Thursday, January 29, 2015

Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 4: The Blitzkrieg Button

We're halfway through Agent Carter's truncated first season already. This episode wasn't bad, but it didn't seem to have the energy of the pilot, and felt like mostly setup for the back half of the season. We did get another connection to Captain America with the introduction of his vial of super soldier blood, which will no doubt become the McGuffin for the season finale.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Howard Stark smuggles himself back into the country in order to retrieve a particularly dangerous piece of tech he calls the Blitzkrieg Button (Houston, we have a title!). The Button can permanently (!) black out an entire city, and Stark is afraid the SSR science boys may accidentally activate it, plunging New York City into darkness for years. He asks Peggy to retrieve it for him. She's suspicious, but agrees.

Stark also can't stay in any of his penthouse suite, as it's being watched by the SSR. Peggy reluctantly agrees to let him stay with her in the Griffith, her strictly all-gal residence.

Meanwhile Chief Dooley (of the SSR) is investigating Leviathan agents Leet Brannis and, er, the Other Silent Guy. They supposedly died at the Battle Of Finnow, even though they got better later. He decides to travel to Germany and interrogate Nazi Commandant Mueller to get the scoop. Mueller, who's about to be executed for his war crimes, tells him that the Nazis didn't kill Brannis or any other Russian Leviathan agents at Finnow, because when they arrived everyone was already dead— mauled and torn apart by some unseen force. Hmm... 

Peggy sneaks into the SSR lab and retrieves the Blitzkrieg Button. Before handing it over to Stark though, she activates it and finds out it contains a vial of Captain America's super blood. She confronts Stark about this, and he claims he wants the blood for research, as it could possibly lead to cures for various diseases. Peggy doesn't , believing he wants to profit from it somehow and tears him a new one for lying. She punches him in the eye, keeps the vial of blood for herself, and hides it inside a wall of her apartment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mink, the creepy gangster who smuggled Stark into the country, is miffed after being cheated out of his delivery fee. He sneaks into the Griffith to collect from Stark, and is confronted by Peggy's neighbor Dottie, who, to no one's surprise, knocks his block off— literally! 

Thoughts:
• So it turns out Howard Stark is an even bigger horn dog than his future son! Who knew? Ah, simpler times, when social diseases could be cured with just a dose of penicillin. 

• When Peggy moved into the all-girl Griffith apartment a couple episodes ago, did anyone not think she'd eventually end up hiding Howard Stark there? Telegraphing!

• When Jarvis is driving Peggy to the lab, he tugs his ear every time he lies to her. 

Was this "tell" simply a subconscious tic, or was he deliberately (and silently) trying to signal her?

• Chief Dooley offers the soon-to-be-executed Commandant Mueller a cyanide pill in exchange for information (to spare him the pain of being hanged). Later as he's being escorted out of the prison, Dooley offers a guard one of the same pills, saying it's a breath mint.

I'm still not quite sure what the hell was going on in this scene. I think they really were breath mints, and Dooley fooled Mueller into spilling his guts by telling him they were poison. 

On the other hand, maybe they really were cyanide tablets and he deliberately killed the guard. He doesn't seem all that fond of Germans, even if the non-Nazi kind. I'm honestly not sure which to believe. If they were really breath mints, isn't it a bid odd that he'd keep them in a secret compartment inside his watch?

• Agent Thompson gave Peggy a very astute observation in this episode. He asked her why she works at the SSR, saying, "You're a woman. No man will ever consider you an equal. It's sad, but it doesn't make it any less true." 

I have a feeling his comment is going to be a catalyst for Peggy to do something greater with her life and career, probably sometime around the season finale.

• Peggy got in a few really good lines during her row with Howard Stark. First she tells him, "I can trust the actions of men who don't respect me more than those who do." A little later she says, "I think you are a man out for his own gain no matter who you are charging. You are constantly finding holes to slither your way into in the hope of finding loose change, only to cry when you are bitten by another snake."

I wouldn't worry too much about them. They've got to kiss and make up eventually, since Peggy and Howard co-founded S.H.I.E.L.D. (along with Colonel Chester Phillips). 

• Stan Lee pops up in yet another Marvel cameo. They really wanted to make sure we noticed him, as the camera lingered a little too long on him. 

I do enjoy his cameos though. It's going to be a sad, sad day when he dies.

Overheard At Work: Pickles

I work in a typical office, surrounded by many other workers in cubicles. Although I'm grateful to have a job I like, sometimes the vocal din from the surrounding coworkers is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention odd. Thank the gods old and new for headphones and Pandora.

The following is a 100% true actual conversation I Overheard At Work:
Woman: I like pickles with my sandwich. But only cold pickles. I won't eat a warm pickle. I can't. I WON'T!
Well, at least she's passionate about something, even if it is just pickled cucumber slices.

Tut Tut!

This week the art world was aghast when the mask of King Tutankhamun, the world's most priceless archeological treasure, was irreparably damaged after a botched repair attempt.

According to officials at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the mask's pointed, jewel-encrusted beard recently snapped off during an attempt to clean it last October. Other reports say the mask was removed because it was loose.

However it happened, the museum, desperate to get the popular attraction back on display, chose not to call in a professional restoration team and attempted to repair it themselves. 

Unfortunately they did this by slathering the end of the beard with epoxy and accidentally smearing it all over the gold face of the mask. They then tried to scrape the excess epoxy off with a spatula, permanently scratching the 3,300 year old face of the mask.

The museum is currently dimming the lighting around the display to obscure the damage. Ah, that's much better! No one will ever notice if you turn out the lights!

The museum refused to reveal the identity of the person responsible for the damage, but according to sources, this isn't the first time he's damaged a priceless museum artifact. 

Here he is in 1997, when he attempted to clean and restore James McNeil Whistler's Arrangement In Grey And Black No. 1, better known as Whistler's Mother.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 11: The Sound And The Fury

Another solid episode of The Flash this week, as this show moves to the top of my favorites list, surpassing even Doctor Who.

Although I'm really enjoying the show, there are a couple of things about it that prevent me from liking it 100%. The biggest problem— Dr. Well's Private Super Jail, where he's holding most of the series' villains captive. Comic book world or not, you just can't up and jail people without a trial! The writers really need to do something about this issue, and soon.

I'm also kind of worried that they're burning through their super villains awfully fast. The Flash has always had an extensive rogues gallery, but they're eventually going to run out of bad guys, and soon!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
As the episode opens, the Flash uses his super speed to stop the motorcycle-riding Royal Flush Gang, which has absolutely nothing to do with this week's plot. Barry goes home and finds Iris there, moving out yet more of her stuff. She gets a phone call telling her she's been hired as a writer by the Central City Picture News. Dr. Wells goes home to his spacious, modern, all-glass home and is attacked by an unseen foe who says, "We both know what you did. It's time to pay the Piper!" Wells uses his super speed to avoid the falling glass.

The police investigate, and Eddie and Joe becomes suspicious of Wells when they realize the supposedly wheelchair-bound scientist wasn't hurt by the falling glass. Barry studies the glass and realizes it was shattered not by an impact but by sound waves. He confronts Dr. Wells, who tells him he knows who did it— Hartley Rathaway.

Rathaway was Wells' brilliant but very abrasive protege a couple of years ago. They had a falling out when Rathaway threatened to expose the fact that Wells' particle accelerator could potentially explode if activated, which seems like a justified concern to me. Wells fired him and threatened him if he went to the press.

Rathaway then attacks his estranged father's office building with his sonic powers, in order to deliberately get captured and placed in Dr. Wells' Private Super Jail, which he can't possibly know about. His plan works, and he's indeed incarcerated. He then tells Cisco that Wells has a dark secret. Later he escapes and steals STAR Labs computer files pertaining to the Flash.

Cisco, Caitlin and Barry confront Dr. Wells about this dark secret, which turns out to be that he activated the particle accelerator, knowing it was unstable and was likely to explode. The Gang is disappointed and hurt by this, especially Caitlin, who lost her fiancé Ronnie Raymond in the explosion.

Rathaway studies the stolen computer files and determines Barry's "internal frequency." He then begins causing havoc on the Central City-Cleveland Dam, which draws out the Flash. Rathaway uses his sonic powers to "tear Barry apart from the inside." Fortunately Dr. Wells comes up with an inspired plan to save Barry, involving satellite radio.

Rathaway is thrown into Super Jail again, but tells Cisco he'll let him out because he knows what happened to Ronnie Raymond. Then we see Dr. Wells in his Secret Super Villain Lair, recharging himself with tachyons and wondering why his super speed is glitching. He says, "The real endgame is almost here." I don't know what that means, but it sounds like a season finale setup to me.

Thoughts:
• The crooks on the motorcycles at the beginning of the episode were a barely recognizable Royal Flush Gang, as evidenced by the graphics on the sides of their helmets.

As much as I like this show, it continues to vex me with its lack of proper superhero costumes. The Flash wears one and the world didn't implode into a black hole, so why not give the villains costumes as well?

• Cisco wants the STAR Labs Gang to take a group photo. Barry balks at this, saying taking a picture while he's in his costume defeats the purpose of having a secret identity. Dr. Wells says, "Maybe people in the future will want to know how all this happens." I just bet they will, Dr. Wells.

• Dr. Wells lives in a stylish, ultra modern mansion that appears to be built mostly out of glass. He comes home from work, rises from his wheelchair and struts around his spacious house. 

Should he really be walking around like that, in front of all those floor to ceiling windows? Anyone who glances his way as they pass by will see him up and sashaying around. Or is his mansion in a secluded area, behind a high fence? Methinks some curtains wouldn't hurt.

By the way, when Rathaway attacks, we see Dr. Wells use his super speed, confirming once and for all that he's the Reverse Flash. We already knew that of course, but it was still significant as this was the first time we've seen him "speeding" without his costume.

• The Pied Piper turns out to be Dr. Wells' protege Hartley Rathaway. We've heard that name before, just last week in fact, when the fabulously wealthy elder Rathaway bought the Fire And Ice painting that Heat Wave destroyed. I should have made the connection as soon as I heard that name last week, but alas, it's been a long time since I've read any Flash comics.

The TV version of Pied Piper differs quite a bit from the comic version, as you might expect. In the comics, Hartley Rathaway was born deaf, but his hearing was restored by research funded by his father. He became obsessed with sound and invented a way to hypnotize people with music. He eventually turned to crime, calling himself the Pied Piper.

Later he reformed and became an ally of the Flash, working with the poor and underprivileged. I don't see that happening with the abrasive TV version.

His powers were tweaked a bit for TV as well. The TV version doesn't use sound waves to control minds; instead using them exclusively as force beams. He also wasn't born deaf, but wears some sort of hearing device to counter what appears to be tinnitus, which he developed after the particle accelerator explosion.

The Pied Piper was also one of DC Comics' first openly gay characters, which is referenced in this episode. Note that when the Flash captures him, he says, "Being scooped up by a guy covered in leather from head to toe has been a longtime fantasy of mine, so thanks!" Rawrr! Listen to her!

• The biggest surprise of the night (to me, anyway)– apparently you can now call someone a "dick" on network TV. When discussing Rathaway's abrasive demeanor, Cisco says, "He was mostly a jerk, but every once in a while... he could be a dick."

We're very near the end of civilization.

• Iris is ecstatic when she gets a job as a honest to gosh real-life writer at the Central City Picture News. I was thinking there's no way in hell her horrible blog could have landed her a writing gig, and I was right– she only got the job because the editor of the newspaper thinks she has an "in" with the Flash.

However she got the job, hooray for Iris! She's now the proud owner of a horrible, high stress job in a dying industry. Well done!

• Iris' editor pairs her with an experienced reporter named Mason Bridge. I'm guessing he'll eventually turn out to be more than just a reporter, as they placed way more emphasis on him than they would have a throwaway character.

There's no Mason Bridge in the Flash comics though, although there was supposedly a minor character named Mason Trollbridge. Hmm...

• Luckily when Pied Piper says he's going to reveal Dr. Wells' dark secret, it's not the one we think. I assumed he was going to spill the beans about the whole Reverse Flash thing, but instead he told everyone that Dr. Wells knew the particle accelerator might explode, and activated it anyway. Oh, that dark secret! Is that all?

• The TV Pied Piper uses sound waves and vibrations as weapons. In the comics, Cisco Ramon was the superhero known as Vibe, who had sonic powers and could generate shock waves. Pretty similar powers there. I wonder if TV Cisco will eventually adapt the Piper's gloves and become a super hero like his comic book namesake?

• The Pied Piper lures the Flash to the Keystone Cleveland Dam. So... Central City is in Ohio? I don't see how that name could mean anything else.

• Rathaway uses the stolen STAR Labs files to find out Barry's "internal frequency," and uses that knowledge to vibrate him to death.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this is most likely comic book science. I'm pretty sure human bodies don't each have an individual sound frequency. 

• At the end of the episode, Cisco locks up Rathaway in Dr. Wells' Private Super Jail (for the second time), without even a hint of a trial. I know this is a comic book world, but Jesus Christ! Private citizens can't just jail someone indefinitely without a trial! Who does Wells think he is, the United States Government?

Besides being highly illegal and unconstitutional, there don't appear to be any facilities in these tiny spherical cells. How are the prisoners fed? How do they go to the bathroom? Do they just have to go on the floor, and Cisco hoses them down every night?

One last thing about Private Super Jail— supposedly it exists to house super powered criminals, who could easily break out of the everyday county jail. But Rathaway isn't a metahuman crook— his powers came solely from his gauntlets. Without them, he's just an ordinary schmoe. Even more reason why he shouldn't be in Super Jail!

• In the tag scene, we get to see Creepy Dr. Wells in his secret super villain room. We find out that his super speed is apparently unstable, and cuts out at inconvenient times. Is that why he's so interested in Barry, so he can use him to somehow stabilize his powers?

We also see his Reverse Flash suit is hanging in its alcove. Why does the suit appear to have veins built into it?

• Joe assigns Eddie to start investigating Dr. Wells. As I've said before, there are several different versions of the Reverse Flash in the comics, and Eddie Thawn is one of them. Is this how TV Eddie may end up becoming the Reverse Flash as well?

Batman's Got A New Hat!

A while back the Figures Toy Company began releasing a series of 8 inch Mego-like Batman figures, based on the 1966 TV series of the same name.

They're generally pretty well-done and quite cool. They even managed to evoke the original Mego packaging!

They've made three waves of figures so far, including Batman and Robin, the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Egghead, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Shame and the Mad Hatter.

Unfortunately it's beginning to look like the line may be starting to lose steam. Here are the next offerings in the line:

Yep, it's Batman again. With a little table and some limp ropes around him.

And here's Robin, the Boy Wonder, also with a little table and limp ropes. These two figures are from the special "Tied Up" series.

I get that they probably need to include some kind of Batman and Robin figure in each wave to maintain interest in the line, but... they're the exact same figures from Wave 1, with just a piece of string added! 

I would dearly have loved to have been in the board meeting where they decided on this variation.
President: OK folks, we need to include Batman and Robin in our new wave of figures, but we've already done Batman and Robin. What other variations could we include?
(The various executives all look down sheepishly at their legal pads)
Murphy: How about unmasked versions?
President: Interesting, but we've already done Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in their civilian clothes.
Archer: How about beach versions, from that episode where Batman challenged the Joker to a surfing contest? 
President: Hmm. I like it, but we'd have to manufacture a boatload of tiny swim trunks, and we don't have the budget for that.
Jenkins: How about wrapping them with string? They were always getting tied up on the show. 
(The rest of the room breaks out in derisive laughter, except for the President) 
President: Ropes, eh? Hmmm... I like it! It's bold, it's got spunk, and best of all, it's cheap! We've got a couple miles of string in the warehouse right now! Jenkins, you're a genius!
Possibly the most blatant case of "New Hat" syndrome I've ever seen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Boy Next Door

Welp, it's the first of the year, so you know what that means! It's the annual January Film Dumping Ground Season! Yes, it's that magical time of year where the studios burn off all the celluloid dogs they didn't dare release during the all-important and lucrative summer and Xmas blockbusters seasons. Brace yourselves for an onslaught of watered-down PG-13 horror films, romcoms, dance-off movies and fart comedies. It's a great time to be a film fan.

The Boy Next Door was written by Barbara Curry and directed by Rob Cohen. Cohen is primarily an action director, having helmed Dragonheart, Daylight, The Fast And The Furious, xXx, Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor. Well, at least his quality's consistent.

This appears to be Curry's first foray into theatrical films. Her only other screen credit is The Perfect Guy, which hasn't yet been released, but sounds like the exact same film as this one. Go with what you know, I guess.

The Boy Next Door is perfect example of the "psychotic stalker" genre, like Swimfan, Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful and Obsessed. The script includes every element from these types of films like it's going through a checklist. Attractive, Vulnerable Woman estranged from her husband? Check! Charming, Attractive Younger Man enters her life? Check! Ill-advised sexual encounter with Charming, Attractive Younger Man? Check! Finding out that Charming, Attractive Younger Man is actually a sociopathic stalker? BIG check! Charming, Attractive Younger Man starts making the Attractive, Vulnerable Woman's life a living hell, threatening her family and forcing her to violently retaliate? Check, check and check!

The movie wallows and writhes in this cesspool of cliches so gleefully that part of me wonders if it's supposed to be some kind of subtle parody of the genre. The filmmakers can't possibly expect us to take this story seriously, can they?

The film was shot for just $4 million dollars, which is incredibly cheap these days, and probably less than what other films spend on their craft service. Obviously very little of that amount was spent on the script.

SPOILERS AHEAD, NOT THAT THERE'S MUCH TO SPOIL!

The Plot:
Claire Peterson (played by Jennifer Lopez) is a high school literature teacher who's recently separated from her husband Garrett (played by John Corbett). Garrett cheated on Claire during a recent business trip, prompting her to throw him out. Claire's world is further turned upside down when an impossibly perfect nineteen year old named Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door with his ailing uncle. 

Noah befriends Claire's teenaged son Kevin, and becomes sort of a big brother to him. Noah invites Claire over on the pretense of helping him cook a chicken, which I guess is what the kids are calling it these days. He comes on to her, and in her weakened and vulnerable state she succumbs to his aggressive advances. Hijinx ensue, as they have a night of steamy, passionate sex.

The next morning Claire tells Noah that what they did was a mistake, and can never happen again. He instantly flies into a rage and begins stalking her, which is pretty easy, since he's The Boy Next Door (Houston, we have a title!). He hacks into her email account and gets enrolled into her literature class, sends incriminating photos of their sexcapades to her school printer, and begins expertly turning Kevin against Garrett.

Things really get out of hand when Noah tampers with the brakes in Garrett's car, which nearly kills him and Kevin. Claire sneaks into Noah's house and discovers he did the same thing to his parents' car, killing them. He also kills Claire's best friend Vicky when she gets too nosy for comfort.

Noah then kidnaps Garrett and Kevin, holding them hostage in the barn that Vicky inexplicably owned. He tells Claire he'll let them go if she runs away with him, which sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan that any woman would go along with. When she refuses, he sets the barn on fire. Claire grabs Kevin's asthma syringe and plunges it into Noah's eye, blinding him. Garrett and Kevin escape, as Claire puts the drop on Noah— literally— by crushing him beneath a tractor engine. The movie ends very abruptly at this point, as if it's just remembered an urgent appointment, leaving the audience confused and unsatisfied.

Thoughts:
• The film starts out with a series of very strange, choppy flashbacks and voiceovers explaining Garrett's infidelity and Claire's marital situation. These scenes appear to have been edited with a chainsaw. 

Surely they weren't filmed like this. I've got to believe they were part of a much longer opening sequence that was drastically cut down. The entire movie is a brisk 91 minutes— I'm thinking there were a lot of scenes littering the cutting room floor.

• The whole film suffers from this clumsy editing. Characters and story lines are introduced and then abruptly disappear without warning. Take Noah's uncle for instance. He owns the house next door that his nephew Noah moves into. He disappears a few minutes later as we're told he's in the hospital receiving a bone marrow transplant. He inexplicably shows up again near the end, before disappearing again, for good this time.

Similarly, Kevin's crush Allie receives a buildup that makes us think she's going to be relevant to the plot, before completely vanishing from the film (and no, despite what everyone thinks, she is not the blonde that Noah has sex with later in the movie).

• When Noah is bonding with Kevin, he tells him very emphatically that he's "almost twenty." Obviously this was done in order to make Claire more sympathetic, so that when she has sex with Noah it's between two adults and she's not guilty of statutory rape.

• Noah is quite the Renaissance man for just nineteen. He's well versed in the classics, can quote Homer like a college professor, a skilled auto mechanic and handyman, not to mention a gifted marksman and boxer. He's even a devoted caregiver as he tends to his ailing uncle. He's also an expert psychologist, as he makes some very accurate and astute observations about Garrett and Vicky. 

He'd be the perfect catch, if only it wasn't for that whole pesky sociopath thing.

• Noah visits Claire and gives a copy of The Iliad as a gift. Claire examines it and is gasps as she says it's a "first edition."

OK, obviously they meant it was a first edition from a particular publisher here, but it still struck me as funny. How the hell do you have a first edition of a three thousand year old story? Is it written on a scroll? In Greek?

• This movie has a very peculiar obsession with chocolate chip cookies. The script mentions them every chance it gets, and then some. At the beginning of the film Vicky reminds Claire that Garrett cheated on her with a woman who "smelled like chocolate chip cookies."

After their tryst, Noah invites himself to dinner at Claire's house. Kevin offers him a plate of freshly baked biscuits and Noah takes one, gleefully replying, "I love your mom's cookies!" Wakka wakka!

Later Claire is brooding alone on the couch, and sees a plate of chocolate chip cookies lying on the table. Incredibly, she picks one up and sniffs at it, presumably to see just what it was that attracted Garrett to his secretary and drove him to infidelity.

I would not be surprised to find out that screenwriter Barbara Curry used to work at Pillsbury.

• Kevin is continually taunted by ginger bully named Jason Zimmer. He calls Kevin "The Wiz," due to a pants-wetting incident a few years earlier. Jason says, "Hey Peterson, I saw you on Turner Classic Movies last night in The Wiz!"

OK, so that was actually kind of amusing, but I find it very hard to believe that a teenager in 2015 would have ever heard of either The Wiz OR the Turner Classic Movies channel.

• When Noah sees Jason taunting Kevin, he beats him so severely that he fractures his skull. Since Noah is legally an adult, he should have spent the rest of the film behind bars, awaiting his assault trial. Of course at no time are the police or criminal charges ever mentioned. The only thing that happens is Vicky, the very unlikely assistant principal, expels him from school.

• Speaking of law enforcement, at no time does Claire ever consider going to the police, which would have solved all her problems and ended the movie an hour early (if only). In fact the police don't even seem to exist in this world until the very end of the movie, after the crisis is over. That's pretty much standard in these kinds of films.

• Claire sneaks into Noah's house and finds his secret shrine to her (which is under the basement!), filled with photos of her sleeping and bathing, making us wonder how the hell he managed to get such shots. She also finds his laptop and sees a folder labeled "Videos" that contains the sex scene he apparently recorded with her. She deletes this file and somehow believes that's the end of it. 

Has she never heard of backups? Storing files in the cloud? Retrieving deleted files?

She also finds several files of very specific car model schematics, implying that Noah studied them in order to know how to sabotage the brake lines of his father's car and Garrett's. Incredibly, these potentially incriminating files are right out in the open on his desktop. Jesus, people hide porn on their computers better than this nimrod hides his murder files.

• Noah tries to blackmail Claire into running off with him by holding Garrett and Kevin captive. 

I get that Noah is a sociopath and doesn't think things through, but what exactly is he expecting to happen here? Does he really think Claire will fall hopelessly in love and they'll spend their lives together after he kills her ex-husband and son?

When Claire refuses this romantic offer, Noah begins splashing gas all around the barn. It sure looks like he pours it on both Garrett and Kevin, but when he lights it, only the barn catches fire. Luckily for them neither Garrett or Kevin burst into flame.

• At the end of the film Noah suddenly turns into an indestructible slasher movie villain. Claire wallops him in the back of the head with a shovel, but he manages to shake off the blow, so she then stabs him in the eye with a huge hypodermic needle. This still doesn't stop him, so she sticks her fingers into his empty eye socket and starts feeling around inside his skull. When that still doesn't work, she finally drops an engine block on his chest.

After Claire rescued Garrett and Kevin, I half expected the camera to show Noah was no longer crushed under the block, having escaped to appear in the sequel.

The Boy Next Door is an over-the-top stalker film that revels in its genre cliches. Despite its awfulness, it's still mildly entertaining in a bad-movie-night sort of way. I give it a C.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Doctor Who Team-Up Infographic Redesign

A few years ago I made a Doctor Who Team-Up Infographic. It was OK, but it didn't come out the way it looked in my head and I never really liked the design.

So I finally took the time to redesign it, and add the additional team-up episode that aired in 2013 (timely I know, but hey, I'm busy).

It's tall, so prepare to scroll. If you want to read the text, you'll have to go to this link:


Apparently the large dimensions of the infographic are discombobulating the impeccably designed Blogger glitch-fest, er, I mean interface, and it insists on displaying this much-too-small image, no matter what I do to embiggen it.

The old infographic was 12" x 18." I knew I'd never fit all the additional info onto that size, so I decided not to worry about it, and just let the material dictate the dimensions.

For non-fans of the show, those circular symbols in the background are Gallifreyan words.

There was a lot of moving around of elements and rewriting of text to get everything just right. I'm a lot happier with this version.

As fun as these team-up episodes are, historically there's always been some sort of problem with each one, making them less than perfect. For example, in The Three Doctors, actor William Hartnell (who played the First Doctor) was in poor health and was only able to interact with the other Doctors via view screen, so it was really just two Doctors running around. Pity.

Then in The Five Doctors, Hartnell had sadly passed away and was replaced by actor Richard Hurndall. He did a good job, but naturally it just wasn't the same. Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, declined to participate, and appears for a few seconds through the magic of stock footage. Baker has recently said he regrets his decision.

In The Two Doctors, actor Patrick Troughton had aged visibly since his tenure on the series, and his hair had gone almost completely gray. This was distracting to say the least, since he was supposed to be the same age as the last time we saw him. This would have been such an easy fix— all they had to do was dye his hair black. Does hair dye not exist in England?

The Day Of The Doctor is marred by problems as well— namely the absence of the Ninth Doctor. In the episode, The Moment brings the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors back in time to show the War Doctor the massive guilt he'll experience if he destroys Gallifrey. 

But Ten and Eleven don't seem all that guilt-ridden or damaged, seeing as how they spend a good amount of screen time joking around with one another. The Ninth Doctor was the one who closest to the tragedy and had an air of sadness and tragedy about him. He'd have been a great example for The Moment to have used. So why wasn't he in the episode?

Unfortunately for the fans, actor Christopher Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor, has some sort of beef with the BBC and refuses to reprise the role. That's his business of course, but you'd think he could set aside his differences briefly for the sake of the fans. Story-wise it makes no sense for him to not be in the episode, and hurts it overall.

I knew that show runner Stephen Moffat's plots were overly convoluted and needlessly complicated, but nowhere was that more evident than when I started writing up the synopsis for The Day Of The Doctor. I was able to distill the other episodes down to a few short paragraphs. It took many times that to explain Day, even after leaving out a ton of stuff.

I kept whittling away at it and slashing elements until I got it down to a manageable size. You may notice that the Zygon subplot, that takes up a good amount of the run time, is barely mentioned in my synopsis. That's because I realized it's completely superfluous. It has absolutely nothing to do with the overall War Doctor plot line and could be edited out of the show completely without harming the episode one bit. Such are Stephen Moffat's scripts.

Hopefully there won't be any more team-ups for a while, so I won't have to update it again.

Drawn and designed all in InDesign.

The Flash Season 1, Episode 10: Revenge Of The Rogues

The Flash is back from Xmas vacation! Huzzah! I am not a fan of these mid-season breaks, but at least this show was only off for a month. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. won't be back until freakin' March, and Doctor Who is gone until late fall (!). 

There's a lot going on this week, as the general public finally gets its first real look at the Flash, Iris moves in with Eddie, and we get our first super villain team up as Captain Cold joins forces with his pal Heat Wave. 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Still smarting from his defeat by the Reverse Flash, Barry trains to improve his speed. Captain Cold, aka Leonard Snart, returns to Central City with his partner Heat Wave, aka Mick Rory. They fake a robbery in order to set a trap for the Flash, but he's too busy training to show.

Dr. Wells tells Barry that if he ignores Captain Cold, he'll get bored and go away. Seems like sound advice to me! Barry tells Joe that he's going to concentrate on his speed, so he and the police force will have to deal with Cold themselves. This makes Joe unhappy. Cisco comes up with a special art deco shield to help protect the police.

Meanwhile in non-Flash related subplots,  and Iris moves out and into Eddie's apartment, much to Joe's chagrin. Caitlin talks to a colleague of her late fiancé Ronnie. She discovers that "Firestorm," the last thing Ronnie said to her, is not a name, but an acronym for the transmutation project he was working on with a Dr. Martin Stein.

Cold and Heat Wave kidnap Caitlin to draw out the Flash. Dr. Wells and Cisco theorize that if Barry can get the Rogues's respective guns to cross streams, they'll cancel each other out. And by cancel out, they mean "create a big-ass explosion." Dr. Wells admits this is just like Ghostbusters.

Joe and Cisco rescue Caitlin, while Barry battles Cold and Heat Wave in full view of the Central City police force. He eventually gets them to cross the streams, they blow up, and the public now knows the Flash is real and not an urban legend.

After Iris moves out of Joe's house, Barry decides to move back in. As the Rogues are being transported to prison, their van is hijacked by Snart's sister, who's most likely Golden Glider. 

Thoughts:
• Barry's opening narration is changed this week, as he says, "My name is Barry Allen, and I'm NOT the fastest man alive," reflecting his run-in (HA!) with the Reverse Flash.

• The STAR Labs Gang helps Barry train by chasing him with flying drones. Drones that are equipped with live ammo, by the way, including missiles! Yikes! Hopefully Barry doesn't ever trip!

• As one of the training missiles bears down on Barry, Dr. Wells comes this close to jumping out of his wheelchair and revealing himself for the fraud he is. Fortunately for him (I guess), Barry rallies and saves himself, and Dr. Wells sits back down.

• I believe this episode set the record for the most times the name "Snart" has ever been said in a single televised hour. I have to admit I snicker a little every time I hear the name "Snart." Do the writers really think that moniker is any less silly than saying Captain Cold?

• By the way, did you notice that Captain Cold has a calm, icy demeanor while Heat Wave is a raging hothead? Subtle!

• The Rathaways, the wealthiest family in Central City, buy a valuable painting for a cool $25 million. The Rogues show up and steal it from them.

A few things about this little interlude. First of all, the painting is called Fire And Ice. It's an abstract work; one side is white, while the other side is red because of course it is.

Second, as he exits his private jet, Mr. Rathaway hands his driver the painting and tells him to be careful with it. Amazingly this $25 million dollar painting isn't inside a crate or any kind of protective packaging! The fragile canvas is totally exposed to the elements, spilled drinks and sharp corners. They didn't even bother to throw a tarp over it! "Yass, DO be careful Jeeves, and don't put your foot through my priceless painting!"

In their super secret villain lair, Heat Wave accuses Cold of being obsessed with killing the Flash and says they should just sell the painting and enjoy their newfound wealth. Um... where exactly do you sell a painting? Especially one that the whole art world knows is stolen? At the local pawn shop? They bicker for a bit and Heat Wave eventually comes around to Cold's point of view, agreeing to kill the Flash. He then torches the painting, just for kicks.

Well, that was all certainly meaningless! What the hell was the point of this whole "painting theft" scene, other than to eat up a few minutes of the run time?

• When Caitlin is discussing Ronnie with Barry, she says the last time she saw him, he muttered "Firestorm" and then flew away. She then says, "My dead fiance can fly. Haven't broken that to my parents yet." HA!

The two of them then figure out that "Firestorm" isn't a name or word, but an acronym for a project that Ronnie and his colleague Jason Rusch were working on. It stands for Fusion, Ignition, Research Experiment and Science of Transmutation Originating Rna and Molecular Structures. Phew! To paraphrase Grant Ward over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Somebody really wanted that to spell 'Firestorm."

This is significant, because in the comics Firestorm could not only fly, but had the power to transmute objects. That's a relief, because I was afraid they were going to turn him into a lame Human Torch clone.

By the way, in the comics, Jason Rusch is a rebooted, alternate version of Firestorm. I doubt he's going to turn into a superhero; I'm betting they just threw him in to make the fanboys swoon.

• Caitlin finds Ronnie's F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. paper online, but balks at reading it because it's 800 pages long. Barry reads it in just a few seconds.

Apparently Barry's cognitive abilities also have super speed, if he's able to comprehend such a massive amount of info so quickly. This actually makes sense. The ability to run 500 miles an hour would be useless if you couldn't see an object in your path and be able to avoid it in time.

• Cisco whips up some special heated art deco shields for the police. They use them when Captain Cold attacks, and whaddya know, they actually work. Unfortunately for the cops though, the shields leave their legs exposed. Fortunately for the cops it never occurs to Cold to aim below the shields.

• The Rogues kidnap Caitlin in an effort to draw out the Flash. In their secret super villain lair, Heat Wave ties her to a booby-trapped chair with an incendiary device attached to a trip wire. As a finishing touch he places a gag in her mouth so she can't warn anyone who rushes in to rescue her.

Here's a fun little experiment. Take a handkerchief and place it across your open mouth. Now pull it as tight as you can around your face. Have you done so yet? OK, now try to speak. Can you still talk? Of course you can! Sure, your voice is a little muffled, but you can still speak at least as clearly as the average ventriloquist!

I can't really blame The Flash writers too much for this idiocy. This "mouth gag" er, gag has been going on since the earliest day of cinema.

• The Rogues then send a "ransom message" to the Flash over the TV airwaves. Despite the fact that it's playing on a hi-def TV, the video is very low res and has visible scan lines. Funny how we still use have to use these scan lines to indicate we're watching a video, despite the fact that TVs no longer display them.

• Dr. Wells, Cisco and Barry discuss how to neutralize Cold and Heat Wave's guns. Apparently Cold's gun fires an absolute zero ray— absolute zero being the coldest anything can possibly be. It's around −459ºF. That's pretty darned cold. 

Heat Wave's gun emits an absolute hot beam. I'd never heard this term before, and assumed it was just comic book science made up for the show. Apparently it's a real thing. It's the highest attainable temperature of matter, called the Planck temperature. It's 1.416 x 10(32)K. I have no idea what that means, but it's got like thirty two zeros in it and sounds really, really hot. Hot enough to melt not only Barry's suit, but probably the entire city as well.

• The entire time Barry's zipping up and down the street trying to get the Rogues to cross their streams, the police stand motionless like statues, seemingly powerless to do anything but gape at them. I guess the Central City Police Force doesn't have any snipers who could have picked off the villains from a rooftop? Maybe they all had the night off.

The only one who moves a muscle to help is Eddie, and even then he doesn't fire his weapon, but covers the Flash with a heat shield.

• By the way, I defy anyone on the audience to watch Captain Cold and Heat Wave firing their weapons and not thing of these two.

• As Iris is packing, she finds Barry's old backpack from his high school days. Of course it's red and yellow.

• Now that the entire police force has seen the Flash in person and knows he's real, does that mean Iris can shut down her stupid blog? Please?

• Biggest laugh of the night: As Iris is moving out, Joe is visibly upset. Eddie tells him he's welcome to visit anytime, but to give them "a few minutes notice." Joe doesn't find this amusing. Ha!

• At the end of the episode, Captain Cold and Heat Wave are being transported to Iron Heights Prison, when their convoy is attacked. They're freed by Cold's unseen sister. So... do you think this would this count as a... prison break? Eh? Get it? 

Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell both starred in Prison Break a few seasons ago.


• In the comics, Cold's sister is Golden Glider. I assume the same applies here. She has a pair of hi-tech skates that allow her to "glide" on any surface, and even through the air.


• For everyone who watched the episode live, how about that Subaru commerical with the dogs driving the car? Did you catch the disclaimer that said, "Dramatization. Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt. Always secure your pets."

Seriously? I'm assuming that disclaimer was a joke, right? Please tell me it was a joke, and the general public doesn't really believe dogs can drive. Please?
Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Site Meter