Titans, S1E3, Origins, Dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan, No review ep 4


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This episode – Origins – digs deeper into Dick and how he evolved into Robin and how Dick, Koriand’r, and Rachel evolved into the Titans.  I don’t mention Beast Boy because he joins in the next episode and he is kinda lame.  Speaking of Beast Boy, I won’t review Episode 4- Doom Patrol.  It’s a backdoor pilot for the eponymous show that was reviewed on this site – check it out here.

The episode opens with my only critique for the season.  Rachel is captured, but doesn’t use her Goth powers to kill everyone.  Why not?  This was not explained.  It seems that somehow her powers were neutered, but I’m not sure how.  She ends up being driven around by the world’s creepiest suburban family.  This quick cuts to Koriand’r searching for Rachel and kicking serious ass kinda unnecessarily.  I mean these were cops and she just breaks one guy’s arm when he begs for mercy.  OUCH!  Koriand’r catches up to the “Nuclear Family” and sets the dad on fire and rescues Rachel.  Koriand’r sets more people on fire than the Romans did! Not too long after, she practically tears apart a wife beater at a diner!  WOW!   Koriand’r takes Rachel to a convent where she discovered Rachel spent the first few years of her life.  All the while, Dick is on the hunt for them both!

The B- Story is Dick Grayson’s youth and how he became Robin.  I wasn’t sure how I thought of this device, but it re-centered the story around Dick to keep the narrative clear: This show is Dick’s Story.  Young Dick Grayson is adopted by Bruce Wayne who doesn’t speak, but lurks around the house staring at Dick.  HMMMM.  Anywho, Dick starts breaking out of Wayne Manor using his acrobat and car stealing techniques.  He’s caught and brought into his social worker who is certain that she knows the way forward: reason with the boy.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t get it.  Dick isn’t running away; he’s hunting his parents’ killer to kill them.  This causes Bruce to take an interest in Dick and recruit him into becoming Robin.

If you look at Dick as someone with deep-seeded PTSD, (which is exactly what’s going on) Bruce and Dick’s actions are very logical. They have repressed rage and, unlike many of us, the means and ability to exact revenge on people who mirror the cause of their trauma.  Most of us just end up in therapy, but I admit that I envy these guys.  Yes, it’s easier on your family to go to the VA and work through your justified rage, but wouldn’t it also be fun to wear some sort of leather and beat the ever loving snot out of a bunch of wife beaters, drug dealers, and child molesters?! It’s be a lot more fun than therapy and far fewer group sessions where you get slightly better than mediocre ham sandwiches.

Dick, being a pretty good detective, catches up to them and Rachel loses it full-on Carrie style.  Dick Koriand’r and Rachel back to the convent and has a heart to heart with Rachel. He said something that stuck with me.  Rachel was going on about how no one can really help and Dick admits, Yes.  He thought Bruce could solve his problems by having him beat the snot out of people, but no one else can be responsible for your pain.  You have to channel it yourself into something constructive, but it never goes away because it did happen to you.

It turns out that the sisters decide to lock up Rachel in the basement for her own good while Dick and Koriad’r step out for a few.  This seems like an odd choice for the sisters.  It’s obvious that Rachel is still there and why would they think that Dick and Koriand’r would be okay with her being locked away in a basement?!  Kinda weird.  Other than a few flaws, the episode lays the framework for an expanding family.  I really do enjoy watching this group evolve into the Titans and they are really good at showing the subtle sparks that Koriand’r and Dick have for one another.  Once again, I’m impressed with how accurately and directly they deal with PTSD and how that would affect all superheroes.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2, Ep6, The Missionaries, Review by Case Wright


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This is the first time in a long time where I rooted for the “villains” to kill off every character.  It’s a hard thing to watch a show you love slowly fail.  It’s like a bad relationship that slouches on from inertia and the inconvenience of setting up a separate bank account.  This is how I feel about CAOS.  I was really hoping that this episode would be the last one, but….not so much.

I would normally describe the director’s technique, but it’s Alex Pillai again and…man it has all the subtlety of a Lifetime MOW.  Not to say that I don’t REALLY like a good guilty pleasure lifetime live tweet, BUT that’s a different animal.  Lifetime movies are supposed to be campy and over the top ridiculous, but CAOS is supposed to bridge comics and realism and instead it’s just giggle-inducing borefest.

The episode opens with Nick being tortured by a guy who looks like a Mormon missionary who is about to chop his hands off.  Oh well, Nick kinda got on my nerves; maybe they’ll have to write a soupy episode featuring Nick titled: Who needs the clap?  Ambrose is still locked up without a shirt doing pull-ups.  This show has more gratuitous beefcake than Arrow season 1 and that is saying A LOT!  I do give Chance Perdomo credit on his abs.  I’m developing my abs and it is a process.  Chance, tip of the hat to committing to the shred!

The “Missionaries”of the episode aren’t really missionaries per se, but they ARE gorgeous blonde angels named Jerathmiel and Mehitable (Spencer Treat Clark and Bayley Corman)! I guess it makes sense that angels would be pretty, but WHOA!  It turns out these angels are avenging angels armed with the latest in …..Ancient Weaponry… wait, what?!  Why?!  Really, why are they armed with crossbows?  Most states just require a driver’s license to purchase any gun you want; let alone what you can get on craigslist.  This just seemed unnecessarily antiquated and dumb like really dumb….really!  Crossbows are heavy, awkward, take a long time load, hard to aim, and are ridiculous.  Bleh.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable spent most of the episode blundering through town trying to kill all of the witches of Greendale.  Why bother?  We already learned in previous episodes that the teenagers are unvaccinated and catch the Chicken Pox.  Just send in Jenny MacArthy’s measles carrying minions into town and you’ll have the whole town on its knees in matter of hours!

Jerathmiel and Mehitable catch most of the witches and start purifying the town.  I guess this says a lot about how the show has degraded because I really rooted for the Angels.  I thought to myself…Self, maybe they could just go full-on Hamlet?!!!!

This main plot is interwoven with the more compelling love story between Wardwell and Adam.  He wants to take her to Tibet.  She is about to accept when the Devil finds out about their escape plan, so the Devil turns Adam in Wardwell’s diner.  REALLY.  It’s really sad, but sets up a great revenge arc for Wardwell that looks MUCH more interesting than the primary storyline.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable have all the witches cornered and even put a few arrow bolts into Sabrina, but the Devil resurrects Sabrina and gets the Angels to renounce God and envelopes the angels in flames.  Honestly, I thought this scene was just plain terrible.  The angels spent the whole episode being intrepid crusaders, but they were easily cowed by a floating Sabrina?!  Really?! It came across as contrived.  The angels were so brave for the entire episode and then… nope.  It was just awful in an awful way, not like Lifetime which is bad in an AWESOME way.

I’m not sure what the show should do or where it should go, but it needs artistic honesty because without it, the suspense withers away like a dried out orange.

 

Night Surf, Review By Case Wright


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Where do stories come from? Not important or interesting.  Why are some stories shot out like a cannonball from an artist’s brain in a matter of days like Kerouac’s “On The Road” and even written on a scroll; whereas, some stories take a decade or more of developing until they are born like Stephen King’s The Stand?  Very Important and Very Interesting!  I will not be discussing King’s opus The Stand, but rather how it evolved from Night Surf.

Night Surf was written for the University of Maine literary magazine in 1969 when King was twenty-two.   Night Surf introduces us to the plague that kills off mankind and how people can be pulled to darkness when no one is looking. The disease is even called “A6” just as it was called in The Stand, but The Stand didn’t get published until 1978.  Why did it take so long for The Stand to incubate and his other stories seem to shoot from him like they are on a sluice?

I see this dichotomy in my own writing.  For some stories, I’ll get pieces of dialogue and scenes in my head that kick around for years, but I don’t know how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle with too many smooth edges.  I can’t speak for Stephen King, but for me the longer developing stories occur when I’m picking at something personal like an emotional wound that’s been puffed out by pus, but not yet ready to drain.  I guess I just want to hold onto the pain; maybe, King does too?

Night Surf takes place on the New England coastline when summer’s ending, but it’s not just the leaves dying on the trees; humanity is blowing out from a massive viral extinction event.  The disease is called A6- a superflu.  In The Stand, he refers to the virus also as Tube Neck and Captain Trips.  The world is not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.  The story is narrated by Bernie who is spending humanity’s last days at a beach town.  At first, the group believes that they are immune from the disease and demonstrate their superior immunity with the most primitive act of all: Human Sacrifice.  A man who’s dying from the flu comes to their town and, instead of caring for him and helping him die, they burn him to death in a bonfire.

Why burn him?  They describe it almost like a sacrifice to the beach itself.  The act seemed to me to be more like a line in the stand between the dying world and themselves.  The mere mortals are simply cord wood and can be used for fuel.  Their perception as the kings of humanity is vindicated by their health because they are immune and the rest of humanity perished.  It harkens to the idea of the Puritans where the Select were touched by God and were guaranteed success in life and VIP treatment on the ethereal plane.  Of course, the Puritans would balk at using lesser people as a duraflame.

Soon after burning the flu victim alive, Bernie realizes that one of his comrades has A6 symptoms and will soon die, indicating all of them might expire soon.  The story forces us to look at what allows us to be moral.  Are we only good because society will punish us if we are bad?  It could be argued that they looked at the immolation as a last hurrah, but I think that is wrong because at the time in the story, they believed they were immune.  If their friend had developed symptoms before the unlucky traveler arrived, would they see him as their brother or would they have burned them both to adamantly declare their superiority?

The theme of people being seduced to darkness is throughout The Stand, but in this story, they don’t get the devil made me do it excuse; the group murdered because they could and felt like doing it.  After the immolation, we return to Bernie’s backstory, humanizing him even more.  It seems King is saying that this horrendous act was just another act in a number of countless acts that Bernie did from birth to his upcoming demise.  Maybe doing evil is just as common as getting the paper? I hope not, but as the great philosopher Bobby Dylan said, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

This story is more relevant to me today than when I first read it years ago.  What makes it more difficult for me is that the people in the story are just so normal.  I hope none of my readers will ever have to do this, but I’ve looked right into the face of evil once and the man looked like he could have been a cousin.  When I remember the encounter, it still chills me to the bone.  I met a Bernie once; maybe, you have too, but you didn’t know it.

The Lawnmower Man, Review by Case Wright


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The “Lawnmower Man” by Stephen King really makes me understand the power of peyote.  Stephen King has is very open about his drug and alcohol addiction and in the 1970s even regular folks were dabbling in the Yayo.  In fact, he has said that he doesn’t remember writing The Shining.  In those days, he would use cotton balls up his nose from the constant nose bleeds from his cocaine use.  The Lawnmower Man  has to be seen in this context.

Harold Parkette is a typical suburban man.  He’s lawn obsessed and needs to make it purdy.

Sidenote: This story takes me back to me youth.  In my football and track days, I would mow lawns and split wood to make extra cash.  I would never wear a shirt because I would get hot.  I never understood until later why only the wives would call me to do the yard work, would make really odd excuses to give me extra lemonade, and cash. A lot of times they’d just sit on their porch, watch, and occasionally wave. 

The Lawnmower Man is not that kind of story.  Harold gets an odd landscaper who starts working and then Harold takes a nap.  When Harold wakes, he sees that the lawnmower is moving on its own and the lawnmower man is eating the clippings.  The image that stuck with me the most is that grass was growing on the lawnmower man’s teeth- yuck. The Lawnmower Man reveals himself to be the Greek God Pan and proceeds to eat Harold.

This story is just plain weird.  Pan was into wine and sex, not landscaping.  Also, I get the economy can be tough, but if you’re a god wouldn’t you do better than a solo landscaping biz? All around, I’m very confused.

The Ledge, Review by Case Wright


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The Ledge by Stephen King is a masterclass in realistic suspense.  I’ve never been forced by a mom boss to circumnavigate a highrise with crazy gusts, but I believe that it would be like this story.

Stan Norris is an Ex-Con now Tennis Pro who is love with a mobster – Cressner’s wife.  Stan is a parolee and fell for the mobster’s wife and helped her escape to they could run off together.  Unfortunately, Cressner captures Stan and says that he put heroin in Stan’s trunk.  He can either go back to prison or circumnavigate a ledge around his high rise.  If he succeeds, he gets Cressner’s wife, Twenty-Grand, and freedom.  If he fails, he’ll be a pain for the street cleaners.

There’s a reason I joined a land based military branch; heights are not great.  Stan does not have these qualms.  He agrees and faces freezing wind and a diseased pigeon who starts pecking at his right ankle….yuck.  Pigeons are nasty.  Side note: they are totally unprotected in any city and state. Therefore, if you’re hungry, feel encouraged to take one out and braise it!  

He manages to get around the building and back inside, but Cressner is waiting for him and slightly broke the deal.

The story reads like an anecdote or almost a confession.  I highly recommend reading the story or listening to the John Glover audiobook performance.

Strawberry Spring – The Youtube Video!!!, Review By Case Wright


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Sometimes films are done poorly.  Sometimes films stay true to the source material. Sometimes they are just kinda fun.

This adaptation of Stephen King’s- “Strawberry Spring” is just kinda neat.  I was looking for Strawberry Spring images online for my post and here this was.  It’s a High School student film of Strawberry Spring.  It’s just straight up fun. All of his friends are obviously in the film and the director did a pretty good job.

The story of Strawberry Spring is that a serial killer slasher is on the loose at a New England liberal arts school in the 60s.  The narrator is more than unreliable; he is a possible suspect.  The Strawberry Spring refers to a false spring that occurs in New England similar to a blackberry winter where warm weather occurs and then a severe nor’easter hits.  The book makes a point that a mist appears before the murders and that the mist itself is likely sapient who infects the narrator, causing him to kill.  The campus is terrorized by a series of murders and then when the Strawberry Spring ceases, so do the murders.

This student film tries to dramatize the story and although there a bit of overused fog machine sequences, it deserves a lot of credit.  There was obviously a lot of effort put in and I give a tip of the hat to these young artists.

You can watch it here and if you have 15 minutes to definitely check it out!!!

First Man, Review By Case Wright


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Happy Horrothon……wait a minute…this isn’t a horror movie!!! Nope, but it is going to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.

First Man is a biopic of Neil Armstrong from his test pilot days, Gemini missions, Apollo Mission and return home.  I was moved.  Ryan Gosling inhabited that man’s very soul.  I have not seen acting that good in years and years.  At every point in the film, you are more on the edge of your seat than you have been in decades.  I knew he would land the LEM on the moon, but it was so close to disaster that you felt for him.

The picture opens with Neil doing test piloting.  He’s already getting tapped to be in the Gemini missions, but he almost passes.  He has a daughter that stricken with cancer and we share in his grief throughout the film’s entirety.  I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment when Neil is on the moon with his late daughter’s bracelet and …. oh man.  Once his daughter passes, his wife pushes him to take the Gemini mission and we rapidly see that she is his ROCK!  We see it when his daughter passes and when the stress of the burden of achievement weighs upon this Great Man.

The weight of greatness and death is looked dead in the eye in this picture.  Brave men are facing and dealing with mortality in nearly every scene.  We see that the cost of putting the first man on the moon is paid in blood.  So many great men die in this heroic quest that it begins to feel like a Homeric adventure or great tale of an ancient Samurai told through a modern lens.  All the while they are struggling to make this great achievement, we hear the familiar whining of lesser men moaning in the background like white noise.

Once it is clear that Neil will be Commander to go to the Man, his wife demands that he explain the risks to his two remaining children.  He tells them and we feel his paternal pain twisting in him like a blade because his destiny is set.  We get closer to the other two members of his team – one I can’t remember and the other is Buzz Aldrin who is portrayed as complete asshole.  I mean…wow…what a dick!

When Neil approaches the moon, the LEM is heading for disaster and fate tempts Neil to abort, but it’s obvious that Neil will succeed or he will die trying.  There was no going back empty handed for him.  There’s a lesson here: the greatest achievements require sacrifice up to and including your life.

The film allows us to see this amazing quest through the eyes of our greatest American Representative.  It is also clear that the Space Race, Humankind’s greatest achievement, was a road that led to victory and was paved with blood.