Dominic Cooper

June 21, 2016

3 Simplistic Things: May 2016

May came and went, and with June on the way out as well, it seemed only natural to talk about stuff that happened almost a month and a half ago, so we are go with another 3 Simplistic Things that happened in May.

PREACH!

For a show that could have easily failed, there really isn’t anything bad to say about AMC’s newest graphic-novel-to-TV adaptation, “Preacher.” Dominic Cooper encapsulates Jesse Custer, and showrunners, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg obviously have a love for the source material, and anyone who thought, how are they going to do Arseface…well, they did it.

Apocalyptic Blowback 
It almost seems like this one was bound to fail. Yes, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is a huge mess on screen, about three movies rolled into one, confusing make-up design, odd voice modulation, numerous extreme close-ups, and just some overall weird choice, but while this film has problems, it’s still pretty watchable despite it’s flaws.
Depp Trouble
The creepy smile says it all.
Til next month….kthnxbye.
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, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

RIDICULOUS

When I first heard that they were making a live action adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, my ‘BAD IDEA’ alarm went off like a tugboat horn.  When I found out that Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted, was helming the project, my ‘GIVE IT A CHANCE’ indicator light began to flash.  But after watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I’m saddened to see my ‘SATISFACTION’ tank is on E.  I drive a really strange car.

Whew!  Where do I start?  The acting?  Honest Abe is played by Benjamin Walker.  Walker plays him as bland and boring as you might imagine Abe Lincoln to be.  But that is the problem.  You’ve resigned to the fact that your hero will be boring, and yet, give him no one fun to play off of.  Well, they do but he is very underutilized.  And that character is Henry Sturgess played by Dominic Cooper.  You may remember Cooper as a young Howard Stark in Captain America.  Now there is a film with a patriotic hero who could have easily been boring but wasn’t, while still not betraying his character.  Though, Benjamin Walker is no Chris Evans.  I digress.  Cooper has the only performance in this film that seems to feel right.  He is having fun.  Everyone else is either sleepwalking or overacting to the point of mugging at the camera.  Even the love story between Abe and Mary Todd seems forced.  Yes, they made one of the most historically famous romances seem forced.  

Visually?  I’ll be frank.  The special effects in this film, whether it be because of budget restrictions or laziness, are surprisingly awful.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  The worst vampire effects I have ever seen, by far.  And that includes Van Helsing.  The CGI face transformations for the vamps in this make them appear more like cheap cartoons than creatures of the night.  You remember in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when Christopher Lloyd…..24 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT….reveals he’s a cartoon and becomes an amalgamation of live action man and Chuck Jones animation?  That is what these vampires look like when they go all savage.  Any moment that they are supposed to be scary is sabotaged by these lackluster effects.  They could have gone practical for much cheaper and garnered a better result.

What about the action?  Well, the action scenes are poorly staged and executed   Which baffles me seeing as this, AGAIN, is the director of Wanted.  There is a fight scene in this film that takes place during a stampede of horses.  And I have no hesitation saying that it is the most RIDICULOUS action sequence I have ever witnessed.  It is a perfect storm of horrible CGI, horrible action staging, horrible acting, and a horrible payoff.  This was when I knew I was in trouble, because this laughable scene happens only 40 minutes in.

Despite all these things, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s number one flaw is it’s tone.  It is something that, if they had gotten right, would allow us to ignore the other mistakes.  This is a story about Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president, being a vampire hunter.  And they play this film entirely serious.  The title, let alone the concept, screams ‘tongue and cheek’.  Yet, this film tries to invoke an emotional response from you.  And they do it haphazardly.  Middle of the road doesn’t work for this material.  If you want to go dark with this…go really dark.  If not, you have to go campy.  Instead, it tries to stick with the same tired, cliched, tropes you can probably see coming from a mile away.  So, here is an equally tired, cliched, summation of this film that you can probably see coming from a mile away.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has no fangs, no teeth, no bite…it just plain sucks.  Watch it…bring your garlic…then tell me I’m wrong.

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