Gotham- “The Balloonman” and “Arkham”

Nerdgasm imminent.

 Okay, so we’re officially four episodes into Gotham, so, going by general television rules of thumb, we should have a pretty good handle on what exactly this show is about. And so far, Gotham has been pretty….. All over the map, to say the least. So far, it’s been two good episodes (The pilot and “Arkham”) and two mediocre episodes (“Selina Kyle” and “The Balloonman”). Since we’re around this TV milestone, I figured I’d use this entry not so much to focus on the two recent episodes, but to underline one strengths, one weakness and one mediocre trait that the show has displayed so far. I’ll still talk about the individual episodes, but… Yeah, I guess you get the idea.

Strength: Cinematography

The Tim Burton Batman movies and the Christopher Nolan trilogy both had different ideas on what the look of Gotham City should be. Burton definitely had a ton of creative input in his movies, especially Batman Returns, as his Gotham is appealingly ugly and highly stylised. One could almost say it’s more faithful to the comics, but that would imply that Burton actually read the comics, which he didn’t.  Nolan’s Gotham always reminded me of the rust belt, matching the gritty, realistic tone of the movies. Gotham successfully succeeds in combining the best elements of both Gothams to create a city that looks to be straight off the pages of DC Comics. Props to whoever was in charge of that.

Weakness: Tone

Oh boy, oh boy. Holy shit does this show have some problems here.

With the exception of the Nolan movies, which were ultra-modern, and the ultra campy iterations, Batman stories have always had somewhat of a timeless feel to it. The 1989 movie brought a lot of fashion, images and dialects straight from the early-to-mid 20th century, as did the animated series, mixing them with more modern technologies like literally anything in Batman’s utility belt. It may not have made the most sense when you think about it, but hey, it was charming, or at least I found it to be.

How quaint!!!

While I also really enjoyed the tone of the new movies, and the campy movies had…. Actually they all sucked, but my point is that Gotham tries way too hard to be a balanced mix of all of these styles, which just ends up coming across as stilted and jarring. At times, it wants to be very dark and realistic, but there are other times when the over-the-top villains and cartoonish violence just take me out of it (I’m looking at you, Balloonman. Jesus Christ, wasn’t that a fucking stupid concept?). Black comedy and camp can be put to good use, but that’s not really the case in this show.

Ugh….

Meh…: Acting/Characters 

I should be the first to admit that I was a little high on the actors in my review of the pilot episode. And I’ve still gotta be honest, I haven’t seen a straight-up bad performance just yet. Robin Lord-Taylor as Penguin is still my favourite performance, even if his arc is really improbable. I really like John Doman in the limited screen time he gets as Carmine Falcone, as is Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth. I also really like Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue, even if McKenzie can sometimes be overly stoic for my taste. Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma are also fine, even if neither has done much, and the showrunners can’t seem to help drilling the fact that Nygma becomes the Riddler into our brains ever so much.

A lot of the characters just seem to be there for the sake of being there, though. Montoya, Allen and Barbara are all boring as hell. I have yet to feel a twinge of interest towards any of them. And, while they aren’t bad actors per se, I would argue that they’re better than most other child actors out there, David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, respectively, jus don’t have interesting enough stories for me to really get invested.

***

That’s all for now. Hopefully the show picks up, because at the rate it’s going, it’ll fall off of my review list after this season. This last episode was better than the two before it though, so maybe that’s a sign it’s trending in the right direction? I sure hope so.

“The Balloonman”: 2.5/5

“Arkham”: 3.5/5

The season so far: 6.5/10 

Gotham: Episode 2- Selina Kyle (Review)

That’s one sad looking cat.

So, in my review for the pilot episode of Gotham, I went into some detail about what I liked about the show in that 45-minute debut, and, as I found, there was quite a bit to like. The actors were great, the writing was tight, the atmosphere was appropriately dark, and its take on the Batman mytho seemed interesting enough to hold my attention. It’s not like it was flawless though. I found the framing of Gordon to be stupid, I felt that they tried to cram in too many villain cameos and in respect to the villains, there was a bit too much pointless fanservice.

Case in point: “Don’t call me Penguin!!!”

Were those problems resolved in the second episode? Well, kinda. The cameos feel a lot less pointless this time around, and it feels like every character served at least some semblance of a purpose to the plot. Problem is, the fanservice is still there, and it really got on my nerves this time around. It wasn’t so much Cobblepot’s dislike of the title of “Penguin” that bothered me this time around as the title character, Selina Kyle (Played by Camren Bicondova)’s insistence on being called “Cat.” Seriously. That is the very picture of violently beating subtlety to death.

Even if the fact that Selina Kyle is Catwoman wasn’t  already spoiled thanks to the show’s marketing campaign…

Case in point.

… We pretty much would have figured it out based on the fact that she dresses pretty much exactly like what you’d expect Catwoman to dress like, minus the skintight catsuit and gratuitous cleavage.

All of a sudden, I feel the urge to play through Arkham City again.

Also, is it just me or did the writing seem to take a turn for the worse? I wasn’t like it was a work of art, but it sure wasn’t as clunky as, say “My name is Cat” or whatever. And while I do like Bruce Wayne in this show, his dialogue seems a touch too formal for-what is he, a twelve year old?

While I’m still bitching about things I didn’t like, I really hope that the subplot about Allen and Montoya believing that Gordon is a crooked cop is wrapped up neatly and disposed of within the next episode or so. Man am I not interested at all in that being a thing.

Before I sign off, I feel like I should compliment what this episode does well, because honestly, there’s still a lot of good things to say. The show still looks fantastic (I’m a sucker for comic book visuals) the performance are still great (Robin-Lord Taylor is my favourite actor on the show at this point, and Camren Bicondova did a fine job as Catwoman Jr.), the villains were sufficiently menacing, I appreciated the reference to the Dollmaker (If you don’t know who that is, do yourself a favour and read the first volume of the new Detective Comics series) and hey, despite its’ faults, I still liked the episode! Yeah, it didn’t live up to the pilot, but I don’t think that it’s that serious of a setback. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next episode brings.

Episode Rating: 3/5

Season Rating: 7.0/10

 

Gotham: Episode 1- Pilot (TV Review) SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Selina Kyle: Apparently, the all-seeing eye of Gotham City. Who’da thunk it?

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

 If you had told me one year ago that Fox was panning to release a TV crime drama set in Gotham City, I would have been completely overjoyed. I’ve always kinda thought that transitioning to TV might be a better idea for those grittier, more down-to-earth superheroes that don’t necessarily have the flashy godlike powers (Smallville notwithstanding). And as much as I don’t hate the idea of Ben Affleck donning the cape and cowl (Even if the rest of the DC cinematic universe is starting to look like a giant clusterfuck) I would love to see a Batman TV show.

Take away Batman from the equation though, and I would’ve been less than enthused.

Indeed, Gotham chooses to focus not on Bruce Wayne (Played by child actor David Mazouz) and his transformation into everyone’s favourite rich nutjob, but on the exploits of Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, former star of The O.C. and, actually a former Batman voice actor. He voiced the Dark Knight in the animated movie, Batman: Year One)  and his troubled partner, Harvey Bullock (Irish-Canadian actor Donal Logue). How did the pilot episode of this risky venture prove?

Absolutely brilliant is how it turned out.

Don’t get me wrong though, Gotham has problems, and I’ll get them out of the way first so I can gush later. My only real qualms with the movie have to do with the characters, not that the actors are to blame. I think they all do very great jobs, especially newcomer Robin Lord-Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, Jada Pinkett-Smith as original villain Fish Mooney, Cory Michael Smith’s brief cameo as Edward Nygma and the two leads, McKenzie and Logue. Problem is, the show seems a bit over-preoccupied with stuffing as many villains into it as possible in order to give super-nerds like me a hard-on. I guess it kind of makes sense this one time, given that it was the pilot episode, and they had to stuff in as much fan service as possible in order to convince Fox that they could attract an audience. In that respect, it makes sense, but I hope that they can segway into villain introductions a little better than their introduction of the man who will eventually grow up to be a Tim Burton- directed abomination.

SCENE: A group of thugs are viciously beating up on a fellow criminal. The most violent aggressor is a younger man, brandishing an umbrella while wearing a tuxedo

ANONYMOUS THUG:  Take it easy (Practically turns to audience) Penguin! (Practically winks at the goddamn audience)

PENGUIN: Don’t call me that!!!

Huh, they took lessons from the James Cameron school of subtlety, I see.

Also, I love how Detectives Montoya and Allen go ahead and take Cobblepot at his word when he tells them that Gordon and Bullock framed and murdered Mario Pepper, and immediately report their suspicions to Barbara and threaten Gordon without a shred of evidence. I thought these guys were supposed to be real hotshots. What the hell?

Overall, though, my favourite thing about the show is that it feels like a comic book set in Gotham City ,especially something like Batman: Year One (Again, minus Batman). It has a very dark atmosphere, and doesn’t hesitate to bust out the blood (Unlike the great Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies, who had to maintain a PG rating). The scene where Bruce’s parents are murdered (Spoiler alert, in case you’ve been living under a rock) is as emotionally  resonant as it’s ever been, the writing is, while not exactly Shakespeare, very fitting to the tone, and really, I can’t wait for the next episode.

Episode Rating: 4/5

Holy fuck, was that the Joker!?!?

Razzie Movie Review: After Earth

Disclaimer: Those who get offended by foul language may want to sit this review out.

After Earth

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Produced by: Caleeb Pinkett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, James Lassiter

Written by: Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan (Story by Will Smith)

Genres: Science-Fiction, Action, Adventure

Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith

Other Actors: Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz

Razzie Nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Jaden Smith) Worst Supporting Actor (Will Smith) Worst Screen Combo (Jaden Smith and Will Smith) Worst Director (M. Night Shyamalan) Worst Screenplay (Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan (Story by Will Smith))

Plot: It is the future, and, as you may have guessed from the title of the movie, human beings no longer live on planet Earth, having caused environmental cataclysms that rendered the planet uninhabitable for people. Attacked by aliens in their new home, Nova Prime, the humans are overwhelmed by the “Ursas”. Huge, blind monsters that find humans by smelling their fear. This is, improbably, the least stupid thing about this movie. Seriously? Couldn’t they just have nuked the motherfuckers into oblivion? I’m no science guy, but I’m pretty sure that nuclear missiles fear nobody.

Well, ALMOST nobody…

The human race is slaughtered like cattle until General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) develops the “ghosting” technique, which involves suppressing fear so that Ursas are blinded and easy to dispatch. Under the Fresh Prince’s leadership, the United Ranger Corps defeat the aliens and, years later, Cypher’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) is training to become a Ranger himself.

When he fails to graduate from Ranger High, due to his highly emotional behavior, Cypher decides to bring his son with him on his last tour of duty before retirement, because a war zone is obviously the best place for a highly emotional teenager to be. This stupidity is compounded upon when we discover that there’s a live Ursa being taken to their destination for some reason that I was too uninterested and bored to look for. Which begs the question: In what fucked-up parallel universe is it a good idea to bring your idiotic, irrational teenage son to a dangerous planet, accompanied by a creature who’s sole purpose is to kill humans who display any emotion?

Anyways, long story short, the ship approaches an asteroid field, and the brilliant general decides to go straight through it instead of turning back. The ship crashes on the now-abandoned planet Earth, everybody except the Raiges are killed, the Ursa escapes, Cypher is crippled, and Kitai has to get to a mountain to shoot a distress flare. Seriously. My six year old cousin could write a better plot outline than this.

My main problem with this story isn’t the boneheaded plot-line, the bland special effects, the horrendous dialogue, or even the beyond-awful acting from the two leads (More on that later). My main beef is with the message that this movie is trying to get across to the audience: “Danger is real, but fear is a choice.” Cypher Raige explains, in a long-winded, boring bout of dialogue, that he believes that while danger is everywhere, “fear is an illusion created by the mind”.

No, it’s not, you fucking idiot.

What we refer to as “fear” is a perfectly normal emotion that warns us when something is uncomfortable or dangerous. One of the reasons that humans haven’t gone extinct is because we’ve had fear in the back of our minds, wondering if attempting to fly was such a good idea. When I go to El Salvador (FYI, I have Canadian and Salvadoran citizenship), I don’t just dismiss my reluctance to enter the slums in San Salvador as an illusion created by my asshole brain, blocking me from living life to the fullest. I listen to my fear, because I’d rather not get murdered for drug money by some 17-year old gang-banger with facial tattoos.

It is VERY easy to figure out who you may want to avoid in El Salvador.

Acting: You gotta give the Pinkett-Smith family props. They try so hard to try to convince moviegoers that the kids in that family (Especially Jaden Smith) are the most multi-talented little  bastards around. Problem is, they’re the only ones buying it. Setting aside Jaden’s (And his sister, Willow) halfhearted stabs at music careers, acting seems to be what they’re trying to jump into. Jaden appeared with his dad in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, and appeared subsequently in The Day the Earth Stood Still and the Karate Kid remake. Was After Earth finally going to be the performance where Jaden established himself among Hollywood’s elite at the age of 14?

No. Of course not. Make no bones about it, Jaden Smith’s acting gave me nightmares. And not in a “Holy shit, I’m gonna be dreaming about Hannibal Lecter dismembering me for the next thirty years” sense. The first thing I did after finishing this movie was go upstairs and start praying to any deity who exists and/or who gave a shit and pray that this kid never touches the Star Wars franchise. I’m not even religious! I just hope for his sake that his star fades quietly so he doesn’t open himself up to any more embarrassments,  but it’s unlikely, considering the pressure his family seems to be putting on him.

Speaking of his dad, I hoped that his performance would be better than advertised, because I’ve always been a big Will Smith fan, but his performance just left me depressed and longing for the days of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s just so damn wooden in this movie. Actually, scratch that, he looks depressed. Uninterested. Like he’s aware of all the nepotism in this project and he’s ashamed of it. Of course, it could just be that he knows that the movie was a piece of shit, but I like to think that he knows he made a mistake and can learn from it.

Although I could be wrong.

What Razzie Nominations Does It Deserve? 

  • Worst Screenplay: I dunno if it deserves to “win” this award, but the nomination makes sense, I guess.
  • Worst Director (Shyamalan): Did I seriously forget to lay into M. Night in my rants? Well the direction (Directing?) couldn’t have been less interesting in this movie, so yeah.
  • Worst Screen Combo (Smith and Smith): Actually, no, I don’t think so, but only because I don’t really think they were on-screen together enough to be considered a “combo”.
  • Worst Supporting Actor (Will Smith): He deserves the nod, for sure. Not the win, though.
  •  Worst Actor (Jaden Smith): Yep.
  • Worst Picture: Fo’ sho’. (Remind me to never say that again.)

Overall Score: 2.5/10