What do you want out of a superhero show? There’s no shortage, of course — you’re getting superheroes whether they’re what you want or not. They’re everywhere. Shakespearian actors are nudging each other out of the way for the chance to play a purple-faced mind-controller. At least kids across America are thankful that there’s something to be for Halloween besides Harry Potter. Heck, even the Academy Awards are doling out statuettes for superheroism (although there’s something special about Birdman winning Best Picture, as if the Academy were trying to fight back). There’s no way around it: the increasingly staggering numbers of superflicks hitting theaters over the next half-decade can now be measured in metric shit-tons. The only thing more tiresome than the parade of superheroes is the commentary about how the parade of superheroes is so tiresome.
And, yeah, the shared universe gripes/laudations are just as stale, but here we are. Marvel in particular has reached the point where they seem to want it both ways: they want their superheroes to be intricately connected to every other superhero and yet be distinctly standalone. And, yeah: Jessica Jones. The latest entry in Marvel’s grand scheme has more inherent push/pull to the interconnectedness thing than any other installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that includes the Netflix predecessor Daredevil. On one hand Jessica is about as far away as you’re gonna get from Captain America, and maybe that marks trouble for an inevitable crossing-of-paths — either the dark tone of Jones would be compromised to accommodate Cap or the other way around.
Continue reading Jessica Jones – Season 1
Sometimes drama is hard. Part of the reason why people are throwing around phrases like The Golden Age of Television is because great drama often implies a certain longevity, a depth not only of feeling but of space and time as well. Rust Cohle’s True Detective arc spans more than a decade, and we’re allowed insight into that arc for eight hours rather than for the limited runtime of a film. Walter White’s (d)evolution is likewise more effective for the time it takes building itself. In the coldest sense television allows what comic book chronology allows, simply more, and thus more of a compounding effect in the later hours or later seasons. True Detective and Breaking Bad are intense in their final sequences mostly due to brilliant writing, brilliant directing, brilliant acting — nothing replaces storytelling (preach!) — but partially due to what came before.
And yes: sometimes drama is easy. Fabricated drama isn’t hard to find. Heck, take Best Picture winner Argo, which climaxes with a harrowing scene at the airport where the heroes are really just standing in a room sweating as to whether they’re about to be let out of the country or not. Quick cuts are made to the drama, vehicles holding the bad guys hurtling along the tarmac. It’s all spiced up, and usually when you have to spice up your scene with cuts to action that simply happen faster and faster as the music plays faster and faster — well, maybe there’s another way to extract drama, a less easy way, an infinitely more effective way. Argo is hardly the worst example. The cringeworthiest one that leaps to mind is all the extraneous shit going down at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, because Spidey battling his enemy isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies while a hospital full of people is in danger and a plane full of people is about to crash isn’t even enough, so throw Gwen Stacey in there. There we go: amazing.
Continue reading The Leftovers 1.10 – “The Prodigal Son Returns”
- Brad Bird has announced (sort of) that The Incredibles 2 will be his next feature film. Any day Bird announces a new project is a good day, but it’s particularly sweet for him to be returning to The Incredibles. We’re eagerly awaiting his latest feature Tomorrowland (debuts May 22) and also eagerly awaiting any and all arguments about Incredibles being the best Pixar movie. Yeah, we said it.
- Fall television season will mark the cancellation of the likes of Constantine, The Following and The Mentalist and the happy renewal of Better Call Saul and American Crime. Between the renewed series, the new series (Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl), the revival series (X-Files, Twin Peaks, Heroes Reborn) and all those shows we’ve been meaning to watch for years — [head explodes].
- In casting news, Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan have reunited with Kill Your Darlings director John Krokidas for Young Americans, in which they’ll play Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, respectively. Darlings was only okay, but come on — DeHaan as ’70s-era pip-squeak Rove? That’s cool.
Continue reading Film & TV News: May 11
If anyone has shown a dedication to the long game in big-budget storytelling lately, it’s Marvel. The latest addition to the ever-expanding Cinematic Universe is the Netflix series Daredevil, chronicling the early days of lawyer Matt Murdock and his crimefighting alter-ego. In many ways Daredevil is the best thing to happen to the MCU in a long time. Not only is it far superior to Marvel’s other television ventures Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, but it often packs more of a punch — physically and emotionally — than the majority of the MCU films. The lack of cable television limitations or MPAA ratings means the show can be as dark as it needs to be. Most importantly, though, Daredevil shies away from the typical overblown grandiosity of many MCU ventures and opts instead for a very human drama.
It’s still a hero vs. villain thing we’re dealing with here, of course, but Daredevil is at its strongest when it plays away from that (striking the super– prefix from both hero and villain). Murdock gets his ass handed to him on a regular basis, Wilson Fisk is diabolical and yet relatable, and the street-level politics of the show are far more interesting than the end-of-the-universe Avengers stories. This is true of the comics, too, and as with live-action Daredevil it took a while to get the character right. There are a whole host of comic book influences for the Netflix series — primarily the Frank Miller tales The Man Without Fear and Born Again —which we’ll dive into now. Ye be warned: spoilers abound.
Continue reading Daredevil – Season 1
In this episode Peggy Carter is given the all-enviable task of taking the lunch order at the S.S.R. precinct, and the fourth hour of Agent Carter only sporadically raises the excitement level above that low threshold. The sentiment was more or less the same during the previous episode “Time and Tide”: with only eight episodes in total, is there really enough time to spend on lunch order gags and Stan Lee cameos?
The good thing is that the executive producers of Agent Carter did confirm that the show is not a miniseries after all, despite that being the impression nearly everyone was under up until this point, and that a second season is a possibility. If so, a slower approach can certainly work. Still, though, even as each episode is full of stuff to like, it seems as if Agent Carter is less interested in telling a cohesive story and more interested in tying everything back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.4 – “The Blitzkrieg Button”
Not exactly a rock ’em sock ’em hour for Agent Carter in the third episode “Time and Tide”, which is a shame considering the season/series is only slated for eight episodes in total. That’s not a lot of time to gather a head of steam, and while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a solid fifteen episodes before really breaking interesting ground Agent Carter has no such luxury. It’s fortunate, then, that Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy remain so watchable in this otherwise droll episode.
Following the death of the mysterious Brannis at the end of “Bridge and Tunnel”, Peggy is left with a partial symbol and a whole host of questions regarding the theft of Howard Stark’s inventions. The symbol kind of looks like a heart, and so Peggy goes digging. She consults the Book of Symbols on her bedside (sigh) and makes a shocking discov — oh, no, sorry. This doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. Okay. Move along.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.3 – “Time and Tide”
Blah blah Agent Carter blah. The second episode of the series (which premiered immediately following the first) was fine — but forget that! The Ant-Man teaser debuted during the commercial! Isn’t that so much more exciting?!
This is how I feel sometimes when I’m watching in-universe Marvel stuff, be it Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or even lesser MCU films like Iron Man 2. Even if the plot at hand is going along smoothly, a heavy-handed mention or knowing wink toward an entirely different Marvel thing places a pothole right in the path. “Bridge and Tunnel” progressed the plot of the pilot episode “Now is Not the End” fairly well, but it had the added obstacle of a teaser for the Ant-Man teaser during every single commercial break. Agent Carter could be one of the most distinct and independent entries in the grander MCU once it gets over the Peggy-and-Cap romance, but not if trailers for trailers and endless winks toward other shows and movies keep getting shoehorned into the middle of it all.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.2 – “Bridge and Tunnel”
Marvel’s Captain America spinoff Agent Carter premiered tonight in two parts, bringing Hayley Atwell’s ’40s can-do spy Peggy Carter to the small screen. If your barometer for the show is the other Marvel Cinematic Universe cable tie-in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the quality of Agent Carter and the willingness of the show to shed those ties to the larger MCU. If your barometer is a true 1940s spy serial, you might be just a tad disappointed.
Peggy first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (set during WWII, when Peg has a passionate fling with Steve Rogers) and popped up again in The Winter Soldier (set in the present day, so Peggy’s old as hell). Agent Carter takes place immediately following the war, and scenes from First Avenger kickstart the pilot episode and continue to frame Peggy’s loss after Cap plunged into the ice at the end of that film. Squeezing Chris Evans into your show without actually paying to cast him, or creating a new contract or convincing him to film new scenes? Nice, Marvel.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.1 – “Now is Not the End”