Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Daredevil Series: 102 - 104

Daps, finally. Mostly for that hallway fight, but we'll get to that.

Four episodes in and a third of the way through the season, my enjoyment of this show has been inconsistent. Most of the players are fair in their roles, some are bland, and Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, I cannot abide. The plot is thickening, but as it seems all roads lead to Kingpin, I'm not getting a sense of mystery or suspense. (It's Kingpin! He's behind it all!) My general feeling, which I suspect won't change much over the course of the show, is that there is a lot to appreciate about Daredevil, but the execution at times feels uneven, clunky, or just plain run-of-the-mill.

Episode 4 was more engaging than 1 or 3, because the show is starting to take shape, but the high point was episode 2. Rosario Dawson makes her debut in episode 2. Coincidence? Unlikely.

But seriously, I really feel like episode 2 should have been the pilot, as it best exemplified what this Daredevil is made of (way better than that speech to the priest. Show don't Tell anyone?)--the parallels with his Dad in flashbacks (predictable and a smidge heavy-handed on the foretelling, but kudos to the actor playing Murdock Sr.; one role where playing it straight set the right tone for the story and made me believe him,) and the crime Daredevil stops and how he does so--that hallway fight!

I previously said that Daredevil's heightened senses didn't appear to give a real edge in the first episode. Well, that's because in this show his real edge is in taking a beating and getting up again and again. That fight in eposode 2 was exhausting, and after the opener where we find Daredevil left for dead in a dumpster, viscerally intense and dangerous. But Daredevil just would not stay down. That's when I started rooting for the guy. Points for badguys also getting up. I've seen too many conveniently get knocked out by one punch. Bonus points for the camera work. Well-shot. Well-choreographed. Perfect location.

We do get to see more of Daredevil's abilities, which include enhanced smell and parkour. But the show has thus far stayed away from using any fancy 'tells' (CG, slo-mo, etc) to indicate when or how he's using those abilities, so his stuntwork around the city looked a little too much like he could see what he was doing.

Matt, not to be confused with his crime-fighting alter ego, is still too flat, and I don't know whether it's the actor or the writing. I get they are going for downplayed, but when he interacts with others on a personal or professional level, it just feels one-note. There's hardly any lawyer stuff going on, save for episode 3. Matt's colleagues, Foggy and Whatshername? Not interested*.

*Whatshername gets a pass, though, because she at least appears to have an arc. She's teamed up with Whatshisname reporter guy (I like him,) to follow the money in her former employer's shady dealings which almost got her killed in the premiere.

But on the whole, I found myself more engaged by the characters who were not major. Like Claire (Dawson, Daredevil's personal healthcare provider,) Murdock Sr, and Bob Gunton. Gunton can do no wrong.

And what about those bad guys? What we have so far are henchmen of the week. Presumably, Daredevil will work his way up the ladder, Streets of Rage style, while Whatstheirnames will work a different angle into the business side. There was Evil Josh Whedon (h/t Fields for the nickname.) Nasty bugger who's weapon of choice is a bowling ball. Then came the Russian Brothers, who specialize in rib-bone shivs. Mr. Slick, Kingpin's pointman, who has some interesting moments (I lol'ed at the quarter on the arcade machine, "I got next") but is otherwise played to type. Is he more dangerous than he appears or just a suit?

In any case, if the aforementioned examples of nastiness didn't clue us in on just how violent it will get as we move up the ladder, in episode 3, we finally meet Wilson Fisk hisownself and before we know anything else about the man we must know he is Complicated. That's why there is a piano playing and an art gallery and his confession to his crush, Vanessa, that he feels lonely. Ookay? But do go on.

We get lots more of him and Vanessa in episode 4 via their lovely dinner date. He was all shy and not confident at all in his game, so she pretty much encouraged him into it. Over dinner, we learn he's no monster--he had a childhood. On a farm, even.

Where he probably stoned the animals to death!

Look, I spent more time debating this character than any other but I'm good now. I'm not trying to understand what makes the psycho tick anymore. The writers may well be trying for unexpected or subversive characterization, but that one scene? That one scene, tho, with the Russian and the car door? Yo. Case closed. Not interested.

What made it worse was the clunky setup that took us from Fisk to Kingpin strained my suspension of disbelief. <spoilers> How did that guy get past Mr. Slick and into the restaurant which was apparently full of bodyguards posing as diners? Why the heck would he even barge in on another man's dinner? Is that bowing respectfully, per his original intent, or acting like a disrespectful fool? And why did Kingpin have to leave instead of having any one of the dozen guards throw the guy out? He was that embarrassed? If you say so, show. If you say so. </spoilers> Like I said, clunky as heck for so early in this Fisk/Kingpin/Vanessa arc. Makes me curious, though, how the writers will handle the romance. Trainwreck or masterstroke? Different clever or different like a sore thumb?

So, I guess I'm watching the whole thing, but this is where I end my reviews. I know my viewing tastes and I very much doubt this show will be as impressive, surprising, or engaging as I'd like. If it is, you'll likely hear about that. Positive reviews are much more fun.

Sound off below.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Daredevil Series: S1E01

So, first impressions, yeah?

It wasn't bad. It wasn't cheesy. It was a competent entry in the parade of comic book adaptations for the small screen. When the episode ended, I did not feel compelled to see another episode. Because of the format, I will watch at least the first four episodes. Likely the whole thing.

Also because there's nothing wrong with it. They made choices in structure and storytelling that have been made many times before, employed archetypes and tropes employed before, and executed it all in a fashion that's fashionable. You could do worse...much worse.

I have seen the earnest but troubled do-gooder guy. I have met his wisecracking fast-talking buddy. I know the beautiful, weepy, wrongfully accused blonde on their doorstep. I've been to this rain-soaked crime-ridden city. I have even witnessed that badguy get strung up on a chain he didn't know the goodguy knew was there. Why am I revisiting such a familiar story? What is new and different about it?

The performances should be one answer, the way the actors reinterpret a role and give it new life, and yet I found they were all too by-the-book and lacked engaging personalities. Earnest as they were in their portrayals. I am holding out hope for D'Onofrio and Dawson.

Novelty is another reason, seeing a live-action Daredevil and how his unique abilities are showcased, how fight sequences are choreographed, modern twists on old stories. Save for the reference to recent events in the Avengers movie, this plot felt like it could've taken place in the nineties. There were two fight sequences in this episode, meat and potatoes hand-to-hand for the most part, both times in poor lighting with darkly dressed participants at dark and uninteresting locations. When Murdock uses his abilities, it's subtle. Which is one way to do it, but it never struck me as crucial--a thing that gave him a real edge over other action heroes.

As for seeing a live-action Daredevil, we have before. Here, he is already into crime-fighting but has not yet attained the crime-fighter title or costume, that awkward stage where he doesn't act like a novice but he doesn't look like a pro. (I don't believe Murdock made a single mistake or miscalculation in this episode. Always seemed to know what was really up.) So, I felt no sense of danger and no sense of fun.

I am being critical, I know, and perhaps overly so given it is just the first episode. Like I said, it's fine. I just am not yet impressed.

Eps 2 - 4

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Loose Threads #4

The Spaces Afforded

Her thread crossed mine, pulled it taut for a fleeting moment, and then it slipped away.

Before I saw anything else, I saw the way she folded her arms, hugging herself. Her arms cinched her t-shirt. The red t-shirt was too big for her skinny frame. The older woman moved through the flow of shoppers like a pebble in the spaces afforded her. She knew how not to be seen, how not to take up too much space-- not to make any sudden movements.

He was all sudden movements, in the parking lot. His words and gestures seeming to take up twice the space afforded his person, equally skinny and old. She handed him a box of ramen noodles. He threw it to the far end of the truck bed. She set down more bags. He pushed his way out from behind the cart, yanked down the tailgate, insistent on loading the groceries the right way: his way: fast enough to be done and on to somewhere else he'd rather be, something else he'd rather be doing.

He passed her pack after pack of soda from the bottom rack of the shopping cart, mindful then--perhaps that she couldn't bend down or lift from so low, of her person, the space she ought to be afforded. He was mindful the way you are when you're mad but the other person isn't, when you try not hurt them with your actions, despite your words. When you can't look at them, because you know you hurt them despite your actions.

He was on his phone as he returned the cart, already elsewhere. She waited for him by the truck, arms folded. Hugging herself.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Godzilla (2014) - An In-Depth Analysis

That fireside reveal! The part where he screams! Then when he did that thing with the thing, I was like, "Oh, Get The--!"

Were there humans in this movie? I didn't notice. Their contributions peaked at Bryan Cranston and then flat-lined into irrelevancy thereafter. Cranston plays a nuclear power plant manager in Japan. An 'accident' happens, and his wife who also works there dies. He spends the next fifteen years searching for the truth while his son grows up to be an action movie hero --I mean, a U.S. army specialist with a family of his own. This ensures he will constantly be in valorous--I mean, grave danger. When he isn't, his wife and son and randomly acquired stand-in son are. There's the proverbial general whose problem-solving skills amount to blowing things up, the scientist who, when not whispering spooky things, is perpetually agape in awe, and various non-main-dude military guys who are essentially cannon fodder. They try by train, planes, and boats, to stop the monsters. All irrelevant.

We are here to see Godzilla battle the MUTOs, which he does multiple times throughout. Deliberately, we don't get to see most of the fights and are treated only to first glimpses and then the aftermath. I know some people hated that there was so 'little' on-screen battling, but I thought the delay worked to heighten anticipation, and the end battle was plenty. Was it ever plenty. That part where Godzilla does that thing? Awesome.

The MUTOs were no chopped liver. I think what made them so adequately terrifying (besides that first reveal--"Run, you fools! Run!") was that they were neither mindless nor bloodthirsty. They had important stuff to do and the ants and their ant-hills were truly irrelevant. Oh, is this your city? I'm gonna need to put this right here.

I'll never think of those birds building nests in my hanging pots the same way again.

Did I say in-depth? lol, no. It's a giant monster flick. See it for the giant monsters.