself. The second part of this story is every bit as great as the first one with the focus going to Catwoman's search for Captain Manx's treasure, which ends up costing her given that this episode ended on a rather dark turn. Of course, even if we didn't know or were reminded about cats having nine lives, I think it would've been a safe bet that this wouldn't have been the Dynamic Duo's only encounter with the expert cat burglar. 9/10

Next blog I'll delve into The Penguin Goes Straight/Not Yet, He Ain't and The Ring Of Wax/Give 'Em The Axe.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Review of Legends Of Tomorrow's 3x11: "Here I Go Again"

Written by Ray Utarnachitt & Morgan Faust
Directed by Ben Bray

Zari (to Gideon): "Who knew you were such an evil genius? And a bit of a perv."

Oh Mamma Mia. A time loop episode was an inevitability for this show and references to a certain Star Trek episode and of course, Groundhog Day to one side, there was a lot of fun and pathos to be had, mainly at the expense of one particular character.

Since her introduction in the third episode this season, Zari has been an interesting addition to the team. She's reckless and impulsive and I'm surprised that it took until this episode for Sara to confront Zari on this but the results of the two of them sparring were interesting as Zari tried to run a simulation on Gideon, only to be caught up in one herself.

Having Zari pitted inside an exploding time loop on the Waverider could've been tedious but this was a premise that the show truly had fun with. For instance, aside from the fact that it gave Zari a lot of insight into Sara's leadership skills, Ray being secretive, Mick's creative writing and Nate and Amaya's relationship, it also led to Zari not so shockingly finding her own place on the team.

I guess it should've been obvious that Gideon was responsible for the whole thing and it certainly was a lot of fun seeing Amy Pemberton pop up on screen for a few minutes as she revealed her "evil genius" to Zari before the latter woke up and gave the rest of her team some sound advice on their various issues.

I've enjoyed Zari a lot as a character this season and this episode made me more than glad that she's going nowhere. I also liked the fun little montage she got to have during her experience along with the reveal that she might get to save her brother after all. Not to mention that the episode again reminded us that she's going to play a vital role in taking down Mallus as well.

As for everything else, I'm really glad that Ray told Sara about Constantine's plan from the previous episode and that Sara herself seemed fine with it. The episode also delved a bit more into Nate and Amaya's own dynamic with their future along with giving the Sara/Ava a bit more to look forward as well. The only other person not to fare well from the episode was Gary who got consigned to the rubbish, via Gideon and her mischievous nature.

- Last scene of the episode saw Rip heading to China to recruit a man bun wearing Wally for the Legends.
- Surely the next bottle episode has to be a version of Mick's future best seller, right? I love that he was writing the thing on a type writer with booby traps too. Zari's impression of the other Legends along with her reaction to Nate/Amaya's sex noises made me howl with laughter.
- Tala Ashe can actually play the violin in real life so it's nice the show found a way of incorporating that into this episode.
- Chronology: 2018 mainly on the ship and during the last scene but we did have the gang save Waterloo and Mick saving Napoleon off screen. Loved most of the gang in their ABBA gear for this one.

Here I Go Again was a riot of an episode. It's blatantly the bottle saver one for the season but those episode do force shows to be a bit more creative and this one certainly had a lot of fun in that. As well as being another brilliant centre piece for Zari, it worked as a character building one for the rest of the team to boot.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Review of Black Panther (2018)

Written by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
Directed by Ryan Coogler

T'Challa: "We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

Following the rapturous reception the character got when he first appeared in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, this was always going to be a film that would impact audiences beyond the usual comic book fans. It was also going to be a film that would generate a lot of hype to the point where you'd wonder if said hype would be justified.

The answer to that though is a resounding yes though. While I'm more of a DC film universe guy, I do like the Marvel universe as well and even I was anticipating this movie. I really wanted it to be great. However it was more than that. If you see only one comic book movie of the year, then this is the one to see.

Following the death of his father, T'Chaka (John Kani), it now falls to the current Black Panther, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to take up his father's mantle and become king of fictional African technological wonderland, Wakanda and after enduring a rather challenge trial, including temporary losing his powers, beating a would be challenger in M'Baku (Winston Duke) and going on a quest to the ancestral plane, T'Challa assumes the role and is determined to be a fair ruler and to learn from his father's mistakes.

One of the mistakes being the failure to apprehend arms dealer, Ulysses Klause (Andy Serkis) and along with former girlfriend/activist, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), the head of his female led army the Dora Milaje, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and CIA operative, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), T'Challa comes close to taking down Klause, only for the arrival of Michael B. Jordan's antagonist Erik "Killmonger" Stevens/N'Jadaka to enter the fray and cause even more mayhem.

In terms of ongoing villains, the MCU have had their hit and misses, but it's safe to assume that Killmonger will definitely fall into the former category even after the dust settles with this movie. He's an engaging and reasonably sympathetic baddie in the sense that he actually wants justice and feels that with Wakanda's advanced technology they should be making more of an effort to help those who are oppressed but his methods are also a stark constrast to T'Challa's and he wastes no time in nearly usurping the current King in order to take over as both rule of Wakanda and as the Black Panther.

While the movie does move a little quickly in Killmonger's victory to defeat, the journey there is rather compelling, especially in light of the connection that he shares with T'Challa and the latter's convictions in not wanting to repeat former mistakes from previous monarchs. I really did like that T'Challa showed his willingness to learn and try to make things better, even if Killmonger himself couldn't do the same himself.

In the title role, Chadwick Boseman is excellent as T'Challa/Black Panther as is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger but this film has so many excellent performers and moments throughout. For example, both Nakia and Okoye are wonderfully drawn out characters but the standout female character easily has to be Letitia Wright's Shuri, the younger sister of T'Challa and Wakanda's tech genius to boot. She's warm, clever, engaging, funny and easily one of the best female characters ever seen in a comic movie. She's a character you'll leave the cinema wanting to see more of.

As for Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, both of them do excellent jobs as T'Challa's mother, Romanda and statesman Zuri while Daniel Kaluuya was on good form as T'Challa's ally briefly turned traitor, W'Kabi. Both Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis put in strong performances as both Everett and Ulysses alike and Winston Duke was another standout for me as M'Baku but to be honest, there's not a single bad performance in the entire movie.

For a movie with a very big political slant (one that too many media outlets have seized in an attempt of baiting people), it never feels like the audience is being patronised. The issue about what to do to help other places in need is skillfully handled and it's poignancy is truly felt in one of the two post credits scenes on offer here as well.

- The opening weekend for this movie is a strong indicator that this is going to be another billion hitter for the MCU.
- Post Credits for this movie include T'Challa taking to world leaders about helping out with Wakanda's advanced technology while another scene had Shuri looking after Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
- Most of the action in this film might have been in Wakanda but we also saw London, California and Korea during prominent scenes as well.
- The soundtrack is one of the best movies ones we've had recently. There's a few musical highlights but my current favourite would be Kendrick Lamar/SZA's All The Stars.

Black Panther is a triumph of a movie. Both entertaining and topical in equal measure with plenty of pathos, humour, heart, jaw dropping stunts, gorgeously shot sequences (the ancestral plane ones being the obvious case in point), engaging characters, a hero willing to change and an engaging villain. The best thing being as well that we won't have to wait long to catch up with some of these characters too before the inevitable sequel is commissioned given that Infinity War will be out in a few months time.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stepping Out Of Retirement

This is mostly a superhero CW DC thread with one exception but two of the show I'm talking about do tie in with the title of this blog piece though.

Arrow: This season since it's return has been treading water a little bit. After a promising start, Michael Emerson's Cayden James has been something of a disappointing villain and the last episode just killed him off randomly to elevate Dragon guy as the Big Bad for the remainder of the season. Along with the newbies being on the outs with the original gang, not much has really stood these last few episodes. Black Siren's redemptive path on the other hand has been a bit of a highlight, even if it's largely wound up the obsessive Olicity fans but mainly it's been the only storyline that's really generated any good feeling for this season so far.

Black Lightning: The first five episodes of the CW's latest DC superhero drama series and while it's been doing it's best to distance itself from the Arrow universe (despite being as grounded as Arrow), it's still a worthy addition to this universe. Freeland feels every bit as alive a city as Star City, Central City or National City and Jefferson's journey to step out of retirement and resume his role as Black Lightning has been as compelling as Anissa's tentative journey towards becoming Thunder. Even Jennifer's own storylines have been worth watching while Gambi has made for an interesting if ambiguous ally for Jefferson. The weaker elements include Lynn, who needs better writing and Tobias, whom I don't find really that intimidating but at least characters like Tori and Lady Eve (who I do find genuinely menacing) add to his scenes.

Supergirl: Eh, the four episodes we've had before it's break to make way for the second half of Legends Of Tomorrow's third season have been a mixed bag in a way. Reign is still a decent villain with sympathy being shown for Samantha (unaware of her true identity) but the Worldkillers plot hasn't moved too much ahead even with the arrival of another in the shape of Purity/Julia. On top of that we've had more on the Kara/Mon El/Imra triangle, Alex brooding over Maggie while Wynn, Lena and Jimmy have been a little underused. Plus side, at least Brainiac has been fun to watch so far.

The Flash: Credit to the show where it's due. They did not drag out the trial of the Flash storyline too long and they certainly didn't go overboard with the angst either. They even found a clever way (via Ralph) to exonerate Barry while at the same time, maintaining that DeVoe is still around to hijack more meta bodies for his endgame plan. I did like all the sideplots with the Axel and his mother working together, Iris leading the team as best she could and Barry working with other rogues to escape getting auctioned to Amunet. Just a shame poor Becky came a cropper as she was getting a redemptive storyline though.

Will & Grace: I can't believe it's actually been eleven years since this show first ended and now it's back. I was a fan of the series back in the day but it also wasn't one of those shows I was clamouring to see return as I felt it had ended well enough and had ran long enough with eight seasons under it's belt. This first episode was a good return with the previous finale retconned as the title characters had a pillow fight in the White House along with Karen and Jack providing their own witty comments on things. Overall, a fun first episode for a series that didn't need reviving but at the same time, I'm kind of glad it's back nonetheless.

- Ben Platt will star in a musical series called The Politician for Netflix along with Barbara Streisland. The series is one of two created by Ryan Murphy, the other being Ratched, starring Sarah Paulson.
- Once Upon A Time will end after seven seasons. The remaining episodes will air from next month onwards.
- David W. Thompson will play Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow in another episode arc of Gotham. The show is certainly on a recast spree.
- DC's digital streaming service will be doing another prequel series - this time it's Metropolis which will focus on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.
- Titans meanwhile will introduce the Doom Patrol in the fifth episode with Bruno Bicher playing the role of The Chief.
- Matt Ryan will reprise his role as John Constantine for the Legends Of Tomorrow third season finale if recent set pics are anything to go by.
- Jeanine Mason will star in the CW reboot pilot for Roswell.
- Keeping with reboots, the CW's reboot for Charmed will have the Pruitt sisters called Madison, Mel and Macy. Ser'Darius will play Galvin, the ideal boyfriend to one of the sisters in the pilot.
- Michelle Gomez, Lucy Davis and Chance Perdomo will play Mary Wardell/Madam Satan, Aunt Hilda and Ambrose Spellman in The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. Kiernan Shipka will play the title role.
- Alfre Woodard has been cast as Cookie for Empire's fourth season.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Review of The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story - Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Written by Tom Rob Smith
Directed by Daniel Minahan

Jeff (to Andrew): "You destroyed me. I wish I had never walked in that bar. I wish I had never met you."

Last week the focus was on David Madson (Cody Fern), so it was only fair that for this week's episode, we went backwards and put the spotlight on Andrew's first victim, Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock) as his life took one hell of a bad turn upon meeting Andrew two years prior to his death along with his Navy career coming to a messy end in itself.

Focusing on the Navy aspect first, those scenes were genuinely uncomfortable to watch. Jeff did the right thing by standing up for a fellow officer who was being tormented and beaten for being gay but by doing this, he inadvertently exposed his own sexuality and while he didn't receive beatings like the officer he saved, Jeff had come to the realisation that his career was over.

The fact that he volunteer to speak on the side of things with his image blackened and voiced distorted meant that he knew on some level that he was never going to progress in the Navy. Andrew in a moment of clarity, even pointed out the risks Jeff was making with that video and it was clear that prior to his death that Jeff craved to go back to his old life again.

Jeff's meeting with Andrew felt low key but it was easy to see why the pair of them were drawn to each other. However like David, Jeff had also become aware of how much of a fantasist Andrew truly was and had done his best to avoid contact with him until the night of his death. Even David had to make it abundantly clear to Andrew that he had no desire to marry him as well during a night out with David's work colleagues.

The episode nicely builds back to the final moments of Jeff's life and while there are some liberties taken with the juxtaposition of Jeff's sister going into labour as he's being killed, again the show has to be credited for putting more focus into Cunanan's other victims and while Cody Fern stole the show last week as Madson, Finn Wittrock indeed was excellent here as Trail.

As for the Versace segment of the piece, Gianni was back this week as we went back to when he decided to come out with Antonio for an interview for The Advocate magazine, despite Donatella's reservations. This of course cut into Jeff's own public outing as well, showing the contrasts between both of Cunanan's victims and the lives they lead.

- The episode mostly got things right, except for Jeff already being an uncle and his sister giving birth the day before he was murdered by Andrew.
- Andrew was a regular in the Flicks bar that he met Jeff in this episode.
- UK viewers will be able to watch the series from February 28th on BBC2.
- Chronology: June and November 1995 as well as April 1997, San Diego and Minneapolis.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was another powerful episode. A sublime performance from Finn Wittrock as Jeff Trail but unlike the last two episodes, there was also a sizeable focus on Gianni himself as we saw Cunanan's anger over his rejections from both David and Jeff manifest in the worst way here. With a break next week, it'll be interesting to see how the final four wrap up the season.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Review of Legends Of Tomorrow's 3x10: "Daddy Darhkest"

Written by Keto Shimizu & Matthew Maala
Directed by Dermott Downs

Constantine: "You want to tag along for an exorcism?"
Sara: "Yep."
Constantine: "That's out of the bloody question, luv."

The first thing John Constantine probably should learn is that saying no to Sara Lance is a no go area. She wanted to tag along to an exorcism and along with Earth X Snart, she got her wish. Sara also got another encounter with Mallus and of course, a not so surprising moment with Constantine during the halfway point of this episode.

While I would've preferred to have seen John hooking up with Leo (though I did appreciate the flirting he did with Snart to begin with), the sexy times between him and Sara were actually pretty fun. When was the last time we saw two bisexual characters hook up with each on a network show? I honestly don't remember.

Hooking up to one side (and Sara's comments on John's prowess to another), this episode was about Constantine needing the Legends help with a distressed girl named Emily who was rotting away in an asylum in Star City. It didn't take long though for the episode to reveal that the girl actually is Nora Darhk and through Mallus, the latter was powerful enough to send Sara, John and Leo back in time for the second half of the episode.

Not too far back in time - just to 1969 where a younger version of that psych doctor looking after Nora was more than happy to perform a lobotomy on Leo before being later revealed as a member of the Mallus order when Damien popped up in the presence to take Nora away from Zari and Ray. Speaking of Zari and Ray - those two really do work well together.

I liked that both of them tried their damndest to actually help Nora and the tragic part was that had Damien not popped up when he did, they might have actually changed Nora's fate for the better. It also tied into Amaya's desperate attempt to actually help Kuasa this week, only for the latter to try and kill Nate. Except that Kuasa did actually back down, so I'm guessing that Amaya might have a chance of actually reaching out to her granddaughter by the end of the season.

The strongest aspect of this episode along with our bisexual trenchcoat wearing exorcist being at his absolute best was the fact that things are advancing with the Mallus storyline. Nora is a crucial part of it and Zari is one of the six totem bearers (Amaya and Kuasa being two others I assume) and that might factor into Mallus's eventual downfall. There's also the fact that despite appearing fine, Sara too will also succumb to Mallus's power as well, which was why Constantine was quick to make sure that Ray kept on to the anti magic weapon he had.

Of course with all the Mallus stuff affecting most of the storylines and John just being a one episode (and a bit) guest star, the episode also saw the departure of Leo, who decided to go back to his Earth and marry his Ray. I am hoping we see those two guys again in the future but in the meantime, I'll be looking forward to what Wally will bring to the team when he soon shows up on the Waverider.

- While Sara/John might have hooked up this episode, the signs of her and Ava getting it on soon were also being fired at us in a big way. Oh and Rip has managed to escape from Time Bureau prison.
- The six totems are Air (Zari), Spirit (Amaya), Water (Kuasa) as well as Fire, Earth and another unknown one for now.
- For those who didn't actually watch Constantine, the basics about John were nicely covered (Astra, soul being damned to Hell etc). Now we just need the CW to release his animated series and be done with it.
- Chronology: Star City, in both 2017 and 1969.

Daddy Darhkest was a great return for the show. It slipped nicely into the horror territory while also adding some extra dimensions to both Nora and Kuasa's characters along with advancing the Mallus a bit more for viewers. Constantine's appearance was every bit as brilliant as his previous stint in Arrow and we got some beautiful character moments as well.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Friday, February 09, 2018

My Review of How To Get Away With Murder's 4x12: "Ask Him About Stella"

Written by Tess Leibowitz
Directed by Stephen Cragg

Isaac: "You need help!"
Annalise: "Not from you!"

Okay, I really want to talk about the final scene of this episode first and normally I would but sticking with the title for this one, let's discuss the Isaac segment instead as it turns out his addictive personality has resurfaced or maybe it never went away in the first place.

The episode started with him getting a fix and then confessing to Annalise that he's been high again, so the two of them go and get something to eat as Annalise spends a good portion of this episode trying to actually help Isaac but you could already tell that her efforts were going to be in vain, even with Bonnie putting her head in a noose with Denver in order to prevent Isaac being arrested for his daughter's death.

Flashbacks did show Isaac's role in Stella's death and while he didn't directly kill her, his addiction is what led to his child being able to take her own life though. Seeing Isaac unravel as his lies became exposed was an interesting change of pace from the Laurel heavy scenes we've had but I genuinely did think he was going to attack Annalise before she managed to get away from him.

I'm not sure if this is the last we'll see of Isaac given that Annalise did drop another bomb on him by phoning his ex-wife to ask about Stella and I suspect it's probably not either. Of course, Isaac wasn't the only set back Annalise had to deal with this week.

Her Face Case with Nate's father also kept taking bad turns, even to the point where Nate Sr was losing even more faith in his son and the justice but this plot did result in some of the best scenes of the episode. On one hand we had the Keating 5 being their competitive best to try and write the best statements for Annalise and when things truly went south, Michaela was the one to put Annalise into contact with someone who could fix(er) their problems.

For the last few weeks, ABC have been shamelessly hyping up the crossover event this show will have with Scandal and for a few seconds we got to see Annalise attend a lecture of Olivia Pope's. However we're all going to have to wait another three weeks before we get to see both Viola Davis and Kerry Washington go toe to toe with each other, but it was hard not to feel excited during that final moment.

- Laurel got to see her baby this week, which she named Christopher while Frank confronted Sandrine over her connection to Wes.
- Connor is going back to law school and the wedding is back on with Oliver, though I'm starting to doubt it'll actually go ahead.
- I have to admit that Asher was pretty funny as the cook for most of this episode.
- Chronology: From where He's A Bad Father more or less left off.

Ask Him About Stella didn't really advance too much with Jorge's ongoing schemes and I have a feeling that even the crossover might not advance Sandrine's connection to Wes as much but episode wise, there were plenty of good moments to go over.

Rating: 8 out of 10