“You call her Doctor JONES, Doll!”

God damn, Netflix’ “Jessica Jones” (2015) looks like a great show.  I finally got around to watching the complete pilot episode, due to my interest in the upcoming “The Defenders,” which features the character.  And “Jessica Jones” was frikkin’ terrific.  I’d rate the first episode a 9 out of 10.

At first, there were aspects of the pilot that annoyed me.  We’re told virtually nothing about the origin of the title character’s superpowers, and not much about the powers themselves.  They’re also a fairly generic power set, as far as I can tell.  She has enhanced strength and agility and … that’s it?  So she’s a low-grade Superman or Spider-Man, more or less?  We also learn somewhat little about what looks to be the series, antagonist, Kilgrave, played by David Tennant.  We see Kilgrave only briefly, in flashbacks that seem reminiscent of post-traumatic stress disorder.  (These are sometimes weirdly delivered, for a show that is otherwise well directed.)  He has mind-control abilities that resemble the “push” ability seen in Stephen King’s “Firestarter,” as well as my favorite short story of all time, “Everything’s Eventual.”

But … hell, this was just an extremely good show.  For starters, Krysten Ritter is perfect as the wisecracking anti-heroine.  She’s funny; she’s got great, dry line delivery; and she’s a decent actress.  (I know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s more powerful heroes rarely visit Hell’s Kitchen, but I’d love to see her trade quips one day with Tony Stark.  She couldn’t beat him, but she’d come closer than anyone else.)

The script is good enough to make her a likable character, and the story itself is scary and compelling.  Considering the plot-driving capability of the show’s villain this … looks like it could become a King-style horror thriller.  Between this show and “Daredevil’s” bloody second season (2016), I’m starting to understand that Hell’s Kitchen might be the MCU’s stage for more horror-type stories.  And I’m fine with that.

 

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A short review of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is every bit as good as you’ve heard; even this non-“Star Wars” geek had great fun with it.  I’d cheerfully give it a 9 out of 10, and I’d recommend you give it a try even if you don’t typically enjoy the franchise.

Die-hard fans are currently noting all of the things that make this film unique in the series: it’s the first “Star Wars” movie without a Jedi, the first without the trademark opening text-crawl, the first one without a lightsaber duel.

Casual fans might be more impressed with more general differences.  Two stood out for me.

One, this is the first Star Wars film since “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) that seems aimed mainly at adults.  Yes, the fairy tale elements are still there — we have an underdog orphan searching for her father, the requisite anthropomorphic aliens, and a humorous robot mascot (which surprisingly worked quite well).  But those elements are absolutely upstaged by a bona fide war film, complete with tactics, strategy, panic, collateral damage and casualties.  I remember thinking during a surprisingly gritty urban warfare scene that it was as though some filmmakers had taken a scene from a film like “The Hurt Locker” (2008) and set it within the “Star Wars” universe.

Two, I think that this is the most human Star Wars movie we’ve had since “Empire.”  It wouldn’t be “Star Wars” without the aforementioned aliens and robots, and plenty of references are made to the Force and the Jedi.  But this is a movie about ordinary people.  Yes, there is one larger-than-life character who appears … force-sensitive?  This universe’s equivalent of Marvel’s “Daredevil?”  (This was a confusing story element that didn’t always work for me.)  But we are presented primarily with all-too-human anti-heroes who feel fear, suffer, and die.

Isn’t that more exciting than watching cartoonish aliens fight armies of equally cute battle-droids?  In this film’s better moments, it made me feel like a was watching a “real” war with “real” people, and I was surprised to find myself actually rooting for the good guys in a “Star Wars” film — this has been a series that I’ve long half-dismissed as being essentially children’s stories.

Seriously, this was a good movie.  Check it out.

 

Nerdiest accidental cosplay fail ever?

You buy a “Punisher” t-shirt just for kicks, and because they’re apparently out of the “Daredevil” designs.  Then you throw on your dark overcoat without thinking.

The result is an inadvertent and extremely pathetic attempt at emulating Frank Castle.

Yeesh.

 

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A review of “Goodbye World” (2013)

“Goodbye World” (2013) is technically a post-apocalyptic drama.  I say “technically” because this sometimes misguided movie contains little tension associated with its apocalyptic event.  (A cyber-attack destroys the technological infrastructure of America and possibly the world.)  Indeed, this catastrophe doesn’t even truly drive the plot — it’s more of a background subplot that fails to even affect the tone of the film.  (The poster you see below is misleading.)

Instead, the film scrutinizes the personal lives of a group of thirtyish college alumnae who have an informal reunion at a mountain cabin — one of their number is a plot-convenient intellectual-turned-survivalist.  They’re portrayed by an (admittedly quite good) ensemble cast.  I think a lot of my friends would smile at “Gotham’s” Jim Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) being a rather meek, feckless husband.  And Caroline Dhavernas here is no longer the alpha female we saw in NBC’s “Hannibal,” but is rather an insecure, overly sensitive young wife who immaturely pines that she was the student “everyone hated.”

And there lies a problem that the movie has … few of these characters are terribly likable.  Only Gaby Hoffmann’s surprisingly tough civil servant made me root for her.  And Kerry Bishe’s perfectly performed, chatty neo-hippy eccentric was also pretty cool … Bishe might have given the best performance in the film.  Finally, Linc Hand is a surprise standout, arriving halfway through in a menacing supporting role.  It’s a far smaller role, but damn if he doesn’t nail it.  (Please, Netflix, cast this guy as Bullseye in Season 3 of “Daredevil.”)

The others all seem either self-absorbed, self-righteous and preachy, or inscrutable and vaguely dumb.  Dhavernas’ character actually steals a child’s teddy bear (which she herself had brought as a gift) and … sets it free in the forest.  It was a belabored character metaphor when written.  Worse, it just seems jarringly weird when it plays out on the screen.

All the characters seem strangely detached about the watershed national or global crisis. Some cursory dialogue is devoted to the imagined welfare of their family, colleagues or other friends; the character interaction is devoted mostly to  marriage issues and personal emotional crises that I have mostly forgotten as of this writing.  And those seem maudlin and slightly selfish compared to the Fall of the United States.  The characters mostly failed at engendering viewer sympathy in me.

The screenwriters’ juxtaposition of personal matters and the end of the world also seemed tone deaf.  We follow what the writers hope are educated, successful and endearingly quirky fun people, and we’re asked to worry about their love triangles and spousal communication issues.  But … we’re then asked to view this in the context of a pretty frightening collapse of society, complete with plot elements that are interchangeable with those of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”  (One secondary character turns violent over the issue of resources, then charismatically justifies his violence to  a crowd using a half-baked ideology that seems to channel “The Governor.”)

I felt like I was watching two movies at once, and not in a good way.  The opening motif is brilliantly creepy — the virus causes cell phones everywhere to receive a text reading the titular “Goodbye World.”  Our laconic, uniformly telegenic protagonists kinda just shrug at it.  And even when suspicions arise in the group about whether one character is connected to the cyber-attack, there is dry, dialogue-driven humor instead of any real consequent tension.  It was like John Hughes wrote a thirtysomething dramedy, but then tried unsuccessfully to sprinkle in the human pathos of one of George A. Romero’s more pessimistic zombie films.

But don’t get me wrong.  This wasn’t even really a bad movie.  I didn’t hate it.  It held my interest, its actors gave good performances, and I am a shameless fan of Dhavernas in particular.  The cinematography was very good too, and the story’s tonal differences were occasionally interesting.  (This is definitely a unique end-of-the-world tale, if nothing else.)

I’d honestly give “Goodbye World” a 7 out of 10.  I think my expectations sitting down with it were just unusually high, seeing Dhavernas attached to what looked like an independent, cerebral, apocalyptic science fiction thriller.  I might even recommend it if you’re in the mood for a really unusual doomsday movie.  Just don’t expect “28 Days Later” (2002) or “The Divide” (2012), and you might like this.

 

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A few quick words on Season 2 of “Daredevil”

As though you hadn’t guessed, I absolutely loved Netflix’ second season of “Daredevil.”  It might have had a problem with its concluding Elektra storyline, but I’d still rate it a perfect 10 — I just can’t give a lower rating to a season that made me cheer out loud while watching it.

I really loved it that much.  I’ve started to think of this gritty little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as my own “Star Wars” — these are characters that I grew up with, and to whom I’ve developed an emotional attachment, however strange or childlike that may seem to non-fans.  If adults can cheer during the opening crawl of “The Force Awakens,” then I can cheer “KICK THEIR ASSES, MATT!!” when the ninjas of “The Hand” noiselessly and acrobatically swarm Daredevil.

It’s just a superb show.  On one level, it’s a good character drama and legal thriller that can easily please a modern mainstream television audience.  On another level, one of those characters just happens to be a low-level hero in the Marvel Comics universe.

The show succeeds nicely on the first level and goddam brilliantly at the second.The martial arts and costuming are perfect.  John Bernthal is perfectly cast as The Punisher.  It’s a cliche, and something I’ve written here before, as well, but I’ll say it again anyway — Netflix succeeded in bringing some of my favorite comic book characters from page to screen.

My only minor criticism is that the Elektra storyline was muddled, and understandably confusing for those who haven’t read the source material.  (And if memory serves, it wasn’t all that easily understood in the original comics.)

Now bring on Bullseye!!

 

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