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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Hangover Part III



"What the fuck am I watching?"

Bradley Cooper asks that question as he watches Ken Jeong kareoke Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" in a Tijuana dive, but that question is applicable to the entirety of The Hangover Part III. The Hangover Part III triples down on one more absurd adventure for The Wolfpack of Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Unfortunately, Part III also triples down on Ken Jeong's depraved, insane gangster Leslie Chow, who more or less dominates the proceedings this time around. A little Jeong goes a long way, and this is not a reference to his snub of a penis that graces the screen once more time. While staging an intervention for the increasingly disturbed Galifianakis, the Wolfpack are ambushed by Las Vegas crime lord John Goodman, the employer of "Black Doug" from the original Hangover. Goodman forces the Wolfpack to find Jeong, and $24 million in gold bars Jeong stole and hid in Mexico, or else he'll murder their Doug, Justin Bartha, who sits this debacle out at gun point. Thus begins an escapade that takes the Wolfpack from the slums of Tijuana back to their old stomping grounds of Las Vegas; a bunch of Wile E. Coyotes chasing a fucked up little Chinese Road Runner. Part III, to its credit, breaks the formula of the first two Hangovers and offers up an entirely different sequence of events, but everyone feels the drag of doing this deal one more time. Cooper is an honest and excitable actor - those are some of his strengths - and the general listlessness of his performance in Part III is telling. Galifianakis and Helms feel like they're going through the motions as well, with Galifianakis completing a franchise-length story arc of going from being weirdly loveable to just offputting and kind of despicable. A sprinkle of funny gags here and there occasionally call back to the hilarity of the original film, but The Hangover franchise has been sorely waylaid by diminishing returns. If there's a Part IV, maybe the wives and women of the Wolfpack, Sasha Barrese, Jamie Chung, Melissa McCarthy, and Heather Graham, should get a chance to wake up all fucked up in a hotel suite as well.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x8 - "Second Sons"

You are cordially invited to the nuptials of Sansa Stark of House Stark and Tyrion Lannister of House Lannister.

"Second Sons" is dominated by the wedding of the second son of Tywin Lannister, and oh, what a glorious occasion it was. If you like uncomfortable wedding humor, this beats the wedding of Jim Halpert and Pam Beesley by a mile. The star of the wedding was neither the bride nor the groom, but the King. Joffrey was utterly fantastic, thoroughly enjoying himself watching his misshapen troll of an uncle whom he hates marry his former betrothed, whom he enjoys seeing tortured and also hates. No one at that wedding had a better time than the King, from sniggering at the horror of Sansa being walked down the aisle by Joffrey in place of her dead father ("As father of the realm...") to cruelly stealing the stepladder left at the stage for Tyrion to stand on and laughing at Tyrion try to ceremonially cloak his beanstalk of a bride. Later, Joffrey threatened to rape Sansa and then tried to get the Bedding Ceremony underway so that everyone could watch Tyrion put a Lannister baby inside Sansa. Joffrey Baratheon is the King of weddings.

In Westeros, it isn't bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding. In fact, it turns out to be the opposite in this case. Tyrion tried to make Sansa feel a little better about being forced to go through with this, and weathered Shae's dagger eyes, since the whole point of this match made in Lannister heaven is to get Sansa pregnant and quick. Sansa simply cannot get over the fact that A) Tyrion is a Dwarf and B) He's a Lannister, no matter how gentle and kind Tyrion tries to be. But then, he barely comes up to her waist. At their wedding bedchamber their honeymoon goes about as well as their wedding, and Tyrion can't bring himself to do his bride, especially after he and we learn definitively how old Sansa is: 14! The world's tallest 14 year old. She's like a young Brienne the Beauty except she actually brings the Beauty part. Tyrion promises his new wife he won't do her unless she wants him to. "What if I never want you to?" Cold. Catelyn would give her a talking to if she were here. Which reminds me, it doesn't seem like any of the Starks are aware of the happy news of their oldest daughter/sister. That'll be a raven worth seeing them receive. So no baby in Sansa's belly, a petty little rebellion by the drunken little Dwarf towards his domineering father. At least Shae was happy about it.

As Tyrion got himself plastered and Tywin glowered at him while Sansa picked at her food and frowned, the other VIPs at the wedding were also having horrible times. Well, not Lady Olenna, who took some delight in mapping out the labyrinthine and somewhat incestuous sounding ways Margaery, Joffrey, Cercei, Loras, Tyrion, Sansa, and their offspring will all be related to each other. Loras didn't enjoy hearing any of it because none of that new family tree left any branches opening for sword swallowing. And there was simply no talking to Cercei, who was out-shrewing herself. Cercei hated Margaery calling her sister so much, she gave her a history lesson of how the Lannisters massacred House Reyne of Castamere and threatened to have Margaery strangled in her sleep. Loras didn't fare much better when he tried to talk to her but at least no death threat. This wedding set a high bar for the next two or three weddings, Margaery-Joffrey, Cercei-Loras, and Edmure-What's Her Name Frey. But at least one of those is guaran-damn-teed to exceed it by season's end.

The other "Second Sons" were the gang of 2,000 sellsword cutthroats hired by the Yunkai to fight Daenerys called the Second Sons. Daenerys called a meeting with their captains, Mero "The Titan's Bastard, The Guy Who Says "Leftenant", and Dario Naaharis, the Whore Who Hates Whores. Mero was pretty charming, what with asking Daenerys to get naked and show him her cunt. And that was when he was being polite. Daenerys finally unleashed one of her best catchphrases from the books, when she plays innocent and says "I'm just a young girl and know little about the ways of war." But she made the Second Sons an offer they can't refuse: they can fight for her and they'll be rewarded when she takes Westeros, or she'll kill them. The meeting went about as well as could be expected, except for Missendei, who got her ass grabbed more than she'd have liked.

Later, the Second Sons decide to assassinate Daenerys and play the Whore With a Coin game. This might be a Game of Thrones first where there's a ton of nudity but the whore didn't get naked. For the first time since she ended season one by birthing her dragons in the fire, Daenerys got naked again. (But who was counting the episodes? Ahem.) While giving the Kahleesi a bath, Missendei deftly sidestepped Daenerys' poor pronunciation when she speaks Dothraki, which was news to Daenerys. Kahl Drogo always said her Dothraki was perfect. She learned something new about her late husband. Suddenly, the Second Son assassin slipped in with a knife to Missendei's throat and revealed himself to be Dario. Dario also revealed he didn't really want to kill the hottest woman in Essos and instead beheaded his buddies Mero and the Guy Who Says Leftenant. Neither will be particularly missed. Daenerys rises from the tub and makes Dario swear his allegiance to her full frontal and then quickly robed-ness and Dario does what every guy would do. And thus Daenerys has her Second Sons and a new boy toy. The old fogie in love with her won't like this one bit.

Melissandre arrives on Dragonstone with Gendry and Stannis finally meets his bastard nephew. Stannis immediately high tails it to the dungeon where Davos Seaworth is learning how to read and tells him his bastard nephew is here and Melissandre's going to kill him. Also, sorry about your son and all and you're free to go, just don't try to kill Melissandre again, cool? Davos surmises Stannis dropped by not just to free him but to hear someone he trusts who has his head screwed on straight say out loud that Stannis doesn't really want to and shouldn't kill his dead brother's bastard. But Stannis says he saw the future looking into the fire, a great battle in the snow. He saw stuff from Book 6 or 7?! Also, Davos has seen the Red God's magic so who can really say that the Lord of Light isn't the one true god? Frankly, I agree. I'd worship the Lord of Light if I were in Westeros.

Especially since the Lord of Light is super into sending his hot priestesses into kinky sex games. Gendry is understandably suspicious that weeks ago, he was running for his life in the woods, and now a hot kissed by fire (we don't say "ginger' in Westeros) religious lady has him stashed in a castle, is plowing him with wine, gets naked, and mounts him cowgirl. But the fun doesn't last very long at all for poor Gendry as he's tied up in what isn't kinky sex games. Melissandre binds his wrists ankles and sets loose the Lord of Light's special leeches. Leeches on Gendry's dick, man. Stannis and Davos come in to see this fucked up scene but Melissandre is like, hey, more's the merrier to watch. Stannis throws the King's blood-fattened leeches in the fire and counts down the names of his three usurpers: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon.

At the end of the episode, Sam Tarley and Gilly were discussing names for Gilly's baby and came to a mutual agreement not to name him after either of their fathers. Especially not Craster, which seems to be the only male name Gilly, a kind, sheltered simpleton, had ever heard of. She also didn't know the difference between birth names and surnames. So was Craster his first name? She's not Gilly Craster? I guess it doesn't matter. Gilly is defensive about not being as well read as Sam, but neither of them has ever seen a movie, and thus neither could identify how that murder of crows or ravens or whatever seemed a lot like the creepy birds in The Birds. Soon a White Walker was upon them and Sam somehow didn't get himself or Gilly killed. Instead, after the White Walker froze his sword and shattered it, Sam remembered he had Dragonglass and shived the White Walker in the shoulder. Lo and behold, that's all it takes to magically destroy a White Walker. So what does that dummy Sam do? He grabs Gilly and runs - leaving the Dragonglass in the snow. What a maroon!

Finally, there's Arya, now the property of the Hound, and about to bash his head in with a rock before the Hound intimidates her out of that idea. Arya sure hates the Hound, but the Hound rather reasonably explains - in classic Game of Thrones fashion where the worst people on the outset don't seem quite as bad in perspective when you hear them out - that there are far worse people in Westeros than him, like his brother, Cercei, and the King, all of whom he's fleeing. It turns out the Hound isn't taking Arya to King's Landing, he's heading for the Twins, where Arya is surprised to learn her uncle Edmure will marry a Frey in the presence of her brother Robb and her mother Catelyn. Arya smiles for the first time in weeks. I mean, cool, she gets to go to a wedding! Weddings are fun in Westeros.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness



I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I only know what I can do.

If there's one true and fantastic Prime Directive in J.J. Abrams' continuing Star Trek reboot, it's this: Anything goes. Star Trek has become Abrams' experimental toy box and Abrams plays with his toys with fiendish glee, making Star Trek do things we never would have imagined possible, while still staying true to the essence and spirit of Star Trek. Just like its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness takes the familiar characters, ships, and ideas of the venerable franchise and spins them into new directions while delivering a mega-budget, blockbuster escapade where the guiding idea is "What if we did this?"  For this second thrilling voyage of the new Starship Enterprise, Abrams and his crew up the ante and go balls out, playing the "What if we did this?" game with the most highly regarded and downright beloved story in all of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek Into Darkness is like a funhouse mirror of Wrath of Khan, as the audience gapes in awe at what's reflected back at them.

"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!" (Who bellows that in fury and anguish? Nope. Wrong.)

Star Trek Into Darkness, itself a rechristened Star Trek II, plays aggressively and with a showman's delight with the tropes of the previous Star Trek II. Familiarity with The Wrath of Khan is not required to enjoy the ride of Star Trek Into Darkness, but it is all sorts of beneficial to fully appreciate the details. Abrams and his writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof know Wrath of Khan in and out but play coy for half the movie about what's really up their sleeve. When the name "Khan" is finally uttered more than halfway through, Star Trek Into Darkness turns on a dime from a breakneck, action-packed space epic into a full-on fan treatise (fan fiction only applies if the fiction isn't canon, and Abrams' Star Trek is the new canon) re-writing the book on Khan.

It's been rather less than five years since the brilliantly reckless/recklessly brilliant Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of his Starship Enterprise set off into space to explore strange new worlds. But they're soon back on Earth after a mission to save one of those strange new worlds goes sideways and Kirk violates the Prime Directive in order to rescue Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) from certain death in a volcano. Spock, a cauldron of issues ranging from his Vulcan half unable to tell a lie or violate Starfleet regulations to his human half still reconciling watching the entire planet Vulcan destroyed in the previous film, throws Kirk under the bus in his report to Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood, sporting funky sideburns: the 70's are back in the future, man). Continuing the first Star Trek's game of musical captain's chair, Kirk is demoted to First Officer and Pike is given back command of the Enterprise by the head of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller). The novelty of Kirk having to serve as Pike's Number One (something we've never seen depicted in the television series or movies) barely has time to sink in before Starfleet's top captains, including Pike, sadly, are assassinated by John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a rogue Starfleet Officer responsible for a terrorist act that destroyed a Starfleet data facility in London.

What transpires is a relentless roller coaster ride of violence, betrayals, starship battles, fist fights, secrets, lies, chaos, catastrophe, and sacrifice as Admiral Marcus orders Kirk into Kronos, the Klingon homeworld, risking all out war to kill Harrison before Kirk can discover who this "John Harrison", possessed of superhuman intellect, fighting strength and endurance to pain, truly is. (He's Khan.) The Eugenics Wars that bred Khan are fleetingly touched upon, as is reference to the Botany Bay starship that housed Khan and his 72 genetically engineered supermen in cryo-sleep. In this new history, it was Admiral Marcus, not Jim Kirk, who discovered the Botany Bay and unleashed Khan upon the 23rd century, and for very different reasons.

Star Trek Into Darkness deftly lobs commentary about both the now-revised history of Star Trek and our world and culture in the present day. We're 300 years into a gorgeously realized, Apple Store-like future for Mankind, but there's still terrorism shattering peace on Earth. To kill Harrison, Admiral Marcus gives Kirk 72 experimental photon torpedoes armed with mysterious payload that can be launched from the edge of Klingon space, the controversial 23rd century equivalent of today's drones. Spock and Kirk hotly debate the morals and ethics of using those photon torpedoes. Multiple nerdy callbacks to the now null and voided Star Trek of our past include mentions of the Gorn, (Harry) Mudd, Section 31 from Deep Space Nine (yay!), Nurse Christine Chapel, and the all-important (no kidding) Tribbles, the answer to Kirk's trials and tribble-ations. While there is no Genesis device that can ignite a dead planet back to life, the beautiful Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) joins the crew of the Enterprise as a weapons specialist and the daughter of the treacherous Admiral Marcus. The issue of militarizing the exploratory Starfleet in order to deal with the imminent (Marcus-engineered) threat of all-out war with the Klingons echoes the late Gene Roddenberry's real life outrage at what he felt was a more militaristic direction Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan took under the stewardship of producer Harve Bennett.

Most of all, the inadequacies of James T. Kirk are on full display. Star Trek Into Darkness directly raises the fascinating question that in this rebooted universe, perhaps Kirk was not ready to assume command of the Enterprise after all. Every side plays Jim Kirk throughout Star Trek Into Darkness, pushing and prodding him to react and testing his resolve to do what he believes is right, regulations be damned. As Kirk, Chris Pine continues to invoke William Shatner's bravado and heroic derring do, which barely mask his deep rooted uncertainties as Captain of the Enterprise, especially when he's not sure who to trust. Pine has also mastered Shatner's trademark awed gaping mouth (but he never utters "Oh my!" in that one, pivotal moment a Trek nerd is looking for it). Lacking Shatner's time-tested experience, Pine's Kirk is even more hot-headed, regularly drawing wide-eyed looks of concern from his fellow crew members. Unlike in Wrath of Khan, this Kirk and Khan are not intellectual adversaries, nor are they anywhere close to physical equals. As Khan, Cumberbatch is a magnetic madman and adversary. While lacking the late Ricardo Montalban debonair flair (and shapely pecs), Cumberbatch compensates with steely intelligence and snarling fearsomeness. If anything, there should have even more of Cumberbatch on screen, as he's largely a ghost for the first half of the movie.

But like Wrath of Khan, the heart of Star Trek Into Darkness is the theme of family and friendship. Kirk and Spock's bromance is tested repeatedly but both answer the call to do whatever it takes to protect and save their spacefaring family, with able assistance from Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) and Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Saldana's relationship issues with Spock provide welcome and poignant romantic comedy, and it takes both Spock and Uhura to finally defeat Khan in physical combat. As McCoy, Urban continues his gloriously spot-on impersonation of the late DeForrest Kelley. Mr. Chekov (Anton Yelchin) bristles in his new role as Chief Engineer after Scotty (Simon Pegg) quits over ethical issues, but this younger, amusingly irascible Scotty gets to see more physical action than the late James Doohan ever did. Mr. Sulu (John Cho) enjoys his first taste of sitting in the captain's chair, while former Robocop Peter Weller makes for a malevolent villain in his own right. But it's Quinto who impresses the most, taking Spock to new emotional heights and turning him into a full-on action hero. Yet Quinto is not above "cheating" and asking the other Spock (Leonard Nimoy) for advice on Khan; one half expects Nimoy to say, "There's a movie you really should see..."

Watching Star Trek Into Darkness play the "What if we did this?" game and zig where Wrath of Khan zagged in its second half is terrific fun. The question of why the stronger Vulcan Spock never physically confronted Khan instead of Kirk in the original series and movie is addressed here as Spock chases Khan across San Francisco and fights him in a brutal brawl, using his Vulcan nerve holds against Khan's super strength and ferocity. Instead of a battle of equally blind starships in a nebula, we get the Enterprise up against a much bigger and more powerful Dreadnaught-class starship commanded by Marcus, with a go-for-broke gambit by Kirk and Khan to take control of Marcus' ship (which is run by a conveniently and nonsensically minimal crew). Most pivotal of all, Star Trek Into Darkness turns the most famous and touching death in Star Trek lore on its ear, reversing who makes the heroic sacrifice to save the Enterprise and her crew from certain death. If the farewell scene between role-reversed Kirk and Spock isn't quite as moving as Shatner and Nimoy's, consider that these young heroes are standing on the shoulders of giants.

As Shatner's Admiral Kirk told Bones in Wrath of Khan, "Gallivanting around the galaxy is a game for the young, Doctor." In the end, Star Trek Into Darkness rocks the universe, delivering another rollicking good time watching the young crew of the Starship Enterprise fly by the seat of their pants in the final frontier. The stakes are higher, the emotions run hotter, and the color-coded shirts and miniskirts on the lady Starfleet Officers are tight as ever. When a born again Captain Kirk fittingly takes over the famous mission coda as the Starship Enterprise prepares to launch into its five year mission once more, we're left reeling and begging for another romp into the Undiscovered Country. J.J. Abrams and crew can keep commanding Star Trek and boldly going where no one has gone before for as long as they damn well please. (Might one suggest: Captain, there be whales here?)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fast & Furious 6



Fast & Furious 6 (or just Furious 6 according to the opening credits and the preferences of four-time Fast & Furious director Justin Lin) is a car-smashing, forehead-slapping, sensationally good time at the movies. Even in this sixth outing, Furious 6 proves there's a shocking amount of gas and nitrous in the tank of the Fast & Furious franchise. Furious 6 gleefully reunites the entire cast from Fast Five, the "family" of high-octane international car racing criminals headed by Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, which includes Jordanna Brewster, Ludacris, Tyrese, Gal Gadot, and Sung Kang. And of course, their cars. Diesel's crew absconded with hundreds of millions of dollars in Fast Five and are now living the high life in glamorous locales all across the world, from Spain, to Brazil, to Hong Kong, but they are wanted criminals in the United States and yearn to return home.

This time, their nemesis from Fast Five, The Rock, joined by new recruit Gina Carano, comes to Diesel's crew with a proposal to help him find international terrorist Luke Evans, who heads his own cartel of car racing mercenaries specializing in "vehicular warfare". Evans is trying to steal a Nightshade Device, a McGuffan that can render an entire nation "electronically blind". The Rock offers Diesel his own personal McGuffan: the whereabouts of Michelle Rodriguez, Diesel's one true love, who was seemingly killed in Fast Five, but is now an amnesiac running with Evan's villains. Luckily, The Rock commands some sort of international organization that has jurisdiction over the British authorities and Interpol. The Rock can even personally make deals that will give Diesel and his friends total amnesty to return to the U.S. if they can retrieve the Nightshade Device.

After a cheerful Ocean's Eleven-like "getting the gang back together" montage, Diesel's crew and The Rock's lawmen descend on London, and proceed to tear the streets of Old Blighty apart in a series of spectacular car chases that must have caused billions in property damage. Lin stages a series of action sequences that escalate in thrilling, totally unbelievable fashion, with hilarious, gasp-inducing stunts and miracle saves by Diesel, The Rock and Walker. At first Diesel's racing team is defeated by Evans' technology, which includes guns that can fire electrical nanobots that can disable cars. Evans himself drives an armored Formula One racing car that can launch other cars into the air when smashing into them headlong. Buggered by all this new tech, Diesel's group splits up into smaller groups in classic Justice League style to get some intel on Evans' and prepare to get back to the races.

Can Diesel reach Rodriguez and get her to realize who she is and how much Vin Diesel really loves her? Can Diesel's crew take on Evans' team in a balls-to-the-wall car race on the bridges of Spain, as Evans pilots a tank and smashes every car in his way? What about when an actually surprising betrayal occurs and Evans tries to escape aboard a transport plane, racing against Diesel's team on the world's longest airport runway? Can Diesel, Walker, and The Rock team up together and bring that plane down in flames? You'd better fucking believe it. Walker can even get himself secretly smuggled into a United States prison overnight, find out what really happened that caused Rodriguez to escape death but contract amnesia (her amnesia is never, ever questioned by anyone and no one ever asks to see her medical records), and return to London in time for the second and third crazy ass car chases.

For such a massive cast of characters and an absurd amount of action and exposition to address, Furious 6's screenplay by Chris Morgan is a miracle of structure, efficiently finding pieces of business for every single character in the cast where no one gets lost in the shuffle and every character contributes to move the story forward. (In all seriousness, Warner Bros. should take a hard look at Furious 6's structure as they try to figure out their Justice League movie. Therein lies the key to solving that puzzle.) Diesel oversees the proceedings with a calm, laid back confidence and bemusement. Walker, now a father with a newborn with Brewster, is an able number two, as ever. Diesel and Walker's bromance steadily anchors the whole shebang; it's heartwarming to see that after all these years, the love between those two is as strong as ever. But there's plenty of Diesel to go around, for Rodriguez, as well as for The Rock, who gets to tag team with Diesel in the final fight and even unleash a classic wrestling double team move: the Road Warriors' Doomsday Device. 

Everyone gets in on the wisecracking fun, no one moreso than Tyrese, a relentless comedy machine who steals every scene he's in and is the butt of everyone (mostly Ludacris') jokes. (Tyrese mocking The Rock for smelling like baby oil scores every time.) Gadot and Kang hang back on their own, a solid romantic unit happy to provide B team support, and putting themselves on the line to contribute and sacrifice themselves as necessary. Evans is a formidable villain up to the task of taking on all of these cartoon characters and never losing his edge. If there's a loser in Furious 6, it's Carano, who can beat up any man in her way but loses two separate fights to Rodriguez. Furious 6 also admirably sticks to the old maxim that if you introduce a grapple gun in act one, you get to fire that grapple gun in act three. (All the times Tyrese blunders firing that grapple gun don't count.) 

Brimming with callbacks to all of the previous films in the franchise, especially the original Fast and the Furious, Furious 6 comes full circle to seemingly end the saga in triumph as the best Fast & Furious movie of all. And just when you think the races are over, Furious 6 lobs one final fiery surprise over the closing credits, introducing the new Furious Big Bad and cranking up anticipation for the inevitable Furious 7. These Fast & Furious movies may seem expendable but the next one promises to be a brand new death race.

Arrow 1x23 - "Sacrifice"

When last we saw Oliver Queen, he was beaten into unconsciousness and un-hooded by Malcolm Merlyn. Malcolm wasted no time in disrobing Oliver, stringing him up in chains and getting him wet. Oliver dreamed of how his father killed himself (and that guy on the raft minding his own business) but Malcolm tells the awakened Oliver that he misses his friend Robert. Oliver: "You'll be seeing him soon." Oliver's referring to Hell, right? Because that's where Robert is, and where Malcolm is going. Malcolm taunts Oliver, accurately pointing out the fact that they've battled twice yet despite his youth and speed, Malcolm always beats him to a quiver. Then Malcolm fully assumes the role of James Bond villain by leaving Oliver alone instead of just killing him. Oliver does the most ridiculously painful looking chain climb imaginable to free himself and then starts snapping Merlyn guard necks, just in time for Diggle to arrive with helpful exposition that Oliver has a tracker in his boot.

Meanwhile, Felicity is trying to enter Queen Consolidated and is picked up by the po-po like the perp that she is. Detective Lance references several episodes from the season of Felicity's hacking skills helping the Hood but a timely phone call from that very Hood informing Lance of the Undertaking to destroy the Glades gets Felicity off the hook. Lance now has bigger fish to fry than grilling this geeky girl. Felicity gives Lance a "The Vigilante must be a hero if he's willing to sacrifice himself to save others" speech straight from The Chloe Sullivan Diaries. Lance now has to beg his superiors for help to stop the Undertaking and naturally, his Lieutenant isn't pleased to hear Lance has been communicating with and tacitly helping the very vigilante he's supposed to be apprehending. Lance gets suspended. He's actually lucky he's in Starling City and not in The Wire's Baltimore. Lieutanant Rawls would have a field day with humiliating Lance.

With no time table of when the Undertaking will happen and not knowing where the Unidac device is, Oliver decides to check in with his ancillary cast, see how they're holding up. First up is Tommy, who's conveniently drunk in Verdant, and tells Oliver he caught him kissing Laurel the night before after Oliver told Tommy to go and fight for Laurel. Only kissing? Because Oliver did a lot more than that with her. Oliver didn't actually say that, but Tommy took a drunken swing at him anyway. Oliver clues Tommy in that his daddy is going to destroy the Glades and Tommy can't believe the cold, distant billionaire who ignored him for a decade would ever do that. Oliver heads on home to Stately Queen Manor to finally have that frank heart to heart with Moira about the Undertaking as she's packing up all her clothes to go... somewhere. Oliver finally tells Moira how Robert really died, that he shot himself (leaving out how Robert also shot that guy in the raft minding his own business.) Oliver pleads with his mother to help him stop the Undertaking right when Malcolm calls her with the new time table for the Undertaking - it's tonight! And wouldn't you know it, Laurel shows up at Stately Queen Manor to have their relationship heart to heart. That Laurel sure does get around. Oliver doesn't tell her anything about himself being the Hood or the Undertaking, just warning her to stay out of the Glades, but the impressive thing about the writing is Oliver telling her that she's the only one of his friends who isn't hiding anything, which is actually true. That's Laurel's great virtue; she's not messed up or living a secret life. Laurel Lance has always been straight up, now tell me, Oliver, are you gonna love me forever? Or am I caught in a hit and run?

Back at Merlyn Global, the Merlyns have the best dramatic scene in the episode. Tommy, who has had an incredibly hard time reconciling all the secrets he keeps learning from all his loved ones, really doesn't take this biggest doozy well: Malcolm reveals everything to his baby boy: Yes, he is going to destroy the Glades. Malcolm plays him the recording of Tommy's mom being murdered and dying on the phone. Malcolm hates everyone in the Glades so much! (He doesn't know Roy Harper, but if he did, he'd hate him, because he's from the Glades!) Malcolm also shows Tommy his secret panic room where he keeps his Dark Archer suit and weaponry, but doesn't explain the awkward details that, no, he's not the Vigilante. He's the Copycat Vigilante. It must be underscored how incredibly awesome John Barrowman is, has been all season, and especially is in this finale. He's an amazing actor and a fantastic villain, never one note, always complex and making you simultaneously feel his anguish for his loss, his hatred for his enemies but his genuine compassion for his loved ones. Tommy and I both nearly pissed our pants when Malcolm lost it: "YES! THEY DESERVE TO DIE! ALL OF THEM! THE WAY SHE DIED!" Pardon me while I change my underpants.

Back at the Arrow Cave, The Hoodies of Justice finally figured out what they already knew from several episodes ago, that the Unidac device is being hidden in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath the Glades (the symbol on the Book of the List, remember? Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle somehow didn't). Then everyone is totally stunned to watch the news from Stately Queen Manor where Moira calls a press conference to confess her complicity in the Undertaking to destroy the Glades - and she points the finger right at Malcolm Merlyn. Thea is stunned to hear all of this; she was totally in the dark. Moira tells her everything she did was to protect her loved ones. Thea: "I love Roy! He's in the Glades!" Before Moira can ask who the hell Roy is, Thea is off to save her boyfriend who dumped her last week. Malcolm, meanwhile, did not enjoy being named as a super villain on television, and Tommy even pulls a gun on him. In one of the speediest displays of police work ever, moments after Moira's press conference, a full SWAT team is busting into Malcolm Merlyn's office. Malcolm wipes them all out and lays the smack down on his son. Poor Tommy. He'll never, ever win a fight.

Team Arrow consolidates their efforts to stop the Undertaking: Diggle and Oliver will team up together to fight Malcolm since Oliver has definitively proven he can't win a straight up one on one fight. Oliver recruits Detective Lance to do the legwork of physically disarming the Unidac device while Felicity runs intel and support from the Arrow Cave. It's a hell of a plan. Best they can muster, really. And thus, the Undertaking (Batman) begins.

With the Glades in chaos from the threat of imminent destruction and the League of Shadows probably nodding with approval, Roy Harper is busy performing do goodery, stopping muggings and nearly getting himself shot to death. Luckily, Thea is there to hurl a bottle with pinpoint accuracy and saves his life. She has "wicked good aim". Foreshadowing. They steal a car to escape the Glades but the call of selfless heroism like his role model the Hood displays is too strong and Roy can't leave the Glades unless he saves every single person in trouble he sees. Thea is flummoxed at her boy toy lummox and Roy actually allows her to kiss him before sending her off.

Laurel ignored both Oliver's warnings and Moira's press conference and went to her law office to gather up files that must be important enough to risk dying in a man-made earthquake for. Hey, her friend Annie Ilonzeh is there for some reason! I thought she left the show. As that's going on, Felicity talks Detective Lance into how to disarm the Unidac device, which comes complete with a digital countdown clock as all such devices in movies and television shows do for some reason. Detective Lance somehow accelerates the countdown and totally panics. He calls Laurel and wishes his daughter a tearful goodbye; even though they're not in the scene together, it's a fine moment between them. Katie Cassidy's best dramatic moments on the show have always been opposite Paul Blackthorne and that's the case here as well. But Felicity is awesome and remotely disarms the bomb. The Glades is saved! Or is it?

Oliver (not wearing his painted mask or any guyliner at all) and Diggle arrive at Merlyn Global to find both Tommy alive and Malcolm waiting for them. They take on Malcolm together Lethal Weapon 4 style and do about as well as Riggs and Murtaugh did against Jet Li. I almost quit watching the show when Diggle is stabbed and the possibility arose Arrow would kill Dig off. But it was just a plot device to take Diggle out of the fight so that Oliver and Malcolm could have their rematch on the rooftop. It's a great fight, which includes Oliver busting out a hurricanara and Malcolm locking him up in a dragon sleeper. An injured Diggle crawls to the roof to watch the last moments of the fight as Oliver finally finds a way to beat Malcolm, by stabbing him in the heart with an arrow. How poetic. A dying Malcolm makes one final taunt about "redundancy". For a moment, I thought he was referring to Diggle not being needed anymore since Roy is "destined" to be Oliver's sidekick and somehow Diggle would be killed but no, Malcolm meant... a second Unidac machine!

Half an Undertaking is better than no Undertaking at all. Oliver and Diggle watch from the roof of Merlyn Global as the second Unidac machine destroys the East Side of the Glades... which is where Laurel's law firm is. As Oliver races there on his Arrow Cycle, Laurel is trapped in her building as it collapses. Laurel needs a hero, and Tommy arrives to save the day, somehow lifting the debris pinning Laurel down but he doesn't drop it and run out of the building after her. As Laurel gets to the safety of the street and into the arms of her father, the CNRI building collapses on top of Tommy. Oliver somehow find a back way in to find Tommy speared through the chest. Oh no, not Tommy! Tommy Merlyn is the sacrifice? (And it's for real. Colin Donnell has left the show.) Oliver tearfully says goodbye to his best friend, who did a far, far better thing than Oliver Queen has ever done. Tommy Merlyn died a hero, before he could live long enough to see himself become the villain. But what will season 2 be without the Merlyns? Losing both Merlyn men is a profound loss for Arrow.

Five years ago on the Island, a lot of action ends the season-long saga of Edward Fyers launching a missile at a Ferris airliner. Oliver manages to free himself from his bonds, frees Slade and Shado, and the three of them mount a big killing fight to stop Fyers' men. Shado and Oliver make their way to the missile launcher where Oliver manages to reprogram the guidance system to the missile just misses the airplane and changes course to destroy Fyers' base in a gigantic explosion. Luckily, Slade wasn't killed, but unfortunately, neither was Fyers, who has Shado hostage. Fyers makes one last attempt to offer Oliver a boat off the Island, but it is at this moment Oliver, fresh from murdering a lot of soldiers, finds his Arrow mojo and shoots an arrow right in Fyers' throat. And thus Oliver Queen has taken his first big step in becoming the Hood we all know and love.

A heroic, bad ass, action-packed, breakneck finale for Arrow, concluding a first season that was braver and bolder than a Green Arrow show on The CW had any expectations of being. Just a tremendous roller coaster ride with quite a few questions going into season 2. Bravo, everyone at Arrow. See you in September.

Finally, a fun DC Comics reference for the sharp-eyed during the Undertaking:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x7 - "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

"The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is this season's episode personally penned by George R.R. Martin. Watching it, one imagines he had Salt-N-Pepa "Let's Talk About Sex" blasting on his iPod on loop.

Let's talk about sex, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things and the bad things
That may be
Let's talk abooooout sex

This is the couples episode of Game of Thrones season 3, where all the couples got together and talked about all the couple-y things that couples are concerned with. Take the King in the North. All he's interested in is sex with his hot young queen Talisa. A ferocious rain storm has delayed the Stark army's arrival at the Twins and Catelyn, Edmure and the Blackfish are all in agreement, for once, that Walder Frey is a tremendous asshole who will take this tardiness as the latest grievous slight in a series of grievous slights. But then King Robb "What? Me? Worry?" Stark kicks them all out of his tent because Talisa and he are all wet and Mom, get the fuck out! And take your evil eye with you! When Don Draper married Megan on Mad Men, Burt Cooper chastised Don that he was on "love leave" for months. The King of the North is also on love leave. All the Kinging he's really interested in revolves around Talisa's perfect derriere. What kind of a weirdo is Talisa anyway, who immediately starts writing a letter to her mother post-coital? After Robb butchers a couple of words in Valyrian with his barbarian tongue, Talisa drops the bomb that she's with wolf. A young cub or maybe two are in her belly. (This is news to me - I don't remember Jeyne Westerling, Robb's book wife, being pregnant.) Robb is so happy and gets back to doing things with his barbarian tongue. Those two crazy kids. They should forget about this Walder Frey business and go visit Talisa's mom across the Narrow Sea straightaway, if they know what's good for them.

If only Robb knew what his brother from another mother Jon Snow has been up to, and vice versa. They'd be high fiving each other and comparing notes about wildling girls vs. girls from Volantis. Of course, Tormund Gianstbane is more than happy to have pretty gross discussions with Jon about how best to penetrate Ygritte. Complete with pantomimes. Meanwhile, Orell the Warg makes a play for Ygritte and for a second he was doing pretty well, until he blows it by rasping in her face about how pretty Jon Snow is and what he really is. Seeing through the eyes of a bird doesn't teach one how to charm the ladies. Orell also found time to threaten Jon about how he'll never hold onto Ygritte. He's just really eager to break those two up.

The Wildlings have gone over the Wall (I guess the climb down wasn't as treacherous as the climb up) but are far from Castle Black. All this time to march creates opportunities for Ygritte to have some culture shock, like amusingly mistaking a windmill for a castle. North of the Wall, Ygritte is hot shit, but on this side of it, she's just a rube. A rube Jon wouldn't mind seeing in a silk dress. He's got a lot of roleplaying ideas in mind. But foremost on Jon's mind is how this wildling attempt to claim the land south of the Wall is a folly. Jon knows his Westerosi history, which the wildlings were never taught: six times a King Beyond the Wall has attacked Westeros and six times they've failed. The wildlings don't have the discipline or the armies (or the dragons) to win a war. Basically, the wildlings are all going to die. Ygritte reminds Jon that he's also a wildling now. But Jon isn't really, and everyone knows it. They just need Jon Snow for his intel on how to take Castle Black. Ygritte is convinced if they die, she and Jon will die together. Hey, remember when Jon had a wolf? Where is Ghost these days?

In King's Landing, Sansa is very aware now about how stupid she is, and then reaffirms it when it all boils down to her not wanting to marry Tyrion because he's a Dwarf and thinking Loras is some dreamy guy who'll call her, maybe. Margaery tries to make her feel better about marrying Tyrion, who is far from the worst Lannister (and they both know damn well who the worst is), by reminding her how experienced she is. Poor sheltered Sansa doesn't take the hint from Margaery about why she's so knowledgeable about sex. Unlike say, Bronn, who knows a lot about sex himself, and that Tyrion isn't protesting marrying Sansa because she's a child or a foot taller than him, so much as how much it'll piss off Shae. Tyrion thinks he can have it both ways in the way many many men in Westeros and our world do: have the legal trophy wife to have the legitimate children while having a secret mistress and secret family on the side. That should be the answer to all of Tyrion's problems, but it was a hard sell to Shae, who threw that idea back in Tyrion's face. She fails to understand Tyrion's nature, that he's still a Lannister and likes being one, even if everyone hates him.

Remember when everyone hated Jaime Lannister in season one? No one has done as complete an about face to become an unlikely hero of this saga like the Kingslayer. Jaime's stump is more heroic than two thirds of Westeros. The Kingslayer dropped in to say goodbye to Brienne, the only woman in his life who's meant anything to him who isn't his twin sister/mother of his children. Jaime gets to go with a Lord Bolton-appointed escort, which includes ex-maester Qyburn, to King's Landing, while Brienne gets to stay behind a prisoner charged with treason against Robb Stark. Breaking up is hard to do, but Jaime heads on home, until Qyburn clues him in that Lord Bolton is off to Edmure Tully's wedding at The Twins, leaving Locke in charge of Harrenhaal and Brienne. Jaime got his Bolton boys on his side and returned to Harrenhaal to find Brianne in a bear of a situation: stuck in a gladiator pit with a wooden sword against a bear as she fights to the tune of the Westerosi number one hit song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair". I thought the solution would have been for Jaime to kick Locke into the pit, but I guess that would have sparked a riot. Instead, Jaime jumped into the pit and defended Brienne as his Bolton boys fired arrows at the bear. Jaime Lannister - give this man a golden hand. Of applause. It was a harrowing escape but Brienne and Jaime got out of the pit and after a face off, Jaime and Brienne got to leave Harrenhaal together with their Bolton boys, leaving Locke's Bolton boys without anyone to watch a bear rape or rape themselves. You ask me, Kingslayer and Brienne the Beauty are the best couple in Westeros.

For a few pretty fantastic full-frontal minutes, though, Theon was privy to the best couple in Westeros. The best torture ever, for a little while, had two fully nude hot ladies untie Theon and give him the dry humping of his recently horrible life, until, no surprise, Ramsey Bolton revealed it's all just part of the torture. And Ramsey was planning to cut Theon's cock off all along. Oof. So, now we have 8,002 eunuchs on this show. Really cementing that world record.

Meanwhile, in Bran, Osha, Rickon, Hodor and the Reeds' endless camping trip to Castle Black (or not to Castle Black, Osha was surprised to find out), Osha monologues the story of why she ran away from beyond the Wall: her boyfriend Bruni was turned into a White Walker and she was forced to burn him and their house down. Speaking of houses, Melissandre gave Gendry a boating trip through the wreckage of Blackwater Bay and showed him his father's house, the Red Keep. Gendry now knows he's the bastard son of Robert Baratheon and he has king's blood in him. It's a good strategy, make the kid feel good about the blood in him before Melissandre does whatever she's planning to do with that blood.

Arya's done with the Brotherhood without Banners. She started this season with her little family of Hot Pie and Gendry on the run to Riverrun, and now Hot Pie's moved on, Gendry's been sold to Stannis, and Arya's all alone and pouting about it. Now, the Brotherhood is delaying her arrival at Riverrun for two days while they go kill a Lannister hunting party and steal their gold. Arya decides it's as good a time as any to make a run for it, and she runs right into the waiting arms of the Hound hiding in the forest. That kid can't cut a break.

Another kid who's being cut a break but doesn't deserve his breaks is the King. Tywin strides confidently into the Iron Throne room at the behest of King Joffrey, who'd like an update on what the hell's going on, please. Best line of the episode was Joffrey telling Tywin about all the important matters preoccupying a king, which is why he hasn't attended any of the small council meetings. Which, by the way, are all the way at the Tower of the Hand now. A lot of stairs for a King to climb. Tywin could probably kill Joffrey and no one would stop him, but he admirably doesn't, and affirms just who exactly is running this kingdom. What's interesting is Joffrey asked directly about the rumors he's heard about "the Targaryen girl and her dragons". Tywin blows that off but promises the King will be consulted "as necessary".

Speaking of the Targaryen girl with the dragons, Daenerys and her Unsullied arrive at the gates of Yunkai, the golden city. She doesn't need to conquer it, she could lose half her army trying to, but once she heard they're slavers, she set her mind to freeing every last slave in the city. One can't help but be impressed by the show of intimidation she and her dragons put on with Yunkai's representative Lord Razdal mo Eraz. He came with bribes of gold and ships so she can go straight to Westeros and leave them the fuck alone. Daenerys is going to free Yunkai and liberate their slaves. That's her thing now. Frankly, Jorah and Selmy should advise Daenerys to take the gold and the ships and head home, but Daenerys is really into her new nickname "the breaker of chains" now. Plus the Unsullied also seem really into this chain-breaking thing. And she's supposed to have them bloodied. They're all going to get their wish, looks like.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Arrow 1x22 - "Darkness On The Edge of Town"

"Who the hell is Felicity Smoak?!"

That incredulous question from Detective Lance when his SCPD techie guy informed him a woman from Queen Consolidated hacked into Merlyn Global's network was the funniest line of dialogue that didn't come from Felicity herself. A deadly serious, deadly soapy, slam bang penultimate Arrow sure needed Felicity's self-aware zingers about her schoolgirl crush on Oliver ("playing doctor") and her "hacking face" to lighten the mood as events careened towards the season one endgame.

The Undertaking is nigh. Malcolm Merlyn tied up loose ends by hooding up as the "Copycat Vigilante" and massacring the scientists and security at Unidac who built the device that will bring forth The Undertaking. Meanwhile, Oliver's one lead towards uncovering what The Undertaking is happens to be his mother, so he takes the direct approach to getting his mom to come clean: he asks her. And then he engineers a phony kidnapping with Diggle dressed as The Hood. The Diggilante got to both question a panicky Moira and smack Oliver around until she spilled the beans about The Undertaking - that Malcolm Merlyn's Unidac device would cause a man-made earthquake that will level the Glades and kill thousands. Then he'd rebuild the Glades, but Moira was skeptical about that second phase in the plan. Moira also revealed Robert Queen's complicity in The Undertaking, which she had to take on after Robert was murdered. Oliver took all this exposition in as well as he could, which is not so well, but it's not everyday you get your mom to confess to being part of a criminal conspiracy to commit mass murder and billions in property damage.

Still, Oliver didn't know where the Unidac device was being stored. One crazy scheme to get half the intel they needed could only be topped by an even crazier scheme to get the rest of the intel. Wherein Diggle somehow infiltrated Merlyn Global as a security guard while Felicity posed as a Big Belly Burger delivery girl and Oliver Queen posed as... Oliver Queen, come to Merlyn Global to meet with Tommy. Their Mission: Impossible had a laugh out loud moment of Oliver smacking the files from a Merlyn employee's hand to get him off their elevator and, warming nerd hearts everywhere, a Star Wars tribute where Oliver and Felicity swung across an elevator shaft like Luke and Leia on the Death Star. Man, I hope for the sake of #Olicity that Oliver and Felicity don't find out in season 3 that they're twin brother and sister.

Oliver told Felicity she had ten minutes to download the files into her Microsoft Surface Windows 8 tablet while he met with Tommy, but his Tommy meeting really only lasted a few seconds. Just a quickie "Hey, old buddy who hates me because I'm a serial killer, Laurel still loves you and I can't be with her while I'm a serial killer, so cut her some slack. All she ever does anymore is show up at the club early in the morning or go bother her dad or anyone else on the cast she normally interacts with and complain about her love life B plot." What I just wrote was probably longer than that Oliver actually said but is an accurate description of what Laurel has been reduced to. Then Oliver leaves Tommy's big ass office and walks right into a comedy of errors with most of the cast for some reason or another in the Merlyn Global building too. Besides Diggle, who cleverly got Felicity out on his own with a rather believable cover of Felicity being a Tommy stalker who broke into the building, Oliver runs smack into Malcolm Merlyn. Then in the lobby, there's Thea and Roy Harper. Why, I was half expecting Helena Bertinelli to wander in the scene for no reason.

Finally, we get the historic first face to face meeting between Oliver Queen and Roy Harper. Thea lets Oliver in on their hare brained scheme to get Roy to meet the Hood and maybe become the Hood's Boy Wonder. Oliver orders Roy to stay away from the Hood or else he'll get himself or worse, Thea, killed. No offer of archery tutelage was made, of course. That didn't sit well with Roy, who's so hardcore into the Hood he spends his free time reading up on the Hood's exploits in Bludhaven on his own probably stolen Microsoft Surface. Oliver did manage to put the fear of Hood in Thea, who called off their search for the Hood. Roy called Oliver "a wimp", but Thea admirably defended the awesomeness of her big brother, who spent five years trapped on an Island, and she doesn't even know the half of it. So Roy called off this "relationship", if you can call it that. I call it more of a girl hanging around a dude who doesn't show the slightest bit of heterosexual interest in her whatsoever. Roy and Thea scenes are basically the Sansa Stark and Loras Tyrell "date" on Game of Thrones this week, only their scenes aren't funny.

Not only did Roy kick Thea to the curb, but Moira got served... divorce papers... from Walter Steele. Walter wasn't remotely happy to be home from his six months in captivity, nor did he love getting face time with Malcolm, the guy who kidnapped him. Walter's no dummy; he had six months to think about how Moira told him without actually telling him he'd be in danger if he looked into the Book of the List and the Queen's Gambit wreckage and then bam, he's a hostage for half a year. Walter bid Moira adieu and headed back to England, presumably. It was a tough week for the Queen women and getting dumped. Hope Walter isn't permanently written off, though. There's a lot more that could be done with that character.

While his mom and sister were losing their men, Oliver suddenly decided he could have his woman after all. Right after more or less telling Tommy to ask Laurel to take him back, Oliver realizes that the months he spent crossing names off the List via arrows in bodies could be at an end. If he manages to stop the Undertaking, he'll have done his dead father a solid and satisfied his dying wish to save Starling City. He could retire from superheroing, like Bruce Wayne, maybe move to Florence. But first he'll need a girl, and he goes right to Laurel's place and tells her it's on. She's like, about time. And they get it on - to the snicker-inducing tune of "Radioactive" - right in front of an open window, right in front of Tommy on the street. No wonder Tommy hates that guy. Total dick move by Oliver.

One dick move deserves another and Oliver has plenty in his quiver, like leaving Laurel's bed in the middle of the night after Diggle calls him. But yes, Oliver must stop The Undertaking. While Diggle went to a warehouse to find the Unidac device, the Hood heads straight for Malcolm Merlyn's office to stick an arrow in him. But Malcolm's one step ahead; once he learned his system was compromised by a mysterious hacker, he had the device moved. (To where? Did everyone suddenly forget the symbol on the Book of Lists was a map of the Glades subway system and the plan was to put the device on a train?) Then Merlyn and the Hood come to blows and Malcolm proceeds to thoroughly kick Oliver's green leather ass. Malcolm beat the crap out of him, broke his bow, and unhooded him to reveal the guylinered face of Oliver Queen!

"Oh no."

Five years ago on the Island, Yao Fei's betrayal rounded up Oliver, Slade Wilson, and Shado and delivered them back into Edward Fyers' hands. Oliver even met that kid in the cave who begged for his help a while back, who turns out to be working Fyers' radio. Another mention of Fyers' mysterious employer and we get a quick scene of a mysterious pair of legs belonging to a mysterious 'she'! Which DC Comics lady could this be? Amanda Waller? Carol Ferris? Tess Mercer? Nah. (Forgot to mention the Ted Kord shout out last week.) Ferris definitely exists in this show's universe as Fyers revealed his plan is to use his missiles to shoot down a Ferris Aircraft commercial airliner, which Yao Fei would claim responsibility for. All with the long range plan of destabilizing China's economy. To show he means business, Fyers shot Slade in the leg and Shado in the torso. Like a good compliant prisoner with no choice (but secretly arming Shado with a blade), Yao Fei puts on an airline captain's uniform and shoots the video claiming responsibility for the destruction of the airplane. Then Fyers shoots Yao Fei dead. It would have been funny if Fyers kills Yao Fei, and then his tech guy tells him, "Uh boss, you forgot to hit record on the camera." No take twos for Yao Fei.

Next week, the twenty third and final Arrow in the season one quiver...

Twitter the day after:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Superman: Unbound



In the uninspired Superman: Unbound, Superman (capably voiced by Matthew Bomer) and Supergirl (Molly C. Qunn filling in nicely for Summer Glau) battle Brainiac (John Noble) to save both Metropolis and the Kryptonian Bottle City of Kandor from Brainiac's grasp. Adapted from the popular Geoff Johns penned/Gary Frank drawn "Superman: Brainiac" comic books, Unbound eschews the best part of the comics: Frank's glorious illustrations where he takes great pains to have Superman resemble Christopher Reeve. Unbound's animation is unremarkable. Unbound's Supergirl and the Brainiac Skull Ship are the most visually pleasing design-wise, while Lois Lane's eye-shadowed, dragon lady look is a puzzler.

This Superman tale doesn't seem to be tethered to any previous comic book or DC Animation continuity. Lois is aware that Clark Kent is Superman and they are dating but unmarried. Their rather shrill conversations, mostly held in the Daily Planet newsroom presumably within earshot of anyone looking for a scoop, revolve around Clark's insistence on keeping Lois safe from all forms of harm, including other guys hitting on her. "It's like I'm dating my own stalker," Lois grumbles, in an amusing nod to the creepier aspects of Superman Returns. Meanwhile, Supergirl's characterization is consistent with the Supergirl seen in the far more enjoyable Superman & Batman: Apocalypse, though she bounces from surly teen to heroic underdog to emotional wreck at a drop of a hat. But Supergirl is dead on about Brainiac: he sure does talk a lot.

Unbound is a curious hodgepodge of 1950's Superman concepts mixed in with some 1970's era Superman anachronisms like skeevy Daily Planet sports reporter Steve Lombard hitting on Lois Lane. Superman visits alien worlds and the bottled city of Kandor; the denizens of which are depicted in full 50's era sci-fi glory: matching headbands, mini skirts on men, gloves and booties. Superman hardly uses his Super-brain against Brainiac, rushing headlong and preferring to punch and heat vision his way out of trouble until the end, when he forces Brainiac into a swamp and defeats him with the sensory overload of the living planet Earth - a satisfyingly 50's-style sci-fi resolution. Supergirl in her own right mounts a one-girl crusade against Somali warlords and North Korean human traffickers that seems out of place with the science fiction bent of the main story. But nothing is as bizarre as the sight of tiny Lois Lane staring at a giant Brainiac from within the Bottled City of Metropolis and flipping him double middle fingers.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x6 - "The Climb"

All right, we get it, Ygritte. Jon Snow is a cunning linguist. He doesn't know nothing, Jon Snow. Ygritte has pledged herself to be Jon Snow's woman and promises to cut off his cock if he ever betrayed her. Notice she didn't threaten to harm his tongue. Ygritte also knows Jon Snow's secret, that he's a double double agent and remains loyal to the Night's Watch, even though he's an oathbreaker for laying with a woman. But there's no time for more cunning linguistics. There is a Wall the wildlings must climb.

"The Climb" is a brisk mostly-talkie about the climb of the Wall and about much more. It's a quieter episode where events that began weeks ago have now begun to take their effect and things have gotten decidedly worse for several of the denizens of Westeros. "The Climb" was malevolently explained via ghastly metaphor by Littlefinger to Varys. Littlefinger and Varys were the secret Merv Griffin of the game show "Who Wants to Marry Sansa Stark?" and both tried to have the game rigged to go their way. Littlefinger was considerably more cunning and won the game, simply because he pulled the strings of more players. Varys now knows Littlefinger used one of his male whores to seduce Loras Tyrell for information about the Tyrell plot to marry Sansa to Loras, which Littlefinger fed to Tywin, who successfully counter plotted to have Sansa promised to Tyrion while Cercei is now pledged to Loras. All of this was at the expense of Varys' informant Ros, who was given to Joffrey as crossbow target practice. What an ignominious end to Ros, the best former prostitute in Westeros. Ros will be missed.

Tywin personally negotiated Cercei's betrothal to the Knight of Flowers with Lady Olenna in one of the most ripping scenes of the season. When you have great actors like Charles Dance and Diana Rigg butt heads with this type of material, they can set the screen aflame. The Queen of Thorns really had one futile card to play, that Cercei is too old for Loras and may not be able to produce children. It was also a bit of a debate over each family's disgusting secrets and whether homosexuality is more disgraceful than incest. They could debate that until the ravens come home. The best line was Olenna admitting Loras is "a sword swallower through and through". (Not that anything's wrong with a discreet bit of buggery, according to the Queen of Thorns.) Tywin had all the power here and he threatened to use it: he could assign Loras Tyrell to the Kingsguard so he can never marry and thus Highgarden would be inherited by Joffrey and Margaery's future children. Check and mate.

Though she can't see it this way yet, in a way, sparing Sansa from marrying Loras is a gift to her, judging from their awkward first date. Like any little boy, Loras has long dreamed of his lavish wedding and what kind of dress the, bride. Yes, bride... will wear. That date was painful to witness, even for Tyrion and Cercei. Tyrion seems satisfied with Cercei's non-admittance that it was Joffrey who ordered the Kingsguard to kill him at Blackwater. Which they both agree was typical Joffrey stupidity. Cercei did finally give Tyrion his due for his efforts in saving King's Landing from Stannis. But it fell to Tyrion to tell Sansa - in front of Shae, mind you - that she now has the honor of marrying Tyrion Lannister. Sansa took the news as well as you'd expect. But at least she didn't try to kill herself or anything. We never saw Loras' reaction to the news of his new engagement, but I'll bet he shed as many tears, if not more.

Melissandre arrived in the Riverlands to interrupt Arya's archery lesson, and we learned a lot more about the drunken Thoros of Myr. That he was sent to King's Landing to convert Robert Baratheon to the Lord of Light but decided drinking and whoring were better uses of his time since he didn't much care for the one true god. That changed when Beric Dondarrion was murdered by the Mountain and he asked the Lord of Light to spare him. And five more times, Thoros has been able to bring Beric back, which astounds Melissandre. I mean, she thought a murderous black smoke queef baby with Stannis was a boon from the Lord of Light; what's this about bringing men back to the living? Sadly for Gendry, he's the reason Melissandre has come and a couple of sacks of gold buys Gendry and shatters his dreams of smithing for the Brotherhood. Poor Gendry. It sucks to have Robert Baratheon's blood in you. Melissandre meets Arya for the first (and last) time, and she sees darkness and different colored eyes in Arya. Foreshadowing.

Meanwhile, at Riverrun, two of Walder Frey's deformed inbred sons arrive to negotiate with a contrite, eager to please Robb about what it will take for Ser Walder to overlook Robb's grievous oathbreaking and make nice and give Robb his armies, please? Ser Walder wants a formal apology, ownership of Harrenhaal, and for Edmure Tully to wed one of his daughters. Edmure understandably balks but gets king-pressured into aqcuiescing. "You're paying for my sins, Uncle", Robb tells him. Yeah, what bullshit is that? Robb gets to break his oath and marry hot Talisa but Edmure has to marry a Frey so Robb can get some more soldiers to replace the ones he bungled and lost by being a crappy king and killing his most loyal banner man, because his mother set the Kingslayer free? All because Edmure lost 200 men in a dumb move that didn't kill the Mountain? Robb sucks. He's a hypocrite. Catelyn sucks too.

The Kingslayer, now clean as a whistle and sharp as a thistle, finally has a good meal with Lord Bolton and Brienne, but can't cut the meat with one hand. Bolton agrees to allow Jaime passage to King's Landing as payment for his maiming, but also to assure Tywin that he, Lord Bolton, had nothing to do with that, and don't come to Harrenhaal and seek vengeance, please, thank you. Brienne has to stay since she abetted Catelyn's treason. Jaime however is a step closer to coming home and being reunited with Cercei and won't she be disappointed when she finds out Jaime can no longer swing a sword and force her future husband Loras to come down with a case of sword-in-bowels?

On either side of the Wall are tales of camping. Sam Tarly regales Gilly and Gilly's baby with stories of what to expect when they reach Castle Black. Oh, it's a wonderful place full of hearths of fire, venison stew and onions, and crows singing. Meanwhile, somewhere between Winterfell and the Wall, Meera Reed and Osha just can't get along and have one of those arguments over who skins a rabbit better that still sounds awfully polite because of the British accents. They almost come to blows but little lord Bran commands them to chill out, yo. We're suddenly reminded Rickon exists when Jojen has a seizure in his sleep. The visions sometimes bring them about. Jojen must have had a remarkable vision: It's Christmas time, he's a little younger, Liam Neeson is his dad, and there was this girl who sang and he chased her through an airport to tell her he loved her. No, nothing that awesome, just that he saw Jon Snow on the wrong side of the Wall surrounded by enemies. Everyone is let down. I just want to hear Jojen tell Bran "Let's get the shit kicked out of us by love."

Both those tales of camping are slightly more interesting than this edition of X Marks The Spot of Theon's Weekly Torture. This week, Ramsay Bolton decided to fuck with Theon by lying about who he is and flaying the skin off his pinkie. We don't really need to see Theon tortured every episode, do we? That would reek of overkill.

Finally, back to the Climb, a harrowing sequence as Jon Snow, Ygritte, and the Wildlings attempt to scale the Wall as the Wall "fights back" and tries to kill them. Ygritte and Jon both nearly fall to their doom, not helped by their tether line almost being cut, but Jon heroically does right by his woman and saves them both. They both succeed in arduously scaling the mighty Wall and reach the top, fulfilling Ygritte's wish to see the world from the top of the Wall. And there's no better place for two young lovers to make out. That Jon Snow. He's got a great girl, he's climbed the Wall, he's on top of the world.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3



You Know Who I Am

When we last saw Tony Stark, he nearly perished saving New York City from aliens by hurling a nuclear missile through a wormhole into space and then plummeting back to terra firma. Understandably, Tony has not gotten over that ordeal. Tony copes with his demons in Shane Black's Iron Man 3, an aggressive and violent Stark trek into darkness filled with nightmarish imagery of buildings exploding, armor in blazes, and bodies hurtling through fiery detonations, all drenched in palpable feelings of dread. After all he's been through, Tony Stark is not the same fun-loving, good time master of Marvel ceremonies he was in the first two Iron Man movies and you know what, it's kind of a shame.

Everyone misses the old Tony. He never rears his head in Stark Industries anymore, leaving it entirely in the hands of his one true love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), whose (People's World's Most Beautiful) body is now guarded by Stark's erstwhile and overzealous security chief Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Even his old war (machine) buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) chastises Stark for spending all his time in isolation when he isn't Avenger-ing with his gods and monsters other superhero pals. In truth, Tony has literally been in a hole in the ground, spending his long days and sleepless nights in his Malibu lab creating dozens of new suits of Iron Man armor of all sizes and shapes (most of which he doesn't utilize until the third act). Suffering from untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Tony is regularly debilitated by anxiety attacks whenever New York is mentioned to him. Robert Downey, Jr. intriguingly plays Tony as weathered and scarred, emotionally and physically. For the first time... ever... it's tough to be Tony Stark, and no one is taking this new reality harder than Tony Stark.

Iron Man 3 loosely adapts Warren Ellis' popular "Extremis" comic book story. We learn in 1999, irreverent ladykiller Tony was partying in Switzerland with "botanist" Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall, largely wasted in her role) when he was approached by a schleppy scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who was founding a "think tank" called Advanced Idea Mechanics (the villainous A.I.M. from Marvel Comics). Scraggly-haired and desperate for Stark's approval, there are blatant echos to Jim Carrey's Edward Nygma needing Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne's affirmation in Batman Forever, then turning on Stark when he's rebuffed. 13 years later, Killian is a suave Tony Stark-like business man presenting Pepper Potts with A.I.M.'s Extremis, which uses technology to upgrade the human brain allowing for self-healing and superhuman abilities. (In truth, all it does is turn people - mainly a bunch of war veteran amputees - into insane soldiers who generate fire from within.) Unfortunately, the intriguing concept of Tony Stark, a man who uses technology to enhance his exterior, battling villains who use technology to enhance their interior degenerates into Iron Man fighting a bunch of burning fire people over and over and over.

Meanwhile, the mysterious terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has made the American President (William Sadler) his number one enemy, with A.I.M.'s fire soldiers literally exploding themselves for the Mandarin. The Presidential response is to repaint Rhodey's War Machine armor in the stars and stripes and call it the Iron Patriot. When Happy Hogan is hospitalized by the Mandarin's troops fire bombing Mann's Chinese Theater, Tony Stark publicly declares war on the Mandarin. This promptly results in Mandarin missiles launched at his Malibu cliff-side mansion. Stark, stripped of most of his Iron Man technology, goes on a personal detective hunt for the answers to the Mandarin and the secret behind A.I.M.'s fire soldiers. (Stark is the only one shocked to learn the Extremis tech actually came from him all along.) For those who complained about Iron Man's 2's lengthy middle act mainly serving as a distraction to set up the first Thor movie, Iron Man 3 responds with an interminable middle act of Stark seeking answers in a Tennessee small town while bantering with a kid sidekick. Agent Coulson, Nick Fury and John Slattery as Howard Stark > kid sidekick. Iron Man 2's act 2 suddenly looks pretty good in comparison. SHIELD surprisingly has no presence in Iron Man 3, and one wistfully wishes for the eye candy Black Widow provided in Iron Man 2. (Scarlett Johansson joining Rebecca Hall in 3 would have made for a welcome Vicky Christina Barcelona reunion.)

Iron Man 3 makes a series of questionable creative choices (Gwyneth both gets to wear Iron Man armor and gains superpowers - who thought either was a good idea?) but none are more egregious than the ultimate secret of the Mandarin. Stark and Rhodes chase the Mandarin to a hideout in Miami where Iron Man 3 drops the bombshell that the Mandarin is in fact just a ruse, a goofy British thespian coerced into playing the role of a global terrorist. There is no Mandarin; the villain was Aldrich Killian all along. Thus, a reveal audiences have awaited since the Mandarin was teased by the Ten Rings in the original Iron Man landed with a heartbreaking thud, and Iron Man's number one greatest villain is reduced to a joke. Crushingly disappointing. Instead, the real heavy is Pearce playing the third iteration of a jealous businessman who wants to be Tony Stark (following Jeff Bridges' Obediah Stane and Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer). Dreams of Iron Man battling the Mandarin and his ten rings of power evaporate, replaced with Iron Man fighting a fire-breathing Guy Pearce. Iron Man vs. Burning Man.

Also going totally overboard is the idea that anyone can wear Iron Man armor. Iron Man 3 giddily introduces the concept that every component of Iron Man armor operates independently and can fly under its own propulsion. Throughout the movie, Stark and others routinely wear Iron Man armor, or mere pieces of armor, and sometimes, the Iron Man suits just operate via remote control. Iron Man 3's most breathtaking and spectacular sequence (the only reason to see the movie in IMAX 3D) is Iron Man rescuing over a dozen people plummeting from an exploding Air Force One at 30,000 feet. The thrill of this sequence is totally undercut by the instant reveal that Tony wasn't in the suit and piloted the armor via remote control. Iron Man armor was sought out by everyone in Iron Man 2 and zealously guarded by Stark, but now dozens of Iron Man suits wage war against A.I.M.'s fire soldiers and no one tries to acquire the tech. Indeed, Killian gains possession of the Iron Patriot armor and merely puts the President in it for public execution. Suddenly, Iron Man armor isn't so special at all. Stark freely destroys all of his armor to give himself a fireworks show while he makes out with Pepper.

The moral of all this armor overload, of course, is that merely wearing armor doesn't make anyone Iron Man. Tony Stark is Iron Man with or without the armor. At the end, we witness a dark knight rising in Tony Stark. In its best moments, Iron Man 3 delivers the most heavy-metal mayhem of the trilogy, and writer-director Black delightfully references his classic Lethal Weapon actioners by setting Iron Man 3 at Christmas-time and invoking the buddy cop dynamics of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover when Stark and Rhodey assault a Roxxon (classic Marvel Comics oil company) oil rig to save Pepper and stop Killian. (Are Stark and Rhodey getting too old for this shit?)  The post-end credits reveal that all of Iron Man 3 was narrated by Stark to his Avengers cohort and reluctant therapist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo sporting a new close cropped haircut) was good for a chuckle. Banner snoozed through Stark's entire tale. Honestly, I can relate to where Banner was coming from.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Luke Skywalker vs. Wolverine

25Like ·  · Promote · 
  • April  ooooh, my nerdiness is not sufficient to deal with this mindblow.
  • John  Take a best guess. Adamantium claws, healing factor, rugged manliness. Lightsaber, The Force, Mark Hamill. You must choose a victor and method.
  • Elya Wolverine by snikt, obviously.
  • April  I would guess Luke uses the Force to gain the upper hand, lightsabers off one of Wolverine's hands in a reflection of his own dismemberment at the hands of his father, but ultimately loses, as Wolverine's Rugged Manliness makes him a more currently acceptable example of Amurricanism.
  • John  Slicing off a hand with a lightsaber. That's the Skywalker move, fans! (Also a Kenobi move.)
  • April  Plus, it seriously cuts down on the number of Adamantium Claws being waved around.
  • John  Theoretically, Wolverine's healing factor would regrow his hand, but not immediately. And it couldn't regrow the adamantium, so his new hand would have bone claws.
  • April  Luke is super wicked fast, though. And doesn't the lightsaber cauterize the wound? Does that affect the healing?
  • John  That's true. And Luke can jump real high. Wolverine will find he's full of surprises. The healing factor, as it is mutant superpower logic bullshit, would probably override the wound being cauterized. In Wolverine's defense, when he goes into berserker rage, he'll probably freak Luke out. No staying calm for that Jedi.
  • April Luke is not the calmest Jedi, true... luckily, he does best when he doesn't have time to think. It's the drawn out evil speeches that freak him out into making mistakes. ...oh my God, I appear to be nerdy enough for this conversation.
  • John Maybe also not enough lip service is being paid to what Wolverine would be willing to do to win the fight. Luke could cut off his hand, but Wolverine could easily to do the same to Luke's metal hand. Or his real hand. Or his legs. Or destroy the lightsaber. Wolverine fights like a real asshole when he wants to.
  • John  I like the underdog in this. I think Luke could do it, he could kill Wolverine. Make his daddy proud.
  • April I love how because Wolverine has metal claws, we are calling the psychic acrobatic with mind control powers and a sword made of pure energy the underdog.
  • Rob Is a savage maiming the only thing that constitutes a win, or are there other ways of coming out on top in this one?
  • John Naturally, one must assume if Luke Skywalker faces Wolverine, the objective would be death or close to it.
  • Mimi  Depends if Luke is having an anxiety attack. Or overthinking it.
  • John  See, I think Wolverine's gruff sexy manliness would work against him. Soon as he says something like, "I banged your sister, bub", Luke will completely lose it. Ask his dad about that.
  • John  By the way, Mimi, I love that Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi and the hero of the galaxy, but he has a reputation as such a pussy that we have to factor in whether he's having an anxiety attack.
  • April Agreed. Seriously? How very 70s.
  • Mimi I am very 70's 
  • Juan Miguel well, Luke isn't exactly a paragon or anything. I'm sure he could use the dark side of the force and just choke wolverine to death. Does force run out? If it does, he's shit outa luck.
  • John  I love this debate and the considerations of what Luke Skywalker would do: He'd cut off his hand. He'd Force choke him to death. Here's another: Luke could use the Force to make Wolverine cut off his own head. Luke Skywalker would be delighted to be presented with these tactical options.
  • Rob  This is all the stuff Yoda would have taught him if he didn't run off to Bespin.
  • Kevin  If i had to pick it would be wolverine bc he is actually been through many wars and he is a tactician. when he fights he is calculating and predicting moves. While luke skywalkers force is strong i do believe he would eventually tire out. Healing factor big +
  • Kevin Wolverine wins by grinding it out over time