Film Review: Look Who’s Back (2015)

Also known as: Er ist wieder da, lit. He’s Back Again (Germany)
Release Date: October 8th, 2015 (Germany)
Directed by: David Wnendt
Written by: Johannes Boss, Minna Fischgartl, Timur Vermes, David Wnendt
Based on: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes
Music by: Enis Rotthoff
Cast: Oliver Masucci, Fabian Busch, Katja Riemann, Christoph Maria Herbst, Franziska Wulf, Michael Kessler

Constantin Film, 116 Minutes

Review:

“[about current TV shows] I’m glad that Goebbels doesn’t see this anymore.” – Adolf Hitler

I didn’t know about this film’s existence until I just sort of stumbled onto it looking for something else. I’m damn glad I found it though, as it was pleasantly surprising and really taps into society’s problem with cult of personality and how a vocal and scarily honest charismatic speaker can give a voice to those overcome with fear and insecurity. It actually parallels a lot of what is happening in current events and the political climate of today. It shows that the modern era isn’t that dissimilar from Hitler’s era, in certain regards.

Oliver Masucci was absolutely fascinating as Adolf Hitler. Fabian Busch was also very good as Sawatzki, a guy just looking for a breaking documentary story to help make his career.

The plot of the film is interesting and doesn’t really need explanation, as the how this happened is unimportant and would take away from the real weight of the picture, which is what would happen if Hitler existed in the world today. The setup is quite simple, Hitler wakes up in the spot where he supposedly met his demise. Except he appears in the modern world, 70 years later. Hitler is, at first, baffled and doesn’t understand what is happening. The public around him thinks that he is a comedian that is committed to the character, as a sort of social experiment. Regardless, he becomes huge on social media, ends up on every television show and then becomes the face of Germany, once again.

Now the picture is lighthearted for the most part but it does have some very serious tones, at the right moments, and the ending is unsettling but comes off as completely plausible and realistic.

Look Who’s Back is really an exploration of the media’s power and influence and how people are guided and effected by propaganda.

The film does a great job of making its point but it keeps things balanced in its comedic approach to the material. And all things considered, in a lot of ways, this is one of the most important films to come out in the last few years.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and the actors nailed the material. It is a film that probably needs a bit more recognition than it has in the States. It is also currently streaming on Netflix.

TV Review: Daredevil (2015- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.

TV Review: Jessica Jones (2015- )

Original Run: November 20th, 2015 – current
Created by: Melissa Rosenberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Sean Callery
Cast: Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Rachael Taylor, Wil Traval, Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Tennant, Leah Gibson, J.R. Ramirez, Rosario Dawson

ABC Studios, Marvel, Tall Girls Productions, Netflix, 13 Episodes (so far), 46-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

Jessica Jones is the second series in Netflix and Marvel’s television shows about the Defenders. It is directly connected to Daredevil and sets up what will become Luke Cage’s show, which will then be followed up by a show for Iron Fist. All of these heroes will then combine into the Defenders and get their own team up miniseries. And maybe they’ll eventually end up in the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the others. But probably not.

Let me start by pointing out that I loved Daredevil. He is one of my top five superheroes of all-time and it was fantastic seeing him get a series that was on the mark, after that Ben Affleck-led dud from a dozen years ago. That being said, I like Jessica Jones, as a show, much more.

I feel like the show benefited from the character of Jessica Jones not having as rich of a history as Daredevil. She is a lesser known character, by far, but that is one of the many reasons as to why she is compelling. There is a lot more creative freedom with the character and it is ballsy on Marvel and Netflix’s part, as she is such an unknown outside of hardcore modern comic book readers.

Additionally, the villain, Kilgrave, known more prominently in the comics as the Purple Man, is barely known as well. He certainly isn’t familiar to mainstream audiences and David Tennant was able to bring him to life in his own way, which is terrifying and exhilarating, especially if you are a fan of his fun and carefree version of the Doctor from Doctor Who. Tennant deserves an Emmy nomination for this, as he proved how great he can be, which was also made apparent by his role in the spectacular Broadchurch.

Speaking of acting, Krysten Ritter was perfect as Jessica Jones. While she had darker hair and the purists will probably complain about that, her performance was solid and very organic. She was believable as the bad ass Jessica and when looking at the other actresses who were finalists for this role, I don’t think any of them could have pulled off the character in the way that Ritter does. I’ve always been a fan of hers, since Breaking Bad, and this is the best she has ever been.

When it comes to our other heroes, Mike Colter was the quintessential Luke Cage. Hell, he didn’t have to act and if he was acting, I couldn’t tell. He is Luke Cage like no other actor has owned a role as a comic book character. While he is used sparingly, as he is getting his own show in a few months, the scenes he shares with Jessica are pretty awesome. For those who don’t know, they do get married and have a child in the comic books and I can’t imagine that Netflix will alter that but it is also probably a few seasons away from going into that territory. Also, Luke Cage becomes a key member of the Avengers in the comics. I’d certainly like to see him make the roster in the films.

Rachael Taylor is really good as Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jessica’s best friend and part-time sidekick. In the comics, she becomes the hero known as Hellcat.

The show never has a boring moment and each episode gets pretty intense. There isn’t a lot of filler and every episode serves a purpose. That’s seemingly hard to accomplish in modern television but that’s probably also why shows that run for twelve or thirteen episodes a season are better than shows that do twenty-plus.

The only real negative, for me, was that the final showdown between Jones and Kilgrave, after everything that happens, felt a bit underwhelming. The outcome was satisfying but I hoped for more of a mental battle. I also would have loved to see him be able to come back, as Marvel has the habit of doing “one and done” villains. A trend I had hoped they broke with the Kingpin in Daredevil.

I am really enjoying Netflix’s attempt at making Marvel properties for more adult audiences. Not every comic book property has to be made kid friendly. Jessica Jones, like Daredevil, certainly isn’t a vehicle for toy and lunchbox sales. I hope that this paves the way for more adult comic book adaptations in the future.

Also, I would probably buy the lunchbox.

TV Review: Agent Carter (2015-2016)

Original Run: January 6th, 2015 – March 1st, 2016
Created by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cast: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Shea Whigham, Dominic Cooper

ABC Studios, Marvel, F&B Fazekas & Butters, Walt Disney, 88 Episodes, 41-43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2016.

With the success of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers franchise, ABC gave us a period piece spin-off with Agent Carter.

Before the debut of the show, I was excited. I really liked the character and thought Hayley Atwell was fantastic. I also liked the time period and the fact that it seemed like it was going to be a bad ass female hybrid of James Bond and Indiana Jones fighting the evil Hydra – laying the groundwork for the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now while the show is a bit of all those things, it falls short for some reason.

I am now most of the way through the second season and I find the show to be a chore to get through, at times. This season, especially, has been lacking for me. Sure, everything feels like a winning formula. However, the finished product is just dull.

I love Atwell and I thoroughly enjoy James D’Arcy and Dominic Cooper (when he shows up) but it isn’t the actors’ fault. The writing is just drab and even though a lot happens in the show, it still feels uneventful and like small potatoes compared to everything else in Disney’s Marvel Universe.

I wanted something more fun, more energetic and certainly more about a bad ass chick being a bad ass chick. And while Atwell’s Carter is bad ass, it just isn’t connecting.

The show is supposed to be somewhat of a commentary on the sexism of the time but the characters are too one-dimensional and predictable. It’s as if you know how the issue of gender is going to be addressed in every situation and there isn’t much, as far as surprises or developments in that regard. It doesn’t seem to matter that Peggy Carter was a war hero for the U.S. and the British and fought alongside Captain America, she is still just a woman and not worthy of being seen as anything more than a secretary. Maybe that’s realistic for the time but I had hoped the show would break the mold and flip it on its head.

I want this show to be so much more but after nearly two seasons, that is probably just wishful thinking at this point. And I’ll be surprised if they green light it for a third.

Documentary Review: Back In Time (2015)

Release Date: October 21st, 2015
Directed by: Jason Aron
Music by: Allen Calmes, G.C. Johnson

Malka Media Group, Jason Aron Media, Patchwork Media, FilmRise, 95 Minutes

Review:

There is an old adage that says, “If you don’t love Back to the Future, you must be a horrible person.” Okay, so maybe I made that up but that’s pretty much how I feel about it.

Back In Time is a documentary about the film and its huge cultural impact. It came out just in time for Back to the Future‘s 30th anniversary.

While not as amazing as I had hoped, it does interview a lot of the people involved in the production and creation of the film series. It talks to Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg, Huey Lewis and actors Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and others.

Unfortunately, Thomas F. Wilson and Crispin Glover weren’t in this documentary. It would have been really cool to hear their insight and how the film has effected them over the years. Glover, especially, due to how he left the film series and ended up suing over the use of his likeness, forever changing how business is done in Hollywood. While his actions left a bad taste in the mouths of many involved, enough time has passed, one would hope, to where he could have talked about the experience.

Back In Time talks a lot about the films themselves but it really showcases the fandom that has grown since the first one came out three decades earlier. It also interviews other notable people in the entertainment industry who were influenced by the Back to the Future franchise.

If you love the film series and have some time to kill, this documentary is worth a watch. There is nothing vital here but it is cool seeing those involved with it, reflect on it. It is also nice to see how it has captivated so many people since its release.

Documentary Review: Nintendo Quest (2015)

Release Date: June 26th, 2015
Directed by: Rob McCallum
Music by: John H. McCarthy

Pyre Productions USA, Canamedia, 92 Minutes

Review:

Nintendo Quest was a documentary that followed one man’s quest to acquire all the classic Nintendo Entertainment System titles in thirty days or less. He had a limited budget and couldn’t use the Internet. He had to travel abroad, visit stores and private sellers in an effort to complete his goal. For the record, there are 678 classic Nintendo games.

The film is a labor of love between two friends, the director and Jay, his best friend and the guy trying to collect the games.

This is not a compelling or great documentary but it is at least fun and interesting to anyone who had a love for the original Nintendo system, which is really any kid from the 1980s and 1990s.

Nintendo Quest is a very nostalgic journey through history, as it showcases Jay trying to get every single title and it talks about a lot of the classic games and puts a lot of emphasis on the real rarities out there.

I don’t think that there is a lot here for non-Nintendo fans but it also wasn’t made for anyone but the old school Nintendo heads who know these titles and want to reminisce about them through Jay’s journey. That doesn’t make this a bad documentary but also doesn’t make this a good one either. It sort of exists in limbo.

 

 

TV Review: Supergirl (2015- )

Original Run: October 26th, 2015 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart, Chris Wood, Floriana Lima

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 42 Episodes (so far), 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

After the success of other DC shows like Arrow, The Flash and Gotham, CBS wanted to get into the mix. So, they gave us Supergirl.

I really wanted to like this show, in the same way I love The Flash and also really like Arrow. It seemed to have that lighthearted essence of The Flash but after seeing it, it is missing the soul.

Melissa Benoist is cute and entertaining and even though I care about her version of the character to a degree, I just don’t care about everything else that is happening around her. Also, she can go from pretty stellar acting in one scene to completely being off the mark in the next. Also, her narration is pretty awful and that is mainly due to her monotone delivery and strange annunciation.

The other characters on the show are pretty generic and don’t have much to do other than giving Supergirl someone to talk to while she figures out her own drama. Her sister, played by Chyler Leigh is an okay character but for as bad ass as she is supposed to be, she really does nothing. Jimmy Olsen is played by Eggs from True Blood and anyone who was a fan of that show rejoiced when he died – he was terrible. Granted, he’s much better here. Calista Flockhart also accents the show as Supergirl’s boss and like Benoist, is sometimes on point and other times, pretty far off point.

Also, the show relies a lot on Kara/Supergirl’s relationship with her cousin, Superman. The problem is that their relationship is told over text messages and then when Superman shows up, he is just an obscured blur and not clearly seen on camera. It is laughably bad.

One cool thing is that Dean Cain (Superman from Lois & Clark) and Helen Slater (1984’s film version of Supergirl) play her adopted parents.

The show tries to have heart but it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t trying to convince the audience of that. Ultimately, Supergirl is too cutesy for its own good.

I will finish out the first season, as I am already more than halfway but something miraculous would have to happen for me to care about season two. This is the worst DC Comics television show out of the current batch.

Update:

Since writing this review, the show has found its groove and it has improved significantly. I may rewrite this review after the season concludes. But if you want to start watching it, be prepared for about ten really mediocre episodes before it starts to improve.

Update 2:

I write this update after completing two seasons. The show does find its footing, it figures out where it fits in the scheme of things and improves drastically, especially after leaving CBS and moving over to the CW where it shares continuity with The FlashArrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Benoist and the rest of the cast get really good and develop a solid chemistry. Looking back, I was probably too hard on the show, initially.