Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Flash got poisoned after Firestorm got born and Harrison Wells is a very bad man

Barry got poisoned by "The Mist" who is now trapped in their fancy
prison for meta-humans built from the ashes of a state-of-the-art particle
accelerator. Convenient that one of those was just lying around.
We are three weeks into The Flash on the CW, and it has shattered the CW's ratings records as the most watched series premiere in the network's history. I'm not surprised that it has now been given a full-season order (yay!). Honestly, the trifecta of Flash, Arrow, and Gotham (Fox) is a renaissance for cinematic quality genre TV, and I'm really loving it.

So where are we exactly with The Flash? Well, by the end of the third episode Barry Allen is finally growing comfortable with his powers. He can save someone behind Iris's back while she's on the phone arguing with her boyfriend and be back in time to see if she wants to go get something to eat (even though they already had dinner and a huge bowl of buttered popcorn--what I wouldn't give for that kind of metabolism?)

Barry's world emerged from the first episode as fully realized. It's the objective of what so many of us strive for in our writing, because who hasn't been told at some point or another by an agent that you need to start in the middle of the action and you only have fifteen seconds to grab the attention of your reader (or maybe that's just something literary agents say). Anyway, all of you writers out there know what I mean, and all of you writers know just how hard that is to pull off.

So we have Barry now grown comfortable in his role as the Red Streak. We have Iris who is the obsessive stalker of "The Red Streak" and falling into the role that makes Lois Lane such an interesting character. We have Cisco and Caitlin Snow playing scientists that support Team Flash, and Harrison Wells as (from what I can tell) the ultimate villain of the first season, Reverse Flash or Professor Zoom. This hasn't been confirmed by anyone. It's just what I think.

From little things that Wells has dropped in dialogue, I know he's at least two-hundred years old, has been to the future, knows a hell of a lot about Barry Allen and engineered the accident that created him. Wells also isn't shy about killing people (lots of people if you consider all the meta-humans his experiment created). My guess is that Barry's whole life has been a manipulation by Wells. What I can't piece together is what does he get out of it?

Perhaps Zoom wasn't trying to kill Barry's mother but instead, murder Barry the kid in the pilot episode. Barry stopped that from happening by rescuing his kid self and Zoom took his rage out on Barry's mom? Does that sound plausible? So that would mean that (in the pilot) when we see red and yellow streaking around, the red is in fact Barry from the future trying to stop Professor Zoom from completing his objective, which then leads to Barry's mom being murdered and Barry's dad going to jail for it. That one scene is like a huge time paradox that blows my mind. Because Barry stopped him from completing his objective, Zoom has to create Flash in order to satisfy paradox.

Are you lost yet?
And for Flash fanatics like me, there was another Easter egg planted: we got to see the birth of one part of Firestorm. Ronnie Raymond (in a flashback), who is Caitlin's dead boyfriend, got trapped inside the particle accelerator and had a moment very reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen. Firestorm (in case you don't know) is also known as "The Nuclear Man." He has the ability to rearrange the atomic and subatomic structure of inorganic matter. In other words, more special effects are incoming. I don't know about you, but when I watch comic book shows, I like to see special effects.

So in conclusion, in last night's episode the Flash got poisoned after Firestorm got born and Harrison Wells is a very bad man. Ayep, and now I'm ready for next week's episode. Hopefully, I will start getting some answers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Common Sense is in short supply on the Walking Dead as Bob goes for a walk in the dark woods alone.

I kind of expected what happened to Bob in last night's episode of The Walking Dead, but I was hoping they wouldn't go there. In the comics, it's Dale that gets his legs amputated and eaten by the Hunters (in a world with no refrigeration a tourniquet is a handy cannibal item). However, Dale died in season two, so that wasn't a possibility. And then there's the whole fact that the guy that threatened baby Judith in the season premiere last week, remains alive. So yeah, Tyrese didn't kill him even though he was hitting him so hard I thought it plausible that the guy wouldn't survive. But did Tyrese know the guy wasn't dead? He stopped Carol from going into the cabin covered in zombie guts, reassuring her that he finished the job. Oy, I just don't know. Needless to say, it's disappointing. In Rick Grimes words to Carl, "You are not safe. You are never safe." And leaving loose ends of the "cannibal" kind will always come back and bite you in the ass.

But "Bob B Que" aside, the title of last night's episode, Strangers, is probably a nod to Father Gabriel, a preacher incapable of protecting himself who has been hiding out in a church, eating what remains of the food drive before the apocalypse started, and apparently the subject of something scrawled on the backside of the church that reads, "You will burn for what you did." Hmm. He did lead the group to the food bank, but the imagery of his arms against the wall in the pool of slime was too much like a guy just accepting his fate in a crucifixion to a walker that we later learned was probably his wife before the apocalypse. I'd be remiss to say that I don't trust Father Gabriel all that much at this point, and this leads me to my next subject: trust (or the lack thereof).

Trust is what makes societies work, and it's probably one of the single elements that has the most impact on a story being considered "dark." We've all seen or read stories where there's violence and death, and there are plenty of examples of such stories that I wouldn't brand as "dark" fiction. Rather, I'd consider them "action" stories or possibly in the "thriller" genre but not "dark." However, when you start to mess with trust, that turns a story away from the sunlight. American Horror Story: Murder House is a masterwork in this respect. The first season eroded all trust that Vivien had for Ben by exposing lie after lie after lie.

By contrast, the world of The Walking Dead is a place where trust is a scarce commodity. Rick and crew decided to trust that Terminus would be a sanctuary for them and instead, it became a slaughterhouse. They escaped, but only because Carol decided to morph into the most badass female heroine of all time, single-handedly assaulting the prison with a zombie army and facilitating the implosion of a place that was a hive of institutional evil. This is the push and pull of this world, and is its most hopeless aspect.

Sigh. Oh Bob, why oh why did you go for a stroll in the dark woods away from the church? The world may never know. It kinda sucks though that I was just starting to like his character. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feast is to Big Hero 6 what Icing is to Cake

I love the fact that running in front of animated films from Pixar and Disney are delightful shorts that are so good they're like icing on a big delicious cake. With Big Hero Six set to come out soon, Disney's released a trailer for its new short film Feast, and it looks pretty awesome. I'm reminded of when Julia Child said, "People who love to eat are always the best people." In this case, I think it applies to puppies too. But really, food is one of those things through which we are all connected kinda like the Force (is it ironic that Star Wars is also owned by Disney? Hmm).
From what I can tell, the plot of Feast is pretty simple. An adorable and hungry Boston Terrier puppy gets fed all kinds of nice things, and we get taken along for the journey through some pretty amazing animation. Seriously, I love the style of this animation and wish that more films got made that use the techniques on display in Feast. So if you haven't stumbled across this trailer for the short film yet, then click play on the embedded video below.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Will we see Gorilla Grodd in the new Flash series?

Last week's premiere of The Flash featured many Easter Eggs. Among them was a cage with busted doors that had the word "Grodd" scrawled upon it. For the uninitiated, this refers to a Flash villain called Gorilla Grodd, and I have hopes he may turn up in the series.

Gorilla Grodd is a hyper-intelligent psychically-endowed gorilla that has the "Professor X" (Marvel) power of mind control. He got his powers after an alien spacecraft crashed into his African home. I kind of think (for the television series) that they're going to use the explosion at the super collider to give Grodd his powers. His psionic abilities allow him to place other beings under his mental control, project force beams, transmute matter, transfer his consciousness into other bodies, and absorb intelligence through the consumption of human brains! Flash basically has immunity to Grodd's psychic abilities because he moves so fast that his thoughts process Grodd's illusions in slow motion.

Grodd has potential to be a launching point to introduce Wonder Woman as there's this whole plot arc with Gorilla City (a super advanced civilization existing somewhere in Africa).

So what do you think? Will we see Gorilla Grodd in the new Flash series?

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Batman of today is closer to Master Chief than the hero he was fifty years ago

Has anyone else noticed that the Batman's costume is becoming more and more reminiscent of something you'd find in HALO or another first person shooter? Take for example this latest iteration done by Kingdom Hearts creator and Final Fantasy designer Tetsuya Nomura:
What you're seeing is a re-imagined caped crusader for Square Enix's Play Arts Kai line of action figures. And yeah, the Batman looks like he's ready to kick some ass but it also looks like he's just a wee bit evil (which I guess is the point).

Seriously though, with regard to other superheroes I don't think I've noticed costume changes that have slowly morphed from tights in the 1960's into full on body armor like the kind worn by Master Chief in other characters. Superman is pretty much the same as he was. The same goes for Spider-Man and Thor. Iron Man was always in a prototype body armor so that doesn't count. But the Batman? No, he wasn't. In fact, this is what he used to look like (golden-age Batman):
Nowadays, instead of holding a gun, the Batman would have one just pop up off of his armor and shoot some kind of weapon out that blows our minds for its flashy effectiveness.

So my question to you is this: why is this happening? Why is his costume changing so much?

I thought about it last night and the only thing I can come up with is that Batman is a very popular character with boys, and boys play video games. The marketing department at DC Comics knows this, and they've chosen to make the costume more and more sinister with ridges and spikes. It's been a slow slow that I haven't really taken note of it until I saw the picture up top. Note the similarities between what the Batman is wearing and the lean armor worn by this hunter in the video game Crysis (click to EMBIGGEN).
Muscles are well defined, weapon is very spikey, and there's lots of detailing all over the skin-tight bodysuit. Anyway, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this matter. Would you agree that the Batman's uniform is slowly turning into video game military-style combat armor? And if you do agree, do you think it's being driven by first-person shooters like Crysis? I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Flash pilot hit all the right notes of awesome and makes me ask if Thawne is going to be Professor Zoom

The pilot ended with this ominous headline that's obviously an homage
to "Crisis on the Infinite Earths" and indicates that Harrison Wells is
definitely not restricted to knowledge from the present timeline. Let's just
hope that The Flash handles time travel well.
The pilot for the Flash was awesome, and both the CW's budget as well as its special effects have come a long way since the Superman prequel, Smallville. Sure there are some similarities. It looks like we are being setup for a "freak of the week" version of storytelling. Instead of kryptonite being the source of the powers, we have an experimental particle accelerator like C.E.R.N. that's gone awry. It also looks like they might be following the love triangle of Clark, Lana, and everyone else that Lana dates by creating a love triangle with Barry, Iris, and everyone else that Iris dates. However, this might end up much better than Clark and Lana because in the former, we always knew Clark would end up with Lois Lane. In the latter, things aren't so set in stone.

Additionally, the Flash has never been a "brooding" character like Superman. The Flash is a wise-cracking, fun, and loving superhero and to this extent, Grant Gustin fits the bill. And for fans of the comic books, we all know that Barry Allen meets his end ominously, but saving the world. We got some of that foreshadowed last night when we were given a closing scene that included a front page from "The Central City Citizen" on which the headline "Flash Missing: Vanishes in Crisis" appears. Well in a "Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Flash sacrificed his life to save Earth."
Is this guy Professor Zoom? He's Eddie Thawne and the name is just too
similar to Eobard Thawne who is known as the "Reverse Flash" or "Professor
Zoom," the nemesis of Barry Allen in the comics (and responsible for
killing Iris who ends up as Barry's first wife). 
So here's the things that I noticed. First, the main villain of last night's pilot was "Weather Wizard." Nothing really to write home about there. He's basically Storm from Marvel's X-Men only less cool and now he's dead because Iris's father shot him after Barry unwound his tornado by racing around it in the opposite direction at a thousand miles an hour. Two, the Flash (and by extension Arrow since they are in the same universe) both exist in a world where time travel is possible through speed. Barry Allen's mother was killed by a flash of yellow light. I think the villain responsible might be Eddie Thawne who is the attractive blond police detective currently dating Iris, who is Barry Allen's friend.
Cover to Time Masters: Vanishing Point #5. This is what
Reverse Flash, a.k.a. Professor Zoom, looks like.
In the comics, a guy named "Eobard Thawne," a.k.a. Professor Zoom, is the archenemy and foil of superhero Barry Allen. Flash wiki says that Thawne is ranked as IGN's 31st greatest comic book villain of all time. It's obvious to me that time travel is going to play a big part in this series, so I'm intrigued. If I'm correct, then that newspaper headline we see at the very end will probably change. Now as for who is Harrison Wells? I initially think he's a good guy. But its obvious he's got other motives and knows about different timelines. Is he the Flash from the future or is he Professor Zoom or related to Professor Zoom in some way? I'm not sure and will need more time to think about it (and more information from the series).

In either event, if you love superhero shows, you should be watching The Flash. It was probably the best superhero-based pilot I have ever seen. Seriously. Below is the trailer for next week's episode, which I can't wait to see!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Star Wars Rebels borrows what worked for Firefly and puts it squarely in the post-Empire universe

I watched the whole pilot for Star Wars Rebels this weekend with my special out-of-town guest, Grumpy Bulldog who is quick to say that his favorite movie of all time is probably The Empire Strikes Back. So I guess between his reverence for Star Wars, and my ability to spot things, I was able to put together a decent opinion about this series.

It is one I'm going to continue to watch. The action comes at you fast and swift, just like all Star Wars movies and television has thus far. In some ways, Star Wars follows a formula: 1) things are always gigantic, 2) there is always a lightsaber, 3) there is always a force user despite the fact that someone/anyone will tell you that Jedi are all dead or that "the Force" is an ancient religion with no modern practitioners, and 5) whenever you deal with anyone associated with the Empire (unless they are a named character) they are utterly incompetent.
Things that Rebels has going for it include: 1) humor, 2) a Firefly-esque crew out to do good but essentially a team of morally ambiguous privateers just trying to eek out a living in the wake of "Order 66 and the fall of the Jedi." 3) a clear homage to Ralph McQuarrie's artwork. One of the aliens is even an early concept drawing of a "wookie" done by Ralph McQuarrie and there's kind of an inside joke when Stormtroopers don't recognize the creature as a wookie.

If you're used to the animation style of The Clone Wars, this will take a little getting used to as it's a little more "cartoony" even though the animation is quite fluid. Ezra (the kid), for example, looks more or less like a cross between the detailed faces we saw in The Clone Wars and a muppet from Jim Hensen's studio. I think I say that because of the shape of his nose. That and his hair is shiny as if he puts a lot of product in it, which he probably doesn't. It's just a "texture" choice that's made by the animators.

In the pilot we got a Jedi Holocron with Obi-Wan Kenobi's message warning all Jedi to stay away from the Temple and to trust in the Force (I assume this thing is loaded with Jedi training from some master at least as good as Yoda since holocrons are ancient and powerful relics of the Order), a droid that smacks of R2, a rogue Jedi and  a kid (wonder where this is going), a grumpy Mandalorian that's a demolitions expert and has rainbow-colored hair, and that "Wookie-esque" alien I mentioned above. He serves the role of muscle and comes from the whole "tough love" crowd with regard to the kid; he's also the butt of some  hygiene jokes.
This is the new "Big Bad." I didn't actually see this lightsaber in the pilot, but
I know they are going with this design. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but the
entire Old Republic did die so that we could get this design.
All in all, Star Wars Rebels did what it set out to do. I felt entertained and the mysteries were enough to keep me questioning. It had the feel of something filmed in the Star Wars universe, and I'm curious as to where it intends to go. Oh and we got a glimpse of this series' "Big Bad" that may be a placebo for Darth Vader, even though we could technically see Vader in this series as much as they want to show him. One reason for not showing him might have to do with "diminishing" his competence, because we all know that Vader meant business in all three of the original Star Wars films.

What about you guys? Any of you out there catch the pilot? If so, what did you think of it?