Saturday, February 13, 2016

Agent Carter Season 2, Episode 5: The Atomic Job

After a strong start to the season, this week's Agent Carter was yet another filler episode. There were some amusing character interactions as always, but the actual storyline was advanced very little, if at all. 

The whole "heist" plot accomplished nothing of importance, and was seeming there just to fill another episode while the characters kill time waiting for the season finale.

C'mon, Agent Carter writers! What was the point of expanding this season to ten episodes if half of them are going to be filler? If you guys can't come up with enough compelling material to fill ten measly episodes, then maybe it's time Marvel Studios found someone who can.

That's not to say the episode was a total failure. There were tons of fun character interactions this week, as Peggy assembled a makeshift team to infiltrate Roxxon headquarters. But you can't spend forty five minutes watching characters trade witty remarks— eventually you need to get to the plot.

Rumor has it that actress Hayley Atwell, aka Peggy Carter, is currently shooting a pilot in which she plays the daughter of the President of the U.S. (!?). That's ominous news for fans of Agent Carter. If the new pilot is picked up, will she have time to star in both shows? Or does this, plus the dismal ratings, spell doom for the show? It'd be a shame to see the series end before Peggy and Howard Stark have a chance to found S.H.I.E.L.D., but it looks like a real possibility. Stay tuned.


The Plot:
Jason Wilkes, still an intangible ghost-man, wakes Peggy in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently since he doesn't have to sleep, he creeps around Stark Mansion watching her? He takes her to the lab and shows her that their sample of Zero Matter seems drawn to him. Suddenly it jumps out of its container and into Wilkesbody. He becomes tangible for a minute, and says he knows where Jane Scott's body is. Her corpse is full of Zero Matter, which is apparently calling to him, wanting to be whole again.

Meanwhile Violet comes home and finds Sousa asleep on the couch. He came to her house & fixed dinner with the intention of proposing to her. As he tries to do so, he realizes he's lost the ring in the couch. She says of course she'll marry him, and they search the cushions for the ring. They're both ridiculously cute, so you know their relationship is doomed.

Peggy and Jarvis break into a local morgue to steal Jane Scott's body. Peggy hopes that if Wilkes can absorb the Zero Matter in Scott's corpse, he'll be cured. They find the body, but just as they're about to steal it, Whitney Frost and her husband Calvin Chadwick enter. The Zero Matter is calling to Frost too, and she wants it. She grabs Scott's body and absorbs all the Zero Matter within. Frost then says she wants an atomic bomb to recreate the original Zero Matter experiment, to obtain even more of the mysterious substance. Sounds like a sane, reasonable plan to me!

Back at Stark's lab, Jarvis says there are two atomic warheads in the area, both housed within a high security Roxxon facility. Peggy says they'll need help to steal the bombs before Whitney Frost does. She rounds up Sousa, Rose the receptionist (who's really a trained field agent) and Dr. Samberly, the SSR's resident tech guru. They come up with a plan so ridiculous it just might work.

First things first— they'll need a special key to get into Roxxon. The only person who has the key is the head of Roxxon, Hugh Jones. Samberly gives Peggy a prototype gizmo that will erase the last two minutes of a person's memory. She dons a very Bettie Page-like disguise and sneaks into Jones' office looking for the key. He catches her snooping, and she zaps him repeatedly with the memory inhibitor until she finds the key inside his belt buckle. Brain damage is hilarious!

Frost visits a mob boss named Joseph Manfredi, and convinces him to loan her some of his goons to help steal the atom bombs from Roxxon.

Peggy and her misfit team use Samberly's tech to sneak into the Roxxon facility. Once inside they realize Frost and her team are already there. They find the room containing the warheads, and Samberly uses his expertise to unlock the door. Unfortunately he's a bit of a doofus, and he accidentally locks Jarvis in the warhead room. Sousa then has to talk Jarvis through removing the warheads from the bombs, which will render them useless. 

Frost and her goons approach, so Peggy and Rose take them out. Peggy spots Frost and says the SSR can cure her. Frost scoffs and says she doesn't want to be fixed. The two women grapple, and Frost grabs Peggy's arm and starts to absorb her. Peggy kicks her away, and ends up hanging from a high railing. As Frost reaches down to finish her off, Peggy lets go. She lands on a pile of debris far below, with a chunk of rebar sticking through her torso. Yikes! Frost leaves her for dead, in true supervillain fashion.

Sanberly manages to unlock the bomb room door, and Jarvis exits with the warheads. The team regroups and finds Peggy's impaled body.

Sousa brings Peggy to Violet's house to treat her. Violet, who's a nurse, patches her up as best she can. She sees Sousa's concern and realizes he's in love with Peggy, and that's why he left New York. Told you they were doomed! Meanwhile, Chadwick realizes his wife is nutsy cuckoo and calls a meeting of the Council Of Nine.

Wilkes visits Peggy, who's recuperating in Stark Mansion. She tells him that her contact with Zero Matter was much more excruciating than she imagined. He tells her that it comes from a dark and painful place, and then unexpectedly fades away.

 Hardcore nitpicking time— the LA county morgue of 1947 apparently contains air ducts that can easily accommodate two people crawling side by side. That seems unlikely in any decade.

 I like that Jarvis has a "recreation tie." It reminded me of Green Acres, and how Oliver Douglas would always wear a business suit while doing his farm chores. In one episode his neighbors were watching and arguing over which outfit he was wearing, saying, "I think that's his milkin' suit." "Nah, that there's his plowin' suit!"

• Once again Peggy can't see the obvious even when it's right in front of her. She tries to figure out how to get into the Roxxon facility, as Jarvis shoots down her every idea. SO USE WILKES! She's got a goddamned living ghost standing right next to her! Why not use him?

Yes, yes, Wilkes is intangible, so he wouldn't be able to steal the uranium cores or anything, but he could walk through the walls of the facility and scout it out, providing valuable info for Peg and her crew. Why did this show go to the trouble of turning a character into a living ghost if all he's going to do is stand around in a lab and look worried?

• What the hell happened to Mrs. Jarvis? In the first episode of this season, I said I thought it was a mistake to finally introduce her in the flesh, since I thought she worked better as a classic "unseen character." Once I saw her though, I changed my mind and decided I liked her.

And that's the last we've seen of her! She hasn't made an appearance since that initial episode. So why the hell did they bother casting her for one stinkin' appearance? Better they should have left her unseen.

Maybe she'll show up at some point in the back half of the season?

• When Peggy enters the SSR office, she sees a bunch of men standing around Sousa, who's telling them about his engagement. She actually says, "What's all this then?" That may be the most stereotypically British line possible. At least she didn't start out with, "Ello, ello, ello!"

• Sousa asks Peggy how many vacation days she has left, and she tells him she has plenty, as she "hasn't had a day off since Pearl Harbor."

Peggy needs to relax a bit. The Pearl Harbor attack was in December 1941. It's currently July-ish 1947 on the show. That means Peggy hasn't taken a day off in over five years!

• Peggy zaps Roxxon president Hugh Jones with the memory inhibitor, and begins searching his office for the special elevator key that "can't be duplicated." Every time he wakes up, she zaps him again. She ends up doing so at least seven or eight times.

The whole brain zapping scene is played for maximum laughs, which just seems wrong to me.

Yes, Jones is an evil, unscrupulous industrialist, and he's a member of a shadowy group that orchestrates world events for their own benefit. He's even a sleazy womanizer. But does all that still make it right to repeatedly fry his head with an untested device that causes brain damage? And then expect us to laugh about it?

• When Peggy can't find the elevator key in Jones' office, she begins searching his unconscious body. She finally undoes his belt and finds it hidden behind his large buckle. Once she has it, she leaves Jones in his half-dressed, disheveled state. Shouldn't she have put him back the way he was, so he wouldn't wake up and realize his key's missing?

• Believe it or not, mobster Joseph Manfredi is actually from Marvel comics. He's not a 1940s Hollywood mobster there though— he's the son of Spider-Man villain Silvermane, and eventually becomes a bad guy himself called Blackwing.

• As Jarvis is taking the uranium core out of the atomic bomb, Sousa warns him not to let it tip. Jarvis then carefully places the two cores in a metal suitcase. Um... unless he carries the case perfectly horizontal all the way back to Stark Mansion, won't the cores tip inside it?

 Peggy pulls an Empire Strikes Back and chooses to fall rather than be absorbed by Whitney Frost. She lands on a pile of debris and is impaled by rebar! Yikes! I was definitely not expecting Peggy to get gored by a rusty iron rod!

How the hell did Sousa get Peggy out of that predicament and onto Violet's doorstep? And no offense to Violet's nursing skills, but Peggy really should have been taken to a hospital for a wound like that. Even if the rebar did miss all her vital organs, there's still the matter of internal bleeding and infection.

By the way, I was curious as to whether rebar would have existed in 1947. Yep! It was invented in 1849.

 If you didn't see the end of Sousa and Violet's relationship coming, then you've never watched a TV show before. They make a cute couple, but they never had a chance.

We've barely seen Violet and Sousa together all season, which sort of undercuts the drama of their engagement crumbling before their eyes. Instead of being devastated by this turn of events, the audience is left shrugging their shoulders.

Kudos to the writers though, for not turning Violet into a shrieking, hair-pulling harpy when she finds out the truth about Sousa and Peggy, as she instead accepts the news with maturity and an air of sadness.

 It was good to see Calvin Chadwick finally stand up to his psycho wife. I have a feeling he's not going to make it out of the season alive.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Valentine

Sad news to report today. It seems that tomorrow, February 14, 2016, will be humanity's last day on planet Earth. That's right everyone, the world's scheduled to end tomorrow.

Sorry, all you happy couples celebrating Valentine's Day, the world's most useless holiday!

The prediction was first made back in 1989. At the beginning of Ghostbusters II, we see that Dr. Peter Venkman has been reduced to hosting the World Of The Psychic TV show.

Venkman interviews a psychic named Elaine, who states, "According to my source, the end of the world will be on February 14, in the year 2016.

Dr. Venkman looks into the camera and says, "Valentine's Day." After a beat he adds, "Bummer."

So there you have it, straight from one of the Ghostbusters himself. If you've not yet bought a gift for your sweetheart, you're off the hook! You needn't bother! And if you're single and were dreading spending yet another miserable Valentine's Day alone, cheer up! You'll never have to do it again!

See you all on the other side!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 13: Welcome To Earth-2

Yeah, the recaps are late this week. These things happen sometimes.

This week's Flash was a hoot and a half, as the characters finally pay a long-awaited visit to Earth-2, and the audience is rewarded for sticking with the show for a season and a half. The entire episode was absolutely loaded with tons of little Easter eggs to reward the fans who've been paying attention since the beginning.

It's obvious the actors are having a blast, as everyone's firing on all cylinders here. Alternate world stories tend to bring out the best in actors, as they get to cut loose and do things with their characters they wouldn't normally be allowed to do.

The episode also shone some long overdue spotlights on the cast. Danielle Panabaker finally gets something to do here besides stand around looking worried, as she plays both Caitlin Snow and Earth-2's Killer Frost. Kudos also to Candice Patton, who gets to play a cop as the Earth-2 Iris West-Allen. And who knew Jesse Martin, aka Joe West, was a crooner?!

Jay Garrick even got his super speed back, if only for a few moments. The return of his powers is long, long overdue. I was also very surprised to see the return of Robbie Amell as Firestorm, er, I mean Deathstorm, especially considering he left the show at the end of last season.

The rest of the cast didn't exactly phone it in either. Carlos Valdez was obviously having a ball playing not only Cisco, but his man-bunned evil twin. And the scene in which Grant Gustin as Barry Allen phones the Earth-2 version of his mother was an emotional punch in the gut.

This episode was so jam-packed with crunchy goodness that I barely know where to start, so let's get to it!


The Plot:
Using the sci-fi grenades he and Harry invented last week, Barry zips from place to place closing all the breaches to Earth-2. Except for the one in STAR Labs' basement, that is. Once that's done Barry, Cisco and Harry prepare to visit Earth-2. Their plan is to rescue Harry's daughter Jesse from Zoom.

Jay and Harry both warn Barry and Cisco not to get emotionally attached to anyone they may meet on Earth-2, which virtually guarantees they'll do so. Barry tells Jay and Caitlin that if the team's not back in forty eight hours, it means Zoom has them and to close the breach forever. Barry, Cisco and Harry use the Speed Cannon to jump through the breach. Unfortunately the instant they're gone, the Cannon falls apart! D'oh! Isn't that always the way! Jay and Caitlin now have to figure out how to fix it, or the others will have no way back.

Barry & Co. successfully jump to Earth-2. Barry and Cisco are amazed by the place, with its art deco aesthetic and advanced science. They're surprised when they spot a few familiar faces who were villains on their world, but are upstanding citizens here.

Cisco tries to vibe in order to detect Zoom, but can't (don't worry Cisco, it happens to all guys now and then). Apparently Earth-2 is on a different frequency or something. Barry sees his doppelganger on TV and gets a bright idea
— he'll kidnap his Earth-2 self and take his place as a CSI at the CCPD, and use their records to locate Zoom.

He does just that, but the plan goes south when he meets the Earth-2 Iris, who's a police detective
— and his wife! Before he knows what's happening, she takes him to their home! There he discovers his mother is still alive in this world, and actually gets to phone her. Why, it's like Barry-2 has everything our Barry's ever wanted.

Meanwhile two familiar looking villains, Killer Frost and Deathstorm, intercept a couple of bank robbers and steal their stolen cash. Killer Frost bears a striking resemblance to our own Caitlin Frost, while Deathstorm looks just like Ronnie Raymond, Caitlin-1's late fiance and former superhero Firestorm! The two appear to be working for Zoom, and have somehow detected the presence of Barry & Co. He orders them to find the Earth-1 intruders.

Back on Earth-1, Jay and Caitlin work to fix the Speed Cannon. They're interrupted by Joe, who says a new metahuman called Geomancer is threatening Central City. Joe suggests Jay take the Velocity 6 drug to temporarily regain his speedster powers, but he refuses. Jay confesses to Caitlin the real reason he lost his powers (don't worry, Jay, it happens to all guys now and then). He began taking Velocity 6 in order to become even faster, but it had the opposite effect, rendering him speedless. And now it's killing him. Caitlin promises to solve his problem.

Over on Earth-2, Barry and Iris go to Jitterbugs, a swanky jazz club. Barry's shocked when he sees the Earth-2 Joe there, singing his little heart out. Unfortunately this version of Joe hates Barry because he's "selfish," which makes no sense, but just roll with it because there's a lot better stuff coming up. Just then Killer Frost and Deathstorm enter, looking for Earth-1 intruders. Iris tries to shoot them, and in the resulting confusion Joe's hit in the chest by a fireball from Deathstorm. Barry uses his powers to take the battle outside (after the horse is out of the barn) and chases off the villains.

Back at STAR Labs-2, Harry is livid with Barry for doing the thing he warned him no to do, namely getting involved in his counterpart's life. He says now that he's revealed his powers, Zoom will know he's here and will most likely kill Jesse. Barry calls him a big stupid head and storms off. Well, he doesn't actually, but he comes close.

Barry goes to the hospital to see Joe, which is the least he can do since he's responsible for getting him injured in the first place. Joe tells Barry to take care of Iris, and promptly dies. Iris vows to go after the metahumans. Barry says he's coming with, and brings Cisco along too, as he has some sort of weapon that can neutralize Killer Frost's powers.

On Earth-1, Geomancer attacks again, and suddenly Jay Garrick appears, his speed powers restored. Apparently Caitlin
— in the space of about twenty minutes— whipped up a batch of Velocity 7 (all the powers, none of the side effects) for him. He attacks Geomancer, and as he's about to finish him off he sputters and slows down to normal (don't worry, Jay, it happens to all guys now and then). Geomancer gets away. Caitlin promises to come up with Velocity 8. Comic fans all shake their heads solemnly, as they know she won't succeed until she gets to Velocity 9.

Cisco, Iris and her partner Floyd Lawton (who's the villain Deadshot on Earth-1, but here is a cop who can't shoot straight
— wakka wakka!) enter a warehouse, looking for Deathstorm and Killer Frost. The two metahumans appear, and there's much trash talking between the groups. Eventually the metahumans' boss appears and it's not Zoom, but Reverb, who's the evil Earth-2 version of Cisco!

Reverb tries to tempt Cisco into joining him, saying that with their combined powers they could be gods. Just then the Flash appears, but Reverb blasts him with powerful vibration waves or something. Deathstorm joins in the fun. Lawton is killed by a stray blast, as the two pummel Barry to within an inch of his life, Suddenly Zoom appears.

Zoom kills Deathstorm and Reverb (we hardly knew ye!) because they were under strict orders not to harm the Flash (so he could steal his powers, see?). He snatches up Barry and zips away.

Barry wakes in a cell. He sees a man in a metal mask in a cell opposite him, and Jesse in the one beside him. He tells Jesse he came to Earth-2 with her dad, and they're going to rescue her. Zoom returns and says nope.

• As Barry and Cisco prepare to go to Earth-2, everyone treats them like they're condemned men, and are going off to their deaths. Why all the hand wringing? Harry and Jay traveled from one Earth to the other and they're fine, so it can't be that big a deal. I guess maybe everyone's worried because Barry & CO. are going to confront Zoom on his own turf?

• As the group is about to leap into Earth-2, a nervous Cisco says, "I got no spit." Harry correctly identifies this as a Jaws reference, although Cisco claims he was just speaking the truth.

So does that mean Jaws exists on Earth-2? I'm gonna say yes, since Harry doesn't seem very interested in Earth-1 pop culture.

• In last season's finale, Barry ran so fast he broke through the time barrier. Inside the vortex he saw glimpses of the past and possible future events.

The same thing happens in this episode when he and the others jump over to Earth-2. Apparently the time stream and the vortex containing the multiverse must be related, because they look exactly alike.

The scene in which they travel through this energy corridor lasts just a few seconds, but it's a treasure trove of cameos and upcoming character appearances.

As they travel through the vortex, the first image that flashes (heh) by appears to be a hooded Green Arrow. It's hard to tell though if it's Oliver Queen, or his son Connor Hawke. A future version of Ollie is scheduled to appear soon over on Legends Of Tomorrow, so it's possible this is him (especially since it looks like he has some sort of bionic arm).

Next up we see John Wesley Shipp as the 1990 version of the Flash, which is pretty darned awesome.

We also got a brief glimpse of Supergirl, who's currently starring in her own series on CBS. The Flash is supposedly making a crossover appearance on her show soon, so could this be her way of reciprocating?

Next up we see DC Comic's resident Old West antihero Jonah Hex, who'll also be appearing on Legends Of Tomorrow. Hex has a unique facial deformity, and from what I can see here it looks like they absolutely nailed it! Kudos!

The most surprising glimpse was what appears to be the Legion Of Superheroes! 

For non comic fans, the Legion was (will be?) a futuristic team of superpowered teens from various planets and space colonies, who fight crime in the 30th Century. That circular object in the middle right of the image is a Legion Flight Ring. The rings give anyone who wears one the power of flight (hence the name).

I'm assuming their presence here means they'll be appearing on one of the Arrowverse shows soon. Maybe Supergirl, since she and Superboy were very closely associated with the Legion in the comics.

The last flash we get is of an angry Gorilla Grodd, who's currently hiding out somewhere in the jungles of Earth-2.

• Once again we see that Earth-2 is very... golden.

• There were dozens of fun little shoutouts and references in the Earth-2 scenes. Here are the ones I caught.

At STAR Labs-2, Barry and Cisco meet Henry Hewitt. He's a well-adjusted scientist here, but on Earth-1 he became the supervillain Tokamak.

An Earth-2 news report mentions Mayor Snart, So would that be Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold on Earth-1, or his sister Lisa? I'm guessing Leonard, since he's the better known of the two and has his own show right now.

The Earth-2 version of CCPD Captain Singh is some sort of criminal with amazing facial hair. He reminded me a bit of Gaff from Blade Runner (in fact now that I think of it a lot of the Earth-2 costumes have that Blade Runner retro look).

On Earth-1, Floyd Lawton is the supervillain Deadshot. On Earth-2 Lawton is a cop who can't shoot straight. Comedy ahoy!

Earth-2's Central City has a Royal Bank. So does that mean they have a King or Queen instead of a President? Also, Earth-2 money is square instead of rectangular! I bet that's hard to fit into your wallet.

The HDTVs on Earth-2 are vertical instead of horizontal. I wonder what their movie theater screens look like?

Atlantis exists on Earth-2, and one can fly there (Jay Garrick mentioned this a few episodes back).

The Earth-2 version of Jitters is Jitterbug's, and it's a nightclub.

Joe West exists on Earth-2, but instead of being a cop, he's a lounge singer (!). And a pretty good one, I might add.

Cisco has an Earth-2 counterpart as well, who's a supervillain who calls himself Reverb. * Cisco's E-2 counterpart calls himself Reverb. His vibing powers are much more advanced than Cisco's, as he can project sonic blasts, just like Daisy over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Reverb was actually in the DC comics, but there he was the brother of the Earth-1 Vibe.

Possibly the bombshell is that the Earth-2 Barry Allen and Iris West (who's a cop) are married!

 After the Flash leaves Earth-1, Adam Fells, aka Geomancer, attacks Central City. He's actually appeared a handful of times in DC Comics.

The lobby of the Earth-1 CCPD features a bas-relief of the Greek Gods, which correspond (more or less) to the members of DC Comics' Justice League Of America.

On Earth-2 the bas relief is a bit different. Instead of gods it features various soldiers and military leaders. The "Truth-Liberty-Justice" motto is replaced with "A Free And Just Society." That's obviously a not-so-subtle reference to the Justice Society, the precursor to the Justice League.

 Iris-2 takes Barry back to "their" home. Despite all of Earth-2's many technological advances, apparently they still use landline phones.

We see several names on Barry-2's speed dial. Among them are "Dad," which is obviously Joe, and "Mom & Dad," meaning Barry's parents, who are both alive on this world.

The names get a bit more interesting after that. Next is "Eddie," meaning Eddie Thawne is alive and well on Earth-2. Then Bruce, Hal and Diana.

That's no doubt Bruce Wayne aka Batman, Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern, and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. I'm pretty sure those names are just thrown in for observant fans, and doesn't mean those heroes actually exist on Earth-2.

It's too bad they couldn't have persuaded Rick Cosnett to stick his head in the door for a quick cameo as Eddie Thawne, but he's probably too busy filming Quantico right now.

 Ever since the series started, I've been wondering how they'd handle the whole Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost thing. I actually like Caitlin, so I was hoping they wouldn't make her turn evil.

Once the series introduced the concept of Earth-2, I thought, "That's it! They could have Killer Frost originate from Earth-2, which would preserve the Caitlin we all know and love." And that's exactly what they did!

 When I first saw Deathstorm, I just assumed he was an evil version of Firestorm created just for this episode. Turns out he's actually from the comics (sorry, I haven't been keeping up with DC for a long time now). He has an incredibly complicated origin that would take about an hour to explain, so I won't go into it here. 

 So how do Killer Frost and Deathstorm know the Flash is on Earth-2? Did Zoom tell them to be on the lookout for him?

 At the Earth-1 CCPD, one of the policemen says Geomancer has been spotted at Pasko and Fourth.

This is no doubt a reference to Martin Pasko, a long-time writer of DC comics and animated series.

 So what's up with the whole Velocity 6 through 9 thing? 

In the comics, Velocity 9 was a drug manufactured by Vandal Savage (!). It gave the user super speed, but at a high cost side effects included exhaustion, premature aging and eventually death. There's a lot more to the story, but eventually the drug was perfected and the side effects removed.

 When Joe-2's in the hospital, a doctor holds up what I assume is supposed to be an x-ray, but it looks more like a sonogram. Is Joe pregnant?

 At STAR Labs-2, Cisco imagines that his Earth-2 counterpart is a wealthy inventor, ala Elon Musk, "but with less RBF."

I'm not too proud to admit I have no idea what "RBF" means. A big of googling reveals it means "resting bitch face." Cisco seriously needs to stop reading Buzzfeed. Last week he said, "Bye, Felicia," and now this.

 When Iris confronts Killer Frost and Deathstorm, why does she say, "You killed my father, you evil bitch!" Deathstorm was the one who killed him. He was hit in the chest with a fireball, for frak's sake. Does she really think someone called "Killer Frost" shoots flames out of her hands?

 You know, for a guy who calls himself Zoom, he speaks very slowwwwwwly.

 Reverb, we hardly knew ye! I was actually sorry to see dispatched so quickly, especially since he could have taught out Cisco how to properly use his powers. 

Note that Zoom kills Reverb in exactly the same way the Reverse Flash killed Cisco (in an alternate timeline, of course).

Man, this episode had a seriously high body count. Joe, Lawton, Deathstorm and Reverb all bought the farm. And most of their deaths could be laid at Barry-1's feet.

 At the end of the episode, Barry wakes in a cell in Zoom's dungeon. Jesse's there of course, along with a mysterious man in a metal mask. I have no idea who Helmet Guy could be. Leonardo DiCaprio maybe?

• Although this was one of the best Flash episodes ever, they did drop the ball in one particular area— the costumes. This week we got not one, but two, but three, count 'em 3 villains decked out in the standard boring black leather. Yawn! Again with the leather! 

The first X-Men movie started this ferkakte trend back in 2000, and apparently that film's arm is long indeed, because it's still influencing costume designers sixteen years later.

What I wouldn't give to see some actual comic book costumes on this show. Something featuring an actual color besides black. And if the producers think the audience can't handle such looks, or might laugh at the characters, might I remind them their show already features a villain named Zoom and a goddamned telepathic gorilla? 
Take a good look at this DVD cover for the sure-to-be-classic film Princess Warrior.

I swear the first time I glanced at it I thought for sure it said Princess Worrier. No doubt that version would be far more entertaining than the actual movie.

Princess Worrier:
"You seek to betray me, wizard? Your powers are useless against my soul sword! Prepare to... wait, did I lock the house before I left today? Yes... yes, I'm sure I did. Prepare to die, Gornak! My soul sword will drain the life force from... oh gods, I forgot to send my annual fealty to the King. I need to dispatch a raven to the castle immediately. As I was saying, Gornak, your evil days are numbered! My sword will cleave... hmm. I wonder if this cough is anything serious? I've had if for a week now. I need to visit the apothecary as soon as I'm done here. My luck it's probably the plague. Have at you, Gornak! Um... Gornak? Hello? Where'd he go?

Monday, February 8, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave was written by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. It was directed by J Blakeson (no period after the J, please).

Grant has had a remarkably eclectic career as a screenwriter, penning movies such as Disney's Pocahontas, Ever After, 28 Days (the Sandra Bullock movie, not 28 Days Later), Erin Brockivich, Charlotte's Web and The Soloist. Now that's a checkered resume!

Pinkner has mostly worked in TV, writing episodes of Ally McBeal, Profiler, Alias, LOST and Fringe. He also co-wrote The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (the one with Electro).

Akiva Goldsman is a very prolific and wildly uneven screenwriter, who previously wrote Batman & Robin, Lost In Space, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, I Am Legend, Angels & Demons, Winter's Tale and The Divergent Series: Insurgent. That's right— the man who wrote the Oscar winning A Beautiful Mind also wrote Batman & Robin, one of the worst superhero movie ever made. I told you he was uneven!

Blakeson previously directed just one theatrical movie, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed

The 5th Wave is based on the book of the same name by Rick Yancey. Naturally it's the first part of a trilogy, the other two novels being The Infinite Sea and The Last Star.

Ah, another month, another studio trying its best to start up a lucrative new Young Adult film franchise. The 5th Wave has all the necessary elements— a dystopian setting, teens in life and death battles against the system, bizarre nicknames and of course the requisite love triangle.

Unfortunately the film tries to pack way too much into its run time, resulting in a muddled and unfocused script. Ideas and situations are tossed at the screen in rapid fire succession, but none of them are ever given enough time to stick. As soon as an idea or situation is brought up, it's quickly ushered away to make room for the next one.

It's also an extremely derivative movie. You can't swing a dead cat in this film without hitting a chunk from another, better movie. Take equal parts from The War Of The Worlds, Ender's Game, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Independence Day, The Walking Dead and espcially The Hunger Games, mix thoroughly and you'll have a pretty good idea what The 5th Wave is like.

The 5th Wave a very low budget film, costing just $38 million. Virtually every effects scene is in the trailer, so if you're expecting a big budget disaster porn epic like 2012 or San Adreas, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, the small budget practically guarantees the film will make a profit. Unless it completely tanks at the box office, expect to see The 6th and 7th Waves (or whatever they end up calling the sequels) in the next few years.


The Plot:
Cassie Sullivan (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a typical high school teen who lives with her parents and younger brother Sam. She spends her days partying, texting and mooning over her crush, Ben Parish.

All that changes when a fleet of alien spaceships arrives and hovers over the major cities of Earth. At first the aliens, creatively dubbed "The Others" (no doubt by LOST fans) simply hang overhead without communicating. Then the Waves begin.

The First Wave is an EM pulse that knocks out all electrical and telecommunication devices on Earth. Cars die and planes fall from the sky. The Second Wave is a series of powerful earthquakes and tsunamis that wipe out entire populations. The Third Wave is an Other-modified version of avian flu, which kills millions, including Cassie's mom Lisa. 

Cassie, Sam and her father Oliver leave their home and head for a survivor camp. The camp is soon visited by a convoy of military vehicles, led by Colonel Vosch. He tells the survivors they're to be relocated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He orders the children onto buses, while keeping the adults behind for briefing. Oliver puts Cassie and Sam on a bus and assures them he'll see them soon. Sam forgets his teddy bear, so Cassie runs back to get it. When she returns, the buses are gone.

Meanwhile Vosch tells the adults that The Fourth Wave has begun. The Others are using humans as host bodies and are now moving freely among the population, making it impossible to tell friend from foe. The crowd begins panicking, and the soldiers open fire. All the adults, including Oliver, are killed. Cassie finds his body and moves on, determined to find Sam.

The kids are bused to Camp Haven, a military training facility. Sam is there, along with Ben, Cassie's crush. Sgt. Reznik injects Ben, now nicknamed "Zombie" with a tracker in the back of his neck. She shows him a boy who's been taken over by an Other. She gives him a special viewer which allows him to see an x-ray image of the parasite inside the boy's skull. She hands him a remote, telling him to press it and kill The Other. He hesitates a few seconds, then presses the button.

Cassie is foraging along a highway when she's shot in the leg by a sniper. She wakes up inside a house, her leg expertly bandaged. Her savior is Evan Walker, a twenty five year old "teen" who's also surviving on his own. She wants to leave and find Sam, but Evan says it's too dangerous. She sneaks out that night and runs into the woods, blundering into one of Evan's traps. He finds her and protects her from an Other who's patrolling the woods for humans. He agrees to help Cassie get to the base to find Ben. 

Meanwhile Ben, er, I mean Zombie, Sam and the other children are being trained to be soldiers. Zombie is made leader of his squad. A tough, no-nonsense Goth girl called Ringer (Jesus, this nicknames) shows up, determined to overthrow Zombie and become squad leader herself. Conflict! How can we fight The Others if we're fighting ourselves?

Vosch tells Zombie they have reason to believe The Fifth Wave— in which the human-looking Others begin hand to hand combat against any remaining survivors— has begun. He outfits Zombie's squad with special helmets that will allow them to easily detect Others.

Zombie's squad goes on their first mission, to clear out a nest of Others in a destroyed city. They spot and kill many Others, and hole up in an abandoned building to regroup. For some reason Ringer removes her tracker, and immediately appears as an Other to the rest of the squad. Zombie realizes something's up, and removes his tracker and gets the same result. He makes the incredibly intuitive leap that Vosch and the rest of the military have been taken over by The Others. The Fifth Wave is actually human children, who can be easily manipulated and fooled into thinking the remaining humans are really Others and wiping them out.

Cassie and Evan camp in an abandoned car overnight, and eventually give into their carnal desires. The next morning they're attacked by Others, and Evan kills them with superhuman strength. Cassie realizes that Evan is an Other as well, something the audience figured out the first time he appeared. 

Evan tells her that he's a sleeper agent, sent to Earth years in advance of the invasion. When the Other ships finally arrived, it was like a switch was flipped in his head and he lost his humanity. However, his love for her (oy) is overriding his Otherness, making him "human" again. Horrified, she runs from him and is intercepted by the military.

She's processed like Zombie and the others. During heindoctrination she realizes Reznik, who's wearing an alarming amount of lipstick, is an Other. They fight and Cassie knocks her out in the most hilarious way possible. Cassie just happens to run into Zombie, and is finally reunited with Sam. The base is rocked with explosions, and Vosch gives the order to evacuate. He has the armies of child soldiers flown out in large C4 transport planes.

Cassie, Zombie and Sam are captured by Other soldiers and are about to be executed, when, wouldn't ya know it, Evan appears and kills the soldiers. Evan says he's rigged the base to explode (?) and tells Cassie and Zombie's squad to run. 

Outside, Cassie, Zombie and Sam are picked up in a van by Ringer and the rest of the squad. They escape just as the base explodes in a fireball. Cassie realizes Evan sacrificed himself for her, and the rest of humanity.

Cassie and the squad then set up camp, and we get a hopeful, groan-worthy, "This Isn't Over" ending.

• I really wish the film had spent more time on the first three Waves that hit Earth. In fact they could have made compelling and action-packed films about each one.

Instead the film breezes through very abbreviated Cliff Notes versions of each disaster, as if the director can't wait to dispense with them so he can get to the kid soldier stuff and the love triangle.

 What a coincidence that one of The Other's ships not only appears in Cassie's hometown of Dayton, Ohio, but decided to hover right over her street!

• The First Wave wipes out all electricity, which means no newspapers, radio or internet. News and information would likely be scarce, if not nonexistent. Yet during Cassie's opening narration, she somehow knows how many people have been wiped out worldwide. Maybe she's estimating?

 During the Second Wave we see London and Bangkok wiped out by tsunamis.

Tsunamis can generally travel about ten miles inland (depending on the size of the wave and local topography). London is around fifty miles from the sea, and Bangkok about twenty. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if those cities could really be overrun by waves a hundred feet tall.

 Let's play Spot The Influences! As I said earlier, this is one of the more derivative films I've seen in many a day. It's like the author was ticking off scenarios from a checklist of other movies. Let's run down its various inspirations (potential spoilers ahead):

The War Of The Worlds: Alien invaders arrive and being systematically eradicating humanity.

Independence Day: Alien ships appear and hover over major cities before wiping them out.

Ender's Game: The military trains kids as soldiers to battle an alien horde. The twist is that the kids think they're participating in a simulation, when they're actually killing the aliens for real.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: Alien pods invade from outer space and replace humans with exact duplicates.

The Host: Same thing— squirmy aliens take over human bodies and drive them around.

2012, The Day After Tomorrow, San Andreas: Huge natural disasters destroy the world's most famous landmarks

Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Host, and many more: The female protagonist is involved in a lukewarm love triangle, as she has to choose between two hunky but bland male love interests.

The Walking Dead: The remnants of humanity try to survive a zombie apocalypse as they pick their way through ruined cites and clogged highways.

The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, and many more: Teens in a life and death struggle against a dystopian nightmare world.

• There's a huge, potentially fatal plot hole in this film. At the refugee camp, Colonel Vosch gathers all the adults into a cabin and tells them that The Others are using humans as host bodies. Cassie is nowhere near the cabin during this briefing, yet later on she somehow knows all about the Other-controlled humans. 

She does stand just outside the cabin door as the crowd inside begins to panic and is mowed down. I suppose it might be possible that she's got really good ears and overheard Vosch's announcement, or heard murmurs of "What? Others taking over humans?" but it's iffy.

• In addition to having good eyes, Cassie apparently also has nocturnal vision. On her quest to find Sam, she stops every night and writes in her journal, sans flashlight.

• When Sgt. Reznik shows Ben an x-ray image of an Other, it looks like an enormous, softball-sized deer tick clinging to its human host's brain.

Honestly it doesn't look like there'd be nearly enough room inside a human skull for something that big. Maybe it eats part of its host's brain to make room? And how the hell does it get in there in the first place?

• The film never quite makes it clear if the tick-like parasite is The Others' true form, or if that's just the illusion they use to dupe the child soldiers. I have a feeling they're saving the answer for a potential sequel.

Sony Product Placement Alert! During the kid soldier training montage (yep, they learn to be soldiers through the power of a montage!), Sam looks under a bed and sees a Spider-Man action figure. He grabs it and holds it triumphantly over his head, as the rest of the squad screams that it's booby-trapped.

A bit later Cassie wakes up in Evan's house and goes snooping. One of the rooms has a movie poster for Tim Burton's Big Fish very prominently displayed on the wall. Whaaa...?

OK, I can understand throwing a Spider-Man reference in there, since Sony still owns the movie rights to the wall-crawler. But Big Fish? Sure, it's a Sony movie, but it was released in 2003! Why the hell would they want to remind the audience of that film?

 If you didn't foresee that both Evan and the military officers were all Others, then you've never seen a movie before. You could spot that particular plot twist coming down the street from several miles away.

 The Other's justification for using children as soldiers is frankly pretty dodgy. Supposedly they use kids because they can be more easily bamboozled into thinking humans are really Others, and wipe out the rest of our race. But the Others already had adult agents moving stealthily among humanity, doing the exact same thing. So why'd they need the kids?

Obviously the real reason for the child army is because this is a Young Adult series, and kids wanna see kids killing adults and/or one another. Plain and simple. 

The first three Waves— the EM pulse, the earthquakes and the plague— are all pretty epic. After that the Waves kind of peter out. Others taking over humans, and Others training kids to kill their own kind? Meh. 

• Apparently the Others must up the adrenaline level of their host bodies or something, because when Evan's attacked, he easily tosses several grown men fifty feet into the air.

• In the book (which I have not read, but read about) Cassie and Evan are sixteen and eighteen, respectively. In the movie actor Alex Roe plays Evan, and he's currently twenty five. Chloe Grace Moretz is currently eighteen. That makes their inevitable relationship a little too statutory rapey.

I guess it's possible that we're supposed to believe Movie Evan is eighteen, since it's a time-honored Hollywood tradition for thirty year olds to play teens.

• Ringer arrives halfway through the film to shake up Ben's squad. You can tell she's a rebel who plays by her own rules by the thick raccoon makeup she wears around her eyes. Does she really take the time every morning to outline her eyes like a football player? And does any branch of the military really allow female soldiers to wear makeup?

Now that I think of it, Cassie's hair also looks pretty darned good for someone who's been traipsing through the woods for days, sleeping outside.

• Speaking of makeup, tough-as-nails Sgt. Reznik's face is literally caked with foundation, mascara and bright red lipstick. We're talking Lucille Ball levels of face paint here. 

In fact the movie even goes out of its way to call attention to her over-the-top look. When Cassie and Reznik are fighting, she slams her against a glass partition so hard it cracks. As Reznik falls to the floor, we see a big ol' impression of her bright red lips on the glass.

I'm wondering... was this supposed to be a subtle clue that Reznik was an Other? After all, an alien probably wouldn't know much about human fashion, or how much makeup is too much. If that's really what they were doing, then kudos. It's seems a little too subtle for this film though.

 Since this is a Young Adult movie, it's state law that it has to contain a love triangle. The relationship between Cassie, Zombie and Evan is given so little attention though that I don't know why they even bothered with it at all. We get one brief scene where Zombie gives Evan a suspicious glance, and that's it.

 At the end of the movie Evan sacrifices himself to save Cassie and the squad, seemingly dying in the process. If there's a sequel to this film I guarantee he'll return though.

The 5th Wave is yet another example of a studio hoping to start up a successful Young Adult franchise. Unfortunately it's highly derivative, and features a muddled, by the numbers script. Stick with The Hunger Games, which seems to be the gold standard of YA films. I give it a C+.
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