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!

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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Titans, S1 E2, “Hawk and Dove” Review by Case Wright (Dir. Brad Anderson)


titansI used to say that Hope was a useless emotion. So many things come close and never quite make it. A surgery, a marriage maybe, finding the right job, or a myriad of things we try for and fail. As we get older, our hope is hesitant and reality becomes our future.

Titans encapsulates those near misses and the familiar heartbreak that doesn’t sting like it used to.  It is the most brutally realistic show I’ve ever seen.  It’s almost like watching a documentary.  This is really what it would be like if heroes were real and we can see their touchstone in the faces of Veterans.

Brad Anderson wherever you are- You can bring it!  The PTSD of this show is Battlestar Galactica levels of real.  The fight scenes are sometimes hard to watch, but you can’t look away.  You really can show disappointment.  This episode was all about coming up short.  You missed it by this much!  It’s Superhero Noir.

The episode introduces Hank and Dawn/Hawk and Dove.  They are a tough duo with a history with Dick/Robin.  By history, Dove and Robin knocked boots.  Dick failed Dawn.  Dawn failed Hank.   Now, Dawn and Hank are living on the margins, trying to take down/ripoff a gunrunner or just die.  It’s sad.  Hank gets beat up a lot, he needs a new hip, he’s alcoholic, addicted to pain pills, and steroids.  Dawn is resigned to her fading life with a broken man who will need long-term care- if he lives.  She has a broken partner and she pines for Dick Grayson; the true love of her life.

Dick has the great idea to abandon Rachel with this well-adjusted duo in DC.  It works out…..terribly.  Dick agrees to help Hank and Dawn ripoff of the gunrunner and he proceeds … well …see below.  There’s hedge clippers to the balls and a throwing star R to the eye.  It is brutal.  To be fair, Dick doesn’t believe that he is father material.  Well, maybe he’s right?!  Unfortunately for Rachel, Dick is all she’s got because the cult that is out to kill Rachel has tracked Dick down to DC.

The cult has a Leave it to Beaver family juiced up on super steroids and they totally beat the snot out of Hank, Dick, and Dawn.  Dawn is thrown off a building for good measure and appears to be dying.  Rachel is kidnapped by the cult….again.

What makes this show great is that they are trying to make rational choices, but life still wins and they still lose.  They are competent, but just outmatched.  Titans taps into real humanity because success is rare, they understand how flawed they are, and they’re just not good for anyone.  The photo below of Dawn looking down on her broken drug-addled boyfriend summed up the whole episode: Hank to Dawn: I promise this time will be different and Dawn’s face says – no… no it won’t, but it’s nice for you to try.

Minka Kelly, Alan Ritchson, Brenton Thwaites, and Teagan Croft’s performances were so painfully spot on.  You felt that their failure was yours.

 

 

Titans, S1 E1, Review By Case Wright (Dir. Brad Anderson)


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Titans isn’t your Dad’s superhero show, unless your Dad was awesome and loved Watchmen and if that’s the case he EARNED the World’s Best Dad mug!!! This is also different because it’s on the DC Universe subscription site and you’re like ….

But Case, I already already have Netflix and Hulu and Comcast and a burgeoning Methylphenidate habit because I’ve got this Calculus exam and I’m afraid of losing my funding….I mean …..smoking. 

My response is:

DROP HULU and get this subscription!!!! You get digital access to EVERY SINGLE DC Comics, Movie, show, anime, tv series, and this AWESOME SHOW!!!!

Back to the show!!!

The show takes place in Gotham? NOPE.  Metropolis? Nope! Vaguely Vancouver? Well….

It takes place in Detroit! The story revolves around an Angry PTSD Robin.  Honestly, it’s pretty accurate!  I have friends that have looked for trouble and found it.  They see a guy beating up his girlfriend or harassing a lady and they mete out the justice right there.  That’s who Robin is.  He’s angry and worked for Batman: a rich guy who liked to beat the snot out of troublemakers.  I am not saying it’s right and I never indulged in that kind of wrath, but I understand.  The law can be supine when it comes to justice, it’s good at order, but justice…not so much.  This is the world where Robin and the other Capes live.  A world where the justice is instantaneous and the world shrugs.  It comes from a real place.  Afghanistan and much of the World operates the same way: the criminal justice system is corrupt, incompetent, feckless or all three, leading people to embrace extra-judicial solutions, but their vigilantes wear surplus fatigues instead of costumes.  By far, that’s why we failed in Afghanistan, the Taliban could offer something we could not: instant brutal justice.

The show is brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Greg Berlanti. If you don’t know who they are: Wonder Woman, Arrow, Smallville, Flash, and everything with the DC on it- they did.  If you notice the fast pace and lived-in dreariness, that’s all Brad Anderson. He directed the pilot as well as the Hawk and Dove episode.  Brad is a veteran of the show The Killing- a gritty dark murder mystery that takes place in the greatest city on Earth- SEATTLE. He is a David Fincher 2.0 with his brutal dystopian realism.  Every shot is almost always near winter as if the seasons themselves have given up.  The cities are as decaying and broken as their inhabitants.

The story starts rolling with Rachel Roth who is confused, angry, and on the run.  She watches her mother get killed by an unknown assassin and she goes scary as shit and whoops ass!  Then, she flees for Detroit and is nearly human trafficked, but her alter ego warns her in a reflection because it has to be done in the most creepy way possible.  I am not sure if keeping this girl alive is really in humanity’s best interest.

This forces her path to cross Dick Grayson (Robin) who has left Batman to become a Detroit Police Detective.  He tries to be on the right side of the law for awhile, but he sees child abusers go free and dons the cape again to mete out justice. By mete out justice, he beats people within an inch of their lives: see below! After Robin gets his 30 lbs of flesh, he gets pulled into a mystery surrounding a girl named Rachel Roth who just might be the harbinger of the apocalypse.   Side note: I have known A LOT of cops over the years; the Army’s lousy with them.  Brenton’s portrayal is very accurate for a long-term detective: he self-deprecates, but he’s really hard to know.  I would have him make some more practical jokes or kid around more a bit.  Most guys like that hide their feelings in humor a lot, but other than that, it’s flawless.

There is one scene, which is in a gif below: Robin is cleaning up his weapons after beating people nearly to death and that reminded me of my Soldier days.  You finish your training exercise or patrol.  Maybe you fought. In any case, it’s over.  Everyone gets quiet, some shirtless, all the cleaning implements are placed neatly, and you methodically clean your weapons in a very zen activity. This was a great and accurate detail.

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Our next hero is Koriand’r – she has no idea who she is, but she knows how to dress.  She’s a mix of badass, sexy, and neck breaking! She does all three.  There’s Russian dudes out of nowhere and she goes full-on Firestarter and burns them to DEATH! You feel almost kind of bad for them. Almost.  She has a 70s soundtrack wherever she goes.  I’m starting to blush.  Anyway. She ascertains that she needs to go to Detroit and find Rachel Roth.  In this show, who doesn’t realize that?!

The show cuts back to Rachel who meets Dick, but she’s kidnapped by a very unlucky man.  Rachel wakes to see her mother’s killer.  Wow, did he pick the wrong lady to mess with! Dick goes to rescue her, but Rachel’s dark nature takes over, she enters and explodes her would-be killer!!!! It’s AWESOME AND GROSS!!! Dick becomes her protector.  Kordiand’r is on her way to Motown. We even meet Beast Boy who likes to commit petty theft as a green tiger.

This series is the best show on television. PERIOD.

If you like my work, read the rest of it, retweet it, re-blog it, tell my editor @lisamariebowman that you like my work.  Of course, if you hate my work, I suppose there’s got to be a pill for that.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Gods of Egypt, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Risen


Here are six mini-reviews of six films that I saw in 2016!

Alice Through The Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

In a word — BORING!

Personally, I’ve always thought that, as a work of literature, Through The Looking Glass is actually superior to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  That’s largely because Through The Looking Glass is a lot darker than Wonderland and the satire is a lot more fierce.  You wouldn’t know that from watching the latest film adaptation, though.  Alice Through The Looking Glass doesn’t really seem to care much about the source material.  Instead, it’s all about making money and if that means ignoring everything that made the story a classic and instead turning it into a rip-off of every other recent blockbuster, so be it.  At times, I wondered if I was watching a film based on Lewis Carroll or a film based on Suicide Squad.  Well, regardless, the whole enterprise is way too cynical to really enjoy.

(On the plus side, the CGI is fairly well-done.  If you listen, you’ll hear the voice of Alan Rickman.)

Gods of Egypt (dir by Alex Proyas)

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing the plot of Gods of Egypt.  This was one of the most confusing films that I’ve ever seen but then again, I’m also not exactly an expert when it comes to Egyptian mythology.  As far as I could tell, it was about Egyptian Gods fighting some sort of war with each other but I was never quite sure who was who or why they were fighting or anything else.  My ADHD went crazy while I was watching Gods of Egypt.  There were so much plot and so many superfluous distractions that I couldn’t really concentrate on what the Hell was actually going on.

But you know what?  With all that in mind, Gods of Egypt is still not as bad as you’ve heard.  It’s a big and ludicrous film but ultimately, it’s so big and so ludicrous that it becomes oddly charming.  Director Alex Proyas had a definite vision in mind when he made this film and that alone makes Gods of Egypt better than some of the other films that I’m reviewing in this post.

Is Gods of Egypt so bad that its good?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that.  Instead, I would say that it’s so ludicrous that it’s unexpectedly watchable.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (dir by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

Bleh.  Who cares?  I mean, I hate to put it like that but The Huntsman: Winter’s War felt pretty much like every other wannabe blockbuster that was released in April of last year.  Big battles, big cast, big visuals, big production but the movie itself was way too predictable to be interesting.

Did we really need a follow-up to Snow White and The Huntsman?  Judging by this film, we did not.

Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

Me Before You was assisted suicide propaganda, disguised as a Nicolas Sparks-style love story.  Emilia Clarke is hired to serve as a caregiver to a paralyzed and bitter former banker played by Sam Claflin.  At first they hate each other but then they love each other but it may be too late because Claflin is determined to end his life in Switzerland.  Trying to change his mind, Clarke tries to prove to him that it’s a big beautiful world out there.  Claflin appreciates the effort but it turns out that he really, really wants to die.  It helps, of course, that Switzerland is a really beautiful and romantic country.  I mean, if you’re going to end your life, Switzerland is the place to do it.  Take that, Sea of Trees.

Anyway, Me Before You makes its points with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge-hammer that’s been borrowed from the Final Exit Network.  It doesn’t help that Clarke and Claflin have next to no chemistry.  Even without all the propaganda, Me Before You would have been forgettable.  The propaganda just pushes the movie over the line that separates mediocre from terrible.

Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

Y’know, the only reason that I’ve put off writing about how much I hated this film is because Garry Marshall died shortly after it was released and I read so many tweets and interviews from people talking about what a nice and sincere guy he was that I actually started to feel guilty for hating his final movie.

But seriously, Mother’s Day was really bad.  This was the third of Marshall’s holiday films.  All three of them were ensemble pieces that ascribed a ludicrous amount of importance to one particular holiday.  None of them were any good, largely because they all felt like cynical cash-ins.  If you didn’t see Valentine’s Day, you hated love.  If you didn’t see New Year’s Eve, you didn’t care about the future of the world.  And if you didn’t see Mother’s Day … well, let’s just not go there, okay?

Mother’s Day takes place in Atlanta and it deals with a group of people who are all either mothers or dealing with a mother.  The ensemble is made up of familiar faces — Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and others! — but nobody really seems to be making much of an effort to act.  Instead, they simple show up, recite a few lines in whatever their trademark style may be, and then cash their paycheck.  The whole thing feels so incredibly manipulative and shallow and fake that it leaves you wondering if maybe all future holidays should be canceled.

I know Garry Marshall was a great guy but seriously, Mother’s Day is just the worst.

(For a far better movie about Mother’s Day, check out the 2010 film starring Rebecca De Mornay.)

Risen (dir by Kevin Reynolds)

As far as recent Biblical films go, Risen is not that bad.  It takes place shortly after the Crucifixion and stars Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion who is assigned to discover why the body of Jesus has disappeared from its tomb.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The film may be a little bit heavy-handed but the Roman Empire is convincingly recreated, Joseph Fiennes gives a pretty good performance, and Kevin Reynolds keeps the action moving quickly.  As a faith-based film that never becomes preachy, Risen is far superior to something like God’s Not Dead 2.