“Titans” S1 Ep 9, “Hawk and Dawn”, Dir Akiva Goldsman


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Anger turned inward is suicidal, but anger turned outward is homicidal.  This episode (Dir Akiva Goldsman) was a story of rage and revenge.  Where do you put all of your anger when self-help groups, drinking, and drugs no longer satisfies the grief?  Revenge.  Revenge is as seductive as heroin and it does not have to be directly done to the individual that wronged you.  Revenge is an idea of retribution distilled into a violent id.

Titans once again challenges us to support primitive justice.  In the not too distant past, blood had to be answered with blood.  In Titans, blood still calls and must be answered.  There is no lawyering up to satiate the desperate pang for revenge.  It is pure.  It is violent.  Honestly, maybe it’s healthier?  Civilized society gives us Justice – the impartial review of the facts to determine legal guilt and reasonable punishment. Vengeance is instant punishment by the aggrieved for the likely guilty.  Vengeance is not civilized, but it is satisfying.  This episode answers the question what does it take for a civilized person to close the door on society’s civilized justice and enter the world of primitive vengeance?

The episode begins with Hank and his brother in football pads filming their first adventure as superheroes.  They are about to beat up a pedophile so that he will plead guilty to his crimes.  Why do they opt for this life?  Hank was sexually abused by his football coach in middle school.  Later, he becomes a football star at his college, but he and his brother get kicked out for fighting.  Without anything, they decide to go after pedophiles and mete out justice in their neighborhood.

Then, we meet Dawn. She is a ballet dancer, daughter to a sophisticated Londoner, BUT her mother is married to an abuser and she keeps going back.  Despite her family’s dirty secret, they remain within the boundaries of the law and society.  We see all of the characters meet moments later.  Hank and his brother and Dawn and her mother all run into each other on the street.  Just as we’re about see the guys become superheroes, a car kills the mom and the brother.

This sends both Dawn and Hank down a spiral of depression and drinking.  In this haze, they find each other, but their anger is just under the surface- Waiting. The loss and the drinking doesn’t send Dawn outside of society. It takes something more for to turn away from society- Intimacy.  No, I don’t mean sex.  I mean real intimacy.  Dawn gets Hank to tell her about the sex abuse he suffered.  She is there for him.  He has undressed himself by sharing his trauma, she can relate to his pain because of her abusive father. Through this shared pain and intimacy, Dawn leaves society and decides to mete out her own justice.  She enters the world of vengeance.

Dawn confronts Hank’s football coach and demands that he turn himself in.  He refuses and a very good fight ensues.  This is what makes this show great.  It’s honest in terms of the physics.  Yes, she lands some solid kicks and punches, BUT he is a large grown man and he makes contact and delivers some ass kicking as well.  In Arrow, we would have to believe that a 100 pound 5’0 lady could beat up four men at the same time.  It always took me out of it.  The fights in Titans are brutal and honest.  To get the upper-hand in this fight, she has to stab the coach in the leg.

Just as the Coach is about to win the fight and kill Dawn, Hank arrives and beats the snot of the Coach.  This is the shared intimacy.  Hank offers to let her leave- that she was never there.  There’s a beat. Then, NO. Right then, she has fully crossed over.  She closes the door of the Coach’s home so they can finish beating him possibly to death.  We watch from a distance as she fully closes the door on us.  The reason is that we are on the outside looking in; Dawn has left our society.  We as the viewer in the comfort of our home and safety and permanently separated from her new life.

When they arrive home, they complete the intimacy by removing all of their clothing and consummating their relationship. They are now both changed.  The story ends with her being roused from coma by Rachel inserting herself into Dawn’s dream.

Greg, you love spin-offs – this is a great one.  Ritchson and Kelly have perfect chemistry; you feel their pain.  The characters and their story is wonderfully dark.  It would be a great addition to the DC Universe as its own series!

 

 

Titans, S1 Ep7 & 8, Asylum, Donna Troy Review By Case Wright,


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The asylum episode really didn’t have a lot going on.  Rachel’s mother is in an asylum and they rescue her. Rachel thought her mom was dead. Nope, just held hostage at the Evil Well-funded Psyche unit?  Sidenote: this psyche unit looks better funded than anything we have goin on in Seattle and we have a terrible homelessness problem.

Maybe, The Evil Group could franchise or just run our city for a couple of years?  The Evil Group catches Dick and mind messes with him and he burns his Robin suit.  That’s about it.  Nothing great.   Basically, it was a filler episode.

Donna Troy on the other hand is a fun episode.  Donna Troy was Wonder Woman’s sidekick and we dig deeper into that history.  It’s a lot more fun and goes deep into the inevitable PTSD heroes would have after years of violence.

The show opens back in Toronto…I mean Chicago.  Rachel and her mom have bonded overnight.  Really?! You haven’t seen her in…your whole life AND thought she was dead and you’re besties?! Word?

Dick’s “quit” … well kinda.  He can’t figure out what to do with himself.  So, he and Starfire break up and he heads to…..Vancouver..I guess.  Anywho, Donna Troi AKA Wonder Girl AKA Darkstar AKA My Canadian Girlfriend…I swear! She hasn’t quit, but she is a photographer.  I really didn’t know that was a photographer was a thing anymore.  I figured that it was de-professionalized like journalism by the internet and the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Starfire and the rest of the group are traveling to Rachel’s mom’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  They get on a train and are nearly captured by the feds.

Dick is at Wonder Girl’s photography artshow and everything is normal.  Just kidding, she’s made a Faustian deal to get hard edged photos of warlords for a fee.  As you do.  She goes to meet some evil guys for a photo shoot, but Dick follows her and he sees the evil dudes and beats the crap out of them.  Donna is also quite the linguist and translates the pictures of an ancient language on Dick’s phone that will explain Rachel and her origin.  FUN!!!

She gets through to him that Dick not done with being a hero, but he is done with Robin.  Soon, he’ll be …. Nightwing!!!! Can’t wait!!!  Dick and Troi do some research on the texts and decide to head to the farmhouse.  Somehow they know the address and start heading on down.

Dick and Troi are still enroute and don’t think to give Rachel a ring.  At the farmhouse, Rachel does a mindmeld on Starfire.  BAD IDEA! She uncovers Starfire’s mission and identity to her.  Unfortunately for Rachel, Starfire’s mission is to kill Rachel and stop her from bringing about the gotterdammerung. Starfire wakes and starts choking Rachel!!!  SO EXCITING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titans, S1 Ep6, Jason Todd, Review By Case Wright, Dir (Carol Banker)


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This episode was a true Detective Comics story.  It had a eerie feel to it and I understand why- Carol Banker (Director) and Jason Hatem (Writer) are veterans of  The X-Files and Supernatural.  These shows are often grisly whodunnits and this episode fit that mold.

The direction and character development and dialogue are so confluent that it has an unsettling realism.  You watch Dick go through a metamorphosis of grief and brutality into something new- something he doesn’t even know yet.  The dialogue is quick and sharp slowly revealing the differences between Jason and Dick, building the tension between Dick’s uncertainty and Jason’s brutality.  The last shot of the detective story pulls back with Dick alone, staring at what Jason has wrought.  There are crippled police everywhere.  The cost of Dick saving his friend is the unleashing of this hurricane of cruelty wearing the costume that he once proudly wore.

This episode picks up right after the last one.  It’s uncertain why Jason Todd was there to help Dick.  It turns out that Dick and Jason are both Lo-Jacked with tracking devices because of Batman.  Batman discovered that someone is hunting down all of the members of the circus that Dick grew up with- essentially his family other than Bruce.  This person is the son of the man who killed Dick’s parents.  We learn that five years ago Dick got the revenge upon his parents’ killer. Although Dick didn’t do the fatal blow,  he purposefully stood back so the killer would die at another’s hands.

This whodunnit also serves as a Mid-Point Crisis and realization for Dick’s story arc.  He doesn’t want to be Robin, but he carries the suit across the country.  Jason Todd is the new Robin, but Jason, unlike Dick, is pure Robin.  Batman had a code of non-killing and certainly forbade beating up people because you could.  Jason Todd does not follow that; in fact, he likes to brutalize people for sport.  Jason Todd is rage and violence distilled to its darkest conclusion.  This is in line with the comics where Jason becomes the Red Hood and straight up murders criminals.  

As they work together in the episode to track down the killer, Dick realizes that he’s not Robin anymore, but he’s not on the sidelines either.  The Melting Man essentially kills Dick Grayson’s Robin persona because by forcing Dick to work along side Jason to stop him, it causes Dick to realize that he’s no one’s sidekick and that he isn’t a pure psychopath either.

Dick sees Jason’s thrill in beating up cops and crippling them.  Dick tries to explain to Jason that this embrace of darkness costs your soul, but Dick realizes soon that you can’t lose something that you never had.  Jason Todd is like the Joker – in Christopher Nolan’s words- The Joker is an absolute.  The Joker and Jason Todd are the Id of humanity- both absolutes; there is no reasoning with them.  They want and do and they do -without feeling.

Dick is likely to evolve into Nightwing, but more importantly we see in this show very careful layering and texture added over time for every character.  It really brings out the goose-flesh to see these people struggle with being heroes.  It’s so human and painful and more clear when you see a Jason Todd who  relishes embracing darkness and violence.

The Robins do save the day, but Dick is left changed permanently.  Like the funeral scene the story opened with, Dick Grayson’s Robin is dead.  Dick is unaware as to what he will become, but we know it will be born among the Titans. Without question, this is the BEST show on television.

 

Titans S1 Ep 5, Together, Dir (Meera Menon)


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Hello again! It’s been exactly one month since the last Titans installment.  I was busy reviewing the steaming piece of trash that is Stranger Things 3.  Now, I’m back and I have to start banking reviews for October!!! Horrorthor is just around the corner as is Titans Season 2 due out in September!!!

This episode was all about bringing the team together and learning how to fight as one.  Now, I know this doesn’t sound terribly exciting, BUT this episode was actually one of my favorites.

The biggest reason is that I love this episode is because of the Director Meera Menon. She really knows how to direct a fight scene- a virtuoso! Like horror, a great action story can be filmed terribly, making you wish you’d done an extra load of laundry or it can draw you in and make you feel like part of the action.  Meera is the latter.  I haven’t seen action sequences directed this well since Blade I.  I was bummed to find out that she didn’t direct any additional Titans episodes.  If Greg Berlanti is reading my reviews- AND HE SHOULD- Meera is a real talent and will elevate any and all of your properties! Get her now while she’s affordable!

The episode has the gang on the run.  They hole up in a motel and try to assess their individual abilities.  This leads to a fun quasi-montage.  It also leads to the final consummation of the sexual tension between Dick Grayson and  Starfire.  They really play the tension well.  These two have CHEMISTRY!

The Nuclear Family has got a brand new Dad and they are in hot pursuit of the Titans, which leads to one of the best fight sequences that I have ever seen….REALLY.  Just awesome! Meera- get in touch with Dwayne Johnson!

After the fight, Dick figures out where the evil headquarters are located using his detective skills.  This sends him to Toronto…I mean evil Headquarters.  Dick confronts King Evil Pants and gets beaten A LOT by his henchmen….Until Jason Todd shows up and saves him.  This introduces the most psychopathic anti-hero since The Comedian.  The next episode review will about a WHODUNNIT!

Super cool!

Stranger Things, S3, Ep 5,6,7,8, Spoiler Review by Case Wright


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I am reviewing these four episodes as a block because only 25 minutes mattered combined.  In fact, the show rapidly devolved into gross out scenes, cartoonish hijinks, cartoonish Russians, and a terrible song and dance number duo….really.  The only way this season could get rave reviews is if the reviewer binged the show and was too tired to analyze it.  I get it- you’re around your friend(s), your girlfriend is virtual, and you can barely afford your Brooklyn apartment on your blogger salary; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be critical of a show that really should just go away.

I’m adding on to my review here to discuss what makes Stranger Things so terrible now.  This series was heavily influenced by Stephen King and likely Salem’s Lot because of the repeated Vampire monsters.  More importantly, season 1 was great for the same reason that Stephen King’s stories are great- It’s not about the monster in the house; it’s about how the people are living in house with a monster.  These are your neighbors and now have to deal with something beyond reality and that was exactly what Stranger Things Season 1 was about.  There is one other theme that make Stephen King’s stories terrifying: it’s not Randall Flagg, the Werewolves, The Clowns; it’s about people who are supposed to be caring for you, but in fact do not.  This theme is in nearly every Stephen King book and it was present in Stranger Things Season 1.  El called Evil Modine “Papa” even though he was an abusive kidnapper who didn’t think anything more about El than a piece of lab equipment.  The series now has left all those themes behind to become a husk.

The last four episodes broke discretely into three distinct and equally boring and poorly executed quests: 1) Joyce, Hop, Alexi, and Weirdo try to destroy the machine opening the gate. 2) Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin try to escape the bunker and annoy everyone. 3) The original gang drag El around so she can get her ass beat.

Episodes 4 – 7:  Joyce and Hop go through town looking for answers and end up kidnapping a Russian engineer – Alexi.  They take him to the creepy weird guy from last season and without any story arc Alexi is all in to help.  He gives them schematics to infiltrate the Starcourt Mall underground bunker and how to destroy the machine.  Why does Alexi do all this? Who knows?  It’s a good thing Alexi is so detailed because he dies later and it doesn’t matter.  But, we do get A LOT of corny banter and goofy car scenes:

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Hop steals this car in the most corny and unrealistic way possible.  It’s corny, but it makes up for it by being cartoonish and boring.  There are A LOT of scenes where they are driving around and mostly Joyce yells a lot at Hop and Hop yells at Joyce for roughly 38 times.  It’s really dull.  They manage to infiltrate the base eventually try to destroy the machine.  Do they make it?  We have to get through many many pratfalls to find out .. wakka wakka wakka.

Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin infiltrate the base…..and Steve and Robin get caught right away.  This could have been a great suspenseful plot point, but instead we get hijinks!!! A goofy Russian General who makes this face a lot:

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This “torture” sequence goes on for a long long long while and really goes nowhere, which is especially disappointing because there were a couple of episodes that had real suspense.  Instead now, we get this comic book torture guy:

It’s really goofy.  It’s like the Duffer Brothers couldn’t figure out if this show was horror, comedy, or just paint by numbers garbage.  Dustin manages to bust Robin and Steve out because that’s super believable after making Dustin the LEAST physical of the bunch for 2.8 seasons.

El and the gang start to battle with the least effective monster ever.  For a Big Bad Vampire monster, it can’t see very well, it has a vague agenda, and it’s unclear what can actually kill it until the penultimate episode, which sets up Hop’s likely death.  Yes, it looks gross:

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BUT it’s REALLY REALLY bad at finding and killing things that matter.

They, of course, manage to kill off the big bad, but that was never really in doubt.  What was amazing is how the writers derailed the story in favor of WACKINESS!

The “scary” general goofs around A LOT:

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So funny how it derails the suspense. Sigh.

There is car driving wackiness: Screenshot (54).png

Above: a not funny joke was made. They laughed for a very long time.  The person on the right is Alexis.  He dies and it doesn’t matter.

The big fight with the big bad where Hop gets sacrificed: the show ruined itself.  It didn’t just go for wackiness; it stalled the epic last monster fight scene where everyone is about to die for a no kidding Song and Dance sequence- REALLY!

I remember when this song sequence started because I was young man with two newborns.  When it ended, I was sending my girls off to college.  The third picture? Yep, that’s a split screen singing moment.  It …. just….kept… going.  I was really rooting for the Monster.

Did the first four episodes give me hope? Yes, but that hope and good will was squandered by plain old corny scenes and cartoonish sequences.  Maybe, we all entered  the upside down because there is no way a third season like this should have made it to daylight without all laws of physics and reason being reversed.

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Stranger Things, S03,Ep4, Review By Case Wright


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Episode 4 had a lot going on.  It’s like the show doesn’t know how to maintain suspense from one episode to the next.  The previous episode had nothin goin on and this one was like 10 pound sausage in a 5 pound bag.  This is actually a pretty good season and the creators know that they peaked in the first season because of the incessant flashback clips to season 1.

We open with Heather and Mullet-Renfield setting up her parents to be disgustingly consumed/converted by the Monster Vampire- It’s Gross!  Of course, after following the NXIVM case, maybe we should let the Vampire Monster win?  Are we really that great that ya know we DESERVE to live.

This season is all about breaking up, reuniting, and moving on.  Dustin is breaking away and making older friends.  I’m pretty sure that Will is about to come out- Good for Him and good for the show!

Speaking of Dustin, he, Robin, and Steve are trying really hard to infiltrate the Russian mall area and they recruit Erica (Sister of Lucas) to do it.  I gotta write that she was a scene stealer.  It’s clear to me that she could be a huge star.  Erica fits through the air vents, which are actually normal sized- Good work set department.  When they enter the secret room, they hit a BAD button and they accidentally go DEEP underground.

Hop and Joyce are on the hunt for information and they get it by beating the snot out of a very smarmy Mayor (Carey Elwes) we learn that he was on the take with the Russians, the Russians own the mall, and they are buying up most of the town.  Evil Mall, Evil Russians, Evil Food Court!

The kids get back together to do battle with Mullet-Renfield.  They surmise that because the creature likes cold, they will lock Mullet-Renfield in the pool sauna.  And…. it kinda works?  They manage to activate Mullet-Guy into a vampire drone, but El, unlike previous seasons, gets her ass beat.  It’s brutal.  She does throw Mullet-guy through a wall, but why do this anyway?  Did they really need to prove his guilt?  They could’ve just followed him back to his evil lair and he wouldn’t have known they were on them.  The problem they all took their stupid pills off camera. Kids yesterday?

It would seem that we have reached a major Arc Spin-around.  It would make sense for all the heroes to lose a lot soon.  Hop will probably lose his job, Mullet-Renfield has amassed an army for the Sticky Vampire Monster, The Russians are evilling, and Dustin, Robin, Erica and Steve are going down a mineshaft.

Side plot: Creeper and Nancy get fired from the paper by the converted Editor, but she will keep pursuing the story …. for some reason.  Nancy, why not just go to community college? What are wasting your time for?  Is this Barb guilt?

It’s looking grim, BUT this is a good thing.  This season is actually keeping my interest and has real suspense even if the episodes themselves are uneven.  I’m not sure the series deserves another season yet; so, I’m hoping they give some closure this season.

 

Stranger Things, S3, Ep1, Suzie, Do you copy?, Review By Case Wright, (Dir. Matt and Ross Duffer)


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And…..We’re Back!

This series is special to me. It’s the first I ever reviewed for this site.  It was awesome- Read Here

I have watched every episode of this series.  The first season was epic and even engendered a ride at Universal Studios.  Season 2 was a show that was aired on Netflix with Sean Astin.  This season has a new big bad who looks a lot like last years big bad. So….I hope it’s better than last year’s terribleness.  This episode opened with a bit of meh, but better than Season Two’s sophomore slump.  I’m guessing that it will be kinda of fun to watch.  In any case, I write for an entertainment blog, so this is happening!

Cold Open: The Russians are trying to open the gate and they are EVIL!  One guy goes full on Ivan Drago (Rocky IV) and lifts a guy by the neck and chokes hims to death! Their experiment apparently releases the smoke monster again and he’s pissed at Hawkins!

Our older heroes are really not doing well.  Nancy is a gopher at a sexist newspaper.  Jake Busey is one of the reporters.  I’m not sure if Jake knew this was a role or if he thought, “I’ve always wanted to work at a newspaper in a dying town!” and just ran with it.  Creeper has found his niche working as a creepy photographer for a creepy newspaper.  We’re better off without elitist journalists anyway.  All Hail The Bloggers!!!!

Steve is working at the mall at a terrible ice cream shop and striking out with every girl in Indiana.  I suppose this is possible.  He wears a dorky outfit, but he’s still Steve.  I kinda doubted this whole constant rejection he’s getting.  I think it’s the writers were  thinking that the moment good looking people leave high school, they are nobody.  This doesn’t make sense because IRL beautiful people make tons of money as actors and generally do pretty well getting dates.  It takes me out of it a little.

The gang is all about their hormones.  Mike and El are constantly making out and disrespecting Hop, which I really can’t stand.  Hop is troubled by and turns to his unrequited love Joyce who tells him to get to get all kumbaya and I just can’t watch.  This comes to a head at the end of the episode where Hop loses it and I’m hoping he smacks Mike around- in a nice way.

Dustin returned from science camp and he built a Radio Tower to speak with his girlfriend in Utah.  Everyone keeps acting totally shocked that Dustin could have a girlfriend.  This came across as mean and dickish to me.  I mean Dustin isn’t Brad Pitt, but he’s smart and nice.  Anywho, they erect the radio tower and Dustin can’t reach her, giving his girlfriend claim a “My girlfriend is in Canada” feel to it. To my Canadian readers, we down south have been claiming that you were our girlfriends for generations.  I know this sounds weird, but here we are.   He does pick up a signal from the Russians and they are trying to open their own gate to evil town.

Ok, Cara Buono is at the pool as is Mullet-guy.  Mullet-guy is now the lifeguard and they going to have an affair.  This all seems to be ready to go, but the smoke monster is taking up space in the abandoned Steel Mill and eats him or something.  Why a Steel Mill?  Well, the Smoke Monster is really into depressed real estate and factories can be converted into lofts for the hipster set.  It’s really forward thinking on Smokey’s part.

I would say this episode is a bit clunky, but good.  Is it the thrill ride of the first season? NO NO NO, but honestly what is?!  Stranger Things season 1 was a television event up there with The Stand, Shogun, or It.  In fact, it was never meant to be a recurring series until the last minute, but hey it’s better than watching re-runs of Parks and Rec.

See you soon for ep 2!!!