Sunday, May 1, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 13: Leviathan

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow, we finally get some forward momentum in the Savage storyline. For weeks now the Legends have been spinning their wheels whenever they confront Savage. They can't end his reign too soon or the series will be over, so nothing they do can ever have any consequence. Now that the end of the season is looming, at long last they can make some progress. Such is the nature of serialized storytelling, I suppose.

Any flaws in this week's script were more than made up for by the batsh*t insane scene in which (SPOILERS!) Legends Of Tomorrow beats Captain America: Civil War to the punch by having Atom grow instead of shrink and fight a giant, five hundred foot tall robot! 

Rip Hunter's admission that he tried using time travel to save his wife and child dozens of times, only to see them die over and over, finally gives some tangible insight as to why he's so driven, and is betting everything on this impossible mission. Kudos to actor Arthur Darvill for totally selling Hunter's pain in this scene.

Unfortunately the episode was marred somewhat by Hawkgirl. This week she makes the stupidest and most bone-headed decision humanly possible, causing much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments throughout fandom. 

This episode could have easily served as the season finale. It was big, epic and even had a reasonable facsimile of a cliffhanger, as the Legends finally captured Savage and threw him into Plexiglass prison. I can't wait to see what happens in the real finale!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The Legends arrive in London in 2166, the year Savage completely takes over the world. Due to the events of last week, the team is running out of time, and has to destroy Savage before they're erased from the timeline.

Rip Hunter, White Canary, Captain Cold and Heat Wave disguise themselves as soldiers and infiltrate one of Savage's speeches. During the speech, Savage is flanked by a helmeted guard and a mysterious young female lieutenant. Cold notices the woman staring at them, and says they've been made.

Savage heads back to his quarters, surrounded by a dozens of guards. Cold and Heat Wave begin blasting away at Savage, while Canary fights the Lieutenant. Back on the Waverider, Hawkgirl is somehow monitoring the fight, and notices the bracelet she owned in her first life on the arm of the Lieutenant. She radios Canary and tells her to grab it. Unfortunately Savage's reinforcements arrive, and the Legends are forced to run away.

Back on the Waverider, Hawkgirl explains that she was wearing the bracelet back in Ancient Egypt the night she received her powers, and she can use it to kill Savage. Canary asks how the hell you can kill someone with a bracelet, which is a good question. Hunter tells Cold and Heat Wave to steal the bracelet, while he meets with the Resistance force.

Hunter, Atom, Professor Stein and Jackson visit the Resistance camp and meet with the Leader. She says they're the last refugees from London, as Savage used some sort of mysterious superweapon to completely destroy all the other camps.

Hawkgirl has a flashback to her previous life in 1941, when Hawkman gave her his mace as an anniversary gift. Romantic! She then realizes how she can use the bracelet to kill Savage.

Cold and Heat Wave sneak into Savage's headquarters and kidnap the Lieutenant. They bring her back to the Waverider and throw her in the brig. To no one's surprise, she turns out to be Savage's daughter Cassandra.

The Legends then debate what to do with her. Heat Wave wants to cut off Cassandra's fingers & send them to Savage until he comes for her, but Hunter wisely nixes that idea. Canary says Cassandra could be a valuable source of intel (Ha! Holy Greek Mythology, Batman!), and Cold volunteers to get her to talk.

Cold visits Cassandra in the brig, and the two chat about their respective childhoods and horrible fathers. Cassandra's convinced her father is a hero, and can save the world from Per Degaton's Armageddon Virus. 

Heat Wave melts Hawkgirl's gold bracelet, and she uses it to coat her mace. Apparently Heat Wave read ahead in the script, and asks Hawkgirl if she's sure she can really kill Savage. She says yes. He tells her she'd better be, or she'll end up as dead as Hawkman.

Atom examines satellite photos of the destroyed refugee camps, and notices what appear to be enormous footprints in the ground. He realizes Savage's superweapon is a giant robot (!). Just then they hear ominous footsteps, as a conveniently placed bottle of booze in Hunter's office does its best Jurassic Park impression and starts vibrating. The Leviathan is coming for them!

Stein evacuates the Rebel camp and herds the refugees into the Waverider (much to Hunter's chagrin). Hunter tells Gideon to take off, and they see the gigantic Leviathan looming in front of them. It grabs the Waverider and throws it, sending it crashing to the ground.

Stein is injured in the crash (meaning Firestorm will be sitting out this episode again). Cold releases Cassandra from the brig, and shows her footage proving that Savage released the Armageddon Virus, not Per Degaton. She says she doesn't believe him, but her face says otherwise. Well, that was easy!

Atom reverses the polarity of his suit, which causes him to grow to gigantic size. He sees the Leviathan approaching and runs toward it. Atom and the Leviathan then engage in an old school kaiju battle.

Savage watches the battle in his headquarters. He's surprised when Cassandra suddenly returns. He's happy to see her, until he notices her bracelet is missing. Cassandra accuses Savage of releasing the Armageddon Virus that killed her mother. Savage doesn't deny it. Hunter, Canary, Cold and Heat Wave then appear and Savage calls his guards. 

While the Legends deal with the guards, Hawkgirl swoops in and wallops Savage with her gold-coated mace. Each blow she lands causes mystic energy to explode from him, which I have to admit was pretty satisfying to watch. Just as she's about to deliver the killing blow, a guard appears. She hits him with the mace, knocking his helmet off. She sees it's the 2166 version of Hawkman.

Meanwhile the Leviathan knocks out Atom. As he's lying unconscious on a football field-sized patch of ground, Jackson gives him a patented The CW pep talk, and he comes to. He rallies and knocks the Leviathan's head off.

Hawkgirl gapes in astonishment at Hawkman, who doesn't seem to recognize her. Savage says he's mind controlling Hawkman, and is the only one who can restore his memory. Hunter pleads with Hawkgirl to end the nightmare and kill Savage while they have him on the ropes, but because of Hawkman, she can't. And of course because there are still three more episodes left in the season. A disgusted Hunter knocks out Savage.

Hunter takes Savage and Hawkman back to the Waverider. Cold takes Cassandra to the Rebel camp, where she offers to help the Resistance.

Hunter talks with Savage, who's now locked up in the brig. He says he'll figure out a way to save both his family and Hawkman. Savage chuckles and says, "Time will tell..."

Thoughts:
• The Legends land in 2166, a few days before Savage is scheduled to kill Hunter's wife and child. Atom asks Hunter why he doesn't just go and grab his family now and bring them onboard the ship, before Savage can get to them. Good question!

Hunter explains that he's already tried that, dozens and dozens of times, and in every instance his family was somehow killed anyway, because "Time Wants To Happen." He says their deaths are inevitable and he can't change that, not even with a time machine.

Hmm. So why does Hunter think he can kill Savage then? If "Time Wants To Happen," won't it always prevent Savage from dying, just as it always makes sure Hunter's family dies?

If so, that would tend to render the entire premise of this series moot!

This revelation explains why Hunter has always been reluctant to travel to this time period. It's not just because it's when Savage was at the height of his strength and power, but because it's the place where Hunter's had to watch his family die, over and over again. 

One last thing about this scene if Hunter kept coming back to this moment over and over, shouldn't there be dozens of versions of him running around 2166 London right now?

 Captain Cold must have multiple settings on his freeze gun. A few weeks ago in Left Behind, he froze his own hand completely solid and shattered it to escape Chronos' handcuffs. In this episode we clearly see his gun simply blast Savage's men backwards without shattering them.

 Stein insists on saving the refugees from the camp, and brings as many as he can onto the Waverider. Wow! Saving innocents on a DC Universe show! Imagine that! Good thing this episode isn't set in Zack Snyder's DC Murderverse, or Cold and Heatwave would have mowed down all those refugees with smiles on their faces.

 It's amazing that when Hawkgirl's relatively small gold bracelet was melted down, it was somehow able to coat the entire head of her mace. 

 Cassandra's change of heart seemed awfully rushed. She's been loyal to her father her whole life, but all it takes to get her to switch sides is a few minutes of therapy with Cold, and seeing a five second video clip.

It would have been better if she'd been introduced earlier in the season, and the show checked in on her from time to time to show us she was gradually beginning to have doubts about her father.

 Speaking of that clip as in all TV shows and movies, the alleged "security video" of Savage saying the human race needs a good culling looked suspiciously like the same footage the audience saw in Progeny. Funny how that works, eh?

• Vandal Savage actually has a few kids in the comics, though none are named Cassandra. Believe it or not, his most famous child is Scandal Savage (seriously!), who was part of a group called the Secret Six.

 Missed Firefly opportunity: When Savage discovers Cassandra has switched sides, he should have hissed, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

 Atom alters his suit in order to battle the Leviathan. He says "siphoning power from the auxiliary time drive should provide enough power to reverse the polarity of the dwarf star matrix." 

Was that a Doctor Who reference? The Third Doctor was known for the technobabble catchphrase, "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow (which oddly enough, he only said twice onscreen!)."

 I can't say enough good things about the awesome battle between Atom and the Leviathan. I love that DC's TV shows have embraced their comic book roots, and aren't afraid to just go totally nuts, giving us telepathic apes, talking shark men and giant glowing five hundred foot tall robots. It's literally like watching a Silver Age comic book come to life. If only DC's movies were this much fun.

I don't know how Legends Of Tomorrow's effects team pulls off these near-movie quality effects week after week, but I hope they keep up the good work!

 I read a few DC message boards (I know, I know that way lies madness) and apparently some fans wondered why they didn't just film the battle with Brandon Routh and a guy in a robot suit. Um... maybe because the Leviathan's body was transparent, and the glowing parts were like its skeleton? I don't think you could build a suit like that!

Some also complained that Giant Atom's face looked fake and "cartoony," without an detail or definition. Jesus, have these people ever watched the show before? That's how Ray Palmer's face ALWAYS looks under the Atom suit's visor! The visor seems to be tinted and lit from above, and it has some sort of weird magnifying effect on his face that always makes it murky looking. Giant Atom's face was completely normal!

 One last thing about the Leviathan obviously it was modeled after the futuristic Atom robots we saw in Progeny. But I thought its head looked very similar to that of the robotic version of Brainiac from the comics.

 The most frustrating part of the episode (for me, at least) was when Hawkgirl has Savage on the ropes, but can't bring herself to deliver the killing blow because of Hawkman. Jesus Christ, I was screaming at the TV during that scene. I've never wanted to kill a character on a TV show more than I did her in that moment. Where's Zack Snyder's neck-snapping Hopeman when you need him?

I get that the writers' job is to generate drama and conflict for the characters, but they shouldn't do so by making the audience loathe them.

To make matters worse, this isn't even her version of Hawkman! It's one from a hundred and fifty years in the future! So what if this particular Hawkman doesn't get his memory back? She can't stay with this version anyway, since he's probably already got his own futuristic Hawkgirl back home. Plus is this one life worth more than the lives of Hunter's family, and the millions that Savage will no doubt kill in the future if he's allowed to live?

 Since Hawkgirl's too big of an idiot to kill Savage once and for all, Hunter knocks him out and throws him into the brig on the Waverider. We then get another example of the "Villain In The Plexiglass Cell" trope that's become all the rage in recent comic book and scifi movies (including The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and Star Trek Into Lameness). Legends Of Tomorrow does it practically on a weekly basis!

 Lines Of The Week:

Hunter: "In order to capture him, I'll require the services of..."
Cold: "Killer, klepto and pyro!"

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Cassandra: "You'd risk dying for a bauble?"
Heat Wave: "It works with my outfit!"

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 18: The Singularity

Reviews are late this week because the goddamned storms that hit my city Tuesday night knocked half the TV stations off the air. I had to find alternative sources to view the various shows I watch, which delayed everything.

This week's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was mostly about arranging the pieces on the board for the season finale endgame. 

The reveal that Daisy and the other Inhumans are actually addicted to the euphoric effect of Hive's spores was an interesting one, and something different than the usual mind control. Well done, writers!

I enjoyed May's dressing down of Coulson, as she accused him of being willing to callously sacrifice Lincoln to get his precious Daisy back. Even better, she's absolutely right. Since the series began, Coulson has always unfairly favored Skye, er, I mean Daisy.

Now for the bad I cannot believe Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. just eliminated HYDRA, in the worst and most off-handed way possible. HYDRA's been a thorn in their side since Season 1. Heck, they've even been a big part of the movies as well. And in this episode they're taken out in less than five minutes. In fact we don't even get to see it happen live. Instead we see a few fleeting glimpses of it on a couple of video monitors.

I expected a more epic sendoff for such an important part of the show. Jesus Christ, they spent more time on whether or not FitzSimmons were finally going to start boning than they did on the end of HYDRA! What the hell, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The Team digs out of the rubble after Daisy collapsed the S.H.I.E.L.D. base last week. Lincoln gets the power grid back on by zapping it. Fitz determines that Daisy was the only Inhuman affected by Hive Ward. Coulson's got a broken leg, but says it can wait (!), as he orders everyone into Zephyr One so they can track down Daisy. Mack says they can only get the hangar doors halfway open. May says that's no problem and tilts the ship sideways so it can squeeze through the doors. I have my doubts that that's possible, but it looked pretty cool.


Daisy and Hive Ward overlook the city. Hive asks her if S.H.I.E.L.D. will come after her. She says she doesn't know, which is bullsh*t. Of course Coulson will come after her! He thinks of her as a daughter! Hive Ward tells Daisy that once Inhumans take over the planet, it'll finally become a perfect world.

FitzSimmons determine that Hive Ward's spores cause Inhumans to feel euphoria and become addicted to the sensation. It also makes them immune to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s icer guns. Simmons says Dr. Holden Radcliffe, an expert in transhuman experiments (whatever that is), may be able to help them come up with an antidote for the spores. Coulson sends FitzSimmons and Mack to locate Radcliffe and bring him back.

General Talbot suggests attacking Hive Ward, but Coulson doesn't want to try anything while Daisy's with him. Somehow Coulson determines Hive Ward's next convert will be Alisha, the Inhuman who can create clones of herself. Coulson wants to get to her before Hive does.

Lincoln wants to go on the mission to find Alisha. Coulson says that due to the danger of Lincoln being infected by Hive Ward, he can only come if he agrees to wear a "murder vest"-- one lined with explosives, which can be triggered by a remote. Lincoln must really want to go on the mission, because he agrees.

FitzSimmons track Radcliffe to Bucharest, and go undercover to a transhumanist nightclub. Fitz brings a pair of cybernetic eyes similar to Deathlok's, to interest Radcliffe. A woman named Anon (who has major cybernetic modifications) greets them, and takes them into a secret room in the club. There they see a patient strapped to a table. Anon tells them to implant their cybernetic eye into the patient to prove it works. Gulp!

Lincoln finds Alisha, and asks if she's seen Daisy. She says nope. To no one's surprise, she's already been infected and attacks Lincoln. May joins the fight as well. Lincoln grabs one of the Alishas, as another manages to get May's gun away from her. Lincoln threatens to electrocute his Alisha if the other doesn't drop the gun. Alisha 1 shoots Alisha 2. Couson then appears and shoots Alisha 1. 

Meanwhile, Daisy and Hive Ward go to James' house. He's the wannabe Inhuman we met a few weeks ago in Paradise Lost. Alisha Prime is with them, and feels her other selves die. Hive Ward comforts her. 

Daisy tells James that Hive Ward is Alveus, the ancient Inhuman he told her about. Apparently when Lincoln stole the Kree Orb from James, it was incomplete. Hive Ward says he wants the missing part. Daisy tosses a Terrigen crystal at James, which at last transforms him into an Inhuman. He finds he can now cause objects to explode just by touching them (hopefully his power doesn't work on himself!). James says the other piece of the Kree Orb is buried under his trailer. Daisy uses her power to dig it up. Hive Ward looks at the piece and says the Kree Orb is the only thing that can destroy him (Foreshadowing Alert!)

Back in Bucharest, Simmons says she'll go through with the surgery, and savagely plunges a syringe into the patient's eye. The man sits up and pulls out the syringe. She says she recognized the eye as a prosthetic. The man reveals he's Dr. Radcliffe.

Radcliffe discovers FitzSimmons are with S.H.I.E.L.D., and Anon sounds an alarm. FitzSimmons try to tell Radcliffe about the Inhuman threat and beg him to help. A guard takes Simmons away.
S.H.I.E.L.D. detects unusual seismic activity in South Dakota, and realize it's Daisy. They head there in Zephyr One. When they arrive, they find James' trailer destroyed, and the Inhumans gone. Coulson is upset that he just missed Daisy.

In Bucharest, Fitz tries to convince Radcliffe to help them, as Daisy bursts in. Man, these people can get from one side of the globe to the other quick, can't they? Alisha takes Radcliffe away. Daisy puts a Force choke on Fitz, telling him she doesn't want to hurt him, but if she ever sees him again, she'll kill him. She also tells him about her vision, that a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is going to die soon. 

Hive Ward kills the guard that took Simmons. He speaks to Simmons in Will's voice (the astronaut who was stranded on Maveth with her). He threatens her, while creepily stroking her cheek. Simmons moves in closer and then shoots Hive Ward several times in the gut. She runs away.

Simmons makes it back to Mack at the rendezvous point. Fitz returns as well. They argue for a bit, then at long last submit to their mutual lust. Mack hurriedly makes himself scarce.

Coulson gets a call from Talbot. Using the intel that the disillusioned Gideon Malick handed over to Coulson, S.H.I.E.L.D. troops begin taking down HYDRA's infrastructure. So after all this time, I guess that's the end of HYDRA? Anticlimactic!

Hive Ward, Daisy, Alisha, James (who's now calling himself Hellfire) and Dr. Radcliffe wander into a deserted town. Hive Ward says he used Malick's fortune to buy an entire town for them to hide out in. He tells Dr. Radcliffe he wants him to recreate the original Kree experiment, which I guess will turn everyone on the planet into an Inhuman or something.

Thoughts: 
• This is some extreme nitpicking, but that's the best kind, right? When Simmons is briefin the others about Dr. Radcliffe, she describes him as a "fellow Scottsman." Um... Fitz is definitely Scottish, but Simmons has always sounded English to me. Her statement would have made more sense if she'd referred to him as a "fellow Brit."

• As a precaution, Coulson makes Lincoln wear a "murder vest" on the rescue mission. If he's infected by Hive Ward, the vest can be detonated by a remote.

Lucky for Lincoln that his electrical powers didn't accidentally set off the explosives in the vest! I wonder if Coulson even tested it out before giving it to him?

• We need more info on how Alisha's powers work. How many copies of herself can she make? Is there a limit, or can she replicate herself endlessly, like Agent Smith in The Matrix movies? Is Alisha Prime the only one who can make copies of herself? Or can the copies make copies? If a copy is killed, Alisha Prime feels it, but is otherwise unharmed. What about the opposite? If Alisha Prime is killed, do all the copies die? Inquiring minds need to know!

• Believe it or not, Dr. Radcliffe is based on a Marvel comics character. Well, sort of. There was a Holden Radcliffe who was a villain in the Machine Teen comic. Machine Teen was based on Machine Man, a Marvel character created by comics genius Jack Kirby in the 70s.

• I loved Coulson's awesome energy shield, that he can project out of his bionic arm. It even had a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo in the center!

In The Avengers, Coulson confessed he was a Captain America fanboy (owning an original set of vintage Cap trading cards), so it makes sense that he'd want a cool shield of his own.

• After James is transformed into an Inhuman by the Terrigen crystal, he develops the power to make objects explode just by touching them. As I mentioned earlier, let's hope his power doesn't work on himself, or it's going to make going to the bathroom problematic. It would be nice if he could turn if on and off, so he doesn't make his clothing explode while getting dressed. Or his fork explode while eating. Or his steering wheel explode while... well, you get the idea.

• James decides on the codename "Hellfire." There was a Hellfire in Marvel comics, but he was a lot younger, and wasn't an Inhuman. He was a descendant of The Phantom Rider (sort of an Old West version of Ghost Rider), and got his powers from a mystical chain that burned with supernatural fire (?). Yeah, I don't get it either.

• Welp, that was easy! After battling HYDRA for at least seven decades (or thousands of years, if you believe Gideon Malick), S.H.I.E.L.D. destroys HYDRA once and for all in five minutes.

As I said before, I cannot believe they did this. Surely such a huge part of the mythos deserved a better swan song. Their extermination was like an afterthought, as if the writers couldn't wait to be done with them. Apparently now that Hive is back on Earth, the writers must think there's no more need for HYDRA, and discarded them like an old rag. Imagine if in Star Wars, the Death Star was destroyed offscreen, and the characters just talked about it! Surely there was a better way. 

• Lines Of The Week:

May: “No one comes to me with their feelings.”

Mack: “Makes sense.” 

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Lincoln: “So it’s a murder vest?”

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Daisy: “Are you drunk?”
James: “I’m Australian so yes.” (someone's gonna complain about that line!)

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Coulson: “I thought it would be cool if the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a shield.”

Told You, I Did!

Welp, I knew this was going to happen. 

A few weeks ago in my epic takedown of The Walking Dead season finale, I denounced pinheaded showrunner Scott Gimple for completely botching Negan's introduction, and giving us one of the worst and most ill-advised cliffhangers in TV history.

In case you don't remember, Negan captures our heroes, lines them up and decides to kill one of them with his trusty barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat he calls Lucille. He can't decide, so he plays "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" to choose his victim. 

In the comic (SPOILER ALERT!) he chooses Glenn and literally smashes his head open with Lucille. In the season finale he picks a victim, but the audience isn't privy as to who it is. For some unfathomable reason, Gimple chose to show us the scene from the victim's point of view, hiding their identity until the Season 7 premiere. 

In addition to being a giant middle finger to the viewers, this cockamamie idea simply cannot work. We're living in an era in which absolutely nothing is secret. This is an age in which people use their phones to snap photos of their genitalia and email them to one another! So how in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair did Gimple think he could keep the identity of Negan's victim a secret until Octorber?

Well, it looks like I was right. Last month actor Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn, quietly began filming a movie called Mayhem, about a virus that causes people to act out their wildest impulses.

Then earlier this week Yeun joined the cast of a scifi movie called Okja, about a girl who befriends a genetically modified pig (?). The movie also stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, and is currently shooting in Seoul, South Korea.

Season 7 of The Walking Dead begins filming on May 2. So unless Yeun is going to attempt a very epic, around-the-world daily commute, I'd say this is a pretty good sign he's no longer going to be on the show. 

There's a chance that Yeun's role in Okja is a small one, and he could be back in the States by the time the series starts filming again. But it's a very minute chance. Which means Glenn was Negan's victim. Which means that any impact that his death may have had is now rendered moot and meaningless. Which means that Scott Gimple is an incompetent boob who just botched the most famous moment from the comic book, and needs a good firing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 19: Back To Normal

Reviews are gonna be late this week, because the goddamned storms that hit my city Tuesday night knocked half the TV stations off the air. I had to find alternative sources to view the various shows I watch, which delayed everything.

So the wind blows a little and our TVs go black? Jesus, what is this, the 1950s? Why are we still at the mercy of whatever the weather sees fit to throw at us? It's the 21st Century! Forget jetpacks, I want weather control! But I digest...

To be honest I really wasn't looking forward to this episode. I've never been a fan of the "Superhero Loses His Powers" plot. It's supposed to give us insight on what makes a character tick, and show us that even when he or she is stripped of their powers, they still have what it takes to be a hero. Yawn.

That plot's been around since the dawn of superhero comic books, and it was dull then and it's still dull eighty years later. I read comic books to see colorful characters with powers battle evil villains. If I want a story about ordinary schmoes, I'll watch Melrose Place or whatever the kids, with their hula hoops and their big pants, watch these days.

Not only did this week's The Flash trot out this worn out trope, but they did absolutely nothing with it. The only thing we learned about Barry this week is that being powerless makes him sad and depressed.

In fact most of this episode isn't even about Barry. He takes a back seat as Harry, Caitlin and even Wally carry the plot on their shoulders this week. Why give us an episode about Barry becoming normal if they're not even going to take the time to go into detail about the ramifications? The closest they come is the brief montage at the beginning in which Barry learns that riding the bus and waiting in line for coffee sucks.

Harry seemingly learns a lesson in this episode, as the villain of the week mistakes him for the Earth-1 Harrison Wells, who was secretly Eobard Thawne (Programs! Can't tell yer characters apart without yer programs!). Even though Harry's not responsible for what Wells/Thawne did, he still has a lot to atone for. And just when it seems like he's going to take responsibility for his actions, he announces he's going to recreate the particle accelerator explosion— the very event that created the Flash, and also gave rise to an endless tide of dangerous metahumans. Wha...?

The scenes of Caitlin meeting Killer Frost were fun, and Danielle Pannabaker did a fanatastic job playing two sides of the same character. That said, Killer Frost definitely seemed to be channeling Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold here. What is it about cold-themed villains that makes them act so over the top?

Zoom was definitely much scarier before we knew who he really is. Now he's just Jay in a funny suit. I kind of wish he'd leave the mask on all the time.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Cisco "vibes" and sees Caitlin alive and well in Zoom's lair on Earth-2. Unfortunately since Barry stupidly gave up his powers last week, they have no way of crossing over and rescuing her. Harry, who's disgusted with the entire STAR Labs Gang for ignoring his warnings, leaves to track down his daughter Jesse. Why do characters on TV shows always insist on looking for people who don't want to be found?

Over on Earth-2, Zoom has Caitlin chained to a bed (kinky!). Zoom, aka Jay Garrick, aka Hunter Zolomon (confusing!) tells Caitlin he won't hurt her because he loves her. When she recoils in revulsion at his touch, he tells her that she'll come around soon and love him back. Amazingly he then removes her chains and zooms off, leaving her free to wander around the lair (!). She sees Iron Mask in one of the escape proof carbonide cells, still tapping away about something. In the other cell she sees Killer Frost, her Earth-2 counterpart!

Back on Earth-1, Wally tells his dad Joe he wants to meet the Flash. Apparently now that Wally's no longer involved in illegal street racing, the writers can't think of anything else for him to do. Joe tells him no, as technically there's no longer a Flash.

Harry uses some Earth-2 technology to track down Jesse to an apartment. He tells her to get her things and come with him, but she refuses. She brings up the fact that he murdered the Turtle a while back, and says she's as afraid of him as she is of Zoom. I have to admit, she's got a point there.

Harry looks crushed and drives off his his white creep van. He crashes into a man standing in the middle of the road. Apparently the man's a metahuman, as the van is demolished but he doesn't get a scratch. He rips off the van door and abducts Harry. Back at STAR Labs, Cisco gets an alert and checks the video feed in the van. He sees the metahuman take Harry. Cisco triangulates the van's position, and Barry calls Iris (?) for help.

On Earth-2, Caitlin and Killer Frost chat. Frost tells Caitlin that her powers won't work inside the cell, so if she frees her, she'll help her get back to Earth-1. Caitlin, perhaps swayed by the fact that she's talking to her own doppelganger, stupidly agrees.

Harry wakes inside an abandoned carnival. His captor introduces himself as Griffin Grey. He thinks Harry is the Earth-1 Harrison Wells, and blames him for causing the particle accelerator explosion that turned him into a metahuman. He demonstrates to Harry that he has super strength, but every time he uses his power he ages prematurely. Chronologically Grey is only eighteen, but he looks forty. He's afraid at this rate he'll die of old age within the week. He demands that Harry cure him or die.

While we weren't looking, Barry and Iris somehow tracked down Jesse, told her Harry was abducted, and brought her to STAR Labs. They I.D. Grey from fingerprints he left on the van. Jesse, who's apparently normal on Earth-2 but the equivalent of a genius here, examines some of Grey's blood found at the scene and figures out his powers are causing him to age rapidly. They determine if they can get him to use his powers enough he'll turn into a harmless old man (!).

Barry deduces the location of Grey's hideout. He, Cisco and Joe go to rescue Harry. Barry dresses as the Flash, hoping Grey won't realize he's powerless. At the hideout, Harry tries to come up with a cure for Grey. Still thinking Harry is Wells, Grey blames him for ruining his life, saying his irresponsible actions affected the entire city. Even though Harry had nothing to do with that, he's still affected by Grey's accusations.

Caitlin uses science to break Killer Frost out of her cell. Of course Frost immediately tries to kill Caitlin by firing a large icicle at her. Just then Zoom appears, vibrating through Caitlin (yikes!), catching the icicle, and plunging it into Frost's heart. That's cold. Zoom tells Caitlin if she tries to free Iron Mask, he'll kill him too.

Harry hands a potion to Grey, saying it'll cure him. Even though he's only eighteen, Grey's no idiot, and realizes Harry's been faking it, and there is no cure. He's about to kill Harry when Barry, Joe and Cisco enter the building. Barry gets Grey to attack him, barely dodging his super punches. Grey visibly ages each time he attacks. He starts slowing down, and finally collapses, dying of old age. For no good reason at all, his body reverts back to eighteen again. Jesse runs to Harry and tells him she's sorry for being angry with him for being a cold blooded murderer. He promises from now on he'll be the kind of father she can be proud of. Not killing anymore people would probably be enough, Harry.

Joe brings Wally to a rooftop so he can meet the Flash. He tells the Flash thanks for sacrificing his powers to save him, and says he won't waste the second chance he was given. Actually I think by now it's like the fifth chance, but whatever.

Zoom chains Caitlin to the bed again (still kinky). She begs him to take her back home. He agrees, saying he'll take her back to Earth-1 in order to conquer it.

Harry tells Barry he wants to atone for all the mistakes he's made, and says he's going to help him get his speed back. When Barry asks how the hell he plans on doing that, Harry says he's going to recreate the particle accelerator explosion that created the Flash in the first place. I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan!

Thoughts:
• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but hey, it's what I do. At the beginning of the episode we see superpowered Barry get his morning coffee by zooming into Jitters, cutting to the front of the line, grabbing a cup and zipping back out. 


So what exactly is happening when he runs into the coffee shop at super speed? There's no way he could be ordering something specific, unless the barista has super speed as well. 

If you watch the episode closely, the barista sets two cups on the counter, and it appears that Barry just grabs one of them and zooms out. Hopefully it's some kind of coffee he likes! What if he gets some kind of frothy, frou-frou cappuccino thing he hates? 

And hopefully he drops some money on the counter before he zips away too, and hasn't been stealing a four dollar cup of coffee every day for two years.

• We see a montage of Barry slogging through a typical day without super speed, as it takes him forever to get dressed, get to work and get his coffee. All through this scene he looks depressed and disgusted, as he has to do everything like us powerless sheep.

This whole scene reminded me of a comic I read way back in the 1990sX-Factor #87. In that issue, the members of X-Factor are all psychologically evaluated by Doc Samson, a superhero who also happens to be a psychiatrist.

Sampson has a session with Quicksilver, who's sort of Marvel's version of the Flash, and who's always been a bit of an asshole. He tells Sampson how frustrating it is to live in a world that literally crawls along in comparison to him. I doubt the writers copied Barry's montage from this comic, but the two are pretty similar.

• Poor Griffin Grey he's so inconsequential that Cisco doesn't even bother to give him a cool code name.

By the way, Griffin Grey is a comic book name if ever I've heard one.

• As near as I can tell, Grey isn't based on any character from the comics. Looks like he was made up just for the series.

• Grey wants Harry to cure him, because he prematurely ages every time he uses his power, and is afraid he'll die of old age within the month. 

There's a really easy solution to his problem stop using his power! As near as I can tell he only ages when he uses his super strength and hurls barrels at the Flash. So stop throwing crap and live a normal lifespan!

• Cisco says that Harry's van crashed into Grey at the corner of Woodman and Shore. The Flash loves sneaking the names of famous comic artists and writers into addresses like this. I don't recognize either of those names though. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and not an Easter egg.

• Killer Frost says she had a younger brother named Charlie, who died. Oddly Caitlin doesn't have a brother. They do both have mothers that are "cold and distant" though.

• When Killer Frost attacks Caitlin by hurling a giant icicle at her. Zoom saves Caitlin by literally vibrating though her body and catching the icicle. 

I wonder if that'll have some sort of effect on Caitlin later on? Like maybe some of Zoom's atoms interacted with hers or something, giving her powers? Maybe even turning her into the Earth-1 Killer Frost?

• I was sorry to see Killer Frost, er, killed off so soon. She was a hoot. This is a comic book show though, so who knows? It's entirely possible she'll get better.

• Jesse tells the STAR Labs Gang that she had five different majors in college, which is apparently the norm over on Earth-2!

• Wally tells Joe he wants to meet the Flash, so he can thank him for giving up his powers to save him. At first I was wondering how the heck Wally knows about that. Surely Joe wouldn't blab something like that, not even to his son?

Then I remembered that last week Zoom left a message scrawled on the wall of Wally's room that said, "Your speed for Wally." So I guess Wally probably saw Zoom write that, and put two and two together.

• Barry tracks down Grey to Ace Chemical, which appears to be another of the many, many empty and/or abandoned warehouses in Central City.

In the comics, Ace Chemical is where the Joker was created, after falling into a vat of acid.
• Jesse keeps busting her dad's chops for killing the Turtle (and rightly so). But Barry's no better, as he just killed Griffin Grey. OK, so he didn't callously murder him (like Harry), but he indirectly killed him by forcing him to use his power until he died of old age. They both seem equally guilty.

• At the end of the episode, Harry tells Barry that he's decided to atone for his mistakes. For a second I thought he was going to turn himself into the police and confess to murdering the Turtle, but of course he doesn't. Can you tell I'm obsessed with this subplot? Does it bother anyone else that Harry's a coldblooded murderer who's walking around scot-free? 

• Harry announces he's going to help Barry get his powers back by recreating the particle accelerator explosion. Besides being a monumentally stupid, dangerous and irresponsible idea, it also potentially opens a big can of worms. After the accelerator exploded the first time, Barry was in a coma for nine months before waking up with super speed. Hopefully the writers haven't forgotten about that. 

If they do remember, I'm sure they'll technobabble their way around that particular inconvenient detail.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: The Huntsman: Winter's War

The Huntsman: Winter's War was written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, and directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.

Spiliotopoulos has written a ton of direct-to-video Disney sequels, such as The Jungle Book 2, The Lion King 1 1/2, Tarzan II, Cinderella III: A Twist In Time and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning. Apparently he's the go-to guy when you need a quick followup to a popular fairy tale film. He also wrote the screenplay for the 2014 Hercules (the one starring The Rock), proving he's a sadistic bastard who hates humanity.

Mazin previously wrote Rocket Man, The Specials, Scary Movie 3 and 4, School For Scoundrels and The Hangover Part II. It looks like Mazin also hates the human race and is trying to hurt us all deeply.

Nicolas-Troyan was the special effects supervisor for Snow White And The Huntsman. This is his first time in the director's chair.

Confusingly, The Huntsman: Winter's War is both a prequel AND a sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman. The first half hour or so takes place years before the original film, while the rest happens shortly after. It's like the Godfather 2 of fairy tale movies. Well, in structure, that is. Definitely not in quality.

The movie features an A-List cast including Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain— both of whom ought to know better than to sign up for something like this. Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron were reportedly paid $10 million each to reprise their roles, so that may have had something to do with the casting.

So let's get to the question everyone's no doubt asking— why the hell is there no Snow White in this Snow White sequel? There doesn't seem to be any clear answer. There are rumors floating around alleging that Universal fired actress Kristen Stewart (who played Snow in the first film) because she had an affair with Rupert Sanders, the (married) director of the first film. Others claim the studio never had any plans to use Stewart in any sequels, intending all along to spin off Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman character into his own franchise. Who knows what really happened? I'm betting they dropped her because of money. Believe it or not, four years ago when Snow White And The Huntsman was made, Kristen Stewart was the highest paid actress in Hollywood (the bloom's definitely off that particular rose). It would not surprise me if they just couldn't afford to bring her back this time out.


Whatever your feelings about Kristen Stewart's acting talents, there's no denying that the absence of Snow White leaves an awkward hole in the film. The writers feel the need to address her truancy, explaining that due to the influence of the Magic Mirror, she's "not well" and unable to participate in the proceedings. This is realized through the magic of a couple of brief clips from the first film, and a body double seen only from the back (shades of Ed Wood and Plan 9 From Outer Space!). 


This feels like a slap in the face to fans of the character (and to Stewart herself, I suppose). In the first film, Snow White went from a lowly prisoner to the badass commander of an entire army. She even killed Queen Ravenna singlehandedly! And now we're told that she's holed up in her castle, overcome by some stupid mirror? Better they should never have mentioned her at all.

I have to admit, I remembered absolutely nothing about the original film. I know I saw it, as I wrote a review of it four years ago. Apparently it was so spectacularly unmemorable that every aspect of it faded completely from my mind. I watched it again right before seeing the new film, and I swear it was like seeing it for the first time. I didn't remember a single thing about it!

SPOILERS, I GUESS.

The Plot:
Many years before the events of the first film, the evil Ravenna (played by Charlize Theron) hoodwinks a King into marrying her, then kills him and inherits his kingdom, because every gal needs a hobby. We also discover that Queen Ravenna has a younger sister named Freya (played by Emily Blunt), who she loves so much she never talked about her at all in the first film.

Freya has a secret and forbidden affair with the Duke of Blackwood. Ravenna finds out about the affair, and that Freya is pregnant. She learns the child will grow up to become "fairest of them all," something Ravenna cannot abide. Shortly after Freya gives birth, Ravenna uses the Jedi Mind Trick or something on the Duke, compelling him to kill his own daughter. Well, that took a dark turn, didn't it? When Freya finds her dead child, she flies into a rage, which wakens her dormant ice powers. She kills the Duke and flees into the north.

Elsa, er, I mean Freya uses her powers to build a massive ice palace in the north. She sends out regular raiding parties to capture children, training them to become deadly warriors. Among these abducted children are Eric and Sara. She warns her child army that love is forbidden in her kingdom, because it only leads to misery and heartache. Well, I can't argue with her there.

Time passes. Seven years before the start of the first film, Eric (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (played by Jessica Chastain) have grown up to become Freya's two best warriors. Eric's a master with an axe, while Sara's an expert archer. They're also secretly in love, and vow never to leave one another's side, brazenly tempting the screenwriting gods. Sara gives Eric her heirloom medallion, announcing they're now "married." Freya finds out about their forbidden love, and zaps a large ice wall between them. Eric watches helplessly as Sara is seemingly killed on the other side of the wall by a fellow huntsman. Riddled with grief, Eric escapes the ice palace. He then wanders the realm, drowning his sorrows with massive amounts of booze.

The movie then jumps completely over the events of Snow White And The Huntsman, which I'm sure can't possibly confuse the audience. It's now several months after that film. Snow White's husband King William meets with Eric in the forest. He says Snow isn't doing well, as she's become obsessed with Ravenna's magic mirror. It seems the mirror's now talking to her (?), much like the One Ring. William ordered the Mirror taken to Sanctuary (the magical fairy realm from the first movie) for safe keeping. Unfortunately the Mirror was stolen en route. William asks Eric to recover the Mirror and make sure it gets to Sanctuary. Eric agrees. William sends two dwarves, Nion (played by Nick Frost, reprising his role from Snow White And The Huntsman) and his half brother Gryff, along with Eric. I guess due to downsizing throughout Snow White's kingdom, they couldn't afford to send seven dwarves this time.

At an inn, Eric and the dwarves are attacked by Freya's hunstmen. They're rescued by a mysterious, hooded figure with a bow and arrow. Gosh, I wonder who that could be? Turns out it's Eric's "wife" Sara, who's not dead after all! Gasp! She's furious with Eric, who she saw leave her for dead when Freya erected the ice wall between them. Eric tells her that's not what happened, swearing he saw her killed. He figures out that in addition to physically separating them, Freya caused each to have visions to emotionally drive them apart.

Sara doesn't buy the whole "magic visions" thing, and feels betrayed by Eric. The two spar for a while in an effort to eat up some screentime, and of course eventually reconcile, to absolutely no one's surprise.

Just then the four are caught in a snare by two female dwarves named Bromwyn and Doreena. Eric convinces them to help find the Magic Mirror. Despite the fact that Nion and Gryff hate all dwarvish women and think they're hideous, they warm up to these two diminutive ladies very quickly.

The group tracks the Magic Mirror to a goblin city, and after an underwhelming battle with the very gorilla-like goblin king, manage to steal it back. They take it to the borders of Sanctuary. Unfortunately before they can stash it there, Freya appears with her army. She reveals that Sara was working with her the whole time to get the Mirror. Gasp again! Nion and Doreena attack, but Freya freezes them solid and has them hauled back to her castle so they can be thawed out at the end of the movie. Whoops! Spoiler Alert! Eric tries to stop Freya, but Sara fires an arrow into his chest, seemingly killing him.

After Freya leaves with Sara, Gryff and Bromwyn see that Eric is still alive. Sara, the expert archer, deliberately shot an arrow into the medallion she gave him, making it appear she killed him. They head for Freya's palace to rescue Sara.

At the palace, Freya looks into the Magic Mirror and asks it who's the fairest of them all. The Mirror seems to melt, and transforms into Ravenna. Apparently seconds before she died in the first film, she uploaded her soul into the Mirror, and has been chilling inside until now. She begins making plans to kill Snow White and invade her kingdom, blatantly trying to usurp Freya's kingdom. Rwarrr! Cat fight!

Eric, Gryff and Bromwyn sneak into the ice palace. Eric's captured by Freya's huntsmen, and Ravenna sentences him and Sara to death. Eric manages to convince the huntsmen to revolt. Ravenna starts sprouting black spidery arms, which is a new power for her, and uses them to kill several of the huntsmen. Freya erects another ice wall to protect her and Ravenna. Eric and the others then simply start climbing the wall to get over it (a concept Donald Trump doesn't seem to understand).

Meanwhile the two sisters start arguing again. Freya realizes that the Duke killed their child because Ravenna zapped him with a spell (because she couldn't stand the idea of the child becoming more beautiful than her). Freya then turns against Ravenna, joining forces with Eric and Sara. Ravenna stabs Freya. Before she dies, she freezes the Magic Mirror, and Eric shatters it with his axe, causing Ravenna to shatter. Freya sees Eric and Sara embrace and says they're lucky, and then dies.

Freya's child army is freed, and Eric, Sara and the dwarves live happily ever after, until the next movie. Of course we see a gold-coated bird fly overhead, implying that Ravenna will be back yet again.

Thoughts:
• Rarely have I seen a franchise rewrite or outright ignore major events like this one. In order for this film to work, it has to negate much of what happened in the first movie. The biggest of these retcons is Freya The Ice Queen herself.

In Snow White And The Huntsman, Queen Ravenna had a very intimate relationship with her brother Finn. In fact they seemed more like lovers than siblings (gross). She even used her immortality powers to keep him young (well, young-ish) and alive far past his natural age. Ravenna even spoke about how Finn had has been at her side since they were children.

Note that never once in the first movie does Ravenna ever mention having a younger sister. Freya is a completely new character who's grafted onto this story to serve as a fill-in for Ravenna until she reappears. Retcon!

The first time we meet Eric in Snow White And The Huntsman, he's a hopeless drunk who's trying to drown his grief after the death of his beloved wife. At no time does he ever imply that she was anything other than a normal stay-at-home wife.

The Huntsman: Winter's War tramples all over that continuity by revealing that Eric's wife Sara is a skilled and accomplished huntsman, just like him! We also see that they were never actually wed in the traditional sense. Sara placed her medallion around Eric's neck, pronouncing them "man and wife" herself, without the benefit of clergy. And their "marriage" apparently lasted for a couple of hours at most, before Sara was seemingly killed. Recton again!

In Snow White And The Huntsman, Finn taunts Eric by telling him that he raped and murdered his wife (yikes!). This enrages Eric so much that he kills Finn. In The Huntsman: Winter's War, we see that Finn did no such thing. In fact he doesn't even appear in the film at all! As far as we know he never even met Sara! I suppose we could say that Finn lied in the first movie just to mess with Eric— he is a sadistic bastard after all. If that's the case, then his little joke backfired, as it caused him to get killed. Did someone say retcon?

In the first film the Magic Mirror contained a passive "Mirror Man" entity whose sole function was to always tell the truth. It's also implied that only Ravenna can see the Mirror Man, as Finn saw her seemingly talking to herself. In this film the Mirror is an evil, corrupting presence that compels anyone who gazes into it to kill everyone around them. In essence it's now become the One Ring, from The Lord Of The Rings.


I suppose I could be generous and say that Ravenna, who's stored her soul in the Mirror, has taken it over and is the one handing out these orders. It still seems like a major retcon to me though.

As I said, the script has to bend over backwards (and how) in order to work.


• I'm sure the fact that this movie features an Ice Queen with wintery superpowers has absolutely nothing to do with the phenomenal success of Disney's Frozen. Nope, all purely coincidental!

Seriously, Freya IS Elsa here. They might as well have gone all the way and just made her a CGI animated character.

• Missed opportunity: At no point does any character in the film tell Freya the Ice Queen to "Let it go."

• In a related note, Eric's wife Sara has wavy red hair, is an expert archer, and is suspiciously similar to Merida from Disney/Pixar's Brave.

• In the first film, Ravenna becomes Queen by marrying Snow White's father and then killing him. She does the same thing in the prequel part of this film. It's implied that she's done this many times before, tearing through kingdom after kingdom like a swarm of locusts through a field.

So just how big is this realm? You'd think after usurping eight or ten thrones over the years, news of her little scam would spread. Seems like after a while kings would start recognizing her and turn off the lights and pretend they're not home when she comes a knockin.'

• Liam Neeson is the narrator of the film. They get their money's worth out of him too, as he's forced to spout a ton of expository dialogue to set up the story, and then explain that we're jumping over everything that happened in the first film, as we go from prequel to sequel. I'm surprised he didn't lose his voice after all that narration.

• Chris Hemsworth's faux Scottish accent is much better this time around. Well... maybe not better, but at least it's consistent this time. It came and went quite a bit in the first movie.

• In Snow White And The Huntsman there were eight dwarves, played by an amazing group of character actors, including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson and Nick Frost.

Apparently the studio could only afford one dwarf from the first film this time out, as Frost is the only one to reprise his role.

• In the first movie the "Little People Of America" organization complained because the Universal Studios cast actors of normal stature for the parts of the dwarves and digitally shrank them, instead of hiring actual little people. I didn't hear a peep out of them this time out. Maybe they finally gave up complaining about such methods after The Hobbit films?

• When Eric first hooks up with Nion and Gryff, they go on and on at length about how much they hate all dwarf women, who they consider hideous and repulsive. Later we meet two female dwarves, Bromwyn and Doreena. The thing is, they're nowhere near as ghastly as the males implied. In fact they look about like everyone else in the film. Then minutes after the male dwarves meet the females, they start shamelessly and awkwardly flirting with them.

So... I guess the joke is that the males were exaggerating? Is that it?


• At one point Sara betrays Eric by revealing she's really working with Freya. She shoots him with an arrow and he falls dead to the ground.

Of course he's not really dead, since they're trying to set up a franchise with him as the star. Seconds after Freya and Sara leave, Eric comes back to life. Apparently Sara actually shot the medallion (the one she gave him) around his neck, which only made it look like she killed him. Wha…?

We clearly see the arrow sticking out of his chest after he falls. But when he wakes up, he yanks it out of the medallion, which is all of an eight of an inch thick. How the hell could an arrowhead stick into something that thin? Even worse, he holds up the medallion and there's no hole in the middle!

The only way any of this could work is if Sara shot him with a novelty suction cup arrow.

• Snow White And The Huntsman featured some interesting creature designs, such as trolls and fairies. Here we get some goblins who look pretty much like hairless gorillas. Oh, and Freya rides some half polar bear, half snow leopard thing, that's realized through the magic of circa 1995 CGI.

In fact everything in this film feels scaled down and smaller. The budget for the first film was $170 million, while this one was a mere $115 million, so that's no doubt why everything looks cheaper here.


The Huntsman: Winter's War is a completely unnecessary prequel/sequel hybrid that has to overwrite much of the first movie in order to work. It feels like a desperate attempt to set up a franchise by shifting the focus to the Huntsman character, who's honestly not all that interesting. I give it a C.
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