Review of Iron Fist (Netflix series)

“You are the worst Iron Fist ever.” — Davos

I had originally meant to do a “Mr. Zeus” installment this week. But, I decided I’d better do this review while the show is still relatively fresh in my mind. Some of my comments may be briefer or less systematic than usual. We shall see…

For the most part, I’m going to ignore the many missing or changed details in this version of Danny’s becoming an orphan, the Rand connection to K’un-Lun, the introduction of Colleen Wing, etc., from the comics version. Unfortunately, the bulk of my comments will still probably be negative, so allow me to start with something positive: I liked the opening credits. The music was good, with a sort of Asian/mystical feel to the electronica vibe. The dark-ish mood and swirling, inky effect with the semi-slo-mo kung fu guy worked for me. I don’t know if that guy was real or totally CGI, but he looked like a good fit for Danny/Iron Fist.

Speaking of which, as you might guess from my earlier fan-casting for the title character, I thought Finn Jones was all wrong. True, the studio didn’t cave in to demands to make the character Asian. Jones is also the right age, height, and has blonde hair. But, Iron Fist should’ve been more muscular and athletic looking, and his hair should’ve been cut shorter and straight. (And get rid of the beard, too.) As for the portrayal of Danny, I don’t know whether to blame Jones, the writers, or the directors — probably a bit of all of them.

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Finn Jones as Danny Rand

Danny’s seeming naivete and other mannerisms were annoying, as were his fits of anger and going off half-cocked at the end. He acted like a child. And what were those “episodes” toward the end, when he’d grab his head and his vision got blurry (or, at least, ours did)? Sometimes, he had a memory flash from the plane crash or K’un-Lun. What was that about?

We never really got satisfying answers either for Danny’s abandoning of K’un-Lun or even for Colleen’s going against her own principles when she did the cage matches. In fact, motivations in general were a weak point.

Danny’s fighting skills were, shall we say, rather underwhelming. Dull. Poorly choreographed and/or poorly edited. If it wasn’t clear before, the last couple episodes confirmed that he had a *lot* more training to do. But, imo, he should never have received the powers and responsibilities of the Iron Fist (w/ tattoo) at his current skill level. He should have been even better than Daredevil, but at this point, I think DD would put him down easily.

He says that he spent years training in martial arts, which includes controlled breathing *and* controlling his emotions. A minute later, he’s freaking out over air turbulence, and Claire has to calm him and get him to focus. What?! Same goes for his anger issues.

If (like he told Ward) the only time he drove a car was as a 10yo on his dad’s lap, how is Danny driving around NYC on his own a couple days later? For that matter, if he’s been stuck in extradimensional K’un-Lun for 15 years, why does he seem so unfazed by — even familiar with — NYC? A few familiar buildings and landmarks, sure. But, I’d like to have seen more fish-out-of-water behavior.

Casting for Colleen was good. Jessica Henwick is certainly an attractive woman of mixed Asian & Anglo ethnicity with martial arts skills. In fact, she was much more impressive in that area than Danny was. (She showed what she could really do, even without the sword, in those cage matches!) On the other hand, she’s too short and her hair is supposed to be medium brown to auburn. Still, she was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing series. (I’ll even forgive the fact that Danny’s supposed to have a romantic relationship with Misty Knight, not Colleen. That is, if they wanted to stay faithful to the source material. In the Marvel-Netflix world, though, Colleen is a better match for him.) Claire (Rosario Dawson) was another one. It was nice to see her involved and continuing to connect the various series together. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) makes a couple of welcomed appearances, as well.

Not sure about the Meachums, as I don’t remember that much about them from the comics. I will say, though, that that is one supremely dysfunctional family! I despised the manipulative Harold (David Wenham), who treated his son like $#!+ — and that was even before the, er, violent physical exchanges. Of course, he was supposed to be a total jerk, so… well done! I thought I was gonna really hate Ward (Tom Pelphrey), too, but I ended up just pitying him. I wanted to like Joy (Jessica Stroup) more, and she had her moments, but she ended up disappointing me, too. (Especially the final scene.)

What to make of Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho)? She is formidable, but inconsistently so. One day, she exhibits the ability — presumably through focused chi or some such thing — to “knock” someone several feet when she is standing several more feet away from them. (Think telekinetic “shove”.) A day or two later, though, she’s all scared when Danny charges her and she doesn’t even try to defend herself. What’s up with that? Was the latter behavior merely an act in order to give her more opportunities to get in the heads of our heroes?

I question the wisdom of using The Hand again as the “big bad”, especially since we know they will show up in “The Defenders” and/or season 3 of “Daredevil”. Surely, the writers could have found another evil organization to use from Marvel’s stable or even created a new one. Even though there was the interesting twist toward the end with the competing factions, I feel like The Hand was underutilized except as another connecting thread with the other shows. Their fighters weren’t very impressive, either, and they’re supposed to be among the deadliest in the world.

I hesitate to delve into the various other issues with the plot. Instead, I point you to this excellent review by Mike Floorwalker at Looper, which I fortunately read as I was finishing this up. He briefly discusses plot holes, inconsistencies, plodding development, lack of humor, “shoehorned-in moral conflict”, et al. In my opinion, most of his observations are right on the mark.

A few quick, final comments…

o Interesting casting for Davos (Sacha Dhawan) and Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez). I wouldn’t have gone that way, but I suppose they did adequate jobs. Physically not very impressive, though. No clue why Davos, who I always thought was East Asian in appearance, is played by someone of Indian descent with a Manchester accent, either.

o There was not enough of K’un-Lun, and I think there should have been flashbacks of Danny training with Davos (since they changed the Davos character and made him Danny’s peer) and under the instruction of Lei-Kung the Thunderer.

o The “iron fist” F/X was decent, I suppose.

As usual, I really wanted to like this character/series, especially with its connection to the other Netflix series. It could have been spectacular. Unfortunately, it fell *well* short of its potential. I got the feeling that the series’ creative minds might have known the basics about Danny Rand / Iron Fist — they had some facts about his history, abilities, etc. — but they didn’t really understand the character.

If I were to grade the four series, I’d give “Daredevil” an A-, “Jessica Jones” a B-, “Luke Cage” a B or B+, and “Iron Fist” a C- (and that might be a bit generous). I haven’t read a lot of other reviews, but from what I have heard/seen, the general consensus agrees with me. I just hope that the creators learned something from the criticism and make some positive changes for “Defenders” (though that has already filmed) and any future Danny Rand / Iron Fist appearances.

P.S.  We never saw the iconic costume, either. (That yellow & green robe doesn’t count.) At this point, I’m sort of glad.

Quick Reviews of Legion and Grimm (TV shows)

TV series come an go. Sometimes you really get into them, and other times you wonder why the heck you’re wasting your time. (Well, I do, anyway.) Without going into a lot of detail, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about one brand-new show that just finished its first season (“Legion”) and one show that just finished its sixth and final season (“Grimm”). Just f.y.i., in case you haven’t watched them, yet, there are a few spoilers below….

Legion

Bizarre. Freaky. Surreal.

Keller, Stevens, & Plaza

Those are the predominant descriptives that come to mind for the 8-episode series that ended a few days ago. I really wanted to like it, and there were some parts and aspects that I did like. But, for the most part, I have to say I didn’t care for it. It was one of those shows that I was determined to see through to the end of the season, but I didn’t look forward to it each week. (“The Expanse” and “Humans” were like that for me, too.) Some episodes were better than others. But, overall, there was too much weirdness and not enough action, for my taste. It’s not that it creeped me out; it just wasn’t my thing.

There was a very different vibe and, I think, pacing with this show than most. I didn’t care for most of the psychiatric ward stuff, though I understand that it was an integral part of the storyline. I *think* it was supposed to be set roughly in the early ’80s, though the fashion and music seemed mostly a mix of ’60s & ’70s. Of course, show creator/writer Noah Hawley did warn us,

“It’s a little more of a fable in my mind. If you were to say, ‘Where is it, and when is it?’, it’s not exactly clear, I think. And a lot of it is because [David]’s not exactly clear. It’s the world as perceived subjectively on some level.”

We were promised “numerous split personalities — each commanding a different aspect of his power”, which we never got to see. (Maybe in season 2?) There were a couple scenes in which David acted more psychotically, which gave us a glimpse of what Dan Stevens could do with the truly crazy and violent version of Legion from the comics. I like that they did make the connection to the comics after all, even if they didn’t name any of the heroes. (I.e., animated stick-figure of his biological father looked/acted like Prof. Xavier; main baddy was X-Men villain Amahl Farouk (even if he did look more like a circus freak), which I figured out shortly before they revealed/named him.)

I liked Rachel Keller as the semi-tragic ‘Syd’ (partly based on X-Men’s Rogue, maybe?). I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else, but she reminds me a lot of Gillian Jacobs. Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of ‘Lenny’ was… weird; but, then, so was ‘Lenny’, so maybe that’s a good thing. In general, I thought the acting ranged from just OK to really good.

Overall, an unconventional and peculiar, slightly disjointed ride. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably dig “Legion”. For me, I guess the negatives outweighed the positives. To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Grimm

I liked “Grimm” from the start. With its various “wessen” creatures — many of whom were supposedly inspirations for myths, legends, & fairytales — living in plain sight, as it were, I considered it sort of a sister show (though very different) to “Once Upon a Time”. The premise was interesting, the plots entertaining, and the central cast was composed of complex characters dealing with odd and sometimes frightening situations. Some characters were lovably eccentric, others infuriatingly two-faced, and the couples (when they were couples) were adorable. Besides that, I had a bit of a crush on Bree Turner’s ‘Rosalee’ character.

“Grimm” cast

So, I was understandably concerned that the show’s end be properly satisfying (and, mostly positive). I was disappointed at first that the show was ending, but I came to realize that it had probably run its course and should end before the writing, etc., became stale. I didn’t like the fact that it was only given 13 episodes for its final season, but that was better than the 6-episode final season that “Nikita” got to wrap up its plotline(s). I was a bit surprised when “Grimm” season 6 debuted, because I thought the final episodes would be about “Black Claw” and wessen rising up and taking over the world — or, at least, major cities and corporations across the globe. That’s where I thought the story was going. But, either I misunderstood, or the writers changed their minds and decided to go in a very different direction.

They did wrap up some plotlines, while also introducing a few new wessen. I thought the mysterious & powerful splinter of wood was something totally different than what they went with. (Maybe they thought my idea was too obvious?) And, of course, it played a major part in wrapping up the final story. There were a couple times during those last couple episodes that shocked me and had me thinking they’d be ending on a very dark, heart-breaking, and foreboding note. But, I was pleasantly surprised at how it all worked out. I will say that it was a little odd and sudden-feeling. It wasn’t “perfect”, and there remain a few unanswered questions. (I’m trying not to give the finale away by saying too much.) Perhaps, the writers were just too rushed to squeeze everything in at the end? In any case, and for the most part, I enjoyed the “Grimm” series finale.

I have taken pleasure in watching this show — equal parts gruesome and delightful — over the past 5 1/2 years. I became quite fond of the characters, too. (Well, most of them.) And I appreciate that they were able to go out on a high note and before jumping the shark. (Hey, that might’ve been a cool wessen!)

Leb wohl, meine Freunde!

Fan-Casting: James Bond

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”  — Goldfinger, in Goldfinger

Yes, it is time once again to seriously contemplate who is “worthy” to pick up the mantle of James Bond, Agent 007.

So far, it appears that Daniel Craig (5’10”,b.1968) will do a fifth film — 25th in the franchise, not counting the original Casino Royale (1967), which was a non-series spoof, and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which was “unofficial” — before saying farewell. It’s just as well, since filming can be brutal. Craig has suffered various injuries during his stint, including a serious knee injury while filming a fight scene for Spectre (2015) that required arthroscopic surgery. Plus, he will be at least 50 years old by the time the next movie gets filmed, and Craig has admitted that it’s tougher to stay fit and that he already requires more action-doubles than he used to. (We all know that we prefer to see the actors performing their own stunts for that extra dose of realism.)

Who might take over? As I wrote a couple years ago, Idris Elba (6’2.75″,b.1972) is being talked up by some people. As much as I like him, I explained why I didn’t think they should go with a black Bond. (Or Asian or Latino, either.) In addition, Elba is already in his mid-40s, which automatically shrinks his “shelf life”, if you will. If he shot his first film as Bond for release in the early-2020s, then we’d soon be back to having a 50ish 007 already. Same goes for one of my other favorites, Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) from “Strike Back” and The Hobbit movies. I think he’d be great, but as of this writing, he is already 45. Also, Damian Lewis (6’1″,b.1971), who’s name comes up on occasion. Tom Hardy (5’9″,b.1977), who has been suggested by others, is pushing 40, but I don’t think he (or Lewis) is right for the part.

Not that actors can’t remain fairly fit and handsome and charming well past 50. Connery and Moore certainly did, though I doubt they did their own stunts in the later movies. [Note: Connery was 32 when Dr. No (1962) came out, 41 for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and 53 when Never Say Never Again (1983) was released. Moore was 45 when Live and Let Die (1973) debuted and 57 when he finished with A View to a Kill (1985).] So, I’m not saying guys like Elba and Armitage couldn’t do a bang-up job. But, these days, it’s hard to find actors — let alone those heading into middle age — who would want to be tied into doing, say, five or more action films over a period of a dozen years or more. Especially if they enjoy performing in other genres.

My preference would be to see a younger James Bond, having recently been recruited from the Royal Naval Reserve and freshly graduated from MI-6’s “00” program. Ian Fleming never revealed Bond’s age, though researchers have come up with two estimates for his birthdate: 11 November 1920 and 11 November 1921. Fleming wrote his first Bond tale in 1953, and I believe it was supposed to be contemporary. That means Bond was already working for British Intelligence when in his early 30s. With that in mind, I’d like the new James Bond to be in his early- to mid-30s. The ever-popular Tom Hiddleston (b.1981) fits this age range, and he’d probably do a fine job, though producer Barbara Broccoli has said he is “a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

In any case, I have a few other candidates that I like even better….

Aidan Turner

Aidan Turner (5’11”,b.1983), another Hobbit alum, is perhaps the current fan-favorite. He has also appeared in “Being Human” (the British version, where I first noticed him), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, “And Then There Were None”, and now stars in the latest incarnation of “Poldark”. He has the looks and the charm. If he buffs up a bit and practices that cold stare, he might be a pretty good choice.

 

 

 

Max Brown

When I first started thinking about fan-casting Bond a few years ago, the first person I thought of was Max Brown (6’2″,b.1981). I had recently seen him playing a medical examiner in “Beauty and the Beast” and thought that he might have the right stuff. He’s a handsome Brit, so that was a good start. You might recognize him from “MI-5” or “Agent Carter”. Or, if you’re a fan of series about British monarchs, you may have seen him in “The Tudors” or “The Royals”. Could he be our new Commander Bond?

 

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981) is another great choice and someone I’ve cast before. He’s a bit beefier than the previous two and has already played the action hero — primarily in “Strike Back”. Winchester has also been in Thunderbirds, “Crusoe”, Solomon Kane, “Fringe”, “24: Live Another Day”, and currently stars in “Chicago Justice”. He looks good in a tux, uniform, tee-shirt, or shirtless, and I can easily see him as our steely-eyed, suave Mr. Bond.

 

 

Sam Witwer

As a bonus, I’d like to throw an American into the mix. Sam Witwer (6’1″,b.1977) is pushing 40 (though he doesn’t look it), so he’s also older than preferred. But,… he’s a possibility. He has appeared in many genre shows, but you may best remember Witwer from “Battlestar Galactica”, “Dexter”, “The Mist”, “Smallville”, the American “Being Human”, and “Once Upon a Time”. He has also done voicework for various Star Wars video games, as well as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. I know, it seems like heresy to suggest an American play an iconic British hero, but Brits and Canadian play Americans all the time. As long as he can “act and talk British”, why not?

Done. I’ll probably do another post or two on Bond’s regular supporting characters in a few weeks. Meanwhile, do you have any other casting ideas for the next ‘007’? Let us know below…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

The Silmarillion TV/Movie Deal

I (almost) forgot all about this! I mean, I added the tentative Dec. 13, 2018, date for the first movie release to my “Upcoming Movie Release Dates” page back in September. But, I forgot to post about it.

As I may have mentioned before, I am not very knowledgeable regarding The Silmarillion. (In fact, I’m not nearly as big a Tolkien-geek as I’d like to be, and it has been many years since I read The Hobbit and the LotR trilogy. If only I had more time….) I used to have a paperback copy of The Silmarillion (see pic to the right), which sat unread on my shelf for quite awhile, before I finally picked it up. But, I couldn’t get into it and didn’t get very far before being distracting with other stuff, never to return.

For those who don’t know, or can’t remember much more than I can about it, here is a quick Wikipedia summary of the contents of The Silmarillion:

The Silmarillion comprises five parts. The first part, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of Eä, the ‘world that is‘. Valaquenta, the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age, including the wars over the Silmarils [i.e., three brilliant jewels composed of the unmarred light of the Two Trees of Valinor] that gave the book its title. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a brief account of the circumstances which led to and were presented in The Lord of the Rings.

The five parts were initially separate works, but it was the elder Tolkien’s express wish that they be published together. Because J.R.R. Tolkien died before he finished revising the various legends, Christopher gathered material from his father’s older writings to fill out the book. In a few cases, this meant that he had to devise completely new material in order to resolve gaps and inconsistencies in the narrative.”

If I remember correctly, it was mostly 3rd-person narrative — which could be filmed in a sort of documentary style — but not much in the way of stories with protagonists following a plot, etc. But, that’s based on a vague memory of a brief exposure to probably just the first part of the book. So, I could very well be wrong. Still, as I said in a previous post, “any attempt to do more Tolkien movies would have to take a lot more creative license to flesh out a complete, movie-length story than even Jackson’s team has done. But, some of it might work as a TV series, or maybe a series of mini-series….”

So, here’s the scoop…

The news originally broke on or slightly before Aug. 1, 2016, on (now-defunct) OneRingtoRule.com, but Moviepilot’s JabberTalky jumped on the story with his own article, announcing,

“New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, MGM and Showtime have officially announced the completion of a deal with the Tolkien Estate to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel, The Silmarillion, in a cross-platform deal that will include a multi-film franchise and premium cable television show to air on Showtime.

Warner Bros. confirms they will be going straight into preproduction, shooting the first two films back-to-back with a release date of December 13th, 2018 for the first installment.”

No director or cast were announced at the time, of course. But, Peter Jackson is set to executive produce and screenwriter Michael Arndt is adapting the first chapter. These are very good signs.

Now, this could be really good! With feature films and a Showtime series, they can cover a lot of ground. It will be very interesting to see how they break it all down, mixing historical narrative with action and romance, etc. I hope they are able to faithfully flesh out the stories and personalities of characters like Morgoth, Sauron, Feanor, Beren & Lúthien, etc. And, of course, they need to maintain the wonderful, visual style of Jackson’s previous Tolkien films, along with the beautiful soundtrack music, all of which captures the depth and tone of Tolkien’s mythology.

 

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P.S.  April Fool! Gotcha! Sorry, but I couldn’t publish this w/o letting you all know it was a joke. Sorry about that. I share your pain. In fact, I wrote this back in January, thinking the announcement was real. I was finishing it up, when I read some of the comments on the Moviepilot article, which were dated April 2014. Dang it!

P.P.S.  According to this piece at iDigitalTimes, Christopher Tolkien didn’t care for Jackson’s take on his father’s material, and he is quite intent on keeping other Tolkien properties away from the award-winning director. Oh, well! Maybe some other worthy will get the Tolkien blessing….

P.P.P.S.  Here’s a more recent article discussing the difficulties of adapting The Silmarillion, while expressing a wish for a “Game of Thrones”-style series by HBO.

Assessing the Casting of ABC’s Inhumans

Inhumans Royal Family

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard/read all that much about this upcoming series. I mentioned several facts that came out earlier in a post last November. Recently, though, there have been a few cast announcements and a couple of on-set pics from where they are shooting the show in Hawaii.

I’ve liked the Inhumans since I first read about them in “Fantastic Four” comics back in the 1970s. They had an interesting and isolated culture, cool powers & appearances, and an on-again/off-again, quasi-frenemy sort of relationship with our heroes (sort of like Namor has). I especially liked the core group of the Royal Family, which fortunately look to be central to the new show. So, of course, I want to see live-action versions that are faithful adaptations from the source material. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the actors who will be portraying these beloved characters. Here are my 2 cents…

Anson Mount as Black Bolt: I am not familiar with Mount (6′,b.1973). He has appeared in episodes of series I watched (e.g., “Smallville”, “CSI: Miami”, “Lost”, “Dollhouse”), but nothing stands out in my memory about him. He has been a regular in other series, most recently starring in the drama/western “Hell on Wheels”, but I am unfamiliar with them, unfortunately. Physically, though, Mount appears to be a pretty solid choice, both in face and build. Having looked at some photos, he often appears to have an intense and/or weary look, which should work well for the silent, burdened King of the Inhumans.

Serinda Swan as Medusa: The lovely Miss Swan (5’7″,b.1984) is quite a bit shorter than the comics version of Queen Medusa (5’11”). But, I think she has both the beauty (and curves) and physicality to do right by the role. You may remember her as the sorcerous Zatanna on “Smallville”, which I thought was terrific casting! She has also been on “Supernatural”, “Breakout Kings”, “The Tomorrow People”, “Chicago Fire”, “Graceland”. I don’t know that she has ever had to stretch her acting skills much, so I hope she can get a handle on the Queen of the Inhumans. I assume they will need to do her mass of prehensile hair via CGI, so it shouldn’t be a problem coloring it red.

Ken Leung as Karnak: The first time I remember taking note of Leung (5’7″,b.1970) was with his role in “Lost”. Of course, he has also been in such genre fare as Rush Hour, Spy Game, Saw, X-Men: The Last Stand, “Person of Interest”, “Zero Hour”, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, et al. He is the exact height that Marvel’s wiki lists for Karnak, and I think the martial-artist character is supposed to look like an Asian human. (He’s also supposed to have an unusually large cranium. I wonder if they’ll use CGI, prosthetic, or ignore that particular characteristic. Same question re the body tattoos the character acquired in later years.) Leung will need to portray a much more physical, analytical, and self-assured character than he usually does, but he may be able to pull it off.

Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon: I don’t believe I am familiar with Ikwuakor (6’3″,b.1984), though he has had small roles in “Castle”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Extant”, “Colony”, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and appeared in a few movies (e.g. Ink). The comics version of Gorgon is Caucasian-looking but often with dusky complexion; so, if they’re going to make one of the characters black, Gorgon makes the most sense. (Note: “Black Bolt” is a shortening of “Blackagar Boltagon”, plus that character usually wears a black costume.) Ikwuakor isn’t as tall (6’7″) or bulky as Gorgon is usually made to be, but he is fairly tall and muscular. Maybe he’ll bulk up even more for the part? I hope he does a good job, since this could be a breakout role for him.

Mike Moh as Triton: As an Asian with martial arts expertise, Moh (5’9″,b.1983) would have been a good choice for Triton’s younger brother, Karnak. But, maybe his muscular-yet-lithe “swimmer’s body” was what they really wanted for the scaly, aquatic Triton. His genre credits include “Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight”, “Supah Ninjas”, “Castle”, “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”, “Street Fighter: Resurrection”, as well as the non-genre “Empire”. Who knows, maybe he’ll really “own” this part. I wonder how long he can hold his breath….

Isabelle Cornish as Crystal: This role calls for an attractive, young blonde woman about 5’6″ or so, and that’s what they found in Cornish (5’8.5″,b.1994). She doesn’t have near the resume of her sister, Abbie, nor has she been in any genre stuff. But, she was in several episodes of a couple of Australian dramas: “Home and Away” and “Puberty Blues”. I’m rooting for Cornish to make her mark with this role. It may seem like a small thing, but I just hope they make her hair the strawberry blonde color that Crystal is known for having. (That said, I realize that red-headed comic characters tend to end up as brunettes on TV. Grr! At least keep her blonde, OK?)

Iwan Rheon as Maximus: Rheon (5’8″,b.1985) is the guy who played the sadistic bastard Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones”. Other than being shorter (5’8″) than the comics version (5’11”) and thus a little shorter than I’d prefer, he is perhaps the most perfect casting for Black Bolt’s scheming younger brother, Maximus the Mad, as I can think of. We already know Rheon can play a great, psychotic villain. Though also a ruthless prince trying to gain power, Maximus is a very different character in a very different situation. I just hope Rheon has the talent to keep them quite separate in both his and the audience’s minds. (Come to think of it, Maximus is quite Loki-like, and Tom Hiddleston might make a good candidate for him, as well.)

Lockjaw stand-in on Inhumans set

‘Lockjaw’ as Lockjaw: From the leaked tweet-pic (seen here, sort of), it looks like the most beloved Inhuman character, the huge, teleporting canine named ‘Lockjaw’, will be handled with CGI. Makes sense to me! I certainly wouldn’t want to be the casting director tasked with finding a real, live dog that size (let alone who can act), ‘cuz they don’t exist.

Well, that’s that. I wish I was more knowledgeable about some of these actors, so I could make better guesses about their suitability talent-wise. But, I guess we’ll see soon enough, come September. Here’s hopin’ that ABC/Disney puts out a quality mini-series that Inhumans fans can enjoy!

Oh, and here’s a CBR article you might like, too!: “Inhumans: 15 Things We Want From The TV Show”

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 2 of 2

Music is often an integral part of a TV show, especially the opening theme. Last week, I shared ten of my favorite, most memorable themes from sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure series of the past few decades. As promised, this week we continue by easing our way into the 1980s and up to the present. I hope you enjoy them, especially if you’re old enough to remember watching some of these yourself.

Are we ready? Continuing in chronological order…

11) The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)

The “Lonely Man” ending theme was particularly poignant and memorable, too.

 

12) Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)

 

13) The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

 

14) Knight Rider (1982-1986)

 

15) The A-Team (1983-1987)

 

16) Miami Vice (1984-1990)

 

17) Star Trek: TNG (1987-1994)

 

18) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)

 

19) The X-Files (1993-)

 

20) Game of Thrones (2011-)

 

There you have ’em! Wow, that brought back a lot of good memories, going through all of those plus several I left out! And, since I couldn’t even bring myself to stop at twenty, here are five more honorable mentions:  Return of the Saint (1978-1979), The Fall Guy (1981-1986), Airwolf (1984-1986), Babylon 5 (1994-1998), Alias (2001-2006)

Now, when am I gonna find the time to track down and binge-watch these shows again…?

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!

Tributes to Two Genre Giants

I really enjoyed Bill Paxton, and I’m gonna miss him.

Bill Paxton collage

Bill Paxton collage

In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, Paxton passed away the other day from complications during surgery at age 61. As genre actors go, he was both beloved by fans and, I think, perhaps a bit underappreciated. His resume goes back to the mid-1970s and includes many movies and TV appearances that sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure fans, along with fans of other genres, will forever remember him for. Some roles were quite brief (e.g., one of three punks who first encounter the T-800 in The Terminator), some were significant supporting roles, and others were terrific starring roles. Good or bad, you could tell he loved his job.

Most recently, Paxton could be seen co-starring with Justin Cornwell in the new “Training Day” TV series. A couple years ago, he did a guest stint on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. I haven’t watched everything he was in, of course. But, of those I have seen, probably my top 5 Paxton roles were: Pvt. Hudson in Aliens (1986), Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), Bill Harding in Twister (1996), and, yes, “Punk Leader” from The Terminator (1984). He also appeared in Weird Science, Commando, Predator 2, Trespass, Boxing Helena, True Lies, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young (1998 remake), U-571, a couple of Spy Kids sequels, Edge of Tomorrow, and many more.

Paxton may not have been quite the household name as some of his co-stars, but among many aficionados of TV and film, he was a “big deal”. He provided a lot of entertainment to young and old, and I’ll always enjoy his work. He is gone too soon from this world, and all that is left to say is, “Thank you, sir.” Well, that and…

Game over, man. Well played.

Neil Fingleton

Neil Fingleton / Mag the Mighty

The other “giant” I’d like to pay tribute to was not nearly as well known as Paxton but was a giant of another kind. Former basketball player Neil Fingleton was known as the UK’s “tallest British-born man” at 7 feet 7.5 inches (232.5 cm) in height. He was playing professionally in an American minor league in Europe when he decided to give it up and pursue a career in showbiz.

Fingleton’s name and face may not be very familiar even to genre fans, unless perhaps you saw him on one or the other (or both) of two British TV documentaries he appeared in in 2007: “Britain’s Tallest Men” on BBC Four and “Superhuman: Giants” on ITV. The reasons are 1) at his height, there haven’t been that many roles he fit, and 2) the roles he had involved him being covered in a lot of make-up, prosthetics, and/or armor.

His credits include minor roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. In 47 Ronin, he played a Lovecraftian Samurai who fought Keanu Reeves’ character. He played the giant “Mag the Mighty” in the epic “Game of Thrones” episode “The Watchers on the Wall”. (Other GoT giants, Dongo and Wun Wun, were played by Ian Whyte (7’1″).) In 2015 he portrayed the scary Fisher King in the “Doctor Who” episode “Before the Flood”. He also did a few stunts and motion capture work for “Ultron” in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Fingleton died of heart failure this past weekend mere days after turning 36.

One last thing… I watched For the Love of Spock last week. If you haven’t already seen it and were curious, I very much recommend it. It’s a touching tribute to both the character of Spock and the man who first brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Certainly, it’s a must-see for Trekkies/Trekkers, and particularly for fans of the Original Series.

Top 5 Cancelled TV Series That I Miss

hulk-sadNow, this is a tough one. There are so many great TV series — even just limiting to sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure — that have been cancelled, whether after a pretty good run or axed before they could gain an audience or much momentum. I’m sure we’ve all experienced on multiple occasions when we started getting into a new show, only to have it get cancelled. Sometimes, you wonder if it’s even worth trying a new show for fear it’ll just get the axe after a season or less (e.g., “Almost Human”, “The Event”). On the other hand, there are series that air for several years, and even if they suffer a bit in quality towards the end, you’re still sorry to see them go (e.g., “Stargate SG-1”, “Fringe”).

As you can imagine, then, my list of potentials for this post is a long one. But, in my effort to keep it manageable (and not attempt a Top 20+), I decided to focus on those series that aired roughly between the years 2000 and 2010. So, imagine, if you will, that it is circa 2012, and I am daydreaming about some of my favorite shows of the past decade that are no longer on the air (unless you count reruns in syndication, of course). Can I narrow it down to 5 favorites? Well, in no particular order, …

1) Let’s begin with “24” (2001-2010). As Stephen King once said, it was “a genuine New Thing Under the Sun, not really a serial at all, but the world’s first überseries.” The ticking countdown clock, the “events happen in real time” pacing, the dire threats by all manner of terrorists and other “bad actors”, the controversial torture and other moral dilemmas that our heroes — Jack Bauer in particular — both inflicted and endured, etc. It all made for an engrossing drama with healthy helpings of heart-pounding action. While it is true that our hero was less heroic in the last few seasons, and certainly more weighed down by personal loss and a clouded moral compass, than he was during the first few seasons, I still missed the show. I was hoping for a fresh resumption of the story. We got it in 2014’s “24: Live Another Day”. But, it only lasted 12 episodes and left many unanswered questions re the futures of our beloved characters — especially Jack and Chloe.

Little did we know that the show would indeed get a new start, namely with the current “24: Legacy”. I have already written about this, expressing my disappointment that neither Jack nor (presumably) Chloe nor almost any of the other familiar faces will be in this incarnation. But, I have enjoyed the first 3 episodes — the 4th having aired earlier this week — and am hoping that it continues to build in intensity with the twists-n-turns, betrayals and manipulations, that its predecessor was known for.

prison-break-poster2) “Prison Break” (2005-2009) was another favorite I liked during the same period. I thought the characters, main plot, various subplots, etc., were all very enjoyable. And the characters were all cast perfectly — from the Scofield/Burrows brothers to the super-creepy “T-Bag”. Watching Michael’s plan to break out with his brother (and a few tagalongs) unfold, despite setback after setback, was a lot of fun to watch. After beatings, fires, riots, deals, and betrayals, they managed to do it, but being on the run came with its own set of problems, of course. The shortened 3rd season had Michael back in prison, this time without inside knowledge and a pre-planned escape. On the plus side, we saw him improvising and relying on his wits and intellect, which are when the character shined brightest. Season 4 saw Michael reunited with many of the others and on a very different mission, ending with the TV movie, “Prison Break: The Final Break”.

I confess, I am one of those who was disappointed with the way the series ended. Not that it wasn’t realistic. But, it was just… unsatisfying. And that’s why I was thrilled when I found out a couple years ago that “Prison Break: Sequel” was in production, with nearly all of the original cast returning — even at least one who was thought to be dead. Yessss! You better believe I am looking forward to its debut this April.

3) I could not do a post like this without including everyone’s favorite space-Western, the short-lived “Firefly” (2002-2003). For a show only given 14 episodes to leave its mark, it has an unexpectedly large and dedicated following — “Browncoats”, as many of them prefer to be called. And everyone has their favorites — from the brave and dashing Captain Mal to the enigmatic and unstable River Tam. Our renegade crew of “heroes” did their best to survive in an often hostile ‘verse, taking risky transport jobs and (mostly) evading criminals and authorities alike — always with liberal doses of humor and romantic adventure. It was so different from any other series (that I can think of, anyway) and executed so well, that I still don’t understand why it was given the axe only part way through its first season.

It was great to get the Serenity movie (2005), which picked up with the crew of the eponymous ship and a few plot threads left hanging from the series. The movie was fairly satisfying, yet sad on more than one level. (Fans know what I’m talking about.) So, it’s not surprising that fans have been talking for years and asking about the possibility of “Firefly” returning to TV or possibly another movie. Rumors abound. Would any of the cast be up for it, 12+ years after the movie? A couple of them have expressed interest, but most have moved on and/or feel that it would be a bad idea to try to recapture the magic. Fox has recently indicated that they might be interested in reviving it somehow, but only if creator Joss Whedon was “fully on board for the project.” However, Whedon is a very busy guy, plus he has stated repeatedly that he has no intention of returning to the world of “Firefly”/Serenity.

What about a reboot with new cast? Much of the show’s popularity with the fans was the terrific casting of, and chemistry between, the various characters. It would be nearly impossible to find that again. No, except for maybe a sequel movie with the original cast, I think it’s best to just leave it alone. We’ll have to be satisfied with repeated viewing of our “Firefly” DVDs. (Sniff!)

4) I loved “Alias”! I really did. How could you go wrong with a cute girl — excuse me, smart and attractive young woman — as a tough-yet-vulnerable student-cum-superspy? Jennifer Garner’s “Sydney Bristow” was a younger, prettier, less cynical, American version of James Bond. Sort of. The show may have involved globe-hopping superspies fighting evil organizations, but it wasn’t a Bond ripoff. Bristow was a different sort of character, and she was surrounded by a supporting cast of very interesting and talented individuals — both the actors and the characters they played. (Incidentally, in case you weren’t aware, Victor Garber (“Legends of Tomorrow”) played Sydney’s dad and Gina Torres (“Firefly”, “Suits”) had a recurring role as a rival operative. Many other stars and soon-to-be stars appeared on the show, and Bradley Cooper’s “Will Tippin” was arguably his first major (breakout?) role.)

alias_poster58The plots were quite entertaining, whether they involved internal “politics” or field missions, shoot-outs with rival agencies or chasing down mysterious, archaeological artifacts. Viewers got to watch Sydney dress up and play all sorts of different undercover roles, using superspy tech, doing superspy stuff, and generally kicking butt and taking names. She was a strong, independent woman, yet one who was equally at home (if not moreso) just chilling out alone or with friends as she was sneaking into a secure location and fighting off armed baddies. In retrospect, the show had elements of not just James Bond but Jack Bauer, Indiana Jones, and, umm… Kim Possible! And I still miss it!

I haven’t heard of any plans to revive the show/character, but I’d certainly be in favor of it. Even a mini-series or just a TV movie. Garner still looks great, and I’d bet most of her former co-stars do, too. Well, assuming that never happens, I’m gonna have to hunt down those “Alias” DVDs….

5) Finally, “Star Trek”. Not any particular ST series. I just miss having a new Star Trek to look forward to every week. Reruns are fine. (Though, I admit I haven’t watched any for a few years.) But, the end of the last Star Trek TV series (which, unlike some people, I mostly enjoyed), “Enterprise”, seemed kind of sudden and, again, unsatisfying. I was glad to see the Star Trek reboot in theaters, even though they turned out to be somewhat disappointing — a subject for another post. But, the franchise really needs to have a presence on the small-screen. After all, from 1987 to 2005, we fans had nearly 20 years of almost continuous Star Trek, spanning 4 live-action series, sometimes two at once. We were spoiled! Now, it has been almost 12 years with no new Star Trek on TV.

But, as you all know, that is about to change. Starting this May, “Star Trek: Discovery” will air on CBS All Access. All fandom holds its collective breath, hopeful yet wary, to see if the latest attempt to renew this incomparable franchise will live up to expectations and fill that hole in our entertainment schedules. (Not to mention, give us plenty of new characters to talk about and merchandise to buy.) Fingers crossed…

So, with three out of five wished-for series here or on their way, I count myself pretty lucky! Whodathunkit just 5 years ago? What about you? Any old shows you’ve been jonesing for, wishing there was a new season on the way? Let us know below…

P.S.  Just for the heck of it, here are five more (and more recent) cancelled shows that I would love to see resurrected from the TV graveyard: “Almost Human” (2013-2014), “Covert Affairs” (2010-2014), “Revolution” (2012-2014), “Fringe” (2008-2013), and Leverage (2008-2012).