Friday, October 24, 2014

Constantine Episode Premier Review and Easter Egg Reveal



Tonight, was a very special night for television watchers, and fans of DC Comics. Tonight, Constantine premiered its first episode, titled "Non Est Asylum" and not in a shabby way too. There was one that I felt didn't it do well, but there were lots of things it do fine very handily. So before I get to the bad and the good, I feel its time for a little back-story for all my dedicated readers out there, who might need some introductions to the character of John Constantine and what sort of mayhem he'll be facing every Friday night.

The series is an adaptation of the comic book Hellblazer, which told the dark and intense adventures of British occultist and magician John Constantine. Created by the team of Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, John's a character that has been in many of DC's comics over the years, either as a central or supporting character, always making sure the scales of the universe are balanced, in his own way of course. Now, with that little bit of history out of the way, on with the review

Stepping into John's trench coat is Matt Ryan, a honest to gosh Englishman (ok a Welsh-man with dyed hair) but still, fits the role nicely. He has a rough-edged attitude that plays of John's loner attitude, coupled with a nice charismatic air about him to help sell John's classic con man shtick.

Filling in three of the supporting roles are original show character Liv Aberdine played by  Lucy Griffiths, whose father was an old friend of John's, who is tasked with keeping her safe. And stepping in as John's cab driving chum Chas Chandler is Charles Halford. There is a twist added to Chas's character, an apparent survival ability that could very well border on the supernatural. The third role was that of Manny played by Lost actor Harold Perrineau, an angel from Heaven tasked with foreshadowing coming events with the series universe.

The relationship's in the pilot are anything but one dimensional. John's attitude towards Liv is one of care and gruff concern for her well being, helping her learn about the abilities she posses's (courtesy of her father) and giving her some guidance in how they can be properly used in the world of magic.

The one bad thing that the pilot did was the overuse of exposition to move the plot along. John's musings about his home life, the doctor at the mental institution where John is interred (voluntarily), rehashing the details of what went down in Newcastle, even John's talk about Liv's father and his work, it is there, but it feels like it is just being forced into the pilot as plot filler. Now granted this is a pilot episode, so things that go wrong can be remedied, and hopefully that will be the case as the series progress's.


Now one thing that the pilot did right, was throw in lots of juicy Easter Egg's for comics fans to spot. I've yet to spot all of them, but these were a few of the ones I did notice.

Ravenscar









When we first meet John, it isn't in the middle of a supernatural ritual, or walking London’s streets under cover of darkness, but as a resident of the ‘Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility For the Mentally Deranged.’ That’s the exact location where the comic version of Constantine spent 3 years (1978-1980) following his first (failed) attempt at exorcism. In the comics, the facility would go on to become a hotel and was eventually owned by Constantine himself.

Dr. Roger Huntoon 









Though he’s never mentioned by name, the doctor interviewing Constantine is shown to be one Dr. Roger Huntoon. Besides operating Ravenscar in the comic books, Huntoon is credited as the author of “Pow! Psychology: Understanding the Super-Men (and Women)” within the DC Comics universe. His distaste for superheroes has even led him to appear in comics like “Sandman,” “Animal Man,” and “Swamp Thing.” 

Helmet of Fate









The artifact picked up and examined by Liv won’t just be familiar to DC Comics faithful, but Smallville fans as well. The golden helm is best known as the Helmet of Fate, able to grant its wearer incredible magic superpowers. The title – and helm – of ‘Doctor Fate’ has passed to a few people over the years, but the helmet itself remains one of the single most powerful magic objects in the entire DC universe.

The Ibistick









Comic fans may be so distracted by the Helmet of Fate that they miss yet another comic icon tucked in behind it: the Ibistick. Originally a creation of Fawcett Comics, the Ibistick was a magical wand forged in ancient Egypt for Prince Amentep. Amentep used the wand – capable of doing almost anything the bearer could imagine – to preserve both he and his dying love. Waking in modern times, Amentep took the name of Ibis the Invincible. Could such a story be planned in the world of Constantine

Pandora's Box 









The ‘three-eyed’ skull seen among the other magical artifacts may seems just as mysterious, but it’s actually a far more recent addition to the DC Comics universe. The ‘skull’ is really Pandora’s Box, the source (like the ancient Greek myth) of all the world’s sin, allowed to escape thanks to the irresponsible actions of Pandora. The object played a large part in DC’s New 52 “Trinity War,” but given the heroes pulled into that conflict (including John Constantine and Shazam) we doubt it’s more than a subtle nod to readers. 

Overall, despite the bad aspect of unneeded exposition, this was a great first start for a John Constantine TV series. It got people hooked on a character who has a lot of demons (and that's not just a turn of phrase in John's case) and with all the Easter Eggs (both listed here and unlisted) there was plenty of stuff to draw in comics fans, which is always a big plus for shows of this nature. Pound for pound, Constantine will do nicely on the Friday night slot, giving viewers and fans alike thrills, chills, adventure, excitement and a heavy dose of world saving British snark along the way. So be sure to tune in next week for Episode 2, and my next review. Till then, happy screams friends.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gotham Episode 5 Review



Gotham's show universe keeps expanding in leaps and bounds, bringing in elements of the Batman universe into the fold in ways that are the farthest thing from subtle. Tonight's episode is no exception. A madman is walking the streets of Gotham, handing out little vials of a drug called 'Viper', which gives its user a few precious hours of enhanced strength and aggression, before they crumble like a house of cards. Of course Gordon and Bullock are on the case, and along the way, they discover that despite all its very pretty outer coating, the high and mighty Wayne Enterprises isn't the bright and shining company that it appeared to be under Thomas and Martha Wayne's leadership.

Bruce of course, is also taking an active hand in the 'Viper' hunt, as well as trying to uncover any links between why the Falcone and Maroni crime families each managed to pocket a very nice piece of the Arkham real estate deal.

As for Oswald, well this episode, he nearly gets his wings clipped and beak silenced when he decides out of foolish trust to spill the beans about his felonious past to Don Maroni. What follows is Jim Gordon having to be brought into the picture in order to corroborate the whole story,

All in all, this episode was refreshing because once again, more screen time then usual for Alfred and Bruce. We also get a look at Bruce trying to in his own way, be an active part of his parent's company (though being only 12 years old does throw up a lot of roadblocks).

And yet still, like the show, young Bruce moves forward, not only in his mission to find out who murdered his parents, but also the mission that will lead him to become the Batman. And Gordon moves forward as well, and Oswald too. Each of these three fellows, moves forward in their fictional journey, to become the characters that many comic book fans have come to know so well over the decades. At the end of the day, I'm excited no matter what about this show, because it will always bring new surprises for me, new twists in the Batman story. And so I say on with the show!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Marvel's Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 4 Review



Tonight's episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was enjoyable, because for the first time in a while (or so the show history goes) Phil Coulson stepped out from behind the desk of Director and went back into the field, playing a little game of reconnaissance and acquisition with Agent May.

Now of course normally Coulson would leave this kind of work to his agents, but this time, the mission requires a direct touch. The target, a painting that survived a parish fire that is being auctioned off. Now the painting itself is not what is important, but it is what is carved into the back of the painting. Alien symbols, like the ones from the obelisk and the ones that Coulson was carving into the walls. Lines and circles all joined together in various patterns that mean something, but as of now, not even we (the audience) can ascertain to what the symbols mean.

It was highly enjoyable to watch Coulson and May work together, their romantic banter when they were in character as a wealthy couple, their serious moments when they were all business scanning the room for HYDRA Agents or keeping an eye on out Glenn Talbot to make sure he doesn't spot them and blow the whistle on the entire operation.

This stood out, because as I said, it put Coulson out in the field, away from the tasks and work that come with heading a very fledgling S.H.I.E.L.D. It was fun and refreshing to see him out in the world, doing the whole secret agent thing again. It made me think back to the old 'Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.' comics from Marvel's halcyon days of the 1960s, back when the spy genre was a big deal in American culture, in movies and TV shows and also in comics. That was a new and exciting time for Fury, he was thrust from the world of being a war character into the dangerous and thrilling world of being a secret agent, going up against powerful and dangerous foes, armed with the latest high tech gizmos and gadgets in a new war against evil.

That's part of what is making this second season so enjoyable for me as a fan and as a reviewer. Its a "brand new" S.H.I.E.L.D. in so much as they are having to start out from scratch in a lot of ways. They may know their enemy, but they are not in the fighting trim they were before the events of "The Winter Soldier". Its a whole new ballgame, or as Baron Strucker stated at the end of the "Winter Soldier" film, "It's not a world of spies anymore. Not even a world of heroes. This is the age of miracles...and there is nothing more horrifying." And Strucker is not wrong.

This new world, this new game that S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA are now playing, it is not just to gain ground in weapons or even political power, it is now about gaining a hold on people and machines that could tip the scales to either side, upset the balance in ways that the fictional Marvel movie/TV-verse could not even begin to imagine. How those scales are tipped, well, we shall just have to see as the season progresses. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gotham Episode 4 Review



Tonight's episode of 'Gotham' was bloody, dramatic, filled with questions and excitement and so much more. If there was ever any proof that 'Gotham' is a show that is re-telling the beginnings of many of the people from the Batman legend in a proper way, this episode is that proof.

The main crux of the episode is the feud between the Falcone and Maroni crime families over who will gain the rights to take the old Arkham Asylum and the surrounding neighborhoods, and reinvigorate them with new life. Part of the fueled feud is the death of two Gotham City councilmen, both on opposite sides of the vote, who have been killed by an independent contractor. Gordon and Bullock set out to do some good old fashioned police work, and in doing so, put themselves up against a man who is being paid to start an all out war between Gotham's two biggest crime families.

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot is busy as well. Not only does he manage to rise through the ranks of the Maroni crime family this episode, and place himself within a position of some power, close to Don Maroni, he has made his petition to Jim Gordon that with the crime war coming, he will need help, the kind of help Oswald can provide.

As for Bruce, he is of course active in his own way in this episode, trying to find a link between his parents deaths and the situation that is brewing over Arkham. Already we see the beginnings of the detective within the boy, which will of course one day earn him the moniker World's Greatest Detective.

All in all, this episode, like the others before it, brought drama, character and plot development, and opened up another door within the Batman universe that is being formed and in many ways, rewritten for TV. Whatever the end result will be when the show reaches its final conclusion, I for can not wait to see what that result will be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 3 Review



Once more unto the breach our dear friends at S.H.I.E.L.D. are thrown, and this time an old familiar face is there to help the charge. Tonight's episode see's the return of Simmons, who has undertaken a mission from Coulson that is both dangerous and highly in-depth. Simmons has apparently been tasked by Coulson to infiltrate HYDRA, learn anything that can be used to help S.H.I.E.L.D. in their new struggle against the terrorist organization. And in tonight's episode, an exciting adventure unfolds.

HYDRA has a new target, and his name is Donnie Gill. Fans of the show will remember Donnie, the bright kid from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy back in Season 1 who tried to make a machine that would bring about a small ice storm and take out his intellectual rivals at the Academy. Well now he's back, sporting freezing powers, and HYDRA wants him.

So its up to Simmons to do all she can to make sure HYDRA keeps their hands off Donnie, while unbeknownst to her, a S.H.I.E.L.D. team is making sure of the same thing.

There's a lot of character development in this episode, we see how much Simmons has changed in her term playing secret spy for Coulson, we see that Fitz is trying to regain control of his mind, and we also see Skye attempting to work past her own personal issues for the good of the team.

Also, overarching plot development too. We are shown that Coulson is willing to take hold of any possible advantage against HYDRA he can muster, in order to make sure that they do not gain a foothold on the world. Also, a little peek at some of HYDRA's organizational structure in their renewed war against the forces of good. All in all, a very excellent episode for the beginnings of Season 2.

As the series progress's, it is my hope that we introduced more and more to other Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., old and new, who will continue to help the forces of good in the never ending battle for justice.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gotham Episode 3 Review



Tonight's episode moved things forward for 'Gotham' in a big way. The main plot point of the episode is a vigilante who handcuff's corrupt members of Gotham's infrastructure to giant weather balloons and sends them aloft to die. The vigilante, labelled the "Balloonman" by the media, is intent on punishing the corrupt of Gotham, be they police or politician or businessman.

Gordon and Bullock are on the case, tracking down leads and eventually apprehending the culprit. A very straight-forward question asked by the vigilante to Gordon is "Who will you work to save?", a question that is sure to make an impact on Jim Gordon in his later years.

The episode once again focuses its attention on Bruce Wayne, and shows that Alfred is attempting to help the boy maintain a normal life, despite all that has happened to him. Coupled with that is Bruce's growing interest in the affairs of Gotham, something that will of course become part of his identity as Batman in the future.

A third major plot point is Oswald's actual return to Gotham. He finds employment at an Italian restaurant owned by Don Sal Maroni, Carmine Falcone's rival for control of Gotham City. Oswald manages to keep his head down, and even finds a friend in Sal Maroni. Here it shown that Oswald has a plan in mind on how to facilitate his revenge on both Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone.

All the while, we also see Barbara Kean's continued support of Jim, despite Detective Renee Montoya's continued pestering that Jim isn't all that he appears to be, coupled with the fact that at one point Renee and Barbara were apparently an item.

 I enjoyed this episode because it showed Jim and Harvey engaged once again in actual police work, tracking down leads, compiling clues etc. Bruce is developing as a character and person, despite his young age, it is starting to become a tad too obvious of his intent to want to make a difference for Gotham City. The best character so far in terms of appearing genuine, cut from the same cloth as his comic book counterpart, is Oswald Cobblepot. Oswald had a specific quote in the first episode, that a war was coming. And it is now quite apparent, that Oswald will somehow be a major part in that war, with the intention of coming out on top as the new crime king of Gotham City.

Next week's episode promises to be a good one, since throughout tonight's episode, there were minor references made to 'the old Arkham place', which can only mean that the infamous Arkham Asylum will soon be opening its door again. And if the nut house is opening back up, that means the nuts will surely come in droves to Gotham. Probably not as bad as the future Rouges Gallery that Bruce will face as Batman, but certainly enough to give Gordon and Bullock a run for their money. So let next week's episode come, and with it, a brand new review.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 2 Review



To say that 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' is intent on making sure its second season sticks firmly in the minds of viewers is an understatement. Something to examine with the new show is that Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. have to contend with two forms of opposition, that of HYDRA and that of Glenn Talbot and his obsession with bringing the reformed and fledgling S.H.I.E.L.D. to book.

In the comics Talbot (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) was just as obsessed with catching the Hulk as General "Thunderbolt" Ross. While he is not cast in the light of straight up villain, he is here to stay as both an opponent for Coulson and his team, and as a foil. And he really scratches that classic Marvel Comics itch.

As far as villains go, we are not short of them. In addition to the Absorbing Man, there is also HYDRA superior Daniel Whitehall's right man Bakshi, who is determined to keep the team from maintaining world order.

One thing to note, is the continued hinting at the Kree (major Marvel alien race) and their involvement in the Earth's affairs. The writing that appears upon the Obelisk from episode 1 is clearly Kree. This, and the Kree corpse from Season 1, and any mysteries surrounding Skye and Coulson's 'abilities' brings up the possibility that they will become versions of the Inhumans within the confines of the Marvel M-verse.

Despite the dearth of villains that appeared in this episode, I enjoyed it immensely. There was a healthy balance of good writing with fast pacing, so I never once felt bored. As the season progress's, I look forward to each new episode and what it brings.