ABC

February 4, 2016

3 Simplistic Things: January 2016

The new year begins, and while it might be new, the old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” With that, here are three things to take away this past January.

1. The X-Files Return:

After nearly a year of build up, “The X-Files” returned and our favorite believer and skeptic, Mulder and Scully, respectively, look like they haven’t missed a beat.

After their last venture, the mix-reviewed “X-Files: I Want to Believe” it seemed like the X-Files were buried, but since everything that’s old is new again, the iron was struck while it was hot, as they say. The two-part premier at the end of January was a welcome return to form for the agents, but of course controversy was added after word leaked that Gillian Anderson was supposedly offered half the salary that her counterpart, David Duchovny, for the revival. Either way, with four episodes remaining, and fan interest reignited, could it be possible that more X-Files could be on the way.

2. #OscarsSoWhite Controversy:

Well, this was a big one, and for reasonably good reason. After the Oscar nominations were announced, the Internet exploded with news that there was not a single non-White actor or actress awarded a nomination. Enter #OscarsSoWhite.

Two arguments can be made for this, and both create great debate: Perhaps there simply were not enough “great” roles by non-White actors and actresses in 2015, and that brings me to the bigger question. Why? Why, were there not enough great performances by non-White actors? The simple answer is that because Hollywood is not making these roles available and great actors and actresses are being wasted. Granted, yes, Idris Elba not being nominated this year for “Beasts of No Nation” will be discussed for quite a while, but why are we talking about a single performance, when we should be talking about numerous non-White actors being nominated? There is your core problem, not just the Academy, but Hollywood as a whole.

3. Agent Carter Returns:

In a TV world crammed with male heroes, it’s great to see a female heroine come back with a vengeance. “Agent Carter” returned, and after some questionable promos that I saw about this season being a little too silly, I’m sold that Hayley Atwell is back and better than ever. Moving from NYC, and trading the concrete jungle for the palm trees of Los Angeles, “Carter” introduced some new Marvel lore (hopefully) and set the tone for the introduction of some mystical and spacey things to come.

That’s it for this month, let’s see what kind of love we get in February.

January 7, 2015

Simplistic TV: Agent Carter Premiere Episode

SPIRIT

Maybe it’s because I’m an unapologetic Marvel “fanboy”.  Maybe it’s because strong female heroines like Ellen Ripley, Beatrix Kiddo, and Sarah Connor have always been more interesting to me than their stereotypical square-jawed Dudley Do-Right male counterparts.  Maybe it’s because several other shows in the same genre, including its parent company predecessor, underwhelmed out the gate.  Maybe it’s because my male physiology reacts to seeing the flawless Hayley Atwell by raising my endorphin levels to a staggering amount.  Hell, it may be all of those reasons combined which resulted in my enjoyment of the premiere for Agent Carter. 

Agent Carter, a spin-off of Marvel’s best One-Shot short film of the same name and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., takes place about a year after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger and follows that film’s standout character, Agent Peggy Carter.  Carter, a war hero of the highest order, is now forced to find her way and try to do her job as a spy while stuck in a chauvinistic, male driven world keen to keep her serving coffee and answering phones.  So yeah, it’s like Mad Men meets Alias.  Truthfully, the series gives Marvel a real opportunity to flesh out the Peggy Carter character.  Thus, bringing more understanding as to why Cap’ still pines for her and why she would be the one chosen as the first Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Carter has got the no nonsense determination of a Nick Fury and the beautiful but deadly charm of Black Widow.

“Love The Hat.”

In defense of Agent Carter’s less enjoyable programming peers, shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Constantine, and even (gulp) Gotham have story arcs meant to be spread across the normal 20 to 26 episode season structure.  Agent Carter is meant to be a strong, short arching, cinematic punch of 8 episodes; much like a standard UK television series.  (Which is why UK television is of a higher quality than American television in my opinion.  Although, that’s a conversation for another day)  However, it is clear from at least the first two episodes that showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas are confident in what they are doing, know what their show needs to accomplish, and know how to SMOOTHLY insert elements of its comic book and MCU source material in a way that enhances the experience instead of hindering it.  (Ahem!  Gotham.  Ahem!)  And really, it’s just plain fun.  The 40s era SPIRIT and charm has always been a great vessel for any absurd or unbelievable concepts the show wants to try.  (See: Indiana Jones)  And don’t worry about punches being pulled either.  Agent Carter may not be Boardwalk Empire in terms of graphic violence, but it is not from a lack of trying.  There is death and brutality in this female led, 40s era, 8 o’clock, comic book show, owned by Disney that may surprise you. 

Hayley Atwell seems to be born to play this role.  You can see why Marvel had the confidence to give her a big showcase show like this that she has to practically carry alone.  She not only nails every countering line to the volley of sexist insults hurled her way, she seems to have the ability to share an instant chemistry with whichever actor they put across from her.  She fortunately gets to separate herself from Scarlett Johansson and Ming-Na because they both play very guarded characters.  Peggy Carter is guarded in a different way in my opinion.  While Melinda May and Black Widow use lies to protect themselves, Carter, armed with truth, almost dares anyone wanting to crack her shell to step up try.  Her confidence as a character and Atwell’s portrayal of that confidence is perfect.

Dominic Cooper, although having a minor role, is still great as Howard Stark.  He does not take the easy way out by doing a Robert Downey Jr. impersonation.  He leans more toward the Howard Hughes/Citizen Kane type of billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist.  My one tiny gripe would be the Edwin Jarvis character, played by James D’Arcy.  D’Arcy is a great choice for the role and plays Jarvis well, but I hope the writers turn up his snark a bit more.  I realize I am contaminated by Paul Bettany’s brilliant A.I. version, and I know they are utilizing the role reversal of Peggy being tough and Jarvis being foppish.  I just want the banter between the two of them to be a little more biting, much like it is with Downey Jr. and Bettany.  It is there between the two…but I’m greedy for more. 

The rest of the supporting cast is fine in their roles, more or less not getting in the way of the story.  I say that hoping the Lyndsy Fonseca waitress character Angie either amounts to something much bigger or falls a little more to the wayside.  Shea Whigham’s character Roger Dooley is a preferable boss to Peggy Carter than Bradley Whitford’s Agent Flynn from the Marvel One-Shot.  Dooley seems to fit better in the era than Whitford’s Agent Flynn did.  Now, that may just be because I’m used to seeing Whigham on Boardwalk Empire.  However, I like to think it’s his gruff and unapologetic use of chauvinism as apposed to Flynn’s snarky approach.  Whigham is clueless to Carter’s activities, but I don’t see him as a cliched idiot. 

While staying up to see a humdrum Ant-Man trailer, I managed to find something even better cooking right under my nose.  Agent Carter is a show that hits the ground running with a quality to it that might catch you off guard.  It is a welcome addition to the Marvel universe and seems to bring hope that Marvel shows to follow will also learn from its predecessors mistakes.  Scan yourself for vita-rays…have someone tie you to a chair…turn on some Benny Goodman…oh and tip generously…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

October 17, 2013

This is Halloween (TV): Toy Story of Terror

DEVILISHLY

Toy Story of Terror – Devilishly

The one thing you can count on with Pixar is that you always get quality.  Despite some of their weaker efforts (“Cars” “Cars 2” to a lesser extent, “Brave”) there always seems to be a silver lining to anything Pixar creates.  I may not like “Cars” but I can respect that it looks gorgeous.  Sorry “Cars” fans, I just don’t find fart jokes spun by a redneck comedian to be very funny.

While most Pixar fare is made for the big screen, and evokes such emotion and heart, its nice to see that Disney/Pixar (yes, I’ll give Disney their due) created something for the Halloween season, and it very well might be the best thing you’ll see this Fall.  This of course is the devilishly clever “Toy Story of Terror” a spooky mini adventure starring all of your favorite “Toy Story” pals.

The writers at Pixar have to be some of the best writers in the world.  They know how to perfectly cater to fans of Disney while at the same time sneaking in little odes and jabs to other films and their appropriate genres and fans.  They just get it, simple as that.  “Terror” begins at some point after “Toy Story 3” ends.  Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew are in the care of Bonnie as they head to some undisclosed location on a dark and stormy night.  After a flat tire, Bonnie, her mother, and the toys settle into a roadside motel while they wait for the tow truck in the morning.  Needless to say, hi-jinks and close-calls ensue and of course there is a happy ending.  Like most Pixar films, its not the story that’s always compelling, its the actual journey.

What I respect the most is that all the voices from the previous “Story” films return, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack, but there are also a few extra treats along the way, including Ken Marino, or as I like to refer to him as, Louie, the “I WANNA DIP BY BALLS IN IT” guy.

Along with Ken Marino, what would a “Toy Story” be without some new characters, and the best has to be Combat Carl, voiced by Carl Weathers.  This character is so perfect and I love the subtle reference to “Predator” thrown in as Combat Carl is missing a hand.  Those are the things that make me love Pixar.  Who would throw in a “Predator” reference into a TV show made for children?

Timothy Dalton is also great as Mr. Pricklepants, who’s essentially Randy from the “Scream” series.  He calls out horror movie cliches at every turn and it’s wonderful to see it done in a Shakespearean way.  The more I think about “Terror” is that the animation is for the kids, while the dialogue is made for adults who love horror and action films.  Maybe Shane Black ghostwrote this entire special?

Bottom line, “Toy Story of Terror” is a wonder to behold.  The story is perfect for the time allotted, the introduction of new toys now looking for their owner adds a great side story to the entire “Toy Story” mythology, and Pixar and Disney spare no expense to create a standalone story that rivals anything in the Pixar catalog.  Hopefully this tradition continues and becomes this generation’s “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.”

Fun Fact:  Everyone knows that the Cowboy Woody doll is pretty sought after in the “Toy Story” universe.  You’ll notice that the $2,000 winning bid was from Al McWhiggin of Al’s Toy Barn.

October 31, 2012

Impressive. Most Impressive

IMPRESSIVE

Disney is the illuminati.  I’m convinced.  But before I cower in fear at the thought of a rodent ruling the world, I will sit back in relish the mere possibilities Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilms present.  Disney owns Pixar.  Fine.  Disney owns ABC & ESPN.  Fine.  Disney Owns The Muppets.  Um…okay.  Disney owns Marvel.  Whoa.  Disney owns Star Wars.  Hold up!  Disney owns Indiana Jones.  Wait…what?!?  Disney owns ILM.  Oh, come on!  Disney owns the naming rights to Android phones.  You’re sh*tting me.

So essentially you can wake up one morning, purchase tickets on your Mickey Mouse phone (Literally) for a Pixar film that has Captain America beating up Nazis with Indiana Jones and 67 years later joining  Iron Man and the Avengers as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier is sucked into a wormhole that leads to an encounter with a green, big eared Jedi master in the Dagobah System, then come home and watch SportsCenter hosted by Stuart Scott and Kermit The F*cking Frog!  I think my film brain just orgasmed.  That is the world we are living in now.  And its a great world….That is until Disney begins plans for construction of a fully functioning and operational Death Star in Orlando.  Close your eyes…think about it…then try…just f*cking try..to tell me I’m wrong.

September 23, 2012

Simplistic TV: Last Resort

SHORT

I’m a big fan of submarine movies.  Das Boot.  The Hunt For Red October.  Crimson Tide.  Hell, even U-571 has it’s moments.  There is something about the claustrophobia of a sub.  Something about the danger you can only hear and not see.  Something about the strange terminology.  Down Bubble.  Up Periscope.  Level the planes.  Prepare the firing solution.  It just appeals to me.  So when I heard that ABC had a television show based on a submarine premiering this month, I was interested.  When I heard later it came from the mind of The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, I was psyched.  And when I heard it had the great Andre Braugher as the captain, I was in.  But after watching Last Resort, I felt the show falls just a bit SHORT.

I’m only basing this review on the pilot, directed by Martin “Yes, I did Green Lantern.  But Also GoldenEye & Casino Royale, So Back Off” Campbell.  Shows sometimes use criticism they receive from a pilot and make changes for the better.  My hope is that Last Resort is one of these shows.  As the pilot starts, it seems that all the pieces are in the right place.   We open on the sub and briefly meet the crew through the rounds of XO Sam Kendal, played by Scott Speedman.  Yes, I thought he went missing too.  We meet the crew chief played by an old T-1000.  And finally, we meet Braugher.  And boy, is he quintessential Braugher.  No nonsense.  Fiery.  Super serious as though he was performing Macbeth for he Queen of England.  He’s great.  I’m in the groove of the show and I’m enjoying it.  But, when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, the show makes it’s biggest mistake in my eyes.  It takes us off the ship back to Washington D.C. and then over to some Dharma Initiative looking island.  Why?  To introduce the other players of the show.  I understand that.  However, submarine stories, in my opinion, benefit greatly when they stick to the perspective of the crew at all times.  When they follow their perspective.  When they let the audience discover things when the crew discovers them.  In doing so, you heighten the tension and the mystery.  You really start to feel the danger and begin questioning everything and everyone.  When you leave the people you actually have been led to care about and essentially restart the narrative just to see Autumn Reeser jump the bones of some congressman, you release the all the built up tension of the show faster than cracking open a bottle of champagne.  When you come back to the crew, you have to start all over again in building up that tension.  Imagine if in Wrath of Khan after the Enterprise’s first exchange with the Reliant we decided to shoot over to Starfleet for a few minutes to meet some hot Starfleet lab tech who designed the Reliant.  The entire time her scene was going on, all you’d be screaming is “GO BACK TO THE ENTERPRISE DAMN IT!” and miss any information the scene would be giving you anyway.

There is a good show inside Last Resort.  The potential it has is high.  It just has to brush away some of the fluff and stick to it’s great premise of physical and psychological pressure put on sailors who are now without a country.  It may take time.  Time Shawn Ryan’s previously well done but low rated show Chicago Code didn’t have on Fox.  Let’s hope ABC is willing to give it.  Watch it…And after you come up for air….tell me I’m wrong.

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