Saturday, May 28, 2016

Arrow Season 4 Review (SPOILERS)

I've now reviewed three of the TV shows in the DC TV universe. Now it's time to review the final one. The one that started it all. Arrow season 4! If you missed my reviews of season 1 of Supergirl, season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow, and/or season 2 of The Flash, I now have them linked right there for you to catch up on. The quick review of all three of them is that I enjoyed them all. All three had their fair share of issues, but they came around in the end and left me with a positive feeling. If I were to rank them all, The Flash narrowly holds on to my favorite spot, but is followed very closely by Legends with Supergirl being a close third. If I were to add the crapfest that was Arrow this season into the mix, I've made it no secret that it would come in a very distant fourth place. I'm planning on being very blunt about things in this review. I hated Arrow this season. Hated. The only reason why I didn't outright drop the show following a certain episode is because I wouldn't feel comfortable writing this review without having endured to the end. It's really sad because just two seasons ago, this was my favorite show on TV. Now it's time for an outright spoilerific roastfest. Let's begin.

We start the season picking up from one of the dumbest cliffhangers ever. At the end of season 3, Oliver had decided to retire from being the Green Arrow and go live a romantic, quiet life with Felicity. That's all fine and dandy and everything, but do you really expect me to believe that Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, is really going to stop being the Green Arrow on a show called Arrow for longer than like 10 minutes into the season opener? And to send him off with Felicity freaking Smoak, a character that has single-handedly ruined this entire show? And you think I'm exaggerating. The moment they started shipping Olicity on this show is the moment that I mentally threw in the towel, especially since it coincided with them prematurely killing off my favorite character, Sara Lance, and the rest of the season 3 garbage. So anyways, Oliver and Felicity are off in whatever land and Oliver is about to propose to Felicity (excuse me while I throw up at the thought of that), when... surprise! They get sucked back into Star City because an evil maniac is taking over and the Green-Arrow-less Team Arrow needs their help. So they're back. Like me, and everyone else who watched the season 3 finale, predicted the second that season ended.

At least I had the hope that they could fix all of the crap that they threw at us in season 3. That's why I continued. Hope. Even the best of TV shows have their down seasons. Even though it was kinda sloppy, the beginning of this season showed some hope that this show would get better. They brought on a personal favorite actor of mine, Neal McDonough (Forever Strong, RED 2, Captain America: The First Avenger) to play a villain named Damien Darhk, who controls a secret organization called H.I.V.E., whose soldiers are worse aim than the original Star Wars trilogy's stormtroopers. In this universe, Darhk (I always second guess myself on where that "h" in his name is supposed to go) is a former member of the league of assassins and is someone who Ra's al Ghul fears. If you're going to try to top Ra's al Ghul and the league of assassins, might as well go with the guy he fears. At least that's the idea anyways. I think this show made that up. But oh well. It's a decent premise, so long as you make him a good villain with a believable backstory and good motivations. They did a poor job with following through with that this season and completely wasted the talents of Neal McDonough. But I'll get into that later. At the first part of this season, I was completely sold that this season could be good.

But first we had to wade through some childish drama. Poor little baby Diggle was butt-hurt that Oliver Queen actually came up with a good plan of stopping Ra's al Ghul. And no, I'm not talking about actual baby Diggle. I'm talking about John Diggle, who has been one of the coolest characters on the show. But man, bless David Ramsey's heart, they totally turned him into a whiny little jerk this season. They didn't even bother giving him a cool outfit. That little helmet of his? Eek. Anyways, Diggle is mad at Oliver because Oliver didn't tell him of his plan in season 3. I don't blame Oliver for that. Had the team known of Oliver's plan, it probably wouldn't have worked. Granted it shouldn't have worked anyways as it ended up being way too easy to kill Matt Nable's Ra's al Ghul, but that's beside the point. Diggle is angry and I was starting to get sick of this little sit-com that we were in. Let's just get to the superhero stuff. Eventually Diggle gets over it, despite claiming that he'll never be able to forgive Oliver, and we're almost back to normal. But then we have to put the show on hold and have Arrow do their part in setting up Legends of Tomorrow, which is a significantly trickier job than The Flash had because Sara is dead and people for some reason think Ray is dead as well.

Heading over to Legends is Caity Lotz as Sarah Lance and Brandon Routh as Superman... I mean Ray Palmer. I spent three paragraphs in my Legends review talking about why I love Caity Lotz as Sara Lance so much, so I'll be quick here and just talk about her revival, which was rather poorly handled. Laurel decided to dig up Sara's corpse and take it back to Nanda Parbat with the idea of convincing Malcom Merlyn, the new Ra's al Ghul, of using the Lazarus Pit to revive her. They spoiled all of this long before the season started, so none of this was a surprise. That said, the conversation between Laurel, Thea, and Malcom made zero sense. At first he wasn't budging on the issue, but then for some reason that I don't understand, he gave in. So we have Sara back! Wahoo!! Except rotten corpse Sara was disgusting and demon Sara was horrible. Poor Caity Lotz. I'm glad she persevered and made it to Legends because these Arrow writers have zero respect for these Lance sisters. As far as Ray goes, he was one of the consistent bright spots in season 3. And yeah, his lab exploded, but he was obviously alive after just shrinking himself. The rescue Ray story was much better than the revive Sara story. But now that both officially came back, poor Arrow had to give them up, which is sad for them because the show could've used their best two characters, but happy for me because I don't have to watch the Arrow writers screw them up. They are safe on Legends. Let's hope they stay there.

Back to our regular story. Very early in the season, the show decided to start playing a game with us. Who is going to die this season? That's right. Apparently the writers of this show feel like they need to fulfill a quota on this show of killing at least one main character every season. Why? I don't know. Maybe they fill like they need to keep killing our beloved characters in order to make this show feel dark. But that's just a guess. So the infamous scene at the beginning of the season is Oliver in funeral clothes standing in front of someone's tombstone looking angry. Barry walks up and apologizes for not making it the the funeral. They have some small talk about Zoom and then Barry speeds off. But of course we don't see the name on the tombstone. That's the game they're playing with us. Who's name is on the tombstone? The rumor is they didn't even know when they first shot that scene. They just knew they were going to kill someone. So who was it? I'm not going to like, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue surrounding this. And it was fun to speculate. Was it Thea? No, they already killed her once. Diggle? No, they weren't going to kill their only main black character. Laurel? No, they can't do that. She's the Black Canary. Felicity? I wish, but they don't have the guts to do that. Captain Lance? I didn't want that to happen. But that was my guess. And it would make sense plot-wise.

Then they kept stringing us along. At the mid-season finale, right after Oliver and Felicity officially get engaged (yuck), they get shot down and Felicity appeared to be dead. What?!?!?! Were they actually going to do it? I know this sounds extremely morbid of me, but I got excited. Killing the character that has ruined your show might actually fix the show. And it would give Oliver the necessary anger and rage to forward the plot of the show. Then he can have a few seasons of being single before finally getting together with Laurel, who he marries in the comics. All would be perfect. But wait, this was December. Way too early. The grave scene said "six months later," meaning it would be the end of the show before we knew. Probably April. This whole Felicity thing was just a red herring. She was safe. Throwing one red herring at us was acceptable I guess. Throw us a curveball. Keep us guessing. Twists and turns are fun. But then they kept throwing us red herrings. It didn't take long at all for me to be completely sick and tired of this grave mystery thing. But they kept going. Like an annoying little brother who keeps doing something over and over long after it stopped being funny. Every time they threw a new red herring at us, I knew that character was safe. Just stop it, show. STOP IT.

Damien Darhk stabs Laurel with an Arrow. What?!?!? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I take it back, show! Keep going!!! Let this be one final red herring! Out of all the characters to kill off, this is the one that is absolutely unacceptable. This is Dinah Laurel Lance. The Black Canary! The second biggest comic book character from the Green Arrow comics besides Green Arrow himself. The Girl that Oliver is supposed to marry. The character that is a part of the Justice League at certain points. Would Smallville be dumb enough to kill off Lois Lane is season 4? No! Would any Superman movie be dumb enough to kill off Lois Lane at any point? No! But that's what this is like. Killing the Black Canary in season 4 on a Green Arrow TV show is the most disrespectful I've seen any superhero TV show or movie be towards the comics. But I get it. They don't have to follow the comics. They can do what they want. However, even if for a moment we pretend the comics don't exist, this is still a stupid decision. Laurel has been there from the beginning. And when I say beginning, I mean the very, VERY beginning. Long before Oliver got lost on the island. She's the one who knows him best. She's the one that understands him. She's the one that's been there as a light for him in times of darkness. She's the only one remaining on the show that has any sense of logic. Why kill her?

Do you know what was even more frustrating about this? Right before she dies, she has a moment with Oliver. She confesses to him how she truly feels, that he is the love of her life. Then the show does some very touching flashbacks between Oliver and Laurel as a tribute of sorts. And do you know what? Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy actually have some amazing romantic chemistry! That was so beautiful to see. In fact, five minutes of Oliver and Laurel together, even if it was flashbacks or Laurel confessing her love on her deathbed, was a much better romance arc than the two seasons of this painfully awful Olicity. I'm sorry. I'm being really mean to Felicity in this review. Perhaps I should mention that none of it is Emily Bett Rickards' fault. I love her as an actress. But man these writers have completely destroyed her character, who I actually enjoyed in the first two seasons. Her and Oliver don't make sense together. They don't. They have zero romantic chemistry. But the writers have pushed Olicity so hard that it has been poisonous. In fact, it has been so poisonous that it caused them to kill off Oliver's actual romantic partner from the comics so that it would leave us zero question as to where the direction of the show was going. Down the toilet.

This led us to the worst episode of the season and perhaps the worst episode of the entire show. Canary Cry. The episode where they shoved it down our throats for 40 painful minutes that Laurel was really dead and was not coming back. Katie Cassidy is done with Arrow. Poor Captain Lance doesn't want to accept the fact that she's dead and tries his best to think up a way to bring her back. In fact, we learn that there is an imposter Black Canary running around. Could that be her? Did Laurel fake her death? Nope. The morgue proved that she's as dead as a door nail. The imposter story was an absolute insult. How about the Lazarus Pit? That brought Sara back! Nope. Nyssa apparently drained it. After disbanding the League of Assassins. Another stupid story arc from this season. Captain Lance finally accepts her fate, which is supposed to be a sign to the audience watching that she is done. Ignore the fact that Oliver has a friend who can run back in time and save people. Ignore the fact we have a group of friends who are time-traveling at the moment of Laurel's death. But no, the writers aren't going to use them. Having Barry show up in the episode confirmed they aren't using him. The Legends season finale confirmed that they aren't doing anything about it. She's gone.

Hatred. Anger. Rage. That's what I was feeling. I was practically Anakin Skywalker after that episode ended and I was this close to making Canary Cry my personal series finale for Arrow. But I needed to write this review and I couldn't do that after having stopped four episodes before the season ended. So I decided it was time to put Arrow on trial. They had four episodes to convince me why I should return for season 5. Oh, did I mention Oliver and Felicity broke up? You would think that would make me happy, right? Nope. Felicity broke off the engagement because she learned Oliver had a son. That made her positive that Oliver would always have secrets and apparently that was a deal-breaker. Even though she's known him for five years and knows that he's gone through some serious crap that he's trying to work through. What a jerkface she is. That reasoning made no sense. I'm also not buying for one second that they are over for good. Especially not after killing Laurel. Did I also mention that Diggle went back to being a bonehead? The fact that he trusted in brother despite it being the most obvious thing in the world that Andrew Diggle was still working for Darhk was dumb. And it was frustrating to see him not even listen to Oliver. "My brother is good!" No, he's not you idiot. Twist! He's still bad! No one saw that coming, right?

I will say, though, that Diggle actually killing his brother was a shocking moment. It was the most obvious thing ever that he was still bad. Diggle shooting him did shock me. I've been doing mostly complaining on this review, but I have to give credit where credit is due. That was an emotional moment and I thus I totally bought Diggle needing to take some time away from Team Arrow to process everything because of that. But now let's go back to this Damien Darhk thing. As I stated, I love Neal McDonough. He's a great actor and he started out as a fantastic villain. I was excited to see where they were going to go with this, just like I was excited to see where they were going to go with his story just like I was intrigued to see where they were going to go with the grave story. And Damien Darhk had magic. How is Oliver Queen supposed to stop magic with his arrows? Sadly, though, just like the grave story, I got really tired of Damien Darhk after a while. They didn't really give his character much to do, but he showed up in 19 episodes anyways. I feel his character was probably suitable for a four to five episode arc, but he got stretched for the whole season. Thus he was just dilly-dallying for the majority of the season along with the whole show in general.

Coincidentally, it was right around Laurel's death that we learn what Damien Darhk's master plan is. I can't say this reveal filled me with the same level of anger and rage as Laurel's death did. But I was certainly disappointed. Darhk decided that the world was beyond saving, so he is going to wipe out the whole world and start over. Yay!!! The villain trying to end the world cliche! This is the same thing that The Flash did this season. And Legends of Tomorrow. And Supernatural. And the recent X-Men: Apocalypse movie. Supernatural was the only situation where this actually made sense. Honestly, I'm kinda done with this plot. Can we please stop trying to destroy the world? And if we do, can we make it make sense? Like seriously, what did the world do to Damien Darhk to deserve getting destroyed? Nothing. "The world is corrupt" isn't enough. A villain's motivations need to make sense in order for a villain to be good. Arrow nailed that with Slade Wilson in season 2. He was an amazing villain, so I know this show is capable of writing good villains. But it was a total swing and miss with Damien Darhk and thus a complete waste of an amazing actor. And what a horrible finale! The end battle was a joke and anything to do with the nukes heading towards earth and how they stopped them was an even bigger joke.

I do like giving credit where credit is due. Although this season isn't deserving of much of that, there are three characters in this season that I loved that need to be given credit. First up is Constatine. I didn't actually watch his TV show that got cancelled prematurely, but I here it was great! And Constatine's episode in this season was quite fantastic! It made me want to go back and watch his show as well as hope he comes back. Second character is Vixen. Same thing with her, except she wasn't from a cancelled show. Her show is an animated mini-series where Oliver and Barry show up. I've been meaning to watch it, but haven't got around to it yet. I would totally be down for Constatine and/or Vixen to become a regular on Legends of Tomorrow. Because all good characters should avoid Arrow like the plague right now. But I want to see them back and that show would fit them well. Final character will be a recurring character on season 5 of Arrow and he was the one bright spot of season 4. Curtis Holt as played by Echo Kellum. He literally stole every scene he was in. He was terrific! That pun intended because Curtis will become Mr. Terrific on this show, an actual comic book character. I heard that from Echo himself when he showed up on one of Collider's Arrow recap shows.

That's Arrow season 4 for you! After the train-wreck that was season 3, I had hope that season 4 would get this show back on track to it's season 2 glory days, which wasn't that long ago. There was a point in time where I actually looked forward to Arrow every week. But that seems like such a long time ago. Despite a naturally rough start after season 3 left off in a disastrous way, season 4 showed potential, but it didn't take long for me to become completely bored of everything that was happening. There were a few good individual episodes here and there, but the show was losing me. And then they made one of the stupidest decisions ever to kill off Laurel Lance. That just might be an unpardonable sin. Then that disaster was followed up by another train-wreck ending as everything about the final four episodes was the most cliche superhero stuff you can get. And did you remember that there were flashbacks this season? Yeah, neither did I. They literally all sucked. In the end, Laurel is dead. Diggle is joining the army. Thea is taking a break somewhere. Captain Lance is leaving because he is permanently off the police force. Oliver Queen accepted the mayor role, which is actually cool. But the very end of the season saw the one character who should've been written off this season declare that she is with him for good. Felicity. Ouch. I don't even know if I'm coming back next season. This season was that bad.

Friday, May 27, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

It’s X-Men time once again! This is a franchise where I’ve been known to be fairly controversial. I don’t think the first two movies hold up quite as well as some people think and although I definitely understand the third has its fair share of problems, I’m not as harsh on it as some other people are. I think X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fun movie even though it has consistency issues across the board when it comes to that first trilogy. I admit that Deadpool was horrific in that movie, but Fox has recently fixed that with a really fun Deadpool movie earlier this year. Speaking of Wolverine, we have the most recent Wolverine movie, called The Wolverine, which was also fun, but kind of pointless. I have enjoyed our new set of X-Men movies, though. I thought First Class was a good movie and Days of Future Past was a phenomenal movie. How would I rank all of these? I have no idea. Days of Future Past is my favorite, but beyond that I really don’t know. I’d have to watch them all again and come up with a ranking. Maybe I’ll do that one of these days. Moving onto Apocalypse, I was surprised when all the negative reviews came out. After seeing it, I realize it has its fair share of issues, but it certainly doesn’t deserve a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s decent fun.

Days of Future Past made quite the gutsy move two years ago to completely reset the whole timeline, making every movie outside it and First Class completely irrelevant. High risk equaled high reward in that instance as it worked like a charm. Now with Apocalypse we are continuing that new timeline. We’ve jumped 10 years into the future as we’re in the early 80’s in this movie, yet no one has seemed to age a day. But eh, that’s more of a nitpick than anything. The X-Men Academy has grown, though, and we have a whole crap ton of new characters to introduce. And by new I mean old because we’re bringing back a lot of the classic characters that we screwed up on or killed in the first trilogy. And we have Apocalypse, who is quite possibly the first mutant ever as he originated from Ancient Egypt and got trapped down in the ground. But now he’s back and his powers are both unlimited and super confusing. I don’t really know what they are or why he doesn’t use some of them in certain situations. More on that in second. But anways, the story here is that Apocalypse has decided to start… yes, you guess it, the apocalypse! Surprise, surprise! But before he does that he has to travel the world and recruit a partially lame group of horsemen to join him, because, well, I don’t know. Habit, I suppose? But since the end of the world is a bad thing, our X-Men have to stop him and that’s our movie!

As you could tell with that, there is a lot of setting up in this movie. It’s not all bad, though. All of the introductions flowed well in the movie, it was just like watching all of the middle episodes in a season of a TV show. Joining this new cast was Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Nightcrawler, Angel, Storm, and Psylocke. Out of those, Olivia Munn as Psylocke was the only one who wasn’t super young. She’s 35 years old. Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) are all either 19 or 20. Ben Hardy (Angel) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) aren’t too much older at 24 or 25. Putting that into perspective, these actors were as young as four years old with the first X-Men came out in 2000. I bet that makes you feel old. So it’s a young cast, but I really like it. All these kids to a fantastic job in their roles, especially the three that start out on the good side, that being Jean Grey, Scott Summers, and Nightcrawler. A significant portion of screen time is devoted to all three and I thought they carried the movie pretty well. Storm, Angel, and Psylocke are three of our four horsemen that are recruited. Storm I loved. The other two did good, but they were mostly useless. I mean, they looked cool and had fun powers, but they added nothing to the plot

On top of all those new characters, we also have our returning cast. As always, the absolute stars of the show are James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Those two have such an interesting dynamic as both friends and rivals in both the old and the new movies and that continues here. Although I will admit that Fassbender gets a bit lost in the middle. The beginning of his arc is fascinating and emotional and he also finishes on a bang. But in the middle he is the fourth horseman recruited and personally none of the horsemen stuff wasn’t that interesting to me.  Also returning we have Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Just like in Days of Future Past, Quicksilver completely stole the show in this. He finally makes the decision to join the team, which I loved. It was good seeing him as a full-time character instead of just as a cameo. Sadly, the other two weren’t that interesting to me. Beast was just kinda there and Mystique was Jennifer Lawrence for most of the movie. The latter actually started to upset me. I wanted J-Law to go to her Mystique form more often. She was cast in this role before she came a superstar and I feel that the writers are taking advantage of her superstardom by keeping her in her J-Law form and it’s starting to become distracting. I also prefer Mystique as a villain rather than a troubled hero. She’s more interesting that way. But oh well.

Because the movie feels the need to spend all of this time setting up everything, it’s quite a long time before we get to our actual conflict. Which, I’m sorry, I didn’t like. The introduction to Apocalypse in that first minute or two was amazing. But Apocalypse as a villain was actually kinda dumb. I don't have any problem with his look and he sounds menacing. But his plan? Spend the first half of the movie recruiting three random mutants as horsemen that don’t help him at all and Magneto as the fourth. Magneto is all he needed. But I guess he is obsessed with the number four. And he makes sure to dress them all in the most sexy and sleek-looking outfits. After he’s recruited these horsemen, what’s the next part of his plan? Destroy the world. Why? I don’t know. Because he’s Apocalypse and that’s what he does? That’s all I got really. Honestly, villain deciding to destroy the world is about as cliché as it gets. Sometimes bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s worse when you have a villain like Apocalypse following the most cliché villain story without even having a good reason to. Magneto has good motivations. Not Apocalypse. And like I said earlier, his powers don’t make sense. If he can turn anything he wants into sand and kill a group of people with the snap of a finger, why does he need four horsemen and why doesn’t he use those powers against the X-Men?

That said, I still don’t hate this movie. Rotten Tomatoes has this in the 40 percent range and that’s way too low. I don’t quite know how I would rank them, but here’s how Rotten Tomatoes does: 1- X-Men: Days of Future Past (91%); 2- X-Men: First Class (87%); 3- X2: X-Men United (86%); 4- X-Men (81%); 5- The Wolverine (70%); 6- X-Men: The Last Stand (58%); 7- X-Men: Apocalypse (47%); 8- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (38%). Most of those scores I can buy. Not Apocalypse. I think it should be in the 70 range. There's a lot to love here. We have great new characters. Returning characters do good. I didn't mention the technical stuff much in this review, but the visuals are great and the score good. The action, when it finally happens, is a ton of fun. There’s plenty of emotion. Yes, I agree that Apocalypse is a bad villain with a cliché plan. And yes, they spent a bit too much time setting things up. But overall I left with a good impression of the movie. If you are a fan of the X-Men movies, then I would definitely recommend checking this out this weekend! It’s not as good as Days of Future Past, but that was a difficult act to follow. In terms of superhero movies from this year, it’s not as good as Civil War or Deadpool, but I'd put it ahead of Batman v. Superman. My grade for X-Men: Apocalypse is a 7/10.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Flash Season 2 Review (SPOILERS)

It's season finale week and I'm doing my absolute best to get these reviews out as soon as I can! Last year I waited to release some of them and by that time there was a lot less people that cared, so we're doing fast mode this time. If you didn't catch my reviews of Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, I just linked both of those to you right there for you to catch up on. It's funny, as I think about all the shows I was faithful with this season, most of them are CW shows. Out of the reviews I've written or am planning on writing, Supergirl and Bates Motel are the only shows that aren't on the CW and out of those two, Supergirl is headed to the CW next season, where it rightfully belongs. I promise there are plenty of shows on other stations that I would love to catch up on, it's just that time is a thing I don't have in abundance and TV shows take up a ton of time. As of now I've been completely sucked into this DC TV universe and with there being four shows in this universe, there's just not much time for anything else. The only other shows that I've kept up on outside of this universe are the shows that were already staples for me before this universe became such a huge thing. And to think some people see me as a Marvel fanboy. Ha! Anyways, it's Flash time, so lets dive into the second season of The Flash! Spoilers ahead, of course.

The Flash initially started as a spin-off of Arrow. Barry Allen had a quick introduction in season 2 of Arrow to kick him off his own show that began at the same time as season 3 of Arrow. It didn't take long at all for The Flash to surpass Arrow in terms of my personal enjoyment. Part of that was season 3 of Arrow was crap, but the other part was that season 1 of The Flash was epic! I became immediately invested in this show and I felt a deep connection to all of the character. I loved the backstory of Barry with his parents and I think that led to an amazing story arc in season 1 with Barry doing whatever he could to save his father from prison and trying to save his mother from dying once he learned he could time travel. This also led to a great villain with Eobard Thawne who had taken over the body of Harrison Wells and acted as Barry's mentor for most of the season. We threw all the Flash lore right out there at the very beginning, starting the series off with Barry's big arch-nemesis and introducing time travel before too long, which added several timelines in that first season already. Each episode built off the last and with almost no dull moments it built up to an epic finale where Eddie Thawne, Iris' boyfriend and Eobard Thawne's ancestor, decides to sacrifice himself in order to erase Eobard Thawne from existence. That started all kinds of whacked-out things, which led Barry to run up this singularity that formed and... BOOM.

End of season. You don't get much better than that. An absolutely phenomenal opening season. That gives season 2 a lot to live up to, but I totally had faith in the writers of this show to continue this prowess. I just hoped they wouldn't get cocky like they did with Arrow and throw the whole show in a blender. That would be unfortunate. We'll talk about the horrible fourth season of Arrow later, though. No, The Flash season 2 isn't nearly as bad as Arrow season 4. Overall I still think this was an enjoyable season. But I will admit that they did get stuck in the mud a bit this season. There came a point where Supergirl and Legends were the two shows in this universe that I was looking forward to on a weekly basis instead of Arrow and The Flash. But The Flash did pick up towards the end and thus when push comes to shove, I think The Flash barely tops Legends as the best show in this universe. Supergirl is a close third and Arrow is a very distant fourth. The problems with season 2 of The Flash started out right away. We had this epic thing going on with the singularity that formed at the end of season 1 and instead of picking up right where we left off, we do this "six months later" shindig. What?!?! You're not going to show us how things turned out? You're just going to tell us? That's lame.

Turns out Barry has become very butt-hurt with the whole thing. He's feeling so horrible about Eddie's death and Ronnie's death that he just chooses not to associate with team Flash and do things on his own. We spend most of the first episode trying to get him un-butt-hurt so we can have a show again. And oh yeah, Ronnie died. But it was so sudden and unexplained that I was sure that he was just stuck in Earth-2 or stuck somewhere in time and that they would bring him back. Nope. Not this season anyways. Franz Drameh was brought on as Jefferson Jackson to take over as the other half of Firestorm. Robbie Amell showed up later in this season as Earth-2's Deathstorm, but they killed him too. I haven't done in-depth research on Robbie Amell's relationship with the show, but I'm beginning to wonder of they were planning on using him as Firestorm still with both this show and Legends, but had some issues of some sort and decided to dump him instead. If you know more about this, feel free to let me in on the secret. Maybe Robbie Amell just didn't want to commit full-time to a TV show. That happens. If that's the case, I can't blame The Flash, but it did make for quite the abrupt end to his story arc. I mean, him and Caitlin got married at the end of season 1 and now he is dead with not much explanation. We didn't even get to see him die. The show just told us he died.

Anyways, I wasn't super impressed with the season opener of season 2. I thought it was kinda lame. In the second episode, though, we introduce Jay Garrick and Zoom, who are here because of the singularity that was formed. We have introduced the multiverse on this show! This is fantastic! I don't know how many earths there are in the multiverse, but this opens the show to an endless number of possibilities. There's a different set of circumstances on each earth leading to an endless number of potential stories to follow. Right now we are all about Earth-2 on season 2 and everyone one of our characters has an Earth-2 doppelganger which is a lot of fun. It took us a while to get there, though. Right now we just have to deal with Jay Garrick, who claims he is the Earth-2 Flash and his arch-nemesis Zoom has now gained entrance to this Earth and wants to destroy Barry because Zoom is obsessed with being the fastest man alive. Also introduced is Earth-2 Harrison Wells, who is not Eobard Thawne. He's just a guy who is obsessed with saving his daughter Jesse, who has been captured by Zoom. This Wells, who our teams calls Harry, will do anything to save Jesse, even backstab team Flash, who have a hard time trusting him anyways considering what happened with their Harrison Wells.

That's a lot of intrigue and mystery introduced in the first half of the season with these characters and that was one of the great things about this season. We as an audience were playing a guessing game this whole season as to who is Zoom, what are his motivations, can we trust Harry, and can we trust Jay Garrick? I spent the whole season speculating and reading opinions by others as to what was going on. It was a lot of fun. But before we started answering all of those questions, The Flash had to do their part in setting up Legends, which went a whole heck of a lot smoother here than it did on Arrow. Heading off to Legends was Victor Garber as Dr. Martin Stein, Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson, Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart, and Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory. It was also on The Flash where we introduced Ciara Renee as Kendra Saunders, aka Hawkgirl, and Falk Hentschel as Carter Hall, aka Hawkman. This started as a budding romance between Cisco and Kendra, which I really liked. Out of all the guys that flocked to Kendra, four of them total, Cisco was the one I liked the most with her. But when he learned who his new girlfriend was, that naturally ended about as fast as it started. Poor Cisco. These Legends drop-offs were missed, but the show continued without missing a beat because I liked our new characters.

Let's talk about those new characters. The first new character was Patty Spivot. She was a new character that I absolutely adored and in which I think the show completely dropped the ball. In fact, I think she was the best new character on this season. Immediately it gave Barry a believable love interest. I don't ship Oliver and Felicity on Arrow, but I loved Barry and Patty. They were perfect. In fact, some would say they were too perfect. Apparently the show thought that, too, because after spending so much time on her and Barry, they just wrote her off the show. Why? Because Barry was idiot and wouldn't freaking tell her he was the Flash. Not even when she figured it out on her own, because she was that awesome. She wasn't your typical clueless girlfriend who had no idea her boyfriend was a superhero. And she was willing to forgive him if he would just admit it. But he wouldn't. Why not? Because he loved her too much and didn't want Zoom to use her against him. Which made no sense because everyone on Team Flash was someone Barry cared deeply about who would work just as well for Zoom. Why not let Patty join the team? She would've made a great addition to the team. But no, halfway through she left for a new job. And there's no way her and Barry could do a long distance relationship. It's not like he has super speed or anything.

So Patty left the show around mid-season. I thought they would bring her back towards the end, but they didn't. I suppose they could still bring her on in the future. I mean, it would be quite the waste to spend so much time on her character to just drop her. How about we talk about a character that they will be bringing back? Wally West, who I also really like. In the comics, Wally West becomes Kid Flash, so it didn't take too long before I realized that he would become a speedster like Barry. The question was just when. And they did shove the foreshadowing down our throats with the Fast and Furious moments. Hey look! He likes street racing. He's obsessed with speed. And he eventually becomes obsessed with saving the city after the Flash saves his life. I wonder what that could mean? In all seriousness, though, I did like Wally's story arc. Keiynan Lonsdale improved throughout the season as an actor and by the end he was a great addition to the show. Speaking of future speedsters, the other one is Jesse Quick, Harry's daughter and another comic book character. Once they save her from Zoom, she joins the team and is also a great addition to the team. Her and Wally both get hit by the dark matter towards the end. Does that mean that they were going to be speedsters this season? Nope. That was just a tease.

Let's fast forward a bit. We do have some great individual stories with the likes of Grodd and King Shark. Visiting Earth-2 had me about as giddy is a little kid on Christmas. That was so fun with a ton of great Easter eggs. Killer Frost, Reverb, and Deathstorm on Earth-2 were all phenomenal and it really made me excited for the future of Cisco and Caitlin on the show. Also on Earth-2 we see that Zoom has some mysterious person trapped in his lair. Who the freak is that? That led to a lot of fun speculation throughout the second half of the season. I think I changed my mind on who I thought that was after every episode and we didn't see who it was until the very end. So we finally start revealing what the heck is going on with Zoom and, surprise surprise, Zoom is actually Jay Garrick, making it the second straight season that a mentor on Team Flash turned out to be the villain. Points for originality there. And poor Caitlin. First her husband dies then her new almost boyfriend turns out to be the villain. She just can't catch a break, can she? But that's okay because I never liked the Jay/Caitlin romance in the first place. She moved on way too fast after the death of her husband. It felt rushed and Teddy Sears and Danielle Panabaker had no chemistry. But we don't need to debate that romance because it died pretty quickly.

After we learn that Jay Garrick is Zoom, Zoom shows up and kills Jay Garrick. What? That was confusing, but in a good way. I just hoped they were going to be smart with it because it could've gotten messy pretty fast. Turns out all my theories were mostly wrong. We learn that if you run fast enough, you can create a time remnant. Don't ask me how that works because I'm still kinda confused. I essentially see it as cloning yourself, which is how Zoom was able to be in multiple places at once. Pretending to be a good guy on Team Flash and terrorizing the both earths. That's pretty smart. But he essentially teaches Barry how to defeat him, which is kinda dumb on his part. But also interesting because Barry learns how to be stronger from his enemy. For the second straight season. Points for originality. And yeah, Jay Garrick is not really Jay Garrick. He's Hunter Zolomon. Hunter Zolomon just trapped the real Jay Garrick, Henry Allen's Earth-3 doppelganger who was the Flash over there, and stole his identity. He did this so that he could play both hero and villain. One of his time remnants could be the hero Jay Garrick and he could be the villain Hunter Zolomon, aka Zoom. That's a pretty darn good twist for this season.

Here's the question of the hour. Was Hunter Zolomon a good villain? A superhero show is only as good as the villain, right? The answer is that he kind of is. I actually really liked his backstory. Essentially it was the exact same as Barry's, but instead of making him stronger and motivated, it ruined him and turned him into a psychopath. Thus we had the contrast of how two people can go through the same situation and come out of it very differently. Hunter Zolomon kept telling Barry that they were the same, which is why he killed Barry's father right before the finale. And he was right. They were the same. In terms of their upbringing anyways. It taught that despite your situation, you have power to control who you become. If you are caught in a horrible situation, you can either let it consume you or you can choose to learn from it and become stronger. So this was great. The best villains are the ones with the best backstories. Another advantage Hunter Zolomon had was when he was in his Zoom outfit, he looked and sounded menacing. That's not always needed for a good villain, but it certainly helps. There are two problems with Hunter Zolomon, though. The first is what I've been alluding to. There's a lack of originality here because this is the same exact villain arc from season 1. But more worrisome was his plan. Destroy the world. Or in his case, the whole multiverse. The villain trying to destroy the world is the most cliche you can get. I got bored with it. Sorry.

How about that finale, though? The episode itself in its entirety? Meh. The ending? Holy freaking cow. First off, I do say that I like Barry's story arc at the end. He was just able to come to peace with the death of his mother and was happy to have his father back when Zoom grabs his father and kills his father right in front of Barry. This breaks Barry and I love seeing a broken superhero rather than a perfect superhero. Barry is broken and thus he is bound and determined to race Zoom. This is what Zoom wants. If Barry loses, the multiverse is no more. Barry doesn't care about those consequences, especially not in his broken state. Zap. Team Flash turns against Barry and locks him in a cage. This was cool, but then their plan sucked. Trap Zoom and banish him to Earth-2 and close the bridge forever so that he can't race Barry? Yeah that's a genius idea. Totally going to work. It kinda does, except for Joe gets caught with Zoom. And you really think you can close the bridge forever? Plus, they forgot to consult Wally, who frees Barry and after five seconds of anger, they're all besties again and totally on board for Barry racing Zoom. It was all filler to me. But that race was super boss. And they didn't kill Zoom. They just let the time reapers grab him and turn him into the Black Flash. Teddy Sears is coming back folks!

Following that fight, there were two additional moments that I loved. First is the reveal of the guy in the mask. As I mentioned earlier, turns out it is the Earth-3 doppelganger of Barry's dad. The real Jay Garrick. And this means we finally get to see John Wesley Shipp in a Flash uniform because he is the Earth-3 Flash. This is cool because John Wesley Shipp played the Flash in the short-lived 90's TV show. I never watched that, but I learned that fact shortly after season 1 started. I thought that was really cool that they would bring him back and let him be in this show. But now they let him dress up as the Flash again? Super awesome! Even if it's just for this one episode and this moment, it was totally worth it. I hope he is back, though. And I've heard some speculate that perhaps he goes over to Legends next season. I'm not sure if that'll happen, but I would be totally on board with it if it did. The second great moment of the finale was the very end. In Barry's broken state, he makes the dumb decision to go back and save his mom. You know that this is going to create all sorts of crazy consequences and he's going to have to go back in time again to stop himself. This is a huge story arc in the comics called the Flashpoint Paradox. Barry goes back to save his mom and ends up back in the present with all sorts of messy consequences.

How long is this story arc going to last? I hope for longer than a couple of episodes. In fact, I think it would be kinda cool if it were the entirety of season 3. This means the show runners have the ability to do whatever the heck they want. All bets are off the table and thus I'm excited to see where they take it. My personal hopes? I want Killer Frost and Reverb back. It would totally mess Barry up if he learns that two of his best friends became villains because he was selfish enough to go change the past. I'm also guessing that he loses his powers because of this, making it impossible for him to go back and change things immediately. I want Reverse Flash back and crazier than ever knowing that Barry messed up his plans. I'm also excited to see Tom Cavanagh playing a third reincarnation of Harrison Wells in three season. This being the Earth-1 version of Harrison Wells that wasn't killed and taken over by Eobard Thawne. Jesse will be back and so will Wally. Maybe one or both of them will actually be a speedster. It should be fun! So yeah, overall season 2 was a bit more of a mixed bag than season 1 for me, thus I prefer season 1 over season 2. But in the end I still have positive feelings about season 2 and I'm very excited for season 3. The fall can't come fast enough!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Nice Guys Review

Three major movies opened this past weekend. You saw my review for the most controversial one, The Angry Birds Movie. I'm not seeing Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Sorry. I usually don't bother with Seth Rogan raunch-coms. They don't appeal to me and thus I don't feel I'm the right one to give them a fair review. That leaves us one more movie from this past weekend and it's the one that got both the best reviews of the three as well as earned the least amount of money of the three. The Nice Guys. Personally I wasn't always sold on The Nice Guys. It was one that I was curious about and based on the hilarious trailers. But you can have a dumb movie that has a great trailer. Just go re-watch pretty much any of the Transformers trailers and my point is proven. So I played the wait and see game with The Nice Guys. If it turned out to be as good as everyone thought it was going to be, I was totally down. No, it didn't get the money, but it got the praise. One of my personal favorite critics, YouTuber Chris Stuckmann, even declared it as his favorite movie of the year. So here I am. No, I'm not going to go as high as Stuckmann did, but this movie surprised the heck out of me. I expected fun. I hoped for funny. What I got was a complete movie. It's a darn shame that this only earned $11.2 million this past weekend.

The Nice Guys is an action comedy set in the 1970's starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and is directed by Shane Black. Basically it's the movie that last month's Keanu wanted to be. Not a bad first effort from Key and Peele by any means, but even though they hit hard on the comedy, they missed on the action and the movie also wasn't deep or emotional. The Nice Guys hit on all of those fronts. If you aren't familiar with writer/director Shane Black, I'm going to avoid the obvious for a second and state that this guy, as a screenwriter, was one of the big pioneers in the 80's/90's action genre as he wrote screenplays for movies such as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. As a director, the most well-known, straight-up Shane Black movie is the action comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005, which was his directorial debut. And yes, now I'll mention the obvious. He wrote and directed Iron Man 3, which definitely has a Shane Black feel to it. But I mention the other movies first because that is closer to what The Nice Guys is. Shane Black definitely knows how to do action, so I don't really know why I doubted in the first place, but oh well. It is what it is. If you're a Shane Black fan and you haven't already rushed out to see this movie, go do so as soon as you can.

As far as the story goes, Russell Crowe plays a guy who wants to make a difference. At the beginning of the movie, he's a hitman of sorts who is hired to go beat people up who deserve to be beaten up. Like a 30-year-old drug dealer selling pot to teenage girls. Ryan Gosling plays an actual private detective who's not the best at his job. At the beginning of the movie, a porn star shows up dead and Ryan Gosling is hired on to figure out what's going on. Also towards the beginning, Russell Crowe is hired to go beat Ryan Gosling up to get him off the case and he does so. Gosling is about to drop the case because Crowe is a boss in this movie who is much stronger than him. But one thing leads to another and the two end up as partners on this case. Yes, at the heart of this movie this is a murder mystery. Not only does this porn star show up dead, but there's a certain movie that she made where everyone a part of starts dropping like flies, so there's definitely something going on and Gosling and Crowe have to figure out what the heck is happening and figure out if they can stop it. I personally love murder mysteries, so I totally dug this story. Is it a murder mystery plot with a ton of twist and turns and is as unpredictable as a Sherlock Holmes story? Perhaps not. But it's still a lot of fun.

On top of this, when it comes to action comedies, this is practically perfect. As I mentioned, Shane Black knows how to do action and the action in this movie is phenomenal. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling aren't actors that are necessarily known for being straight-up action stars, but man did they sell it well. Especially Crowe. He's done action movies before, so this isn't necessarily a new role for him, but he's the most boss that I've ever seen him in this movie. In fact, he did so good as an action star in this that he could totally go the Liam Neeson or Kevin Costner route and do a whole bunch action movies in his older age and I would totally buy it. Gosling also does well, but he's more of the clumsy action star who gets extremely lucky in every situation, which is hilarious in its own right and makes him and Crowe the perfect action duo. Speaking of hilarious, I loved how well they balanced the action and the comedy in this because this movie is absolutely hilarious the whole way through. I'm not just talking about your typical laughter. This has non-stop, gut-busting, make-you-lose-your-breath type of comedy throughout the whole run time. I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed this hard in a movie. Easily the funniest movie of the year. And yes, that is with Deadpool in mind. In fact, if you loved Deadpool, go see this movie like now.

Based on the trailers, I expected good action and good comedy. Or at least I hoped I would get that. What I didn't expect was a movie with a lot of heart and depth. The movie doesn't try to hit you over the head with emotion and that's why it works so well. It's essentially sprinkled throughout the movie and thus you get small doses of emotion that give a huge powerful punch. You end up caring for both Gosling and Crowe, whose backstories add a lot of depth to their characters  and both actors are talented enough to completely sell the emotion in these small doses while doubling as comedians and action stars in the movie. The glue that holds this emotion together is a 14-year-old Australian actress named Angourie Rice. Man, this girl is a revelation. I kid you not, her acting and comedic chops in the movie are on par with Gosling and Crowe. She plays Gosling's daughter in this movie and the father/daughter relationship between them is incredible because it's real. They've had a rough life together and he hasn't been the best father and she's pretty good at being brutally honest. Once Gosling and Crowe team up, she is also good at keeping Crowe in line as she ends up going along with them for a good part of the movie. Gosling obviously doesn't want her to, but she's a stubborn little girl and follows them around anyways, which is hilarious.

In the end, The Nice Guys is a movie that deserves your attention. If you like Shane Black or you like action comedies in general, this is one that is a must see. If you are still on the fence, think about Deadpool. If you loved Deadpool,then this is also a must see. I am among the crowd that loved Deadpool even if I wasn't quite as high as some people were. I still thought it was laugh-out-loud funny and an absolute blast when it came to the action. The Nice Guys, in my opinion, is even funnier than Deadpool and had better action sequences. It also had a lot more emotion than Deadpool and a better, more intriguing story. So yeah, if you loved Deadpool then see The Nice Guys. If you didn't like Deadpool and you aren't a fan of the action comedy genre for whatever reason, which is totally fine -- we're all entitled to our opinions, then this obviously isn't your movie, but you probably already knew that. But don't worry, your movies will come. This summer has a ton of variety. In my opinion, The Nice Guys also has the possibility of like old wine in a cellar in that it gets better over time. Not that I am a wine drinker, but you get the analogy. In a few months from now, I could look back at this movie and say that it is one of the best movies of the year. But I can't make that determination at this moment. For now, I'm just going to say it's pretty dang good and give it a 9/10.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie Review

That's right. We live in a day in age where we are so desperate for movie ideas that we've starting taking apps from your phone and adapting them into movies. You ready for the Candy Crush, Temple Run, Tetris and Fruit Ninja movies? And you thinking I'm joking. Candy Crush is the only one of those four that hasn't been announced. Tetris and Fruit Ninja were announced this past week. Temple Run was announced a while ago. It's only a matter of time before we get Candy Crush, right? Didn't we learn our lesson with Battleship a few years back that games with zero plot shouldn't be adapted into movies? Apparently not. While I'm at it, I also remember Monopoly and Settlers of Catan being announced as being in the works. Out of all the movie trends starting these days, this is the one that worries me the most. That said, I wasn't vehemently opposed to the idea of an Angry Birds movie when I heard about it. I thought it could be a decent kids movie. And the first trailer showed promise. But then they released more trailers. Suddenly I became as sour as everyone else. Now that I've seen it, am I going to announce that it surprised me? No. It's exactly what you expect. Not the worst thing to grace our theaters, but certainly not something worth your time and money.

The plot of the movie? Yeah that's the problem here. Think about the plot of the app for a second. There really isn't one. The pigs have stolen the eggs and the birds are trying to get them back by slinging themselves into the pigs' lair. It's a really fun game! I am unashamedly part of the millions of people that probably spent way too many hours of their lives launching birds into the pigs' lairs. When you're bored or you're waiting in line for something and all you have is your phone, these types of dumb games are perfect because they don't require much brain power and they help pass the time. That's what they're for. Adapting them into movies? No! Movies require plot. In fact, movies usually require at least 90 minutes of plot. It should be no surprise that that's exactly where this movie struggled. Plot. Just like in the game, the pigs come to the land of the flightless birds and steal their eggs. The birds band together and go attack the land of the pigs in order to get their eggs back. That's enough for part of a movie. But before that we have characters to introduce, conflict to set up, drama to create. And we have to try to make it believable and cohesive. Yeah. This movie is 97 minutes long and I swear they spend at least 60 minutes of that run time stumbling through some sort of messy plot that had me bored to tears.

It is true that sometimes these plotless adaptations work out. The LEGO Movie is the most common example I've been hearing. While I do think LEGOs and the Angry Birds game are two completely different ball games, I get the idea. A better example in my opinion are the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies. They weren't games, but they were based on a picture book with little plot, so it's the same principle. Both of those movies were fantastic. But despite examples like that, I still don't think this is a good trend to continue. If we need to adapt things, there are so many books, video games, and other stories out there that deserve to be told. Let's tell them. Adapting something like Angry Birds that has little plot requires a whole heck of a lot of creativity to make it work. Thus I think for every one time you score a home run with a movie like The LEGO Movie or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you're going to have 10 movies like Battleship or The Angry Birds Movie. Creative juices just weren't flowing this time around. It's like someone walked into the board room, announced that they wanted to make an Angry Birds movie, and the writers were like, "Uhhhh... a what?"

Granted this movie is probably a little better than it should be. If you walk in thinking that this is going to be the next Norm of the North or Strange Magic, you might be surprised. First off, the animation in the movie is phenomenal. This is something that is easy to take for granted because we see so many animated movies these days and technology to create animation is improving drastically. But if you are a fan of animation, I think you're going to love this. They're animating birds. Birds have feathers. These specific birds have a thousands of small little feathers. I'm no animation expert, but I imagine that it took them a long freaking time to animate all the feathers and make them act like feathers on an actual bird would act like. They do a pretty darn good job of that and that's something that I appreciate. And the voice acting is perfect. I'm not going to start naming all the voice actors because there's a ton of them, but they all do a great job. So of course I've got to give credit where credit is due. But the plot! You have to have a good plot! This whole movie felt like the writers were in over their heads and had absolutely no idea how to stretch this simple Angry Birds game into a feature-length movie. There's some entertaining moments for sure. When they actually started playing Angry Birds that was fun. But they were just moments. As a whole, the movie is choppy and incohesive. I wasn't a fan.

"But Adam, this is a movie written for kids. As long as they enjoy it, that's all that matters, right?" Yes. Which is why I roll my eyes and give movies like The Smurfs or Alvin and the Chipmunks a pass. I don't enjoy them. But there's a lot of these movies that my nieces and nephews absolute adore and so I can accept a movie that is playing towards it's audience even if I'm personally not a fan. But I'm not accepting that this time around. I'm going Inside Out on this out and putting the foot down. The foot is down! THIS MOVIE IS SO FREAKING DIRTY!!!!! I get that many animated movies try to throw in humor for adults and kids to play to both audiences, but if you're going to do that, be subtle about it! There are so many moments in this movie that are the exact opposite of subtle. Like the eagle peeing in the pool. That scene goes on. And on. And on. And on. I didn't count, but that scene must've been 30 seconds of the eagle peeing. One of the pigs put plungers on his chest. When the pigs are dancing, it zooms in on their pig butts a lot and they even start a strip tease on stage like we're watching Magic Mike. Josh Gad's character at one point when they're trying to get the eggs back tells all the couples to go home and get it on to create new eggs. Toilet humor like this is spread throughout the whole freaking movie. I'm not a parent yet, but I have a lot of nieces and nephews that I adore and as a concerned uncle this is not the type of animated movie that I want them exposed to.

Had all this toilet humor not been in the movie, I would've totally endorsed this as a fun movie to take your kids to. But I just can't give this one an endorsement. If you want to try to risk it and you think I'm overreacting to this toilet humor, then by all means give it a shot. I'm not one to tell you how to raise your kids or tell you what's appropriate for them to watch. But I'm still not giving it my personal endorsement. If I'm tending my nieces and nephews or when I have my own kids one day, this movie stays far away from their eyes. No joke. If you want to proceed, do so at your own risk. If you and your kids end up loving it and you aren't bothered one bit by the toilet humor, then I'm truly happy that you were able to enjoy yourself at the theaters. That's what I hope every time I walk into the theater and I am disappointed when it doesn't happen. But if you end up agreeing with my stance, don't say I didn't warn you. No this movie isn't the worst thing to grace the theaters. The animation is phenomenal and the voice acting is great. But in my opinion the plot is too dumb for adults and the humor is too dirty for kids. I really hope they fix things when the sequel comes around, because with how much money this made this weekend, you know a sequel is happening. But as for this movie, I'm giving The Angry Birds Movie a 5/10.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 Review (SPOILERS)

It's season finale time! The second show on my list of regularly scheduled TV shows to end is the new freshman series in the DC TV Universe, Legends of Tomorrow. Okay, technically this is the third show to end for me this season, but since I don't write regular season ending reviews for Criminal Minds, this is the second review I will be writing this finale season. The first was for Supergirl, which ended three episodes before I thought it would. For some reason I was locked in on the idea of it being 23 episodes long, and thus when it ended at 20 episodes, I was a bit caught off guard. Thus it came first. Since then I was very happy to learn that Supergirl will be coming home to the CW, which is where it belonged in the first place. Meanwhile the CW might as well rename themselves the SN, standing for Superhero Network, because they'll have four superhero shows next season. No need to worry if Legends of Tomorrow wil be getting a second season or not, because it got renewed right along with pretty much every other CW show. You see, they're a really nice network. I'm glad Legends will be returning because I really liked this show. As always with these TV show reviews, I will be directing this to those who have completed the season. Thus here's your official spoiler warning. If you haven't seen this show, go watch it and then come back and read my thoughts!

Not everyone was on board for Legends when it was announced. It had plenty of skeptics and when it premiered, not everyone who was on board with The Flash and Arrow gave it shot. I was never one of these skeptics. They were bringing all my favorite side characters from The Flash and Arrow onto one show where they could all have their time to shine instead of showing up occasionally on their parent shows. It was like a mini-Justice League! Or should we say Justice Society of America? No, not really. But we'll get to that idea later. Anyways, bringing this team together is the somewhat mysterious Rip Hunter, played by Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who. He goes to 2016 and rounds up a bunch of misfits that include Dr. Martin Stein, Jefferson Jackson, Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Kendra Saunders, Carter Hall, Mick Rory, and Leonard Snart. He tells them that in 150 years from that time, the group of them not only are a group of heroes, they are legends who help save the world. That's a lot to take in for them. Dr. Stein and Jax just became Firestorm. Sara just got raised from the dead. Ray is just figuring out how to use his suit. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have a history of getting killed by this Vandal Savage dude. And Rory and Snart are villains. But Rip promises them that it'll work so they all buy into it.

Psych! They're not a group of legends. They're just a group of losers whose absence wouldn't effect the timeline at all. Ouch. That hurts. Turns out Rip Hunter is a bit of a selfish jerk who lied to everyone to get them to join. I didn't blame the team for not trusting him when they all figured this out. Quite frankly, it took me some time to warm up to Rip myself. I didn't really like his character at first and I thought he was very hypocritical. He kept whining about how they can't disrupt the timeline, yet his whole goal was to have them all go save the lives of his wife and child who got killed by Vandal Savage. Oh yeah, they can save the world, too, but saving his family seemed more important to him. But I did warm up to him by the end of the season as I started to really like the his character's story arc throughout the season. And I did like from day one that this group weren't actually known as legends. All of them took it pretty hard, but then they decided that they were going to write their own destinies. Sure, this is a theme taken right from Back to the Future, possibly the most popular time travel story, but it works. As Doc says at the end of Back to the Future Part III, "You're future is whatever you make of it! So make it a good one!" Regardless of what the computer of the time masters said, this group was determined to write their own destiny and become legends. That was pretty boss.

Starting off, though, this show was a bit rocky. I'm not going to lie. Naturally they had to make these people work well as a team and it would be super lame having them be perfect right from the beginning. So our team experienced a lot of growing pains, which coincidentally caused this show to also experience a lot of growing pains. It's tricky building a superhero team like this and not everyone can do it as masterfully as Marvel did it with The Avengers. Just like the DC movie universe has stumbled quite a bit into their formation of the Justice League, this mini-Justice League show stumbled a bit as they tried to orient their characters. But it wasn't a complete failure. Never once did I think of dropping the show because I thought it was dumb. I loved the concept of this show and when I started watching, I saw the potential was great. So I was determined to stick with them. But yeah it was a bit hard at first. There were some episodes where everyone failed at the same time. I wasn't a huge fan of that. The chemistry seemed a bit off and the relationships between everyone on the team were at times a bit forced. I was ready for this team to begin to gel and fight through time like the super boss characters that they were.

While we're talking about this rocky beginning, we might as well discuss the failed time travel element in the first half of the show. Time travel is awesome. I love time travel. But it's also easy to screw up on. One recent example of this is the movie Project Almanac. This group of kids have figured out time travel and thus they have the opportunity to go anywhere. Where do they decide to go? They go back a couple of years and attend an Imagine Dragons concert. Seriously? I mean, I love Imagine Dragons. I freaking saw them in a local concert right before they got big. But that's what you decide on? Lamesauce. Legends of Tomorrow wasn't as bad as Project Almanac, but the same principles applied. The show could take us anywhere in time and they settled on the 50's, 60's, and 70's? Really? And it's not like Marty McFly going back to the 50's and accidentally messing up how his parents met. That worked very well. But this was just boring 50's, 60's, and 70's. What about Ancient Egypt? The Dark Ages? The American Revolution? The Old West? Not that the 50's through 70's were a horrible time in history. It's just that there are bigger and better things that a time-travelling group of superheroes could be doing. The writers of this show know that they can do fun, crazy things with here, but it's like they decided to test our patience and wait till later to go on our epic journeys.

If you dropped the show because the team chemistry was off and the places they were going were boring, I guess I can see where you are coming from. But I'm sorry you missed out on the rest of the awesomeness because things definitely got better. I would say the turning point of the show came in the 6th episode called "Star City 2046." This was the Arrow crossover where old Oliver Queen had given up on the world because of all the horrible things that started happening to him and there was a new Arrow that had taken up the mantle. This episode was amazing and was the beginning of several pretty awesome adventures throughout the season. Not every episode was perfect, but the second half of this season was especially a lot of fun. Most of our extravagant adventures included going to the future where Vandal Savage started taking over, so we weren't extremely adventurous, but I honestly loved all of out future scenes. They were great! I especially loved it when we went out to the Old West in the episode, "The Magnificent Eight." There they met up with Jonah Hex and had a super fun little adventure. When I heard the premise of the show, these are the types of things that I was hoping for. Time travel is a lot of fun! Let's have a good time with it!

The chemistry of the team also got better over time. Once the show finally let our characters blossom and kick trash, that's exactly when the show itself blossomed and kicked trash. Before I dive into our main storyline, our finale, and future outlook for the show, I want to spend some time talking about our characters. In doing so, let's not save the best for last. Let's talk about the best first. How about we start off with my personal favorite character, Sara Lance. When they introduced her in Arrow season 2, it didn't take long for her to become my favorite character on that show. Not only do I love Caity Lotz and think she is a fantastic and beautiful actress, but her character of Sara Lance was the deepest and most complex character on that show. She started off as the insignificant hot little sister of Oliver Queen's girlfriend. Oliver cheats on Laurel with Sara and goes off on a boat trip with her that has them both stuck on this island. Long story short, when they come back to reality, she has got caught up with Ra's al Ghul and the league of assassins. She wants to be the hero, but she has committed herself to the bad side. That has her stuck in quite the rough situation. That's not the only way she's complex. While she falls in love with Oliver and becomes his best girlfriend to date (don't get me started on how awful Olicity is), we also learn that she swings the other way as well and was in love with Nyssa al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

Then Arrow killed her. WHAT?!?!?!?!?! You freaking kill your best character who had so much more story to tell and so much more romance to dive into? WHY?!?!?!?!?! Honestly the moment in Arrow when they decided to kill Sara was the moment that show fell off a cliff for me. I've been patient with that show, but it still hasn't recovered from that wretchedly awful decision to kill Sara. In fact, they've now dug themselves into an even deeper hole that I don't think they're ever going to come out of. But more on that when I dive into Arrow season 4. Thankfully we got the amazing news that Caity Lotz had been cast in Legends of Tomorrow, which spoiled their season 4 storyline of bringing her back via the Lazarus Pit. But I didn't care. Sara was back and now she got to continue her progression on Legends of Tomorrow. Man has she blossomed into the perfect heroine. With all the League of Assassins and Lazerus Pit demon Sara behind her, she has become such a boss. And because of all that rough backstory, she is as strong as ever, physically and mentally. Too bad Arrow didn't take advantage of this because she could've saved their show. On Legends, she's the one character without superpowers, a super suit, or a super gun, which honestly makes her the coolest character on the show because she does things the old fashioned way. Ninja training via the league of assassins. Batman-style, baby!

Three full paragraphs dedicated to Sara? I told you I love this girl! She totally carried this show for me. And there is one more big issue I want to talk about with her. Her sexuality. If I'm being honest, there's a lot of LGBT storylines these days that have felt forced. But not Sara. Her being bisexual has totally worked for me. I loved her and Oliver as a couple, but I also loved her and Nyssa as a couple. Those two had great romantic chemistry. After being raised from the dead, it obviously takes a while for her to get back in the swing of things, but in the second half of the show she does and I enjoyed it. There's a brief storyline between her and a nurse in either the 50's and the 60's and that was probably the best romance story of the whole season. The nurse is stuck in a pretty bad time period to be a lesbian, but Sara's advice to her to be herself and that things will get better was a great moment. When those two started a romance and it was Sara, not the nurse, that got cold feet, that was also well done. This was the first time Sara had tested the romance waters in while and her reaction was natural and believable. Then they made up before Sara had to leave. Then on the flip-side of things, we finally got the moment at the end of the season we'd all been waiting for. Sara and Snart. They build up some great chemistry throughout the season. He finally went for it towards the end and got shot down. He took it like a man, though, and right before he sacrificed himself, Sara laid one on him and I cheered. So great!

Speaking of Snart, him and Rory are next up for me. Sara was still my favorite character, but amidst the turbulence of the show, it was the three of them that carried this whole thing. In terms of a character arc, Snart and Rory definitely win that crown. The two of them were a pretty boss duo of villains on The Flash. Then it was announced that they were going to be on the Legends team and that certainly made me curious. I assumed they were going to turn good, but I didn't know how and I wasn't sure how it was going to be handled. Man was this handled well. Yes, they do become heroes, but it is a very natural progression. The fact that they are really on their own team makes it best. They have the most real, down to Earth viewpoints on things and when someone does something they don't like, they'll be the first to call them out on it. The fact that Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller have to be good friends in real life due to them being co-stars on Prison Break makes their chemistry on this show perfect. When Snart is the first one to breakdown and go good, Rory doesn't buy it and their falling out is pretty tragic. Then Rory eventually comes around even if he doesn't want to admit it. By the end of the season, he is a caring, loving dude. And Snart is the one who sacrifices himself to save the team, which is super cool. And no, Legends didn't pull an Arrow with the Lance sisters by killing their best character. He's not dead. He just got zapped somewhere in time as Wentworth Miller is signed up to show up on both Legends and The Flash next season.

Yes, I've been a lot more thorough with this review than I initially intended. But oh well. I've now covered the big stuff. Let's move fast through the rest. Yes, Sara, Snart, and Rory were the best three characters on this show, but I did like the others. Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer is a rather charming, quirky character. It took me a while on Arrow to see him as the Atom instead of Superman, because he did play Superman in the movie Superman Returns and this is the DC universe. But once I got over that, I did love his character. Him and Dr. Stein as the super-geniuses on the show were great. And he's essentially the DC version of Ant-Man. Once he figured out his suit, it was fun to watch him as he could both shrink and go giant. I didn't like him and Kendra as a couple, though. Sorry. I felt the show just threw that at us. They didn't want to spend the time to develop that, so they just had them get stuck in the 50's and five minutes later they were madly in love because in their time it had been two years. Nope. Sorry. And of course, I have to talk about Dr. Stein and Jax as Firestorm. I'm not sure what happened to Robbie Amell as the original Firestorm. There must've been some issues with the actor behind the scenes as The Flash just dumped him with no warning. But Franz Drameh has made a great replacement. The banter between him and Dr. Stein in the first half of the show got old really fast, but once they got into the swing of things, I loved them.

As far as our storyline of the year, it had to do with Vandal Savage, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl. The creators of the show have stated that each season will be its own thing with a main cast that rotates a bit each season, which for this show makes sense. When I heard that I was really glad because I don't think I could've taken two seasons of this Vandal Savage story. In fact, one full season was almost too much. I liked how it started and I loved how it ended, but the middle of this got really rough. I actually really liked Falk Hentschel as Hawkman. I'm kinda sad that they dumped him early on and used him as a recurring character instead of a main character. Even when they used him at the end, they didn't do him justice. Sad day. But Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl was our season regular and I thought she was great. As far as her many romances, out of the many guys that fell in love with her (don't blame them), the guy she had best chemistry was Cisco from The Flash. Then Hawkman. The two of them worked. As I stated, her and Ray I didn't like and I'm glad they didn't dive into her and Jax, although I do feel bad for him. He was sad that he had zero shot with her and I felt for him. Casper Crump did great as Vandal Savage, but as a villain I don't think he worked that well. Although the final battle in the finale was so freaking boss. I loved that! The writers of the show say that once we learn about the season 2 villain, we'll totally forget about Vandal Savage. I'm holding them to that.

One final thing before I wrap this up. I have to dive into a bit of speculation for season two. As stated, the show creators have planned on this show including a rotating cast. So what's our team going to be next season? Based on the finale, we know that Dr. Stein and Jax as Firestorm are in. Ray Palmer is in. Sara Lance is in. Mick Rory is in. Rip Hunter is in. That's a good base cast. Leonard Snart is out. Hawkgirl and Hawkman are out. We know they said they will be adding a new male and female as series regulars. Who could it be? At the end of the finale, Rex Tyler, aka Hourman, from the Justice Society of America showed up. Is he going to be a regular? Speaking of the JSA, the original members included Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Sandman, Spectre, Doctor Fate, Hourman, and Atom. Obviously Flash won't be on the show and I doubt they will bring in Green Lantern. Could we see Sandman, Spectre, or Doctor Fate? As far as characters already established in this universe, could we see Constatine brought on? Vixen? How about Katie Cassidy's Earth-2 Black Siren? If The Flash team thinks three speedsters is too much, could they donate Jessie Quick? I certainly hope Jonah Hex was more than a one time thing. Could he a regular? Who am I missing? Who would you like to see? Let me know in the comments!

Overall, Legends of Tomorrow was an Arrow/Flash spin-off that I was looking forward to since they day they announced it. It conveniently debuted in my birthday this year, which was a nice present. No, the first several episodes weren't the best. As our team experienced growing pains, the show itself experienced growing pains. And I didn't like how the show spent so much time in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. When you can travel to whatever time you want, that seems a bit too conservative of a time period to choose. Be creative! Have fun! But I was patient with the show and it really payed off. The second half of the season really took off and started to become the show I was hoping it would become. Once all of our characters got used to their powers and learned how to work as a team, it was such a blast to watch them. No the show still wasn't perfect. I wasn't the biggest fan of Vandal Savage as a villain the save Rip Hunter's wife and child thing was kinda lame. A villain deciding he's going to destroy the world is also really cliche. But the adventures we went on were a lot of fun and the last three or four episodes were absolutely phenomenal. Even though we had a rocky start, we had a fantastic conclusion. I suppose the Vandal Savage stuff was a decent start, but now that that's behind us, I'm really excited to see where this show is going next!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sing Street Review

It's not very often that a movie comes around that I don't know anything about. I'm usually pretty good at following movie news pretty closely and I even dedicate a post a month on this blog to telling you what's coming out. But occasionally there comes a little indie movie that sneaks its way into theaters without me having noticed. Sing Street is one of these movies. I didn't know Sing Street was a thing until it showed up in five theaters a month ago with a pretty decent per theater average. Since then, it slowly expanded into more theaters until this past weekend when it showed up in my local theater. It had great reviews, so I put it on my mental list of movies that I want to see. But for some reason it still wasn't super high on my priority list of movies to catch up on. Then I walked by a poster after I got out of Money Monster. "From the director of Begin Again." Holy, yes! I loved that movie. Suddenly I found myself in the theater the next day watching Sing Street. I didn't bother looking up a trailer or a premise at all. I had all I needed. Great reviews and from the director of Begin Again. And yes, I absolutely loved this movie. If you need a break from summer blockbusters and want to see a phenomenal little film, go see Sing Street.

I went into this movie knowing absolutely nothing about it. If you want to take me on my word alone that this movie is amazing, feel free to close down this review and head out to your theater. For the rest of you that need to know what the heck this movie is about before you decide to go see it, let's dive in. No spoilers, of course, but I need to tell you something about it for me to give a review. Sing Street follows a 15-year-old kid named Connor (later nicknamed Cosmo) who lives in Dublin, Ireland in the 1980's. His family situation is kinda broken. His parents don't get along, they're very poor, and his brother is a college dropout that lives with them. Because of this, he is forced to go to this new school that's really kinda crappy. He gets bullied a lot, few people want to be his friend, and the schoolmaster is strict and rude. Long story short, life kinda sucks. But then he makes one friend and they're walking down the street and Connor sees a girl. His social skills aren't amazing, especially around females, so he walks up to her and starts one of those awkward conversations and quickly learns she is a model. So he, trying to act cool, tells her that he is in a band and they are looking for a model to show up in one of their music videos. She accepts the invitation and gives him her number. Then of course he walks back to his new friends and says, "We need to start a band."

That's what this movie is. It's a musical drama that uses music to teach great life lessons. The director is John Carney and as I previously stated, his most recent movie he directed was Begin Again, which was released in theaters in 2014. If you haven't seen Begin Again, you need to. If you have, Sing Street follows pretty much the same formula. Begin Again was about a struggling producer and a struggling singer who meet up when both of them are close to throwing in the towel. They make music together that really saves both of their lives. In fact, the initial title of the movie was Can a Song Save Your Life?, which is definitely the theme of the movie. I approve of the simpler title, but I love the idea. I love music and I have a very strong opinion that music can be a means of saving lives. In fact, music is a very powerful thing that can influence a lot of different aspects of life and thus I can love a movie that shows that. Yes, Sing Street does just that. Just like Begin Again. This kid's life sucks. Although him starting the band was motivated by him trying to get the girl, he definitely embraces his new band and uses it to get past whatever trails he is facing. He does have a musical background. His brother is huge into music and helps him a lot along they way. They are influenced a lot by such bands as Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, which were big at the time.

You can call this a romance drama if you want. You can call it a coming of age story. You can call it a movie about life in general. It's really all of those and thus if you like any of those types of movies, you need to check this out. It had me captivated from the opening scene and I was completely enveloped in this story the whole time. The pacing was perfect for me as never once did I feel bored. I thought the story was beautiful and I really enjoyed watching this group of kids start up this band and progress. At first they are really bad and the main kid's brother is good at being blatantly honest about it. But their progression of their music throughout the movie is impressive as they find their groove and style. By the end, I was loving their music and thus I thought the soundtrack of the movie was phenomenal. All this new music they wrote was great and it was sprinkled with some 80's classics that I love. Along with the progression of the band itself, I really liked all the individual character arcs in the movie. As I've said, our main kid is in a really tough situation and I love how he uses music to make it through. But I also really love the progression of our main female character. Initially she appears to be this attractive young female who has things figured out. But then you get to learn more about her and she's also in a tough situation with a lot of insecurities. Then you have the band members, the brother, the bully, and others whose stories weave together very well.

Begin Again had the advantage of a all-star cast leading the charge. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo were our main two, but we also had Adam Levine in his first acting role and side characters that included Hailee Steinfeld and James Corden. All of these are people that I really love and thus it was easy to get behind the story. It was fun to see Keira Knightley in her first singing role and Adam Levine in his first acting role. Sing Street doesn't have that advantage. The most recognizable name in this is Jack Reynor as the brother, who starred in Transformers: Age of Extinction and Macbeth and was also one of the final candidates to play Han Solo before Alden Ehrenrich. But as far as recognizable names, that's it. The rest of this cast is a bunch of newcomers. At least to me. But man, all of these young kids were fantastic! I could start name dropping here, but I'll just limit this to our main two, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Connor and Lucy Boynton as the main girl, whose name is Raphina. This is the first time I've seen these two, but because of how great they were in this, I'm going to be watching their careers because I would say based on this, they both could have a bright future ahead of them. And of course, in casting a whole bunch of unknowns that end up being great, there has to be a lot of credit given to the casting director for finding them and the director making it work. Great job all around.

Overall, if you are like me and you love indie movies, this is one you need to see. If you love music and you are always searching for the next good musical drama, this is one you need to see. If you love romance dramas, this is one you need to see. If you love coming of age stories, this is one you need to see. If you love movies that teach great life lessons, this is one you need to see. If you like inspirational movies, this is one you need to see. Sing Street is all of that wrapped together beautifully. If you all you care to see are big summer blockbusters, then I'd encourage you to branch out a bit and give something like this a try. I enjoy my superhero movies and my big action flicks as well, but the more I've watched and reviewed movies, the more I've learned personally that these smaller films are where it's at. A lot of people these days complain at the lack of originality in Hollywood. While I won't argue that point, I do notice that a lot of these same people refuse to dive into the indie market where there actually is a ton of originality. There's a lot of hidden gems that come out every year that go mostly unnoticed by the general public and Sing Street is one of those. Captain America: Civil War probably made more in a few hours that Sing Street has in its entire run so far, but both movies are deserving of your attention. So branch out and see Sing Street. You'll be glad you did. I'm giving the movie a 9/10.