Saturday, 28 May 2016

BUMPER FLASH REVIEW - The Flash 2-17 to 2-23

Behind the times due to a) computer issues and b) actual work, but here, at last, are reviews of the rest of The Flash season two. Race to the finish!

FLASH BACK

Alice Troughton steps over from Doctor Who to directing The Flash, bringing her flair for time travel television to the increasingly timey-wimey CW show. This is great fun, not only bringing back the old, evil Wells/Thawne, but doubling up Barrys and chucking in Hartley Rathaway again. Admittedly, the amount of exposition required to keep the various alternative realities, temporal duplicates and body snatchers clear is becoming overwhelming. Try explaining what's going on to anyone to drops in on an episode like this. Yet, it's handled really well here; the addition of the Time Wraith - appearing as a sort of spectral death Flash - is visually arresting and adds some of the supernatural side of the Arrowverse to the series. This is textbook time travel stuff, and the reformed Hartley is the icing on the case.

VERSUS ZOOM

Exploring Zolomon's past is the highlight of this episode, creating disquieting parallels between his childhood and Barry's. The difference: Zolomon's father really is a psychotic murderer, and Earth-2 has some seriously sinister Victorian orphanages. Barry gets his speed increased four times with tachyons and manages to leap between worlds unaided (is this how he nipped over to Earth-whatever to meet Supergirl?). Having Zoom unmasked humanises him, but having him obsessively in love with Caitlyn severely weakens him as a villain. I'm also really not sure how the time duplicates/memories thing works. Still, this ends with Zoom finally getting Barry's speed, which pushes the storyline forward with a jolt. Bloody Wally, he's such a liability.

BACK TO NORMAL

The obligatory "lost my powers" episode, and it took nearly two years to get there. I love how normal Barry is actually slower than average. Griffin Grey is a genuinely sympathetic villain, and while his condition isn't Wells's fault (not that he could know about other Wells/Thawne), he is equally responsible for the metahumans on Earth-2, so it fits in thematically. The Earth-2 sequences, with Zoom and Caitlyn, are less interesting, mainly because Caitlyn isn't very interesting. I finally get Killer Frost though - we suddenly realised that she's impersonating Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold.  This made the whole episode a lot more fun.

RUPTURE

This was a less interesting episode. I managed to fall asleep in this one twice (I was very tired both times, but still, it's not a good sign). Powerless Barry is a prime angst source, but this is still not Flash at its best, although there's finally a decent  Wells's plan to recreate the particle accelerator event to give Barry his powers back is obviously going to go horribly wrong, and while it leads to a great cliffhanger, there's never any chance he's actually dead.

THE RUNAWAY DINOSAUR

The much awaited episode from Kevin Smith takes Barry into the Speed Force itself, which is a major chunk of comics mythology but leads to the same sort of dream sequences we've seen a hundred times, with Barry's nearest and dearest appearing to impart essential knowledge. It is, however, very well done, especially the scene with the eponymous book (which sounds pretty awesome). It's a beautiful scene between Barry and his mother, finally allowing him some closure and represents a big development moment. Back in the real world, Cisco and Iris get some fun moments battling zombie Girder, complete with some great Young Frankenstein asides. Plus, they've set up Jesse to become the next speedster (and possibly Wally too, although he doesn't seem to have been affected).

INVINCIBLE

Zoom's call to arms to rally the metas was potentially a cool cliffhanger/opening scene for this episode, but I saw this episode the day after X-Men: Apocalypse and it just doesn't measure up. There are some cool moments here, in the (rather low scale) metahuman seige, but of all the parallel universe villainous alter egos they could have chosen, did they have to pick ruddy Laurel? She's even more annoying evil. At least we got to have some fun with Cisco and Caitlyn going full Wentworth Miller (from now-on to be known as "Snarting"). Barry's pep talk from the gods of the Speed Force has left him pretty insufferable, though; and now the good work of the previous episode looks to have been knocked back somewhat by the end of Henry.

THE RACE OF HIS LIFE

Utterly ridiculous, frequently nonsensical, but very fun and compelling. The big finale makes, Zoom out to be a truly psychotic villain, determined to win a race against Barry and/or destroy every universe in existence, just because. Barry's plan makes great use of the time travel elements developed throughout the season, even if the time remnants still make basically no sense. Duplicate Barry's death by over-acceleration in order to save the universe is pretty much the classic death of the Flash back in the comics, albeit without as much dramatic weight since there's another version of him there already (and the two versions couldn't coexist forever). 

It was pretty obvious, by this stage, that the man in the mask had to be the real Jay Garrick, and, while we weren't certain, Suz and I had guessed this was going to turn out to be the Earth-2 version of Henry. His turning out to be from Earth-3 was a bit of a surprise, then. It's very cute having John Shipp play the Flash again, since he played him in the 1990s series, although in that show he was playing Barry Allen, not Jay Garrick, so Earth-3 can't be the world of that series. 

Barry finally gets to together with Iris (kiss your brother, kiss your sister), but is still torn up inside from the death of his father. Which is perfectly understandable, of course, but Barry really had looked to have come to terms with the losses in his life, and so quickly throwing in another and pushing him off the deep end is a poor storytelling decision. How his massive alteration to his personal timeline will play out in season three should be interesting, though. The entire sequence of events from that moment will now be different, and Barry's life should run in a very different direction, including Thawne's involvement and his relationship with Iris and Joe. Essentially, none of the first two seasons can happen now. I'm looking forward to seeing where they're going with this.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Casting Call: More Marvel Heroes

A much-needed update on the latest MCU casting news, including some older news that has only recently been confirmed, or that I just managed to miss off earlier posts. In addition to the below, it's been confirmed that Lupita Nyong'o and Michael B. Jordan have been cast in 2018's Black Panther film, and that Mads Mikkelson is playing a villain in the upcoming Doctor Strange, but none of these actors have had their characters confirmed.




Jeff Goldblum
The Grandmaster
Thor: Ragnarok

Jeff Goldblum is one of the favourites in my geeky circle, having charmingly mumbled his way through such classics as Jurassic Park, The Fly and Earth Girls Are Easy (we may not all agree on the definition of "classic"). The goggle-eyed legend is to play the Grandmaster, an aeons-old immortal who is one of the Elders of the Universe, a group to whom the Collector (Benicio del Toro in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy) belongs. This fits in well with claims that the third Thor movie will be more of a cosmic story than the previous two, spending very little time on Earth and more following Thor and the Hulk in other worlds and realms. The Grandmaster likes to challenge "lesser" beings to battle each other, and manipulates primordial powers that sometimes even allow him to turn back death. He once held one of the Infinity Stones, but lost it to Thanos. Expect all of this to have some bearing on the film, as the MCU builds up to Infinity War.

Karl Urban
Skurge the Executioner
Thor: Ragnarok

Another favourite in House Geek, Karl the Urbane has already brilliantly brought a comicbook character to life with his unbeatable performance in Dredd, as well as being one of the best things about the new Star Trek films. Always a geek champion, Urban should be suitably impressive as Skurge, one of Thor's most resilient enemies. An Asgardian warrior, Skurge has been a major member of the Masters of Evil (formed by Civil War villain Zemo, although don't expect that link to be made anywhere in the movies). Skurge later allied himself with Thor in the battle of Ragnarok, battled against Hela and has been manipulated in the past by both Loki and the Grandmaster, so there's plenty of material to be incorporated into the latest movie.

Cate Blanchett
Hela
Thor: Ragnarok 


Rounding out a trio of spectacularly famous and well-regarded actors for Thor: Ragnarok, Cate Blanchett probably needs no introduction. In case somehow you haven't heard of her, she is the Goddess of Australia and has won awards for roles in The Aviator, Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth and its sequel The Golden Age, Carol and Thank God He Met Lizzie, and basically has so many awards to her name they need a separate wiki article. She appeared in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with the aforementioned Mr Urban and lives down my neck of the woods.

Although her casting in Thor: Ragnarok was revealed a while ago, it was only this month confirmed that she'll be playing Hela, queen of the land of the dead. Hela, or Hel, is the ruler of Niffleheim in Norse mythology, and is traditionally portrayed as an ethereal maiden or a woman who is emaciated and rotten on one side of her body and face. Marvel comics reinterpreted her as a more conventional supervillain, forever trying to trick or capture her fellow Asgardians into giving up their souls to her realm. She was previously voiced by Janyse Jaud in the animated feature Hulk vs. Thor. I would be very surprised if neither Thor nor Bruce Banner end up dead at some point in this film and need rescuing from her. It's cool to be getting a proper female supervillain (we had Nebula in GotG, but she was more of a henchwoman).

Tessa Thompson
Brunnhilde/Valkyrie
Thor: Ragnarok

Tessa Thompson is something of a rising star, having been mostly famous for appearing in Veronica Mars in her younger days but now receiving acclaim for roles in For Colored Girls, Selma, Copper, Dear White People and the recent hit Creed. She takes on what could be a pretty major role in Ragnarok as Valkyrie. There have been a few Valkyries in Marvel comics, but this is Brunnhilde, the leader of the Valkior, the female warriors of Asgard. As well as being incredibly strong like all Asgardians, Valkyrie is one of the greatest warriors in the cosmos and can sense the approach of death on others. Her fighting skills are matched only by Sif and Thor himself. She's been voiced on TV by Colleen O'Shaughnessy and Michelle Trachtenburg, and is also briefly part of Hulk vs. Thor voiced by Nicole Oliver.

Jessica Henwick
Colleen Wing
Marvel's Iron Fist

Jessica Henwick is an English actress, best known for playing Nymeria in Game of Thrones, and who also appeared as Jess Pava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These are just the latest credits in a busy seven years on screen. Henwick is of Singaporean-Chinese-African descent, but Colleen Wing is Japanese, a master of samurai fighting. As well as being an ally and sometime lover of Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, she's been associated with Luke Cage. Her longest lasting and most significant partnership is with Misty Knight (below), with whom she formed the Daughters of the Dragon, which was optioned for TV adaptation years ago, but which never got out of development hell. She's had a hell of a rough time of it over the years, so don't expect her to have an easy life on screen.

Simone Missick
Misty Knight
Marvel's Luke Cage

Simone Missick is a new name to me. She's been acting since 2003, but this is her first major role in a series from the looks of it. Misty Knight is an especially awesome character, a product of the same overblown blaxpolitation trend that created her comrade Luke Cage. Over the years she's developed into a formidable hero. Originally a cop, she lost her arm in a bomb attack, and later received a bionic replacement from Tony Stark. As well as a long-time partner of Colleen Wing, she's been part of the Heroes for Hire and the Fearless Defenders, and affiliated her prodigious martial arts skills with the Iron Fist. (Who headed the Fearless Defenders with her? Valkyrie!) It's highly likely she'll cross over to Iron Fist after debuting on Luke Cage, and I'd expect her to appear on The Defenders in good time.

Nathan Fillion
Simon Williams/Wonder Man
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

A fun bit of extra casting for the GotG sequel, set shots from the production have revealed posters for movies starring Simon Williams, who is played by Nathan Fillion, sci-fi giant and all-round good egg. He previously did voice and motion capture for a big blue bloke in the first GotG, but this time we'll actually see his face on screen. It's unlikely there's more to this than background imagery, and I wouldn't expect anything more than a cameo from him. In the comics, Simon Williams is an actor, who also happens to be a part-time superhero called Wonder Man, who basically has Superman's powers and none of the humility. He screws things up quite often, as well.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Movie trailer roundup



This is certainly a very exciting trailer, and promises a great sci-fi action adventure. What it doesn't look like it'll be is very Star Trek-y. It's also very backwards looking; it's only the third film in this series, and yet it's already looking back to the first film. Admittedly that was released seven years ago, but that's still very little material on which to base a reaction. The obsession with daddy issues is very Trek though. Some great looking new aliens, though. If nothing else, this should be fun.



Of the two new trailers just released, the international is the better, showing more and better material. They both work better as trailers than the first pair, and while it still doesn't look like it'll be a classic, I really think this looks great fun. Part of it is that I'm seriously enamoured with Kate McKinnon, but still. Some of the CGI looks great, some looks a bit shonky, but there's a great, colourful vibe to this. I'm not sure releasing footage of the Big Bad was very wise, but as we have seen it, riffing on Stay Puft by creating a monster out of the logo ghost is a fun idea.



I'm not sure how I feel about this remake. To be honest, although I used to love Rocky Horror, I'm really quite bored with it now. Not only have I been to see the show half a dozen times, once you start having shenanigans in real life, the show/movie loses something. Still, the prospect of a new film version could be good. I wasn't sure about casting Laverne Cox as Frank N. Furter - surely he's a man. I'm usually all up for gender-switching iconic characters - I've been vocally in favour of a female Doctor for years and I'm so up for the new Ghostbusters - but it didn't sit right with me. It also smacks a little of conflating "man in drag" with "transwoman," two completely different identities. However, it has been pointed out that, while a bisexual man in drag was shocking in 1975, it's less so now, while transgender actors and characters are still rarely seen. Plus, Laverne Cox really does look and sound rather perfect.

Friday, 20 May 2016

WHOTOPIA #29

Issue 29 of the resurrected Whotopia magazine is now available for download. Edited by Bob Furnell, the magazine features an article on the War Doctor, a look at the unmade story proposals for the sixth Doctor, an exploration of the music of Doctor Who, a guide to building a Dalek, looks back at fourth Doctor stories Terror of the Zygons, Meglos and Logopolis, and the second part of "Master Who," my look at the various incarnations of the Master.