Regarding NBC’s Constantine

I should say from the start that I am not a John Constantine die hard fan.  In fact, until Justice League Dark, I really wasn’t terribly familiar with the character.  I knew of him, but that was really about it.

When I heard NBC planned to air a show using the character, I got excited.  When the first photograph arrived featuring Matt Ryan bedecked in the brown trench coat, loose tie, and disheveled white shirt, I got even more excited.  It appeared as though NBC took this effort seriously.

I’ve watched the show from the start, and though I’ve had an opinion about it for a long time, I wanted to keep watching and keep watching before I voiced that opinion.  We’re now at January 28th, and I think the show has probably found its identity as much as it can for this first season.

I first want to say that Matt Ryan, in my opinion, is perfect.  He looks the part, he acts the part, and he sounds the part.  He’s got swagger, he’s got the hair, he’s got the thin frame – I think this is expert casting.  Furthermore, his face actually looks like it’s lived.  It’s got lines, it looks weathered, I believe this man has seen some serious stuff.  But it’s Ryan’s eyes that really make me believe he’s John Constantine.  When the camera pulls in tight on Ryan’s eyes, they shimmer like little beads and look both haunted, demented, and hopeful all at once.

I also appreciate the “look” of the show.  Each episode looks like a little movie.  The locations are always interesting and vivid.  Furthermore, the special effects are more than respectable, especially for being a weekly show on the small screen.

And while I watch Constantine and enjoy it, I won’t pretend it’s perfect.  The dialogue is sometimes downright awful.  The stories, supposedly based off of classic Hellblazer comics, don’t always translate well to mainstream television.  Some are better than others, and they’ve all entertained me, but none of them ever made me sit up in awe.

But the biggest problem in my mind is the acting.  Other than Matt Ryan, I don’t believe in any of the show’s characters, particularly Zed and Chas.  I realize bad dialogue can impact acting, but the actors playing Zed and Chas always feel a little off to me.  The timing is never quite right, the tone and inflection don’t ever quite fit, and, to be honest, even the body language is awkward at moments.  They may very well be wonderful actors, but I’m not connecting with their takes on Chas and Zed.

I would personally like to see Constantine take on greater scope.  “The Rising Darkness” is so generic and plot driven – I can’t really take it seriously.  I would really like to see Constantine dive into the dark side of the DC Universe.  I don’t know if NBC has rights to characters like Zatanna, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Dr. Occult, The Demon, Tim Hunter, Dr. 13, and Deadman, but their inclusion would truly heighten interest in the show and juxtapose Constantine more powerfully than the sporadic evils he faces weekly.  The best we’ve gotten is Felix Faust, which speaks volumes.

I will keep watching Constantine.  I want it to succeed, I’m rooting for it to prevail and get a second season, yet, at the same moment, I must admit it’s not a show I feel comfortable recommending to friends.   I think the creators and actors are giving it their best effort, and I commend them for making something very watchable, but I don’t feel they’ve yet found an identity that amazes the audience with each episode.

The 12th DAUSTER

I love Doctor Who, though I’m a relatively recent convert.  I think I became a fan about two years ago.  I’m very much enjoying Peter Capaldi’s take since taking over the role of The Doctor.

It was around 2004 that I discovered one of my favorite authors, Paul Auster, and I’ve read nearly every one of his books since.  Of late, Paul Auster has been appearing in my various Facebook and Twitter feeds for this video/article.

And then it hit me – Paul Auster and Peter Capaldi look very much alike.  I created the below image very much in admiration of the two men.

12 DOAUSTER

 

The Flash’s Second Wind

Earlier this month, I bemoaned the fact that I thought The Flash television show began to stale.  I said that the episodes were beginning to feel too formulaic and did not provide enough depth to the main character, Barry Allen.  Other than Eddie Thawne and Dr. Harrison Wells, I didn’t find any of The Flash’s characters particularly interesting.  (Though for the record, I find Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin by far the best actors on the show.)

I’m happy to report that last night The Flash hit its stride again and matched the action, emotion, and charisma of its premier episode.  The man in yellow, or the Reverse-Flash as comic book aficionados refer to him, brought a whole new element to the show.  Seeing Flash battle one of his greatest enemies with excellent special effects was a true joy.  Plus, they brought the perfect level of creepiness to Reverse-Flash, especially by keeping him in a constant blur with those glowing eyes.

For a life-long fan of The Flash, last night’s episode satisfied on every level.  I like that they finally pushed Barry’s love for Iris in a new direction, that Ronnie Raymond is back and very cool as Firestorm, that Caitlin Snow is rounding out a bit, and that Eddie may have a developing problem with Barry that could become very serious in the future.  I love that they made Firestorm look cool, and that when he flew, it felt more like an ignition than anything.  But, the big moment, the huge reveal at the very end, that was what made me jump out of my seat.  I had my suspicions as to the man in yellow’s true identity, as I’m sure you did, too, but it’s a whole new game when it’s laid right out there.

Of course, I don’t think it’s completely cut and dried.  But now The Flash has a much-needed new layer of complexity, and there are myriad directions for this plot twist to take.  I can’t wait to see how the man in the yellow suit story plays out, what they do with Ronnie and Caitlin, and what the new dynamic is between Iris and Barry.

The Flash picked the perfect time to catch its second wind.

This Suicide Squad Has Life!

I’m the first to admit that I never really cared for the Suicide Squad.  I’ve got the first issue seen below from it’s original publication in 1987, and I can tell you, as a ten-year-old at the time, it wasn’t really my thing.

I’ve been amused by their various incarnations throughout the decades, especially their appearance on the television show Arrow, but when I heard DC and Warner Brothers were committing to a feature film starring the squad, my jaw hit the ground.  With so many wonderful properties under the DC tent, they were not on my radar as a possibility.  Needless to say, my expectations were not high.

But then I started hearing rumors of actors interested in the film.  Will Smith, Tom Hardy, and Jared Leto are the real deals.  These are not actors who have to work in an ensemble film.  These are actors who can carry films just fine on their own.  And when the casting became official (read about it here), my jaw hit the ground again.  There must be something to this film.  If these guys want to be a part of it, the pitch must be excellent.

I’ll watch a Batman movie no matter what.  I’ll watch a Superman movie regardless.  You can always count on me for Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg, and the Justice League.  But the Suicide Squad?  Until a few days ago, I would have said no thanks.  But, with these actors playing Deadshot, Rick Flag, and Joker?

I’m in.

The Flash Versus Arrow

I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Arrow when it first arrived on the CW a few years ago.  Don’t misunderstand – I love the character Green Arrow, but I wasn’t much of a CW guy.  (I thought I was too old for the station.)  The show didn’t strike me as perfect, but it got a lot of things right, particularly the way it continuously built upon its own mythos.  The flashbacks, the twists, the sheer angst – it hooked me.

Because of Arrow’s success, I felt positively giddy when Barry Allen appeared on the show and then nearly passed out when they announced a Flash series.  I have loved the Flash character for as long as I can remember.  And though I’m really more of a Wally West guy, Barry Allen was my first Flash in the early Eighties.

The Flash’s premier hit all the right chords.  It was a home run.  Since then, though, it’s fallen a little flat for me.  It’s still my favorite show, don’t get me wrong, but it definitely seems a bit inert and even formulaic to a fault.  All of the actors are terribly charismatic, especially Grant Gustin, but they aren’t being given much to work with.  Other than the scenes between Barry and his father, emotionally speaking, I’m not all that invested.

Seeing Arrow on The Flash drove this point home even more.  Watching Oliver and Diggle interact with Barry, Joe, Cisco, and Caitlin helped me realize that other than Dr. Wells, the Flash’s cast doesn’t have much depth.  Not like Arrow’s.  Granted, The Flash is just starting, but Arrow had already established a deep mythology with the Island by this time in it’s first season.  We had the Queens, the Merlyns, Diggle, the Lances – an assortment of characters each with their own problems to overcome.

Truthfully, I don’t want The Flash to be as dark as Arrow, or as violent.  I like Flash as a hero the people can look up to, a positive force of light.  At the same time, though, I really don’t know any more about Barry Allen than I did in the premier, and I get no sense there is more to Barry Allen.  I think it’s fascinating that the two characters I’m most interested in, Dr. Wells and Eddie Thawne, appear to be the greatest threats to Barry.

I have no doubt Arrow will continue to be excellent – last season’s Deathstroke story line absolutely satisfied.  I also believe The Flash will find it’s way, I just didn’t expect it to stumble after such a strong start.  But, when it finally finds it’s footing, I’ll be cheering the loudest.

A Super Tradition

Around 1994, my parents started buying me a super hero Christmas ornament every year.  My wife quickly picked up the tradition, as did her own parents.  As you can imagine, my super hero Christmas tree is now something to behold.  My six-year-old has enjoyed helping me put the ornaments up for the last few years, and we’re looking forward to when my youngest daughter can join in the fun.  We use a pathetic little fake tree I bought fourteen years ago when I was unmarried and living alone.  We think it’s charming as it stands proud in the basement, bedecked in all things super.  (Pay no attention to the sparse Bears ornaments … they are not so super.)  Look upon it in awe!

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A Few Thoughts Concerning Gotham  

I absolutely believe a show like Gotham can survive without an adult, costumed Batman’s presence.  After all, I argue that Gotham City is one of literature’s most famed settings, on par with Narnia and Middle-earth.  Those prominent locations do not feature only one character, nor should Gotham City.

With that being said, Gotham’s debut last night on Fox made a good impression, but not a great impression.  I think it has a great deal of potential, but it seems as though it will need some time to find its soul.

Visually, the show stunned.  It has a cinematic quality that, at times, left me breathless.  They’ve got the “look” quite right.  Furthermore, it had even more action than I expected, and I expected much.  There are no super powers in this show (yet [if ever]), but that didn’t stop Gordon and Bullock from throwing fists, firing bullets, and sprinting down alleys.  In fact, I found myself surprised by the amount of violence of the show.  Even I didn’t foresee quite the amount of bloodshed.

Overall, the acting proved adequate.  I liked a few characters quite a bit, others turned me off, but most I simply tolerated.  James Gordon, a character I thought I’d love, fell a little short for me.  Ben McKenzie played him a little too stoic for my tastes.  They set him up as a war hero, a warrior cop, a righteous man, but for the most part he seemed content to smolder.  Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock has just the right amount of immorality, and I happen to really like Logue, but the character also fell a bit flat.  I see great things ahead for Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin—he came off both pathetic and creepy.  I like the approach they took with Bruce Wayne and I actually look forward to his storyline (even though there is great danger of traipsing over well-trodden ground).  Alfred came off as an unlikable stiff, but I think that was on purpose.  We all know we’ll end up loving him.

But the standout character for me, and this caught me totally off guard, is none other than Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney.  I expected her character to be a throwaway, a placeholder for the Penguin, and it sounded from interviews as though she would be over the top in all the wrong ways.  This was not the case.  Smith played her perfectly, and I truly believe she stole the show.  I’m most interested in learning more about her character, believe it or not.

The show’s kryptonite, I’m afraid, was the dialogue. I cringed at some of the lines I heard, especially from Harvey Bullock and Barbara Kean.  It’s one thing to be a show about a corrupt police department in a city falling apart, it’s another to sound like a show focusing on a corrupt police department in a city falling apart.

I’m not crazy about the plot concerning the Wayne murders, but I understand why they are taking that approach.  It opens up some interesting doors, but, again, they are in danger of repeating things the audience has already seen.

The premise of the show is fantastic—a Gotham City before Batman.  I love Fish Mooney.  I am excited about the Penguin’s potential rise to power.  I loved the hints they dropped, such as with Edward Nygma and the comedian at Mooney’s club.  I think James Gordon could be a rich character if they make him a little more relatable, and I have great hopes for Harvey Bullock, a character who always wins over the audience despite his surly ways.

Overall, I say the show succeeded for a first episode.  It set the tone, laid the groundwork, opened up many potential plots, and touched on the major players.  Furthermore, it looked exquisite.  Is there room to improve?  Of course, but dialogue is an easy thing to fix, especially once the actors get better acquainted with the “voice” of their characters.