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.        

Comic Book Movies 2017

I thought I would start off the new year taking a look at some of the new comic book properties coming out in 2017. There are a lot of sequels and re-makes in the bunch I know but there is quite a lot to look forward to from animation to live action, comedy to drama. 2017 is beginning to look like a banner year in Hollywood's continual efforts to make cinema look a hell of a lot like the glossy colored books with letters that you can only get in a comic book store. I know the complaints about these movies continue to grow but I believe strongly that as long as they put the characters and stories first they will never get a complaint from me. No matter if it's Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Sony or Disney. 

The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 20) - As a man in his late 30s I proclaim loud and proud that I still watch and enjoy animated movies and TV. Sometimes the animated medium surpasses the live action versions. Like Batman the Animated Series from the 90's which is by the far the best and most consistent interpretation of Batman on the big or little screen. Now if you've seen the Lego Batman movie trailer I would say it's akin to the 60's Adam West Batman then any current iteration. But that's its intent. Warner Brothers is cashing in on the success of Lego Movie and Batman was one of the fun supporting characters in that movie so naturally it makes sense to make a Lego Batman movie. I'm certainly taking my three kids to see this cause it looks silly and fun and like the Lego movie, probably plays to both young and old audiences simultaneously. I'm always of the mind to get the kids into superheroes and comics early and Lego Batman will help that tremendously. 

Lego Batman trailer: https://youtu.be/rGQUKzSDhrg 

Logan (March 3) It's been a long road for the X-Men franchise and for me the franchise is kind of a mixed bag. My favorites so far, not including Deadpool,  have been in this order: X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2, X-Men, Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine Origins and finally one of the worst comic book movies ever X-Men: Last Stand. When I first saw the trailer for Logan with the haunting voice of Johnny Cash singing a cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt it just changed everything for me. Logan is loosely based on the comic Old Man Logan an 8 part series by writer Miles Millar and artist Steve McNiven which puts Wolverine in an alternate timeline which surmises that Earth's super villains have conquered the Earth and carved it out into territories. The Super Heroes you know like Captain America and Spider-Man are all gone, but of course Wolverine remains. Obviously given the Hulk, Red Skull and Hawkeye are very prominent in the comic version they will have to be cut out of the film due to copyright issues between Disney/Marvel and Fox. Which is for the better, I think, it would be impossible to make a coherent adaptation of Old Man Logan on the big screen which it looks like Director James Mangold did not do. Doesn't mean you shouldn't read it, but some things just aren't filmable and this is one of them. From what I've seen so far it looks amazing and it is definitely one I'm looking forward to. It's finally a worthy redemption story for Logan that feels like it has real stakes. Logan ever the reluctant hero must protect what I assume is X-23. A young girl clone of the rampaging Canuck himself. Along for the ride is a very old and seemingly infirm Professor X. What's really amazing is that this doesn't look or feel like a conventional superhero tale. If I didn't know the character I would have thought it was a dark dystopian drama in the vein of the Road or I Am Legend. I loved everything about the Wolverine except for the end with Silver Samurai and it always felt like studio meddling to me. Hopefully Mangold is able to keep them out of his cut for Logan and if it is as good as the trailers suggest this could be the best of the entire series.

Logan trailer: https://youtu.be/Div0iP65aZo   

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) Marvel is still clicking on all thrusters with each movie they come out with. The trailer for the second installment of Guardians feels like coming home. Expectations for this one is high and I hope it excels past the first one in quality and scope. The weak link in the first one was probably the villain Ronan the Accuser. He was ably played by Lee Pace but he wasn't given enough character to give him three dimensions I hope they learn from that in the new one. But let's be honest the ensemble cast here is the best part: Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and now baby Groot. The second best thing is the music and the song they picked for the 2nd trailer was perfect in "Fox on the Run" by Sweet. In fact it's so good it hit number 1 on ITunes almost immediately. Also with the added casting of Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone I gotta believe it'll be huge. Honestly I can't wait to see how they depict Ego the Living Planet in a movie. He's a character I would never have expected them to pick given that he is, you know, a living Planet. How the hell does that work? 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer: https://youtu.be/2cv2ueYnKjg

Wonder Woman (June 2) Warner Brothers has not been off to an impressive start with their DC Universe. Man of Steel was good enough but a pattern begin to form throughout that Snyder was not understanding the man in the red and blue tights. It deepened further when Snyder took on the reigns of Batman V Superman and in my opinion cocked it up. Wonder Woman's role, although short and without real purpose, still managed to make me feel excited to explore her character further. Literally Snyder just threw her in the movie with hopes that people would like her. Thankfully it was Gal Gadot and we did. Which is why I got even more excited to see the trailer for Wonder Woman, which was heavy on action and intrigue and most importantly didn't have Zach Snyder's name on it. Director Patty Jenkins is making her mark with the woman with the golden lasso and it looks pretty bad ass. Yes, the first trailer  seemed to strike a semblance to Captain America: The First Avenger given that it is a World War, just the first one this time. But the second trailer put most of that to rest. You got Chris Pine as dashing love interest Steve Trevor. It looks like it has a good sense of itself balancing the action, drama and the humor nicely, at least in the trailer. Wonder Woman looks truly fantastic and I can't wait to see what she can do. 

Wonder Woman trailer: https://youtu.be/T1j7qWUQjog

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) I will admit I have multiple biases with this character. I thought it only fair to put my cards on the table. Firstly Spider-Man is my favorite hero. As far back as I can remember Spider-Man was a part of my life. When I was four I named my first dog, a black lab, Spider. I was obsessed with the nerdy kid with coke bottle glasses that would change into red and blue spandex and climb walls. We were nerds, social outcasts, sensitive. I identified with Peter Parker immediately. I loved him when he did his guest spot on Electric Company with a young Morgan Freeman. I loved the cartoons the comics over the years and my prized Amazing Spidey collection which I threatened my mother not to destroy. She did not. I enjoyed the Raimi/McGuire Spider-Man run with an asterisk on that third one.  The Webb/Garfield duo-logy was not too shabby but I had major issues with that second one. My biggest problem with all of these franchise however was consistency. Tobey McGuire was a great Peter Parker but his Spidey was lacking grit. He was almost too sensitive. I wanted the wisecracking Spidey. Andrew Garfield was fairly decent at both, especially the smart ass part which is essential but he too was lacking except on the Peter Parker side. Tom Holland changed that. Yes, his Spider-Man is younger and a teenager again but in the short time he was on screen in Civil War he nailed both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, wise ass with enough sensitivity and damnit he feels more like a New Yorker even though the actor is British. So that brings us to the Homecoming trailer. It looks so good, I'm almost worried that it might be too good to be true. It feels, as they promised, like John Hughes wrote a Spider-Man movie which in my mind is a wonderful thing. The icing on the cake is Michael Keaton's return to comic book movies as the Vulture and of course RDJ showing up as Tony Stark mentoring Peter and getting a little Iron Man action as well. Sign me up, I admit I'm ready to drink the kool-aid.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: https://youtu.be/oNE0zRNyXuc

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3) We don't have a trailer for this yet although some Comic-Con footage did leak out that show Bruce Banner in the woods under attack by creatures and what looked like two of the Warrior's Three, Fandral and Hogun kicking some ass. According to reports this movie takes place on various worlds with multiple heroes and villains joining Thor. Jeff Goldblum will be playing the Grandmaster who is similar to Mongul of DC fame. Grandmaster likes Gladiatorial style combat and the rumor is he makes Thor fight Hulk in such a battle. Kevin Feige and company at Marvel pretty much admitted it's World War Hulk. Doctor Strange will be making an appearance and if you've seen his movie you'll know his involvement. He is charged by Thor to locate Odin in New York. All of the key heroes from the previous installments will be here as well; Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, Heimdall as well as a new Asgardian, Valkyrie. Plus Loki is returning and Cate Blanchett as the ruler of the Underworld, Hela.  This is hands down shaping up to be the best in the Thor franchise, so stay tuned for that trailer. 

Justice League (Nov 17) I want to believe this is going to be awesome and make up for the terribleness that was Batman V. Superman, but honestly I just don't know. With all the rumors about Ben Affleck now not directing Batman to all the other rumors that Justice League is turning into a massive shit show with director Zach Snyder flailing wildly while attempting to right the ship. I thought the teaser from Comic-Con was solid enough and they had more humor and gravitas in just the first few minutes then in the entirety of BvS. So that is something. I'm keeping expectations low but I'm curious to see how Snyder brings together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and a resurrected Superman without completely shitting the bed. Could happen. I'm hoping for the best.

Justice League Comic-Con teaser: https://youtu.be/HsCkjNOzalo