The Flash - Music to my ears - Alternate review

So I finally watched the musical episode of The Flash, and I do differ slightly from Jeff.  I mean, even though he's a professional tap dancer and singer, he was a bit harsh on this one.  Ha. Ok, so he's not really.  Where was I?  Oh right, my review of the ep.  Was it cheesy? Yes. But I kinda feel like it was meant to be.  I actually enjoyed it, cheesy and all.  But then again I love musicals and singing and dancing and Broadway.  I was a big fan of the tv show SMASH, and also GLEE.  And with some of these actors coming from GLEE, it was pretty cool to see them together again!  I personally loved all their voices, and the dancing number between Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist was super cute.  I also liked the old timey dialogue and “accents.”  It was cheeky for sure, but a very cute episode for what it’s worth.   I think it was supposed to be a bit out there, because for a superhero show to suddenly pull a musical out, you kind of have to not take it too seriously.  Which I definitely did not.  I admit there really wasn’t a point to the show per se, and it didn’t even move the plot along, other than have a crossover with Supergirl, but I do love when they have crossover episodes.  The casts play well together and have some fun chemistry.  Was it amazing? No. Was it enjoyable and fun to watch?  For the most part, yes; in my opinion.  And of course that last scene where Barry sang to Iris and then proposed? Yes, it brought a tear to my eye.  I mean, c’mon, how cute and sweet was that!  - J. Solo

Flash -ep. 17 Duet - Musical thoughts

Ok, I know what you might be thinking. The Flash is on hiatus until April 25th and that musical episode was two weeks ago, so what gives? This is more about how this season is starting to run off the rails, and I worry that with failing ratings and inconsistent storylines it could happen faster than we might expect.  First and foremost, I’m a big fan of the Flash; Grant Gustin is fantastic, his supporting cast is funny and effusive, especially Cisco, as they bring a steady dose of character and heart to each episode. Unfortunately as Flash has progressed each season they have grown increasingly plotty, repetitious, predictable and at times overly schmaltzy. I get that it’s the CW and they have to, for whatever reason, contain varying degrees of smolder and teen drama for that phantom teen audience that ritualistically watches all of their shows, but this season they have taken it to new heights. The episode before the highly anticipated MUSICAL EPISODE featured Barry having to go get Kid Flash (Wally West) from his prison in the Speed Force, which he accomplishes after varying degrees of tests and the convenient arrival of the Flash from Earth 3, Jay Garrick, who willingly sacrifices himself to stay in order to free Wally. All of this was fine, great episode until the end when Barry decides to put his relationship with Iris on hold because he has to focus on…defeating Savitar? What? That whole conversation seemed really contrived and the whole reason Iris was mad at him from a previous episode was she learned that Barry only proposed to her because he was trying to change the future in which Savitar kills her, but he clearly still wants to marry her. So what is this all about? I’ve been confused by the manufactured anger from Iris on that one. Then I realized that this was just a giant set-up for the next episode 17, "Duet", a team-up with Supergirl who is, no surprise also having relationship issues. In my mind this was already off to a bad start. 

The show’s producer, Greg Berlanti, has been talking publicly about making this wonderful musical episode as far back as September of last year. Honestly though I had been hearing rumors about it even earlier than that. A good number of the cast have strong musical backgrounds especially Jesse L. Martin (Joe West), who has the most experience from his Broadway singing days on Rent and the Winter’s Tale (more recent), so I sort of get why this came up. But here’s the problem, I’ve heard more than one reference to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Once More With Feeling,” which is a tall order to live up to. That episode was written by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Buffy, Dr. Horrible) who not only wrote all of the songs which were then choreographed. The most important part of this accomplishment is that Whedon made a solid episode which addressed many of the over-arching plots of the season and put them out there for everyone to see but, you know, in song. He laid his cast’s hearts out on their sleeves and it worked. I will admit I don’t like musicals much but "Once More With Feeling" was a great episode that complimented the show by furthering the story and also brought a little light to a fairly dour and dark season 6. Flash’s episode "Duet" did none of those things.

For starters it is always a joy to watch Grant Gustin (Flash) and Melissa Benoit (Kara/Supergirl) ham it up on screen they clearly have a wonderful chemistry and I do want more of it, but I would prefer without song. So Music Meister (Darren Criss), a being from another universe, crashes the episode of Supergirl and traps her mind in a musical world forcing Kara’s boyfriend Mon-El and J’onn to bring her whammied body to Barry’s world for help.  Music Meister follows and then he does the same thing to Barry. MM then proceeds to leech their respective powers and go tramping about Central City. Um, ok? So Barry and Kara are now forced to sing their way through this musical world in order to get out of it. This is where I started to check out, somewhere between a pretty cool rendition of Moon River by Benoist and a mind-numbingly obnoxious song called Super-Friend. In the end it felt like a trivial push to get the heroes’ significant others to figure out it was them all along that could save them and they do, happy endings all around. Yay! Oh, and one more terrible song at the end of the episode when Barry proposes to Iris for real, again? I don’t know. This kind of shit drives me crazy it’s derivative and pointless and it sucks out any joy you can derive from it because it was so sloppy in its execution. So please Mr. Berlanti if you are listening if you want to make musicals, make them, but keep them away from my superheroes, unless you get Joss Whedon to write it. Then we’ll talk.        

Are Super Hero Movies/TV DOA?

This is a question that has come up frequently over the last few years as the Super Hero genre has grown considerably from one or two a year, if you were lucky, to an amazing six this year. Complaints about the strength and fortitude of this genre has been scrutinized as a passing fad like the Western or too dumb and silly for the norms because they wear costumes and do magic. From big time respected Hollywood directors like Steven Spielberg to the show runner of Gotham, Bruno Heller on Fox. This criticism has not abated. My question is why all the hate? Like most things I think that the peak of Super Hero movies might have met it's zenith this year but it doesn't mean that studios are going to slow down or stop altogether any time soon. Why should they even at their worst the mainstream blockbusters have always found a way to make comfortably over 100 million dollars at the least and at most over a billion dollars or more world wide. Would you stop making these types of movies with that kind of money? 

I get it, there are some people who love superheroes and others who do not but what I want to focus on, the question people keep asking, are Comic Book movies ruining the industry? The answer to this question is simple, no. In fact it has streamlined the movie industry in a way that it will never be the same again whether you love these movies or not. Studios from Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal and even some of the mid-majors like Lionsgate are all interested in franchises with their own universe so they can create more movies, video games, tv shows and the list goes on and on. They started this process with mostly just comic book properties, Marvel/Disney doing it the best and now every studio is trying to do this at some level or another and now it's not just comic book characters it's with everything. So in a sense the comic book industry has left a permanent mark on film whether you love them or not. You are always going to have bad movies whether it be an unnecessary sequel, a shitty remake, a terrible book/comic/game adaptation. Personally I would love it if all the studios got back to the art of making movies for profit rather than only looking at profit for movies. There is a distinction. 

Also just a note in closing to Bruno Heller, it's your right to call Super Heroes silly and stupid but you look like a horses ass when you say these things while working on a Super Hero show. Gotham, the show you created, is dumb and silly and doesn't feel remotely realistic and I stopped watching it mostly because you are teasing Batman on a Batman show without actually showing Batman and that just doesn't work for me. No matter how many of his villains origins you want to show. The reason comic book movies and TV work is they are faithful in spirit to their original design. It doesn't have to be paint by numbers but it has to make sense. It's that simple. 

Suicide Squad Wasn't Quite as Bad as Critics Said

Sketch by Alex Yi

I Just got out of Suicide Squad and I came away liking much more than the critics said I would. Is the film perfect, absolutely not. I will agree that the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), while interesting, was not the best choice for this band of rogues to go to war with. Her powers are weird and very hard to define and they didn't have enough time to establish her or her relationship with hero Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). That being said the Dirty Dozen meets the DCU is a fair comparison of what we saw on screen and the character moments are strong with certain members of the team. Diablo (Jay Hernandez), doesn't get as much time as Harley, Flag and Deadshot but what he does have is a solid arc and one of the most tragic backstory of this ragtag group of anti-heroes. Deadshot (Will Smith) probably gets the most airtime and they allow his humanity and humor to shine through the bad that he's done, and even though it was a bit forced at first, showed the compatibility with Rick Flag at the end of the movie. This is honestly a return to form for Will Smith and it cannot be ignored. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)  was electric as expected and truly captured the gonzo insanity of the Joker's girlfriend. Jared Leto was good but I admit I didn't care about his character that much, he did his job in the movie and played the role admirably, maybe in future installments he'll show me something truly interesting but for now he was just serviceable. It was nice seeing Batman show up at times and Affleck continued to show why he belongs in the cowl. But the real standout here is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), you don't get any colder or calculated than this woman and she nailed it. This was the Waller from the comics who could completely be the villain or the hero of this tale as she weaves the line throughout. Suicide Squad doesn't work without her and it makes it clear to you why. You also get some nice surprises from Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) who brought some of the humor and a little heart in unexpected places.

Overall I think the critics were right to trash the story a bit but they just can't ignore how great many of these characters are and how they are depicted on screen. Yes it plays like an episode directly ripped from a comic book, but that is kinda the point I think.  Ayer deserves a lot of credit and it shows how much better a filmmaker he is compared to Zach Snyder and the contrast between this and Batman v Superman couldn't be any more stark. What do you think?

Sketch by Alex Yi

Sketch by Alex Yi

Super Hero Death: Does it Support the Story or Betray the Character?

As the summer creeps up we're captivated by this year's TV show finales, keeping us wanting more in the fall. As an avid watcher of superhero shows, I've noticed there is a lot of death this year, maybe more than in previous seasons. Or maybe this year I'm beginning to notice how many super shows there are at any given time. Including the Netflix shows, I'm watching about eight at this point; by the end of the year I swear it'll be in double digits. This provides an opportunity to draw comparisons within the burgeoning genre. The question I'm wondering about, specifically, is: do these deaths further the story? Do these deaths build up the protagonist or others around them? Two shows that aired recently stick most in my mind: The Flash and Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. Be aware below there be spoilers here!!!

The Flash has been a bit of a lackluster season compared to last year. The writers have clearly run into some walls this season. The big bad this year is Jay Garrick as Zoom, another speedster, who turns out to be, once again, an ally in sheep's clothing. The beats are very similar to last season and Barry even lost his speed again this time around--slightly different circumstances, but the question has to be asked, is this going to happen every season? I'm hoping going forward that they evolve the villains and some of these plots a little bit better. Which brings me to the big shocker: this past week on The Flash when Zoom kills Barry's dad in the same house where Reverse Flash murdered Barry's mother. This didn't surprise me because ever since they freed Barry's dad from prison the writers on the show seemed to struggle mightily in figuring out what to do with Dr. Allen. When he first got out, rather than stick around after missing his kid's entire childhood, he effectively says "I gotta get out of town" and proceeds to disappear for the remainder of the season until the last few episodes. It's so obvious when Zoom kills Barry's dad, I could honestly feel the collected relief from the writers because they clearly had no idea what to do with him. They aren't completely wrong, I mean, how many dad-like figures can Barry have alive on this show? Between Earth 2 Wells and adoptive father Joe West, it's getting a bit crowded and as great as it was to have original Flash John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen on the show, he really didn't make sense there so they decided to make him the sacrificial lamb to amp Barry up even more against Zoom. This is where I think they made their mistake. Zoom has already sufficiently teed Barry up to defeat him. They didn't need to fall into Gwen Stacy territory to further Barry's story. Also because they telegraphed the whole thing it felt even more forced and overly plotty. The show will certainly recover from this but I hope this doesn't become a trend on the show. Arrow does this kind of thing all of the time and it gets old. It took them four years to finally do away with Laurel Lance (Black Canary) who was constantly being used for shitty plot devices, plus the actress really didn't bring much to what I believe was a solid character. Death is always a part of superhero stories--some are more memorable than others--but when they are used to maximum effect it's usually an out-of-nowhere surprise in a way to raise the stakes for the story and to provide a stronger arc for the main protagonist. I fear that Henry Allen's does neither.

Moving over to Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their season finale, they too provide plenty of death and destruction. For the past two weeks they pushed the advertisement that one of these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is going to buy the farm and it will apparently shock us all. They don't say that per se, but it is implied. So who is it going to be, original team members like Coulson, Daisy, Fitz, Simmons, May? Will alien-host Ward be the one to finally get dead? My wife called Lincoln, Daisy's electrified Inhuman boyfriend, to take the fall. How did she guess this? Well, Lincoln was an okay character but he was the weak link on the show and I'm sure the writers knew that. Like Henry Allen, a lot of his plot lines felt forced and he was constantly being torn away from the group to do his own thing cause he doesn't quite work with the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. I will say though that even though this death was extremely predictable they gave him a pretty great death, as well as a quiet moment with Ward as they basically waited to die. It was a good scene, well written and thoughtful and allowed Lincoln to make his sacrifice matter and it clearly has influenced where we go into the next season. 

I think both of these were a wash. I still enjoy both shows and will continue to watch them in the future but I hope the writers of both shows build some awareness of this problem and work to make these shows as continually awesome as I know they should be. 


How to make Supergirl Better

I've been watching Supergirl this season with a pretty mixed impression the whole thing. As a Superhero story it's not bad and I really like Melissa Benoist's version of Supergirl but the thing that bugs me the most about the show is that no matter what they do she can't seem to get out of the shadow of her cousin, Superman. Kara Zor-el also Kara Danvers is determined to live up to her more famous relative and the show constantly fails her because the creators of the show have boxed themselves into a very narrow corner. In their wisdom Superman's shadow looms large over the show but he's never on it and it's really becoming a problem. Not to mention the fact that Kara is fighting a whole bunch of angry Kryptonians one of them was her Aunt and Superman is no where to be found. Why wouldn't he be there to help her, because the writers don't want him there because they are afraid he'll overshadow her and he might but we'll never know. Also as a fan of the comic I am very aware of the long history of Superman and again the writers have decided to just co-op his stories onto hers. Like Bizarro and the Black Mercy from one of the best Superman stories ever written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons called For the Man Who Has Everything.  Also other than Martian Manhunter her Scooby gang is pretty lame, Toy Man's good hearted hacker son Wynn, Jimmy Olson who is played well by Mechad Brooks but he everything about him is plot service, he isn't able to be his own man here. Either the show is trying to force him to be a love interest for Kara when I don't see much chemistry between them or he's spouting wisdom at her like a fortune cookie at key moments. Otherwise poor Mechad doesn't have much to work with. Maxwell Lord is such a poor man's Lex Luthor it's becoming criminal on the show. Also Cat Grant played by Calista Flockhart just sucks, she's vapid and annoying and I hate that the show tries so hard to make her deep or something. She's gotta go which is why I think they need to do something drastic. Something unexpected, take Kara even further out of her comfort zone and maroon her in the 31st Century, with a new Scooby gang that's right comic fans, The Legion of Superheroes.

So this would breathe new life into the show and really raise the stakes. Also it solves the Superman problem. He isn't there he can't be this is the future and he's already long gone. The creators can have some fun with the new setting and slowly bringing the Legion of Superheroes together: Brainiac 5, Lightening Lad, Phantom Girl, etc etc. The list goes on, it could cost a bit more but it would be completely different and she could end up having her own original storylines and they wouldn't feel obligated to ape Superman's all of the time. Not to mention you have plenty of Legion of Superhero comics to pour through for ideas. This is what needs to happen to keep the show fresh and interesting. But in the meantime they need to ditch the rogue Kryptonians, bring on some other heroes into the mix and get her a better support team, stat!

Supergirl aires on CBS on Monday's at 8PM