The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Monday, April 14, 2014

TV Round Up - AoS & GoT

Let's start with last week's "Agents of SHIELD"

I admit, I was curious, after seeing the big game changer that was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, I checked out “Agents of SHIELD” to see what the effect was there. The episode was a thousand times better than the show has been since I jumped ship months ago. I still didn’t like it. When you multiple a thousand by zero, you're still left with zero.

The acting is still embarrassing, even from Bill Paxton who has been around for a while. In this case, I’m going to blame bad direction because nothing about the way any line of dialogue on this show is delivered is the slightest bit believable.

The show needs new cinematographers, stat. It has the highest budget of any show on network TV, and yet it is the shoddiest looking. Every set looked like a sound stage. Every set. “Supernatural” has a budget that is miniscule compared to “AoS” and yet, thanks to a competent crew, they are able to do much more with it than AoS can with all of their Disney money. It’s sad and embarrassing.

And if you believe Ward’s turn was real and/or permanent, I have a bridge to sell you. He’s either in uber-deep cover (maybe Hand and Coulson planned this and Hand was willing to give her life to get Ward into HYDRA’s good graces), or he’s been brainwashed. Or, he’ll be redeemed by his love for Her Greatness. I’d like Ward’s turn to be real and permanent. It would be the ballsiest thing they could do. The show already has two of each “type” on the plane. Two warriors, and two scientists. that’s two characters who are superfluous. Make Ward’s turn real. And for that matter, make one of the two scientists an undercover HYDRA agent. Grow a pair, show.

The only thing the episode did well was it got me to stop hating Agent Coulson. I loved him in the movies, the show itself made me want to see him get re-impaled by Loki, but Clark Gregg actually managed to bring me back around and get me to forgive a lot. But the rest of these characters still need to be killed, swiftly.

So, in the end, this episode was frustrating, because it provided a glimpse of what this show could be, but likely never will be. It’s still the worst thing on the air.

Oh yeah, and for the love of good, smart content of any medium or genre, please kill Skye. She's the most worthless, shittiest character on television.

On that note, let's walk away from the crayon drawing on the refrigerator and enter the museum to look at an oil painting. It's time to talk about last night's "Game of Thrones"

FINALLY! That was glorious. I had a grin on my face throughout the entire sequence. King Joffrey Baratheon is dead. The most hatable, punchable character on television has gotten exactly what he deserved!

But Greg, you're saying, didn't you just call Skye the worst character on television? Indeed, I did. But here's the thing; Skye has no redeemable qualities. Not smart, not funny, not strong, not charismatic, not entertaining. Nothing. I hate her for just being there. Joffrey, on the other hand, is fun to hate. I mean, just look at this, it's fucking amazing and I want one for my front yard:

We're supposed to hate Joffrey. I doubt that the beneficiaries of Joss' nepotism meant for us to hate their Mary Sue.

The entire wedding sequence was terrific. It's not often, on TV, that you spend twenty minutes in one location with the same people, I thought something was going to happen. But I had no idea what, and I was elated. This is great TV.

With Joffrey gone, I think we all need to give our thanks to Jack Gleeson, who did a wonderful job playing this little shit. He's a hell of an actor, and as of now, he's officially retired from acting. I think it's a shame, he's a talented young man who deserves all the accolades in the world. But what a note to go out on. Best of luck to you and your future endeavors, Mr. Gleeson. You're one of the best.

The episode had a lot of other great moments, like Melisandre burning Stannis' brother-in-law at the stake for being a heretic. We also learned that, in her religion, there is a Lord of Darkness who is the enemy of the Lord of Light. I wonder if there is a connection to the White Walkers. At the end of season three, she seemed insistent that the real war was up north.

With Joffrey out of the way, I believe Ramsay Snow is stepping in to fill the void of that is being left behind. This guy is evil even by this show's standards. The episode opens with him and a girlfriend hunting down another girl for sport shooting her full of arrows and letting the dogs tear her apart, and Theon is assisting as a servant. He broke Theon so completely that he allows Theon to shave him, knowing he won't kill him. Ramsay is the one to watch out for because, while I can't say I sympathize with Theon, Ramsay is terrifying.

"Game of Thrones" has been renewed for two more seasons, at least, by HBO. The fate of "Agents of SHIELD" is still up in the air, but if there is any justice in the entertainment industry then it's on the chopping block. The best show on TV is back, the worst is lingering and, hopefully, dying.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So far, Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a mixed bag. I liked "Iron Man 3" and "Thor: The Dark World", but I'd be lying if I said I loved them (I haven't viewed either a second time, despite owning them on Blu-ray, whereas I've been back to the theaters more than once for Phase One). Not to mention that the television series,  "Agents of SHIELD", has turned out to be a disgusting cesspool of the worst television has to offer. I was beginning to wonder if the bubble had finally burst. While time will still tell on that score, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" has restored my faith in the MCU.

For a long time, we as a society have been having a debate about freedom versus security. Is it worth protecting our ideals to keep people safe? As our freedoms erode little by little every year, it's clear which side is winning. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" takes Steve Rogers, the comic book character who represents our ideals more than any other, and thrusts him head first into the midst of this debate. Seventy years ago, he fought a war to preserve freedom... what some have called the last clean war. The last war that needed to be fought. In the present day, after what happened in New York (the beauty of this line is that it describes both Loki's attack and the events of September 11th), things have changed... and more and more people are willingly handing their freedom over so they can be protected from the bad guys. Is the trade off worth it? Can those in power be trusted with the responsibility? Who decides who is and isn't a threat to society? These questions are what make this a perfect Captain America story.

Of course, this is also an action movie and I do not believe anyone will be disappointed on that score. The action scenes are innovative and suspenseful... while in the back of my mind, I knew they'd make it, there were moments when I forgot that... which rarely happens when this jaded movie-goer watches one of these.
Chris Evans turns in his best performance as Steve Rogers, I've wanted to see him adjust to the modern era and this film handles it beautifully. Scarlett Johansson should finally silence all critics who have doubted whether she is suited to the role of Black Widow as she really gets to show off the master assassin's human side... combine this with the trailer for "Lucy" that was attached to the movie, and it's a crime that there still isn't a "Black Widow" movie. Sebastian Stan's turn as the Winter Soldier lives up the hype; a silent and deadly killer akin to the Terminator. And, of course, a great performance by screen legend, Robert Redford as head of SHIELD, Alexander Pierce.

I'm being vague on purpose as I do not want to spoil this movie for anybody, as it now stands on a pedestal with the best comic book movies. Is it the best of the MCU? Last night, walking out of the theater, I said yes. Now, having the chance to sleep on it, I still say yes. My only complaint is that the movie ended, and I need to wait to see what happens next. I loved it, and I give it an A+, two thumbs up, five stars, the highest of grades. Go see it.