Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) – An Enjoyable Animated Adventure in the 1960’s Batman Series

  Adam West is a man who has left quite a legacy on the world. I knew primarily as the neighbor of Quahog on “Family Guy,” but got an appreciation for him when I reviewed the film that came out of the  Batman 60’s TV show, which I’ll post later in the review. The longer I’ve been with dark and gritty Batman the more I’ve come to appreciate the anti-fascist Batman. The one who is a public servant and at the end of the day is honorable, rather than the sometime psychopath of the modern incarnation that has existed since at least Burton’s Batman. West is a man who is going to be missed and this review is in honor of him.

“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” was directed by Rick Morales and written by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker.

The story takes place within the same universe as the 1960’s tv show as Batman and Robin face off against Catwoman, The Riddler, Penguin and the Joker as they come up with a plan to turn Batman evil in order to pull of an devious heist and steal a powerful device.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Writing – The writing is clever, from Robin’s word play and the articulation of Adam West to the many visual and verbal puns that cover this film like music…I really enjoyed the dialogue in this film and it is a big part of what kept me watching.

Batman and Robin – The dynamic duo are the only competent ones in Gotham as the Police Chief and Commissioner Gordon don’t know how to do anything but call Batman and Robin for help. I really like the duo, they have a great mentor/student and father/son relationship that is only further developed over the course of the film such as when Robin has to save Batman and we see Batman take his crime fighting to a fascist degree after he gets infected by Catwoman’s concoction. West’s Batman is wonderful in this as he always appeals to the villains’ better natures before fighting them. Like how Superman once was in film, he appeals to the good in people and Robin is the one striving to do the same. This innocence and lack of cynicism really lends power, especially in all the crap going on currently.

A Stand Against Vigilantism and Fascism – When Batman gets infected her turns into a dictator and takes over every role in Gotham City with the Replicator gun. He arrests everyone or takes their jobs and makes everything about him and his great nobility. It is a great critique of the Batman who does this and is rewarded for it…the Nolan, Snyder and Burton Batmans at the end of the day are not public servants…they are vigilantes that have no regard for the law outside of what they get out of it. This makes Batman an anti-hero, which isn’t bad but I hardly consider him a hero anymore…even though he is one of my favorite comic book characters. This Batman is an actual hero and his corruption to becoming like modern day Batman illustrates the flaws in the ideology of the current incarnations of the Dark Knight.

Okay: The Villains and their Plan – The villains just want to steal art…that is it and there is Penguin creeping on Catwoman. They are okay in that Joker just wants to have a good laugh and the Riddler needs clever Riddlers but they never become more than the one note villains which was a waste. I enjoyed when other classic villains from the show face off against them (an early Mr. Freeze!) as they each had potentially a bit more going on, given they were working with Catwoman and Robin to defeat the evil Batmen.

The Cons: Catwoman and Sexism – Catwoman pretty much only uses her sex appeal and the heroes’ chivalry as a weapon. This was a shame as her master plan to turn Batman evil is successful though she switches sides after being betrayed and again randomly wants to kill Robin and run away with Batman, implying she never changed before killing one of her lives? She is the only woman in the film and she is entirely defined by the male gaze, whether it is Batman or Penguin. This was a damn shame given how central she is the story. I really was hoping for better from her character and it was this issue that kept the film from being good, even though I found it enjoyable.

The film was a lot of fun and a lot better than the 1960’s film, which in many ways had camp that didn’t quite work and was really unfocused (https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/batman-1966-fun-camp-that-doesnt-quite-work/). This one was self aware but wasn’t insulting as I could tell how much passion was put into this project. I really hope that “Batman: The Caped Crusaders vs. Two-Face” which has Shatner playing a 60’s Two-Face. I really enjoy this Batman now and plan on checking out the show as whole, knowing that I’ll probably being seeing more of the sexism in regards to Catwoman, but I’ll also see Eartha Kitt who is one of the people I highly admire and of course Adam West in one of his most iconic roles. R.I.P. Adam West, may the good always defeat evil.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

 

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 10 – “The Eaters of Light” – Connection in Conflict

     “The Eaters of Light” was an episode that the trailer made look terrible. Giant monster hunting soldiers…it didn’t look like it was going to be deep in any way and the monster looked uncreative as hell. Suffice to say I was gladly disappointed. This episode deals with similar themes as “Empress of Mars” and Capaldi’s Doctor excels as the peace Doctor. Without getting into spoilers, this is an episode worth checking out, as it gives justice to it’s characters, story and theme.

The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and written by Rona Munro.

The story involves Bill, Nardole and the Doctor investigating the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland. They are separated and discover a creature is hunting the people in the region.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Factions – The native faction and the Romans are given a lot of humanity in this. You get why each is in the situation they are in, whether it was the tribe leader summoning the best to protect her people from the Romans or the Roman soldiers who had to follow orders or die. It is a bad situation and shows the tragedy in conquest as the people we meet are the few surivors from the war.

The Characters – I enjoyed the characters in this…we have some wonderful moments with Nardole becoming part of the trible, Bill helping the Roman soldiers find courage again and the Doctor as the peacemaker getting the two factions to stop fighting so the creature won’t kill them all and the world.

Coming Together in Conflict – There is hate and rage that has to be worked through by our characters as fear is what released the creature and since there are so few left of the tribe and Romans that they can only build it by coming together. It is very well done as they choose to fight the beast rather than let the Doctor do it in their place. It is a powerful scene and showed that even though the past wasn’t erased, to save the future the soldiers could come together. They even stop the Doctor from doing his heroic sacrifice as they realize that this was their battle to face.

Okay: The Magic Elements – There is music around the stones where the battle happened. I thought this was alright but also wasn’t needed. I wouldn’t call it a con though.

The Creature – The creature is kind of boring. It fears light and kills quickly and has a reptile mixed with an insect look. Apparently it is a space locust as they feed and eat across universes as they jump through dimensions. I would have liked to know more as what we’ve got is okay, but not great.

This is an episode worth checking out. I thought it would be a boring survival story with a misunderstood monster, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case. The minor and main characters get fleshed out and the Doctor doesn’t get to save the day. Capaldi’s Doctor is one who excels as the Peacemaker as some of the greatest episodes during his run have been like this one where he helps factions come together. I’m going to miss him after he regenerates.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10. Only reason it isn’t higher is the monster wasn’t all that interesting and the magic elements brought it down.

 

Top 5 Ways I Would Fix “Twilight”

    “Twilight” is a film in a movie that in my opinion are just awful. I got a third of the way through the book and only got through the movie because I was watching it with close friends so it was fun to make fun of how cheap it all looked and how hackney the writing was and how problematic many of the themes are. Now usually I’d do a review with a score but criticisms of “Twilight” have been done to death so I decided to take a different approach. Why not instead of just critiquing it I offer solutions to fix it, and well here are my Top 5 Solutions to make “Twilight” a good movie. Keep in mind that I am just going off the movie and not the extended universe. I don’t care about that stuff. These are just 5 solutions to fix the film based off the characters that make up the film. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Ways I’d Fix “Twilight.”

 

5 – Make it About Laurent 

The film I imagine is more akin to “Interview With a Vampire,” with Bella getting the story of Vampires from an actual vampire who eats people but keeps it on the down low. This is exactly what this character does and because of it he never stops being threatening and cool. I wanted more about this guy as he was traveler so had no doubt seen a lot. The fact that he was based in the States means he could have been a former slave and seeing that perspective, especially in a vampire film would be something completely new. This side character was the best part of the film and if the film had bothered to be about him could have been great. This is more of a traditional vampire story and is a whole lot better than “Twilight” and it leaves Bella with the choice to join or fight against what he is doing. Keep in mind, I don’t know his story in the books or in later films, this is based off the first impression I got from “Twilight” the film.

4 – Give a Reason for Wanting to be a Vampire – Terminal Illness 

Bella needs a reason to risk everything including her life possibly…having mortality or suffering at stake makes that possible. Whether it is Bella wanting to turn so she can save her father or simply to save herself it gives a dilemma as it shows the Vampires as selfish if there are no real consequences to becoming a vampire (there aren’t any downsides in the film really), though if we get that becoming a vampire is an actual curse because like traditional you become a parasite who kills or turns others and needs humans as a source for food…well that is different and it takes the same premise as stated above and raises the threat. This isn’t a romance, though there can be some romance there…it is a matter of survival and the choices of desperation and mortality.

3 – Cullen Civil War 

Vampires are ancient beings so you get that there would be different ideologies. The Cullens are bland and are the weakest part of this film. What could have fixed that is giving a dilemma. We can still have the vampires who don’t eat humans, but there should be conflict over that. Some of the family should hunt humans making the romance more dangerous as well as making Bella pulled into something much bigger than herself. I think they do this in later movies but we don’t need other vampires when you can achieve the same thing with the Cullens. Make them scary and give different ideologies that are in play, those who want to get along with the humans and remain invisible (Professor X mentality to some degree) or to subjugate the humans and who plot to enslave or control the food source (Magneto’s mindset to some degree). This drama alone could be explored in a fascinating way through the film, you don’t even need the romance for it to work as Bella could be our audience insert into exploring this conflict through her friendship with one of the people (Alice or Edward most likely).

2 – The Cullens Attack the School – Survival Horror film 

This could have been a horror film. Bella’s friends are some of the more interesting characters in the film. Anna Kendrick is the popular girl, she’s friends with a jock, a stoner and quite a few nerds. Hell I wanted to see a film about this group of kids fighting vampires in their school. This is a book that could have gone full Buffy. What if the Cullens decide to use the school as a feeding ground during the eclipse or a dance…this could be a fun and campy horror film with actual tension and the characters who I liked could become fully fleshed out rather than being left behind to explore the bland Cullens, Bella and Edward. More Vampire films and stories need more “Buffy,” one of the best shows that made vampires scary and complex. If you truly have to throw in a romance make Edward more than a cipher and have him actually dealing with the curse and being a murder rather than the moody guy who hunts deer. Hell he can be our Angel in the story if there “has” to be a romance rather than the organic romance between friends in a survival situation.

1 – Leaving a Toxic Relationship – An Empowerment Story

       The final way that “Twilight” could be fixed is being more explicit in the toxic nature of the romance going on. This could be a story of Bella escaping abuse from a controlling stalker boyfriend and her realizing that he is those things is what happens as well as her taking control of her agency to free herself. He is vampire so the threat is even greater as we see her slowly put her life back together, find allies in her school friends and in the end take out Edward when he doesn’t take no for answer, since the character we meet is a toxic, controlling stalker anyway. This is a story about empowerment and a fully fleshed out Bella rather than the cipher who rewards toxic behavior and abuse that we see in the film and in the book.

I hope you liked my list. If you have ideas if your own I’d like to hear them. I plan to do more lists like this in the future as simply scoring a bad film and ranting about it gets old, and it is so much more fun coming up with solutions rather than just ranting about problems.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 9 – “Empress of Mars” – An Amazing Exploration of What it Means to be a Soldier

   The Ice Warriors are one of my favorite aliens in “Doctor Who.” These are a species who are amazing warriors with a code of ethics that makes them complicated. They are driven by honor and I love seeing how that plays out in their interactions with humanity…be it in Classic Doctor Who or “Cold War,” their first time returning in the new series, which was an episode also written by Mark Gatiss. Non-spoiler thoughts, I really enjoyed this episode. Mark Gatiss is great at writing these guys and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future as so far I have yet to see a bad Ice Warrior episode.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Mark Gatiss.

The story involves a legion of Victorian British on Mars who are transporter there after they help Friday (an Ice Warrior they discovered and helped heal) who was alone on Earth. All as not as it appears to be as they discover the Tomb of the Ice Empress. Trouble begins to unfold as fear and greed create conflict between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this story as we have Friday who is a warrior who was a prisoner of war in way and made friends with his enemies, you have the Empress caught in the old ways wanting to restore an empire that no longer exists, you have Catchlove who is blinded by pride and personal honor and Godsacre a man who was hung for cowardice who is ready to lay down his life to protect his men and in turn saves them because the Ice Queen sees the honor in his act and makes his men part of her Empire. It is a powerful scene and shows just how complicated conflicts based around honor can become.

First Contact – First Contact is shown in two different ways. The Ice Empress kills one of the soldiers who awakens her as he is still jewels from her tomb and over the course of the series it involves holding back her anger as well as the fear from some of the soldiers who Catchlove is leading given how outmatched they are by the Ice Warriors. We also see peaceful first contact too when the Ice Warrior beacon is awakened at the end  and the alien Alpha Centauri welcomes them to the Universe (setting up the group they will be a part of Classic Doctor Who later in their timeline).

A Conflict of Honor – The driving issue is one of honor and understanding as both Catchlove and the Empress want territory for their respective powers and live for the fight and domination, while the Doctor, Friday and Godsacre have been hurt too much by what honor has done…Friday was last of his people until the Empress was awakened, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords at one point and Godsacre was so terrified at what he had to do in war that he ran. It is those who have lost and who realize the horror who are willing to submit their honor and in turn find a higher form of honor in the process. Catchlove is killed and it is Godsacre’s submission along with Friday’s protecting of those he can (the Doctor, Bill, the soldiers) that lead peace and a union between the two species. There will always be fights but there is no reason that personal and greater honor can be met rather than it leading to the destruction of all.

The Cons: The Ending Scene – Missy appears at the end after the TARDIS pulls Nardole away and there is this awkward almost sexual scene where the Doctor says she has to go back into the Vault. It is just strange and breaks the tone of the entire episode.

I really liked this episode. It was on par with “Oxygen” from this season but not as good as “Extremis” but I still consider it a favorite episode and hope that Gatiss can write more episodes like this. Like “Cold War” he is in his element when he is writing about conflicts of honor between soldiers and finding resolution and hope amidst fear. This episode is a shining example of the writing he is capable of on this this show and I look forward to more adventures like this in the future.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 8 – “The Lie of the Land” – Great Idea that Chokes a Bit at the End

“The Lie of the Land” is an episode that could have been great. If we’d spent more time with the Monks as occupiers and seen more of what they were doing that was beneficial it could have caused more conflict…or if there had been more setup on how there defeat could occur. Both these issues were not explored as well as they could have been which created a really rushed episode that in the end failed to be great, even if it was enjoyable.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Toby Whithouse.

The premise involves the Monks now control the world and everyone believes they have always controlled it. The Doctor is putting out propaganda videos that the Monks see as subversive and Bill is searching for the Doctor as she holds onto her sanity through her only connection left, the one to the memory of her Mother.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of the Monks ruling through mind control is actually pretty neat as it makes those who rebel not knowing who to trust (which the episode does do some stuff with). I liked Monk occupied Earth as it felt fearful and threatening and well off…and that was a good draw.

The Occupation – The occupation is full of Monk propaganda as they insert themselves throughout all human history and advancement. Those more prone to follow authority are also the greatest threat as the Monks themselves are usually the ones who never kill, it is their human followers. This adds a level of threat we haven’t really had in a Doctor Who invasion as often times it is the alien threat, rather than us as the threat.

The Monks – From their subversive occupation to mind controlling the human population through the power of a single act of consent…the Monks are truly an amazing threat and I’d like to see them in the future. They were a good invention and I got the idea from this episode that what they desire most is power and control and having that through the galaxy.

Missy – Missy comes up to help the Doctor and Bill and lets the Doctor know that the only way to stop the occupation for good is to kill the one who caused it, aka Bill. How she says it is without malice, just a fact and she blames the Doctor’s sentimentally for causing problems in the long run…though to contrast this she is recounting sorrow as she remembers the names and faces of all she has killed. The Master is growing and changing.

Bill and the Doctor – Bill and the Doctor are the leaders of the rebellion as we see each of them have gone about fighting in different ways. Bill by holding onto the truth and the Doctor by slowly recruiting and deprogramming others. I love their dynamic as both feel they can’t trust one another and first and through reveals find trust again. I wanted more with these two in the episode.

The Cons: Defeating the Monks – The Monks are defeated by Bill remembering her mother and using it break the propaganda Monk at the center of the Pyramid, which is the headquarters of the Monks. The Doctor takes responsibility for it claiming to have left Bill pictures of her Mother…we never see him actually do this. This peeved me off as it stole from Bill’s moment and we never saw the Doctor do it. This is what kept the episode from being great.

“The Monks Trilogy,” was mixed. The first episode is one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who,” while the second is one of the most annoying and disappointing. This one is mostly good but also has some of the problems of the second episode, which makes this Trilogy hard to recommend. Overall I enjoyed the Trilogy but you don’t need to watch the second one. The first and third are strong enough episodes on their own that you’ll at least get decent stories that reveal an intriguing enemy that I hope we see again in the future.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good.

“House of Cards” Season 5 – The Power Shifts

     I’ve been with “House of Cards” for a while now. This is easily one of my favorite shows out there, even though it did have a season I really hated. This is a season that plays on what made last season work and strengthens it further. This is the season where we see just how wonderfully awful the Underwoods are and how their quest for power does and doesn’t payoff.

The season picks up where last season left off with the Underwoods running against Conway in the 2016 election. The race is tight as the Underwoods prepare to go to any means to hold onto power and win the election.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Election – The election is fantastic as we see political dealings going down as Conway’s advisor Mark Usher is convinced to work for the Underwoods when they find the dirt on Conway after they successfully cause a political crisis by using one of their assets (a hacker) to cause panic across swing states. This eventually leads to a special election being called in one of those states where Frank and Claire rise to victory.

The Underwoods – The Underwoods are the main reason to watch the show. They are so corrupt and compelling as we see just how far they are willing to go to tie up loose ends and to keep in power. This season is a shining example of this and ends showing that even the Underwoods loyalty does not fully extend to one another.

Frank – Frank wins the election but the corruption of his rise to power becomes the forefront as the former president comes forward and people begin calling him out for the shady dealings and situations that surrounded him in his rise to power. In the end he decides to resign as his time in Elysian Fields (a secret society) showed him the true power lies outside the office of the President and controlling it, as Claire is left in charge as she became Vice President last season.

Claire – Claire is the better of the Underwoods as we see that she does not act out of spite and is good at building bridges between members of the party and opposition. Unlike Frank she doesn’t care about revenge, but can be just as ruthless (she kills her lover who knew all of the Underwood secrets), just holding power and this season ends with her as President holding Frank’s sins against him as she refuses to pardon him for his crimes, leaving him alone and under threat with her at the top, it finally being “her turn.”

The Rat Race and Cost of Power – Those underneath the Underwoods all pay the price in the end. Doug is alone and underground and as of the end of the season has not been pardoned for his crimes, Frank is just like him…LeAnn is dead with her former lover the hacker dead as she was loose end that was cleaned up and the government is in disarray as people seek to jump ship or find the Underwoods blackmailing them with their past actions. I really liked LeAnn’s character and her death for me was the strongest one since Frank’s murdering of Russo, who was also an actor and character I liked. This season was all about consequences and those consequences paid off with those who still hold power being isolated and those who trusted the Underwoods being just as isolated or dead.

Okay: Russia – Russia is the only one who can blackmail the Underwoods, but even he loses his asset, though we see that Claire’s adviser is working for him, so he isn’t out yet, but we don’t see what Russia’s agenda really is at this point.

This was an amazing season that gave us a major shift in power as we have seen Claire hold power but Frank’s unpredictability and secret agenda always detracted from Claire’s potential. Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey once again do an amazing job and I loved watching the power shifts take place…from Frank going to the private sector to control government and Claire using the power of the Presidential office to consolidate her power and agenda and with it shift power away from Frank. Where next season leads is anyone’s guess but this is show about their partnership which Frank left behind this season in his quest for revenge against those who had opposed him. I think he’ll realize this or he’ll fall as Claire has shown to be the better leader now on multiple occasions.

Claire Underwood 2020

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

 

“Riverdale” Season 1 – A Quality Noir Inspired by Archie Comics

  “Riverdale” is one of the best shows on the CW. This is a show that manages to adapt comic book characters in really creative ways and give them depth and nuance as well as tell an all around fun mystery that is explored over the course of the season. “Archie Comics” comics are comics that I read at different points growing up but I haven’t read the modern stuff, though I’ve heard good things. If it is anything like this show I think I would enjoy the modern stories immensely. Suffice to say, this is the best thing to come out of the CW in some time that isn’t an ongoing show.

The series was created by the creative director of “Archie Comics” Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and producer Greg Berlanti.

The story involves the mystery surrounding the murder of Jason Blossom as the the town of Riverdale reels from the death as secrets are revealed and the characters must find themselves as their own problems and drama begins to consume them.

The Pros: The Premise – I’m a fan of Noirs as the story is narrated by Jughead, one of the main characters who is writing the story of the murder and what unfolds as secrets about himself and his friends are revealed as the mystery is solved.

Riverdale – The location of a small town that is full of dying industries where everyone knows everyone and murder has to be solved is compelling. I like stories like this. It was what made “Broadchuch” interesting and it is the kind of location that breeds interesting drama and characters in stories like this.

The Characters – The characters the best part as we get characters who are multi-faceted. Archie is a player but great at empathy and connecting with others and does grow up, Betty is a perfectionist whose flaws consume her, Veronica is selfish but ends up being one of the most selfless and by contrast Jughead is presented as selfless and an idealist but is also quite selfish and consumed by his own ego. All our characters are contradictions and grow up, even the minor characters are shown to have many layers and it makes the show powerful. I cared about most of the characters in this, which is not something I can say about every show.

The Search for Self – The search for self is a huge theme of the show. Whether it is the Blossom legacy that consumes Cheryl Blossom while facing her own family’s dark present and actions, Archie facing his blue collar background, divorce and love of music that arose out of an affair but the love and passion for music is still there and Betty and Veronica…like Cheryl finding an identity outside of the expectations and corruption of their parents (same goes for Jughead too). This is powerful and the beginnings of these explorations are laid out.

Facing Trauma – Another theme is the theme of trauma as all our characters have experienced it at some point and it is only in opening up and honestly facing it that they have the chance to heal. All our main characters are at different levels of facing this trauma so I’m curious to see where Season 2 takes this given actions happen at the end that will increase it for 2 of our characters.

The Cons: The Love Triangle – I hated the love triangle between Betty, Veronica and Archie. I get it was in the comics but it is the weakest part of this series. I’m glad that we only real deal with it at the beginning and end of the series. Outside of that, I want more character exploration not stupid love triangles that usually only exist for cheap drama.

“Riverdale” is a series I’d highly recommend. It is intelligent and reminds me what I loved about reading the comics. This is a show that captures what it means finding yourself as you grow up and facing the contradictions within yourself. People aren’t simple and are almost always complicated and so much of that is facing the different parts of who we are. “Riverdale” does that with the characters of it’s show and I highly recommend it to both fans of the comics and any fan of good drama and characters.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10