That’s Narnia Business

“Narnia is one of those rare properties that spans multiple generations and geographies. We cannot wait to get started on the multiple productions we hope to undertake.” — Mark Gordon, President and Chief Content Officer of Film, Television and Digital of Entertainment One (aka eOne)

The rumors began a few months ago, before being confirmed in early October. In a move sure to please many C.S. Lewis fans while simultaneously giving others a case of anxiety, Netflix announced that they had indeed acquired the keys to Narnia.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The streaming service “signed a multi-year deal with the C.S. Lewis Company to produce multiple movies and television shows based on ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’…. Mark Gordon, Douglas Gresham, and Vincent Sieber will executive produce the new films and produce all upcoming shows.” It is also notable that this is the first time the rights to all seven books of the ‘Chronicles’ have been held by one company.

We really don’t have many details at this point. For example, it isn’t clear if all productions will be straight adaptations of the books, or if they have license to mine the source material to create peripheral stories and characters. Nothing has been said, afaik, about the degree to which the Christian allegorical elements will be retained from the novels. There has also been no news about a certain film project already underway….

Long-time readers of this blog might remember a post from Sep. 2016, in which I reported the planned reboot of the Narnia film franchise, beginning with The Silver Chair. As per Jax Motes over at ScienceFiction.com:

“Last year, Joe Johnson was announced to be directing and he stated that he expected to begin filming in late 2018. It’s unknown if that is still the case, but the Mark Gordon Company [now fully owned by eOne] is still attached, and has already spent a great deal of time and money developing ‘The Silver Chair’. Therefore, it might be smart to keep things going as they stand, rather than retooling everything.”

As usual, I am cautiously optimistic about such deals. What gives me some encouragement is the fact that The C.S. Lewis Company is still involved in these projects, as is Lewis’ stepson and co-owner of the Lewis Estate, Douglas Gresham. Gresham had the following to say about the Netflix deal:

“It is wonderful to know that folks from all over are looking forward to seeing more of Narnia, and that the advances in production and distribution technology have made it possible for us to make Narnian adventures come to life all over the world. Netflix seems to be the very best medium with which to achieve this aim, and I am looking forward to working with them towards this goal.”

I hope that all concerned treat these properties with care and respect for their creator. Do “Jack” proud, guys!

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How to Improve the Green Lantern (2011) Movie

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”
— Hal Jordan / many current Lanterns

The Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds is generally considered to be one of the weakest entries in the rash of comics-adapted superhero movies from the past couple decades. Would you agree?

Frankly, it has been awhile, and I don’t remember too much about it. I know I didn’t think it sucked as much as some people did, but it was rather disappointing. Still, the casting of Mark Strong as ‘Sinestro’ and Temuera Morrison as ‘Abin Sur’ were pretty good. (There may have been others.) But many folks (like me) couldn’t quite buy Ryan Reynolds as the ‘Hal Jordan / Green Lantern’ of comics lore. (‘Deadpool’, on the other hand, he seems to have been born to play.) Other complaints, as I recall, were about the story and the special F/X (especially re Hal’s GL costume).

Earlier this year, I made the Facebook acquaintance of a fella named Martin Glynn, with whom I have several mutual FB friends. In chatting with him, I discovered he is a comics fan. Furthermore, a few years ago he spent quite a bit of time thinking about how he would have made the Green Lantern movie. (Not that he’s in the film biz; he’s just a fan like you and me.) In fact, he has two lengthy posts on his blog about it, noting specific changes and laying out two alternative ways of modifying the plot and select scenes. Here is a sampling…

Alternate 1

“Probably the simpler modification you can make is to keep the whole movie on Earth. The audience only needs to understand the ring as much as Hal does, and if Hal only knows what it can do, then that is all the audience needs to know as well. This story would be a story of an ordinary man who suddenly has a large amount of power fall into his lap. This would parallel very well with Hammond who would find himself in the same situation. The plot will go like this:

Cold open with Green Lantern Abin Sur. He is in a transport ship, and is reporting to some kind of superior about a sample that he is bringing back to some place called “Oa”. A close up with the camera demonstrates that this sample is contained within some kind of heavily protected canister. In his report he mentions how the events on some planet were caused by a kind of substance. Also, it appears that this substance was introduced from off-world, and that the culprit is…

Suddenly his ship is attacked without warning. Due to his need to protect the sample, he attempts to fight the foe from inside of the ship. However the precision of the attack causes him to lose control, and he attempts to escape by activating his engine (or an escape pod. Doesn’t really matter as long as he is protecting the canister). Opening credits.

Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond

Cut to Hal waking up. The scene introducing Hal can be left pretty much unchanged, even up until he crashes the plane. The only changes is that A) Hal isn’t fired at the end, B) no Daddy issues, and C) Hector Hammond is accompanying his father as his assistant (also Hammond does not know either Hal or Carol). We can also get some scenes of General Hammond being verbally abusive toward his son for the sake of establishing the character. They can also have a conversation on their way back to the car, to further establish their relationship. Afterwards, Hal goes to the bar, and Carol meets up with him. They have a conversation/argument about what happened, and about their former relationship, basically like the bar scene in the movie with better dialogue. Carol leaves and Hal returns to his drink saying something about wanting things to be different.

Now we cut to Abin Sur crashing at the coast….”

Personally, I’d probably go with a near-complete rewrite of the movie, including making the ‘Hal Jordan’ character closer to the more serious and squared-away former military man of the comics. But, for Martin’s purposes, these are some good tweaks. I really like the idea of focusing on Hal and Hector as newbies-wielding-vast-power and leaving the Corps out of it (until the very end). Check out the rest of this revamp idea here.

Alternate 2

“[W]hat if we are not just interesting in the Green Lantern character, but really do want to see a movie about the Green Lantern Corps? Is that movie possible?

I think it is, and we can do it with some of the same principles. For instance, simplification would still be necessary. Perhaps even more necessary since there would be more things that we have to introduce this time around.

Another principle is one central villain. This is a bit more difficult thought, especially if we want to save Sinestro for a later film to make his betrayal more real (and I think we do want to do that). Parallax is too much of an epic villain and simply inappropriate for a first movie. Hector Hammond is also difficult if this is going to be a Corps focused movie since he is an Earth based villain. This leaves none of the villains that were in the movie, so we either have to go into the comics for a different villain, or try to make one of these work.

However, to try and stay with the theme of the project here, I do think that there is something we can do with an Earth based villain like Hector Hammond. It will also help introduce a theme that I think is really interesting.

So what is jist of this movie? First of all, we need to de-emphasize the Earth based characters. This would have to reduce Tommy down to basically a cameo, and reduce Carol down to more of a witness of things on Earth, but not a main character.

But the theme of the movie would be loyalty. Think about this for a second: Hal Jordan is from a planet that has yet to have any experience with extra-terrestrial life. Then he is suddenly whisked away from this planet by some military organization that wants to recruit him. He is no sense of loyalty to this organization, and would have difficulty deciding to risk his life for this group. Additionally, if he had to choose between Earth and the Corps, what would he choose?

I personally love this theme a lot more than the common themes of power/responsibility (that I suggested last week) or fear/courage (which the actual movie used). Indeed I can only think of one other movie that has explored this theme, and that is The Last Star-fighter. I don’t think we should use that movie exactly, but we can definitely use that movie as a sign that this film can work, especially since all of the obstacles a Green Lantern movie faced, that movie faced as well….”

My preference would be to stick to a very Earth-centric first movie with an inexperienced Hal, then introduce an additional Corps member or three in a sequel to fill Hal in on their mandate and to help train him, then have Hal and the audience finally visit Oa and the Green Lantern Corps in a third film. But, Martin does have some pretty good ideas for his version — e.g., loyalty theme; more realistic, extended training; etc. (Go here for the full blogpost.) It will be interesting to see what direction DC/Warner Bros. decide to go with for the planned Green Lantern Corps (2020) reboot.

Fan-Cast: Lex Luthor

“Those red eyes, I’m sure they look right through me, like I am nothing more than a nuisance. But when I see you? I see something no man can ever be. I see the end. The end of our potential. The end of our achievements. The end of our dreams. You are my nightmare.” — Lex Luthor to Superman

It has been nearly a year since I last fan-cast a DC character, so I’m gonna get one in before this year is out. I decided on Luthor when I read about the casting of Jon Cryer (5’9″,b.1965) in the role for the “Supergirl” series. Jon Cryer? Really?

I mean, I know he usually appears bald these days, and there’s the irony (or, circularity?) of his having played Luthor’s nephew, Lenny, in Superman IV (1987). But, he just doesn’t seem to fit the part to me, either physically or in acting strengths (his being comedy). Plus, it was already established in the series that Lex is only, say, 5-10 years older than his adoptive sister, Lena, played by Katie McGrath (b.1983). So, that doesn’t really work without some time-travel or accelerated aging or something like that thrown into the mix. Well,… whatever. If the powers-that-be want a 50-something Lex Luthor, I figure I can find some better candidates….

Lex Luthor

For those who need a brief refresher on the comics character, Alexander ‘Lex’ Luthor grew up quite poor. A nasty but brilliant young man, he arranged for the deaths of his parents and used the large life insurance payout to fund his company, LexCorp. His genius in business and the sciences, along with a lack of scruples, soon resulted in a wide-ranging business empire. (A later retcon has the Luthor family intertwined with the history of Metropolis, before they lost their wealth, which Lex eventually rebuilt. In his youth, a period spent in Smallville resulted in his meeting Clark Kent and friends.) Luthor is both respected and feared at the highest levels of business and government, where his reputation, money, and accomplishments have made him a powerful force to be reckoned with. At the same time, he has managed to maintain a (mostly) positive public image, due in large part to various philanthropic endeavors. He was even elected President of the United States a few years ago.

Make no mistake, though: Lex Luthor is one of the most dangerous supervillains in the DC universe. He has been diagnosed insane at least once. Whether technically crazy or not, he is a ruthless and amoral man with extensive resources, influence, and drive. He is not above committing murder, either personally or (more often) by proxy, though any evidence tracing back to him always seems to be erased or is too insubstantial to act on. Other charges against him seem to go away via legal technicalities or disappearing evidence (or witness). He is a master manipulator and will use whatever means necessary, legal or otherwise, to accomplish his goals. This includes fraud, theft, bribery, blackmail, torture, unethical (and often involuntary) human experimentation, framing people for crimes they didn’t commit (e.g., Bruce Wayne for the murder of Vesper Fairchild), etc.

Luthor seems equally comfortable working from an office or a secret lab or lair, and he occasionally trades in his 3-piece suit for a suit of armor and high-tech weaponry. There have also been times when he gained superpowers of his own. He either works alone (plus a few interchangeable lackeys) OR via superpowered and/or specially-equipped contractors OR even in league with other supervillains (e.g., Injustice Gang). Over the years, he has clashed with many different superheroes and costumed adventurers, as well as the media (unless he owns them), governmental agencies, and other corporations (e.g., Wayne Enterprises). But, his primary foe is, of course, Superman. He has vowed to destroy Superman multiple times over the years and nearly succeeded more than once. Indeed, ever since Superman arrived on the scene and was revealed to be from another planet, Luthor has loathed the idea that a superpowered extraterrestrial would be idolized and considered a hero of the people.

Luthor is not the type to form longstanding friendships or relationships. (Witness his multiple failed marriages.) Oddly enough, though, he has for years maintained a deep affection for Lois Lane, despite her often publicly questioning his motives, even exposing his machinations, in her news articles. She has spurned his romantic overtures and has worked with Superman (and other heroes) to foil Luthor’s plots on many occasions. The only other people Luthor seems to have truly cared for are his sister, Lena, and his bodyguard/enforcer, Mercy Graves. Beyond that, while Luthor generally maintains a calm and calculating demeanor, he has been known to lose his temper, especially when frustrated by Superman or in his plans to discredit and destroy Superman. He can be malicious, vindictive, and cruel. Yet, in his mind, he is the real hero, as he tries to free mankind from the threat of Superman and his ilk — no matter the cost.

Lex originally had red hair, until an accident caused him to permanently lose his hair altogether. (There are different iterations of the story, but he usually somehow blames Superboy/Superman for it.) He does, however, have either red or black eyebrows. Some versions of Luthor have him with a bit of a paunch, even rotund. Most often, however, he is physically fit, ranging from lean to quite muscular. (And that’s not counting when he has been artificially enhanced.) DC’s wiki lists him as 6’2″ and over 200 lbs. For my purposes, I’m going to look in the 6′ to 6’4″ height range and, as indicated earlier, an age somewhere in the 50s.

Shall we begin?

I considered Michael Bailey Smith (6’4″,b.1957) for a burly and slightly taller version of Luthor. But, he’s too old now, and I’m not sure he’d be believable as a brilliant scientist and/or businessman. While watching Season 3 of “Daredevil”, it occurred to me that Vincent D’Onofrio (6’3.5″,b.1959) would be good as the older and heavier version of Luthor from several years ago. James Spader (5’10”,b.1960) might be an interesting choice, but he’s too short, almost too old, and ultimately I decided was not quite right for the part. Bryan Cranston (5’10.5″,b.1956) could be great, too, but again: too short, too old. The first guy I ever thought of for the Luthor role was Mark Strong (6’2″,b.1963), born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia. He’s the right age and build, often bald, and can play brilliant and menacing characters. But, he has already played two big DC villains — ‘Sinestro’ in Green Lantern and ‘Dr. Sivana’ in the upcoming Shazam!. So, while I’m sure he’d be great, I decided to choose some lesser-knowns for my final three.

Arnold Vosloo

Well, OK, Arnold Vosloo (6’2″, b.1962) isn’t exactly a “lesser-known” actor. I first remember him from Van Damme’s Hard Target and the two Darkman sequels (replacing Liam Neeson in the lead). Of course, Vosloo has been in many genre films and TV series in the more than two decades since: e.g., The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, “Veritas: The Quest”, “24”, “Chuck”, two G.I. Joe movies, “NCIS”, “Bones”, “Grimm”, “Bosch”, et al. He has also voiced ‘Black Adam’ and other DC characters in animated productions. He’s the right age and height, and he can definitely play brilliant, driven, and menacing characters. I think he could be quite good as Lex Luthor.

 

Richard Zeman

Try as I might, I could not uncover a height or birthdate for Richard Zeman (?,b.?). He looks to me to be in the desired age-range, though, and a picture of him standing next to Paul Walker (6’2″) makes me think Zeman is roughly 6′ tall. He has had roles in genre productions since the 1980s, including Scanners II: The New Order, Warriors, “TekWar”, The Bone Collector, The Score, Rollerball, “Psych”, two “Stargate” shows, Brick Mansions, “The Flash”, et al. It may have been that last one that recently brought him to my attention, in fact. I think he’s got a great look, a strong build, and could present a formidable archenemy for the Man of Steel.

Simon Northwood

For a somewhat different look, consider stuntman/actor Simon Northwood (6’2.5″,b.1968). Northwood has a long resume of genre work — some speaking parts, some not; some human characters, some not. A few acting credits include “The Dresden Files”, Outlander, “Nikita”, “Alphas”, “XIII: The Series”, “Lost Girl”, “Reign”, “Star Trek: Discovery”, and the upcoming Code 8 and Shazam! films. He has a fairly muscular build, and the fact he can do his own stunts would be another plus. As long as his voice isn’t high or weird-sounding, this guy might be a fantastic choice for the well-dressed, super-rich, xenophobic megalomaniac we all know as Lex Luthor.

 

Interesting choices, eh? Some day, I’ll have to do another post fan-casting for a 30-something Luthor. I know I can find someone better than that Eisenberg fella from the current movies. (What a disappointment!) L8r…

P.S. Before going to press, I saw a few pics of Billy Zane (6’0.5″,b.1966) and thought maybe he should be in the running, too. Yes? No?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

Mandalorians and More

I’m sure most of you are aware that, following the disappointing performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story (which I still haven’t seen, btw), the decision was made from the top that any new standalone SW films would be produced/released at a slower pace.

“I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make films. I think we’re going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing.” — Bob Iger, CEO of Disney (owner of Lucasfilm)

The Mandalorian

Some people had been calling for this for some time, expressing concerns about oversaturation, formulaic plots & casting, etc., for the franchise. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of it all. What I can tell you is that, while filming on Episode IX continues and other trilogies are in the formative stages, the James Mangold-led Boba Fett standalone has finally been shelved.

However, the good news is that Jon Favreau’s live-series “The Mandalorian” is moving along nicely in anticipation of a launch next year on Disney’s new streaming service (aka Disney+).

“The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”

Dave Filoni (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, “Star Wars Rebels”) is directing the pilot, while other directors signing on for later episodes so far include Deborah Chow (“Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (‘Solemates’), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).

Just yesterday, we finally got some casting news, as it was announced that Pedro Pascal (“Narcos”, “Game of Thrones”) will be “The Mandalorian”‘s star. I haven’t seen Pascal in a lot of things, but he does seem to be a pretty good choice.

As a bonus, Bob Iger announced the other day that Rogue One‘s Diego Luna will reprise his role as rebel spy ‘Cassian Andor’ in a second prequel series on Disney+. As reported by Megan Davies at Digital Spy,

“The series, which will go into production next year, will follow the adventures of Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion, and is described as a ‘rousing spy thriller’ that will explore stories of espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire.”

Sounds great to me!

Review of Daredevil, Season 3

“Turn around and walk the other way….” — Daredevil

This one might be shorter than my typical reviews. For one thing, I didn’t take notes like I usually do when viewing the season, so I may forget a few notable things. For another, I’m a bit pressed for time — more than usual, that is — to get this one out the door, as it were. But, I’ll try to hit the major points….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

So, we finally got to see what happened to Matt Murdock following the events of “The Defenders”. It was both painful and fascinating to watch Matt reluctantly dig himself out of a pit of guilt, grief, self-pity, existential angst, etc. Even once he was physically (mostly) healed, he was still very much broken. Finally, he seemed to find a sense of responsibility and purpose again in bringing Fisk down, perhaps permanently. It was also a relief to see him reunited with Foggy and Karen — once they all worked through some “issues” over Matt’s behavior, that is.

Wilson Fisk was his old self, a psycho with a veneer of civility… most of the time… who quietly orchestrates and manipulates people into doing his bidding, whether they realize it or not. Speaking of which, I had a feeling things wouldn’t end well for Agent Nadeem, and sadly I was right. (It was a surprise to learn that he had been targeted by Fisk so early.) On the other hand, I knew Agent Poindexter was destined to become the assassin-for-hire, Bullseye. There were indications that Fisk was manipulating his life, too, but I admit I was surprised at how much. His journey was not what I expected but did end up being interesting. I hope the final scene indicates we’ll see more of him — perhaps more in character with the comics version? — next season. Kudos to the ironically-named Wilson Bethel for his portrayal of Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter!

Incidentally, you may not realize it, but Dex’s posing as Daredevil was likely taken from a Daredevil storyline from back around 1990, in which Bullseye took over as Daredevil, while an amnesiac Matt suffered an identity crisis.

Back to our program…

It was a bit surprising that the FBI was so easily fooled by Fisk’s machinations, especially once he was in their custody. Of course, much of that turned out to be due to SAC Hattley’s having been coerced into working for Fisk, as were several agents under her command. As for Nadeem, I wouldn’t call him naive, exactly. But, I guess his need to excel (and, hopefully, get a pay raise to ease his debt issues) blinded him to any clues that Fisk was truly the one in control. In the end, he got sucked in, too, and paid the ultimate price.

I missed not seeing Claire Temple this season. She was also absent from Season 2 of “Iron Fist”. Too bad. But, I did like Joanne Whalley as the tough-love Sister Maggie, who served as Matt’s primary caregiver. She also wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with him — verbally, that is — and give him advice, regardless of whether he was listening. (Note: Her involvement seems to have been pulled from the comics’ “Born Again” story.) I was wondering if they would reveal that she was his mother, and sure enough, they did. (I found it a bit sloppy on Maggie’s part, though, since I’m pretty sure she knew of Matt’s enhance hearing.) Matt was understandably hurt that neither Maggie nor Father Lantom had ever told him, but I thought he should have come to terms with it and forgiven them sooner.

Wilson Bethel as Agent Poindexter

Just a note about Vanessa. I always wondered if Fisk was treating her too delicately. I realize that she represents a very idealized image of purity, innocence, class, elegance, and of course love, to him. I can also understand why he wanted to keep the darker side of his business away from her. But, as we discovered this season, she not only wants to be involved, she can be just as ruthless as he is. (I wonder if she’ll ever get the gray streaks in her hair like in the comics.)

Despite the fact that the season took the normal 13 episodes, I didn’t feel it really dragged at any point. There were a couple episodes devoted to the personal histories of Karen and Dex, respectively. At the time, I admit I was itching for more action. But, I have to admit, fleshing out those characters did help move the overall story along, as we learned the secrets that they struggle with. I’m not sure about Bullseye, but those familiar with DD comics will remember that that version of Karen Page became addicted to heroin after she met Matt and later betrayed him to Kingpin in exchange for a fix.

A Daredevil review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fight scenes. Once again, “Daredevil” delivers. There’s just something about them: the brutality and desperation, mixed with a beautiful choreography. There were several fights, but the main four that stand out to me were in the prison, Bulletin, church, and penthouse. The first of these was all Matt, and he hadn’t even fully recuperated! Awesome! The next one was his first fight against Dex (who was never referred to as “Bullseye” in the series, btw), and thanks to the faux Daredevil’s surprisingly deadly ballistic skills, Matt barely made it out alive! The church fight was pretty good — and, of course, ended tragically for one character — but could have been better. (Note: Never turn your back on the bad guy, even if he’s just dropped 20+ feet. Duh!) The final fight involved both Dex and Fisk, with everyone fighting everyone (though Matt saved Vanessa from Dex more than once), and we finally saw Fisk really let loose. He’s really more of a street-brawler who relies on his size too much, but it was sufficient to mostly hold his own and even maim Dex — before Matt gave him a beatdown, that is. (Fisk’s face should have looked more battered and pulped!)

Miscellaneous:

1) Something I can’t put my finger on regarding Matt’s recovery. I can’t help but think that he never did quite get back into full fighting form. If he had been, I think those fights would have ended more decisively in his favor.

2) Great to see Fisk in his trademark white suit and being called “Kingpin” (at least, by the underworld bosses).

3) Do you realize that Matt never wore the DD costume this season?

4) Nice cameos by Rosalie Carbone (Annabella Sciorra) and Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald)!

5) Everyone needs a friend like Foggy.

Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie

I have mentioned in a previous post or two how I would prefer the portrayal of Kingpin was closer to the comics version and without the particular inflections and idiosyncracies that D’Onofrio uses for the character. Still, he continues to do a great job with the character as written. In fact, all the main players delivered terrific performances!

I’d like to end by quoting John Orquiola’s summary at ScreenRant:

“Daredevil’s three heroes, Matt, Foggy, and Karen, spent the season using their respective abilities to fight back against Fisk: Matt through his fists as a vigilante, Karen by being a reporter and investigator, and Foggy via the law. Yet the Kingpin was several chess moves ahead of them the whole time; he masterfully outmaneuvered Nelson, Murdock, and Page until the very end. By telling one macro story involving their greatest villain, while also finally introducing Bullseye (Wilson Bethel), Daredevil delivered arguably their best season of all and possibly the best season of a Marvel Netflix series yet.”

I’m not sure if I’d call it the “best”, but perhaps equal to Season 1. All things considered, another “A-” rating for ol’ Hornhead.

P.S.  One of these days (or months), I’m gonna have to binge-watch all 3 seasons (plus “The Defenders”), just so I can more fully appreciate the journeys of these characters, the terrific acting, and of course those bonecrushing fight sequences.

P.P.S.  Well, I guess that was a full-length review, after all. It seems I had more so say than I thought….

My Top 9 Favorite Horror Flicks

“Be afraid, be very afraid!” — Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) in The Fly

I’m not really a horror aficionado, which is why I don’t write much about it on this blog. Don’t usually care for horror movies, so I don’t watch many. Sometimes they bore me (e.g., I often fast-forward through “suspense” scenes), sometimes the subject matter is particularly disturbing, sometimes the religious (or other) stereotypes annoy me, sometimes the plot makes no sense (or is barely there), sometimes the acting sucks, sometimes…. But, “in honor” of Halloween this year, this post will be an exception.

There are many kinds of horror film, of course. There are big-monster movies (e.g., King Kong, Godzilla, The Blob, Them!) and small-monster movies (e.g., Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon). I like some of them, but I’m leaving them off this list. There are those that are religion/occult-oriented, which I normally avoid (e.g., The Omen, Carrie, The Exorcist) and are also absent from my list. There are psychological thrillers, ghosts, and haunted houses. There are various types of slashers and urban legends. Zombies are in a class of their own. And, of course, there is the ‘alien lifeform’ subgenre. There are films that combine two or more of these, as well. I’m sure one could come up with a few more variations, but those last few are the types that I am most apt to watch on occasion, so that’s where my faves come from.

So, in no particular order…

1) & 2) Y’know, I don’t think I saw a slasher-type horror film until I was in college. In fact, I think I remember the exact night. It was probably around Halloween, and some guys down at the opposite end of the hall on my floor of the dorm had rented Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). This would have been 1986 or 1987, so it had probably just come out on VHS, and the guys rented it for “Movie Night”. To be honest, it kinda freaked me out. But, over the ensuing years, I think I watched all of the Nightmare franchise, and the first and second ones were my favorites. There’s just something oddly attractive about a burnt-up guy with knives coming out of his gloves, bent on getting deadly revenge on “innocent” teens through their nightmares. I guess.

3) & 4) I never watched any Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think I watched one each of Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, and Chucky, but I couldn’t really get into those franchises. But, John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981) held much more appeal to me. (Maybe it was Michael Myers’ Captain Kirk mask?) Anyway, I can’t remember when I first saw them, but I made a point to eventually watch the rest of that original franchise, too. (Actually, I may have missed one of the later ones.) I saw the 2007 reboot (meh!) but not its sequel, and it will probably be a while before I see the new Halloween (2018) to cap off the original series. For my money, though, the first two Halloween movies are definite classics. (We do not discuss the atrocious disappointment that was Halloween III.)

5) & 6) Now, Alien (1979) was more up my usual alley, ‘cuz it was also sci-fi. So, it had that whole mysterious “alien lifeform” thing going for it. But, the xenomorph was a monster we had never seen before and was well and truly terrifying! Much of the credit for making this work goes to the masterful direction of Ridley Scott. But, I think the amazing performances by the stellar cast — Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm — are what sold audiences on the confusion, panic, and terror of the experience. This one is iconic in both the ‘horror’ and ‘sci-fi’ categories. The first sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), had much more of an ‘action’ feel to it, of course. But, it gave us more and slightly different-looking xenomorphs (along with some more, terrific characters) and retained enough of a horror aspect to let me include it here. An awesome flick!

7) Another classic horror/sci-fi combo came out the same year as Aliens — namely, David Cronenberg’s stylish remake of The Fly (1986). This was one of Jeff Goldblum’s breakout roles, as it was for his co-star, Geena Davis. I re-watched this one a few weeks ago for the first time in probably a couple decades, and it was just as much fun this time. Love watching Goldblum be… Goldblum. The ‘Seth Brundle’ character’s psychological and especially physiological transformation is fascinating to watch. (Respect to Goldblum for putting up with the extensive makeup and prosthetics. Chris Walas, makeup designer for the ‘Brundlefly’, won an Academy Award for Best Makeup.) Sure, it’s a little campy at times, but it’s vintage Cronenberg.

8) We have another John Carpenter entry next, i.e., his remake of The Thing (1982). I can’t remember if I ever saw the original (The Thing from Another World (1951)) with James Arness, though I may have seen the 2011 prequel with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. But, I do remember the first time I saw Carpenter’s version, probably ~25 years ago, during a movie marathon at some friends’ house. This is the one movie that stood out to me. Of course, it starred Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, and a few more familiar faces. (I mentioned this being one of Russell’s best roles in a previous post.) This was another mix of sci-fi and horror, but it added an element of mystery, too. Ray Bottin’s macabre creature effects were particularly memorable. Initial reception of the film may have been mostly negative, but it developed a cult following and is considered by some to be a masterpiece.

9) Speaking of iconic masterpieces, what else needs to be said about The Silence of the Lambs (1991), directed by the late Jonathan Demme? Arguably, this one might fit as well or better in the ‘crime thriller’ subgenre. But, the activities of the creepy ‘Buffalo Bob’ (Ted Levine) and the brilliant, psychopathic ‘Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter’ (Anthony Hopkins) push this film into “horror” territory. To these wonderful performances, add those of Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, et al., plus a compelling story (based on the novel by Thomas Harris), resulting in a smart film that is equal parts psychological thriller and stomach-churning horror flick. Honestly, if it weren’t for the performances of Foster and Hopkins in particular, I don’t think it would have been nearly the success that it was, especially given the subject matter. (Note to self: Add this one to rewatch list.)

I’m sure you will note that certain popular movies are conspicuous by their absence. Aside from reasons previously mentioned, I left out those that had a high comedic content. And, there were a few others that stand out but didn’t quite make the cut. So, here are a few such Honorable Mentions:

Beetlejuice
Ghostbusters
Gremlins
House
They Live
The Shining
The Good Son
Scream
The Lost Boys
From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Final Destination
The Hitcher
An American Werewolf in London

That’s all from me. Happy Halloween and stay safe out there!

Reacher’s Rules

“If in doubt, drink coffee.” — Jack Reacher

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I’ve mentioned the ‘Jack Reacher’ character a couple times before — once when I recommended the novels and once when I attempted to fan-cast him. In the former, I mentioned Jack Reacher’s Rules, which Delacorte Press published a few years ago to capitalize on the character’s growing popularity. (There is a later edition without “Jack” in the title, too.) If you aren’t sure who Reacher is, here’s the short version [<<enter Tom Cruise joke here>>]:

“Jack Reacher, of no fixed address, is a former major in the U.S. Military Police. Since leaving the army, the authorities have not been able to locate his whereabouts, although his name mysteriously crops up from time to time in connection with investigations into murders, terrorist threats, and other breaches of the law.”

As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, I remembered the ‘Rules’ book and thought I’d share a few. But, first, here is part of the book’s Introduction by Lee Child himself:

“Some rules are official. We form clubs and societies and associations and give them procedures and bylaws more complex than those of government bodies. [Well, I don’t know about that….]

Some rules are only semiofficial. Hit on your friend’s best girl? No way. Rat out an accomplice? Not going to happen. Break a strike? You’d rather die.

Some rules are just slogans, consoling and emboldening. Maybe as a kid, your gang — part of your street in part of your city in your country in the big, bewildering world — was, like kids are, told by your parents and teachers to be scared of strangers. No, you said. Strangers should be told to be scared of us.

Jack Reacher has always followed his own rules. He grew up in a fractured way, six months here, three months there, always moving, never stable, never belonging. Then he was a soldier, but too wise to buy into all the nonsense. He obeyed only the rules that made sense to him. Then he was cut loose and became a true outsider, profoundly comfortable with solitude. Does he have a tribe? You bet. He’s human. But in his case he kept on slicing and dicing until he got all the way down to a tribe with just one member — himself. But that tribe still needs rules, to guide, and embolden, and simplify, and reassure.

What follows are some of them.”

[Note: At this point, I’m tempted to get into a discussion about the problems of moral relativism. But, this is neither the time nor place.]

To be fair, these aren’t all “rules to live by”, exactly. Some are more like observations, opinions, warnings, etc. But, you get the idea.

Be Prepared:

o Never count on anything except surprise and unpredictability and danger.

o Ring doorbells with your knuckles or elbows to avoid leaving fingerprints.

o Walk up the edge of stairs to minimize the chances of loud creaks. Stairs squeak at their centers where they’re weakest.

o Go to bed fully clothed so you are always ready for action.

o Climb through a hole feetfirst. If there’s an ax or a bullet waiting, better to take it in the legs than in the head.

Breaking and Entering:

o First thing to do before attacking a lock is to check that it’s not already open. Nothing will make you feel stupider than picking a lock that’s not locked.

o To kick a door down: take a run toward the door, making sure to stay upright, and with your dominant leg kick the area below the doorknob hard, using your sole or your heel.

o For a door with a glass panel, use the sole of your shoe to break a hold in the glass, then reach through to the handle.

Choose Your Weapons:

o Next to a shotgun, a pool cue is the best weapon in a fight.

o A handgun at two hundred feet is the same thing as crossing your fingers and making a wish.

o A chisel plunged into the back of your head is going to seriously ruin your day.

o Rolls of quarters in your fists — good old-fashioned technology.

o “Twelve-gauge lead shots settle most disputes at the first time of asking.”

The Rules of Coffee:

o Nothing’s too urgent for coffee.

o It’s all about the caffeine.

o A good coffee mug is cylindrical in shape, narrow in relation to its height and with a thin lip.

o Ignore the fancy brews and get a tall house blend, black, no cream.

Conquer Your Fear:

o “I’m not scared of anybody… But certainly I preferred it when he was dead.”

o Her: “Why are you going back?” Reacher: “Because they told me not to.”

o “You see something scary, you should stand up and step toward it, not away from it. Instinctively, reflexively, in a raging fury.”

o Turn your fear into aggression.

Fighting:

o Identify the ringleader…. The ringleader is the one who always moves first.

o “Then I cheated. Instead of counting three I headbutted him full in the face.”

o Make the first shot count.

o Never revive a guy who just pulled a gun on you.

o “Attacking me was like pushing open a forbidden door. What waited on the other side was his problem.”

o “You don’t throw my friends out of helicopters and live to tell the tale.”

Food:

o “He had no prejudice against fast food. Better than slow food, for a traveling man.”

o Eat when you can, because you never know when you will next get the chance.

o Always eat a perfect breakfast: pancakes. Egg on the top, bacon on the side, plenty of syrup. And plenty of coffee.

o Before a night of action and stress, go for empty calories, fats, and complex carbohydrates: pizza and soda.

First Aid:

o After a fistfight, the best cure for a sore hand is to wrap it around a cold beer.

o To set your own broken nose, smack yourself firmly in the face with the heel of your hand.

o “Duct tape: the finest field dressing in the world. The Marines once flew me from Lebanon to Germany with nothing but duct tape keeping my lower intestine in.”

Getting Mad:

o Know when to get mad, and know when to count to ten before you get mad.

o “I’ve counted way past ten on this one. Way past.”

o “They mess with me, they answer to me.”

o “I wasn’t angry. I was barely interested. If I had been angry, we’d be cleaning up with a fire hose. As it is, we’re going to need a forklift truck.”

Random and Assorted:

o “Now they broke my toothbrush, I don’t own anything.”

o “Be skeptical but not too skeptical. Too much skepticism leads to paranoia and paralysis.”

o “Dealing with morons… is like teaching Hindu to a beagle.”

o “Suicide bombers give out all kinds of telltale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition, they’re all first-timers.”

o Most people stick to underwear from their country of origin. It’s a big step putting on foreign underwear, like betrayal or emigration.

o “I don’t need to go hunting them. I already know I’m smarter than an armadillo.”

o “I’m sleeping well… but I think that’s mostly because of the tranquilizers.”

o Four o’clock in the morning is the best time to attack. In the Army they call it KGB time.

o “Carry a spare shirt and pretty soon you’re carrying spare pants. Then you need a suitcase. Next thing you know, you’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and you’re filling out all kinds of forms.”

o “Reacher made no reply. It was a technique he had perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, say nothing. Wait for them to run through the possibilities. Wait for them to start worrying.”

o If you’re surrounded, that simplifies your problems.

o Never hit a woman unless she’s trying to kill you.

o “I don’t want to put the world to rights. I just don’t like people who put the world to wrongs.”

That’s enough, but there are plenty more in the ‘Rules’ book — and, of course, scattered throughout the novels.

You know, come to think of it, I haven’t read a Reacher adventure in several months. Time to put one on the top of my reading (or listening) pile….

Girl Power!, part 2 of 2

“Another day, another alien to punch.” — Captain Marvel

Last week, I noted the historical dearth of female titular leads among superhero films and TV series, as well as the recent trend in a positive direction. In particular, we looked at several current such projects based on DC-based heroes (and villains). So, as promised, this week we will review those in development on the Marvel Comics side of the fence. But first…

Independent:

Red Sonja, the “She-Devil with a sword” (also created by Conan’s Robert E. Howard), is getting a new film adaptation. I almost included this under the Marvel listings, because Marvel held the comic license for so many years, but Dynamite Entertainment owns it now and has closer ties to the movie production. Technically, I’m not sure “sword and sorcery” should be lumped under “superheroes”, either.

This one has been in development (sort of) since Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan were attached to it in 2008/2009. The failed reboot of Conan the Barbarian (2011) was a setback and by 2015 it was truly in “development hell”. Last November, though, Millennium Media announced it was financing/producing a Red Sonja reboot and putting it on the fast-track. Millenium’s Avi Lerner (The Expendables) said,

“We have been waiting for the right time for this remake, and with the success of Wonder Woman, the audience has spoken. They want female heroes.”

Lerner is producing with Joe Gatta (the Conan reboot) with support from Mark Canton (300) and Courtney Solomon (Cake) of Cinelou, among others. No casting news, but Bryan Singer is directing and Christopher Cosmos and David N. White are writing the screenplay.

Marvel:

Captain Marvel

1) Ever since a Captain Marvel solo film was announced over two years ago, fans have been waiting with great anticipation. The character has become quite popular in the comics, so it makes sense that Marvel would want to capitalize on that by making her their Phase 3 “big gun”. In a sense, she is Marvel’s answer to Wonder Woman — an incredibly strong (in more ways than one) and complex female hero, who they hope can carry a film on her own. While I might not have thought to cast Brie Larson in the role, I am optimistic that she can pull it off.

Captain Marvel, which is due out next March, puts the character in the 1990s and sends her into space. So, audiences will see her “origins” and an explanation for why she hasn’t been on Earth for awhile. Those “origins”, by the way, are being altered a bit from the comics, in order to reduce the parallels with DC’s Green Lantern. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck — frequent professional collaborators and now married, as well — are co-directing the film. They are also credited with the screenplay, along with five other women. (I wonder how that worked! Fifteen minutes’ worth of screen-time apiece?)

2) Probably the other most-anticipated, female-led Marvel movie is Black Widow. Finally! She has guested in a few of the other Avengers’ solo movies, but hasn’t got her own. But, as of January of this year, it was finally confirmed that Scarlett Johansson would be reprising the ‘Natasha Romanoff’ / ‘Black Widow’ character in a solo film of her own. The character has been around in the comics for quite awhile and is much older than she looks, so there is plenty of fodder for source-faithful stories.

There is no release date as yet beyond the tentative year 2020. No known plot, either, though it will probably be a prequel to her previous appearances. (I’m hoping for a cool, Cold War spy flick!) Nicole Perlman (treatment) and Jac Schaeffer (screenplay) have writing credits, according to IMDB. Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) is directing, while Victoria Alonso shares exec producing credit with her usual Marvel partners (Stan Lee, Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito).

3&4) Not long after Sony confirmed (early 2017) that Tom Hardy would be starring in their Venom movie, the studio announced it had hired Gina Prince-Bythewood (Marvel’s “Cloak and Dagger”) to direct and do some script rewrites on Silver & Black, which would unite the Black Cat and Silver Sable characters. Black Cat, of course, is Felicia Hardy, a cat burglar who alternately flirts and fights with Spider-Man. (Yes, it’s an obvious “rip-off” of the Catwoman/Batman relationship, though that’s about where the similarities ended.) Silver Sable is Silver Sablinova, who led the Symkarian mercenary group “The Wild Pack” (whom she “inherited” from her father) and founded Silver Sable International. No surprise, Spidey has been known to both clash and team up with Sable (with or without the Wild Pack).

Black Cat and Silver Sable

An early report described the plot as having Sable hired to track down Black Cat, and several other costumed characters would make appearances. The movie would end with Sable assembling an Avengers-like, all-female team. There were other reports but, long story short, that project stalled out. Then, early this past August, Sony announced that they were replacing the team-up with solo Silver Sable and Black Cat films, with the latter being first in the queue. According to Sanford Panitch, president of Columbia Pictures and overseer of Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC),

“We believe Black Cat is enough of her own character with a great backstory and a canon of material to draw from to justify her own film.”

No release dates or much else to report. Last I read, Prince-Bythewood’s involvement with either film is uncertain, but if she doesn’t direct, Sony still plans to hire a female for the job. I will note that I don’t see a Black Cat entry on IMDB, yet, but I do see one for Silver Sable. It lists Prince-Bythewood as a producer and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel, Tomb Raider reboot) as writer.

5) I recently discovered several lesser-known Marvel characters from the Spidey books that Sony has plans to make solo films about, thereby attempting to further expand their Spider-Man-related universe without Spider-Man (‘cuz they don’t have the rights to him). One of those characters is ‘Jackpot’, a young costumed crimefighter who got her powers from a mix of Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH), anabolic steroids, and other drugs. She appeared in a handful of issues back in 2008. That’s it. So, while they could make a workable story about her without the Spider-Man connection, ya gotta ask, “Why?”

6) Now, for the small-screen we have a new series in development for ABC by Allan Heinberg. You may recognize Heinberg’s name from his many years as a TV writer and producer or maybe from the fact that he wrote the screenplay for Wonder Woman (2017). The series will follow an all-female team of Marvel heroes. Who? Dunno. At this point, we don’t even know if they will be big names or “lesser known characters.” What we do know is that Heinberg will executive produce (with Jeph Loeb, of course) for the Marvel TV / ABC Studios joint project.

To be honest, I’m not big on sword-and-sorcery these days (exceptions being GoT and anything by Tolkien), so I’ll probably skip any Red Sonja flick. I’m definitely interested in the Captain Marvel and Black Widow movies, though. Those ladies are bad@$$! I’m hopeful that the Black Cat and Silver Sable productions get done and done well, ‘cuz those are fun characters that might be able to carry their own films outside of a strong connection to Spider-Man. I’d love to see a heist/caper movie and a manhunt, respectively. Jackpot I couldn’t care less about and, if Sony gets a clue, they will hopefully realize that the odds are stacked against it being a success and just kill the project. As for the ABC TV series, it sort of depends on what characters and direction they decide to go, but for now, color me intrigued.

Just so you know, I am not a feminist, so that’s not where I’m coming from on this subject. Naturally, then, I don’t want to see strong “feminist” themes pushed in these projects. But, I do appreciate that this is one genre where women tend to get the short shrift. That’s a real shame, because there are some great female characters and talent. So, despite some reservations, I am pleased to see efforts being made to correct this situation. As long as there are good stories told with quality talent and production values, I look forward to seeing them. And, of course, the more faithful to the source material the characters are, the better.

Girl Power!, part 1 of 2

“I’m havin a bad day! I’m sick of people tryin’ ta shoot me, run me over, or blow me up!” — Harley Quinn

While it’s true that we have had strong, kick-butt women on both small- and large-screens for some time, they have been noticeably rare as leads — especially in the superhero subgenre. The notable exception is the “Wonder Woman” series from the 1970s. (I think I still have a crush on Lynda Carter!) There have been some strong female characters in more recent DC-based TV shows (e.g., “Arrow”, “The Flash”). But, it wasn’t until Oct. 2015 that they debuted their first female headliner in decades: “Supergirl”. Roughly a month later, Marvel/Netflix gave us their own female star: “Jessica Jones”. Then, of course, there was the spectacular success of the Wonder Woman solo movie in 2017.

With the popularity of these characters and others in the superhero films of the past decade or so, the studios appear to be more willing to invest money and talent on female-led productions. (That includes not just the stars but writers and directors, too.) In fact, I’ve seen several announced in the news of late, so I figured we’d review what is on the roster.

DC:

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

1) Following Margot Robbie’s fan-fave portrayal of ‘Harley Quinn’ in Suicide Squad, she lined up several spinoffs in which she would reprise the role. One of them was Gotham City Sirens, which would ostensibly team her up with versions of Catwoman and Poison Ivy. There hasn’t been much news on this for awhile, and there is no targeted release date; but, as of last December, director David Ayer said the project was still “in development” and he was still on board to helm it. The same report says that Christina Hodson was doing the writing.

2) Robbie is also trying to get a ‘Harley Quinn’ solo movie off the ground, though I haven’t heard or seen anything since the initial announcement. Good luck!

3) The one HQ project that seems to have the most momentum, though, is Birds of Prey. Produced by Robbie (and based on her idea), written by Hodson, and directed by Cathy Yan, this one will team her up with Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, and possibly Cassandra Cain (aka ‘Batgirl’).

“I pitched the idea of an R-rated girl gang film including Harley, because I was like, ‘Harley needs friends.’ Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film. She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it.”

That comment about never putting HQ in a standalone film seems odd, given her own intent to make such a film. From the context, though, I’m guessing that by “standalone” Robbie actually meant a story where she worked alone, with no allies. I suppose a “solo” film might have her working with and/or on behalf of non-costumed persons.

Currently slated to begin production on Birds of Prey in Jan. 2019, recent reports have the following actresses among those testing for the main roles: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Justina Machado, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Roberta Colindrez, Margaret Qualley, Cristin Milioti, Sofia Boutella. Interesting…

4) On the small-screen, “Supergirl” is set to introduce Kate Kane, aka ‘Batwoman’, and spin her off into her own series next year. Although there have been plenty of LGBTQ characters in the DC shows, this will be the first to star in her own series, and she’ll also be portrayed by an LGBTQ actor — Ruby Rose. Caroline Dries will write and exec produce. Other executive producers include Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns.

To be honest, neither the LGBTQ angle nor the purported “social justice” emphasis appeal to me. But, Rose is gorgeous, intense, and has some fighting skills, so I may check it out, anyway.

5) This was a surprise to me, ‘cuz I didn’t think the character had sufficient name recognition to center a project on, but “Stargirl” is getting her own live-action series. Not to be confused with the upcoming TV movie of the same name (but different subject), this one will also not be the 1940s-era version as played by Sarah Grey in “Legends of Tomorrow”. However, the eponymous central character will indeed be a teenage ‘Courtney Whitmore’, who “inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past.” Apparently, this will be a reimagined version of both her and the Justice Society of America.

Brec Bassinger

Creator/showrunner Geoff Johns gushed about his new star:

“There is no other character in comic books more special to me than Stargirl. [Note: He created her in the 1990s and named her after his deceased sister.] And after searching far and wide, I can say there is no other actor on the planet that embodies her more than Brec Bassinger. Brec’s warmth, strength, humor and positive energy are core to who Courtney Whitmore is. I’m so grateful she’s signed on for the role.”

I’ll take your word for it, dude, since I’m not familiar with Bassinger. But, of course, he’s right about Courtney Whitmore’s personality, and I’m glad he retained that aspect in this reimagination. The series, which will air on the new DC Universe subscription service, will debut sometime in 2019. Not surprisingly, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter join Johns as executive producers.

6) Back on the big screen, we have Supergirl. That’s right, the Girl of Steel is getting another film adaptation. (Hopefully better than the 1984 version, starring Helen Slater.) Not much is known about it, as it is still in the very early stages of development. However, it looks like Oren Uziel is working on a script, and Reed Morano is being courted to direct, though I haven’t heard that she’s signed on, yet. Reports are that this will be a “a new iteration”, so no Melissa Benoist or any ties to TV’s “Arrowverse”. Whether or not it will tie into the existing DCEU filmverse is still uncertain.

I’m not a huge fan of Robbie’s oversexualized ‘Harley Quinn’ (based on the comics’ Prime Earth version, of course), being more a fan of the original (New Earth) version in the jester outfit from the animated TV series & movies. I’m also of two minds about making murderous psychos into “heroes”. But, the Gotham City Sirens and Birds of Prey intrigue me enough to check ’em out. “Stargirl” could be fun. Not sure how I feel about a Supergirl movie concurrent with the TV series, but if done well, I might even like it better.

That’s a pretty good crop of new projects, wouldn’t ya say? And, we’re only half-way through, since I have yet to cover the Marvel-based stuff. ‘Til next week…

Review of Iron Fist, Season 2

“Chance always looks like fate in the tail lights.” — Colleen Wing

I have to say, I didn’t think it would happen. As far as I could tell, the reviews from Season 1 of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” were uniformly bad. The star, the story, the fight scenes, et al., just about everything was disappointing. Yet, for whatever reasons, the powers-that-be decided to renew it for another season. Now that Season 2 has aired and I’ve had a chance to view it, I’ve got a few thoughts to share….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Frankly, I didn’t want to see the Meachums or Davos again. I’d had enough of the Meachum family drama and Davos’ sulking in Season 1. I was hoping for someone new and exciting. But, once again the Netflix team decided to bring back the initial, surviving (pseudo-)villains for another go ’round. Of course, as the story picks up, everyone is dealing with the aftermath of the first season’s revelations and events. Joy and Davos have let their bitterness, jealousy, and frustration twist them, so that they are willing to put aside their differences and go to great lengths in order to get revenge on Danny Rand. Meanwhile, Ward is attending (though not participating in) N.A. meetings and trying… sorta… to be a better person. But, as his sponsor says, “You lead with @$$#0l3!”

Aside from the machinations of Joy and Davos, we have the threat of a nasty gang war, as the Triads vie for dominance following The Hand’s disappearance. It occurred to me that this seemed like a plot device borrowed from “Luke Cage”, where much the same happened over in Harlem. Another similarity was that one antagonist — Davos, in this case — is angry ‘cuz he feels like his birthright was stolen from him. Sounds a lot like the pain in Luke’s butt named ‘Bushmaster’.

I loved that Colleen Wing was such a big part of this story. Adding Misty Knight into the mix was like frosting on the cake. (These two ladies are lovely and bad@$$! Ahem…) I’ve mentioned before how much I’d like to see them spin off into their own “Daughters of the Dragon” or “Knightwing Restorations” series. So, Misty’s suggesting to Colleen about becoming an investigator — even though she was thinking “cop” — and then that talk near the end about “Knight… Wing… it’s got a little ring to it.” is all a very good sign.

Regarding Colleen “teaching” the injured Danny, I don’t get it. He lost strength and mobility in his leg; he didn’t lose his martial knowledge and skills. He’s supposed to be a better overall fighter than her, than just about anyone, anyway. What the heck is she supposed to teach him? Train with him? Sure. Teach him? Hmmm… Maybe the equivalent of a physical therapist forcing him to get back into shape, I suppose. Another thing I don’t get is why Danny and Colleen’s relationship was negatively affected by her training him or getting the Fist or… whatever. What did I miss?

Walker and Davos

The Mary/Walker character(s) was… interesting, but odd. While she was formidable, her fighting seemed somewhat brutish, lacking much style or grace. Maybe that’s because she was taught by the military, as opposed to in a “real” martial arts dojo or a mystical lost city like K’un-Lun? I dunno. Walker comes across as a bit “off”, certainly menacing, but not quite as skilled as one might think she’d be. I would not have picked Alice Eve for the part (though I’m not really that familiar with her work). Still, she did a decent job. Not as nutso as “Typhoid Mary” from the comics (though that version tangles with Daredevil, not Iron Fist), but there’s time for a psychotic break next season(?), I suppose. At least, Walker is now aware that she & Mary share headspace with a third, even more violent persona. Could be interesting, especially if she crosses over into the “Daredevil” series.

The new showrunner, Raven Metzner, appears to have recognized the pacing issues that other reviewers and I have spoken of re the Netflix/Marvel shows. This was mostly fixed with tighter writing, but shrinking the season from the usual 13 down to 10 episodes (as was also recommended) helped, too. Yay!

I have to admit, the Danny Rand character continues to improve. I first mentioned this in my review of Luke Cage’s second season (in which Danny cameoed), noting that he seemed a bit more mature and centered. This was the case for the first few episodes here, but then he wavered a bit as his issues both with Davos and with the Fist itself led him to giving it up. I didn’t care for the “addiction” angle, to be honest, but it did lend itself to a nice parallel (and empathy?) with Ward Meachum’s issues. Best of all, though, were the improvements in the fight scenes, especially Danny’s. I read somewhere that Finn Jones (who plays ‘Danny’) started training — martial arts, weights, yoga — 5 months before the season even began production. He and Jessica Henwick (who plays ‘Colleen’) were in great shape and did most of their own stunts, and it shows. Plus, the producers hired a new fight choreographer, Clayton Barber (fresh off of Black Panther), which led to marked improvements in the fight scenes over those in Season 1. Still not up to the level I would expect for the Iron Fist, but getting there.

Storywise, it seemed odd to me that the power of the Iron Fist — normally only given to the winner of a ritual combat, followed by confrontation with an immortal dragon — could be stolen/transferred the way that it was from Danny to Davos, and then from Davos to Colleen. I’m also somewhat unsure how I feel about Colleen now being the Immoral Iron Fist. Not that there is anyone more worthy. I suppose one could point out that the series is titled “Iron Fist”, not “Danny Rand”. Apparently, this change also gave Danny an opportunity to learn some new stuff during his travels in Asia with Ward. But, I trust that next season will at some point have Danny regaining the title — though, hopefully less painfully for both Colleen and him. (Note: She does look pretty cool with the white Fist, and the glowing katana, too.)

Speaking of Danny’s quest to discover the secret history of the Iron Fist, I noticed that the identity of the person whose remains Davos had shipped was “Orson Randall”. In the comics, this was the wielder of the Iron Fist prior to Danny. They met and had some adventures in the Immortal Iron Fist comic series, most of which I read in trade paperback. Randall is already dead in the Netflix/Marvel universe, but it could be interesting if the writers incorporate other aspects of that story into the show — e.g., other Lost Cities and their own defenders.

Misty and Colleen

Beyond the other positive aspects I’ve mentioned, the character development this season was impressive. I may not have wanted to see Davos or the Meachums again, but I have to give props to the actors and writers alike. In fact, episode 6 stood out to me as having some of the best dialogs between Colleen and Misty and between Ward and Joy, though there were more in the last couple episodes. (The bits with the guy leading Davos around the city from target to target were “fun”, too.) As for Davos, on the one hand, I don’t find him physically imposing at all, being on the short side (though perhaps slightly more muscular than Danny). On the other hand, his unpredictability, simmering anger, thirst for vengeance, and impressive fighting skills did make him a force to be reckoned with. As with Finn Jones, I would probably not have cast this actor (Sacha Dhawan), but he has brought this very driven, self-righteous character to life as written.

On a brief note, I appreciated the additional nods to the design and colors of the classic Iron Fist costume in the flashbacks and in the remains of the costume in the coffin. I have a feeling we’re never going to see Danny Rand in that costume, per se, but perhaps we’ll get a modified version. Someday…

Overall, I agree with the consensus that Season 2 of “Iron Fist” was a huge improvement over Season 1. In fact, whereas I gave that first season a grade of ‘C-‘ (at best), I’d give this season a ‘B-‘ … maybe even a ‘B’. This puts it, imho, just behind “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”. (DD is still the one to beat.) 🙂