Gotham

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.

November 1, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 32) Halloween Edition 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this Spooktacular Halloween edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys welcome back JD Duran from Insession Film.  Other than further corrupting this classy professional podcaster…the boys talk about Marvel’s HUGE announcements, DC’s HUGE announcements, gush over The Flash, bitch more about Gotham, comment on the Boardwalk Empire finale, Walking Dead premiere, and consider NBC’s Constantine.  JD also gets to moderate our second ever draft, which this time involves the boys trying to make their best monster squad.  It’s a razor ‘blade in the apple’ sort of show that you don’t want to miss.

SHOW NOTES
Insession Film
Cenobites
The Monster Squad
Marvel Film Slate
DC Film Slate
Age Of Ultron Teaser
Age Of Ultron Extended
Ever See Chinatown Motherf@%ker?!
Skinny Zach Galafanakis
Jason Biggs pissing on Chelsea Handler

MUSIC NOTES
“Nightmare On My Street” By DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
“Autumn Thunder” By Sam Spence
“My Flows Is Tight” By Lord Digga
“Inside The Actors Studio” By Angelo Badalamenti

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October 12, 2014

Rant Corner (Ep.1) – “Gotham” or: How I Learned to Stop Caring for anything on TV and Developed a Drinking Problem.

In chemistry, beer is an organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group is bound to a saturated carbon atom. At Simplistic Reviews we take that chemistry and mix it up with a RANT!

Funny writing that Dr. Stranglove title brought me back to a date I once was on.
Do you have time for a story?

Go to    (1) for Yes       (2) for Get on with it!

(1) Okay good…Well on my date, the girl asked me about my favorite movie. I told her, “Back to the Future”. She said her favorite was Dr. Stranglove. I explained I loved that film dearly including its beautiful hilarious long title. She responded with Stranglove? “Well, yes the whole thing” I said with a fork placing the chicken in my mouth. She said, “It’s not that long”. I in a state of wtf said, “Yes, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. She responded with, “That’s not the title, its Dr. Stranglove…” I waited for the “or how I stop”. It never came just like a god bless you after a sneeze. I got up and walked away. Never to speak to her again.

I’ll have to tell you about the Back to the Future Date next time.

So Saturday and Sunday Cartoons are no more. Don’t worry we have something to fill up that time slot for ya, how about a Drunken Rant?!

Justin pops open some Firestone Double dba why because it’s vintage bitch! And since it’s our first episode of our Rants, we figure we spend a little more money on the production value because we love you and we at Simplistic Reviews love all that is intoxication. Yes some say its a problem we say it adds to the production, and you need it especially when dealing with Fox’s, Gotham

(2) Oh…god… do you need that alcohol when watching that thing called a show.

P.S. I was pretty loaded in this, enjoy! 

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY


October 2, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 31) October 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

As fall descends across the land, the Simplistic Reviews Podcast is the funk of 40,000 years. In this month’s edition, the boys spring forward and fall back to poking fun at Shia LeBeouf’s childhood proclivities, Urban Dictionary’s more interesting entries, and Jeremy Renner’s lackadaisical attitude toward his career. All while still having time to pay a little John Singleton penance.

As you might remember, Justin and Matt were unlucky enough to lose a game of Simply Quotable a couple of month’s back and had to watch the 2001 hood classic, Baby Boy. To make a long story short, there is dick sniffing, Snoop Dogg shooting, and men-inside-giant-wombs talk.

The boys also tackle the news Bob Barker style in a new segment called Simplistic Showcase. There is big money, big prizes, and a variety of obscenities.

All of this, plus our take on Fox’s Gotham, how Boardwalk Empire is doing so far, and soooooooo much more, on this month’s Simplistic Reviews Podcast for October.

Show Notes:
Blumpkin
Tetris Movie
Charlie Countryman
Baby Boy got the sniffles
Inherent Vice
DJ’s Hidden Princess Bride Reference
Matt’s Hidden Big Lebowski Reference
Slaughter Film Action Movie Time Machine

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
Game of Thrones Theme Remix
White Lines By Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel
My Flows is Tight By Lord Digga
Pure Imagination By Gene Wilder

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September 24, 2014

Simply TV: Gotham (Pilot Episode)

BURN

Gotham – Burn

How can you go wrong with a show that takes in a universe in which Batman exists? There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that……right? Well, how about a universe in which Batman MIGHT exist one day, but in order to get to that one day you have to reside in a universe where you get to follow around a young Jim Gordon, his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock, and a bunch of villains who are either not yet the villains you know and love yet, and a female gangster named Fish Mooney. It will clearly be a slow burn for Fox’s “Gotham;” the newest take on the Gotham City and it’s residents. This opening is not meant to bash the show, it’s to clearly state what you are getting into when you prepare to dedicate multiple seasons to a show where you will follow around a young Jim Gordon who is likely not going to fight any “big” villains from Batman’s rogue’s gallery, but hey, I could be wrong.

So “Gotham” or at least the pilot episode, opens with that fateful night; the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents to a mugger’s bullet. The added wrinkle in this origin story is that the murder is witnessed by a young girl who has the slightest resemblance to a cat. Of course we know who she will become, but it’s never mentioned. Moving from Crime Alley, to the GCPD, we meet Jim Gordon and his new partner Bullock. The two couldn’t be less alike, classic case of good cop, bad cop. We also discover that Jim’s father was the former DA of Gotham City. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the scene of the Wayne family murder and while Gordon comforts Bruce, Bullock is trying to find a way to dump the case since he knows something is rotten in Denmark. As the show progresses we meet Renee Montoya, who works for the Major Crimes Unit, Jim’s girlfriend, Barbara Kean, and I might add those two have somewhat of a history, and it’s leaning on the lesbian side, which I can appreciate for obvious male-pig reasons. Along the way we also meet a young Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nygma, and finally Carmine Falcone, played by “The Wire” alum, John Doman. In my haste we also meet the new Alfred Pennyworth, who delivers one of the funnier lines in the episode as well.

If it seems my synopsis is all over the place, well, that’s because the episode is all over the place. While it’s a slow burn, it’s also a pretty messy burn. There seem to be a few things that you are going to have to get over if you are going to enjoy “Gotham.” One, give up on seeing Batman anytime soon. Unless the show begins to rely on flash-forwards, or skips into the future after the first season, or two, there will be no Batman. And yes, I get it, the show is called “Gotham,” not “Batman” but when one thinks of Gotham City, there is really only one person you think of, but yeah, I get it.

Two, “Gotham” feels like something that could have been called “Gotham High.” Seeing villains like The Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as younger versions of their selves just seems odd, and wrong. Of course, this is all based on a pilot where things can change drastically and could improve, but I’m not into it as much as I feel like I should be. While I don’t agree with the direction of Penguin, I have to admit I like how he is being portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. It’s quite a departure from what I’m used to in my Penguin character, from Danny DeVito’s take in “Batman Returns” to even the comic books, but building up Penguin as a big bad for the future is ballsy, albeit, a slow burn.

Three, I really hope they change how they use Harvey Bullock. Bullock was one of my favorite characters from “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the crooked-cop take on his character, at least to me, is a little too cliched. You’re always going to have one of this bad cop-types characters in a show, but why make Bullock that character? Donal Logue, who I think is vastly underrated in anything he acts in, gives Bullock a certain attitude that I appreciated, but I want the slovenly, fat, fast food eating Bullock, not this Bullock. Again, I like Logue, but I’m trying to figure out this take on the character. Of course, I’m sure there will be an arc where Bullock has to make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, possibly during the season finale, where he will become the Bullock I’ve come to know and love.

To finish up the rants, some of the music and camera work and simply weird. I can’t help but think when I’m watching something in the Batman universe, I imagine listening to either Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer; Graeme Revell isn’t who I would expect to score the “Gotham” TV show. And nothing again Revell, I loved his portion of the score for “Sin City” and if we got more of that in “Gotham” I would have no complaints, but alas. It just doesn’t seem like the score reflects what I would expect from a pseudo-gritty take on the history of Gotham City.

There are some other nit-picks through the pilot, but as a hopeful viewer, I think some of these things should get addressed. I still don’t buy Ben McKenzie, or Detective O.C., as Jim Gordon, but he has shown he’s got the chops, see “Southland” as a good example. I really hope the show doesn’t push a Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne teen romance angle, that would just come off as needlessly cheesy. Finally, don’t create and add characters just to create and add characters. If the show is really going to push the “Rise of the Penguin” and Carmine Falcone/Fish Mooney angle, let those angles flesh out and concentrate on making that the best plot line you can make.

Overall, like “Arrow” and I’m sure “The Flash,” “Gotham” will go through it’s growing pains, similar to Bruce Wayne. The biggest thing for “Gotham” is that when you hear Gotham, you think Batman. But how long will that last with audiences who want to see the Dark Knight, not the Adventures of Jim Gordon vs. Fish Mooney. Name recognition is the biggest thing the show has going for it right now, and the fact it’s on Fox, a network notorious for axing shows if they don’t perform up to snuff, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash “Gotham” will have.

Fun Fact: Before he was hitting the street as Gordon, McKenzie was behind the cowl, voicing the Dark Knight in the animated feature, “Batman: Year One.”

July 13, 2014

Comic-Con Sneak Peek: The Flash…And By Default, Arrow…Um…And Inexplicably Smallville (DJ’s Take)

PROGRESS

I was never a big fan of Smallville.  Sure, it had its own huge following, but it was never really a Superman for me.  It always felt like the perpetual meanderings of a soon-to-be hero before becoming the Man Of Steel I grew love.  I wanted the hero, not the just the origin.  That kind of formula is the basis behind my apprehension to Fox’s upcoming Gotham series.  Then DC and the CW came out with a show about the fringey at best comic book hero Green Arrow.  A show in which I also had apprehension of at first.  But Arrow gave me something that I never fully got from Smallville.  Arrow gave me the hero.  Yes, Arrow also shows the origins of its titular character.  However, it uses careful orchestrated time jumps (Lost style) to interweave that past origin with his circumstances in the present.   This formula resulted in Arrow growing into probably the best comic book television series ever.  Its success showed DC and the CW that giving us the hero faster and touching back on his or her’s backstory is more enjoyable and more efficient than leading us along for 10 seasons only for a lackluster payoff.  Arrow’s rich world building is handled more deftly and accurately than DC’s cinematic one has so far.  The Flash is one of the first fruits of Arrows labor, and I have to admit, it is a tasty fruit.

There isn’t that much I need to say to set up The Flash, seeing as it was already set up perfectly in a mid-season run of Arrow last season.  Crime Scene investigator Barry Allen visited Starling City searching for the thought to be superpowered killer of his mother.  While he’s there he essentially puts Arrow on a straighter path to becoming a hero.  Then he’s struck by lightning during a freak storm caused by an experimental machine and falls into a coma.  The series picks up right where that plot line leaves off as Barry awakes slimmer, trimmer, and a sh%tload faster.  The rest of the plot goes through the comic book movie basics of Barry figuring out his powers.  The more interesting thing though is that the strange malfunction by the machine that gave Barry his powers seems to have also sparked the birth of people with abilities across the globe.   The term “metahuman” is finally dropped for all DC Comics loyalist to squeal over.  For the uninitiated, metahumans is a DC classification just as popular and actually more encompassing as Marvel’s mutant classification.  In other words, this blows the TV universe wide open.  The gritty and grounded show Arrow is now sharing a world with people as out there as Beast Boy, Aquaman, Gorilla Grodd and friggin’ Plastic Man.  And all of it was done deftly and believably in less than a minute.

Now I’m not saying that Ollie is gonna have a throw down with someone as crazy as Animal Man, (Although The Atom is gonna pop up next season) but that is what separates Flash from Arrow.  Flash is a show more suited to explore that crazy superpowered world, whereas Arrow is is more suited to just sticking a toe in it once and a while.  Flash has the right mood for it.  The pilot for Flash feels more upbeat and chipper than the gritty Arrow show, while not being as melodramatically Tiger Beat as Smallville seemed to get at times.  There is a scene with a particularly great and apropos cameo that seems to point out that delineation.  A scene that shows where this show has come from, but also how it is going to be different.

I owe Grant Gustin an apology.  When I first heard about his casting as Barry Allen in a guest spot on Arrow, I was against it.  Mainly because I was thinking long term.  Justice League long term.  I could not see them casting an actor from Glee as one of the most famous members of the Justice League in the inevitable Justice League feature film.  That was before I realized that DC’s cinematic universe isn’t likely going to cross over with its television universe.  This was also before I saw him actually as Barry.  Now I still think Gustin is a bit too young to play Allen, but Gustin’s likability outweighs any minor geek discrepancies I or anyone may have.  Stephen Amell had the benefit of Oliver Queen being unknown enough for him to shape and truly make him his own.  Barry Allen is a lot to live up to.  From what little I know of Flash mythos, Allen seems to have a more compelling and entertaining backstory than his predecessor or his successors.  Heavy lifting for Gustin to handle.  However, there are some very good scenes in this pilot, one in particular with original Flash actor John Wesley Shipp, which shows Gustin’s capability to carry this show. 

The Flash is a welcome surprise and another strong foothold for the DC’s television universe.  A universe run by two men, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, who I’ve almost forgiven for being creatively responsible for that horrible 2011 Green Lantern film.  Almost.  This October, watch out for lightning…stay out of the friend-zone…be careful in that barn…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong. 

March 30, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: March 2014 Edition

Here’s a drinking game.  Take a shot every time the boys mention Michael Bay’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  No, wait…you’ll be dead in like 10 minutes.  Okay, take a shot every time they insult Michael Bay’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  No, no, you’ll be dead in about the same amount of time.  Neal DaSouza fills in for an ailing Matthew Stewart and helps discuss various members of the cinematic animal kingdom.  From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Alvin And The Chipmunks, to something called Rastamouse.  (And you thought anthropomorphic turtles was disturbing.)  The boys also air more dirty laundry in their most embarrassing segment, Simply Ashamed, and each pick their favorite non-Marvel Studios Marvel movie.  I got my fingers crossed for Howard The Duck.  All that and more on the March edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

 Show Notes:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Trailer
X-Men Days Of Future Past Trailer
Constantine Promotional Picture
Ben McKenzie As James Gordon
Alvin And The Chipmunks Animated Movie
Rainbow Bright The Movie
Dragnet Rap Song
Don’t Be A Menace Cop Scene With Bernie Mac
Rasta Mouse

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
Its A Shame Remix By The Spinners
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
The Best By Tina Turner


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
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