Stacking the Shipdeck

A couple days ago the Daily Currant ran a news story about Sarah Palin and her plan for immigration, which involved cruise ships and shipping people who were in the country illegally across the ocean back to Mexico.

It is, of course satirical.  The most common responses were, “Oh, that is obviously a satire site” and “No way…even for her that would be hard to believe.”

But Michelle Malkin went off to find all the dumb liberals who fell for it.  Her examples are kind of dubious…only one person qualifies as a famous liberal, and that tweet asks “Can this be for real?!”  In other words, that Hollywood person (Marg Helgenberger) Malkin uses found the story suspect.

I do not fault people for not knowing a site is a satire site.  There are a million of them, I do not expect anyone to be familiar with them all.  But Malkin’s attempt at a Ha Ha is pretty much one that falls flat.  It is, after all, not hard to find Conservatives who eat up any news that feeds their view of liberals-even when it turns out to be a well known site like the Onion.  But Malkin fails to prove Liberals were overwhelmingly duped by this one.

Yup.  Some people fell for it and missed the satire.  But from what I have seen, the major response was to recognize that it was a fake story from the outset.  That is if people even saw the story.

Gotham: Why is There Always Someone Who Brings Eggs & Tomatoes To a Speech? (The Pros)

One of the big pros of Gotham?  The Penguin.  I really had never thought an origin of the Penguin.  It seemed, in a way, of little consequence.

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And yet, on Gotham, they have made him so very interesting.  Whereas Burton cast him as a despicable little monster in appearance, Gotham takes a different rout.

Oswald Cobblepot seems to have come from a family that may have been rich once, but their power and influence has deteriorated with Gotham.  And so Oswald had to crawl up the mob rungs and fight to survive.  He will betray, lie, steal…anything to achieve the power he so badly wants.

Robin Lord Taylor portrays the Penguin as both incredibly pathetic and frighteningly dangerous.  It is, in fact the pathetic aspect that seems to drive his vicious win-at-any-cost behavior.  He first loathes the nickname of the Penguin, but ultimately seems to embrace it.  He knows he is not physically threatening…but no matter how many times people attempt to take him out, he shows himself to be one step ahead.  This could very well prove to be the downfall of those who think they hold power over him.

His mother (played with a creepy presence by Carol Kane) seems fully oblivious to her son’s activities, and seems fixated almost romantically on her son.  She is constantly fearful that a woman will take him away from her.  And Oswald does nothing to change this.  Whether it is attention he enjoys, or is so used to it he has no idea it is creepy, I do not know.

What I do know, is watching the Penguin storyline is a very satisfying aspect of Gotham, and I find the portrayal of the character to be terrific.

You Fool!

So, I started watching Arrow.  The thing that has annoyed me most in the show is that every time Laurel Lance goes off on Ollie for how selfish he is and how shallow he is and so on… you can hear the writers laughing.  Like the amusing thing is how wrong she is.  The things she says may be accurate, but since she does not know it is all an act?  We are expected to wag our fingers and say, if you only knew The Truth!

It is painfully unfunny…because the person we are laughing at (or supposed to be) is being kept in the dark, and the only information they are given bolsters their concerns.  It is the troubling nature of the secret identity going back to Superman.  No matter how competent and smart the individual (especially in the case of a love interest) is, they are the butt of a joke they have no power in.  It is problematic in the best of cases.  But it usually just ends up allowing the viewer to feel superior to the person who is “unfairly badgering” the hero.

Also, what is it with DC shows and the mundane nicknames the heroes get dubbed with?  The Hood? The Blur? the Streak?  How long before Constantine is referred to as “The Trenchcoat”?

The Johns-ification of the DCU

I was thinking what it would be like if Geoff Johns had sole control of DC’s Publishing.  I imagine the titles would look like this:

Green Lantern (Starring Hal Jordan)

Green Lantern/Superman

Green Lantern/Batman

Green Lantern/Wonder Woman

Batman and Robin Starring Hal Jordan, featuring Batman and Robin

Superman starring Hal Jordan with appearances by Superman

Hal Jordan and his Justice Pals

The Hal Jordan Corp

Constantine Starring Hal Jordan

Gotham: Don’t Think About the Future! (The Cons)

So, I sunk my teeth into Gotham a week or so back.  After a bit of a shaky start, the show seems to have found it’s footing.  I am liking the show, but I figured for me first post on the topic, I would express my concerns.

First, the show needs more Fish Mooneys.  I do not mean clones.  But simply, important characters, new to the world of Gotham.  It needs characters we can be uncertain about.  Characters who might die unexpectedly, turn on people unexpectedly.  The fact that this is a story about Batman’s world and city before Batman means the big names  cannot give us to much of a surprise.  Harvey Dent cannot die.  Nor can Jim Gordon or Harvey Bullock.  Not without a major change to the mythos.  If all your new characters are one offs or low, low level thugs (basically Red Shirts) it is hard to provide a sense of the danger in Gotham.

The show needs to focus less on the hints of…the future.  The entire cast cannot, and should not be comprised of Batman’s rogue gallery.  The Penguin works.  Having young Riddler work in a crime lab works.  Introducing Leslie Thompson and Harvey Dent?  These make sense.  The idea that they populate the landscape of Gotham before Batman enters the picture is a pretty solid idea.  I am sure it is tempting to put hints and references all over the place.  The showrunners and their team need to fight this desire.  Use what works.  Hold back on what does not.

This means…never, ever introduce the Joker.

This was, of course, the problem of Smallville.  And trust me, when you are bringing in Doomsday, you are going overboard in your comic book references.  Smallville had Superman meeting everyone he would ever deal with before he adopted the name of Superman.  It got downright silly at some points.  And since they were introducing characters imortant to the future, when they tried to be dramatic?  It ended up becoming stupid.  If there is one thing I do not want to see happen on Gotham?  It is the death of Penguin…followed by the audience secretly meeting the previously never mentioned little brother Ozzie Cobblepot, who will someday grow up to be the REAL Penguin.

Second?  It was a mistake to open with the death of the Waynes.  I get why they did.  It is an iconic moment.  But truthfully?  I think it was a wasted opportunity.  We should have gotten to see the Waynes in action.  The Waynes, the most powerful and rich family in Gotham.  The one family hated by their peers, loved by the common man.  The Mafia hates the Waynes because Thomas and Martha run the risk of bringing hope and courage to the poor of Gotham.  They are unafraid of Falcone or any other Gotham Mob Bosses.  The Elite in Gotham want to stay in the good graces of the Wayne Money, but despise their generosity and unwillingness to play the social elite games.  The Gotham PD don’t care for them because they feel the Waynes interfere to much.  Nobody likes the Waynes, but they want the opportunity to have access to the things the Waynes have.

We could see a few meetings between Gordon and the Waynes, where it is clear they like this Gordon guy and the heroism he represents.  He sees them as key to healing the poisoned Gotham.  And then?  They are brutally murdered.  I think this would have been best served as either a mid season or season finale moment.  Gordon’s hunt for their killer and the blockades he hits challenge his morale.  It is a perfect setup for a second season.  But enough with the could have beens.

Finally?  Alfred is kind of off.  The actor seems right, so I am not challenging casting.  But the dialog…there are moments where I feel like he is to impatient with Bruce.  That he has a tough side is unquestioned, but it is always tempered by compassion and patience.  That said…I did like the moment in last week’s episode where he looks at Bruce’s classmate and says, “Remember that I let him.”  That is all the context I will give.

The Ultimate Halloween

There have been a lot of box sets of film franchises. Often, the series is owned by one studio. This gets tougher for many horror franchises. Child’s Play is owned by MGM, the other films are owned by Universal. Paramount owned the first eight films in the Friday the 13th series, New Line had the later films. Halloween was owned by multiple studios, with the first five films settling in under Anchor Bay and the sixth film on belonging to Dimension Films.

Earlier in the year, Shout Factory’s horror line Scream Factory announced a pretty big deal. They got Dimension, Universal and Anchor Bay to agree to allow a box set with every single Halloween film. All ten films. And you get the television versions of Halloween and Halloween 2. I watch the television version of Halloween every year. But the real big shocker? The never before released in America Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6: the Curse of Michael Myers. It has been long rumored to be vastly superior to the (admittedly abysmal) theatrical version of the film.  I addressed that earlier this week.  They also include the unrated versions of both Rob Zombie films.

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The packaging is terrific.  A nice box houses ten individual cases, black instead of the traditional blue.  The cover art is the classic cover art.  The box has some really good and atmospheric painted art.

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Every disc includes special features related to the individual film.  These are made with care and the producers  manage to get a lot of the original teams to return and discuss their experiences on the film.  If you love to dive into special features (as I do), this is a very rich set.  The set includes a bonus disc with new special features (mostly relating to Halloween’s 3-5).

Some of the special features were on previous releases (Considering Anchor Bay has released a 20th Anniversary Set, 25th Anniversary Set and 35th Anniversary set, there was a lot to use).  Considering the Halloween:H20 DVD years ago claimed to have special features that  were not actually on the disc, it is nice to finally get to see interviews and behind the scenes stuff that was promised.  In the end, I think the only thing missing from the deluxe set was the Halloween 25 Years of Terror DVD set.  And they include some of the special features from that.  Keep in mind, the non-deluxe version of the set does not have the Halloween II Television Version or the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6.

The picture quality is great, keeping some of the grain, but the blu-ray transfers are never muddy, allowing us to never miss some of those great out of the shadow reveals.  This is how a box set should be.  I truly wish the Shout Factory had been in on the Friday the 13th and Chucky box sets…because we would more than likely have gotten a pretty sweet deal out of it.  The Shout Factory has set a standard here.  This is not that surprising, they have spent years making themselves stand out as kind of the Criterion Collection for pop culture.

Michael Gets Up Again (Halloween 2)

Rob Zombie returned for the sequel to his fairly successful reboot.  My understanding is he had not intended to, but was talked into it.  And from the outset, this one is a total mess.

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It opens with a bit of text regarding the psychological significance of a white horse.  It then gives us a flashback to young Michael and his mother having as loving a moment between a mother and son as you can have at a sanitarium.  This right here is continuing a wrong foot.  In the original films, Loomis talks about how Michael was quiet and interacted with no one, to the point where everyone grew complacent around him.

The film just jumps ahead fifteen years, to the end of the previous film.  In an imitation of the original Halloween 2, there is a hospital sequence, but it is only about 25 minutes long and then Laurie wakes up a year later.  Was it a memory?  A dream?  The film is unclear.

We learn Laurie is in therapy and has rage issues.  Loomis, on the other hand is now a psych-babble hack who uses Michael as his money-maker.  This is an unpleasant take on the character, which makes him far less sympathetic.  He is convinced Michael is dead, even though no body has ever been recovered.

Michael, very much alive, has been hiding out, building up his murderous rage.  He is haunted by dreams of his mother, and an avatar of himself as a little boy who speaks to the vision of the mother.  There are instances where Michael grunts as he kills that seem out-of-place.  A completely silent Michael makes for a better Michael.  Michael also spends a lot of time with no mask, which just seems wrong.

Laurie seems to have a sudden psychic connection to Michael that comes out of nowhere.  And Laurie has become an entirely unpleasant.  In fact, nobody is really likable in the film beyond maybe Sheriff Bracken and Annie.  But most everyone else is just hard to like or care about.  This is a bad thing for your lead.  It is hard for the viewer to invest our time and emotion to care about a character we cannot even really like.  And to pretty much have her cast her lots in with Michael (this is the same problem the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel had) is troublesome.

The resolution of the film is nonsense leaving this a complete (as stated earlier) mess of a movie.  It robs Laurie of any actual strength, and ultimately punishes her.  It is pretty clear that Laurie Strode was accepting Michael’s ways.  Her deviant smile before the cut to black is far to dark to be interpreted as triumph over the evil of Michael Myers.

There are some great shots, as Zombie has a real eye for framing shots, especially when going for a creepy vibe.  And there are some solid performances, especially from McDowell, Dourif and Harris.  People need to give Dourif more roles like this.  He shines in the film.  And Zombie (as usual) peppers his film with tons of character actors who clearly had a lot of fun in their roles.

But in the end, the writing and ideas are inconsistent, the characters overwhelmingly unpleasant and a Michael Myers who does not feel at all like Michael Myers.