Adam’s Top 5 Films of 2016

Here are Adam’s five favourite films of the year.

We’ve been a little behind on content over the last few months, due to every one of us being busy as hell, but I didn’t want to see the end of the year without sitting down and figuring out which were my favourite films of this year. I think I’ve been the the cinema more times in 2016 than any other year in recent memory, and have seen more non-genre films too. Reflecting back, there were a lot of good films, a lot of not so good films, a few very bad films (looking at you BvS) and not that many that I would call ‘great’. As such, I struggled with the 4th and 5th choices between a few films that I enjoyed, but didn’t quite hit the mark. I thought Fantastic Beasts, High Rise, The Hateful Eight and Ghostbusters were all a lot of fun (well, The Hateful Eight was maybe not ‘fun’), along with a few other highlights like Arrival and Suicide Squad (just kidding, that was also hot and messy garbage), but ultimately my list boils down to the following. Beware some spoilers:

5. Star Trek Beyond

star-trek

The third entry into the ‘Kelvin’ timeline of the Star Trek movie reboot was also the first not helmed by J.J.Abrams. Beyond was largely free of the winks and nods that were necessary in the first, but possibly weighed down the sequel Into Darkness, and embraced at least to a degree the whole ‘five-year mission’ aspect to Star Trek. As a result, there was a real feeling of adventure in this installment. In addition, the cast at this point are all working so well together that their interactions are a real joy to watch, especially Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto as Bones and Spock. New character Jaylah was a stand out, I hope we see her in the next film, and the Federation station Yorktown was stunning. The bad? The enemies weren’t brilliantly fleshed out, the Beastie Boys finale was a little too cheesy, and no satisfactory explanation was given for why there was a motorbike on an alien planet. But a fun sci-fi adventure film all the same.

 

4. Deadpool

deadpool

The long gestating passion project from Ryan Reynolds and company that no one seemed to have any faith in comes in at number four for me, while I think a lot of comic book film fans would probably put it a little higher. This was undoubtedly one of the funniest films this year, with a surprising hit rate of gags (although they come so thick and fast that any misses are immediately forgotten in laughing at the next joke). Considering the budget Fox gave it, the film looked great too, though I think most of the budget went on the highway scene. The plot was serviceable, in a sort of early-X-Men film sort of way, but the charm of the film’s cast and the strength of the humour allowed it to shine. The same can’t be said for Fox’s other mutant offering of 2016, X-Men Apocalypse, which somehow managed to resemble the first two entries in the franchise without any of the heart. Still, Deadpool was a definite success. Here’s hoping that the sequel manages the same.

 

3. Doctor Strange

doc-strange

Doctor Strange was the second Marvel Studios of the year and the first origin film they have put out in a while, which was something that they got a fair amount of criticism for, largely unfounded in my opinion. They largely seemed to revolve around similarities to the first Iron Man movie, an 8-year-old film, and complaints about basic three act structure that 90% of movies adhere to. Sure, with the subject matter they could have taken a few more risks, but injecting magic properly into the MCU was something that the movie going public may have struggled to swallow, and plenty of other risks right down to the method of conflict resolution made this an interesting watch and one of the three films I considered to be great this year.

I think Doctor Strange was the apex of internet analysis on every little bit of casting for one of these films, and everything has already been said over the controversy of casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, or people upset that their ideal choice for Stephen Strange wasn’t picked. Everyone in this piece was great (yes, yes, great article about how the Marvel villains are underdeveloped. How original, every site ever), Cumberbatch played the arrogant surgeon brilliantly, and I could watch a whole film of just him and Chiwetel Ejiofor just having a chat. The real star of the show though was just how gorgeous the film was, with almost every instance of mind-bending magic and reality shifting looking superb.

 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

I’m writing this having just got in from my second viewing of Rogue One, and I’m pretty happy with my placing it at number two. Rogue One has proven that reports of reshoots don’t always spell disaster, and that at least so far, there isn’t an oversaturation of Star Wars. If we get a tonally different Star Wars Story every other year in between the main story, I think I can handle that if they are going to be this good.

In Rogue One we got a proper war story, showing the struggles of the rebellion and that victory isn’t always easy, clean or pleasant. It humanises the Rebel Alliance, especially without the Skywalker clan or the inclusion of any Jedi or lightsabers. The cameos bordered on a little gratuitous at points, with whole scenes including a computer generated version of a long-dead actor. I really enjoyed the nods to Star Wars Rebels though, and the plugging of a decades long literal plot hole was also welcome, if a little convenient. All the new characters were strong, with Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO being the standouts for me. The gorgeous vistas of Scarif and Lah’mu also gave a nice break from the usual desert environs of the Star Wars Universe, even if Jedha didn’t.

 

1. Captain America: Civil War

civil-war

If Rogue One was concerned with going back and filling in its universe’s continuity, Civil War was the culmination of years of storylines and was all about moving forward, even more so than the last Avengers film Age of Ultron. For me, the third Captain America film delivered on pretty much every promise it laid out for itself. With a huge cast it was in danger of being overly full, and was jokingly referred to as ‘Avengers 2.5’ by many on the lead in, but this was a Captain America film through and through. The climax of the thread started in The Winter Soldier, Civil War managed to juggle the personal plot of Cap and his best friend, drawing in the whole Avengers gang in the process as they were told that in the wake of saving the world several times with surprisingly modest body counts, that the whole world wanted them to answer to governments with agendas. Disagreements start, friends start punching each other. People get incarcerated in hilariously complicated prisons.

What worked was the lack of a world ending threat, which will make the impact of Infinity War felt that much more. These people have been playing these characters for so long now that they have them down completely, but I think this is the best performance Robert Downey Jr. has put in as Tony Stark. And by circumventing a few potential origin stories in favour of injecting some new characters straight into this film, we got the brilliance that was Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland as Black Panther and Spider-Man respectively. Marvel may still need to pull the trigger on the death of an Avenger to make a threat seem real, but Civil War shifted the MCU into a very interesting place in the lead up to Infinity War and the proper introduction of Thanos. We may have to wait until 2018 for that, but I would be surprised if we didn’t see some hint of what is to come in one of the three Marvel Studios films out next year.

cvim

And that is it! What were your favourite films of the year? What did you think of any of the above films? Let us know in the comments!

Adam’s Top 5 Films of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. This time Adam will go through his favourite 5 films of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year. This time it’s my favourite films released in 2015. I mostly saw blockbuster films this year, some multiple times. I also have a joint top 2, which is essentially cheating but I really couldn’t pick between the two films.

5. Ant-Man

Antman

First up was the second film from Marvel this year, Ant-Man directed by Peyton Reed. Starring the eminently likable and eternally young Paul Rudd, along with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Michael Peña, the film was long in development due to various behind the scenes director changes. One of the things I like about the MCU is the shifting tones and styles between the individual films that maintain a core ethos, largely being making a superhero where everyone takes everything at face value but not too seriously. Superheroes exist in the world, but so does a healthy dose of levity. For Ant-Man, the humour aspect is dialed up (probably because to the average movie-goer ‘Ant-Man’ is a bit of a weird one, but we’re in a post-GotG world now and people will watch whatever as long as it is good) to take full advantage of Rudd, but it’s Peña who steals the show with the funniest scenes and lines.

The film is structured as a heist movie, even down to the musical score, and does this very well, leading to a very fun flick. At it’s core the movie has a lot of heart. This mostly comes from Scott Lang’s relationship with his daughter. As an ex-con, he’s desperately trying to get straight so he can provide for her and be the man she sees him as. This drives him to become a hero, to help save the world and prove to everyone that he can be a good man. The rest of this heart comes from Hank Pym and his daughter Hope, estranged since his wife Janet went missing presumed dead on a mission as the original team of Ant-Man and The Wasp. Everyone plays their parts with genuine emotion, and with the sequel title announced as ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, with Hope receiving the Wasp suit during a credit cookie, we’re finally seeing an expansion of the MCU with more heroes and importantly, more female heroes.

 

4. John Wick

John Wick

I think John Wick was technically released in 2014 in America, but we didn’t get it in cinemas over here in the UK until early this year. I’ve not really shown a lot of interest in any recent Keanu Reeves films, I think the last I probably picked up and watched was ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and that was nine years ago. Despite that, I’m a big fan of The Matrix and Bill & Ted, and to be honest I think he was great in Constantine even if the film barely resembles the Hellblazer comics. I heard about John Wick on the Assemble After Dark podcast, and I respect those guys’ opinions so I thought I’d check it out.

John Wick is a brilliantly choreographed, brutal revenge film. directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. A Russian crime lord’s bratty kid steals John Wick’s car and murders his dog (not a spoiler, it’s the first five minutes and the impetus for the rest of the film. It’s more of a warning to be emotionally prepared. The dog is very cute). His father’s response when he hears whose dog it was?

“Oh”

John Wick wasn’t just the Boogeyman, he was ‘the man you sent to kill the Boogeyman’. A highly trained assassin, he had left that life behind. Until now. What follows is John violently wading through all the bodies that mobster Michael Nyqvist sends at him in an attempt to save his son’s life. Operating out of the mysterious Continental hotel, John returns to a stylish underground criminal world that is hinted at but never suffers from too much exposition or explanation. It just is. And it’s populated by a great cast, including Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane. The action is the real star of this film though, with some magnificent sequences of hand to hand combat and gun play.

 

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road

The first of my joint top two is Fury Road. We’ve talked a lot about our love of this film here, and for good reason. Until the first trailer hit, the new George Miller directed action film wasn’t even on my radar. That’s really what a good trailer needs to do. I didn’t know anything more about the film other than the simple fact that I now had to go and see it. Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as Max and Furiosa, Fury Road follows a group that eventually combines their efforts to escape the Immortem Joe and his War Boys, and deliver his ‘wives’ to the safety of ‘The Green Place’. It’s basically a road trip movie with explosions, as they drive their stolen war rig across the wasteland and fight off various attackers hell bent on retrieving their ‘breeders’.

Fury Road is a non-stop, high octane adrenaline ride that barely gives the viewer a moment to breathe. You’ll be exhausted after watching it, but you also won’t care. The fact that a large amount of the film is done through real effects, with real cars and explosions, makes it all the more impressive. There are so many amazing scenes, but to arbitrarily pick two the sequence where the war rig first goes up to and into the sand storm is stunning to look at, and and the music swells it makes for an excellent cataclysmic moment. The other is the first time Max and Furiosa start working together, after they go through the pass and are fighting off the raiders on bikes. It’s an incredibly kinetic scene that is brilliantly shot, as the camera swoops around the rig cabin with the pair offing raiders and reloading just in time to take out the next guy. The story itself is spartan, largely there from context clues and basic character interactions, which makes for a more rewarding and far less patronising cinematic experience that doesn’t hold your hand through poorly scripted exposition scenes. It’s a tight, simple plot with a lot of weight behind it if you want it and care, and if you don’t then you still get a great action film.

 

2. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of ultron

My other joint second favourite film this year is the second Avengers film, for totally different reasons to Fury Road. That film hit me from nowhere, and was a surprise thrill. We knew a great deal more about the Joss Whedon directed Age of Ultron, to the extent where I was trying to avoid more details about it as the film came closer to release. But despite all that, it was exactly what I wanted it to be – a great superhero film. The most comic booky comic book film we’ve seen so far. Seeing the team fully formed and working together was a lot of fun even from that first assault on Von Struker’s Hydra base as the film opened. As the Stark and Banner created AI Ultron starts to develop, the team starts to fracture which leads to a few contrived ally Vs ally fights like the Hulkbuster scene, but mostly we see great team up fights against hoards of nazis and robots. The times when this is most enjoyable tend to be any double team attack from Cap and Thor, but the moment when the shield is thrown to Black Widow so she can smash in a few robot skulls with it is great too.

Incidentally, while I think everyone inhabits their roles in the MCU brilliantly at this point, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers is my stand out favourite in every one of these films now. He just plays is so straight an earnestly that even corny lines like when Tony asks what happens if they fail “then we’ll do that together too” are just totally believable. David Spader is also incredible in this, as the menacing yet crazy Ultron. He just voices the robot with such a gravitas and presence, that disarms when he jokes around a little (courtesy of one of his two fathers) yet chills when he starts to threaten and make good on those threats. As always with the MCU and Whedon, the humour is threaded throughout the film (some say a bit too much, I disagree), my favourite scene of which was unfortunately spoiled by the trailer – when everyone is trying to prove their worthiness by lifting Mjolnir, the way Thor’s face drops when Cap mananges to shift it just a touch is superb, and how he recovers when it doesn’t move again and no one seemed to notice. The action is great superhero fare, even if it is largely CGI in this particular film we’re at the point that it holds up.

There has been a lot of commentary about it online, ranging from how sexist it was that Black Widow ever wanted kids (the internet forcing Joss Whedon off of twitter is why we can’t have nice things) or how there isn’t a good representation of Marvel’s female characters in merchandise (which is fair and true. Not enough Gamora or Widow. I saw a toy of the motorbike and truck scene that replaced Natasha with War Machine on the bike, which is so stupid it’s almost like they are actively trying to piss people off) to the deus ex machina of the ending or the very comic-book style plan of raising an entire city. The thing is, it was a comic book film. Not only is raising a city like that the sort of thing a crazy Marvel villain would do, dei ex machina also don’t bother me if it means we actually get to see our heroes save people. That is the entire point of heroes. We want to look around at the end after they beat the bad guy and see that they at least succeeded in saving most of the people they were trying to (also it was less out of nowhere if you watched Agents of SHIELD). Also, while I agree with the toy complaint, the accusation that Whedon is sexist is absurd and I disagree that Widow is at any point reduced in the film. I thought she was great, and I think we may be reaching a point in our commentary culture where people are just looking for things to complain about, and then those complaints snowball through the medium of the internet.

 

1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I wrote this list before I went to go and see the new Star Wars film, hoping that there would be a place in the top 5 for it but not knowing where. Of course it could have been a trainwreck. I don’t think I ever really believed it would be. At worst I thought the J.J. Abrams directed film would be OK. Which may have actually been worse than if it had been Phantom Menace level terrible. After two showings, I’m certain it is my film of the year. The excitement of getting a new Star Wars film when just a couple of years ago we didn’t think we ever would again, along with the insane amount of hype that both the marketing and the public generated, meant that ultimately The Force Awakens could never live up to what was expected of it. Because it wasn’t the best film of all time. But it was a great film, and more importantly it was a great Star Wars film.

I don’t really want to go into much detail about The Force Awakens, not just because I don’t want to feed into the hype machine but also I think that anyone that hasn’t already seen it really needs to go and experience it for themselves in the cinema. From the first notes of the John Williams score and the opening crawl, I was hooked. The moments where I could feel my heart pounding in my chest were just as impactful on the second viewing as the first, the original trilogy cast were a joy to see again and more importantly I cared a great deal about the fates of the new characters by the end of the film. I left immensely satisfied and excited that for me at least, Star Wars is back. Even if Disney will be making new films long after my death so I’ll never know how it all ends.

Adam’s Top 5 TV Shows of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. Adam will kick off with his favourite 5 TV shows of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year, starting with TV. Yes I still find time for TV. You’ll notice that not only are all five of my picks American shows, all but one of them are comic book based TV shows. Big whup, wanna fight about it?

5. True Detective – Season 2

True Detective s2

My number 5 is the only pick that isn’t a comic book TV show, and is also potentially the most controversial choice. If you believe everything you read on the internet, the torrent of articles online about what a failure True Detective Season 2 was is pretty damning. Yet everyone I actually spoke to in person enjoyed it, maybe not as much as the first season but enjoyed it nonetheless. It seems that Season Two’s main crime was not being Season One. Sure, it was convoluted and confusing, the dialogue was overwrought and the characters hugely broken and brooding… but as for the first point, having a TV show demand your full attention and you still might not get it on the first viewing isn’t the worst problem a series can have. In fact, it can be more rewarding. And if you say that Season One wasn’t confusing and convoluted you’re a liar.

As for the second issue, as I see it overwrought dialogue and larger than life brooding characters was exactly what the show was aiming for. The writing wasn’t bad. It was specific. True Detective Season Two starred a new cast of characters in an entirely separate story from the previous season, setting the format of the show as an anthology series with an internal ethos but not a set style. The style of the second season was a brooding LA noir, and the dialogue bled that style all over.

Season Two starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as Detectives Ray Velcoro, Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh, brought in to investigate the murder of a man found with his eyes burned out and his body dumped out on a bench. Vince Vaughan played the man’s criminal partner Frank Semyon, now left in the lurch, and Kelly Reilly starred as his wife Jordan Semyon. As the plot developed, conspiracies reared their ugly heads, dirty cops were stabbed in the back by even dirtier cops, and criminals basically did what criminals tend to do. Also there was a guy in a raven mask.

As with the first season, the performances of the main players were really the strongest aspect of the show. I enjoyed Vince Vaughan (regardless of what everyone else seems to think, I thought he was decent) and Kitsch, but it was Farrell and McAdams as Velcoro and Bezzerides that really blew me away. While the latter generated a chaotic stress and snarkiness that constantly felt on the brink of breaking point, Velcoro was just a depressing mess of a man with a hair trigger. The tag line ‘We get the world we deserve’ drew me in, and the end of the first episode with the detectives surrounding the body, having all driven there independently drunk and blearily staring at each other for the first time, hooked me. Did I enjoy True Detective Season Two as much as the first season? Was it as good? Who gives a shit. It was it’s own beast and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Favourite part – The ridiculous shoot out and carnage with everyone at the end of ‘Down Will Come’, the other ridiculous shoot out with Woodrugh at the end of ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’, and the slow motion glass smash from Frank in the same episode… but my actual favourite part of every episode was the haunting intro  ‘Nevermind’ by Leonard Cohen.

4. The Flash

The flash

The CW’s Arrow show may have started off shaky, but a few episodes in it found it’s feet after the main character became less of a murdering Batman-clone with a bow and arrow. Despite how well the first season ended, I don’t think anyone predicted how good the sophomore season would be. Good job it was too, because the success of Arrow (which I enjoy a great deal) is the only reason we have the unbridled superhero fun fare that is The Flash. Arrow may be dark and gritty like most of the DC live action output these days (but nowhere near as gritty as the cinematic universe, which is mind bogglingly not connected to the TV universe), but one thing it isn’t afraid to do is embrace the extended DC universe. The Flash takes this and multiplies it by time travel and multiverses.

Grant Gustin was introduced in Arrow as Barry Allen, and I think the original idea was to have an episode of that show be the backdoor pilot for The Flash. Instead, they decided to have the accident that imbued Barry with the speed force powers of The Flash occur at the end of his appearance on Arrow, then repeated the scene in The Flash pilot. Over the first season and the half of the second we have had so far, the glee with which the showrunners have included the wackiest elements of The Flash’s rogues gallery without hesitation has been just brilliant to watch, from Weather Wizard and Mark Hamill reprising his role as The Trickster, to god damn Gorilla Grodd and briefly King Shark. But the willingness to go for broke on some of the more out-there stuff, while the show still maintains it’s audience, really impresses me. The concept of time travel is introduced incredibly early on, until eventually Barry manages to achieve it himself, and in the second season we have Earth-2 and parallel versions of villains and other characters. It’s pretty insane, but it works.

Also the cross-overs with Arrow just make it seem like everyone is having a great time making these shows, which always comes across on screen and sells both Flash and Arrow that much better. This year we had Vandal Savage, Hawkgirl and Hawkman. So happy.

Favourite part: There is a lot to choose from, but I’d probably go with Episode 15 ‘Out of Time’, when after seeing an image of himself running beside him, Barry later accidentally travels back in time, giving him the chance at a do over when things didn’t turn out so well, risking paradoxes at the same time.

Minor complaint: A bit picky of me, but there is a moment in season one where a character mentions a singularity, and Danielle Panabaker’s character Caitin Snow, a scientist, says words to the effect of “A singularity, what’s that?”. Bullshit she doesn’t know. I get that you felt the need to have someone ask the question for the exposition, but there was a  journalist and a cop in the room at the same time. Either of them would have been fine.

3. Agents of SHIELD

AoS3

I’ve gone on about how much I like SHIELD on the podcast. Everyone gave it a harder time than it deserved when it started. At worst, it was average. Then it got good. Then Winter Soldier happened and it got great. For me, it’s stayed at that level since and of all the weekly shows I watch this is the one I look forward to the most.

Season two brought in the concept of Inhumans, powered individuals that Marvel are essentially trying to use to replace the mutants (at least on screen, possibly in the comics) due to not having the rights to those characters. While still trying to deal with Hydra, Coulson has to deal with rebuilding SHIELD and these new Inhumans, whether they are threats or potential allies. The season introduced some great new characters, in particular Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, but also brings some huge changes to the original cast too, some through emotional depth and some through physical change. The added growth in all the characters that started in the first season was really fleshed out in the second (and more so so far in the third), in particular for Skye, who Coulson spent a lot of the time telling everyone how special she was and important early on in season one, while the show only really started to show us why later. That has led to a really strong father-daughter relationship from Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet that has been really enjoyable to watch.

Season three so far has brought in Inhumans into a Secret Warriors plotline, as well as other worlds and Powers Boothe. All great stuff.

Favourite part: This scene in Season 2 Episode 19 ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’ where Skye straight up John Wick’s a bunch of Hydra goons in a brilliant single take tracking shot.

 

2. Daredevil

Daredevil

Daredevil marked the first of the announced Marvel and Netflix collaboration shows – 13 episode series dropped onto the streaming service in one go ready to be binge-watched. Putting aside the issues that many have with this model, some of which I agree with (in the rush to avoid spoilers, burning through the series in days compresses the enjoyment), after a shall we say ‘poorly received’ movie, I think there was a certain level of apprehension with how Daredevil would turn out, and what that would mean for the series to come. We really shouldn’t have worried.

Daredevil drastically shifted tone from the rest of the MCU, taking it to a dark, brutal and bloody place that it hasn’t gone to yet and set the stage for what is to come with the rest of the Netflix shows. Charlie Cox played the Man Without Fear brilliantly, with Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll as his friends Foggy Nelson and Karen Page effectively playing his drinking buddies and grounding him when he became too dark and driven, Vondie Curtis-Hall as the driven journalist Ben Urich, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, a nurse who fixes up Matt Murdock when he is cut up and beaten within an inch of his life. But as good as they all were, Vincent D’Onofrio really stole the show as Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk, a tortured leviathan of a man who took the whole 13 episodes to realise that his methods for ‘saving’ Hell’s Kitchen actually made him a monster, all while providing a mirror for Cox’s Matt Murdock to ask if he was really any different.

The connecting threads between everything in the MCU are always icing on the cake, and its difficult to know whether it is better to go overt like the crossovers between movies, the show altering changes that SHIELD has in response to the films, or to take a more subtle approach. I think the Daredevil writers made the right call in keeping it subtle, instead using the ‘Battle of New York’ from the first Avengers film as a reason for a now affluent and gentrified Hell’s Kitchen being run down and struggling again, but not having any overt cameos or camera winks.

Due to the critical and fan response to Daredevil, a second season has already gone into production and we’ll be getting that in 2016 along with Luke Cage. This time they’re bringing in Élodie Yung as Electra and Jon Bernthal as The Punisher, one of my favourite Marvel characters. I really couldn’t be more excited about this.

Favourite part: Pretty much the same as everyone’s. Daredevil had some amazing action sequences, but I don’t think they ever topped the hallway fight at the end of episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. Brutal.

 

1. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I’ll admit, Jessica Jones may only be number one because of how recently it came out, in that same whole-season-dump-at-once model as Daredevil, but I’m halfway through revisiting it already and think it is a superb piece of TV. After the first Marvel show from Netflix was such a success, I was very much looking forward to the next one. This second show just came out last month, proving that Daredevil wasn’t just a fluke and pushing the dark, more adult MCU even further than the violence and brutality of Daredevil. Instead of being a dark action show though, thematically and stylistically Jessica Jones is a brooding and intense noir, telling the tale of an alcoholic private investigator with super strength who, after an abortive attempt to become a superhero than ends very badly, is washed-up and struggling to make enough to pay for her cheap whiskey.

The show centers around Jessica, played by Krysten Ritter, clashing with the man who was responsible for her fall from grace. Kilgrave, played chillingly by David Tennant, has the ability to control anyone just by giving them a command. Anything from telling you to throw a drink in your own face to jumping off the top of a building, the victim is compelled to do whatever he says. This terrifying power provides the show with some incredibly dark and weighty subject matter, with consent and compulsion at the forefront. It’s all handled brilliantly, and Ritter and Tennant are just excellent to watch.

The supporting cast is largely great too (I found the upstairs neighbours a little dull), in particular Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Jessica’s best friend, Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, a well respected lawyer who trades favours with Jessica, Eka Darville as Malcolm, the tragic junkie neighbour, and Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, a bartender who she’s been following for a case. Coulter is especially exciting, as Luke Cage is the star of the next Netflix series coming (after Daredevil Season 2) and I thought he was great here.

Favourite part: Jessica not giving a bag of dicks what her neighbour thinks. In fact basically all of Jessica’s dialogue.

What were your favourite TV shows of this year? Let us know!

Adam

Honourable mention goes to: Doctor Who, which I felt was a huge improvement over last year partially due to the inclusion of two parters that have been sorely missing over the last couple of series, but more to do with Peter Capaldi really settling in to the role and delivering some superb performances; Rick and Morty, a show I burned through in about 24 hours after being told about it. Incredibly funny, inventive and very, very bleak; Parks and Recreation, which I only started watching last year but has become one of my favourite shows, and its final season somehow delivered a satisfying ending for an entire cast of brilliant characters while maintaining the heart-warming and sincere yet funny edge the show always had without seeming cheesy or unearned; Archer, which continues to be hilarious even this far in, and I can’t wait for season 7 in the new year; and Agent Carter, which was basically a joy to watch, Hayley Atwell owned the screen (and I’m glad they keep bringing her in as Peggy at different ages in the MCU) in an excellent period piece where the world was even more embarrassingly unequal than it is now. Plus she beat the shit out of a lot of people. Bring on season 2.

Comic Book Movies We’d Like To See – DC Edition

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

So this article is mainly going to be me just throwing some ideas out there for, like the title says, some comic book films I’d like to see and why. One small caveat to get out of the way first though: I am completely unqualified to do this in any real capacity, my opinion is no more valid than an eight-year-old’s who want to see a film about Spider-Man fighting ninja dinosaurs. Wait. That sounds awesome. I’ll do three of these articles (unless I get ideas for more!) – this one for DC, one for Marvel and one for Image or Dark Horse.

Anyway, as you may have guessed by some of my other articles so far I’ve been much more a fan of the Marvel movies than the DC ones. When it comes down to it Marvel have done a much better job at producing films I’m the target audience of: relatively close to the comic books, able to have a bit of fun and usually a bit tongue in cheek and plenty of kick ass action. DC have stuck with the dark and gritty narrative, which works well for Batman (plus villains), but that’s about it unless you take the heroes in a very different direction. To be fair they did try something more ‘fun’ with the Green Lantern and look where that left them. Even so, with this in mind, these are the films I’d like to see DC produce:

  • Harley Quinn and the Joker

Harley and Joker 1

If you’re like me you may not be too keen on the way Harley’s looking in the Suicide Squad. Her costume makes her look like that nurse on the front cover of that Blink 182 album and so far the promotions have hinted at a ditzy blonde. What I’d like to see in this case is DC go right into the deep end of dark and gritty to tell the original story of how Dr Harleen Quinzel and the Joker became lovers.

harley and joker 2

Set in Arkham Asylum we’d see the young criminal psychiatrist Dr Quinzel start out working in the Asylum. We’d see her interest in the criminally insane drive her to working with more and more extreme patients, until she meets the worst of them all, the one who’s driven past psychiatrists and carers to insanity or suicide, the Joker. She begins working with him and learns well, how he got those scars! At least, how he says he did. He paints her a tragic back story and she begins to think she can ‘fix’ him. Bit by bit it feels like she’s making progress, but instead he’s been working away at her, eating away at her sanity and drawing her in more and more. Eventually he tells her how special she is to him and that’s it. She loves him. She breaks him out and if you want to throw in a Bat-cameo, now’s the perfect time! They battle him and eventually lose. The Joker betraying the now Harley Quinn to get away. She herself is now taken to Arkham Asylum, fully integrated into the Harley Quinn persona, angry and swearing revenge on the man she loved. In the final scene she finds a single flower and a note from the Joker. She opens it and for the final line of the film she simply says “I love you Mr J” or something to that effect.

This would need to be a full blown psychological thriller of course. Less fighting, more watching somebody’s mind unravel.

  • Superman Red Son

red son 4

Superman goes evil and begins to take over the world or be worshipped as a god so Bats comes out to teach him a lesson? Boring. Superman lands in the Soviet Union, not Kansas, and as his powers develop is he is brought into Stalin’s inner circle to rise up and become ultimate embodiment of communist ideology to rule Russia, and bit by bit, the world? Now that sounds interesting. This is a fantastic comic, I doubt it’d ever reach the screens of Hollywood, but it would be an excellent way to give you something a bit different for the original superhero so many now just find boring. And you know what? You can even throw in Cossack Batman for good measure. This would be a more traditional Superman film, with the ideology flipped on its head. Superman is personification of Communism, Soviet Justice and the Russian way and Lex Luthor is the American hero desperately trying to come up with a plan to stop him.

Red son 1

This is one of my favourite Superman stories, the comic is fantastic so check that out as this is unlikely to ever hit the big screen.

  • Wonder Woman

ww 1

Seriously DC. Get on with this, and do it well. Wonder Woman is a fantastic character. Read the Blood and Guts volumes in the DC New 52 initial run. Wonder Woman is at her best when the gender politics are put aside and instead of writing the usual patronising story of a ‘strong independent woman trying to prove herself in man’s world’ she does what she does best: kick the crap through the pantheon of Ancient Greek gods and monsters. There’s plenty of literature to give motivation for story arcs as well, as it turns out most of the Greek gods tended to be assholes who spent most of their free time backstabbing each other or setting monsters loose… for reasons… Let’s have Ares lead a war against Hades, or Poseidon battle it out with Gaia or hell. Or it turns out Zeus put his dick in something he shouldn’t have and shenanigans ensue (about 80% of Greek myths start this way).

WW 2

As we know DC do have plans for a Wonder Woman film in the works, which I really want to be good. We’ll have to wait and see I suppose.

 

I’ll leave it there with an element of each of DC’s trinity there. Joker and Harley from the Batman mythos, a fresh take on Supes and actually starting Wonder Woman. Other films I’d love to see for DC:

  • Batman and Robin. But good this time (and no, his name is not Robin, that’s his title. Get it right).
  • The Martian Manhunter.
  • Nightwing
  • Black Canary

Let me know what you think! Anything you’d like to see DC do? Anything you wouldn’t? Anything you like or dislike in my suggestions?

Next time round I’ll have a go at Marvel!

Kit

London MCM Comic Con – Day 3: Agents of SHIELD Panel

Adam headed off to the MCM Comic Con Expo in London this weekend. This is what he saw.

For the last day of London Comic Con this year I spent a large amount of the day admiring the great art in the Comics Village (and picked up a couple of indie comics that I’ll be reviewing over the next couple of weeks), saw some more excellent cosplay and headed over to a couple more panels.

Agents of SHIELD Q&A

When I arrived in the morning the first panel I headed to was the Agents of SHIELD Q&A, with cast members Iain de Caestecker (playing Leo Fitz) and Nick Blood (who plays Lance Hunter, the only person I have ever seen with a more comic book real name than his character). Season two of SHIELD has finished over in America, but we are still a couple of episodes from the end of the season over here in the UK (airing on Channel 4). While a lot of people seem to have a fairly negative view of SHIELD, I think at worst it started reasonably (where people expected it to be mind blowing, with every single Avenger guest starring) and ever since it reacted to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as part of the wider MCU I think it has been excellent. Season two has carried this on, with the continuing fight with Hydra and the emerging Inhumans storyline playing a big part. The extended cast with the new agents has been a bonus too, with the introduction of Bobbi, Mack and Hunter rounding off the cast from season one nicely.

One of the overwhelming impressions I got from the panel, which actually spoke to the cast in general, was how tight de Caestecker and Blood seemed. Whenever they were asked who their favourite character was, or who they liked working with most, of course they were going to say each other because they were there, but they dragged it out for comic effect. The pair had the entire crowd laughing throughout the panel too. When asked about their character’s origin stories and who would play their parents, de Caestecker described ad libbing with his actual mother, who would only refer to him as Iain and when he tried to correct her she responded “don’t be so stupid”, and Blood joked that it would be an interesting twist if Agent May turned out to be his mother, and the story of how and why she abandoned him.

Lance-Hunter-Leo-Fitz-Argument

With regards to plot developments, de Caestecker was asked about how he approached changes to Fitz’s character as a direct result of what happened to him at the end of season one, to which some people called spoiler (again, why go to a panel if you’re either not up to date or expecting spoilers, especially for last season), and he talked about how he appreciated any extra aspects for him to tackle to allow the character to evolve, and studying up on the effects that the damage he sustains would have on a person and their character.

They were asked about superhero costumes they would have (pyjamas and a cape, and a Liverpool football kit with Steven Gerrard on the back), the Inhuman powers they would want (the ability to not need sleep, and the ability to sleep at any given moment), the Avenger they’d most like to guest star (Tony Stark to give Fitz romantic advice), codes for going to the toilet when on set (and lying about how long others had been away) and who pulls the best pranks. Apparently Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson) goes for psychological pranks, as being privy to plot developments slightly earlier than the rest of the cast he often teases about what is about to happen or who is going to die. Overall, Iain de Caestecker and Nick Blood were funny, affable guys that really sold the idea that the cast of the show get on well, which is always nice to see.

 

Adam

London MCM Comic Con – Day 2: Panels – Felicia Day and Arrow

Adam headed off to the MCM Comic Con Expo in London this weekend. This is what he saw.

I was running a little late on Saturday morning (no reason, I was busy eating cereal and watching Person of Interest) but still managed to make it in time for the first of the two panels I wanted to make it to throughout the day.

Felicia Day – Geek Goddess (actual name of the panel, I didn’t come up with that)

Felicia Day

Felicia Day is hands down, one of the most genuinely charming and funny people I have ever seen in person. If you don’t know who she is, Day has acted in a whole host of genre television including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, in addition to starring in her own web series The Guild and creating a veritable nerd empire with the Geek and Sundry Youtube channel, which we at The Lost Lighthouse are pretty big fans of.

Day came out and spoke pretty quickly, admitting that she had already drunk a lot of coffee that morning. The set up of the panel was largely a Q&A, where fans queued up next to some microphones and shot some questions towards the stage. Before that, she talked briefly about her upcoming book ‘You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)’ (which you can preorder on her site here), Welsh mouths and being so cramped on the tube at 6 15am that she and another person were basically inside each other (“I don’t even get that close to my friends”).

Then the questions started, There was, admittedly a huge bias towards questions regarding her character on Supernatural. I have yet to get round to watching even a single episode of Supernatural, though I’m sure I would actually like it (especially as it has Mark Sheppard in it), so a lot of this flew over my head but sounded fairly interesting. A recurring theme of the Q&A was how “very killable” she has turned out to be in her television work, and how she likes to try to make herself heavily whenever someone has to carry her in a scene.

Due to her involvement with Tabletop on Geek and Sundry she said her favourite board game at the moment was Lords of Waterdeep, a D&D strategy game, and how she used to freak out about people’s greasy hands all over her game pieces when she invited friends round for board games and pizza. She was asked about the character based on her in Dead of Winter and for tips on how to survive with her character, to which she responded that the character was overpowered and he advice was to just “play better”. With regards to Geek and Sundry, while not revealing much, Day spoke about the content they have coming up revolving around shorter, faster shows in particular.

The rest of the Q&A (aside from even more Supernatural questions) was filled out with fans asking for advice on getting in to acting and following your passions, and also a very nervous girl bringing Day some fan art that she genuinely seemed to appreciate. In fact she spoke about how she gets very attached to gifts from fans, only mentioning one she threw away – a sculpture of her made of hair, which to me is mind-blowingly terrifying but I guess if you really try to see the compliment in it it’s kind of sweet? Maybe? The last question asked about how she got into using YouTube as a medium, and she described the internet as somewhere where we can “be who we are and not be ashamed for it”, which is something I’ve never really thought about. I get so caught up in how genuinely awful people can be and regularly are online, that I tend to overlook what it has actually done not only for our counter cultures, but what a force for good it has the potential to be and often has been.

UPDATE – If you want to watch the panel, MCM have put it up on their YouTube channel here

 

Arrow: Heroes & Assassins (again, what the panel was called)

arrow

I’m a big fan of the CW’s Arrow show, aired over here in the UK by SkyOne. Based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, the show follows Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) in his quest to fight crime in Starling City, while dealing with an increasingly powerful array of villains. For this panel, Willa Holland (who plays Oliver’s sister Thea), Karl Yune (Maseo Yamashiro from Season 3) and Rila Fukushima (Tatsu Yamashiro, also from Season 3) had all come over to London to discuss the show and field some Q&As from the assembled fans (if anything the room was even more packed than for Felicia Day).

There were questions about the martial arts on the show, which have only increased through the third season with the League of Assassins storyline, and the cast guessed that they probably do around 30% of their own stunts (Yune said almost none, to which Holland objected) but Amell tries to do as much as possible. They were asked what super powers any of them would like to have, with Holland immediately answering The Flash or “Bridget Allen”. She revealed herself to be a pretty big DC comics fan from a young age, to the point that when she got the chance to do some of the more bad-ass stuff Thea gets up to later on in the series she got pretty emotional (I would have too). I always like hearing when an actor playing a character in any sort of adaptation I watch is actually a big fan of the source material. It doesn’t detract from a performance when they’re not, but it does enhance my appreciation of their work when they are!

I was actually, somewhat embarrassingly, taken aback by how friendly and personable Willa Holland was, as aside from her substantial character progression in season 3, I have only ever seen her play fairly bratty characters (which is a ridiculous thing to say, as playing negative characters doesn’t guarantee you are a negative person any more than playing a nice, funny person guarantees that you’re not a a bastard in real life). All three of the Arrow cast members at Expo were genuinely nice and interesting people. Yune got a fair few questions about some of his more emotional scenes near the end of the season, which he preferred out of the flashbacks and current scenes (he went flashback) and what his experiences as a Korean-American were like with finding roles that weren’t typecast or stereotypical. Fukashima started off fairly shy and quiet, and while she did have a interpreter to help her with a couple of time she was struggling to express herself, she came into her own later on and it was interesting to hear about her experiences preparing for Arrow and how they compared to her work in The Wolverine playing Yukio (I totally did not connect that it was her).

Of course someone asked them which they all preferred, DC or Marvel, near the end. Holland, whether it was genuine or just brand loyalty/towing the company line, answered incredibly quickly, while Yune and Fukashima tried to be diplomatic before falling on DC’s side. Finally, someone asked the fairly complex question of whether any of them thought that the comic book/superhero adaptation bubble would be bursting any time soon, to which Yune replied that the fascination would last forever. A nice thought, and I certainly hope it will, but nothing lasts forever. To quote The Vision, “that’s what makes it beautiful”.

Two things that I found slightly odd about the panel were due entirely to the nature of the crowd. Firstly, more than one question was repeated later on by someone that either wasn’t listening, was hoping to catch the cast out or had just joined the queue and heard their question asked, and decided to ask it again anyway. Fukushima was asked more than once, for example, about potential inclusion in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series, despite already answering that they are kept largely in the dark about those sorts of plans, and anything they do know they can divulge yet. The second was concerning spoilers, and people’s reactions to when they were said out loud by the fans asking the questions. On the one hand, the Arrow season finale only aired this week in the UK, and last week in the states. On the other, I find it odd that anyone would go to a panel involving the cast of a series that has aired it’s season finale without actually watching it. Some outrage even came when events were mentioned that happened in earlier episodes too. Despite that, the cast dealt with it well and skated round spoiling anything themselves, calling people out for spoiling plot point for others too. This panel was an interesting look at the making of the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in Season 4.

 

I’m going to be heading to a few more panels on the last day of London Comic Con, along with checking out some more cosplay and spending a few hours looking around the art in the Comic Village. More on all of that tomorrow!

Adam

 

 

 

DC Preview Review!

Kit has some opinions about what DC and WB have shown off from their upcoming cinematic universe. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of TLL. Though we agree with most of them…

It seems DC have been getting themselves in gear lately to try to build up hype for their cinematic universe. Now I’m going to tell you what to think about it! Well, not really. More like give my own barely informed opinion based on pure speculation, a trailer and a few pictures. But that’s what the internet does with these things, right?

First things first, I’ll get my personal biases out in the open.

  1. I like both Marvel and DC
  2. I read both DC and Marvel comics on a weekly basis (and damn is Scott Snyder’s Batman excellent!)
  3. So far Marvel have a MUCH better film track record (I’ve enjoyed all of the MCU films so far)
  4. DC have made some good films, one truly outstanding one (The Dark Knight), have had some embarrassments (Green Lantern) and some which I really don’t understand why people like them (looking at you Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel)
  5. I am a fan of Batman (this may not come across in my article) I read the Batman comics and have enjoyed most of the Bat Family outings
  6. I think Ben Affleck will make a very good Batman
  7. I am one of the few Superman fans it seems are around in my generation
  8. I have only read three issues of the Suicide Squad.

OK, now that’s out of the way you should probably have a feel for where I stand on things.

Over the last couple of weeks DC have released their trailer for Batman Vs Superman. I may be a bit late to giving my opinion on this one, but it does help beef up the word count! This morning I woke up to pictures of the entire Suicide Squad, so my comments on this should be a bit more punctual!

On with the reviews….

The Suicide Squad

Suicide SquadAs I said before this is pure speculation, based mostly on this one picture and choice of actors. As I said I haven’t read much of the Suicide Squad, however I have encountered all of the character in other DC literature. To give you my abbreviated opinion:

Slipknot – Fine, Captain Boomerang – Fine, Enchantress – Fine, Katana – Awesome, Rick Flagg – Fine, Harley – Not what I expected but looks pretty cool, Deadshot – Fine, The Goomba from the 1993 Super Mario Bros Film – I wasn’t aware Nintendo were in on this? You’d think they’d have made a better contribution… and El Diablo – face looks cool, outfit… like an American college student?

I only have so many words to use here so I’ll give my opinion on three of the new looks:

  • Killer Croc

As you can see, I am no fan of Killer Croc’s look… I can see what they were trying to do, and the face itself looks OK, however where the hell is the rest of him?

croc

I mean look, the defining features of Killer Croc – he’s freaking huge, he has scaley skin, massive shoulder and neck muscles, the teeth and the half nakedness. (OK, I suppose he still kinda looks like a goomba in some ways…) but this picture is much more intimidating, and it’s not even one of his more monstrous forms. I’m not sure what DC were trying to do with the new Killer Croc look other than ‘keep it more realistic’, which I don’t really see the point of. Bulk him up, add some animatronics or prosthetics or even CGI him like Marvel do with the Hulk. It would look much better than what DC produced.

 

 

 

 

 

That out of the way, onto two that I like…

  • Deadshot

So there seems to have been a bit of controversy over the choice of Will Smith as Deadshot. I think it’s a pretty good one actually. He’s been in a lot of good films over the years and now he’s older it could be a good fit for him. The outfit itself ticks all the boxes. I like it.

  • Harley Quinn

DC haven’t gone with the classic Black and Red onesie I think it would have been fun to see, but she still fits in! They’ve packed in a lot of personality to the costume and she does have the look of someone who was normal but lost it over time. I think Margot Robbie definitely looks the part here.

Overall I’m curious to see what DC do with this, I wouldn’t say I’m pumped for it exactly but it’s their try at tongue in cheeck. Could be good! I would add something about the Joker, but running out of space… to keep it quick – Leto is a great actor, it won’t be the same character as Ledger’s at all but that’s a good thing! He’ll probably be great.

 

Batman vs Superman

BvS

I’m running out of words here so I’ll sum things up quickly: meh…

OK, maybe a little more detail. I like Batman and Superman stories. I like some of the Batman Vs Superman stories (check out Red Son and Injustice). I’m not too big on The Dark Knight Returns though. From what I can tell in the trailer, Superman is being worshipped by people around the globe (interesting idea) and I guess it’s gone to his head? (Not so sure on this) and Batman has decided to kick his ass. And that’s it.

Hmm… I can see why DC are doing this, Batman’s popularity is huge these days and plenty of people will watch this. I just don’t see how a coherent Justice League can be founded on this. I WANT this film to surprise me, for the Batman vs Superman bit to not just be one and a half hours of build up follow by an hour of fighting like Man of Steel was. That was boring. If it were looking more like the Batman/Superman battle was in the first 45 minutes, then they realise they were both being manipulated by Lex Luthor and go deck him in the shnoz I would be more pumped. Batman and Superman have fought so much recently, and if Superman wanted to kill him Batman wouldn’t stand a chance (seriously, no amount of prep could stand up against a coin thrown at light speed or Superman just lasering him from space.. if you disagree with me tell me in the comments, this could be fun!).

I’m not worried about the actors, Ben Affleck is a great actor in serious roles (see Gone Girl and Argo).

I’ve always preferred the stories where their relationship is actually friendly. The eternal optimist in Superman and Batman being moody and dark.

Something more like this: http://imgur.com/gallery/6PzEq

Please prove me wrong DC. But right now I’m not looking forward to many of your films.

Kit